Tim Miller

Living God's Promises Tim Miller 2008. All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-4357-2158-6 Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Cover art by Sarah Elizabeth Rivas www.koiaidesigns.com

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RISE! Let every beat of your heart be: A supplication for those that are lost; A calling forth for those that are in darkness; A comfort for those that are hurting; A pool for those who are thirsty; Warmth for those who are cold. NOW IS the time to RISE! BE "Christ".

--By Gina Miller-Madison

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Introduction I started this book shortly after completing my previous book, In Jesus' Own Words: The Sermon on the Mount. After reviewing my notes, blogs, and other articles I've written, I saw I had plentiful information to use in writing more books. There are a couple of truly amazing things about this discovery. The first thing is that I have enough material for two books. The second and even more amazing thing is that I can easily divide the information by topic and chapter. Additionally, even though I wrote each of these books completely independently, they all coincide and flow together to form a single idea. God had me writing this book before I even knew I was writing it. That just shows how incredible our God is. This book is about God's promises and what they mean to us. We often hear about God's promises, but we don't know what to do with them. The purpose of this book is, among other things, to clarify God's promises. Despite what many modern preachers will tell you, God's promises are not promises of wealth, riches, and earthly success. While God does bless some with money, wealth, and riches, there is no biblical promise or guarantee of that. Just ask

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John the Baptist. He lived in the desert, wore camel's hair, and ate bugs, none of which is exactly a sign of affluence. God's promises are promises of love, forgiveness, strength, and faithfulness, and that's just scratching the surface. When things get tough, God is often the last one we look to for strength and comfort. He should be the first one we look to. Instead, we try to seek answers among worldly comforts. Those worldly things are guaranteed to let us down. This book is not going to be a list of trite answers to every one of life's problems. I know nothing is more aggravating when going through a difficult time than for someone to just toss out a couple of Bible verses as if that is going to fix everything. While scripture is true and comforting during hard times, we often need more during times of crisis. One thing we can do to prepare ourselves for crises is to fill ourselves with God's word when things are going well. Walking with God is not something to be done only when trouble hits. Our goal in life should be to live as close to the Lord as we possibly can. If we do that, then we are already prepared when trouble strikes. Imagine a football game in which the opposing team appears to go for a field goal but instead fakes the goal and runs the ball in for a touchdown. Does the defense freeze
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and just shut down? No, they practice against fake field goals. They practice against them so they won't be surprised when one happens for real. Football teams watch game films of each other before they play so they know their opponents' strengths and weaknesses. We can do the same by using the Bible. God's word is our playbook and our game film. Not only will it prepare us for what to do, but it will tell us what our enemy is up to and how we can defend ourselves. One of the first steps is knowing God's promises for us. It is so hard for so many to accept the fact that God loves us and meets us where we are. There are entire churches who don't believe this. I know plenty of Christians who think they are doomed to hell every time they mess up. That belief contradicts God's promises. We will fall, and we will stumble, but we will not fail if we seize God's promises. I want to add a special note here to my non-Christian friends who are reading this. While what I write here is written from a Christian standpoint, I still invite you to continue reading. It is my hope that you will find some encouragement in this book and maybe some answers to some questions. Perhaps you will have more questions, and that is fine as well. I welcome you on this journey, and I am honored to have you along as fellow travelers.

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Chapter 1 Real Beauty We look at the television or magazines every day. What we see is society's idea of beauty. We see models, actresses, and athletes. All of them have perfect faces and perfect bodies. Both we and the media lift these people up as the epitome of beauty. We define beauty as physical perfection. Many of us try to look like these celebrities. Some people will do anything to look beautiful. They might undergo plastic surgery or spend thousands of dollars on cosmetics. While there is nothing wrong with these things in their proper place, the pursuit of physical beauty can become unhealthy. What exactly is beauty? Who defines it? I know we've all heard it said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” There is a lot of truth to that, but what exactly constitutes real beauty? I've known many physically beautiful people who felt ugly. Why would this be if they were gifted with society's version of beauty? Perhaps it was because they didn't know God's version of beauty. God looks at more than the physical. Physical beauty fades away. Physical beauty gets old and wrinkles; it goes bald and gains weight. Let's take a look at what the Bible says about real beauty. Physical beauty can be false
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Pr 11:22

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a

who shows no discretion.
Pr 31:30

woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. The first verse here sounds quite harsh, but I know what the author is saying. Have you ever met someone, and, the moment you laid eyes on him or her, you thought, “WOW!” Maybe you couldn't stop looking. That is, until you got to know the person. I remember working with a young woman years ago. This girl could have been a model; she was very beautiful. She was one of those girls who takes your breath away every time you look at her. I was speechless, until she talked. She was rude and opinionated, and she complained about everything. After working with her for a month, I no longer thought she was beautiful. Truth be told, I did everything I could do to avoid her. See, her physical beauty was deceptive. She was beautiful on the outside, but she lacked the same beauty on the inside. I want to point out here that I don't mean to pick on women. However, I use women as examples here because, firstly, they are under the most pressure to look beautiful and, secondly, because I'm a guy, I happen to notice
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attractive women more often than attractive men. So please don't take offense to any of the examples I use here. I have known a few men also who were quite obsessed with their appearance. Spiritual beauty is forever
Ps 149:4

For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns and to present her to himself as a radiant church,

the humble with salvation.
Eph 5:27

without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. When we go to be with Jesus, he will reward those who followed him with a crown. It won't be a crown of precious metals or jewels from earth that will tarnish and rust away. This will be a crown of salvation that will last forever. Whether this is a literal crown or not, I can't be sure, but it will be eternal. The Ephesians verse here is talking about a husband loving his wife. He loves her not because of her physical beauty, but because she is a beautiful, radiant church, holy and blameless. Imagine guys if we described our wives as holy and blameless instead of as physically beautiful.
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Beauty should come from within
1Pe 3:3

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment,

such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.
1Pe 3:4

Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading

beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. These wonderful verses are pretty self-explanatory. Women or men may spend all kinds of time and money on their hair, makeup, and bodies, yet this is not where beauty comes from. Real beauty is the gentle and quiet spirit that God values. That gentle spirit is what we have when we show love to others. That is real beauty. I'm not saying we should just let ourselves go and let whatever happens happen. I'm just saying there is a healthy line here. For example, I'm currently about 65 to 70 pounds overweight. I was over 100 pounds overweight, but I've lost quite a bit over the last couple of years. I'm still working hard at losing the rest, though I've been at a standstill for the last few weeks. While one of my reasons for losing weight is for my appearance, the main reason is my health. I will be forty
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in a few years and would like to be at a healthy weight before that time. I'd also like to be able to buy some clothes without having to go to a tent store. During this weight loss, I have struggled not to get too carried away with my appearance. Christlikeness is the ultimate beauty
Phil 3:21

who, by the power that enables him to bring everything

under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
2Co 3:18

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s

glory, are being transformed into his likeness with everincreasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. Jesus Christ is the epitome of beauty. He created beauty. Jesus is the standard. When we work to become like him by striving to model our lives after his, we become more and more beautiful. That beauty is not the prize for perfect striving, however. We will fall and we will stumble. Where we find beauty is on the journey, the journey to be like Christ. That is where we discover real beauty.

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Chapter 2 I'm not Good Enough for Jesus! How many of you have said that before? I know I have. Many of us have committed all kinds of sins. Some of us have struggled with sexual immorality, maybe even drugs or alcohol. Some have struggled with plain old unbelief. Temptation is a daily fight for each of us. Even after we become Christians, we might tell the occasional crude joke or make foul comments. What use does Jesus have for any of that? Well, he doesn't have use for that, but he does have use for each and every one of us. Urban Legend There has long been a popular teaching among Christians that in order to be a Christian, you must have it all together. You must lead a sinless life with a perfect job, family, etc. You must fix all the problems in your life and get your act together, and then, maybe, God will want something to do with you. The funny thing is, most of the people who push this teaching have the most skeletons in their closets. In the meantime, the rest of us are left feeling like we're not good enough, and we may even give up completely.
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Perhaps we should take a look at what Jesus himself has to say about this. We may begin by looking at his twelve disciples. These twelve men were closer to Jesus than anyone. Jesus spent his days and nights with them, traveled with them, and ate with them. They knew him better than anyone. Were they all perfect? Did they all have their acts together when he called them to follow him? It is not the healthy who need a doctor First, you have Matthew. He is also called Levi in some passages. He was a tax collector when Jesus found him. While most of us today don't care for tax collectors, back then they were a special sort of scum. While they collected their taxes for the state, under Roman law they could also extort additional funds for themselves. They would squeeze people for whatever they could get. This made the people despise them even more. The religious leaders of the time couldn't figure out why Jesus would want to hang out with these people.
Lk 5:30

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who

belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
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Lk 5:31

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to

doctor, but the sick.
Lk 5:32

repentance.” Since I opened my ministry at http://www.iamthewayministries.com, I've gotten messages and emails from other Christians asking me why I have some of the friends there that I do. Many of them don't look “Christian” enough. I have friends on my site who come from all sorts of background and who are at all places in their spiritual lives. Jesus' response in this passage speaks volumes. Yet so many Christians today don't model this very behavior. We often will retreat to our little Bible bubbles and hide from the very people who need to feel the warmth of our light. Jesus came to heal all of us so that we might join him in eternity. He'll meet you where you are
Lk 5:27

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the

name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him,
Lk 5:28

and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
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Mt 4:18

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he

saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
Mt 4:19

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James

fishers of men.”
Mt 4:20 Mt 4:21

son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them,
Mt 4:22

and immediately they left the boat and their father and

followed him. Look closely at both of the above passages. Notice that Jesus didn't hold a revival in a large stadium and ask for everyone to come find him. This is not to imply that revivals in large stadium are wrong, but the spirit in which we go about them can be. Jesus sought out his disciples and he called them. Each of them stopped what they were doing and followed Jesus immediately. There is a wonderful message in these passages. Jesus will come and meet us where we are. We don't have to become spiritual dynamos before he will approach
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us. He will meet us right where we are and bring us toward him. On that same note, we must heed his call and follow him, just like the disciples did. This is so important to remember when dealing with others. We can help people find Jesus by meeting them where they are, not where we think they should be. Doing otherwise would make us no better than the Pharisees. One final point I'd like to make here is that you don't have to have a masters of divinity from seminary; nor do you need a Ph.D. or even any form of college. While all of those things are good and honorable, you do not need them to be a follower of Christ.
Ac 4:13

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and

realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. I just love this passage. They were not well educated men. They were ordinary every day folks, just like any of us. Yet they had been with Jesus. That experience was enough to change their lives forever. When we follow Jesus, our lives will be changed as well. Whether you are a brain surgeon or a janitor, Jesus will find you and your life will be changed.
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Chapter 3 The Christian Calling Today, we often hear Christians talking about standing up for their rights or working toward some man-made approval or position. While there is nothing wrong with these things, it's easy to get sucked in by them and to lose focus on our true calling as believers. The problem is, most of us don't even know what that calling is. It sure isn't going to church once a week and just sitting there. Going to church is a good thing, but we are called to much more than that. A Holy Life
2Ti 1:8

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or

ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,
2Ti 1:9

who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not

because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..
Eph 4:1

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life

worthy of the calling you have received.
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Holiness is a touchy subject among many Christians, and rightly so. Many of us have had bad experiences in legalistic churches, and may of us have been wrongly judged over some questionable things. However, legalism is not what true holiness is. The passages above tell us that God has saved by his grace and has called us to holiness. As a result of God's grace, we should want to seek out the things that would please him. Our goal shouldn't be to see how close we can get to the line without stepping over. Our goal should be to move as far away from the line as possible. We can do this by moving toward God. Aren't only educated or really smart people called? Many people think that you have to be a seminary graduate or have some amazing skills or abilities to live out a Christian calling. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is merely a lie Satan has perpetuated to keep as many Christians on the sidelines as possible. Just look at the disciples. Many of them were fishermen or tax collectors. These are not highly educated men. They were just men doing what Jesus had called them to do.

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1Co 1:26

Brothers, think of what you were when you were

called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. In this passage, Paul is telling the church in Corinth that few of them were considered smart or powerful, and few had any family influence by earthly standards. However, God's standard transcends any man-made social structure. This is something we often forget in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. God is our heavenly Father. What better family influence could we possibly have? Called to hope
Eph 1:18

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be

enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints… No matter what happens, we need to remember that our ultimate goals will probably never be reached here on earth. We won't usually see immediate results. Sometimes we might, but other times we won't. God does this to teach us patience and humility. You could live a godly life each day
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and even witness to people daily and never see the smallest hint of fruit. That doesn't mean there wasn't any fruit. We sow the seeds, and God takes it from there. I know when I post my blogs and get no responses, I often wonder if anyone is actually reading them. Only once we are with Jesus will we know those results. Keep our eyes on the Kingdom
Phil 3:13

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken

hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
Phil 3:14

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which All of us who are mature should take such a view of

God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Phil 3:15

things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Let's face it: this life is not our home. Jesus even said his kingdom was not of this earth. We get so wrapped up with our lives and what we're doing here and now that we lose sight of the true Kingdom. Our real home is with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Any failures or setbacks we suffer today are only temporary. Just think about it. Do you
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suppose anyone will care 100 years from now that you didn't get that promotion? I don't mean that to sound cold, but we put so much importance on things that mean so little on an eternal scale. We should live for him and his Kingdom now, because, eventually, that is where we will spend eternity.

