Category: Devotionals

What is the proper way to handle sin in my life?

What is the proper way to handle sin in my life?

Question:

“What is the proper way to handle sin in my life?”

Answer:

The proper way to handle sin is to confess it to God and forsake it. Each of these two basic steps deserves a closer look:

First, confession is the proper way to handle sin. Naturally, to confess our sin, we must recognize that what we’ve done (or left undone) is sinful. Everyone has sinned, and believers in Christ also sin. The apostle John, writing to believers, said, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

To “confess” is to “agree with.” To properly handle sin in our lives, we must agree with God about our behavior; if the Bible calls something we’ve been doing “sin,” then we should call it “sin” as well. In our confession, we should be brave enough to be completely honest before the Lord. We should start by confessing all known sin and then ask the Lord to reveal any other sin that may need confessing. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24). Biblically, our confession is made to God, not to a priest. Jesus is our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).

When we properly handle sin through confession, we have this promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This promise was encouraging to the people John was writing to in the first century AD, and is encouraging to us today. It is the heart of the gospel. Jesus sits enthroned at the right hand of God the Father, a position of power and influence. He intercedes for those who are His, made so by grace through faith. When someone who is in Christ sins, it’s as if Jesus says to His Father, “I have paid for that sin.” The Father forgives us on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. He is faithful to do so, in keeping with His promise; and He is just to do so, because Jesus has already paid the price for the sin.

Second, forsaking the sin is the proper way to handle sin. When Jesus forgave the woman taken in adultery, He told her, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). Go—that is the word of forgiveness and release. Sin no more—that is God’s command to live a holy life.

We cannot seriously claim to be properly handling sin if we refuse to give it up. If we find a venomous snake inside the house, we don’t toy with it; we remove it from the premises. If we discover cancer in our body, we don’t go about business as usual; we begin an aggressive treatment program to pursue a clean bill of health. And if we become aware of sin in our lives, we do all we can to change our behavior to please the Lord.

To handle sin properly, we should not only forsake the sin but also seek to make restitution for our wrongs, when possible. Zacchaeus is a good example of this (Luke 19:8). We should also take steps to avoid falling into the same trap again. This means establishing new habits, frequenting different places, and avoiding certain people: “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin” (Proverbs 18:24). We should heed God’s command: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11).

To properly handle sin, we must follow the directives in God’s Word. We must “watch and pray so that [we] will not fall into temptation” (Mark 14:38). And we must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. When He is grieved, it is time to confess our sin and forsake it (see Ephesians 4:30).

When we properly handle sin in our lives, our lives will change, and we will “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:9). We will live in the confidence that our sins, past, present, and future, are forgiven in Christ (Romans 8:1). We will praise the Lord of our salvation as the One who can keep us from stumbling (Jude 1:24–25). We will trust Him to finish in us the work that He began (Philippians 1:6).

When we properly handle sin in our lives, we will prove the truth of Proverbs 28:13: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (ESV, emphasis added).

When You Feel Far from God at Easter

When You Feel Far from God at Easter

It’s Easter week and you know that you’re “supposed” to be rejoicing over Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His miraculous resurrection.

You’re “supposed” to feel all the emotions of Easter such as joy, peace, and happiness.

But, if you were to be really honest, this Easter it feels like something is missing.

You feel far from God, and Easter feels more like a ritual than a reason to celebrate. 

You’re not sure how to make sense of what you’re feeling. You do believe in Jesus and know that you’re saved only by His sacrifice (which we celebrate at Easter), but it’s like there’s a barrier between what you believe and how you feel.

And honestly, it’s quite an uncomfortable place to be in.

So you shrug it off. You put on your best Easter attire and a plastic smile as you go through the motions of the week’s Easter activities.

But each time you say “He is Risen!” to fellow churchgoers, your spirit winces a little as you aren’t sure if what you’re really saying is what your heart believes in that moment.

You may even begin to feel a tinge of doubt about the validity of your faith or your salvation. “After all, isn’t my faith in Christ all about how close I feel or don’t feel to God?” you may wonder.

And so, the glorious joy of Easter (that everyone around you seems to have) becomes more of a reminder of what you are really lacking this year.

Instead, this year, Easter seems to simply remind you of this scary truth: You feel far from God and you have no idea what to do about it. 

Facing the Truth about Your Current Feelings

Make no mistake, feeling far from God is not a pleasant place to be, especially if you’ve been close to God before and known the glory of His wonderful presence.

