Bible Study

Joshua Pt 4: Sin and Defeat

Bible Study Prayer

Be A Prayer Warrior: Part 1

I am super excited to start this series of studies. What we’re going to do is we’re really going to start praying three new types prayers, and I want to warn you, these are not easy prayers. These are not safe prayers. These are not benign prayers. I’m calling them dangerous prayers, but they’re dangerous in a good way. In fact, if you ask my opinion, most people I know in this part of the world, most people’s prayers are way too safe. What do we often pray for? God bless us. Safe? God help us. Good, but safe?

What I want to do is I want to arm you with some prayers that are not safe to pray. In fact, just know going into them, when you pray these prayers, you’re really asking God to do something that will often take you out of your comfort zone.

Today, we’re going to start with dangerous prayer, and we’re going to look at a prayer that David prayed in Psalm 139. David prayed this after his enemies and God’s enemies were on the attack, and accusing David of having wrong motives. Instead of defending himself, he actually prayed a very dangerous prayer before God, when he asked God to search his heart. Psalm 139 will introduce our dangerous prayer for the day.

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

This is what David prayed, a very dangerous prayer. He prayed, “Search me, God, and know my heart. Test me, and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” A very dangerous prayer.

Think about how many times you have prayed this type of prayer. What I want to do is break the last part of this prayer down into four parts

“Search my heart.”

He says it very directly in verse twenty-three, “Search me, God, and know my heart.” For some of you, you may look at that and think, “Now, why would we ask God to search our heart. He knows it, we have a good heart, right?

 Actually, we need to understand that without Christ, we do not have a good heart. It’s a very common saying. “Well, she’s got a good heart.” Actually, she’s got a wicked heart, if you want to be completely accurate. Jeremiah 17:9 says this: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and it is desperately wicked.” Who really knows how bad it is?

We need to understand that without Christ, our heart is not a good heart, that we deceive others, we deceive ourselves. We lie to ourselves. The most common lie that most of us tell is to ourselves. The heart is deceitful. We deceive ourselves. We don’t even know how bad we are.

 The heart is deceitful above all things, and we need a really dangerous prayer when we go before God and say, “Search my heart, God. Show me what is in there. Search my heart, oh God.”

When you pray, “Search my heart,” it’s a dangerous prayer, because God is going to show you things in your heart that are not pure. Not to be cruel, but to bring you into deeper intimacy with Him as his Holy Spirit transforms you to be conformed to the image of Christ. It’s a dangerous prayer, you need to understand, but it’s one that can make you so much closer to God.

“Know my anxious thoughts”

  Show me my fears. He says this in verse twenty-three, “Search me, God, and know my heart. Test me,” and then know what? “And know my anxious thoughts.” What is it that makes you anxious? A lot of times, we don’t even acknowledge them. We just think, “Well, everybody has to worry about this.” What is it that makes you afraid? I’m not talking about snakes and spiders, and the man behind the shower curtain who is there in the dark waiting for you when you when you come into the bathroom. I’m not talking about that guy. He might be there. He’s never been there, but I check for him every time. If you ever think you’re going to be him, just understand, I’m cocked and ready every single time, every single time, every single time.

 What is it that internally makes you afraid? What is that makes you anxious? Afraid of losing your job? Afraid of not getting married by such and such age? Afraid of being stuck in the marriage that you’re in and it not getting any better? Afraid of the future, the unknown? Afraid of failing? Some people are afraid of succeeding. Afraid of loss? What if I lose somebody? What if I lose something that I value so dearly?

Why does this matter? Why would we say, “God, show me my anxious thoughts?” I would argue because of this … If you’re taking notes, you can jot this down. Because what we fear the most reveals where we trust God the least. Think about that. What we fear the most reveals where we trust God the least. If I’m scared to death that my marriage isn’t going to work, well, I’m not trusting God with my marriage. If I’m afraid that I’m not going to be able to pay the bills, I’m not trusting God to be my provider. If I’m afraid that … I got to keep my children safe. I’m not trusting my children to God. What you fear the most reveals where you trust God the least.

