Seeking God’s Voice Outside of the Bible

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Some modern Christians say God speaks into their heart to guide them towards a course of action. Others say that God answers prayer decisions by emotional response. Are these concepts taught in the New Testament?

God’s Word vs. Man’s Myths

2 Timothy 3:12-4:4 exalts the the holy scriptures and the danger of departing from them. Let’s examine the text:

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Paul warned Timothy about religious deceivers but reminded him that God’s revealed word would prevent him from being deceived. The God-breathed word is all-sufficient to teach and lead man and equip him everything he will face in life. Therefore, Paul urged Timothy to preach the word faithfully and patiently because some would leave the sound teaching of God’s word, following  myths that teach what they want to believe. The sound teaching from God’s inspired word trains and equips the Christian, makes him wise for salvation, and prepares him for judgment. It is knowledge of God’s word and its integration into one’s life that prevents the Christian from being deceived and drawn away from God by evil people and impostors speaking myths (false narrative) in the name of God. If I want to know God’s will, I must know His word.

The Revelation of God’s Will to Man

God has thoughts and plans that He does not reveal to us. Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us the secret things belong to God. Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that God’s ways are higher than ours and a great gulf separates His infinite knowledge and our finite awareness. However, God, through His word, has revealed part of His will for us to know and follow.

Soldiers discussing strategy during war against skyIn warfare, the highest levels of military authority develop an overall strategic war plan, individual battle plans to support strategic goals, and analyze information that can affect outcomes. As commanders communicate the plan down the chain of command each level gets the information it needs to know but not all the plan. If each level achieves their objectives they will achieve the overall goal even though the lower levels do not know the entire plan. The officer in the battlefield does not need to know the naval or air combat plans except how it impacts the battlefield such as bombardment and air support. Even then, the officer doesn’t need to know the number of ships or planes or how they will be deployed, only how they will help him achieve his objectives. The officer in the field does not need to know the overall war plan but must know the battle plan he must execute. The soldier needs to know where to go and what to do to execute his part of the battle plan and does not need to be concerned with a broader scope of information. In these relationships, each role has objectives defined by the plans of higher authority. They don’t have to know the overarching plan but they must know what they must do.

God has revealed His will for man in the scriptures. It is obvious that the Bible does not contain the exhaustive knowledge of God, for He has infinite knowledge and we could not grasp all that could be known. The Bible reveals what God wants us to know about Himself, His work, and His instructions for living and serving Him. Let’s consider how God revealed His will for humanity in the scriptures.

Revelation in the Old Testament era (before the church)

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Before what we might call the Church Age (Old Testament through the Gospels), God spoke directly to people through various means:

  • Direct speaking
    • Genesis 6:13f – God told Noah to build an ark
    • Genesis 12:1f – God directed Abram to leave his country
  • Spoke through physical appearance or manifestation
    • Genesis 18:1-3 – Three men (Note also verses 16-21: “Lord said” in the men’s discussions)
  • Spoke through angels
    • Genesis 19:1, 12-13 – the angels communicated God’s plan
    • Genesis 21:17f – angel spoke God’s will to Hagar
    • Luke 1 – angels appeared to Zechariah and Mary to tell of John and Jesus
  • Spoke through visions
    • Genesis 15:1f – God and Abraham talked in a vision
    • Ezekiel 1:1 – God’s message delivered through visions
  • Spoke through dreams
    • Genesis 20:3-7 – warned Abimelech in a dream
    • Genesis 28:10f – Jacob’s dream in Bethel
    • Matthew 2:13, 19 – angel spoke to Joseph in a dream
  • Spoke through prophets
    • Jeremiah 1:9-10 – words given to Jeremiah to proclaim to the people
    • Ezekiel 2:7 – instructed to speak the words of God
  • Inspired writers recorded His will
    • Deuteronomy 5:22-23; 9:10 – God gave His law written on stones
    • Jeremiah 36:32 – Jeremiah’s message recorded on a scroll

An important thing to remember is that although the means of communication varied, the message was verbal, there was no doubt that God was speaking, and the message was clear and understandable.

Revelation in the Church AgeHearing the Voice of God

Though God spoke in diverse ways in the Old Testament, God speaks to the church through His Son.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Hebrews 1:1-2

Jesus becomes the central focus of New Testament revelation. Jesus acknowledged that He was given all authority and instructed the apostles to teach each new disciple to follow what Jesus taught the apostles, Matthew 28:18-20. While Jesus was teaching the apostles it was clear that they didn’t always understand His message so He promised to send the Holy Spirit to them when He returned to heaven. The Holy Spirit would remind them what Jesus taught and guide their understanding as they taught the disciples, John 14:25-26, John 16:12-15. It is important to note that the Holy Spirit impart the message to the apostles who would share the message with the disciples.

The apostles and those who heard them teach recorded the message of God. The Holy Spirit inspired the word, 2 Peter 1:20-21. As noted earlier in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the inspired message brings us to spiritual maturity. Although the scripture is inspiring, that is not what is meant by this passage. The scripture was “God breathed”; He gave it life when He gave the words. In Ephesians 3:1-4, Paul wrote what God revealed to him. When the Ephesian Christians read Paul’s letter they would know what Paul knew about God’s revealed message. Jesus gave His message through the Holy Spirit to guide men for all time.

God’s Will Revealed Once For All Times

The book of Revelation ends with a warning not to add to or remove any part of the message, Revelation 22:18. Though some may apply this only to the book of Revelation consider that such a warning is inherent in the rest of Scriptures. What man with finite knowledge could presume to edit God’s word or add his own message and consider it equal to what God revealed? In 2 John 4-11, the apostle commands that we walk in God’s commandments and that anyone who does not abide in them or goes beyond the commandments does not have God. Paul warned that even if an apostle or angel from heaven preached a gospel different from what had been revealed would be accursed, Galatians 1:6-9.

