Caught Up to Heaven [A SERIES]

PART ONE – PAUL’S EXPERIENCE

[1]  I must go on boasting.  Although there is nothing to be gained.  I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.

[2]  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.  Whether it was in the body or out of the body, I do not know–God knows.

[3]  And I know that this man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows– [4] was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

[5]  I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.

[6]  Even if I should choose to boast, I could not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth.  But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do, or say…

[The New International Version Bible (NIV)]

What Paul says in verse 1, he is forced to say so that the Corinthian church members might look at him from God’s perspective.

Paul’s restraint increases as he discloses what was probably the most intimate and sacred of all his Christian experiences.  Paul repeats that he is speaking of himself only because circumstances have compelled him to do so.

What Does the Bible Tell Us About the Experience of Death and About What Happens Next?  [2 Cor. 12:2-4]

“The Journey to Paradise” – Revelations, and Visions:

Revelations are apocalypses, literally “to remove the cover, to unveil.”  It’s the unveiling of something hidden which gives light and knowledge to those who see it (Eph. 3:3; Rom. 16:25).  

Revelations are more general than visions.  You might have revelations without having visions but one never has visions without revelations.

Visions, dreams, and trances are hard to distinguish.  A vision comes to one in an ecstatic state (Isa. 1:1; Ezek. 12:27) and brings revelation knowledge.  The experience points to a special awareness of God concerning what He is doing or going to do.

Several years ago I was asked by a local pastor if I could write a play for the upcoming Resurrection Sunday.  I was given two months to put everything together.  And by the way…I’ve never done anything like this before.  So lacking confidence, not knowing where this was going, I began to pray for guidance.  NOTHING!

Then, perhaps out of desperation and lack of faith, I found myself lying face down on the carpet pleading for God to give me inspiration.  And then I heard in my spirit, “Mel, get up from the floor, and wait.”  “Wait?  I have a month to put this all together, Lord!”  His response was “Just wait”.

That night in my sleep, I felt a nudge to my shoulder and thinking that I was dreaming, rolled over to the other side.  Again a nudge, but harder this time.  As I sat up on the edge of the bed, the voice returned:  “Mel, get up and go to the dining room table.  Get a pen and a paper tablet and I will give instructions on what I want you to accomplish.”  This was at 5:30 AM.  Was I still dreaming, is this really happening?  I got up and followed His guidance and instructions and at 7 AM the outline was finished.  The storyline, the set design, the title….everything but a script!  Yes, God even took care of that.  Was this a dream, a vision, a revelation?  All I do know is, the experience showed me what He was doing and going to do!

Background To The Text [2 Corinthians 12] –

Most Bible scholars believe Paul had a near-death experience.  Paul mentions that at least on one occasion he was left for dead.  As he writes he speaks of this experience and says some guy he knew had it.  Writing about something that happened to an author and inventing a second person to deliver a message is common literary practice.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12 speaks from experience that there are events that follow our physical death.  The burden of this conversation prepares us, not for death, but for the events that take place between our dying and our final destination.

Caught Up To Heaven (verses 2-4).

One vision which Paul recounts stands out from the rest in its extraordinary character.  His ecstatic episode which he was transported to Paradise began in VERSE 2.

Paul is sure his remarkable experience occurred but uncertain whether the “caught up” [RAPTURE] experience was in the body or out of the body.

BODY RAPTURE is not regarded as impossible.  TWO instances are recorded in the Old Testament, Enoch (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5) and Elijah (1 Kings 2:11; Mk. 9:4) and in the New Testament, Jesus was bodily raptured into heaven.

At any rate, such a one was caught up (Gk. harpazo, “to snatch away”).  “Caught up” is a form of the Greek word harpazog, the same word used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which in reference to the RAPTURE of the Church.

Paul was “raptured” to the third heaven.

The Third Heaven

The third heaven designates a place beyond the immediate heaven of the earth’s atmosphere of clouds and beyond; the further heaven of outer space and its galaxies and into the presence of God Himself.  (Heb. 4:14, 7:26; Eph. 4:10)

The FIRST HEAVEN is atmospheric, the SECOND HEAVEN is composed of the stellar universe, and the THIRD HEAVEN is the unique dwelling place of God–a different dimension.

In VERSE 3, Paul again clarifies his mystifying experience to his readers.  He’s uncertain if he was in a bodily or disembodied state.  Whether his soul was separated from the body for a time and taken up into heaven, or whether he was taken up, body and soul together, he wasn’t sure.

[3] “And I know that this man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows–“

VERSE 4 teaches us that human words are inadequate to tell us about heaven.

[4] “was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things that no one is permitted to tell”

If the THIRD HEAVEN describes the place of his rapture, then Paradise specifies the wonder of his rapture.  [The third heaven of v. 2 and the Paradise of v.4 are one and the same.]

Paradise is a Persian word for an enclosed park, garden or pleasure ground used only three times in the New Testament.  In Luke 23:43 with the thief on the Cross, and in Revelation 2:7.  In the Old Testament, this term is used in Genesis as the Garden or Paradise or Eden.

I believe Paul witnessed the state of the spirit-souls of the redeemed who had died are “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8), but still in a “celestial body” so we won’t feel naked until the day when we are covered with the glorified and incorruptible resurrection body (2 Cor. 5:1-3. 1 Cor. 15:42, Phil. 3:20-21).  Then the REDEEMED of the Lord will shine forth with full splendor of eternal Christ-likeness.

Paul heard unspeakable (“inexpressible”) words.

Unspeakable word is an oxymoron, speaking which may not be spoken, for even in the heavenly state it is beyond words.

Human language is too inadequate to describe things that transcend all knowledge and understanding.

We often speak about Paradise trying to describe its state and heaven to define its features and whereabouts, but the truth is that we are stepping over the threshold into another dimension, a reality not of this world, infinite, spiritual and only distantly sensed by us in our earthly tent.  And yet as born-again believers in Christ, we know with assurance that one day we’ll be at our permanent home.

The Scriptures will occasionally part the mists of our earthly existence and grant us brief glimpses of the GLORY yet to be revealed.  (2 Cor. 5:11-12, 1 Corinthians 15:50; Rom. 8:38-39; Phil. 1:21. 3:20-21; 1 Thess. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:8.)

From Paul’s experiences, we are granted a view of the indescribable GLORY that lies ahead and thereby secured him to patiently endure all the severe suffering in his ministry.  He thus knows that the sufferings of this present age were not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to come (Rom. 8:18; 2 Tim. 4:18).

Someday we will arrive in heaven realizing that everything we see and experience is new and indescribable in earthly vocabulary.  I’m so thankful that God used illustrations that we could understand that gives us just a glimpse of eternity.

CURRENT EVIDENCE (verses 5-6)

Paul could have boasted, as his rivals do, of impressive religious credentials, experience, and achievements, but he doesn’t.  Instead, he speaks only of his weaknesses.

[5] “Of this same [man’s experiences] I will boast, but of myself (personally) I will not boast, except as regards my infirmities (my weaknesses)”  [AMP}

Paul’s weaknesses, trials, and tribulations he went through for Christ’s sake, that had left him broken of body, mind, emotion, and spirit.  For these areas became the very places where God could do His greatest work in and then through Paul.

Paul wouldn’t be like his opponents who glorified in their earthly state or pride.  For God alone is due to all the glory!

Though boasting includes many lies, in verse 6 Paul affirms his trustfulness.

[6] “Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth.  But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say”  [NIV]

Although all of Paul’s boasts were true and about true occurrences, not to mention all the other reasons he could boast, he didn’t dwell on those things.

And the reasons why?

Others might think too highly of him.  He didn’t want to be judged by the past, or what he said about himself, but that men should judge him by what they presently heard and saw.

[NOTE:  I will continue this study, being CAUGHT UP, with Part Two in the Series – The Leading Up To Our Final Destination.]

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CREDITS:

Dictionary:  VINE’S Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Jr.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New King James Version (NKJV); or as noted.

 

 

 

SANCTIFIED: To Be Set Apart As New Creatures

How often do we find ourselves trying to get a handle on religious vocabulary thrown around in Christian circles?  In this study, the words to “sanctify”; “sanctification” will be addressed.

In the generic definition, to sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer [Bible Study Tools- Dictionary].  The pencil was designed by its maker for the use of writing down information.  I used to chew on my pencils all the way through my school years with my mom pointing out…” that’s not what pencils are used for!”  In the theological sense, a human being is sanctified therefore when he or she lives according to God’s design and purpose, set apart for His service.

