Be Still and Know That I Am God- Finding Peace in Scripture

Do you ever look at others and wonder how they can have so much peace when the circumstances they are going through seems so daunting?  

I had the pleasure of spending time with a good friend this week and she mentioned to me how transforming it was for her to meditate on God’s Word.  Then she shared specifically how she meditates on Psalm 46:10 and the peace it brings her.  


Here’s the order that she thinks and prays about this verse:

First, begin by saying/thinking/praying: “Be still and know that I am God.”   

Then begin dropping off the last word as you go through it, so it would look like this:


Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I AM. (‘I AM’ is a name that God gives Himself in the Bible)

Be still and know

Be still

Be



Isaiah 26:3

I shared with her how Julie & I will often get so much additional insight about a verse by putting exaggerated emphasis on different words each time we say a verse in our mind or aloud.  

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am God …

until you have deeply thought about and pondered/meditated on each word in the verse.  You can do these exercises with almost any verse and find additional insights and the exercise will help you to keep your focus on God.  God promises that He will keep you in perfect peace when your mind is fixed on Him. (Isaiah 26:3)

Let us know what God reveals to you through His Word as you implement these techniques!

Written by Jamie Shaver



What Not to Do--and to Do--If You Have Unsaved Loved Ones

Recently I went on a trip to see some family members who I love dearly although I rarely get to see them.  Regrettably, they do not have a relationship with the Lord. There are several things the Lord reinforced to me during this visit that I think may be valuable for all of us who have unsaved loved ones and want to know how to interact with them.

First, I believe we must recognize that all of mankind was created to worship. If your loved one is not worshipping the one true God, you can be assured that they do have a ‘god’—or ‘gods’ in their life.  It may be their work, entertainment, their spouse or ‘significant other’, their kids, their hobby, alcohol, drugs, or something else in which his or her identity and life is ‘wrapped up’.  And you can also be assured that their ‘god/s’ will never truly satisfy them or bring them the abundant life they were created to enjoy through fellowship with God. Their god will ultimately disappoint them, and lead to misery for them and pain for those who love them. The heart in rebellion against God is a self-centered, self-absorbed heart; everything is filtered through how it impacts ‘me’, what ‘I want’ and what ‘I value’. I confess that I know that not only from witnessing that in the lives of others, but also from personal experience when I lived apart from God. We need to be instruments of grace who share with our unsaved loved ones the truth that the only way to experience a joy-filled life of contentment and peace is to ‘die to ourselves’ and to follow God’s commands to love Him first, and others second. (Luke 9:23; Matthew 22:37-40)

 Secondly, we must remember that we are all in a spiritual battle. Satan—sometimes referred to as the devil-- is the Enemy of our Souls and the ‘Father of Lies’ who deceives us into thinking that living to please ourselves by investing our time, energy and resources on our other ‘god/s’ will satisfy the desires of our soul, which they cannot (Ephesians 6:11-12; John 8:44). Satan’s goal is always to ‘steal, kill, and destroy’ what God loves, and what He loves most is mankind with whom He longs to have an intimate and loving relationship. Satan seeks to destroy us by keeping us from having that relationship with God, through Jesus, Who is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14:6). We who know Jesus have been called to be His warriors...warriors who ‘fight’ for the souls of those who have been taken captive by Satan.  If we are not careful we can forget that our battle is not against ‘flesh and blood’—and sometimes we want to act out ‘in our flesh’ against our unsaved loved ones --but we must keep in mind that our fight isn’t with them, but against Satan and the forces of darkness. Just like prisoners of war, our unsaved loved ones have been taken captive by Satan to do his will (2nd Timothy 2:26). We can’t expect them to act in accordance with the truth of God’s Word, because they never knew it, or they have been indoctrinated in lies from Satan and blinded from walking in the truth.

Only the Truth—the written Word and Jesus, the Living Word--can set them free from the clutches of Satan and empower them to live the ‘abundant life’—a life of peace, joy, and contentment, and open up to them the gift of eternal life. Our words are important to testify to that truth, but far more important is the life that we live before them.

 So what is our role as it relates to family members and other loved ones who have been ‘taken captive’ by Satan to do his will, and therefore are not living in accordance with the will of God?

Things We Should NOT Do:

 1. Do not buy into their lies or fuel their sinful behavior. Filter what they say and do through the lens of scripture so that you do not contribute to their deception. For example, do not accept their rationalizing or blaming others for the consequences of sinful choices that they make. If you catch them in a lie, do not be afraid to lovingly confront them so that they do not think they can ‘sin and get away with it’ and so they will learn that their sin ‘will find them out’ (Numbers 32:23).

