Putting God's Word into Practice…

Good News

She WILL bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for HE WILL save His people FROM THEIR SINS! (Matthew 1:21)

Jesus means “the Lord saves!”  What a wonderful name!  It’s the name above all names, and one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil. 2:10-11)

HE WILL SAVE–that’s promise!!

FROM THEIR SINS.  Jesus didn’t come to save us from our unfortunate physical circumstances, not from the consequences of our bad choices, not from our enemies, not from our sickness.  His primary purpose in coming was to save us from our sins.  That’s really our greatest need!!  If our sins aren’t forgiven, and we die with them hanging over us, we will be separated from God and all things good for eternity.  But, if we recognize our need for a Savior, the afflictions and disappointments of this life will be wiped away upon our death and replaced with an eternity of joy and peace in God’s presence.

Whatever I think I want or need today, nothing is greater than my need for a Savior.  Whatever I think will bring me joy and peace, if it’s not Jesus, it will never truly, eternally satisfy.  No material possession, no relationship, no healing will last as long as salvation.

Jesus came to save us from our sins.  Won’t you let Him do what He came to do today?  And if you have been saved from your sins already, worship Him and share your hope with your family and friends today.  That’s the best gift we have to offer.

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Hebrews 10:19-39 ~ No Wavering

With Good Friday and Easter behind us, it could be easy to lose sight of what we just celebrated.  We rejoiced in Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, His victory over sin and death, but Monday we return to “normal” life. I’m thankful that I find myself in Hebrews this morning reading anew these truths.

There is only one way into the presence of God, one way to experience His glory and that is through the torn flesh and shed blood of Jesus Christ–He alone opens the way and gives us confidence before the Father.  We must be unwavering in this belief and also strengthening each other in regard to the faithfulness of God and the purpose He set for us of loving and doing good to others through unity and community.

Many people may have gone to church yesterday and heard the truth of Jesus Christ, and sadly many may have walked away deliberately continuing in the sin of unbelief!  Anyone who daily rejects the truth of Jesus Christ as the only Savior forfeits the mercy of God.  They die to experience His judgment, fury and vengeance.  This is truth!  God in His mercy gives us day after day to chose to believe; but our lives will end, we will face God, and give an account for how we handled the truth.  There is only One way to the Father (belief) and there is only one way away from the Father (rejection). Rejection in essence is trampling the truth of Jesus, treating the shedding of His blood with contempt, and insulting/outraging the Holy Spirit.  Verse 31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of THE LIVING GOD!”  Oh how my heart breaks over those who refuse to believe the truth.  

Even on Good Friday as I was driving around, I was moved to tears by the sheer volume of people who were out and about and how few were probably considering the truth that Jesus shed His holy blood, taking the punishment for our sins–substituting His life for ours on that cross.

If I stopped reading this chapter at verse 31, it would leave my spirit crushed, but thankfully the next paragraph starts with the word, “BUT!”  Those who hear the truth and believe in Jesus are changed!  They are given endurance in suffering, compassion towards others and joy in unfair circumstances.  They have a great hope and confidence in God’s mercy and His abiding promise to live with Him forever in fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).  They are not “repaid” (30) with judgment, fury, and vengeance, BUT are”rewarded” (35) with salvation and eternal life!  All this is possible through unwavering faith!  Faith makes all the difference–it is the bedrock of endurance and perseverance.  It is the one thing that pleases the Lord. While unbelief leads to destruction, the path of faith leads to life.

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Hebrews 9 ~ Eager Longing

I love spring cleaning!  Although throughout the year I try to maintain surface cleanliness, there is nothing like the clean feeling once a year from deep, thorough, every crack and crevice cleaning!  That is kind of how the old system of sacrifices were set up.  The priests offered daily sacrifices on behalf of the people, but one day a year, the priest prepared himself to go into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for all sin–especially unintentional ones.

Then along came Jesus!  He was a perfect–completely perfect in every way–priest who offered His own life once and for all as the perfect sacrifice to thoroughly clean away the sin of all mankind.  His death on the cross–the blood He shed–secured eternal redemption, purified us into our deepest conscience, forgave every sin, and provided us with an eternal inheritance!  Just like in an earthly will, the inheritance can only be passed on at death.  Jesus’ last will and testament was for us to inherit His righteousness upon His death.  His death brought us so many good things, and His life brings us even more!