 “God, reveal my fears. Test me, God, and show me where my anxious thoughts fall.” I prayed this prayer this week. Every day I started the day praying this prayer, dangerous prayer, “Search me, God. Know my heart. Reveal my anxious thoughts,” and what God showed me about what I fear the most is not something I’m really proud of, but I am scared to death of failing. If I succeed, it’s often because I’m so driven by fear of failing, and I prayed through more of that, and I recognized actually what I fear is not just failing, but it’s letting people down, and then I got to the deeper level as I was praying through it, and I realize I just have a massive fear of being inadequate, of not being enough, not being good enough, not being righteous enough, not being wise enough, not being whatever enough. This is my fear.

This is a real issue, because in the church and in my role, I cannot be driven by fear. I have to be lead by faith. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God, and there are some things that I really believe God wants our church to do, but there’s no guarantees it’s always going to work. Often my fear will keep from being obedient. I’m just telling you maybe more than you want to know, but it’s really meaningful to me. As I was praying through it this week, what I really believe God showed me is that I have to love pleasing Him more than I fear failing, and that was really powerful to me. I have to love pleasing Him and being obedient to Him, more than I am afraid of failing.

In my own time of praying this, “God, test me. Know my anxious thoughts,” this comes to mind, and so what am I doing? I’m quoting scripture to renew my mind. “Perfect love, cast out all fear.” God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

I just dare you, double dog dare you, pray this prayer, “Search my heart, oh God. Test me, and know my anxious thoughts.” Why does what you fear matter? What you fear the most reveals where you trust God the least, and suddenly, you recognize in this one area, I’m really not trusting God, and, suddenly, as you start to do what I did, you get down to the root of it, and then God’s word can speak to the root of the problem, and that can become an anchor moment, when, suddenly, you say, “No, I will take that step of faith,” or, “I will do what God is calling me to do.” It’s a dangerous prayer.

When you pray this, God will reveal things to you about yourself that you may not have been willing to acknowledge for years and years and years, because the most common lie we tell is often to ourselves. That’s an issue for me. I’ve got this. I’m fine. Oh, yeah, I’m whatever. “Search my heart, God. Reveal my fears.”

See if there is any offensive way in me

Then number three, this is where it gets even a little more difficult, uncover my sins. Uncover my sins, God. This is what David prays. I love the courage it takes to pray this dangerous prayer. He prays, “God, see if there is any offensive way in me. Show me, God, anything about my life that is inconsistent with your truth. God, show me anything that I’m doing that’s displeasing to you. See if there is any offensive way in me,” because have you noticed, it’s really difficult to see our sins in the mirror? Oh, it’s so easy to find everybody else’s. Can you believe the way she walks, like she’s all hot stuff.

  Have you noticed that? We tend to accuse others, and what do we do with ourselves? Excuse ourselves. “I just have to do it. This is how I get through. It’s not that big a deal. It’s none of your business. Judge not least you be judged.”

The heart is deceitful above all things. The most common lies are the ones that we tell ourselves. That’s why it takes tremendous courage to say, “Search my heart, God. Test me. Know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me,” and this can be one of the most game changing prayers you ever pray, when you give God permission to point out any sin that’s dwelling within your heart.

 I want to give you three questions that are really helpful to ask yourself as you’re praying, “Uncover my sins.” Three questions that really help you with self-awareness.

What are others trying to tell me?

In other words, if you’ve had three or four people tell you they love you, “I think you might have a problem with this. This is an issue. I’m a little bit concerned about you here.” If you’ve got consistently people that love you tell you that, that might be something you want to pay a little close attention to. There is a common denominator here, and it is you. Pay attention to that.

What have I rationalized for some time?

In other words, “Yeah, this may not be right, but it’s not that big of a deal, and this is just how I deal with things. This is how I cope. It’s nobody else’s business anyway. This isn’t really hurting anybody. This is my one thing,” or whatever. What do you rationalize? “I’m going to quit. It’s not that big of a deal.”

Where am I most defensive?

“No, we’re not going there. No, we’re not talking about that. No, don’t you judge me. No, no. I don’t have a problem with that. No, back off. I told you we’re not talking about that.” Where are you most defensive?

  You see, when I see those three questions, it takes my mind right back to a significant issue that I had, and denied for quite some time, until I gave God permission to reveal my sinfulness.

When you have the courage to pray this prayer, “See if there is any offensive way in me,” let me make you a promise. God will point some things out. God will point some things out that you’ve been trying to explain away for a long time. God will point some things out that you’re trying to deny. Do not deny the truth. Denying the truth does not make truth false. Submit yourself to what God is trying to show you, and then what do we do, is we have the courage when God shows us something, to bring it to light.

