Category: Pastoral Care and Counseling

Spiritual Renewal and Recovery Themes in Revelation

Spiritual Renewal and Recovery Themes in Revelation

Redemptive History reaches its final culmintation in the Book of Revelation and it is here where God gives us our final lessons on being renewed and restored to relationship with Him and our final lessons on recovering from our sin…

 

God Rules Over All

God is sovereign. He is greater than any other power in the universe. Nothing and no one can compare to him. When we look at the turmoil in the world today, the problems we face, the pain we have suffered or the pain we have caused others, we may wonder whether God will really be able to right all the wrongs. But John wrote this book to assure us that though evil may seem to win today’s battles, God is all-powerful and will assert himself for his people. In the end, all things will be made new in Christ.

God Is the Source of Hope

The book of Revelation reveals to us the ultimate source of hope—Jesus Christ. He is coming again and will deal with the problems of our sin-scarred world, restoring what is broken and dealing with the injustices around us. Life is never hopeless, regardless of what has happened to us or what we have done. We can focus on God’s love, grace and forgiveness. He has made our restoration possible in Christ, and Christ will return to complete his task of renewal throughout all creation. If we are looking to Christ, we can hang on to our hope despite the difficult circumstances that we may face.

The Pain of Consequences

Every one of us cries out for justice. When evil and injustice prosper, we begin to feel angry. It often appears that people get away with their selfish and wicked deeds. But in reality God will judge all wicked actions. Those who openly defy him will ultimately face the awful consequences of their sin. Those who turn to God in repentance for forgiveness need not fear the future day of judgment. Judgment is an awful thing, and the pain of sin’s consequences should motivate us to turn our lives over to God and obediently follow his plan.

Justice Belongs to God

Being in recovery does not release us from our sense of justice. As we deal with the wrongs we have done, we may feel that others are not dealing with theirs and that we have legitimate grudges to harbor. While these feelings are natural, they are not godly and endanger our recovery. The book of Revelation makes it clear that justice belongs to God; he alone has the right to avenge the wrongs of others. What’s more, he alone has the power to change their lives. Anger and bitterness make recovery more difficult than it already is. Part of giving our life and our will over to God is releasing the bitterness we feel toward others.

**This lesson is adapted from the NIV Spiritual Renewal Study Bible and the KJV Life Recovery Bible**

Introducing the Bible

Introducing the Bible

The Bible is not one book, but a collection of writings by people from many and varied backgrounds: king, priest, shepherd, tent maker, farmer, doctor, tax collector, wine taster, fisherman, prophet, prince, and more. Each writer was guided by the Holy Spirit of God, yet the individuality and character of each one is still evident. All in all, more than 40 authors were commissioned by the Holy Spirit to pen the words of Holy Scripture.

 

It is all one story however, a perfectly unified telling of the story of the Scarlet Thread of Redemption, the story about God, who loves his creation so much that he himself paid the price that would restore humanity to fellowship with God. The Old Testament looks forward to, and the New Testament centers on, the life, death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. In part, it is our story- we are the Redeemed, the object of God’s love and mercy, so the Bible is our story- the story of our reconciliation to God.

 

The purpose of the Bible is to show us who God is, what God is like and what He has done. As we read its words, we understand more of what God, in His love, requires from us. Paul said, in his Epistle to the Romans, that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16) and that is both experientially and factually borne out. As we read the very words of Scripture, we find them transforming our thoughts which, in turn, transforms our behavior. We begin to think the way Christ thinks and act the way He acts

 

The Bible was written centuries ago over a long period of time by many different people from all walks of life, in a setting different from our own. It can seem difficult to understand and, admittedly, it will require work-disciplined work- to understand the message of the Scripture. When we study a portion of Scripture, we should consider the following questions”

 

  • What is the type of writing/literary genre?
  • What was the context of the writing?
  • What was the Authorial Intent?/Why was the passage written
  • What does the passage say to me? What does God expect me to do after reading the passage?