 2.Do not indulge their deception that their ‘god’or ‘gods’ will satisfy them by ‘building up’ their ‘god’, but in love expose it for what it is— a source of temporary pleasure, but nothing that will truly meet the deepest longings of their heart, which is unconditional love and eternal security that only God can provide to them. For example, if sports is their ‘god’, don’t focus all of your conversations on sports which could easily lead them to believe that is your ‘god’ too. If they are an alcoholic, don’t support their addiction by purchasing alcohol for them. Or, if they are a ‘shopaholic’ don’t continually talk about things with them or spend your time together going shopping.

3. Do not enable them or attempt to rescue them when their sin ‘blows up in their face’. It’s not your job to save them, only Jesus can; it’s your job to represent His heart of love for them and to point them to Him. Remember that Jesus asks us to ‘come to Him’, but due to our pride we most often will not come to Him until we are desperate and aware that we have nowhere else to go. The biggest obstacle for people coming to Jesus is admitting they have a need. That is why it is so important that you do not try to rescue them, but allow your unsaved loved one ‘to come to the end of themselves’ so that they will finally turn to Jesus. If you want to help them out of a situation that was caused by their sinful choice/s, always pray first and ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart motive and to lead you in His way. There are times when God may lead you to enforce ‘the law’, and there may be times when He leads you to show mercy, which is why you need to listen carefully to His voice. As painful as it may be to watch your loved one suffer for the consequences of their sin, remember that it is far better for them to endure suffering for a season in this world if it will lead them to turn to Jesus who alone can save them from suffering for all eternity! It is also important that you realize that you can fully entrust them to God’s care; He will be there to pick them up when they look to and cry out to Him!

4. Do not cram scripture ‘down their throat’ as they will likely vomit it out! Sometimes in our zeal for our loved ones to come to the Lord we ‘lecture’ them with scriptures, or in other ways communicate our disapproval of them. What they hear in their minds is that if my family who knows God doesn’t approve of me, then God sure will never accept me either! They often perceive that God is all about rules and regulations that are either impossible to keep, or only there to keep people from having a ‘fun life’. They don’t realize that God wants a relationship with them, not ‘perfect behavior’ from them. We need to demonstrate with our words and actions that we love them unconditionally, so that they will come to believe that if we who know them as ‘sinners’ can love them, then Jesus is more than able to love them too!

What We Should Do:

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1.  Assume your role as ‘an ambassador of Christ’ who has been given the job of representing Jesus and encouraging people to be reconciled to God (2nd Corinthians 5:20). You can’t represent Jesus if you don’t really know Him. So it is important that you make time to read and study the Bible where He reveals His heart, His character, and His ways; to be in fellowship with other believers who will encourage you in your faith; and to maintain communication with God through prayer. Jesus often asked penetrating questions to get people to consider the truth; a great way to represent Him is to learn to ask meaningful questions of our unsaved family members that will cause them to grabble with the big concerns of life, like: what is truth; what is the purpose of life; and where do they think they will go when they die and why? If they espouse to be an atheist or to believe in a religion other than Christianity, lovingly ask them why they believe what they claim to believe so you can earn the right to share with them your beliefs. Another way Jesus interacted with those he wished to reach was by telling them parables, or stories. Share stories of God’s faithfulness in your own life as well as testimonials of His life-changing impact in the lives of others you know; your unsaved loved ones are looking for the Hope you have and they want to have a reason to believe that God is real and all that He says He is in His Word!

2. Let the light of the love of Jesus shine forth from you, so that they will be drawn to the Source of your light and life! (Matthew 5:16) Ask God to give you the faith to daily walk by the power of the Holy Spirit so that you will accurately reflect the truth and love of Christ, and so that you will not satisfy the desires of your flesh that can be a stumbling block to your loved ones coming to know Jesus. Below is the way you should ‘dress yourself’ so you can reflect Jesus to your loved ones:

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17 ESV


3. Share the ‘good news’ of Jesus’ love for them if you have not already. As already mentioned, that opportunity often comes when your loved one is suffering from the sinful choices they have made. Help them to see their need for Jesus by lovingly helping them to see what their choices have cost them. Humble yourself before your loved one and let him or her know that you realize you’re not perfect or sinless either, that no one is except God. Let them know that Jesus has made the way for ALL who are willing to admit their imperfections and to turn from their sin to find forgiveness and new life through His death and Resurrection. Assure them that there is no sin that is too great that God’s grace, love, and mercy can’t cover it! Make them aware that when Jesus died on the cross, His blood was shed for every sin they would ever commit. You may wish to share with them this comforting verse from Romans 5:8: But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Let them know that all God asks them to do is to ‘come to Him’, to believe in Him, and to receive Him as their Savior and Lord, and to repent—or change the direction of their life— through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 6:29; John 1:12) Share the truth with them that only living in obedience to Jesus will ever bring true joy and fulfillment to their lives. Let them know they have a choice. Ask them, “Do you want to continue striving by living in your own strength, or would you like to finally start living abundantly through the redeeming power of Jesus?” You may say, “But what if I share the truth of God’s love for them and their need for repentance, and they reject that truth?” Keep in mind, they are already rejecting that truth by the way they are living, so what do you have to lose?

