The Value Of One

prevenient grace

What is the value of one person? We ponder the end of our lives as we age, or when someone is sick in the hospital, people will often say “God isn’t finished with you yet…”

Now this phrase, which is often just muttered for lack of something else to say, has profound truth. It presupposes that God IS working in the world today.

Well, when did He start and why? It might surprise you that God had His plans finalized and in motion long before He created the heavens and the earth.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

God cherishes us!

God cherishes us, made in His image, with ability to love Him, come to Him and serve Him. The value of one in God is powerful! He gave us the ability to love Him, trust Him and obey Him. He knew there would be disobedience…He created us to come to Him through Christ…before the beginning.

This is…Prevenient Grace – In anticipation of our birth…of our coming to faith in Christ…of our serving HIM. This was all mapped out long before we came along.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, (Ep. 1:11)

The value of one: God calls us to Him

When He makes this call, God does the equipping…the preparing…and the doing…it all starts with God’s grace. He doesn’t just call us– God draws us to Himself. He never calls us to do anything without enabling us to do it.

God enables us to exercise faith. Christ has chosen us…locked in His purposes. God commenced a good a work in you. His prevenient grace called you to Him. He beckons us to carry it on. He does not quit. It is progressive, active and dynamic. That day…the day of Christ…when Jesus returns is when this world will cease to be and be recreated.

His grace allows us to serve Him

What God calls us to do He will do for us. Day-by-day, hour-by-hour. Moment-by-moment. That is sufficient grace for doing what God calls us to do always been the same…no changes. We are a work in progress…and God is not through with us.

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-6)

God has begun a good work in you!

Be confident that He who has begun a good work in you will carry it out… God will complete the work… a new heaven and earth…and that is SAVING grace… He calls us to Himself…He equips us…He does the work… He will complete is when we see Jesus…and we will be like Him.

GODISNOWHERE

God with us

What a joy it must have been for the disciples to live with and learn from the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthy ministry. God came down and lived with us in human form. How terrible it must have been for them to lose their Master. But how amazing it was for them to realize He rose from the grave and joined with them again. But the Lord had to prepare them to carry on the ministry without Him being there physically.

Go and make disciples

In that last meeting, the Lord gave them the “Great Commission.” Go and share the Good News and make disciples of all nations, not just the Jews. This glorious task was for these 12 men to send the message through Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The ascension of Jesus wasn’t the end of the story, just the end of the beginning of a new, personal and eternal relationship with God. Matthew tells us:

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

He is with us always and forever

We recently commemorated “Ascension Day,” when the Lord Jesus Christ bid farewell to His disciples and went home to His Father. He told them “I am with you always.” He did not mean physically. But with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the disciples had the complete picture of just how God was going to be with them.

It’s easy to get distracted, or to lose sight of what has been given to us. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is present with us, unlimited by time and space. That’s 24/7, 365.

God is with us NOW!

A priest once stood before the congregation and held up a sign that read, “GODISNOWHERE.” It was in big block letters and bold. He asked his flock what the sign said. Most of them agreed that the sign said, “God is no where.” Then the priest held up another sign with the same, exact letters, but a completely different meaning. “GOD IS NOW HERE.”

We must expect Him to keep His word!

If we do not expect the Lord Jesus to be here with us, present and not in any way distant, we close the door and He is not with us. However, if we expect Him to keep His word and have that hopeful expectation that He will always be with us.

Then, Jesus will surely be with us, in every aspect of our lives. He is with through the common events, to church to all of the many major situations. The difference between “God is no where” and “God is now here,” is having trust and faith in the Word of God.

We worship the God who was and is and is to come. We ‘re invited to have a forever relationship with Him. He encourages us to receive His gift, salvation through Christ Jesus. And we are given the privilege of being His children, knowing that He is always with us.

Is Grace Enough?

In America we like to say “I’m a self-made man/woman,” or “I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps.” We like to bask in accomplishment, or as Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.” It makes us wonder if is grace enough. Don’t we need to do good works for God to love us?

