How Can We Know That Christ’s Return Is Near?

It seems that Christians throughout history have commonly believed that Christ would return during their lifetime…

The early New Testament apostles believed this until it became clear to them that His return would not occur that quickly.

So how can we know when Christ will return?

The answer is found in the prophecies that are in the Bible, which is our Operations Manual for Life.

We find in the Book of Revelation one of the most challenging books in the Bible, yet well worth the effort to study and comprehend.

Unlike all other New Testament books, Revelation is a prophetic book concerning the events of the last days, before Christ’s return to Earth.

The name recognition comes from the Greek term apokalypsis, meaning “unveiling” or “revelation.”

Unveiled in the book are the invisible forces and spiritual powers at work in the world and in the heavenly realms, including forces at war against the church.

Although unseen, these powers control future events and realities.

The unveiling comes to the Apostle John through a series of magnificent visions.

The visions unfold like a vivid science fiction novel.

The strange language, imagery, and symbolism in Revelation were not quite as foreign to first-century Christians as they are to us today.

The numbers, symbols, and word pictures John used held political and religious significance to believers in Asia Minor.

These followers were familiar with the Old Testament prophetic writings of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and other Jewish texts.

Today, we often need help deciphering these images.

To further complicate the book of Revelation, John saw visions of both his present world and of events yet to take place in the future.

At times John witnessed multiple images and different perspectives of the same event.

These visions were active, evolving, and challenging to the imagination.

In the Bible we learn that angels are messengers from God…

Dorothy Sayers’ moving cycle of radio plays on the life of Jesus may be the most penetrating account of His words and deeds written in the twentieth century.

The following excerpt gives us a taste of her imaginative reenactment:

“Salome: The Master’s body stolen!—what will His mother say?—

And John! (in sudden alarm)

Oh, Mary! Those two men there, in white.

Mary Cleophas: They don’t seem like robbers.

Salome: They seem more like—I am afraid of them.

Gabriel: There is nothing to be afraid of.

Mary Cleophas: Sirs, whether you are angels or men—

Raphael: Why look for the living among the dead?

Salome: Alas, sir, we were looking—

Gabriel: I know. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, whom they crucified.

He is risen; He is not here.

Behold the place where they laid Him.

Salome: He is risen?

Raphael: As He said. Go now and tell His disciples—and Peter—that He has gone before them, to lead them as of old into Galilee.

Gabriel: There shall you see Him . That is the message we were charged to deliver.”
— Dorothy Sayers,

In the above radio drama, we find angels of God doing what they were created to do — as their name means “messenger.”

In Revelation 10 we meet the most extraordinary “Angel,” often portrayed in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord.

His description leads many to believe that He is in fact the Lord Jesus, and His message is as pertinent to us today as it was to John and the first readers of Revelation.

The sounding of the seventh trumpet will bring about the full completion of God’s judgment plan, and His word is both sweet and bitter to those for whom He gives it.

After the first six seals were broken in Revelation 6, we were expecting immediately to move on to the seventh seal.

Instead, we were held up by the two-part interlude recorded in chapter 7.

“Interlude A” was about the 144,000 sealed on earth before the Great Tribulation;

“Interlude B” concerned the great multitude in heaven after the Tribulation.

This heightened our desire to learn what happened when the Lamb at last broke the seventh seal.

Now the pattern repeats.

We are held up by a two-part interlude.

“Interlude A” takes up all of chapter 10.

Attention is on the prophetic Word of God in the first century (as experienced by John the prophet).

“Interlude B” takes up Revelation 11:1-13.

There the focus is the prophetic Word of God during the final tribulation.

In the opening act of chapter 10, we see a mighty Angel appeared with an open book and announced that time would end.

The Angel announces the final universal judgment, and this glorious Angel descends and shouts, and “the thunders” replied with a judgment message that John was not allowed to record.

In chapter 11, we read that the mystery of God would be fulfilled during the time of the seventh trumpet.

The mystery of God has to do with God’s plan to punish all evildoers and to usher in the kingdom of His Son.

John was commanded to eat the little book, that is, he was to read and meditate on the judgments recorded in it.

The prophet Ezekiel also had a vision in which he was told to eat a scroll, this one filled with judgments against the nation of Israel (Ezekiel 3:1-27).

The taste was sweet in his mouth, but the scroll’s contents brought destruction—just like the small scroll John was told to eat.

God’s Word tastes sweet to us as believers because it brings encouragement, but it sours our stomach because we have to warn unbelievers of the coming judgment.

The reality of judgment and hell is foreign to our culture, but it is often talked about in the Bible.

One phrase summarizes the horror of hell. “God isn’t there.”

In hell, there’s no one to comfort you and no music to soothe you.

It’s a place where poets don’t write of love and minstrels don’t sing of hope, for love and hope were passengers on the last ship.

The final vessel has departed, and the anthem of hell has only two words:

“if only.”

According to Jesus hell knows only one sound, the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13).

From hell comes a woeful, unending moan as its inhabitants realize the opportunity they have missed.

What they would give for one more chance. But that chance is gone (Hebrews 9:27).

Hell is a place where you will spend eternity separated from God.

So what is hell like?

Well let me just start by saying it’s a place where you wouldn’t want to see your worst enemy go to.

Before I go on, I’d like you to listen to this man’s testimony.

Bill Wiese (a California real estate agent) on November 23, 1998 had an experience where God allowed him to experience hell for 23 minutes, as he was taken out of his body by God and found himself “traveling, journeying, and falling” (these are his words) 3700 miles to the near-center of the earth into a rock walled prison cell containing 13 foot reptilian like demons with human forms.

There are several voices like Bill, we’re God has allowed these people to have this experience in order that they may warn people of the reality of hell, so that they would not go there.

I’m going to include a condensed version of Bill’s testimony here, because I think it’s very important that we understand that EVERYTHING the Bible says is true, and that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.

The Bible contains God’s instructions and road map, not only on how to live your life, but most importantly how to gain heaven.

And so the B.I.B.L.E. = Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth?

We are instructed, in the Bible, to meditate on God’s Word day and night, which means we are to internalize it and get it deep within our spirit.