For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:26 ESV

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4. Focus your thoughts upon God and His desire for your loved one to come to know Him. Consider how different your unsaved loved one’s life would be if he received Jesus as his Savior. I just heard the story of a man who was saved in the military; he came home to his family and shared the truth of the gospel with them. At first, the family rejected turning their lives over to God, but as they saw the difference that Jesus made in the man’s life, they all chose to accept Jesus as their Savior. The man telling me the story said that was 43 years ago, and he was so grateful that his brother who’d been in the military loved him enough to share the truth with him, even though at first he was ‘fighting mad’ at him for doing so. The lives of each member of that family was radically changed because his brother loved them all enough to humble himself and overcome his fear of rejection to tell them the truth that alone could save them. Have you ever considered the blessing you would experience by being used by God to introduce them to Jesus? Be encouraged by these words from James 5:19-20: My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
5. Realize that if you speak the truth in humility and in love, as Jesus has called us to do, your loved one still may not receive the truth at the time you share it. However, be encouraged! The truth of God’s Word will never return void; it will accomplish what God purposes, and in His perfect timing. (Isaiah 55:11) And God will be well pleased with you for your obedience, regardless of the response of your loved one. Jesus has commanded us to ‘go and tell’; you can trust Him with the results if you are faithful to obey His command! (Matthew 28:19)

6.  There are circumstances under which you may need to set up firm boundaries, and even choose to entirely withdraw from a relationship with an unsaved loved one if they continue in their sin, especially if they are influencing you to abandon your faith in God. If you are sensing that you need to cut ties with a family member, make sure you are being led by the Spirit and not by your flesh. And welcome them back into your life with a forgiving heart and open arms if they ‘come to their senses’ and give their heart to the Lord.

You cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot follow me unless you love me more than you love your own life. Luke 14:26 CSB

 7. Without a doubt, the most important thing you can do is to pray faithfully and fervently for your loved one! And, when possible, to pray with them. I have found that they are most open to having me pray with them when they know they have a need. I especially encourage you to pray scripture over them as then you can know that you are praying God’s will. Make sure to pray in faith (James 5:15). Satan wants you to look at the circumstances of your unsaved loved one’s life and to think that there is no hope. You must remember that is a lie—nothing is impossible for Our God! Trust Him to do exceedingly and abundantly above what you could hope or imagine! (Luke 1:37; Ephesians 3:20)

 Lord, I release my loved one to You, knowing that You love them even more than I do or ever could. Fill me with Your heart of love for them, and empower me by the Holy Spirit to be a faithful ‘ambassador’ of Yours who accurately represents You and faithfully walks by the Spirit and not in my flesh. I confess that when I see my unsaved loved one’s lifestyle and poor choices that I often feel overwhelmed and helpless. Holy Spirit, guide me so that I know when to speak, when to remain silent, and when to take action. When you lead me to speak, give me your Words of truth and life to speak to them.When you call me to act, may I do so with all humility and in the spirit of Your love. I ask that you would arrest their hearts and minds and bring them into alignment with Your will! Send forth the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin, of righteousness, and of the coming judgment! (John 16:8-9) May they come to know You, the Source of abundant and eternal life! Amen.

 Written by Julie Van Gorp

3 Things to Consider When Drafting Your ‘Contract Negotiations’ with God

Recently I was mentoring someone who with tears claimed to deeply desire a change in her behavior patterns.  There were certain thoughts that were consuming her mind, taking up valuable time, keeping her isolated mentally from those with whom she would otherwise be engaging, and creating an enormous amount of stress— which in her case exaggerated other health problems.  I asked her the question, “Do you really want to be set free from this?”, to which she exclaimed, “Yes…as long as_______________doesn’t happen if I stop caring (aka worrying) so much about this.”

Her greatest fear was losing her ‘perceived’ control over the outcome.  She wanted to be free from her fear, worry, and anxiety as long as SHE got to control the outcome; as long as SHE determined how and when she would be ‘set free’; and as long as SHE was able to be in charge of the other fine print ‘contract negotiations’ of the deal she was looking to make with God.  

Have you ever felt this way?  Like you wanted to make a ‘deal’ with God or negotiate a contract with Him? Perhaps a contract that might say something like: “If I do this, God, then you will do what I want, at the timing I want, in the way that I want you to do it. And if you do that, God, then you’ll get a great referral from me to my network. Now, please give me a ‘sign’ that you agree to this contract, and we’ll get right to this matter in the way described above.  Please note God: Time is of the essence for the completion of the work described in this contract. It is anticipated by the parties that all work described herein will be completed within two (2) weeks of the date of execution, which is right now, and that any delay in the completion of the work described herein shall constitute a breach of this contract and a negative review on ‘Yelp.’”  

