Category: Word Focus

Focus on the Shepherd’s Voice

“The sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:4b).

When reading John 10, we are captivated with Jesus’ description of Himself as the Door to the sheepfold and the Good Shepherd.  The focus is and should be on Him.  However, the Shepherd’s life revolves around His sheep.  That same passage gives the sheep’s perspective as well.

Throughout Scripture, mankind is often compared to sheep. All of us like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23:1). We are His people and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3). Preachers often remind us that sheep are not very smart. It is true that if the lead sheep steps off a cliff, the rest of the flock is likely to follow. It is also true that a single sheep can get so preoccupied that he can wander off and get lost, unable to find his way home.  Sheep definitely need a shepherd.

However, Jesus did not compare us to sheep in order to make us feel dumb.  He made the comparison because He wants us to know Him as the Good Shepherd and trust His voice.  Sheep are a perfect description of what believers should be because they do trust their shepherd. Maybe sheep aren’t so dumb after all. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, tells us:

  • The sheep hear his voice (John 10:3).
  • They listen for their names (v. 3).
  • The sheep know his voice (v. 4).
  • The sheep follow him (v. 4).
  • They will not follow a stranger (v. 5).
  • They will flee from a stranger (v. 5).
  • They do not know the voice of a stranger (v. 5).
  • They do not hear the strangers (v. 8).
  • They know the Good Shepherd (v. 14).
  • They are part of One Flock (v. 16).
  • They hear his voice and follow him (v. 27).
  • They are eternally secure (v. 28-29).

Recognizing the frail nature of sheep, Jesus warned His disciples that as He was sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves, [they needed to be] shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). The sheep that truly belong to His flock need to be aware of strangers, thieves and hirelings who work to make them go astray (John 10). The strangers and hirelings do not know the sheep nor do they care about them.

When Jesus describes His sheep, He is talking about those who believe in Him (John 10:26). James 2:19 states it is not head knowledge that saves you, for even the demons believe in God. Being a true believer, or part of His flock, involves your whole being.  Paul describes that as believing in your heart (Romans 10:9). Matthew 25:31-33 describes a day when Jesus will divide the true believers from those who might appear to be part of the flock, but are not. He describes this time as a separation of the sheep and the goats. He will have to tell some who claimed to be part of His flock, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).  He said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own and My own know Me” (John 10:14).

When people are trained to recognize counterfeit money, they do not study counterfeit bills.  They are taught to examine every detail of real money so that when the counterfeit appears, they can see the difference.  Jesus’ sheep will not follow a stranger because they do not recognize the voice of strangers (John 10:5).  See also 1 John 4:1.  Jesus’ sheep know the real Shepherd is the One who died on their behalf.

My children were part of a church family from infancy and were only acquainted with family and friends that they could trust. When they started elementary school, they were understandably upset when they came home from school telling me that they had attended a meeting about “red light, green light” people.  The school officials were warning my children about those in society who could do them harm (red light people).  They were instructed to only listen to and go with “green light people” (family members or friends who had been identified as those they could trust).  There were even signs given out to families to place in their windows indicating that they were “green light people” in case a child needed to find a safe haven on their walk home. As disturbing as it was to have to discuss this with my sons, it was necessary for their safety. Jesus’ sheep know to flee from strangers (John 10:5). James tells us to resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).  Jesus is the Door to our safe haven.

Jesus’ sheep hear His voice. Jesus often said, “Those who have ears to hear, let him hear.” He was not talking about people who were physically deaf, but those who were spiritually deaf.  There were many who saw Him with their own eyes and heard Him with their own ears, but did not accept Him as Savior and Lord. Jesus’ sheep have “ears to hear” the Shepherd’s voice. They recognize His voice because they belong to Him.

Jesus’ sheep follow Him.  Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).  The commandments are for the welfare of believers (the sheep).  Just as loving parents give boundaries to their children for their protection, benefit and growth, our Good Shepherd does the same for us.  Psalm 23 is a beautiful description of the safety and security of following the shepherd.  The shepherd’s rod was a guide for the sheep while the staff helped pull them back on to the correct path when they strayed. To follow the shepherd was not complicated.  The sheep just had to keep their eyes on him and follow him.  Jesus’ commandments are not complex.  He demonstrated them with His life and His death. He puts all the commandments into one simple statement: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

The gospel of John was written by one who understood Jesus’ love.  In fact, he describes himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:20).  He wrote four more books of the New Testament.  In 1 John, one of the recurring themes of that letter was the certainty of knowing Jesus.  Jesus’ sheep know Him.  “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me” (John 10:14).

Reflections for further study:

Study John 10 and 1 John side by side.  It is as if John took Jesus’ words in John 10 and reflected on them and wrote 1 John.  How does 1 John help you understand that you know the Good Shepherd?

Highlight the number of times the word “know” or “knows” appears in 1 John.  In the New American Standard version, the word “know” or “knows” appears thirty-nine times. With few exceptions, the reference is to a believer knowing about his relationship to God.

After highlighting “know” and “knows” in your Bible, look through these verses to list the ways that a believer can (there may be more than one verse which applies):

  • Know the love of God
  • Know what truth is
  • Know how to tell you are born of God
  • Know that you shall be like Jesus
  • Know that Jesus came to take away your sins
  • Know that you have passed from death to life
  • Know that Jesus abides in you and you abide in Him
  • Know His Spirit
  • Know that you have eternal life
  • Know that He hears you when you pray
  • Know that He can help you stop sinning
  • Know that the Son of God has come into the world

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:27-30).