According to Jude 3-4, the message was once for all times delivered to the saints. Peter encouraged his readers to remember what had been revealed through the holy prophets and the apostles when confronted by scoffers, 2 Peter 3:1-2. He reminded them that God’s word was a source of knowledge and encouragement that they should return to for encouragement.

God’s revealed will teaches the saving plan of God and instruct us in righteousness, Titus 2:11-15. It is a message with the power to perfect us, Ephesians 4:11-16. Christians are told to seek guidance from God’s word:

  • 2 Timothy 2:2, 14-15- Know it, live it, and teach it
  • 2 Timothy 3:15-17 – Mature through studying God’s word
  • 2 Timothy 4:2-4 – Remember that when people leave God’s word they embrace error
  • Galatians 1:6-9: – Ignore messages that contradict God’s revealed word even if it is from someone claims to be an apostle or angel

Should Christians Expect Other Revelations From God?

Some Christians teach that God reveals His will directly to people outside of scripture. Some modern Christians believe that God speaks through various means:

Emotions  – Good feelings directing them towards a course of action and bad feelings indicating God’s displeasure with a choice

  • Feeling an impulse to act
  • Feeling peace about a decision as a revelation from God of His approval of that decision

Direct Revelation – God placing thoughts and desires into their hearts (an inner voice).

  • “God is telling me to…” (though rarely do they say He is conversing with them)
  • “God is speaking to my heart”
  • “God laid it on my heart”
  • “The Lord laid a scripture on my heart”

This idea is promoted in popular religious books. Francis Chan, in his book  Forgotten God, wrote

“My hope is that instead of searching for ‘God’s will for my life’ each of us would learn to seek hard after ‘the Spirit’s leading in my life today.’ May we learn to pray for an open and willing heart, to surrender to the Spirit’s leading with that friend, child, spouse, circumstance, or decision in our lives right now.”

Elsewhere in the book he writes, “It’s much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes.”

Chan is urging readers to ask God and expect Him to direct the person towards a course of action. While that might seem like the obvious thing to do, as I will observe later, the New Testament  does not tell us to seek or expect God to communicate with us in this way.

Divine appointments – feeling that God led them to choose certain actions that brought about certain results (“Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous”)

In his book Multiply, Francis Chan wrote,

“God may well want you to take His gospel overseas. Too many Christians discount that possibility too quickly. Some people are too comfortable with their current lifestyle and would never dream of sacrificing their comfort for God’s glory. Others quickly assume that they are called to something else, something more normal. We shouldn’t make these assumptions. Have you ever genuinely told God that you would submit yourself to His will in this area? Right now, you should ask God if He wants you to pursue living in a different location for the sake of the gospel. It may be a terrifying thought, but we have to trust God more than we trust ourselves.”

We see a more conservative approach in the Bible with Esther’s uncle, Mordecai. Knowing the Persian king was tricked into issuing a decree to kill the Jewish people throughout the empire, Mordecai urged Queen Esther, who was a Jew, to intercede for the people. Mordecai did not tell Esther that her being the Queen was God’s plan all along for the salvation of His people nor did he ascribe it to chance. He took the only view a person can take without direct revelation from God regarding his plan: “Who knows?” Esther 4:14: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Ecclesiastes 9:11 acknowledges that time and chance are factors in our lives. It may be that God is working a specific plan that brings two people together or accomplishes some other purpose (ie., Romans 8:28). The event or meeting may be the result of chance but the Christian, using wisdom learned from God’s word, can act in a way that leads to the salvation of a soul or help for someone in need. It seems that some Christians believe they are God’s puppets or that He is micromanaging their lives. In fact, as observed in the previous verses, God’s word teaches and trains us so that we will make the right choices in situations and use opportunities to glorify God. Maybe God did bring me into contact with someone and, as a result, they became a Christian. It might be that we met by chance but, having been trained by God’s word, I knew the person was lost and needed the gospel and proclaimed the word to him. We need to exercise caution saying “God made this happen” since God doesn’t reveal His actions to man. We can simply give glory to God that whether by His will or chance the good was accomplished. I am not saying that God doesn’t work in our lives, I am saying that we need to exercise humility and respect the silence of God and simply glorify God for all that happens in our lives.

Interpretation of omens and signs

  • Viewing random texts of scripture as divine guidance for a course of action.
  • Viewing opportunities as God wanting them to take a course of action
  • Viewing coincidental events as having a God-given meaning

The challenge is that one must determine if events are signs and, if so, where they point. Is the job offer in Kansas because God wants me to move there or is it a test to see if I will stay in my current place at a lower salary instead of chasing the money. This becomes more complicated when one can see many positive ways to glorify God despite the choice made. However, if we understand that God has not determined a path for us but left the choice to us, we can glorify God no matter what we do and we don’t have to agonize over what is or is not a sign and what the sign means.

The Grace Communion Site has a humorous story of how trying to read the tea leaves to determine God’s will can lead to awkward situations and confusion instead of clarity.

“God told me to move my family to Saudi Arabia.”

Alex stared at his friend, wondering if he was just joking or had gone mad. Alex had known Tom for more than 10 years. He’d been best man at Tom’s wedding, not to mention godfather to Tom’s and Alicia’s twin girls. And Alex knew that Tom and Alicia were as cut out for missionary life in Saudi Arabia as toads are for an omelet.

“That’s, well, a pretty big decision, Tom. How do you know it’s really God’s will for you?”

“Well, just a lot of things.” Tom stared deep into his coffee cup. “Pastor Mel’s sermon a few weeks ago really got me thinking.” He glanced up at Alex. “We’re pretty selfish enjoying the good life here in America while people all around the world need help. I gave it a lot of prayer, and God seemed to answer that we should go.”

Alex nodded thoughtfully, weighing how to respond. “How did God give you that answer?”

“Well, for one thing, I was talking to the Hogarths, you know, the missionaries in Saudi Arabia. They said they could use some help.”

“What kind of help?”