In our human interactions with God we often want a contract; but God doesn’t do contracts, He makes covenants!

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Here are a few thoughts to ponder as you think about the ‘contracts’ you try to make with God, whether you are aware of it or not.

  1. God can control everything in the entire universe. It was all made by Him, and it is only in Him that ‘we live and move and have our very being’.  He is a far better and more powerful Person to be in control of our lives than we are—even the wind and waves obey Him! (Mark 4:41)

  2. His ways are higher than our ways. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9 ESV) Consider this, Daniel would not have experienced the miracle of seeing the mouths of the lions shut had he not been in the lion’s den.  Rahab’s house was on the walls of Jericho, the very walls that God planned to have fall down for Joshua and his army. Yet, God made it possible that where she lived on that wall she and her household were saved.  

  3. We are to seek first God’s kingdom and He will add to us everything else that we need.  This is a promise from God.  “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. ‘But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’ So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:32-34 ESV

Do you know how to seek God first?  You may want to check out this page for more tips on ‘how to grow and have a relationship with Jesus’. The woman I was mentoring wanted to seek her desires first, and then to add God. That mixed up order resulted in her experiencing worry and anxiety that got increasingly worse the more she tried to control the situation with which she was dealing.  I know it’s an old cliche, but it’s true:  “It’s time to ‘let go and let God.’”  As a believer, when you fully begin to trust Him, and your actions back-up your proclaimed faith in Him, then you will experience peace that is beyond anything you could hope or imagine.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."  John 14:26-27 ESV

What are the ways that you seek God first? Please share below.

Written by Jamie Shave

Are You a Contagious Christian?

The other day I was racing to leave my neighborhood for an appointment when I encountered a long line of cars in front of me due to a repaving project. We were all ‘held hostage’ by a construction worker with a stop sign controlling the flow of cars driving in and out of the neighborhood. I was in a hurry, and my frustration level began to mount as the wait time increased. Finally, the STOP sign was switched to a SLOW sign and I was able to move, and as I drove past the sign, my irritation melted away as I saw the sign holder’s radiant smile as she took off her hat, graciously bowed, and gave me a ‘Miss America’ wave as she warmly signaled for me to drive on. She exuded joy that was contagious! I opened my window, and said to her, “You must know and love Jesus!” In response, she enthusiastically responded, “I sure do, and I have ever since I was a little girl!” I later learned that her name is Sharon--known by some as ‘Sharon the Fabulous Flagger’-and that I was not the only one who took notice of her exuberant demeanor.

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The following was posted in my town’s neighborhood Facebook page:

There was a wonderfully cheerful lady directing traffic around the road work on Hickory Drive earlier this afternoon. Are you in this group? I just wanted to say THANK YOU for doing your job with such flair. Your joy is absolutely contagious!!”

And another person wrote:

You want to get mad for having to sit there but then you get up to her and all you can do is smile and wave. Everyone should love their job like she does. She told me she has to deal with very impatient people and she soon realized that her friendly attitude could defuse aggression. She’s a gem!”

Sharon’s life shines forth like a light and is so God glorifying!

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 ESV

Her joy in performing her menial job—especially in the extreme heat and humidity of ‘Hotlanta’—caused me to consider the following:

When others see me-- whether at work, at home, or out and about-- what is their impression? Do they see someone whose words, actions, and overall countenance testifies to the fact that I have chosen to follow Jesus and to serve as an ‘ambassador’ of His loving kindness? Does the way I do the ordinary things in life express joy in living, as well as concern for others, or do I communicate that I am merely in ‘survival mode’, self-focused, and unconcerned about those around me?

What about your life?  What kind of an ambassador are you for Christ? Are you a contagious Christian that attracts others to you and makes them wonder what is the source of your joy? Do the words and the tone you use with your family communicate irritation with or love for them? What about at work? Are you more of a ‘Suzy Sunshine’ who arrives with a smile that no amount of frustration can wipe away, or are you more of a ‘Debbie Downer’ who complains as if that’s your job? When you are grocery or mall shopping, do you smile at other customers? Let others in a hurry go ahead of you? Do you engage the cashier in conversation and thank her for doing her job? Do you stop to visit with neighbors while out walking or jogging? Do you make a point to welcome new neighbors and to invest time in getting to know 'old' neighbors? 

Do you think that you accurately represent Christ’s love to the people with whom you interact on a daily basis, whatever it is you are doing? Do you think Jesus would agree with your assessment?

Below are just a few ways in which you can represent the love of Christ on a daily basis as you go about your life:

1.  SMILE!  It’s amazing the difference a smile alone can make, especially when you look someone in the eye. By doing so you acknowledge that they are worthy of you taking notice of them. You may have heard of the testimonies of people who were contemplating suicide who decided against doing so because someone cared enough to just smile at them. Plus, wearing a smile will continue to fill your ‘joy cup’ because giving a smile almost always leads to receiving a smile! (To be clear: I am not talking about a sexy, flirtatious smile, but a warm and friendly smile that acknowledges that the other person is made in the image of God and therefore worthy to be noticed and their presence dignified by gracing them with a smile.)

