people

Community Greetings

Photo credit: lightstock.com I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.

Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person from the province of Asia to become a follower of Christ. Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did. Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

Greet Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. And give my greetings to the believers from the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet the Lord’s people from the household of Narcissus. Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me.

Give my greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who meet with them. Give my greetings to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and to Olympas and all the believers who meet with them. Greet each other with a sacred kiss. All the churches of Christ send you their greetings. (‭Romans‬ ‭16:‭1-16‬ (NLT)


I expect most people either skip over or skim through the end of epistles with all the greetings. But if the Word of God is inspired and able to equip us for God's service (2 Tim 3:16-17), then we need to take a closer look at these greetings. What can we learn from them?

Long, long ago, in a world without mobile phones and the world-wide-web, people wrote letters and talked to each other face to face. This might be hard to imagine for some people, but it's true!

These greetings were more than courteous gestures, they were testimonies and acknowledgements. Sometimes there were warnings or exhortations, but mostly they were words of encouragement. All of them remind us of the nature of the early church.

One singular element of the early church that is still sought today was their sense of community. They had a bond of fellowship through their common relationship with Jesus, their Lord and Savior.

The church was a large, spread out community that had this one common bond—Jesus. It was like extended family. Paul knew what they knew—people are the most important element of community.

People united by their relationship with Jesus were the heartbeat of the church. Not its leaders, nor its organizational infrastructure, but their relationship with one another through Jesus. ©Word-Strong_2016

The Commitment of Community

Photo credit: lightstock.com In fact, my visit to you has been delayed so long because I have been preaching in these places. But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you.

I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.

But before I come, I must go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there. For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem.

They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially.

As soon as I have delivered this money and completed this good deed of theirs, I will come to see you on my way to Spain. And I am sure that when I come, Christ will richly bless our time together.

Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit.

Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.

Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other. And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen. (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭22-33‬ (NLT)


Why do you go to church, if you go at all? What do you like best? What do you not like so much?

When I pastored in Southern California, many new-to-town visitors wanted to know what our church had to offer them. Today, this shopping for a good church is more prevalent than ever.

I often hear people say they want community, especially when it comes to church. Ok, but community—genuine community—requires commitment, a mutual commitment.

Paul speaks of bringing a gift to the church in Jerusalem, donated by other believers. He also expects the believers in Rome to provide for his travel.

Real church community, as seen in the early church (Acts 2:44-47), requires a commitment on everyone's part.

So when you're looking for a church, consider what you're willing to give rather than what you might get. ©Word-Strong_2016

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

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)

Photo credit: unsplash_JSheldon

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/

Real Harmony

Photo credit: lightstock.com So those of us who have a strong ⌊faith⌋ must be patient with the weaknesses of those whose ⌊faith⌋ is not so strong. We must not think only of ourselves. We should all be concerned about our neighbor and the good things that will build his faith.

Christ did not think only of himself. Rather, as Scripture says, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

Everything written long ago was written to teach us so that we would have confidence through the endurance and encouragement which the Scriptures give us.

May God, who gives you this endurance and encouragement, allow you to live in harmony with each other by following the example of Christ Jesus. Then, having the same goal, you will praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God.  (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭1-7‬ (GW)


It's easy to overanalyze things. Action item lists are popular and success formulas are sought by many. A lot of time is invested to figure out what makes one thing successful where another one fails.

In doing this, we tend to overlook what's obvious and simple. The realm of spiritual truth is no different. The secret to unity among believers doesn't require psychological tests or deep theological treatises.

First, we need to be patient with others who don't measure up spiritually to our expectations (verses 1-3), and learn from the example of faithful believers before us (verse 4).

But the most important thing is to follow the example of Jesus together (verse 5). We need to accept one another as Jesus accepted us (verse 7).

Think about it. That may seem a tall order, but the simple focus is Jesus—His gracious, humble example.

The key to real harmony among followers of Jesus is treating one another with the gracious humility we see in Jesus. ©Word-Strong_2016

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/

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"]

Redemptive Reconciliation

Photo credit: unsplash.com_willvanw If you love something, set it free, if it comes back, it is yours, if it doesn't, it never was. This sentiment, or some variation of it, was popular in the seventies—the Me Generation.

Inevitably, someone put a cynical spin on it—if it doesn't come back, hunt it down and kill it. The issue centers around people and possessiveness.

Slavery is a form of possession. It comes in different forms and levels, from bondage to indebted servitude. Slavery is slavery, in whatever form it is. It reduces a person to an object. It is inhumane.