“Well, you know, I’m pretty good at carpentry, and they said that’s just what they’d been praying for—somebody good at carpentry. It was like God was just saying to me, ‘This is what I want you to do, Tom.’”

“What does Alicia think about it?”

“Oh, she’s not as excited as I am, but I’m praying she’ll come around.”

“Not as excited?” Alex said.

“Well, actually she’s dead set against it. She can get pretty hardheaded sometimes. But I think the Lord will show her it’s the right thing for us to do.”

“Hmm, I see,” Alex dumped a pack of powdered sweetener into his coffee. “What if he doesn’t?”

“He will, Alex. I trust the Lord. And I have a really good feeling about this decision.”

Tom is not unique. Every day, Christians somewhere are convincing themselves that God is telling them to marry a certain person, take a certain job, go to a certain college, or “get out there” and do something really big and meaningful for him.

Problems With Modern Revelation

We do not find individuals in the New Testament claiming God was leading them by emotions. New Testament Christians acted in response to specific verbal instructions from God or His agents. Of greatest importance is this fact:

There is no New Testament instruction for believers to expect messages from God through feelings, impulses, interpretation of events, or message directed to their hearts nor is there guidance for interpreting feelings, events, or speaking to the heart to determine God’s message, discriminate it from one’s own thoughts, or how to make sure that is not evil feelings or thoughts influenced by Satan.

In fact, the scriptures teach us to be inherently distrustful of the heart:

  • Proverbs 28:26 – Fool trusts his heart
  • Jeremiah 17:9 – Heart is exceedingly wicked
  • Proverbs 14:12 – There is a way that seems right to man

Consider this observation by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones:

“Let us imagine I follow the mystic way. I begin to have experiences; I think God is speaking to me; how do I know it is God who is speaking to me? How can I know I am not speaking to man; how can I be sure that I am not the victim of hallucinations, since this has happened to many mystics? If I believe in mysticism as such without the Bible how do I know I am not being deluded by Satan as an angel of light in order to keep me from the living and true God? I have no standard. The evangelical doctrine tells me not to look into myself but to look into the Word of God; not to examine myself, but to look at the revelation that has been given to me. It tells me that God can only be known in His own way, the way the way which has been revealed in the scriptures themselves.” (excellent article)

As Mark Copeland said in his excellent work on the Holy Spirit, “Don’t let feelings of the human spirit keep you from following the teachings of the Holy Spirit!”

Some say that good feelings show God’s approval, yet self-satisfaction and self-justification will produce the same emotional feedback. Who is to say that a feeling or impulse is not the product of a seducing spirit who portrays himself as an angel of light (1 Timothy 4:1-2)? Some proponents admit this but claim that one can discern the message of God when he becomes one of the spiritually elite who is in tune with the wavelength of God. Henry Blackaby, a leading proponent of this view, when challenged about how he knew the source was from God but not others said, “You come to know His voice as you experience Him in a love relationship. As God speaks and you respond, you come to the point that you recognize His voice more and more clearly.” (As quoted in Gary Gilley’s excellent book* “Is That You Lord?” -al.)

Special  insight only available to a uniquely spiritual person was the claim of the first century Gnostics. Recognized as heretics, the Gnostics claimed to have a superior walk with God due to divine insights and mystical experiences (Col. 2:18-19). Some claim the Holy Spirit only directs in the divine application and interpretation of the written word through feelings, promptings, impressions, and insights but they cannot even find the scriptures to prove that such takes place. (Gilley, 33) Historically, those who have recognized an authority outside of God’s word to accompany it tend to eventually supplant God’s word with personal revelation (David Wells).

Seeking God’s Signs as Divination

Some spend much time trying to interpret their feelings, coincidental events in life, etc. to determine what God wants them to do in life or what choices to make. Bruce Waltke ( Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? -al):

“When we seek to ‘find’ God’s will, we are attempting to discover hidden knowledge by supernatural activity…If we are going to find His will on one specific choice, we will have to have to penetrate the divine mind to get his decision…this is a form of divination. The idea was common in pagan religions…in fact it was the preoccupation of pagan kings.”

Just as idolatrous people sought the Oracle at Delphi, reading tea leaves or animal entrails, astrology, and omens to determine a course of action, some Christians are acting with a superstitious approach to their feelings and events in life to determine God’s will.

“God’s Leading is Non-Authoritative”

Some argue that God speaking in this way is “non-authoritative”. How could one say that God is leading or directing them but conclude that there is no authority with that leading? If we determine that God wants us to choose a course of action and we ignore or disobey it, will we be judged as disobedient and rebellious (as Jonah who disobeyed the direct instruction of God)? If not, why not?

When multiple Christians believe God is expressing His will through feelings, though they don’t all get the message, some difficult situations will arise. Consider this one:

On one occasion we were discussing various ministry strategies and plans when a member of staff shared what they believed was a word from God with us. To be honest I cannot even remember what it was that God was meant to have said but I do remember the unease in the room as the rest of the people around the table tried to figure out how to proceed. Do we disagree and argue God has it wrong? Do we tell them they did not hear from God?

How do we know if that’s true? Do we go to scripture to test the Word that they have given? What if there is nothing contrary to scripture in the Word? Do we simply have to accept it?

It was clear from the mood in the room that there were at least some reservations about acting on this supposed word from the Lord. The hardest part was that the person sharing this word genuinely believed that God had spoken to them and were offended when people did not fully believe in the same way they did. They left the meeting convinced that they were right and that God was on their side and on reflection it was another marker on the way to the division that would eventually befall this leadership group. (As told in the article “God Told Me”)

Even people who believe that God is directing them often express uncertainty as to whether God is actually instructing them on a course of action based on feelings, etc. There is confidence that God uses such means to communicate but no confidence in the exact message is that is being communicated! Non-believers have impulses, feelings, coincidental encounters, and random events that influence their actions but they do not consider such events to be a message from God. They recognize these as insights or being open to other options.

Spiritual Maturity: Being Led By God’s Word

We should be grow and mature as God’s people through daily study, prayer, and godly living.

