No Condemnation

From God comes…

From God comes no condemnation. Condemnation means to find someone guilty and make sure punishment is received. No condemnation means a person has been absolved of all guilt, therefore free from receiving punishment.

Did you know that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ? (Romans 8:1) This is good news indeed! God’s plan all along was that His Son would not come to condemn the world, but to save the world. (John 3:16)

The concept of no condemnation is hard to understand when we know we are all guilty. We have all sinned and fallen short. (Romans 3:23) And the result of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) However, Jesus paid our penalty by His death. The charges against us were nailed to the cross and no longer held against us. (Colossians 2:14-15) Once we give our lives to Christ, we belong to Him—and because we belong to Him, the Holy Spirit frees us from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 8:1-2) 

Living without condemnation is not as easy as it seems. Although God does not condemn us, many times we condemn ourselves. We do not feel worthy of all the blessings God gives us: forgiveness, salvation, mercy, refuge, peace, comfort, joy, and so on. Indeed, we are not and never will be worthy of God’s blessings but as His children, He bestows them on us anyway. (1 John 3:1-3) So we must be willing to receive with a grateful heart, giving thanks.   

Satan likes to plague our minds with destructive thoughts from our past. His goal is to make us feel condemned. To fight this temptation, we need to continually praise God for sending His Son to die for our sins. We can’t afford to let Satan taint our understanding of what Christ has done for us. Satan holds our past against us, but God does not.

God does not condemn us, nor should we condemn others. (Matthew 7:1-2) Those who are judgmental or critical of others may feel that God hasn’t fully forgiven them. We must believe in God’s forgiveness and guard against passing our insecurities on to others. (1 John 1:9)

Not living under condemnation does not mean we will live a sin free life. We are human. We will struggle and have problems. We will make mistakes. At times, we will stumble, trip, and fall. However, God will not condemn us when we do. When Jesus encountered the adulterous woman at the well, He did not condemn her but said, “Go and sin no more (Romans 8:10).” A life without condemnation strives to do better.

Praise God that Christ’s death delivers us from condemnation and that His resurrected life delivers us into victory! (John 5:24)

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Hope

From God comes…

From God comes hope. There are times in life when our circumstances seem so daunting it feels hopeless. Yet as Christians we never need to feel as if there is no hope because our God is a God of hope.

Spiritual hope is not merely wishful thinking. The Old Testament word for hope is “yachal” and means to wait or be patient. The Greek word for hope in the New Testament is a little different. It is “elpis” which means favorable and confident expectation. We aren’t just waiting; we are confident our wait will reap positive results.

Hope is as necessary to the human spirit as oxygen is to the physical body. When people lose hope they are overcome with despair and lack of purpose. They lose all desire to go on. Problems overwhelm them. Not having hope can literally destroy lives.

There is a lot of pain, tragedy, trauma, and suffering in this world which can lead to feelings of hopelessness—if we don’t have God in our lives. (Ephesians 2:12) Those without God don’t understand that the problems of this world are temporary. Even death is a temporary condition. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Hope is not something that magically appears. It comes from a relationship with God. Christ is our hope. (1 Timothy 1:1) When Jesus died and was resurrected we were begotten to a living hope. (I Peter 1:3-5) In other words, we have an inheritance that will not fade away. Our hope is blessed assurance that everything God has told us is true. We know salvation is a done deal. We don’t have to wonder about it. We don’t have to doubt it. We can be confident about that! Everything God promised us is true and God cannot lie. (Titus 1:2)

Hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our soul. (Hebrews 6:18-19) What does an anchor do? When the boat drifts a little this way or that way, the anchor tugs it back. The anchor keeps the boat centered and steady. We need to be anchored to our living, loving God so we don’t drift away.

Much is said in the Bible about Christian trials and suffering. Although it’s not something we like to think about, trials and suffering happen to all of us at one time or another. Hope helps us make it through the hard times because we are patiently waiting on God with confidence and expectation for His will to be done.

Hope cannot be seen with the human eye. (Romans 8:24-25) In other words, hope is not held in our hands, only in our hearts. It comes from God. Christ living in us is the hope of glory! (Colossians 1:27)

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Sustenance

From God comes…

From God comes sustenance. Sustenance can be defined as nourishment or living support. We need sustenance to survive physically and spiritually as well.

The way God designed our bodies to be self-sustaining is amazing. The heart expands and contracts about 100,000 times per day, pumping 5 to 6 quarts of nutrient rich blood each minute, approximately 2,000 gallons per day. In addition, we need physical food and water to sustain our lives as well. No wonder the Bible is full of analogies comparing our physical needs to our spiritual needs.

