Tag Archive | Salvation

How to Replace the Lies In Your Mind with God’s Truth

I grew up going to church every week, often more than once. I even taught a Sunday School class in my local church. But throughout those years, I didn’t know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord.

That changed the year after I graduated from college. I was beginning a career as a kindergarten teacher. Soon after moving to the town where I had a teaching position, I did what was a lifestyle for me – I looked for a church to join. While this church was of the same denomination of the churches I had been a part of, it was very different.

For the first time, I heard the gospel clearly explained. I learned than Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin, and I was encouraged to surrender my life to Him and accept Him as my personal Savior and Lord. I was told when I did this, that Jesus came to live in my heart through the Holy Spirit. He was now my teacher and guide for how to live as a believer in Jesus Christ. And this began a lifelong adventure was walking the genuine Christian life.

This happened in 1972; it’s now 2022, fifty years later. While I’ve matured in the faith from those early days as a Christ, I’m still learning how to walk in the truth of God’s Word. In fact, I’m currently taking a nine week, in-depth course on renewing my mind in a specific area where I’m not yet walking in victory, which I chose as my “mountain” that I need to overcome.

We choose what we will believe! A belief is something that we either consciously or unconsciously accept as truth. But there is only one source of truth: THE WORD OF GOD!

Most of us, no matter how long we have been Christians, still have a few areas of our lives where we are not walking in victory. These are the areas where we need to renew our minds by recognizing the lies we are still believing and replacing them with related truths from the Word of God.

Renewing the mind is basically rewiring your brain to think like Christ Jesus – to have the mind of Christ. Dr. Caroline Leaf speaks of this in her book Switch On Your Brian: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health.

“God designed humans to observe our own thoughts, catch those that are bad, and get rid of them... You cannot sit back and wait to be happy and healthy and have a great thought life; you have to make the choice to make this happen. You have to choose to get rid of the toxic and get back in alignment with God. You can be overwhelmed by every small setback in life, or you can be energized by the possibilities they bring.

“Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking.

In physical terms, this is what happens when we choose to renew our minds. The actual structure of our mind changes as we learn to think differently about a specific area of our lives. We learn to recognize our wrong thoughts and replace them with truths from God’s Word… and continue doing this until we have learned a new way of thinking.

An essential step in renewing our minds is understanding our identity in Christ, who we are in Christ. Our minds have been influenced since early childhood by things our family, friends, teachers and other acquaintances have said about us, things which have physically changed the structure of our brains. Renewing the mind includes building new pathways for our thoughts about ourselves.

I’ve learned that renewing the mind takes time and effort. It requires honestly facing the lies we are believing, lies that are keeping us from walking in victory in a specific area of our life. It’s important that we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in this step, because the very nature of lies is that we often don’t recognize them.

The class I’m currently taking has use begin with a “mind dump,” with listing at least ten thoughts that are currently on our minds. As I did this, I was surprised at the toxic thoughts that showed up. Then, we allow the Holy Spirit to reduce the list, one step at a time, until we recognize the “mountain” God currently wants us to focus on. A question made it easy for me to narrow my list down to one: What does the Lord see as the weighty issues in my life? Suddenly, I knew the area the Lord wanted me to focus my mind renewal on, something I had not even considered before that.

This is just an introduction to renewing our minds. If any of you are interested in a time of intense mind renewal, just leave a message in the comments after this post. I will be glad to give you the name of the study I’ve been doing – for the third time. This is just a taste of what I’m learning about renewing my mind. Each time I’ve done the study, I’ve seen major change in a problem area of my life, an area where victory had always seemed just beyond my reach. IT IS POSSIBLE TO WALK IN VICTORY IN AREAS OF PERSISTENT SIN – AND MIND RENEWAL IS THE KEY!

EL Moshaah, the God Who Saves

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.” Psalms‬ ‭18:2-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

After Samuel anointed David with oil and announced that he would be the next king of Israel, David spent many years running for his life. On the day when the Lord delivered him from the power of his enemies, David wrote Psalm 18 as a prayer to the Lord. In it, he describes how the Lord saved him from death.

Today in Afghanistan, there are many Christians who can identify with this prayer of David. They are hiding in their homes, fearing what the Taliban will do to them if they are discovered. The Taliban is going door to door, looking for any who have a Bible in their possession, even checking phones for any Bible apps. If these are found, they are taking unmarried women captive and killing the other residents of that home.

