I Am Hopeful

Negativity  and cynicism are on the rise today. There’s something inside the human spirit that wants to hope, wants to think things will get better. Nearly everyone starts life with a positive attitude. So what happened? How do you go from being so positive to so negative?

You know and experience too much. You would think that knowledge and experience is always a good thing. But, strangely, these are the very things that can often cause you to become cynical, jaded, and negative. See Ecclesiastes 1:18. Knowledge often brings sorrow because the more you know, the more you see life for what it really is.

You project the past onto the future. Cynicism/negativity really takes root when you start to protect yourself from future hurt. What starts innocently enough as self-protection can easily morph into something more concerning. The way you view things and people around you can be distorted through your lens of negativity and cynicism.

You decide to stop trusting, hoping and believing. The problem with generalizing past hurts is that the death of trust, hope and belief is like a virus, infecting everything. Perhaps the most disturbingly, negativity begins to infect your relationship with God. When you close your heart to people, you close your heart to God.

So here’s the things you need to understand: cynicism and negativity is actually a choice. Cynicism isn’t always a conscious decision, but it’s a decision nonetheless.

Negativity has an antidote: HOPE. Hope is the expectation of a favorable future under God’s direction. See Romans 15:13.

My hope comes from what I believe about God, not what I feel in the moment.

 
See John 14:1; Psalm 31:24. 
 
Romans 8 shows us several reasons that we can be hopeful believers who stay positive in a negative world.
 
I am hopeful because I have been set free from condemnation and sin. Romans 1:1-2; 3-4.
 
I am hopeful because I have a Spirit-renewed mind. See Romans 8:5-6. Negativity is a product of your mind — it is a mindset, the way you choose to think in any given situation. Let the Holy Spirit change your mind about how you feel, how you view your situations, how you view God’s presence even in the midst of your moments.
 
I am hopeful because I am a child of God, under His protection. See Romans 8:14-15.
 
I am hopeful because my future victory is greater than my present pain. See Romans 8:18. I’m hopeful because what I’m going through now is doing something in me. God is going to use this to strengthen me and conform me to the image of his son, Jesus. See Philippians 4:11-13; James 1:2-4.
 
I am hopeful because the Trinity is for me. See Romans 8:26-27, 31, 34.
 
I am hopeful because God is working all things for my good. See Romans 8:28.
 
I am hopeful because nothing can separate me from God’s love. See Romans 8:38-39.
 

Read more...

Life In Christ

 

“__________ is my life.”

This is a statement or expression we use that helps characterize a person’s values, loves, priorities, and passions. This expression tells us what that person is all about. See Philippians 1:21; Colossians 3:3-4; 1 Corinthians 4:17. 

The new life in Christ infuses and encompasses every area and arena of my life. The abundant life Christ promised cannot be contained in just a private spiritual experience. It overflows into every area of your life — your private life, marriage, family, work, community.

When Christ is my Life, His peaceinfluences my attitudes and actions. See Colossians 3:15.

Christ’s entire life and ministry were characterized by peace and he offers you peace. See John 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7. When the peace of Christ governs how we interpret our experiences and respond to our challenges, two things will happen. First, our relationships with others will be healthier as we refuse to let minor things bother us. Second, we’ll have gratitude even in the midst of challenging circumstances. When our natural tendency is to complain about things that happen to us, we’ll “be thankful,” knowing that God is in control. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

When Christ is my Life, I’ll be immersed in His Word. See Colossians 3:16-17.

The idea is that every aspect of our lives should be informed by and infused with the Word of Christ. So leverage opportunities to allow the word to take up residence in your heart and mind: daily devotions, small groups, preaching, teaching, podcasts, etc.

When Christ is my Life, His presence transforms my family. See Colossians 3:18-21.

Nothing is more difficult than living in a family where the virtues of compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and professions of love (3:12–14) are tested daily.

Regarding the role of a wife’s submission to her husband, Jesus gives us the perfect example in his own life. Though he is equal in nature to the Father, He submitted to His Father’s will to accomplish God’s plan of redemption, humbling himself in obedience. This is the sort of humble submission wives are called to imitate. Remember, in Christ we all have equal dignity. Paul’s statement has nothing to do with inferiority. 