This is a dangerous prayer. It takes courage to pray it, because when you pray it, He’ll show you some things about yourself that you’re not real proud of, but there’s always grace. There’s always grace.

“Lead me.”

Lead me.” When you show me what I don’t like about myself, and show me what needs to be changed, now you lead me in the way of everlasting. Verse twenty-four, he says this, “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting. Lead me in the way of everlasting.”

When you have the courage to pray a very dangerous prayer, “Search me, God. You have permission to look deep into the depths of my deceitful heart, and show me, God, test me. Reveal to me my anxious thoughts. Show me the very places that I fear the most, because that shows me where I trust you the least. See if there’s any offensive way in me. No, I’m not pointing a finger at anybody, God. I’m letting you reveal to me what I need to hear.”


  When you pray this prayer, it will show you your need, and you take that need directly to Christ, and you let Christ meet that need and conform you to his image. It’s a dangerous prayer, but it’s a prayer that can transform your life.

Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: No Longer Slaves

As Christians, we sometimes forget that we are no longer slaves to our sinful self. We can fight it because of what Jesus did for us. As we continue our study in Galatians, Paul explains to us why we are no longer slaves.

Galatians 4:1-7 New International Version (NIV)

4 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

If there is one thing I hope those reading this series understands is that our salavation is a gift and we have been set free because of it. the only work we have to do is believe, confess and pray.

When we accept the freedom God has given us over our sinful desires, we are able to fight that temptation, with God’s help. Not only has He freed us as slaves, he also accepts us into his family and calls us heirs.

Not only are our sins wiped clean, not only are we accepted as God’s daughters, we also receive an inheritance. We receive the righteousness of Christ.

When God sees us now, He also sees His Son. All the good that Christ did to fulfill the law has now been imparted to us as our good works.

So Jesus alone completely frees us from our sin and the punishment we deserve for it. But He also works for our righteousness and gives us its benefits. We receive His inheritance as both daughters and heirs. We can see this truth more clearly in John 8:31-36:

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John‬ ‭8:31-36‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s funny because like the Jews here many of us are in bondage and slavery and don’t even know it. The world will tell you freedom is being able to do whatever you want but Jesus says freedom is abstaining from sin. He tells us all who have sinned are slaves to sin. We are born with this desire to go against God’s will. It is easier to follow our own desires than the will of God. So until we accept Christ in our lives we are bound to our own desires and wants. Maybe that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. But the problem is there is so much more to our lives than our desires. Anyone can do what they want. But there is more: Jesus says He came that we may have life and life to the full (John 10:10). This full life is experienced in a relationship with Him. The thing is, we must turn from our ways and follow Him (His Way). There’s just one thing. Sin has a good way if getting in the way, but Jesus died to make a way.

You may be free to do whatever you want but can you use that freedom is to live for Christ? Or has your physical freedom left you in bondage to sin? And as daughters of the Most High God freedom is our rightful inheritance. So let me ask you, are your living like a slave or a daughter?

A slave always wants more or what they can’t have. A daughter is content with her life and the blessings in it.

A slave works to pay off a debt a daughter lives in the security that her debt has been paid.

A slave has no inheritance a daughter has rights to all that is her Father’s.

A slave is incapable a daughter has power.

Now is the time to stop living like slaves and receive everything that is ours in Christ as Daughters of the King and joint heirs with Christ. Because we when understand we are God’s daughters we also understand that we don’t have to work for His affection or approval. It’s already ours.

And God has already given us His everything. His only Son on a cross even though we can’t give Him anything of value. Why? Because we are His daughters; loved, accepted, valued, highly esteemed, and royal heirs to the kingdom.

Have you ever felt that way? Small, inferior, and not enough. But Paul reminds us: It’s not about what you do. It’s about who you are. And you are a belived child of the most High God. And that truth trumps anything you can ever even think about doing for God.

It’s not about what we do for God, it’s about who we are to God.

Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: Don’t Try to Fix What’s not Broken

I heard this saying so many times growing up. Don’t try to fix what’s not broken. As Christians we fall in this pit on occasion. We start categorizing Christians. For example, they are such great Christians look what they’re doing or Oh they need to get right with Jesus because look at them. If you were saved by grace and faith you are going to heaven. When we start putting our own limitations on God’s grace, we are changing the gospel to something completely wrong. It is your faith in God’s grace that leads to righteousness, not works, or striving, or running. We are saved by faith, so we live by faith.