2.  Say something kind and affirming to others. When I am out and about and see someone who is kind and outgoing, I will often tell her that her smile or joyful countenance blesses me. Many times I will follow that statement-- as I did with Sharon—with the comment, “You must know Jesus!” or something to that effect. Most times they say, ”I sure do!” and the faith of both of us is built up as we identify one another in the marketplace. But what if they don’t know Him?  Then it gives you a great opportunity to say, “Oh, I encourage you to get to know Him as He is the most wonderful person in the world and will change your life!”

3.  Do not be easily irritated, but instead look to alleviate the irritation of others. I remember going to a grocery store on my birthday when I was in college and the cashier was nasty to me. My initial thought was, “It’s my birthday and I sure don’t deserve to be treated that way!” and I took offense by her attitude.  Then it occurred to me that I didn’t know what that person was going through that might have led them to act so unkindly; perhaps they had just found out some bad news or it was the anniversary of the death of a loved one, or maybe someone in line had just treated them poorly. I resolved that I would always seek to treat others as if it were a special day in their life, for every day is indeed special! The Lord makes each and every day, so we are to rejoice and be glad! (Psalm 118:24)

4.  Show appreciation to others who serve you and look for ways to serve others. Jesus came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28) We have the opportunity to represent Jesus’ heart of love to those who provide services to us, like our mailman/woman and sanitation workers by verbally thanking them and performing acts of kindness toward them. I remember watching a wonderful video of a family whose young kids would give something cold to drink or give a snack to the sanitation workers when they came by; a beautiful friendship developed between that family and those workers. Notes of appreciation and other acts of kindness can let them know you value them. Look for ways in which you can serve those who serve you.

5.  Pray for others! When you encounter people who appear from their sullen face or unkind actions to be experiencing a rough day, speak words of kindness to them if possible, knowing that a kind word turns away wrath, and always pray for them! (Proverbs 15:1; Luke 6:28) Pray that they will come to know the love that Jesus has for them and that they will be filled with His loving kindness and joy!

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Lord, let my life so shine forth before others so that all who see me will see your life at work in me and Your life reflected through me! Amen!

Written by Julie Van Gorp

 

A 'New Creature' and What it Means for You Today

Have you ever taken a moment and watched an old family video?  Recently I had the opportunity to watch my wedding video with two of my children.  The videographer was amazing and did a beautiful job capturing the ‘behind the scenes’ of my big day.   It was a very odd experience.  As I watched myself in the recording; moving, talking, joking and my overall behavior it felt like I was watching a person I barely remembered.  At this time in my life I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus.  It would be six years and three children after this video was taken that I would be ‘born again/saved,’ so I was watching on tape my ‘old self’…pre-Jesus, and based on God’s Word I knew ‘that person’ I was watching on tape is dead.  

2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV ran through my mind:  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new..” (bold added)

The Bible verse above is explained in Rick Renner’s book “Sparkling Gems from the Greek” in this way “The word ‘new’ (in 2 Cor. 5:17) is from the Greek word kainos, and it describes something that is brand new or recently made.  It also carries the idea of something that is superior.  This means that when Jesus Christ came into your life, you were made brand, spanking new!  The new you is superior to the old you!  In fact, you are so new that this verse calls you a new ‘creature’!  The word ‘creature’ is the Greek word ktisis.  It is the same word used to describe the creation of the world.  When God created the universe, he used no existing materials or old elements to make it.  Everything in creation was newly made.  Now that same word is used to describe what happened to you the day you got saved.  Everything about you is new!  You’re not an amended, corrected, improved version of what you used to be.  You are an absolutely brand-new creation!  You are completely detached from the person you once were before Christ…That old person no longer exists.  She is dead.  You are brand new.” 

While we were watching the video my daughter said she couldn’t figure out why I looked so different.  I agreed with her and explained that since I didn’t know Jesus when my wedding pictures and video were taken everything about me was different, including my countenance.  I sat in awe, so thankful that I have been made ‘brand new,’ my spirit is new, my salvation is secure and I am fully alive through my belief in Jesus.

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Praise God today that you have been made a completely new creation and as Rick Renner says in “Sparkling Gems from the Greek” stop “laying claim to your family’s genetic problems, inheritable sicknesses, dysfunctional behavior, disorders, hang-ups, curses, or any other negative thing that was a part of your life before Christ.  That old person no longer exists.  He is dead.  You are completely and totally brand new!…Don’t you think it’s time to stop moaning about how dumb, stupid, ugly, (fearful, timid) or untalented you ‘feel’ compared to others?  Those ‘feelings’ are all lies.  Some of that may have been true before you were born again, but none of it is true of you now that you are a new creature in Christ.”  

