Category: Christian Living

Finding Hope Amidst Difficult Times

Finding Hope Amidst Difficult Times

The year 2020 could well go down in history as one of the most challenging years we all had to face as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. But we cannot and should not lose hope. Amidst trials and in difficult times, there is hope. Christians can enjoy living in victory even when all hope seems to be lost.

In this post are some principles God has laid out in His Word that every believer in Jesus should apply if they expect to live victoriously this new year 2021 and onward.

The Babylonian Captivity

The Babylonian Captivity, also known as the Babylonian Exile, is a period in biblical history that highlights the restoration of the nation of Israel. But while in exile, it is apparent that the Jews were on the verge of losing hope. Will they ever get out from this ordeal and safely go back to their land?

Considering that when King Nebuchadnezzar II took the Jews captive, Babylon was an up and coming world superpower. How could the Jews be confident that God was up to the job of delivering them from the hands of the Babylonians?

Babylonian Exile
Photo Credits: Ancient Pages

In chapter 3 of Isaiah, we read God reminding the Jewish exiles about who He is and what He is capable of doing for them. We read the following in Isaiah 43:16-19 (NIV):

This is what the Lord says – He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Biblical Principles for a Victorious Life

In the passage quoted above, God, through the prophet Isaiah, gave four instructions to the nation of Israel.

1. Remember God’s Great Works in the Past.

Verses 16-17 looks back to what God did for Israel when He brought them out of the land of Egypt through the wilderness to Canaan (Exodus 14). God parted the Red Sea so they could cross and escape the Egyptian armies.

Isaiah powerfully brings up these images when he writes of the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements of these enemies of God’s people, and how they shall lay there and never to rise again, extinguished and snuffed out or quenched.

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (Exodus 14:21-22).

Just as God overwhelmed the Egyptian armies, He would also judge the Babylonians.

2. Forget the Past.

Notice that there is an instructive switch between verses 16-17 and verse 18. In Isaiah 43:16-17, Israel is told to look to the past by remembering the great things God did for them at the Red Sea. But in Isaiah 43:18 they are told, “Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old.” Why?

It is important to note that God had performed many miracles for Israel – probably one of the most memorable was their deliverance from slavery in Egypt by their miraculous passage through the Red Sea on dry ground!

But now, God was saying, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Is God contradicting Himself? No, not at all! Rather, God is telling the Jews, “That’s nothing compared to what I am about to do.”

No matter how great the miracle God performed to get their forefathers out of Egypt and bring them to the Promised Land, God wants this generation of Jews to focus on the new work He will do for them.

God promises that He is going to do greater things for them; much more than what He had done in the past. He tells them to forget the past because if they are stuck in the wonders and miracles of God in the past, they will never be able to move forward to the new things God has in store for them.

3. Keep in Step with God.

After reminding the Jews of His mighty works in the past and instructing them not to get stuck in those wonders, God then assures them the deliverance they have been hoping for.

God says this in Isaiah 43:19a, “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?”

God is moving on – He is doing a new thing – bigger and better than ever before. Past blessings are for a time gone by. God promises a new blessing for a new day!

Staying stuck in the past can keep the nation of Israel (and us) from the new things God wants to do. God will do a new thing that is in no way inferior to what He has done in the past. God will do a new thing that is in no way inferior to the things of old.

God can do new wonders; He is creative and He is always doing something new.

4. Trust that God Can and Will Do the Impossible.

Between Babylon and Israel lay hundreds of miles of wilderness. But God assures His people that they had nothing to fear because God would make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19b)

They can be confident that the same power that made dry land in the waters can produce waters even in the driest land.

Application for Believers Today

How do Christians apply these four principles? We must take God’s word at face value.

God is also telling us today to forget the former things and not dwell on the past. Yes, we must remember the past in terms of God’s great work. It is to our benefit to often remember what God did to the nation of Israel. Remembering God’s faithfulness gives us hope and assurance that we can trust God to work on our behalf

We can always count on God and we can be confident that He will make good His promises because He is faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). If God kept His covenant with Israel, He will surely keep His covenant with us. God is immutable; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Yes, we are to thank God for past revivals, answered prayers, and blessings. The downside is those past blessings can hold us back because we expect the same thing over and over again.

We must forsake and forget the past, with all its discouragement, failures, sin, and defeat, and move on to what God has for us in the future. Past sins and failures can hold us back too!

The Example of Simon Peter

Do you ever feel like you have let God down in some way? You may have stumbled and failed Him a couple of times and now you feel like you’re no longer worthy of another chance. You fear that God cannot use you again.

If there’s somebody who has gone this path and was restored, it’s Simon Peter. Among all those who followed our Lord closely, I find Peter’s story quite fascinating.

Consider the following about Peter:

  • He alone got to experience walking on water with Jesus (Matthew 14:28-29).
  • He was one of the three disciples to witness the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13).
  • It was Peter who confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13-20).
  • It was Peter who cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest and he did it in an attempt to prevent the arrest of Jesus (John 18:10).
  • But more than all these, Peter promised Jesus that he will never forsake Him even though it will cost him his life (Matthew 26:35).

But on the night that Jesus was arrested, Peter swallowed his words because he denied Jesus, not just once but three times at the time that Jesus needed him the most. He must have felt terrible when he realized what he has done.

But after the resurrection Jesus reinstated him at the lake of Tiberius in Galilee (John 21:15-19) and a few days later on the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached probably the most powerful gospel sermon resulting in the 3000 souls that were saved and added to the Church (Acts 2:14-36).

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When All Hope Seems Lost

You may have experienced a lot of heartaches and pain, trials, and difficulties in the past year. But God promises to do something great in your life.

You may have lost a loved one and up to now you still don’t understand why you had to go through all that. Maybe you got heartbroken last year or in the previous years and you are still unable to move on.

This year, give your heart to Jesus and rest assured that He will never break it; He will never disappoint you and He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Today, God is telling us to forget the past – blessings, and failures – because the past will fade into insignificance compared with what God is doing, and going to do.

Trust God At All Times

As we look forward to the future, God wants us to trust Him completely, regardless of the circumstances we are facing. Let us not make the common mistake of worrying about the details or obstacles for the fulfillment of God’s promise. We do not have to worry about it at all.

God has all the resources needed. We may not have a perfect picture of what God is about to do but we can be certain that He will bring them to fruition. He is the Lord, the God of all flesh; nothing is too difficult for Him (Jeremiah 32:27). Things may be impossible from a human perspective but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

By the way, trying to lend God a helping hand never works so don’t even try. In Genesis 12:1-3 God promises to make Abraham’s children into a great nation. There’s just one problem – his wife could not have children, and they were both advanced in years!

What did Abraham do? He tried to help God out only to realize later on that it was a big mistake (Genesis 16:1-16). Then as now, meddling in God’s business only ends in disaster.

Conclusion

Indeed, we can always find hope in the Lord even in difficult times.

But we need to get our focus off the past: the good, the bad, and the ugly. These are nothing compared to what God is about to do! God is doing something new. His laws and principles never change – but His blessings are new every morning.