Slavery has existed for thousands of years, and is found in the Bible. Some people question why the Bible doesn't condemn slavery, but seems to accept it.

The small personal epistle of Philemon refutes that idea, as does the book of Exodus.

Useful and valuable

Many, if not most, of the activists for the abolition of slavery were people of faith, who believed in God as a creator of all humanity. It is still the case. This epistle gives some insight to this.

For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. Philemon 15-16 (NKJV)

Paul appeals to a man of status in Philemon, who was a believer. A church met in his home that was the fruit of Paul's ministry in the ancient city of Ephesus.

[bctt tweet="Many, if not most, of the activists for the abolition of slavery were people of faith" username="tkbeyond"]

Paul makes the case that Onesimus, whose name means useful, is now much more valuable than a slave. Now Onesimus is a man and a brother in the faith because of the work of God's grace in his life.

A change of status

Although Onesimus had stolen from his master (Philemon) and run away, now he was a changed person. He was forgiven and redeemed by God, and Paul had found him to be useful as a fellow-servant in God's kingdom.

In other words, Onesimus gained a new usefulness by becoming a fellow believer.

Since Paul was the spiritual mentor of Philemon, he appeals to his brother in the faith to forgive and receive Onesimus, whom Paul raises to the status of his own “child” (verse 10).

[bctt tweet="The epistle of Philemon is a guide to appeal for reconciliation in a godly manner" username="tkbeyond"]

Transforming freedom

It's interesting how Paul focuses on the person who is redeemed by God from slavery to sin and death, not the right or wrong of slavery.

His reasoning with Philemon is based on the equality all three men have in God's kingdom.

This is a valuable epistle. It serves as a guide to appeal for reconciliation in a godly manner.

It underscores the nature of genuine Christian faith—the power of the cross is more valuable and important than any cause, no matter how noble it is.

[bctt tweet="The power of the cross is more valuable and important than any cause" username="tkbeyond"]

What brings real transforming freedom for anyone caught in slavery? Only God's redeeming grace.

Some questions and an encouragement

Are there people you tend to see as inferior to you?

Is there anyone you hold resentment or unforgiveness towards?

As you reflect on how God's grace has set you free—

Who is someone in your life that you can extend some type of kindness?

  • Be intentional and gracious towards those you encounter this week, especially if they have wronged you.

This was a guest post originally posted on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Here's that link– Redemptive Reconciliation

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

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

Freedom from Antidiscrimination

Photo credit: unsplash.com_RLopes Anti-discrimination is a big concern nowadays. In a nation that touts “freedom for all” and guarantees equal rights, there should be no discrimination. But there is.

Discrimination has existed as long as humans have lived. It isn’t limited to one nation or people group; in fact, you could say it’s an equal opportunity factor.

In America, we’re most concerned about discrimination in the areas of gender-types, race, religion, and social-economic status. Sadly, the protected rights of one group can infringe on another.

Hearts and minds

Laws can be passed and policies created, but they won’t change people’s hearts and minds. It’s in a person’s thinking and emotions that prejudice and bias reside.

Unless a person is changed internally, any changes on the outside are temporary and often fickle.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”—Galatians 3:28 (NKJV)

The kingdom of God is so different from the world around us. God rules His kingdom with love and love prevails over laws.

When a person encounters God’s grace and is changed spiritually in his heart and mind, he begins to see people differently than before. At least, that’s God’s intent and purpose for His children.

[bctt tweet="God rules His kingdom with love and love prevails over laws" username="tkbeyond"]

God doesn't discriminate

This verse isn’t saying nationalities, status, or gender no longer exist in a physical sense, but within God’s kingdom, in relationship with Jesus Christ, we are all one.

God doesn’t discriminate. After all, He’s doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9).

We see this through the life of Jesus displayed in the four gospels. Of course, this openness to people of all backgrounds angered those who created barriers against many people.

In the end, Jewish leaders manipulated people to turn against Jesus. They were definitely discriminatory.

[bctt tweet="God doesn’t discriminate—He doesn't want anyone to perish" username="tkbeyond"]

God's worldview

When God’s grace is worked into our hearts and minds, we can look past whatever causes prejudice and bias. The love of Jesus and His call that we follow Him (Luke 9:23) ought to strip us of such things.

So, why does discrimination of any kind exist within the Church? Why do we as believers react in prejudicial ways toward others?

Simple. The prevailing culture of the world too often exerts more influence on us than the radically different culture of God’s kingdom.