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Chapter 4 Knowing God We often hear evangelists and preachers talking about “getting saved” or “making a decision for Christ.” Many outreach programs focus on conversions or trying to get people to say the “sinner's prayer.” That sounds like a lot of jargon, but what does it all mean? Does that mean we just say a certain prayer or make a one-time decision, and then we suddenly know God? In our modern, western culture, we seem to view our faith as some sort of business transaction. We say this prayer, or follow these rules, and we're in. So, are we really supposed to know God, and if so, how? We often hear people talk about a personal relationship with Christ. Does that really mean something, or is it just church-speak? I really feel that, as a church, we've lost sight of the true meaning of being a Christian. If we look at both the Old and New Testaments, we'll see there is more to knowing God than being a member of the right church or saying the right prayer. We are God's friends

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Ex 33:11

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a

man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. I get goose bumps whenever I read this verse. Can you imagine that? The Lord God Almighty casually talking to you face to face. He still talks to us today. Maybe he doesn't talk to us in the same way he talked to Moses back then, but the Holy Spirit dwells within all believers. Every one of us has access to the throne. During Moses' time, only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies. Now, the veil has been torn. Jesus did that for us so that we may have fellowship with him. So how did Moses look at his relationship with God? Did he just go through the motions and, at the end of the day, go about his life as if nothing were different? I don't think so. Moses took his love for God very seriously.
Ex 33:12

Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me,

‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’

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Ex 33:13

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I

may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” Look closely at that last quote. “Teach me your ways so I might know you and continue to find favor with you.” He wasn't content just to talk to God; he wanted to be like God. He talked to God so he might learn more about his Lord. He didn't just want to follow God's rules; he wanted to find favor with God. He wanted to know God. Jesus taught us the same thing. It is through Jesus that we can be even closer to God. Jesus said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Jn 10:14b). When he walked the earth, he was our living God in the flesh. We are his sheep. Through him, we may know the Father. Jesus leads us to the Father. He knows us and we know him. I know a lot of this may sound repetitive, but I'm trying to get a point across that we seem to miss so easily. We don't just say a single prayer, or figure out which list of rules to follow. We know him personally, intimately. Our love for him is evidenced by how we live our lives. To know him, we must truly follow him

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The next thing we should do is take a close look at Jesus' own words:
Mt 10:38

and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses

is not worthy of me.
Mt 10:39

his life for my sake will find it.

I read these verses, and I see a very tall order: taking up your cross and following him, losing your life for his sake. Those are not easy things. Now, I don't believe Jesus was exclusively talking about being killed or harmed in some way. Here in the U.S. that is not usually a concern. However, we can lose our old selves to him. We can give up the things of this world to follow him. I know when I first began to know him, I gave up a lot of worldly pleasures. I began a new life and lost my old life. I think it's fair to say he is referring to both things here.
Mt 7:21

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter

the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

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Mt 7:22

Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not

prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? ”
Mt 7:23

Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away

from me, you evildoers! ” We see by this verse that Jesus has some harsh warnings for those who think that they can just pay lip service to “knowing” Jesus. When we do this, we know about Jesus, but we don't know Jesus. We might have the right information. Perhaps we know all the right quotes and all the right doctrines about Jesus. But when it comes down to it, we've never taken up our cross to follow him. We don't know him. Matthew 7:21-23 often gets misused. When we consider everything else the Bible says about knowing God, about taking up our crosses, and about losing our lives for him, we can see that this passage is referring to people who have not done these things. Like I said above, I believe Jesus is referring to people who just pay lip service, whether by outward religious acts or by being strict adherents to a set of doctrines. Without knowing Jesus, they are all empty. This passage sums up my point:

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Mt 15:8

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts

are far from me. This brings us to another passage where Jesus issues some strong warnings. This is not during his earthly ministry, however. This passage is from Jesus after he ascended to heaven. This gives it even more power and authority.
Rev 3:15

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—

wish you were either one or the other!
Rev 3:16

I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Those are some harsh words. Knowing they are coming from a resurrected Jesus Christ, it makes them plain frightening. One thing is clear. Jesus does not care for fencesitters. If you read the rest of revelation, you will see there is only one winning side. If we want to be part of that winning team, we must truly know him. Knowing God is knowing love

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We don't need to be afraid, however. God wants to know us. He is there for us. He is love. Knowing him is knowing love.
1Jn 4:7

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes

from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. There is a lot of comfort in this verse. God is the creator of the universe. He is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Yet he wants to know you, and you can know him. We have access to the most high. All we need to do is follow him. Don't just talk about it or think about it. Lay aside those things of this earth and follow him. The rewards are more than this earth could ever provide.

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Chapter 5 God's Thoughts In the recent chapter, we discussed knowing God. Part of knowing God personally is also knowing his thoughts. Now you may ask, “How could we possibly know the thoughts of the Almighty God?” That is a fair question. God has given us the Bible that tells us much about his thoughts. There is one thing we know for sure, which God has told us:
Isa 55:9

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my

ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. His ways are not our ways We often wish God would do things our way. I know I've asked God to do something my way many times. When it comes right down to it, we are little more than spoiled children. Every single one of us likes to have our own way. Some of us may go to greater measures to get our way than others. However, as I have learned from my own life, our ways are flawed and short-sighted. I wonder if, at times, God

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has purposely let me have my own way, knowing it would end in disaster and thinking, “Okay, you asked for it!” I have many friends in ministry who don't feel like their ministries have gone as they should. Maybe the pastor's church down the road has grown faster than theirs. Sometimes one might get sent to a mission field in Mexico or India, both places ripe for missions; while another goes to Morocco or Indonesia, places that remain hostile toward Christians. Naturally, ministries there won't grow at the rate of others. I've known others in ministry who have set up a successful model that has worked for them so that their ministries have grown considerably. Then they take it to a new level by insisting all other ministries follow their lead and operate in exactly the same way. I've seen some of these situations get rather ugly. When people do this, they are forgetting something. They are forgetting who is really in charge of their ministry. God's ways are higher than our ways. God's way says to send a murderer and Christian persecutor to preach to the Gentiles. God's way says to send a young boy to fight a giant. God's way says to send the king of the universe and savior of mankind to earth in a dirty manger. God's way says to allow that king to be beaten,
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humiliated, and crucified. None of these things makes any sense in the light of our ways, but now that we know how these events play out, we know that our ways aren't so great. His thoughts are not our thoughts This does not take a whole lot of convincing for me. I know what my thoughts are like throughout the day, and they are not even in the same ballpark as godly. More times than not, our thoughts are wicked and selfish. That is because we still battle our flesh. Granted, we may not act on those thoughts, and that is good. As we've seen above, though, God's thought process is much different from ours. Our thought process says to get back at those who harm us. Our thoughts tell us only to promote those who are strong and have it together. Our thoughts say only proven leaders are ready for ministry. We may go so far as to tell someone that they must complete some kind of man-made training process before they can lead, but we know that God thinks differently. Not that school and training are bad, but God's training is better. This verse tells us what God thinks of our thoughts:

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1Co 3:19

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s

sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”;
1Co 3:20

and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the

wise are futile.” God knows our thoughts and our ways, and he knows they are flawed. That is why he wants us to put our trust in him. An airline pilot doesn't fly through the clouds and the fog on his own; he relies on the air traffic controller. The controller sees things the pilot can't see. The pilot might think he's in the clear and can and can easily make a turn or change direction, but he cannot see the other aircraft that may be in the clouds just a few hundred feet away. He doesn't rely on his own ways and understanding, but on his controller. People often will say, “God is my co-pilot.” He's not the co-pilot, nor is he even the pilot. He's the air-trafficcontroller. He's the one watching the radar and making sure we don't crash.

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Chapter 6 The Word Became Flesh
Jn 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with

God, and the Word was God. This is one of the most powerful verses in the entire Bible. In one sentence, this verse reveals the nature and divinity of Jesus Christ. When I was first beginning to know the Lord, this was one of the first verses I read. This verse proved to me that the Bible is truly God breathed. Some might wonder what this verse has to do with living God's promises. This verse represents the most important promise God ever gave us, Jesus Christ. The Word has been since the beginning At first, one might wonder just who is the word. It is Jesus Christ. John says this in verse 14. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8); he is the beginning and the end (Rev. 21:6), the first and the last (Rev. 22:13). Jesus has always existed. There was never a time when Jesus didn't exist. There was never a time when the Son wasn't the son, or the Father wasn't the Father, or the Spirit wasn't the Spirit. This
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is so awesome to think about! We worship a God who has always been and always will be. That is one of the hardest things for many of us to wrap our minds around. We think that Jesus came into existence when he was born in Bethlehem on that first Christmas. That is completely false. He was always in existence. If we read on in John, we see it was Jesus who was there when all things were created. Through him all things were made. The Word was God The Apostle Paul tells us:
Ro 1:4

and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared

with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. These words by Paul verify Jesus' divinity. While this chapter is not meant to be a full study on the divinity of Christ or the Trinity, scripture clearly indicates Jesus is God. Some translations, such as the translation used by the Jehovah's Witnesses, change the wording and say that “the word was a god.” However, the King James, one of the older
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English translations, says he was God. So we can sit and play word games with different translations and see if we can make this verse mean something completely different. However, if we do that, then we must find a way to change the meaning of Romans 1:4, Romans 10:9-10 and a great number of other passages as well. Jesus Christ is the Lord our God. As I said earlier, this chapter is by no means a comprehensive study on the divinity of Christ. However, it should give you a starting point from which to begin searching. If you follow the trails of scripture, you will see where Christ is revealed as Lord. I encourage each of you to dig into God's word as let him reveal himself to you. The book of John is filled with revelations of Jesus' divinity.

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Chapter 7 Because You Say So Do we really follow Jesus or believe what he says? I simply ask this as a reflective question. We often think we do. I'm sure many of us actually do follow him. However, we get a perfect model for discipleship in Luke 5. Jesus is choosing his disciples and comes across a group of fishermen. At many times in our lives, we might encounter a rough spot. We know what Jesus is telling us, but we don't actually do it. Maybe it sounds weird, or it might be embarrassing. It might very well disrupt our comfortable little lives. In this chapter, we'll take a look at what happens when we stop second guessing Jesus and do what he actually says. We do it “because you say so.”
Lk 5:1

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of

Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God,
Lk 5:2

he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to

fishermen, who were washing their nets.
Lk 5:3

Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
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Lk 5:4

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night

out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Lk 5:5

and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Lk 5:6

When they had done so, they caught such a large So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come

number of fish that their nets began to break.
Lk 5:7

and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
Lk 5:8

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and For he and all his companions were astonished at the and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee,

said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Lk 5:9

catch of fish they had taken,
Lk 5:10

Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”
Lk 5:11

So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything

and followed him. Jesus was speaking to the crowd This passage begins with Jesus doing what he does so well: teaching God's word to the people. He's giving his
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message as usual, until something catches his eye. He sees fishermen in a boat washing their nets. Jesus gets into the boat with them and continues to speak from the boat. Now, there was a practical reason for him to do this. Back then, they didn't have microphones and sound systems, so teachers had to speak loudly. By getting into the boat and speaking from the water, he could be heard much better. Sound travels more easily over the water. Jesus finishes speaking As we see in the passage, just because he is done speaking doesn't mean he is done teaching. He tells the fishermen to put out into deep water and let down their nets. One of the fishermen named Simon tells him they've worked hard all night and caught nothing. These men had to be exhausted. I'm sure they were ready to go home and get some sleep. By the time Jesus found them, they were hot, tired, and weary. They might have even thought Jesus was nuts for asking them to do this. He wasn't out there with them all night, so what does he know? Instead, they respond by saying, “Because you say so.” Simon Peter decides that even though he is tired and frustrated, he is going to do what Jesus says, for no other
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reason than because Jesus says so. He wouldn't do it for anyone else, and everything inside him tells him that this is a silly idea, but he does it anyway. He does it “because you say so.” I wonder how many of us have things like this in our lives? How many times has God told us to do something that makes no sense to us? Maybe we've tried it before, or maybe we're just afraid to do it. What if we just said, “because you say so” and did it anyway? I've read this passage several times, and I wonder how my life would be if I could just teach myself to respond, without having to think about it, “Because you say so.” Casting down our nets We see the fishermen in our story cast down their nets. This time, they catch so many fish that their nets began to break. Another boat has to come over to help them! By the time they haul all the fish in, both boats are completely filled with fish. Despite their reservations, they do what Jesus says, and Jesus blesses them. They catch more fish than they'll be able to eat or sell. We are often afraid to do what Jesus says. I've known people who really want to begin a ministry or get involved
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with a ministry but are afraid. Others have felt a nagging urge to do something that was way out of character for them, such as quit a job to work in a homeless shelter or maybe even something less extreme. We may have doubts and fears about whatever God is calling us to do. Even Moses was afraid when God called him. Yet, in Luke 5, we've seen what can happen when we do what Jesus says. So we can learn to stop listening to ourselves and start listening to Jesus. We don't listen to him because of how it will benefit us; we don't try to reason it out. We listen to him “because you say so.”

