When you’re reading the Bible or sitting in a Bible class do you ever secretly think you’re better in some ways than the characters you’re studying? Before that sounds terrible let me explain.
Moses is walking along minding his own business and tending to his father in-law’s flock in Exodus three. As the chapter progresses we see that he has a supernatural encounter with God when God appears to him from a burning bush. The voice of The Angel of the Lord is speaking from a bush that isn’t consumed by this supernatural fire— incredible. Would that be enough to convince you to go and confront the most powerful and powerfully stubborn world leader of the day?
What about the disciples when Jesus calms the storm in Mark four then walks on the water in Mark six? After these encounters the disciples still respond, “Who is this Man?”
Maybe on occasion we find ourselves thinking that we would react and act more favorably in similar situations.
As Christians there are certainly times when we fall embarrassingly short, but the same God that spoke from a burning bush to Moses and calmed the seas is the very God that reaches out to pick us back up when we fall. It’s tragic that some, even in the church, have this image of God in their minds as a stern tyrant waiting for us to become hopelessly tangled in this messy world. Your Creator is just too perfect to act like that. If you find yourself struggling spiritually then may this be a friendly reminder to look up and grab the hand of our Savior. He understands how human we are and how desperately we needed the One He sent in the first place.
We are imperfect people trying to get to Heaven, and we make mistakes. Throughout scripture is a distinction between people who live to sin and people who struggle with sin, but live for God.
I John 5.16, 17 and Romans 7.5-8.17 are perhaps the most encouraging passages for a Christian who struggles with sin. These passages demonstrate God’s willingness and great desire to keep us pure, even when we struggle with sin.
Paul teaches us that sin is something we struggle with and should hate (Rom. 7.15-20). We don’t want to sin, but we do. We love God’s law, we recognize that it’s good, and we want to live up to it, but we often don’t (7.22, 23). Paul even goes so far as to say, “I don’t understand my actions. I don’t do what I want, but I do what I hate” (Rom. 7.15). It causes him great distress, and he expresses a desire that all creation shares: release from sin’s power and life with God without the possibility of sin’s influence (7.24; 8.22-24). He says twice that sins we struggle against are not held to our account (7.17 and 7.20).
I John 5.16, 17 shows that a Christian who struggles with sin is still pure in God’s eyes. The key idea is struggle. We can’t fool God – He looks at our hearts to determine whether we hate the sin in our lives or welcome it with open arms (Rom. 7.27). If sin is something we hate, grace keeps us pure despite our weakness (I John 1.9, 10; 3.19-24; 4.13-19; 5.18-20; Romans 7.25)!
This is so encouraging because it shows that God does everything within His power to keep us pure. We are lost when we reject Him to pursue a sinful lifestyle, certainly. But if we hate our sin and fight our sin, He keeps us faithful!
Heaven is attainable, God is good.
Over 50 members came to pray Tuesday night for our soul-winning plans, including our “Fill The Void” seminar (photo credit: Randy Simpson)
In the movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea there is a scene where one of the main characters finds himself on an island in the middle of the ocean. Suddenly he hears the faint sound of bongo drums in the distance and the sound becomes louder and closer. Out of the jungle a large group of cannibalistic natives appear, chasing this poor man across the beach. The hero escapes, but only by the skin of his teeth. That scene used to terrify me and an irrational fear of cannibals was instilled in me at a fragile age. In the 1830s when European explorers came to the Fiji islands they were horrified to discover the local practice of cannibalism. To me, the sake of exploration is not worth confronting that particular fear.
We all fear something! The one who claims to be fearless is afraid to admit or confront their fear. Fear isn’t wrong, it’s natural. We’re supposed to have a healthy fear of the Lord (Job 28:28). Facing our fears is a noble thing, but it really only matters in a spiritual sense.
A common phobia in our world today seems to be the fear of truth itself. Many Christians in the Lord’s church know family members and friends who have refused to listen to and act on the truth found in God’s Word. They’re afraid to give up the teachings taught to them by their families or the religious groups they grew up in. They’re afraid that the truth requires them to give up a sin they tightly hold on to and the sacrifice required to follow Christ.
The gospel of John is all about truth. In it we learn that Jesus is the only way to salvation and heaven; that’s the truth (John 14:6, 17:17). We must teach through our actions, daily lives, and yes, by inviting them to look at this great truth in Bible study. Though confronting that truth might make some fearful, we must show others that it has the power to free and cleanse us from the guilt of our sins.
