I have often asked groups of people to nominate whom they believe to be the best example of “faith” in the Bible. Most people favor the familiar heroes of faith: Abraham, Job, Moses, or Elijah. Some mention John the Baptist or David.
When asked to explain their choices, people usually speak of those events, such as Abraham’s offering of Isaac, in which people do remarkable things that don’t appear to make any sense. For many Christians it appears that faith has more to do with blind incredulity than with a life-changing relationship.
Jesus Christ is our best example of faithfulness!
Jesus spoke explicitly of His faith relationship with divinity outside of Himself: “I do nothing on my own authority, but in all that I say, I have been taught by my Father. He who sent me is present with me, and has not left me alone; for I always do what is acceptable to him” (John 8:28, 29, N.E.B.). The divinity that charged Jesus’ life with power and purpose was not His own, but His Father’s.
Prayer: God, we pray for an increase in faith and the desire to obey Your will for our lives. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
But now, O Lord you are our Father, we are the clay, and you our Potter; And all of us are the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8
Timothy constantly sought Paul’s advice and instruction. He exercised consideration and calm thought, inquiring at every step, Is this the way of the Lord? The Holy Spirit found in him one who could be molded and fashioned as a temple for the indwelling of the divine Presence. TT 109.1
The question is, Are we surrendering to the power of the Holy Spirit and allowing Jesus Christ to transform our character? God is not intrusive. He does not force us to change into His image. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20
Prayer: God, we desire to be molded in the Character of Christ. We pray for forgiveness of our sins. We ask to be molded in your hands. As we prepare for your soon coming, we pray for guidance in every aspect of our lives. In the powerful name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
During my employment with a major health insurance company, a severe issue arose not covered by a company policy. In a clinical environment, a Registered Nurse is the licensed professional that the paraprofessional staff must report to as regulated by the Board of Nursing. Our team consisted of one lead RN and several LPNs responsible for monthly physician statistical reports indicating the level of care met for patients with chronic diseases. The lead RN of one of the teams discovered a deficit in the data submission of one of the nurses and addressed it in a 1:1 meeting with the LPN. Emotions escalated, not because of the error, but focus on the statement, “You are not in charge of me.” It led to a significant conflict and fiasco that eventually was reported to Human Resources.
The outcome From HR’s intervention required the development of a new [immediate] policy: Because we were in a non-clinical environment, the lead RN was not responsible for the deficiencies of the members on the team. All concerns would require a description in writing from the Lead RN or the LPN to the Departmental Manager. Although the policy addressed the hierarchy of command, an unhealthy relationship developed in the majority of the teams, which affected the cohesiveness of the department.
The Apostle Paul Addressing the Conflict in the Early Churches
God designated the Apostle Paul to witness to the Gentiles. From reading the books that he wrote–letters to the churches and to Timothy, we become aware of the confusion in the churches. The dissension was due to the rivalry between the new converts who were former unbelievers with pagan practices–the worship of gods and goddesses. Many were high-ranking priestesses and individuals with significant wealth and influence who assumed they would keep their worldly status in the church. And yes, they were highly offended by Paul’s teachings: All believers are of the body of Christ and equal, regardless of social or financial status. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels, I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. 1 Timothy 5:21
2021–The multitude of believers with an Unhealthy Relationship with God
Many modern churches have protocols that give recognition to the wealthiest congregants. The front rows are assigned based on social status, and they are readily elected to the most prominent positions in the church. Recently, I listened to a sermon by Dr. Sonnie Badu, which addressed a most heart-wrenching situation, “members that esteem their Pastors above Jesus Christ.”
At first, one would think that this is a cultural belief. However, worshipping one’s pastor has permeated Christianity on a global level. I was sent a question by a young woman who asked, “Why do certain Christian women dress modestly?” She rejected the scriptural answers by proudly affirming that her pastor stated, “It doesn’t matter how we dress because we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness.” I said a silent prayer for the Holy Spirit to reveal her error. No, I did not send a reply. When individuals desire to disobey God’s truth and follow their desires, it is a matter between them and God.
