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skeldon_man posted:
Mitwah posted:

Stays. He’s not an absentee parent, since He will never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:8).

Did Jesus not rebuked his father for forsaking him? And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

If God is our father then who is out mother? 

And where is heaven?

Biblical students do not think outside the box. The Bible for them is all they need. They see no hidden interpretation of what's written. They copy and paste well with some highlighting skills. It is said that Jesus lost faith in God.

He was a bad example as a father to his daughter. He was even rude to his mother.

Handling Difficult Circumstances

Paul wrote his letter to the church at Philippi while he was a prisoner in Rome. Though confined and under watch while awaiting trial, he wrote to encourage the Philippians, assuring them that his situation was being used by God. He told them, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11).

Notice that this verse does not say that Paul was always happy. Happiness depends upon circumstances, but for believers, contentment is possible in any situation because it’s anchored in God. Although Paul’s imprisonment was difficult and uncomfortable, He scarcely mentioned the conditions. This letter is not filled with complaints but with rejoicing because his focus never wavered from Christ (Phil. 1:20-21; Phil. 3:10).

Paul did not see himself as a victim. He believed that he was under the sovereign hand of the living God. This was the place ordained for him at that time, in accordance with the Lord’s divine purpose.

What’s more, the apostle saw good results of his time in prison. The entire imperial guard heard about Jesus through the apostle’s consistent witness. His confinement was also having the opposite effect of what his enemies had planned. Instead of driving Christians into hiding, Paul’s example of contentment in the face of hardship made them bolder (Phil. 1:14).

Like Paul, we can choose how we’ll respond to pain and hardship. If we opt to be resentful and bitter, our suffering will be wasted. But if we see each situation as a wonderful opportunity for spiritual growth, we’ll be able to learn contentment and rejoice in the Lord through it all.

How can you know God?

It all starts with accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ provides a relationship with the Father and eternal life through His death on the cross and resurrection, see Romans. 5:10.

Romans. 10:9 promises, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." If you have not yet begun your personal relationship with God, understand that the One who created you loves you no matter who you are or what you’ve done. He wants you to experience the profound depth of His care.

Therefore, tell God that you are willing to trust Him for salvation. You can tell Him in your own words or use this simple prayer:

Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins and save me from eternal separation from God. By faith, I accept Your work and death on the cross as sufficient payment for my sins. Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father. Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally. Please give me the strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.

If you have just prayed this prayer, congratulations!

You have received Christ as your Savior and have made the best decision you will ever make—one that will change your life forever!

The Influence of Our Convictions

We usually think of influential people as those who have authority, position, or power in the world, but in reality, we all have influence to one degree or another. The term describes the capacity to have an effect on someone else’s character, development, or behavior.

This is exactly what Christ has called believers to do by proclaiming the gospel and encouraging one another in the faith. However, in order to have a godly impact on others, we must first be convinced that the Bible is true. Then as we grow in knowledge of the truth, we can help others know Jesus, understand scriptural principles, and live obediently by them.

Paul advised Timothy to “retain the standard of sound words” in the faith (2 Timothy 1:13), and these same truths have been delivered to us.

1. The Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God. There are no mistakes in it, and it is wholly true (2 Timothy 3:16; John 17:17).

2. There is one God, and He exists in three persons. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all members of the triune Godhead (Matt. 28:19).

3. Eternal life is received only through faith in Jesus. Salvation cannot be earned by good works (John 14:6; Eph. 2:8-9).

4. Jesus will one day return for those who believe in Him, and He’ll take them to heaven (John 14:2-3). But unbelievers will remain under divine wrath.

As the culture around us becomes more resistant to Christian influence, holding to these convictions will require solid commitment and steady courage. So determine not to let compromise steal your godly influence.

Mitwah posted:
skeldon_man posted:
Mitwah posted:

Stays. He’s not an absentee parent, since He will never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:8).

Did Jesus not rebuked his father for forsaking him? And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

If God is our father then who is out mother? 

And where is heaven?

Biblical students do not think outside the box. The Bible for them is all they need. They see no hidden interpretation of what's written. They copy and paste well with some highlighting skills. It is said that Jesus lost faith in God.

He was a bad example as a father to his daughter. He was even rude to his mother.

In Matthew 27:45-46, it says, "Now from the sixth-hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. verse 46: And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" If Jesus is God, why would He say this?