We have entered the vestibule of a new year. Upon reflection, one might realize how subjective the significance of this day is. Neil deGrasse Tyson likes to point this out annually. For example, in 2011, he tweeted: “January 1, 2011: Happy New Year to all –at this arbitrary spot in Earth’s orbit around the Sun.” (Tyson) Consider China. They may observe the Gregorian calendar to conduct global business, but they will not celebrate the new year until February 12, 2021. Why is there a discrepancy? The Chinese, like the Jews, have a lunar-based calendar. God may have created time as a construct in our material universe, but the only “clocks” He provided were the moon and the sun (Genesis 1.14-19), and it is easier to mark time by the moon since we watch it wax and wane. The sun may appear a little lower or higher in the sky, but it is always making its same east-west circuit.
Even so, we choose January 1 as a special day to begin making necessary or desirable changes to our lives. I would hope that in an age of “fear porn,” the child of God will choose calm. I apologize if the use of that four-letter word is offensive. However, “fear porn” is an expression that has entered our vernacular. Oxford defines this specific usage of the word “porn” as follows: “[in combination or with modifier] Television programs, magazines, books, etc. that are regarded as emphasizing the sensuous or sensational aspects of a nonsexual subject and stimulating a compulsive interest in their audience.” (“Porn”) Perhaps the definition provided by a user of the less-authoritative Urban Dictionary is more accessible. “Mainstream Media content that deliberately and enticingly plays on people’s fears about disaster, disease, and death.” (Animalfarm1984)
While addressing the Great Depression, Democrat Franklin Delano Rosevelt famously stated, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Among others, Michael Reagan, speaking of his political opponents, has altered the maxim to be “the only thing we have to offer is fear itself.” (Reagan) I imagine there are those considering that indictment up to debate. However, it is not my point to assign blame to political parties or politicians. Many thrive on instilling fear regardless of political affiliation. As one writer for a pop-psychology magazine opined, fear is “the most powerful motivator of all.” (Wilson)
I set out to recall a time in my life in which no Chicken Little was trying to scare me about something. I fail to remember a season when all was well with the world. In nearly a half-century of life, alarmists told me of the perils I face from nuclear war, a new ice age, a hole in the ozone layer, acid rain, killer bees, the deforestation of the Amazon region, the policies of Ronald Reagan, Y2K, global-warming-no-wait-let’s-call-it-climate-change-to-cover-all-our-bases, the policies of Barrack Obama, Ebola, the very existence of Donald Trump, the Illuminati, Globalists, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and, now, Joe Biden’s socialist regime. Phew. Sadly, I have occasionally given such Chicken Littles a greater hearing than the assurances found in God’s Word.
What was it that the inspired Apostle John said? “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4.4 NASB1995). Jesus created and now sustains creation (Colossians 1.16-17). It is He who will destroy it when the time comes (2 Peter 3.10). In the interim, as God promised Noah: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8.22 NASB1995).” It may be that we figuratively see the writing on the wall as Belshazzar indeed did in Daniel 5, but even so, God will be our Rock. Even if the mountains crumble and fall into the sea, He is still our refuge (Psalm 46). It is OK to face uncertainty with apprehension like Habakkuk did as he awaited the impending Babylonian invasion (Habakkuk 3.2,16). Yet, like Habakkuk (and the Apostle Paul), we must bravely move forward, recognizing our dependence upon Providence (Habakkuk 3.17-19; Philippians 4.11-13). Regardless of what 2021 may hold, if you seek God and His Kingdom first, God has your back (Matthew 6.33)!
Tyson, Neil deGrasse (neiltyson). “January 1, 2011: Happy New Year to all –at this arbitrary spot in Earth’s orbit around the Sun.” 1 January 2011, 2:55 p.m. Tweet.
“Porn: Definition of Porn by Oxford Dictionary on Lexico.com Also Meaning of Porn.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries,www.lexico.com/en/definition/porn.
On Paul’s third missionary journey he would write to a congregation in Rome. Today this letter is viewed as sone of the most theologically deep books in our New Testament. Some think that there are portions of Scripture that are best left alone, or that only a preacher or Bible teacher can decipher the “code.” When we do some digging into the original audience that Paul was writing to, we see something interesting. He was delivering these deep theological concepts to a church that seemed to be largely lacking in spiritual knowledge. In fact, some of the members of this 1st-century church believed that God was glorified through their sins! Clearly they had some growing to do. Paul didn’t say they needed to stick with simple Christian concepts or the basics; he still tries to teach them the difficult and more complicated aspects of Christianity.
