4 Steps to Remove Idols in Your Life

Whom do you serve?

As Christians, we are to serve our God Jesus Christ alone (see Exodus 20:2-6), but sometimes, without even realizing it, we find that we have built altars to idols in our lives. The Bible speaks often about idolatry, and this is an issue the people of Israel struggled with a lot. They were called to serve one God—Yahweh—but all throughout the books of Judges and 1 and 2 Kings (among many others), we read how they began to serve false idols and little gods rather than serving their Creator alone.

“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:14-15 (KJV)

There are countless examples of idolatry in the Bible from Aaron making the golden calf for the Israelites to worship while Moses was on Mt. Sinai (see Exodus 32) to the young man who would not sell his possessions to follow Jesus (see Matthew 19:16-25). However, idolatry is not only a thing of the past. Sure, many of us may not be serving literal statues in our homes and praying to them every day, but many have built altars to idols of money, success, and fame. Idols come in all forms today.

We see people make idols of other people. I read a comment from a woman on social media a while back, and in this comment, this woman said she repeated to herself as a mantra when she became scared of the current virus rampaging the world, “I trust Fauci. I trust Fauci.” Indeed, many have made political figures and celebrities idols in their lives, investing more of their time in thinking about these people and having more hope and faith in these people than the very God who created them and the entire universe.

People make idols of ideas and ideologies. They worship a scientific theory as though it is Bible. They hold onto a political belief system with greater conviction than the Word of God.

People make idols of things—things like social media, expensive cars, or even (Lord, help me) their phone.

People also make idols of their habits and of themselves. As my pastor has explained, even something as seemingly harmless as going fishing can become an idol if you give all of your time to it. If a hobby or habit takes up most or all of your mental energy, your thoughts, your time, and your passion until it controls you and compromises your walk with God, then it is an idol. If you can’t say “no” to it, it’s an idol. And if you have set yourself and your desires and plans above God, then you have made an idol of yourself.

So, how do we get rid of idols that we have set up in our lives, whether we did so intentionally out of rebellion or ignorantly out of distraction? Thankfully, God’s Word shows us clear steps we must take to remove idols in our lives:

1. Examination.

When king Josiah of Judah was about 20 years old, he began to purge “Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images” (2 Chronicles 34:3). In order for Josiah to get rid of the idols, he had to seek them out first.

The first step to removing idols in our lives is daily examination. We must search our hearts each day and ask ourselves these questions: To what or to whom am I giving my time? My treasures? What are most of my efforts going toward? For what or for whom am I most passionate? Is there anything in my life that I cannot say “no” to?

2. Recognition.

In order for Josiah to purge the land of idols, he had to do a thorough job, which required recognizing which things were idols or were related to idol worship and had to be destroyed. After searching high and low for idols and destroying them all over the land in II Kings 23, Josiah even went so far as to destroy the high places that king Solomon had built for the false gods Chemosh, Ashtoreth, and Milcom (see also 1 Kings 11). Solomon failed to recognize the gravity of what he was doing as he turned away from God and toward idols.

After searching our hearts and lives for idols, we must be able to recognize what counts as an idol. In order for us to remove idolatry in our life, we must ask God for the wisdom to discern what we have made an idol, and we must be honest with ourselves. For example, if we allow playing video games or watching sports to take up more of our time and passion than praying to God, studying His Word, and investing in His Kingdom, then we must exercise wisdom, discernment, and good judgment to understand that those things are idols that we must remove.

3. Eradication.

King Josiah was very thorough in removing idols from the kingdom. He removed horse and chariot decorations in the Temple, broke the altars and images of false gods, and even killed the priests of the high places of false gods upon the altars and “burned men’s bones upon them” (II Kings 23:11-20). Josiah put away those who were “workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem” (II Kings 23:24).

If we are to remove idolatry from our lives, then we must do so in completion, holding nothing back for ourselves. We must totally remove the idol (be it a habit or an obsession), leaving no trace of it for us to return to in a moment of weakness. For example, if a person is obsessed with sports to the point of committing idolatry, but this person only stops obsessing over baseball and basketball but still places football above going to church or praying to God, then they have not totally eradicated that idol from their life.

4. Re-dedication.

After we have examined ourselves, recognized the idols in our lives, and totally eradicated them, then we must re-dedicate our hearts to the Lord. After putting away idols out of Judah and Benjamin, king Asa “renewed the altar of the LORD,” and the people renewed their covenant to seek the Lord (II Chronicles 15:8-12). King Hezekiah repaired the Temple, restored worship to God, and had the people sanctify and cleanse themselves before God (see II Chronicles 29). After Manasseh turned to God from a life of wickedness, he took away the idols and “repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (II Chronicles 33:15-16).

Our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, and when we remove the idols from our lives, we must then recommit ourselves to God.

Rebuild your altar to God. Sanctify it with prayer. Commit yourself to studying the Word and following His commandments. Sacrifice your time, talents, treasures, and passions and give it all to God. And renew your covenant with God to serve Him alone.

This world is all about serving yourself, worshipping your desires and plans, and elevating yourself and man’s creations above God. But we are not called to be like the world. Though we be in this world, we are not of this world.

Our God created us, came for us, died for us, and rose again, defeating death and overcoming the world all because He loves us and wants us to live with Him in His Kingdom for eternity. The least we can do is serve Him and Him alone.