Husbands are to love their wives. Paul uses the word “agape” which is the kind of love that seeks the highest good of another even at the price of one’s own comfort, safety, and benefit. This love is no-strings attached, unconditional, self-sacrificial love.

For children, Jesus isn’t giving a command that he hasn’t lived out. As a child, He was the perfect example of submission and obedience to his earthly parents (Luke 2:510.

Fathers (and mothers) are to set standards, provide guidance, and discipline their children with patience, kindness, and love. Paul warns fathers not to “embitter” their children, crushing their spirits and causing them to become discouraged (3:21). He can do this by being overly critical or by disciplining too harshly or too often.

When Christ is my Life, I am a positive influence at work. See Colossians 3:22-4:1

We can best apply this instruction to our employee-employer relationship. As Christian employees, we have a responsibility for diligence, loyalty, punctuality, and responsibility. We should be the best employees on the organization. Additionally, we should be model employees in terms of our attitude, integrity, and having a positive influence in the workplace.

For employers, Paul offers a reminder that you are under the authority of a heavenly Master, just like everyone else. It is the Lord Jesus Christ to whom you also must give an account. We who serve in leadership roles must do so with two prevailing qualities: justice and fairness — this applies to expectations, decisions, evaluations, and wages.

When Christ is my Life, I live wisely and graciously before others. See Colossians 4:2-6.

Our works and our words can either draw a watching world closer to God or drive them farther away. We need to pay attention to our walk, and we need to conduct ourselves with wisdom toward those on the outside. Only God can see our hearts, so people will size us up and evaluate the quality of our faith through how we conduct ourselves.

We’re wrong to expect unbelievers to live like Christians, but they are right to expect Christians to live like Christ. Remember that they’re watching you. They’re listening to you. They’re curious about your faith and whether it’s real to you. If your commitment to Christ isn’t real to you, it won’t be worth considering for them. If it isn’t changing you, it won’t be challenging to them.

Remind yourself every day of the centrality of Christ in all areas and arenas of your life. Wherever, whatever, whenever, however . . . make Christ your Life.
 

Read more...

Clothed With Christ

Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:26–27. Paul’s challenge is that we need to be clothed with Christ. Being properly clothed in Christ starts with a change in values. Read: Colossians 3:1–4.

Setting our sights on the realities of heaven means striving to put heaven’s priorities into daily practice. This change in focus will brings with it a change in values.

Your current actions and attitudes reveal where you heart and mind are set. We able to set our heart and mind on things above because we died to the ways of this world. Remember, Paul is writing this letter to Christians. He knows the battle that takes place between the flesh and the Spirit. So he reminds us to make the choice each day to put the old self to death. Read: Colossians 3:5-7.

Paul is, in essence, drawing a line between their former life that placed value in earthly passions, to their new life in Christ which is now based on His values and perspective. It’s a reminder that they have put those passions to death.

This is what Jesus is actually talking about in one of his seemingly confusing teachings on sin. Read: Mark 9:43-47. This passage isn’t about self-mutilation that will some how eradicate sin. It is an exaggeration designed to make a dramatic point. You need to cut off or consider dead those things that lead to sin. Do our hands, feet, or eyes cause us to sin? No, those are how we carry out the desires of the heart where sin originates.

Jesus put to death the power of sin. We need to choose to live each day within the that power that Christ has over sin. We can consider those passions dead because we live, instead, by the power of the Spirit. Read: Romans 8:12-14.

Paul continues with a list of things we are to take off. Read Colossians 3:8-10. Your old self had practices that reflected it’s nature. Our past will still try to influence us and draw us back to its practices. Because of that, we need to be intentional about putting on our new self.

Our new self,  which Paul states that we put on “like clothing” each day, is being renewed (each day) as we grow to know Jesus better and strive to live in a way that shows we bear his image. Our new self has a new set of practices. Read Colossians 2:12-14.