This is a call for us to challenge ourselves in our daily studies. The Bible was meant to be understood, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t take some effort on our part. The book of Romans is a rewarding book to study. In fact, it’s difficult to find another book that can give the Christian more joy and confidence in their salvation. In Romans 8:1, Paul writes, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” At first glance this may just be a verse that many skim past because of how familiar we are with it. When we study the application of such a simple verse, in context, the benefits are incredible.
There’s no need to agonize over our relationship with Christ, if we’re in Christ. Paul simplifies our salvation by telling us that if we have obeyed the gospel and we’re striving to follow Jesus, we don’t have to live in fear of our standing before God. In fact, this phrase, “in Christ,” appears 172 times in the New Testament, but it’s a phrase that is largely misunderstood. Some Christians believe that through the course of their week they bounce from “saved” to “lost” on a daily basis. The idea of being “in” Christ is really describing a spiritual union— much like marriage! You don’t wake up everyday and ask your spouse, “Are we still married?” and then worry throughout the day that despite your spouse’s confirmation, you’re just not convinced that you’re really married to them. If we haven’t done anything to separate that union with Christ, we can live confidently knowing we are saved.
What a wonderful feeling. The book of Romans is one that helps us to let of any pointless baggage and live a life of peace and joy.
One night Chelsea and I were walking the dog before bed and came across an enormous armadillo. We were in a rural area and it was pitch black outside except for her flashlight. I had a rifle with me, so I took a shot at the armadillo. Instead of falling where it stood (as they had usually done), this one jumped a couple feet into the air and then ran off with surprising speed.
We thought that was the end of it, so she walked the opposite direction with the flashlight and the dog. In the pitch black, I heard the angry armadillo heading towards me full-steam.
Being rushed by an armadillo in the dark is terrifying, no two ways around that. The darkness accentuates our helplessness and makes defense a lot harder. I John 2.11 makes it very clear that if we hate our church family, we’re walking in darkness and don’t know where we’re going because the darkness has blinded us. If we’re in darkness, we have no fellowship with Jesus and we’re liars (1.6).
2020 has given our mortal sides quite a bit of strain. We’re so divided as a nation that a person’s political party alone is enough to preclude their value in the eyes of their opposition. The church has to be different.
Had the moon not come out just a little and the laser on my optic not worked, I would have been cut up pretty good by that armadillo. Light gave me the means to save my skin!
If we show love to our church family and are walking in the light, we have been given the ability to be saved. If we live and die in the light, we gain an eternity where there is no night or darkness in a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21 ). As November 3rd looms ominously over us, let’s remember that our eternal destination hangs – at least partially – on how we treat one another after this stressful election.
Owners of small dogs are familiar with how easily they can be made to bark. Small noises to us are great potential threats to them. A small ladder may be Mt. Everest to an ant, but is a way to reach the top of the pantry for us.
Our perspective drives our perception. A very large, very strong person likely does not feel threatened by anyone. A small, weak person may feel threatened by many.
Our problems in life seem massive. If we weigh them against the past, with its billions of lives and many cultures, our problems seem smaller. Compare them further to the infinite nature of God, and our problems are inconsequential.
James tells us that when we face difficulties in this life we must appeal to the One who has infinite wisdom and power, the God of the stars, the source of every good and perfect gift (1.5-8, 17). We ask Him for the ability to understand our trials. They refine us and make us mature and well-rounded. With that wisdom we can have perspective, seeing our massive trials as the small ladders they are.
This song by the Gaithers was written in 1971 at the height of the Vietnam War. Also happening in this country was great civil unrest, school and public arena shootings, civil rights/suffrage/anti-war protests, political unrest, economic downturn, and concerns over the rising influence of communism. It was written during the Cold War when children had to do nuclear attack drills at school.
I never noticed how important the line, “this child can face uncertain days because He lives” was until seeing the year it was published. Those were definitely uncertain days.
Our time isn’t much different. I don’t have to elaborate on the stuff that makes our days uncertain – we’re very aware. We are able to handle what’s going on because He lives. No political unrest, civil disorder, threat of war, disease, or economic downturn can keep shut us down for good because He lives.
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He hold the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.”
The term comes up most frequently in golf and baseball. In 1998, L.A. Times writer Thomas Bonk interviewed elderly PGA golfers like Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, and Paul Runyan, whose career went back to the 1920s and 1930s, to find out if they knew the origin of the word “yips.” Nelson said, “I first heard it when I was on the tour in the ’30s. It was always just there” (Thomas Bonk, 2/26/98, “‘Yips’ or ‘Twitches,’ Who Knows Origin?”).