In the recently released 2022 World Watch List from Open Doors, Afghanistan is now the most dangerous and difficult nation to be a Christian. Last year, a thousand more Christians around the world were killed for their faith than in 2020. One thousand more Christians were detained. Six hundred more churches were attacked or closed. Severe persecution is a way of life for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Our God is a God who saves! The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death.” Psalms‬ ‭68:20‬ ‭NLT

When we as Christians hear the word salvation, we usually think of being saved from our sins by the blood of Christ. While this is the New Testament meaning of salvation, the Old Testament meaning of salvation (El môšāʿâ) primarily refers to saving acts and deliverances from death. This is the kind of salvation found in Psalm 68:20, today’s key verse. This Hebrew word is always plural, a good reminder that Old Testament salvation isn’t a single event. Our God’s saving acts are unlimited.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that when we go through rivers of difficulty, God will be our deliverer. When we face the fire of oppression, the flames will not consume us. (Isaiah 43:1-4 NLT) Our God is the God who saves us from the circumstances that threaten our lives. He is El Moshaah, the God who saves.

I encourage all of those reading this article to check out the OpenDoorsUSA.org website for a list of ways we can pray for those in the body of Christ who are currently facing persecution. Below is a link to their prayer post giving five ways to pray for our brothers and sisters who are currently facing persecution.

https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/5-powerful-prayers-persecuted-scripture/

The God Who Saves

The Triune God of Truth

We live in a culture where TRUTH is considered relative, constantly changing according to circumstances and man’s understanding. What is thought true for one person at one time isn’t necessarily true for another person or at a different time. According to this philosophy of relativism, absolute truth is non-existent, man is considered the measure of truth, and the existence of God is often rejected. As Harvard Professor Ruth Hubbard put it, “Truth is in the eye of the beholder.”

As Christians, we believe that truth is not really truth unless it meets God’s definition of truth! John 17:17 makes it clear that God’s Word is the source of truth. “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Psalm 119:160 says “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Truth isn’t relative, it is unchanging and always lines up with God’s Word.

Today’s name of God is the God of Truth. There are actually three words in Hebrew that are translated truth.

• “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O Lord, God of truth (El ĕmeṯ).” (Psalm 31:5 NASB)

He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth (El ĕmûnâ) and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” Deuteronomy 32:4 NKJV

“So that he who blesses himself in the earth Shall bless himself in the God of truth (El āmēn); And he who swears in the earth Shall swear by the God of truth; Because the former troubles are forgotten, And because they are hidden from My eyes.” Isaiah 65:16 NKJV

The first two Hebrew words, ĕmeṯ and ĕmûnâ convey the idea of both truth and faithfulness. The third one, āmēn, means verily, truly, amen, so be it. This is where we get the English word amen from.

The name God of truth applies to all three persons of the Godhead. Psalm 31:5 refers to Jehovah, Father God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV) And Jesus spoke several times of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth(John 14:17 is one example). Finally, Jesus said to those who follow Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV)

Knowing the truth begins with knowing the God of truth personally, through a relationship with Christ Jesus. Then we increase in our knowledge of truth as we spend time daily in His written Word, which is our guide for truth.

Our Triune God of Truth

Almighty God, our Father and our Redeemer

“Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion are held back from me. For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” Isaiah 63:15-16 ESV

Today, I’m starting a series on the names of God. Isaiah 63:15 is the beginning of a prayer of the prophet Isaiah, a prayer for mercy and restoration for the Jewish people. My focus today is on verse 16, where God is seen as FATHER and REDEEMER.

This prayer begins with a plea for God to look down on His erring people with mercy and compassion. God was displeased with His people, and they were in exile in Babylon because of their sin. But He was still their Father and their Redeemer, and Isaiah was praying for God to show them mercy and restore them.

I usually think of Father and Redeemer as New Testament terms, but Isaiah 63:16 shows that they are not limited to this. The people of Israel were loved by their Maker, and their sin that had brought judgment did not change that relationship. They were experiencing His discipline, but He was still their Father and their Redeemer.

