God’s Pleasure In Our Relationships

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Last week we talked about God’s pleasure in our good work ethic and our good attitude about work. We have a God-implanted craving to do excellent work because God is an excellent Worker. 

We also said that although we would all like to have the job that was wonderful, even the crummy jobs deserve our best attitude and our best effort.  

This is very much the same for our relationships. We would all love to only have relationships in our lives that are energizing, fulfilling, and win-win. But the reality is that many of our relationships may be the exact opposite of this. 

Jesus said our love for others would show the world that we are His disciples. Oh yeah, and the love we show is supposed to be a “10” on the Jesus Love Scale (John 13:34-35). Why? Because that’s how Jesus loved us:

Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die. But God shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us. (Romans 5:7-8 AMP)

Remember we said that God is Love? But love needs to have both a lover and beloved—someone reaching out and someone receiving. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit so God is Relational. The Father loving the Son and Spirit, the Son loving the Spirit and the Father, the Spirit loving the Father and the Son. All loving and promoting the Other. 

God is also Happy in this Relationship. 

Because we are created in God’s image, we have a God-implanted craving to love and to be loved, to have meaningful companionships (Genesis 1:26; 2:18). 

Remember that Jesus was all-in for us so that we could have this love relationship with God.  This same passage calls us to have the same attitude as Jesus had. But we can also back up just a couple of more verses to find out what fuels the relationships that satisfy our craving for companionship and please God (Philippians 2:1-11). Those characteristics include:

  • being like-minded in striving to find agreement with others 
  • having the same love as Jesus demonstrated  
  • being one in spirit—this unique Greek word reminds us we all have immortal souls. As C.S. Lewis reminded us, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one of these destinations.”
  • being one in purpose  
  • giving up selfish ambitions as we trade “me” for “we” 
  • not indulging in vain conceit, but thinking more highly of others 
  • being humble 
  • always striving to find the win-win 

When Alexander Dumas wrote The Three Musketeers his Musketeers have been given a famous line: “All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.” This is actually quite biblical because the Bible only has saints in the plural form, never in the singular. And the apostle Paul reminds us, “And if one member suffers, all the parts share the suffering; if one member is honored, all the members share in the enjoyment of it” (1 Corinthians 12:26 AMP). 

God is pleased when our attitude about our fellow saints is all for one and one for all—when all the saints love and nurture the individual saint, and when each individual saint loves and supports all the other saints. 

We were created for this. We crave this. God is pleased when we live and love like this. And this is the only way we will experience the joy of God’s favor on our relationships.

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series called Craving, you can find a list of all of the messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

God’s Pleasure In Our Work

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

A couple of weeks ago I asked a question about a fictitious job. Which job would you rather have: a job that’s (a) boring, not utilizing your skills, where you’re treated as a cog in the wheel, or (b) energizing, calling out your best talents, a place where you are making a difference? 

As a follow up I asked, “Which of those jobs are you more likely to be happy to go to? Which job is going to inspire you to give your best work ethic?” 

We all want that ideal job, but the reality is that in this fallen world there are no perfect jobs, so it’s very likely that we’re going to have the challenging jobs. Even when we have that kind of job, Christians are called to work with excellence and to find joy in that work (Colossians 3:23). 

Work originated with God. At the conclusion of every day of Creation, God looked at His magnificent handiwork and pronounced it good. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He gave them instructions to work, and even after their sin, He repeated the call to work (Genesis 2:15, 3:17-19). 

Whether we are called to be gardeners or evangelists, plumbers or salespeople, teachers or doctors, we are to work well. William Tyndale wrote, “There is no work better than to please God; to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a cobbler, or an apostle, all are one; to wash dishes and to preach are all one, as touching the deed, to please God.” 

Let me give you two examples of good workers. 

The first is Joseph whom we meet in the first book of the Bible. Out of their jealousy of their father’s preferential treatment of Joseph, his brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph ended up in Egypt working for a man named Potiphar. I don’t think anyone would have blamed Joseph for grumbling about his condition and giving the least effort possible, but instead, Joseph so excelled in his work that Potiphar promoted him over all his household. 