First of all, Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 which begins with, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" Jesus quoted this Psalm in order to draw attention to it and the fact that He was fulfilling it there on the cross. Consider verses 11-18 in Psalm 22:

"11: Be not far from me, for trouble is near; For there is none to help.
12:  Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. 
13:  They open wide their mouth at me,  As a ravening and a roaring lion.  14: I am poured out like water,  And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax;  It is melted within me. 
15: My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;  And Thou dost lay me in the dust of death.
16: For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet.
17: I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me;
18: They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.
"

The term 'dogs' as I explained in previous comments was used by the Jews to refer to Gentiles (non-Jews), read Matthew. 15:21-28. His heart has melted within Him (verse 14). During the crucifixion process, the blood loss causes the heart to beat harder and harder and become extremely fatigued. Dehydration occurs (verse 15). Verses 16-18 speak of piercing His hands and feet and dividing His clothing by casting lots. This is exactly what happened as described in Matthew. 27:35.

Psalm 22 was written about 1,000 years before Christ was born. At that time, crucifixion had not yet been invented. Actually, the Phoenicians developed it, and Rome borrowed the agonizing means of execution from them. So, when Rome ruled over Israel, it became the Roman means of capital punishment imposed upon the Jews whose biblical means of execution was stoning. Nevertheless, Jesus is pointing to the scriptures to substantiate His messianic mission.

In 2nd Corinthians. 5:21 says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." It is possible that at some moment on the cross when Jesus became sin on our behalf, that God the Father, in a sense, turned His back upon the Son. It says in Habakkuk. 1:13 that God is too pure to look upon evil. Therefore, it is possible that when Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter. 2:24), that the Father, spiritually, turned away. At that time, the Son may have cried out.

One thing is for sure. We have no capacity to appreciate the utterly horrific experience of having the sins of the world put upon the Lord Jesus as He hung in excruciating pain from that cross. The physical pain was immense. The spiritual one must have been even greater.

That shows us clearly how much God loves us.


Questions: "If God is our father then who is our mother?"
Answer: Regardless of the gender assigned to any deity, God has made it clear that He is the only True God, Creator of Heaven and Earth. “There is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:6). There is no mother god.

Questions: "And where is heaven?"
Answer: Heaven is most certainly a real place. The Bible very definitely speaks of heaven’s existence and access to heaven through faith in Jesus Christ but there are no verses that give us a geographical location. The short answer to this question is, "heaven is where God is." The place referred to in this question is called the "third heaven" and "paradise" in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, where the apostle Paul tells of a living man who was "caught up" to heaven and was unable to describe it. The Greek word translated "caught up" is also used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 in describing the rapture, wherein believers will be caught up to be with the Lord.

Other verses indicating heaven to be "above the earth" are numerous. At the Tower of Babel, God says, "Come, let us go down" (Genesis 11:7) Heaven is described as "high above the earth" in Psalm 103:11, and the place from which the Lord "looks down" in Psalm 14:2. Jesus is described as having "ascended into heaven" and "descended from heaven" in John 3:13 (ESV). In Acts 1:9–11 Jesus is described as being taken "up" into heaven, and when God takes John to heaven in Revelation 4:1, He says, "Come up here." These passages have led to the conclusion that heaven is beyond the earth’s airspace and beyond the stars.

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A Person of Godly Influence

When Daniel was taken to Babylon, he had no idea God would give him an ever-widening sphere of influence. So what made him different from the other captives from Israel? His godly influence flowed from his strong beliefs based in Scripture.

Commitment. Daniel did not simply know God’s law; he was convinced there was no other way to live. When tested, he remained unswervingly faithful to God and His Word, because he considered obedience non-negotiable.

Following God doesn’t mean living out biblical principles only when it’s convenient or easy. Obedience is to be our consistent lifestyle no matter what the circumstances are. Without a firm commitment to our beliefs, we’ll waver back and forth, be a poor witness, and eventually give in to temptation.

Courage. As a captive, Daniel had no authority. Therefore, approaching the king’s chief official for special dietary consideration required courage. Although he had no way to know the outcome, Daniel didn’t let fear dominate his emotions. He simply trusted the Lord and spoke out.

God rewarded Daniel’s faithfulness with superior knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of all kinds, which resulted in his gaining greater influence in the Babylonian and Persian empires. Because of Daniel’s commitment to God and his courage in standing firm, his godly impact extended for many years.