The Hope of Believers: 3 (More) Reminders from Romans 8

Tired of bad news? Social turmoil? Dealing with sickness? Struggling just to make it through the day?

This world seems to be getting further from Jesus with each passing day, but Romans 8 gives us many powerful truths about life on earth and beyond earth. Here are three brief reminders from Romans 8:20-39 to give you strength and hope in these trying times.

1. We have hope of an eternal reward.

No matter how messy things get on earth, believers have hope that someday soon, we will no longer be in this world but with our Savior forever in a world where sin, death, and pain no longer exist. Romans 8:20-23 describes the fall of Creation and the hope that we have:

“For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

In a nutshell, this passage explains that God subjected mankind and nature to the curse of sin and death because of man’s fall in the Garden of Eden, but He did this in hope. No matter how much creation and we ourselves may groan in pain on this earth, we have hope that God will someday deliver us from the bondage of our corrupt, mortal bodies. When that happens, the adoption as God’s children will be complete and the body redeemed since sin and death will be no more. As verse 25 states, we have hope for that which we cannot physically see and wait for it with patience.

This is one of the greatest promises of God.

2. We also have hope of better things even here on earth.

Just because we hope for Christ’s coming and life with Him in eternal glory, that does not mean that we don’t have hope for good things here on earth even amidst turmoil and destruction. When we go through things and travail in prayer, the Spirit makes intercession for us (see Romans 8:26-27). This means that the Spirit goes beyond our limits and weaknesses in prayer and prays on our behalf when we don’t even know what to say or how to pray for our situation.

No matter how hopeless you may feel, you are not forsaken or without hope!

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

Romans 8:28 (KJV)

All things—our trials and joys—work together for our good according to His plan for our lives. Notice that this verse states that this applies “to them that love God” and “to them who are the called.” When you love God, live for God according to His Word, and answer the calling He has placed on your life, then you can rest assured that God has a plan for every trial you will experience and for every period of your life.

God has given us hope on earth that He will help and guide us through life so that Romans 8:29-30 may be able to apply to us:

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

There’s a lot to unpack from these two verses, but my Apostolic Study Bible breaks it down into 5 concepts: 1) God’s plan includes the fact that He knew from the beginning that man would fall and need a Savior; 2) God planned in advance for the church to be formed in His likeness; 3) salvation extends to everyone, but everyone has the individual responsibility to answer God’s calling in order to be chosen; 4) God redeems us from our sins in justification; and 5) we will receive sinless bodies in eternal glory with Christ.

If we maintain a righteous lifestyle and faithful walk with God, then again we have hope of eternal life with our Savior.

3. It’s never a mistake to depend on Jesus for everything.

The last several verses of Romans 8 reveal that it is not only God who is the only one who can condemn or justify us but that it is also God who makes intercession for us and helps and loves us no matter what. It doesn’t matter what we may face or what may come against us, we are more than conquerors through Christ (see Romans 8:37).

His love extends far beyond the weight of our sins and powers of darkness!

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39 (KJV)

We can depend on Jesus for everything we need, for He is everything we need!

He is our Strength, our Helper, our Forgiver, our Savior, and the Lover of our souls.

Life in the Spirit: 3 Reminders From Romans 8

School and work are often drudgery.

Back-to-back tests and papers due. Piles of work that lead to overtime. New company policies that are confusing and make your work harder. It can make your life seem completely miserable at times.

As children of God, however, we have an avenue to living a purposeful and rewarding life even when our school and work responsibilities try to drain the life from us.

Today, we’ll look at three key reminders from Romans 8:1-18 of what it means to be alive in Christ.

1. Through Christ, we are free.

You might feel like a prisoner to the drudgery of life, clocking in and out of work in robotic fashion or dragging yourself to school every week, but we are not meant to feel like prisoners in this world.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!

In fact, Romans 8:1-3 explains that we are free from “the law of sin and death.” When we believe in and live for Jesus Christ, the sins of our past no longer have a hold on us. Without Christ, we are prisoners to sin, and eternal death is an inevitability. With Christ, no matter what mistakes we may have made or difficult circumstances we may have to endure, the consequences of sin and the ways of this world no longer have us bound.

The weight of this world and of the things that accompany life in this world do not have to keep us down or burdened because our God already defeated sin and death and has overcome the world (see John 16:33). “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” has made us free (see Romans 8:2), and so we can walk in the freedom we have through Christ each day no matter how stifling life may seem on earth.

2. We must continue to walk after the Spirit.

When group projects and research papers pile up, when the customers are rude and your boss keeps giving you more responsibilities, and when traffic is backed up after a really long day, we must continue to walk after the Spirit—yes, even when we are tempted with road rage. If you live in or near Springfield, Missouri, then you might understand the frustration that accompanies dealing with mindless drivers who pull out in front of you while you’re doing 60 and they’re doing 35 or who cruise in the fast lane and refuse to move over. Truth be told, many a Holy Ghost-filled Christian has almost lost their Holy Ghost when dealing with rush-hour traffic.

Walking after the Spirit means living a righteous lifestyle every day. Simple, right? Not when we feed our carnality more than the spirit, but when we pursue righteousness and a closer walk with Jesus on a daily basis, it becomes more natural to maintain a spiritual mindset.