The Hebrew word for Father is‘āḇ. It was used of the first ancestor of a family, and it was used figuratively of benevolence & protection. Here it is used of God as the Father of His people, the one Who controls, guides and lovingly watches over His people.

Redeemer, gā’al in Hebrew, means “To purchase back; to ransom; to liberate or rescue from captivity or bondage, or from any obligation or liability.” Yahweh is here seen as the one Who redeemed Israel, His people, from slavery in Egypt, and later from exile in Babylon. With God as the subject, it implies a personal relationship that is being restored.

I’m so grateful that the terms Father and Redeemer aren’t limited to Israel. As Christians, those who have accepted Christ Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we also have the privilege of calling Yahweh, Almighty God, our Father. Galatians 4:6-7 says, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

In addition to God being our Father, He is also our Redeemer. In fact, God took on human flesh for the purpose of redeeming us or setting us free from the bondage of sin. Titus 2:14 speaks of God redeeming us to make us “a people for his own possession.”

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14 ESV)

If you have accepted the free gift of salvation, You have the privilege of calling God both Father and Redeemer. If you haven’t accepted Christ’s death on the Cross as the payment for your sin and beginning of a new life, now is the time to do so. I want to close with the word of the apostle Peter, the invitation given to those gathered on the day of Pentecost.

“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”” Acts 2:38-39 ESV

Called to Be Salt and Light in a Dark World

I’m doing a Chronological Bible Reading Plan this year with one of the Facebook groups I’m a part of, and this morning we started reading the book of Isaiah. As I began today’s reading of Isaiah 1-4, I only made it to the 7th verse.

Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.” Isaiah‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

While I know in context this refers to the judgment Israel would face, Israel wasn’t the nation that came to mind when I read this verse. I received it as a message to the church in the United States of America and to me personally as a member of that church.

2020 saw our country facing a pandemic caused by a virus from China that shut down our economy and did unbelievable damage to our nation and other nations around the word. We also saw riots that resulted in many of our cities being burned with fire. Then the year ended with an election that evidence shows was corrupted by foreigners.

If these were signs that Israel’s sin of idolatry and unfaithfulness to God would be judged, should God’s people in this nation see these happenings as a judgment of our own sin. Could God be warning us as a nation that it’s time to return to the founding principles that have made America great?

Many of our founding fathers came from Christian backgrounds which influenced their beliefs and principles. These same principles and beliefs were foundational in the documents and events that founded this great country. We can conclude from the founder’s words that our country was established as one nation under God.

John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence, one of two signers of the Bill of Rights, and the second President of the United States wrote the following in a letter to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813.

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

The apostle Peter warned us that when judgment comes on a nation, it begins with God’s people, “the household of God.”

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Much of the church in the United States no longer holds fast to the Word of God. Compromise with the culture in which we live has become acceptable. In many churches, the truth of the Gospel has been exchanged for sermons that make us feel good. It’s time for the church of Jesus Christ to repent and return to foundations upon which it was founded.

As I was praying for our nation this morning, Matthew 5:13-16 came to mind. These verses which are familiar to most Christians describe our calling to be salt and light in the world. Salt preserves and adds flavor to life. Light reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the world, and as His body we are called to represent Him.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:13-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What Is Surrender Anyway?

For the next five week’s, I’m going through a Faithgateway Online Bible study on Christian worship leader and recording artist Laura Story’s newest book, I Give Up: The Secret Joy of a Surrendered Life. My normal Tuesday and Thursday posts will be centered on the teaching in this book and the related videos and study guide.

The title for this week’s study: “What is Surrender Anyway?” So today’s post is to make sure we understand the true meaning of surrender.

Surrender is basically a military term. It is what an army does when it realizes their opposing army is going to be the victor and they lay down their arms and give up their rights to the conqueror.

This world is a battlefield. Since the Garden of Eden, mankind has ignored and rebelled against our Creator and chosen to walk according to our own desires. In essence, we have joined sides with Satan, who has been called the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

There’s one major problem with that – it puts us on the losing side of the battle. Satan hasn’t yet been totally stripped of his power, but he has been defeated by our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. The battle was won when Jesus became the spotless Lamb of God, died for our sin and rose again.

If you are a Christian, if you have accepted the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross as the full payment for your sin, you did so by surrendering to the drawing of the Holy Spirit, revealing the truth to you that you needed a Savior. But surrendering to God doesn’t end when we are born again and experience new life. That is simply the beginning. 