The Lord doesn’t raise all believers to high positions of influence. But He wants to use each of us to impact others for Christ in whatever sphere of influence He’s given us. Therefore, we too need commitment to God’s Word, the courage to obey, and the confidence to trust the Lord with the

When God Looks on Us With Favor

Believers are always under the canopy of God’s grace and love. Nothing we do can change that. At the same time, our behavior and the condition of our heart do determine whether we receive the fullness of His blessings. So let’s see what Scripture teaches about how to experience the Father’s favor.

First, God desires that we have a contrite heart and humble spirit (Psalm 51:17). For that to be the case, all aspects of our life must be surrendered to Jesus. Yet some dreams, desires, and people are difficult to release into His hands. Anything we do not give over to His authority is evidence of pride, which is the exact opposite of what our Father wants in His children. Remember that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Lack of submission proves that we think our way is better than His plan.

Second, God tells us to tremble at His Word (Isa. 66:2). Scripture—the unfolding revelation of Jesus Christ—is living and powerful to teach and transform us. Consider how we treat this treasure. Do we devote time each day to know what the Bible says and how to apply its principles? Do we hunger for more of the Word in our life so we can know its Creator better? One measure of our reverence is obedience: To honor the Lord, we must obey Him.

We all desire God’s favor. Are you living in a manner that positions you to receive the fullness of His blessing? Prayerfully consider whether you have submitted all areas of your life to Jesus Christ—from finances and health to relationships and work habits. Recognize His authority in all things, and revere His Word.

Listening to God

Does the heavenly Father still speak to His children? It’s a question that may be on your mind right now. We all have this need to know the Lord is still communicating with us. We crave the certainty that He hears us—and answers.

In today’s reading, we get a clear picture of God’s heart: He yearns for Israel to listen to Him. Think about that. Here’s the almighty Creator of the universe, pleading with His chosen people to hear His voice. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Why on earth would the Israelites turn a deaf ear to their sustaining, omnipotent heavenly Father?

However, God’s message is sent to inattentive ears. He says, “O Israel, if you would listen to Me! ... But My people did not listen to My voice, and Israel did not obey Me” (Psalm 81:8, Psalm 81:11).

Thousands of years later, I’m certain that same question still rings through heaven. We can practically hear the Lord saying, “Oh, church, if only you would listen to Me. But My church did not listen to My voice. Oh, that My church would listen to Me!”

Have you ever sensed God saying the same thing to you personally? We all can fall out of touch with Him at times. That happens when we put ourselves in one corner and restrict the Lord to someplace “over there” and out of the way. Then we seem to lose track of His voice in our life. And yet, though we may not hear Him, He is still talking.

Quiet your spirit today. Open God’s Word and invite Him to speak to you anew. And then listen.

Become Slaves of Righteousness

What comes to mind when you hear the word freedom? It’s usually associated with the right to live as we please and to pursue ambitions and dreams. But in reality, living for self is never freedom. When Paul said, “You are slaves of the one whom you obey” (Rom. 6:16), he was pointing out we have a choice of either sin or righteousness. So if we aren’t living for Christ, we’ll find ourselves enslaved to sinful desires, habits, attitudes, and thoughts.

God wants to free us from every form of bondage that prevents us from becoming the person He created us to be. This kind of freedom is not achieved by war but by the knowledge of truth and submission to Christ.

If you’re having trouble overcoming a particular sin despite repeated confession and repentance, there may be an underlying root fueling that sin. It doesn’t matter how many times you cut off the sinful fruit; if the root remains, it’ll produce a new poisonous outgrowth. And at times those roots spring from harmful emotions like anger, jealousy, bitterness, unforgiveness, or worry.

Instead of allowing such emotions to control us, we must let God’s truths fill our mind and influence our behavior. When we were saved, Christ freed us from the dominion of sin and gave us His Spirit to empower us to live righteously. On top of that, God has given us a new nature created in Christ’s likeness (Eph. 4:24). Therefore, we’re to consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to Christ (Rom. 6:11) and should present ourselves to God for obedience (Rom. 6:13). Remember, God has given us everything we need to live righteously for Him, so believers are never helpless victims of sin.

The Gift of Exhortation

The church is filled with people who have different passions and interests. Christ designed His body to function this way by supplying various spiritual gifts by which His work is accomplished. Yet sometimes these differences can lead to misunderstandings because we each see through the lens of our own gift.

Exhortation is one of those spiritual gifts that can be misconstrued. People with this gifting may use strong words to urge fellow believers toward spiritual maturity. Sometimes this involves identifying foundational problems like pride, selfishness, or a desire for control and prescribing corrective steps based on biblical principles. Other times, exhortation may include an explanation of the blessings of obeying the Lord as well as warnings about the consequences of disobedience.