Are we ready for it? Are we in step with the Holy Spirit? We can be amid a blessing and not see it.

By the way, let us be reminded that whatever new and great things we will receive, it’s all God’s work – it’s not of us! We may have labored in the fields sowing and reaping but it is God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).

So we must always humble ourselves before God – realizing that it is not because of anything we have done – but it is only by the grace of God. We must ensure that God gets the glory for it all.


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Don’t Get Distracted From God’s Purpose For You

Don’t Get Distracted From God’s Purpose For You

God has a specific will or purpose for every believer. But how often do we seek to fulfill God’s purpose for our life? And how often do we get distracted as a result of focusing too much on things that don’t really matter?

Bible Verse: Luke 19:5

And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”

Who Is Zacchaeus?

The name “Zacchaeus” means “righteous one,” but this supervisor of tax collectors was not living up to his name. Certainly, the Jewish religious community in Jericho would not have considered him righteous, for he has not only collected taxes from his own people but also worked for the unclean Gentiles.

And tax collectors were notorious for collecting more taxes than required; the more money collected, the more income they enjoyed.

God’s Purpose For Zacchaeus

We read Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus in Luke 19:1-10. So, it happened that as Jesus entered and passed through Jericho, Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector wanted to see Jesus. But because he was too short to see over the crowd, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road where Jesus was going to pass by.

As Jesus came by, He looked up at Zacchaeus, called him by name, and asked him to come down, for He was going stay as a guest in his home (Luke 19:5).

Jesus Visits Zacchaeus
Photo Credits: The Brown Pelican Society

It was God’s will to spend time with Zacchaeus. Jesus was followed by a large crowd but that did not stop Him from ministering to Zacchaeus. Clearly, Jesus was not distracted by popularity or skeptics (Luke 19:3, 7).

The same thing happened when Jesus and His disciples went through Samaria. Jesus needed to go through Samaria to see the Samaritan woman and minister to her (John 4:4-25).

God had a purpose for Zacchaeus and the Samaritan woman, and God has a purpose for your life. How often do you seek God’s purpose for your life? When was the last time you asked God to reveal it to you?

Getting Distracted from Your Purpose

Many preachers today use methods that guarantee a crowd because it feels a lot better to minister to a large crowd than to just one single individual. How many of us can honestly say we would prefer to one more than a crowd? Who does not like being popular?

Truth be told. I know I have wanted to minister to as many people as possible through Bible thoughts, my books, etc. I just pray I never get too proud and forget about individual people. Is that true of you as well?

Jesus was always followed by a crowd during much of His ministry. Yet, He never stopped to preach and teach them while making sure He wasn’t neglecting individuals who wanted to listen to Him.

Closing Thoughts

There will always be people that find a problem, scoff, and mock. On other occasions in Scripture, Jesus responded to their doubts and skepticism, but this time no response was given. Sometimes God does not want us to respond to antagonism.

It does not really matter what people think or say if they are wrong. There is no point to be distracted or worried by lies. Don’t get distracted from the things that God has called you to do.

As Paul says, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). How well are we pressing toward that purpose?

We do not know what tomorrow holds but we know who holds tomorrow. Trust Him!


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Get a copy of my devotional book “Life According to the Truth.”

Publisher’s Description

Life According to the Truth by Michael HeilmanDo you know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Did you know that God wants to prepare you during this life to live in heaven with Him? Does your purpose for life evade you?

In Life According to the Truth, Michael Heilman honestly writes about the issues facing the church and how to live the victorious Christian life.

Michael expounds on biblical principles God has applied to his life and led to God’s blessing in many areas of his life. With illustrations, humor, and most importantly Scripture, he explains to any born again believer who is spiritually wandering through life, how to be spiritually blessed by God as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

In this devotional Bible study, you will be enlightened in regards to:

  • Why God must be the key focus of your life.
  • How to love God
  • How to love others.
  • How to discern God’s will for your life
  • How to be confident with your identity in Jesus Christ

Life is difficult, but God can enable you to have abundant joy. If you are a born-again believer that needs encouragement, this book is for you.

Does Religiosity Equal Christianity

Does Religiosity Equal Christianity

Do you know that one major reason why people are hesitant to become Christians is the notion that they have to be religious? This has negative connotations for most people. But does one need to be religious to be a Christian? Does religiosity equal Christianity?

First of all, we need to understand that Christianity is NOT a religion in the same way Islam or Hinduism is. Rather, it is a relationship with the living God.

In this short post, we will look at two important points that need to be made in dealing with this issue.

Religiosity vs. Christianity

One of the things that differentiate religion from Christianity is that the former consists of rules and rituals – things that people must do and other things they must not do. However, Christianity, though it has rules to follow, is basically a relationship between man (humanity) and the Creator.

When one becomes a Christian, he or she enters into a personal relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus.

Christ Himself said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

To become a Christian is a personal matter; it is a personal decision made by the sinner when he acknowledges his need for God. This is then followed by a desire to know God’s laws and precepts and to obey them (Psalm 119:33).

Christianity is not merely a set of laws and rules. It is a relationship between the living God and those who believe in Him. Thus, at its heart, Christianity is relational.

What is True Religion?

The Bible Condemns Empty Religiosity

The Bible strongly condemns religion that is without any genuine substance. We read so many instances where Jesus condemned the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 23:2, 3, 27, 28).

If religiosity equals true Christianity, Jesus would not have strong words for the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were strictly living according to the Mosaic Law. By doing so, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy.

Does this mean religion is not important? Some argue that without religion, it would be impossible to practice what God in His written Word has instructed us to do. This is where we need to distinguish between empty and genuine religion.

Scripture informs us what true religion should be and that is living out what you believe. James wrote, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

Contrary to popular belief, Christianity is not religiosity; a Christian is not someone religious. A Christian is one who has a pers0nal relationship with the living God through Christ.

Conclusion

Religion is not attractive to most people because it conjures up the idea of several rules and rituals that one must strictly adhere to. Often times, people follow these rules without any sense of personal satisfaction or fulfillment.

In that sense of the word, Christianity is not a religion.

Don’t be religious; be a Christian, a Christ-follower who has a loving relationship with the Creator.


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The Lord’s Prayer and How to Pray It

The Lord’s Prayer and How to Pray It

Prayer is a very important aspect of the Christian life because it is how we communicate with God. Simply put, prayer is talking to God. But while many Christians assume that the attitude of prayer comes naturally to every born again believer, we learn from the Scriptures that Jesus’ disciples did not automatically learn how to pray.

They had been with the Lord for three years but never got to understand the importance of communicating with God. Every time Jesus asked them to wait at a certain place while He pours out His heart to the Father, they fell asleep waiting.

So, one time when Jesus had finished praying, one of His disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).

To which Jesus replied, “When you pray, say: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’” (Luke 11:2-4).

These statements of Jesus were later became known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” We also read this in Matthew 6:9-13.

A Model Prayer for Christians

The Lord’s Prayer is a model prayer for those who believe in Jesus. However, we need to emphasize that we must not mechanically repeat it. Note that it is a model about how we should pray, not what we should pray.