Proverbs 4:20-22
New King James Version

20 My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
22 For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
____

Tuesday, May 17
The Winning Walk
by Dr Ed Young

AN ACQUIRED TASTE

“And I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, ‘Take it, and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.’”
— Revelation 10:9

When the angel appeared to him, John got out his notebook and planned to record what the angel said.

But the angel told him to put down the pen, and to take the little book out of his hands.

Then the angel said, “Eat this book.” Salt? Pepper? A little catsup?

That’s not it, is it? He is saying that we are to take the Word of the Living God.

We are not just to study it for facts, or insight, or out of a sense of duty.

We are to take this book and consume it, and let it nourish us, let it refresh us, let it feed us, let it give us life.

If you really want to develop a Christian personality, that is what it takes.

You don’t have to eat a whole chapter at a time. Just take a verse and eat it. Then, let it feed you, and nourish you – and change your life.
____

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It’s time for us to get out of the boat and Trust Jesus…

Jesus in our trials and tribulations is inviting us to step out of the boat...

Those big Naval frigates, destroyers, submarines, and aircraft carriers have always amazed me, and I love it when I have an opportunity to take a tour on one.

You know those big Naval vessels are not made for safe harbors, they’re made to be out on the Open Sea; and that is also true of us, as Jesus’ disciples.

We’re not made for safe harbors either, and if we’re going to be used of the Lord we have to learn to cast our faith out into the deep, because that’s where Jesus is.

This means we have to learn to take a risk and face our fears, and not let them paralyze us, or cause us to run in the opposite direction.

God tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7,

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of POWER and of LOVE and of a SOUND MIND.”

God is always about trying to give us experiential knowledge, learned from experience, instead of just head knowledge.

All too often, as we read the Bible, we’re reading about the Miracles that happened long ago and we believe in them, but we have never actually experienced them in our own lives.

In the same way you can’t learn to swim just by reading a book, eventually you have to take a risk, conquer your fears, and jump into the deep end of the pool.

Christianity is not a spectator sport, it requires our participation; and so eventually we have to get off of our butts, get out in the field, and learn how to play the game.

Quite often the trials and tribulations we face in life are but a test, where Jesus is testing the mettle of our faith, in order to give us this experiential knowledge, and to make us stronger.

Matthew 14:22-33
The Message

Walking on the Water
22-23 As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people.

With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.

24-26 Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves.

At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water.

They were scared to death. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

32-33 The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down.

The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”
____

Here’s the backstory:

This event happened right after Jesus had miraculously multiplied the five loaves of bread and two fish in order to feed over 5,000 people.

Here in these next several verses, we see Jesus demonstrating His power over the laws of nature, first when He fed the five thousand and then when He walked on the water.

After feeding the 5,000, Jesus sent His disciples on ahead in the boat while He went up into the mountain alone to pray, where He stayed until late in the evening.

Seeking solitude was an important priority for Jesus (see also 14:13).

He made room in His busy schedule to be alone with the Father.

Spending time with God in prayer nurtures a vital relationship with Him and equips us to meet life’s challenges and struggles.

We need to each develop the discipline of spending time alone with God, and when you do, don’t do all the talking.

Take time to keep silent and listen for what God has to say.

Jesus probably intended the feeding of the five thousand to be primarily a lesson in faith for His disciples.

Here, on the heels of the first lesson of the day comes the second lesson.

God always appreciates our baby steps of faith, but as we grow He expects more than baby steps.

The disciples had demonstrated no confidence in Jesus’ ability to feed the crowd, but at least Peter began to show the first flicker of true faith.

With much yet to learn, the disciples came closer than ever to an understanding of who Jesus was (14:33).

The feeding of the 5000 assured the disciples that they were following One who could abundantly provide for their needs. Now they learn that this One can also protect and empower them as well.

In verse 28, Peter was not putting Jesus to the test, something we are told not to do (4:7).

Instead, he was the only one in the boat to react in faith.

When Jesus told Peter to “Come on” and jump out of the boat, that was the only invitation he needed.

Peter didn’t have to be told twice. It’s not every day that you walk on water through waves that are taller than you are…

His spontaneous request led him to experience an unusual demonstration of God’s power.

The first few steps go well. But a few strides out onto the water, and he forgets to look to the One who got him there in the first place, and down he plunges.

Peter then started to sink because he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the strong wind and high waves around him.

[Note that on the Sea of Galilee the waves have been known to reach heights of 20 ft and higher]

His faith wavered when he realized how vulnerable he was.

The message is clear. As long as Jesus is one of many options, He is no option.

As long as you can carry your burdens alone, you don’t need a burden bearer.

As long as your situation brings you no grief, you will receive no comfort.

And as long as you can take Him or leave Him, you might as well leave Him, because He won’t be taken half-heartedly.

We might not walk on water, but we do walk through tough situations.

If we focus on the wind and waves of difficult circumstances around us without looking to Jesus for help, we, too, may despair and sink.

To maintain our faith when situations are difficult, we need to focus on Jesus’ power rather than on our own inadequacies.

Although we start out with good intentions, sometimes our faith falters.

This doesn’t necessarily mean we have failed.

When Peter’s faith faltered, he reached out to Jesus, the only one who could help.

He was afraid, but he still cried out to Jesus.

When fear piles up against you in waves, causing you to doubt whether Jesus is near or willing to help you, remember that He is always with you and is the only One who knows how to help you.
____

Monday, May 16
From Faith to Faith

STEP OUT OF THE BOAT
by Kenneth Copeland

“And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water…”
— Matthew 14:28-29

It’s easy to be so afraid of making a mistake that you never get around to stepping out on faith.

You can spend all your time wondering, Is this faith? Or is it presumption?

What if I exercise my faith for something and find out later I’ve missed God’s will?

Don’t worry. God can handle any mistake you can make.

I know because I’ve made plenty of them.

When I did, I’d just go to the Lord and He’d tell me, Stay on the Word, son.

Together we’ll overcome this thing. And we always did.

If you act on the Word out of the sincerity of your heart and you steadfastly stay with the Word, Jesus will never let you down…no matter how many dumb mistakes you make.

He proved that the night Peter jumped out of the boat in the middle of the lake.

Have you ever stopped to think about that incident?

Peter hadn’t been praying or seeking God’s will before he did that. On impulse he just blurted out, “Lord, if it’s You, bid me come.”