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Chapter 8 His Love Endures Forever

Ps 136:1

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love

endures forever.

Many of us have heard a popular Christian song containing the above phrase. I know we've sung it in our church many times. I love this verse. It's so simple, yet so true. What powerful words: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Forever! That is hard to even fathom. It's definitely hard for us to remember. I've gone through a lot of trials this past year with school, home life, and changes at work. Even during the hardest times, listening to this song and meditating on this verse have been of enormous comfort. Give thanks to the Lord This doesn't mean just giving thanks before meals. Give thanks to the Lord when you eat, before you sleep, and even before going to work. I know I'm not the best mealtime prayer warrior. Usually I either forget to pray before meals, or
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I'm in just too big of a hurry to scarf my food down. However, even if we don't pray right at meals, it doesn't mean we can't live a life of thanksgiving. We can give thanks at bedtime, in the morning, and even at any point during the day: just stop and take the time to thank the Lord. I know this can be hard because of our busy schedules, but it only takes a few seconds. Even more important than giving thanks at these various times is giving thanks during tough times. This is so hard for us to do. When it seems like our world is crashing down on us and that no one is with us, that is when we need to give thanks to God the most. No matter how far away he may seem, he is right there for us. I know when I'm down, I sometimes will fear looking to him. When I finally do, I feel so much better. Satan will tell you lies to keep you from turning to God when things are tough. He'll tell you that God is punishing you for something, or that you deserve your suffering. The truth is, God wants you to come to him for help. He already knows what you need; he's just waiting for you to ask. For he is good

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In Genesis, God says his creation is good. Everything he does is good. Everything might not seem good to us at all times. We may never know why some horrible thing happened, but God does. I know that answer isn't the greatest, and I won't spend too much time on why bad things happen, but we do know that God is good by his nature.
Jer 33:11

the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride

and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD, saying, “Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good; his love endures forever.”
La 3:25

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to

the one who seeks him;
Hab 1:7

They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law These above verses are just a few of those that tell us

to themselves and promote their own honor. of God's goodness. It might even be a good idea to write these down to keep handy for when things get hard. His love endures forever

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There is no end to God's love; it didn't even have a beginning. His love always has been and always will be.
Rev 1:8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,

“who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” No matter how long we live, and no matter what we have done, his love endures forever. Throughout the rest of Psalm 136, each verse ends with “his love endures forever.” The Bible tells us this over and over, yet we are so quick to forget it. When we are going through hard times, his love endures forever. When we are going through good times, his love endures forever. When we are healthy, his love endures forever. When we are ill, his love endures forever. As we have seen, God give us repeated reassurance that he is good and that his love is forever. When trials and tribulations hit, I encourage all of us to look up this passage and pray over it. I know I sound repetitive in this chapter, but I feel such repletion is necessary. God repeats himself many
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times in the Bible and with good reason. Repetition is the best way to get a point across. Read this passage; pray over it; hide it in your heart. Let his love endure forever and endure within you.

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Chapter 9 God's Promises of Victory Throughout the Bible, God shows he is victorious over his enemies. Time and time again, we see God and his people prevail against the forces of evil. So what does that mean for us today? It means that if God is victorious, and we are on God's side, then we, too, are victorious. We may lose battles daily as the world beats us down. We may constantly feel like failures or like we don't measure up to God's standards. God has already given us the victory. The Bible is filled with his promises. Victory over evil men
Ps 44:5

Through you we push back our enemies; through your

name we trample our foes. I recommend reading the rest of that passage in Psalms for even more encouragement. We all know people who would like to see us fail. There may be some who'd like to destroy us completely. Maybe we've wronged them in the past, or they don't like the fact that we're a Christian. Maybe they think we look funny; for whatever reason, we will have
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enemies in this world. God tells us that through him, we will trample our foes. Now, God also tells us to love our enemies, so I don't believe he means we should go to work and stomp our enemies physically the ground. Even though we call them evil men, that term is sort of misleading. Our true enemy is not of flesh and blood. Satan is our real enemy. He has dominion over this earth and loves nothing more than to cause harm to God's people. I know this sounds frightening, but we need not be afraid. Christians today have been rendered completely ineffective because of their fear of Satan and his followers. We will see that Satan is the one who should be afraid. Victory over spiritual enemies

Lk 10:18 Lk 10:19

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and

scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. Satan loves to seduce people into harming us. He does that, or he will tempt us into harming ourselves. Many
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of us don't know what to do against this other than to become hateful and lash out against others. This is not the best response. I've seen many unbelievers taunt and harass a Christian, calling him all sorts of horrible names. The second the Christian lashes out, they all point and yell, “Ha! Hypocrite! Some Christian you are!” This is the same thing Satan does to us when we fall to temptation. God has already defeated Satan, however. Jesus' death and resurrection already sealed that victory. Now, this Bible verse isn't implying that we should go out and play with snakes and scorpions, or that we're a bunch of spiritual snake charmers. Jesus is saying that Satan no longer has power over us. Jesus has given us power over all of the horrible things Satan will send our way. None of these things can harm us. While they may harm our bodies, they cannot harm our souls. As Jesus says in verse twenty, our names are written in the book of life. Not even Satan can remove them. Victory over worldly trouble
Ro 8:35

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall

trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
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Ro 8:36

As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Ro 8:37

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. As we go through life, we will encounter illness,

hardships, and death. We will have physical problems, family problems, and whatever other problems you can think of. According to this passage in Romans, none of these things will separate us from Christ. I really love the last verse in the above passage. We are more than conquerors through Christ. Just think of Genghis Khan, or Napoleon: as great as they were, we are much greater than either of them. We are greater through Jesus Christ. Victory over Satanic powers
Rev 15:2

And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with

fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God

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When Jesus returns, he will be completely victorious over his enemies. God promises final victory to those who have victory over the beast, or the Antichrist,. Each of these people in this passage are given a harp by God. I know there has been some debate over whether or not this is an actual harp, or if the harp here just symbolizes something. I say it doesn't matter, because either way, it’s a reward straight from God! God has not abandoned us. No matter how dark, bleak, or hopeless our situation may be, we must remember that our victory is already in place. We may lose some battles. We may lose lots of battles. I don't think a day goes by when I don't lose at least one battle, but God has already won the war. He is not selfish; he will share the victory with us. We may take refuge in his victory.

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Chapter 10 God's Spiritual Promises In the previous chapter, I talked about God's promises of victory. These are not the only things God has promised us. He has also provided spiritual promises. Many of us spend our lives seeking temporary things such as wealth and fame. The Bible tells us we should not worry so much about these things, but instead seek things that are eternal. God has promised us treasures worth much more than anything here on earth. Contrary to what many Christians may believe, we don't have to wait until we die to receive them. No, I'm not promoting some kind of prosperity gospel message here, but I'm going to show you how you just need to open our eyes to God's gifts. He promises spiritual knowledge
Jer 24:7

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the

LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. When we seek God, he will fill our hearts with knowledge. We will truly know him. If we open our hearts to
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him, he will not leave us with any doubt that he is the one and only God. He will give us a new heart, his heart. I know a lot of this might sound like a bunch of religious mumbo jumbo, so maybe I should explain it in different terms. Too often, Christianity is filled with lots of rules, rituals, and practices. We often think we must look and act a certain way while adhering to a set of rules and doctrines. What Christianity is really about, however, is knowing God. You read my chapter earlier on knowing God, and this verse is touching on that. God wants us to know him, and, as we return to him, he will move toward us as well. The other things are all fine and good, but if you do all those things and don't know God, you're missing out on the true reward. He promises a new heart
Eze 11:19

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit

in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. When we try to please both God and men, we have a divided heart. When we try to seek money and fortune while seeking God, we will have a divided heart. Jesus said a man cannot serve two masters. All of our focus must be on God;
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he will put a new heart and new spirit within us. We will have a softer heart of flesh, that not only longs for his love, but longs to share his love with others. Before any of us knew Jesus, we had hearts of stone. I remember how hard my heart was back then. It was no fun. It might have seemed cool to act as I did at the time, but I was really miserable. I thought that I was protecting myself from being hurt, and I was doing what I thought felt good. The truth is, I was hurting myself more than I realized. God gave me a new heart. He took away my old spirit of selfishness and replaced it with the Holy Spirit. Many people don't think about this, but the Holy Spirit is part of the Godhead. Each of you has God himself dwelling within you! He promises spiritual rest
Mt 11:28

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest. For those of us who are in ministry, it can be very easy to become spiritually weak and exhausted. I know my most recent job was working in a residential facility for troubled teenagers. What a demanding job! Imagine fifteen angry children, aged ten to seventeen, yelling and screaming
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at you all day. Many times they would get violent. The job itself was demanding and low paying. I recently left there just because I've been doing that kind of work for a long time, and I just needed a break. There are other forms of ministry that are less intense. I'm sure each of you has had similar experiences. I've known pastors, Sunday school teachers, school teachers, and others who have suffered from this sort of burnout. They work so hard taking care of others and meeting the needs of everyone else that they end up wearing themselves out. Even Mother Theresa found herself going through this many times over. This is why Jesus' words here are so comforting. If we come to him, he will give us rest. That rest can come in many forms. Maybe he will help us recharge to continue with our work. Perhaps he will call us into another field completely. He might even tell us its time to take a break for awhile. This burn-out doesn't have to be work related either. It could happen in your family life as well. I know some who have extremely difficult family situations. In those cases, God might have a variety of other solutions. The key is to not try to do it all ourselves, but to lean on Christ. Go to church, spend time in the Word, and be spiritually fed. What has helped me is having friends who are
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fellow believers to talk to and pray with during these times. Some might say that we shouldn't look to others but only to God. Well, I say that God did give us each other for this very reason. He promises the Holy Spirit
Lk 11:13

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good

gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” I know I touched on this a bit earlier. When Jesus went to be with the Father, he did not leave us alone. He sent us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to guide us. The Holy Spirit is just as much God as Jesus is. He is now and always was and he always will be. There was never a time when the Holy Spirit did not exist. Among the Godhead, he seems to be the most mysterious. I'm not going to go into a detailed study on the Holy Spirit here. There are some excellent books out there about who the Holy Spirit is and what he does. Billy Graham's book on the subject is excellent. The fact still remains that God dwells among all believers. God himself is living inside of you. What more could any of us ask for?
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He promises eternal life
Jn 10:28

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no

one can snatch them out of my hand. I'm sure most of us know what this verse means. Death for the believer is not the end. God has granted us eternal life though Jesus Christ. Once we have accepted him, there is nothing that can remove us from his love. We could get into a discussion here about eternal security/loss of salvation, but I won't do that. The point is, once you truly give your life to Jesus, you are his. This is one of God's biggest and most important promises. During our time here on earth, we will go through many hard times and trials. No matter how difficult things get, God knows what we are going through. He tells us to put our trust in him and he will guide us through. He's made his promises, and he is perfect in that he will and does keep his promises. All we need to do is believe in him and believe in those promises. Once we're able to do that, we might find that things are not as difficult as they seem.