Jesus wants to live in our hearts. (Ephesians 3:14-17) He doesn’t just want to visit; He actually wants to live there. From our hearts, He can make sure we are rooted and grounded in love. He can motivate and inspire us. He can guide our thoughts, our will, our emotions, our actions, and so much more.   

Jesus refers to Himself as the Bread of Life. (John 6:35, 48) When Jesus made this reference, He had just fed the multitude. People witnessed this miracle and wanted to see more supernatural signs. Instead, Jesus redirected their focus from the physical to the spiritual. He told them that He is the Bread of Life. He is the very source of life itself. Only Jesus can satisfy our deep spiritual hunger. He is the deep sustenance for our souls. Without Him we are undernourished and unable to experience the fullness of life He wants for us.

Only Jesus can give us living water. (John 4:10, 13, John 7:37-39) Science says that our bodies are over 98% water. Humans can live weeks without food, but only a few days without water. There is no substitute for water. There is also no substitute for the spiritual living water we can only get from Jesus. It comes from having a relationship with God. Living water gives us purpose and hope. Only Jesus can offer this living water to a dying world.

A favorite old book and movie I enjoy is Auntie Mame. Auntie Mame is a flamboyant lover of life living in the late 1920s to the mid-1940s. One line I always remember her saying is, “Life is a banquet but most poor suckers are starving to death.”

Well, life is a spiritual banquet when we yield to God and enter into a relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Our spiritual needs become paramount to our existence. From God comes our spiritual sustenance. Only God can supply a healthy spiritual heart, the Bread of Life, and living waters. These can help us not only to survive, but to thrive.  

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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The Word

From God comes…

From God comes the Word.  

Jesus tells us that if we abide in His Word, we are truly His disciples. (John 8:31) This has a two-fold meaning because not only are we to abide in God’s Word, we are to abide in Jesus and let Jesus abide in us.

God’s Word is vital to our Christian journey. It reminds us of who Christ is, what He has done for us, what He continues to do for us, who we are in Christ, and how we should live our lives. We are encouraged to study God’s Word. (2 Timothy 2:15) It is the only way we can really learn about the mind of God.

Scriptures were given by inspiration from God to help us understand doctrine, correct us, instruct us, train us, and equip us for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) The Thessalonians were commended for searching the Scriptures daily. (Acts 17:11) This was no small feat since in biblical times the average person did not have access to a Bible. Only religious leaders had a copy of the Bible and probably not in total. That’s why public reading of Scripture was important. Paul refers to this in 1 Timothy 4:13 when he says, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine.”

What a privilege it is to have access to God, His thoughts, and Jesus’s example at our fingertips. The Word of God is living and powerful. (Hebrews 4:12) The more we read the Bible, the more we have God’s words etched in our mind and living in our hearts. (Colossians 3:16) When God’s Word is hidden in our hearts, God’s ways become our ways. They help us when we are tempted to do the wrong thing. (Psalm 119:11) God’s Word should not be just something we believe, but something that shapes our thoughts.

At a young age, Jesus could converse openly about scriptures with the teachers in the temple. (Luke 2:41-51) When Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus recited passages from Deuteronomy. (Matthew 4:1-11) At the Last Supper, Jesus cited Zechariah. (Matthew 26:31) When Jesus was carrying His cross, He thought of words from Hosea. (Matthew 9:13) When Jesus was dying, He quoted Psalms. (Luke 23:46) 

Is it any wonder that Jesus was filled with God’s Word because Jesus is the Word! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1-4, 14). Jesus is indeed the Living Word of God—and if we let Him, He will dwell in us. (Ephesians 3:17, Colossians 1:27)

As we yield to God we realize that He alone should have the first and last word about everything in our lives. After all, from God comes the Word! 

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Intercession

From God comes…

From God comes intercession. Intercession can mean to help, to intervene, to request, or to pray for others.  

The Holy Spirit intercedes for us during our times of weakness. (Romans 8:26-27) When we don’t know the words to say during a prayer, the Spirit intercedes for us. The Spirit feels what we are going through. When we don’t know what to pray or how to express ourselves with words, the Spirit searches our hearts and intercedes for us.