What was Jesus supposed to say?

He couldn’t very well say, “It’s not Me.”

I suppose He could have said, “Wait a minute now. You don’t have the faith to get out here. You’d better stay in that boat or you’re going to drown for sure.”

But He didn’t say that to Peter—and He won’t say it to you.

If you want to get out and walk by faith, He’ll get out there with you and pick you up when you start sinking.

He’ll walk you back to the boat if He has to.

It’s better to risk being presumptuous than to waste your life in the boat of unbelief!

If you have to, just dive into the water and say, “God, help me!”

Don’t let fear keep you from taking that step of faith. Come on, get out of the boat today!

Scripture Reading: Matthew 14:22-33
____

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The Wisdom of This World Is Foolishness With God…

Has not God chosen the weak things of the world to confound the wisdom of the world…

One example of how God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the so-called wise of the world can be found in the Old Testament, in the Book of Esther, in how this lone obscure young woman was used of God to save the Jewish people from utter annihilation and thereby guaranteed the lineage through which our Messiah and Savior would come.

The Apostle Paul invited the Corinthians to remember their condition when God first called them. From a worldly point of view, they had been utterly foolish to believe in Christ as the way of salvation.

The cross challenges human values because no one expects to find freedom through capital punishment.

Unlike most of the thousands who faced crucifixion before and after Jesus, He was clearly not a criminal.

God uses this contradiction to reveal His power and wisdom:

Jesus has offered Himself to death and has been raised to life to bring liberation to others.

Those who truly follow this crucified king do not seek power and authority through the normal patterns of the world; they offer themselves in loving sacrifice for others.

That is where God’s transforming power is truly revealed in the church.

1 Corinthians 1:26-30
The Voice

25 You can count on this: God’s foolishness will always be wiser than mere human wisdom, and God’s weakness will always be stronger than mere human strength.

26 Look carefully at your call, brothers and sisters. By human standards, not many of you are deemed to be wise. Not many are considered powerful. Not many of you come from royalty, right?

27 But celebrate this: God selected the world’s foolish to bring shame upon those who think they are wise; likewise, He selected the world’s weak to bring disgrace upon those who think they are strong.

28 God selected the common and the castoff, whatever lacks status, so He could invalidate the claims of those who think those things are significant.

29 So it makes no sense for any person to boast in God’s presence.

30 Instead, credit God with your new situation: you are united with Jesus the Anointed. He is God’s wisdom for us and more. He is our righteousness and holiness and redemption.
____

Who was Esther and how did God use her?

The Book of Esther tells how a Jewish girl became the queen of Persia and saved her people from a plot to destroy them. She is assisted in this by Mordecai, her cousin and guardian.

Esther was written to explain the origin of the Feast of Purim and to ensure that it would be observed by all future generations of the Jewish people (Esther 9:28).

It has clearly achieved this purpose, since Jews have continued to observe Purim to the present day.

The book of Esther is read as part of the celebration of Purim.

Esther is part of a much larger story that runs all the way from Abraham to Christ and, through Him, to the church.

If Haman had succeeded, the Jewish people as a whole would have been destroyed, and the story of God’s saving work in and through Abraham’s descendants would have come to an end.

There would have been no fulfillment in Christ, and therefore no gospel and no Christian church.

Christians should read the book of Esther, not just as a story about the Jews but as part of their own heritage.

Christians are not obliged to observe the Feast of Purim, but they are to take to heart the truth that God providentially watches over His own (Rom. 8:28).

ONE NIGHT WITH THE KING (Esther the Bible Movie)

Sunday, May 15, 2022
Anchor devotional

THE ADVOCATE

“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance.”
— Esther 5:1

There is something awe-inspiring about the way Queen Esther left her doubts and insecurities behind and took up the mantle of advocate on behalf of her people.

She gained favor in the eyes of her earthly king because she was favored in the eyes of her heavenly King.

The God of her people was with her and was adorning her in profound wisdom.

Esther knew that King Xerxes loved fancy banquets and good wine. She knew he would not tolerate direct defiance (as with the previous queen, Vashti).

But she also knew he could be easily swayed by persuasive advisors, like Haman.

Esther patiently and carefully worked to undo the malevolence of Haman and rescue God’s people.

Meanwhile, the only thing God’s people would see at that time were the gallows Haman constructed for Mordecai.

They would have to trust in God and His appointed advocate despite the terror they beheld with their eyes.

So must we! We cannot comprehend the mind of our God or the timing of His salvation, but we trust in His care which has never failed us yet.
___

Amen to that… God NEVER fails and His promises in His Word will never return void!

Isaiah 55:10-11
New King James Version

10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,

11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me [a]void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
—-

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Learning to wait upon the Lord in troubling times…

Be Still and Know God—wait upon Him, for He alone is our ever-present help in our time of trouble…

“The quieter you become the more you can hear.”
— Ram Doss

God…sometimes there is just too much noise! There’s just too much going on around me. I just want to run away and hide!

Do you ever feel like that?

As Americans, we live in a fast-paced, high pressure hectic world, filled with busy schedules and lives that seem to move at lightning speed.

In these times and under these pressures, it is so easy for us to get so caught up in this hectic work-a-day world that we find ourselves taking our great and mighty God for granted, when we don’t take the time to be still and know Him… and to listen to His still small voice.

Isaiah 40:31

“But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”

God’s Word alone gives us the secret to weather the storms of our life.

TO KNOW HIM IS TO LOVE HIM

The first step in our obtaining this sort of relationship with God is that we have to be born-again.

Do you believe Christ died on the cross for you?

Have you asked Him to forgive you of your sins and come to live in your heart?

Once you do this, you will experience His love, grace, mercy, and peace.

Then you will begin to understand and “know” His ways.

Someone once said that, “It’s impossible to know God and not love Him and it’s equally impossible to love Him and not want to serve Him.”

The first thing we need to do is get in right relationship with God, by being born-again (John 3:7), meaning we receive forgiveness of our sins and are reconciled back into God’s family, through the propitious sacrifice and shed blood of Jesus on Calvary’s Cross.

The Bible tells us that when we become a Christian, “…old things are passed away and behold all things are made new” (2 Cor 5:17).

As Christians, we are a new creation in Christ, and we now recognize that our lives are no longer our own, but that we have been bought with a price.