In fact, it’s downright excruciating. It’s almost as if your spiritual nourishment is akin to someone who is used to eating the richest, most delectable gourmet meals, but is now forced to survive on meager portions of beans and rice.

You’ve tasted the “good”—the incredible mountaintop highs—in following Christ, and now you can’t understand why those feelings are gone.

And then there’s the sheer isolation of these type of emotions. This isn’t what “good Christians” talk about, right? We’re not “supposed” to have moments where God feels distant, are we?

Isn’t Christianity really about moving from one mountaintop experience to another? If we don’t feel close to God, doesn’t that mean that He’s somewhere far off?

Many Christians who feel this way! And honestly, we have had moments where we’ve felt far from God and not known how to handle it.

But if you get nothing else out of this post, please understand this truth: The solidity of our faith has nothing to do with our emotions. No, the Christian faith has nothing to do with moving from mountaintop-to-mountaintop of increasing emotion.

While we can grow deeper with Christ the longer we know Him, we can’t let our ever-fluctuating feelings dictate the validity of our relationship with God.

In fact, if we let our emotions determine the truth of what we believe, then we might as well sit around and only believe in those things that make us feel good (at least for that moment).

The truth? Our emotions are a natural reaction to our circumstances and we can’t place our entire belief system on what we may or may not feel.

Using Emotion as a Way to Draw Close to God 

Emotions don’t need to be the basis of our Christian faith.

However, emotions can be an incredibly powerful barometer for allowing us to assess those areas of our life where we may need some additional growth or healing, especially regarding spiritual matters.

This Easter, what if we boldly acknowledged our feelings before God—even the aching questions and the deep hurts—and asked Him to help us understand what we were feeling?

What if we were truly honest with Him this Easter about our lack of emotional zeal and instead said, “God, help me to celebrate Easter with joy, not because of my earthly emotions but because of my faith-based, confident trust in the truth of who You are”?

After all, God created every part of us, including our emotions. As a good God who uses everything for His purposes, don’t you think He can use our most troubling questions and deepest pain to bring testimonies of great glory and power (that goes beyond our in-the-moment feelings)?

5 Steps to Take When You Feel Far From God at Easter

Instead of allowing emotion to dictate our joy level this Easter, let’s view our emotions as opportunities for deeper avenues of growth with a God who loves us at all times and through all experiences.

How does this happen? I believe it starts with five critical steps.

1. Authentically share with God all that you’re feeling, including your doubts and fears.

He tells us to give Him our cares and to trust Him with every part of our lives (1 Peter 5:7, Matthew 11:28-30).

Pray aloud or write down in a journal everything that you’re feeling. Do whatever it takes to confess all the emotions to Him so that He can help you through them.

There’s no need to be formal or fancy when talking to God. Just be real. 

Consider this: How can we follow God if we can’t be honest with Him about our biggest concerns and questions? I’m convinced that not only is He is big enough to handle our questions, but He uses our questions to deepen our relationship with Him through the situation.

2. Believe the truth that He is not far off, regardless of what your emotions tell you.

Sometimes life is incredibly hard and there seems little relief from the pain. It is tough, to say the least!

But during these times, we must not let our emotions take over and nullify the everlasting truths of God, such as:

  • God is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those with crushed spirits (Psalm 34:18).
  • He keeps us in perfect peace when we keep our eyes on Him and not on our circumstances (Isaiah 26:3).
  • He will not reject a broken and repentant heart (Psalm 52:17).
  • He restores the crushed spirit of the humble and revives the courage of those with repentant hearts (Isaiah 57:15)
  • The Lord is close to all who call on him in truth (Psalm 145:18-19).
  • He will never leave us or give up on us (Hebrew 13:5).

Write down evidence of His presence in your life, and listen as He guides you to a better understanding of the emotions that you’re feeling.

3. Ask Him to reveal anything in your life, including sinful habits, thoughts, or patterns, that may be separating you from Him. 

Spend extra time reading the Bible and allowing the purity of Scripture to bathe your heart with what He calls “pure and righteous.”

Ask Him to show you areas where you need His help to live differently so that nothing can hinder your connection with God. Listen for his conviction and not the condemnation.

If He reveals things to you that need to change, be quick to repent and to change patterns in your life so that you can find healing and restoration.

4. Ask a trusted Christian friend or two to pray for you through this time.

You are not alone in this! Most of us go through these periods where our emotions feel in conflict with our faith.

Share your heart with a friend who can lead you to godly truth and who will commit to pray for you through this.