You dress according to who you think you are. Paul reminds them (and us) that we are God’s chosen people. We are dearly loved by God. We are to be holy as God is holy. So our new identity determines how we dress. In Christ, we have a new style of life. A new way of living.

This new way of living is critical not only to our faith and spiritual growth, but to those who are watching your life. Remember, you don’t live for Christ in isolation. Our love for Christ and life in Christ should impact and influence those around us. Our “Jesus-Style” of living should inspire those who are watching us.
 

Read more...

Truth in Christ

Read: Colossians 2:1–8 How will you be able to discern if something you are hearing is true or false? The best way to know if a teaching is false is to be deeply connected to the truth. The good news is that our Truth isn’t just some static document or idle philosophy.
 

Our Truth is a person — and His name is Jesus.

 
See John 14:6. The key to remaining in the truth and believing true doctrine is being rooted in Christ. In this passage, Paul is trying to help the Colossians understand that everything we need for spiritual life and health is found in a relationship with Christ alone — nothing else.
 
False teaching usually has a “Jesus plus” teaching. Paul argues for the fullness that we can find in Christ — and it’s all the fullness we need to live satisfied and righteous lives.
 
Take a look again at verses 2-3. All of these terms serve as a defense against the false teachers who were trying to offer more than simply Jesus. In what ways have you been trying to make your faith about something more than simply Jesus?
 
(vs. 4) Here’s the thing about false teaching: it can sound so good and true. Often they are based on truth but there is a twist.
 
(vs. 6). Paul was very fond of putting these 3 names together as a title for Jesus. Each of these titles used of Christ are significant. Christ = the One Only anointed one of God; Jesus = the one who saves; Lord = a title of authority, one who deserves our total allegiance.
 
Paul then launches into a few descriptions of what it means to embrace Christ Jesus as Lord and develop a discipline and firm faith in Him and His truth.
 
Walk in Christ. The word “live” is commonly translated “walk.” This shows us that the Christian life is not idle. It is a journey — it has progression. See 1 Thessalonians 4:1. We don’t just get saved by Christ and then live however we want to. Jesus requires that our conduct be consistent with his lordship. Being in Christ, therefore, transforms the way Christians live — how we walk each day.
 
Belief that does not impact behavior is useless. Does your “walk” give evidence that you are “in Christ”? For to live or walk in Christ means that we are living according to Christ and his ways. See 1 John 2:4-6.
 
We are to continue to live in Him the same way that we received him…by faith. Faith that Christ is truly all we need. Faith that he knows what’s best for us. Faith that his plans for us are good not bad. Faith that remains in Him not on our own performance (good day, bad day).
 
Rooted in Christ. The image in this word recalls Jeremiah’s blessing on the one who trusts in the Lord and whose confidence is in him. See Jeremiah 17:8; Psalm 1:1-3.
 

The fruit shows where the root grows.

 
Are your roots growing deeper in Christ? Roots in Christ grow stronger and deeper through: Christian fellowship (LifeGroups), times of personal devotions (Bible reading, meditation, prayer), faith in difficult circumstances, Christian ministry, and corporate worship times.
 
Built up in Christ. Built up in Christ is all about having a strong foundation upon which we build our lives. Jesus is that firm foundation. See Luke 6:46-49; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. “Being built” implies that believers are still under construction and not yet a finished product. The idea of being built up implies a plan. It also implies that we co-labor with the Holy Spirit and build our lives on the foundation of Christ — the Rock who won’t fail us.
 
Strengthened in the Faith. How do we become strong physically? Eat properly, exercise, task your muscles. This same concept applies to our faith. See 2 Timothy 2:1.
 
Overflowing with thankfulness. The Christian life is to be characterized by gratitude to God. Additionally, when we are thankful for what we have in Christ, we don’t go looking around for something else…or something that boasts to be better. See 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
 

A grounded, growing, grateful believer will not be led astray.

 
See Colossians 2:8-15.
 

Read more...

Hope In Christ

What event or circumstance would cause you to give up on your faith? Like me, I am sure you know people that have hit that mark. They have come to a place in their life where they could not reconcile their circumstances and their Christian faith so they walked away from the hope in Christ.
 