[bctt tweet="God’s kingdom is radically different from the world's culture" username="tkbeyond"]

What can be done about it?

Each of us must choose the worldview of Jesus over the worldview of our culture. His worldview is summed up in John 3:16—God’s love prompted His death for all of humanity.

It’s not like wearing blinders or rose-colored glasses, but having a gracious heart and a renewed mind.

[bctt tweet="Choose the worldview of Jesus over the worldview of our culture" username="tkbeyond"]

Some questions and an encouragement—

How do you see prejudice and bias in your own heart and thoughts?

Why do you think any prejudice or bias exists in your life?

Look at who you tend to view in a negative way, how can you pray for them?

Likewise, who do you feel has a negative attitude towards you, and how can you pray for them?

Find ways of building relationships with people who are different from you, and ask the Lord to guide you in doing so.


This was originally posted on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog, here's the link– Freedom from Antidiscrimination

How good is good?

Photo credit: unsplash.com_LMichael

Ask people if they'll go to heaven after they die and many will say, "Yes." If asked why, they often say something like, "Because I'm a good person, and I try to do good."

It's just possible that, much of the time, a person may look pretty good in comparison to some others. But other comparisons are not so favorable.

Ask Christians how to please God, and you're likely to get a similar answer. But how good is good?

The problem of comparisons

Comparing ourselves to others is an inherently weak and futile effort. Though you may find favorable ones, unfavorable comparisons are inevitable.

[bctt tweet=" Comparing ourselves to others is an inherently weak and futile effort" username="tkbeyond"]

Of course, when we compare ourselves with God, we lose every time. Think not? Try comparing yourself to Jesus, the Son of God. It shouldn't take long to see your dilemma.

A common Christian test is inserting your name in place of "love" in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

We're told by the Bible, mentors, psychologists, and talk-show hosts, not to compare ourselves with others. But try as we may, we still make comparisons to see how we measure up.

"Am I better looking than... smarter than... thinner than... kinder than...?" And on it goes. We seem powerless to stop it. As the apostle points out, it's an unwise thing to do.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (2 Co 10:12 NIV)

Trying to measure up

Not long ago, I did a home inspection that had height measurements marked off with dates on a wall. This helps answer the question, "Am I growing taller?"

But how do we measure ourselves when it comes to spiritual growth? If we compare ourselves to others, it's only a matter of time before we don't measure up in some way.

Trying to measure ourselves on the basis of behavior or habits, or any similar metric, is also futile. Why? Because we're using the wrong metric.

Evaluating a person's moral behavior is not a measurement of their spiritual growth. As the common saying goes—it's like comparing apples to oranges. Morality is based on performance, while spiritual growth can only be measured by eternal qualities.

So, how do we determine spiritual growth? Perhaps a better question is, why do we need to measure it at all?

[bctt tweet=" Why do we need to measure spiritual growth at all?" username="tkbeyond"]

Beyond our reach

A young, wealthy man came to Jesus with a question about how to inherit eternal life. He addressed Jesus as, "Good teacher (rabbi)..." (Mark 10:17-25).

Jesus asked back, "Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone" (Mark 10:18 NIV).

True goodness is out of reach for us mere mortals. It is an eternal quality.

So, should we just give up on all of this? Yes and no.

We need to give up measuring and comparing ourselves when it comes to spiritual growth. But we need spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is the indicator we have that spiritual life is going on within us, but how do we gauge it?

In the story with the young wealthy man, Jesus instructs him to leave all his wealth to become one of His followers. This young man claimed to have kept the Mosaic Law since childhood.

Jesus didn't debate Him on this, but went to the core of what the man trusted in—himself and his wealth.

Even if we claim to be righteous in a moral sense, we still fall short of God's goodness (Rom 3:10-12).

Some good news

Thankfully, no one needs to obtain moral perfection to gain entrance into God's presence. Jesus did this with His life on earth and through the cross—His death and resurrection (Matt 5:17; Rom 10:4; Heb 9:11-14; 10:10). This message of redemption (the gospel) is echoed throughout the Scriptures.

But... how do we know if we're growing spiritually?

As pointed out before, we don't need to measure spiritual growth, but we need to grow spiritually. But, how can we tell if it's happening?

The answer is pretty simple. If we go back to the story of the young rich man (Mark 10:17-25), we see what Jesus said to him—to sell all he had and follow Jesus.