5. Keep seeking, keep believing, and watch His promises still come true (despite your waxing and waning emotions). 

Be still and let Him do the work to heal and bring answers. Continue to believe in His trustworthy, never-failing promises.

We all will go through times in life where our emotions will betray us. We may not “feel” close to God but He is still there! Thank goodness that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)!

Pray that this Easter you will be able to celebrate the joy of the resurrection, even if life is difficult or your emotions are making you feel far from God.

Trust, stand, and believe in His truths this Easter. He is risen, He is powerful, and He is still in control of all things! Hallelujah that our Easter faith is not based on emotion but on the living, powerful truths of Christ!

Why do we celebrate Easter?

Why do we celebrate Easter?

Question:

“Why do we celebrate Easter?”

Answer:

Easter is celebrated in countries throughout the world. For some, the traditional festivities center on welcoming the spring season, whereas in other countries the festivities are more religious in tone. For many, Easter is simply a cultural holiday, a time to enjoy other people and eat festive food. Church attendance might be part of the Easter celebrations of many, even if such religious observance is not a regular part of their lives. For many Christians, Easter is a celebration joyfully anticipated throughout the year. It is often a time when those who don’t know Jesus Christ become curious about who He is. Easter is a time when it might feel easier to share the good news of the salvation He brings. It is also a corporate celebration of the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and the life we have in Him. Though we celebrate that reality all year long, Easter is a special time of remembering.

While the word Easter may have pagan origins and certain Easter traditions have absolutely nothing to do with the Bible, the real reason to celebrate Easter is to remember the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and to celebrate the reality of His resurrection.

Celebrating Easter is about rejoicing in the risen Christ. In the days leading up to Easter, we recount His horrific death on the cross. It is a death Jesus died willingly (Mark 10:45; John 10:18). He came to earth as a baby in order to live a perfect human life and one day die as the sacrifice for sin. At Easter time, generally on Good Friday, we remember His sacrifice and thank Him for it.

But it is not only Jesus’ death on the cross that is important. Jesus’ resurrection proclaims His victory over sin and death. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. Then He rose back to life, proving He is who He says He is and that He accomplished what He came to earth to accomplish. Jesus Christ is fully God, fully human, and our only Savior. It is because He is risen that we can trust in His sacrifice for our sins and receive new life in Him. His resurrection also demonstrates that His promise to resurrect us one day will come true.

The apostle Paul wrote, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:3–8). It is this important reality that we pause to focus on and rejoice in at Easter.

Easter is the time to celebrate Jesus’ victory and to celebrate the new life He gives. All can have their sins forgiven and experience new life in Him if they will receive Him in faith. It is fitting that Easter occurs in the springtime. Much like spring is the time when new life buds after the death brought about in winter, so Jesus brings new life to those who were formerly dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1–10). The life Jesus brings is eternal. We celebrate the reality of His death and resurrection every day, and especially at Easter. We can trust Him and worship Him all year through because He is risen!

 

Live with Your Eyes Open

Live with Your Eyes Open

You often wonder how you can wake up in the morning and not give God a second thought.

On so many mornings, you feel a gravitational pull to reach for something, anything, but God. Email, music, social media, sports, blogs, and news can’t seem to wait, even though they are infinitely tiny compared to the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Worse yet, they eclipse God, and set the tone for the whole day. Your body may be awake on these days, but what about your soul?

The rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces in the heavenly places never take a day off. Neither can we. Self-righteousness lurks in the shadows of a victorious social media debate while gossip pursues as you describe the flaws of others.

Each day we are battling not only the schemes of the devil but also the world and the flesh. As soldiers sleep with one eye open, so must the child of God. We don’t have the option to walk in a drowsy stupor as though we are lounging at the beach on vacation. Rather, we are like the soldiers who landed on the beaches of Normandy — ready to bring utter destruction to our sin.

Keep Your Heart with God

How does God call us to live in light of the reality of spiritual warfare? His word is clear: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). One of the most important, and neglected, duties of the Christian is to be watchful.

To be watchful is to slow down and take notice of our hearts in light of God’s word and the gospel. God calls time and time again for us to watch carefully over our souls so we won’t fall into sin. He knows that our flesh is weak, so he exhorts us to sit day and night at the gates of wisdom, allowing the Scriptures to permeate our souls and reveal our need for his grace. He knows that in the moments that we look away from Christ, we are like David whose heart was sinfully captured by the beauty of Bathsheba. The call to keep our hearts is the call to zealous care for the most precious part of who we are.