 

We will discover the joy of reading the Bible

if we read while dependent on the Holy Spirit to help us understand it if we sincerely want to know more about God and his ways if we prayerfully read it to discover its message, rather than primarily as literature or for information if we allow our reading to lead us to worship God through prayer and praise and apply what we have learnt, with God’s help, to our daily life

 

When reading a portion of Scripture, there are some “Do nots” we must not ever

 

  • take a verse or one part of Scripture out of its context
  • create an opinion based only on one verse or portion – this is the error of cults and those who want to twist the meaning for their own ends
  • Spiritualize/allegorize the meaning of the text. It means what it says
  • think of it as anything other than the word of God.

 

The Scriptures were written by real people in many real situations, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. It is alive, powerful, and able to impact our thoughts and lives for years to come (Hebrews 4:12)

 

A final thought: when you are new to the Bible, the translation you choose should be very easy to read and understand but still communicate the message of Scripture to you. There are three translations I recommend for new disciples:

 

  • Christian Standard Bible (Holman Bibles)
  • New Living Translation (Tyndale House Publishers)
  • New International Version (Biblica, Zondervan Publishers)

 

Which one to choose is entirely up to you- the best translation of the Bible is the one you can read and understand.

12 Blessings of Life Recovery

12 Blessings of Life Recovery

There are 12 gifts/blessings from God for those who are in recvoery. This lesson is excerpted from the KJV Life Recovery Bible

 

THE TWELVE GIFTS OF LIFE RECOVERY

These twelve attributes are not just results or outcomes for people in recovery, but truly gifts from God. They show that recovery doesn’t merely provide escape from a destructive problem. It also points toward the possibility of a new and exceptional life.

  1. Hope—“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3-5).

  1. Power—“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

  1. Character—“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

  1. Clarity—“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

  1. Security—“The fear of the Lord tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil” (Proverbs 19:23). “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).

  1. Abundance—“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

  1. Wisdom—“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

  1. Self-Control—“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you” (Romans 8:9). “But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23).”

  1. Freedom—“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).

  1. Happiness—“Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight” (Psalm 119:35). “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.” (Proverbs 10:2).

  1. Serenity—“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come” (Romans 8:38).

  1. Peace—“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).”

12 Mistakes Made in Recovery (an excerpt)

12 Mistakes Made in Recovery (an excerpt)

The 12 mistakes listed below are common among people in recovery. This lesson is excerpted from the KJV Life Recovery Bible

 

THE TWELVE LAWS OF LIFE RECOVERY

These laws highlight irrefutable truths that you will discover in yourself as you experience recovery while following the Twelve Steps. They provide evidence of the progress you have made and highlight places where growth is still needed. As you experience these laws, you will find—perhaps to your surprise—that the laws of life recovery often give back what they initially seemed to take away.

  1. Powerlessness will result in STRENGTH.

We struggle with the feeling of powerlessness because it feels so much like we are helpless. But God often works healing in our lives through what to us is weakness. It is paradoxical that as we experience recovery in our lives, we will find there is great strength in recognizing our powerlessness.

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:25)

  1. Humility will result in HONOR.

In our journey of life recovery, it is easy to take pride in the positive changes we are making in our lives. But in God’s plan, honor is not something we should seek. It is something we receive as we learn to live in humility. Humility is the path to being honored by God and by others.

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:10)

  1. Connection will result in LOVE.”

We all long to be loved, but we overlook the fact that being loved always takes place in an emotionally connected relationship. Prior to our recovery, we lived in emotional isolation from others. But God designed us for connection—for relationship. That’s the only context in which we can experience true love.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7-8, 11-12)

  1. Willingness will result in GROWTH.

There is the childlike part within all of us that wants to say, “I can do it on my own,” and “I can do it my way.” But true recovery in our  lives begins when we are willing to do it God’s way. That’s not easy, but without a willingness to be open to God’s plan, we will limit our growth. It all begins with a willing and open heart.

