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Posts tagged ‘John’

{ Day 2 }.


Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

In our verse for today, Jesus tells us that we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free. What truths must we know to be free? First and most important, who is God? What is He like? What kind of personality does He have?

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Lord, I want to be set free by Your truth. I want to become more like You. I want to exhibit the characteristics that I see in Your life. There are characteristics that I recognize in myself that are not like You. Help me to overcome these flaws as Your truth exposes each one and sets me free.

The way to our emotions
is through our minds.

By MIKE BICKLE.

{ Day 1 }.


And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16

No one can come face-to-face with what God is like and ever be the same. Seeing the truth about His personality touches the depths of our emotions, which leads us to spiritual wholeness and maturity.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Lord, there is nothing I want more than to experience a growing, ever more intimate relationship with You. Let me see You as You are so that I may be transformed in my own life and walk with You. Amen.

Beholding the glory of who He is and
what He has done renews our minds,
strengthens us, and transforms us.

By MIKE BICKLE.

Prepare for Battle.


woman armed
(Alainjuteau/http://www.stockfreeimages.com)

The days in which we are living are some of the most exciting in history. But they are not without peril. The kingdom of God suffers violence (see Matt. 11:12), yet these are still times of hope and peace for those who know who they are in Christ. In order to survive the onslaught of the enemy against us, we had better learn to become women who are mighty in spirit.

Perhaps my best example of such a woman is my mom, Gaynell Chavis Jacobs. Unassuming and unpretentious, Mom was baptized with the power of the Holy Spirit and raised 12 children to know, love and serve the Lord. She was an extraordinary prayer warrior, and when she would lay hands on the sick, they would be healed.

We all have this potential because Jesus declared: “Great works shall you do because I go to my Father” (see John 14:12). The Spirit of Christ will enable you to walk into a room and have every demon of hell walk out. He will empower you to speak God’s Word in a way that will change the atmosphere and the situation.

We are going to need this power. I believe we are in for the fight of our lives until Jesus comes back. There will be times when, despite our being Spirit-filled, we will encounter assaults from hell that are designed to stop us from doing what God has called us to do.

The devil is not after you because of who you are but because he knows what God has put in you and what God can do through you. In the natural, the giants will always appear bigger than you are, but in the supernatural, you can see through the eyes of the Spirit, just as Caleb did when he declared, “We are well able to conquer [the land]” (Num. 13:30, The Living Bible).

I’m sure there are many strategies for becoming mighty in spirit. But during the course of my life, I’ve found six practices to be very effective in overcoming the power of the enemy and walking in victory.

BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR CALLING In Galatians 1:15-16 Paul wrote: “Even before I was born God had chosen me to be His, and called me–what kindness and grace–to reveal His Son within me so that I could go to the Gentiles and show them the Good News about Jesus. When all this happened to me I didn’t go at once and talk it over with anyone else.”

When you are confident in your calling, you don’t have to seek anyone’s permission or approval. You know you are called because of the witness of the Holy Spirit inside you, but Satan will try to make you doubt that your calling is real.

I can recall an incident that happened to me when I first went out as a soloist in full-time ministry. During a service, a young girl, who was possessed by demonic spirits, lunged toward me, screaming obscenities and totally disrupting the meeting.

I could have given in to fear and intimidation, but I chose to put the enemy under my feet, and the girl was completely delivered and set free. Today, deliverance is still a vital part of my ministry.

God never told us that we were going to float along on this journey to become all that He destined for us and never have another problem. But He did promise us this: ” ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you’ ” (Is. 43:2, NKJV). You must decide now that you’re going all the way.

HAVE STRENGTH IN ADVERSITY When I left home to pursue God’s call on my life, I knew it was not going to be easy. I’d made up my mind to follow hard after the Lord, but I remember a very discouraging time in my life while I was in college.

I had just lost my mom. My father had already passed away. Trying to go on with my life while dealing with my intense grief was very difficult. Finally, I decided to abandon my plans and go back home.

On the day I was preparing to leave I suddenly thought, Maybe I should go to church one more time and say goodbye to my friends and my pastor. At the close of the Wednesday night service, my pastor called me onto the stage and said to me: “God says to tell you, ‘You are not your own, you have been bought with a price. I have chosen you and appointed you to go to the nations of the earth, so you can’t do what you want to do. My strength is made perfect in your weaknesses, for when you are weak, then I am strong.’ “

Without anyone touching me, I was slain in the spirit. Hours later, when I got up, I had a new confidence, a greater boldness and a determination to go on that hell could not touch.

Jesus said: ” ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you’ ” (John 15:16).

You, too, are not your own. Be strong and don’t abandon your calling.