Watchfulness in the Word

It’s easy to find watchfulness throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament, we see that the Israelites were commanded to watch themselves closely so they wouldn’t fall into idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:15). In the Psalms, we get a glimpse of a watchful heart seeking after the Lord (Psalm 5:3; 59:9; 119:148). In Proverbs, the wise man watches daily at the doors and gates of wisdom (Proverbs 8:34).

In the Gospels, Jesus called His disciples to “watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (Matthew 16:6), to be watchful for the Bridegroom to return (Matthew 25:13), to be watchful, awake, and prayerful in these last days (Luke 21:34–36).

In Paul’s epistles, saints are called to watch out for those who cause divisions and obstruct the gospel message (Romans 16:17), to be watchful and take heed lest they fall (1 Corinthians 10:12; 16:13), to watch against falling into sin while helping a brother in transgression (Galatians 6:1), and to be watchful in prayer (Colossians 4:2). Peter calls for believers to be watchful because Satan is prowling and desiring to devour us (1 Peter 5:8).



Gospel-Driven Vigilance

All of this talk about watchfulness can conjure up images of exhausting legalism. It sounds so puritanical, doesn’t it? you can hear groans from the crowd, “I thought we were free in Christ? Won’t excessive watchfulness negate grace and rob us of our joy? I don’t want to be overly introspective. That’s depressing!”

Jesus has an answer for these groans. His Father is glorified when we bear much fruit, and fruitfulness brings us fullness of joy (John 15:8–11). By abiding in Him and receiving grace, we have help to keep our hearts with vigilance. But what does that look like?

First, we abide in Christ. If apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5), then we must do everything with Him and in His power, acknowledging our utter dependence on Christ. We need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. This could be as simple as praying, “By grace, I’m both a sinner and a saint. Lord, give me the strength I need to glorify you in this moment and the rest of this day.” As we humbly acknowledge our reliance on Christ, we will find ourselves leaning into His strength in times of temptation and trials.

Second, we regularly examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Do you seek your own kingdom? Is there sin you refuse to repent of? Are you looking to Christ with faith? To prevent morbid introspection, we would do well to heed the advice of Robert Murray M’Cheyne and take ten looks at Christ for every look we take at ourselves.

Third, we follow God’s word. Jesus didn’t pull out His Bible when Satan tempted Him. He quoted the Scripture, in context, directly from His mind. We need to commit to more than just reading our Bibles. If we slow down and memorize God’s word, we can take it with us everywhere we go. As we are meditating on and applying the Scriptures, we are being shaped and led by the Spirit of God.

Lastly, we walk with the saints. We are not vigilant by ourselves or for ourselves. We are the body of Christ. As members, we should certainly watch over our own hearts and be aware of sin that could lead us to fall away from God, but we also need to love the Christians in our lives enough to warn them when we see them falling into sin. It’s easy to build and maintain superficial friendships, yet it’s more valuable to be accountable to other believers who are willing (and not afraid) to push us toward godliness daily.

Are all people born good?

Are all people born good?

Question:

“Are all people born good?”

Answer:

There is a common belief today that people are born “good” and most people remain basically good at heart their whole lives; according to this theory, the evil that some people exhibit is the result of environmental factors—people only turn “bad” when external forces beyond their control twist them away from their basic goodness. This is a false, unbiblical view of human nature.

The Bible teaches that none of us are good. We are all born sinners with a sinful, selfish nature inherited from Adam. Unless we are born again by the Spirit of God, we will never see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

Psalm 14:2–3 counters the idea that anyone is “good”: “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Add to this Jesus’ statement that “No one is good—except God alone” (Luke 18:19), and we see that we all stand guilty before God.

In the beginning, God created an absolutely perfect world. God called His creation “very good” in Genesis 1:31. The Garden of Eden was the perfect environment for the first humans, Adam and Eve. Even in that perfect environment, with all their needs met and living in a state of innocence, Adam chose to disobey God. Adam couldn’t blame environmental factors for his sinful choice; it was simply an act of his will to rebel.

