A Light For My Path

God's will 1 A frequent question asked by Christians and non-Christians alike has to do with knowing God’s will for our lives. It seems people instinctively perceive there must be a purpose for their existence and, therefore, knowing and understanding that purpose becomes a top consideration at some point in time for most of us. For those in a twelve step program, knowing God’s will is an integral part of the process as stated in the eleventh step: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.

Many of us have, or know someone who has, sought God’s will in very specific ways, such as which job should I accept, what college should I attend, should I own a home or rent, or even whom should I marry. Just as frequently, perhaps, we’ve heard a friend or family member (or ourselves) say something like, “I know this decision is God’s will because I have peace about it.” Still another may claim that they let their Bible randomly fall open to a page and the first verse they read confirmed their decision must be God’s will. Without a doubt, the tendency to seek God’s will in a specific circumstance can occupy much of our thinking (and can lead to some very errant methodology).

But what if I told you that’s not the way it works at all? What would it mean to you to learn there is no “magic dot” or “x-marks-the-spot” quality to God’s will? Will it help you to know that God’s will does not revolve around you and His purposes will prevail regardless of which job you accept or which college you attend? I find it quite encouraging to know that God has not created for us some mysterious puzzle that we must constantly attempt to solve to determine what he wants us to do. He has not set before us a hidden agenda buried within a complex maze of possibilities that we must persistently search for. Quite the opposite, we are given immense freedom to enjoy life and all that God has created.

But God does have a will for us and the good news is that he has made it pretty easy for us to know and understand what that is. And we need look no further than our Bible, for God’s Word is God’s will. As the psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) And the Apostle Paul instructs us in Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” God changes the way we think when we read his Word and seek to understand the truths it contains.

I think it may help to understand that God’s will is more about who God wants us to be than what, specifically, he wants us to do. When we advance down the path of growing in Godliness, we begin to make decisions consistent with the way God would have us live. In this regard, we are likely to find it advantageous to attend a church with strong Bible teaching as this will guide us in our understanding of the Bible. Having fellowship with a mature Christian who can act as a mentor and/or joining a small group Bible study can also be quite beneficial, especially when it comes to determining what is our will and what the Word of God says. We will find, when we are diligent in our study of his Word, our decisions will begin to reflect the character he is building within us.

It may be a good starting point to look at a few areas of God’s will we can be certain of:

God wants us to be thankful: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:18)

We should avoid sexual impurity: “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

God wants everyone to be saved and to know the truth: “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

God wants us to trust him in all things: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

He wants us to be wise: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5)

God wants us to be joyful: “Always be joyful.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

And he wants us to pray regularly: “Never stop praying.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

The Bible is absolutely rich in the depth of its truth and its revelation of who God is and the relationship he desires to have with us. There is simply no greater endeavor one can undertake than to study the revealed truth from the One who is our Creator and the lover of our souls. As Paul taught his young protégé, Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Whether you have been a Christian for quite some time or you’re brand new to Scripture, once you commit yourself to studying the Bible I am confident you will learn to understand God’s will in new and meaningful ways and you will gain confidence in all areas of your life as you grow in His image. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

May the love and peace of God be with you and yours.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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Fearless!

fearless 6  Halloween is when we have little candy-seeking visitors knocking on our doors, dressed in their costumes, often with scary or creepy images designed to bring an element of the frightful. But the Halloween tradition is more about fictional fear than real fear. While many of the costumes the children wear to our door evoke images of ghosts, goblins, witches, skeletons, and other characters that can have roots in the spiritual realm, in the end, they are only pretend, and not likely to elicit much in the way of real fear.

However, many of us find ourselves facing real fearful things in our daily lives. Indeed, there are many fears in the world that are all too real for those who face them. And for people facing these fears, they can be debilitating to say the least. Let’s take a look at some very well-known, and very real, fears:

Arachnophobia – The fear of spiders. This affects women four times more (48% women and 12% men).

Acrophobia – The fear of heights. Five percent of the general population suffer from this phobia.

Agoraphobia – The fear of open or crowded spaces. People with this fear often won’t leave home.

Claustrophobia – The fear of small spaces like elevators, small rooms, and other enclosed spaces.

Mysophobia – The fear of germs. Sometimes also known as Germophobia or Bacterophobia.

Aerophobia – The fear of flying. Twenty-five million Americans share a fear of flying.

Glossophobia – The fear of public speaking. Many people say they would prefer death to public speaking.

Monophobia – The fear of being alone. Even while eating and/or sleeping.

Thanatophobia – The fear of death. Even talking about death can be hard.