You may have noticed this gift is often given to pastors who regularly exhort God’s people from the pulpit, but there are also individuals in the congregation who may have this spiritual gift. As Christians, we need to hear the truth about ourselves and how we are living, yet sometimes we may be resistant. Perhaps we think the exhorter has oversimplified our situation or is trying to “help” God out. Or maybe the way in which the advice is given strikes us as overconfident. At other times, we may question how Scripture is applied or doubt the genuineness of the one who exhorts us.

Although we should always compare what we hear with God’s Word, we must not reject correction simply because we don’t want to hear it. Wisdom comes with careful consideration of counsel as we hold firmly to the Word.

A Revolutionary Announcement

Familiarity sometimes robs us of awe and wonder, and this is true of both simple and profound events in life. As Christians, we are familiar with the idea of Jesus’ resurrection, but can you imagine the impact it had on those who first heard about it?

When Peter gave his first sermon, he boldly declared, “You ... put Him to death. But God raised Him up again” (Acts 2:23-24). Imagine what a revolutionary statement that was. The assembled crowd knew of Jesus and the miracles He’d performed, and some may even have joined in shouting, “Crucify Him!” (Matt. 27:22). Yet here was one of Jesus’ own followers claiming that the Christ couldn’t be held by death’s power.

Some may have considered the disciples’ early accounts of the resurrection to be idle tales, but Pentecost changed all that when God visited mankind in a way He never had before. The crowd witnessed something historic as each person heard the gospel in his or her own language (Acts 2:8-11).

Faith took root in 3,000 repentant hearts when the message of the Lord’s death and resurrection was preached. Those new believers were baptized as a public statement of their trust in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior, who died to pay the penalty for their sins.

The revolution sparked by the Holy Spirit that day spread across the world and into the modern era, transforming individuals and the cultures in which they lived. Today the task of proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus falls to us. As with the first church, we can trust the Lord to add to our number those who are being saved.

Trusting God’s Faithfulness

Is there something God has told you to do that seems too difficult? If He has called you to carry out His will, you can trust that He’s faithful to accomplish it through His Spirit living and working in you. So if you tell Him, “I can’t do that, Lord—what if I fail?” you’re actually doubting that God keeps His word. And yet, our total expectation should be in Him—not in our own energy, ability, or experience.

When you doubt God’s trustworthiness, unbelief becomes a gap in your spiritual armor, and it is where Satan wants to attack you. You’ll begin to doubt other elements of God’s character, such as His goodness—and distrust will become baggage that’ll weigh you down in every area of life.

You might feel that you do not have enough faith to obey, but the Lord isn’t asking you to trust in favorable circumstances. He’s asking you to believe that He is who He says He is.

It’s easy to doubt God when you’re focused on the obstacles in front of you, but when you fix your eyes on Him and believe what Scripture says about His faithfulness, then you can do anything He requires. No matter what lies ahead, remember that God is not a liar, and He is faithful. You’ll be strengthened by your dependence on Him—whether a deluge of trials or a flood of blessings comes.

It’s actually when life gets rough that you’ll recognize the reality and sweetness of God’s faithfulness. As you walk through those storms in complete reliance on His strength, your trust in His character will become part of who you are and provide strength from within.

How to Listen to God’s Word

In our culture, Bibles are so plentiful that we often take them for granted. This was not the case in Ezra’s day. After being exiled from Israel for many years, the Jews had finally returned to their land, and today’s passage describes their reaction to hearing the Scriptures. We may have easy access to Bibles today, but we’d do well to learn to approach God’s Word in the same manner as these Israelites did.

With eager attentiveness. The people listened attentively as Ezra read Scripture “from daybreak till noon” (Neh. 8:3 NIV). How eager are you each day to open God’s Word and devote time to reading and study?

With reverence and worship. When Ezra opened the scroll, all the people stood up in reverence and then bowed down to worship the Lord (Neh. 8:5-6). Scripture reveals who God is and increases our awe of Him and respect for His Word.

With understanding. There were people who helped others understand what they heard, similar to the way pastors and teachers do today (Neh. 8:7-8). Do you skim over passages you don’t understand, or do you rely on the many sound teaching resources available?