. . . having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end (John 13:1).

Focus on the Shepherd’s voice. He only has good for you. He will comfort you, guide you, protect you, and lead you home.

© Stephanie B. Blake

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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God as our Heavenly Father

“What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God for his Father.” – J.I. Packer

What are your thoughts about God as your heavenly Father? 

People often form their opinion of God the Father based on their experiences with their own earthly fathers. If a person is fortunate enough to have a Christian father, those experiences bear some resemblance to God as Father. There are many, though, who had very bad models of fatherhood. Their perception of God as Father is quite different from someone who had a Christian father. However, all comparisons fall short of who our Heavenly Father really is.

Backward Thinking  

When we apply our father’s attributes to God, we get it backwards. God came first. He created our earthly fathers. They needed salvation, just as we do. God Himself is the model Father. Our error in thinking about the family of God, and God as our Father, comes from our perspective.

When we view God as Father through the filter of family as we know it, we will always have faulty thinking. For instance:

  • If we are reluctant to take responsibility for disciplining our children, we may judge His commandments as harsh and resent His discipline.
  • If we were never able to have a good conversation with our own fathers, we may have trouble approaching God as “Abba, Father.”
  • If our father was selfish and did not work to provide adequately for his family, we may be hesitant to believe that our Father can and will provide for our needs.
  • If we had an absentee father, we may have difficulty knowing that God the Father will give us protection and guidance and be there when we need Him.
  • If we had a father who did not keep his promises, we may have problems believing He means what He says.
  • If we had a father whose comments tore us down instead of building us up, we may not see God as trustworthy and loving.
  • If we had a godly Christian father, we may still limit God in our thinking because our father had limitations simply because he was human.

God is able to do far more than our earthly fathers were capable of doing. Still, God instituted the family. He gave us fathers as examples. He instilled in them the desire to provide for, protect and guide their children. We just need to make sure that in our thinking about God as Father that we do not limit Him in any way.

How does God become our Heavenly Father?

 To be part of God’s family is to have come to a point in your life where you have believed in His Son with all your heart. To have God as Father is an act of the grace of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Read and discuss the following scriptures and notice the involvement of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the promises given to a believer.

How does one become a child of God?

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9-10).

What happens to a Christian when he dies?

. . . unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. . . 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 (John 3:3, 5-6, 16).

What does God promise to give to His children?

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. . . For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2:4-6,18).

God is all about family. Jesus demonstrated how we, as adopted children, can relate to God as Father. We can have the same relationship to the Father that Jesus has because He lives in us.

Adoptions are expensive and enormously time consuming. Those going through the adoption process reveal that they really want a child. Most parents adopt because they cannot have children any other way. God had a Son, but He and His Son desired to add to their family.

God does not need us, but He does want us. The adoption process that God went through proves His love for us.

An Inheritance is Not Earned 

An inheritance is not earned. It is something that is bestowed upon a loved one. Sometimes a parent will make a distinction in their inheritance between a natural child and an adopted child. God, our Father, makes no distinction. In what might be called His Will and Testament, Jesus asked the Father to include His adopted children in His inheritance (John 17). See Hebrews 8:13, 9:15-17. Finally, the covenant was complete (Hebrew 13:20-21). What we could not do to fulfill our part of a covenant with God, Jesus did for us.

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:29).

Grace Changes Everything

Believers in Christ no longer live under the judgment of law although the law still provides practical guidelines for living. Adopted children of God live under love, not law. God’s goal for His children is to make them holy (Matthew 5:48). He wants us to become like Him. He sent Jesus not only to die for our sins and obtain a place in His family, but also to set an example. God knows our hearts and examines our hearts for His standard of holiness.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called the children of God, and such we are. . . And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:1, 3 NAS).

Reflect on the gift of God’s love as Father and the sacrifice of His Son Jesus in order to bring us into His family.

© Stephanie B. Blake

Scripture references are from the New King James Version

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God’s Ambassadors: On Mission with God

…Those who have become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to Him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message He has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors

(2 Corinthians 5:17-20a NIV).

Ambassaduer Extraordinaire

Among European powers, the ambassador extraordinary (French ambassadeur extraordinaire) was historically deemed the personal representative of the Sovereign.* Jesus was sent by the Father to show us the love of God through His sinless life and atoning death. He is Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Jesus left his heavenly home to show us God (He was His visible image – Col.1:15).  For the first time, we were able to see God in person.

Jesus is God on Mission

Jesus clearly stated why He came and what His mission was: I came into the world to testify to the truth. . . I am the way, the truth and the life.  See John 10:10, 14:6, 12:46-50, 18:37.

Jesus Completed His Mission

Jesus came because we need redemption and forgiveness. His work was to do for us something that we could not do for ourselves: to live a sinless life and pay the price for our sins by bearing them Himself upon the cross.  That was accomplished for us on Calvary (Colossians 2:14).

Gary McSpadden expressed it this way in his song “He Paid a Debt.”

He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay.

I needed someone to wash my sins away, and now I sing a brand new song, Amazing grace, Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.