Having life through Christ means forsaking our carnality.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Romans 8:5-6 (KJV)

If you follow your flesh, it will lead to death. If you follow after the Spirit, then it will lead to eternal life and the peace of God. We cannot expect the peace of God and His blessings if we follow our own lusts and desires. Verse 8 goes on to say that “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Ouch.

Want to please God? Pursue Him. Pursue righteousness. Even when people annoy you and schoolwork overwhelms you and your job is miserable, pursue a lifestyle that reflects His Spirit within you.

3. As His children, we have a divine inheritance!

The more we walk after the Spirit, the more we realize another truth of what it means to have life through Christ.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Romans 8:14 (KJV)

Those who walk after the Spirit are called the children of God. Our salvation is not based on a “once saved, always saved” ideology. Walking after the Spirit means that we continue pursuing Him and practicing a righteous lifestyle every minute of every day. If we do so and are filled with His Spirit, then we have what verse 15 calls the “Spirit of adoption.” Being “adopted” by Christ not only means His Spirit dwells within us but that we have 1) a loving relationship with Him and 2) a divine inheritance.

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:17-18 (KJV)

Being joint-heirs with Christ means that we join in suffering with Him and that we also get to experience the benefits of what we may have to endure on earth—eternal life with Him. No amount of suffering we may experience here can compare to the glory that awaits us in Heaven with our King.

As the old song says, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ. One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase. So, bravely run the race till we see Christ.”

No matter what you’re facing, whether you’re going to school or working or both, encourage yourself with these truths.

Through our God, we have freedom, and our past mistakes cannot keep us bound. Through Him, we have everything we need to maintain a righteous lifestyle. Through Him, we have the promise of eternal life.

The weight of this world no longer has a hold on us. We are alive through Christ!

3 Helpful Bible Study Methods

Reading and studying the Word should be a daily commitment if we want to grow closer to God. When I was a teenager, I found myself becoming satisfied with reading a short chapter here and there and calling it good. (Woo-hoo! I read an entire chapter of Psalms! I’m good for the day!) Everyone has to start somewhere, and there is no shame in a child reading a chapter of Psalms a day to develop a daily habit of reading the Word, but as we grow older, we must become more dedicated to studying the Word in depth.

As always, we must remember that God is calling us deeper.

Sometimes, figuring out how to study the Word can be difficult when you’re out of the habit or don’t know where to start. For today’s post, I thought I would share with you three Bible study methods that I have adapted and that have helped me dig deeper into the Word.

1. Summarization

This involves what we English majors like to call “close reading.” When you’re reading a chapter of the Bible, ask questions about the chapter and write down your answers. I like to use the typical 5W1H method.

  • Who are the people involved in this chapter? Who is speaking? Who is the author? Who is the audience?
  • What is taking place in this chapter? What are the implications of the events? What Biblical principles or lessons does this chapter explore?
  • Where do the events in this chapter take place? This question can refer to an actual location or where the events take place within the story’s timeline, which brings us to the next question.
  • When does this chapter take place? When did the author write this? (This also helps you understand the context of the chapter as you look at the events in the surrounding chapters.)
  • How can I apply the principles or lessons this chapter teaches to my life?
  • Why are the events in this chapter important? This question helps you under the significance of the passage both within the context of the story and within your own life.

2. Cross-referencing

This method involves going from verse to verse, often across different books, to study key terms and concepts. It helps to have a Bible that contains references within the page that point you to related verses. I recommend the Apostolic Study Bible, which is what I use.

Here’s an example of using this method:

In the footnotes of Psalm chapter 7 in my Apostolic Study Bible, it directs me to read the related verses of II Samuel 18:19-33. David wrote Psalm 7 in reference to the news of his son Absalom’s death, which we read about in II Samuel 18. Through cross-referencing, I can read and study the situation to which David is referring in Psalm 7 to better understand the context of both passages of Scripture.

You can also use this method on your own by using the concordance at the back of your Bible and finding multiple verses throughout the Bible that discuss a particular topic.

3. Word Study

What I like to call the “word study” method involves using a Strong’s Concordance to study the root meanings of words in the original Hebrew or Greek texts. When I use this method, I simply begin by looking up a word in a particular verse in the Strong’s Concordance. (I use the Bible Strong’s Concordance app on my phone, but I also have a physical copy of Strong’s Concordance in my home library.)

This method helps you understand how a word is used differently in the Bible and what its different uses mean. For example, “love” in Romans 12:10 is from the Greek word philadelphia, which means fraternal affection or brotherly love. In John 15:10, we find that the love mentioned here is unconditional love (or agape). Here, Jesus is giving the command that we abide in the kind of unconditional love He has for us, whereas the love mentioned in Romans 12:10 specifically refers to love toward members of the church.

The above Bible study methods and tips are designed to help you understand the context of a passage of Scripture, what lessons a particular passage teaches, the connection between verses, how multiple verses extend the same topics, and how we can understand a word or concept based off a word’s original meaning. If we devote even a little bit of time daily to studying the Word, then we will come to understand Him more and how He wants us to live.

Studying the Word fosters a love for the Word and Godly living, allowing us to bury His Word within us so that we might reflect His glory to others and share the Gospel message.