Galatians 3:2-3 New International Version (NIV)

I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?

Paul had preached that salvation was only because God’s grace through faith. But the Galatians were tempted to think that this same grace and faith was not enough to maintain their walk with God.

Faith = righteousness
Works = death, because your work can neither save you nor keep you.

When we don’t understand this, we start to think “OK, Jesus saved me, but now I feel like I need to work to deserve that salvation.” Changing your christian walk to points system will never work. We will never be good enough without grace. You can’t work off a debt that has already been paid. Thinking that our service is to pay Jesus back and not to bring glory to the God who deserves it, Cheapens our service and God glory.

Galatians 3:7-11 New International Version (NIV)

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[b 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith

Those who rely on faith are blessed and those who rely on law are cursed. Paul assures the gentiles that through faith they will be blessed along with Abraham.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, He takes on our sin and grants us His righteousness. Faith is what the righteous have to live on.

Galatians 3:12-14 New International Version (NIV)

12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[b 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Jesus took on the curse of our sin, and give us His righteousness. Paul reminds us that salvation is about God not about who we are or where we are from or what church we attend.

Abraham, who was a Jew, was not saved for being Jewish. He was saved because of His faith. Paul explains that although the Galatians are not Jews, they still can receive the salvation of God that comes through faith and believing in God. And so can we.

Think back on the questions Paul asked in the beginning. “After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”

Ponder on that question. This is where we can stumble and bring others down with us. SALVATION IS A GIFT! SALVATION IS GRACE! SALVATION IS THROUGH FAITH!

Practical ways to avoid sin are good. Set your boundaries, make your lists, by all means get some accountability partners. But do not place your faith in those means. Put your faith in the grace of God, because the grace that saved you is the same grace that will keep you until the end. Humble yourself and know there is no amount of works that we can do to empower us to live the righteous life that God desires.

Our Christian lives should not be centered around rules, it should be centered around God. How pathetic would our lives be without grace. Serving God is what he asks us to do, but don’t link that to salvation. God created salvation. It works. Don’t try and fix it.

Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: To Experience Grace

I once did a Bible study for a group of women from 25 to 90 years old and I started out with, “What is Grace?” No one could give me a definitive answer. Scriptures were referenced but a definition of what grace was not in them. You have to fully understand grace to appreciate salvation. Most people combine grace and mercy or confuse the two. Mercy is not getting a punishment you deserve. For example, if my son was to break a rule, I could have mercy on him and not ground him. Mercy is what you plead to get out of a punishment. Grace is getting something good you never deserved.  No matter how hard I work and how much I give I will never deserve to go to heaven.

It today’s society, people have this idea that we all deserve something for nothing. People show up to work on time, and they expect a raise. It’s your job to be there on time. Try doing your job or going the extra mile before asking for a raise. It is in every part of our lives. People believing that God should bless them just because they were born. We are all sinful wretched fleshy beasts that literally deserve nothing.

Paul tells us not to set aside the grace of God.

Galatians 2:21 New International Version (NIV)

21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

The Galatians were tempted to think that in order to receive salvation from God, they must partake in Jewish traditions. Paul against these false teachings. He was leaning on the gospel of Christ and grace instead of traditions and works.

And in doing so he reminds the Galatians that the law, the rules given to the Israelites by God through Moses, only shows us our sin, but it cannot save us from our sin. We are only saved by the grace of God. So I love that Paul says, “I do not set aside the grace of God,” because this is what the Galatians are doing. This is what we do every time we think we can earn our salvation, We cheapen grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  

Think about it. Because God gave us something we never deserved, we have been saved. It is not about anything we have done it is a gift from God who loves us. It is not because of anything we have done so don’t act like it is. How often have you thanked God for His grace in your life? Do you ever even take the time to think about how many times he has shown you grace.

2 Timothy 1:9 says, “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” It is by grace we have anything of value in our lives.

Before God created the earth, He knew we would need to be rescued from sin. Throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelations, God’s grace is apparent. Look at Noah, Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the lord.” At this point, the entire world was full of wicked men. Noah was not perfect, yet God gave him and his family salvation. Even though Abraham and Sarah did not fully believe God that she would have a child, God gave them a son. He showed them grace. Moses doubted that God could make him the man God told him he was. God walked with Moses and even called him a friend, knowing that Moses had once killed a man with his bare hands. That is grace. This is only a couple of examples in Genesis and Exodus. Image if we just read the bible and wrote done all the times God showed grace. That book would be as big as a large print version unabridged version of war and peace. It is so evident in the Bible. Why do we forget about it in our lives?