Many messages based on this story focus on what the man was to give up, but this misses the main point. Jesus was inviting this young man into relationship.

When we enter into a genuine relationship with God, spiritual growth comes naturally (John 15:5-8).

[bctt tweet="When we are in relationship with God it will be obvious to others" username="tkbeyond"]

We don't need to make comparisons, we need to continue in a personal, fruitful relationship with Jesus—the Vine (John 15:1). Then our spiritual growth will be natural and evident, even to others.


This is a revision of an earlier post a couple of years ago, as a follow-up to last week's post—What Does It Mean to Flourish?

The King of Glory

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What is the focus of your life? What are you best equipped to do? Think beyond natural abilities and learned skills, and beyond the routine of everyday life.

If you have a hard time seeing what that optimal thing is, it's because we all tend to drift from the simple, most basic reason we exist.

Every artist, builder, or designer has a purpose in mind for what they create. It is, in someway, an extension of who they are internally.

Scripture

A psalm by David.

The earth and everything it contains are the Lord’s. The world and all who live in it are his. He laid its foundation on the seas and set it firmly on the rivers.

Who may go up the Lord’s mountain? Who may stand in his holy place? ⌊The one who⌋ has clean hands and a pure heart and does not long for what is false or lie when he is under oath.

⌊This person⌋ will receive a blessing from the Lord and righteousness from God, his savior. This is the person who seeks him, who searches for the face of the God of Jacob. Selah [vss 1-4]

Lift your heads, you gates. Be lifted, you ancient doors, so that the king of glory may come in. Who is this king of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty! The Lord, heroic in battle!

Lift your heads, you gates. Be lifted, you ancient doors, so that the king of glory may come in. Who, then, is this king of glory? The Lord of Armies is the king of glory! Selah [vss 7-10]

(Psalm 24:1-10 GW) [Context– Psalm 24]

Key phrase— The earth and everything it contains are the Lord’s

[bctt tweet="The earth and everything it contains are the Lord’s" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are two things we're told about the Lord and the world we live in on earth?

Who is able to approach God and stand in His presence? What are four things said about them?

What does this person seek and how are they rewarded for doing this?

Who is spoken of in the last half of this psalm? How do you see the beginning and end of this psalm connected (beyond who they describe)?

Reflection...

Every human bears the image of their Creator, whether they acknowledge it or not. Each of us is best equipped to be in relationship with our Creator—God.

Of course, not everyone chooses this, nor seems to want this. But each person has the capacity and need for a relationship with God. It is embedded in us (Gen 1:27).

Instead of asking, "Why are there so many different religions?" Consider that an indicator of the innate desire all humanity has for a relationship with God—the sovereign Creator of all.

But how can we do this? This psalm reminds us of what's required to be in the presence of God, and we all fall short of this every day.

The last half of this psalm reminds us that God would make Himself known and approachable—

Be lifted, you ancient doors, so that the king of glory may come in.

God did this through His Son Jesus (John 1:1, 14)—the Lord, the King of Glory and grace. Relationship with God is available by trusting in Jesus, not in ourselves or our efforts to please God.

Make it personal...

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

Are you aware of your innate need to have a relationship with God?

If you have a relationship with God—how did you come into this relationship? What led to it?

If you don't have a relationship with God—what causes you to be in awe or say "wow"?

Are you willing to question the purpose of your life in an honest, open way, and to see what God's purpose is for your life?


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

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

How I Got Theology– Part 2

Photo credit: unsplash.com_JErondu Leadership is often described as influence. Several heavyweight leaders say these terms are interchangeable. I don't see it that way.

Yes, leaders can be quite influential in both good and bad ways, but this is not a given. I've seen people in leadership roles with little to no influence. The net effect of their leadership is nil.

On the other hand, I've known and witnessed influential leaders who've had great impact.

Leadership and influence

I ran across an excellent article on the difference between influence and leadership by Steve Graves. He makes a good case for the distinction between leadership and influence.

[bctt tweet="There is a distinction between leadership and influence" username="tkbeyond"]

Plenty of people have been good leaders with good influence, such as, Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, and Billy Graham.

Leaders with evil influence? Sadly, it's not a short list, but men like Adolph Hitler come to mind.

Then there are many leaders who have a somewhat sketchy influence. A cursory look at political personalities could produce a lengthy list.

What about spiritual leaders where character and integrity are essential? Among them we can find good, bad, and even sketchy examples.