The Mission Field is Now Ours

In the garden, only brief hours before His crucifixion, He prayed, I have finished the work You sent me to do (John 17:4).  In that same prayer, He then passed His assignment over to His believers. As You have sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world (John 17:18). On the cross, He said, It is finished (John 19:30).  His work was done, ours had just begun. As the Father has sent Me, I also send you (John 20:21). He gave His ambassadors specific instructions: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV). See also Mark 13:10, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8, 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

We are Chosen, Commissioned and Challenged

Our instructions from our Lord were in the imperative: Go and you shall be My witnesses. This was not a suggestion.  This is something we must do. Not “Go if you have time.” Not “Go if you have the gift of evangelism.” But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Of the current world population of over 6 1/2 billion,  approximately 1/3 call themselves Christian, that is, as opposed to being Hindu, Buddhist or one of the other religions. Many who claim to be Christians are not true believers in Christ.  The majority of the world’s population has no personal relationship with Christ.  According to the Population Reference Bureau’s “2010 World Population Data Sheet,” there is a current increase of 83.6 million people each year (factoring in worldwide births and deaths). Clearly, the mission field is great and growing!

A study recently conducted by Tilburg University in the Netherlands called “European Values Study: A Third Wave,” gives us some alarming statistics. They polled the religious values and practices of people in 32 countries throughout Europe. The study indicated that while the majority of Europeans consider themselves Christians, for the most part their belief has evolved into an amorphous spiritual inclination rather than adherence to any exacting creed or even to the Church.  Only about 21% of Europeans said religion was “very important” to them. For most, there has been a decline in church attendance and traditional beliefs, such as belief in a personal God, in favor of personally defined “spirituality” and neo-paganism.  Secularism and moral relativism are the spiritual underpinnings of the beliefs of the majority of Europeans.

In the United States, Christian beliefs and values are at an all-time low.  George Barna, of the Barna Group, regularly conducts surveys on the faith and spirituality of Americans.  In a March 6, 2009 article entitled “Barna Survey Examines Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years,” Barna defines biblical worldview as “believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today. In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview.” Current results show that 9% of all American adults have this biblical worldview.  Even those that openly claim to be “born again Christians,” less than one in five had this biblical worldview.  Barna states that this biblical worldview is so important because it “serves as a person’s decision-making filter.” His assessment of this latest survey led him to draw this disturbing conclusion:

“There are a several troubling patterns to take notice. First, although most Americans consider themselves to be Christian and say they know the content of the Bible, less than one out of ten Americans demonstrate such knowledge through their actions. Second, the generational pattern suggests that parents are not focused on guiding their children to have a biblical worldview. One of the challenges for parents, though, is that you cannot give what you do not have, and most parents do not possess such a perspective on life. That raises a third challenge, which relates to the job that Christian churches, schools and parachurch ministries are doing in Christian education. Finally, even though a central element of being a Christian is to embrace basic biblical principles and incorporate them into one’s worldview, there has been no change in the percentage of adults or even born again adults in the past 13 years regarding the possession of a biblical worldview.”

Clearly, the challenge is great. Yet it is no greater than when Jesus told 11 men before the middle of the first century to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth.  Jesus knew how challenging it would be, yet He didn’t back off from the commission. And He still doesn’t.  Neither should we.

How Do God’s Ambassadors Accomplish Their Mission?

How can this challenging task be accomplished? Although some are called to “go” full-time to the ends of the earth, not all are. How can you personally and as a church fulfill this Great Commission assignment?

  1. Power of the Holy Spirit: I am with you always (Acts 1:8).  He still is. Arthur Blessit, a worldwide cross-carrying evangelist, says, “Courage comes from knowing who sent you and in whose power you go.” Whatever your assignment is to help accomplish this work, Jesus will let you know through His Spirit.
  2. Prepare yourself, realizing time is short: …always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). Learn how to share your faith.  Prepare your own testimony.
    Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone (Colossians 4:5-6 NIV).  The world is a spiritual battlefield. We need to be military-ready.  “Reveille” is heard by soldiers to wake them up to “dawn alert.” We need to be awakened to the shortness of the hour. Are you prepared?
  3. Practice your gifts in the body: local church, other churches, around the world.  The body of Christ should be doing those things that the Christ, the Head of the Body says. Think of the ways that you can exercise your spiritual gift in order to function as an Ambassador of Christ.
  4. Pray: Adoniram Judson, one of the fathers of modern missions,

impressed an empire for Christ and laid the foundations of God’s kingdom with imperishable granite in the heart of Burmah. He was successful, one of the few men who mightily impressed the world for Christ. Many men of greater gifts and genius and learning than he have made no such impression…The secret of its…endurance is found in the fact that he gave time to prayer. He kept the iron red-hot with prayer, and God’s skill fashioned it with enduring power. No man can do a great and enduring work for God who is not a man of prayer… **

Not only pray for your own personal mission and that of your local church, but for other Christians.  The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest (Luke 10:2).

  1. Participate in giving: For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints (2 Corinthians 8:3-4). You may be called upon to assist those who do serve on the mission field even when you cannot.  Your tithe through your local church enables your church to carry on its ministry to those who need to hear the gospel.  As God instructs you to give, be obedient.
  2. Partner with other Christians:  I always pray for you, and I make my requests with a heart full of joy because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now (Philippians 1:4-5 NIV). A cord of three strands is not easily broken (Eccl. 4:12). We are part of the Body of Christ. He intended for us to accomplish our mission together.