After being framed for a crime he didn’t commit, Joseph found himself in prison. Once again, this innocent man could have sulked and complained and shirked his work responsibility. But once again, Joseph did such excellent work that the warden promoted him to a trustee position over all the other prisoners. 

Eventually, Joseph was promoted to second in command in all of Egypt, where he continued to do excellent and innovative work. Joseph’s good attitude and impeccable work ethic allowed God to place him in a position where he could save his people from starvation (see Genesis 39-50). 

What about the example of Jesus? He was fully God, yet He gave up His divine prerogatives to work as a carpenter and to eventually perform the most important work of all: the willing sacrifice for the sins of all humankind. Paul describes the servanthood and willing attitude of Jesus in Philippians 2, adding an important “therefore” when he tells us that the excellent work of Jesus allowed God to place Him in a position where He could save His people from eternal separation from God (Philippians 2:6-11). 

But Paul also has an important word for us in the verse preceding this passage: “Let this same attitude and purpose and humble mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus” (v. 5 AMP). 

I may not be able to choose my job, but I can always choose to have a God-glorifying attitude about my job. When I choose this attitude and live it out with an excellent work ethic, God is pleased. 

So allow me to give you four attitude-checking questions about your own work ethic:

  1. Do I feel like I have to go to work? I should so crave God’s glory and God’s rewards that I have a get to attitude about my work. 
  2. Do I complain about my work? The Bible makes it very clear that God disapproves of grumbling, and uses our good attitude to point others to Himself (Numbers 11:1; 1 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 2:14-15). 
  3. Am I “quiet quitting”? This should never, ever be said of Christians! Our work ethic should be as exemplary as Joseph’s and Christ’s (Ephesians 6:5-8).
  4. Am I living for T.G.I.F.? We shouldn’t be focused on just getting things done, but we should make the most of every day of work that we have been given. We should be living out T.G.I.T.—Thank God It’s Today (Psalm 90:12, 17)! 

Let me repeat an important principle: I may not be able to choose my job, but I can always choose to have a God-glorifying attitude about my job. When you have this kind of attitude, you will experience the joy of a fulfilled craving that God has put in all of us—the desire to do meaningful and God-honoring work. This is the attitude and work ethic God delights to reward. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series called Craving, you can find a list of all of those messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Rewarding Exchange

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

In Romans 3:23 we read, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  What does it mean to “fall short” of God’s standard? John Piper describes it this way: “It means that none of us has trusted and treasured God the way we should. We have not been satisfied with His greatness and walked in His ways. We have sought our satisfaction in other things, and treated them as more valuable than God.” 

A couple of chapters earlier in Romans, Paul tells us about an exchange that people make. They exchange a relationship with the eternal God for things which they can grab immediately. Sadly, these immediate things are only temporal things that fall short of God’s awesome glory and leave us perpetually unsatisfied (Romans 1:21-25). 

We were created by God to crave. Craving is what gives us staying power and brings fulfillment. Think of it this way: Would you rather…

  • …go to a job that is mundane, boring, and only focused on making money OR go to a job that is fascinating, using our talents, and trying to make a difference in the world? 
  • …eat food that tastes like cardboard OR eat savory food? 
  • …serve a god that is temporary, fickle, and unreliable OR serve a God that is eternal, faithful, strong, and loving? 

Or think of it another way: Which of those jobs would you want to go to? Which job would call out your best effort? Which food would you want to eat? Which food would make you want to praise the chef? And which God would you want to spend eternity with? Which God would want to invite others to worship? 

God gives us cravings that can only be satisfied in Him. The devil perverts these cravings to get us to go for quick, easy, self-made pleasures. Just think about how he tempted Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-6). 