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Chapter 11 Jesus Wept John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible, yet it is one of the most overlooked and most powerful. Jesus wept. He cried. The Creator, Lord, and Savior of all mankind broke down and cried. What would make him do this? He was human, so he had the same emotions as the rest of us. We often focus so much on his divinity that we tend to forget that he was a flesh and blood person. He was subject to the same thoughts and feelings as anyone else. He laughed, ate, slept, and cried. Before we really get into what was going on in John 11:35, we need to build up to the story a bit and see just what was happening.
Jn 11:32

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and

saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Jn 11:33

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had

come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
Jn 11:34

“Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see,

Lord,” they replied.
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Jn 11:35 Jn 11:36 Jn 11:37

Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the

eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” The Mary being spoken of here is not Jesus' mother, but a different Mary. Some believe its Mary Magdalene, but we don't know that for certain because the text doesn't actually tell us that. Mary was a very common name back then, much like Jennifer is today. This Mary had a brother named Lazarus who was deathly ill. Mary had sent for Jesus to come and heal him. Jesus said he'd go, but he took his time getting there. As a result, Lazarus died. I encourage everyone to read the rest of this story from the beginning. I didn't find it necessary to include the whole thing. So Jesus is told of Lazarus' death and is on his way to see him. We see here Mary throw herself at Jesus' feet and asking why he took so long. This passage always confused me. If Jesus knew he could raise Lazarus from the dead, why would he cry? He knew the death was only temporary. The whole reason he delayed was so he could show them this miracle. The answer to this question was always right in front of me. It’s in verse 33. “He was deeply moved in the spirit
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and troubled.” Jesus literally felt her pain. When we pray for others, do we feel their pain? When others come to us with their troubles, do we truly empathize with them? Do we put ourselves in their shoes? I know that’s a lot of questions, but they are questions I believe are worth asking. We know what prayer is, but what about true intercessory prayer? It's all too easy to sit in the comfort of our own lives and pray for others from a distance. We may write their requests down and sort of drone through a prayer for them. I know I have been guilty of this myself, and that's something I've been learning fairly recently. It is another thing entirely, however, to lay hands on those around us who are truly suffering and share their pain with them. Praying in this manner is true intercession. One thing I have realized about myself, and by talking to others, is that often we will pray, and, deep down, we don't even believe or own prayers. We pray as sort of a duty or exercise because we are told to do so. Yet, in our heart of hearts, we might say, “God doesn't really heal people like that anymore,” or “I hope God does something, but I doubt he will.” I know God has been working with me lately on how I pray. For so long, my prayers have been these pathetic little, “Oh God, I know I'm not really anybody, but if you feel like it,
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could you maybe heal my brother....” Now, I'm not the kind to rant and rave and jump up and down while praying, but let’s take a look at Elijah's prayer when he was challenging the prophets of Baal.
1Ki 18:36

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped

forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.
1Ki 18:37

Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will

know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Elijah had faith God would answer his prayer. He didn't sheepishly ask God to maybe, sort of, kind of do something. He almost sounds like he's telling God what to do. But this prayer is a prayer of faith in which the one praying knows that God will answer him. There was not a doubt in Elijah's mind that God would come through. Now, I'm not saying we should tell or demand that God do something. At the same time, the Bible tells us if we ask, and if our motives are pure, that he will answer our prayers, but it

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also tells us not to ask with selfish motives (Mat 7:7; Jas 4:4). So when you are praying for others, don't be afraid to feel their pain. I know this is hard. It's probably why most of us don't try to do it. It could be why we tend to avoid those we know are sick or suffering. Just being around them can be depressing, but it's not about us. Even Jesus felt the pain of those suffering around him. This very day, Jesus still feels our pain as he intercedes for us. We should follow his example as we intercede for others. We can start by praying like we mean it. This comes from truly believing our prayers. The one thing Jesus scolded his disciples over more than anything is unbelief. If we really believe that God is who he says he is, and that he will keep his promises, then we should show that in our prayers. I know a lot of the songs we sing in church talk about our faith. We sing songs like, “Blessed be Your Name,” and “How Great is our God,” but do we really believe those words we are singing? If not, then it is time for some serious, personal reflection.

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Chapter 12 Comfort for the Comforters
2Co 1:3

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can

Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
2Co 1:4

comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.2Co 1:5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things we will ever experience in life. There is no easy way to get through it. My own family just experienced this recently with the passing of my father-in-law. My wife was very close to her dad, and our seven-year-old daughter was very close to her grandpa. So this was not an easy time for us at all. Life is full of tragedies such as death, illness, and trials. Often we ask God why. We usually don’t get an answer that makes us happy. The Bible provides us with a little insight as to why some of these things happen. This may not be the deeper, philosophical answer many seek, but it is a more practical and comforting one. When we go through tragedy and trials, God is often preparing us for something.
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Life will not always be comfortable
Jn 16:33

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may

have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus warns us right there in John that we will have troubles. I’ve heard the phrase before “Life’s tough, get a helmet!” I feel like that quite a bit. About the time you are about as far down as you think you can go, someone else comes along and kicks you again. Jesus even went through trials. So he is letting us know beforehand that simply being Christians doesn’t exempt us from hard times. However, he doesn’t leave us hanging. In the second part of the verse, he tells us to take heart because he has overcome the world. Jesus defeated death and suffering. He died and returned and never died again. No one has ever done that before or since. While that may not make us feel any better after losing a loved one, it does give us some reassurance that death is not the end. By ourselves, we have no power over the world or death. Jesus Christ, however, can carry us through these times.
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The book of Psalms tells us that others before us have gone through hard times:
Ps 60:11

Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample

Ps 60:12

down our enemies. I spent several years working in social services. I would often come across people who had been abandoned by loved ones. Many of them had been used, abused, orphaned, you name it. While I could never imagine what it’s like to go through the things they have, I have gone through my own share of trials and tragedies. It’s not easy for any of us, but it’s not new either. We are not alone. This scripture just shows that none of us are exempt. No amount of money can prevent suffering. Our social status, jobs, or titles won’t protect us. Hard times can hit anyone at anytime. While this isn’t pleasant to know, knowing this can help us be prepared. God comforts us during trouble Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 1:3 that God is the Father of compassion. Through Jesus Christ, God gives us comfort.
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When Christ hung on the cross, he had reached the epitome of suffering. No human being had gone through such pain before or since. Yet, while he hung from the cross, bleeding and dying, he still offered comfort to his mother and friends who were present. He even comforted one of the thieves who was hanging on one of the other crosses. Even today, Christ still provides us with comfort during hard times. However, we often hold ourselves back and won’t turn to him. But he is there for us; we just need to look to him. We can comfort others during their troubles When we share in the suffering of others, we are giving them comfort. This is called empathy. When we show love, empathy, and comfort for others, this gives them endurance. It’s kind of circular. Jesus works through us, so that we may comfort others who are suffering, so they can be comforted. People have asked me how God can show his love to everyone. That is why he gave us each other; so that we may love and comfort one another. Once we’ve allowed Christ to comfort us through hard times, we are equipped to comfort others. I know for myself that it’s much easier to talk to someone who has gone through the same things I have experienced than it is to talk
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to someone who has no idea what I’m feeling. I’ve had many trials in my personal life. While quite a few of these were of my own making, getting through them has allowed me to help others who are going through the same things. As we go through life, there will be hard times and trouble. God does not abandon us during those times but offers us comfort. He might even comfort us through someone else so that we might be able to give comfort to others. God created us so that we can love him and love each other. This is one way of uniting the body of Christ and of living God’s promises.

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Chapter 13 Loving Each Other In an earlier chapter, I talked about God’s love for us. Here, we will discuss our love for each other. There will be more chapters on love to follow. Given the state of the church and society today, I think love is something we could never talk about enough. I could probably write a whole book just on love. The fighting and bickering that I’ve seen among fellow believers in my lifetime (and I’m not that old) has been amazing. I’ve seen churches split over silly things such as what color carpet to put in. I’ve seen pastors ripped to shreds by people in their congregation for minor issues or differences. Not only was there fighting and bickering, but the name calling and gossiping that goes on in our churches has gotten out of control. Is this Biblical? Is our love for each other selective? Love is unselfish
Mt 22:39

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as

yourself.’

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I don’t know if there is anyone out there who really hates themselves. Our human nature is quite selfish. We want what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. Here in the United States, we have no problem making our wants known and doing whatever it takes to get those things. So how about the wants and needs of others? If someone needs help at work, but you are too busy, do you take a minute to help them? Or do you make sure your work gets done first? I know I’ve struggled with this at times. I try really hard to be as helpful as possible even when the people I’m helping only want my help because they are lazy. What really drives me nuts is to bend over backwards to help coworkers while they stand and watch. Then later, they get some kind of reward or recognition for the work that I did. It can be very frustrating, but that is when I must get into the Word and pray about it. I pray that God removes the selfish Spirit from my heart. When we live for the Kingdom, we must put ourselves last. I discuss this further in my book In Jesus’ Own Words. Love is sincere

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Ro 12:9

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor

good.
Ro 12:10

one another above yourselves. Our love for each other must be true. If you read many self-help success books on how to influence people or to awaken your inner giant, you’ll hear all about showing an interest in people. They will tell you to remember people’s birthdays and to learn their hobbies or the names of their children or pets. This all sounds wonderful, but the problem is the motive. The motive here is to learn these things in order to manipulate people to achieve some result. That result is your own personal success. When you have true love for another, you do not have some personal goal in mind. Love is supposed to enable us to lift each other up. If we get our co-workers birthday cards or learn their kids’ names, it shouldn’t be so we can lift ourselves up. We should be doing it to lift them up. As I mentioned earlier in this chapter, I might get frustrated when I help someone who later gets the credit for my work. However, what I’ve done by helping them is to lift them up. In those cases, my flesh wants me to be angry or jealous over not getting the recognition I deserve. Our love for each
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other must be sincere and true. Anything else is contrived, and people will see right through that. Love is abundant
1Th 3:12

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow

for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. We should not limit our love for others. People around us should feel our love whenever we walk into the room. God showers his love upon us. We should not be stingy with the love we shower on others. Once again, this may be hard. I know some people who would rather fall over dead than share a kind word with another person. Sometimes such a word is all a person needs. Remember, if someone doesn't know Christ, we might be the only way that person experiences Christ’s love. People often ask me, “How do you feel God’s love?” Well, there are supernatural ways, but the most basic and simple way to help someone feel God’s love is by loving them ourselves. If they see Christians hating each other and hating non-believers, then I don’t suppose they will think God

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is very loving himself. I can’t say I would blame them in that case. Love is proof of discipleship
Jn 13:35

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if

you love one another.” I’ve heard that “the proof is in the pudding,” and I guess it’s true. As I mentioned in the last section, the world is watching us. While I’m not a big fan of saying who is a Christian and who isn’t, there have been a few times I didn’t think I was too far off in guessing a person wasn’t really a Christian. When we hear nothing but hate and bitterness spewing out of someone’s mouth, and that person claims to be a Christian, we know something is wrong. When I look on Christian websites and see debates over issues such as evolution and abortion, I think that is good. When I see Christians calling other Christians idiots, morons, and other colorful phrases, I have to wonder just how “Christian” some of these folks are. I’m not saying we won’t ever have a bad day. I know I have. But when you hear the same negative stuff coming from the same people over and over, you just

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have to wonder. Now, just imagine what non-Christians are probably thinking when they hear this hateful language. The above verse is Jesus’ words. If we love one another, all will know we are his disciples. If we act selfishly, selectively or falsely, other believers will know it, and the world will know it. We can witness all we want and quote all the Bible verses we want, we can share all the teachings and doctrines in the world, but without love, all that is pointless. Paul tells us:
1Co 13:1

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but

have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1Co 13:2

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all

mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1Co 13:3

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my

body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. He goes on, but these verses pretty much make the point. We might have the biggest, fanciest church in our town. Our church might have state-of-the-art, multimedia sound systems, a jumbo-tron, padded seats, and a coffee shop with all the bells and whistles. No matter what it is we
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do or have, if we don’t love each other, then it’s all a joke. Without love, everything we do is nothing but an empty action. Love is what God has given us, and it is what we should give each other.