For others, maybe it’s not a danger of walking away from faith but perhaps it is a feeling as though your best days are behind you. You have no hope for the future and so apathy or even cynicism sets in. Or maybe you have completed a major goal in life and for a while you were able to ride the momentum of that event but that season ended and you’re left wondering if there is a next step. It leaves you feeling aimless, disoriented, uncertain, apathetic or cynical.
 
That could have been the Apostle Paul’s story. See Acts 9:15-16. The season of traveling ministry that Christ had for Paul was very successful and very effective. While his missions work was very effective, it wasn’t without personal suffering. See 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.
 
For Paul, the way he previously accomplished successful ministry had come to an immediate end. He was chained to a soldier, in prison in Rome. But Paul knew something that we all need to hear today.
 

The close of an season is not the end of a destiny.

 
Whether you’re reaching a milestone or facing an unexpected loss, you may not know how to go on, but you have to trust that as long as you have life and breath, God has a plan for your next step.
 
Read Colossians 1:24 – 2:5. Paul rejoices in his suffering and his strenuous contending because He knows that God is still working through Him for a purpose. Christ is with him and in him! This reality is the cause of sustaining hope.
 
After all he has been through, Paul never gave up (see Colossians 1:29; 2:1). These are not the words of a defeated man. These are the words of a determined man who has his Hope firmly in Christ.
 
When we face the end of one chapter of our lives and before we begin the next, it often serves as the catalyst for a battle. Between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next, is a battlefield.
 
Whenever we feel like we’ve reached the end and can’t keep going, it’s simply a temporary illusion the devil’s trying to maintain. As challenging as it may be, if you want to live a life with ongoing momentum, a life that’s big and full and bursting with joy and meaning, then you need to see God in the end of things as well as the beginning. I have found that when I think life is at it’s worse, God says “The best is yet to come.” See Isaiah 61:1-3.
 
This is why Paul continued to contend. He knew the power of the Gospel of Christ. Those were results worth contending for. Paul didn’t give up or give in to being a victim, or grow apathetic. Instead, he placed his hope in Christ and fought the good fight of faith.
 
He wasn’t striving or contending in his own power. Paul’s labor was energized and enabled by the powerful presence of Christ, who strengthened Paul in any and all circumstances. Christ can energize your life, enabling you to thrive in all situations. Christ’s energy at work in you gives you hope in all circumstances.
 

Hope in Christ helps you to believe the best for the future.

 
See Jeremiah 29:11. Choose to see the right here and right now as where God has placed you and will bless you. Your present, as well as your future, are not unknown to God. In the midst of our end points, we can’t always see it, but God’s got this incredible way of making things work his way.
 
God wastes nothing in your life, and somehow, He weaves everything together for His glorious future and our good, as only He can. See Romans 8:28.
 
In your life right now, something may be over, but Jesus’ work in your life is far from over. Contend so that your hope and faith survives and thrives. But also contend for those who are watching. See Colossians 2:1-2.
 
Paul did not turn in on himself in the midst of his sufferings. He believed that his life had a special purpose for others, and he viewed suffering as a privilege. Paul did not suffer as a private discipline that would bring him some personal spiritual benefit. He looked at the benefits it brought to others.
 
Who is watching you as you go through your times of uncertainty and suffering? What do they see in you — Hope in Christ OR hopelessness?
 

Read more...

Supremacy in Christ

Christ is Supreme because He is God (Colossians 1:15). Paul uses very intentional words: the image of the invisible God. See Hebrews 1:1-3. In the Incarnation of Christ, God becoming man, God the Son enters time, space, and dimension. He becomes the image of the invisible God. The term “image” was a representation, or reproduction with precise likeness (portrait, coin, etc). The word image also means manifestation. More than being in the likeness of God, as are all persons created, Jesus was God Himself in human incarnation. When you see Christ, you see God. Jesus shows us what God is; He also shows us what all persons are meant to be. See 1 John 2:5-6.
 