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  

For all you Word Detective followers, YES, I did a study in these verses in 2018. [THE QUESTIONS about WORLDLY ASSOCIATIONS]

Since some topics of conversation have come up recently in my own family regarding worldly associations, I’m re-visiting the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Church in Corinth.

Paul’s Second Letter to the Church

Paul wrote this second letter because of continued strife and tension over social issues and false teachers who had infiltrated the church attacking him as an Apostle.

Do we struggle in the church today concerning social issues?  Are we hearing messages from pulpits around the globe addressing the moral changes occurring all around us; touching each and every one of us in some way?  Or is “compromise” the word of the day?

The Word Is Constantly Changing

Many changes in society are necessary because we as human beings are not perfect.  For the same reason, much “development” goes in completely the wrong direction.  God’s Word, however, is perfect, and never changes.  Sin remains sin, even when it becomes widely accepted.

The Silver Ladle Story:

Helen was a wonderful Christian woman.  A single mother raising her only son Tom as best as she could to love God.  Helen became very worried when Tom told her that he was moving to the Big City.  A year went by and all seemed well.  Tom called his mother and told her, his friend Sarah was moving in with him.  He told his mom not to worry, they were just roommates, strictly platonic.  Helen knew if she could spend just a little time with them together she would know just how “platonic” it was.  She soon got the chance when invited over for dinner.  All went well until about two weeks later.  Sarah came to Tom and said, “Tom, I’m not saying she took it and I’m not saying she didn’t.  The fact of the matter is, my silver gravy ladle has been missing ever since your mother left.”  So Tom called his mother and left a message on her machine:  “Mom, I’m not saying you took it and I’m not saying you didn’t, but ever since you left two weeks ago, Sarah’s silver ladle has been missing.”  The next day Tom’s mother called and told him:  “Tom, I’m not saying you are sleeping with Sarah and I’m not saying you’re not.  The fact of the matter is, if she were sleeping in her own bed she would have found that gravy ladle.”

We are chosen people (1 Peter 2:9)

As believers in Christ Jesus, we are different.  We are not like any other, we are not supposed to be!

2 Corinthians 6:17 (NIV Bible)

Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate…”

As Christians, we are told by the Bible to live holy lives to reflect the nature of God.  We are to SEPARATE ourselves from actions, influences, or people who hinder our service to God.

True believers are to live differently from those in the world. 

Sounds simple, but there are a lot of people who think they can come to Christ–SAVED–and still hang out with the same crowd.  They think they can still go to the same places, but you can’t.

Being Separate–SANCTIFIED.

The Bible tells Christians to be separate from the world.  SEPARATED means when you are SAVED, you change your life, change your friends, and you change your hangouts.

But that said, that doesn’t mean you abandon your lost friends.

When I came to Jesus at the age of thirty, most of my friends abandoned me.  They thought I was a religious nut talking about how my life had really changed since I came to Jesus.  Their reaction was “The proof is in the pudding.  We’ll just keep an eye on how you’ve really changed.”

You still talk to your old friends, you just change the topic of your conversations.  You can still hang out with your old friends but change the locations.  Instead of going out with them, ask to bring them with you to church.

My point is, you don’t abandon sinners, but you don’t join them either.  As a Christian, you are to bring them up to your level, not let them bring you down to theirs.

A Christian is directed by God’s Word to apply the biblical principles of SEPARATION and avoid a few things:

1.  We are to steer clear of anything that attacks biblical standards. 

If the Bible said it was a sin 2000 years ago, it’s still a sin today.  The Bible doesn’t change to fit the changing culture.

2.  Avoid any association that will hinder your spiritual life. 

So, teenagers, that means if your boyfriend or girlfriend won’t come to church with you, then find a new one that will.  Not only boyfriends and girlfriends but any of your friends.

2 Corinthians 6:14, 16 (NIV Bible)

[14]  Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?

[16]  What agreement is there between the Temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said:  “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

3.  Avoid any situation that you are unsure of:

There are some sins that are plainly spelled out to us in the Bible, and there are sins that are your own personal convictions.  If you have any doubts as to whether or not something is a SIN, then for YOU…it’s a SIN.  Because of God’s word in Romans 14:23   that “whoever has doubts…for whatsoever is not of faith is a sin”.  In other words, if you aren’t sure if it’s a SIN, then for YOU…it’s a SIN.

JUST DO THE RIGHT THING!

James 4:17 says “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”  (NIV Bible)

If you are not living a life separate from the world, then how does the world know you’re different?  If you can still go out and commit the same sins as before you were SAVED, then I hate to tell you, you didn’t get SAVED!  I’m not saying a Christian is never going to sin, for God saved my soul. but I still live in the flesh until I go home to be with the Lord.  So anyone who says that they never SIN is calling God a liar, according to 1 John 1:10.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.  But I’m not talking about ‘slip-ups’ here.  I’m referring to instances where we intentionally sin.  Paul says in Romans 6:15 that Christians are under GRACE (God’s mercy and unmerited favor) and no longer under the law.  So does that give us the freedom to sin at will?  Paul said, “Certainly not!”  Even though Christians are no longer in danger of God’s condemnation, we will still answer to Him for the sins we commit.

Romans 6:12 says not to let sin reign in our bodies.  There’s a big difference between intentional sin and daily struggles of the flesh.

Paul says in Romans 7, that there is none of us who are perfect, that we’ll never be as long as we’re on this Earth.  And even though we aren’t perfect, we are to strive for excellence with the leading of the Holy Spirit.

If you think you can have it both ways, you’re wrong!  Once you accept Christ as your Savior, life will change. and you’ll want to SEPARATE yourself from the old life you had.  Will you completely change?  Of course not, but you will change!

You may ask, I know I’m SAVED but I still have a problem with SIN in my life, so how do I avoid those SINS?

As a Christian, when you sin, it is not the spirit that sins, but the FLESH and Paul said…

Some of the LUSTS of the FLESH are listed by Paul in verses 19-21:

  1. Adultery – any sexual contact outside the bonds of Holy Marriage is a sin – PERIOD.  There’s been a lot said to teenager’s conduct; about keeping their hands off each other, well the same goes for the adults.  If you aren’t married to them, keep your hands off them.
  2. Idolatry – anything that comes between you and your worship of God is an idol – your job, your family, your favorite football team, ANYTHING!
  3. Witchcraft – Harry Potter.
  4. Jealousy
  5. Wrath
  6. Envy
  7. Murder abortion.
  8. Hatred racism.
  9. Drunkenness

“And those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” 

Avoidance of the lusts of the flesh.

Any sin you commit that gives the devil ammo he needs to shoot your spiritual life down, and the ONE WAY to avoid this is to apply the words of Galatians 5:25 -If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.]  Amplified Bible.

Can we walk in the Spirit and the World too?  Not a chance, and that’s why we are to be separated from the sinful world.

Remember you can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

Is Jesus your Master, or are you a captive to the world; a SLAVE to this world and its master?  You can’t have it both ways, so get off the fence and choose today which master you’ll serve.

Remember the words of Joshua chapter 24, verse 15…

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CREDITS –

Commentary:  Come Out And Be New, contributed by Joseph Nordyke, December 12, 2008 – Sermon Cntral. [The Silver Laddle Story]

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or as mentioned in the text.

 

 

 

Our God Is So Awesome!

I received a message on Facebook Messenger a few weeks ago from my great grandkids with a question for their great grandpa.  Well, it was actually from their mother since Jaxon is 5 years old and Talon is only 3,

THE QUESTION:  “I challenge you to answer the boy’s question in your next blog:  Why is God so cool?  And what about Jesus too?”

It has been a long time since I’ve used the slang word, “Cool”, so before answering their questions, I decided to go to the internet to see if the definition of the word had changed over the years:

“COOL is an acronym abbreviation or slang word meaning AWESOME, GREAT.” (thesaurusyourdictionary.com/cool/awesome – slangs]

Now I’m sure there are many books and commentary written to answer the question of why God is so awesome, so great, so “cool”, but the best book ever is written gives exhaustive reasoning to my great grandkids question is the word of God, the Bible.

SCRIPTURE:  Isaiah 38:4-8; Isaiah Chapter 40:3-8 (9-24); 1 Samuel 17:36; 2 Peter 3:8-13; Psalm 34:18-19.