Sadly, many who know the biblical truth do not possess the desire to obey God. One of the defining characteristics is the refusal to observe the seventh-day Sabbath. For I am the Lord, I change not…Malachi 3:6. This scripture is all-inclusive, not limited to the subject of tithe and offerings. With a sound mind, we can reason that if nine of the ten commandments remain unchanged, and only the fourth commandment has changed, it is false teaching and definitely not of God. [Research Emperor Constantine and his change of Saturday- Sabbath.] “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.” James 2:10
God is not a religion or denomination, nor has He changed any of His laws except for Ceremonial laws. When Jesus [the Lamb of God] was crucified and died, the veil ripped from top to bottom. See Matthew 27:51. There was no longer a need for the sacrifice of animals to cover humanity’s sins.
Jesus defines the relationship that he requires of His disciples:
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me, and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.… Matthew 10:37-38
It is not easy to follow Jesus. We will be excluded from family, friends, society, and government. Even so, we must have the courage to obey the scriptures.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 1 Timothy 3:16-17
Daily Prayer, the study of the Scriptures, Obedience, Faith, and Trust in God are the foundation of a healthy relationship with God. Indeed, our lives must be in alignment with God’s requirements. Pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who is our Teacher. God never withholds the truth from those who diligently seek Him.
We will hear “Well-done” from Jesus Christ if we have given 100% to faithfully following Him. Nothing else is above having a healthy, thriving spiritual relationship with Jesus based on love and obedience.
“The New Rich” is a term coined by Tim Ferris in his book “The 4-Hour Work Week,” written in 2014. His concept received much opposition. Yes, escaping the job that you detested by starting a position that the world will love sounds ideal. Even so, the behaviors of a target audience for your business are unpredictable. Why? Nothing lasts forever! People are fickle. What they desire today will quickly be forgotten sooner than later. Consumers have made Amazon a super-power because of convenience, not due to loyalty.
2021 Update: Now enter a group of wealthy young men with sound minds who have repurposed this phrase. They are proud of their accomplishment: Living a simple lifestyle has given them the status of being “Debt-free.” Yes, they live without worries because their money is exclusively used for necessities and to travel the world. Sounds enticing. Who doesn’t desire to live this lifestyle?
Let’s analyze this “New Rich” concept of minimalistic living. Romans 13, verse 8 tells us, “Owe nothing to anyone…” So, their idea of living debt-free is excellent. But the remainder of verse 8 reads, “–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.” The “New Rich” issue is that they possess the mindset of self-reliance and selfishness that define the prosperous [prosperity] worldview.
And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Mark 1:16-18
Compared to our standards of financial comfortability, Jesus and His disciples lived in poverty. And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Matthew 8:20. Thankfully, God does not require us to live without our necessities–Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33
The life of a believer is to serve Jesus Christ as a disciple–to serve God and our brothers and sisters in need, whether it be spiritually and financially. When Jesus called the twelve disciples they gave up everything to follow Him. Enter the disciples of 2021, and our mindset is comparable to the New Rich, except that most of us are in debt, well beyond the costs of our necessities. Yes, the prosperity messages draw people into mega-churches, but the emptiness that accompanies the pursuit of happiness has left us with a generation of anxious, worried, and depressed Christians.
We desire material possessions and wealth because our priorities are unequally yoked with godly stewardship principles. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 1 John 3:17. Everything that we have belongs to God. Our overabundance is not given to show-off our social or financial status or to build massive bank accounts and investments. He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
What does Jesus require of his Kingdom of God disciples?
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'” 45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'” Matthew 25:37-40, 45
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” John 17:17 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6
Growing up in a Christian home was not difficult because my friends were also from Christian households. I was a mischievous but obedient child who loved to read. Weekly, I would visit the library, check out the maximum number of books, and excitedly wait for the next visit. Although my mother studied the Bible daily, she did not read the Bible to us, nor did she encourage us to study the Word of God. Our Father worked 12-16 hours, six days a week. It was a time factor. With two younger children and one with ADHD, her schedule was non-stop. I can only imagine that she was exhausted at the end of each day. Even so, her character and actions revealed Christ through her love, temperament, and patience.