Jesus made intercession for us by dying on the cross. (Isaiah 53:12) This intercession does not mean He was protecting us from a harsh God. Sin comes with a penalty and Jesus paid that penalty for us. He gave His life to pay our penalty for sin. He intervened or interceded for us. This intercession continues today—not only through His death but through His resurrected life. (Hebrews 7:25)

Intercession can also mean to pray on behalf of others. Prophets of old did this all the time. (Jeremiah 27:18) The Bible is full of examples of praying for others. Abraham prayed for God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 18) Moses prayed for the children of Israel. (Exodus 32:11-14) Stephen prayed for those who persecuted him. (Acts 7:59-60) The churches prayed for Peter while he was in prison. (Acts 12:5-17)

As children of God, we should be interceding for others through prayer, as well. (1 Timothy 2:1) These intercessions are not begging and pleading for what we want done in a person’s life, but asking God for His will to be made manifest. God knows every circumstance. He knows what is best. However, we are the ones who must come before God on their behalf. Let’s face it! If we don’t pray for certain loved ones or others we meet, who will? Who will lift them up to God?

From God comes intercession through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They intercede for us. As God’s love is manifest more and more in our lives, we will be interceding for others.    

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Refuge

From God comes…

From God comes refuge.

Refuge means to provide safety and protection from danger and distress. Many scriptures refer to God as a rock, a strong tower, our strength, and our refuge. (Psalm 18:2) God is our refuge. He’s our safe place to go when this world gets us down. Sometimes we forget that and try to muddle through on our own.

In the Old Testament, God instructed the Israelites to set apart six cities as “cities of refuge,” places where people could flee if they unintentionally killed someone—an accidental death. (Deuteronomy 19) These cities were easily accessible and open to everyone. The gates were never locked. People could be protected from those seeking vengeance. 

Moses was the first to use the concept of God being a refuge for all His people. (Deuteronomy 33:27) King David said God was his stronghold and refuge. (2 Samuel 22:2). Psalm 46:1 reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in our time of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…” Psalm 91:4 lets us know we can take refuge “under God’s wings.”

Spiritually speaking, we all need somewhere to flee when we get off track, inadvertently harm others, and make mistakes. We need a place to cast our cares during dire circumstances. (1 Peter 5:7) A place to find rest when we are tired or weary. (Matthew 11:28) A place to find solace when we are fodder for the rumor mill or falsely accused. A place to find comfort when we feel hurt or misunderstood. We have such a place. We can flee towards God’s mercy and grace.

From God comes refuge. When life gets us down, there is no need to muddle through on our own. We can run to God’s loving arms. God is our refuge. 

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Truth

From God comes…

From God comes truth.

What is truth? This question has been explored for centuries. When Jesus was brought before Pilate, He told Pilate that He had come to “bear witness to the truth.” Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:35-38) Pilot did not wait for Jesus’s reply, but he did admit to the Jews that he could find no fault in Christ. Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth.

Many study epistemology, a philosophical area that explores various explanations of truth. However, contrary to what most people think, truth is not public opinion, personal feelings, popular vote, scientific agreement, or a jury’s consensus. Truth is not relative. It is not subjective. People who have “their own truth” have no clue what truth really is.

Believe it or not, truth is what God says it is. God is Ruler, Creator, and Sustainer of all we see. Truth comes from the mind of God. Only He can tell us what truth is because God cannot lie. (Hebrews 6:18) Everything about God cries out TRUTH! His Word is truth. (John 17:17) He is the God of truth. (Psalm 31:5) The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. (John 14:18) Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)

Is truth important? I think so. There is power in truth. It can give us wisdom to deal with daily situations. (Psalm 51:6) It can set us free from the bondage of sin. (John 8:32) It is part of the armor of God to help us battle enemies. (Ephesians 6:14) It can transform our lives. (Psalm 25:5) The benefits of truth are endless. 

Those desiring this truth can only get it by knowing God and abiding in His word. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

If we want genuine truth, there is only one way to get it—from the source. We must immerse ourselves in a relationship with God and study His word because from God comes truth.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Relationship

From God comes…

From God comes a relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

From the beginning, God created us to be relational beings. God created man and then made him a companion because it was not good for man to be alone. (Genesis 1:26; Genesis 2:8) So we have this innate desire to connect with others. We want people to understand us, empathize with us, share our joy, feel our pain, and so on.

God is relational as well. This is modeled for us through the Trinitarian relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is further exemplified in the grace filled gesture of making salvation available for all mankind so we, too, can enter into that relationship. 