Do you suffer from any of these? I do…I have a pronounced fear of heights, which I have not yet been able to completely overcome. I used to have a fear of flying but God helped me overcome that many years ago. Donna suffers from arachnophobia, as does her nephew. If you suffer from any of these fears, or any other anxiety or phobia, you are definitely not alone and the Bible has plenty to say to us.

The Apostle John tells us that “perfect love expels all fear” in 1 John 4:18. And despite the fears we often experience in our lives and circumstances, when we place our faith in Jesus we are guaranteed eternal life free from judgment, so we see that those fears really are unfounded. In Matthew 8:23-27, we read the story of Jesus calming the storm. In this story, the disciples are clearly terrified and in fear for their lives, but Jesus asks them, “Why are you afraid?” This is a great question, because by this time they had already seen Jesus perform several miracles and you’d think they would understand the breadth of his power. But they still were afraid.

And often times, so are we. But God does promise to be with us at all times and the Bible tells us we can count on him in all circumstances. We have every reason to be more than confident. Here are some of God’s promises regarding the fears we feel:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.” Psalm 46:1-2

“Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood.” Isaiah 54:4

“Yes, you came when I called; you told me, “Do not fear.” Lamentations 3:57

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

“But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Matthew 14:27

“We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live.” Luke 1:74-75

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:37-38

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.” 1 Peter 3:14

There are many, many more verses in the Bible that help us know we can trust God to help us overcome our fears. Those of us who have already repented and placed our faith in Jesus Christ are fortunate to have this life assistance right now. We simply need to read God’s Word, pray regularly, and trust God to keep his promises and we can find the courage to face anything that comes our way.

And if you haven’t yet come to Christ, why not make today the day? Then you, too, can have the assurance that comes from being a Christian. As humans, there is a great chasm that separates us from God, and subjects us to the penalty for our wrongs. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) But Jesus is the bridge that spans that expanse and allows us to enjoy fellowship with our Creator again.

“The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)

Once you have been restored to fellowship with God, you will know the assurance that comes from Jesus Christ and you, too, can be fearless!

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

An Honest Man

scales-36417_960_720 Among the impressive sites we saw on our recent trip to Arkansas is a magnolia tree that was planted 178 years ago. Located in Historic Washington State Park in Arkansas, the magnolia tree is so large it now occupies an area almost as large as the entire yard upon which sits your average home. The branches arch down to the ground and back upwards, forming a large canopy under which you could easily park your car. After nearly two centuries, it’s a really big tree – the oldest known to exist in Arkansas.

But that is not all we found in Historic Washington State Park. The park encompasses the entire town of Washington, Arkansas; a town of specific significance in our country’s history. For one, it is blacksmith James Black who made the first Bowie Knife. While there is some controversy surrounding the accuracy of this claim, Black’s knives are prized by collectors and to this day the American Bladesmith Society maintains a knife making college at the site. Secondly, Historic Washington was the Confederate State Capital of Arkansas from 1863-1865.

With my brother-in-law, Steve, as our knowledgeable guide, we toured the town and the many well-preserved and reconstructed buildings found there. While space doesn’t allow me to recite the full list of buildings, I will say that they include a recreation of James Black’s blacksmith shop, the old courthouse, circa 1874, that contains some truly gorgeous wood work and a museum, the Royston log house, and the B.W. Edwards Weapons Museum. There is also the oldest Methodist church in Arkansas and Williams Tavern, which is now a restaurant offering excellent food at very reasonable prices (including genuine southern style cornbread).

Among the things we saw was Pioneer Cemetery, which contains graves dating back as far as the Revolutionary War, but mostly is the final home to many of Washington’s earliest settlers. Among them, we found Ephraim Mirick and his wife, Mary (Belcher) Mirick. Now that big old magnolia tree was just a sapling when Ephraim and Mary were in their prime. Through a little research I found that Ephraim was a respected trader and land speculator who helped establish some of the trade routes in the area, especially between Camden and Washington, a portion of this route still exists as Nevada County Road 10. What most caught my interest about Ephraim and Mary Mirick, however, wasn’t the historical facts about them that I found, but the sayings preserved for all time on their respective grave markers.