What is your role as an Ambassador of Christ? Will you be able to say with Paul, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7)?

© Stephanie B. Blake


** Power Through Prayer, E. M. Bounds

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In The Father’s Throne Room

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens . . . But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises (Hebrews 8:1, 6).

Jesus has always been God (John 8:58, Revelation 1:8).  He was the God of creation (John 1:1-3).  He was the God Man in His incarnation (Matthew 1:23). He is now and always will be God (Hebrews 13:8). The writer of Hebrews tells us that Christ is now seated at the right hand of the throne of Majesty. Since this was always His privilege, why is this so important to you and to me?

The significance is that through His sacrifice as the Lamb of God, He, our High Priest, has done what no other High Priest had ever done.  He completed the work of redemption and sat down. Now because He is there, you and I as believers in Him, can come boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  This is not a future promise.  It is a present reality.

Realizing that access to God’s throne room is readily available should give Christians an excitement about prayer and cause us to use that privilege constantly.  Who would not want to have an audience with the King at any time, seek His advice and know that His presence is only as far away as a thought?

I am on a quest to learn more about prayer. If I had the opportunity to talk with the writer of Hebrews, my question to him would be: “What can your letter teach me about prayer?” The answer to that question is the subject of this study.

The Life and Words of God’s Son

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son (Hebrews 1:1).

Although the beginning verse of this letter does not reference prayer itself, there is an application to prayer.  Prayer is a conversation with God. A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue.  If you are truly interested in hearing from God (His side of the conversation), you must be able to know how He speaks and recognize His voice when He does.

In the Old Testament, He prepared us for the coming of His Son. He spoke to the fathers by the prophets promising the redemption that would come through Jesus Christ. Abraham was justified by faith, not by works (Romans 4 and Genesis 15:6).  The men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11, the great “Hall of Faith,” were justified by faith.  Their faith was in the promise to come.

In the New Testament, we have the account of Jesus’ birth, life, sacrificial death, resurrection, ascension and presence in His body as well as additional prophecies about His second coming.  If you are a believer, like Abraham, you are justified by faith, not by works (Romans 5).  Your faith is in the promise fulfilled.

God, who chooses to speak with His children, speaks to us clearly through His Son. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. . . . But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things that I said to you” (John 14:23,26). 

If you want to hear God speak to you, listen to Jesus.  If you do your part (love Him and keep His word), God will live with you and in you and His Holy Spirit will remind you of the things that you need to hear Him say to you.

Reflections for further study:

  • What were some of the ways that God spoke in the Old Testament?

Examine the accounts of Abraham, Moses, Job, Elijah and others.

  • Since God has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, give examples of ways that you can hear Jesus speak to you.

The Throne of Grace

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

As has been mentioned, because of Jesus, believers have access to the throne of grace. Every need you have is met at this place of privilege. Prayer is the means by which you come boldly to the throne of grace.

Reflections for further study

  • This verse begins with Let us therefore . . . What does the writer of Hebrews say in the preceding verses that help you know that you may come boldly to the throne of grace?
  • Can you picture yourself at God’s throne?  Are you dressed appropriately?  Do you have any need for cleansing before you come to His throne?  What will you say to Him today when you approach Him?  Do you need forgiveness . . . help. . . instruction. . .insight. . .wisdom for a task?  Whatever your need is, He is there to meet it.

Christ’s example in prayer

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety (Hebrews 5:7 NASB).

Read the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus and note the many times it is mentioned that He spent time in prayer.  He prayed for others, He prayed for Himself, and He taught about prayer.

Reflections for further study 

  • Read Matthew 6:5-15, 7:7-11, 7:21-23.  What does Jesus teach about prayer in His sermon?
  • What does Matthew 9:37-38 tell you about prayer and evangelism?  Are you faithful to pray for God to send laborers into His harvest? Is He speaking to you to become a laborer?
  • Read Jesus’ prayer of Matthew 11:25-26.  Read the chapter in its entirety.  Why did Jesus pray, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes?” 
  • Before Jesus fed the four thousand men with seven loaves and a few fish, He took the loaves and the fish and gave thanks (Matthew 15:36). Have you ever experienced the multiplication principle in your own prayer life?  If so, share with someone what God did.
  • When Jesus addressed the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites, what did He have to say about their prayers (Matthew 23:14)? What prayer principle is He teaching here?
  • Matthew 26:36-46 is the account of Jesus and the three disciples in Gethsemane. What did He pray? What did He ask His disciples to pray?
  • Compare Jesus’ prayer of Matthew 27:46 and Hebrews 5:7-8.
  • Read John 17 and “The World’s Most Majestic Prayer” (another Bible study on this website).  Answer the “questions for reflection” at the end of that study.
  • If Jesus found it necessary to pray, how much more do you and I need to pray?

The Intercession of Jesus

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).

Picture the throne room of God.  Visualize God the Father and God the Son talking about you: someone made in Our image, according to Our likeness (Genesis 1:26).  Since Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15), He stands ready to intercede for you.  Now, imagine yourself approaching the throne of grace boldly asking for His mercy and grace to help in your time of need (Hebrew 4:16). Pray “in His name” (John 14:13-14) and let Him do the rest.