The disciples of Jesus asked Him to show them how to pray. Therefore, Jesus did not give this prayer so that we would repeat these exact words every time we talk to God. He warned about mindless repetition in prayer (Matthew 6:7-8).

Christians are not to merely recite and mechanically repeat the Lord’s Prayer.

What is the Lord's Prayer and Hos Should We Pray It
Photo Credits: Bibleinfo.Com

Jesus’ Teaching On Prayer

From this model prayer that Jesus gave, there are several things we learn about what God expects from us when we talk to Him.

We Recognize God for Who He is

“Our Father in heaven …”

When we approach God in prayer, we must recognize to whom we are talking – our Father who is in heaven. There is none like Him. The Lord Himself has said, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me” (Isaiah 46:9).

It is human nature to focus on “self” but when we realize who God is – the Lord Almighty, the One who created the heavens and the earth – it is fitting to begin our prayers with the recognition that we are face to face with the Lord of the universe.

Consequently, we should have a continual attitude of reverence and respect when we talk to the Lord in prayer.

We Magnify His Holy Name

“Hallowed be Your name.”

After we recognize God for who He is, the next thing that is mentioned is the magnifying of the name of the Lord. We are to worship or hallow His name. In this context, God’s name refers to His character.

God deserves our praise and adoration and He alone is worthy to receive all glory and honor. Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”

We Ask for His Kingdom to Come

“Your kingdom come …”

We are to pray that the promised Kingdom of the Lord will come to the earth. In fact, this is the last prayer that we find recorded in Scripture. In the final chapter of the Book of Revelation, we read:

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)!

We want to see our Lord ruling on the earth – a rule which will be characterized by righteousness (Hebrews 1:8). This will happen after the Tribulation period when Jesus will rule and reign as King from Jerusalem for a thousand years.

We Pray for God’s Will to be Done

“Your will be done …”

To pray for God to carry out His plans is not to say that He won’t accomplish them without us asking Him to. This part of the prayer is to get our minds in line with God’s purpose. We know that God will carry out His plans and there is not the slightest chance that it cannot be done.

But this part of the prayer is for our benefit; it is to get our minds in line with God’s purpose. This means that His desires are to be our desires and we are to line up our hopes and dreams with the will of the Lord.

When we pray for His will to be done, then we are saying that we will live per His will. Paul said we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord (Romans 12:1).

God's Purpose Always Prevails

We Ask God to Supply Our Daily Needs

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

We then ask God to meet our day-to-day needs. But why does it have to be on a “daily basis?” Can we not ask God to supply our needs for a week, a month, or a year? I believe it’s because God is teaching us to trust in His provision and to be completely dependent on Him.

This reminds me of the Israelites while they were wandering in the wilderness. God specifically instructed them to go out and gather only enough manna and quails for the day, except on the day before the Sabbath when they must gather twice as much (Exodus 16:1-30).

God has promised to supply our needs. When the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he said, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

God knows the things we need even before we ask Him. Furthermore, He has promised to fulfill whatever needs we may have. We do not have to be concerned about what we shall eat or wear tomorrow (Matthew 6:32-34). He knows what things are necessary for us and He promised to meet those needs.

We Ask God to Forgive Our Sins

“Forgive us our sins …”

Confession of sins is an important part of prayer. We need to confess our sins because Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”

However, this confession is not so that we will get saved. Rather, this prayer is for those who have already placed their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

We confess our sins as we do not want anything to come between us and God. And when we confess, we should be specific about the sins that we have committed. We should ask the Lord to search our hearts and reveal any sin to us (Psalm 139:23-24); we must also confess those sins that we are unaware of (Psalm 19:12).

We Forgive Others Who Have Sinned Against Us

“We also forgive those who sin against us.”

Not only do we confess our sins, but we are also to forgive those who have wronged and offended us. We cannot come to the Lord with a pure heart if we have not forgiven the people who have hurt us in any way.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He said, “When you bring your gift to the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

Unforgiveness will result in bitterness and resentment. The Bible says that we are not to be bitter toward others (Ephesians 4:31). Unforgiveness is a sin which in effect blocks the answer to our prayers and petitions (Psalm 66:18). Therefore, forgiving others is an important part of prayer.

We Ask God to Lead Us Away from Temptations

“And do not lead us into temptation …”

Christians are not exempted from facing temptations. Jesus Himself was tempted but emerged victoriously. We do not pray that our life will be free from temptation but for God to enable us to overcome all temptations.

It is certainly impossible to be totally free from temptation in this fallen world but God has promised that He will give us enough strength to resist any temptation. Paul wrote this to the Corinthians:

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God knows our breaking point and He will never give us more than we can handle. The Lord will not only help us resist temptation but He will also always show us a way out of the various temptations we may have to face.

We Ask God to Protect Us from the Evil One

“And deliver us from the evil one.”

Finally, we are to ask God to protect us from the evil one – Satan. The Bible tells us that Satan, our enemy, is constantly attempting to get Christians to sin (1 Peter 5:8). We need protection. We are likened to sheep – animals that do not have any natural defenses. Therefore, we need God’s protection.

The good news is that the Lord promises to protect those who are His (John 10:27-29). Indeed, God is constantly watching out for us.

Conclusion

While this is called the Lord’s Prayer, it is really a prayer that the disciples of the Lord are to pray. It is the Lord’s Prayer in the sense that this is the sort of thing the Lord commands us to pray. This is the type of prayer that those who believe in Jesus Christ should pray.

However, it is not a prayer that He prayed for Himself. We should note that this prayer is not something that Jesus Himself could pray because, for one thing, it asks God to forgive our sins (Luke 11:4). The Bible is clear that Jesus was without sin (John 8:46). Peter emphasized the same truth about the sinlessness of Jesus (1 Peter 3:18). Paul wrote something similar in 2 Corinthians 5:21.

The Lord’s Prayer, the model prayer that Jesus taught gives believers a good idea of what God wants from His children when they pray to Him.

May each of us learn to put these truths into practice in our daily lives.


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Recommended Resource: A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer by W. Phillip Keller

A fresh look at a famous prayerA Layman Looks at the Lord's Prayer by W. Phillip Keller

“There is inherent in this prayer all the strength and compassion of our Father in heaven. There moves through it a beauty and a serenity which no mortal man can fully explain. It reassures our hearts, strengthens our resolve, and leads us into personal contact with God, our Father.”

In this moving book by “an ordinary man and a child of God,” Phillip Keller takes each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer one-by-one, unfolding it in wonderful detail and sharing insights he’s gained and experiences he’s enjoyed.

Next to Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer is perhaps the most universally beloved passage in Scripture. It has been repeated millions of times by countless individuals for nearly 20 centuries. Yet, in spite of so much use and familiarity it has never lost its luster. 

A Layman’s Look at the Lord’s Prayer presents that luster in a fresh way to help you rediscover its incredible power.

Should Christians Do Yoga Exercise?

Should Christians Do Yoga Exercise?

The growing popularity of yoga in western culture has raised concerns and stirred some debates as to whether Christians should be practicing it. Is yoga demonic? Is it okay for Christians to stretch their bodies while meditating on God’s Word? What does the Bible say about yoga?