Both the Old Testament and New Testament tell us of the joys of eternal cravings being satisfied and the consequences of giving in to temporal cravings. For example: 

  • God gives a craving for future meat, but satisfies us with manna while we wait. The devil temps us to have our meat now (Deuteronomy 12:20; Psalm 106:12-14; Numbers 11:34). 
  • God gives a craving for satisfying relationships. The devil tempts us to indulge our passions now by grabbing the most alluring relationship (Proverbs 5:18-19; Deuteronomy 5:21; Romans 1:24, 26). 
  • God gives a craving for success and significance in His timeframe. The devil tempts us to get ahead now (1 Kings 11:37-38; Genesis 3:6). 

(Check out all of these passages by clicking here.)

It’s a terrible exchange when we give up the glorious eternal for the fading temporal! Romans 1 describes the results as sinful, degrading, shameful, unnatural. That’s because the things of earth are temporary; only God is eternal. 

For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh—craving for sensual gratification—and the lust of the eyes—greedy longings of the mind—and the pride of life—assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things—these do not come from the Father but are from the world itself. And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever. (1 John 2:16-17 AMP) 

We have to trust the One who gave us His unshakable promises—Be delighted with the Lord. Then He will give you all your heart’s desires (Psalm 37:4 TLB). Be delighted with Him and He will—not “may” or “hopefully He will” but He will—give you ALL your heart’s desires! 

There is an ultimate reward in Heaven but there are incredibly satisfying rewards along the journey to Heaven as well. Rewards like happiness, security, insight, and divine counsel from the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 4:8; Psalm 119:2, 10, 16, 18, 24).

If we will resist the temptation to satisfy our cravings by exchanging the eternal for the temporal, we will be rewarded with divine satisfaction here and rewards beyond imaging forever in God’s presence! 

If you’ve missed any of the message in our series called Craving, you can find all of them by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Watch Out When Wants Become “Needs”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

There is a mistaken belief that urges or yearnings or cravings that humans have are sinful and must be quickly squelched. To that end, many will deny themselves absolutely anything that brings them pleasure. 

But what God creates, He calls “good” and even “very good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). In one part of the Creation account, we read that God created “trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (2:9). Things used in the way God created them are both good and good for us. The Creator knows the best uses, and He shares these with us. He also knows the harmful misuses, and He warns us of these. 

Even Lucifer was created “perfect in beauty” until his craving for more than God had given him corrupted his goodness and turned him into satan (Ezekiel 28:12-19). satan’s craving perverted his heart because he craved more than what the Creator had given him. 

He still uses the same tactic today: he attempts to turn a craving for a legitimate good into an irresistible, entitled pursuit for more. This is what he did with Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, trying to get them to doubt God’s wisdom in forbidding them from eating that one tree (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-6). 

Adam and Eve needed food, and God gave them a craving for good food. But they didn’t need the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—they just wanted that forbidden fruit. 

When wants become “needs,” “needs” become idols. 

Once again, satan tried the same strategy with Jesus. Jesus had a craving for food after 40 days of fasting, but His Father said, “Not yet.” Notice how satan again tried to get Jesus to question God’s wisdom with his “if” questions at each temptation. He even quotes a Scripture out of context to try to legitimize turning a want into a need (Luke 4:3, 7, 9). 

These longings may seem irresistible, but John counsels us: For every child of God can obey Him, defeating sin and evil pleasure by trusting Christ to help him (1 John 5:4 TLB). Jesus defeated the craving for wants-turned-to-“needs” by using the Word of God, and we would be wise to do the same (Luke 4:4, 8, 12). 

When wants become “needs,” “needs” become idols. And when “needs” become idols, our unfulfilled cravings create anxiety. And when anxiety persists, sin is usually not too far behind. 

So any anxiety in our hearts should alert us to the idols of wants-turned-to-“needs.” In other words, make sure what you are calling “needs” aren’t just wants in disguise. 