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Chapter 14 Physically Weak, Spiritually Strong We live in a world where strength is considered one of the greatest qualities. In sports, the strongest dominate the competition. In business, only the strong survive. Crushing your opponent in life is considered the ultimate victory. It’s not good enough to win; we must win big. If you are perceived to be weak, then you will not be respected, nor will you get far in life. People will walk all over anyone who appears weak. That is what the world tells us. But what is true strength? The Bible has some things to say about this. Spiritual strength is mightier than physical strength
Zec 4:6

So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to

Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. There are so many examples in the Bible where God used a physically weaker person or people to defeat the strong. Just look at David, Gideon, or even Jael. None of them were considered to be strong by earthly standards. But by relying on God’s power, they were able to overcome
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and be victorious. We can do the same thing when faced with a problem. Instead of relying on our own skills and trying to control the situation (as I myself am often guilty of doing), we should give it over to God and let him handle things. Our strength is nothing, however. Some of the strongest people I’ve ever known were physically weaker than almost everyone. Recently a man came to speak at our church. He was only in his 40’s, but he’d had a major stroke. His whole right side is paralyzed, yet he spoke with a passion for God that almost brought our congregation to tears. He even said that he’d wanted to be close to God his whole life, but it wasn’t until he was disabled that God really took hold of him. This is just one example of how God uses the physically weak to accomplish his purposes. Spiritual strength accompanies the baptism of the Holy Spirit
Ac 1:8

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes

on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

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God has not left us alone in this world. Jesus came to earth to teach us how to live. When he left, he sent the Holy Spirit to equip us. When we rely on the Holy Spirit, there is no limit to what we can do. Now I’m not saying we can fly or shoot spider webs from our fingers (although that would be pretty cool!). I’m talking about our gifts and our talents. Here is a personal example. If you’re reading this book, then you’ve probably figured out that I like to write. For years before I was a Christian, I also wrote. I wrote fiction for many years and even published two secular suspense/thriller novels. I had self-published them originally, but a small press picked them both up. I had written two more that hadn’t yet gone to press. I’d won some awards and gotten some good reviews by some well respected people. I appeared to be on my way to a career in writing mystery/suspense fiction. Then I became a Christian. After my conversion, I stopped writing for some time. That was for a variety of reasons. I had a lot of personal things going on and other stresses, and I was in need of some major personal reflection. During this time, I spent a lot of time in prayer. I felt God convicting me about my past books. I contacted my publisher and told them I wanted to pull my books. They were resistant, but they agreed to
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cancel them if I paid them some fees. I did pay them the money, and they removed the books. Many people thought I’d lost my mind at that point. Most authors would kill even for a contract with a small publisher like this one. Yet those books were filled with violence and foul language. There was no way I could allow them to stay on the market in good faith. So what does this have to do with this chapter? I’m getting to that. You see, my gift is writing. I’m an okay speaker, but I’m a pretty good writer. I feel I have been blessed with this gift. But without the anointing of the Holy Spirit, this gift is meaningless. Sure, I may have sold a few books and made a nice name for myself. I might even have made a lot of money one day. In the long run, what would all that have meant? All the words I had written up until that point were empty words. They were stories about nothing and they helped no one. They were worthless, pulp, junk. After I finally began my blog on http://www.iamthewayministries.com, God blessed both me and many others who have read my blog, or my previous book, in ways I could never have imagined. Jesus is the supreme example of true strength

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Lk 4:14

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and

news about him spread through the whole countryside. Jesus showed us many times how to rely on spiritual and not physical strength. He performed his miracles through the spirit. Even if we may not be able to perform miracles, we still have power through the spirit. Our prayers have power. Love has power. Both have more power than we could ever realize. God has equipped us with those things so that we might go into the world and share them with others. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus tells us how to live. The way of life he taught us is true strength. When the world says to fight, Jesus says walk away. When the world says to take advantage of your enemy, Jesus tells us to love him. When the world says to stand up for yourself, Jesus says to let others have their way. I know this is extremely hard to do, but it is the true life of loving God’s strength. Once we give up on having our own way, we can be stronger than we ever thought possible.

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Chapter 15 Strength in Weakness There is so much in the Bible about weakness and strength that I felt the subject was worth multiple chapters. This chapter will focus on weakness. What do we do with the weak? All we need to do is take a look around us. We usually look down on the weak. When it comes to business or life in general, we’re like animals. If we see another who is wounded, we take that as our opportunity to move in for the kill, to gain the upper hand. What happens, though, when we become the ones who are weak? Maybe we’ve suffered some personal tragedy, or maybe a physical illness has taken hold of us. Weakness is a different story when it is happening to us. The Apostle Paul discusses his own weakness and what it meant to him. God uses the weak to shame the strong
1Co 1:27

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame

the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

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The leaders we encounter throughout the Bible are not what we would consider to be strong. Sure, they became strong after God raised them up. But they sure weren’t strong when he called them. Just look at Moses. When we think of Moses, we often think of Charlton Heston standing there, holding his staff with his long beard flowing in the breeze. We see him as this strong, powerful, and dignified man of God. But when we first read about Moses’ calling, he wasn’t so strong. Just read Exodus 3. He was scared and confused, and he even argued and whined to God about his calling. He didn’t want to do it. Moses didn’t think he could do it. Yet God used him to do many great things. Then you have Elijah. He ran and hid in caves. John the Baptist dressed funny, lived in the desert, and ate bugs. David was just a kid when he was called to go kill a giant. Jael, as a woman, would not have been expected to do anything of note during her time. Yet, she killed one of Israel’s enemies and was called “blessed among women.” The only other woman in the Bible to be given that title was Mary, the mother of Jesus. You can read about Jael in Judges 4-5. I think you get the picture. God is not limited by our abilities.

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God’s strength is made perfect through weakness
2Co 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for

my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2Co 12:10

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses,

in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. What does Paul mean in these verses? How is he strong when he is weak? This passage confused me for years. Then, suddenly, it was like a light went on. I believe he is saying that when we are at our weakest, we must rely even more on God to work through us. Since we are then relying even more on God, we are stronger than we ever could be normally. A few years ago, there was a young man in the news by the name of Jason McElwain. He was on the Today show and several other news outlets. He is autistic and was the manager of his high school basketball team. He wasn’t allowed to play in games because of his disability, but he was allowed to dress so he could be a part of the team. On the final game of his senior year, his coach decided to put
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him in with about four minutes left in the game. During those four minutes, Jason hit six 3-point shots. If you haven't seen the video of this, I encourage you to pull it up on Youtube. It’s amazing to watch, and the crowd was going berserk. Jason is what most of us would consider to be weak. He has a disability that many feel makes him different. Some might even think he’s less than a real person because of it. Yet, despite his weakness, Jason showed amazing strength. God can do the same for us. If an NBA star scores 18 points in four minutes, that's good, but it won’t get much more than a few seconds on ESPN. However, an autistic kid achieving that is nothing short of amazing. It is likewise amazing when God works through our weakness. If a person has lived a “perfect” life and has never gotten into any real trouble goes and does great things for God, that is great, but it’s also somewhat expected. However, if a person who at one point seemed completely lost and out of God’s reach turns his life around and does great things for God, then that is nothing less than a miracle. Through God’s strength, we are strong

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2Co 13:4

For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he

lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you. When it comes right down to it, there is very little we can do on our own. In the overall scheme of things, we are all weak and helpless. Sure, we may be strong, healthy, and successful right now, but all of that can go away in a second. Even for the best of us, it only takes a car accident, illness, or major financial crisis to reduce our resources to nothing. Then what do we do? I’ve seen some very strong and powerful people crumble into nothing after catching only a few bad breaks. It is God who makes us strong. The weakest among us can be the strongest through God’s power. Through him, we can do amazing things. The first Missionary to India, William Carey, said, “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.” If we are willing to serve him and put our own abilities aside, he can use us in amazing ways. This is what Jesus meant when he said:
Lk 13:30

Indeed there are those who are last who will be first,

and first who will be last.

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Chapter 16 Rejected by Men In the book of Joshua, we see the Israelites finally make it into the Promised Land. For many years after their arrival, they went through many different leaders. God chose for them judges to lead them. God would raise up different judges at different times to lead the different tribes. The Israelites were in a constant cycle. They’d turn away from God, and then fall into captivity to one of their enemies. After many years, they’d cry out to God, who would deliver them. They’d be faithful to the Lord for awhile, but then they would slowly turn away and then repeat the cycle. Don’t we do this in our everyday lives? We will be faithful for awhile, and when things have gone well, we slowly turn away from God and do our own things. Then after we get ourselves into hot water, we turn back to God; he bails us out, and then off we go again. Many times when we go tell others about God, or share God with others, they turn on us. Sometimes even our own Christian friends will do this when they backslide. It’s very hurtful. Since I’ve been involved with ministry, I’ve had this happen many times. I’ve been attacked by Christian friends over rumors and speculation. I’ve had friends on my website
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who broke fellowship with me over differing political views. Others have stopped reading my blogs and have never spoke to me again without ever telling me why. In 1 Samuel 8:6-8, we get two things, a warning and some comfort:
1Sa 8:6

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people

displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.
1Sa 8:7

are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.
1Sa 8:8

As they have done from the day I brought them up out

of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. The people cried out for a king After being ruled by judges off and on for many years, the people of Israel cried out to God for a king. They complained and complained to the prophet Samuel, asking God to give them a king. God finally gave into them and gave them what they wanted. God later anointed Saul as the king. I’m sure many of us know how the rest of the story goes. Saul became selfish and disobedient to God.

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1Sa 15:11

“I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he

has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night. How many times do we put more trust in men than in God? That is what happened to the Israelites. They put more faith in a man than in God. This led them to experience serious problems for centuries. Even today, I see many Christians getting worked up over politics. While there is nothing wrong with being involved with the political process, it is possible to overdo it. As I write this, primary elections are happening right now. At the moment, the Democratic primaries are hotly contested. The Republican races were just recently settled. Reading Christian blogs and websites has been very interesting these past few months. Many Christians have picked out a certain candidate who they feel is “God’s man” for President. While I don’t suppose it is wrong to feel this way, I’ve seen people belittled as not being true Christians because they didn’t agree with a particular candidate or party. I know many Christians feel very disenchanted with the Republicans and feel let down by the Bush administration’s policies and actions over the last eight
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years. Now, I don’t mean to turn this book into a political debate; I’m merely making some observations here. For years, I’ve seen Christian movements put all their faith and hope into one political candidate. I’ve heard people say, “If only this guy would get elected…” or “If we could only get these people in office…” Yet, every single time, they end up feeling let down and upset because those candidates got into office and didn’t deliver what they promised. I don’t know why anyone is surprised. Men will do this. Men will let us down. Instead of going and looking to another candidate each time, maybe we should look to God. Our hope does not rest on politicians or earthly leaders, but in the Almighty God in heaven. The people of Israel lost sight of this as well. You’d think we’d learn our lesson, but we seem to like repeating our mistakes. No matter who is in office, or who is the president, or which political party is in power, Jesus is the true king. It is God that men reject, not us
Jn 15:18

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me

first. ”

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As I read the passage in 1 Samuel, I can’t help but feel that Samuel is rather hurt by the people demanding he find them a king. As a judge and a prophet, Samuel had led Israel for many years. That situation is like when you work as an acting supervisor at work, but when they do finally fill the position, they pick someone who hasn’t been there as long as you. However, God offers Samuel some comfort. He tells him that he’s not the one who has been rejected, but that it was God himself who was rejected. Since Samuel was God’s spokesman to the people, they took it out on him. At least, that’s one way it appears. However, as Jesus says in the above passage from John, the world hated him first. Jesus suffered probably more rejection than any of us could ever dream of. So we shouldn’t be all that surprised when people reject us. I see many Christians taking it personally and getting up in arms when they catch problems because of their faith. I can understand it’s upsetting, but it’s not personal. They are not rejecting us personally, but our God. Men have forsaken God since the beginning
Ne 9:26

But they were disobedient and rebelled against you;

they put your law behind their backs. They killed your
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prophets, who had admonished them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies.
Ne 9:27

So you handed them over to their enemies, who

oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies. Rejecting God is nothing new. This was done from the beginning of history. That’s why God sent the flood in Genesis. That’s why he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. So rebellion is not a new development, but as we can see by reading the Old Testament, rejecting God leads to only one path, and that is bondage. This passage in Nehemiah is a perfect example. Even though today we might not be physically taken into captivity by earthly enemies, we still fall into other forms of bondage. Some of us may be held captive to alcohol, drugs, porn, or gambling. When we are not walking with God, we are walking away from him. These things are like land mines Satan has planted throughout the world, and he is waiting for us to step on them. So we don’t need to have men leading us, nor should we take it personally when men reject us. Whether we have been rejected for our faith in God, or whether we’ve rejected
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God ourselves, there is only one way to true freedom. The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in the following verse, with which I will conclude this chapter:
2Co 3:17

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the

Lord is, there is freedom.