  • How comforting is it to you that your risen Lord is still interceding on your behalf?
  • Compare Romans 8:26, 8:34 and Hebrews 9:24 with Hebrews 7:25.

Clean and Pure

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus. . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19, 22).

How can you approach God’s throne of grace boldly?  No one can approach God through any personal merit; only through the shed blood of Jesus. The apostle John says that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7b, 9). In Psalm 24:3-4, David says, Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. . . .

Before the coming of Jesus, only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies.  There was a veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.  The historian Josephus reported that this veil was 4 inches thick and that even horses tied to each side could not pull it apart.  Yet, at the death of Jesus (Mark 15:38), this veil was torn in two from top to bottom.

Reflection for further study

  • What is the significance of the veil being torn from top to bottom?
  • If you have come to Jesus, confessed your sins, received His forgiveness and serve Him as Lord, you can have boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.  What does being welcomed into the presence of God in the Holy of Holies mean to you?

Pleasing and Praising God 

…without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15).  


  • Is it your desire to please God?  If it is, the answer is simple.  Trust Him.  Prayer, communication with God, is the means by which to diligently seek Him.
  • The Old Testament records the sacrifice of animals to God. This was a prelude to the sacrifice that Jesus would offer as He submitted Himself to the cross for us.  It also was a tangible witness to the pagans that the people of Israel worshipped the one true God. Now, verbal witness of God’s working in a believer’s life, the fruit of our lips, is the sacrifice of praise. Do you tell others of God’s involvement in your life?

Privilege of Praying for Others

Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably (Hebrews 13:18-19).

No one knows for sure who wrote the book of Hebrews.  From this request it appears that there may have been more than one contributor to this letter.  They all had a clear conscience before God.  That would have only been possible through the blood of Jesus (see Hebrews 10:19, 22 above).  These men desired to live honorably and for the glory of God.

God designed the family of God to care for one another.  It is a privilege to pray for our brothers and sisters.  If someone asks you to pray for them, do so.  Just as parents are thrilled when their children watch out for each other, God is pleased when we care enough about each other to bring someone’s request to His throne room.

Question for Reflection

  • Is your conscience clear before the Lord? Do you confess sin as soon as you are aware of it?
  • Do you desire to live honorably before the Lord?

A Prayer and a Purpose 

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ to whom be glory forever and ever (Hebrews 13:20-21). 

This summarizes the body of the letter itself.  The God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead provided through His Son a way for us to come back to Him; to have peace with God.

            . . . that great Shepherd of the sheep

The letter states that it was Jesus, who being our High Priest, gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice.  He accomplished what animal sacrifice could not. He completed the requirement for justification.  At His crucifixion, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). In John 10, He said as the Good Shepherd, He willingly laid down His life (John 10:17-18). He is the Priest who offers the sacrifice (Hebrews 2:17).  He is the Lamb of God, the sacrifice itself (John 1:29).  He is the Shepherd who protects his sheep (John 10). Everything that was required to reconcile sinful man back into relationship with righteous God was accomplished through Jesus (Romans 5:1-11).

            . . . through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,” says the Lord:  “I will put My laws into their hearts and into their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:16-17).  This is the final everlasting covenant.  Jesus fulfilled it when he offered one sacrifice for sins forever (Hebrews 10:12).

            . . . make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ to whom be glory forever and ever.

God has a purpose for your life.  He has given you all the resources in Jesus for you to accomplish that purpose, please Him, and bring glory to His name.

Questions for Reflection 

  •  Is your life pleasing to God?  Does it bring glory to Him?

The Benediction of the Letter to the Hebrews 

Grace be with you all (Hebrews 13:25).

This was the type of benediction that Paul used to conclude his letters. Since the other letters of the New Testament written by James, Peter, John and Jude do not conclude this way, this may be one reason that some scholars suppose that Paul penned this letter or was one of its authors.

Questions for Reflection 

  • Are you willing and able to share God’s grace with others?
  • Is prayer a duty or a privilege to you?
  • What has Hebrews taught you about prayer? Are you encouraged to pray more?

© Stephanie B. Blake

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Jesus Explains His Words to His Friends

John’s gospel gives us a lengthy account of the last visit Jesus had with His disciples before His betrayal, trial and crucifixion. After Judas left the group to betray Jesus, He was left with the faithful few.  Even though they did not understand everything He had to say or was about to happen to Him, they were true disciples and loved Him.  These conversations are recorded in John 13:31 through John 16. He concluded this time with a prayer to His Father on their behalf in John 17. 

It is striking to note that several times in the midst of His discourse, He gave them reasons for what He was telling them.  These are the passages examined in this study.

Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He (John 13:19).

These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 14:25-26).

And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe (John 14:29).

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).

These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble (John 16:1).

But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.  And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you (John 16:4).

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Read John 13 through John 17 in their entirety.  Examine the statements above and answer the questions below.

John 13:19, 14:29, 16:4: Jesus knew that His time had come for God to be glorified in His sacrificial death on the cross (John 13:31-32).  Before Judas left the room, John remarks several times that Jesus was about to be betrayed and that He was troubled in spirit. Still, Jesus included Judas in the foot washing.  Can you imagine how Judas must have felt as He watched the Master wash his feet, knowing that he was about to betray Him?  Only a heart that had been hardened by the world could experience such an act of kindness and still carry on his horrible plan. Jesus even warned the others that one of them would be excluded from their blessings (John 13:17-18).