How can you do this? By asking yourself these four questions: 

  1. Is this an earthly craving or an eternal craving? Cravings for earthly things will ultimately fail because this world is temporary (1 John 2:17).  
  2. If I don’t get this thing, will I die? If I answer “no,” it’s probably a want. 
  3. Will this craving bring me closer to God? Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). So let’s ask ourselves, “If this longing is fulfilled, will it make me more dependent on God?” If the answer is “no,” then it’s probably a want. 
  4. Will this craving glorify God’s name? Jesus taught us to begin our prayer with an attitude of longing for God’s name to be glorified (Matthew 6:9-10). We can definitely spot wants we’ve turned into “needs” when we are looking for personal gain. Check out this verse from the prophet Isaiah— 

And therefore the Lord earnestly waits, expecting, looking, and longing to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed—happy, fortunate, to be envied—are all those who earnestly wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him—for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship! (Isaiah 30:18 AMP) 

God longs to be gracious to you, so He puts cravings in your heart that can only be satisfied by His presence. Lucifer and Adam and Eve all lost God’s “matchless, unbroken companionship” when they tried to appease the wants-turned-to-“needs” idol. It doesn’t have to be like that for us! Ask the Holy Spirit to help you spot those wrong cravings and turn them into cravings that only God can satisfy. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called Craving, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Gift At Work In Us

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Last week I said, “You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s Gift to the world in everything you say and do.” 

That “IF” is a big one. 

I’ll be the first one to admit that I struggle with consistency in this! But before we all get frustrated, throw up our hands and say, “This is so hard! Why even try?” I’ve got a word of encouragement for you: God’s Gift in us is both perfect and being perfected. 

In order to explain this, I need to go back in time. In fact, I need to go all the way back to when Time began. The opening words of the Bible are, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). God the Father, the Nicene Creed says, is “the Maker of heaven and earth.” 

But God the Son is involved in Creation, as is God the Holy Spirit (John 1:1-3; Genesis 1:2). Again, the Nicene Creed quotes John 1 about Jesus, “Through Him all things were made,” and the Creed also says the Holy Spirit is “the Giver of life.” 

So the Father created everything through His Word and by His Spirit. 

All of the Godhead is also involved in our salvation too. The Father loved us and gave us His Son. Jesus paid the price for our atonement and justified us with the Father. And the Holy Spirit draws us to the Father through the Son as He sanctifies us. 

The reason I said the Gift in us is both perfect and being perfected is because when Jesus said, “It is finished,” nothing was left to be done: it is a perfect Gift, fully paid for. “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. … [But] by one sacrifice He [Jesus] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:1, 14). 

Do you see those verb tenses? Jesus made our atonement perfect, but we are now being made holy by the Holy Spirit. 

The process of sanctification (or as I like to remember it: “saint-ification”) isn’t a one-and-done work. It’s an ongoing work. The Father wants us to remain IN Jesus and bear fruit, so the Holy Spirit remains IN us to bring out that fruitfulness (see John 14:16-17, 20; John 15:1-7). 

This is often an uncomfortable work. 

When I serve as a coach or a consultant, I tell people up front, “There is going to be a time that you won’t like me very much because I’m going to keep uncovering things that you’ve overlooked. It’s going to get uncomfortable before we see improvement. But if you will stick with me, I promise you that there will be a noticeable improvement on the other side of this uncomfortableness.” 

God disciplines those He loves. He wants His Son’s Gift to be seen by the world, so the Spirit must keep saint-ifying us. He will continue to hover over us, never letting us get complacent, vivifying us so that more and more of Jesus is increasingly seen in our lives. 

It’s going to get uncomfortable before we see improvement! 

So don’t lose heart. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t let satan turn the Holy Spirit’s conviction into his condemnation. 

Instead, listen to this prayer from the apostle Paul and make it your own prayer—

For this reason we…have not ceased to pray and make special request for you, asking that you may be filled with the full, deep, and clear knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom—in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God, and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things. 

That you may walk, live, and conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, acquaintance, and recognition.

We pray that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, to exercise every kind of endurance and patience, perseverance, and forbearance with joy, giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints—God’s holy people—in the Light. (Colossians 1:9-12 AMP) 

You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s gift to the world in everything you say and do. The Gift in you has already been made perfect, and now the Holy Spirit is going to help you demonstrate this Gift more perfectly. Your fruitfulness is being made holy through His loving work in you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find a list of all of the messages here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Gift Unmistakably Seen

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We saw last week that John 3:16 tells us of God’s greatest Gift—Jesus! 