[bctt tweet="Spiritual leaders can have good, bad or sketchy influence in people's lives" username="tkbeyond"]

Another question

Last week, I answered the first of three questions I posed in a challenge in a previous post.

This week I want to look at the second question and give my personal answer. Here's the question—

Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?

Three leaders were influential in the early development of my spiritual life and theology.

Two are now with the Lord, but their leadership and influence are still embedded in my life. One is my age, alive, and still influencing others for good as a leader.

[bctt tweet="Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life and in what way?" username="tkbeyond"]

My first pastor

I came to faith during the Jesus People Movement of the late '60's and early '70's. I mentioned some of this in last week's post.

Ironically, the church I was thrown out of for asking the wrong question is where I got grounded in the truth of God's Word. It's also where I began serving the Lord in full-time ministry under my first pastor, Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.

It was under him that I developed an appreciation for the grace of God and studying God's Word. Pastor Chuck was known for these two distinct things, not only in my life, but for thousands of others.

Both the grace of God and God's Word became foundational in my spiritual growth and my theology through his ministry. He was a living example of their importance and value, and a strong pastoral leader with great, enduring influence. Chuck went to be with His Lord in October of 2013.

[bctt tweet="God's grace and Word were foundational in my spiritual growth and theology" username="tkbeyond"]

A sage and a mentor

As my wife and I grew in our spiritual lives, we became more involved at the ground level of ministry while serving at a church and retreat center near Desert Hot Springs, CA.

When we arrived in 1973, it was a small church and retreat ministry in a sparsely settled area of the low desert of southern California. Susan and I learned so much about serving in every way imaginable.

Although it was remote, many significant spiritual leaders of the 1970's visited this little spiritual oasis. One of them was Rev PHP Gutteridge, known to us as "Percy". He was much older than us and also much wiser, a true sage.

Percy's teaching had spiritual depth and often centered on the cross of Christ, and the need for Christian believers to walk the way of the cross. Originally from England, he pastored this church in its infancy. In our time there, he visited on a regular basis, especially when we held large holiday retreats.

After I planted a church in 1978, he would come to preach to our little growing congregation in the upper desert area of Yucca Valley, CA. When he died in October of 1998, we were missionaries in the Philippines.

His life and ministry continue to influence us both to this day. Percy stirred my heart to further plumb the depths of the Scriptures and the essential simplicity of the way of the cross (Matt 16:24).

[bctt tweet="I was stirred to plumb the depths of the Scriptures and the way of the cross" username="tkbeyond"]

My friend and mentor

My involvement in ministry at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa came at the invitation of a young man my age, but with much greater experience.

Bruce's wife, Joni, was pregnant and found it difficult to hold her guitar to lead praise for children's church. I and a couple others jumped in to help and this began a long term friendship in ministry.

Bruce opened the door for me to serve in many ways. When he and his young family moved out to the church and retreat ministry I mentioned earlier, we joined them and the ministry about a year later. We served their for five years, and it was of great value in so many ways.

Through Bruce's pastoral guidance, I learned how to preach, teach, counsel and lead as an assistant pastor. This was the foundation for my stepping out to plant a church and to develop a Bible College in the Philippines. It was practical, hands-on training.

[bctt tweet="I received practical, hands-on training that became a foundation for pastoral ministry" username="tkbeyond"]

But he was more than a pastoral mentor to me, he was a true friend. Bruce has a clear grasp on the immense, far-reaching love of God, which was infectious. His influence continues to reach around the world in a ministry he founded while pastoring in southern California—He Intends Victory.

Who for you?

So, now that you know who were important spiritual influences in my life and theology, how about you?

Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far?

And what is their influence in your life?

Receiving God's Approval

Photo credit: lightstock.com Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on behalf of the Jewish people is that they would be saved. I can assure you that they are deeply devoted to God, but they are misguided.

They don’t understand ⌊how to receive⌋ God’s approval. So they try to set up their own way to get it, and they have not accepted God’s way for receiving his approval.

Christ is the fulfillment of Moses’ Teachings so that everyone who has faith may receive God’s approval.

Moses writes about receiving God’s approval by following his laws. He says, “The person who obeys these laws will live because he obeys them.” However, Scripture says about God’s approval which is based on faith, “Don’t ask yourself who will go up to heaven,” (that is, to bring Christ down). “Don’t ask who will go down into the depths,” (that is, to bring Christ back from the dead).

However, what else does it say? “This message is near you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart.” This is the message of faith that we spread. If you declare that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God brought him back to life, you will be saved. 