The Book of Isaiah tells us that God described himself to the Israelites because their king (Hezekiah) was a fickled king who couldn’t make up his mind whether to be loyal to God or not, consequently, the people were questioning their relationship with God.  It was then that God thundered to the people who He really is.

Isaiah 40:9-12 (Amplified Bible)

[9] O you who bring good tidings to Zion, get up to the high mountain.  O you who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

[10]  Behold, the Lord God will come with might, and His arm will rule for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.  [11] He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arm.  He will carry them in His bosom and will gently lead those that have their young.  [12] Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, marked off the heavens with a [nine-inch] span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

The largest seas in the world are nothing but a handful of water in God’s hands.  That’s AWESOME!  And really “cool” to a five and three-year-old.

Yet, have you ever been in a ship out in the ocean where you can’t see land?  Makes you feel rather small and helpless.

But to God, all those seas are like water in the palm of His hand.

The distance between planets and stars is far in our observance.

How far are galaxies from other galaxies?  If you are traveling at the speed of light as Luke Skywalker was able to accomplish in the Star Wars movie series, you couldn’t reach the end of the universe in your lifetime.

But the Bible tells us that God measures the diameter of the universe with the span of His fingers.  Yet God knows how many grains of sand that are on that beach you collected shells on last Summer.  Now that’s really “cool’!

Verses 13-14 asks:  “Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?  Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way?  Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?”  [NIV Bible]

These verses tell us about God’s omniscience.  He’s ALL-KNOWING!

Where did God get His knowledge?  

Sometimes we’re impressed by people’s Ph.D.’s or those whose IQ is more than 200, but God’s IQ is infinite.  And here we are trying to make God fit into our prefabricated boxes instead of just opening ourselves up, dispensing with our vanity, and just asking Him to tell us about Himself.  Now that may be difficult to explain to a five and two-year-old boys, but reading out loud verses in the Bible with children about what an awesome God He is a good place to start.

Verse 15 declares:  “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.”  [NIV]

Our God governs the universe and yet, He’s intimately involved in each of our lives.

Be careful not to think too highly of nations or those who govern.  Some people are tempted to elevate their leaders or governments to the level of God.  But the Scriptures tell us that they’re DUST particles on a scale–or found on a dust mop.

There are some educators today who relate God to the laws of science.  But God’s not a scientist who obeys scientific laws.

He’s the author and finisher of ALL laws and more.  This we see in Isaiah 38:1-8.

In case you don’t know what it means, turning back the sundial ten steps, it’s the same as adding two degrees–or forty minutes–to the length of day.  How “cool” is that?

In other words, our God not only created the universe, but He’s still actively in control of the universe.

He controls the movement of the planets and of time itself!  As it says in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

I think that’s where many Christians get stumped.  We know, in the abstract, that God can do anything, but we run into a problem that He’ll do anything for us.

The God of the Bible is a living Being–and a very personal one at that.

The Philistines worshipped gods as made of stone or wood.  The Israelites had forsaken God.  But to David, the Lord of all creation is a living God.

In 1 Samuel 17:36, David said to King Saul,  “I, your servant have killed both a lion and a bear!  Goliath the Philistine who is not circumcised will be like the lion or bear I killed.  He will die because he has stood against the living God!”  (International Children’s Bible).

The idea that God was real and alive had not entered the minds of the Philistines and most of Israel either.  They were worshipping gods of stone and wood; god’s devised by their own imaginations.

Isaiah 40:18-20 asks the question:

Maybe you’re thinking we don’t see Christians doing these things.  Wouldn’t it be a little weird to see your neighbor praying to his apple tree?  Or watch him peel an apple then offer it to a rock?  But that’s exactly what Isaiah’s talking about in ancient idolatry.

Today, there’s a different kind of idol worshipping.  Anytime you or I make a person, a god, an institution or anything else that’s equal to or higher than the LIVING GOD in our loyalties, our priorities, then we’re committing idolatry.  

That’s what IDOLATRY is; giving to anyone or anything the loyalty and devotion we should render to God and this includes anything that we feel deserves our time and resources more than our worship of God.

Did you know, we’re all born to be worshippers–even so-called atheists?  They may claim that they worship no god, but in God’s eyes they worship themselves or whatever it is that gives them pleasure.

If you think about it, Isaiah has a real sense of humor.  In verse 20 for instance, he’s saying, “Some of you are poor and you say that you don’t have gold to cover your idol.  Well if that’s the case, be careful of the wood you choose!  Your god may be eaten by termites.”  [paraphrased]

Then he says, “And by the way, be sure to nail your gods down or they may just fall off their pedestal and break!”

Well, God can’t be compared with a physical or human icon–a politician, movie star, or musician (the”American Idol”).  He’s very much alive, and He’s without faults, imperfections, or with failures.  All that He declares is accomplished.  And anything or anyone we put ahead of Him is bowing to deaf and dumb idols of ancient times.

Nevertheless, we do tend to put material things ahead of God.  Every time we make our jobs, our leisure time, our worries or our friends more important than our WORSHIP of God, we show that our view and estimation of God is lacking.

Isaiah 40:21-24 tells us,

  • Don’t you know? …Hasn’t it been told to you from the beginning?
  • It is HE who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants like grasshoppers (READ to your children the verses with “awe”!), (HE) who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to live in…

God is not only incomparably “awesome” compared to idols, but He’s incomparably great in His relations with the rulers of this world!

  • …Who makes princes into nobodies, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing  

How “cool” is all that, Jaxon and Talon?

Let me wrap up my observations with THREE POINTS:

#1.  God is all Powerful, all Knowing and He’s everywhere! 

“His arm rules for Him.”  

God’s arm, His Son Jesus Christ, shows us God’s power.  With Jesus, nothing is impossible – be it mountains moved, problems to solve, or bodies to be healed.

He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  Big words for a 3 and 5-year-old.  It means ALL powerful; Knows everything; He’s present everywhere, all at the same time.

#2.  God is a very personal LIVING Being.

“His reward is with Him.”

God is a very personal God whose greatest desire is a RELATIONSHIP with you.  He knows every pain (“owie”) you will have and sorrow as well as every joy and triumph that you’ll experience.  And He even listens to you–even if you don’t make sense.

#3.  God is the perfect loving Shepherd.

“He tends His flock like a shepherd.”

He shows you that He’s powerful…yet tender as a shepherd who will not abandon His sheep, and wherever He leads you, take you to His perfect PEACE.

 

 

 

Psalm 34:18, 19 reminds us,

Recognize that God is an AWESOME God in your daily lives.  And when you continually recognize and demonstrate His care for you, your children will follow.

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV); or as noted in the text.

 

“Head” and “Heart” Knowledge: Is there a difference?

Someone once said that the difference of what is in our head and what is in our heart is the longest 12 inches known to man.  And living the Christian life and being able to get head knowledge down to the heart is the difference of whether you will live out your beliefs.

That said, there are a lot of things we know we shoulder that we shouldn’t do in our heads, but stopping or putting them into action begins that struggle within us.  I think that’s why people struggle to come to church consistently.

College kids leave the nest and go off to school with all their fears and anxiety that are never settled and all those questions go unanswered.   You have to be able to address your fears and have your questions answered.  It doesn’t all happen miraculously without your participation.

Hopefully, in this brief study, you and I can get honest about where we are with God by actively participating in God’s Word that takes His Word from head knowledge to your heart and answers questions you’re diligently seeking answers for.

To Be Like Jesus Would Be Our Virtues:

VIRTUES by definition:  “Our behavior of keeping high standards.”

To be like Jesus would be to take His VIRTUES and live them in our lives for that’s God’s design for us.

To think like Jesus–it is our belief.  To believe something isn’t enough, you must believe it as a way of life.

How can we do that?

Setting our standards and moral lives to the standard God desires for us by living it out in our beliefs, producing disciplines that will keep us strong in our faith.  I don’t know about you, but thinking like Jesus–just saying that makes me feel inadequate.

I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but I have a past, I have issues, I have shortcomings, I have kids and family, I have weaknesses, I have attitudes.  All these things keep me from thinking like Jesus because all these things show my imperfections.  So what are we to do?

God tells us that we need a renewed mind [Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:2].

We can’t THINK like Jesus unless we have the mind of Christ, and the only way we can do that is let Jesus RENEW or CHANGE the way we think.