We like to receive credit for accomplishments, and many will pridefully refuse to admit that they got any help doing it. With that mindset at the forefront, many believe that eternal life is accomplished through what we DO, not what we believe. Arguments to the contrary only serve to marginalize our efforts.

We can all be saved by GRACE!

Is grace enough? Yes it is. The Apostle Paul tells it like this:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Perhaps we are stuck in in the proverbial “which came first the chicken or the egg” question. From the very beginning, God has not instructed us, commanded us or otherwise done anything to limit us, but in all things has treated us with compassion, kindness and most of all patience. He strives to establish a forever relationship we us in a perfect and Holy utopia. It is all about Him.

When we sin, we are shown the error and gently beckoned to repent. That, however, is not always received well.

But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord. (Isaiah 26:10)

Grace is simple, but also very complicated.

Grace is so very simple, yet extraordinarily complicated. On the on hand, like children, we are corrected by our Father and asked to do nothing other than have that conversation with Him.

But our own sense of pride and importance demands that we play a major role in determining our fate. You don’t just give something away for nothing. Somebody has to get paid.

Grace doesn’t make sense. Those who deserve God’s love and acceptance are the ones who should benefit from His provision. But long before God’s final sacrifice we were told that The Lord Jesus Christ would be the answer to the problem.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (Zechariah 12:10)

We want to follow the rules but avoid submission.

We still would rather believe in the Law than in grace. That is, by following the Law we are vindicated.

We think we can follow the Law and we may even want to follow the Law because we know it’s good, but the attempt always ends up in failure.

We believe that we are good enough

Still, if we believe we can be good enough, then everything is fine. But the Law given to Moses for our benefit, was not complete by any means. Jesus completed it.

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17)

Paul, the former Pharisee, had a full understanding of grace and his relationship with God. His expression of gratitude is not self-deprecating, but an understanding that God’s grace is not only sufficient, but is everything man needs for salvation.

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)

We are to do God’s work out of love not to earn points

Paul did his ministry work out of love and appreciation, not to earn points. God desires that we love the law and want to follow it. We’re not forced, we’re invited. God does not watch and wait for us to turn away so that he can punish us. No, He is there for us, to guide and instruct.

Grace is truly amazing, because when we realize the enormity of God’s grace, even at a cursory level, we can begin to understand how much we are loved. Paul said his works were as filthy rags. He was right.

Jesus: Authoritative or authoritarian?

Authoritarianism

1 : of, relating to, or favoring blind submission to authority

2 : of, relating to, or favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people

One of the push-backs to embracing the Christian faith is the idea that a person has to give up things they like and blindly follow the rules and regulations. All of the “should and shouldn’t” associated with the misinformation just serves to confuse people and prevent them from accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Jesus is authoritative, but He is not an authoritarian. As the writer of Hebrews noted, Jesus is the “author and perfecter” of our faith. All things were created for Him, including us. But his relationship to us is by choice, a free will decision, not corrupted by threat.

Jesus is always about choice not power

Authoritarianism is a human construct. Most often associated with government, it is the practice of minority rule, seldom, if ever, with the best interests of the people as an objective.

Authoritarian states have no real political options, other than the ones in power. Often brutal, authoritarian leaders shut down personal liberties, suppress a free media, corrupt the justice system, and stoke doubts and fears in the people to not trust their institutions.

Jesus, on the other hand, hid nothing, took nothing and gave away everything He had, even His own life. He is the King of King and Lord of Lords, sitting at the right hand of God the Father. But He is also gentle and loving, interceding on our behalf to bring us into an eternal family. He is the opposite of an authoritarian. But the misinformation persists.

Satan HATES truth!

If Jesus is the opposite of an authoritarian, then who is stoking the fire of opposition? An authoritarian… Satan. Authoritarians hate truth. Throughout human history, authoritarian regimes have followed the same script. Free speech is out. The courts are rigged. Political opposition is crushed.