In what ways do you most enjoy being ‘a new creature in Christ?’ 

(To learn more about how to have and grow in relationship with Jesus click here.)  

Written by Jamie Shaver

 

5 Things To Remember When Life is 'Not Fair'

Growing up I recall thinking and/or saying the phrase “it’s not fair" on a regular basis.  I distinctly remember my sister receiving an elaborate art kit for Christmas that was so big, beautiful and full of amazing colors, while I got a sweater…filled with envy, believing her gift was far more valuable than mine and brought far more attention, I thought, “it’s not fair!”  As I grew older it seemed totally unfair that I had to study so much to get an A on my schoolwork, while some of my friends seemed to get excellent grades with no effort at all…I was convinced this was dishonest gain; my friends were not even working for their excellent grades, “it’s not fair!"  Then, some of my friends had later curfews and that wasn’t ‘fair’ under the ‘proper’ rules for teens, by that I mean: the rules that were being applied to me in my house.  Later, when I was not selected to be in the sorority I thought I should be in…I became angry and thought about the biases that were probably stacked against me and proclaimed "it’s not fair!" A few other things that I deemed ‘not fair’ include: the death of a loved one, being in an abusive relationship, not getting a promotion I felt I had earned, the due date for my first baby being changed to a much later date (hello?!  the nursery was ready to go, I already told everyone the first due date and I WANT TO MEET THIS BABY!), not being invited to a certain function, my children being excluded from something, my husband being hurt, and the list could go on and on.  As I look back on my life, some of my largest and smallest disappointments and unfulfilled expectations have made me want to whisper, scream, or cry the words ‘it’s not fair!’ and every time I did that…I made God a liar, and myself and often my sinful desires an idol.  Over the years God has helped me to see that I wanted my desire over His.  I wanted my timing, my plan, my gain, my pleasure, and my way.  God wanted me to be patient and wait on His timing; trust in His plan; desire His pleasure and do things His way.  So now when I’m tempted to think or say “it’s not fair!” I remind myself of these 5 things.  

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  1. God is fair.  He is not biased and does not have favorites.  God knows all, sees all and is perfect & holy. “For God does not show favoritism.” Romans 2:11 NLT
  2. God is honest and just.  Everything God does is proper and right.   “God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day.” Psalm 7:11 NLT
  3. God is enough. “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NLT
  4. God can make all things good (even the most ‘unfair’ circumstances) for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28 NLT)
  5. Finally, what is really ‘unfair’ is that a sinner like me whom God said deserved death,  received full forgiveness of sin and my death penalty for that sin has been removed.   I am able to enjoy the presence of God both on Earth now and while living for all eternity in Heaven because of Jesus' willingness to trust His Father's timing and plan; and to do things His Father's way.   I'm so grateful Jesus never uttered "it's not fair!" (to learn more about how to have and grow in a relationship with Jesus click here)

Is there anything happening in your life right now that you think is “unfair?”  Trust the man that died for you with it; rest in His perfect peace, trust His righteous judgement, believe that He will provide and watch as He makes something good come from it.  He loves you; put your faith, hope and trust in Jesus.  He is trustworthy.  

 In His Love~ 

Jamie Shaver

Should We ‘Unhitch’ the Old Testament from Our Faith in Jesus?

Since the Garden of Eden, Satan has used the same strategy to separate man from God: he creates doubt in the mind of mankind regarding whether God really said what He did, whether His Word is trustworthy, and whether God is truly good. Satan longs for us to question—and ultimately to disavow and disobey--God’s life-giving Word. He appeals to our pride that leads us to think that we, the creation, know more or better than God, our Creator. Satan would have us believe that if we don’t understand or don’t agree with what is in God’s Word, then the fault must lie with God rather than in our inability to comprehend His thoughts and His ways, which are so much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). The truth is that if we have a problem believing in God’s Word or juxtaposing it with His Loving Character, the problem lies with us, not with God.

We expect skepticism regarding God’s Word, His Sovereignty, and His goodness from those outside of the Church; however, increasingly doubt is being stirred up from within the Church regarding whether we can really trust the reliability of all of Scripture. Recently, and regrettably, well-known and influential pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Ministries, the second largest church in the United States, preached a three sermon series called ‘Aftermath’ that casts doubt regarding the validity and power of God’s Word. It also elevates his opinion above the Word of God. Most notably, Andy states in the series that we must “unhitch the Old Testament from our faith in Jesus”. He stated further: “[First century] Church leaders unhitched the church from the worldview, value system, and regulations of the Jewish scriptures…Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well."