When Adam disobeyed God, the first couple lost their innocence, they were ejected from the Garden, and, importantly, their basic nature was corrupted (Genesis 3:7–12). Sin and death became a part of creation. Later, when Adam had a son, the Bible describes the event this way: “He had a son in his own likeness, after his own image” (Genesis 5:3). Like father, like son. The sinner begot a sinner. Now Adam’s sin has spread to all creation: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

People are not born “good” because every one of us has been affected by Adam’s sin; there are no exceptions. Romans 5:18 says that “one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people.” We are sinners for two reasons: we actively sin ourselves (we are sinners in practice), and we bear a sinful character passed down from Adam (we are sinners by nature). That’s why we all face physical death: “In Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

It’s hard to imagine a sweet, innocent baby being a sinner, but the Bible indicates that even children possess a sin nature. Logically, if our sin nature is inherited from Adam, then babies must already possess the bent to sin. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15). Bolstering the truth of this proverb, a child’s sinful behavior begins to manifest itself quite early in his development; as soon as a child is able to start choosing between obedience and disobedience, he will begin “testing the waters” of disobedience. Children are naturally selfish, and their wayward nature is evident to anyone who has ever been around children.

The definitive passage on the fact that people are not born “good” is Psalm 51:5. Here, David speaks of his own sin nature beginning at conception: “I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me” (CSB).

There is nothing inherently “good” within any of us. There is nothing in us that could earn salvation, and on our own we have no ability to become worthy of God’s favor. We deserve only God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3). We are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). But thanks be to God, who chose to send His Son, Jesus, into the world. Jesus lived without sin, and His death on the cross paid the penalty we deserved.

God’s great love for us is the only reason He offers us such an amazing gift—the gift of forgiveness of sin! John 3:16–18 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

20 Bible Verses to Send a Friend in Need

20 Bible Verses to Send a Friend in Need

It can be difficult to know exactly what to say to a friend who is hurting. We worry that our words will sound generic or cliche. Especially when we haven’t personally experienced the trial they are going through, we can find ourselves at a loss for words.

Sharing Bible verses is always a good way to reach out. The Word of God is comforting and inspiring, even in the most difficult of times. Sending Bible verses through text, email, or written letter is a great way to express how much we care, while also reminding our friends how much God cares. Here are 20 Bible verses with encouraging messages to send to a friend in need.

1. God is faithful.

“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”

(Deuteronomy 7:9)

Even when we feel like there is no one to turn to—that no one understands, God is there. He is faithful and trustworthy in every situation.

2. God is with you.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

(Joshua 1:9)

There is no place too high or too deep that God is not there (Psalm 139:7-9). With courage, we can face tomorrow, and know that He is with us wherever we go.

3. God understands.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.”

(Isaiah 30:28)

In every way, Jesus was tempted when he walked the earth. He sympathizes with us. He understands us better than we understand ourselves.



4. God gives us strength.

“He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.”

(Isaiah 30:29)

It can be heartbreaking to watch a friend go through a difficult time and feel powerless to change it. That’s when Scriptures that describe God’s mighty strength are needed. For it is never about our own power or might, but by His Spirit. (Zechariah 4:6)

5. God renews.

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

(Isaiah 30:31)

Waiting on God is rarely a comfortable experience. Usually, we want to move past the trial into easier times. However, there is strength in the waiting… a building of our faith. And in the Lord’s perfect time, He will lift us up.

6. He works for our good.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

(Romans 8:28)

This frequently used verse reminds us that God will work everything out for our good. Even the things that seem insurmountable will be used to build our faith and draw us closer to Him.



7. God is on your side.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

(Romans 8:31)

When our friends feel defenseless, we can assure them that God is on their side. He will be the one to defend them and uphold them with His righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

8. God comforts us when we are fearful.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

(Psalm 23:4)

Some may ask how a rod and staff can be comforting, but just as the shepherd prods the sheep to stay within the fold, we, too, are comforted by God’s loving hand of guidance.

9. There is hope in God.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”

(Psalm 42:5)

So often, we just need a thread of hope to hold on to. In hard times, let God be your hope. He is the best One to change despair into rejoicing.

10. God will sustain you.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.”

(Psalm 55:22)

The Lord upholds us, keeping us steadfast and sure. We are secure in his hand and He will sustain us.



11. The Lord is our strength.

“The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.”

(Psalm 118:14)

Even in times of pain, there is no greater joy than knowing we are saved. His salvation is always worth singing about.

12. Our help comes from the Lord.

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”

(Psalm 121:1-2)

God is our true help in times of trouble. He knows better than anyone exactly what we need, and when we need it. We don’t have to look far to find Him. His Spirit lives in us, to cheer and to guide.

13. The Lord establishes us.

“Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.”

(Proverbs 16:3)

Even when everything around us seems unstable, God secures us and establishes us. When we surrender everything to His will, He is faithful to give us a clear mind and heart.