Ephraim’s stone has the scales of justice on top and the words “an honest man” engraved on the bottom while Mary’s has the Bible on the top and the words “a Christian” on the bottom. Both epitaphs convey a decidedly positive message about the individual, but while being an honest man is certainly a good thing, it tells us nothing about Ephraim’s eternal fate. Mary’s, on the other hand, tells us all we need to know. She was a Christian and “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) Mary as a Christian and we know that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So we know on October 7, 1877 at age 71 she entered the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Ephraim’s fate, on the other hand, remains a mystery to us. We simply do not know. For the truth is, while people thought well-enough of him to inscribe “an honest man” on his stone, the Bible tells us we simply cannot be good enough to get into heaven based on how we lived our lives. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23) The great prophet Isaiah said it this way, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” (Isaiah 64:6) So old Ephraim may very well have been an honest man, he may have been generous and kind to many, but we know from Scripture that even the best of us have sinned, even Ephraim. And the penalty for sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

Now Ephraim may have been a Christian, and he may be in heaven right now with his wife, but based on his epitaph we just don’t know. But you can know what will happen to you when you die. It is very simple, we just have to believe the Bible and admit to God that we are sinners and we need him. As it says in Romans 10:9-10, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” So, if you haven’t already, won’t you take this step of faith today? Then you will know, with certainty, that you belong to Jesus and you will go to heaven when you die.

Want to know more about how to become a Christian? Please visit KnowGod.org

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

 

Feel The Love

Feel the Love At one time or another, most of us have had the often dreaded experience of a performance review from our employer. A typical review involves a job description or standard against which we are measured, and you know the drill; your boss describes in precise detail all of your accomplishments and shortcomings for the last year against. We always hope the good outweighs the bad and most of us wonder how our manager or supervisor can remember so many particulars about our performance when most days we’re not sure he or she even knows our name. But all we really care about is whether or not we’re getting a raise, that is, of course, until one of those negative points strikes a nerve, causing our ire to be raised and our egos to be bruised.

If you’re especially blessed, your review might even include feedback from your coworkers. This review technique goes by many names, but involves the process of your manager collecting positive and negative feedback from a select number of people with whom you regularly interface and then collating said information into a format that becomes a large dose of reality for you to digest. The positive comments are easy enough to swallow, but inevitably the negative ones come out and you’re pretty sure your coworkers just don’t see all the good you do or maybe they have formulated a plot to see you fail. Don’t you just feel the love now?!

I jest, of course, but the negative comments do tend to be more difficult to accept than the positive.

I have been fortunate to be through many more performance reviews than I can count in my nearly four decades of professional service. I can say with all honesty that most of my reviews have been more positive than negative, but I certainly have endured my fair share of negative commentary as well. I especially remember one particular boss, with whom my working relationship could only be described as tenuous, looking me right in the eye and telling me, “your problem is that you’re arrogant.” Nobody wants to hear that about themselves, but I am quite convinced that the negative feedback that I have received, while maybe outnumbered by the positive, is still the most useful. Is it not by facing the truth about oneself that one experiences the most rewarding growth?

In the spiritual realm, we also find that there is a standard against which we are measured. God’s Word serves as that standard; as the Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Indeed, God’s Word is the standard by which we can measure our performance. But, unlike our work performance review, there is no regularly scheduled time where someone else will do the work for us. We have to examine ourselves. Paul instructed us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves.”

For those of us who have already turned to Jesus in repentance and faith, we read the Bible and make every effort to put into practice what is says: “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” (James 1:22-25) It is through our daily Bible reading and study, interaction with other Christians, and church attendance that we grow and improve and we are blessed for our effort.

For those as yet spiritually uncommitted, please consider carefully these words: “the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” (Romans 3:19-20) The fact of the matter is that while your good deeds may outweigh your bad, when you are measured against God’s law, the verdict is already in: we all fall short. But this is nothing to fret over, because God has already solved the problem for us. “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” (Romans 3:22) And that is the good news: God loves you so much “He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) And now there is “no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

So if you have not yet given your faith to Jesus Christ, won’t you do so now? I guarantee you have never known love like this before. Come, feel the love!

To learn more, please visit: needGod.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Imperfect…Just Like Me

Imperfect 3  When you think about the Bible, what comes to mind? Specifically, with regards to the characters in the Bible, do you think of them as role model types…the kind of perfect people whose stories are told for our benefit so we might know how we should live? The first time I walked into a Christian church at age 30, this is the idea I had in my head. Christians were perfect people who went to church, served the Lord, and committed no wrongs. Certainly, the characters in the Bible were like that, too.

It was on a Saturday in early September back in 1993 during a men’s morning gathering that I first came to realize Christians were not the perfect people I had believed. All my misconceptions melted away as two pastors shared their personal testimonies and I came to understand they were flawed men just like me. In fact, the similarities to my own story were more prevalent than I could have imagined. Years of feeling inadequate and outcast melted away as I listened to their stories of how God turned things around for them.