The church we attended in Newark, NJ, was diverse, with members from various ethnicities and cultures. Our pastor [of German descent] emphasized weekly to the congregation that we represented the family of God. He also stressed unity and love [this was during the Civil Rights Movement] if we expected to receive eternal life. Still, we were not a Bible-based church. Our services were based on “miracle-healings,” where members and visitors would stand in line to receive physical healing.
This is not a critical portrayal of our pastor. Simply, we were not taught to study the scriptures. The emphasis was to be like Jesus. But how? Without the knowledge of the Bible, it is impossible to be like Jesus. Fast forward a few decades, and now, I am a Bible student. The Holy Spirit has taught me that I must have extensive knowledge and wisdom to possess the Character of Christ along with the desire to live a holy and righteous life.
God’s expectation is that we diligently study the scriptures. Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15. Interestingly, the other biblical translations of this verse replace the most important word, study.
To emulate Christ requires a thorough knowledge of the Bible and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is the life-long process of spiritual maturity. “To be sanctified is to become a partaker of the divine nature, catching the spirit and mind of Jesus, ever learning in the school of Christ.” The Upward Look, p. 149
Staying on the Path of Righteousness requires unwavering faith and trust in God, strict obedience, and wisdom that we can only receive from our Teacher, the Holy Spirit. Still, intense love for God is the foundation that fuels our desire to please God. Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38
Jesus led an exemplary life in His love and service to those in need. Christ embraced the poor, the needy, and the individuals who society considered undesirable. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’Matthew 22:39
Human Effort from a heart filled with agape love:
Diligent Bible Study
Anointing of the Holy Spirit
Meekness and Humility
Resistance of temptation
Divine Intervention from God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
The Apostle Paul clarifies that our faithfulness and obedience to God allow for continuous spiritual growth and development. God does not expect us to overcome our inherent sinful natures using our strength. In fact, we can’t become holy and righteous without Divine intervention. Praise God that we have a Spiritual Team that is always ready to intervene and intercede, providing us with help on our journey with Christ. Strive to live every day, “For Christ Alone.”
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3
As for me, I will see your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness. Psalm 17:15.
The Apostle Paul placed great emphasis on the transformation of our character. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14. We are preparing now to live forever in a perfect and sinless New Heaven and New Earth. We cannot justify holding onto ungodly character traits and unrighteous habits, which will prevent us from receiving our reward of eternal life. Knowing what God expects from us will give us the motivation to please Him. You must be holy because I, the Lord, am Holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own. Leviticus 20:26. Amen.
Imagine that you received an even-trade offer to receive a new vehicle for turning in your current vehicle. The only condition is that you would not see the new vehicle prior to the trade. Some would hesitate and need time to think about it, while others would give a definite answer of no. Still, there is the enthusiastic group that would be elated, readily agreeing to participate in the blind trade.
When we accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior we agreed to surrender and to become His disciples. Changing us from our inherited tendencies, eliminating our self-reliance, taking away the desire for worldly habits, and giving us a character makeover is a lifetime spiritual process known as Sanctification. The Apostle Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians 5:17, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ have become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” NLT. Yes, Sanctification is to become holy as Jesus is holy.
Where do you stand as far as trading off the old you in exchange for the new person in Christ Jesus? Which group of individuals represent your decision to become like Christ?
God has blessed us with the resources of time, money, and energy. Utilize each with diligence. The goal of every believer is to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been Faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” Matthew 25:23
Most of us rely on the prediction of weather forecasts. Many outdoor activities, weddings, and events are planned on suppositions of future projections. Still, we are surprised by the unforeseen thunderstorms and rain showers that threaten or cancel the events that we have put time and effort into or eagerly look forward to attending. It is a grim disappointment when our plans and anticipated joy come to a screeching halt. Even so, with sadness in our hearts, we realize that the weather is above and beyond our control. And either we use plan B, or the event is rescheduled.