Later, Peter denied Christ just as He predicted (John 13:38); however, Scripture tells us that Judas and Peter were worlds apart in their allegiance to Jesus. What was the difference?

John 14:25-26: In the very presence of the Lord, these disciples were warned of the trials to come as well as encouraged that Jesus would give them all the resources they would need for the challenging days ahead.  The Holy Spirit did indeed remind them of the things that Jesus said.  See Luke 24:8, John 2:22 and John 12:16.

Believers today have the indwelling of the Spirit of Jesus and His recorded words.  Have you spent enough time listening to Him (reading His word) so that His Spirit can bring His words to your mind when you most need them?

John 15:11: This is one of the most incredible statements Jesus made to His disciples. How could Jesus feel joy at this time in His life?  Compare Hebrews 12:2 with this passage. See another Word Focus, “Focus on the Fullness of Joy,” on this website for more insight.

John 16:1: One of His followers had deserted and betrayed Him. Judas was not a true disciple, but had followed Him along with the rest of the disciples for some time. The rest, although they were true believers, would have many chances in the future to leave as well.  Although Jesus knew that they would not stand with Him during the days to come, He also knew they would band together after His death and become what He had trained them to be – witnesses to Him in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). He was now giving them adequate warning that the temptation to stumble would come and He was preparing them for that eventuality.

How does His warning affect Christians today? Was it harder to be true to Christ then or now? In what areas of your life are you tempted to stumble?

John 16:33: This was the last thing Jesus said to His disciples before His prayer.  If you are a Christian, you know that in the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, [Jesus] has overcome the world. In the midst of tribulation, do you experience the peace of Christ?

© Stephanie B. Blake

All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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Living in the Light: Looking Up and Lighting the Way for Others to Follow: Part 1

 In Your light we see light (Psalm 36:9).

The Value of Created Light

Light naturally affects everything around it. It is necessary for living and greatly enhances the quality of life.

The loss of sight is devastating. Those who are born blind can learn to live within the confines of the dark and those who become blind later in life can adjust; however, no one ever chose to live in a world of darkness.

Even a blind person depends on certain properties of light for their existence. Light is necessary for the development of food. Photosynthesis starts by taking energy from the sun converting it into something plants use for their life processes. Animals make use of this energy when they eat the plants. This consumption of energy continues all the way to the top of the food chain. Nearly all life on earth benefits from food as a result of a few bacteria and photosynthesis in plants.

Many sighted people, especially children, are afraid of the dark. However, when light illuminates a dark place, fears of the unknown and the unseen are often dispelled. A lamp, a flashlight, a candle or electric lights can expose what is really there. Monsters created in the shadows disappear.

SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a seasonal depression that occurs the same time every year, most often during the cold, dark days of winter. The curative properties of light are the prescription for this malady.

On one of those cold days, there is a vast difference between walking in sunlight and walking in the shadows. Sunlight brings warmth and comfort.

“Einstein said that the reason he could construct the theory of relativity was because there is one thing in the world that is unchangeable. That one thing-the speed of light-is the only constant in this physical, material universe” (Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.). Light brings knowledge and understanding.

Lighthouses have distinctive light patterns, enabling mariners to identify their location. Even though many ships now have GPS capability, their captains often still trust in lighthouses to give them direction.

Spiritual Light

The value of light is far reaching both physically and spiritually. God is light (1 John 1:5) and His Son is the Light of the World (John 8:12). Jesus said His followers are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). The Apostle Paul said Christians should live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8) and the Apostle John said we should walk in the light as Jesus is in the light (1 John 1:7).

Looking to the Light saves from a life of darkness, provides nourishment, dispels fear, provides healing, warmth and comfort, and gives knowledge, understanding and direction.

Light in Scripture

Light is so important to God that He mentions it thirteen times in the first eighteen verses of Genesis and ends Revelation with references to it. On the first day, He spoke light into existence and separated it from the darkness. On the fourth day, He made two great lights to govern the day and the night.

Throughout Scripture, light is a recurring theme either as eternal light, created light or shared light. The last two chapters of the Bible tell us that the sun or the moon will no longer be needed as light, for the Lamb is the light. The light that God created to shine in the darkness pointed to the Light of the World. He was Light before the foundation of the world, came so that we might see the Light, and will reign forever as the Light of heaven. In the new heaven and the new earth there will be no more night. There will no longer be anything associated with darkness: no more death, no pain, no fear, no sorrow, no impurities.

Masquerading Light of Death

There is a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof is death (Proverbs 14:12).

The god of this world fools many people of the world with the wisdom of the world. Satan, the father of lies, appears as an angel of light. As Adam and Eve discovered in the garden of Eden, believing his lies results in death. Satan’s goal is to keep people from looking to Jesus, the Light of the World, and trusting Him as Savior.

The Age of Enlightenment, a dark period in the history of the world, left God out of the picture. “Enlightenment was a desire for human affairs to be guided by rationality rather than by faith, superstition, or revelation; a belief in the power of human reason to change society… ” (Wikipedia: definition by Dorinda Outram). It has become obvious that human reason has not changed society for the better. Without God, there is no understanding of right and wrong. There is no light.