If you were prosecuted for a crime and found guilty.  Then someone came along and took your punishment and paid your fines/fees.  Wouldn’t you want to know and see them?

If you were taken from your family and someone had to pay a ransom to your kidnappers to get you back, wouldn’t you anticipate when they came for you to take you safely home?

This chapter ends with this:  “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting FOR HIM.”

After all Jesus has done for me–the freedom and forgiveness He bought with His own blood–why would I long eagerly for anything/anyone else?  I need not long for the redemption of my mortal body; or long to be in a place where there is no sin, sadness and death; or yearn to see the loved ones who have gone on before me.  My eager longing should be to see the One who purchased my salvation face-to-face!

Lord, let all else melt away except the surpassing joy of seeing you someday–looking into your eyes, touching your nail-scarred hands, hearing your voice, and seeing you smile.

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Hebrews 6:11-20 ~ Anchor of Hope

Hebrews 6:10-20.  And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of HOPE until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.”  And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.  For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise (If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:29) the unchangeable character of his purpose he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled (to God) for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the HOPE set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a HOPE that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hope: confident expectation for a certain thing to happen

Promise: declaration or guarantee that a particular event will happen

One of the many blessings of knowing God’s full Word is seeing His promises fulfilled throughout thousands of years.  That gives us a confidence that what hasn’t yet been fulfilled will one day be fulfilled.  We can use the examples of others who received their promises from God to boost our hope.  Abraham was one such man.  For 25 years (from age 75-100) Abraham waited patiently–not perfectly–for God to give him a promised son who would be the start of descendants too numerous to count.  Abraham didn’t just have patience, he had faith! God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness.  Righteousness covers all the mistakes he made along the wait.

Abraham’s life shows us the great, unchangeable character of God.  He is faithful to accomplish every purpose and plan in spite of our mistakes.  He keeps every promise in order to keep His Word.  He will never lie and He will never change.  All His Words are steadfast and sure.

God promised the world that if we would put our hope and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, that we would be saved; we would have victory over sin and death; and that we would spend eternity in His presence without shame.  We must run to God and hold fast to this hope and promise.  The author calls this promise and hope a “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.”

Anchor of the soul! What a beautiful picture!  I grew up around boats thanks to my uncles and can remember being fascinated by the anchor.  Anchors give a sense of joy, freedom, peace and confidence.  Anchors keep us from drifting off course.  They can be put down for a day of fishing (productivity), or an afternoon of swimming (pleasure); or a night of sleep (rest).  One hundred percent of our time can be categorized by either productivity, pleasure or rest.  Therefore, the anchor of our soul–hope–is necessary for every part of life.

  • Am I anchored to the hope that I will be in the presence of God for eternity?
  • Are there any ways that I have pulled anchor and started to drift in my life?  Maybe by putting my hope in other things? Or becoming impatient?
  • Do God’s promises fill me with peace, confidence, joy and freedom?
  • Do I live the belief that God’s Word, His promises, His purposes and His character will always be fulfilled and are unchangeable?
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2 Timothy 4 ~ Not Really Alone

Paul referred to people who love Christ’s appearing and followed it up by mentioning Demas  as one who was in love with this present world.  We are either one or the other–longing for Christ and Heaven or in love with the things of this present world.  Being in love with the world has it’s own set of problems–never fulfilled, will come to an end, disappointment, quarreling because so many people are in love with the same thing and on the flip side, a certain shallow camaraderie because so many people are in love with the same thing.  Longing for Christ’s appearing also comes with a cost.  It may mean standing “alone,” can come with feelings of desertion, often facing strong and harmful opposition, a poured out life, and having  no earthly advocate.  However, there are promises and rewards mentioned for those who long for Christ’s appearing and none listed for those who love this present world.

  • On the Day that Christ appears He will award a crown of righteousness
  • The Lord stands by and strengthens those who stand for Him
  • He sends us a Helper and Advocate in the Holy Spirit.
  • He fills those who pour out their lives for Him.
  • He rescues from evil and delivers out of this world.