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Chapter 17 Staying Calm Through the Storms I’m sure most of us have gone through storms in our lives at one time or other. I have many friends who have recently experienced them. The life of one good friend of mine seems to be a series of storms. Our family just went through a storm a few months ago with the sudden death of my father-in-law. How do we respond to these things? Our natural response is often to be fearful, panic-stricken, and anxious. Jesus’ disciples went through the very same thing. We will take a look at their experience and see what Jesus told them.
Lk 8:22

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to

the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out.
Lk 8:23

As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on

the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
Lk 8:24

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master,

Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.
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Lk 8:25

“Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear

and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Storms will hit us when we don’t expect it Usually when one of these storms hits, it’s when we are going about our lives as usual. Years ago, a police officer here was killed. He was a friend of mine and of many people in the community. I had gone to my part-time job just like any other day. The other officers at the department had gone in like any normal day as well. He worked second shift, and things were going pretty much like they do any other day. That evening, an officer was involved in a pursuit. On his way to back up his fellow officer, my friend Doug ran a red light and was broadsided by another squad car. Doug was killed instantly. Just like that, tragedy struck an entire community. What had begun as a normal day for our town turned into a difficult week. As I mentioned earlier, my father-in-law died suddenly this past January. He had been fine. My wife and daughter would go over to his house every weekend and help him clean. He was only 56 years old. My wife Jami and
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daughter Ashley loved him so much. It was the highlight of their week to go to see grandpa. One Sunday morning, Jami arrived early, and her father was still sleeping. That was not usual for him, but it was early on Sunday morning, so Jami came home. Later in the day, she called and left a message for him. By the evening, he hadn’t returned her call. This was not normal for him. Jami called her uncle to go and check on her dad. To make a long story short, he spent the week in the hospital. He had hit his head at work earlier in the week, and now he had some kind of brain infection. Throughout the week, he kept having strokes which were shutting his brain down. By the next Saturday morning, the only thing keeping him alive was a breathing machine. At that point, the family decided to turn the machine off. We stood together in the room and watched his body finish shutting down. Within two minutes of the machine being turned off, he was gone. The crazy thing about that whole ordeal was how quickly it all happened. He had just been at our house on Christmas. Jami had just talked to him on the phone the day before. There was no warning and no indication that any of this was about to happen. One day he was there, and in less than a week he was gone.
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Panic during the storms will create needless fear
Mt 14:30

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and,

beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” When the storms hit, often our first response is to panic. Panic creates fear, not only for you, but for those around you. I know if you’re in a leadership position and things begin to turn south, those who are under you will look to you for guidance. If all they see is panic, then how do you suppose they will respond? Panic not only creates fear, but confusion. When I was a corrections officer, we had a supervisor who would flip out whenever there was a crisis. Those situations often ended up a complete mess because we were all running around like chickens with our heads cut off. Other supervisors kept cool and gave clear directives during crises. This told us the situation was under control and that we could handle things accordingly. We can prevent panic through faith. Look at the above verse. Peter only begins to sink when he starts doubting. His lack of faith produced needless fear. Jesus was standing only a few feet away from him, but he still panicked. Have any of us ever done that? Have you ever
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panicked when you knew Jesus was right there with you? I know I sure have. This is not what God wants for us. I know it’s hard when the storms hit, but during storms is the most important time to look to him. Jesus commands the storms As we read that passage from Luke 8, we see how Jesus effortlessly calmed the storm. Notice the disciples’ surprise? Aren’t we often surprised when Jesus calms our storms? I don’t know why we get so surprised. We know who Jesus is and what he can do. He created the storms, so it makes sense that he can command them. The problem is, we don’t usually want Jesus to handle our problems. We’d rather try to deal with them ourselves. So, we throw our best solutions and ideas about, but to no avail. Only then, when none of our efforts have worked, do we look to Jesus for help. He should not be our last resort, but our first resort. This is one of the hardest things for us to do. When the storms hit, it’s easy to rely on our own abilities, but those abilities are very little compared to what Jesus can do. The first words out of our mouths should be “Lord! Save me!” Jesus is always there, waiting for us. It may not seem like it at times. I’ve heard people ask me why God doesn’t do
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anything during hard times. My response usually is, “Did you ask him to?” It’s amazing the looks I get when I ask that. It’s so simple, but that is all we need to do. While he may not always make the storm go away, he can help us through it. So, as we face the storms of life, we can handle them in two different ways. We could panic and make things even worse. Or we can look to Jesus who can rebuke the storm and help us through it. Weathering the storm may not always be easy. The storm may last quite awhile with no end in sight, but it will end. Jesus is greater than any storm. Even the winds and water obey him. All we need to say is “Lord! Save me!”

Chapter 18
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Suffering for Doing Right Peer pressure is one of the toughest things for people to overcome. When in school, how many things did you do just because everyone else was doing them? I know I did plenty of stupid things. Ever wonder why we do these things? It’s because we don’t want to be the oddball, the misfit. No matter how wrong things are sometimes, we will do them just to fit in. Sadly enough, this doesn’t change when we become adults. Sometimes, it actually gets worse. I’m sure most of us reading this have had to make a tough choice at our jobs. Have you ever seen someone doing something that was wrong, but you were afraid to stop it? Perhaps your boss wanted you to do something that violated company policy or the law or that was simply unethical. What do we do in those situations? Peter addresses this in his first letter. He explains why we should be afraid to do what is right.
1Pe 3:13 1Pe 3:14

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be

blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”
1Pe 3:15

prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to
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give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
1Pe 3:16

keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak

maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. Be eager to do what is good This is the first step. In my book, In Jesus’ Own Words, I go into detail about how our first goal is simply desiring what is right by getting our hearts right. Doing the right thing is fine, but if our heart isn’t in it, then it’s pointless. Doing right should be a reflex, a first reaction. I’m a big football fan. When Peyton Manning throws a touchdown pass, he doesn’t sit there and say, “Okay, drop back three steps, plant feet, find receiver…” He already knows what to do. His pass is automatic and occurs in one smooth motion. He’s done it so many times; he could probably do it in his sleep. That is how following Christ should be for us. We should all be Peyton Manning Christians. No matter what we are faced with in life, we should automatically drop back, plant our feet, and throw a perfect touchdown pass without having to think about it. At least, that should be our goal.
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Do not fear what they fear With Christ by our side, we have no need to fear. We are fortunate enough to live in a country that is free from religious persecution. Usually, the worst thing that happens to us as Christians is that we are sometimes made fun of or ridiculed. It is not worth going against what I know is right to avoid that. In my own experience, I’ve left jobs over things that were wrong and of which I refused to be a part. While quitting a job might not always be the answer, we should pray and find God’s will for our lives and to learn how we should handle things. Either way, we need not fear. If your boss wants you to do something you know isn’t right, don’t be afraid to stand up. So maybe you get fired over it. What does Peter say? You will be blessed! If God put you in that job, don't you suppose God could put you in another job? What's happening to you may not seem right at first, but chances are God will have something better around the corner. Always be ready to give your defense

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I think more Christians need to memorize verse fifteen. We are quick to defend our beliefs, which is good, but we tend to forget the “gentleness and respect” part. Peter doesn’t tell us to hire lawyers and sue everyone while yelling and screaming about our rights. He also doesn’t tell us to inform people they are going to hell. He tells us to be gentle and respectful, kind of like Jesus was. If your boss wants you to do something unethical, I don’t recommend yelling at him or calling him a filthy hellbound heathen. We can politely tell him why we won’t do that certain thing. I’m using a boss as an example, but you could need to address a friend, spouse, or anyone else. Whoever it is and whatever we say, do so with gentleness and respect. If after you have done so they continue to mock you, verse sixteen tells us they will be ashamed. So, as we’ve seen, we need not fear doing the right thing. No matter how much the world tells us we should conform to them and fall in line, we know better. There have been a few times in my life when I gave in, and I regretted it each time. Peter himself experienced this when he denied Christ. We will suffer for doing the right things; the Bible warns us about this. The best thing we can do is prepare ourselves and lean on Jesus to help us through it. Chapter 19
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The Power of Patience
Pr 25:15

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and

a gentle tongue can break a bone. We live in a world filled with instant gratification. We have instant messaging, fast food, and even drive-through weddings. If we want something, we get it right now. If something takes more than a few minutes, we get frustrated and even angry. Recently I began working in sales. When it’s busy, I’ve found some customers get extremely impatient. Most do pretty well, but there is always that handful who walk in the store and, as soon as they see the line, begin huffing and puffing. By the time they get to me, their patience is gone, and I just cannot move fast enough for them. It makes the job interesting to say the least. I’ve worked many jobs where new policies have been put into place that the employees didn’t like or that just made no sense whatsoever. The natural reaction was for the employees to get upset, argue, and sometimes even quit. Over the years, I’ve found that things change so much in most workplaces that if you can tough it out for six months or so, things will usually change again. This is hard to do for

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many of us though. The book of Proverbs tells us the many benefits of patience. Patience is a fruit of the spirit
Gal 5:22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,

kindness, goodness, faithfulness… This is important: if we claim to be Christians, then patience is something we should be working hard to obtain. When I became a Christian, I had zero patience for much of anything. I think I may have been in the negatives in the patience department. It took very little to set me off, and I waited for nothing or no one. I’m doing much better these days. I still have my areas I need to work on (like talking on the phone to customer service people), but I’ve come light years from where I was. The three years I spent working in a psychiatric hospital really helped me to learn patience. God can help us with this process. He can show us what it is to be patient. Often, he will put people in our lives who will test our patience.
1Ti 1:16

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in

me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his
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unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. God shows us patience unlike any we will ever know ourselves. No matter how often we fall or stumble, he is patient with us. No matter where we are in our walk with him, he will be patient as we stumble along to where he wants us to be. The least we can do is be patient with others. A gentle tongue can break a bone
Pr 15:1

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word

stirs up anger. I know we’ve heard this verse before, and you’d think we’d have an easier time remembering it. However, it seems that when faced with a situation where we are losing our cool, it’s very hard to respond with gentleness. Yet, this is something we must learn to do. We can diffuse many situations through patience and gentleness. Harsh words will just fan a fire. I don’t know how many conflicts I talked my way out of because I responded kindly to the person instead of lashing out. On the same note, I can think of
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many conflicts I could have avoided had I taken a step back and attempted to be kind instead of returning bitterness with bitterness.
Isa 50:4

The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed

tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. Sometimes when people are tired and at the end of their ropes, they just need to hear a kind word to help them through the rough times. I don’t know too many people who don’t like to hear a kind word at the right times. I think what happens in these situations is that we are so caught up into our own little world and our problems, that we have no idea what that other person is going through. Perhaps taking a minute to think about that person and maybe even ask them what is wrong might open some doors to great ministry opportunities. So let’s put this together. If we are patient, we can help bring about positive change. God has been patience with us, so he can help us to learn patience. If we use patience and gentle words, we might have more of an impact on people than if we instead complain and argue.
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Sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and think things through. By doing so, we can encourage those around us and those over us in authority, even if we disagree with them. Even those in authority over us may be exhausted or burned out themselves. Whether they are our bosses, government officials, or some other figure, they are often tired and worn down. So instead of beating them down with complaints and bitterness, we could encourage them and lift them up. We might find them to be more open to suggestions and change when they see us acting with the fruits of the Spirit, love and patience, instead of with anger and defiance.

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Chapter 20 Nothing but the Blood I’m sure most of you have heard the song "Nothing but the Blood." One night, I was sitting and listening to my iPod when this song came up. There is a newer version out by Matt Redman as well. Both songs have a similar chorus: What can wash away my sins Nothing but the blood of Jesus What can make me whole again Nothing but the blood of Jesus I don’t know of too many songs with more beautiful lyrics. When I think of the sins I’ve committed in my life, it almost brings tears to my eyes. For so long, my life was dark, ugly, and hollow. I thought I was lost. I grew up learning about God, but I didn’t really know God. I had turned away from him. For many years I lost my faith and belief. A big reason I didn’t believe was because I felt like I was beyond help, out of God’s reach. Around ten years ago there was a popular song out that contained the line, “I still believe that I cannot be saved.” I truly felt that was me.

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I’m sure all of us have felt that way at some point or other. Most of us have probably felt out of reach. We have felt as if we were living in a pit, rolling around in the mud with the pigs. I know I sure felt that way. Sure, I had some fun times playing in the mud, but, deep down, it felt cold, dark, and lonely. Then something happened. I made a discovery. I discovered Jesus and his precious blood.
Eph 2:13

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away

have been brought near through the blood of Christ. I read that verse and I see myself. I was once far away, too far away I thought. Yet Jesus’ blood brought me near. Only his blood could save me. I know many nonChristians who think Christianity is a violent, bloodthirsty religion because of its fascination with blood. Yet it is the shedding of Jesus’ blood that constitutes the perfect sacrifice so that we might have eternal life and not have to live in the mud here on earth.
Heb 10:19

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to

enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…

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Back in the first century, Israel still had its temple, at least until AD 70. In that temple was the Holiest of Holies. Only the high priest could enter there on Yom Kippur. Ordinary people could not enter this place. There was a veil hanging over it that kept others out. Anyone who tried to cross that veil would be struck dead. When Jesus died on that cross, that veil was torn, both spiritually and literally. We can now enter the presence of God. We have the kind of access to God that not even Elijah, Abraham, or John the Baptist had. They were preparing the way for the promise, yet they themselves had never received that promise. They never experienced the blood (Hebrews 11).
1Jn 1:7

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have

fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. Once again, we see that only the blood of Jesus purifies our hearts from sin. Our best offerings can’t cleanse us. Neither can our good deeds. It doesn’t matter if you’ve taught Sunday School for twenty years, or if you fed the homeless last winter You could be the pastor of a large church, or a Big Brother or a Big Sister on weekends. None of those things can cleanse you.
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Isa 64:6

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all

our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Our best efforts don’t even come close to ideal. God’s grace is not dependent on what we do for him. It’s all about what he has done for us. While that fact doesn't license us to play in the mud, it does tell us that grace is not something we can earn. There is a difference between stepping in a mud puddle and rolling around in the mud. Once we have been cleansed, we will want nothing to do with the mud; we will desire only his blood: nothing but the blood of Jesus.