With repentance. After hearing God’s Law, they were convicted of sin and repented with mourning and weeping (Neh. 8:9). God’s Word is sanctifying, revealing sin and guiding us into righteousness.

It’s easy to take for granted what is commonly available, but we should never lose sight of the most valuable possession God has given us—His inspired, inerrant Word.

The Abiding Life

Who doesn’t love a beautiful bouquet of flowers? They are a delight to the eyes and fill the room with fragrance. But truthfully, they’re dead because they’ve been disconnected from the plant. Although they may look alive for a while, in time they wither away.

This was the point Jesus was making when He used a grapevine and its branches as an illustration of a believer’s life in Christ. Once we’re saved, we become branches of Christ—then fruit is produced as His life flows through us, in fulfillment of what Jesus prayed for us in John 17:21.

This abiding relationship is what the Bible elsewhere describes as the Spirit-filled life (Eph. 5:18). The word “abiding” emphasizes our position as branches remaining in the vine of Christ. And the apostle Paul underscores the Holy Spirit’s role and authority in our life: As we live in submission and obedience to God’s Spirit, He produces His fruit in us (Gal. 5:22-23).

The problem arises when we try to live apart from the vine and direct our own life. The end result is often frustrating or disappointing since we have relied on human ideas and energy instead of being Spirit-led. There is no way to live a spiritually fruitful life without obedience to the Holy Spirit.

Our heavenly Father has graciously given us this abiding relationship, but sometimes we act as if we’re the vine and Christ exists to do our bidding. In which areas of your life are you reluctant to relinquish control? We were designed to be the branches, and the only way we’ll be fruitful is by submissively abiding in the source of our life.

Remaining in the Vine

When Jesus gave the disciples His final instructions before going to the cross, He repeated a particular word. Abide—which occurs 10 times in John 15—isn’t one we use often, but it accurately conveys the relationship between Christ and His followers.

Abide means “to remain, dwell, continue, endure, or tarry.” Can you hear the call to faithfulness in these words? Our relationship with Jesus isn’t a onetime event of salvation but a long and steady walk with Him.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). This is a fact for everyone who has been born again. But He also tells us to abide in Him (John 15:4), signifying that we have some responsibility as branches in Christ. Therefore, it’s essential that we know how to remain in Him.

Jesus says to let His words abide in us (John 15:7). Incorporating God’s Word into our minds and hearts is how we dwell with Him and learn to know Him intimately.

Obedience is another essential aspect of abiding (John 15:10). It’s like being an employee who obeys his manager’s instructions and does not take matters into his own hands. We are to rely on the Spirit’s direction instead of strategizing and making plans on our own.

Abiding in Christ also includes our relationships with fellow believers. Jesus commands us to love one another just as He has loved us (John 15:12).

God’s desire is that we bear much lasting fruit by abiding in Christ. This isn’t a sporadic endeavor done only when convenient; it’s an enduring commitment to remain in God’s Word and continue in obedience and love.

The Words of Our Mouth

Have you ever considered what a wonderful gift speech is? When God created us, He gave us a voice and a language so we could communicate. With our tongues we can praise and glorify God, teach His Word, pray, and express encouragement and loving devotion to one another.

However, our voices also have the power to hurt. It often starts with something small, like a thoughtless comment that can snowball, causing unforeseen damage. At times we may express our opinion in a critical way, which tears the other person down. Or out of curiosity, we might ask a question or make a suggestion that sows seeds of doubt and distrust, thereby damaging another person’s reputation.

Scripture calls this gossip, and God has strong words to say about those who engage in it. They separate close friends, betray confidences, and stir dissension. Most alarming of all is the fact that the Greek word for a malicious gossip is diabolos, which is also translated “devil.” When we use our words to tear others down, we are acting like the devil rather than like Jesus Christ.

God takes our words very seriously, and so should we. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt. 12:34). Therefore, what we need is a heart transformation, and the only one who can do that is God.

Since gossip is the opposite of love, ask the Lord to give you His love for others so you can be someone who protects reputations, covers sins, and blesses others with your words.

God’s Way to Give

Our heavenly Father knows what our income is and how He would like us to spend it. He also desires that we demonstrate certain heart attitudes in our giving. These include faith, compassion, and generosity.

It takes faith to give before our own needs are met. In yesterday’s reading, the Macedonians were experiencing deep poverty, but they still longed to give. Their behavior revealed a deep trust in the Lord’s provision.

Compassion, or caring about others, is also vital. The Philippian church saw Paul’s situation and longed to help (Phil. 4:16). The Lord is pleased when we love one another and share what we have.