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” (Colossians 3:23)

  1. Sacrifice will result in FULFILLMENT.

Before we started on our recovery journey, it was easy to think and act as if fulfillment came from getting, or from what we owned. But again, God’s ways are mysterious and not our ways. We learn in our recovery that sacrifice—doing good and sharing with others, not getting—is the true path to fulfillment.

“But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16)”

  1. Faith will result in HOPE.

In God’s plan for our recovery, problems and trials are a part of the path that leads to a hope that will not disappoint us. It is all in how we handle our problems and trials. When we endure the hard stuff, we build strength of character, which then builds our faith. It is that faith which leads to a hope built on knowing we are loved by God.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

  1. Surrender will result in VICTORY.

James describes surrendering as being “easy to be intreated.” Here willingness is coupled with surrendering. When we truly surrender ourselves, we are saying to God,  “Your will, not mine.” And a truly surrendered life is a life lived out as a celebration of our victory.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17)

  1. Service will result in REWARD.

Our acts of service are not to be done in order to gain a reward. They are done out of obedience to what we are learning as we are equipped to do the work of ministry. We are God’s hands, feet, and mouth. As we are faithful in our service, the reward is the peace and satisfaction that comes as the result of our obedience.

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12)”

  1. Forgiveness results in FREEDOM.

We are called to be forgiving people. When we hold a grudge, we are in bondage to the person we refuse to forgive. We forget that forgiveness involves only us, and that the person we need to forgive really isn’t part of the process. So there is no real excuse for not being obedient and forgiving others as we have been forgiven by God.

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

  1. Confession will result in HEALING.

You may have wondered why it is so important to confess your inventory to another person as part of your recovery. Healing comes  as a result of confessing. We experience something powerful when we confess our shortcomings and failures not only to God but also to another person.

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)

  1. Restitution will result in CLOSURE.

Not all acts of restitution are financial repayments, although that can be a very effective way in some circumstances to make restitution. But we need also to make restitution for emotional hurts, or for other non-financial issues. Until we explore ways to make all kinds of restitution, we will struggle with moving on and experiencing closure.

“Then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed.” (Numbers 5:7)

  1. Responsibility will result in SECURITY.

This is one of the most obvious results of our experiencing life recovery. We have not only made restitution; we have also begun to act responsibly in all areas of our lives. Responsibility is living up to our part of life, not blaming or expecting someone else to make up for our lack. We experience a genuine sense of security when we are doing our part—living responsibly in our everyday lives.

“And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; every man child among you shall be circumcised.” (Genesis 17:9-10)”

12 Laws of Recovery (an excerpt)

12 Laws of Recovery (an excerpt)

The following was excerpted from the KJV Life Recovery Bible and is used by permission

 

THE TWELVE LAWS OF LIFE RECOVERY

These laws highlight irrefutable truths that you will discover in yourself as you experience recovery while following the Twelve Steps. They provide evidence of the progress you have made and highlight places where growth is still needed. As you experience these laws, you will find—perhaps to your surprise—that the laws of life recovery often give back what they initially seemed to take away.

  1. Powerlessness will result in STRENGTH.

We struggle with the feeling of powerlessness because it feels so much like we are helpless. But God often works healing in our lives through what to us is weakness. It is paradoxical that as we experience recovery in our lives, we will find there is great strength in recognizing our powerlessness.

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:25)

  1. Humility will result in HONOR.

In our journey of life recovery, it is easy to take pride in the positive changes we are making in our lives. But in God’s plan, honor is not something we should seek. It is something we receive as we learn to live in humility. Humility is the path to being honored by God and by others.

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:10)

  1. Connection will result in LOVE.”

We all long to be loved, but we overlook the fact that being loved always takes place in an emotionally connected relationship. Prior to our recovery, we lived in emotional isolation from others. But God designed us for connection—for relationship. That’s the only context in which we can experience true love.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7-8, 11-12)

  1. Willingness will result in GROWTH.

There is the childlike part within all of us that wants to say, “I can do it on my own,” and “I can do it my way.” But true recovery in our  lives begins when we are willing to do it God’s way. That’s not easy, but without a willingness to be open to God’s plan, we will limit our growth. It all begins with a willing and open heart.