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Chapter 21 You Never Let Go I had originally written this chapter as a blog for my good friend, Sarah, who was going through some serious struggles at the time. I was debating whether or not to include this chapter, but I feel it has some valuable things to offer. There is a popular Christian song also titled "You Never Let Go." That song has brought me much comfort during hard times. It’s based on the 23rd Psalm, which is one of the most quoted and written about passages in the entire Bible. So I felt that in a book about God’s promises, this passage deserved a place. I won’t quote the whole passage here, but one section that jumps out at me:
Ps 23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of

death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death Very few statements seem as dark or even as scary as this one. Yet there are very few of us who have not been
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through this valley. Some of us may perpetually live in this valley. This psalm was written by David. David was in a serious valley when he wrote it. He was facing death. Death was casting its shadow over him, hence the phrase “the valley of the shadow of death.” There have been times in my own life when the valley seemed so bad that death would have been a welcome relief. David was probably the mightiest man of the Old Testament, yet he went through valleys and faced death. Something important to note here is that as we follow Jesus, he doesn’t take away the valleys. He does not shelter us from potential harm. Sometimes when we become Christians, those valleys become larger and deeper than they were before we were Christians. Why is this? I know there is no simple answer. I do know from personal experience that sometimes our biggest growth comes from going through the deepest valleys. I will fear no evil… Evil is all around us. We live in an evil world. When I was a corrections officer, I stood face to face with evil each day. I worked with murderers, robbers, rapists, and child molesters. There were some criminals who looked just as
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normal as any of us. You’d never suspect them of the crimes they had committed. Then there were those who just seemed to exude a sense of evil. Their mere presence made the hairs on your neck stand up. And yes, I was afraid of some of them. When I worked with kids in a psychiatric hospital, I saw the results of evil. Many of these kids had been through more by the age of ten than most of us will go through in our entire lives. The things that had been done to these children were unspeakable. Unfortunately, many of them will grow up to commit the same acts on another child. Evil is part of the world we live in. There is no escaping it. Yet, we need not fear evil. I remember that, when I was a child , I had some really bad nightmares at times. I’d dream of monsters, ghosts, or other creatures from horror movies coming to get me. I can’t even imagine how much sleep I cost my poor parents during that time. One night after I woke up, my mom read this verse to me:
1Jn 4:4

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome

them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

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I love that last part. “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” He is talking about Satan of course. We have the Holy Spirit within us, who is much greater than Satan. Jesus has already conquered sin and death. We only need to cling to him. I know that is easier said than done. I know there have been plenty of times my wife has told me to stop freaking out about things and to take my own advice. It’s those times I go back and read some of my own articles. No matter what we are going through, no matter what we are dealing with, no matter who is trying to hurt us, we can turn to God. God is greater than all things. I’m not usually one to throw cliché’s out there, but I saw a bumper sticker once that said, “Instead of telling God how big your problem is, tell your problem how big your God is.” Yeah, I know it sounds cheesy, but there is much truth to this. Yet when you’re in the valley of the shadow of death, giving your problems up to God is easier said than done. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me Now, this verse might sound harsh. The rod and staff are what the shepherd uses for discipline. This recalls my earlier point about being refined by going through valleys. It
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is through that discipline, however, that we are able to survive the valleys. When I went through Marine Corps boot camp, I thought I was going to die at times. The training was extremely tough, both mentally and physically. Yet it was all necessary. See, they were training us for war. Even though there was no war at the time, war could break out at any minute. If they were always nice to us and easy on us, we would not be strong enough to handle combat. God does the same for us. Whether we like it or not, we are at war. No, it’s not a physical war, and we are not to go and commit acts of violence. We are at a spiritual war with the forces of darkness. Satan and his minions are out to destroy us. So God must put us through spiritual boot camp for us to be ready for war with our real enemy. While this may not be super comforting when we are going through those trials, it’s important to know that God doesn’t send us through them alone. He is there with us, just like the shepherd tending his flock. He never lets go of us; he never abandons us. He might take a step back, like a parent watching his child walk for the first time. He might even let us fall, but he is there to pick us back up. He is there to pull us from the valley.

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Chapter 22 I Need You to Love Me
Lk 7:36

Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner

with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
Lk 7:37

When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town

learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,
Lk 7:38

and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she

began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. I don’t know that any of us can say we’ve lived a perfect life or anything even close to one. As I mentioned earlier, I was far from perfect before I was a Christian. I still am, but at least now I’m actually trying to improve myself. When I read the story of this woman in the above passage, I feel like her. I know I’m not a woman, but I know the feeling of falling at the feet of Jesus while weeping. This woman realized what kind of life she had been living and where that kind of life would lead. She was sad and remorseful and needed Jesus’ forgiveness. She needed his love.

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Jesus knew who she was The Pharisees who were with Jesus reacted first with judgment.
Lk 7:39

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he

said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” They were repulsed that Jesus would allow such a woman to come near him. Tradition tells us that this woman was a prostitute. That is very possible, and prostitution was a common occupation for women back then who did not have a husband. When women were divorced by their husbands, they had few choices for making a living. There weren’t many secretarial schools or waitressing jobs back then. However, scripture is not clear on exactly what this woman’s sins were. Jesus, however, did not mind her washing his feet. He knew exactly who she was.
Lk 7:40

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell

you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

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Lk 7:41

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he

owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
Lk 7:42

canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” I always loved how Jesus would answer the disciples with questions. Jesus tells them the story of a moneylender. The story speaks for itself, and then we see Simon’s response.
Lk 7:43

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger

debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. So Simon knew what Jesus was getting at, but Jesus wasn’t finished making his point.
Lk 7:44

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon,

“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
Lk 7:45

You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the

time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.

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Lk 7:46

You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven

perfume on my feet.
Lk 7:47

—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Lk 7:48

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” I often hear people within the church who are critical

of those who came out of horrible lives of sin. They are suspicious of that person’s testimony and of whether any real change had taken place. I read one blog in which a man criticized a former prostitute for not leaving the sex industry sooner than she did! Sometimes a person’s “Christianness” is even called into question due to their past. After all, look at what they’ve done! Big sins, little sins A couple of years ago, a young woman emailed me about problems she was having in her marriage. She had been raised a Christian; she had gone to a Christian school, a Christian college, and the whole nine yards. Well, her problems were with trust. Her husband had cheated on her when they were engaged. By the time she contacted me,
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they had been married for almost two years. Even though she said she had forgiven him, she kept bringing this incident up whenever something would go wrong, and she repeatedly threw it in his face. When I told her that she wasn’t perfect either, she said, “Well, I know, but I’ve never done anything like that though. That’s a major sin. I’ve only done little stuff.” I tried to explain these above verses to her, but I’m not sure if they sank in. She was stuck on the fact that since she had only committed “small sins,” she now had a license to pound her husband into the ground for his big sin, even though she still chose to marry him after she learned about the sin, and even though she had said she forgave him. I pointed those things out to her as well, and I never heard from her again. The woman in this story knew her sins. She knew who Jesus was and wanted his love and forgiveness. She needed his love and forgiveness. Do any of you know what that feels like? I remember that when I came back to Jesus, I was crying on my living room floor as I held my Bible. I had sometimes thought that I knew what love was. Yet it wasn’t until that moment that I knew what real, unconditional love meant. Sure, I still mess up and stumble at times. Each time I stumble, I feel like the woman in this passage. I cry at

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Jesus’ feet. He is always there for us, and he always loves us no matter what.

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Chapter 23 Living in Sin
Pr 28:13

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but

whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. I know we’ve heard the phrase “living in sin” many times. It is commonly used to refer to a couple living together out of wedlock. However, I don’t think that is the only application, or even the most accurate one. Chances are, all of us live in sin of one form or another. Back in 2006, Pastor Ted Haggard was the senior pastor of a large church in Colorado. He was also a major evangelical leader in the country. He had meetings once a month with the President of the United States. However, Pastor Haggard had a terrible secret. He was hiding his sin. He had been struggling with it for quite some time. In a letter to his church, he stated he’d been battling this problem for most of his adult life. Now, I don’t know whether or not he confessed his sins, but it looked as if he hadn’t renounced them, at least not until he was caught. As I heard the letter being read, I couldn’t help but sense the feeling of relief that he must have been experiencing now that his sin had been exposed and the real
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healing could begin. Now, I don’t mean to pick on Ted Haggard. I pray for him and his family, for their healing and restoration. However, this is just one example of what can happen when we choose to conceal our lives of sin. He who conceals his sin, does not prosper Scripture tells us a couple of things about hiding sin. One is that God cannot be fooled.
Isa 29:15

Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their

plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?”
Heb 4:13

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.

Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. There are more verses that cover this, but I think we get the point. God cannot be and is not fooled. There is nothing we can do that he doesn’t see. Just because God is silent at the moment doesn’t mean our sin has gone unnoticed. He sees all. I know this is hard to remember. I’m sure most of us have heard the saying, “Character is who you are when you’re all alone.” Or at least it goes something
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like that. However, when it comes down to it, we never really are alone are we? The second thing scripture tells us is that our sins will find us out.
Nu 32:23

But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the

LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. When we live in our sin and get into a cycle of sinrepent-sin-repent-sin-repent, we are setting ourselves up. Eventually our sin will catch up with us. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ted Haggard repented each time he fell into his sin. This is where something like accountability comes into play. Yes, we do confess our sins to God, and that is important. But we should also have another person we can confess to as well. I will cover this a bit more later on. Suffice it to say, this verse shows that our sin will catch up to us if left unchecked. Whoever confesses their sins finds mercy
1Jn 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will

forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

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Often, when we sin and then repent, we feel like we have to punish ourselves for a few days before we are right with God. This is nothing but a lie straight from Satan himself. There have been times when I’ve stumbled, so I’ll go several days without doing any writing. I will think I’m not worthy or right with God. Satan probably loves that. I’m sure he loves that I’m not writing articles and books on God’s word and teaching the gospel to others. He’d much rather have me sulking and beating myself up. When our sin has gotten the best of us, we need not fear bringing it before God. Sometimes that is all he is waiting for. He will forgive us and show us mercy. I can remember so many times in my own life when I messed up. The first thing I did was beat myself up over my failings again and again. After tearing myself down for a few days, I finally took my sin to God. That should have been the first thing I did. Another way God shows us mercy is by giving us brothers and sisters to love and support us.
Jas 5:16

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for

each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

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Not only is confessing our sins to each other biblical, but it is also therapeutic. I think there is a reason for that. Now, I don’t believe this verse means we have to go before our entire church and spill our deepest, darkest secrets. What James is talking about here is having a trusted brother or sister to confess to and to pray with. Having someone look us in the eyes as we confess to them is a good way to experience God’s mercy through others. It is extremely valuable to have someone to tell us God still loves us and that we are still his children. That is why God gave us each other. When we give our sins over to God, he cuts them completely out of our life. Even if we struggle with the same issues for awhile, we are not the same. I know some may struggle with alcohol, pornography, or gambling for many years after confessing and renouncing them. However, we have been changed. We are no longer in bondage to that sin. We’ve gone from passive bondage to an active struggle. Sure, we may slip and slide, but we are no longer lying in the fetal position and letting the enemy kick us around. We are now in the fighting position and are ready to break free once and for all. When we confess our sins to God and confess them to each other, when we pray for each

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other and support each other, we reach true healing, and we break free from our lives of sin.