As I travel internationally to teach the Bible, I am aware that many are still ignoring the presence of the Light of God. In many cases, people are creating their own belief systems without checking the validity of God’s claims on their lives. Instead of looking up, they are looking inward. Satan, as an angel of light, is very subtle with his temptations. It never occurs to many who listen to his lies that they are doing his bidding because they prefer evil. The Apostle Paul instructed believers to get rid of any deeds of darkness and wear an armor of light. Although Satan continues to lead many astray, God enables His children to live in the light in a world of darkness.

Examine John 1:4, John 3:19-20, Romans 13:12, 2 Corinthians 4:4

Living in the Light

The light of life is a beacon shining throughout the word of God. After his testing experience, Job said, God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life (Job 33:28 NIV).  Since God is the believer’s dwelling place (Deuteronomy 33:27 ESV), the light of life is home to His children. David said, For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life (Psalm 56:13 NIV).

Christians have an eternal life which began the day of their new birth. They have received the light of life. It is only possible to live in the light if you know the Light. Jesus shared the characteristics of being the Light of the World with His believers. As a result, Christians are also the light of this world and can penetrate the darkness. As lights upon a hill, Christians are to have a Christlike influence on those around them.

Lighting the Way for Others to Follow

As the Light of the World, Jesus provided some unusual leadership principles to equip His believers to light the way for others to follow.

Many leaders in the secular world provide good practical advice on leadership. They command an audience because of their achievement of their business goals. By sharing their expertise, they can lead others to succeed in business.

Christians, however, regard that privilege from a different viewpoint. Emphasis on Christian leadership is based on one model only. Jesus is the example of leadership for Christians. Paul understood that principle well as he encouraged others to imitate him as he also imitated Christ. As the psalmist recognized the written word of God as a lamp to his feet and a light to his path, we also acknowledge that Jesus, the living word of God, is truly the Light worth following.

Even if you don’t realize it, you are a leader. Someone is watching you and following your example. It may be a child, a spouse, a coworker or a neighbor. None of us are without influence. If you are a believer in Christ, His expectation is that you will light the way for others to follow Him.

In part two of this Bible study, seven Christian leadership principles founded on the Light of the world are examined.

For further study:

Research other scripture on light.  Reflect on whether the reference is to eternal light, created light or shared light and how each applies to living in the light.

For further reflection and/or discussion:

  • How can you recognize true light and masqueraded light?
  • Of all the unique statements Jesus made about Himself, what is special about the Light of the World to you?
  • Have you noticed a difference in characteristics of leaders in the church and leaders in the business world?  If so, what are they?  If not, what does that mean?
  • There are many movies and books that deal with darkness and light (for example: the Star Wars).  What, if any, revelance does that have to God’s references to light?
  • Have you ever had a sudden understanding of a Biblical concept that you have been researching or wondering about?  Did you feel like “a light came on,” a revelation in your mind?  Examine Psalms for scriptures that might explain what happened to you.

© Stephanie B. Blake

Download Living in the Light Part 1

Living in the Light: Looking Up and Lighting the Way for Others to Follow: Part 2

This Bible study deals with Christians taking seriously Jesus’ command to be the light of the world. Part one gave some general physical and spiritual principles of light. This last part completes the description of some leadership qualities that was endowed to believers by the Light Himself. 

Leaders are First Followers: They Must See Before They Can Guide

Every one of us was spiritually blind until our eyes were opened and we invited the Light of the world to take control. No one can be led to light by someone who does not see. Jesus cautioned against the blind leading the blind.

The essential prerequisite for a Christian leader is that he follows the Light. He has a foundational relationship with Jesus, the origin of light. Since he follows the Light himself, he can lead others to follow the light.

Just as Jesus empowers His followers with His light, He does so not only for our benefit, but for others. Light is meant to be shared. We are not the light with a capital “L,” but a reflection of the Light. The light of life living within Christians should be evident to others. Just like John the Baptist, we should bear witness of the light.

Someone once told me she believed that a good man she is acquainted with who attends church regularly but denies the existence of Christ was a secret Christian. I heartily disagree. If, as Jesus says, those who believe in Him are the light of the world, there is no such thing as a secret Christian. A Christian is light only because he has looked to the source of light, the Light of the World. Light does not belong under a bushel. It is meant to be on a lampstand. As such, it can penetrate the darkness and help others see their way.

See Psalm 27:1, Psalm 36:9, Matthew 15:14-16, John 1:8, John 8:12.

Leaders Lead Others Where They Have Been

Spiritual birth is the beginning of an eternal journey. Good leaders do not stagnate. They keep moving. Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, is a narrative about that journey. The best leaders lead because they have already gone down the road they are encouraging others to travel. They are constantly learning, looking to the Light for guidance. As our example, even Jesus learned obedience.

As Jesus did, leaders lead by example. That is understood in the secular world as well. Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others.  It is the only thing.”Military leaders who generate the most respect and loyalty are those who go with their troops into battle. Many politicians have campaigned on the basis of their identity with the common people. Most successful business leaders achieved their success through hard work in their field. Having “been there, done that,” leaders can give guidance.

Leaders of light do not lead by intimidation but by example. They take time to develop their own relationship with Christ. They know their limitations. They ask Christ to expose any darkness in their life that can adversely affect their influence. They are willing to be conformed to the character of Christ. They agree with Paul that to shine as light in the world, they must become blameless and harmless. General H. Norman Schwarzkopf said, “Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy.”