Jesus was and is, loving and generous

Jesus, having full authority to do as He pleased, was always obedient to His Father and generous with His disciples. He was always within the will of His Father. He gave His authority to His followers

When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… (Matthew 28:17-19)

Jesus was both God and man

Pharisees were questioning His authority, mockingly asking, “By what authority do you…” Jesus did not take the bait. Rather, over time and through His actions, He revealed Himself to His followers.

Just as Jesus yielded to the authority of His Father, and just as He performed miracles not of His own power but by the Holy Spirit, He spoke and acted out of the authority of His father.

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” (Mark 1:27)

But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” (Matthew 9:6)

We are called to try to be like Jesus

This is important because He told His followers to do the same, just as he invites followers today to do the same. Fully God, Jesus was capable of doing anything by His own power. Fully man, Jesus prayed and asked for help. The Apostle Paul explained this dynamic.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

8 and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus was obedient and submissive to His Father

Obedient and submissive, Jesus carried out the work of His Father, all the while bringing us into His family and sharing everything He had. The profession of ministry is the only one in which the object is to give everything away and keep nothing. It is not authoritarian; it is the antithesis or that.

Man will find a way to corrupt the ministry and the church, turning the ultimate act of love into a business. Churches sometimes become corporate entities, not houses of worship. Man favors authoritarianism, and out of arrogance and ignorance, will try to improve on the way that Jesus showed us.

God Must Be Wrong!

Paul’s conversion

I recently had lunch with a dear friend, who has been in ministry for many years and has been a steadfast and dedicated disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has served in churches and community organizations; always with one prevailing objective—to further the Kingdom and bring people to Christ.

But, like many committed, Bible-believing Christians, he found himself at odds with the leadership of his church, because his church made the decision to embrace extreme, anti-Biblical beliefs. It wasn’t just his home church, it was the whole denomination. They took up their own beliefs, leaving the Bible teaching behind. God must be wrong.

A Theologian that doesn’t believe in God

His story reminded me of a man I spoke two many years back. He had a PhD from Harvard Divinity School, and was a self-described theologian. Interesting guy. As we spoke I came to the conclusion that we viewed God from very different perspectives, which is fine, except that one of us believed the Bible and the other didn’t.

One of us believed in the divinity of Christ. The other didn’t. We both had gone to seminary, although he went longer. The more I listened to him the more I came to think that he actually studied God to the point of not believing. God must be wrong.

I share this because the conversation gave me insight into how the truth gets lost in the pursuit of knowledge, or worse yet, social agendas. His experience with Scripture was purely academic, as his words bore no evidence of any kind of spiritual connection to God.

He was a pastor, yet he did not believe, and he admitted it. He was tolerant of my Christian stance, but we shared nothing in common outside of a few facts and such. But why was he a pastor? Simple. He told me that he liked the profession. He also was a part of a denomination that was comfortable with non-belief. We’ll leave that alone. God must be wrong.

Faith is our connection with God

I have always believed that religion is man’s attempt to be acceptable to God. The Bible teaches faith – faith in what God has already done to make man acceptable to Himself. Sure, there’s doctrine, because there needs to be a level of formality and standards of the faith. But true Christian faith has that all-important spiritual element to it.

It’s the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that transforms us into the likeness of Christ. This is possible because we were created as spiritual beings, in God’s image.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1: 26-27)

We forget who created us

Very early in human history, we forgot who created us and we decided to create Him in our image. Follow the Bible. I am not nearly smart enough to conjure up my own religion, so it is necessary for me to read the Bible and pray that God lead me down the right path.

It is also important for me to associate with other believers, to constantly check my opinions at the door and remain open to God’s truth. The Apostle Paul was keenly aware of this necessity.