BPR Schedule Update: There will be no blog post next week as I’ll be on vacation. To see how I’ve applied the word study method to my Bible studying time, check out the “comfort” series in the “Bible Studies” column.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

How to Overcome Self-Condemnation: Appealing to the Mercy of God

A man seeks God's forgiveness in prayer.

Sometimes when you make a mistake, the hardest part of forgiveness is forgiving yourself. If you’re like me, you might tend to beat yourself up for mistakes you’ve made, mulling over them at night and asking yourself how you could be so stupid. Self-condemnation completely hinders the process of forgiveness.

When we make a mistake, we must ask God for his mercy and strive to resist temptation and live according to His Word, but sometimes our own thoughts can make it much harder to feel forgiven when we imprison ourselves in our own guilt. What we forget in those moments is how much God truly loves us. In order for us to move forward with peace and in confidence, knowing that He has forgiven us, we must recognize His love for us and that His mercy has no end.

Two examples in His Word show us what it means to appeal to God’s mercy.

When Lot and his family escaped Sodom and Gomorrah, he asked God to save a nearby city so that they might flee to it and be saved.

“Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.”

Genesis 19:19-22 (KJV)

One of the first things Lot said to God was a reminder that God had granted Lot grace and that He had “magnified [His] mercy” by saving Lot’s life. When Abraham went to God to try to convince Him not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he appealed to God’s justice, asking if God would destroy the “righteous with the wicked” (see Genesis 18:23). Abraham did not succeed in his intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah, but Lot succeeded in his intercession for Zoar by appealing first to the grace and mercy of God when he was in danger and needed to be saved.

In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable of humility and mercy when comparing the Pharisee to the publican.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican…. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Luke 18:10-11, 13 (KJV)

In this parable, the publican acknowledged his sinfulness and asked that God would show him mercy. He showed humility and an understanding of his own faults and need for a Savior.

These examples remind us to appeal to God’s mercy when we are facing difficulties and when we need forgiveness. Lot appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from circumstances. The publican appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from sin. Neither Lot nor the publican were perfect men, but in Lot’s case and in the parable of the publican, both men were sincere in their appeals, and God showed them His mercy. When we make a mistake and ask for forgiveness, we’re stating that we cannot make it on our own. Our appeal to God’s mercy becomes a declaration that we need Him.

Messing up again and again is human nature. God knows this. Of course, our human nature is not an excuse to sin, but rather it is a reminder that we need Him in order to resist temptation and receive forgiveness.

God is just and faithful to forgive of us our sins as His Word says in 1 John 1:9.

What these accounts remind me of is how much He wants to forgive us. Our God longs for us to surrender to Him and serve Him in righteousness and sincerity, and when we do, then He will forgive us of our sins. We need not walk in guilt and self-condemnation because He already paid the price for our sins and freed us from guilt and shame.

We can overcome guilt and self-condemnation by appealing to God’s mercy, by recognizing our flaws and inadequacies, and by understanding that it is only through the grace, love, and mercy of our Savior that we move forward and walk in confidence with Him. Self-condemnation will keep us from accepting His forgiveness, but the self-realization of our weaknesses and His great love for us keeps us under His blood and walking in newness of life.

*****

Post Schedule Announcement:

Lots of things are coming up as my schedule will be getting busier over the upcoming weeks, so posts will be on Fridays only until further notice.

I’ve seen there are some newer readers and subscribers to Breathe Pray Repeat, so I also want to say “welcome,” and I pray these posts bless you and encourage you to get closer to God as you seek Him more and study His Word.

If you have any post or Bible study requests, don’t hesitate to comment below or send me a message and let me know! God Bless!

3 Qualities of a Good Servant

A man opens his Bible.

What makes a good and faithful servant?

Is it simply someone who does good deeds and tries to be kind to others? Is it someone who serves their community? Is it someone who prays an hour every day and fills journals with Bible study notes? Is it someone who goes to Bible college and becomes a preacher or worship leader?

What does it take to simply be that good and faithful servant the Lord will welcome into Heaven?

Well, a person can certainly be a good and faithful servant by doing any or all of the above, but pleasing and serving God does not mean that we have to attend Bible college or that we have to become a preacher or singer. Those things are wonderful things but are specific callings rather than general requirements for all Christians.

When we study the Word, we see many examples of various people who were faithful servants—Abraham, Job, and Mary are a few that come to mind. One man in particular who appears very early in the Bible shows us three qualities of a faithful servant that are a good foundation upon which we can build and develop a strong relationship with God.

“And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: And I will make thee swear by the LORD…thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac…And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning the matter.”

Genesis 24:2-4, 9 (KJV)

1. Attentiveness

When Abraham was old, he tasked his eldest and most trusted servant with finding a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Here, we have an example of a servant who was not only attentive to his master’s requests and needs, but he was also mindful of Abraham’s requirements to accomplish his task.

After he met Rebekah and her family, he faithfully repeated to them his errand, detailing every aspect of his oath (see Genesis 24:34-41). A testament to the servant’s mindfulness in completing his task, he even refused their request to let Rebekah stay with her family a little longer:

“And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go. And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.”