  • 2 Peter 1:3-4 – Scripture gives all things that pertain to life and godliness
  • Colossians 2:6-7 – Established in the faith

When we grow in our knowledge we become more spiritually discerning and blend our natural thoughts with God’s revealed and inspired word. Our thinking should change:

  • We should become more aware of opportunities to teach and serve others.
  • We should become better decision makers as we make choices in light of whether it will please God, make us more holy, and allows us to glorify God in our lives.
  • We will become more useful in God’s service by applying the revealed word.

The Holy Spirit, through the revealed word, leads us in righteousness and service. We still glorify God because He taught us how to live.

Note: Proponents of God’s leading often believe God has a specific will for their life and that He is nudging them along the path through feelings, omens, etc. I wrote an article that discusses God’s plans in our lives. If God has left the decision making in our hands then we shouldn’t look for mystic signposts to point us to some hidden path but follow the clear leading of the revealed word to be the right person so we can please God no matter the situation we are in.

*I highly recommend this book. It was a primary source for this article. There is also a very good podcast in which Gilley discusses this issue.

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What Young People Want Their Parents to Know About Social Media

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Loving GranddaugherOlder people have embraced social media to connect with family and friends and reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. Children and parents (and grandparents) are sharing this communications medium which creates potential areas of conflict and difficulties in the relationships.

I asked young people what guidelines they would like me to share with their parents and grandparents. Here were the replies: 

  • Don’t friend your child’s friends.  Most felt that it was acceptable if their friend initiated the request with the parent. Young people often feel awkward refusing an adult’s request.
  • Don’t complain about your child’s teacher or school officials online.  They have to live with the consequences of your rants, complaints, or “suggestions for improvement.”
  • Don’t complain about child discipline problems in public forums. Social media is not the place for “I’m so frustrated that my child just…” Do not reprimand them or correct them publicly. This also includes “How do you deal with a child who has …. problem?” posts.
  • Don’t brag too much about them—they feel embarrassed.
  • Don’t embarrass them.
  • Don’t post about potty training or the bowel movements of kids (just…don’t)
  • Don’t post embarrassing pictures or video (like kids on anesthesia) without asking permission. Even then, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish by posting a potentially humiliating picture or video of your child for all to see.
  • Don’t assume they can take a joke. Sensitivity changes quickly in young people.
  • Don’t comment on all of your child’s posts and pictures. Ask grandparents and excessively “interested” adults to refrain as well.
  • Don’t tag your child in EVERYTHING that you post.
  • Don’t get involved in your kids drama. They can handle it, we did. If they feel they need help they will talkwith you.
  • The really heavy stuff that makes you panic is probably a song lyric or movie quote.

Download this as a PDF Handout:

Parents Social Media Guide Pic

 Parents Social Media Guide

God’s Voice

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This is a guest post by my son Rody. He is a student of music and sound technology and is training to do such work professionally. It is interesting to hear expert observations on certain scriptures. For examples, doctors have enlightened us on the physical aspects of the crucifixion and military logistics experts have provided insight on the challenges of moving and feeding the Israelite nation through the wilderness. In this post, Rody provides some physical sound science insight about the voice of God when he spoke to the nation of Israel at Sinai. 

I have done a lot theorizing about what God would have sounded like. Coming from a musical and sound engineering and Christian perceptive I took into consideration a couple of attributes: One it was very frightening, reach a large audience, and as with everything about God it had to be perfect.

To be frightening it would have to be powerful and very different, but still familiar enough, to the human voice. So to do that His voice would register and the lowest note conceivable/possible and then would also resonate with every overtone to the highest note possible. When we speak words and notes we have an initial note and a couple of overtone notes to fill it out, but the higher they are the more they drop off. With His voice there would be no dropping off but instead be the same volume across the spectrum. This in turn would also project too an audience of any size described in the Bible. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overtone

The problem with sound coming from the human voice is that it is not perfect in the creation of the notes. In standing waves there are certain notes that have a perfect symmetrical shapes and everything about the note could not be perfected anymore. With His voice he would only speak in these standing waves or a combination of them. http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-fringe-audiophiles-who-want-to-topple-standard-tuning

Digitally generated stormy landscape with lightning boltWith the combination of these two things it would be perfect musically as well as physically. His voice would be very frightening enough to make them tremble, but could still be familiar enough to be understood in their language. I also have an idea of how the sound was created on earth through physical objects of his creations. The sound could not be created out of thin air.. or could it? The sound could be created through lightning. When lightning travels throughout the air as plasma it superheats the air which causes a noise (usually thunder). Many times when God spoke out from heaven (as opposed to visions or dreams) there is often a mention of fire or thunder. Which, in this theory, superheated air is needed to create this type of sound. Deut 5:22-23
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singing_Tesla_coil

This would all keep His voice perfect though the things He created and the laws He set in motion. It something that is very intriguing to think about. Please tell me what you think!

3 Life Lessons for Earthly and Spiritual Success

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Graduating seniors and newlyweds receive well-meaning, often good, sometimes wrong life advice. Older people want to help others enjoy the blessings of life and avoid unnecessary difficulty. Even at Godly Youth I share guidance from the Bible, my life, and the lives of others to help others develop a closer relationship with God and live godly on this earth. There are many important principles to follow but I want to share three lessons that every person must learn.

Law of the Harvest

The first life principle we must recognize is what Steven Covey called the “Law of the Harvest.” The Law of the Harvest recognizes that actions have inescapable consequences. Much of life’s pleasure and pain is a direct result of our choices. God will judge us based on the things we have done, Romans 2:1-11. Consider Paul’s message to the Galatians:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Galatians 6:7 (NKJV)

Organic Rice Field With Dew DropsPositive choices lead to positive consequences. Poor choices lead to negative consequences. You cannot kill someone as a drunk driver if you don’t get drunk. If your relationships are in turmoil and there is negative drama in your life consider your actions. Do you lose your temper? Do you gossip or lie? Are you doing immoral things with your friends? Are you enjoying good health and happiness because you have chosen to do things that do not harm your body or trouble your heart? Have you chosen friends who help you be more like Jesus or take you away from God?