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Chapter 24 Pleasing God
Ps 19:14

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my

heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. In the hustle and bustle of life, we often forget the simple things. We get caught up in our jobs, family, sports, or whatever it is that distracts us. In the meantime, we end up forgetting about God. The above verse speaks some powerful words. It pulls us back to what is most important. We spend so much time trying to please men that we forget to please God. As we can see from this verse, pleasing God may not be as hard as we often make it out to be. Our words can please God What we say can be pleasing or displeasing to God. When we teach God's word, lift others up, or sing praises to the Lord, we please him. Even our daily conversations can please God. The book of James contains stern passages about misusing our tongues and about the damage words

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can do. We can choose to praise God with our words, or we can use our words to hurt others.
Pr 25:11

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of

silver. Now this is quite a compliment to those who choose their words wisely. I know it is a challenge for me to do so. I work in sales, so talking to people is my job. I use a lot of words throughout the day, and I don’t always succeed in pleasing God with those words. However, when we mind our words, we can see the fruit of that instantly. It is amazing how far a kind word goes when someone is having a bad day. Sometimes that is all a person needs to hear, and it can open up so many opportunities for ministry and building relationships. Our thoughts can please God God knows our thoughts. He knows what is in our hearts. What is in our heart is more important sometimes than our actions. In my previous book, In Jesus’ Own Words: the Sermon on the Mount, I address this in great detail. Our thoughts are what drive our actions and our
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behavior. When we hear about pastors or politicians who have fallen into sin or scandals, chances are, they didn’t just wake up one day and do something horrible. They eventually did on the outside what they had been thinking on the inside. When we entertain such thoughts, the temptation will grow to make them reality. So some of us might ask, just what do we think about? Paul sums it up well here:
Phil 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble,

whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. When we focus on these things, we don’t have time to think about other things. We spend so much time watching TV and putting garbage into our heads that we lose sight of the things of God. I’m not saying we should never watch TV or that watching TV is a sin. I’m saying that television should not be our primary source of information. The best thing I can think of to put into our heads is God’s Word. If we fill our minds with his words, then our thoughts truly will please him. God is our strength

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Ps 28:8

The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of

salvation for his anointed one. Without God, there is nothing we can do. It’s easy for us to become arrogant and full of ourselves when we are successful. When things are going well, we tend to drift away from God. The truth is, we only have what success we do because of God. It is during the hard times when we lean on him the most. This is where our thoughts can help us. If we fill our thoughts with things of God when things are going well, hard times will be much more bearable. God is our redeemer
Ps 130:8

He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. God does not only help us and guide us during hard

times, but he saves us. It is God who saves us and gives us life, both physical and eternal. When our lives here on earth are over, we will go to be with him. Despite our past sins, we are his for eternity. Jesus came and paid the price for us. We need only lean on him. I know when things are tough this is easier said than done. I recently went through some trials,

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and I wanted to talk to just about everyone except Jesus. However, the whole time I knew that I was in the wrong. So, as we’ve seen, pleasing God can be challenging at times, but it's never as hard as we make it out to be. Through our words, thoughts, and actions, we can please God in many ways. This is not to say that we must earn favor with God or work for his love. Think of God as a parent watching a child. When our children do things that are pleasing to us, they put smiles on our faces. This should be our goal: to put a smile on God’s face.

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Chapter 25 When to Pray, When to Give Praise
Jas 5:13

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone

happy? Let him sing songs of praise. We seem to be good at prayer when we get ourselves into a jam. When things aren’t going our way, when things are at their darkest, after we’ve tried everything else on our own, then we might turn to God in prayer and let him have a whack at it. The problem is that prayer should be our first response, not our last resort. How often do we give praise when things are good? I don’t mean on Sundays while sitting in church. I mean on Tuesday while we’re driving to work. When things are going well for us, we tend to forget exactly why things are going well. We forget about God. Pray when in trouble
1Ch 16:11

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face

always. I think most of us forget just how powerful and how big God really is. I like to think of the story in Joshua 10
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when Joshua was battling the Amorites. God made the sun stand still. Yet we know that the sun doesn’t actually move. The universe moves around the sun. Yet, the sun gave the appearance of standing still. So this means it was the earth that stopped and possibly the whole universe. Now, some might criticize me here for not taking the text literally, but I do. However, Joshua was written well before people knew about the movement of the planets. Personally, I think it is even more awesome to think God made the whole universe stand still in order to deliver his people in battle. Now, if God can make the entire universe stand still, do you suppose he can help us make our next house payment? Perhaps he could provide us with comfort during that upcoming doctor visit. He can do all of these things. We just have to let him. Over the years, I have frequently been stressed out over money and afraid of not making our bill payments. Yet God always came through. We always found a way to make it. Since then, God has opened some financial doors for us so that we don’t have to worry as much. However, this may just be for a season, so we are trying to use what he has given us to help others who were once struggling. The crucial thing is to allow God to work in our lives. The first step is going to him in prayer.

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Giving him praise
Ps 9:11

Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim

among the nations what he has done. When things are going well, it is easy to forget about God. When we win some big award, or make some big financial gain, or get that big promotion, it’s easy to sit back and pat ourselves on the back and think we’re all that. Yet it is God who has blessed us. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. That was Job’s mantra. It should be ours as well. Do you have one of those friends or relatives from whom you never hear unless he needs something? I’ve had a few of those people in my life: people who are the nicest people in the world, as long as you have something they need. If they don’t need you, you can’t get the time of day from them. We do this to God quite a bit. Praise doesn’t have to be some big church production. Praise could be singing to God on our way to work. It could be taking a few moments when you get up in the morning to say, “Thank you, Lord. I love you Lord.” Praise could be using what God has blessed us with to bless others. All of these are forms of praise. This whole chapter could be summed up in the following verse:
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Phil 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by

prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

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Chapter 26 Tales of the Heart In our intellectual society, we often forget to take care of our hearts. We live in an age of logic, of reason. Whenever there is a situation, we think through it, analyze it, and formulate a plan. I know the company I work for doesn’t spend a nickel without reviewing marketing research and analysis. That's not inherently wrong. After all, God gave us our brains, and we should use them to make informed decisions. The problem arises when we neglect our hearts. It can be easy to harden our hearts. Sometimes we harden them toward God; at other times, we harden them against each other. This can happen when we let frustration, anger, and bitterness take root in our lives. The Bible gives us some good guidelines about how to take care of our hearts. From personal experience I can tell you this: a hard heart is one of the hardest things to break away from. The heart should be carefully guarded
Pr 4:23

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring

of life.

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Everything we do flows from our hearts. If you do not guard your heart carefully against bitterness, anger, or lust, then it can turn as hard as stone. Have any of you ever had a hard heart? I did for many years. It was miserable. I was never happy, even when the things around me should have made me happy. I found fault with everything, and I wanted revenge on anyone who had ever wronged me. The heart is the wellspring of life. All of your thoughts and actions originate from it. This is why it is so important to guard it and protect it. When you feel yourself becoming hardened, run, don’t walk, to Jesus and seek his love. Only he can melt a hard heart. The heart determines character
Pr 23:7

for he is the kind of man who is always thinking about

the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the type of person who says and does all the right things, but deep down, could care less. When you go to visit him, he is counting the minutes until you leave. He might wonder what else he could be doing besides sitting there with you. All the
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while, he will be putting on a warm smile. Do we ever do that to others? I’ve known a lot of “church people” in my time who were masters at this. This is the type of character our heart can identify. Showing love to others, sincere love and compassion, is true character. We want to avoid the gothrough-the-motions-so-people-see-how-good-I-am type love. That is fake and transparent. Both types of love come from the heart, but one comes from a hard heart. Which one do you have? The heart is the source of evil
Mt 15:18

But the things that come out of the mouth come from

the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ In this verse, Jesus is explaining that it’s not what a man eats that is evil or unclean, but what comes out of him. Some folks worry so much about if we should do this, or if we should do that. Is this evil or is that evil? Should we watch this movie? Is this music of the devil? I know when I was a kid there was a lot of controversy over whether or not rock ‘n roll music made kids do bad things. Now the question is over video games. Here is my question. Do kids commit violence because of what they saw in a video game
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or heard in a song? Or was the evil already there to begin with? Are music and video games the cause of the evil or a symptom of it? Okay, so that was three questions. My point is that it isn’t what goes in that causes evil, and this truth isn’t just limited to kids; it applies to everyone,. Though the things that go in can have some effect, the heart is already in its condition. When I was younger and had a hard heart, I listened to a lot of violent music. My heart wasn’t hard because of the music, but I chose that music because my heart was already hard. The heart controls speech
Lk 6:45

The good man brings good things out of the good

stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. A couple of years ago, a retired NBA player announced that he was gay. This unleashed a lot of discussion in the sports community. One of the most memorable responses was from retired star Tim Hardaway. He was on a radio show, and, when asked about gay
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basketball players in the NBA, he stated, “I hate gay people.” He later apologized and spent several weeks trying to endure a media firestorm for what was viewed as hate speech. During one interview, he got upset and couldn’t seem to understand why no one would believe his apology. No one believed him because of what he had originally said. He obviously said how he truly felt. He only offered the apology after his words set off a tidal wave of criticism. Now, I’m not saying I condone homosexuality at all, but that isn’t the point here. Anytime you say, “I hate (insert group of people here),” you are asking for trouble. Mr. Hardaway found this out the “hard way.” The point is: he said what was stored up in his heart. When you let a cuss word slip out of your mouth (and I am guilty of that at times) or say mean and hurtful things to others, it’s not because we didn’t mean it. It’s because there is still evil stored up in our hearts. Our words are merely the reflection of what is on the inside. If our heart is filled with good things, then only good things will flow forth from us. The heart is the source of faith

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Ro 10:10

For it is with your heart that you believe and are

justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. We may intellectually buy into a concept or idea, but until we believe it in our hearts, we do not have real faith in it. Once that idea is in your heart, however, then your words and actions will reflect your beliefs. When we say we are Christians and go to church and do all the church stuff but then go back to work on Monday and behave just like the world, we need a heart check. Our faith in God keeps our hearts in check. When we turn our lives over to Jesus, he gives us a heart transplant. He removes our dead, rotten, old hearts and replaces them with part of his. Once we have the heart of Christ, then we must maintain it by faith, by seeking him, by establishing intimacy with him. That is how we protect our heart.

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The Kingdom of God is Here!
Mt 16:27

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s

glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
Mt 16:28

I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not

taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. I felt this chapter would be the best way to conclude this book. This passage touches on God’s promises in a way that sums up my conclusion. This passage has been interpreted in many ways throughout the years. One of the most popular views of it seems to be that it refers to some distant futuristic event of Jesus’ second coming, or the Rapture. However, this interpretation presents a problem. Jesus is speaking to his disciples in the first century in this passage. By the time Jesus returns, every one of them will have been long dead. Yet, Jesus says some will not taste death before he comes into his Kingdom. So what is going on here? Was Jesus wrong? I highly doubt it. It is more likely we have either been altogether wrong, or too restrictive, in our own interpretation of this passage.
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The Son of Man in his father’s glory Jesus talks about the Son of Man coming in his father’s glory with the angels. One possibility is that he’s referring to the Transfiguration, which occurred shortly after this passage. In the Transfiguration, Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah in heavenly glory. He also appeared to be glorified after his resurrection. Angels appeared after his ascent into heaven as well. So it wouldn’t be a huge jump to say that Jesus may have been referring to one of these events. Either way, what Jesus was saying meant something to his audience at that time, and certainly it means something to us today as well. However, it just isn’t likely that what Jesus was saying to his first century audience was only intended for those of us in the 21st century. He will reward each person according to what he has done Jesus says this in Matthew 16:27, and he was quoting Psalm 62:12 directly:

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Ps 62:12

and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward

each person according to what he has done. Many of the psalms talk about God’s rewards, and so we can see that God rewards us with his love and faithfulness. God is always faithful and just. He is always there for us and will never abandon us, just as Jesus says:
Mt 28:20

and teaching them to obey everything I have

commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. So Jesus will be with us until the end, and he will reward us according to what we have done. While works are not a condition of our salvation, our actions still do matter to him. We've speculated that he was talking about an event that was happening soon, and now he mentions rewards. So here's the question: what exactly does that mean? Let’s continue. Some will not taste death Jesus was telling his disciples that some of them would not taste death before they saw him coming in his
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Kingdom. So does that mean they are still alive today? I doubt it. Since we know that almost all of them were killed and that John died in prison, we’re pretty sure they are not alive. Many have tried to interpret this passage in a way that makes it conform to the pre-tribulation rapture teaching. While I’m not here to pick apart any end times theories, I do want to give another view of this passage. I believe the Kingdom is what Jesus was talking about throughout his whole ministry. He often said he was preparing the way for God’s Kingdom. He would often say that the Kingdom of God was near or that it was at hand. I don’t think he was telling people back then that it was at hand in 2000 years. What he taught in the Sermon on the Mount and all his parables is that the Kingdom of Heaven was happening right then and there. In the first part of the passage, he said he will come in all his glory. He did that when he rose from the dead. He has rewarded each of his disciples with his love and faithfulness. They all have a place at his side. The twelve disciples and many of the others did not taste death before they experienced all of these things. Jesus lives and his Kingdom remains here and now. We are his hands and his feet. We are his Body. Yes, Jesus is coming again. He will return and we will one day live with him permanently. But in the meantime, he
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gave us everything to live his Kingdom now. Too many Christians just sit back and warm their pew every Sunday while looking to the sky waiting for the Kingdom to come to them. It is time we accept that we are his Kingdom and begin living as he lived, not by plastering ourselves with catch-phrase bracelets or our cars with bumper stickers, but by demonstrating love and compassion for others. If we do so, then they too can experience his rewards. When we begin living for the Kingdom, we will also be living God’s promises.

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