Genesis 24:55-56 (KJV)

In order for us to be good servants, we must not only listen to our Master’s commands, but we must be mindful of how we go about our work for the Kingdom. Abraham’s servant carefully heeded each aspect of his oath to his master. Even though some might deem it unkind to not allow Rebekah to stay with her family a few more days, Abraham’s servant was persistent in fulfilling his task, mindful of the time and his master’s needs. Abraham’s son needed a wife, and it was his job to deliver on his task—pronto!

When we serve in the Kingdom, we must be mindful of how we go about our ministry and of how we answer to God’s commands, which brings us to the second quality Abraham’s servant displays.

2. Obedience

Abraham’s servant was obedient to the letter. He swiftly went about finding his master’s son a wife and made sure she was of the same household as Abraham’s family as his master requested. Now, we know Abraham’s servant had a reputation of faithfully obeying his master because Abraham trusted this man with all of the goods of his house (see Genesis 24:2, 10). Over the course of the chapter, we see that Abraham’s servant was forthright as he set out to the well to find Isaac a wife and was very thorough. Before assuming Rebekah was the one God had chosen for his master’s son, Abraham’s servant watched Rebekah carefully and questioned her about her family:

“And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not…And [he] said, Whose daughter art thou?…And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor…And the man bowed his head, and worshipped the LORD. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”

Genesis 24:21, 23-24, 26-27 (KJV)

Abraham’s servant waited for confirmation to ensure Rebekah was the one God had appointed for Isaac, and then he praised God and continued with his task. A good servant obeys, yes, but a good servant must pay close attention to every detail to ensure complete obedience.

3. A Relationship with God

Finally, a good servant must commune with God. We see throughout chapter 24 of Genesis that Abraham’s servant regularly spoke to and praised God. In fact, he spoke to God and worshipped Him three times in this chapter, showing his trust in God and a thankful spirit.

First, Abraham’s servant surrendered the situation to God by asking God to show him the woman He had appointed for Isaac (see Genesis 24:12-14). Second, he praised God when he realized God had blessed his journey and led him to the right woman (see Genesis 24:26-27). Third, he worshipped God when Rebekah’s family released her to accompany him back to Abraham and marry Isaac:

“Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken. And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.”

Genesis 24:51-52 (KJV)

Through each aspect of fulfilling his work, Abraham’s servant gave the glory to God and surrendered his task into God’s hands.

A woman throws her hands up in surrendering everything to Jesus.

In order to become the child of God that He wants us to be, we have to start somewhere. Applying to our own lives the qualities that Abraham’s servant shows us will help us begin a foundation for building a healthy and strong relationship with God. When analyzing your own walk with Him, ask yourself these questions: Am I heeding and obeying God’s commands in my life? Am I faithful in my work in the Kingdom? Am I seeking the Lord faithfully? Have I given Him honor and worship for the things He’s done for me?

If we build a strong relationship with God and follow His guidance and instructions for our lives, then He will ultimately bless us with the greatest reward—hearing the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” as we enter into His Kingdom to be with our King for eternity.

2 Lessons from the Lame Man and the Blind Man: Learning to Recognize Jesus in Your Life

Holding the Bible up to the sky.

What will it take for you to see God in your life?

In the book of John, we see two examples of Jesus healing two separate men—a lame man and a blind man—who both had opportunities to recognize Jesus as their God who had personally touched their lives. Only the blind man recognized God. As for the lame man, there is no record of his salvation, but there is record of his disobedience and lack of gratefulness. When we look at both accounts together, we can see from their differences how important it is to not only glorify and recognize God in our lives but to do whatever it takes so that we can see Him. There are at least two ways the lame man and the blind man differed.

1. They differed in their responses to their peers.

A man looks over the mountains, and a caption reads, "One thing I know: I was blind, now I see."

Both the lame man and the blind man were honest when answering the Jews’ questions about their healings, but the lame man cared more about the interests of his peers while the blind man was able to see through the Jews’ questioning and recognize their antagonistic motives.

“The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that is was Jesus, which had made him whole.”

John 5:10-15 (KJV)

“Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not….They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.”

John 9:10-12, 17 (KJV)

The now-healed lame man was at first unable to identify Jesus by name after he deferred blame to Him, but once he learned who it was who had healed him, he went back to the Jews to inform them that it was Jesus “which had made him whole.” The blind man appeared to care more about pleasing the Jews who were after Jesus than obeying Him. The healed blind man, however, knew Jesus by name and (inadequately) described Him as a prophet.

As they questioned him further, he discerned the Jews’ motives to catch Jesus and remained true to his testimony, refusing to be swayed by his interrogators. Pay attention to his response below:

“He answered, and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see….Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes….Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.”

John 9:25, 28-30, 32-33 (KJV)

The formerly blind man was now defending Jesus against the Pharisees’ accusation that Jesus was a sinner, discerning their attempts to disprove his story and smear Jesus. He pulled from his theological knowledge to expose the flaws in the Pharisees’ argument, confirming to them that if Jesus had been a sinner, He would not have been able to heal the blind man, proving that He was “of God.” The healed man’s bold and clever responses to the Pharisees resulted in them casting him out of the synagogue (ex: “They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out” [John 9:34, KJV]). Even though the healed man knew what might happen to him, he stood his ground against the Pharisees.

2. They differed in their responses to Jesus.

Jesus bends down and draws in the sand.