God longs for a relationship with us, but He will not force it on us. He will beckon or encourage us to come to Him. He will make Himself available. He will love us. He will stand at the door and knock, but He won’t come in and fellowship with us unless He is invited. (Revelation 3:20) He initiates, but we must respond on our own.

Think of the privilege it is to interact with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is always ready and willing to connect with us. We connect through communication, which is a give and take process. We talk and He listens. He talks and we listen.

God is always interested in what we do and listens to what we say. When we talk to God we can tell Him how we feel from the heart. Sometimes we might be angry or frightened. Sometimes we might be elated and joyful. Sometimes we are anxious and worried. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by God’s goodness and full of praise. We talk to God just like we would talk to our most intimate friend—from the heart and often.

How does God talk to us? God spoke to Moses through a burning bush, but I wouldn’t wait for that to happen today. If we ask God to interact with us, He will probably do it through our daily routines.  Maybe it will be through a Bible scripture, a sunset, a child’s smile, a co-worker’s off handed comment, a friend’s concern, a quote we read in a book, or various circumstances. It may come in the form of comfort, wisdom, or even correction. We are all different, so God will interact with us in ways that will resonate with each of us.  

However, to truly benefit from this relationship with God, we must be receptive. So our thoughts need to be on Him throughout the day. As we draw near to God, He draws near to us. (James 4:8) That’s what relationship is all about.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Every Good and Perfect Gift

From God comes…

From God comes every good and perfect gift. (James 1:17) Is there a difference between a good gift and a perfect gift? I think so. I’ve heard it said that a good gift is temporary, but a perfect gift is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 seems to agree. It tells us that what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Therefore, we are encouraged to fix our eyes on what is unseen.  

However, even though good gifts may be temporary, they are given to us by God to enjoy. This would include the gift of a New Year. So I wish you Happy New Year and remind you that this New Year is a gift from God with endless possibilities.

Each year I try to come up with a different blog theme. This can be quite a challenge. There are always many ideas swirling in my mind and a myriad of possible directions to go. Psalm 3:8 seemed to resonate with me. It says, “From the Lord comes deliverance.” I thought about how many wonderful gifts we have that come from God.

God is gracious, kind, and generous. The very nature of God is full of giving. God gave us the breath of life. (Genesis 2:7) God gave us the indescribable gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 9:15) Through Christ, we can be given the gift of eternal life. (John 3:16)

God’s love for us has no bounds—and because of this great love He blesses us with good gifts. Every blessing we have comes from God. In fact, James 1:16 admonishes us not to be deceived into thinking these good gifts come from any other source but God.

So this year my theme will be: From God comes… Let’s explore some of the wonderful gifts from God. Perhaps a meaningful New Year’s resolution would be to NOT take them for granted.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Focus for the New Year

The Abundant Life: Riches money can’t buy…

Those living the abundant life face a New Year with a focus on what is most important.  

As one year closes and another begins, an abundant life will reflect on what’s passed and look forward to what is ahead. A year gone by is usually filled with good and bad. We can learn from the bad and move on. But let’s not forget to think about the good things that happened. In fact, the Bible encourages us to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable… If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

The abundant life does not know what challenges the New Year will hold, but they know they can make it through if they stay focused on God.

Proverbs 4:25-27 (NIV) tells us, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” To go one step further, we need to be looking to God. Only He has the power to save us. (Isaiah 45:22) We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2) We lose power, hope, and purpose when we don’t focus on the right things.

We will all face turmoil and trials in life. However, we can’t afford to let problems block our focus. Think of this biblical example from 2 Chronicles 20…

Jehoshaphat’s kingdom of Judah was being threatened by the armies of many nations like Ammon and Moab who joined together to annihilate Judah. These huge armies were strong and surrounded Judah. There seemed to be no chance of survival. So people from every town came together to seek help from the Lord. The men, their wives, and children stood in the courtyard of the temple and Jehoshaphat prayed a heartfelt prayer extolling God’s greatness and acknowledging Judah’s lack of power to withstand the inevitable attack. It ended with, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

They kept their eyes and focus on God, and He indeed miraculously delivered them. (2 Chronicles 20:12-24)

When life gets overwhelming or hard decisions need to be made or the enemy is attacking, those living the abundant life resolve to stay focused. With Jesus in their lives, they are never alone or forsaken. (Hebrews 13:5-6) They don’t know what the New Year will hold, but they do know they can face anything if they stay focused on God!   

*****

…I have come that they may have life and that they

may have it more abundantly.” ~John 10:10 (KJV)

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