Paul put it this way,

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

In order for Christ to be our Savior, He must first be our Lord, and this means we no longer are living for ourselves, but rather we are now disciples (followers) of Christ.

And the Apostle John says in his epistle,

“He who says he abides in Him (Jesus) ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

Being a Christian is not about following a bunch of do’s and don’t, as you would have in a religion; but rather it is about our having a personal relationship with our Creator.

Augustine said, as Christians (having loved God with all of our heart, mind and strength), that we can do as we please.

This in no way means that we have a license to sin, that as long as we love God, we can go ahead and do pretty much anything we want.

This was not what Augustine was saying, rather what he was saying is that if you love God and if you have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling inside of you and are abiding by His Word, then whatever it pleases you to do will be the correct thing to do.

We now have a love relationship with our Abba-Father, that has been made possible through the blood of Christ, and now as Bond Servants of the Most High, after all that Christ has done for us, we would never want to grieve the Holy Spirit.

Religion tries to earn something that the Bible says we cannot earn.

The Bible says, “For by grace (unmerited favor) you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

This is a love relationship (after having a circumcised heart), and if you truly love God, then it should automatically follow that you will do what is ethically correct, according to God’s will and His Word, as you are now living by faith.

LET THE WORRIES FADE AWAY

Have you ever wondered how some Christians can go through pain and suffering and still have joy?

It’s because they are being still.

As a Christian God teaches us to put all our worries in His hands.

Instead of listening to the noise of your worries, listen to the voice of the Lord.

We are not to let our joy come from our circumstances, because our circumstances can change in an instance.

Our God does not change. Stop worrying about your joy and your happiness and let Him fight for you.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Ex 14:14).

HAVE NO FEAR

The Lord remains the same, today, yesterday and forever, and as Christians, we know He can fight our battles, but we still seem consumed with fear.

Fear of the unknown? Fear of failure? Fear of the future?

Did you know the Devil can use these fears against us? He loves to distract us with our worries and our fears because they can distance us from God.

2 Timothy 1:7

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

And in Psalm 46:1-2 it says,

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”

God has proven time and again that He can work within us and through us.

Sometimes He allows trials to come into our lives, so we can learn to depend more upon Him.

Remember, God is always in control. Stop worrying and just be still.

WAIT

Waiting is hard and sometimes waiting can hurt.

It is in our human nature to want to control every situation.

Sometimes it can feel like God is not answering our prayers or does not seem to understand the urgency of our situation.

But, if we give in to those thoughts we are saying God is not in control or He is not being fair.

Be still because God is worth waiting for.

He is often at work behind the scenes in ways we cannot fathom.

We should be still and discover what God is trying to teach us while we are waiting.

“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord” (Ps 27:14).

CHOOSE

We have to choose to be still and wait on the Lord in our present circumstances, as an act of our will.

This is a scripture that I often refer to,

Isaiah 50:10-11

10 “Who among you fears the Lord?
Who obeys the voice of His Servant?

Who walks in darkness
And has no light?

Let him trust in the name of the Lord
And rely upon his God.

11 Look, all you who kindle a fire,
Who encircle yourselves with sparks:
Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled—

This you shall have from My hand:
You shall lie down in torment.”

When everything around us seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, as is the case of Psalm 46.

David is telling us in the midst of all that chaos and confusion to be still (v. 10).

What Isaiah 50:10-11 is saying, at times like this, when you don’t have a clue what the heck is going on, and you are walking in darkness, to take a time out and be still, in the midst of the confusion, and ask God to illuminate your present situation, by the light of His understanding.

And following the sparks of your limited understanding, means that you will lie down in torment.

Jesus tells us to let not your heart be troubled (John 14:1), and so this is something we do as an act of our will.

We have to learn to face our fears and not run from them.

There is a quote from an old John Wayne movie that I always like, and it says:

“All wars are filled with brave men, who are afraid and would rather be somewhere else.”

We have to choose to discover what God wants us to learn in every storm we face.

Instead of worrying and fretting, we choose to listen to the voice of our Lord, and not the noise of our worries and fears.

And so we choose joy; we choose life; and we choose love.
____

Wednesday, May 11
Daily Meditation
by Henri Nouwen

BE STILL AND WAIT

Maybe I have been living much too fast, too restlessly, too feverishly, forgetting to pay attention to what is happening here and now, right under my nose.

Just as a whole world of beauty can be discovered in one flower, so the great grace of God can be tasted in one small moment.

Just as no great travels are necessary to see the beauty of creation, so no great ecstasies are needed to discover the love of God.

But you have to be still and wait so that you can realize that God is not in the earthquake, the storm, or the lightning, but in the gentle breeze with which he touches your back.
____

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The Lord’s Peace surrounds His people…

Jerusalem the City of Peace…

This city has always, and especially in these last days, been a city of conflict and anything but peace.

And yet God has highlighted this city, above all cities, where He desires to dwell.

A lesson we learn from the life and ministry of Jesus, on this Earth, is that He carried God’s Shalom-peace with Him, wherever He went, even in the midst of turmoil.

It is God’s desire that’s His Shalom-peace would permeate each one of us, from the inside out, and that His peace would be with us throughout our lives, to guide us through whatever trials, tribulations or storms we might face.

This is something each of us can only learn through experience, having experienced the cruel realities of this world, that God is truly faithful.

He never promises to keep us from the fiery trials, but as happened with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, He was with them in the fire (see Dan 3:16-28).

Psalms 122

Joyful Arrival

Quote
“How lovely is the sanctuary in the eyes of those who are truly sanctified!”
— Matthew

Eager joy should always fill the hearts of God’s people as they make their way into God’s house.

In the company of like-minded worshippers, their hungry souls are satisfied as they sit under the exposition of Scripture.

Their spirits are lifted as God is exalted, but never as man is entertained.

What a treasured privilege it is to be with God’s people as they gather in God’s house to hear God’s Word.

Word-inspired worship is never a drudgery but a delight; never a burden but a blessing.

It is in this spirit that believers should gather together with much anticipation, excitement, and enthusiasm for the holy things of God.

Such corporate worship serves as a preview of what awaits the redeemed in heaven, a foretaste of glory above.

It is with this joy that the saints should always assemble together in God’s house.