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” (Colossians 3:23)

  1. Sacrifice will result in FULFILLMENT.

Before we started on our recovery journey, it was easy to think and act as if fulfillment came from getting, or from what we owned. But again, God’s ways are mysterious and not our ways. We learn in our recovery that sacrifice—doing good and sharing with others, not getting—is the true path to fulfillment.

“But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16)”

  1. Faith will result in HOPE.

In God’s plan for our recovery, problems and trials are a part of the path that leads to a hope that will not disappoint us. It is all in how we handle our problems and trials. When we endure the hard stuff, we build strength of character, which then builds our faith. It is that faith which leads to a hope built on knowing we are loved by God.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

  1. Surrender will result in VICTORY.

James describes surrendering as being “easy to be intreated.” Here willingness is coupled with surrendering. When we truly surrender ourselves, we are saying to God,  “Your will, not mine.” And a truly surrendered life is a life lived out as a celebration of our victory.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17)

  1. Service will result in REWARD.

Our acts of service are not to be done in order to gain a reward. They are done out of obedience to what we are learning as we are equipped to do the work of ministry. We are God’s hands, feet, and mouth. As we are faithful in our service, the reward is the peace and satisfaction that comes as the result of our obedience.

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12)”

  1. Forgiveness results in FREEDOM.

We are called to be forgiving people. When we hold a grudge, we are in bondage to the person we refuse to forgive. We forget that forgiveness involves only us, and that the person we need to forgive really isn’t part of the process. So there is no real excuse for not being obedient and forgiving others as we have been forgiven by God.

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

  1. Confession will result in HEALING.

You may have wondered why it is so important to confess your inventory to another person as part of your recovery. Healing comes  as a result of confessing. We experience something powerful when we confess our shortcomings and failures not only to God but also to another person.

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)

  1. Restitution will result in CLOSURE.

Not all acts of restitution are financial repayments, although that can be a very effective way in some circumstances to make restitution. But we need also to make restitution for emotional hurts, or for other non-financial issues. Until we explore ways to make all kinds of restitution, we will struggle with moving on and experiencing closure.

“Then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed.” (Numbers 5:7)

  1. Responsibility will result in SECURITY.

This is one of the most obvious results of our experiencing life recovery. We have not only made restitution; we have also begun to act responsibly in all areas of our lives. Responsibility is living up to our part of life, not blaming or expecting someone else to make up for our lack. We experience a genuine sense of security when we are doing our part—living responsibly in our everyday lives.

“And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; every man child among you shall be circumcised.” (Genesis 17:9-10)”

KJV Life Recovery Study Bible

c.1998,2017 Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved

A Sermon for Brian and Jayson

A Sermon for Brian and Jayson

The recent suicide of a colleague got me to thinking about the despair and depression that many face and it took me back to 2005 and the death of an old friend’s younger brother. This is the sermon I wish I could have been there to preach for Brian and I wish I could be there to preach this for Jayson. I could not, in either case, be there but I want to share their sermon in hopes that it will provide comfort for those who are newly grieving or are grieving still…

There exist what I call Psalms in the Key of Mourning. Let us look at one:

Psalm 88

Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out before you day and night. May my prayer reach your presence; listen to my cry.