By believing you receive God’s approval, and by declaring your faith you are saved. Scripture says, “Whoever believes in him will not be ashamed.” (‭Romans‬ ‭10:1-11‬ (GW)


God's purpose and plan for Israel was for them to be a people who would represent God on earth to other nations. They were to be a light to the gentiles [nations] (Isaiah 49:6; Acts 13:47). As a nation, they failed to fulfill this purpose.

When Jesus came—the long-awaited Messiah—He fulfilled the Law of Moses and established a new covenant—a new relationship with God. This relationship is based on faith—a trust in God and His loving kindness.

Acceptance and approval with God is not gained by attempting to lead a good moral life, but by trusting in God's gift of forgiveness and restoration, referred to as redemption or salvation. It is not just a belief held in the mind, but a confession of trust within the heart and declared by our life and speech.

When a person believes in the Lord Jesus' redemptive sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, his or her life will be transformed. Then, each of us who trusts in the Lord by faith can fulfill God's original purpose and plan for Israel.

As we experience God's acceptance and approval, we become a reflection of His light for others. ©Word-Strong_2016

How I Got Theology– Part 1

Photo credit: unsplash.com_APokusin The truth of God is not relative. That is, it doesn't change to adapt and conform to changes in the culture and beliefs of people.

Much is made of the idea of relativism and a post-modern mindset. The concept that what's true for you isn't necessarily true for me, isn't truth.

Personal, philosophical beliefs don't become reality just because they're thought out. The natural laws of the earth and universe illustrate and reflect the unchanging nature of God, its creator, and His truth.

Clichés aren't sufficient

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, "Got Theology?" The gist of it is that theology can become highly personalized. And yet, the truth of God remains unchanged. It's based on who He is, not opinions or a belief system.

[bctt tweet="God's truth remains is based on who He is, not personal opinions or beliefs " username="tkbeyond"]

Christian believers need to be clear on why they believe what they believe. The trite saying—God said it, I believe it, that settles it—isn't sufficient, it's a cliché.

Arriving at why we believe what we do—our theology—can be understood by seeing how we arrive at that belief. I won't backtrack through what is shared in the previous post, but I do want to look at a challenge I posed in that post.

[bctt tweet="Christian believers need to be clear on why they believe what they believe" username="tkbeyond"]

The challenge—3 questions

The challenge involved 3 questions that help determine how our personal theology develops. As an example, I'll answer these questions for my own life. I'll do this over the next three weeks.

Hopefully, this will serve as a guide for you. Here are the 3 questions—

  1. Review your own life as a believer in Jesus—What stands out as most important and why?
  2. Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?
  3. What’s been most helpful to you in your pursuit to know God?

My learning curve

I'm a visual and kinetic (experiential) learner. I tend to learn best by watching, then doing. I'm also a reader.

My search for truth and faith included the study of various philosophies and eastern religions. I attempted to live these out to a certain extent, as I read about them. Music and hitchhiking were also part of the process.

I also read the Bible each day for at least two years, yet without understanding it. I talk about this in my book, some of it in the first chapter.

My life reflected the times of that search—the mid to late 60's in America. I was immersed in the turbulent counter-culture that marked those years. This carried over to my faith search.

A turning point

I'm a rebel at heart when it comes to learning. I don't just accept things, I question, challenge, then process it all. Of course, this doesn't go over well with authoritarian teacher-types. It even got me thrown out of a church when I kept pressing for answers.

[bctt tweet="When learning, I don't just accept things, I question, challenge, then process it all" username="tkbeyond"]

In the midst of my search, I came to a turning point in my life. I went up into the mountains, where I lived at the time, and challenged God to reveal Himself to me in some way. I was expecting something like a sign in the sky, a burning bush, or audible voice, but none of that happened. Discouraged, I headed back to my trailer.

Still wanting to hear from God, I opened my Good News for Modern Man version of the Bible to read. It's then I came across Matthew 7:13-14 and realized I was on the wrong path.

Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it. (Matt 7:13-14 GNT)

I took this as a challenge, but I refused to pray the ("sinners") prayer or write down the date, as the notes in my Bible suggested. Like I said, I don't just accept things without question. I did have an assurance in my heart that my faith search was settled. Jesus and the Bible were central to my faith, the foundation of my theology.

[bctt tweet="Jesus and the Bible were central to my faith, the foundation of my theology" username="tkbeyond"]

What about you?

So, what about you? Have you had a turning point in your life, come to a crossroads, or other cathartic experience that settled your faith and brought assurance?