We cannot control everything that affects the quality of our life but we can decide how we respond. Hardship can harden us or strengthen us; it’s our choice. We can dwell on the negative things cruel people say or focus on the positive things said by those who love us.

So the first life lesson is remember the Law of the Harvest and make good choices about who you are with, what you do, and how you react to the events of life. Make good choices at church, school, and work in order to grow and succeed spiritually, educationally, and professionally. Make good choices in dating relationships and marriage to strengthen your relationship. Always remember that some decisions seem small and insignificant but could have a profound change in the outcome of your life.

Mind Over Matter

The second principle is about self-control and self-direction. Some are slaves to their bodies and fleshly desires. They indulge their desires and rarely say “no” to the flesh. In order to succeed in life and grow spiritually we must control our desires.

In order to be physically fit and generate energy we must eat wisely and exercise frequently. I have to resist the urge to skip my workout in favor of sleep, an unhealthy meal, or any other activity. While exercising I often must ignore my physical desire to quit during a session and continue biking, running on the treadmill, or lifting weights while being aware of signals that I need to quit for my safety or to stay hydrated. At the restaurant, I need to order wisely and avoid junk food. The Law of the Harvest tells me that poor choices in the gym or at the restaurant will lead to poor results, Mind Over Matter reminds me that my spirit can control my flesh and my mind can overrule the body.

Dog With Leather LeashDogs are great animals but God did not give them higher reasoning. When you bring home a puppy, it is a bundle of uncontrolled desires: eat, drink, sleep, poop, and play. None of these desires are wrong but they are not always properly exercised. For example, it is good for the dog to eat and drink from his bowls but not from the garbage can and toilet bowl. After eating he will need to poop and we want him to do it outside, not on the carpet. We want the dog to sleep in a proper place and not to play by chewing our shoes. Since we cannot reason with the dog, what do we do? We train them.

By training the dog we teach it to overcome its desire to dig into the trash, drink from the toilet, soil the carpet, eat the shoes, and sleep on the pillow. We punish bad behavior by yelling “no” and making a loud noise or squirting it with water. We also reward good behavior with praise and treats. In fact, we can teach it to do tricks and perform acts, like playing fetch, through rewards.

In a similar way, we can bring our flesh under the control of the spirit. Romans 7:13-25 describes a war within our bodies between the spirit and the flesh. The flesh, like the dog, is incapable of following God. It is a collection of desires that are not wrong but can be used in a wrong way: hunger, thirst, sex, sleep, seek pleasure and avoid pain, and stay alive. Sex is not wrong in marriage but God condemns it outside of the marriage relationship. Thirst is not wrong but drunkenness is. Sleep is not wrong but laziness is sinful. It is not wrong to preserve our life but if we have to renounce Christ to save our life we will be lost eternally, Matthew 10:33. Christians must bring their body under the control of their mind, and the mind under the will of God.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.  Romans 6:12-14 (NKJV)

Finish Well

The final life lesson is that when we start worthy goals and efforts we must finish them. I am hesitant to say “finish what you started” because we sometimes start things that are a waste of time that could be put to a better use. There is no sense stubbornly finishing something just because you started it if there is a better way to use your time. Of course, this means we need to be wise about what we start so we can use our time effectively.

Man on top of mountain. Conceptual design.Assuming you have begun a worthy task, finish it. Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, “For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words.” Many people can talk a good game and babble about what they are going to do but the dream becomes reality through effort (activity). We can excited starting a new project or planning a new effort but when difficulties come we are challenged to stay focused and keep working until we reach the goal.

This principle will help us to be successful in life. Finishing school or work projects well require dedication and hard work. Success in sports requires us to work hard in practice when no one is cheering and finishing strong even if we are losing. I saw a tweet recently that said, “Commitment is staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”  We can only enjoy the sense of accomplishment when we have crossed the finished line.

Spiritually, we need to finish well. 2 Peter 2:18-22 warns us not to be entangled in sin after leaving a life of sin lest we be disgusting in his sight. Hebrews 6:1-8 warns that we can leave God and develop a hard heart that will not want to return to God, crucifying Jesus again in our lives. Colossians 1:21-23 promises reconciliation is we remain steadfast and unmoved from our commitment to God and His will. We need to maintain our commitment to Christ until death even if we must do so in the face of persecution. We must not give up when we are tired but keep going knowing that our work is not a waste of time, Galatians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:58. Consider the warning and exhortation of the Hebrew writer:

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the  just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. Hebrews 10:35-39

Final Thoughts

In order to have a successful and satisfying life on earth, usefulness in God’s kingdom, and an eternal home with God remember to make good choices for a good harvest, control your flesh with the spirit, and pursue good efforts and goals until they are completed.

Five Principles for a Focused Life

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Dart boardDanger lurks in the soil of your heart. The Parable of the Sower (or Soils) tells of hearts that will not entertain thoughts of God’s word and good hearts that bear great harvests when His word is implanted (Matthew 13).  Some hearts are shallow and bear faith that will wither when troubles arise. But there is another heart that I must vigilantly prevent being in me: the distracted heart. Jesus described a heart in which the word grew for a time but thorns also grew in the heart and choked out the word. This is the heart that “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22). Distractions are a persistent danger to God’s people and have always threatened us. How can we protect ourselves?