For I have had enough troubles, and my life is near Sheol.
I am counted among those going down to the Pit. I am like a man without strength, abandoned among the dead. I am like the slain lying in the grave, whom you no longer remember, and who are cut off from your care. You have put me in the lowest part of the Pit, in the darkest places, in the depths. Your wrath weighs heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. Selah

You have distanced my friends from me; you have made me repulsive to them. I am shut in and cannot go out. My eyes are worn out from crying. Lord, I cry out to you all day long; I spread out my hands to you. 10 Do you work wonders for the dead? Do departed spirits rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Will your faithful love be declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Abaddon? 12 Will your wonders be known in the darkness or your righteousness in the land of oblivion? 13 But I call to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer meets you.
14 Lord, why do you reject me? Why do you hide your face from me? 15 From my youth, I have been suffering and near death.
I suffer your horrors; I am desperate. 16 Your wrath sweeps over me; your terrors destroy me. 17 They surround me like water all day long; they close in on me from every side. 18 You have distanced loved one and neighbor from me; darkness is my only friend.

 

We can relate to the psalmist, can’t we? What should we learn from the psalmist?

Cry out to God, He is there

In the blackest midnight, God is there. Another Psalm teaches “Even though I walk through the darkest valley of death’s shadow, I do not fear for You are with me.” God the Son, incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ, walked through the same valleys we walk. That is why we do not fear. The LORD has walked the path ahead of us, and guiding us by the hand, leads us along our paths.

He is El Roi (Pronounced as El Roe-ee), the God who sees.

Genesis 16:13, NASB: “Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God who sees’; for she said, ‘Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?’

El Roi is best translated, “You are the God who sees me.” He is the God who is watching us and will tend to our needs.

There are times when we refer to YHWH Shammah, the Lord who is there. In those references, we are referring to God being in the midst of His holy people, the redeemed.

God understands your deepest pain and there is rest planned

Revelation 22:1-5

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

In the words of the song, “No more dying there, we are going to see the King.”

No longer will there be any curse-All of the attendant griefs and struggles that come with our fallen nature will be, in that moment, gone. When we shall see the King of Mercy, every tear is promised to be gone.

Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

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

My dear friend, indeed you weep for the moment and my heart breaks for your pain so that I weep with you. But that weeping cannot last forever, God has promised not to allow it.

 Grieve the darkness

Weep and mourn; the Lord draws near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). The Lord God, Himself binds your wounds. The very One who cried out that God had forsaken Him can understand your despair and will pour oil on the wound and bind it up so that your hurt can heal.

Trust the Savior, he is an immovable rock

I have dealt with deep depression, though I do not share it much, and I want to share two verses from Isaiah the Prophet that have always been a comfort to me in the darkness of depression.

Isaiah 43:11 (KJV)

11 I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior.

Isaiah 44:8

Do not be startled or afraid. Have I not told you and declared it long ago?
You are my witnesses! Is there any God but Me? There is no other Rock; I do not know any.

Like Spurgeon, I have learned to kiss the waves that cast me upon the Rock of Ages. A final verse for your comfort:

Malachi 3:6 (KJV) I, the Lord, change not.

God will not change. His promise to be with His people forever and death will not change that. Death is no more than God’s butler; he will show us to the King’s Throne Room.

Let us pray:

Almighty and most merciful God, we call out for your comfort. Our hearts grieve with words we cannot express. We can only groan in our despair but You search the heart and know our pain. Would you bind up our wounded hearts and minister peace to us? Amen

 

Spiritual Renewal Themes in Revelation

Spiritual Renewal Themes in Revelation

Revelation is one of the more complex books in the Bible but at the same time, we see principles for Spiritual Renewal and we also see the restoration of the creation during the Millennial Kingdom

God Rules Over All
God is sovereign. He is greater than any other power in the universe. Nothing and no one can compare to him. When we look at the turmoil in the world today, the problems we face, the pain we have suffered or the pain we have caused others, we may wonder whether God will really be able to right all the wrongs. But John wrote this book to assure us that though evil may seem to win today’s battles, God is all-powerful and will assert himself for his people. In the end, all things will be made new in Christ.