In simple terms, surrender is turning the control of my life over to God. Surrendering to God is recognizing His authority in my life and choosing His will over my own. Surrender is not meant to be a one-time decision for a Christian. It is meant to be a daily lifestlyle. It is laying down our desires in order to make pleasing God our top priority. As Laura Story says in our study guide, “Surrendering to God’s will is a learned skill that takes a lifetime to develop.”

The actual word surrender is not used in most translations of the Bible. But the concept of surrender is found throughout both the Old and New Testament. 

  • Surrender is submitting to the Lord. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 
  • Surrender is recognizing the truth of Galatians 2:20, which says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” 
  • Surrender is being a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ. It is believing and living according to Luke 9:23-24, which says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
  • Surrender begins with presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, as Romans 12:1-2 tells us to do, the first prerequisite of knowing and doing the will of God. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
  • Surrender is, as Ephesians 6:6 says, “doing the will of God from the heart.” Sometimes the will of God is clearly stated in Scripture, but often this isn’t true. It begins with us coming to the Lord in prayer and asking, “Lord, what is Your plan in this situation?” And then waiting patiently until we receive an answer and walking in obedience to the revealed will of God.
  • Surrender is yielding to the hands of God as He shapes us into a vessel to bring Him glory. It is making ourselves willing to be molded into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Remember, surrender is a daily choice. It is to choose to make Jesus Christ Lord of every aspect of our lives, seeking His will in every circumstance that we face. It is being who God created us to be.

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The theme song for the “I Give Up” Bible study.

 

 

 

 

Thankful for the Indwelling Holy Spirit

“For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” Psalms‬ ‭18:28‬

Something unusual happened while we were at church one Sunday in May. We had watched a video teaching on the Bible study we were doing at that time, and I had just finished leading our discussion on the promise of God we were covering that week – when the lights went out. With stormy weather outside, our classroom was really dark. A couple minutes later, the lights came back on, and we were able to finish the class and leave for home.

This morning, as I was preparing to write this week’s Thankful Thursday post, this experience came to mind. While it was just a small inconvenience, it brought to memory God’s promise to enlighten our darkness. And one of the ways He does that in our daily lives is through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit comes to live within us when by faith through grace we accept Jesus’ death on the Cross as the payment in full for our sins, receive His forgiveness, and accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord. And from that moment on, we never have to walk in darkness.

I am currently working on writing a Bible study which I’ve given the working title The Holy Spirit: Stranger or Friend. For many of us, Jehovah our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ our Savior are parts of the Godhead we understand fairly well. In one of the lessons from the Bible study our iConnect Bible study class at church recently completed based on Max Lucado’s book Unshakable Hope: Building Our Lives On The Promises Of God, we read the following quote.

“Ask a believer to answer the question ‘Who is God the Father?’ He has a reply. Or ‘Describe God the Son.’ She will not hesitate. But if you want to see believers hem, haw, and search for words, ask, ‘Who is the Holy Spirit?’ Many believers settle for a two-thirds God.”

Yet there are more that a hundred references in the Bible to the Holy Spirit. From the Gospels, where Jesus says He will be returning to heaven but He will not leave them alone (https://www.bible.com/59/jhn.14.26.esv) through the book of Acts, and all the way to Revelation, we learn that the Holy Spirit is central to our lives as Christians.

Today, I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit and the many things He does in our lives. Here are just a few of the functions and names of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is our Regenerator. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, He is the one who opens our heart and imparts life. “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” John‬ ‭3:5‬

The Holy Spirit is our Empowerer. He gives us power to be witnesses and complete the work He has called us to do. “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke‬ ‭24:49‬

The Holy Spirit is our Helper. He encourages, consoles and comforts us when life becomes difficult. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” John‬ ‭14:16‬

The Holy Spirit is our Teacher. As the Spirit of Truth, He shows us the lies we are believing and instructs us in God’s truth. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John‬ ‭14:26‬ ‭

The Holy Spirit is our Guide. He leads us down the path God has planned for our lives. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Romans‬ ‭8:14‬ ‭

The Holy Spiritis our Intercessor. He prays for us and His prayers always line up with the perfect will of God.  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans‬ ‭8:26‬ ‭

The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier. He works in us to make us look more like Jesus. Like the apostle Peter, we too are among the elect, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood…” 1 Peter‬ 1:2

There are many more functions and names of the Holy Spirit, but these seven give you a picture of His important place in our lives as Christians. And this week, I’m grateful for Who the Holy Spirit is and for all He does in our lives. How about you? Have you stopped in your busy day to thank God for the Holy Spirit? Who lives within you if you’ve accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life.