This Gift was not an after-thought. God didn’t say, “I’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked so I guess I have to send My Son.” NO! The Gift was foretold right from the very moment Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:15, 21). In fact, we can even say it was planned before the beginning of Time, as John describes Jesus as “the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made” (Revelation 13:8). 

John also writes for us one of the most beautiful and succinct statements of God: God IS Love (1 John 4:8). 

Paul wrote an inspired definition of love. Check out what happens when we put “God” in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, God always trusts, God always hopes, God always perseveres. God’s love never fails. 

This description of God means that He wasn’t forced to send Jesus as the ransom for our sins, but rather that His love foreknew the perfect moment to send this Gift for us. 

Neither did Jesus feel trapped by this plan His Father made. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but Jesus came to make Calvary happen (John 17:24; Hebrews 12:2; John 10:17-18). 

Jesus made His Gift unmistakable:

  • He predicted the unmistakable events leading up to Calvary—Matthew 20:17-19, 26:2; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33; John 13:19 
  • He predicted the unmistakable way He would die—John 3:14, 12:32-33 
  • And His Father unmistakably confirmed all of this—John 12:27-28

(check out all of the above verses by clicking here) 

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus gave His followers an unmistakable example of love to follow. He said that His love radiating out of His followers would show the world an unmistakable picture of His love (see John 13:3-5, 12-17, 34-35). 

I may say, “Thank you so much” when I open someone’s gift, but my true gratitude is seen in what I do with their gift after that. Do I put it on a shelf and forget about it? Or do I cherish it, use it, and tell others all about the one who gave the gift to me? This is just as true with how I treat the Love Gift that I was given in Jesus. 

Q: How unmistakable is my gratitude for the Gift of Jesus? 

A: It is unmistakably seen in how I love others. 

Here’s the test: Can I put my name in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8—

Craig is patient, Craig is kind. Craig does not envy, Craig does not boast, Craig is not proud. Craig does not dishonor others, Craig is not self-seeking, Craig is not easily angered, Craig keeps no record of wrongs. Craig does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Craig always protects, Craig always trusts, Craig always hopes, Craig always perseveres. Craig’s love never fails.

The Holy Spirit wants all Christians to be able to truthfully insert their names in that statement. He wants to help us make necessary changes that will allow the amazing Gift of Jesus to be unmistakably seen by everyone. 

God’s plan is unmistakable. The death of Jesus is unmistakable proof of God’s love. Now, let’s make sure that our love is also empowered by the love of God shining unmistakably out of everything we say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Gift Promised

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Have you ever seen kids tearing into a Christmas present and then being disappointed that what they got wasn’t what they wanted? They may say something like, “This isn’t what I put on my wish list!” 

From the response of the religious leaders in the Gospels, it appears that the gift of Jesus on that original “Christmas morning” was very similar. It’s almost like they were saying, “This isn’t the type of Messiah we wanted!” They wanted someone to give them freedom from the Romans, but their Heavenly Father wanted them to have something far bigger and greater: Eternal freedom from the penalty of sin. 

The first humans had the joy of being innocent in God’s presence, where they had everything they needed. But satan got Adam and Eve to focus on something they wanted, and that sin of disobedience brought an immediate separation. They now feared the nearness of God. 

There were immediate and painful consequences for their sin, but God wanted the heaviest of penalties to fall on Himself. To foreshadow this, God sacrificed an innocent animal to cover their nakedness, showing us what the gift of Jesus would do for us (Genesis 3:1-21). 

In The Holy War, John Bunyan tells the story of the town of Mansoul enslaved to Diabolus. The crafty serpent plays on their fears by reminding them how terrible it would be if they allowed Holy God to come near them while they were in their sinful state: 

“‘Gentlemen,’ quoth he, ‘and my faithful subjects, if it is true that this summoner hath said concerning the greatness of their King, by His terror you will always be kept in bondage, and so be made to sneak. Yea, how can you now, though He is at a distance, endure to think of such a Mighty One? And if not to think of Him while at a distance, how can you endure to be in His presence?’” 