Our Bible Text:  Colossians 2:6-8

Setting Goals –

As we journey in our Christian walk with the Lord, our goal is to allow God to renew or change our thinking about the truths of God.

[Verse 6] “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him.”

Christ has saved us from the penalty of our sins.  He adopted us into the family of God because of what Christ has done for us.  We had to go from knowing about Jesus to Jesus being the center of our lives.

REFLECTION:

There’s a big difference between knowing about Jesus and having a relationship with Jesus with Him being the center of your life and mine too!

For us to have the correct belief in God, we have to put God in His rightful place to have an understanding of what Jesus has done for us.

God is the catalyst if you want more of God in your life, and if you want to have more, you must have a relationship with Him.

To have a relationship with God you have to desire to be in the presence of God.  In the presence of God, God makes changes to our lives, and through those changes, He empowers us to live a life that’s not only abundantly full but with blessings overflowing in our lives which are pleasing to Him.

These are the central truths in our Christian faith.

One of them is that we understand who God is and how much He desires a relationship with us.

And, in 1 John 4:19 (AMP)

“We love because He first loved us.”

Because God bestowed on humanity a free will, man is not forced to love Him, but rather consciously and freely chooses the responses he makes to God’s love.  [Footnote: Bible Hub]

God the Father sent God the Son to die for each of us for our sins and Jesus sent God the Holy Spirit to empower our lives for service to Him.

So a key question at this point is…Who IS God?

The Bible opens up with Genesis 1:1 with the very first words from God to us:  IN THE BEGINNING GOD…  everything revolves around God creator, savior, master of the universe. There are of course questions we don’t have answers for–Where did God come from?  At the beginning before time as we know it, God was, God did, God created!  He doesn’t have to explain anything!

How He came about…He IS God and we aren’t.  He owes no explanation.

The Apostle Paul tells us “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”  (Romans 1:20 – NIV)

The question isn’t Is there a God?  We know that there is a God because we see His glory every day in our lives as we look around.  We see there’s a creator of all this and we are without excuse.  Scripture makes it clear that there will always be gods (small “g”) that people choose to follow and serve.

God makes no apology that He’s the God of God’s and there’s no one higher and nothing was created by an alternate god.

Here is a Statement of Truth we have to take deep in our heart:  I believe the God of the Bible is the only true God–God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

I don’t believe that’s blind faith.  I believe that’s faith-based upon the word of God and the anointing power of the Holy Spirit confirming it to our souls.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to understand all about the God I serve, because I take strength and comfort knowing that my God knows more than I can even think or fathom.  What a difference that would make in your life–just think how many struggles would go away if you realized you don’t have to have all the answers.  You can take comfort knowing that He is God and you aren’t.  You can rest knowing that He’s in charge and is in control.  And you have a desire that goes beyond your own abilities and you actively want to follow His will for your life.

What is His will?  He will show you if you’ll let Him.

Once you put that in perspective, God is put in the right perspective.  God loves you and wants to do what’s best for you.  He becomes your God and not one of many gods.

Once you believe the truth that there’s only one God; once you believe that the one God wants to have a personal relationship with you, you will begin to LIVE your belief.

You will live like God is near in your life…

You will live like God can control your life and you are happy to let Him…

You will live a life that has meaning and a purpose because you know God is in it!

Once you know that God that you serve, you LIVE instead of just existing!

PSALM 121 (NKJV)

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  New King James Version (NKJV); New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); English Standard Version (ESV).

Music Video:  YouTube:  The Center Of Your Life by Charlie Hall.

 

Every Meal Has A Desired Outcome!

Scripture:  Luke 22:7-27  The Last Supper 

 

I just love the Food Network on television.  The one thing I’ve learned from watching the cook shows over the years is:

Every meal has a DESIRED outcome.

There’s something that the TV Cook intended to accomplish in preparing this meal.  What makes a birthday dinner special?  Or a wedding reception?  Or that special date with a special young girl back in 1964 when I prepared a juicy steak and twice-baked potatoes for the first time.  The MEAL can make all the difference.

Yet the very thing that can make a meal great can also ruin it!

The Three “R’s” of ruining a meal:

  1. RECIPE.
  2. RECEPTION.
  3. RELATIONSHIPS – Conflict and Competition.

The argument at the table

LUKE 22:24-27

The disciples all gathered together for the Passover meal in the upper room with Jesus.  They all wanted to be Numero uno, number one.  And what’s worse, each thought he was!  Each wanted to be Jesus’ right-hand man, His Chief of Staff!

“What is causing so much disharmony among the nations is the fact that some want to beat the big drum, few are willing to face the music, and no one wants to play second fiddle.”  ~ Henry Kissinger

The disciples had their own view of the Kingdom

Jesus followers wanted Jesus to be KING over the Jews, the Romans, the Greeks, and every political power.  They didn’t realize He already was.  He didn’t have to overthrow surrounding nations and governments in order to be King.  His Kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36).  He rules by spiritual relationship.  The disciples thought they should be leaders while Jesus is looking for lovers and lifters.

“Mop Bucket Attitude!” 

The LORD has a GREAT MEAL PLAN for us!

Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s Hamburger, wrote:

“I got my MBA long before my GED.  I even have a photograph of me in my MBA graduation outfit–a snappy knee-length work apron.  I guarantee you that I’m the only founder among America’s big companies whose picture in the corporate Annual report shows him wielding a mop and a plastic bucket!  It wasn’t a gag; it was a case of leading by example.  At Wendy’s, MBA does not mean Master of Business Administration.  It means Mop Bucket Attitude!”

In order not to ruin the great meal the Lord has planned for us (verse 30), we must go from…WHAT will I eat? to…HOW will I GIVE?

Luke 22:25 (NIV)

[25]  Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.”

Earthly leaders normally lord it over their subjects, issue commands, give orders and tell people what to do and where to go.  They are the BOSS.

In Jesus’ day, it was a commonplace practice of rulers to make gestures of goodwill.  They might open the Coliseum and invite the public for free entertainment, or make their soldiers do some project for the common good.  These rulers called themselves “Benefactors”, or “Friends of the People”, one who does good, as if their sole aim was to rule for the good of the people and not their own gain.  They may do good things, but with an ulterior motive.

Followers of Jesus can’t be concerned with position or power.

Jesus said it:  “But you are not to be like that.  Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (verse 26).

In order not to ruin the great meal the Lord has a place for us (verse 30).  We must go from …WHERE will I SIT? …to HOW will I SERVE?

PLACE SETTING to PLACE SETTING–

It’s really unfortunate in today’s society that SERVICE has become associated with a business.  We use to have “Service Stations”, where an attendant pumped the gas, checked your oil, washed your windshield, checked the air in your tires, told you potential problems with your car, and all with a smile and for less than 50 cents a gallon!  NEVERMORE!  And yet we really do value good service.  We are willing to pay more if we know the service will be good.

Our habit of connecting service with business makes it hard for us to understand the Biblical language.  In the Bible, the word SERVICE means the kind of work a slave did for his master.  They didn’t get paid for it.

Just as we can have trouble understanding “service” and “business”, so the disciples had trouble bringing the words “servant” and “King” together.

Forgetting about “your place”, “your position”!

What did Jesus do in setting an example for His disciples?

He washed their feet!

What would Jesus do today?

He’d wash our feet.

You never stand taller when you are on your knees! You are never more in control than when you choose to serve:  “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (Matthew 20:26-28).

The Communion Song to listen to in reflection of your position as a true believer and of God’s Planned Meal for us:

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CREDITS

Music Video:  The Communion Song by Jonathan Stockstill and Bethany Worship; YouTube.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search–settings, advanced search.

Bible Translations:  English Standard Version (ESV); New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP).

Dave Thomas Story:  Dave’s 5 Values – The Biography of Dave Thomas.

And I Saw God’s Glory!

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Isaiah 6:1-3 (NIV)

[1]  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

[2]  Above him were seraphim, each with six wings:  With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

[3]  And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;

the whole earth is full of his glory.”

It’s difficult to know when reading passages of Scripture in the Bible whether God’s GLORY refers to His actual glory or to human recognition of it.  This is true, for example, when Scripture speaks of the earth being full of the GLORY of the Lord.

In Isaiah 6, we see the call and commissioning of Isaiah, the prophet.