The Origin of Yoga

Yoga originated in ancient India thousands of years ago. The word “yoga” means “to unify, yoke, or join together.” It comes from the ancient Sanskrit root word “yug” which means “to unify.”

While many people in modern times think of yoga as just a physical practice to help them become physically healthier, yoga is deeply spiritual. The goal is to attain wisdom, ultimate knowledge, and freedom by losing one’s sense of self and uniting your soul with the universal consciousness.

Transcendental Meditation

Yoga practice is a form of Transcendental Meditation (TM) popularized by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late 1960s. It came about as a result of his diagnosis of the human predicament that we who were actually part (or extension) of the infinite Brahman were unaware of the fact due to our ignorance and preoccupation with ordinary things.

To find our union with the Infinite, we needed to transcend the ordinary by the practice of the appropriate meditation. This was the classical pantheistic teaching of the early guru Sankara (A.D. 788-820).

However, Yogi suggested a very practical and down-to-earth way of meditation that needed any sophistication and practically no knowledge of Hinduism or speculative philosophy. In his prayer hall (asham) in northern India, he would assign a monosyllabic word to each of the devotees in the language with which they were comfortable.

Yoga is Transcendental Meditation

Each devotee would have to repeat the assigned word audibly as a chant during all of one’s waking moments. One could change over to a silent mode as long as the preoccupation was with that one word. After a few days, when the conscious mind was preoccupied with the word, the devotee was advised to expel the thought of that word so that the mind would become theoretically blank.

In that moment of blackness, one could suddenly have inward enlightenment that one was an extension of Brahman. It was at this point that one would have transcended the transient to find the inward liberation that is the longing of the human heart.

A moment’s reflection would show that the meditation recommended by Maharishi Yogi involves an emptying of the mind. He argued that the clutter in our human minds came in the way of true knowledge of the Infinite.

The Teaching Behind Yoga

The term yoga is comprehensively and somewhat interchangeably to describe certain physical and mental techniques and exercises that facilitate the realization of the union of the finite with the infinite. Note that union is not achieved – it need not be because it is a reality rather than achieving a union that is not there, to begin with.

To bring about this self-realization, a series of physical and meditation techniques are proposed. These are by no means uniform or similar and in fact can be quite diverse, depending on the particular school of yoga.

The techniques are inaugurated in the form of physical exercises, although in some cases they may involve worship of the sun or the lotus form, the flower being the abode of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. These worship forms depend on the theological preferences of the Hindu school advocating yoga.

Yoga Advances Into the Western Culture

As previously stated, yoga is a practice in the East but somehow found its way to the West. In order not to offend Western sensibilities, yoga these days is purveyed without any theological overtones but only as a series of physical exercises, and in most cases, these exercises can have beneficial physical effects.

Yoga teachers often encourage their students to meditate – without necessarily telling them what to meditate on or how to do it. They may even tell Christian students to meditate on Jesus Christ! The idea, of course, is that one thinks about and reflects on the subject of meditation which is in itself is of no great concern.

However, as one advances in the yoga course, one is often called on to be increasingly involved in a meditation that entails vacating the mind.

Should Christians Do Yoga Exercise

Why Christians Should Not Do Yoga

Christians who think that yoga practice is nothing more than physical exercises should think twice about doing it as it has a spiritual aspect to it. It’s worth repeating that yoga involves totally emptying the mind during meditation.

This is dangerous because a demonic dimension may arise out of content-less meditation.

In a teaching recorded by Matthew, Jesus seems to be alluding to a situation in which the evil spirit has gone out of a person only to return and find “the house empty, swept, and put in order” (Matthew 12:43-45). This could be the state of a person whose mind is inactive in the passive sense after having been vacated of all other entities.

In earlier times, the idle mind is said to be the “devil’s workshop” because yoga and other forms of transcendental meditation are not anchored on objective truth. There is room not only for error but also for the occult. The devil delights to oppress (and even possess) the empty mind of the unbeliever where there is no seeking after the God of truth.

We will also do well to remember that meditation in this sense is “looking inward” to self rather than “looking outward” to God. It’s because the metaphysical teaching behind this meditation is that we are extensions of the Infinite Reality of Brahman. We are encouraged to look inward to realize this “truth” that we are part of the Infinite.

Let’s not forget that the sin of the “morning star” was that he would “make himself like the Most High (Isaiah 14:12-14). This attempt at self-realization as part of the Infinite is the subtlest form of idolatry and thus an inevitable port of entry or the work of the devil.

In contrast, the Triune God of the Christian faith is capable of eternal communication. He is a God who creates by speaking, so much so that the universe can be believed to be real and objective, just as a spoken word is.

This God has created us capable of thinking and speaking. To belittle the faculty of thinking is to despise our created being. However, the response to wrong meditation is not “no” meditation, but the right meditation.

The Bible enjoins us to meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 1:2) and to “think on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good, and praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).

Conclusion

Christians in the West tend to play straight into the jaws of the New Age and other Eastern religious philosophies and practices. This is because these religions and practices seem to offer a quick-fix relief to the stress-filled lifestyles of the twenty-first century. Yoga stretching exercises are also very useful to help people stay healthy.

So, should Christians practice yoga? The simple answer is “no.” A Christian cannot do yoga exercises without getting caught up in the spiritual and religious aspects of it. Yoga is more than just physical exercise. Keep in mind that the point of yoga practice is to unite oneself with the Infinite.

The Bible exhorts us to meditate not on nothing by vacating our minds. Rather, we are to meditate on the Word of God, his Law, precepts, and goodness (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3; 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 97).


Reference: Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith
General Editors: Ravi Zacharias & Norman Geisler

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History’s Most Influential Figure by Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray

Encounter Jesus Like Never Before through Eastern Eyes

Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History’s Most Influential Figure by Ravi Zacharias and Abdu MurrayThroughout these pages, Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray invite readers to rediscover the cultural insights we often miss when we ignore the Eastern context of the Bible.

They offer a refreshing picture of Jesus, one that appeals to Eastern readers and can penetrate the hearts and imaginations of postmodern Westerners.

In Seeing Jesus from the East, Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray show us why a broader view of Jesus is needed – one that recognizes the uniquely Eastern ways of thinking and communicating found in the pages of the Bible.

Zacharias and Murray capture a revitalized gospel message, presenting it through this Eastern lens and revealing its power afresh to Western hearts and minds.

Incorporating story, vivid imagery, and the concepts of honor and shame, sacrifice, and rewards, Seeing Jesus from the East calls believers and skeptics, both Eastern and Western, to a fresh encounter with the living and boundless Jesus.

What is the Significance of Jesus’ Baptism?

What is the Significance of Jesus’ Baptism?

We learn from Scripture that water baptism is an important act of obedience on the part of every believer in Jesus in response to the Lord’s command. However, let me emphasize that baptism does not save as some Christians teach. One does not need to be baptized to be saved. We are saved by grace through faith alone in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In other words, water baptism is not a requirement for salvation and anyone who teaches otherwise is gravely mistaken. We submit for water baptism for several reasons that include us publicly declaring our faith in the Lord Jesus and to identify with His death, burial, and resurrection.