Maybe you’ve set aside the grace of God because you feel you need to work for His love and approval. Maybe you’ve set aside the grace of God because you feel like your sin is just too much. You are in the pits of sin, and you think that not even God’s grace can pull you out of this one. Maybe you know that God is powerful, and a healer, and deliverer, and can do anything, but you’ve set aside the grace of God because you don’t trust that He will do it for you. Despite our feelings, our fears, and how great our sin may be, the Word of God tells us to not set aside the grace of God.

Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We are all born into sin, even as little babies. Grace in this verse and in our lives is the comma. The wages of sin is death. Period. Full Stop. This is what we deserve. However,; God being the forgiving loving God he is added a comma. That comma was His Grace.  The story doesn’t end at death. Instead of receiving what we deserve, we are given the choice of a gift. The best gift you will ever receive, it is eternal life with Jesus.

Grace says, “I know you don’t deserve this, but I’m going to give it to you anyway.”

Let’s think this through. If there were another way for us to be saved, if we could somehow work for it, if we could somehow be good enough for it, do you honestly believe God would have sent His only Son to die in our place?

If there were another way for us to have our sins forgiven that we may be in right relationship and right standing before God, do you think that God would have allowed His Son to suffer even one minute? Would He have allowed His Son to carry such a lonely, bloody, gruesome burden if there were another way?

I cannot believe that if there were another way for God to bring salvation into this world He would still have allowed His Son to be crucified—His only Son, with whom He was well pleased—to take on such a punishment if it were not necessary.

So the next time you are tempted to think you are not good enough for God, that your sin is too much to forgive, that your past is bigger than His love for you, I urge you to resist putting aside the grace of God, because Christ did not die for nothing. He died for you.

Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: Comparison Leads to Discontent

We are still in Galatians and have started chapter two. Being free from comparison and jealousy is not only a wonderful benefit for a christian, but it is also key in living free. Comparisons are some of the nastiest arrows Satan can throw at us. When we start comparing ourselves to others, our church to other churches or our ministry to other ministries, it only creates seeds of discontentment.

Ponder your specific call on your life. This is unique to you. Others may be similar, but none is exactly like yours. When you start looking at everyone else and comparing yourself to them, you see the differences as faults. God gave you a job if you are watching everyone else, who is focusing on your job.

In Galatians chapter two, Paul continues to defend the gospel to the Galatians. Paul also defends his call to preach that gospel. Paul is reassuring the Galatians that the gospel he shared with them is true, and that this new gospel they have been presented by others is false.

Galatians 2:6-9 which says:

Galatians 2:6-9 New International Version (NIV)

As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas[c and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.

Paul stats that the gospel he is preaching is the same gospel preached by those who were apostles before him. He’s letting them know he didn’t just make this up. The only difference between Paul and the apostles in Jerusalem is who they are sharing the gospel with. Peter was called to share the gospel to his fellow Jewish people while Paul was called to share the gospel with Gentiles, those who were not Jews. What I love about this is that they were OK with that. Neither Paul nor Peter tried to tell the other how to answer God’s call to preach. Paul could have easily thought, “Well, I’m Jewish so I should preach to the Jews like Peter is,” but he didn’t because he understood that although their calls were similar, there were still differences in how they were to accomplish their purposes.

Our struggle with comparison doesn’t only lie in what we are called to do, but also how we are called to do it. The temptation arises to look at someone doing what we want to do and think we are supposed to get there the same way they did. But what this thinking does is prevent us from freely walking in our calling the specific way God has called us.

It is okay to look at what others have done for ideas or suggestions. But what God has called you to do is for you. You have your own path. Don’t think that their yellow brick road is the route for you just because it worked for them. There is a certain peace and satisfaction that comes from doing what God specifically called you to do, and you can’t do that if you’re doing what someone else has been called to do.