DEVELOP GODLY CHARACTER When David wrote, “Assign me Godliness and Integrity as my bodyguards” (Ps. 25:21, The Living Bible), he must have understood that, ultimately, if your character is ungodly, it doesn’t matter how sweetly you sing or how people respond to your ministry. It is a grave mistake to put all your energies into your “kingdom work” and leave little or no time for intimacy with the Lord. You can begin to live to be seen by others and forget that character is who you are when no one is looking.

Isaiah said: “Be clean! You who bear the vessels of the Lord” (52:11, NKJV). There are times when I can’t do what I want to do. Paul says we must make faithfulness our goal. “Consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Morever it is required in stewards that one be faithful” (1 Cor. 4:1-2).

Leave a good example for those who will come behind you, unlike King Saul, who was anointed but lost his kingdom and his life. King David was anointed, also, yet he fell into a trap due to his unruly passions.

You must be painstakingly conscientious about everything–attitude, lifestyle, personal worship and gifts. The enemy of your destiny has already been defeated, so don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by his devices.

PRACTICE VIOLENT FAITH I believe that sometimes we come up against things in our lives when simply believing won’t be enough. I can remember a time when I was very sick with bronchitis, which, according to my doctor, had turned into pneumonia. At this point in my walk with the Lord, I was determined to go to the next level of faith, so I rejected my doctor’s recommendation of hospitalization and returned home.

For three weeks I was isolated from my husband, Jamie, and our two girls. I was believing for a miracle and expecting an angel to walk into my upstairs bedroom and lay his hands on me. Instead, as I lay in bed, I heard the Lord saying: “Get up out of this bed, go downstairs and command this junk to get out of your house and out of your body.”

I got up, realizing now that this was an attack from the devil to take me out. I opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch in the dead of winter. I was desperate. I had a word from the Lord, and I needed a miracle!

I lifted my voice and said: “In the name of Jesus, bronchitis, pneumonia and everything associated with it, get out of my body….You cannot stay, and you will not stay. On the authority of God’s Word and through the name of Jesus, you will leave right now!”

Immediately I felt an overwhelming breath flow through my body. That kind of attack has not been back at my house. All you need is one word to see God do the miraculous.

Violent faith combines determination with spiritual aggressiveness and raw, if you will, guts. Violent faith is Abraham standing on top of a mountain, preparing to sacrifice his promise (Isaac) to God (see Gen 22).

It’s Esther going into the king’s chamber for the sake of her people, saying, ” ‘If I perish, I perish!’ ” (v. 4:16). And it’s Peter taking the crippled man by the hand, saying, ” ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk,’ ” then jerking the man to his feet (Acts 3:6, NKJV).

Violent faith will cause you to do things in the supernatural that make no sense in the natural. As you practice it, your prayer life and hunger for God will increase, and there will be a determination forged in you that nothing can shake.

BE PERSISTENT IN PRAYER The apostle Paul gave us a formula for getting our prayers answered and tearing down the enemy’s strongholds. He wrote these powerful words: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18, NKJV).

Jesus said: ” ‘Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you’ ” (Matt. 7:7, NLT).

Don’t give up. Pray again. You may be feeling right now that you have tried, cried, prayed and fasted without results. With as much compassion as I can write this, I would tell you that what moves God more than anything is faith, violent faith!

Taking back what is yours from the forces of darkness takes courage and is not for those who are passive or faint of heart. It is for the person who would say: “This is it, I am drawing the blood line today. It will never be the same again.”

You can exercise this kind of faith, too. You can choose to say, “I know what the outcome of this thing is going to be, so I am going to lift my head up and rejoice, because right now the Father God is working it all out.”

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.

Be shalom…


By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” 
-John 14:27

Peace begins with you and peace begins with me. That’s the message that comes from the Prince of Peace, whose birth we have been celebrating. We may call upon the Prince of Peace to end the violence, to end the abuse of others, to end the wars. But Jesus says, “I want the brokenness inside of you to change. That’s where I want to start.” That’s what Jesus says to us.

And there’s no point in cutting down the weeds if we don’t pull up the roots. When we read about peace in the Bible, we read that it is rooted in this word, shalom. It’s a greeting. It’s like aloha, good-bye, and hello. It means peace, but it also means welfare, and primarily wholeness. The word shalom means to be made whole, to be complete.

There’s a part in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about loving your enemies who hate you, and turning the other cheek. He finishes by saying, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We could interpret that to mean that there’s a list of rules that we need to follow perfectly, but what Jesus is saying is to “be shalom.” Be at peace. Be perfected in the sense of being made whole, being made new, being a new creation.

Prayer: Dear Lord, pull up the roots of my fear, failures, and hopelessness. Replant me in the good soil of your love, making me whole, complete, at peace, and able to grow and flourish in your kingdom on earth. Amen.

Devotion: What “roots” of negativity need to be pulled in your life so that you can live in the peace of God?

Jesus Wants You to Pursue His Glory.


(AlanBelcher Pixelated/Creationswap.com)

Have you not deeply desired to see God, to know Him intimately and truly? Beloved, to see Jesus is to behold God. Let us not consider it heresy: We can surely see God! But first we must renounce every perception of the Almighty other than what we have found proven true in Christ.

Therefore study the life, teachings and deeds of Jesus Christ, and you will remove the veil of mystery surrounding the nature of God.

Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

What truth could be more profound? Each time we read of what Jesus did, we are actually beholding the nature of God. Every time we listen to what Jesus taught, we are hearing the voice of the living God.

Jesus is the image of the invisible Father (Heb. 1:2-3). “In Him all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9, NASB). Jesus is God’s form. He mirrored on earth those things He saw His Father doing in heaven; He echoed the words His Father whispered to Him from eternity.

Do you truly desire to see God? Christ’s words are windows through which the pure in heart behold the Almighty.

Certainly others can edify our souls greatly, but no prophet, apostle, or teacher excels the revelation of God in Christ. Ponder Christ, and you contemplate the nature of God. Eat His words, and you assimilate into your spirit the substance of the Almighty.

The teachings of Jesus Christ are not to be blended into the Scriptures as though He were one of many equally important voices used by God. He is, in truth, the living revelation of God Himself, the sole expression of His invisible glory. When Christ speaks, we are listening to God unfiltered, unbiased, unveiled.

Jesus said the pure in heart would see God. David wrote, “with the pure You show Yourself pure” (2 Sam. 22:27). Think of it: Not only can we truly know God, but also He desires to show Himself to us. David said, “You show Yourself.”

How valuable are Christ’s words? To each soul that chooses to abide in the words of Christ, he has promised, “I … will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21). His promise is not reserved for a time later in heaven, but in some deep measure He desires to fulfill His words here, now.

We may have grown content with the illusion of distance, yet God is not content. He created us to live in steadfast union with His presence. The sense of distance between the Almighty and us is a deception.

Indeed, the Lord corrects us not merely because He hates sin, but He corrects us because sin separates us from His presence. He loves us and purifies us so we can see Him.

Remember, beloved, the prayer of Jesus: “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see my glory” (John 17:24).

Are we so content with our religion that we ignore this promise? We can be with Him where He is. He is specifically praying that we see His glory.

Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joshua, the parents of Samson—Scripture is filled with imperfect people who beheld God’s glory and lived to tell about it! Why should you or I be deprived? Jesus said that he who is least in the kingdom is greater than these!

The glory that God displayed in the Old Testament, which faded from the face of Moses, then faded again after filling Solomon’s temple, and departed from Israel during the priesthood of Eli—that glory now dwells permanently in the spirits of those who have been truly born again. The glory in us will not fade but increase, especially as the day of His return approaches! We will be filled with His glory (2 Cor. 3:7-18)!

So, I ask again, would you see God? Would you pursue the glory of the Lord? Study Jesus. Ponder His Words and deeds. For to steadfastly gaze upon Jesus is to behold “the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

I Will Be Found By YouAdapted from I Will Be Found by You by Francis Frangipane, copyright 2013, published by Passio, Charisma Media/Charisma House Book Group. In this book the author shares a collection of some of his best writings on the subject of seeking and finding God. To order a copy click here.

PRAYER POWER FOR THE WEEK OF 12/16/2013

This week take time away from the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, decorating, cooking, rehearsing and traveling to reflect on God’s immeasurable love as expressed in the gift of His Son. Set aside some quiet time to pursue Him and His glory. Allow His peace to permeate every aspect of your life during this busy season. Ask Him to direct your giving and show you where you can make a difference and be a blessing to those in need. Remember those who are struggling with loss of health, income, loved ones and possessions stolen by winter storms and hard times. Continue to pray for Israel during this holiday season, and lift up our nation and its leaders. Unite with others to pray for peace on earth, and be prepared to share the gospel of peace and the gift of salvation through Christ with those who need to hear. Carry the joy of the Lord with you and let His praises be on your lips. Col. 2:9; John 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 4:6.

FRANCIS FRANGIPANE

Getting Rid of Guilt.


Eric C. Redmond

Getting Rid of GuiltGuilt. When everything else is quiet, it’s the disquietness within you saying, “I wish I had never done that.” “I wish I could go back and do that differently.”Older men may have guilt for failing to be present and intentional in their children’s lives when they were small. Women sometimes have it over their role in early pregnancies. Teammates have guilt for missing the winning catch or shot.

There’s no undo button in life, but we wish that our feelings of guilt could go away forever. And we need a better solution than just not talking about it, avoiding people and places that remind us of the guilt, suppressing our guilty feelings somehow, or busying ourselves to the point that we have no time to think guilt-ridden thoughts.

If we could remove the status of guilt—the objective part of being guilty, then we would go a long way in addressing the feelings—the subjective part—of being guilty. If we only address our feelings of guilt, the status of guilt still remains.

1 John 1:8-9 addresses the issue of the guilt of sin:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

These verses are not addressing the principle of sin. One cannot confess original sin and be done with it. However, we can confess thesin that is at the root of our guilt. To say “we have no sin” was a way of covering up the guilt of sin—a way of turning off the guilt feelings by just saying, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

The Apostle John teaches the right way to get rid of our guilty status and—along with it—many of our feelings of guilt. First, we must stop denying sin. Second, we must confess our sin.

How do we deny our sin? I see at least four ways:

1)      We can self-justify our behavior with something like, “God knows my heart,” or, “you know that’s just the way I am.”

2)      We can reclassify sin so that it is not sin. We conveniently call something a disorder to be treated rather than a sin rooted in lack of self-control. At the end of his trial, when Ariel Castro was allowed to speak to the three victims of his decades-plus imprisonment and abuse in Cleveland, he said, “I’m not a monster; I have an addiction, like an alcoholic.” He reclassified terrible wrongdoing as something that could not be helped. At least the funk musician, George Clinton, had the decency to add nice beats to his reclassification: “Why must I chase the cat? Nothin’ but the dog in me.”

3)      We can blame others for our guilt or constantly focus on what other make us do. Yet we make the choices that later bring the guilt:We choose to use the Lord’s name in vain and curse; we choose to sleep in on Sundays rather than being with God’s people to worship. We choose to disrespect our parents. We choose to steal because we think we have earned the right to more. We choose to hate people and to lie. No one makes us do anything.

4)      We can admit fault without taking responsibility. I’ve heard supposedly mature people say think like, “Yeah, I like to flirt with the ladies. So what?” or “Yeah, I like to drink more than a little. So what?”

What negative effects result from denying sin?

1) We fool ourselves when we deny our guilt and sin. 1John 1:8b says, “We deceive ourselves.” We might think we are over guilt, but the signs of guilt resurface in anger, a combative spirit, sheepishness around people we don’t want to find out what we did wrong, or in quickness to self-defense.

2) We fail to internalize the gospel when we deny our guilt and sin. 1John 1:8c says, “The truth is not in us.” The truth as synonymous with “the message,” mentioned in 1:1-5 that concerns the eternal life who was with the Father and manifested to us—the person of Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God. The message about him is the gospel. The proclamation of the death of Christ for sin, and his resurrection from the dead to offer life, does not allow us to deny sin when we are guilty. The gospel is the very remedy of God. He is light and has not one bit of darkness in him (cf. 1:5). Only God is without sin.

Denying the fact that we sin won’t get rid of our guilty status before God no matter how we dress it up. We must stop denying sin.

Confess
Not only do we need to stop denying sin, these verses tell us to start confessing sin. Confession is an admittance of wrongdoing. The Greek word itself is a compound made from “the same” and “to speak or say.” It is to say the same thing about what you did that God says about what you did. It is to say something specific—what you actually did—rather than something general.

John intends for us to say, “I disrespected my manger today,” and not, “Well, maybe I did something wrong at the office today.” John intends, “I grumbled, Lord,” “I am having an emotional affair and need to break it off,” or “I intentionally provoked her because I wanted revenge and I’m tired of her.” By confessing in this manner, you are calling these specific things what God calls them: Sins. As such, we must confess them, and we must turn away these specific things.

Confession gets us to the forgiving God (1:9b). Sin blocks fellowship with God. A lifestyle of denying sin means the truth of the gospel has not been internalized. But if you confess sin, you can have fellowship with God because He is faithful to His promises to forgive sin. Proverbs 28:13 says “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Jeremiah 31:34 says, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” God is just in forgiving the sin of one who acknowledges sin.

Forgiveness is actually a problem for God because He is absolutely holy and cannot overlook sin. If He did, He would be unjust. The only way for Him to be just toward sin is to make an accounting for it. Proper confession says, “I am wrong in your sight God—a wrong for which Jesus had to die!”

Confession also gets us to the cleansing God (1:9c). In 1John 1:7, John establishes that the cleansing comes through God’s application of the death of Jesus for sins to our specific sins – “the blood of Jesus His Son purifies us from all sin.” On this basis, when we confess our sins, the work the Divine Son of God did on the cross comes and takes away our objective guilt, leaving us with no reason to feel guilty.

So if you have a guilt-causing addiction, admit it! It does not matter if the addiction is to certain foods, drugs, shopping, or painkillers. Confess and then get specialized help.

It would be wise, too, to set a time to confess sin before going to bed. Reviewing your day will make a huge difference in your approach to work, church, and family the next day, because you will have confessed wrong in the office, hypocrisy at church, and that you get on people’s nerves at home too. Look through your day, asking the Lord daily to show you were you messed up so that you can become avoid behavior that is sin and keep being cleansed by the blood of Christ.

Third, review the gospel daily. The gospel for saints is the same as the gospel for sinners: Jesus Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness! There is not one sin that we can confess for which Jesus’s blood is not powerful enough to cleanse.

Recently I went to the dry cleaners to retrieve a shirt with a spot on it. There was a note attached to my shirt, which said, “Special attention was given to the spot(s) on this garment. However, [the dry cleaner] was unable to remove the spot(s) due to the risk of causing damage to the fabric or color in your garment.” So now the shirt is useless to me unless I wear it with a jacket, or put a pin over the spot like my children have taught me to do.

In contrast, when I take my sin-stained soul to Jesus, he has no problem washing away my sin. I can say to him, “Jesus, I was having a rough day, and I let some attitude slip out that was not right; some words I know were harmful came out of my mouth.” And because we confess rather than deny, because God is faithful and just, because He forgives and cleanses, Jesus can say, “All the guilt of your bad day, is purged by the blood I shed for you on the Cross.”

In this way, we get rid of guilt by going to Jesus.
Eric C. Redmond is Executive Pastoral Assistant and Bible Professor in Residence at New Canaan Baptist Churchin Washington, DC. Find him on Twitter @EricCRedmond.

Advent III: Rejoice! God Is With Us.


Advent III: Rejoice! God Is With Us

Introduction

The third Sunday in Advent (Advent III) shifts from a tone of expectation of Christ’s coming to one of rejoicing at the arrival of God’s kingdom with the coming of Jesus.

The Scripture and Theology of the Third Week of Advent

Scripture readings for Advent III reflect on the salvation and restoration Jesus brings, which is cause for rejoicing and perseverance.

Old Testament Readings        

Old Testament readings for Advent III highlight the universal restoration Jesus accomplishes. InIsaiah 35:1, the prophet looks forward to the future promised for the people of God—a future inaugurated at the first coming of Christ and consummated at his second coming. When Jesus returns, the effects of sin’s curse will be removed: the wildernesses and dry land will blossom, and streams will come forth from the desert. The miracles he did point to his kingdom: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Isaiah 35:5-6).

Isaiah 61:1Isaiah 61:8 shows God’s concern for those on the fringes of society—those who have no voice of their own and cannot speak for themselves. The Messiah has been anointed by God to bring good news to the poor and liberty to the captives, proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of God’s vengeance. God is one who loves justice and mercy, and in his coming kingdom those who suffer from injustice will be restored. The coming Christ “will save the lame and gather the outcast, and [he] will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth” (Zephaniah 3:19).

Readings from the Psalms

The Psalms for Advent III carry on the theme of the justice and mercy brought about by God’s coming kingdom. Psalms 146:4 says that the one “who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry” is blessed. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up the downcast, keeps watch over sojourners, and upholds widows and orphans (146:8-9). When God brings restoration to his people, there will be laughter and joy, and tears shall be turned into shouts of joy (Psalms 126:5).

New Testament Readings       

New Testament readings in the third week of Advent show how believers are motivated to wait patiently for Jesus’ return. As 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says, patience should be accompanied by rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving as well as abstaining from evil. God is faithful, and he is the one who will sanctify us, so Christians can be sure that we will be kept blameless at Christ’s second coming. Only God’s power can do this, and “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24). Philippians 4:4 continues the theme of rejoicing, because God’s peace for those in Christ will guard our hearts and minds.

Gospel Readings

Gospel readings for Advent III return to John the Baptist, but in a way that points from him to Jesus. In Matthew 11:2, John hears rumors about what Jesus was doing and asks him (through his disciples) “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus responds to John’s followers: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matt. 11:4-5). Jesus’ answer is incredibly fitting—“look at what I’m doing,” he says. “You know that the Messiah will bring healing to those in need, and that’s exactly what I bring.”

John the Baptist came as a witness, “to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him” (John 1:8). John came to bear witness about the light, who is Jesus. John claimed, “I am the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:23).

John preached the gospel to the people—the good news of God’s coming kingdom of justice and peace (Luke 3:18).

The Symbolic Spirituality of the Third Week of Advent

The Jesse Tree

During the third week of Advent, the Jesse Tree recounts the story of how God’s people often failed, revealing their deep need for a Savior. The branches on the tree this week are crooked and deathly-looking, with few leaves on them. Through the stories of David (1 Samuel 16:12 Samuel 5:12 Samuel 7:1), Elijah (1 Kings 17:11 Kings 18:17), Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1), Isaiah (Isaiah 1:10Isaiah 6:1Isaiah 8:11), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:4Jeremiah 7:1Jeremiah 8:22), Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:1Habakkuk 3:16), and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:1Nehemiah 6:15Nehemiah 13:10), the Jesse Tree narrates Israel’s fall into exile and her waiting for the Messiah.

The Advent Wreath     

A third candle—a pink one—is lit on the Advent Wreath for Advent III. This candle, often called the Shepherd’s Candle or the Joy Candle, represents joy, such as the joy the shepherds experienced when the angel told them that Christ was to be born. The Advent season is now half over, and Jesus’ coming—both his first coming, liturgically, and his second coming, historically—is nearer now than it was two weeks ago.

Conclusion

More than any other week during the Advent season, Advent III represents a shift in attitude. One moves from hope, repentance, and fear of the coming Judge to rejoicing at the coming of salvation and the kingdom of God as Jesus makes all things new.

These Advent rhythms represent shifts that we often experience in our Christian lives. Some days we feel like the injustices in this world are more than we can handle, some days we anguish over our sin, and others we long for the day when God will finally defeat the last great enemy, death. Advent III helps us move out of these moods and into rejoicing, because God has come to save us and to be with us, and he will come again.

Justin Holcomb

Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest and teaches theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. Justin wrote On the Grace of God and co-authored with his wife Lindsey Rid of My Disgrace and Save Me from Violence. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, and at JustinHolcomb.com.

The Dangers of Self-Pity.


sad woman on railroad track
(http://www.stockfreeimages.com)

Overwhelmed and undone, Job cried, “Have pity upon me, O ye my friends” (Job 19:21). His presentproblems were twofold: his awesome troubles and awful self-pity. Let’s give some thought to the latter.

An unhealthy, obsessive sorrow for oneself arising from a selfish viewpoint of one’s troubles, self-pity afflicts us all. Whenever it arises, anger,unthankfulness, and unmercifulness are also present. We’re inwardly angry because of unfair treatment, real or imagined, from people—and God, who, in our view, isn’t helping us sufficiently!

We’re unthankful because we’re failing to appreciate our past and present blessings. We’re merciless because we’re ignoring or minimizing others’ sufferings which equal or surpass ours. For the moment we see no one but ourselves and nothing but our troubles. There’s nothing innocent or benign about self-pity.

It isn’t a natural transition, unavoidable letdown, or harmless passing mood. It’s satanic! When Jesus announced He was going to the cross, Peter responded, “Be it far from thee, Lord” (Matt. 16:22). By suggesting Jesus reject His divinely chosen hardship, Peter was urging Him to pity Himself: “Be kind to thyself, Sir” (YLT); or, “Spare thyself” (Gill’s Exposition); or, “Pity thyself” (KJV translators’ notes). Jesus’ response exposed the real spirit behind Peter’s suggestion: “Get thee behind me Satan!” (16:23). Let’s learn more.

Self-pity arises as a faulty reaction to adversityoffenses, injustices, indignities, injuries, or crosses which come because we’re doing God’s will or obeying or ministering His Word. It may also be triggered by disappointment over unrealized hopes; sinful attitudes, such as envy (1 Sam. 22:8); severe or prolonged sicknesses, as Job’s; God’s correction; poverty; bereavement; or other hardships or losses.

Self-pity resides in our sin nature, which the Bible refers to as our “old man” (Rom. 6:6) or “flesh” (8:12). It’s one of the attitudes, or fixed patterns of thinking, that make up our unrenewed, unspiritual “carnal mind” (8:7).

Self-pity captivates us when we fail to recognize and “cast down” our self-sympathizing thoughts (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Or it may be suggested through the overly sympathetic words of friends, family, or fellow Christians who, though they mean well, lack a spiritual (biblical) viewpoint toward our problems (Acts 21:12).

Self-pity’s effects are powerful. It traps us in a revolving door of spiritual stagnation that keeps us from finishing the race set before us. It renders us weak and unfaithful in duty and encourages self-indulgence (excessive self-comfort). It moves us to slander our adversaries. It distorts our view of others, events, and ourselves.

Ultimately, it destroys us. It also stumbles our companions by causing them to misjudge and condemn those we complain about, and question God for seeming to neglect us. Highly contagious, it infects them. After talking with us, they lose their positive outlook and start pitying themselves!

Many overcome self-pity and finish their courses.

The apostle John rose above his lonely exile and received rich spiritual rewards: a vision of Jesus, an open door in heaven, and a “Revelation” like no other! John the Baptist forsook self-pity in prison and received high praise from Jesus (Luke 7:23, 24-28). In her widowhood Ruth threw off self-pity and God tossed rich blessings her way: a husband, home, child, and honorable family line. But others succumb.

King Saul indulged his self-pity until his soul was barren, his spiritual walk halted, his anointing lost, and his destiny aborted. We must eliminate, not indulge, self-pity.

We remove self-pity by:

  • Confessing our self-pity to God (1 John 1:9) and others (James 5:16)
  • Commanding Satan, “Be gone!”
  • Believing we can do “all things,” including mastering self-pity, “through Christ” (Phil. 4:13)
  • Developing a spiritual mind by seeing our troubles through the wide viewfinder of Scripture, not the narrow spyglass of self-sympathy
  • Accepting all difficulties come from our Father’s hand for “good” (Rom. 8:28)
  • Thanking and praising God in our adversities, and for them, since only by mastering them can we become like Jesus
  • Rising to minister to others’ needs, which breaks the chains of selfishness and frees us to live and serve joyfully
  • Looking around us and considering how others are suffering as bad as we are, or worse!

If persisted in, these simple measures will eliminate self-pity and make us the rarest of wonders, overcomers—mature Christians who, no matter what happens to them, are able to continue walking closely with Jesus, worshiping Him, faithfully serving others, and giving thanks for what they have. If we don’t eliminate self-pity, it will eliminate our usefulness to God. So examine yourself.

Are you pitying yourself over anything present? Past? About to happen? If so, ponder and practice these few thoughts on self-pity.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.

GREG HINNANT

Greg Hinnant is a Bible expositor, teacher, and writer based in High Point, North Carolina. His books include Walking in His Ways, Spiritual Truths for Overcoming Adversity, Precious Pearls from the Proverbs, the devotionals Sweeter Than Honey and Not by Bread Aloneand others. Greg teaches with Christian Life Educators Network and speaks at churches and conferences. Visit him atgreghinnantministries.org.

How to Cast Your Care for Good.


praying hands on Bible
Use this arsenal of Scriptures when you feel plagued by worry. (David Hensen/Stockvault.net)

Are you worried about a specific relationship or circumstance? This index, derived from Rx for Worryby James P. Gills, M.D., lists some key Bible verses you can use to battle worry and fear. These verses are God‘s promises that He is with us and will be our support and strength. Read them. Believe them. Let His Word become the foundation in your struggles!

Are you worried, anxious, afraid, or troubled?
God will give you peace.
In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. … He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. —Psalm 18:6, 19

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.—Psalm 46:1-2

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? —Psalm 56:3-4

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. —Isaiah 26:3

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me . . . Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.—John 14:1, 27

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.—John 16:33

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:6-7


Are you worried about the future?
God will guide you.
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.—Psalm 25:9

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. —Psalm 32:8

If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.—Psalm 37:23-24

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.—Proverbs 3:5-6

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. —Proverbs 16:3

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. —Isaiah 41:10

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”—Jeremiah 29:11

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.—James 1:5


Are you afraid of feeling alone?
God will never leave you.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.—Deuteronomy 31:6

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. —saiah 58:9

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.—Zephaniah 3:17

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.—John 14:18


Are you worried no one loves you?
God loves you.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.—John 3:16

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:38-39

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. —1 John 3:16

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. —1 John 4:10


Are you worried that God could never forgive your sins?
God’s salvation overcomes all sins and guilt.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. —Psalm 103:12

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. —1 John 1:9


Do you feel depressed?
God will comfort you.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. —Psalm 34:18

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. —Psalm 42:11


Are you worried because you face opposition?
God is with you.
If God is for us, who can be against us? —Romans 8:31


Are you worried about physical needs?
God will provide.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.—Matthew 6:25-34

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!—Matthew 7:11

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. —Luke 12:6-7

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? —Romans 8:32

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.—2 Corinthians 9:8

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
—Philippians 4:19


Do you worry about your safety?
God will protect you.
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. —Psalm 4:8

The Lord will keep you from all harm-he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.—Psalm 121:7-8


Do you worry so much that you can’t sleep?
God will ease your fears.
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. —Psalm 3:5

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. -Psalm 4:8

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. —Proverbs 3:24


Are you worried about your appearance?
God looks at your heart.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” —1 Samuel 16:7

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. —Ecclesiastes 3:11


Are you worried about your health?
God will give you strength.
A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. —Psalm 34:19

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.—Isaiah 58:11

“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,” declares the Lord, “because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.”—Jeremiah 30:17

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. —James 5:14-15


Are you worried about getting old?
God will stay with you.
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.—Psalm 92:12-14
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. —Isaiah 46:4


Are you worried about dying?
God offers eternal life.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.—Psalm 23:4

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.—John 3:16

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. —John 10:28

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” . . . Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. —1 Corinthians 15:55, 57

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. —Hebrews 2:14-15

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE.

FELICIA ABRAHAM

How to Give Thanks for the Hard Times in Your Marriage.


Whitney Hopler

The most famous Pilgrim couple of all, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, were among those who participated in the Plymouth Colony’s first Thanksgiving feast during the fall of 1621. John and Priscilla would marry about two years later and go on to have 11 children. Historians now estimate that the Aldens have more descendants than any of the other original Pilgrims who rode the Mayflower ship from England to the land that would become the United States of America.

John and Priscilla’s courtship and marriage became part of American folklore after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote about it in his epic poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish” (1858). The poem describes stories that passed down through generations of the Alden family through oral tradition. In the poem’s narrative, widowed Mayflower captain Miles Standish is shy about expressing his love for Priscilla, so he asks John (who worked aboard the Mayflower as a barrel inspector and in Plymouth Colony as a magistrate) to propose to Priscilla on his behalf. Priscilla, sensing that John himself is in love with her, replies: “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”

The poem ends by describing John and Priscilla’s glorious wedding day, making it seem like a storybook fantasy:

“Onward the bridal procession now moved to their new habitation/Happy husband and wife, and friends conversing together. / Pleasantly murmured the brook, as they crossed the ford in the forest / Pleased with the image that passed, like a dream of love through its bosom / Tremulous, floating in air, o’er the depths of the azure abysses.”

As every married couple learns, however, each day of marriage brings challenges to overcome – no matter how perfect their wedding day may have seemed.

John and Priscilla suffered through many challenges in their storied relationship, just as all spouses do. Some of those challenges included:

  • Grief: One of their 11 children died in infancy, and both John and Priscilla lost many friends and family members to death during the first harsh winter at Plymouth Colony, where Priscilla’s entire family died.
  • Exhaustion: Both had to work hard at the many demanding chores involved in developing the new colony and parenting their children.
  • Anxiety: They had to deal with the uncertainty of whether or not they would successfully survive in the New World amid threats such as famine and violent attacks from Native Americans and rivals from other colonies.
  • Illness: They fell ill at various times during their marriage, as colonists lacked the advantages of modern medicine.
  • Gossip and slander: John was arrested for a fight he didn’t participate in (between the Plymouth Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, over trading rights) because rival colonists were looking for a high-ranking Plymouth Colony member to punish and John happened to be nearby. One-sided accounts of what happened then landed John in prison until Plymouth Colony officials intervened to tell their side of the story, and John was finally released to go home to Priscilla.

Yet despite the many hard times they suffered through together, John and Priscilla are best known today for giving thanks to God.

Gratitude is a key ingredient of a strong marriage. A 2013 research study from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill showed that the more romantic partners expressed gratitude to each other, the more satisfied they reported feeling about their relationships. Couples also developed more positive attitudes about their partners when they both communicated thankfulness for loving actions that they had done for each other recently.

Today, spouses often tend to give thanks only when something good happens in their relationship, overlooking the Bible’s guidance in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” But the Aldens gave thanks even during terrible suffering.

You can use this Thanksgiving holiday as inspiration to renew your marriage by making a new habit of thanking God together for whatever is going on in your lives — whether good or bad — because God can use it all to draw you and your spouse closer to Him.

Here are some ways you can strengthen your marriage by giving thanks in all circumstances:

You can learn to value each other in new ways. Going through hard times together can teach you a lot about each other that you couldn’t have learned otherwise, since crises tend to reveal people’s deepest thoughts and feelings. Responding to those hard times with gratitude will train you to appreciate each other in fresh ways. Consider what happens when illness or injury changes a previously beautiful or handsome spouse’s body, or when job loss changes a previously rich spouse’s income. The hardship forces you to see each other from a different perspective – and gratitude opens your eyes to new aspects you can appreciate about each other.

You can both develop stronger character. Every time you or your spouse chooses to give God “a sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15) by following His call to thank Him in all circumstances, that obedience strengthens your character so that you become more like Jesus. The more each of you become like Jesus, the more His love will flow between you, strengthening your marriage.

You can focus your mind on what God wants you to think about. Hard times present you with a stark choice about how to respond: You can choose either to focus on your negative circumstances, or you can choose to focus on the positive fact that God is greater than your circumstances. Giving thanks sets your mind in a positive direction. As you start to notice the good work God is doing in your lives even during hard times, you’ll renew your minds, and Romans 12:2 promises that then “you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is” for every part of your lives, including your marriage.

You can learn more about God by trusting in His sovereignty. Pilgrims like John and Priscilla Alden often emphasized the importance of trusting God’s sovereign will in any situation. They made a habit of thanking God for who He is (which remains constant) rather than just for His blessings (which vary). When you and your spouse choose to give thanks no matter what – simply because God is good and involved in your life – you’ll discover that you serve a God of love who will constantly give you fresh doses of His love to strengthen your marriage.

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood’s golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.

Publication date: November 20, 2013

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