In Christ we see who God is — Creator and Redeemer; what God is like — a God of mercy and love; and what God does —one who sends his Son to rescue people from the dominion of darkness and brings about the reconciliation of all creation through his death on a cross.
 
Paul also describes Christ as the Firstborn over all creation. This does not mean that Jesus was created by God. He is eternal. So firstborn, in this context, isn’t about the first to be created. This title is about status, not sequence (OT firstborn). The firstborn was the supreme authority of all siblings. So Paul’s use of this word simply affirms, again, the supremacy of Christ over all creation.
 
Christ is Supreme because He is Creator (Colossians 1:16-17). Paul states that all things were created in Christ, through Christ, and for Christ. What does this mean? All of creation is sustained by Christ and finds its ultimate purpose in Christ. Paul affirms for us that the world is not a purposeless accident in the chemistry lab of the universe. But he also makes clear that we cannot understand God, creation, or God’s purpose for creation apart from Christ. If creation has been created by Christ and exists for Christ, then it is never meaningless. See John 1:1-3. What does this mean of us today? It means that we are totally dependent on Christ. This dependence isn’t just for our salvation. But it is so much bigger than that. Christ holds all things together. If Christ holds the universe together, then Christ can hold my life together.
 
Christ is Supreme because He is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18). The church cannot properly function without the head. The head is always Christ. Christ is the source of the church’s life. The metaphor “head” designates him both as supreme over the church and as the source of the church’s life. In the image of a living body, the head not only directs and governs the body, it gives it life, strength, and purpose. The church does not exist to meet the needs of its members or to insure its institutional survival, but to fulfill the redemptive purposes of Christ, its head.
 
Christ is Supreme because He is our only Savior (Colossians 1:19-20). As the Creator, Christ watched as his perfect creation was corrupted by sin. In that one act of disobedience, a chasm was formed separating man from the intimate relationship with his Creator. Man cannot bridge the chasm of sin on his own. He is completely powerless to do anything to restore the relationship with God. Sin brings hopelessness and helplessness.
 
But the Creator wasn’t done with His creation — He has not given up. (He won’t give up on you now, either.) This is the most awe-inspiring demonstration of love, grace, and mercy of all time. Rather than scrapping HIs work and starting over somewhere else, the Creator has a plan to set all things right. He places himself into our story. He clothes himself with humanity. The image of the invisible God became visible and entered the plane of human experience in order to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth by means of his humiliating death.
 
See Colossians 1:21–22. Christ is not just Lord of the Universe, He is Lord of You. Paul reminds us of our need of a personal Savior and Lord in this passage. He reminds us of what we all once were: alienated from God; enemies because of our evil behavior.
 
BUT NOW…reconciled to God, holy in his sight, without blemish, free from accusation. Paul emphasizes that Christ has accomplished this perfection for us; it does not come from our own striving. But God’s goal of making us a holy and blameless people in Christ is still a work in progress, and it requires some response on our part. Christians need to recognize that they have been reconciled to God to live a life that God approves.
 
In the beginning, God created all things through Christ; in the end, God will reconcile all things through Christ. What is more, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ did not simply rectify the Fall but created in a human being the image that God had always intended to be in humankind. If we understand that through Christ we gain a new relationship with God, we also recognize that relationships can never remain static. They either grow or die. See Colossians 1:23.
 
What are you doing to see that your relationship with Christ grows?

Read more...

Faith in Christ

Read: Colossians 1:1-8. A key theme in this opening paragraph is: “Faith in Christ.” But what does Paul mean when he talks about “faith in Christ”? Faith is placing your confidence, allegiance and identity in Christ. This is evidenced by living a life that is truly “in Christ.” Faith acts on what it believes. So what does it mean to be “In Christ”?
 
To be in Christ means to be taken in to him so that he encompasses your entire life. This means that Christ influences and infuses everything in your life.
  • To be in Christ means that you are committed to him above all others. And all other commitments fall under this primary commitment.
  • To be in Christ means that He determines your attitudes and actions.
  • To be in Christ means that you are inseparably joined to Him. This means that nothing can separate you from Him and His love.
  • To be in Christ means that you are also joined to a new family where the dividing lines that separate and categorize people have been erased.
  • To be in Christ is to have a new identity not based on your past or current status.
  • To be in Christ is to have everything you need to thrive in this life and enjoy eternal life.
Then Paul shifts from a prayer of thanksgiving for their faith and lets them know how he and Timothy are specifically praying for them so that they will, in fact, stay rooted in Christ.
 