So how can we practically stop comparing ourselves to others? Here are three ways:

  1. Seek God. He is the One who has prepared the purpose for your life. To complete your purpose in life you need to seek Him.
  2. Resist Comparison. Fight the temptation to constantly look at others and what they are doing, especially the thought that if they are doing it different then you are doing it wrong. No ma’am.
  3. Keep going. Once you are clear on what you are to do, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep doing it over and over again.
Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: From your Past

Welcome to our Bible study series on the book of Galatians to discover how the gospel of Jesus grants us freedom. Today we will see how we can experience freedom from our past. Freedom from past hurts, mistakes, and guilt. Recently, I wrote a Bible study that is all about just that called “Battle Scars to Beauty Marks.”

I want to ask you a quick question. Have you ever sinned? Well of course you have. We all have sinned. It says so right there in the Bible.

Romans 3:23 New International Version (NIV)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Satan’s favorite way to attack Christians is to remind them that they have a past. A wretched, sin-filled, fleshy part of themselves. Don’t give in to the lies that Satan tells you, that righteous looking looking lady at church that seems to have it all together, she has a past too.

You have one argument and its over. That is who I was, but God has forgiven me. Who I was does not make me who I am. God defines me. (drop the mic)

Paul’s past was pretty sinful. He did some pretty awful things to Christians before he met Jesus. When he is attacked by things from his past, he meets them head on and shows us how we can do the same. His response shows us how we can live free from our pasts, no matter how dark they may be, and freely move forward towards everything God has for us.

Galatians 1:13-24 New International Version (NIV)

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

Paul who was one of the most amazing missionaries and had a pretty nasty reputation to overcome. Before he accepted Christ into his life, he was a Jewish leader didn’t believe in Jesus Christ and didn’t hesitate to hunt down and punish Christians. On the road to hunt down and kill Christians everything changed. Jesus appeared before him and showing Himself to Paul. That was it Saul was change to Paul, and a new life in Christ began. Paul turned his life around just like we did when we where saved. And just like us there were people being used by Satan to bring up the past and discredit us.

Think about it. This way could God really use someone like Paul? Can God really use someone with a past like mine or yours?

Paul talks about his past but he doesn’t dwell on it. Look at Verse 15 “But when God.” That is it. Period. Full Stop. “But When God.” His past was dark, sinful, and awful, but it didn’t end there. Verse 15 is the point when God stepped in his life and turned his past completely around. Your past does not have the chance to destroy your life when you have a verse 15 that says, “But when God.” Because if Paul was not disqualified because of his past, then neither were the Galatians, and so neither are we. But in verse 15 we see the gospel. We see that because of the saving work of Jesus Christ, our past cannot hold us slaves to the past.

Do you remember your But When God Moment?

Paul addresses his past to the Galatians. He does not try to sugar coat what happened or act like it didn’t happen at all, and we can’t either. We can’t get to verse 15 if we don’t realize the need for it in verses 13 and 14.

If you pretend your past did not happen, if you walk around acting like you’ve always been saved, if you deny what’s been done to you or by you, you are cheapening God’s grace. You are watering down God stepping in and turning that thing around or turning you around. But God will allow your past to become the testimony that propels you to a better future.

Some of us need to honestly face our pasts. We need to cry about it. We need to allow ourselves to process the pain and hurt, to open ourselves up to God’s freedom and healing. If we don’t come to terms with our pasts, we can never really come to terms with our future. If we want the truth to set us free, we have to be honest with ourselves about the good and the bad.

Paul knew his past was dark, but he also knew that God was greater than his past. We usually get this wrong on either two extremes. On one side, we act like we’re perfect, and we just ignore our past like it doesn’t affect us at all. On the other side, we admit that we have this dark past, but forget God has and can redeem us from it; we then become overwhelmed with condemnation and shame. But we need to come to terms with both our past and God’s mercy and grace that is greater. We will never be free from a past that we do not believe God can redeem. 

Many were saved because Paul was freed from his past. Do you understand that Christ wants you free so He can use you to free others? As women of God, we must face our past, face our fear, face our insecurities so they do not enslave us, and even more so we are empowered to set others free. But we will never find freedom from our past if we act like it never happened. Hear me when I say this, sister: God wants you free more than you do. So maybe tonight you need to go to your prayer corner, or closet, or car, and tell God how you really feel. Ask Him the hard questions and say the hard things. He can take it. And then allow God to cover you in His truth, because the truth will set you free. And the truth is that you are not your past; you are God’s daughter.

Bible Study Freedom Uncategorized

Freedom: This is My Life?