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1: 6-10)

Saul was a Jewish leader who hated Christian until he encountered Jesus

Paul, who described himself as a pharisee’s pharisee, was the former Saul, a very learned man, who took it upon himself to persecute Christian believers. He was filled with knowledge of the Scripture, but he was spiritually dead. He was convinced he was right and that the Scriptures were his to uphold, but God wasn’t a part of his religious mission. In his mind, God must have been wrong.

Man wants to create God in his own image. God must be wrong. Or could it be that man is mistaken?

Repentance Is an Admission, Not A Plea Bargain

It’s not always easy to come clean with God. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, unless your sorrow is accompanied by true repentance. Repent means to “turn away,” to go the other direction. An act of repentance means one has confessed their sins to God, seen the error of their ways and has determined to correct them.

Repentance as restoration

Some view repentance in terms of sack cloth and ashes, while others view it as a “get out of jail free” card. Some view repentance as an act of fear, to avoid the consequences of sin and separation from God. Still others view repentance as an act of love, like a child wanting to be held after being naughty.

The “wages of sin” being what they are, let us focus on repentance as it pertains to restoration. The Bible is filled with accounts of people falling away from God, suffering, then coming back to God.

Gaining right standing with God is not about human action, it is about repentance. We are powerless to correct the wrongs, completely unable to pay the price and sadly doomed to separation from God for eternity.

God invites us to come clean and in doing so, He has provided the necessary payment to restore us to Him. The Bible has countless references to repentance or repent.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the Lord’s wrath did not come on them during the days of Hezekiah. (2 Chronicles 32:26)

Should God then reward you on your terms, when you refuse to repent? You must decide, not I; so tell me what you know. (Job 34:33)

Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6)

Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. (Proverbs 1:23)

The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 59:20)

Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent. (Jeremiah 5:3)

I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle. (Jeremiah 8:6)

Therefore this is what the Lord says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. (Jeremiah 15:19)

Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices! (Ezekiel 14:6)… “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. (Ezekiel 18:30) … For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! (Ezekiel 18:32)

God forgives us when we repent… it is that simple!

What is interesting is that nowhere does God require payment, restitution or any other kind of righteous works. Breaking the Law of God is serious business, one that comes with an automatic penalty of death, regardless of the sin, big or small.

God is Holy and Just, requiring complete adherence to His Law at all times. But He is a loving and forgiving God, whose grace is enough to rescue us from the fire. His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, paid the price we could not pay and through Him, we are redeemed. But it starts with repentance.

Life’s “Catch 22” Is Really Quite Simple

We often think of a “Catch 22,” named after the book, as a situation in which we are wrong no matter what we do. Sometimes there seemingly is no answer for the problems we face, but do not despair, because in Christ there is always an answer.

In reading the Bible we learn that God has established his covenant with man and that there are laws that govern that relationship. The trouble is, as humans, we can’t follow that Law. That seems rather unjust because perfect obedience to the Law is the absolute requirement for being with God eternally. So what’s the “Catch 22?” Actually there isn’t one at all. The Apostle Paul explains in Romans 7 how it all works.

Slave to Sin

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.

17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.

18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;

23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7: 14-25)

Sinful state of man

In verse 5, the Greek word for flesh is “sarx,” which refers to the sinful state of man. Paul is describing this “tug-o-war” between sarx and living in the spirit.

Absent the grace of God, there is no hope, but as he concludes by the end of the passage, it is Christ who is our hope and our redeemer.

Paul explains the problem in verses 15-20, but he quickly goes on to encourage us by saying that God has implanted the love of His Law in our hearts, even though our sinful nature is warring against that Law.

At the end of the chapter he thanks Jesus for what He has done for us, but the real conclusion is actually the beginning of Chapter 8 when Paul writes:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.” (Romans 8:1-3)

God is awesome!

Our God is an awesome God. We are given the opportunity to rely solely on Him for our salvation, our well being and our every need. We cannot do it ourselves, but in our absolute helplessness, we are given great power in Christ. No “Catch 22” at all.