Seeking God with Our Whole Heart

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord,” Jeremiah‬ ‭29:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This promise from Scripture is one of my favorites. It comes immediately after one most of us are familiar with, Jeremiah 29:11, which reminds us that God has a good plan for our lives, a plan to give us a future and a hope. Often, I see this verse quoted, with no mention of the following verses that are directly related to it. They speak of the focus that is to be present in our life as we realize God is good and His plan for our lives is good.

Earlier in the book of Jeremiah, we read a solemn warning of what was ahead for Judah (the Southern Kingdom of Israel) if they continued down the path they had been trodding (see Jeremiah 9). If they continued stubbornly ignoring God’s law, determined to follow their own desires, judgment was ahead.

Unfortunately, this stern warning had not been heeded, and that judgment had arrived. God used Babylon as His agent of judgment against Israel for their sins of idolatry and rebellion against Him, and in B.C. 587 Jerusalem was attached, the city destroyed, and the people taken into captivity to Babylon.

Jeremiah 29 begins with these words. “These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” (Jeremiah‬ ‭29:1‬)

In this letter, Jeremiah gave clear instructions from the Lord to the exiles. They were to build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce, marry and have children, take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage that they in turn would have children, and seek the welfare of the city where they have been sent into exile. (https://www.bible.com/59/jer.29.5-7.esv). In other words, this would not be a brief interlude in there lives, so they needed to accept the consequences of their failure to obey God and live in the best way possible during this time.

In verse 10, Jeremiah gives them a promise that this time of exile will come to an end. Jeremiah writes, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

This is the setting of Jeremiah 29:11-14. The season of exile would come to an end, the people of Judah would return to their promised land, and in having gone through the Lord’s discipline they would have a hopeful future, as they chose to seek God with their whole heart.

While we have not experienced exile because of disobedience to the Lord, like Judah we are recipients of this promise. This is a conditional promise, requiring something from us. To seek God is to desire His presence more than His presents. While God has promised to never leave or forsake us, our awareness of His presence is affected by the depth of our relationship with Him. To walk in God’s presence daily, we must seek Him with our whole heart.

What does it mean to seek God with our whole heart?

  • It is to seek Him with a deep longing that makes the things of this world pale in comparison.
  • It is to recognize receiving life from Him is a vital necessity, something without which we can’t truly live a meaningful life.
  • It is to realize without Him we can do nothing of lasting value, and therefore make abiding in His presence daily our highest priority in life.
  • It is to respond quickly to the conviction of the Holy Spirit

Remember, we are seeking the presence of a God whose desire for us to live daily in His presence is so great that He sent His own Son to earth as a man, to live the life we were called to live but could not, and then to die as our substitute on the cross. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, was raised on the third day, and He now lives within us in the person of the Holy Spirit to empower us to live in a way that pleases the Father.

Once we have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as the payment for our sin and become children of God, we can seek Him with confidence that He desires a close relationship with us even more than we desire to walk close to Him. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, the way has been opened for us to encounter God based fully on His grace, mercy and love for us. All that is required for us to experience God is to set aside time daily to seek Him with ears open to His voice and a heart ready to receive and obey.

Original photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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Religious Lifestyle or Living Relationship?

1 Peter 3:15 instructs us as Christians to always be prepared to share the reason for the hope we have in Jesus Christ – in other words, to be ready whenever the opportunity arises to share our personal testimony of how we came to know Christ. I especially like the New Living Translation wording of this verse.

“… you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

During recent weeks, our iConnect Bible study class members have been taking turns sharing our personal testimonies of how we came to know Christ. The goal has been for each of us to prepare and share a brief, two to three minute testimony of our life before knowing Christ, how we came to know Him, and how receiving Christ as our Savior and Lord has changed how we live. Then, when God opens the door to  share this with someone who does not know Christ as their personal Savior we’ll be prepared to explain what God has done in our lives and what He is able and willing to do in their life.