Diabolus even tried to make their slavery to sin look like freedom: “I, your prince, am familiar with you, and you may play with me as you would with a grasshopper. Consider, therefore, what is for your profit, and remember the immunities that I have granted you.’”  

As John Piper reminds us, “Christmas is for freedom.” Indeed, that’s just what we see on the first “Christmas morning” in words like salvation, no fear, and great joy (Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:10-11). 

Turning again to The Holy War, here’s what the Father said to His Son: “Wherefore the King called to Him Emmanuel, His Son, who said, ‘Here am I, My Father.’ Then said the King, ‘Thou knowest, as I do Myself, the condition of the town of Mansoul, and what We have purposed, and what Thou hast done to redeem it. Come now, therefore, My Son, and prepare Thyself.’”  

Immanuel (or the Romanized spelling Emmanuel) is the One who removes the separation caused by our sin, and rejoins us to God. That prefix “im” means with, and the suffix “El” means God. The root word means God’s kinsmen. Immanuel comes to repair what was severed by taking sin’s penalty on Himself, and allowing us to once again enjoy the closeness of kinship with our Heavenly Father (Matthew 1:22-23; Galatians 4:4-7). 

When the people saw this Gift on Christmas morning, they said, “This isn’t what we wanted! We wanted a rich, powerful, conquering King. One who would send the Romans running in fear!” As a result, very few unwrapped this Heavenly Gift. But God reminded them, “That may be what you wanted, but I have given what you need. I want you to have not just temporary freedom from the Romans, but eternal freedom from your sin so that you can be forever in My presence!” 

This is what Jesus rejoiced to do for us with the Gift of His life, death, and resurrection. One more passage from The Holy War tells us, “Then said the King’s Son, ‘Thy law is within My heart: I delight to do Thy will. This is the day that I have longed for, and the work that I have waited for all this while. … I will go and will deliver from Diabolus, and from his power, Thy perishing town of Mansoul. My heart has been often pained within Me for the miserable town of Mansoul; but now it is rejoiced, but now it is glad.’” (The timing for the Incarnation of Jesus and even these words of Immanuel Himself are found in Hebrews 2:14-15; 10:5-7). 

God’s love is too great to be limited to just meeting our wants because in our immaturity and sinfulness we don’t know what we really need—but He does. So His love sent Immanuel to us. 

The Gift was given to us at Christmas, but in our immaturity and shortsightedness, we didn’t realize the full impact of this Gift until Jesus rose victoriously from the grave! Now by placing our faith in His completed work, we can be rejoined to God and live in unshakable hope of an eternity with Him! 

If you would like to follow along with all of the messages in this series called Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, please check out the links I’ve shared here.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Letting Go To Hold On

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In Stephen’s sermon, he notes something interesting about Abraham: “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still living in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you’” (Acts 7:2-3). 

That word “before” especially caught my attention—“before he lived in Haran.” 

In Genesis 11:31, we read that Terah (who is Abraham’s father) is the one who takes Abraham and Lot to set out for Canaan, but that they only made it as far as Haran. Could it be that God did speak to Abraham in the land of Ur, and that his influence on his father was so deep that Terah decided to answer the call too? Yet God called Abraham—not Terah—so Terah apparently was not as committed to obey God’s call. 

Terah’s youngest son Haran died before they began the journey. Terah didn’t get very far into their journey toward Canaan until in grief over his dead son, he stopped and he settled. 

Was Terah angry at God? Was he fearful about what may happen to the rest of his family on the long journey? Was he so wrapped up in his grief over his youngest son that he couldn’t move forward? 

Whatever the case, not only did Terah stop, but so did Abraham. 

But God, in His incredible graciousness, spoke to Abraham again, renewing the call to follow Him. 