Did Jesus Turn Water Into Wine or Grape Juice?

People love to debate Biblical issues and one of the more popular ones is whether or not Jesus’ miracle in John 2, turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, was creating alcoholic wine, or just grape juice. Like any readings in the Bible, it can be up for interpretation. Let’s take a look at John’s account.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11)

Highlighted in The Chosen

If you have ever watched Season 1 of “The Chosen” you will remember this sequence of events very well. Not intended to be precisely the way it was, the drama clearly reveals the intent. I particularly love the exchange between Jesus and His mother. His reluctance to perform the task, and for good reason, is quickly turned into acquiescence, because, I think, who can say no to mom? It’s a tender, human moment.

Wine or grape juice?

Now to the point. The word “wine” is the key to understanding what happened. This is not semantics or splitting hairs, it’s really quite plain. When the wine is presented, His disciples were amazed.

Verse 11 says “and his disciples believed in him.” There are many signs and wonders that will follow, but sadly the point of this miracle is lost in a battle of words. The Greek word used is “oinos,” a common word for ordinary wine, that is, fermented, alcoholic wine. The same word is used by the Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 5:18, warning people not to get drunk on wine.

Semantics aside, there is no historical or cultural proof that the wine wasn’t the “good stuff.” Jesus created a normal, ordinary wine. Remember this was a wedding and clearly when the wine is described by the master of the banquet as being “choice,” the point is made. Seriously, would he have made a fuss for grape juice?

It was wine

Of course there are folks who really do not approve of the consumption of alcohol. They would suggest that by turning water into fermented wine, Jesus would have been promoting sin. They will hold that alcohol is inherently sinful and therefore Jesus could not have done this. But the argument is not Biblical. There are even positive references to consuming alcohol.

Ecclesiastes 9:7 instructs, “Drink your wine with a merry heart.”

Psalm 104:14-15 states that God gives wine “that makes glad the heart of men.”

Amos 9:14 discusses drinking wine from your own vineyard as a sign of God’s blessing.

Isaiah 55:1 encourages, “Yes, come buy wine and milk…”

From these and other Scriptures, it is clear that alcohol itself is not inherently sinful. Rather, it is the abuse of alcohol, drunkenness and/or addiction, that is sinful (Ephesians 5:18; Proverbs 23:29-35; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:19).

Jesus was not promoting drunkenness

Jesus was well within Godly limits. He was not promoting drunkenness, just as He did not promote gluttony when he performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Certainly wine can be abused

By turning water into wine, Jesus was not promoting drunkenness and He would not have been responsible for people making bad choices. The truth of John 2 is the fact that water was turned into the best wine and the wedding went on.

Drunkenness is sinful. Addiction is sinful. God’s standard is moderation and self control. Personal responsibility is important. God’s standards were in no way violated. He was glorified.

How To Read The Bible

In the Begining

For so many people,how to read the Bible can be a challenge, either because it’s hard to understand or we just don’t know where to start. It can be a difficult task, but not if we can break it down into bite-sized pieces.

Even though the Bible is one, contiguous story, it can be read in just about any order. Pick a spot and dig in. But for the sake of convenience, my recommendation is to start with the Gospel of John. It tells a similar story about the life of Jesus, but more than any other Gospel, it is a love letter from God to us.

Here’s something to consider– if you understand who Jesus is and what He’s about, you’ll get insight into what every book of the Bible is trying to say.

God reveals what we need when we need it

The Bible is alive. The Holy Spirit flows through every word, every sentence. It is also spiritually discerned, which means that God will reveal to you what something means at the appropriate time. You may read something a hundred times and not know what it means, then suddenly it makes sense.

Because the Bible was inspired by God, who used men to write His message, it is logical to ask God for help when you start to read. Many people just browse the Bible and really don’t “read” it at all. They flip through pages, like changing the channels on the remote control. You ask for help, read the passage and that brings us to an important step—reflect on what you just read. This might be tough to chew on, but there are nine questions you need to ask as you reflect on what you just read. They are:

Is there a sin to confess and do I need to take action?