We don’t know for sure, but we assume that Isaiah was in the earthly temple.  However, the temple described in verse 1 is the Heavenly Temple.

In the year King Uzziah died it may be like saying the year Pearl Harbor was bombed, in the year JFK was shot, or in the year the Bomb was dropped.  This was a time in the nation of crisis and change that the prophet came face to face with the King of Kings.

HOLINESS tells us that Jesus is the exact representation or image of God.  What many have lost is the holiness of God.  God has become “the man upstairs”, or “the God next door”.  Max Lucado said it well:  “Immanuel, God with us.”

In Jesus Christ, God came near.  Something of the awesomeness and greatness– His GLORY has been forgotten.  The church culture has so allowed the culture around us to shape the way we do things.  The customer satisfaction mentality has invaded our churches we have to be sure not to offend anyone– WORSHIP is all about them.

Here in Isaiah, we see that WORSHIP is all about God.

When we see and sing the words on the Big Screen in church or out of a hymn book, we need to remember the songs are all about Him.  When you read History in the Bible, you need to remember, it’s His story.  What Isaiah got was probably more than he bargained for in a worship service.

God’s High Position (6:1) – Beholding His Glory

[1]  IN THE year that King Uzziah died, [in a vision] I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the skirts of His train filled the [most holy part of the] temple.  [John 12:41]  (Amplified Bible).

Isaiah was reminded that God is sovereign.  When God showed up, Isaiah saw God high and lifted up.  He saw God in His greatness and holiness.  With everything that was happening, God was in complete control while sitting on His throne in heaven.

Here in Isaiah 6:1, looking at several different Bible translations, you can see Lord spelled in all caps–i.e., LORD; and others, Lord.  I just had to dig deeper here.

LORD (all caps or small caps) reflects the original term “YHWH”, while Lord (standard capitalization) is the English rendition of the Hebrew Adonai, meaning “to be”; “the Lord God Almighty, the sovereign or supreme one.”  It suggests that God simply is i.e., He possesses an underived existence; He is the eternal “I AM”.  This name became a special designation–emphasized in God’s relations ship to the nation of Israel.  [“LORD and Lord – What’s the Difference? by The Christian Courier] 

John 12:37-40 clearly tells us that Isaiah was seeing Jesus on the throne!

Isaiah saw God on the throne with His hand on the throttle in complete control.

  • When it says DISEASE–God is on the throne!
  • When the boss says you’re FIRED–God is on the throne!
  • When our children DISOBEY–God is on the throne!

Isaiah saw God high and lifted up, but he also heard the Seraphim cry “Holy, Holy, Holy”

THE HOLINESS OF GOD

The Holiness of God is, His being in a class by Himself with His perfection and greatness and worth.  All His perfection and greatness and worth are distinct and separate–we’ve been taught that HOLY means separate–His in a class by Himself.

HIS HOLINESS IS WHAT HE IS AS GOD THAT NOBODY ELSE IS –

His quality of perfection can’t be improved upon, can’t be imitated, and that determines that He is all of that and nothing is determined from outside Him.

Now when Isaiah 6:3 says that angels are crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty”–the next thing they say is this:  “The whole earth is full of His”…and you might think “holiness” would be the next word.

But he doesn’t say holiness, he says GLORY!

Essentially, “holy”, essentially holy, and the whole earth is full of His GLORY.

I stab a definition here by saying the GLORY OF GOD is the manifest beauty of His holiness.  It’s the going public of His Holiness.  It’s the way He puts His holiness on display for people to apprehend.

Read the words from Leviticus 10:3:  God says He will be shown to be HOLY among those who are near Him and before all the people He will be honored.

I will be shown to be holy,” He says.  “And among ALL the people” — say it another way–“I will be glorified.”

The Worship Connection of His Holiness and Glory –

What on earth does all this have to do with our worship?

EVERYTHING!!!

If you divorce or separate God’s holiness from worship, all you have is entertainment.  Why start on time, why do things in order, why not distract others during the song service and preaching?  Because we should be focusing on the greatness of God!!!

WHY THE CROSS?

The cross was ultimately the result of God’s Holiness.  Sinful man can’t stand in the presence of a Holy God.  God took care of the ‘sin problem.’

2 Corinthians 5:21 (AMP)

[21]  For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].

This God that’s HOLY and separate is the God we need to see in our worship–in our everyday living.

Isaiah’s Posture of Humility in God’s Glory and Holiness –

“Woe to me!  I am ruined and undone…”  (6:5)

To Isaiah’s peers, he was upright. a righteous man, a man of unmatched integrity.  AND then just one glimpse of God’s greatness changed his whole self-perception.

It took God to reveal his guilt, it took a picture of deity to reveal Isaiah’s filthiness–his sin.

Have you ever seen God in such a way that revealed who you really are?

Have you ever recognized that you are a sinner that’s separated from God without hope?

That’s what the VISION did for Isaiah.  It revealed reality to him–God sees us as we are, where we are in life right now!  He sees your heart!!

What happened when Isaiah saw this VISION of God?

CONVICTION –

“Woe is me!  I am undone and ruined.”

The Hebrew word for “undone”:  to come apart at the seams.  Isaiah was totally exposed for who he was before a holy God.

CONFESSION –

A vision of the holiness of God that brings true conviction of sin is always followed by the confession of sin.

I love Billy Ricks’ slant of this fact:  “Regardless of excuses, sin is a prison from which you can never be freed until you admit it’s your own fault that you were thrown in the slammer.”

CLEANSING –

Because Isaiah came clean he was made clean.  The cleansing power of God went to work on Isaiah’s behalf.

God is HOLY and also merciful.  When we confess our sins to Him, God goes to work.  He cleanses us with the Blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9).

What is the big deal about WORSHIP in Christian America today?

To me, it’s about seeing God in all of His manifested GLORY.  Let me break that down just a bit.  When someone says, “Look at the wind blowing outside,” and when you peer out the window you can’t actually see the wind.  What you see is the effect that the wind has on the objects it’s blowing on–the trees, a flag, a hat blown off one’s head.  So when God breathes, you can’t visibly see His breath, but you can see His GLORY manifested in your surroundings.  Just look around you!

In seeing God for who He is we can see ourselves as we truly are.  The church culture of today has so allowed the culture around us shape the way we do things.  The customer satisfaction mentality has infiltrated our churches.

Here is a heavenly worship service where Isaiah saw a fresh vision of God.  From this vision of God’s HOLINESS, Isaiah was inspired to pen words like Isaiah 40:8.

What churches and Christians in America desperately need is a fresh vision of God’s holiness and His Glory.  We don’t need a new revelation because all that God is and has for us is revealed in Christ Jesus.

We give God the GLORY!!!

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CREDITS

Commentary:  John Piper’s “What Is God’s Glory” at desiringGod.org.

Music Video:  “I SAW THE LORD” by Dallas Holmes – YouTube.

Images:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified (AMP); King James Version (KJV).

Having A DEAF, DUMB, and BLIND FAITH

“Not another message about faith?”  YES!  And during the Christmas season, especially.

FAITH definition:  “Faith is not believing that God can; it’s knowing that He will.”

Application:  Walking by faith is being prepared to trust where we are not permitted to see.  FAITH allows God to do for us and with us what we could never do alone.

This Bible study in Luke, chapter 7,  begins with a Roman soldier’s faith and takes us inside TRUE FAITH showing how and what faith does in lives.

FAITH is deaf to doubt, dumb to discouragements, blind to impossibilities and knows nothing but success in God.

Scripture study:  Luke 7:1-10

At Christmas time, especially, faith is the highpoint from the event that happened so long ago in the small town of Bethlehem.  In this story, we find a Roman centurion who, though he was a Gentile, understood who Christ was and is.  And although this story of a “Centurion” is ancient history to us today, it would have been of special interest to Theophilus, a Gentile to whom this account is addressed (Luke 1:3).

The story is a significant one being this was a Gentile who exercised this faith that even Jesus would remark that this man’s FAITH was amazing.

Only twice in all of Scripture Jesus said to “marvel” or be amazed.  The other time was when He began His public ministry in His hometown of Nazareth and He was rejected by His fellow Jews–(Mark 6:6; Luke 4:14-30)  “He marveled (“was amazed’) by their lack of faith.”

The Centurion had a FAITH that was more knowing and sensitive than anything Jesus had witnessed in Israel.