This is the very joy expressed by the psalmist in Psalm 122 as he arrives in Jerusalem, the holy city, to enter God’s house.

He is filled with exuberance at this long-awaited prospect of gathering together with fellow believers in the house of the Lord.

Psalm 122 is the third of the songs of ascents (Pss. 120-134), a small group of fifteen psalms that captures the progression of worshippers traveling to the city of God for one of their religious festivals.

The psalmist, designated in the superscription as David, recalled his delight in going up to Jerusalem to worship God.

Compiled later and strategically placed into the Psalter here, it became one of the worship songs sung as believers made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the nation’s spiritual center.

In Psalm 120, the singers are in a foreign land, beginning their journey toward the city of God.

In Psalm 121, they appear to have sighted the city.

Here, in Psalm 122, their feet actually stand within the city gates (v. 2), preparing to enter God’s house.

David expresses exuberance upon arriving in Jerusalem in order to enter God’s house and calls upon everyone to pray for its peace.

Going to God’s house can be a chore or a delight.

For the writer, it was a delight.

As a pilgrim attending one of the three great religious festivals, he rejoiced to worship with God’s people in God’s house.

We will likely find worship boring or undesirable when we are living with unconfessed sin or when our love for God has cooled.

But if we are close to God and desire His presence, we will be eager to worship and praise Him.

Our present relationship with God will determine our zest for worshiping Him.

The “thrones where judgment is given” are the courts of justice located by the town gate.

In Bible times, the elders in a town would sit to hear cases and administer justice at the gate (see Ruth 4:1-2).

Sometimes the king himself would sit at the gate to meet his subjects and make legal decisions (see 2 Samuel 19:8).

Speeches and prophecies were also made at the town gate (see Nehemiah 8:1; Jeremiah 17:19-20).

The psalm writer was not praying for his own peace and prosperity but for that of his family and friends in Jerusalem.

This is intercessory prayer, prayer on behalf of others.

Too often we are quick to pray for our own needs and desires but neglect interceding for others.

Theresa Briones is a tender, loving mother. She also has a stout left hook that she used to punch a lady in a coin laundry.

Why’d she do it?

Some kids were making fun of Theresa’s daughter, Alicia.

Alicia is bald. Her knees are arthritic. Her nose is pinched. Her hips are creaky. Her hearing is bad.

She has the stamina of a seventy-year-old. And she is only ten.

“Mom,” the kids taunted, “come and look at the monster!”

Alicia weighs only twenty-two pounds and is shorter than most preschoolers.

She suffers from progeria—a genetic aging disease that strikes one child in eight million.

The life expectancy of progeria victims is twenty years.

There are only fifteen known cases of this disease in the world.

“She is not an alien. She is not a monster,” Theresa defended.

“She is just like you and me.”

Mentally, Alicia is a bubbly, fun-loving third grader.

She has a long list of friends.

She watches television in a toddler-sized rocking chair.

She plays with Barbie dolls and teases her younger brother.

Theresa has grown accustomed to the glances and questions. She is patient with the constant curiosity.

Genuine inquiries she accepts.

Insensitive slanders she does not.

The mother of the finger-pointing children came to investigate.

“I see ‘it,’” she told the kids.

“My child is not an ‘it,’”

Theresa stated. Then she decked the woman.

Who could blame her?

Such is the nature of parental love.

Mothers and fathers have a God-given ability to love their children regardless of imperfections.

Not because the parents are blind. Just the opposite.

They see vividly.

Theresa sees Alicia’s inability as clearly as anyone.

But she also sees Alicia’s value.

So does God. God sees us with the eyes of a Father.

He sees our defects, errors, and blemishes. But He also sees our value…

What did Jesus know that enabled Him to do what He did?

Here’s part of the answer. He knew the value of people. He knew that each human being is a treasure.

And because He did, people were not a source of stress, but a source of joy.

(From In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado)

Genesis 1:26 tells us,

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ “

God took great care when making the world and everything in it, including people.
___

I think this is where the rubber meets the road for all believers, why do bad things happen to good people… even to Christians?

Let me share another story with you:

“God Never Makes a Mistake!”
From an article by Vaneetha Rendall Risner

I vividly remember those words, a chapter title in Evelyn Christenson’s book What Happens When Women Pray.

Honestly, when I first read them, I was cynical.

They sounded trite and naive.

I arrogantly assumed that the author hadn’t struggled much in her life, or else she wouldn’t have made such a bold claim.

In my mind, God was good and all-powerful, but to say that he never made mistakes had sweeping implications that seemed inconsistent with the massive evil and suffering in the world.

Christenson’s statement so annoyed me I was tempted to stop reading.

As I read her book, I had just been through the fallout of a marital crisis while also pregnant with our oldest daughter.

I was grateful we had put our marriage back together, but to say that God didn’t make a mistake seemed far-fetched.

My life had been difficult on many fronts already. I had lived in and out of the hospital after contracting polio as an infant.

I had been bullied throughout grade school. I had recently suffered three miscarriages.

I had a hard time imagining that God hadn’t made a mistake somewhere in my trials.

All My Suffering?

While I struggled to believe he had never made a mistake, I did believe that God had been in at least some of my early suffering.

“God had not made a mistake in making my son, in giving him to us for a time, and in taking him back to himself.”

When I came to Christ, even at sixteen, I was already beginning to see God’s purpose in my disability.

I had happened upon John 9, where Jesus tells his disciples that the blind man’s condition was not because of any sin, but so that his life could glorify God.

When I read that, I knew that God was speaking directly to me.

He reassured me that my suffering had a purpose, which changed how I viewed my life and my struggles.

Still, even though I had seen God use my physical challenges for good, I doubted that principle applied to all my suffering.

What God Says About Sovereignty?

Despite my skepticism, since I was leading the discussion on Christenson’s book at church,

I had to keep reading it. I pored over the Bible before our meeting, asking God for wisdom and guidance, and was drawn to passages on God’s sovereignty and purpose.

I grabbed a concordance and made a list of Scriptures that stuck out to me, like these:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs on your head are numbered.”
(Matthew 10:29–30)

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

“My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose. . . . I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”
(Isaiah 46:10–11)

I kept rereading these verses even though they made no sense to me.