14. The Lord is a stronghold in the day of trouble.

“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”

(Nahum 1:7)

Normally, we think of strongholds as negative things. But the stronghold of God is good—a safeguard in the day of trouble.



15. God is mighty to save.

“The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

(Zephaniah 3:17)

There is an old chorus that says, “Our Savior can move the mountains. He is mighty to save!” Let the Lord God rejoice over you and move the mountains in your life!

16. The Lord gives rest to the weary.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

(Matthew 11:28)

No matter how heavy the burden, God’s got it. We can choose to lay it down and rest in the fold of His arms. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

17. The peace of God surpasses all understanding.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4:6-7)

This Bible passage gives us such comfort in troubling times! At just the right moment, and in just the right way, God sends peace that only He can give.



18. God helps us in our temptations.

“For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

(Hebrews 2:18)

Because Jesus was fully God and fully man, He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He is our help in time of temptation, and nothing is impossible for Him.

19. God cares for you.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

(1 Peter 5:6-7)

If ever there is Someone who genuinely cares, it is God. He cares about every single thing in our lives. He is waiting for us to release our cares to Him.

20. God will help you overcome.

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

(1 John 4:4)

Oh, the joy of knowing that the Holy Spirit who lives in us is greater than the one who lives in the world! In times of hardship, we can cling to the truth that in Christ Jesus, we have overcome.

What happens after death?

What happens after death?

Question:

“What happens after death?”

Answer:

Within the Christian faith, there is a significant amount of confusion regarding what happens after death. Some hold that after death, everyone “sleeps” until the final judgment, after which everyone will be sent to heaven or hell. Others believe that at the moment of death, people are instantly judged and sent to their eternal destinations. Still others claim that when people die, their souls/spirits are sent to a “temporary” heaven or hell, to await the final resurrection, the final judgment, and then the finality of their eternal destination.



So, what exactly does the Bible say happens after death?

First, for the believer in Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us that after death believers’ souls/spirits are taken to heaven, because their sins are forgiven by having received Christ as Savior (John 3:16, 18, 36). For believers, death is to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). However, passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 describe believers being resurrected and given glorified bodies. If believers go to be with Christ immediately after death, what is the purpose of this resurrection? It seems that while the souls/spirits of believers go to be with Christ immediately after death, the physical body remains in the grave “sleeping.” At the resurrection of believers, the physical body is resurrected, glorified, and then reunited with the soul/spirit. This reunited and glorified body-soul-spirit will be the possession of believers for eternity in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21-22).

Second, for those who do not receive Jesus Christ as Savior, death means everlasting punishment. However, similar to the destiny of believers, unbelievers also seem to be sent immediately to a temporary holding place, to await their final resurrection, judgment, and eternal destiny. Luke 16:22-23 describes a rich man being tormented immediately after death. Revelation 20:11-15 describes all the unbelieving dead being resurrected, judged at the great white throne, and then being cast into the lake of fire. Unbelievers, then, are not sent to hell (the lake of fire) immediately after death, but rather are in a temporary realm of judgment and condemnation. However, even though unbelievers are not instantly sent to the lake of fire, their immediate fate after death is not a pleasant one. The rich man cried out, “I am in agony in this fire” (Luke 16:24).


Therefore, after death, a person resides in a “temporary” heaven or hell. After this temporary realm, at the final resurrection, a person’s eternal destiny will not change. The precise “location” of that eternal destiny is what changes. Believers will ultimately be granted entrance into the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1). Unbelievers will ultimately be sent to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). These are the final, eternal destinations of all people—based entirely on whether or not they had trusted Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Matthew 25:46; John 3:36).

Dare to Hope in God: How to Lament Well

Dare to Hope in God: How to Lament Well

We step into this world with a cry. Although none of us remembers the moment, the first sound we uttered after leaving the warm and protected confines of our mother’s womb was a loud protest. We enter, wailing. To cry is human.

However, we aren’t the only part of the created order expressing sorrow. The apostle Paul says that the entire creation groans (Romans 8:22). Along with the fall of Adam, the created world was infected with the broken effects of sin. Death is the ultimate reminder that something is not right with the world. But there are other examples: cancer, addictions, failed marriages, relational conflict, loneliness, and abuse.

We don’t stop crying after birth. It continues because the world is broken. While tears and sorrow are part of our humanity, there is an often-neglected prayer language in the Bible for our travels through a broken world: lament.



What Is Lament?

Lament is not the same as crying, however. It’s different. And it’s uniquely Christian.