Five Principles for a Focused Life

1. Don’t let prosperity separate you from God

Wealth brings worries and burdens. Solomon wrote of the many hands that rise to claim the wealth of others in Ecclesiastes 5:10-20.  Many rise to get their part of the wealth: accountants, lawyers, government, friends, and family. A bigger house, multiple cars, and many possessions require insurance to protect and people to clean and maintain them. More money doesn’t guarantee relief but often more problems. Lottery winners (Tampa Bay Online) Noreene and James Gordon, a north Tampa homemaker and a retired textile worker, claimed the February 2000 Florida Lotto jackpot of $52.4 million. They chose a one-time lump sum payment of $24 million. Things have changed since then. “It’s a nightmare,” she said recently, with friends and strangers knocking and calling for a chunk of her prize. “They don’t want a piece,” she said. “They want it all.” Her husband died in 2006, and she has suffered three strokes since the windfall. “People come out of the walls to take advantage of you every day of your life,” she said before ending the short telephone interview.

Wealth and comfort can separate you from God. This was a problem with Israel: Deuteronomy 8:5-14, 17-20. God described, in great detail, the great blessing of the Promised Land but concluded with a warning that they would forget Him in the good times. They would become complacent in the daily care of their homes and land and forget to serve Him. Pride can accompany prosperity: we think we have done this on our own and that, down deep, we can do fine without God. This was the danger Jesus identified in the Parable of the Sower: maintaining our prosperity and handling the details of daily life can choke out our faith.

This is a threat for all of us. This is not addressed to the “super rich” or the vilified 1% in America—it is the average American. The average American income, and even poverty level income, is much higher than the rest of the world. The poorest of us are very wealthy compared to the world. We have garages that are bigger than the whole living space of many people. We have garages and attics full of unused possessions, clothes filling our closets, and refrigerators, freezers, and pantries full of food. Our children have luxury items and people still do not seem to be satisfied or content. There are people in the US and other wealthy countries who complain about luxuries they have when others are living in abject poverty with absolutely nothing. It is the everyday American living comfortably who has to make sure that he does not forget God.

2. Don’t let adversity separate you from God

Job 14:1 describes man’s days as few and full of troubles. Trials and adversity should produce good fruits in the Christian’s life. James encourages us to “count it joy when you fall into various trials” because of the fruits produced, James 1:2-8, 12. Joy in not our first natural reaction and we should pray for wisdom to understand how to learn and grow from our trials. It is through trials that we receive patience, trust, dependence on God, and appreciation of His care. Trials help us sever our relationship with this troublesome world and grow homesick for heaven where all will be made new and no suffering abides.

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus described a heart that withered during persecution and trial, symbolized by the sun. Yet the sun, shining over the good soil, nurtured a great crop. Trials that withered the shallow heart helped the good heart to grow and bear fruit!  Trials and adversity are a part of life, it is how we handle them that determines whether they will crush us or strengthen us.

Jim happened to meet the minister on the street one day, and during the conversation told him of all the troubles he had had during the past year. He wound up with: “I tell you right now, preacher, it’s enough to make a man lose his religion.” “Seems to me, Jim,” the minister told him quietly, “it’s enough to make a man use his religion.” Tan, P. L. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations.

Trials reveal the genuineness of our faith, 1 Peter 1:7. We must remember that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

3. Trust God with the unknown things

We must realize that God’s greatness and wisdom exceeds ours and there are so many things in His domain of operation that we can’t grasp or know but trust that He has it in control. Deuteronomy 29:29 reminds us “the secret things belong to God.”

People spend much fruitless energy trying to identify with certainty the things that operate in God’s realm. Unless God explicitly reveals His actions, it is presumptuous of me to say “God did THIS.” Give glory to God that whether by chance or His purpose, the action took place but in humility remember that “His ways are past finding out.”

I don’t have to know how God will answer my prayers, I have to trust in Him to give all things to Him. God’s word promises peace to those who give everything into His care, Philippians 4:6-7. We often do not have peace because we do not really trust God to take care of our concerns or we insist on taking the burden back from Him. Peter tells us to cast all of our anxiety on God; an act of faith in His love, care, and ability to do something about that which is causing us anxiety, 1 Peter 5:6-7. This approach allows us to embrace the next principle.

4. Trust God to make all things work out for good

God promises that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” Romans 8:28. This is a promise of God and I trust that He can do this even when I don’t know how He will do it and when I don’t see how He could make it happen. He is the master designer of a grand work of art and I am one of many artisans toiling on my very small part of the whole. If I do what I’m supposed to do God will make it part of something much larger and more beautiful.

Funny how we label things “bad” and “good” (sleep, day, events) when, in time, our labels may reverse. Some people lose a job but it opens doors to a great career. Some people get a terrible disease “bad” but attribute it to giving them a better appreciation for their loved ones and the little things in life and bringing them closer to God. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was an atheistic Russian writer who was imprisoned in a Russian forced labor camp (Gulag) but emerged with a belief in God and wrote, “Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”

Don’t try to look for God’s fingerprints in your life, just trust that He is there and He works all things in your life for the good.

5. Remember heaven is worth every sacrifice

The word pictures in places like Revelation 2:1-5; 12-15; 21:1-4 remind us that God has prepared a place of rest that exceeds our imagination and dreams and is worth any sacrifice needed to get there. Like other great men and women of faith, when we focus on living with God eternally, we lose our grip on the things of this world as we grasp heavenly treasures, Hebrews 10:32-39. Considering the glory of living with God forever, Paul says nothing should separate us from it, Romans 8:18, 31-39.

Live a life not trusting in riches but trusting God, standing strong in trial, and casting anxieties on Him looking forward to eternally living with Him.

The Church as a Spiritual Emergency Room

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Visit a busy hospital emergency roomand you will see a variety of tragic injuries:

  • Self-inflicted: damage either through intentional injury to oneself or neglect of one’s health that led to a crisis
  • Accidental: unintentional injury by family, friends, or strangers
  • Intentional: suffering because family, friends, or strangers intended to bring the person harm
  • Fatigue and Exhaustion: feel like giving up which might lead to self-inflicted harm

Doctors assess the injuries and process the injured with hopes of recovery. Some injuries are severe and the patient may be damaged for life or even die. Some injuries, with care and healthy treatment, can be healed and the patient can enjoy a full recovery. But injuries require wise intervention and care in order to have a chance for success.