But why did the Lord Jesus have to undergo water baptism before beginning His earthly ministry? What is the significance of this act on His part?

The Baptism of Jesus

The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist was one of the highlights of the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry. Although gospel authors Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus’ baptism, Matthew gives us a more detailed description by first introducing John the Baptist as the one prophesied by Isaiah as the forerunner of the Messiah.

Matthew 3:13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The Baptism of Jesus Matthew 3:16-17 (NKJV)

Here is the story of Jesus coming to John to be baptized by him, and after getting a little resistance from the “baptizer,” Jesus is baptized. Immediately after getting up out of the water, we then have the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven on Jesus and a voice from heaven confirming the person and work of Jesus.

The Necessity of Jesus’ Baptism

John’s response to Jesus’ coming to him for baptism seems to indicate that John did not only know something about Jesus, but he also knew that baptism did not apply to Him (Matthew 3:14).

John had been preaching baptism unto repentance (Matthew 3:11). As the people listened and were convicted of their sins, they repented and were baptized as a witness to and sign of their inner purification.

But when Jesus came to John, he tried to stop him from being baptized because, at that moment, John was looking into the face of the Messiah – the “Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and “the man whose sandals he is unworthy to carry” (Matthew 3:11).

In response, Jesus said, “it was fitting for them in order to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Notice that the Lord used the word “us” – “it is fitting for us.” It was something that both the Sinless one (Jesus) and the sinner (John) had to do to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus was not acting alone; He was acting with John to fulfill God’s plan.

Lord's Guidance Christian Jewelry and Apparel

Jesus’ Baptism Confirmed John’s Ministry

John grew up to be a very special man. But who would have thought that God would use a “wilderness man” to Christ’s forerunner? He was very different from the other people who lived in his time. John was a Nazarite from birth who was filled by the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15).

He chose to live in the desert, wore camel’s hair, and ate locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:3-4). He was very different. After all, who else was preaching in the wilderness? Most people preached in the temple where all the people were. But John was preaching out in the desert.

Perhaps, one could say that John’s mission was to introduce Jesus as God’s promised Messiah. John the Baptist was specially chosen by God. In describing John’s appearance, Matthew links him with Elijah (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3). Why Elijah? Why not Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or the other prophets? It’s because Malachi prophesied that like John, Elijah was a kind of “wilderness man,” a man who lived on the run (Malachi 3:1; 4:5).

John the Baptist

When John the Baptist was first introduced in Matthew’s gospel, his message was an announcement that the kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 3:2). He was warning the Jewish leaders including the most zealous religious group, the Pharisees, that the King was soon to appear and will bring judgment.

Although John was careful to distinguish his ministry from that of the coming Messiah (Matthew 3:3, 11-12), his preaching was not only the warning of impending judgment; more importantly, it was a call to action. His message was intended to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, and for the message of salvation, that would be proclaimed after the suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.

Through John’s ministry, Jesus was introduced by God as the promised and long-awaited Messiah. By asking John to baptize Him, Jesus showed approval of his baptism, confirmed his ministry, and bore witness to it that it was indeed from heaven approved by God.

John played a vital role in the commencement of Jesus’ earthly ministry as he called upon men to prepare for His coming.

Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant

John initially refused to baptize Jesus but Jesus knew that it was His Father’s will for Him to undergo water baptism. Jesus was baptized not because he was a repentant sinner; His baptism identified Himself with tax collectors and sinners, the very people He came to save.

The word “righteousness” as used in the gospel of Matthew draws its meaning from the Old Testament. A full study of righteousness will lead to a meaning for the word as that which “conforms to the standard” which would mean doing the will of God.

To say that Jesus had to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness does not mean Jesus had been unrighteous. It simply means that He is committing Himself to do God’s will for Him, which is to conform to the standard which is the will of God.

The Suffering Servant Isaiah 53

God’s will for Christ was laid out centuries before He came in the book of Isaiah 53. The prophet Isaiah announced that the Suffering Servant was to be “numbered with the transgressors, would bear the sin of many, and make intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

Through His baptism, Jesus began to be identified with sinners. Isaiah further described the Messiah as “God’s righteous Servant who shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). The Father’s statement in Matthew 3:17 saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” also relates Jesus Christ to the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:10).

Well, it’s not that the Father took delight in His Son’s pain but the suffering and death of the Messiah were in fulfillment of God’s plan to make salvation available to everyone who believes (John 3:16). Jesus began to fulfill His work as the Suffering Servant at His baptism where He would identify with sinners, take their sins upon Himself, and justify them through His suffering and death.

Jesus’ water baptism was a picture of His future baptism on the cross. He was rejected and made to suffer and die but He is also seen to come forth in victory.

Conclusion

The baptism of Jesus Christ is not to be identified as one of repentance or as one similar to Christian baptism. Jesus’ baptism was unique, an initiatory right, setting Him apart to His role as a Prophet, Priest, and King, and anticipating His suffering and death on the cross.

No other, before or after, can share this baptism.


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Daily Life Lessons From Proverbs 6

Daily Life Lessons From Proverbs 6

No doubt, we’re living in the “information age,” but we certainly aren’t living in the “age of wisdom.” Many people maybe wizard with their computers but are amateurs when it comes to making a success of their lives.

Computers can store data and obey signals but they can’t give us the ability to use that knowledge wisely. What is needed today is wisdom; godly wisdom that is, and the book of Proverbs does not only talk about godly wisdom, it also teaches us how to get it and how to use it.

In this post, we will look at some life lessons from Proverbs chapter 6.

Proverbs 6 Lessons for Daily Life

Proverbs 6:1-35 deals with three enemies that can destroy a person financially, physically, and morally (or spiritually): unwise financial commitments, laziness, and lust. More often than not, one person will be guilty of all three because laziness and lust often go together.

People who are easily pressured into putting up security for somebody can be pressured into doing other foolish acts, including committing adultery. As Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Learning from the Ant

In Proverbs 6:6-11, Solomon spoke wisdom to the sluggard (lazy person) and said that they should learn from the ant, an insect proverbial for hard work. The ant is wise and worthy of imitation because she works hard without having to be told to work. Ants work hard to get the work done in the summer and the harvest.

Solomon is not saying that we should never sleep. Obviously, every person needs sleep; it is a necessary element for a healthy life. But too much sleep is destructive and often times it makes people lazy. Laborers sleep well because they have worked hard (Ecclesiastes 5:12) but the sleep of a lazy person is a mark of laziness and selfishness.

Bruce Waltke's Quote About Laziness

The result of laziness? Poverty. People often complain about their situation and envy the rich, not knowing how many hours of hard work and effort the rich has to put in to become successful. The lazy man loves to procrastinate and think things can always be done later.

Solomon says, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:10-11 NIV). The sluggard will find that poverty and need come upon him quickly – poverty not imposed by circumstances or misfortune but through laziness.