Is there a promise to claim?

Do I need to change my attitude about something?

Which commandment I need to obey?

What example for me to consider, positive or negative?

What a prayer to pray?

Which error do I need to avoid?

Can I see a new truth to be believed, new understandings about God?

Should I praise God for something?

Take a small piece at a time

Remember, just take the Bible one small piece at a time. As you read John’s Gospel, think of these questions. Take your time. Ask God to speak to your heart and mind and wait for His response.

It isn’t as difficult as people make it out to be. Just relax and enjoy the ride. Find a version of the Bible you like and get started. I personally use the New International version, but there are so many great versions.

To be honest, I also enjoy the New Revised Standard, the New Living Translation and of course, I do enjoy the King James for it’s Old English flavor. Versions may vary in emphasis. Some are word-for-word translations from the original Hebrew and Greek. Others are concept focused and try to convey the original intent of the writers. But stick to a translation and avoid a paraphrase version, which can be misleading.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Just enjoy.

Navigating Mental Health Issues as a Christian

Mental health issues are something we really don’t want to talk about. While it may be a reality, bringing it out into the open isn’t something that is easily accomplished. We want to hide it away from the world

Years ago I served as a visiting pastor to Rogers Memorial Hospital, a behavioral health hospital, to offer communion, group Bible study and one-on-one visits. The experience taught me a valuable lesson—it’s important to look beyond the stigma of mental health.

During those years, God showed me that the patients were people whom He dearly loved. Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep,” so how was this any different?

I am a chaplain not a mental health professional, so over the years, in a variety of settings, I have kept to my side of the street. Collaborating with counselors, psychotherapists and others gave me an understanding that body, mind, spirit are all connected and play a part on a person’s well being. More importantly, God does move in the lives of people, so letting Him lead is an essential part in reaching out to people.

Mental health issues are scary

Mental health issues are scary for so many people. They call it behavioral health. People can have a mental illness, but not have any “behavioral” issues. Mental health is not much better. Call it “Help for the Soul.” Mental Health and Wellness teams strive to not only help people through their issues, but also to connect them with God. We don’t usually think of the Lord Jesus Christ as a Mental health worker, but truth be told, he is the ultimate psychotherapist. Not only does He bring resolution, He brings healing.

We all deal with mental health issues in ourselves or a loved

Because most everybody at one time or another is going to deal with a mental health issue, that doesn’t make them any less of a Christian. We are dearly loved, made in God’s image, so the focus is on getting through the situation and moving forward.

The Bible is not specific on mental health, but it does touch on emotions. We see episodes of demonic possession in the Bible, but that is not mental health as much as it is a spiritual attack. People struggling with issues are not demon possessed, but they have problems that require help.

Stress, anxiety, depression are common and can be dealt with. People do not lose their salvation because they are fighting a problem. Anyone can have mental health problems, young and old, rich or poor. Because of this, we should not judge them, but reach out and try to help. Look at it this way, Elijah the prophet had suicidal thoughts. In 1 Kings 19:4 he prayed that he might die, but God strengthened him.

Mental health issues need to be treated

There are those who do not trust mental health professionals, or doctors in general, but the fact is people who have mental illness episodes need to be treated. Sometimes that means medication, but often it is a matter of talking things through and gaining a different perspective.

Often we can call upon God to take away those anxieties and worries. 1 Peter 5:6-7 speaks to this directly:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

The Apostle Paul tells us:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

The key is having a close relationship with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ. In today’s world, people turn to anything and everything to get help or relief. They seldom turn to God. The more we fight against the love and compassion of God, the worse it gets for us.

The religion of the world is humanism. Pushing God aside, we strive to solve our own problems our own way. Man is the center of the humanist world. Elijah thought his suicide would be the answer to his troubles. God had a better way.