What could be more horrible than to amaze the Son of God by one’s lack of faith?  What could be more thrilling than to amaze Him by one’s faith?  This centurion had amazing faith!

“Why was Jesus so amazed?”  A question I had to investigate.

WHAT ARE CHARACTERISTIC MAKES THIS MAN’S FAITH SO AMAZING?

Luke 7:1-2 (AMP)

[1]  AFTER JESUS had finished all that He had to say in the hearing of the people [on the mountain], He entered Capernaum.  [2]  Now a centurion had a bondservant who was held in honor and highly valued by him, who was sick at the point of death.

This man had an amazing faith that caused him to love across all barriers.

Jesus had just completed the teaching known to us as “The Sermon on the Mount.”  He now enters Capernaum, a city on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.

While Jesus is in Capernaum, He is approached by representatives of the Roman Centurion.  Centurions were commonplace during the Roman Empire and equivalent in rank to a modern-day army captain, normally in command of 1000 soldiers.

This particular centurion had a servant who was ill.  Matthew (8:6),  in his account of this incident, says, “a servant boy.”   Whoever this young man was, Luke, who was a doctor, said he “was sick and ready to die.”

If you’ve ever clung to a loved one at death’s door and felt they were slowly losing the battle, you must know this centurion’s awful sense of helplessness.

We are told that this man loved Israel, though it was not the land of his birth.

It’s also obvious in reading that this man cared deeply about his young servant which is very out of the ordinary socially and the crossing of racial and ethnic barriers when as a Gentile, he appealed to a Jew for help.

This man loved people not just like himself.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel particularly effective in loving folks who live outside the social barriers around me (eg. “skid row”, the homeless in tents on the city sidewalks…).

The second characteristic I noted of an Amazing Faith was that it caused this man to be excited and active in the work of God around him.  (vv. 3-4)

 

We need to understand that the Jewish elders had little love for the Romans in general and Roman soldiers in particular.  This Roman officer must have been a very unique individual for the elders to be willing to approach Jesus on his behalf.

The elders not only bring the man’s request but they vouch for their Gentile friend.  They argue that he’s a man of integrity he’s well-liked by the Jews, and worthy of Jesus’ help.

Verse 3 says,  “The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to Him, asking Him to come and heal his servant.  [4] When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with Him, This man deserves to have you do this [5] because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”

This man had given substantially to the building of a house of worship.  Gentile worshipers were barred from the Temple in Jerusalem but not so much with synagogues in the outlying areas.  The synagogue was a place that even Gentiles could come and listen to the word of God being taught.

So in that time and place, this centurion lived the major way that God was using to spread His light within the synagogue system, using his money, his reputation, and influence to build the synagogue.  The centurion consciously chose to participate enthusiastically by involving himself in what was most apparent in what God was doing.

In stark contrast, according to George Barna, a church statistician, adults who regularly attend church, 37% didn’t give a dime to a church in the last year [George Barna, How to Increase Giving in Your Church (Regal Books) p.20].

In this man’s marvelous faith, it caused him to approach Christ in great HUMILITY (vv. 6-7).

This passage reveals two essential components of the Christian FAITH–an understanding of who Christ is and an understanding of who we are in Christ Jesus.

Not only did this man display great love, but also his great humility.

In verse six we find,  “So Jesus went with him to his house.  He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  [7] That s why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you…”

Before Jesus could reach his house, the Centurion sent a second representative to Jesus, to tell Him that it wasn’t necessary for Him to come to his house.  All because he was familiar with Jewish religious customs, he didn’t wish to put Jesus in a position of having to enter the home of a Gentile.

This Roman soldier, a man of considerable influence and power, was also uniquely HUMBLE and regarded himself as undeserving of having Jesus come under his roof, even felt unworthy of meeting Jesus in the street.

This soldier, unlike the Pharisees, doesn’t ask Jesus for a sign that he was who He said, he was.  This man doesn’t even ask to meet Him.

The third characteristic of this man’s remarkable faith might be summed up in this song–his willingness to trust Christ alone even before the Cross.

How much more do we have today but to TRUST in Christ alone?

Verses 7b-8 (NIV) –  [7b]  “But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  [8] For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.  I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 

The centurion apparently realized the One who had the power of life and death; that could heal with a word, must be God incarnate.  And if Christ is divine, then he, as a Gentile sinner, must be unworthy to even meet Him.

All Jesus must do is say the word, and he believes that it is as good as done!

There’s no evidence that I could find in Scripture that this man ever personally heard Jesus preach, and yet he believed.  He made his request known based on what he heard of Jesus.

In verse 8, the word “myself,”–“also,” in other translations–we see that the officer saw a parallel between the way he commanded his soldiers with the way Jesus commanded diseases.

If this Roman, with very little spiritual instruction, had that kind of FAITH in God’s word, how much greater our FAITH should be!

In VERSE 9, we see the reaction of Jesus:

[9]  Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and He turned and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I tell you, not even in [all] Israel have I found such great faith [as this].”  (AMP)

This man’s remarks amaze Jesus, so much so, that they came from a Gentile.  He marveled at a Roman centurion, whose background and circumstances ought to have made it difficult for him to have faith, a man whose occupation prized being big, bad and tough, a man steeped in paganism, a man hated by the Jews because he was Roman.

Yet in spite of all the circumstances that went against him, here stood a man who was a perfect example of FAITH.

Almost as an afterthought, Luke adds verse ten,  “And when the messengers who had been sent returned to the house, they found the bondservant who had been ill quite well again.”  (AMP)

So how often have you displayed such faith?

We will never be perfect in our faith but we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to enables us to incorporate the elements into our lives.

Back to the question:  HOW OFTEN HAVE YOU DISPLAYED SUCH FAITH?  If you’re like me, not very often.  And that’s a sin.  Because it’s God’s will that we all have amazing faith.  But all too often in our ‘business,’ we get so wrapped up in ourselves, we don’t show true care and concern for others.  Remember, true faith is “active”–not sitting around the fireplace talking about the unfortunate.  What startled and impressed Jesus were the characteristics that anyone like you and me can have in our lives.  Some think that “amazing faith,” is the ability to do the miraculous.  But miracles are something that Jesus can do anytime.

This Bible study in Luke should bring the understanding there are today those whose lives that would impress Jesus, because of their faithful godly lives.

The characteristics of a marvelous, amazing, faith!

  1. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO LOVE ACROSS BARRIERS.
  2. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO BE EXCITED AND ACTIVE IN THE WORK OF GOD.
  3. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO APPROACH CHRIST IN GREAT HUMILITY.
  4. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO BE WILLING TO TRUST IN CHRIST ALONE.

Through the POWER of God’s Word, and through our Savior Jesus, we can be people of amazing faith–someone whose FAITH is unselfish, unassuming, and unwavering, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves.  AMEN.

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CREDITS

Music Video:  YouTube video, In Christ Alone – Brian Littrell

Photo Images:  Google Image search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified (AMP).

Various Commentary on Luke 7:1-10:  Sermon Central

Eternal Security GUARANTEED!

At the core of every human being is the desire to be APPROVED–to be liked.  Our self-esteem is often set by the opinions of others around us.  And from those opinions, so many of us feel bad about ourselves.  That deep down inside our soul we have a sense of failure–failed either to please those around us, ourselves or our heavenly Father.

The Apostle Paul seems to reinforce our own notions of failure in the first seven chapters of the Book of Romans in the Bible.

In my flesh, that is my old nature, Paul tells us,  “dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:5).

Paul sums it up at the end of the chapter by saying, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24)  Then he answers his own question without taking a breath:  “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25).

So it’s not through our own efforts, through our family line, through our associations or deeds that we receive acceptance–but it’s through the efforts of Jesus Christ on our behalf that we are rescued, cleansed and loved and then empowered and changed by that relationship.

Acceptance Brings Security Forever!

“I DON’T WANT TO GO!  DON’T MAKE ME LEAVE!”

One of the saddest stories I’ve read was about the biological mother of this young boy who had won a bitter legal battle to reclaim her son from his adoptive family.  When she arrived with her lawyer to take him from the only home he had ever known, the terrified 4-year-old little boy pleaded with those he knew as Mommy and Daddy not to give him up to this complete stranger.

“Don’t make me go,” he begged.  “Please, please don’t send me away!”

Without an understanding of the courts, lawyers and legal codes, the boy was removed and left to wonder what he had done to be banished from those who had always said they loved him.