The Macedonian believers were generous as well. Though in great need themselves, they begged for the privilege of contributing to the collection for the Jerusalem church.

Consider how greatly we have benefited from the generosity of our heavenly Father. He provided His Son Jesus to take our sins upon Himself and die in our place. He has adopted us into His family, made us co-heirs with Christ, and prepared for us a permanent home in heaven with Him. And in this life, His Holy Spirit provides everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). As we make plans for Christmas, let’s be generous towards others, just as God has been to us.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you learn biblical principles about handling money and put them into practice. Obedience to God’s Word will bring spiritual blessing (Luke 6:38).

Those Who Hurt

In the midst of suffering, we may question whether God cares or even knows what we’re going through. However, the problem isn’t with the Lord—it’s with our perception. We tend to judge God by our circumstances, but we should judge circumstances by the Lord’s character and the power He demonstrated in Scripture.

The Bible teaches that our triune God is omniscient and knows all things perfectly and fully. No actions or persons are hidden from His sight, and the past, present, and future are all laid out before Him (Psalm 33:13-15; Heb. 4:13).

The Lord “searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9). Therefore, He knows us intimately and understands what we really need. God’s love and concern for us do not change, even if our pain is the result of our own sinful actions.

Jesus repeatedly demonstrated God’s love and care for people. In fact, much of His ministry consisted of alleviating suffering along with teaching how to enter the kingdom of heaven. While traveling to Jerusalem in anticipation of the cross, Jesus encountered a blind beggar who kept crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:48). Although the crowd told him to be quiet, Jesus stopped to restore his sight and affirm his faith.

And He will hear your cries for help as well because His love extends like a canopy over you. When your circumstances tempt you to doubt this, consider your limited perspective and trust in the character of your God. Accept Jesus’ invitation to bring your burdens to Him and find rest for your soul (Matt. 11:28-30).

God Offers Love to the Hurting

When do you most need the assurance of God’s love? Isn’t it usually when you are experiencing the deepest pain? If you are suffering rejection, failure, or any circumstance that is testing your faith, you need to know the Lord still cares and will never stop loving you. This is exactly what we see in Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman:

He initiated contact. Much to His disciples’ dismay, Jesus traveled through Samaria to meet this woman. In that day, Jews did not associate with Samaritans and even avoided their region. But God does not adhere to man’s rules or prejudices. He reaches out with a message of hope and new life to anyone who will listen and believe.

He knew her pain and heartache. She must have felt worthless and unloved after being abandoned or divorced by five husbands. We all have emotional baggage that weighs us down and causes pain, and this is often what God uses to draw us to Himself.

He offered forgiveness and love. Jesus drew out the details of her situation so she could recognize her need for a Savior and be receptive to His offer of forgiveness. He understood she lacked love, acceptance, and a sense of value—and a relationship with Him was the only way to fulfill that need.

God sees us as clearly as He saw the Samaritan woman. He knows our sins and hurts and wants to bring us forgiveness and restoration. As we accept His salvation and submit to the Holy Spirit’s transforming work, we’ll have the assurance of His love and care for us.

Our Testimony

A testimony is one person’s profession of faith in Jesus. However, our declaration of belief is much more than the story we tell. A good witness for the Lord consists of three parts: character, conduct, and conversation.

As Christians, we rightly place great emphasis on crafting a solid personal account of the Lord’s work in our life. We also talk about the ways that we can show Jesus Christ to our friends, family, and coworkers through our actions. But character is the part of every believer’s testimony that underlies both Christlike behavior and an honest life story.

In general, what we do and say represents the kind of person we are on the inside. Similarly, we can tell a lot about Philip’s character by noticing his actions and words recorded in Scripture. From among many believers, Philip was chosen as one who was wise and full of the Spirit. But he wasn’t selected for a prestigious ministry position—he was sent to serve food. Yet he went willingly to do this work and every other job the Lord gave Him, which shows his obedient spirit (Acts 6:5; Acts 8:5; Acts 8:26). We can be certain that he was a sincere and trustworthy man, because when he spoke, people listened (Acts 8:6). Philip’s testimony shines in every way.

You cannot trick God into thinking your character is righteous if it isn’t. Nor can you fake moral conduct or conversation with people for very long. Sooner or later, a proud, bitter, or unkind spirit yields behavior and speech contrary to the Christian message. But godly character produces real spiritual fruit.