While both men initially obeyed Jesus’ instructions to be healed, the formerly lame man disobeyed Jesus later and failed to recognize who He is, whereas the formerly blind man responded to Jesus with both recognition and praise. Notice the blind man’s response to Jesus below:

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.”

John 9:35-38 (KJV)

The now-healed man recognized Jesus as Lord and worshipped Him, eager to believe. When Jesus told the formerly lame man not to sin anymore, the man turned right back around and tattle-taled on Jesus to the Jews.

One man recognized Jesus as Lord, and the other man failed to see who Jesus is, and his information to the Jews resulted in the Jews’ plan to persecute and kill Jesus.

From both of these accounts, we can glean at least two lessons:

1.) We must value God and the things he wants from us above all things, even if it costs us.

2.) We must not forget to give Him the glory for all He’s done for us.

The formerly blind man recognized and praised Jesus even after the Pharisees had excommunicated him from the synagogue for his defense of Jesus, but the formerly lame man did not recognize or believe on Him. He placed more value in pleasing the Pharisees. In fact, he showed no interest in obeying or praising Jesus whatsoever, perhaps proving he was the true blind man as were the Pharisees for lacking spiritual vision (see John 9:39-41).

A boy looks up at the sunset over the trees. A caption reads, "What will it take for you to see Jesus?"

What will it take for you to see God in your life and give Him the glory?

We may find ourselves going through the motions and doing what we’re told (as both men initially did when Jesus gave them instructions to be healed), but as we learn from the account of the lame man, we can still fall short of recognizing God at work in our lives.

Each day, we must look inside ourselves to ensure we are placing Jesus above all things in our lives. Getting closer to Jesus requires an attitude of willingness, devotion, dedication, and sacrifice. The kind of attitude that says, “No matter what it may cost me, I will stand by Jesus and testify of this truth.” The kind of attitude that makes us willing to remove anything that might keep us from recognizing Jesus. The kind of attitude that says, “I will do whatever it takes to follow and obey Him no matter what.”

If we want to see Jesus, we must devote ourselves to Him, give Him the glory, worship Him alone, and tell the world of His greatness.

Prioritizing the Kingdom

So, I have this need. A time-sensitive need. It’s one of those needs that you try not to worry about too much, but as the days go by and nothing changes, you start to worry a lot.

“God,” I say, “I have this need. Now, You know I have this need, and I know You know that, so if You could maybe speed up Your need-fulfilling machine and meet this need ASAP, that would take a load off my mind. We’re dealing with a time-sensitive issue here, and the funny thing about time is that it’s always running out. Right, God? God? Is this thing on?”

I scratch my head and wring my hands and ramble on and on until all I can think about for the next hour and day and week is that one need that keeps coming closer to its deadline.

And then I read Matthew chapter 6, and I realize God is speaking to me:

(30) “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
(31) Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(32) (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
(33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

From these verses, God reminds me, and us, that we need not allow worry over our needs to consume our thoughts. Sometimes, we prioritize our cares on earth over Kingdom concerns too much.

What should we do?

We should seek first the Kingdom of God and trust that God will meet our needs. My Apostolic Study Bible explains it as actively pursuing the Kingdom while passively expecting the meeting of our needs.

Indeed, Matthew 6 says it perfectly as well. If God takes care of His creation, then how much more will He care for His children? For He knows our needs. And so we should not busy ourselves with overloaded concern for our own selves. Rather, we should busy ourselves with His Kingdom.

Prioritizing trust in Him breeds more trust in Him and the assurance that God will take care of us no matter what life throws our way.

I may still have a need, as do we all, but I also have the promise that my Savior who knows my need is working on my behalf and will come through for me at precisely the right moment.

If we are faithful to Him, then He will provide for all our needs in this life, for the righteous are not forsaken.

Comfort in The New Testament Part Two: A Brief Analysis

When I drive through Springfield, Missouri, I see a sign on East Sunshine that says, “Love God, love people—on purpose.”

Two basic commands in life are to love God and to love our fellow man. We love God because He first loved us, and with the love of God in us, we are able to love others. I believe this applies to other acts of love, such as comfort.

Last week, we covered how “comfort” in the New Testament relates to the theme that we have hope in Jesus because He calls us near to Him. This theme continues throughout the New Testament. 2 Corinthians 7:6 says, “Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” “Comforteth” comes from the Greek word parakaleō, which as you may recall from last week’s post means “to call near.” “Cast down” translates from the Greek word tapeinos (pronounced “tap-i-nos’”), which means “depressed, humiliated (in circumstances or disposition), of low degree (estate), lowly.” We know we are an unworthy and lowly people, and we are often in despair, but God calls the lowly near to Him.

Romans 15:4-5 (KJV)

4 “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus.”

Paul is telling the Christians of the church of Rome that the Word of God was written to teach and instruct us in the doctrine. Here, “learning” in Greek is didaskalia, which means “instruction, doctrine, or teaching.” In fact, he says the endurance and constancy (which is from hupomonē, the Greek word for patience in this verse) and the comfort of the Scriptures gives us hope or confidence (according to the translation of hope in the Greek, which is elpis). In the next verse, Paul calls God the “God of patience and consolation.” Since God is the Word and the Word is with and is God, both He and His Word literally are our source of comfort and hope. And that source of comfort and hope endures forever. No matter what we may go through, we are never without the comfort of God and hope within His Word. But the comfort of God and the hope we have because of His comfort is not the only theme that accompanies this word in the New Testament.