Truth I Could Not Shake

As the discussion began, everyone had an opinion on the same line that had arrested me:

“God never makes a mistake.”

Some people decidedly disagreed. It angered them.

“Of course, hard things happen in the world,” they insisted, “but we shouldn’t attribute them to God.”

Others shared their painful experiences and struggles with loss.

Someone said (rather matter-of-factly),

“But we know Romans 8:28 says, ‘All things work together for good, for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose,’ which means that God is in control of everything and will use it all for our good.”

Her cool words felt more like a platitude or cliché than the truth as they hung in the air.

Her detached insistence on this doctrine, apparently without sympathy or understanding, tempted me to defend the other perspective.

Yet somehow, I couldn’t do that.

Somehow, after reading the Bible carefully, I couldn’t dismiss the idea that God never makes a mistake.

Somehow, deep inside me, I knew that the author’s words aligned with Scripture.

Somehow, I believed this was life-changing truth. And so, I proclaimed my convictions to the group, even while I did not yet fully understand them.

A few weeks later, I was asked to put my words to the test.

At a routine 20-week ultrasound, we learned that our unborn baby, Paul, had a life-threatening heart problem that would require surgery.

I told myself and others that God never makes a mistake.

I repeated those words until they became part of my vocabulary.

In an inexplicable way, God’s peace came while I declared those words, words that enveloped me throughout the pregnancy.

Paul had a successful surgery at birth and was thriving.

But almost two months later, he died unexpectedly because of a doctor’s inattention.

Though we were numb, my husband and I spoke at Paul’s funeral, reiterating that God never makes a mistake.

We’d been helping each other find hope in the Lord through those words.

At the time, I meant those words sincerely, but weeks after Paul’s funeral, those same words once again seemed hollow and trite.

Why did Paul die? Why did God permit this?

This was because of a doctor’s negligence — hadn’t God made a mistake this time?

Theology — all of it — seemed empty and wooden to me.

None of it made sense. The words would ricochet inside my mind and land nowhere.

I didn’t know what to think or how to pray. So I didn’t. And I drifted from God.

Months later, God graciously drew me back to himself.

While sobbing in my car, I encountered the radical love of God and I saw the rock-solid truth in the words I had pushed away.

They were words I could build my life on. Words that could carry me through the darkest days.

God had not made a mistake in making Paul, in giving him to us for a time, and in taking him back to himself.

All of Paul’s life was filled with divine purpose.

God’s Plan A

After Paul’s death, I read Joni Eareckson Tada’s book When God Weeps, which further helped me see the importance of believing in God’s sovereignty. Joni says,

“Either God rules, or Satan sets the world’s agenda and God is limited to reacting.

In which case, the Almighty would become Satan’s clean-up boy, sweeping up after the devil has trampled through and done his worst, finding a way to wring good out of the situation somehow.

But it wasn’t his best plan for you, wasn’t plan A, wasn’t exactly what he had in mind.

In other words, although God would manage to patch things up, your suffering itself would be meaningless.”

“My suffering had meaning. All of it. I was living God’s plan A.”

Like Christenson’s chapter title, Joni’s words hit me hard.

My suffering had meaning. All of it.

I was living God’s plan A. Embracing and understanding her words changed my perspective on life, giving me strength to press on through the darkest trials, looking for God’s hand, grateful that my pain had a divine purpose.

Even In My Nightmares

God never makes a mistake. The phrase has shaped and reshaped my life and has anchored me through many storms.

I clung to it when I was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome. And I kept repeating it after my first husband left us.

I needed the assurance that God was with me in my trials.

The assurance that even when my nightmares came true, God had not made a mistake.

He would use even my most dreaded outcomes for my good and his glory. Christenson says,

This is the place you reach when after years and years of trials and difficulties, you see that all has been working out for your good, and that God’s will is perfect.

You see that he has made no mistakes.

He knew all of the “what if’s” in your life.

When you finally recognize this, even during the trials, it’s possible to have joy, deep down joy.

I didn’t have a category for that kind of faith or perspective when I first read those words years ago.

But now, over twenty years later, I am grateful for them.

Grateful that the same God who walked with Evelyn Christenson through the various trials in her life, and taught her how to pray, has walked with me and taught me as well.

Most of all, I’m grateful to know that Jesus, who died that we might live, who loves us with an everlasting love, and who cares about every minute detail of our lives, will never make a mistake.
____

Most of you know the story of Corrie Ten Boom and the movie about her life called The Hiding Place.

There’s another woman you may not know and her name was Darlene Rose.

After listening to both of these women’s testimonies, I remember one thing that they both said, and that is they wouldn’t want to go through their experience again, but at the same time they said that they wouldn’t have traded their experience for anything in this world.

What they were saying is that, though they went through hell through these heart-wrenching trials and tribulations in their life, the consequence of those experiences caused them to come to know the love and faithfulness of God in a way very few people do.

Question:
Do you know someone who stirs up trouble?

Do you see people who ridicule others?

What can you do to step in?

How can you show the value God places on all people?

God didn’t make any disposable people!

So the question is, will you intercede for someone in need today?

When we look at all the many verses in the Bible where God promises His Covenant children His Shalom-peace, the peace that He is talking about in these verses means much more than the mere absence of conflict.

The truth of the matter is bad things do happen to good people, even to God’s people; and the reason is this world is in a state of War between Darkness and Light.

God’s Shalom speaks of completeness, health, justice, prosperity, and protection, the world cannot provide this peace.

Real peace comes from faith in God, because He alone embodies all the characteristics of peace.

To find peace of mind and peace with others, even in the midst of earth-shattering trials and tribulations, you must find peace with God — Surrender Your Life to Him and trust that He will make a way.

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Wednesday, May 11
Today in the Word
I Lift Up My Eyes
(A study in Psalms book 5)

CITY OF PEACE

Psalm 122
The Voice

A song [of David] for those journeying to worship.

[This is a Davidic psalm celebrating the grandeur and significance of Jerusalem and its temple. It is ironic that Jerusalem means “city of peace” since more battles have been fought over it than over any other city.]

1 I was so happy when my fellow pilgrims said,

“Let’s go to the house of the Eternal!”