Read: Colossians 1:9-14. Paul shares the primary things that he is praying for them that I believe equally apply to us today.
 
God fills you with the knowledge of His Will. Often in the NT, the word “filled” means to be “controlled by.” Paul’s prayer, then, is that these believers might be controlled by the full knowledge of God’s will. The good news is that we don’t have to develop this knowledge in our own strength but is something that the Spirit gives. When Paul prays that his friends may have wisdom and understanding, he is praying that they may understand the great truths of Christianity and may be able to apply them to the tasks and decisions which meet them in everyday living. In the Christian life, knowledge and obedience go together.
 
Live a life worthy of the Lord and pleasing Him in every way. Paul then breaks down what it looks like to please God in every way:
 
Bearing fruit in every good work. Christians need to work out their faith in the way they live. When it comes to being a Christ follower, we do not have a shortage of knowing, we have a shortage of doing. We are not saved by our good works but they should be an overflow of our faith in Christ. See 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Ephesians 2:10.
 
Growing in the knowledge of God. This is important for two reasons: 1) Knowledge of God is necessary for proper living; and 2) Knowledge of God shields us from false teaching.
 
Being strengthened with all power. Paul asks God to give his readers not only discernment of his will but also the divine power to act on it. Living out your Christian faith may lead to adversity. That’s why Paul states that we need to be strengthened will all power “so that you may have great endurance and patience.”
 
Endurance is the power to cope and be content in all circumstances. But it does not mean endurance in the sense of simply giving in or succumbing to the events around you. It is a conquering endurance. It is the ability to deal triumphantly with anything that life can do to us.
 
Patience has to do with people. It is the quality of mind and heart which enables you to bear with people and never lose patience with, belief in, and hope for them.
 
Giving joyful thanks to the Father. Since Paul commands thanksgiving, it must be something we can decide to do. Therefore it can become a discipline in which we can grow. Gratitude, as the gospel speaks about it, embraces all of life: the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, the holy and not so holy.
 

Read more...

Questions About Salvation

Question: Is the doctrine of predestination Biblical? If so, how does it coexist with man’s free-will and not violate the character of God?

The doctrine of predestination is that God predestinates some to eternal salvation and others to eternal damnation. See Romans 9:22-23; Romans 8:29-30.

Basic Calvinism:

  1. Total Depravity: every person is enslaved by sin and unable to choose God. 
  2. Unconditional Election: God has chosen from eternity those He will save. This choice is based solely in His mercy rather than any foreseen merit or faith in those chosen.
  3. Limited Atonement: the death of Christ paid the price only for the sins of the elect.
  4. Irresistible Grace: those whom God has determined to save will inevitably come to saving faith.
  5. Perseverance of the Saints: all those who have been chosen by God (the “elect”) will continue in faith.

 

Basic Arminianism:

  1. The salvation or ultimate condemnation of a person is the result of the God-given faith or unbelief of that person.
  2. The divinely provided atonement is sufficient for all persons but is applied only to those who trust in Christ. 
  3. No person can save himself or herself. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, no one can respond to God’s will that all be saved.
  4. God’s grace, applied by the Holy Spirit, is the sole source of good and of human salvation, yet this grace may be resisted.
  5. God’s grace in the life of the believer enables resistance of sin and Christ will keep them from falling. Whether one who has experienced this grace can ultimately forsake God “must be more particularly determined.”

 

The question reduces to this: Does God elect people because they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, or does God elect people in order that they will believe in Christ?

According to Arminianism, election is that act of God whereby he foreordains to eternal life those whom he foresees will respond in faith to the gospel. According to Calvinism, election is that act of God whereby he foreordains to eternal life those who, because of sin, cannot respond in faith to the gospel.