[bctt tweet="Have you had a turning point in your life that brought assurance of faith?" username="tkbeyond"]

This is an important first step in developing a personal theology. It's called a lot of things—coming to faith, conversion, getting saved. Whatever you call it, it needs to happen. It's the starting point of a settled faith, a personal trust relationship with God.

I'd love to hear from you on this—

What stands out as most important in your life as a believer?

Why is this so important to you?


Next week, I plan to continue this series of posts and look at the influential spiritual leaders in my life.

God's Choice

Photo credit: lightstock.com Therefore, God’s choice does not depend on a person’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

For example, Scripture says to Pharaoh, “I put you here for this reason: to demonstrate my power through you and to spread my name throughout the earth.” Therefore, if God wants to be kind to anyone, he will be. If he wants to make someone stubborn, he will.

You may ask me, “Why does God still find fault with anyone? Who can resist whatever God wants to do?” Who do you think you are to talk back to God like that? Can an object that was made say to its maker, “Why did you make me like this?” A potter has the right to do whatever he wants with his clay. He can make something for a special occasion or something for everyday use from the same lump of clay.

If God wants to demonstrate his anger and reveal his power, he can do it. But can’t he be extremely patient with people who are objects of his anger because they are headed for destruction? Can’t God also reveal the riches of his glory to people who are objects of his mercy and who he had already prepared for glory?

This is what God did for us whom he called—whether we are Jews or not. (‭Romans‬ ‭9:16-24‬ (GW)


A lot of us struggle with the concept of God's sovereignty—His supreme rule over all—and whether or not people have choices in life. Are all things predetermined by God, or do people have a free will that they exercise? As with many things, yes and no.

If God is God—and He is—then our free will, our power of choice, has limitations. This is a good thing! If our freedom of choice was equal to God's power, then He wouldn't be omnipotent—all-powerful. So, there are limitations or boundaries to human free will, because of God's mercy.

We all need to know our boundaries, just as with raising and disciplining children. Once children know their boundaries, they experience both security and freedom. Will children test these boundaries? Oh yes, time and time again. We are the same way with God.

God is all-powerful and sovereign, and yet, He grants us great latitude to make choices. This is seen with the first humans on earth (Gen 2:15-17). Even though they made a poor choice, which brought suffering for all humanity, God had a plan of restoration embedded with the consequences of their poor choice (Gen 3:14-19).

This plan is called redemption and its goal is restoration. This is God's mercy in action, as seen on the cross where Jesus paid the price for humanity's rebellion. Christ's resurrection from the dead insures both our security and freedom, as we trust in Him by faith.

God is the Potter, we are the clay. Thankfully, He's a very patient and merciful Potter! ©Word-Strong_2016

Life Reflections

IMG_0819 What significance do life events have? Are they just random, or is there a distinct meaning and purpose for every life event that takes place?

These types of questions keep philosophers and theologians in business, so to speak. All people tend to wonder about such things.

I'm sure some events and situations have a purpose in our lives that have significance to us, but I admit, many life events can seem pretty random or insignificant.

Planned events and purposes

This past month, my wife and I spent time with our youngest daughter, husband, and now, two daughters. Our purpose in spending a month with them had two primary goals—being present for the arrival of our fifth grandchild and be of some help to our daughter and son-in-law.

We enjoyed our time immensely and fulfilled those two primary goals. But other life events took place while we were there.

I won't enumerate them all, but I want to note a few of them, then consider whether they are random, planned, or if their timing matters.

Random or planned?

Two births

The week we arrived, our granddaughter did not. If fact, it was the beginning of week three when she arrived.

The week we arrived, the pastor where my daughter fellowships announced his wife was pregnant. He shared with the church on the next Sunday about their miscarriage. It was a bittersweet morning, but the pastor handled it well.

But still, we awaited the arrival of our granddaughter, our daughter was overdue by a week or so. We were waiting with expectant joy and the pastor and his wife were grieving.

A death and a birth

Soon after our arrival in Germany, I heard of the passing of a dear friend in the US. I had been praying for her for several years, now I would pray for comfort for her husband and their three grown children.

They were a significant family in the life of the church we planted in the late 70's. They are good friends of ours and were some of our supporters while we were missionaries in the Philippines.

Over a week later, we welcomed little Brielle into the world and into our family. One person leaves this life, while another comes into it.

Timing

It's not so much the events, but the timing of these things. Is there significance to this timing, or is it just random?