The Future of a Wicked Man

From the sluggard and his poverty, Solomon moves to the worthless and wicked man (Proverbs 6:12-15). “Worthless” is the Hebrew word “belial” used to describe worthless people (Deuteronomy 13:13; Judges 19:22; 1 Samuel 25:25; 1 Kings 21:10, 13).

One of the main features of the worthless and wicked person’s walk is the corruption of his speech and the perversity of his heart. To say that one has a perverse mouth means what they say isn’t true and honest. Rather, they’re a crook!

Proverbs 6:12 illustrates God’s hatred of sin. Some contemporary theology so emphasizes God’s love that it loses its sight of the fact that God also hates sin. We can never over stress that God has no pleasure in sin. On the contrary, sin grieves the Father (Genesis 6:6), the Son (Mark 3:5), and the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).

Seven Things the Lord Hates

The “six” and “seven” of Proverbs 6:16 have their explanation in their description.

“A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:17-19).

The six are the things and the seventh is the result. Sowing discord among brethren is presented as the result of the six listed things and it is one of the highest among the things that God hates and regards as an abomination.

Notice that most of these sins are connected to something we do, in or through our body. They are also focused on how we treat others. Paul reminds us about presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

We cannot honor God and claim to worship Him in spirit and truth yet we treat others badly.

Warning Against Adultery

First, Solomon spoke about how God’s Word and wisdom will never lead a man to the evil woman or keep him with her. The light of God’s word will wisely keep a man from falling into the flattering tongue of a seductress.

Going back to chapters 5 to 7 of Proverbs, we see how each of the warnings against adultery is prefaced by an admonition to pay attention to the Word of God (Proverbs 5:1-2; 6:20-24; 7:1-5). The Word of God is living and active. We benefit from its power when we cherish and obey it.

As we trust and obey God’s truth, He keeps us from believing the enemy’s lies. God’s Word will lead us wherever we go, keeps us while we sleep, speaks with us when we’re awake, and brings light to us in our darkness (Proverbs 6:22-23).


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The Dangers of Committing Adultery

The results of this immoral liaison lead to being degraded to the lowest level of poverty (Proverbs 6:25-26). See also Luke 15:13-16. If the adultery results in a scandal, a lawsuit, and a divorce, the price will not be cheap. In this day of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, adulterers are also risking health and life.

When Solomon said, “Can a man take fire to his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So is he who goes into his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:27-29), his brilliant wisdom, simplicity, and clarity were displayed.

He warns that anyone who takes up the harlot and plays with fire is sure to be burned. Thus, he must not complain about the strength of the temptation. Why didn’t he avoid it in the first place?

Fire is good as long as it is confined and controlled; it can keep us warm, cook our food, drive our turbines, and manufacture our electricity. Sex is a good gift from God. But like fire, it becomes destructive if it gets out of control. What begins as a “warm” experience soon becomes a burning experience, like holding a torch in the lap or walking on burning coals.

Adultery is Stealing

Certainly, hunger is a strong force in human life and the only way to satisfy hunger is to eat. But if we steal the bread that we eat, we’re breaking the law. We’ll end up paying more for that bread than if we’d gone out and bought a loaf at the bakery. As we sat in jail or stand in court, the enjoyment we had from that bread will soon be forgotten (Proverbs 6:30-31).

Adultery is stealing. “God’s will is for you to be holy, to stay away from all sexual sin … Never harm or cheat a Christian brother in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 6).

When adultery enters a marriage, everybody loses.

The Foolishness of Adultery

Proverbs 6:32-35 highlights the foolishness of adultery. The angry husband will use every means possible to avenge himself, for a loving husband would rather that his neighbor steal his money than steal his wife.

The offender will have no peace, and no amount of money he offers the husband will be accepted. The adulterer loses his reputation in the community and might actually suffer physical punishment. Of course, he and the woman were supposed to be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22), but this penalty probably was not always exact.

In today’s society, if a person has enough money and clout, he or she might be able to survive an adulterous scandal, but life is still never quite the same. Whether in this life or the next, sinners can be sure that their sins will find them out.

Indulging in sexual sin is always a losing proposition.

Closing Words

God calls us to receive His wisdom and be skillful so that we can make a life that will glorify him. What is important is not how long we live but how we live, not the length but the depth of life.

As never before, the church desperately needs people who understand and practice the skills involved in building a godly life. May we be among them.


Note: This devotional article is taken from The Transformation Study Bible, edited by Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe.

The Rapture and Everyday Life

The Rapture and Everyday Life

The Rapture is said to be the greatest end-time event that Christians all around the world are eagerly waiting to take place. This is when the Lord Jesus will come in the clouds to receive every church age believer, dead or alive, and take them to heaven as He promised in John 14:1-3.

Theologians also refer to the Rapture as the blessed hope of the believers (Titus 2:13). But do you know that the Rapture can have a meaning for our everyday life? Every key New Testament passage on the Rapture contains a practical application that is closely associated with it.

The message is crystal clear – anticipating the Rapture should change the way we live. According to the Bible, understanding the Rapture should have at least six life-changing influences on our hearts.

The Rapture and the Church

Converting Influence on Seeking Hearts

With life’s brevity in mind, the most important question for every individual to face is whether he or she has a relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior. Salvation through Jesus is a message that contains both bad news and good news.

The bad news is that the Bible declares that all people, including you and me, are sinful, and therefore separated from the holy God of the universe (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:23).

God is holy and cannot simply overlook sin. A just payment for the debt must be made. But we are spiritually bankrupt and have no resources within ourselves to pay the huge debt we owe.

The Good News, or Gospel, is that Jesus Christ has come and satisfied our sin debt. He bore our judgment and paid the price for our sins. He died on the cross for our sins and was raised to life on the third day to complete the work of salvation. See Colossians 2:14 and 1 Peter 3:18.

The salvation that Christ accomplished is offered to all of us through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation from sin is a free gift that God offers to sinful people who deserve judgment.

If you have not received that gift yet, I invite you to do it right now. Place your faith and trust in Christ and in Him alone, for your eternal salvation. The Rapture could happen anytime and those who fail to trust Christ will be left behind to endure the Tribulation.

Accept Christ personally by calling upon Him to save you from your sins (Romans 10:9-10, 13). Make sure you are Rapture ready!

Caring Influence on Soul-Winning Hearts

No believer can study Bible prophecy without being gripped by the awesome power of God and the wrath of God. Just a simple reading of Revelation 6 –18 reminds us of what is in store for this earth after the Rapture.

Scripture also describes the eternal horrors that await those who die without trusting Christ. The Bible brings us face-to-face with what is at stake for those who don’t know Christ as their Savior.

2 Corinthians 5:20 reminds us of our calling during this present age: “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

Those who have already responded to the message of God’s grace and forgiveness through Christ know the world’s future, and we are Christ’s ambassadors, representing Him and His heart to a perishing world. We should care deeply about those who are still lost, willingly give of our material resources to help spread the gospel message, and regularly ask the Lord for opportunities ad boldness to share the Good news of Christ.

A clear understanding of the Rapture should exert a strong influence on every believer to care about the lost before time runs out.