This is my personal testimony.

I was born into a Christian family. My father and my mother had both accepted the Lord as their personal Savior at an old fashioned camp meeting revival before they were married, and by the time I came along over 20 years later, our family lived a Christian lifestyle.

Two of my earliest childhood memories are of my father sitting in his red leather rocker every morning before leaving for work reading his Bible, and of my mother kneeling beside her bed each night praying. And going to church was simply what we did – every time the doors were open. It was as much a part of my lifestyle as a child and teenager as going to school.

We attended a Methodist church that was at the end of the block where we lived, and I remember walking to the church early every Sunday morning. During the week, I also spent lots of time at the parsonage which was next door to the church, visiting with some of my best friends, our pastor’s daughter and another friend who lived next door.

My father was a deacon in our church, my older sister who still lived at home a children’s Sunday School teacher and choir member. And by the time I was in high school I was either working in the nursery or teaching the youngest class of children most Sundays.

When I went away to college in 1966, I continued to attend church. A large local Methodist church sent a bus to the campus to pick up students, and I seldom missed a Sunday.

When I graduated from college in 1970 and moved to the town north of Baltimore where I had a job teaching kindergarten, one of the first things I did after my roommate and I got unpacked and settled in an apartment was to start looking for a church. I found a nearby Methodist church and started attending. And this church is where my life changed.

At this church, my life changed when Christianity became more than a religious lifestyle. It became a relationship, a personal walk with Jesus Christ. It was in this church that I first understood that the only way to be a real part of God’s kingdom is by being born again. For the first time, I understood that my religious lifestyle wasn’t enough. I understood that my sin separates me from God, but that God had provided a way to bridge that gap.

Even though I had attended church all my life, even though I considered myself a Christian, for the first time in my life I recognized this wasn’t enough.

For the first time, I understood why Jesus had to die on the cross, and the steps I needed to take to benefit from His sacrifice.

  1. I now saw myself as a sinner who needed salvation.
  2. I understood that the just penalty for sin is death.
  3. I acknowledged that Jesus paid that penalty for me when He died on the cross.
  4. I recognized that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, one we accept by faith.
  5. I received that gift by faith, as I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. And I was born again – and since that day my life has never been the same.

My life as a new Christian began me down a new road, one that definitely hasn’t always been easy. But I’ve never regretted the decision I made so many years ago. Jesus has been with me, walking at my side, through every trial I’ve faced, and my relationship with Him has been my source of strength.

Do you have a similar story you can tell? If not, now is the time to take these same steps I took. Moving from religion to relationship has the power to transform your life.

If you’ve already received this free gift of salvation by faith, are you prepared to share the reason for the hope you have found in Christ Jesus? Have you taken the time to prayerfully prepare a brief testimony of the work of God in your life to bring you to salvation? Acts 1:8 says the Lord has called us to be His witnesses, to our Jerusalem (the city where we live), our Judea and Samaria (the area nearby), and to the ends of the earth. Are you prepared to be His witness whenever He opens the door for you to do so? If not, don’t wait another day to get ready.

 

Entering the Trail to True Freedom

Today is a special day in the United States of America, the birthday of our nation and the day we focus on the liberty and freedom God has blessed us with as a nation. But there is an even more essential freedom than political freedom.

As I was reading today in Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, I was reminded that the key to true freedom is knowing Jesus Christ personally. As Beth says, “Christ is the only entrance to the freedom trail.”

John 8: 36 expresses the truth so clearly: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

One of the most beautiful elements of salvation is its simplicity. Christ has already done all the work on the cross. Your response includes four elements:

  1. Recognize that you are a sinner and that there is nothing you can do to save yourself.
  2. Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and only He can save you.
  3. Believe that His death on the Cross paid the penalty for your sin, that He died on your behalf
  4. Surrender your life to Him and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.

If you do not know Christ personally, there is no better time to make that decision than today. If you already know Christ, is your relationship distant, close and personal, or somewhere in the middle? Knowing Christ begins with an initial decision, but growing in our knowledge of Him is an on-going process. My prayer for this day our nation turns it’s focus on freedom is that each of you will experience the freedom that comes from personally knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and growing daily in your knowledge of Him.