God Is the Source of Hope
The book of Revelation reveals to us the ultimate source of hope—Jesus Christ. He is coming again and will deal with the problems of our sin-scarred world, restoring what is broken and dealing with the injustices around us. Life is never hopeless, regardless of what has happened to us or what we have done. We can focus on God’s love, grace and forgiveness. He has made our restoration possible in Christ, and Christ will return to complete his task of renewal throughout all creation. If we are looking to Christ, we can hang on to our hope despite the difficult circumstances that we may face.

The Pain of Consequences
Every one of us cries out for justice. When evil and injustice prosper, we begin to feel angry. It often appears that people get away with their selfish and wicked deeds. But in reality God will judge all wicked actions. Those who openly defy him will ultimately face the awful consequences of their sin. Those who turn to God in repentance for forgiveness need not fear the future day of judgment. Judgment is an awful thing, and the pain of sin’s consequences should motivate us to turn our lives over to God and obediently follow his plan.

Excerpted from the NIV Spiritual Renewal Study Bible c.2005 by Zondervan

Verses of Hope

Verses of Hope

Often in times of struggle, we ask the natural question, “Does God care?” Not only does He care, He also gives us messages of hope in the Bible (The following verses are from the Christian Standard Bible)

  • And at the end he will stand on the dust. Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. I will see him myself; my eyes will look at him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me. –Job 19:25-27

  • For the needy will not always be forgotten; the hope of the oppressed will not perish forever. Psalm 9:18

  • The Lord will send his faithful love by day; his song will be with me in the night—a prayer to the God of my life. . . . Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God. –Psalm 42:8,11

  • Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. –Psalm 62:5-6

  • “For I know the plans I have for you”— this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” –Jeremiah 29:11

  • For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. –Romans 8:20-22

  • Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. –Romans 15:13

  • I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints. –Ephesians 1:18

  • . . . while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. –Titus 2:13

  • . . . so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. –Hebrews 6:18-19

  • Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful. –Hebrews 10:23

  • He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was revealed in these last times for you. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. –1 Peter 1:20-21

Comfort for the depressed Lesson Notes

Comfort for the depressed Lesson Notes

First, a definition of depression: Depression is a prolonged feeling of despondency or dejection.

Is depression sinful? No, it isn’t. Depression is a warning built into both the body and the spirit to alert you that something is wrong, most likely very wrong. Feelings of depression should never be left unattended as the disease can turn deadly without warning (suicidal thoughts and/or actions)

Depression has only two source categories, bio-mechanical error or spiritual error and there are differences in how both should be handled. In either case, wisdom commands that care begins with your doctor to determine if the depression is caused by a physical problem or a spiritual.

Physical causes of depression include:

  • Side effects of medication
  • Poor sleep and/or poor respiration during sleep
  • Dietary issues
  • Prolonged physical illnesses such diabetes, cancer, lupus

Any or all physical causes of depression can be remedied by your doctor. Spiritual causes of depression, on the other hand, require more sensitivity and care. I want to focus on care of depressed people.

Realize that it is not always your fault. Sin separates us from communion with God and sickness is a part of the curse.

 God is able to comfort the hurting (2 Samuel 22:29-31, Hebrews 4:15) All too often we come to the idea that God does not understand us or how we are feeling. We need to disabuse ourselves of this idea and remember that the 2nd Person of the Trinity, the Divine Son, walked on Earth as a man and is, forever, the God-man in heaven.

We remember the words of the Apostle in his letter to the Hebrew Christians telling us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.”  In the hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, we are reminded that “Jesus knows our every weakness.”

God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) One of the titles of the Holy Spirit is Comforter. As the Spirit of Christ, He knows all of our cares and sufferings and draws close to minister to us in our times of darkness. The Holy Spirit is the Shepherd of Psalm 23 through Whom we fear no evil. He also illumens the Scripture and hymns to our minds to bring the peace of God into our lives.

Abraham had hope when there was no cause for hope (Romans 4:18-22) So also may we have hope when there seems to be no reason for our hope. In the blackest midnight of our sufferings, Christ is our hope. He is our hope of life everlasting, our hope of no more suffering, and our hope of everlasting peace.