Cleansing Influence on Sinning Hearts

A proper understanding of the Rapture should produce a life of holiness and purity. Focusing the mind and heart on Christ’s coming can powerfully motivate our efforts toward living a pure life.

Note the certainty: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). Here is a perfect prescription for living a life of holiness – focusing on the Rapture.

How can we be riveted by the Rapture and live an impure life at the same time? 1 John 3:3 says it can’t happen. Fixing our hope on Christ and His coming is a purifying hope.

We are to live as if Christ could come at any time, and if this becomes real to us it will transform our lives. The Bible declares that we are to always be looking for Christ’s coming (Titus 2:12-13).

Prophecy and purity are mentioned in Romans 13:11-14 and 2 Peter 3:10-14 presents the practical, cleansing effect of prophecy.

So, when anyone says that studying Bible prophecy is impractical or irrelevant to everyday life, they reveal that they don’t understand what the Bible says about the personal impact of prophecy.


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Calming Influence on Stirring Hearts

Another practical effect of the Rapture is that it calms us down when our hearts are troubled and stirred up. In John 14:1-3, Jesus tells His disciples (and every believer today) to “not let our hearts be troubled.”

The word troubled means “to be stirred up, disturbed, unsettled, or thrown into confusion.” There are many things in our world today to disturb and unsettle us: moral decay, crime, economic uncertainty, terrorism, fear of pandemics, social unrest, and others.

Added to these problems are the personal trials and difficulties we all face in our daily lives. Trouble is the common denominator of all humankind (Job 5:7). Often these troubles and difficulties can leave us distraught, distracted, and disturbed.

However, Jesus emphasizes three things in John 14:1-3 that can calm our troubled hearts: a person, a place, and a promise. The person is our Lord, the place is the heavenly city (new Jerusalem), and the promise is that He will come again to take us to be with Him forever.

One of the great comforts in times like This is to remember that our Lord will someday return to take us to be with Himself.

Comforting Influence on Sorrowing Hearts

Every person has faced or will face the grief of losing a close friend or loved one in death. When death strikes, pious platitudes do little to bring lasting comfort to friends and family. The only real, lasting comfort is the hope that we will see that person again in heaven.

God’s Word tells us with certainty that we are not to sorrow as people who have no hope because we will be reunited with our saved loved ones and friends at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

The Rapture and Resurrection should transform the way we view death. Death has lost its sting. God has promised that death will ultimately be abolished and that life will reign.

Grief is still appropriate when our friends or loved ones die. Didn’t Jesus weep at the death of His good friend Lazarus (John 11:35)? Stephen’s friends also wept loudly over his battered body (Acts 8:2).

We miss our loved ones when they die. However, the Bible declares that our weeping is not the weeping of despair. There is deep solace, hope, and comfort for our sorrowing hearts in the truth of God’s Word about the future for His children.

Controlling Influence on Serving Hearts

So many today are unstable and unsettled in Christian work. They are constantly vacillating. Knowing about Christ’s coming and future events should cure the problem of instability and inconsistency in Christian labor.

After presenting the truth of the Rapture and the Resurrection, Paul concludes with a strong admonition: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Paul is saying since you know that Christ will someday come to receive you to Himself, let nothing move you, and be strong and steady in your Christian service. Realizing that Christ could return at any time is to make us energetic and excited about serving the Lord.

If the Rapture is a reality to us, it will motivate us to work faithfully for the Lord. The Lord intends for our knowledge of Bible prophecy to translate into devotes service for those around us as we await His return.

The principle in the Bible is clear: waiters are workers. When Christ comes we are to be “dressed for service and keep our lamps burning” (Luke 12:35 NASB).

Final Thoughts

Warren Wiersbe tells a story of when he was a young man preaching on the last days with all the events of prophecy clearly laid out and perfectly planned. At the end of the service, an older gentleman came up to him and whispered in his ear, “I used to have the Lord’s return planned out to the last detail, but years ago I moved from the planning committee to the welcoming committee.”

Certainly, we want to study Bible prophecy and know about God’s plan for the future. But we must be careful not to get too caught up in the planning and forget the welcoming.

Are you on the welcoming committee for the Lord’s coming? Are you living each day to please the Master?

May God help our knowledge of the Rapture to transform our lives as we eagerly await the coming of our Lord and Savior.


Note: This article is an excerpt from Dr. Mark Hitchcock’s book “The End, A complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days.”

Psalm 101: A Pledge to Righteous Living

Psalm 101: A Pledge to Righteous Living

Psalm 101 is said to be written by King David shortly after he ascended the throne. Needless to say, Israel’s confusions and abuses in the hands of Saul had to be reformed. Thus, David felt that he was God’s administrator and pledges his commitment to live and rule righteously.

King David’s “I Will” Statements

In this psalm, we read King David’s several “I Will” statements which we will break down one by one.

Psalm 101:1

“I will sing of mercy and justice; to You, O Lord, I will sing praises.”

King David opens Psalm 101 exalting the mercy and justice of God. He knows that mercy and justice always go together for mercy can only be understood in light of justice. When justice pronounces its righteous penalty, mercy may grant relief.

Psalm 89:14

David wanted his reign to be characterized by mercy and justice for this is the way God rules the world. (See Psalm 89:14 and Isaiah 16:5.) But he knew that these principles were rooted only in God. Before he can exercise mercy and justice in God’s kingdom, he had to understand and extol the mercy and justice of God.

And when he did, he expressed it in a song of praise. Praise given just to God in private brings Him much pleasure.

Do you extol God for His mercy and justice and sing your praises to Him even during your quiet time?

Psalm 101:2

“I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.”

This is a determination on David’s part to walk uprightly before the Lord. He wanted to do God’s will in his everyday life; he wants to confer with the Lord first before making decisions that would have a great impact on his leadership. David wanted to please God in everything so he asked God to come fellowship with him in his home.

The emphasis here is on the heart, for the heart of leadership is the leader’s devotion to the Lord. This devotion results in a life lived blamelessly to the glory of the Lord not only in public but in private as well.

David made it clear that there must be no separation between the leader’s personal life and his or her official life, the private, and the public. And David was determined to be that kind of leader.

Many people today, including Christians, seem to be pretty nice people when they are out in public, but live terrible lives at home with their families. We should be the same in public and at home.

Psalm 101:3

“I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.”

In this verse, David moved from the heart of a leader, turned the emphasis to the leader’s eyes, and what he saw or chose not to look at. The heart and the eyes work together, for what the heart loves, the eyes will seek and find (Ecclesiastes 2:10; Jeremiah 22:17).

The eyes are said to be the inlets of lust and are easily caught with objects that inflame the heart. Thus, we must choose wisely and carefully the things we set before our eyes. Your mind is like a computer wherein everything you see or hear goes into that computer and is recorded there.

Ecclesiastes 2:10

You may not realize it but the kind of music you listen to, and the movies and television shows you watch are influencing the way you think and act. Just as Eve’s sin began when she looked at the forbidden fruit with desire in her heart, David’s sin began when he set his eyes on Bathsheba.