The primary argument against Calvinism has to do with the character of God. How can God predestine someone to hell, never allowing them the benefit of conviction and repentance? See 2 Peter 3:9.

The primary argument against Arminianism has to do with the Sovereignty of God and man’s inability to bring about his own salvation. See Romans 9:16-18. God’s Sovereignty is still satisfied in Arminianism by the role the Holy Spirit plays in salvation. See John 16:7-9.

It was man’s exercise of free will that brought sin into the world. It is also the exercise of man’s free will to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, repent of his sins that lead to death, and receive the salvation God provided all men through His Son. God “forcing” His salvation or damnation upon me seems contrary to His allowance of man’s free will to determine his final destiny. 

If all of humanity’s final destination is predetermined and will be effectual because of the Sovereignty of God, why preach the Gospel to the lost? See Romans 10:9-15. Why seem to offer a gift that cannot be accepted? It is difficult to see as “good” a supposedly loving God who elects some and passes over, or even deliberately damns, others. Such a view damages the biblical presentation of God as loving, kind, and just.

Could predestined, elect, chosen instead imply that God foreknew you would choose to follow him? See Romans 8:28-30.

Question: How can I tell I have the Spirit of God in me? I have given my life to God but I don’t know if he has accepted me.

See Ephesians 1:13–14. Upon salvation, the Holy Spirit takes up His residence in your life. You are saved through believing in Christ and confessing Him as Lord (Romans 10). Jesus said the same thing to Nicodemus. See John 3:16-18. See also Acts 15:8-9.

Those who are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, will also be led by the Spirit. You should sense a difference in your life concerning your feelings about sin and your desire to know God better. See John 16:13-15. Paul reminds us that the Spirit himself will testify within us that we are God’s children (Romans 8:14-16). 

Question: I want to be water baptized. What does it mean for my past? I have a troubled past. Does it make me a new person in God’s eyes? What can I expect?

Water baptism doesn’t save a person. Water baptism is a symbolic act demonstrating what Christ has done in your life. Salvation is necessary before water baptism. 

When we are saved, our past is no longer held against us (Romans 4:7-8; Hebrews 8:12). When you ask God for forgiveness through Christ Jesus you are forgiven of all sin. You are also made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

So only God’s salvation made possible through Christ can forgive your sins (past, present, and future — no matter how troubling) and make you a new person in God’s eyes. Water baptism is just the outward expression of the work of salvation that took place inside you.


Read more...

Questions About Sickness and Suffering

Question: Is the disease in my body the “devil’s work”? It can’t be our Lord’s work. I am his child. He wouldn’t give this to me. 

What is the cause or origin of sickness and disease? See Genesis 3:16–19. Brokenness, corruption of the perfect creation, death — these are the universal consequences of sin. See Romans 5:12.

Death is the ultimate reminder that we have inherited the sinful nature from our “first parents”, Adam and Eve.

The good news is that God will set all things right in the new heavens and the new earth. It will be a place of perfection — no sin, no sorrow, no suffering, no sickness. But until that time, we are living within a body that is infected by and impacted by universal sin which leads to death. Chronic pain, illness, and disease are a form of death.

Disease, sickness, and suffering are a result of man’s rebellion against God. In that sense is indiscriminate — it’s no respecter of persons. Sickness and suffering falls upon the righteous and the unrighteous.

But can some sickness be the devil’s work? The Bible does appear to attribute some sickness and disease to Satan. See Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38.

There also appear to be times in Scripture that God does allow or send an illness or suffering upon an individual. Examples: Job, Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21), Herod Agrippa (Acts 12). Not many of us could claim the status of Job whom God allowed Satan to torment because of his exemplary faithfulness to God. The remainder of these examples show us that sickness, disease, and death that came from the Lord was due to personal wickedness. See John 5:14.

But there was also a time that the disciples wanted to attribute sickness to sin and Jesus corrected them. See John 9:1-3.

God’s allowance of sickness or suffering in your life does not invalidate His love, His power, or His compassion. Remember, we don’t define God through our circumstances or challenges. God can and will demonstrate his love, compassion, and grace in the midst of our suffering. See 2 Corinthians 1:3–11.