The Bible is filled with this song of sorrow. Over a third of the Psalms are laments. The book of Lamentations weeps over the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus lamented in the final hours of his life.

But lament is different than crying because lament is a form of prayer. It is more than just the expression of sorrow or the venting of emotion. Lament talks to God about pain. And it has a unique purpose: trust. It is a divinely-given invitation to pour out our fears, frustrations, and sorrows for the purpose of helping us to renew our confidence in God.



Four Elements of Lament

As Psalm 13 illustrates, most laments feature four essential elements:

Turn to God. Often a lament begins by an address to God: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). The point is that the person in pain chooses to talk to God about what is happening.

Bring your complaint. Every lament features some kind of complaint: “How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:2). More than a sinful rehearsing of our anger, biblical lament humbly and honestly identifies the pain, questions, and frustrations raging in our souls.

Ask boldly for help. Seeking God’s help while in pain is an act of faith: “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken” (Psalm 13:3–4). Unremitting sorrow can create a deadly silence as we give in to despair (“there’s no hope”) or denial (“everything’s fine”). But lament invites us to dare to hope in God’s promises as we ask for His help.

Choose to trust. This is the destination for our laments. All roads lead here: “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5–6). More than the stages of grief, this prayer language moves us to renew our commitment to trust in God as we navigate the brokenness of life.

Lament is the prayer language for God’s people as they live in a world marred by sin. It is how we talk to God about our sorrows as we renew our hope in his sovereign care. To cry is human, but to lament is Christian.



Why Is Lament Christian?

The practice of lament is one of the most theologically informed actions a person can take. While crying is fundamental to humanity, Christians lament because they know God is sovereign and good. Christians know his promises in the Scriptures. We believe in God’s power to deliver. We know the tomb is empty, and Jesus is alive.

And yet we still experience pain and sorrow. Lament is the language for living between the poles of a hard life and trusting in God’s sovereignty. It is a prayer form for people who are waiting for the day Jesus will return and make everything right. Christians don’t just mourn; we long for God to end the pain.

Lament prayers take faith. Talking to God instead of getting sinfully angry or embittered requires biblical conviction. Laying out the messy struggles of your soul and then asking — again and again — for God to help you requires a solid theological mooring. Laments turn toward God when sorrow tempts you to run from Him.

Laments interpret the world through a biblical lens. Christians lament because we know the long arc of God’s plan: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. We know the cause of all lament: sin. And we read in Revelation about the ending of all laments:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Therefore, Christians not only mourn the brokenness of the world, but we also long for the day when all weeping will cease. We wonder, “How long, O Lord?” (Psalm 13:1). Anyone can cry. But only Christians can faithfully lament.



Learn to Lament

Since life is full of sorrows, and since the Bible is clear about the plan of God, Christians should be competent lamenters. We should regularly talk to God about our sorrows and struggles. Christians should learn to lament.

One way to start would be to more regularly read lament psalms. Start with Psalms 10, 13, 22, and 77. And then move to the other forty-plus laments in the book of Psalms. You’ll find lament psalms for personal grief and corporate suffering. There are laments for moments of repentance and for when you long for justice. As you read these psalms, certain phrases will become your own. You’ll probably be surprised how connected you are to the words you read. Laments tend to become personal quickly.

Another approach would be to study a lament psalm by looking for each of the four elements I mentioned: turning to God, bringing your complaint, asking boldly, and choosing to trust. Once you find examples of each element, consider writing your own lament. See if you can follow the flow of the text as you tell God about your struggle. Remember each psalm was written by a real person with real problems. Writing your own lament beautifully combines rich theology with real emotions.

Until Jesus returns, the world will be marked by tears. Children will continue to be born and their first cry will announce their arrival into a broken world. To cry is human, but to lament is Christian.

What does it mean that Jesus saves?

What does it mean that Jesus saves?

Question:

“What does it mean that Jesus saves?”

Answer:

“Jesus saves” is a popular slogan on bumper stickers, signs at athletic events, and even banners being pulled across the sky by small airplanes. Sadly, few who see the phrase “Jesus saves” truly and fully understand what it means. There is a tremendous amount of power and truth packed into those two words.

Jesus saves, but who is Jesus?
Most people understand that Jesus was a man who lived in Israel approximately 2,000 years ago. Virtually every religion in the world views Jesus as a good teacher and/or a prophet. And while those things are most definitely true of Jesus, they do not capture who Jesus truly is, nor do they explain how or why Jesus saves. Jesus is God in human form (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is God, come to Earth, as a true human being (1 John 4:2). God became a human being in the person of Jesus in order to save us. That brings up the next question: why do we need to be saved?