Sin begins when we start looking at the things that we should not be looking at in the first place.

Psalm 101:4

“A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness.”

It takes determination to pursue a righteous life. King David did not only resolve to not practice wickedness himself and have evil people as his friends, but he also made sure neither to keep bad servants nor to employ those that are wicked.

Notice that David begins by cleaning up his own heart and then refuses to be associated with any evil person who might influence him to do evil. Again, David was determined not to have evil people in his company.

What kind of people do you associate yourself with? 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts moral character.” We must be very careful in choosing our friends because eventually, we will become like the people we choose to surround ourselves with.

Psalm 101:5

“Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, Him I will destroy; the one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.”

Whether it is said in private or public, God does not approve of slander. David knows this very and he wants to pattern his life according to the life of his Lord. So, he said he will not tolerate anyone who says ugly things about their neighbor.

When David says he will not endure those with a haughty look and a proud heart, he is talking about those people who are inflated with their own importance. David is basing his decisions on the kind of people to choose for his companions on God’s choice. In other words, if God does not approve of them, neither will David.

Again, what kinds of people do you keep in your company?

Psalm 101:6

“My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in a perfect way, he shall serve me.”

As Christ’s eyes are upon faithful persons and on faithful ministers of the Word to preach the Gospel faithfully, King David looked for the “faithful of the land” to set up as leaders. He wants people around him who love the Lord as he does because he knows that people who love God have good morals.

Perverse ideas come from a twisted heart, one that does not conform to God’s will (Proverbs 3:32; 6:16-19). David was also confident that when he chooses faithful people to work for him, they will be loyal to him as they have been to their God.

Godly people in authority are expected to choose godly people to work with them and for them, resulting in a government that is fair and honest.

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Psalm 101:7

“He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who tells lies shall not continue in my presence.”

Whether it is a big or small lie, it abhors God.

Being a truthful man himself, David cannot tolerate people around him who are not truthful. He would certainly reject anyone who practices deceit and tells lies. David is saying, “If you are working for me and I find out that you are committing these offenses, I will fire you and drive you as far away from my sight as possible.”

David wanted associates who were not defiled by sin, whose walk was blameless, and who would treat people with fairness.

Some people think it’s clever to be deceitful if it gets them where they’re going or helps them achieve their goals. So, you see, not everyone goes by the Ten Commandments.

Psalm 101:8

“Early I will destroy all the wicked of the land, that I may cut off all the evildoers from the city of the Lord.”

King David was so determined to rule righteously, favoring the godly and opposing the wicked, that he wanted to do it as early as possible. He was well aware that one rotten apple could ruin the whole basket so he would not delay making decisions.

Although some of those decisions would seem difficult to make and perhaps more difficult to implement, He would have to act immediately and not delay. He would drive away even those that had not done anything worthy of death if he wants his reign to be godly.

Politicians today could take a lesson or two from King David here should they desire to live a righteous life and rule in a godly way.

Final Words

Was David successful in maintaining the high standard of his declaration? No, not completely; but what leader beside Jesus Christ has ever maintained an unblemished record?

David reigned for forty years, during which time he expanded the borders of the kingdom, defeated Israel’s enemies, gathered the wealth used to build the Temple, wrote the psalms, and established the dynasty that eventually brought Jesus Christ into the world.

Like you and me, he had his weaknesses and failings, but overall, he sought to honor the Lord and be a good leader.

Jerusalem later became known as the “City of David” and Jesus as “the Son of David.”


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America Needs God Right Now

America Needs God Right Now

In just a couple of days, the United States of America will decide whether Donald Trump remains in the White House for another four years. Has Trump done enough during his first term to convince Americans that he’s the right guy to put the country back on track?

Trump’s challenger, former vice president Joe Biden, is currently leading in almost every poll and could potentially unseat Trump. But what does a Biden win mean in terms of religious liberty, economic stability, and America’s long-standing friendship with Israel?

Now more than ever, America needs God.

Bible Verse: Psalm 119:118

“You reject all those who stray from Your statutes, for their deceit is falsehood.”

In this verse, the psalmist speaks of the righteous judgment of God. He uses His “statutes” as a measuring line of His judgment, rejecting all those who stray from His Word and the principles revealed therein.

If we love the Word, we will hate lies and oppose liars. The psalmist knew that his shelter and shield were the Lord alone, and he trusted in Him. He is not hiding in the Lord from fear of facing the enemy, because he addresses the enemy in verse 115.

“Depart from me, you evildoers, for I will keep the commandments of my God!”

Only in the Lord could he find the help he needed.

Turning Our Backs On God

For years, America has turned its back on God. Biblical literacy is at an all-time low. Evil laws are being passed and enacted. Corruption is rampant in the highest places of office. I can guarantee that most Americans have taken the One, true God out of schools, courts, government, and society.

America Needs God Right Now

This explains why America has been in moral, social, and economic decline. But I believe that God isn’t finished with us yet. He can bless America and make it the world’s greatest nation once again. But we need to repent of our sins and turn back to God, for only God can make America great again.

God: the Only Source of Righteousness

Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Greatness is not found in your pocketbook; it is not found in government nor is it found in large groups of people. Greatness is only found in God since He is the only source of righteousness.

Many people claim they can be righteous or moral without God but that is not what the Word of God says. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Romans 3:10 also says, “There is none righteous, no, not one.”

So, just because someone believes or claims something, does not make it true. God is the only source of truth. God does not judge on a bell curve. He judges based on His standard. If you have not received His righteousness, you are not righteous. That is why God had to become a man.

If God did not become man, man would not be given God’s righteousness. Jesus came to earth so that we may be able to become sons of God as John 1:12, 14 says, on the condition we receive Him.

God will never force anyone to accept His free gift of salvation. If the people in America do not turn back to God, human trafficking, rioting, fear, division, corruption, murder, and pain and suffering will continue.

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Time to Pray, Vote, and Stand

As pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills said, “It’s time for God’s people to pray, to vote, and to stand.” Christians cannot afford to “sit out” this election. We need to go out and vote. More importantly, we need to vote in a biblical way.

Some of you may say, “But none of these two presidential candidates seem to be morally upright.” Keep in mind that we’re not voting for an individual; we’re not voting for a spiritual leader. We are voting for a party; we’re voting for a platform. Whose platform do you think better lines up with God’s principles?

I get it. You do not like Trump’s personality. You do not like his tweets or the way he gets things done. But what matters is that he’s getting things done. He has kept his promises and the things he ran on in 2016.

A vote for Trump and the Republican Party is a vote for religious liberty. Looking at what’s going on right now in states run by the Democrats, Christians should know better than to give them more power and government control.

Closing Words

For the first time in so many years, more and more Christian leaders have come out in the open to support President Donald Trump. That tells you how important this election is. Of course, God is still on the throne and He is in control. But Christians need to do their part as well.

We cannot sit comfortably at home and say, “Lord, it’s all in your hands now.” We need to go out and vote. We must vote as if everything is on the line.


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Get a copy of Michael’s devotional book “Life According to the Truth.”

Publisher’s Description

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