No less than the Mayo Clinic discuss this condition, which they describe as “involuntary wrist spasms that occur most commonly when golfers are trying to putt.” But, as they point out, anxiety makes it worse as the athlete “becomes nervous and self-focused–overthinking to the point of distraction–that their ability to execute a skill, such as putting, is impaired” (Mayo Clinic).
The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “Nervousness or tension that causes an athlete to fail to perform effectively, especially in missing short putts in golf.” I am more familiar with this term in baseball. Mackey Sasser was a catcher who, after a home plate collision, began having difficulty accurately throwing the baseball back to the pitcher. Second baseman Chuck Knoblauch started having trouble throwing accurately to first base. Pitcher Rick Ankiel could not keep from throwing wild pitches and Jon Lester, another pitcher, has had trouble for years throwing the ball to first base.
Just Google “yips” and you can read about how traumatic and life-changing it is for those who once mindlessly, successfully did a task they ultimately found debilitatingly difficult to do. They consulted psychologists and hypnotists, struggling to get back to where they just didn’t think about the fundamental task that now overwhelmed them. But, some have succeeded. Steve Sax, who suffered from the yips in 1983–the second baseman had 26 errors by the All-Star Break–would rebound to be the best defensive second baseman in 1989. He credits a conversation with his ailing father during the 1983 break. His father told him it wasn’t a mental block, but a temporary loss of confidence, that he needed to practice being more confident and it would positively effect his play (Sportscasting.com).
Have you ever found it difficult to do something that once came easily or naturally? Has fear ever gripped you and become a roadblock to success? Certainly, there are mental health conditions that cause people to panic and wrestle with anxiety. But, what about the person who tried to share the gospel with a friend only to suffer rejection or maybe even embarrassment? What about the one who tried to gently confront someone at spiritual fault or overtaken by sin, who was rebuffed to such a degree that it was traumatic? What about the new Christian who was asked to lead public prayer, whose mind went blank, froze, and nearly couldn’t complete the task? There are several areas of Christian duty that can cause us to “freeze up” or shy away from doing them. An unpleasant experience can get into our heads and talk us out of trying to do them again.
How can we overcome this? Consider a few tips from Scripture:
Forget the past and focus on the future (Phil. 3:10)
Pray for boldness and confidence (Acts 4:29,31)
Ask others to pray for your ability and boldness (Eph. 6:19)
Get others to join you or help, where possible (Ecc. 4:9-12)
Look to Christ for your confidence and success (Phil. 4:13)
Don’t let a past failure define you; Keep at the task (Acts 15:38 and 2 Tim. 4:11)
Elevate your motivation and remember why you do what you do (Col. 3:23)
Focus on those who may be taking their lead from you, who look to you as their model (1 Tim. 4:12; Heb. 13:7)
Rediscover the joy (Phil. 2:17)
These are just a few of the divine strategies from the mind of God. We have a Father who speaks to us in His Word. His counsel is also for us to practice being more confident, but to look to Him as the source of that confidence. The end result is more than mere professional success. We can impact eternity when we overcome any obstacle to our service. Do you need to “get back in there”? Utilize the tools He has given! You’ll be so glad you did, and so will others.
Romans 5.5 is a verse that I know I’ve read many times, but never paid attention to.
It says, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
This whole section of Scripture is awesome, but this verse really caught my attention. How is the love of God poured into our hearts? How do we experience this? Is it a feeling or understanding? Are we given a sense of calm knowing we are saved?
Context reveals that Jesus showed this love by dying for those who hated Him. God’s love is experienced through Jesus’ death (Romans 5.6, 8). So in that sense, we are able to access God through the sacrifice Jesus made with the Spirit who was given to us.
However, it does seem that the love mentioned in verse five is something a little different.
Firstly, it isn’t the only thing we have with God. We also have peace with God and grace (Romans 5.1, 2). The context of this chapter and much of the next is about the benefits of salvation.
Secondly, the love of God seems to be pretty directly applied. The word “poured” in 5.5 is ἐκχέω (encheo), which means, “to cause to fully experience” (BDAG 312). It’s also a perfect passive verb, which means it was poured in the past and continues to be poured; God was the one doing the pouring.
The destination of this love is our (that is, those who are saved) hearts. When we have been justified, and when we take pride in our trials because they develop endurance, proven character, and hope, God pours love into our hearts.
Because of the multitude of “for”s and “therefore”s following this verse, I lean more towards the idea that this love is something we experience as a result of gaining rational confidence of our salvation through Christ.
My goal in writing this article is not necessarily to explain Romans 5.5 – I do not pretend to know the answer – but to hopefully provoke thought and demonstrate the depth of scripture. I love these difficult passages, and hope that you will study them as well.