Even in the midst of suffering, God’s Word reveals some important truths that may give hope and purpose:

1. Suffering produces intimacy with God (Job 42:5). Intimacy with God is often nurtured right in the midst of suffering. Dr. Tim Hager: “There’s an opening of the soul that happens during times of stress or duress. During these times of suffering, we experience God at a deep, profound level.”

2. Suffering equips us to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Suffering gives us compassion for others who are hurting, enabling us to minister more effectively. Those who have suffered make the most effective comforters.

3. Suffering refines us (Isaiah 48:10). The meaning of this verse makes it clear the pain and suffering have a way of bringing our strengths and weaknesses to the surface. When the impurities (dross) float to the surface, God skims it off; he purifies and refines us to be His image bearer.

4. Suffering produces growth and maturity (James 1:2-4). If we can turn toward God in our pain, He can use our suffering to mature our faith.

5. Suffering conforms us into God’s image (Romans 8:28-29). We may be tempted to read these verses to say that God will bring good out of everything. While He can and does redeem pain in our lives (if we yield to Him), the verse speak of being conformed to God’s image through our suffering.

Remember, we serve a Savior who is familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3-5; Hebrews 5:7-10). Christ’s power is make perfect in our weakness. See 2 Corinthians 12:8–9.

Question: When someone you love is suffering a terminal illness, do we pray that death comes so they can be with the Lord or do we continue to pray for healing? What should we ask the Lord for? How do we pray in those circumstances?

See Philippians 1:21–23. First and foremost question is what is their spiritual condition. That will immediately give you a direction to pray. Second, where are they in the terminal illness process? A fairly coherent loved one may not appreciate you praying for the hastening of their death. As death appears inevitable, prayers should turn to prayers of comfort and assurance. This is when Scripture passages become very helpful. 

Question: Still curious if there is no suffering or sorrows in heaven, how will we feel if one of our loved ones doesn’t make it to heaven?

See Revelation 21:3–4. The Bible doesn’t address how we will feel if one of our loved ones doesn’t make it to heaven with us. I have a feeling that we will be so overwhelmed in the actual, unhindered presence of God that we will find ourselves thinking only of Him — He will be our focus, not us. We also know that God is perfectly just, and those who are in heaven will have every confidence that whatever has happened at the final judgment has been totally just and right. The terrible possibility that our loved ones might miss heaven should motivate us to earnestly pray and lovingly witness to them while there is still time in this life for them to experience salvation.


Read more...

A Leap of Faith

Read: Mark 2:1-12.
 
Jesus desires to cultivate an atmosphere of faith in our lives.
 
Jesus preached the word to them…
 
It stirs faith. See Romans 10:17.
 
That is why it’s important for us to be anchored into a church community that believes and values the teaching of God’s word.
It restores faith.Faith is like a muscle. If you don’t use it, you lose it!Faith begins at the hearing but it’s cultivated through application.
 
It builds faith. See James 2:14-17.
 
The reason we don’t often see a difference in our lives and families is because we fail to apply what we have learned.
 
Joining people on their journey, requires us to leap.
 
What barriers do you need to breakthrough in order for others to connect with Jesus? Social, Relational, Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, etc.?
 
God is moved to action through our faith and trust in Him! See Hebrews 11:6.
 
When we partner with people on their journey we can know and trust that God has the power to forgive their sins and heal their disease.
 
When you leap in faith, there will always be people there to criticize you.
 
Critics are often the one’s that you least expect.
 
Jesus was willing to leap in faith because he had come to “fulfill the will of the Father”. He knew that his public statement regarding the forgiveness of sins would cause judgement. But Jesus wanted us to know that He has the power to forgive us of our sins!
 
When God asks you to leap in faith, it may not always make sense. It may not be popular. But that it why, it’s a “Leap of Faith!”
So what is the leap of faith that you need to take today?Is it placing your faith and trust in Jesus?
 
Is it doing something like tithing, serving, or helping someone in need? Whatever God is leading you to do, it’s time to leap!

Read more...