Stephen said that Abraham left Haran “after the death of his father” (Acts 7:4). But let’s do the math: Terah was 70 years old when Abraham was born and lived to be 205 years old (Genesis 11:26), but Abraham arrived in Canaan when he was 76 years old (Genesis 16:3, 16). That means that Terah was still physically alive when Abraham left him. 

In other words, Abraham had to love God more than his grief-stricken, grief-paralyzed father, to the point that he had to consider his father as dead. He had to do this in order to follow God. 

Jesus says something similar to those who would be His followers today: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father… he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). 

That’s a sobering word! We have to value obedience to God above all else. We have to believe that God is our supreme reward, and that absolutely nothing on this earth compares to the surpassing greatness of knowing Him. 

Jesus gave us this promise—

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:28-29)

Abraham shows us the principle that we should all realize: Following the call of God is so worth it! Letting go of this world so that you can hold on to your Savior is the best decision you could ever make! 

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Links & Quotes

Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Look at Abraham’s faith in just one word: “WE will come back to you.”

Follow me on YouVersion so we can share more thoughts on God’s Word with each other.

Wil Robinson shares a fable from Leo Tolstoy with the three most important questions everyone should ask themselves. The three questions are: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important and need my first attention?

T.M. Moore reminds us how the promises of God can build courage in us. Check out all of the posts in his series called Brave Heart.

“Faithfulness is displayed in both word and deed—seen best by combining the Great Commission’s instruction to ‘make disciples’ with the second greatest commandment to ‘love thy neighbor.’ The beauty of the Gospel is found in both proclamation and demonstration. Neither comes first; neither comes second. Like the perfect marriage, it’s the duty of the Christians to take on each, giving 100 percent effort to both.” —Gabe Lyons, The Next Christians 

Fight The New Drug shared the results of a study of over 11,000 releationships, the five things the happiest couples have in common, and how pornography can undermine those relationships.

“Oh, that the eyes of sinners may be speedily opened—that they may see the difference of things, the beauty which is in holiness, and the astonishing madness that is in sin!” —Thomas Watson

Science is an important component in seeking truth. The Institute for Creation Research has an excellent perspective on the role of science for a Christian: “While the pursuit of science is certainly noble, it should be situated in its proper context and tackle matters within its empirically defined framework.”

John Piper observes, “The number-one reason why people in such seemingly hopeless situations purchase scratch-offs is because things already look so hopeless for improvement that the so-called ‘stupidity’ of wasting this dollar won’t really make anything worse.” This post elaborates on how the lottery preys on the poor.

Stop Listening To You

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Isaiah 49 has an interesting phrase that appears twice: “But I said…” (vv. 4, 14). 

Notice that first word: But. That conjunction means that “I” am saying something in contradiction to what someone else has said. Sadly, in this case the Someone Else that is speaking in this chapter is God Himself! 

The phrase “this is what the LORD says” is used three times in this same chapter (vv. 8, 22, 25). Look at what God is saying to you and me:

  • I made you 
  • I called you 
  • you are My servant 
  • I reward you 
  • you have My favor 
  • you have My comfort 
  • I never forget you
  • I will never disappoint you 

A consistent strategy of the devil is try to get us second-guessing or doubting God’s promises. He did this to Eve—“Did God really say that?”—and he tried it with Jesus—“Are You really the Son of God?”—and he’s still trying it today. 

Jesus said the devil’s native tongue is lying. He lies and he slanders you. He wants you to simply listen to those lies without questioning them. 

Someone once asked Smith Wigglesworth, “Smith, how do you feel?” He replied, “I never ask Smith how I feel. I tell him how he feels!” 

That’s good counsel for us today! 

Don’t listen to yourself, especially when you’re tired or lonely or anxious or scared, but talk to yourself. Remind yourself what God says to you and what He says about you. Remind those negative thoughts that God never lies, that He is all-loving, that He is all-powerful, and that He has a unique plan and purpose your life. 

Whenever you feel like saying, “But I said,” change those thoughts around to, “But this is what God says!” 

I’ve shared a couple of other posts that expand on this idea which you may want to read here and here. 

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