After listening intently to all three of the sermons in the series I was deeply grieved because of my love for the Lord and His Word, which God says is to be exalted along with His name and above all things (Psalm 138:2). I recognize that Andy has a large following not only in the Atlanta area, but across our nation, and even worldwide.  I have spent much time in prayer for Him as well as for those who are influenced by his teaching. I pray that the eyes of their hearts may be opened to comprehend the treasure that is found in ALL of God's Word!  In this post I am going to give a brief synopsis of the sermon series, and then focus on why the Old Testament is God’s reliable Word and  therefore important to our faith as Christians. In future posts, I will address other statements that Andy made during the series and why they also do not align with the teaching of Scripture.

The basic premise of Andy’s series is that the Church needs to move away from the belief in ‘sola Scriptura’—the belief since the Protestant Reformation that Scriptures are authoritative and the basis for our faith-- because there are those who find the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament, to be a stumbling block to belief in Jesus. He builds the case for making the foundation of our faith an event, the resurrection of Jesus, because there were eyewitnesses to it. Because of those eyewitnesses, he maintains that the resurrection is indisputable, whereas he seems to believe the Scriptures are not defendable as the inspired Word of God. He further rationalizes his contention that we move away from the authority of Scripture as the foundation of our faith because people now have the ability to go onto the Internet where they can be exposed to persuasive arguments against the validity of Scriptures, and those arguments will deter people from believing in Jesus. In fact, Andy stated that “the ‘Achilles heel of our modern faith is the bible.” He further stated:

Because many have lost faith…many have lost faith… because of something about the Bible, or in the Bible, the Old Testament in particular, once they can no longer accept all the historicity of the Old Testament, once they couldn’t go along with all of the miracles, once somebody poked a hole in the Genesis creation, you know myth… once all that went away, suddenly their house of cards faith came tumbling down. Because they were taught it’s all true, it’s all God’s Word, and if you find one part that’s not true, ‘Ough-oh’, the whole thing comes tumbling down. Not Christianity.  The Bible did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created and launched Christianity. Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down. The question is: Did Jesus rise from the dead? And eyewitnesses said he did.” Andy Stanley, from the ‘Aftermath’ series, April 2018

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I treasure ALL of God’s Word which has been life changing for me! I have been in church virtually my entire life, but my faith and intimacy with the Lord did not grow and mature until I became a student of His Word, because ‘faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of God’ (Romans 10:17). I have read the Bible daily and cover- to- cover for the past 22 years, as well as taken and written many in-depth Bible studies; His Word has 'cleansed' and 'renewed' my mind as it states it will do. (Ephesians 5:27; Romans 12:2) I have found what David describes in Psalm 119:104-105 to be true:

Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. ESV

I believe that the entirety of the Bible, including the Old Testament, is the inspired, infallible Word of God and is therefore essential for teaching righteousness, truth, purposeful living as well as instruction regarding the character and ways of God. As critical as the resurrection is to our faith-- which we learn about through reading the very Scriptures whose reliability Andy questions-- neither it, nor even the written word alone is the foundation of our faith. The foundation of our faith is the ‘Word that became flesh’ (John 1:14), the person of Jesus Christ.

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV

Even more specifically, Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Foundation, a foundation that we learn is also comprised of the apostles and prophets.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV

We come to know Jesus, the Cornerstone and Foundation of our Faith, through the inspired words of the prophets written down in the Old Testament, as well as the writings of the apostles recorded in the New Testament. Since we know from Scripture that God and Jesus are one and were together since the beginning (John 1:1-2; John 10:30), we can trust that the Old Testament as well as the New Testament gives us knowledge of Jesus Who is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14:6). We come to know the Truth, the Way, and to receive abundant and eternal Life through a relationship with Jesus, the Living Word, Who is revealed to us through the written word in both the Old and New Testaments, as well as through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10; John 6:44-45)

On the road to Emmaus, while walking alongside two men who were grieved because of his death and the empty tomb, Jesus explained that the scriptures—the part we know as the Old Testament--referred to Himself, the Christ. It seems clear that he expected them to know the scriptures, which Jewish men-- and even women—in that day learned from the time they were young because they were taught in the synagogue to read, to write, and to memorize the Old Testament writings, especially the Pentateuch. Scriptures were interwoven into discussions that were held in every Jewish home and within the greater community. That is also in contrast to a statement that Andy made in his series that the disciples were ignorant of the Old Testament writings because they were fishermen and did not have a copy of the Bible in their homes; the disciples--like the two walking to Emmaus--would have known the scriptures well. Jesus made it clear to the two men with whom He walked on the road to Emmaus that the Old Testament testified to Who He was.