Some Christians live with the terrifying insecurity that in God’s mind lurks a willingness to send them away if they fail or disappoint Him.  Despite their love of God, they fear that God will withdraw His love from them and remove them from His heavenly home forever.

In the Bible, however, God promises His children that once He sets His love on them, we can be secure in that love forever!

The place to begin to understand a believer’s security with God is with God,–for a believer’s security is not rooted in the believer, but in the believer’s God.

The Believer’s Relationship with the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:1 (GNT)

“There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.”

This one verse should be tattooed on everyone’s hand–printed on paper and posted on your fridge, and memorized by every believer.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, how you’ve acted, who you are–how much you think you’ve failed–if you are truly in Christ, you are NOT condemned anymore.  Think about that, let it settle in.

God isn’t sitting in heaven with a big hammer in His hand, waiting for you to mess up so He can whap you on the head.  That’s hard for us to accept–quick to judge ourselves–so Paul goes on to tell us why this is a reality.

Romans 8:2-4 (AMP)

[2]  For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and death.

[3]  For God has done what the law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh [the entire nature of man without the Holy Slirit].  Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice].  [Lev. 7:37]

[4]  So that the righteous and just requirement of the Law might be fully met in us who live and move not in the ways of the flesh but in the ways of the Spirit [our lives governed not by the standards and according to the dictates of the flesh, but controlled by the Holy Spirit].

We are under a new authority–jurisdiction now–it’s like when you leave your residing country, you are no longer under your country’s laws, but the law of whatever country you go to.

By believing in Jesus Christ, you left the country called “the world” and have joined God’s kingdom–and are now under a new law–a law called “the law of the Spirit of life.”

So, in Christ, we are not condemned because we’ve been set free–[in verses 1-4]. 

Set free from what?

Romans 8:5-8

So set your mind on the Spirit–

That’s easier said than done–but it’s important to see the distinction.  I think one of Paul’s points is that we have been empowered and set free–the chains have been broken–so we can now choose which mind will control us.

Before I was a Christian my sinful nature controlled my mind.  There was a little tract being passed around at the time by the Billy Graham organization during his Crusades around the country called “Have you heard of the Spirit-filled life?”  Inside it showed the life of a person who doesn’t have Jesus–priorities, hope. actions–all out of whack with no order or purpose.  We are controlled–either by the sin nature or by the spirit nature–the Spirit of God.

A life controlled by Jesus has order and purpose.

The order becomes more evident the more time you spend in the relationship in Christ.  There’s a wonderful promise here in that even though we continue to live in bodies we live with a nature that’s opposed to God–one day our perishable bodies will put on an imperishable nature.  Like Jesus, we will have a perfect, indestructible body without a flesh nature–won’t that be wonderful?

So where then does our loyalty lie?

Romans 8:12-13 (NIV)

[12]  Therefore, brother and sisters, we have an obligation–but it is not to the flesh to live according to it.  [13]  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

We have an obligation Paul says–it’s the idea of owing a debt to someone–like a mortgage to a bank.  God gave us life through the Spirit, so we are in debt to Him, He owns us–it’s a spiritual reality we need to make in an outward reality in our lives.  We are no longer indebted to our sinful nature–in fact, we need to put to death the flesh.  [vs. 12-13]

In our Godly relationship, closeness to God means we lose control but given a new nature (verses 14-17).

There is so much here in the above verses and the main point is this: the fleshly nature leads to death and fear–fear of punishment and condemnation.

But when we come to Christ Jesus, we don’t get condemned and we are welcomed into a special, close relationship.

“Abba” was the cry of a child to its daddy.

Not only that but we are now heirs to God’s riches–and boy does He have riches–not the kind you spend in a store, but the kind you live off of for the rest of eternity!

Also, looking at the end, there’s something to sharing in Christ’s sufferings that’s part of the process of becoming a child of God.  [vs. 17-b]

Look at what Paul says about it:

Having this new relationship with Christ Jesus means we will be changed.  Right now, creation itself has been waiting since the fall of mankind for the day when we receive new bodies.  It hasn’t happened yet–but it’s coming.

In the meantime, “eagerly wait for it with perseverance”, Paul says.

How–when we seem to be in constant battle with the flesh and spirit? 

Keep reading on:

There’s a lot of theology in these verses–“predestination and foreknowledge”–commentary, books, etc..

It’s at the bottom of an argument between Calvinism and Arminianism:

Calvinist believe God chose who He was going to save and we had little to do with it.  Armenians believe that we chose God and God had little to do with it,  My position, like a few others, is in the middle–I believe God knew beforehand those that would choose Him and so predestined them–that there is a balance between actions of God and actions on man when it comes to salvation.  What I want to focus on here is in verse 28.

Do people really believe this?  A more literal way to translate this would be:

“to them that love God, all things work together for good according to His [not our] purpose.”

In that case, this Scripture is true:

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness.  Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Once that repentance happens, ALL THINGS work together for good.

The word, “work together” is a good one–it’s where we get the word synergy.  

Synergy is where more than one thing works together well–“the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  [Dictionary.com]

An isolated event in ones’ life might seem bad at the time–like my visit to the hospital for four days last January from an acute respiratory infection.  But because my illness brought me to a hospital bed, I was able to share and comfort the hospital chaplain intern who came to tears sitting in a chair next to my bed over a rebellious daughter who was living in sin.  Through my sickness, God gave me the wisdom and confidence to be of some comfort.  It “worked together for good”

The word “good” means:  “BENEFIT”.  It’s not “good” like “virtue.”  

God isn’t saying “well you’re going to suffer but it’s a good thing to suffer.”  “No pain, no gain!”

There’s an actual benefit that God works through circumstances–yes there will be pain and suffering at times, but know that part of this relationship we have with Jesus means in the end, God will work even the bad to our benefit.

Now we might not see that benefit till we get to heaven–and that leads to Paul’s final major point in this chapter:

Belonging to God’s family means facing death, but receiving a rich inheritance.

God is on our side and we need fear no enemy–losing our job or sickness, or hardship or even death and taxes.

What a wonderful picture God is building–accepted into a new family (the family of God).  For ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD,  and God, who was our enemy, is now on our side–but it gets better!

Romans 8:37 (NIV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

So we can CONQUER in God.

The base word for “conquer” means “a means of success.”  Not only that but it’s a “super success.”  An individual, a group of people, can’t be a “conqueror” and be a failure at the same time.

Sin no longer has mastery, trials no longer hold terror, life is no longer something to be dreaded…BECAUSE we ARE conquerors.

Now that doesn’t mean we are free from suffering and pain, BUT we are always connected to the One who works for our benefit–NO MATTER WHAT!

Paul puts the cap on this wonderful chapter of promises with this:

What more could we ask for that “nothing can separate us from God’s love” (vs. 38-39).

God so wants to convince His children that His eternality of His love for them that He devotes an entire chapter in His Word (Psalm 136) in which every one of the 26 verses repeats the PROMISE:

“His steadfast love endures forever.”

And so, if He ever stopped loving a believer in Christ Jesus, He would be lying about His LOVE of being “steadfast” and “forever.”  If God ever allowed anything to separate one believer from His love, He would be a liar.

What great confidence we have then,  There’s no one, nothing, no event, and at no time that you can be torn from God’s loves in Jesus.  There’s no reason to say, “Oh, God can’t love me anymore after what I’ve done.”

Oh yes, He can and does!    Far from separating from you, He wants to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).

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~ CREDITS ~

Commentary:  Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc., “Secure Forever” by Donald S. Whitney.

Bible Translations:  Good News Translation (GNT); New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV). Amplified Bible (AMP).

Images:  Google Image search.

Let the Church be the Church

Bible Study in 1 Peter 4:13-19

It has always been God’s plan to have a holy people; those that would stand for Him no matter what happened in their lives.

JUDGMENT BEFORE CORRECTION AND REVIVAL – 

In my last three blog-posts, I dug into the Book Of Micah and looked into God’s judgment of Israel some 700 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  And as we enter the upcoming Christmas season we should all look at ourselves closer as the Church in our communities of who we are representing in Christ Jesus.

Where Judgment Begins (1 Peter 4:17)

[17]  For it is a time of judgment, to begin with, God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  [New International Version – NIV]

This passage of scripture seemed to me at first reading a little strange.  And as a student of the Bible, I looked in my commentaries to see what theologians had to say about this verse and I was surprised at how they addressed this verse.  This is why context is so valuable when studying God’s word regarding any Bible’s verses.