Spiritual TraumaEmergency

A discerning eye will notice the hurt and drama beneath the surface of some who are suffering spiritual trauma in the local assembly. Spiritual injuries may mimic physical injuries and like the emergency room patient, these souls need treatment from the Great Physician to find healing. Jesus described Himself as a physician to the spiritual needs of humanity:

And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

It makes sense that Christians would work with The Great Physician to comfort  the spiritually sick and nurse them back to health. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul urged Christians to “comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” In this sense, the family of God can serve as a spiritual hospital providing care to the spiritually sick, injured, and dying. The injuries in the local assembly often resemble the physical injuries in an emergency room.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Intentional: Some suffer spiritual pain and damage because of poor choices. They knew the right way but chose to sin. The sinner can ask for forgiveness but may reap earthly consequences. Proverbs 5:7-14 warns the young man not to get caught up in sexual sin lest:

you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” (ESV)

Neglect: Some suffer spiritually because they neglected their spiritual health. Just as neglecting to exercise and eat right will lead to physical problems, neglecting the exercise of godliness and nourishment from God’s word will cause us spiritual injury. The Hebrew writers warned that we need to focus on our salvation lest we drift away from it, Hebrews 2:1-3.

Both spiritual wounds can be healed though there may be lasting scars. When a sinner repents, the spiritual need to nourish them back to health. Sometimes we may need to help them deal with ongoing consequences of sin. We might need to help them forgive themselves. We must provide help without belittling them and help them leave the past in the past. Most are acutely aware of the consequences of their actions and condemn themselves far more than we could. If they have sought forgiveness, we need to help them rebuild and turn their defeat into a victory for God.

When someone realizes the spiritual weakness brought on by neglect there is an opportunity for Christians to provide growth opportunities. Personal teaching and team involvement in service to God can help the person grow and become strong in their faith. We cannot undo years of wasted opportunity but we can begin today to build a better tomorrow. One of my favorite quotes to encourage me when I feel I have wasted opportunities is “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”

Accidental Injuries

A person could be reeling from emotional pain or spiritual discouragement because of the careless words of well meaning individuals. A friend who worked with parents who lost young children recounted the many dumb things that people will say to a grieving parent with intent to provide comfort. I was in a situation where a brother with good intentions said something to a visitor that was a great discouragement to him. These are not instances of bullying but carelessness that results in injury. Christians can help the injured get resolution with the offending person to begin healing. If the offender is unwilling to apologize or does not acknowledge the wrong, Christians should help the injured heal and put the incident behind them.

Intentional Injuries

Someone may enter you assembly who is the victim of a deliberate attack on their character, motives, or faith. Perhaps they have been assaulted by those who, like Diotrophes, run the local church like a tyrant or by a clique (which should not be present) that mistreats those out of “the” group. It may be enemies of the faith have been assailing their commitment to God and the Bible and belittling their faith. It could be any form of abuse where someone uses the faith to manipulate, use, and control another person. Paul warned Timothy of those who would have an appearance of godliness but harm others. The abusive nature of the Pharisees in the New Testament towards Jesus, His followers, and those who were healed demonstrate oppression by those who have an appearance of godliness.

Christians have a responsibility to stand against faith abusers. We must not let spiritual bullies intimidate the weak or immature and must not ignore their ungodly behavior. Sometimes these spiritual bullies can be preachers, elders, teachers, prominent members, and those who have a prominent role in the local church or the community. We must never forget that the church belongs to Christ, purchased with His blood, and no man or woman should be allowed to exercise such damaging influence. Local churches can be rendered impotent or ultimately destroyed by such people. Those who are strong should stand up for the weak, and for the Lord, against such behavior in hopes of preventing injuries and perhaps turning the heart of the bully back to God.

Christians also have a responsibility to demonstrate the true love of Christ in helping the victims of spiritual attack to heal. We have to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit in our lives and help them to understand that the abuse was not pleasing to God no matter how favorably other Christians may have viewed the abuser. Sometimes people may come from an abusive situation to be part of the local Christian family. We must remember to show hospitality and, in this case, put the “hospital” in “hospitality.” We are helping them build new friendships and rebuild Christian associations. Many are going to feel vulnerable and may hesitate to get involved with others again in order to avoid being hurt. This is an effect of spiritual shock and warm reception and acceptance will help them feel like they can love their brethren again. Hospitality allows us to demonstrate our love and acceptance and help them heal from spiritual trauma. Remember that some people have thicker skin and and can react somewhat detached and logical in the face of problems, some have thinner skin (neither good nor bad) and feel the pain of strife, struggle, and separation more acutely. Some may take time to feel comfortable blending into a new congregation and hospitality will help them feel more like family.

We must also comfort and assist those attacked by outside forces. I remember a few years ago several Christians comforting and encouraging a high school girl who stood up for her faith and the teaching of scripture and received venomous comments and vicious attacks on a web site when a class mate posted her comments on an atheism group. Those of us who have been attacked for our faith can provide comfort and guidance to those under attack.

Fatigue and Exhaustion

Look around the audience during the next assembly. That brother or sister giving you a weak smile may be holding on to a little faith, faintly resisting the urge to give up, but may feel ready to quit fighting. There may be more fatigued brethren present than you realize. Sometimes I have been surprised to discuss with someone I perceived to have strong faith and a close relationship with God about their thoughts of committing spiritual suicide; to just give up. Some are beat down by trials in life (trials that give others strength). Some are burned out by godly service, family obligations, or prolonged spiritual battles. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Paul reminds us of our responsibilities in these situations: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.”

Warn those who are out of line: perhaps the spiritual bullies, those who are disruptive, or negligent in their faith and leading others astray. Those who are not rebellious do not need warning but encouragement. “Fainthearted” is used several times in the Old Testament of those who are fearful in the presence of a great enemy. Do not belittle them or chide them for a lack of faith; give them comfort. For those who are weak, bear their burden and be a crutch to help them until they can stand again. Whether the trial is physical or spiritual, they need us to keep them from falling. Whether we think they should be stronger or should handle their situation differently is irrelevant; we need to be patient with them and encourage their faithfulness.