Just before we left Germany to return to the US, I heard about a long time friend receiving a devastating diagnosis, and another friend passed away.

It's normal, maybe typical, for us to wonder about the timing of certain life events. But do we need to know or understand everything? Do we need to have a definitive answer and insight into it all?

Faith, randomness, and destiny

Some people see everything in life as random. I'm pretty sure that most believers in God, regardless of religion or theology, don't hold that opinion.

Still others see every event in life as part of a grand plan, even destiny. I suppose this can include people who are into conspiracy theories (I'm not one of those people, btw). The idea here is that every single thing is preordained (predestined) and has a meaning.

I don't doubt that life events have significance, but I've stopped trying to figure out how it all fits together, or whether certain events even do.

It's not because I don't care or don't think about all of this. I do. But I accept that some things are just beyond my capacity to figure out, and I've realized I don't need to know everything about all life events—mine, yours, or anyone else's.

Faith and reflection

An inherent quality of faith is trust. Not theological belief, but an implicit trust in God (Hebrews 11:6).

In 1997, a tragic fire took the lives of five children under our care, and nearly took the life of our youngest daughter. Everything we had in the orphanage building was reduced to rubble and ashes.

Remarkably, God sustained us in the aftermath. That's a long story all its own, but not for now. So many things didn't make sense, and yet it all made sense somehow.

Indeed, our family was in shock for quite a while, something like PTSD. All I know is this. God sustained us in ways we can't explain, through many people and a series of events that's followed that tragedy.

Why do we need to know?

People reached out to us, prayed for us, and cared for us. We, along with many, had the usual questions summed up in, "Why God?"

We don't have a clear answer to it all, but we clearly saw the hand of God upon us and the ministry for years afterwards.

I needed to come to a place of trust more than understanding. I accepted that I didn't need to know why.

It was a lesson in faith, in trust. Either God is God, or He's not. I believe God is sovereign and living and personal. I also believe in free will. I choose to exercise my free will to trust in the Lord without having to figure everything out.

That's faith. It's what Abraham was recognized for that brought him friendship with God (James 2:23). The Bible is full of similar people of faith, and I choose to be among them.

How about you?

Have you learned to trust God this way, or do you think you need to understand it all? 

(Please feel free to comment!)

Never Shaken

Photo credit: lightstock.com

How good does a person need to be to go to heaven? If asked, many people might say they are a good person and expect to go to heaven after they die. Ask them how good is good enough and you'll get multiple answers.

But how good is good enough? And if there's some way to determine this, how would a person know for sure if they were good enough?

This psalm tells of eleven things to do and not do, so a person will never be shaken in this life.

Scripture

A psalm by David.

O Lord, who may stay in your tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one who walks with integrity, does what is righteous, and speaks the truth within his heart. The one who does not slander with his tongue, do evil to a friend, or bring disgrace on his neighbor. [vss 1-3]

The one who despises those rejected by God but honors those who fear the Lord. The one who makes a promise and does not break it, even though he is hurt by it. The one who does not collect interest on a loan or take a bribe against an innocent person.

Whoever does these things will never be shaken. [vss 4-5]

(Psalm 15:1-5 GW) [Context– Psalm 15]

Key phrase— Whoever does these things will never be shaken.

[bctt tweet="Whoever does these things will never be shaken"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What two questions are asked at the beginning of this psalm? What do you think, "your tent [and] ...holy mountain" refer to?

What are three things a person is to do? What are three other things a person is not to do?

What are three things a person would do in relation to the Lord? What are two more things a good person does not do?

What promise is given for a person who lives this way?

Reflection...

Some questions are rhetorical—the answer is understood or there may be no simple answer. How does a person live a good enough life to please God? Eleven different things are specified in this psalm, but not all are easily determined?

We typically boil goodness down to good behavior. This is seen in a simple way when a parent says, "Be a good girl (or boy) and don't...." But a person can do one thing outwardly while holding an opposite or different attitude in their heart.

The first three things to do are related to the internal state of a person, not their behavior. The other things are actions determined by their internal values.

But still, how can a person be good enough to go to heaven? It's only possible when our heart—our inner person and internal values—are like God. This takes place when we have a personal relationship with God on His terms, not ours.

Make it personal...

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

Do you think you are a good person by nature? Why do you believe this, whether yes or no?

How do you view other people in regard to being good? What's your basis of evaluating them?

Is there someone in your life that you respect as a good person? Why is this?

Do you have any assurance of being with God after your life on this earth?


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