1 Peter 4:13-19 (NIV)

[13]  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

[14]  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

[15]  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even a meddler.

[16]  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

[17]  For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

[18]  And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 

[19]  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Peter is obviously talking to those born again Jews that would have to go through suffering for their faith.

The church in Jerusalem was already under heavy persecution and would suffer even worse before it was over.

Verse 14 tells us that to be happy–to have joy in the suffering for the cause of Christ, is knowing that in your persecution God is glorified!

Peter also wants us to know that the Christian life is hard enough without coming under God’s hand of discipline.  That’s why he says in verse 15, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal or even a meddler.”  It has always been God’s plan to have a holy people.  Those who would stand for Him no matter what happened in their lives.

One day God will take unto Himself a Bride to be without spot or blemish.

So where does this purification process begin?

It Starts With His Church.

“For the time has come that judgment must begin at the House of God”  verse 17.

It has always been God’s plan…

Jeremiah 25:29 (AMP)

“For behold, I am beginning to work evil in the city which is called by My Name, and shall you go unpunished?  You shall not go unpunished, for I am calling for a sword against all inhabitants of the earth, says the Lord of hosts.”

Amos 3:2 (NIV)

“You have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” 

Then the churches of Asia Minor 

  • Jesus said to the Church in Ephesus:

“Consider how far you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.  If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”  (Revelation 2:5)

  • The Church at Pergamum:

“Repent therefore!  Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”  (Revelation 2:16)

  • The Church at Thyatira:

“So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways.  I will strike her children dead.  Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”  (Revelation 2:22-23)

  • The Church at Sardis:

In case you will not rouse yourselves and keep awake and watch, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not know or suspect at what hour I will come.  (Revelation 3:3 – Amplified Bible)

  • The Church at Laodicea:

“So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.”  (Revelation 3:16 – AMP)

Purification is always done for a purpose–a reason for discipline.

  • Ephesus – Lost their first love.
  • Pergamum – Teaching false doctrine.
  • Thyatira – Condoning immorality.
  • Sardis – They were spiritually dead.
  • Laodicea – They had become apathetic.

The Bible tells us, the church, that we are the light of the world.

In the case of each church mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the light had gone out.  They were no longer a lighthouse for the lost souls and shed no light at all to those around them.

It’s always done to God’s people

Hebrews 12:8 (NIV)

[8]  If you are not disciplined–and everyone undergoes discipline–then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

God cannot and will not tolerate unconfessed sin in the life of the believers–His children.

Discipline.  Who Needs It?

Godly discipline is to refine us (vs. 11) –

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”  (NIV).

  • Godly discipline to reestablish us (vs. 11)
  • Godly discipline to reaffirm His love to us (vs. 6) “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, punishes everyone He accepts as His son.”  

God’s discipline sifts out contamination (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) –

  • The Church cannot condone SIN (1 Corinthians 5:1-2) –

[1]  IT IS actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, an impurity of a sort that is condemned and does not occur even among the heathen; for a man has [his own] father’s wife.

[2]  And you are proud and arrogant!  And you ought rather mourn (bow in sorrow and in shame) until the person who has done this [shameful] thing is removed from your fellowship and your midst!

  • The Church must not compromise scripture (1 Corinthians 15:1-2) –

[1]  Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken a stand.

[2]  By this gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

  • The Church should confront the SINNER (Mathew 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:2, 5, 13).

QUESTION:  Why Does JUDGMENT Begin At The House of God?

I hope this brief study helps you understand, as it did for me, why God wants His church to be holy and pure.  I’m afraid that if the church won’t stand up and be the church, that God’s judgment is going to fall on her.

Are we a church that tolerates and promotes unholiness?

Do we tolerate and promote sin in our own lives?

Let me mention again.  God will not and can not tolerate sin in the lives of His children.  Oh, that we the Church might walk worthy of our calling.

Let the Church be the Church!

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CREDITS –

Commentary:  “Where Judgment Begins” by Michael Goodwin – sermon on July 20, 2005.

IMAGES:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and as noted.

JUDGMENT is Good! (Last in the series)

Micah 6-7

Corruption, it seems, is alive and well.  We hear stories of bribery in other parts of the world all the time–India, China, and Russia, typically repeat offenders–but it’s not something we expect to find here in the United States,  We’re better than that, right?  I’d like to think so, but that doesn’t stop people from making stupid decisions,  When people make stupid decisions, and over a lifetime of 76 years, I’ve made plenty–they have to face the consequences.

Nowadays, that typically means a trial in a courtroom, but in Bible times it meant something more harsh, like maybe fire and brimstone?

Usually, yes; that is unless you count the time that God brought Israel to court for immorality in the Book of Micah.

Let’s look now at the last two chapters in Micah.

Micah 6:1-8

These 8 verses read like a courtroom drama:  “Law and Order: Jerusalem Crimes”.

THE SCENE IS SET –

I can just hear a lawyer yelling this now–“God is demanding that the people explain their actions.”

At this point, the Israelites were extremely corrupt.

A REVIEW OF MICAH –

Chapter 2:8-9  (NIV)

[8] Lately my people have risen up like an enemy.  You strip off the rich robe from those who pass by without care, like men returning from battle.

[9] You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes.  You take away my blessing from their children forever.

Chapter 3, God calls out the leadership specifically:  verses 1-3

In chapter 7, God lists more specifics!  verses 2-3

[2] The faithful have been swept from the land; no one upright person remains.  Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets.

[3]  Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire–they all conspire together.

So in Micah 6:1-8, the prosecution starts by asking the mountains and hills to listen.  They are the JURY!

[1]  “Hear now what the Lord says:  Arise, contend and plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.  [2] Hear, O mountains, the Lord’s controversy, and you strong and enduring foundations…”

The book of Luke in the Bible says that if we’re all silent the rock themselves will cry out in praise–so I don’t think it’s a reach that they could serve as a jury if asked by their Creator.

He then begins to list off what he has done, when it says in verse 5, God wants to make sure that the Israelites “know the righteous and saving acts of the Lord” (AMP).

What comes next is such a human action!  The people want to jump to the extreme!

They got from not listening to God’s Word at all to wanting to go overboard with burnt offerings, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil and their first-born child (vs. 7)?

Really?  That’s a bit dramatic, don’t you think?  But this is how they thought!  They were like the criminal when, overcome with guilt, tells the cops to throw him in jail, and let him starve to death in a dark pit because he did something wrong.  And in my opinion, the Israelites deserved every one of those things.

They disrespected the creator of the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  God would be well within His rights to simply point His finger and ZAP THEM with lightning bolts, or rain down fire and brimstone.

But He doesn’t.

In verse 8, God tells them what He wants:  That’s it!

Micah 6:8 (AMP)

“…to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God”

God doesn’t care about these huge outward displays of guilt.

He’s God!

He knows how you’re feeling, and whether your guilt is legit or not!

All He wants is for you to follow Him in all of His ways.  That’s the very definition of MERCY.

Going back to the courtroom for a moment…

This would be like the district attorney telling the judge, “We’ll drop all charges so long as the defendant comes back to us and does the right thing.”

What if in the military trials, with suspected terrorists, ended like that?  “Your honor, let this terrorist go free, so long as he promises not to do it again.”  That would never happen, right?

But God’s MERCY is so much greater than ours that we can’t really understand how far it really goes.

God promises that Israel will rise again!

That’s right–after all this, after the courtroom, the lawyers and the jury, God says, “It’s OK!  I’ll continue to bless you, and this is how.”

Micah 7:11-12 (NIV)

[11]  The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries.

[12]  In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.

So what does this mean for us today?  It means if you sin, if you do anything to disrespect God, to anger God, He doesn’t expect you to flip a little switch and become a SuperChristian to make up for it!

All God wants is for you to follow Him–the rest of it will take care of itself if you do that.

When you do sin–and let’s face it, it will happen–don’t wallow in self-pity and make absurd promises to God that you know you can’t keep.

Just be honest with God–admit you’ve sinned–and go back to following Him.

THAT’S ALL HE WANTS!

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CREDITS –

Credit:  Law and Order (1990-1991) Theme – Youtube video

Images/Photos:  Google Image Search – settings, advance search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV).