Even if

We are told to let God fight our battles, but what does that mean exactly? What does it mean for us to be in a place where the God of the universe will stand before, behind, and beside us against our enemies?

Reading through the book of Daniel, I see such a moment. A moment where three men were given a choice, God or the world, and by choosing God, He defended them.

“I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” Daniel 3:15

King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t pick a fight with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Sure he thought he could bully them into submission by holding their lives in the balance, but notice the last line of his statement, “And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” He dared God to intervene, he arrogantly proclaimed that there was not god that was stronger than he. Even after all God had done for him personally, he took his fight to the highest court, God was not going to leave his chosen and faithful believers unaided.

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” He said, “Look! I see four men talking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Daniel 3:24-25

God will not abandon His faithful. That does not mean you have to be perfect, or get all things right, or never make a mistake, it means you must be faithful. You must put God first, when we do that, when we chose Him over whatever else is calling for our attention, God will ALWAYS show up.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:9-10

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship an enormous gold statue that the King had erected for himself. They made the decision to remain faithful to their God and His commands, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:1-6

Even though they were in exile, taken as children and acculturated into Babylonian society, they remembered the teachings of the Lord. They remembered his commands while being basically brainwashed to be Babylonians. Because of their faithfulness, God provided for them in all ways. Elevating them well above those who were native to the culture. They stood apart, stood above, and were favored by the king, until they drew a line in the sand. They would NOT bow down and worship a foreign God.

King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t just threaten the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, which was bad enough, he dared God to defy him. He dared the God to, “just try”, and step in. He challenged the Sovereign God of the Universe to a game of chicken, and lost, miserably.

I love the answer that they provide the King after he lays down the ultimatum, assimilate or die a painful horrible death.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”” Daniel 3:16-18

WOW! Not only do they respond with, “yes, He is able” but also with “yes, He will”. Their confidence in Gods ability and willingness to save them (either in this life or the next) is absolute and they have no doubt. My favorite words, however, are what come next. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

Even if… Even if we die in this world, we will not worship your Gods. Even if we lose our job, our home, our family, we will not turn aside from the God who sent His son to save us. Even if we become outcasts, lepers, strangers, we will remain faithful to the God of our forefathers, and we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will do battle for us.

Even if. We hear these words from Daniel, Esther, Ruth, Job, Paul, Peter, all the saints and faithful believers throughout history and into today. Those living in countries where owning a Bible is a death warrant, even if it means they die a horrible death, they remain faithful.

Even if, is our response to, But God. We read throughout God’s word how His people faced unsurmountable odds, situations and conditions that pushed them well beyond the limits of natural human endurance, then we read, But God. He defends His faithful, our response is, Even If. Even if we don’t get what we want or thing should happen, even if our lives turn out every different and we are forced to endure the unendurable, even then we will praise you Lord. Even then we will refuse to bow down before any idol, even then we will worship you, and no one else but you.

Even if…

Pease help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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You get them for a reason…use them!

Over the past 4 months I have been working my way through 2 seminary courses that I’d like to call Big words Theology I, and Big words Theology II.

In these classes I’ve studied words like Justification, Regeneration, Salvation, and Sanctification. It was so crazy in the beginning, that, no joke, I would be sitting with my text book, a Bible dictionary and a notebook, writing down all these words with their definition, spelling them out three times each, and using them in a sentence…Can you tell my life has also been about helping my children with virtual schooling?

It occurred to me during these classes that, too often in Christianity, we make simple things more difficult than they need to be. We use big church words, straight out of the Bible, but not words we use in everyday conversation. For people who did not grow up in the church, how do we share what Jesus did and who God is, in a way that relevant, and relational, and more easily understandable?

I shared with one of my classmates that to really understand scripture, you have to take what you think you know, deconstruct it down to the smallest, simplest elements to see where your beliefs come from, then let scripture and the Holy Spirit help you to build it back up again.

What you find is that some pieces you won’t use any more, some new pieces get added in, other pieces get a more prominent role, and ultimately some pieces get left out entirely. In the end you have a faith build on a solid foundation of scriptural knowledge you can talk about.

So that was a long-winded way of stating a simple concept. Studying Scripture can kind of be like building furniture from IKEA.

IKEA is an amazing, do it yourself, store. They have everything there. The displays are beautifully and professionally decorated, the furniture seems sturdy, and you can just picture how that new entertainment center, or kitchen hutch, or bunk beds are going to look in your home. So you walk up to the perfectly designed display, grab the tag next to your chosen item  then go out to the warehouse that’s twice the size of Costco, find your shelf, and load a very, very large box onto your cart.

You see the photo on the box that reinforces your belief that what you are purchasing is exactly what you’re looking for. You get in line, pay for your item, then you carefully load it in your car and head home.

Once you get home you open the box, and pieces start falling out, all kinds of pieces, some roll under the couch, others land on your toe, others you’re able to grab before they smash into something else. You carefully collect the pieces, clear a space, lay them out on the floor, and then begin the search for your instructions.

Slowly… laboriously… meticulously you read all the many pages of instructions in multiple languages, in case of translational differences, right before beginning the assembly process.

Ok, so, we jump right in and start trying to re-create the image we saw at the store with all the pieces and parts we have, of course forgetting those that rolled under the couch. Soon we discover we don’t have all the tools we need, so we improvise.

Finally, after what seems like hours (and really was hours) you step back to see what you’ve created and… it really doesn’t look exactly like you remember it, it doesn’t look like it did in the store, it doesn’t look like it does in your friend’s house. What happened?

So, you have some pieces left over, so what, even Lego gives you extra pieces. So, you used some of your own hardware because some was missing (or under the couch). You ask everyone to come and admire your work undaunted by their quizzical looks.

You decide to gently, move it into place, and just as you pick up one side, pieces begin to pull away. The screws you used to replace the ones you lost pull apart and the whole thing comes down with a large crash. But that’s ok… because you really weren’t sure if it would fit there anyway.

Our faith, or beliefs, our walk is so often something that we think is going to make our lives look better, and easily fit right in. Like a new dining room table with all our friends and family joyfully gathering round. When we move forward with our belief, but disregard the instructions, substitute parts, don’t use the right tools, and expect life changing results, when our dream or image of what the Christian life is supposed to look like – when the picture on the box doesn’t look like the picture your built – we say it doesn’t work, it’s not real, it’s not for me, my life is too complicated, too messy, I can’t have nice things… we turn and walk away.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

We can’t hope to have the life in Christ that we all long for if aren’t willing to believe with our hearts, follow the instructions, use the right tools, and leave our old parts behind. When we don’t do this our lives, our faith is like a house built on sand.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

It will not stand, it will come crashing down, and not because it isn’t real, or doesn’t work, or your life is to messy, or complicated but, because we didn’t follow the instructions of the person who designed and created our life. We were given instructions on how to build our lives, we were provided the tools needed to construct, and the parts required. We liked the picture, we liked the idea, we didn’t think it would be so much work.

Living like Christ is not easy; however, it’s not complicated either. Romans 10:9 states, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Simple enough right?

Once you make that decision, the rest is a matter of following the instructions, using the tools, and the parts provided. We have been given everything we need to live the life God designed for each of us to live. The Apostle Peter tells us, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3) And we read in 2 Timothy that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

God wants us to teach and equip us for the work he has for us to do. The box won’t be too big for the car, the pieces won’t roll under the couch, the right tools will be provided. All we need to do is follow the directions and pray. God will take care of the rest.

Friends, scripture is full of words that may not be as common to some as to others. However, we know that the intent of those words is to give us the understanding we need of God and his will for our lives, to have a relationship with Jesus who was the perfect example for us to follow, and be aware of how the Holy Spirit will work in and through us to accomplish Gods plans for our lives and this world.

Unlike IKEA everything is provided for us to build our lives with Christ as the cornerstone, it will be more beautiful, and complete, and fulfilling than you could possibly imagine…just follow the instructions.

Pease help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

Mission Monday – What’s your Motivation?

“I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:23-24

My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me. This is my motivation, what is yours? What keeps you moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, serving the Lord, expanding the Kingdom of God, sharing the good news?

It’s no small task committing your entire life to God, it takes daily recommitment of your life and time. Even Jesus acknowledged that we need to take time to spend with God, time set apart and intentionally reserved for him. I think of the times I’ve worked to schedule lunches with friends or time to watch TV shows or the proverbial, ‘me’, time…why don’t we have the same fervor to make time to spend with God?

Did you know, depending on the translation, in the book of Mark alone there are between 15-18 different times that Jesus went off by himself to spend time with God. Jesus set aside time to spend with God. If our goal in life is to glorify God and be transformed into the likeness of Christ, shouldn’t we follow his example?

Right now, millions of students around the world are doing their studies at home. They are learning math, science, literature, grammar, and history. They spend several hours each day on computers, at dining room tables, in spaces modified to serve as classrooms. We, as parents, tell them the importance of studying, spending time with their notes, text books, teachers and classmates. Why don’t we, with the same exuberance and expectation, impress upon them the importance of getting to know Jesus? Why isn’t spending time learning from The Rabbi, studying The Scriptures, and in fellowship with other believers just as important…or more so? Why is our faith and our relationship with God relegated to one or two days of the week? I saw a post on social media recently that stated, “with children learning from home, is now the time to put Christ back in our schools?” I would ask with all of us spending more time at home, is now the time for us to spend more time with God?

It seems like, with the increased amount of time we have from not going out as much, that the demands from the world for our time have increased. From our streaming movie services, television programming, and internet advertising, we are inundated with distractions vying for our attention with claims of instant gratification, overnight delivery, and at home convenience, no effort required.

What is our motivation to spend time with God, studying His word, praying for His people, and lifting up His Church? “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.” My salvation is secure in Christ, I want everyone to enjoy the same salvation, the same joy, and peace, that Christ provides out of the abundance of His love for us!

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:1-11

God’s love is abundant, Christ’s sacrifice is enough for all, the power of the Holy Spirit will transform the heart of every believer. What is your motivation to grow your relationship with God?

I would love to hear from you! Please let me know how I can pray for you, any questions or comments. and like.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

There is Freedom in Forgiveness

The word forgiveness brings up all kinds of feelings and images for people. Some see forgiveness as being weak, allowing those who have hurt you to “get away with” the pain they have inflicted. Some see forgiveness as giving permission to wrongs, others see it as allowing evil to exist unchecked in the world. However you view forgiveness, I believe it is fair to say that the word carries with it strong emotion. Shakespeare could just have easily written the words, ‘to forgive, or not to forgive, that is the question.’

Whatever your view of forgiveness, one thing remains true, God calls us to forgive others as He has forgiven us. He does not follow that statement with a litany of exceptions to this command. It is complete and absolute, without exception. We are called to forgive, just as God forgave us. Let’s be clear, I do not know what sins have been committed against you, so I cannot, and will not claim to fully understand the pain that you may have suffered, and continue to suffer because of them. I would never want to do anything to negate what has happened to you. My sole desire in sharing this is to help you understand the toll that unforgiveness takes on your life.

People who hold on to wrongs, injure only themselves not the person whom their grudge is against. Unforgiveness festers in your heart, it makes you bitter, angry, resentful, and at its worst can cause you to injure others. All the while, the individual(s) who sinned against you, continue on as they were. Forgiveness is not about them; it is about you and your relationship with God. By living with unforgiveness in your heart, you are creating separation between you and God.

Remember God forgave us for all the sins we committed and have yet to commit. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, in this world we can do to make amends for, or to earn that forgiveness.  If we could in our own power make ourselves righteousness, and restore our relationship with God the Cross would not have been necessary to reconcile us to the Father. He forgave us in the midst of our sin, our injuring others, and in our denial. When we didn’t even realize we needed forgiveness, He forgave us. His love for us, and His desire for us to be reconciled to Him was so great that He forgave it all…ALL. He made the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus, who paid the price for all our sin, so that we could return to God.

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it Is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

All scripture speak aside, unforgiveness puts you in bondage…ties you to the person who wronged you, forever. Unforgiveness is bondage, it is handing your life over to another, your emotions, your heart, to the person who has hurt you. Living in unforgiveness is like handing the reigns of your life over to someone else and letting them drive you. The hate, anger and resentment that festers in your heart will overtake your life and you will be unable to move forward.

The word forgiveness (aphesis) mean loosing someone from what binds him. It stems from a verb meaning to send away. Forgiveness grants freedom to those who are in bondage. Those bonds tie you to the hurt that others have caused either intentionally or not. Forgiveness allows you to send away the pain that holds your heart and mind hostage. Imagine for a moment, what it would be like to not have those feelings shadowing you. To be free from those negative feelings associated with that person or action.

Forgiveness is not something we can do on our own. We are broken and resentful people, unable to do anything good outside of God. Sure, we may forget for a while, we may stuff it down and chalk it up to ‘no big deal’. However, there will come a time where something will happen to remind you of the pain that was caused, and it’s like living through it all over again. In fact, the longer you stuff it, the worse it will be when it comes out…and it will come out.

The only way to be rid of the root of bitterness is the loosing of forgiveness. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling, and slander, along with every for of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:31-5:2)

Yes, I do know what I’m saying. I know that pain and bitterness has become part of who you are and you’re not sure who you will be without it. You feel justified in your anger and desire for revenge, but if you hold on to that bitterness, your hands are not free to hold onto Christ. Forgiving those wrongs does not make them right, does not mean you approve, does not mean it was OK, it means you are loosing that which binds you, sending it away.  You can’t do it on your own, but you don’t have too.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably ore than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

My prayer for each person reading this, is that the Holy Spirit will reveal the unforgiveness in your heart, what which binds you and keeps your heart hostage. I pray that He will work in your life and enable you to let go and forgive those who have hurt you, just as Christ forgave you.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries