God

New Territory

Photo credit: lightstock.com I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder.

For by God’s grace, I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God.

Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. 

In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.

My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says,

“Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.” (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭14-21 (NLT)


The letter to the Romans was written to people who were believers, people who knew and understood the truth of the gospel. Many of them could teach and share the gospel with others.

Here the apostle Paul reveals his heart for those who've not heard the gospel. Those who don't know of Jesus or of God's redemptive love for them. This is Paul's ambition.

His ambition is not for a bigger and better church. It's to reach out to those who've never heard the redemption message in the gospel and are not engaged with those who do know it. His focus is to reach nonbelievers.

Today, as in times past, much of the growth of one church is at the cost of another. Believers in one church body transfer to another one that seems better for whatever reason.

And yet, over 40% of the world's population are unreached by the message of God's redemptive love—over 3 billion people are unreached. Some of these unreached or unengaged peoples have immigrated to North America.

Now, more and more young people, born and raised in America, are part of a new, growing group of unreached and unengaged people.

It's time to stake out new territory. This means each believer is responsible to reach out to others, and church leaders need to equip their people to do this.

Let's reach out to the unreached and unengaged, especially in our own neighborhoods, and help support missionaries who go to other nations to reach the unreached. ©Word-Strong_2016

No Longer Required

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Religion is viewed by many to be restrictive. It certainly can be. "Religion is just a bunch of do's and don'ts," people will say.

But God desires something beyond an attempt to keep a list of rights and wrongs.

Scripture

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

I waited patiently for the lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the lord.

Oh, the joys of those who trust the lord, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols.

O  lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them. [vss 1-5]

You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand— you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.

Then I said, “Look, I have come. As is written about me in the Scriptures: I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.”

 I have told all your people about your justice. I have not been afraid to speak out, as you, O  lord, well know.

I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness. [vss 6-10]

Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.

For troubles surround me—too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage.

Please, lord, rescue me! Come quickly, lord, and help me.

May those who try to destroy me be humiliated and put to shame. May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace. Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”

But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The lord is great!”

As for me, since I am poor and needy, let the Lord keep me in his thoughts. You are my helper and my savior. O my God, do not delay. [vss 11-17]

(Psalm 40:1-17 NLT) [Context– Psalm 40]

Key phrase— Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord

[bctt tweet="Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How does this psalm begin? What does the psalmist (David) rejoice about? What does he say about the Lord?

What does the Lord not take delight in or require? What does bring joy and why is this what God desires?

What specific things has David told people about the Lord?

What are David's two requests and why does he make them? What blessing is given near the ending?

Reflection...

This psalm has many different literary elements (see Psalms Study Guide). It begins with a testimony of God's rescue and declarations of God's greatness. It ends with requests for God's help and a blessing.

In the middle is a declaration by David that is prophetic. He speaks to the heart of what God desires, but in the voice of Jesus the Messiah, as noted in Hebrews 10:5-7 (also see Luke 24:44).

God isn't interested in sacrifices and offerings, though required by the Law of Moses, He desires trust and obedience from the heart.

Jesus came as the ultimate atoning sacrifice for humanity's rebellion towards God. His coming was foretold centuries before He came, but the nation of Israel did not accept it.

He will come a second time and those who've experienced His mercy and faithfulness are to proclaim the freedom found in Jesus to others until He returns.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Do you feel burdened and restricted by things you should or shouldn't do? If so, why?

Have you experienced the freedom of God's mercy and grace in your life?

If so, in what specific ways have you experienced the Lord's mercy and faithfulness in your life?

Has the Lord put a "new song" in your heart? Do you share what God's done in your life with others?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Responsibility of Revelation

Photo credit: lightstock.com Let me explain. Christ became a servant for the Jewish people to reveal God’s truth. As a result, he fulfilled God’s promise to the ancestors of the Jewish people. 

People who are not Jewish praise God for his mercy as well. This is what the Scriptures say,

“That is why I will give thanks to you among the nations and I will sing praises to your name.”

And Scripture says again, “You nations, be happy together with his people!”

And again, “Praise the Lord, all you nations! Praise him, all you people of the world!”

Again, Isaiah says, “There will be a root from Jesse. He will rise to rule the nations, and he will give the nations hope.”

May God, the source of hope, fill you with joy and peace through your faith in him. Then you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭8-13 (GW)


Israel was chosen by God to be His people—His nation. Not because they were special, but for a special purpose.

God wanted a people who lived differently than the majority of people in the world. People who served a living God instead of caught up in superstitions and idolatry. He wanted them to be His light of revelation to other nations, but they failed to do this.

This is the responsibility of the church—the global community of believers who personally follow Jesus, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity.

We—the global community of believers—are to bring the light of redemptive grace and hope found in Jesus to a world lost in spiritual darkness and ignorance.

God's Spirit dwelling in believers is the source of our hope, joy, and peace. He is the source of light a world in darkness needs. So, let Him shine through you! ©Word-Strong_2016


Here's an older song taken from this psalm— I waited

GMO-Free Community (part 2)

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My parents are gardeners. Growing up I ate fresh vegetables and fruit. I vividly remember the juicy taste of tomatoes and strawberries.

Yet, I remember the outward appearance of these naturally grown fruits was always different.

Organic community is both consistent and diverse.

What is the seed of organic community?

In the previous post I said organic community must have a raw and organic beginning, similar to how organic fruit or vegetables start with non-GMO seed. God is the original seed of community.

In his book Created for Community, Stanley Grenz states,

God’s triune nature means that God is social or relational— God is the “social Trinity.” And for this reason, we can say that God is “community.” God is the community of the Father, Son, and Spirit, who enjoy perfect and eternal fellowship.

From the very beginning God reveals that his way of life is not singular but plural. “Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image'” (Genesis 1:26).

God is the consistency and we are the diversity of community.

The organic community of the early church

Looking at the birth of the early church, we see evidence of organic community.

In the book of Acts, the followers of Jesus came together with expectation. Imagine the emotions in the room!

Jesus left them with no formula but a simple command to wait for the promise of the Father,

“which you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4).

Many times we desire a formula on how to create community. We want to be told how to muster up results. Organic community is the opposite of that.

There are no formulas because the organic seed is God who is a relational being.

Diversity is the basis for organic community

God loves diversity. Organic community reflects the diverse and creative nature of God.

When the Holy Spirit encounters the disciples in the upper room, the result is not identical tongues (languages). The result isn’t a call for uniformity.

The result is a diversity of tongues (languages) calling together a diverse crowd of people. In Acts 2:9-11, the author mentions sixteen different regional locations.

Diversity was welcomed in the early church.

What shall we do?

Throw out your formulaic approach to community.

I've been training my mind to think differently about community. I avoid saying I want to create community, and replace that with, I want to nurture and foster community.

Embrace a relational view of community.

God is a relational being working within humanity. He is the creator of community because he is community. Community will always look different from the outside but will feel the same on the inside.

I encourage you to simply ask God what He is creating around you.

Are there dear relationships in your life? Invest your time and effort there.

God resides within people, we (believers) are His temple (1 Cor 3:16).

Look for God in His people, and you will find yourself in community!


This is a guest post by Sergei Kutrovski whom I've worked with the past few years teaching and training others in discipleship and Inductive Bible Study. You can see more of his posts at — http://kutrovski.wordpress.com/

GMO-Free Community (part 1)

Photo credit: unsplash.com_JChillingsworth In the last few years you have probably noticed the buzz around "organic community." Yet, are we all on the same page with the definition of that phrase?

What do I mean by "organic community"?

Here are a few of my thoughts on what it means.

Organic Gardening

When we read through the scriptures we find many examples of how physical gardening reveals spiritual truth.

The Psalms compare a man to a tree planted by water. Jesus often used gardening when He spoke in parables. It is very natural for us to see spiritual truth in physical things or circumstances.

To have an organic garden you must start with organic seed. The seed needs to be free of all human tampering.

To spare you from information overload, some seed is genetically modified by scientists. We often see packages of food with labels stating that it is GMO-free.

GMO or GMO-free?

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) do have an advantage. They are protected from attack from outside threats like bugs, weather, and even help food last longer.

Yet, GMO seed produces food that may be dangerous to our health. Many times we a utopian type of community. We must understand that organic seed is bigger than us.

Organic seed has a beginning with a Creator. It has an origin we can't take credit for, but it's planted in a garden we are called to nurture. To keep an organic garden growing and living, effort and intentionality must be put forth.

If the garden isn't tended, the garden dies. Everything organic has risk and reward. To have organic community we must realize the bigger than us source, and be very intentional in our nurturing.

Organic community

Organic community is a body of diverse, yet committed people.

Diversity within a group of people requires intentionality. Humans tend to come together based on similarities. That's normal. That's why we having sayings like, "Birds of a feather flock together."

The danger of being in a community based on similarities of interests, hobbies, nationalities, or race, is it tends to turn into more of a social club than community.

To experience the fullness of community we must risk and expect a level of discomfort due to difference. From that, we will reap the fruits of fullness, ability to love on a deeper level, and have a bigger picture of life.

Do you want organic community?

I am glad to see and hear the buzz about organic community. May all this buzz and desire turn into intentionality to tend the organic garden of community.

Forget about formulas and methods. Focus on the Seed which is Christ Himself.

What do you see Jesus doing?

What is he blessing?

What is he building?

What is he loving?

Now go out and plug into that.


This is a guest post by Sergei Kutrovski whom I've worked with the past few years teaching and training others in discipleship and Inductive Bible Study. You can see more of his posts at — http://kutrovski.wordpress.com/

The Desires of the Heart

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We all want life to make sense and to have purpose. Yet, many things that take place in the world and impact our life bewilder us.

We have no control over most of what goes on around us. The more out of control life seems the more we want to get things under control.

But we can't control others, nor can we set everything in order around us. And yet, we have options.

Scripture

Of David

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. [vss 1-4]

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. [vss 5-9]

(Psalm 37:1-9 NIV) [Context– Psalm 37]

Key phrase— Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart 

[bctt tweet="Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we not to worry about and who should we not envy? Why is this so?

What are we to do? What are the specific things we're encouraged to do?

What are the results we can expect when we do these things?

What is the final thing we're encouraged to do? How do you think we are to do this?

Reflection...

When life around us seems overwhelming, we tend to do one of two things. We try to take actions to bring things into order, or we withdraw to hide from it all.

The first thing often leads to frustration, while the second brings a sense of hopelessness.

Looking to the Lord for what we can't control helps us gain perspective on it all. Setting our mind and heart to trust the Lord this way brings internal peace and order.

But how can we do this when we're overwhelmed? It's not something we do once and it's finished. It involves a commitment and consistency to continue doing what we know in our heart to be right and true and good.

The psalmist gives ways to do this, which are expanded on in the rest of the psalm. Each one results in some type of blessing from the Lord.

Here are those five ways to overcome what we cannot control—

  1. Trust in the Lord and do good (verse 3)
  2. Take delight in the Lord (verse 4)
  3. Commit your way to the Lord (verse 5)
  4. Be still before the Lord (verse 7)
  5. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath (verse 8)

In my next post, I'll unpack these five things a bit more, so check back!

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Are there times when you're frustrated and angry about the state of things in your life or the world around you?

When do you feel most overwhelmed? What seems to trigger this, or precede this sense of being overwhelmed?

How do you handle angry feelings, worry, frustration, or fears? Are you able to bring these feelings to the Lord in prayer?

How often do you try to settle your heart and mind by trusting your concerns with the Lord? 


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Justice Is Driven Back

unsplash-starrynight_man_light_JSewell If you love the truth and value honesty, lies and injustice should prompt anger to rise up in your heart.

But if you value deception when it's expedient to your cause, whatever it might be, your heart will swell up with pride.

When truth is mocked and integrity of character is set aside, judgment is not far behind. But what, if anything, can you do about it?

Nothing new

Deception is nothing new. It's as old as...well, humanity. The first humans on earth started the ball rolling, but had some help disseminating deception.

In the Garden of Eden, he came as a clever serpent (Gen 3:1), he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11), and Jesus called him the father of lies (John 8:44).

Deception, injustice, and evil will continue to be with us until the Lord returns and settles things His way. But how are we who trust in the Lord to deal with blatant deception and injustice?

[bctt tweet="How should we deal with blatant deception and injustice?" username="tkbeyond"]

It's a challenge to live our daily lives, raise a family, and live a life of integrity when deception and injustice seem to prevail. How do we respond when leaders prove to be untrustworthy?

After the justifiable anger rises up and before it boils over, we need to consider how to respond in both wise and practical ways.

The dilemma

Moral and ethical darkness are not new in the world. Corruption, injustice, and oppression by governments is common throughout history.

This doesn't mean we just tolerate it or dismiss it. The gravitational pull created by the black hole of corrupt and oppressive leaders suck life and hope out of people's lives. Both the innocent and the righteous are impacted.

When Israel was plunged into moral and spiritual darkness by their own unfaithfulness, God rebuked them—

Justice is driven back; godliness stands far off. Indeed, honesty stumbles in the city square and morality is not even able to enter.

Honesty has disappeared; the one who tries to avoid evil is robbed.

The Lord watches and is displeased, for there is no justice. (Isaiah 59:14-15)

The inevitable question comes, "Why doesn't God do something about it? Doesn't He care?!"

God does care! He has intervened over the centuries and personally intervened when He came as the Word of God in human form (John 1:1, 14).

[bctt tweet="God cared & intervened to help His people many times, even in person through His Son" username="tkbeyond"]

A resolution

What are we to do? Is there something we can do? There is.

He sees that there’s no one to help. He’s astounded that there’s no one to intercede. [italics mine]
So with his own power he wins a victory. His righteousness supports him. (Isaiah 59:16)

The prophet declares that God is astonished no one is interceding on behalf of Israel in their moral and spiritual darkness.

The dictionary describes an intercessor as someone who steps in on behalf of another to plead for them. Who was God expecting to intercede? The spiritual leaders of Israel.

Prayer is not a last resort, but our first and best action.

[bctt tweet=" Prayer is not a last resort, but our first and best action" username="tkbeyond"]

Intercessory prayer may seem passive, even weak, but it's far from that. Jesus is often shown praying before significant events throughout the gospel narratives. Intercession was vital and key to the church's survival and growth in the book of Acts.

Standing in the gap

God's concern for an intercessor is echoed by the prophet Ezekiel—

So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. (Ezek 22:30 NKJV)

Where are the intercessors now? Nations all over the world are in turmoil and need intercessors—people who will "stand in the gap" and plead for their nation and people.

[bctt tweet="Where are the intercessors who will stand in the gap for their nation?" username="tkbeyond"]

Intercession requires commitment and consistent faithfulness when others give up in the face of adversity, and when it seems nothing is changing for the good.

Standing firm

When God saw no one who interceded for the nation, He stepped up to do so—

He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. (Isaiah 59:17)

The figurative phrases in this text are similar to what the apostle Paul said to believers facing the oppressive Roman Empire—

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph 6:13)

The larger context of this verse describes this armor of God in detail, with the list concluding with prayer, intercessory prayer (Eph 6:10-18).

This is what we can do, and how we are to respond when deception, evil, and darkness seem to prevail. Even if you're not a recognized leader, you can lead as an intercessor.

[bctt tweet="If you want to stand firm in hard times, prayer is vital, including intercessory prayer" username="tkbeyond"]

Doers, not just hearers

Jesus said those who hear His words and put them into practice will stand firm, like a house built on a rock (Matt 7:24-27).

No human leader can solve the world's woes. Clamoring for justice won't bring resolve. Putting hope in such things is like building a house on the sand. When storms come—and they will—these hopes will crumble.

When the world tumbles with turmoil and what once seemed secure is shaken, we need a solid foundation to stand firm in the midst of it all.

Knowing the truth isn't enough. Each believer needs to be a doer, not just a hearer of truth (John 13:17; James 1:22).

[bctt tweet="Knowing the truth isn't enough—we need to be doers, not just hearers of truth" username="tkbeyond"]

We need to engage in a wise and practical way. God's choice and direction is intercession, not mere protest, and certainly not empty rhetoric.

We need to live out the truth day-to-day, even when others around us abandon it.

We need to appeal to the One who alone is able and who will bring true justice and righteousness.


How will you respond when truth is mocked and integrity is shunned?


If this post is of value and encouragement to you—please share it with others... thanks!

Mercy and Faithfulness

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It use to be that you could easily tell the good guys from the bad ones. In older western movies, the good guys wore white hats.

But the public image is not always the private reality. Nowadays, image and branding have become an important industry. Much emphasis is put on projecting the right public persona.

No matter how a person appears on the outside, the heart of a person reveals their true self. God is far more concerned with the heart of a person than their image. If we're wise, we ought to be as well.

Scripture

For the choir director; by David, the Lord’s servant.

There is an inspired truth about the wicked person who has rebellion in the depths of his heart: He is not terrified of God.

He flatters himself and does not hate or ⌊even⌋ recognize his guilt. The words from his mouth are ⌊nothing but⌋ trouble and deception.

He has stopped doing what is wise and good. He invents trouble while lying on his bed and chooses to go the wrong direction. He does not reject evil. [vss 1-4]

O Lord, your mercy reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God, your judgments like the deep ocean. You save people and animals, O Lord.

Your mercy is so precious, O God, that Adam’s descendants take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They are refreshed with the rich foods in your house, and you make them drink from the river of your pleasure. 

Indeed, the fountain of life is with you. In your light we see light. [vss 5-9]

Continue to show your mercy to those who know you and your righteousness to those whose motives are decent.

Do not let the feet of arrogant people step on me or the hands of wicked people push me away.  Look at the troublemakers who have fallen. They have been pushed down and are unable to stand up again. [vss 10-12]

(Psalm 36:1-12 GW) [Context– Psalm 36]

Key phrase— O Lord, your mercy reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies

[bctt tweet="O Lord, your mercy reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How is the "wicked person" characterized? What does this person do and not do?

How do all these descriptions reveal the core problem of someone who is wicked?

How is the Lord described in contrast to the wicked? How do the images used make these descriptions more vivid and memorable?

What are the benefits for those who are not in rebellion, but trust in the Lord?

Reflection...

Most people have difficulty with faith in God, because He's not readily visible. We want to see Him to believe in Him. One of Jesus' followers, Thomas, was of the same mindset (John 20:25).

Yet, many things are accepted and believed in that aren't visible, such as thoughts or gravity. Thoughts are made known through words, and we all experience the effects and impact of the earth's gravity.

Faith in God is similar. We know about God through the words and experiences of others, but also the intelligent design of the natural world (creation).

In a similar way, a person's heart is revealed by their words and actions. This is true for each of us and in relation to one another.

When we find ourselves filled with pride and deception without a sense of guilt, it's time to change the direction of our life. This often requires God helping us change our heart to make wiser choices.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

What is your typical response to flattery (of any kind), deception, and wrong-doing?

How do you handle guilt? Do you learn from it or ignore it?

Are you aware of and appreciate God's great mercy and faithfulness?

Do you have a healthy respect for God's power and righteousness?


Here's a link to a favorite song of ours taken from Psalm 36– Your Love Oh Lord (but skip the ad ;-)


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Nothing Harmful

Photo credit: lightstock.com Pay your debts as they come due. However, one debt you can never finish paying is the debt of love that you owe each other. The one who loves another person has fulfilled Moses’ Teachings.

The commandments, “Never commit adultery; never murder; never steal; never have wrong desires,” and every other commandment are summed up in this statement: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor. Therefore, love fulfills Moses’ Teachings.

You know the times ⌊in which we are living⌋. It’s time for you to wake up. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first became believers. The night is almost over, and the day is near. So we should get rid of the things that belong to the dark and take up the weapons that belong to the light.

We should live decently, as people who live in the light of day. Wild parties, drunkenness, sexual immorality, promiscuity, rivalry, and jealousy cannot be part of our lives.

Instead, live like the Lord Jesus Christ did, and forget about satisfying the desires of your corrupt nature. (‭Romans‬ ‭13:8-14‬ (GW)


Many people hold the idea of doing no harm to others as a guiding principle. It's a good principle to live by. Along with this principle, many believe each person needs to define their own belief in God.

But a self-made, self-serving belief is exactly that—based on self, not God, the Creator of all humanity.

The true test of doing no harm is measuring our life against the summation of God's Law—love your neighbor as yourself. As it says—Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor.

The selfish nature is wired to one over-riding drive—to please itself and satisfy its desires.

When we give in to this drive, and we all do, we send out a ripple effect that touches others. The idea that "I'm only harming myself," just isn't true.

It is wishful thinking that we can live unto ourselves and do no harm. This is only possible when we trust in the Lord Jesus alone to do a transforming work within us. ©Word-Strong_2016

[bctt tweet="Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor" username="tkbeyond"]

Taste and See

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Personal experience is powerful. It speaks louder than suppositions and theory. Everyone may be entitled to their opinion, but it doesn't make it true or right. Experience has a way of exposing half-truths and falsehoods.

At one point in history, leading scientists and thinkers believed the world was flat. If a person were to sail a ship towards the horizon, they thought the ship would fall off the edge of the world.

These leaders were proven wrong by the experience of the early explorers, who sailed beyond the horizon and lived to tell about it.

Scripture

By David when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech; Abimelech threw him out, so David left.

I will thank the Lord at all times. My mouth will always praise him. My soul will boast about the Lord. Those who are oppressed will hear it and rejoice. Praise the Lord’s greatness with me. Let us highly honor his name together.

I went to the Lord for help. He answered me and rescued me from all my fears. All who look to him will be radiant. Their faces will never be covered with shame. Here is a poor man who called out. The Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles. [vss 1-6]

The Messenger of the Lord camps around those who fear him, and he rescues them. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you holy people who belong to him. Those who fear him are never in need. Young lions go hungry and may starve, but those who seek the Lord’s help have all the good things they need.

Come, children, listen to me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Which of you wants a full life? Who would like to live long enough to enjoy good things? Keep your tongue from saying evil things and your lips from speaking deceitful things. Turn away from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it! [vss 7-14]

The Lord’s eyes are on righteous people. His ears hear their cry for help. The Lord confronts those who do evil in order to wipe out all memory of them from the earth. ⌊Righteous people⌋ cry out. The Lord hears and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to those whose hearts are humble. He saves those whose spirits are crushed.

The righteous person has many troubles, but the Lord rescues him from all of them. The Lord guards all of his bones. Not one of them is broken. Evil will kill wicked people, and those who hate righteous people will be condemned. The Lord protects the souls of his servants. All who take refuge in him will never be condemned. [vss 15-22]

(Psalm 34:1-22 GW) [Context– Psalm 34]

Key phrase— Taste and see that the Lord is good—Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him

[bctt tweet="Taste and see that the Lord is good—Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

Why is King David thankful to the Lord? How does he express this gratitude?

What is David's encouragement about the Messenger of the Lord? What are his exhortations concerning the fear of the Lord?

How does the Lord relate to those who are righteous and humble? How does He deal with those who are evil?

What are the promises and assurances given throughout this psalm for those who trust God?

Reflection...

The fear of the Lord is often misunderstood. At times it's minimized as respect, but it's more than that. Some people view it as something negative.

This psalm gives some good insight into the fear of the Lord. It's based on experiential relationship with God, a relationship built on trust.

It includes gratitude and awareness of God's goodness and faithfulness. It motivates a person to walk in the light of God's truth, so we honor Him and become a reflection of His nature.

Does the fear of the Lord involve respect? Yes, but it's a recognition and acceptance of who God is and of His power and might and holiness.

Great blessing comes with fearing the Lord in a right way, but there's a great cost for those who choose not to humble themselves before God.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

When you face troubles in life—Do you cry out to God with a thankful heart or only questions?

Have you learned the difference between an anxious fear and the fear of the Lord?

Have you experienced the blessings in life that the fear of the Lord brings?

In what ways have you experienced God's goodness when you've looked to Him as your refuge?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Obedience and the Government

Photo credit: lightstock.com Every person should obey the government in power. No government would exist if it hadn’t been established by God. The governments which exist have been put in place by God.

Therefore, whoever resists the government opposes what God has established. Those who resist will bring punishment on themselves.

People who do what is right don’t have to be afraid of the government. But people who do what is wrong should be afraid of it.

Do what is right, and it will praise you. The government is God’s servant working for your good.

But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid. The government has the right to carry out the death sentence. It is God’s servant, an avenger to execute God’s anger on anyone who does what is wrong.

Therefore, it is necessary for you to obey, not only because you’re afraid of God’s anger but also because of your own conscience. That is also why you pay your taxes. People in the government are God’s servants while they do the work he has given them.

Pay everyone whatever you owe them. If you owe taxes, pay them. If you owe tolls, pay them. If you owe someone respect, respect that person. If you owe someone honor, honor that person. (‭Romans‬ ‭13:1-7‬ (GW)


It takes faith to see beyond what everyone else sees. Spiritual insight is needed to think beyond the restrictions of opinion, philosophy, and rhetoric.

Paul wrote these words [by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21)] while living under the oppressive government of the Roman Empire. The emperor was Nero, a twisted, perverted, and evil man.

I've lived and worked under a foreign government and visited countries with oppressive governments. When I hear the emotional rhetoric of the day, I see it for what it is—empty words, void of truth.

Men of faith, such as Joseph, Daniel, and Nehemiah, lived and served the Lord under powerful and oppressive governments. They, as Paul, understood that all governments are subject to God, for He's the one who is sovereign over all.

Do what is right and true and good—including paying taxes—and trust God. He is the One to whom we are ultimately accountable. ©Word-Strong_2016

[bctt tweet="Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor" username="tkbeyond"]


Here's a tweet I saw last week that rings true and is in line with this text in Romans 13—

A similar theme to this text in Romans 13 is also found in my recent post— Independent or Dependent?

My Hiding Place

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Forgiveness is an act of mercy, not judgment. This alone makes it difficult for many of us to extend it to others. It is the opposite of our natural impulse to want justice or even revenge.

When a person is pardoned, the penalty for their wrong is removed. It means they won't suffer the full consequence of their wrong doing.

God alone is righteous enough to forgive and pardon people, and it is His nature to extend mercy to those who trust in Him.

Scripture

A psalm by David; a maskil.

Blessed is the person whose disobedience is forgiven and whose sin is pardoned. Blessed is the person whom the Lord no longer accuses of sin and who has no deceitful thoughts.

When I kept silent ⌊about my sins⌋, my bones began to weaken because of my groaning all day long. Day and night your hand laid heavily on me. My strength shriveled in the summer heat. Selah [vss 1-4]

I made my sins known to you, and I did not cover up my guilt. I decided to confess them to you, O Lord. Then you forgave all my sins. Selah

For this reason let all godly people pray to you when you may be found. Then raging floodwater will not reach them. You are my hiding place. You protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyous songs of salvation. Selah [vss 5-7]

⌊The Lord says,⌋ “I will instruct you. I will teach you the way that you should go. I will advise you as my eyes watch over you. Don’t be stubborn like a horse or mule. ⌊They need⌋ a bit and bridle in their mouth to restrain them, or they will not come near you.”

Many heartaches await wicked people, but mercy surrounds those who trust the Lord. Be glad and find joy in the Lord, you righteous people. Sing with joy, all whose motives are decent. [vss 8-12]

(Psalm 32:1-12 GW) [Context– Psalm 32]

Key phrase— Blessed is the person whose disobedience is forgiven and whose sin is pardoned

[bctt tweet="Blessed is the person whose disobedience is forgiven and whose sin is pardoned" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What is the benefit of the Lord's forgiveness and pardon of sin?

What was the result when David kept silent about his sin? What brought God's forgiveness?

How does David describe the Lord's protection and blessing in his life?

What are we exhorted to not do, and how can we be surrounded by mercy?

Reflection...

Forgiveness is an extension of kindness that can never be repaid, nor is it something that's deserved. True, genuine forgiveness is the removal of an offense, sin, or wrong-doing by someone who has the authority and right to grant it.

No one can go around pronouncing forgiveness to people unless they have the right or authority to do so. In the case of a legal conviction for a crime, only someone such as a judge or governor can release a person from their sentence.

Sin is an act or state of rebellion towards God. One person's sin may impact many people and those people can extend their personal forgiveness, but only God can suspend the sentence of eternal death, which is the consequence of rebellion against God.

This is what David experienced after his grievous sin of adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband. When he confessed his sin and cried out for mercy, the Lord forgave him and restored him (see Psalm 51)

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

What is your experience with the Lord when you have admitted and confessed your sin to Him?

Can you relate to what David says about the effect of not being honest with God and confessing your sin?

When have you realized and known the Lord as your "hiding place"?

Do you make time each day to reconcile your heart with God—to ask forgiveness and restoration—before unconfessed sin breaks your heart and spirit?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Unconquered by Evil

Photo credit: lightstock.com Don’t pay people back with evil for the evil they do to you. Focus your thoughts on those things that are considered noble. As much as it is possible, live in peace with everyone.

Don’t take revenge, dear friends. Instead, let God’s anger take care of it. After all, Scripture says, “I alone have the right to take revenge. I will pay back, says the Lord.”

But, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you will make him feel guilty and ashamed.”

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good. (‭Romans‬ ‭12:‭17-21‬ (GW)


A refusal to seek revenge or payback of some kind is often viewed as weakness. We live in a reactionary world. The capacity to defend and protect one's self is typically viewed as a strength.

But life in God's kingdom, governed by the nature and character of God, often appears at odds with the world around us. Why? Because it is!

Our perception of the world is naturally limited, we can only be in one place at one time. Even with a global view through the worldwide web, we still only see a very small slice of all that goes on in the world.

When we choose to follow Jesus as our Lord, we gain His all-knowing, all-seeing, ever-present perspective. We don't see it on our own, but when we surrender our hearts and lives to Him, Jesus gives us glimpses of His eternal view of things.

It's only by faith we're enabled to see beyond the evil and wickedness that invades our lives. When our confidence and trust in God is genuine, we can trust the Lord to settle our accounts when we are insulted, slandered, or defamed. Even when worse things happen to us.

God's strength is far greater than ours and His reach far exceeds our own. We can choose to retaliate or forgive. We can choose good over evil, or take things into our own hands.

I seek to trust in God, not myself. ©Word-Strong_2016

Anger & Favor–Weeping & Joy

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Perspective is valuable. It provides a visual context, whether it's a mental or actual picture of something. A reference point is needed to have an accurate perspective.

If the reference point is false or inaccurate, the perspective will be distorted. So, a true perspective needs a true reference point.

Life has its ups and downs, so having a good sense of perspective is important if you don't want your life to be an emotional rollercoaster.

Scripture

A psalm by David sung at the dedication of the temple.

I will honor you highly, O Lord, because you have pulled me out ⌊of the pit⌋ and have not let my enemies rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried out to you for help, and you healed me.  O Lord, you brought me up from the grave. You called me back to life from among those who had gone into the pit. [vss 1-3]

Make music to praise the Lord, you faithful people who belong to him. Remember his holiness by giving thanks. His anger lasts only a moment. His favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning. [vss 4-5]

When all was well with me, I said, “I will never be shaken.” O Lord, by your favor you have made my mountain stand firm. When you hid your face, I was terrified. I will cry out to you, O Lord. I will plead to the Lord for mercy: “How will you profit if my blood is shed, if I go into the pit? Will the dust ⌊of my body⌋ give thanks to you? Will it tell about your truth?” [vss 6-9]

Hear, O Lord, and have pity on me! O Lord, be my helper! You have changed my sobbing into dancing. You have removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy so that my soul may praise you with music and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. [vss 10-12]

(Psalm 30:1-12 GW) [Context– Psalm 30]

Key phrase— Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning

[bctt tweet="Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are three (3) things David is thankful for?

What is the encouragement given about anger, favor, weeping, and joy?

How would you describe the prayerful dialog between David and the Lord?

What great change did the Lord bring in David's life that he's thankful for?

Reflection...

King David personally experienced God's great favor and kindness in many ways during his life. Not just when things were good, but even in times of personal failure.

David understood that God's favor was based on his relationship of trust in God. He learned to trust God in times of great trial and testing.

Because he had these real reference points of experiencing God's favor in his life, David was able to maintain a clear perspective. He knew he could trust God in all situations and circumstances.

He knew what it was like to move from sorrow and despair into a time of joy and celebration, because of God's faithfulness, not his own.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Have you experienced God pulling you out of darkness into His light and life?

Do you take time and make time to thank the Lord for His faithfulness in your life?

How has the Lord restored you after a time of failure or testing?

Have you shared with others about God's gracious work in your life?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Opposites Attract

Photo credit: lightstock.com Bless those who persecute you. Bless them, and don’t curse them. Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad. 

Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be arrogant, but be friendly to humble people. Don’t think that you are smarter than you really are. (‭Romans‬ ‭12:‭14-16‬ (GW)


Life in the Kingdom of God is different from the kingdom of this world. The world around us is governed by selfish values and priorities, while Jesus calls His followers to deny themselves.

Often, our expectations of others are unrealistic. As Christian believers, we can't expect the world around us—people, companies, governments, and so on—to have the same values and worldview we do.

This sets up paradoxical situations in life, things that seem at odds with one another. This clash of values should be expected. And yet, when we live our lives in contradiction to what surrounds us each day, it creates an attractiveness to our way of life.

When we bless instead of curse others, we reflect the very nature of Jesus. When we choose humility over arrogance, it disarms people.

Expressing joy rather than jealousy when others are blessed makes us a joy to be around. Showing compassion for people at times of grief builds trust and valued relationships.

The key to harmony in life with others is often as simple as compassion, graciousness, and humility on our part. ©Word-Strong_2016

A Song of Splendor

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Worship, biblical worship, is simply an expression of the heart towards God. No specific form is required. How it's expressed is not so important, but that it is expressed.

Whatever limits or restrictions people attempt to impose as acceptable worship is ignored by God. He sees the expression of the heart, not how it comes out.

Worship isn't just a human act. All of creation responds with awe and wonder and submission to God.

Scripture

A psalm by David.

Give to the Lord, you heavenly beings. Give to the Lord glory and power. Give to the Lord the glory his name deserves. Worship the Lord in ⌊his⌋ holy splendor. [vss 1-2]

The voice of the Lord rolls over the water. The God of glory thunders. The Lord shouts over raging water. The voice of the Lord is powerful. The voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars. The Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon. [vss 3-5]

He makes Lebanon skip along like a calf and Mount Sirion like a wild ox. The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. The voice of the Lord makes the wilderness tremble. The Lord makes the wilderness of Kadesh tremble. The voice of the Lord splits the oaks and strips ⌊the trees of⌋ the forests bare. Everyone in his temple is saying, “Glory!” [vss 6-9]

The Lord sat enthroned over the flood. The Lord sits enthroned as king forever. The Lord will give power to his people. The Lord will bless his people with peace. [vss 10-11]

(Psalm 29:1-11 GW) [Context– Psalm 29]

Key phrase— Give to the Lord the glory his name deserves

[bctt tweet="Give to the Lord the glory his name deserves" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

Who is prompted to give worship to God? What is the basis for this worship?

What are the various ways God's voice is heard and made known? Who responds and how is this expressed?

Who is included in the various expressions of worship throughout this psalm?

How is the Lord described towards the ending? What seems to be the benefit for those who worship the Lord?

Reflection...

When expressions of worship are constrained to specific forms, our very relationship with God is affected, even restricted.

God is an eternal Spirit by nature (John 1:14, 18; 4:24), so worship of God is spiritual, not physical. It is not to be limited to some form, but expressed as a genuine response to God.

The origin of the English word worship carries the sense of being worthy. The near ancient word was originally known as worth-ship.

This psalm shouts out this very idea. The angels and all creation are part of declaring God's greatness!

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

As you read this psalm, do you sense the power and awe of God recognized by creation?

When you think of worshipping God, what comes to mind? Are these learned behaviors or spontaneous expressions on your part?

When you watch a powerful thunder-storm or a beautiful sunrise or sunset, what do you feel inside? How does this come out, or how do you express it?

Have you learned to worship God in various ways, or do you feel limited by how others express their worship?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Heart of Compassion

Photo credit: Mick Ewing I can spot grandparents right away. It's not the age differential, but their interaction with the children.

Grandparents, especially boomers, tend to look younger than in earlier generations, and some become grandparents in their forties.

When I see three generations of a family together, it's easy to see who the parents are. Aside from their appearance, parents and grandparents interact with the children in very different ways.

Parents and grandparents

Parents wear the day-to-day responsibility on their faces, and have the countenance of marathon runners mid-way in a race. Grandparents now enjoy the race as spectators. But, they are experienced spectators.

As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him. Psalms 103:13 (NKJV)

Imagine God the Father as a grandparent. As a pastor, I've known many people who find it hard to relate to God as a father, because of their relationship with their own earthly father.

But God has lots of experience as a father—for hundreds of generations. He's the Almighty Father—full of compassion with a mercy that endures forever (Ps 136).

[bctt tweet="God has lots of experience as a father—for hundreds of generations" username="tkbeyond"]

Affection and compassion

I'm a father of four and a grandfather of five (so far!). Although I liked playing with my children a lot when they were young, it's now become a primary role for me. I love it, just like so many other grandfathers!

I'm sure you've seen grandparents fawn over their grandchildren, acting as if they're the only children on the face of the earth.

It's because the affection and compassion that fills our hearts outweighs our responsibility for them. I've seen fathers who were strict authoritarians melt into sugary cupcakes as grandpas.

In this text, the NKJV uses the word pity, but it also translates as compassion or mercy. This is the heart of God (Luke 6:36), whose mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23).

[bctt tweet="God's heart is filled with mercy and compassion, which are new every morning" username="tkbeyond"]

The fear of God and compassion

Even though God's mercy is an overflowing reservoir of compassion, it is reserved most for those who recognize Him for who He is— God.

The fear of God is not a cowering, anxious dread, but a respectful sense of awe and wonder.

God, the Creator and Sustainer of life for all, bends down with a compassionate heart to embrace us, His children. He extends this love to whoever will receive it and Him (John 3:16-18).

He calls us into a very personal relationship. It's an affectionate embrace for those who see Him as He is—God Almighty and full of mercy.

Not every one has a living, loving father on earth, but everyone can have and know the Father of all fathers. His love knows no boundaries and His heart is an ever flowing stream of compassion.

[bctt tweet="God's love knows no boundaries and His heart is an ever flowing stream of compassion" username="tkbeyond"]

Some questions and an encouragement—

What is or was your relationship like with your natural father?

How does your relationship with God reflect this?

If you have difficulty relating to God as Father, have you expressed this to Him?

If not, what would you say and how do you want it to be different?

Who has been a good fatherly influence in your life or the life of those you love?

Let them know this today.


This was originally published on the Daily Devo blog of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. Here's the original post– Heart of Compassion

Who Is There to Fear?

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Fear has a way of paralyzing or inhibiting us. Of course, some fears are based on real events and seem reasonable, like earthquakes, tornadoes, or perhaps a terrorist attack.

One fear that tends to inhibit us is related to people. This can take many forms. Some people are afraid to be in a large crowd or to speak in front of a crowd. We all have a fear of rejection in certain situations.

There is also a fear that causes dread and anxiety, while another fear is born out of respect.

Scripture

By David.

The Lord is my light and my salvation. Who is there to fear? The Lord is my life’s fortress. Who is there to be afraid of?

Evildoers closed in on me to tear me to pieces. My opponents and enemies stumbled and fell. Even though an army sets up camp against me, my heart will not be afraid. Even though a war breaks out against me, I will still have confidence ⌊in the Lord⌋. [vss 1-3]

I have asked one thing from the Lord. This I will seek: to remain in the Lord’s house all the days of my life in order to gaze at the Lord’s beauty and to search for an answer in his temple.

He hides me in his shelter when there is trouble. He keeps me hidden in his tent. He sets me high on a rock. Now my head will be raised above my enemies who surround me. I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy in his tent. I will sing and make music to praise the Lord. [vss 4-6]

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud. Have pity on me, and answer me. ⌊When you said,⌋ “Seek my face,” my heart said to you, “O Lord, I will seek your face.” 

Do not hide your face from me. Do not angrily turn me away. You have been my help. Do not leave me! Do not abandon me, O God, my savior! Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will take care of me. [vss 7-10]

Teach me your way, O Lord. Lead me on a level path because I have enemies who spy on me. Do not surrender me to the will of my opponents. False witnesses have risen against me. They breathe out violence.

I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in this world of the living. Wait with hope for the Lord. Be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Yes, wait with hope for the Lord. [vss 11-14]

(Psalm 27:1-14 GW) [Context– Psalm 27]

Key phrase— Wait with hope for the Lord

[bctt tweet="Wait with hope for the Lord" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What is the confidence David expresses in respect to his circumstances?

What or who is this confidence based on? Why do you think David has this confidence?

What is the one thing David asked of the Lord? Why does he seek this?

What are David's appeals in the latter half of this psalm? What are his confident hopes and encouragements at the end?

Reflection...

King David had several enemies who tried to kill him. Most of them were afraid of him. Throughout his psalms we see a confidence in his personal relationship with the Lord.

This is the bedrock of his faith, not the Law or religious practices, but his very personal relationship with God. God honored this in David's life.

Some times, the people we fear or are intimidated by are people who are intimidated by us for some reason. Many fears, especially that of people, are groundless and based on faulty assumptions, even ignorance.

What was the secret to David's confidence in the Lord? He knew God was greater than any enemy, far greater. David feared the Lord more than anyone or anything. Not a fear of dread that causes anxiety, but a fear of respect, awe, and wonder. This is why he trusted in and worshipped the Lord.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Who or what types of people intimidate you? Why is this? Are you willing to learn more about them to help relieve you of this fear?

Are there certain events or things you fear but have never experienced? If so, have you brought this to God in prayer and trusted Him with it?

Have you developed a level of trust in God that frees you from fear of people and things?

How have you learned to respect God for who He is—to fear Him in a biblical sense—so that your view of life and people is in right perspective?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Gifted for a Purpose

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Because of the kindness that God has shown me, I ask you not to think of yourselves more highly than you should. Instead, your thoughts should lead you to use good judgment based on what God has given each of you as believers.

Our bodies have many parts, but these parts don’t all do the same thing. In the same way, even though we are many individuals, Christ makes us one body and individuals who are connected to each other.

God in his kindness gave each of us different gifts. If your gift is speaking what God has revealed, make sure what you say agrees with the Christian faith. If your gift is serving, then devote yourself to serving.

If it is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If it is encouraging others, devote yourself to giving encouragement. If it is sharing, be generous. If it is leadership, lead enthusiastically. If it is helping people in need, help them cheerfully. (‭Romans‬ ‭12:‭3-8 (GW)


The mark of a life impacted by God's grace is humility. Jesus is our prime example. We can only comprehend God's grace in its fullness because of Jesus. He is the personification of grace.

Jesus also personifies humility (Matt 11:29; Phil 2:5-8). This is our starting point for considering the gifts of God. The gifts of God are just that—gifts. They are not skills or abilities. They cannot be taught or caught.

These gifts are the extension of God's grace—His undeserved kindness. They are of spiritual origin, not some embedded DNA code in a person.

The primary purpose of these gifts is to strengthen the church, the Body of Christ. They are not the possession of an individual person. These gifts are given by God (through the Holy Spirit) to fulfill God's purposes for His church.

This exhortation reminds us that when God distributes a specific gift to a person, he or she is to exercise this gift in humility for the benefit of others in the church.

Has God gifted you in one of these seven gifts? Then use it well under the Lord's guidance with gracious humility. ©Word-Strong_2016

3 Simple Observations and Truths

unsplash-stainglass_maninpew_KFredrickson-compressor Something was missing. At first, I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew a significant shift took place in the fifteen years I lived overseas.

It wasn't one specific thing, but an accumulative process that brought this shift. "What happened," I wondered?

It wasn't so much what happened as what didn't happen.

Something missing

My first indicator was the general biblical ignorance that existed.

This was puzzling. More biblical teaching was available, in more ways, than when I moved overseas (1990).

Resources for biblical studies had multiplied, through books, audio, video, and online products. There was plenty to choose from and the consumer-oriented American Christian wanted more of it.

But with all that was available, something was missing.

[bctt tweet="A general biblical ignorance exists and it's not for lack of resources" username="tkbeyond"]

Was it community? Or leadership? Or commitment? Yes to all the above and more. But why?

A pattern

It finally dawned on me that what was common in the '70's and 80's was lacking in the new millennium.

Intentional, relational discipleship was a primary element of the Jesus People Movement of the late '60's into the '70's. It was a natural, organic if you will, element embedded by God.

It didn't just happen by itself, but it wasn't a well-outlined curriculum or program. That came later.

[bctt tweet="Intentional, relational discipleship was a primary element of the Jesus People Movement" username="tkbeyond"]

This seems to be a pattern with us humans.

God does something sovereign and dynamic, then we try to systematize it. We try to codify and quantify it—axioms, rules, and numbers—in order to replicate it. In doing this, we end up stifling whatever God did or is doing.

The process of replication needs to reproduce disciple-makers, not a program.

The human-effect turns a movement of God into an institution. We try to organize the spiritual dynamic or life of the movement, which quenches the river of life God sets in motion, by attempting to channel or contain it.

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)

Not a spiritual growth program

Discipleship is not a spiritual growth program. It's not a follow-up or aftercare program for those who've said the sinner's prayer.

Discipleship is the natural progression of evangelism. They aren't synonymous, but they aren't separate either. Robert Coleman's classic book, Master Plan of Evangelism, makes this clear.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship ought to be the natural progression of evangelism" username="tkbeyond"]

This isn't rocket science, as they say. A person doesn't need a degree nor professional training to be a disciple-maker. Nor does a disciple-maker need a title or official role.

Yes, a disciple-maker needs to be grounded in the truth of God's Word and led by God's Spirit, but they don't need a certificate to make them an authorized disciple-maker.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship is not a spiritual growth program" username="tkbeyond"]

3 simple observations

  1. Discipleship is not a cognitive skill to be learned or taught—it's a way of life.
  2. Discipleship is a life with purpose—that purpose is revealed as the person is discipled.
  3. Discipleship requires some type of challenge to pursue the goal—the goal is following Jesus and being transformed by the Holy Spirit.

3 simple truths

  1. The Lord Jesus saw discipleship as an intentional, relational process. It's not a phase, but an integrated whole. Discipleship is following Jesus with a community of believers—Matt 16:24; John 8:31-32; Acts 2:42-47.
  2. Discipleship is the pastoral responsibility of the church. Not the institution or corporation, but the community of believers under the Lordship of Jesus and led by the Holy Spirit. This is made clear in Ezekiel 34:1-24, and by Jesus in John 10:7-16.
  3. Discipleship is the community-based process of sanctification. This is shared pastoral care among a community of believers. It's not relegated to one leader or a select group of leaders, although leadership is important. It is a shared commitment of each believer to one another—John 8:34-36; Acts 4:32-35; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship is following Jesus with a community of believers" username="tkbeyond"]

This is not all that can be said about the subject, far from it!

Do you need more insight on any of the 3 observations or truth above? Let me know!

But, it's my hope these simple, brief observations and truths help confirm whatever God may be stirring in your own heart.

So... What is God stirring in your heart about discipleship and following Jesus?

Let me know, and thanks for reading and sharing this post!