Paul could say with confidence, “I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith!”  We can say it with confidence too when our eyes are fixed on eternity and our lives are lived in light of Jesus’ return.

Bonus Feature:  Paul didn’t just write deep spiritual truths, but also about practical needs.  This chapter has one of my favorites…”Bring the coat I left with Carpus in Troas…Do your best to come before winter.”

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2 Thessalonians 1 ~ The Good of Suffering

Everyone is afflicted and suffering in some way.  How we view suffering and respond to affliction is key as followers of Jesus Christ.  When we suffer steadfastly, our faith grows abundantly and our love for others increases.  Suffering is not punishment for a lack of faith, but gives us an opportunity to put our faith into action–our response is a tangible measure of our faith.

There are two promises from God in this passage in the midst of our suffering.

  1. God will repay those who afflict us with affliction.  He sees and will judge.
  2. Relief is coming!  He will grant ETERNAL relief from suffering when we are with Jesus in Heaven.  There is no suffering in the presence of Jesus–because their is no sin, crying or death in heaven.

Although suffering is a normal part of living in a world where there is sin and death, our suffering is not wasted when we surrender it to God.  God desires to use suffering to:

  • Make us worthy to be called by the name of Christ, who suffered even to death on our behalf.
  • Show His goodness in how he works in our suffering.
  • Build our faith as we see His power in suffering.
  • Put Jesus on display in my life so He gets glory.
  • Change us in such a way, that by God’s grace, I will get glory from Him.  Can you imagine that?  I picture it like this…After a lifetime of affliction and suffering, seeing Jesus, wanting to marvel at Him, yet hearing Him say, “You suffered well!  Your faith is amazing! Come on in to enjoy eternal rest!” Takes my breath away…

Unfortunately that is not the end result of every human life of suffering.  There is also a place of eternal suffering and destruction.  And it will be filled with those who do not know God or believe in Jesus Christ. Verse 9 says, “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” Some might think sarcastically, “Away from the presence of the Lord? OOOh horrible suffering?” Everything good on earth is from the Lord.  Everything beautiful, satisfying, living is from the Lord.  The ability to smile and laugh comes from God.  All good in mankind is from the Lord.  Psalm 16:11 says, “In His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Away from the presence of the Lord is an eternity without joy and pleasure.

Every time you smile today, let it remind you that there is a God who gives joy, and He is worth knowing and believing!  He gives hope in earthly suffering and wants to rescue all from eternal suffering and put us in a place of eternal relief and joy.


1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 Encouraging Future

“If something happens to me on this trip, don’t shed a tear for me.  I’ll be with Jesus.” That is what my husband said to me once before he left for a long trip to northern Minnesota.  I know he was merely trying to encourage me with Biblical truth, but it is a startling thought.

Eternal hope changes how we grieve.  If we believe in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and that belief alone is our hope, when this life on earth is over (by death or by Jesus’ promised return) we will always be with the Lord.  We can fully hope in the Word of the Lord because He always has and always will be faithful to His Word and promises!  1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 says, “For the Lord Himself WILL descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ WILL rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, WILL be caught up together with them in the clouds TO MEET THE LORD in the air, and so we WILL always be with the Lord!”

Doesn’t that just set your heart on fire with hope!!  God is preparing an eternal home for us that is perfect, untarnished, and WITH HIM–FOREVER!

Hopefully this promise encourages us to live holy and loving lives on Earth.  Hopefully it encourages those of us who have laid to rest a loved one who was “in Christ.”  Hopefully it encourages us to endure suffering.  May faith, hope and love protect us until we meet our Lord face-to-face!  Our God is faithful!

4:18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

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Colossians 1:1-14 ~ Only God

A brief intro:  This is another letter that Paul wrote to strengthen a church while he was incarcerated for proclaiming the name of Jesus.  He wrote it to the believers in Colossi to help them discern false teaching–teaching that was pushing religion and strict rules instead of grace and faith.

Paul started off by telling them why he thanked God for them–because of their great faith and their impartial love for all.  Both their faith and love flowed from their hope in eternity in Heaven because of Jesus.  When our hope is on earthly, temporal things, it is much more difficult to love others.  Setting our hope on eternity loosens the chains of this world and gives us a new perspective and greater ability to love others.  Love is the tangible evidence that the truth of the gospel of God’s grace has taken root and is growing in our lives.