2 We have made the journey, and now we are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.

3 Jerusalem! What a magnificent city!
Buildings so close together, so compact.

4 God’s people belong here. Every tribe of the Eternal
makes its way to Jerusalem—

Just as God decreed for Israel
to come together and give thanks to the Eternal.

5 In Jerusalem, justice is the order of the day because there sit the judges
and kings, the descendants of David.

6 Ask heaven to grant peace to Jerusalem:

“May those who love you prosper.

7 O Jerusalem, may His peace fill this entire city!

May this citadel be quiet and at ease!”

8 It’s because of people—my family, friends, and acquaintances—
that I say, “May peace permeate you.”

9 And because the house of Eternal One, our God, is here, know this:
I will always seek your good!
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For thousands of years Jews and Christians have made pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

It is easy to understand why. Jerusalem plays a central role in both the Old and New Testaments.

It is the place where Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac, where David brought the ark of the covenant, where the Temple was built, where Jesus was crucified, and where Pentecost took place.

In the Old Testament it was the place where God chose to dwell (Deut. 12:4–5; Ps. 135:21).

Three times a year, Israelites were to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple.

These times were a high point in their lives,

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.” (v. 1).

To become close to the presence of the Lord was a privilege and a joy.

Part of the reason for Israel’s joy was the unity brought by worshiping together.

David describes Jerusalem as a city “closely compacted together” (v. 3).

That might sound like urban congestion to us, but it was a positive image for him.

God’s people were united in Jerusalem to “praise the name of the LORD” in obedience to His Word (v. 4).

The psalm ends with a prayer for peace.

This is a play on the name “Jerusalem,” which means “city of peace.”

Peace in Hebrew means more than just the absence of conflict. It is a rich concept that means things are the way they should be.

Our relationship with God, one another, and the world is as it was designed to be.

It is a prayer for wholeness, abundance, and integrity.

Are you longing for a fresh infusion of hope?

This psalm looks forward to a time when all things will be made new.

We will be in the very presence of God in the New Jerusalem and there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4). Amen, come Lord Jesus.

PRAY WITH US
Today we pray for Your blessing on the modern city of Jerusalem; may Your will be done in the Holy Land.

We rejoice in the promise of the New Jerusalem, from which we draw hope!
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Let us enter into the Secret Place of the Most High…

By the Blood of Jesus, we are invited to boldly come into the Holy of Holies – the Inner Sanctum / The Secret Place of the Most High…

Thanks to Jesus’ propitious sacrifice and His shed blood on Calvary’s cross the Bible says that now we can boldly come into God’s presence (Heb 4:16).

Psalm 91
Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God

This Psalm is often called the “Soldier’s Prayer,” and is a popular choice when asking for God’s protection and safety.

As Christians, we know about the blood, sing hymns about the blood, and remember it during Communion.

But how many of us truly know how deep its power runs, and all that it has provided for us?

Even more important—how many of us use it and apply it in our lives every day?

From Genesis to Revelation, the words the blood are kept before our eyes—a reminder of its importance and significance to God and to us.

The sacrifices of Abel, Noah and Isaac, and the Passover lamb, and the giving of the Law all came to pass, but “not without blood” (Hebrews 9:7, NKJV).

The blood symbolizes cleansing and purification—the settling of a matter.

God is love. And the greatest expression of His love toward us is the blood of Jesus.

That love covers every need man has had or ever will have, and every time we apply the blood, we experience an outpouring of this love.

It is love, through the blood, that has created a barrier between you and all the works of the devil.

“Of all the glorious things that the blood means, this is one of the most glorious: His blood is the sign, the measure, yes, the impartation of His love.”
— Andrew Murray

Let’s elevate the blood of Jesus to the same place in our hearts that it has in God’s heart—and awaken in our spirits those powerful things the blood has procured for us.

The power of the blood of Jesus has provided everything you need to live a life of victory, including redemption, fellowship, healing, protection and authority over the devil.

1) Redemption Through the Blood of Jesus

“We have redemption through His blood.” –Ephesians 1:7 (NKJV)

2) Fellowship With God Through the Blood of Jesus

“Having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.” –Hebrews 10:19 (NKJV)

3) Healing Through the Blood of Jesus

“By His stripes we are healed.” –Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV)

4) Protection Through the Blood of Jesus

“When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” –Exodus 12:13 (KJV)

The blood of the Lamb is inexhaustible and never-ending.

It is an unlimited supply.

When we apply the blood of Jesus to the doorposts of our lives in faith—we access the power to defeat every part of the curse that tries to take residence.

When you speak the Name of Jesus in the face of sickness, disease or danger, the blood of the Lamb is behind it, and you are protected!

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
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Tuesday, May 10
cFaith Devotional

CLAIMING THE BLOOD COVENANT
by Larry Ollison

You access the protective power of Psalm 91 by speaking the blood covenant over your household.

Some people may call this a “name it and claim it” or a “blab it and grab it” theology.

They’re right! We are responsible for what we claim and what we refuse to claim.

We must know God’s Word well enough to know what He wants us to have.

Once we can “name” the promise, then we must “claim” the promise.

To study the Word and know about the promises of God is not enough and will never set you free.

Only when we acknowledge and act on His promise in faith will we bring it into reality for us.

Psalm 91 is the same kind of protection that the Hebrews had when they put the blood on the doorpost.

But we have a better covenant. We don’t have to kill a lamb or go through a ritual.

We have only to believe in and speak the blood of Jesus, and the blood of Jesus goes onto the door of our house to protect us.

Don’t you think that sounds like a better covenant?

Here are six steps that cover all we need to do as Christians to access the power.

First, you become righteous. You do that by getting saved.

Second, once you’re saved, you abide in His Word.

Third, you speak your heart. If you’re abiding in His Word, what you speak from your heart will be His Word.

Fourth, you develop a lifestyle of faith. This is an important step. I call it walking in holiness.

Fifth, you access the spirit realm in the name and by the blood of Jesus through the words of your mouth.

Sixth, you get ready to receive because miracles are about to happen.

Source: Life is in The Blood by Larry Ollison
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Keeping God as “Numero Uno” in our life requires our living by the Spirit and not following our flesh…

We must learn to live by the Spirit and not follow the desires of our flesh…

The Bible tells us that where your heart is there your treasure will be (Mat 6:21), and inevitably whatever we focus on will dictate our actions.