No One Is Righteous

Many people think that by trying to live a good life, they are guaranteed a ticket to heaven. They may say things like, “I’m a good person; I don’t steal, lie, cheat, or commit adultery, as other people do. I’ve never been to prison, and I always work hard and contribute to society. So why shouldn’t I deserve to go to heaven?” Notice that the focus is on “what I do.”

This is actually a false idea used by the enemy as a way to deceive people. The truth is that God does not accept anyone based upon works, and the reason is simple: Salvation doesn’t depend on anything we can achieve. Nothing you or I do can earn it. We are saved solely on the basis of what Jesus accomplished when He died in our place to set us free from the power of sin and death. That’s what salvation is about.

To truly know the heavenly Father, you need to be right with Him. Yet not a single one of us is righteous on our own. Each of us has sinned over and over, not only in words and deeds but also in the contemplations of our heart. We can’t boast of righteousness, even if we can boast of “good works.” But at the cross, Christ was dealing with our sin problem, not our works.

We came into this world as sinners, separated from the Creator by our self-centered nature. Jesus, through His grace, took the punishment we deserved when He went to the cross as our substitute. In that way, He makes it possible for everyone who trusts in Him to be made righteous. By receiving Him as the Savior, anyone can begin a new life as God’s child (John 3:16; Eph. 2:4-9).

Our Heavenly Appointment

Each tick of the clock brings us a second closer to our heavenly appointment with the Lord Jesus. As believers in Christ, we will one day stand before Him, answerable for how we lived our life. At that time we will be held accountable for our actions and recompensed for the choices we made while on earth, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).

This is not a judgment of condemnation. At salvation, when we acknowledged Christ as our Savior, all blame was removed from us (Rom. 8:1). In taking our place on the cross, Jesus experienced the wrath of God against our iniquity (1 Peter 2:24). As a result, the penalty for our sin has been fully paid.

When we stand before our Lord, He’ll look to see which of our choices were in keeping with His will. Every act of obedient service, whether large or small, will be remembered and rewarded. At the same time, I believe there will be tears when our selfishness and unrighteousness are considered.

Colossians 3 gives us a picture of who we should be and how God wants us to live: Our minds are to be focused on things above, not earthly matters (Col. 3:2). And we’re to get rid of anger, malice, and slander, clothing ourselves instead with compassion, kindness, and patience (Col. 3:8; Col. 3:12).

Since the Lord holds us accountable for our actions, it is urgent that we replace ungodly patterns with righteous ways. Both inward attitudes and outward behavior matter to Him. When facing decisions each day, seek scriptural guidance and godly counsel. Then reflect on which choices would please God.

The Real Heaven

Trying to picture life in eternity, many people imagine lying around on clouds, strumming harps. I’m not sure how this misconception about heaven got started, but I can assure you that is unlikely. We have been gifted, equipped, and enabled to fulfill God’s purpose in this life. And He will still have a purpose for us in the life to come.

In today’s passage, Jesus described the kingdom of heaven in the context of a man giving his servants money to invest. The men who served their master faithfully were heartily congratulated and given greater responsibility. When we reach Christ’s judgment seat, our foremost reward will be to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:23 NIV). I can’t imagine words that could please me more than a commendation from the Savior I love above all.

We will also receive our new assignment in God’s heavenly kingdom. This is the part of the reward that corresponds to the words, “You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things” (v. 23). There will be no lazing about for us! We will have a renewed heaven and earth to live in and enjoy (2 Peter 3:13). In our perfected bodies, with hearts and souls attuned to the Lord, we will serve Him and each other.

God has a plan for every believer to pursue, and He has gifted each of His children specifically for that purpose. That plan requires our passion and motivation—on earth or in heaven. This world is our training ground for the greater life to come, so let’s prepare like good and faithful servants.

Why Do People Follow Jesus?

When Jesus walked this earth, a vast multitude followed Him. They came for many reasons—some noble, some self-serving. The same is true today. It’s important to understand what motivates people to come to Christ, since not all who seek Him are really His followers. In fact, we should each analyze our own Christian walk by asking ourselves, What do I want from Him? How committed am I to being His disciple?

Many of the people who followed Jesus did so because they had urgent needs that He alone could meet. Everywhere He went, the sick and demon-possessed were brought to Him—this is one of the ways God draws us to Himself. Those who can solve their own problems don’t know they need a Savior.