But even once I was saved and armed with this newfound awareness that Christians were imperfect people just like me, I still had this tendency to read the Bible as if every character I encountered within its pages was somehow a Godly example for me to admire. Surely the likes of Moses, David, Samuel, and Solomon were the epitome of the flawless kind of people God wanted all of us to be, right? After years of Bible study and teaching from some awesome pastors, I have come to realize that is not true. Not at all. With the exception of Jesus, every character in the Bible is an example of a fallen human being who has made mistakes, usually many of them, and is in desperate need of God’s grace just like I am.

To explore this further, let’s look at one such character: King Solomon. Solomon was the wisest man to ever live on earth. Why? Because when the Lord came to him in a dream and told him to ask for anything he wanted, Solomon did not ask for wealth or long life, he asked for wisdom and discernment to lead the Lord’s people. We read this in 1 Kings 3:7-9 – “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

This humble request was very pleasing to God and he happily granted it and subsequently, Solomon became wise beyond measure. In fact, I am personally certain no wiser man has ever lived even to this day. Solomon did many things that were pleasing to God, including building the Lord’s temple and writing the book of Proverbs, which is filled with practical counsel on how to follow the Lord. Solomon also wrote the Song of Songs, which presents a beautiful picture of what God intends marriage to be. Reading such things makes it easy to think of Solomon as a great example of Godly living.

But then we read that Solomon, the man who wrote the book on what marriage is supposed to be, had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3) in addition to the great personal wealth he amassed for himself. Many may be tempted to think that if Solomon had multiple wives and concubines this must be OK with God, but that is simply not true. In Deuteronomy 17:17 the Lord’s instructions are quite clear: “The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.”

Solomon’s taking of many wives and concubines was in direct violation of God’s Word. And just as God had foretold, they turned Solomon’s heart away from the Lord. We read in 1 Kings 11:4 – “In Solomon’s old age, they (his many wives) turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been.” And a little further on, in 1 Kings 11:9, we see the Lord was quite angry over Solomon’s disobedience – “The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.” The consequences of Solomon’s indiscretion were far-reaching and eventually led to the division of Israel.

You can read more on this in the book of 1 Kings, and it would be a good idea for you to do so. These stories are rich in life lessons that can benefit us today. In Solomon we see an individual who was hardly a perfect man. He was, like we are today, given to pursuing his own pathway through life, making choices that he almost certainly knew were wrong, to fulfill his own lustful desires. He started out in great humility and became prideful and arrogant and the ramifications of his actions spread far beyond his own life.

It is never God’s will that anyone should sin, but He does allow us to make our own choices. The story of Solomon is not the story of a perfect man, but the story of an imperfect one, and it holds a powerful lesson for us. Solomon thought that having all those wives and concubines would provide happiness, but whatever pleasure he experienced was not worth the price he paid. Solomon came to realize the grave nature of his mistakes as we read in Ecclesiastes 12:14: “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”

Solomon needed God’s grace just like we do. And through Jesus, that grace is available to us all. As we read in Romans 5:17 – “But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” Whatever mistakes we have made, whatever wrong paths we have followed; we can be assured God’s gift of grace is greater and we are able to live in triumph when we trust in Jesus Christ. May you find him now, if you haven’t already.

Blessings to you.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

In God We Trust

In God We Trust 4 It is easy to speak of trusting the Lord in a crisis situation and to cite Bible verses about his faithfulness and dependability. There are many such verses in the Bible and reading them is worthwhile whether you are in a crisis or not. But when the darkness rolls into our lives, when we face uncertainty or some difficult situation, just how do we physically realize the benefits of trusting God? Written words are great, but how do we manifest this into the promised comfort and strength?

On this subject I hope to render some practical advice, attempting to suggest some constructive steps that I have found useful along with some sound Biblical principles. Perhaps there is no perfect answer to this question; surely it is in the darkest times of our lives that we find it most difficult to trust in anything, but I have found that when we are successful at approaching a loving God we find it is exactly in these trying moments that he is actually closest to us.

I think the first step we all must take, or be sure we’ve taken, is to repent. Now “repent” is one of those words that scares a lot of people, or perhaps we could just say it often has a negative connotation. But a quick look at this definition from dictionary.com should help us better understand the meaning of the word: “to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better.” The Bible has much to say about repentance, it is a central tenet of the Christian faith. Indeed, we see in Matthew 4:17 these words: “From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Simply put, until we repent of our sins, we are not yet in right relationship with God. So let us start by examining ourselves, looking for unconfessed sin, and let us bring that to God. The Apostle Peter taught us in Acts 2:38 that, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It is not hard to do, each of us knows deep down in our hearts we have done wrong. To deny this is to be disingenuous. So open your heart and get honest with God. Speak the words out loud, he will hear and you will feel him lift the burden of sin from you.