Just as the love of God helps us love others, God comforts us so that we can comfort others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-6 (KJV)

3 “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth in Christ.

6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.”

God is our Father Who comforts us in every troublesome situation. Here, “comforteth” again means “to call near.” When burdens, trials, and afflictions persecute us, God calls us near to Him. However, He comforts us so that we might be able to receive strength from and confidence in Him as well as comfort others. We may suffer for striving to live righteously, but God gives us an excess of consolation. “Abound” and “aboundeth” here come from the Greek perisseuo, which means “to be in excess, abundance, to increase, and to remain.” Paul and the early church suffered greatly for serving Christ. My Apostolic Study Bible says this about this passage: “Paul and the church at Corinth had shared in Christ’s sufferings. God’s merciful deliverance of Paul from his tribulation served as an encouragement to the Corinthians that He would deliver them also.” When we suffer, we do so for the cause of Christ. Though our sufferings are in abundance, so is God’s comfort and mercy. He delivered Paul from difficulty to encourage others in the same way that He still delivers us today to encourage others. We experience difficulty and the comfort of the Lord so that we can learn how to be a comfort to others in their time of difficulty. So, not only do we receive comfort from God, but we receive comfort from one another.

On numerous occasions, the Lord commands His people through the apostles to comfort each other. In 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, the apostle Paul instructs the church at Thessalonica to comfort each other with the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ:

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (KJV)

16 “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

Again, “comfort” here comes from parakaleō. Another meaning of this word is “to exhort,” which means to encourage someone. In the Apostolic Study Bible, the notes for these verses discuss the church’s responsibility to “offer encouragement and comfort to those who are grieving,” for “the return of Christ means we do not need to grieve as those who are hopeless.” The next chapter contains two more commands to comfort:

1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14 (KJV)

11 “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”

We comfort one another by building up each other. “Edify” from the Greek word oikodomeō (pronounced “oy-kod-om-eh’-o”) means “to construct or (figuratively) confirm, build (up), embolden.” In verse 14, “comfort” comes from the Greek word paramutheomai (“par-am-oo-theh’-om-ahee”), which means “to relate near, that is (by implication), encourage, console.” These verses and the verses that follow contain several practical instructions (such as “pray without ceasing” in verse 17) to believers on how to live righteously and ethically so that we can make it to Heaven. Among these instructions is the command to encourage the “feebleminded,” that is the “little spirited” or “faint hearted” according to the translation of the original Greek word oligopsuchos (“ol-ig-op’-soo-khos”). We must support and give encouragement to those who are weary among us because God has done the same for us. We are nothing without God, and in the midst of trials, we cannot rely on ourselves for strength. God is our strength and comfort. If He does this all for us, then we should offer the same for others.

Some of the last messages about comfort in the New Testament speak of the church comforting each other. In the face of trials and persecution, the church stands united so long as we comfort and give strength to one another. As we well know, a house divided against itself cannot stand. In this time that the church is facing its fiercest opposition, we cannot afford to allow ourselves to become prejudiced toward each other and fail in our responsibility to lift our brothers and sisters up to God in prayer. The early church faced persecution from the enemy, and so Paul instructed them to encourage each other. Likewise, in these last days, the church is again facing persecution and opposition all over the world, but we still have that same command to be a comfort to each other. Our end goal—our ultimate goal is Heaven, and we work daily to live righteously so that we can all make it there.

As the children of God, we are never alone in our difficulties. As the Word teaches us about comfort, from the Old Testament to the New, we receive our strength and comfort from two places: from God and from the church. He comforts the weary so that we can comfort our weary fellow believers. He consoles the broken hearted so that the church can give consolation to the broken hearted. He calls us near to Him so that we can bind together with each other and lift up the depressed and hurting in our communities. His strength is our strength, His comfort is our hope, and our responsibility is to comfort each other with the news of eternal life through Him.

“You’re my brother, you’re my sister

So take me by the hand

Together we will work until He comes

There’s no foe that can defeat us

When we’re walking side by side

As long as there is love, we will stand.”

Comfort in The New Testament Part One: A Brief Analysis

“2020 has been consistent,” a friend of mine recently said.

It began crazy, became wild, and is wrapping up in a confusing maelstrom of insanity. This past week has proven just that.

As my family and I went into election week, COVID hit us and many we know. At first, it felt like things were collapsing. There’s a picture somewhere on the internet of a room on fire and a person standing numbly in the midst of it, unable to stop the chaos and practically accustomed to it. That’s where I was at the beginning of the week. I had planned on writing more posts for BPR by Sunday, but COVID upended my plans.

And now insanity has upended the US election. And here I sat, trying to catch up on posts that I was already supposed to have finished and posted for everyone to read so I could move into the next post series I’ve been preparing. But everything has a purpose. I began to wonder. What if I wasn’t supposed to finish these posts by earlier this week? What if, in the middle of all the craziness of post-election day, someone somewhere needs this reminder of God’s comfort now instead? What if the crazy things that happen in our life are orchestrated by God with a purpose? If God is the orchestrator of our life, and He is, then nothing happens that God does not know about and allow for a divine reason. This means He is in control. This means He hasn’t left us alone. This means that no matter what else happens, Jesus is our only hope.