Then Jesus said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to trust and believe in everything that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and [only then to] enter His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and [throughout] all the [writings of the] prophets, He explained and interpreted for them the things referring to Himself [found] in all the Scriptures. Luke 24:25-27 AMP

Maybe he started by explaining to them that He was the promised seed of woman that would destroy the Serpent, as taught in Genesis, or that just as Adam was the first of the human race, so He was the first of those who would be raised from the dead to eternal life.   I imagine He would have talked about how in the book of Exodus the Passover lamb foreshadowed Him, the Unblemished Lamb of God Whose blood would atone once and for all time for the sin of man and destroy the power of sin and its penalty, death. Maybe He explained how the Levitical priests are a picture of Him, our High Priest Who sacrifices on our behalf and makes intercession for us. Or that Boaz in the book of Ruth is a picture of Christ, our Kinsman Redeemer. Or that Jonah's 3 days in the belly of the fish foreshadowed Jesus' being in the grave for 3 days. Maybe He explained that due to His crucifixion He is the 'Man of Sorrows and Acquainted with Grief', as foretold in Isaiah 53, yet, their hope in Him was not in vain because He was also the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace of Isaiah 6:9. Or maybe He showed them that He is the Judge of all Nations as mentioned in the book of Amos. Or perhaps Jesus referenced one or more of the Messianic Psalms that foretold and referred to Him. (Psalms 2, 8, 16, 22, 23, 24, 40, 41, 45, 68,69, 87,89, 102, 110, 118) I am sure that their minds and hearts were spellbound as Jesus illuminated the scriptures to them, for EVERY book in the Old Testament--as well as those in the New Testament which would be written after His ascension-- testifies to and points to Jesus! After listening to Jesus share, I think the two men would have readily agreed with Bible scholar and teacher Chuck Missler's often repeated phrase, ‘The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed; the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed.

We may not know exactly what Jesus shared along the Emmaus Road, but His life and ministry made it clear that He treasured and knew the power of the Old Testament Scriptures. When led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness following His baptism and tempted by Satan, Jesus did not offer His opinion nor did He flee in fear when Satan twisted and misconstrued the Word of God. He deftly used the Word of God from the Old Testament as the powerful sword that it is, and defeated Satan’s best attempt to tempt Him! (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:12: Ephesians 6:17)

On numerous occasions (see also Matthew 8:1712:40-42Luke. 4:18-2110:25-2815:29-3117:3224:25-45John. 5:39-47 ), Jesus substantiated the divine authority of the Old Testament, for instance when He stated the following recorded in Matthew 5:17-18: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ESV

Jesus also affirmed the Genesis account of Creation—which Andy references as a ‘myth’-- when He said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6; Genesis 1:27; 5:2) Jesus directly quoted 78 times from the Old Testament—including 26 times from the Pentateuch, the first five books. He also quoted from Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah, and Malachi. Countless other times he made allusions to scriptures with which He knew His audience would be familiar. He referred to Old Testament writings as “The Scriptures,” “the Word of God,” and “the wisdom of God.”

Jesus chastised the false religious teachers of his day, the Pharisees, with these words:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of meBut if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words? John 5: 39,46-47 ESV (Boldness added)

My question to Andy and to anyone who thinks we can separate our Christian faith from the Old Testament is this: How can you believe the words of Jesus-- or the words of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection that we know about because they are recorded in the Bible-- if you do not believe Moses’ writings?

Based upon Jesus’ Words, do you think that Jesus would agree with Andy that we should ‘unhitch' the Old Testament from our faith in Jesus?

Andy said in his series that, “Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well." But is that statement true? Can it be substantiated?

The apostles quoted 209 times from the Old Testament and considered Old Testament writings to be “the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11) In fact, at least 25% of the New Testament writings are quotations from the Old Testament.

The apostle Paul, who was inspired by God to write the majority of the epistles found in the New Testament, wrote the following words to encourage his disciple Timothy. These words underscore the value he placed on studying the Scriptures, which at the time only included and referred to the Old Testament:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2nd Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

Or what about Peter? Do you think he would agree that we should ‘unhitch’ the Old Testament from our faith since he clearly stated that the prophets spoke the Word of God?

…that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20b-21 ESV

Besides the reasons Paul details to Timothy for studying Scripture, in his letter to the Romans he gives us another reason for us to study and to know the Old Testament: so that we might be encouraged and have hope.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 ESV

I am full of hope knowing that since God accurately foretold in the Old Testament the  birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, that I can trust His promises written in the Old Testament--as well as those in the New Testament-- that tell of the second coming of Christ when He will judge and rule the nations, and assume His rightful position as ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’! 

So, how important is all of God’s Word, including the Old Testament? God tells us His Word is equal to His Name, and along with His Name, to be exalted above all things!

 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. Psalm 138:2 ESV (highlight added for emphasis)

I agree with Chuck Missler who said: “Believing in Jesus Christ as the Messianic Saviour, as Christians do, is absurd without the foundation of the Old Testament.” I hope that the Word of God you have read in this post has convinced you of that as well.

I believe that all those who are willing to read through the entire Bible, including the Old Testament, and to study it, and most importantly of all to ask for the Holy Spirit to illuminate it, will come to know Jesus--the Cornerstone of our faith--more intimately, and it is in knowing Him that we have eternal life! (John 17:3)

Written by Julie Van Gorp