Receiving the Weak and Suffering

When we are aware of hurting brethren, we should then nourish, comfort, and bandage their wounds. “Inasumuch as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

Many feel unwanted when they come into our assembly. They are “congregationally homeless.” Some have endured sniping comments, unfair criticism, lost friendships, and isolation. When these brethren walk through our doors they are very vulnerable. They do not feel wanted and we cannot tell them by words or actions that we don’t want them here. Not only do we want them, we need them! The Lord wants them. We must be the expression of God’s love to them by our words and actions.

The symbol of American freedom, the Statue of Liberty, calls out

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.””

How much more should the Lord’s church.

The 5 Most Important Days in a Christian’s Life

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CalendarIf you live 80 full years, you will live 29,200 days. Some days pass by slowly and others like the blink of an eye. Some days you want to end and some days you want to last forever. Those days may include weddings and funerals, celebrations and consolation, the best and worst of times. But of all the days in your life, there are five that are the most important.

First Day: When You Were Born

You were given an eternal soul at conception and the day of your birth started your journey outside of your mother’s womb. Though you were defenseless and helpless, you would grow and become more independent. Of the billions of people who have lived on this Earth for many thousands of years you were unique and there will be no one, even a twin or your child, who will be exactly like you.

Second Day: When You Realized Why

Dr. Kevin Elko cited these first two days as being so important. At some point in life you have or will wonder why you are here or what is your purpose in life. You have unique talents and abilities and the opportunity to do good or harm with your actions. Sometimes we ask in sadness, perhaps feeling rejected and worthless, wondering why we are alive and doubting that it is for a good reason. Such is the voice of depression and we should ignore it.

But why are we here? I don’t think that God has a detailed plan for our life  that we must discover through vague feelings and events in our lives. God does have a big plan for us: Titus 2:11-14. God created us to glorify Him as He blesses us as His children. He gives us the choice of how we want to live that life, Ecclesiastes 11:8-10; 12:131-14.

So what do you want to accomplish in your life? How do you want to use your talents to live a life that makes the world a better place and glorifies God? When you find that answer, it will be the second greatest day in your life.

Third Day: When You Take Ownership of Your Life

What does it mean to take ownership? When you buy a car and have paid the full amount you are given a title of ownership which indicates you have control over it. You can choose to sell it, paint it with polka dots, modify it, beat it with a sledgehammer, or anything else that is not illegal. You are responsible for taking care of it and repairing any damage that is your fault. As owner, you have control over it.

God has given us ownership of our lives in that we are responsible for the consequences of our actions. As God, He maintains ownership of His creation but requires us to be good stewards, or caretakers, of our lives and the opportunities we are given. Ecclesiastes 11:9 and 12:14 reminds us that God wants us to enjoy life but with an eye towards judgment. Romans 2:1-11 teaches that our actions on earth will influence our eternal destiny. Hebrews 9:27 also reminds us of the individual judgment of each person. God will not  judge us by our parents or grandparents faithfulness or wickedness.

Each of us will face God to give an accounting for how we’ve lived and receive judgment from Him. The accounting should remind us of the parables of stewardship, such as the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 24:14-30, where the master gave the servants money (a talent was a measure of money) and expected them to do good things with it when he was away. He came back to judge how they used the money in his service. The master rewarded those who used the talents in a positive way . The master punished the man who did nothing with his talent. Consider how we are to give an accounting to our master on Judgment Day based on how we have used the abilities and opportunities God gave us:

  • Romans 14:11-13: Each of us will give an accounting to God
  • Hebrews 4:12-14: All things in our life will be laid open before God but his word can help us prepare for that accounting
  • Matthew 12:36: We will give account for every idle, or casual, word
  • 1 Peter 4:1-6: The wicked will give an account of their wasted life and be punished

When we take ownership of our actions and realize that when we do right or wrong there is no one responsible but ourselves, we will grow in maturity and realize the control God has given us over our eternal destiny. Some people live their lives blaming other people and events for all that is going on in their lives. We cannot control the events or what other people do, but we can choose how we will react to it and what impact it will make in our lives. Some people have been through evil at the hands of others or terrible personal problems out of their control yet became stronger and closer to God as a result. It is up to us.

Fourth Day: When You Become God’s Child

When we realize that God has given us a life to enjoy yet with an eye towards judgment and that we are responsible for our lives, the next day should come naturally: the day we become God’s child. In Acts 2:36-38, those who called for Jesus’ death realized, at Peter’s preaching, that He was the Son of God and wanted forgiveness. Peter told them to believe and be baptized, or immersed, to receive forgiveness of sins. Galatians 3:26-27 says that we become the children of God through faith and put on Christ in baptism. The day we realize that we are responsible for our relationship with God and dedicate our life to Him by becoming His child, is the greatest of the five days we are discussing.

Day Five: Day of Judgment

The song “There’s A Great Day Coming” describes the greatness in magnitude of the Day of Judgment. It describes the happy day for the children of God who go on to their reward and the sad day when those who reject God go into punishment, 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; Hebrews 10:26-31; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15. As Hebrews 9:27 points out, we all have that appointment.

God’s children must prepare now for that day. God’s word, as described earlier, can help us see ourselves as God sees us. We can see the good things that we must continue and the bad things we need to eliminate. Attention to God’s word can help us prepare for a favorable judgment, 2 Timothy 2:15. Paul further tells Timothy that God’s word is completely sufficient to equip him for all he needs to know and do to please God, 2 Timothy 3:13-17. Though God will judge our deeds, Ephesians 2:4-10 reminds us that we are saved through grace. If we rebel against God and are disobedient, we lose access to that grace (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Let us live every day to the glory of God, zealous for good works done to His honor and praise, and enjoy the life God has given us. Then every day will be a blessed day in God’s presence.

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