Paul went on to tell them exactly what he prays for them much like he did in his letter to the churches in Philippi and Ephesus.

  1. He wanted them to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in spiritual knowledge and understanding.  This was not to benefit self, but for the reputation of the Lord as being His name-bearers and also that their lives would be pleasing to Him.  Paul wanted their lives to bear fruit in every good work which only comes from knowing and following God’s will.
  2. Paul wanted them to be strengthened with God’s might.  His might is the only might that produces patience, endurance and joy in all circumstances.
  3. He asked that they would be a grateful people.  Grateful for their salvation, redemption and forgiveness.

What a great thing to help others see and understand!  How freeing to know our salvation is ONLY by God through Jesus!  We did not do one thing to deserve it or earn it or even to keep it!  Qualification and deliverance are by God the Father; redemption and forgiveness is through Jesus Christ.  God created us, sin stole us, and Jesus’ blood bought us back.  Let this truth fill our hearts with gratitude and give us discernment when other’s try to say there is more to being a Christian that what Christ did for us!

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Ephesians 1:15-23 Prayer and Inheritance

Paul opened this section by confirming the Ephesians reputation for great faith in God and love towards others.  He still wanted more for them, so he faithfully prayed.  What requests did he take before God on their behalf?

  1. That God would give them wisdom and reveal more about Himself to them.
  2. That God would open their eyes to the hope they have in Him.
  3. That they would experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power and might in their lives.

But here is the part that knocked my socks off!  We are Christ’s inheritance!  He looks forward to enjoying us forever.  My last will and testament reads: My soul I bequeath to Jesus Christ!

Eternal life with Jesus is the hope of the believer.  Sadly, we need reminded of that sometimes.  Life takes over and we forget our eternal hope.  Jesus never needs reminding–He knows the price He paid for us and can’t wait to be united with us.  Think about it: The One who’s name is above ALL names, who has authority over all things, who needs absolutely nothing considers us a glorious inheritance!  Based on 2:7, Jesus can’t wait to spend eternity showing us the immeasurable riches of His grace and kindness.

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2 Corinthians 4 ~ Surpassing Power

Surpassing (ser-pas-ing) adjective  

  1. of a large amount or high degree; exceeding, excelling, or extraordinary

The power to continue on in a truth-centered, gospel-saturated, integrity-driven ministry belongs to God.

If we lose heart, it may be a sign we are relying on our own strength and seeking man-made results.  Only the “surpassing power that belongs to God” is able to shine light in darkness and unveil minds that have been blinded by the god of this world–the devil.

Notice that the text says, “Blinded minds to keep them from seeing…”  Paul doesn’t write “blinded eyes,” but minds.  Faith is not seeing; it’s believing.  At the same time, the gospel engages the mind.  It is not a weak-minded crutch as some are presupossed to thinking.

This surpassing power of God is power that exceeds and is greater than darkness, death, trials and tragedies.  In my own strength I cannot handle being afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down and self-sacrificing.  BUT when I focus on God’s surpassing power I can live a life in the midst of those circumstances knowing I will not be crushed by affliction, not driven to despair, not forsaken, not destroyed.  That’s true whether ministry is teaching, missions, etc…or marriage and parenting.

Why is Paul willing to suffer, to continue on in ministry even when it is difficult, discouraging and even dangerous?

  1. He has a heart to see grace reaching more and more people.
  2. He wants to see gratitude and thanksgiving over grace increase in transformed lives.
  3. He is all about God receiving glory!

How does Paul face discouragement and weariness?

  1. Renewing on the inside–heart and mind–day by day.
  2. Places hope in incomparable future glory.
  3. Fixes his eyes on eternity instead of transient.

Lord, help me to always press on in ministry in your strength that exceeds all my circumstances.  Give me a continued desire to renew my heart and mind daily so that I do not lose heart.  Let me recognize always that the results of ministry are in Your hands alone.  Keep me faithful no matter the results.  In Jesus’ powerful name I ask, amen.


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