In the Hall of Fame chapter on faith, we learn the true motivation of the Patriarchs of old, in that they were not seeking the things of the world, but rather the things of God.

Hebrews 11:13-16

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.

16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

The Bible tells us that loving and identifying with the world’s ways (and thereby ignoring God’s law and will for our lives, and instead following the lust of our flesh) puts us at enmity against God.

James puts it this way,

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Enmity is animosity, the state of being actively opposed to someone.

A common biblical metaphor for spiritual unfaithfulness in our relationship with God is adultery (e.g., Jeremiah 3:20; Ezekiel 16).

Nowhere is this imagery more evident than in the book of Hosea (Hosea 2:1–23).

While God showed unfailing love to Israel, they responded with faithlessness, immorality, and idolatry.

Scripture depicts God as the husband of His people (Isaiah 54:5; 2 Corinthians 11:2) and believers as His bride (Jeremiah 2:2; 2; Ephesians 5:22–33; Revelation 21:7, 9).

So, when James calls his readers “adulterers and adulteresses” (James 4:4, NKJV), the implication is clear.

To the God who has loved His people unsparingly and relentlessly, what could be more painful than their heartless betrayal?

James calls out a challenge to people who have turned their hearts away from God and fallen in love with the world.

When he speaks of “the world,” he means the world system or world order, consisting of people whose beliefs, values, and morals are in opposition and rebellion to God’s.

The goals and objectives of “the world” are in direct contrast to God’s commands.

To cling to the world is to choose enmity with God.

James warns believers not to cultivate a lifestyle that resembles “friendship with the world.”

We must never pursue the ideals, morals, goals, or purposes of the world but instead “seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

Through repetition, James emphasizes that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” and “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

With the same Greek word translated “enmity” in James 4:4, Paul denounces the worldly mindset:

Romans 8:5-7
The Voice

5 If you live your life animated by the flesh—namely, your fallen, corrupt nature—then your mind is focused on the matters of the flesh.

But if you live your life animated by the Spirit—namely, God’s indwelling presence—then your focus is on the work of the Spirit.

6 A mind focused on the flesh is doomed to death, but a mind focused on the Spirit will find full life and complete peace.

7 You see, a mind focused on the flesh is declaring war against God; it defies the authority of God’s law and is incapable of following His path.
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In the above verses of scripture, Paul is basically contrasting between the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.

And in Galatians 5:19-23, Paul plainly lists the deeds of the flesh, verses the fruit of the Spirit:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are:

1. Adultery,

2. Fornication,

3. Uncleanness,

4. Lewdness,

5. Idolatry,

6. Sorcery,

8. Hatred,

9. contention,

10. Jealousies,

11. Outbursts of wrath,

12. Selfish ambitions,

13. Dissension,

14. Heresies,

15. Envy,

16. Murders,

17. Drunkenness,

18. Revelries…

and the like of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

But the fruit of the Spirit is,

1 Love,

2. Joy,

3. Peace,

4. Long-suffering,

5. Kindness,

6. Goodness,

7. Faithfulness,

8. Gentleness,

9. Self-control…

And against such there is no law.”
____

We must be careful not to deceive ourselves into thinking that we can live in close fellowship with God and, at the same time, set our hearts on the things of this world.

The apostle Paul teaches Christians to cultivate a singular focus:

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1–3).

One clear indication that we have made friends with the world can be found in our behavior.

First of all, are we loving God with all our heart, mind and strength and are we loving our neighbor as we do ourself; or are we coveting what he has?

Are we acting like the people of the world?

Do we quarrel, covet, and fight (James 4:1–2)?

Do we “harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition” in our hearts?

Do we “boast” and “deny the truth?”

Do we “find disorder and every evil practice” in our lives?

Or instead, do we display “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom?”

Are we “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:13–18)?

Friendship with the world rubs off on our character.

If anything or anyone takes a more important place in our lives than our relationship with God and Jesus Christ, we have probably entered into friendship with the world and enmity with God.

Love for God and love for the world are mutually exclusive.

Jesus said that, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).

Pursuing friendship with the world puts us at odds with God and in danger of forfeiting our souls (Mark 8:36).

On the other hand, if we seek intimate fellowship with Jesus by giving up our own way, taking up our cross and following Him, we gain everything we need in this life and in the one to come.

If we try to hang on to the old worldly way of life, Jesus said we will end up losing everything.

But if we give up our lives to cultivate friendship with Christ for the sake of the gospel, then we gain salvation and everlasting life with Him (Mark 8:35).

Again Paul is dividing people into two categories: those who are dominated by their sinful nature and those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit.

All of us would be in the first category if Jesus hadn’t offered us a way out.

Once we have said yes to Jesus, we will want to continue following Him because His way brings life and peace.

Daily we must consciously choose to center our lives on God.

Jesus in John 14:15, and 23 said, “If you love me, keep my words and obey my Commandments.

The “words” John uses in the original language are not merely to be understood as obeying a series of moral instructions, but rather these “commands” encompass ALL of Jesus’ words and teachings, which, in truth, are God the Father’s words:

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

Anyone who does not love me will not obey my TEACHING, and these words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me’”
(John 14:23–24).

Use the Bible to discover God’s guidelines, and then follow them.

In every perplexing situation, ask yourself,

What does Jesus want me to do?

When the Holy Spirit points out what God wants you to do, do it eagerly.

One rule of thumb to always know is that God NEVER tells you to do anything that contradicts His Word.

Have you ever worried about whether you really are a Christian?

If you have sincerely trusted Jesus Christ for your salvation and acknowledged him as Lord, then the Holy Spirit lives within you and you are a Christian.

You can be assured that you have the Holy Spirit because Jesus promised that He would send Him.

Since you now believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and that eternal life comes through Him alone (1 John 4:9), you will begin to act as Christ directs (Romans 8:5; Galatians 5:22-23); you will find help in your daily problems and in your praying (Romans 8:26-27); you will be empowered to serve God and do His will (Acts 1:8; Romans 12:6-21); and you will become part of God’s plan to build up His church (Ephesians 4:12-13).

The Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee of eternal life for those who believe in Him.

The Spirit resides within us now by faith, and by faith we are certain to live with Christ forever (see 8:23; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). Amen

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