A few months ago, I had cleaned the house, done all the laundry and worked hard all day. My son Jack came home from school, Daniel came home from work, and we ate supper and had a normal evening. I woke up at 3 am unable to sleep. I got up wandered through the house and saw a pile or laundry, dishes to be cleaned and messes all over the house. I was so beat that I went out onto the porch with our dog, Harley. I stood outside and just said, “Really God! This is my life?” This was so not the place I expected to be at 43. As I sat there just wallowing in my own self-pity and felling stuck in my life. God said, “Yes it is, I am getting you ready so prepare yourself.” Have you ever felt trapped or stuck in life? Have you ever felt held back and restrained from experiencing the freedom in Christ we read about in the Bible?

If you felt like I did there is something you need to know; the freedom to love, and hope, and dream, and have joy, and peace, and satisfaction is not a fairy tale. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the key our true freedom. This does not mean that you can go out and act like you don’t have good sense and expect no precautions. That’s not freedom. That’s actually just being a slave to our desires and our wretched fleshy selves. The freedom that I want us to experience and grow in is the ability to enjoy God in the purposeful life that He has planned for us. While searching for this Freedom God lead me to Galatians.

Galatians 5:13-14

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The freedom we are all desperately chasing after is here and is already ours. Jesus has already done the works of setting us free. Now it’s up to us to align ourselves with His truth and boldly claim the freedom. The book of Galatians outlines why true freedom is found in Jesus Christ, and how we can experience that freedom today.

At the first of Galatians we learn that Paul is writing this book, and we learn the context and what things were happening that led Paul to write this letter.

After Paul says hello he quickly gets straight to business. Starting with verse 6 we read:

Galatians 1:6-7

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

Has anyone ever called you or caught you out somewhere, and they kinda rushed through the hellos to get to something they needed to tell you about. I can see Paul doing this here. He’s, “Hey guys this is Paul, How are ya’ll doing? Are you crazy! Ya’ll are acting like you don’t have any sense.”

He was a little nicer than that, but you understand. Paul takes no time getting to the message he needs to get to the Galatians. This message is very important, not just for them, but for all of us.

So where did the Galatians go wrong? What needed to be corrected? We clearly read they “are turning to a different gospel.” This is serious matter worthy of Paul’s angry and passion. Paul preached to these people, and they believed and were saved. However, some other people came along preaching false religion. Paul preached that we are saved not by works, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We are saved by grace through faith.

These men had convinced the Galatians that in order to be saved they needed to follow Jewish customs and traditions, including being circumcised We know the Galatians were already accepted by God.

One of the biggest lies that keep us shackled down and restrained it is the thought that you must earn your salvation, that you have to earn God’s love, or that you have to be a cookie cutter christian instead of the woman God made you to be. This is why I was so upset with “My Life”. In my mind I should be living a life like everyone around me. But I’m not. That is not the Story God needs me to tell.

This is one of the major reasons why Paul starts this letter off with the declaration that he is called my God and not man. Because striving to meet the standard of men will enslave you to people pleasing, insecurity, pride, and more. But when we realize we are already accepted and called by God, we are not enslaved by these things. And we then realize we are already free in Christ.

Paul does not need to ascribe to any man-made tradition to be saved and called by God; neither do the Galatians, and neither do we. You do not have to be rich. You do not have to be perfect.

The sad thing is that there are a lot of people preaching this same false gospel today that the Galatians were tempted to believe, leading people to believe they must act a certain way or do certain things in order to really be saved. But this is no gospel at all. This is not the true gospel of Jesus Christ that offers salvation to all.

So the question I want to ask you today is this: have we forgotten the gospel? Have we forgotten that we are saved by grace through faith alone? Because if we have, we have forfeited the freedom Christ offers. But I refuse to believe that the daughters of God will live as slaves.

Bible Study Run the Race

Run the Race: Finish the Race

In most races, there are 1, 2, and 3 places. Those are the only winners. The Bible says that being a Christian is like running in a race, and in a lot of ways, it is.  But there is one BIG difference. EVERYONE who completes the race wins!  God says that He will give a special crown to ALL who finish the race.  Can you imagine that? A special crown! (I would look fabulous in a crown, FYI)

The important thing is that we finish the race, so we can get our prize.  If we follow God’s commandments like we learned in Get Ready, Get Set, we will be ready and the race will be easier to run.

2 Timothy 4:7

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have served the Lord faithfully.