I might think the next two items could come in either order, but let me first suggest prayer.  On the subject of prayer I will give no specific formula, other than to pray from your heart and in complete honesty. It is not necessary to know how to pray and you do not need special training. Just get alone and speak to God. Once again I will emphasize the importance of speaking your prayers out loud, there is power in verbalization. Many people also find it helpful to write down their prayers. Keeping a prayer journal will help you see patterns in your prayers and will make it easier to see how God is answering your requests.

I think I have found two key concepts for prayer most helpful: one is to pray expectantly. God longs to answer our prayers and promises to do so. James wrote in his book: “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16) And when teaching on prayer in Luke 11:9, Jesus said, “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” So pray expectantly. My other point would be to pray in Jesus’ name, for Jesus promised us in John 14:14, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” There is power in the name of Jesus!

The last concept I’ll share here is very crucial for the manifestation of God’s presence and strength in our hour of need: we must read the Bible. I could write forever on the need to read the Bible, and almost certainly will say more in future blogs, but a few key reasons will have to suffice for now. First, to feel God’s comfort in times of trial we must have faith, and faith comes from the word of God. “So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17, NKJV) It is in the words of Scripture that we find faith, and with faith being essential for experiencing the comfort of our Lord, our quest for faith must begin within the pages of the Bible.

The Bible is also our source for renewal. And one of the areas we most need renewal is in our thinking. Each of us have endured a lifetime of indoctrination into all kinds of worldly ideas, erroneous teachings, and cultural bias. It doesn’t matter where you live or what culture you have grown up in, whether in small ways or large ways, the simple fact is our thinking has become distorted. And the Bible is our reference point to undo this distortion. Paul beseeches us in Romans 12:2: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” And Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Space has run out for this blog, so I will leave you with these two final suggestions that I won’t be able to explore in depth: 1) The Book of Psalms allows us to combine Bible reading and prayer. Each psalm is a great example of bringing a problem or trial before God and seeking His wisdom, power and guidance. Try praying as the psalmists prayed. And lastly, 2) joining a local church allows you to have solid teaching and fellowship that can provide immeasurable hope, support, and healing in difficult circumstance. So if you are not already a member of a church, please consider finding a church soon.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Real Love

Heart-cross  There can be little doubt that people are interested in love. We talk about it, we sing about it, we spend our lives looking for it. Studies have shown love to be one of our most basic and crucial needs. When we feel we have the love we desire, we are happy and content and full of smiles; but when love fails us, our entire countenance changes and some of us may slip into utter despair. So basic and essential is love that it is the subject of books, poems, plays, movies, songs, paintings, and many other forms of art and entertainment.

Our first tangible experiences with love often come from our parents, and research has shown how vital this parental love is to our development. Parents hold us, care for us, sing to us, talk to us, play with us, teach us, dress us, set rules and boundaries for us, and become our first role models. But even parental love often falls short of our needs and expectations, manifesting dysfunction in our lives that affects our ability to give and receive love as we mature.

Eventually we seek romantic love beyond our families of origin. It is here that we tend to experience our biggest hurts and frustrations. We extend ourselves toward others in hopeful expectation and often experience rejection and letdown. Many of us try multiple times before finding that one special person with whom we feel we can spend our lives. And then, in the midst of what we were sure was the perfect relationship, we find futility and heartache. Indeed, we often find, as the popular hit song declares: love hurts.

Maybe another popular love song has it right when it proclaims that we are looking for love in all the wrong places. The fact is, as vital as it is for us to have love in our human relationships, the starting point in our search for love must be with God. For it is only in God that we can find and experience perfect love. The Bible teaches that “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and it gives us the perfect description of love: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

The Bible is filled with examples of God’s love and assures us that “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) When we seek His love we find all that we have been searching for; we find perfect, endless, limitless love. He will never forsake us despite our mistakes, our struggles, our bad habits, or our shortcomings.

And when we experience God’s perfect love it becomes our example of love: “We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19) and our definition of love: “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10) And it is because of God’s love for us that we can approach Him in confident expectation. For we know that Jesus has experienced all our human struggles and He has empathy for us. “This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

So are you ready to lay aside your struggles and receive His love? It’s easy to get started, just get alone and talk to Him. Acknowledge He is Lord and that you need Him. “For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:8) It’s that simple and if you are humble and genuine, you will experience new life and new hope in a way that is real and tangible. And you will know real love at last!

Our hope for you, then, is summed up in this verse from Ephesians 3:19: “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

Want to know more about how to experience His love? Please visit KnowGod.org

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.