The life of a disciple–follower of Christ is a life full of storms and seasons of fiery trials. Yet, many live their daily lives as if they were unaware that following Christ means suffering. Two reasons exist: 1. Lack of knowledge. 2. The internal conflict between surrender and self-reliance, which prevents us from bonding with Christ. We eagerly make plans without presenting them first to God in prayer for His approval and blessing. The prayer of “Not my will, but thy will be done” is replaced with a mindset of presumption. Sadly, our desires supersede God’s plans for our lives.
Jesus’ disciples also had their own agenda–for Jesus to be proclaimed King and exalt Himself to the throne [along with themselves]. After feeding the five thousand, the disciples were confident that Jesus would announce himself as King. It was evident. If someone could feed thousands of people from five loaves of bread and two fish, and have food left over, certainly they would proclaim Jesus as their earthly king. Finally their life of poverty and suffering would be over. But Jesus knowing their desires gave a command that left them astonished. Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. Matthew 14:22.
Because of their worldly desire of self-elevation, the disciples were always outside of the will of God. Yes, they were deeply disappointed when Jesus sent them away. And because of their selfish and disobedient character traits, they waited for Jesus [John 6:16-17] until dark. Finally they got into the boat not realizing that the calm sea would become a raging storm that would make them acknowledge the deity of Jesus : “Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:33
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we knew when our spiritual storms were coming?” “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Jesus forewarned us of the stormy trials, sorrows, and hardships that would come upon us. The life of a disciple–follower of Christ is a life full of storms and seasons of fiery trials. Yet, many say they are Christians but seem unaware that following Christ includes a journey of suffering. Like the disciples, we have our agendas for success, acquiring tangible possessions, and living comfortable, peaceful lifestyles.
And then we face the storm that rages with such force, we realize our helplessness. When the storm hits, we are devastated. The preparation of building rock-solid faith requires diligently studying the scriptures and becoming a powerful prayer warrior. We must cultivate prayer and study as daily habits. God’s promises include the condition of putting forth “Human Effort!”
When we are armored up–Ephesians 6:10-18, we are strong in the Lord. Our faith and trust in God is unwavering. We are connected to the source of power–Jesus Christ. We gain strength because of the power of prayer, knowledge of the scriptures, and possessing a faithful, obedient, and deep spiritual bond [relationship] with Jesus Christ.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:2-5
Yes, the storms are raging. But Jesus tells us to come, “Go Ahead! Walk on the Water.” Jesus is always here to help us through our storms. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
They say what the world needs is love, sweet love. Although I wholeheartedly agree, I would like to add another character trait that is in short supply and that is patience. Most of us are victims to the “hurry up with it, I have other things to do” mindset. Even so, I came across some profound advice, “Unless it is an emergency, think about it for at least 24 hours and the possible consequences that may follow from you making that decision.”
For the believer in God, every decision that we make is either for God or against God. Within that 24 hours, we must go to God in prayer and ask for His will. There are few absolutes in life. We can know this for sure that we can never hurry God. And there is one more absolute truth, every mistake that we have made in our lives is because we did not ask God or we did not wait for God’s answer.
And for those like myself who lack the virtue of patience, God has no problem letting us make the mistake. He knows that when we are drowning in the Sea of Consequences, we will pray the SMS–Save My Soul prayer. Thankfully, He forgives us with loving grace and mercies. Still, we may suffer the full impact from our disobedience.
Last night during worship, it was the Holy Spirit who taught me this profound fact of life. Every decision that you make is either for God or against God. The imagery was the train crossing with the flashing red lights with the barrier coming down warning of the pending train traveling at an unknown speed. I am thankful that our Heavenly Father’s love is overprotective.
And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourself this day whom you will serve. Joshua 24:15