Others came for sensationalism—to see signs and miracles and feel a thrill of excitement. Today some people come to church or conferences to get pumped up. But mountaintop experiences are always followed by valleys. When challenges come, such people are quick to abandon the Lord.

But Jesus’ disciples followed Him because they genuinely believed that He was the Messiah, the very Son of God (Matt. 16:16). Their commitment went beyond emotions. They wanted to know Christ and walk closely with Him.

Are you more interested in what Jesus can do for you than in just being with Him? Do you find it hard to stay committed without some impressive experience to sustain you? Our physical and emotional needs can draw us to the Lord but cannot sustain our walk with Him. Consider starting the new year by reevaluating your commitment to the Lord.

Spectator or Participant?

 
 
 

Romans 12:9-13

There’s something in human nature that resists having to lean on others for support. In fact, since its very beginnings, our country has been known for an independent spirit and self-sufficiency. But what may be considered beneficial in a national culture is not what Christ advocates for His church. Although we are each saved individually, the Lord doesn’t intend for us to live as if we’re on an island—set apart to ourselves. We are called the body of Christ, and as such, our lives are meant to touch, intersect, and connect with other believers in a local church.

The various ways we support one another are summarized in today’s passage, and they cover a large range of experiences, from rejoicing to suffering. No matter where we find ourselves on this spectrum, God calls us to be devoted to one another through service, prayer, and hospitality. Paul also specifies the attitudes we should have as we care for each other: sincere love, unselfishness, honor, diligence, and eagerness.

As you can see, the church is a place for participants, not spectators. Yet many Christians today think this kind of involvement in others’ lives is too costly. So they come on Sunday, stand to sing, sit to listen, and walk out to get back to their own lives. The term “spectator Christian” doesn’t apply only to those who deliberately avoid going to church. In fact, many churches are filled with observant attendees who sit in the pews each week but never touch a fellow believer’s life. What about you? Are you a spectator seeking what you can get or a participant looking for ways to give to someone else?

Called to Edify One Another

Your spiritual growth isn’t just about you—it affects your entire church. Consider this: What would your church be like if everyone in it was as hungry for God’s Word as you are? I’m not saying we must all be spiritual giants, but we should all be growing and increasing in our knowledge and love for Christ, as well as in our love for each other.

One of our responsibilities as members of Christ’s body is to edify each other in the faith. Sometimes we think this is just the role of those in ministry and assume the rest of us can sit back and take it easy. But today’s passage clearly says to “let the word of Christ richly dwell” in us so we can teach and admonish one another with wisdom (Col. 3:16).

Opinions and advice are often casually dished out without much thought, but as believers, we’re called to give wise counsel based on God’s Word. There is no other source that’s as sound, because Scripture alone is absolute truth. Building others up could simply be a matter of pointing out a passage that speaks to an issue they are facing, or it could involve admonishing or warning against an action or attitude the Bible condemns.

To some people, this kind of care for one another may seem unwanted or intrusive, but it’s actually an act of obedience to the Lord. It demonstrates our love for others and our desire to see them become the people that the Lord designed them to be—believers who accomplish what He’s called them to do. And if we are on the receiving end of such care, it helps us develop a humble, teachable attitude.

Jesus: Our Intimate Friend

I’ve counseled plenty of people who argue that they are not worthy of God’s love. Of all the passages I could point to that describe the Lord’s devotion, today’s is the one I think best showcases the unqualified friendship He offers His followers—even when they become wayward.

The night before His crucifixion, Jesus was praying at Gethsemane when Judas Iscariot approached with a band of men. The betrayer stepped forward and kissed the Lord. And what was Jesus’ response? According to Matthew, one of the other disciples, the Lord called the man “friend.” (See Matt. 26:50.)

Judas expected Jesus to establish His kingdom on earth and drive the Romans out of Israel—surely anyone who could calm a storm at sea could easily remove an oppressive government! But Judas’s interest in Jesus was more personal and political than spiritual. In fact, John reported that his fellow disciple stole from the money box (John 12:6). Today the man’s name is synonymous with those who betray others for personal gain.

In spite of Judas’s greed, blind ambition, and betrayal, Jesus never stopped loving him—and still used the word “friend” to address the disciple. The Lord does not place conditions on His love or reject people who fail to meet certain standards. He simply cares for us as we are.

We cannot earn Jesus Christ’s love and friendship. He takes the initiative, reaches out, and draws into fellowship those who are willing. None of us are worthy, but we are privileged to live in His love anyway. In the Lord, we find a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).