We may be stressed to tears over struggling to do the things God has called us to do in this pandemic-obsessed and divided nation. We may be saddened over the loss of loved ones due to COVID or the news of loved ones infected with the virus, but our circumstances do not place us at a disadvantage.

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” ~Matthew 5:4 (KJV)

Despite our sadness and struggles, we are blessed. “Blessed” translates to makarios in the original Greek translation of this verse, which means “supremely blest, fortunate, well off, happy (-ier).” We are a fortunate people even though we mourn. “Mourn” comes from the Greek entheō (pronounced “pen-theh’-o”) and means “to grieve (the feeling or the act); bewail/wail.” We may be grieving and wailing in our grief, but we are still well off. Why? Because God calls us near to Him. “Comforted” in this verse comes from the Greek word parakaleō, which means “to call near, that is, invite; invoke by imploration, hortation, or consolation; beseech, call for; be of good comfort; give exhortation; intreat.” In other words, those who grieve are blessed because God shall give them comfort and consolation. Even though we grieve and mourn, we are still fortunate because in those moments of grief, God calls us near to Him and comforts us. Therefore, even in the midst of our grief, we can find joy in knowing God will invite us closer to Him. We have hope in Jesus. That He is our Hope is not the only lesson I discovered when studying comfort in the New Testament.

[16] “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

[18] I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” ~John 14:16, 18 (KJV)

God, our Comforter, does not only draw us to him, but He comes to us! In John 14:16, “Comforter” translates in the Greek to paraklētos, meaning “intercessor, consoler, advocate.” “Comfortless” in verse 18 comes from the Greek word orphanos, which means “bereaved (orphan), that is, parentless, fatherless.” Jesus is speaking in these verses, telling His disciples that He would send an intercessor or advocate to dwell with them forever. He said again that He would not forsake them or leave them without comfort or a Father but that He would come to them. My Apostolic Study Bible says the following about these verses: “While Jesus would soon leave His disciples physically, this “Spirit of truth,” which was now with them and was invisible to the world, would dwell within them…. The Spirit that indwelt Jesus was the Comforter. He would not forsake them, leaving them…as ‘orphans,’ but would ‘come to’ them.” In verse 18, “I will come” is from the Greek word erchomai that is only used in the present and imperfect tense, meaning that Jesus wasn’t just telling the disciples then that He wouldn’t leave them but that this still applies to us today. Through the Presence of God’s Spirit, He comes to us and dwells with us. We find comfort in the Presence of God, which in turn gives us strength.

“Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” ~Acts 9:31 (KJV)

Here, through Barnabas’ testimony, God calmed the disciples and helped them trust Saul (who had been persecuting them before his conversion). Now that their persecutor was one of them and was preaching the Gospel, they had some rest because God’s Spirit, the Comforter, gave them rest and edified them. In the comfort of the Spirit, they boldly served God and grew. “Rest” in Greek is eirēnē (pronounced “i-rah’-nay). This means “peace, prosperity, quietness.” We translate “edified” from the Greek word oikodomeō (pronounced “oy-kod-om-eh’-o”), which means “to be a house builder, that is, construct or confirm, build up, embolden.” The comfort of the Holy Ghost, God’s Spirit, gives us peace and prosperity, literally enabling us to build each other up, grow His Kingdom, and walk boldly in serving the Lord. Serving Him comes with a process, however, on which Matthew 9:20-22 sheds some light:

[20] “And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:

[21] For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.

[22] But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.”

The woman with the issue of blood teaches us a little about finding comfort in the process of serving God. According to the Greek translation, “issue of blood” (aihmorrheō, which is pronounced “hahee-mor-hreh’-o”) means “to flow blood, that is, have a haemorrhage.” For years, this woman suffered some form of bleeding, possibly internal, but she didn’t let her issue keep her down. “Came” in verse 20 translates to the Greek word proserchomai (pros-er’-khom-ahee), which means “to approach, that is, (literally) come near, visit, or (figuratively) worship.” “Touched” in the Greek haptomai (hap’-tom-ahee) means “to attach oneself to, that is, to touch.” She approached Jesus and attached herself to the hem, or border, of his robe because she believed that if she did so, that alone would heal and deliver her. We know that Jesus immediately turned around and, seeing her, declared that she could have courage (“comfort” in verse 22 is from the Greek word tharseō and means “to have courage, be of good cheer”). Why? Well, “faith” in verse 22 means “persuasion, that is, credence; moral conviction (of religious truth or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher) especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; assurance, belief” according to the Greek translation. This woman’s moral conviction, reliance on Jesus for healing, assurance in Him, and belief made her whole. She was completely healed and delivered that same hour. Her story teaches us that we can have comfort and courage knowing that if we worship God, draw near and attach ourselves to Him, rely on Him for assurance, and believe that He can do anything, then He will deliver us, protect us, preserve us, and save us.

There is comfort in the process. Isn’t it interesting that the Greek translation for “came” also means to worship? Imagine what would happen if we didn’t just come to Jesus but if we always came to Him in worship and praise! Living for God is often difficult when we let our flesh get in the way and when we let life’s disappointments discourage us, but we can find comfort in the process—we worship Him, we draw near to Him and push other things away, we rely on Him daily, and this brings us comfort. This makes us whole.