Jesus saves, but why do we need to be saved?
The Bible declares that every human being who has ever lived has sinned (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23). To sin is to do something, whether in thought, word, or deed, that contradicts God’s perfect and holy character. Because of our sin, we all deserve judgment from God (John 3:18, 36). God is perfectly just, so He cannot allow sin and evil to go unpunished. Since God is infinite and eternal, and since all sin is ultimately against God (Psalm 51:4), only an infinite and eternal punishment is sufficient. Eternal death is the only just punishment for sin. That is why we need to be saved.

Jesus saves, but how does He save?
Because we have sinned against an infinite God, either a finite person (us) must pay for our sins for an infinite amount of time, or an infinite Person (Jesus) must pay for our sins one time. There is no other option. Jesus saves us by dying in our place. In the person of Jesus Christ, God sacrificed Himself on our behalf, paying the infinite and eternal penalty only He could pay (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2). Jesus took the punishment that we deserve in order to save us from a horrible eternal destiny, the just consequence of our sin. Because of His great love for us, Jesus laid down His life (John 15:13), paying the penalty that we had earned, but could not pay. Jesus was then resurrected, demonstrating that His death was indeed sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins (1 Corinthians 15).

Jesus saves, but whom does He save?
Jesus saves all who will receive His gift of salvation. Jesus saves all those who fully trust in His sacrifice alone as the payment for sin (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). While Jesus’ sacrifice was perfectly sufficient to pay for the sins of all humanity, Jesus only saves those who personally receive His most precious of gifts (John 1:12).

If you now understand what it means that Jesus saves, and you want to trust in Him as your personal Savior, make sure you understand and believe the following, and as an act of faith, communicate the following to God:

God, I know that I am a sinner, and I know that because of my sin I deserve to be eternally separated from you. Even though I do not deserve it, thank you for loving me and providing the sacrifice for my sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus died for my sins and I trust in Him alone to save me. From this point forward, help me to live my life for you instead of for sin. Help me to live the rest of my life in gratitude for the wonderful salvation you have provided.

Thank you, Jesus, for saving me!”

How do I receive forgiveness from God?

How do I receive forgiveness from God?

Question:

“Got Forgiveness? How do I receive forgiveness from God?”

Answer:

“Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” Acts 13:38

What is forgiveness and why do I need it?

The word “forgive” means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. When we wrong someone, we seek their forgiveness in order for the relationship to be restored. Forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. No one deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is an act of love, mercy, and grace. Forgiveness is a decision to not hold something against another person, despite what they have done to you.

The Bible tells us that we are all in need of forgiveness from God. We have all committed sin. Ecclesiastes 7:20 proclaims, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” First John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” All sin is ultimately an act of rebellion against God (Psalm 51:4). As a result, we desperately need God’s forgiveness. If our sins are not forgiven, we will spend eternity suffering the consequences of our sins (Matthew 25:46; John 3:36).



Forgiveness – How do I get it?

Thankfully, God is loving and merciful – eager to forgive us of our sins! 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, “…He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God desires to forgive us, so He provided for our forgiveness.

The only just penalty for our sins is death. The first half of Romans 6:23 declares, “For the wages of sin is death…” Eternal death is what we have earned for our sins. God, in His perfect plan, became a human being – Jesus Christ (John 1:1,14). Jesus died on the cross, taking the penalty that we deserve – death. Second Corinthians 5:21 teaches us, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve! As God, Jesus’ death provided forgiveness for the sins of the entire world. 1 John 2:2 proclaims, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus rose from the dead, proclaiming His victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:1-28). Praise God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the second half of Romans 6:23 is true, “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Do you want to have your sins forgiven? Do you have a nagging feeling of guilt that you can’t seem to get to go away? Forgiveness of your sins is available if you will place your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Jesus paid our debt for us, so we could be forgiven. All you have to do is ask God to forgive you through Jesus, believing that Jesus died to pay for your forgiveness – and He will forgive you! John 3:16-17 contains this wonderful message, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”



Forgiveness – is it really that easy?

Yes it is that easy! You can’t earn forgiveness from God. You can’t pay for your forgiveness from God. You can only receive it, by faith, through the grace and mercy of God. If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and receive forgiveness from God, here is a prayer you can pray. Saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Jesus Christ that can provide forgiveness of sins. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and to thank Him for providing for your forgiveness. “God, I know that I have sinned against You and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness! Amen!”