Heaven is the finish line in God’s race. The bible says that in Heaven is where we will get our crowns for finishing the race. Do you know how to get to heaven?  The only way we can get to heaven is through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the son of God and He came to earth and died on the cross to pay for our sins. The bible says the wages or payment for sin is death. But because Jesus died for us, we can still go to heaven. To go to heaven you have to believe in God and that Jesus is the son of God, confess your sins and ask God to come live in your heart. This is as easy as ABC.

The ABC’s of being saved

A – Admit

 Admit honestly to God that you have sinned and disobeyed Him.

The Bible says:

  • Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
  • Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death (everlasting punishment).”

B – Believe

 Believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again. His blood was shed to pay for your sins.

The Bible says:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
  • Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

 Because Jesus loves you so much, He took the punishment for you so that you can be forgiven.

C – Choose

 Choose to trust Jesus alone for the forgiveness of your sins.

The Bible says:

  • Romans 10:13 “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
  • John 3:18 “He who believes in Him (Jesus) is not condemned.” 

When you trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you, God forgives you! You become His child, and He promises you a home in heaven forever! Put your trust in Jesus as your Savior from sin. Do it today, and begin following Him by obeying His Word, the Bible.

It’s that easy you simply do these things and pray to God and ask Him to save you.

I’ve watched some men and women whose lives were totally sold out to God walk off the track in the middle of the race. They gave up or they became focused on themselves and this world and lost sight of the finish line.

The possibility is real for all of us unless we allow our hearts to be completely gripped by God . The faithfulness of my walk with God in the next year and the next decades depends on my willingness to stay current with God. In a word-to stay in relationship with Him.

I never want to lose the grip of what God’s grace and love has done in my life and the amazing privilege it is to be in relationship with Him and to serve Him. My sister and I used to say that we wanted slide into Heaven, completely worn out and exhausted, having given everything we could for Christ. The last thing I want to do is to show up at the finish line a beat down, derailed Christian. I want to break that tape with arms high and my face to the sun and say with the apostle Paul, “I have finished the course; I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

So what can we do now to ensure that finish line victory? We can get back to basics: Honestly answer these seven questions:

Do I hunger after God?
Does God’s Word govern my life?
Do I grieve over sin?
How quickly do I repent when I see my wrong?
Am I sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting me?
Do I obey?
Is my faith growing?

Return to these questions regularly and ask God to help you every morning to run the race.

Bible Study Run the Race

Run the Race: Train for the Race

We have all tried to do something and failed. Maybe you were trying to to make a wonderful dinner for your family and it burnt or tried to get a new job, but it never happened. Maybe you were trying a game on a tablet or phone and you couldn’t complete a level. Did you give up? Or did you try again harder?

Sometimes when we are running the Christian race, we are not going to do as well as we want or we may even fall down.  If we fall down, what should we do? Should we cry? NO! Should we quit? NO! Then what should we do? We should get UP and start all over again. Losing is not the falling down it is the staying down.

Runners and athletes train daily for the Olympics or a race as Christian we have to train too by pray, bible study and walking a christian walk.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Jesus says that when we run the Christian race, things aren’t always going to go the way we want them to go. Sometimes we are going to have to do things we don’t want to do. Remember, Jesus said if we love Him, keep His commandments.

If we are angry and crying, can we do well running a race?  No! We would need to stop and blow our noses and wipe away our tears. While we are doing that, others will pass us up and we might miss an important turn and never finish the race!!! Let’s always try to keep the right attitude and show Jesus that we love Him when we run the Christian race.

Olympians train everyday to compete in the Olympics. As children of God, we need to train daily for the Christian race. We train by prayer, Bible study and doing what’s right.

We also go to Church so we can learn how to run God’s race, from our teachers and preachers. Coaches teach athletes how to be the best at their sport. That is what teachers and preachers do for us Christians.

Training can be hard sometimes. For athletes, it may be hard because of an injury or because they may not have the time they need to give to training. For Christians, training can be hard because Satan is always trying to keep us from training. So sometimes it can be hard to get up and come to church on Sunday or it may be hard to remember to pray every day. We have to try our hardest not to let these things happen. We have to remember that training will help us win and make the race easier.

I bet some of you already train for God’s race. You are all on your way to being champions.

Start your training now. Decide to designate time each day to train through prayer and Bible study and if you don’t have a coach, find a local church to help you find one.