In the Eternal State, God will wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4) At last, in the Eternal Kingdom, when Jesus,  Himself, is the reward of our suffering, every tear will be wiped away. Every travail will be worth it.

This is our hope, that we will be with Christ forever. That hope can sustain us through any darkness and any depression.

 

Renewing Your Mind Lesson Notes

Renewing Your Mind Lesson Notes

Opening Remarks:

This past week we observed World Mental Health Day and that, along with the recent suicide of someone that I know. Prompted me to consider what, if anything, the Bible might have to say about the mind and mental health, which led me to the Apostle Paul’s counsel to the Church at Rome

Romans 12:1-2 (CSB) 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.[ 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Paul counsels the Christians at Rome to renew their minds as opposed to being conformed to the pattern of the world. Let us consider: 

12:1 bodies. Not just the physical body but the whole person, with a view to our engaging the world around us living our day to day lives. God’s grace in Christ has made Christians spiritually alive (6:13). true and proper worship. The worship appropriate for thinking creatures who recognize all that God has done for them. This worship is not confined to the Sunday morning worship service; it embraces the whole of life.

12:2 this age. This present evil “age” (Greek aiōn; see Luke 16:8; 1 Cor 2:6,8; 3:18; Gal 1:4; Eph 2:2; 1 Tim 6:17; 2 Tim 4:10) has its own pattern of thinking and living that redeemed believers must avoid. renewing of your mind. The work of God’s Spirit within must reprogram the “depraved mind” (1:28) that characterizes this world (see Eph 4:23).

7 Precepts for Spiritual Renewal (Adapted from New Life)

Seek God and Surrender to Him (Matthew 6:33, 1 Peter 5:6)

We have a tendency to follow in the footsteps of our father Adam and to hide from God when we have sinned or when we think that He is angry with us, such as in times of testing. Yet we are advised by the Apostles Matthew and Peter that we should seek, firstly, the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

In a sense, this is a type of repentance, which is a turning toward Christ and away from our sin. Of course, this seeking of God’s Kingdom and righteousness is the first step toward a healing and wholeness of mind.

See the truth (Psalm 139:1)

What is the truth that we need to see? That God knows everything about us; He searches our innermost thoughts (Jeremiah 17:10) and, as the Lord spoke to Jeremiah, knew us before we were formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). Every trouble we face, every time there is a trial, God knew about it and was not surprised by it.

We can echo the words of the Psalmist when he said, “even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for You are with me.”

Speak the truth (James 5:16)

Many times, but not every time, the darkness we feel can come from sin that has not been dealt with, as indicated by James. There are times when we seem to be in darkness and it is caused by a physical illness or perhaps even as a side effect of medication, This is quite normal and if you think this is the case for you, I would encourage you to see your doctor. Perhaps some changes in your care plan which need to be made.

However, if it is not the case that there is a physical illness, then we must speak the truth that it is a spiritual issue and then call upon the elders of the church to assist us through the resolution of the issue.

Accept responsibility (Galatians 6:5)

In those instances where our troubles are caused by our own sin, we must own up to it. In the well-known 12-Steps, the first step is to admit that we have lost control of our lives and that the addiction has taken over, a prime example of accepting responsibility for our sins.

Grieve, forgive, let go (Matthew 6:14)

       It is natural to give those sins which we have committed or have been committed against us. However, in order to avoid allowing that grief to destroy us, we must lay that grief at the foot of the cross and allow the forgiveness of Christ to flow through us.

 Transform your life (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

       God’s comfort flows through us and as it does so it transforms us. No longer are we held captive to our troubles and sorrows. Instead we become instruments of God’s grace unto others as He has given us His grace both directly and through others.

Preserve your spiritual gains (1 Peter 1:8)

It is always a wise idea to keep a record of the Lord’s goodness to us during our faith-walk. It is a good idea to journal- I, personally, like to use a wide margin Bible although many keep a separate notebook.