See Romans 8:29, Philippians 2:14-15, Hebrews 5:8

Leaders Share Only the Truth

Just as Jesus brings revelation of things as they really are and dispels the fear of the dark, Christian disciples always point those they are trying to lead to the light of Truth. They recognize the natural tendency to fear what one does not understand. Leaders will spend time getting their facts straight.

Unlike many politicians who will only want to say what is popular, Christian leaders must tell the truth. What they teach will be truth even if it is hard for others to hear. That means that a Christian leader is a student of the Word. They don’t fake their knowledge because they have asked God for wisdom in their leadership.

See Psalm 43:3, Psalm 119:105, James 1:5

Leaders are Diligent Workers

The role of leadership naturally means that you will not do all the tasks yourself. No one thinks a micromanager is a good leader. Although the leader may be able to do everything required to get the job done, he does not do it all. His strength lies in being able to recognize the capabilities of those he is leading. However, that does not mean the leader stands idly by and watches others do all the work. The difference is the assignment load. A good Christian leader will take full responsibility for providing the guidance that his team needs to do the work. He will make good use of his time and just like a traffic light, know when to signal others to go, wait, or stop awhile.

The remarkable example that Jesus gave of leadership was in his instruction for his followers to take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29). Life is hard work in itself, but those who look to the Light for leadership will find that Jesus shares their burden. Gentle is sometimes translated meek. Meekness is often associated with being feeble or weak, but that is not the case at all. The best definition for meekness is strength under control. The great Lion of Judah is also the sacrificial Lamb of God. Jesus inspires confidence because he embodies strength and decisiveness as well as a gentle caring for those he leads.

See 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6,8

Leaders will Care About Their Team

This can be an unusual leadership quality in the secular world. Business leaders can be so results oriented that many times people’s lives are trampled in the process. These are not good leaders, to be sure, but how many people have been injured by someone else’s climb to the top?

Concern for others is a trait of Christian leadership. Just as it is easier to travel a road that is well lit rather than one that is dark, Christian leaders care about providing the light that is needed to get the job done. Whatever is needed for others to be able to fulfill their calling in life, a good Christian leader will find time to provide. Goodness and compassion are hallmark traits of a leader worth following.

See Ephesians 5:8-10

Christian Leaders Work Within the Context of the Body of Christ, the Church

Jesus appeals to our logic by stating that no one lights a lamp, hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. A lamp is meant to be placed on a stand to provide illumination. Jesus refers to churches as lampstands. The church is being observed. When Jesus is not the leader, the head of the church, the light of the church is being hidden. The church, the Body of Christ, is designed to give off light so that others may see Christ and glorify God.

See Isaiah 2:5, Luke 8:16, Revelation 1:20

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. . . (1 John 1:7).

Leaders Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Good leaders recognize that nothing would be accomplished without the team that works under them. They will recognize and honor those who do the work. They are quick to praise when a job is well done. The Apostle Paul had a prayer of thanksgiving for the recipients of his letters (in every case but one). Committed believers would love to finish the assignment God gives them, whatever that is, and hear him say, “Well done.”

Christians must recognize where the source of all ability comes from. Whatever is accomplished in the life of a believer is the work of the Holy Spirit. The light of the believer is not equal to the Light of the World. It is reflected light. Our light is bestowed upon us so that God’s light can shine through us and give him glory. We are not the sun, but we can walk in the sunlight. The Christian leader walks in the light of Christ and lights the way for others to follow.

See Matthew 5:14-16, 2 Corinthians 4:4

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

For further study and discussion

Examine the scriptures given after each section and discuss the influence of light.

© Stephanie B. Blake

Download Living in the Light Part 2

One Day At A Time

Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34 NAS).

One of my dearest friends died in 2006.  She learned of her brain tumor in June 2005 and died the following March. Of the many things that I learned from Carolyn, the most lasting was her strength of faith in the face of death.  When she heard the diagnosis, she knew that God would soon be calling her home.  Instead of “why me?” her question was “why not me?”

During her last months, Carolyn taught me a lot about living one day at a time. Refusing to be sad because she would be unable to see her grandchildren grow up, she decided to enjoy every minute she had left with her beloved family. Primary in Carolyn’s heart and mind was that she would spend her last days praising God and letting others know that no matter what the circumstances, “He is faithful.” Her last solo in church was His Anchor Holds. Even though she did not see those grandchildren reach adulthood, her legacy of faith will always be with them.

The tumor progressively affected Carolyn’s ability to communicate.  Her words were jumbled and unintelligible to many. Since we were “soul mates,” during the times that we were able to visit, she was relaxed because she knew that I could complete her sentences for her.

I asked Carolyn’s permission to tell her story as I traveled and taught. With tears in her eyes, she said she would be honored if I told others how her trust in God’s faithfulness never wavered.  I truly miss my friend, but her example in how to treat each moment as precious is indelibly printed on my heart.

I believe that Carolyn would have agreed with the 19th century evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, who said, “Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead.  Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now, I shall have gone up higher, that is all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal-a body that death cannot touch; that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body. I was born in the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1856.  That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”

What does the Bible say about how we spend our time here on earth?  Throughout Scripture, it is clear that God intended for us to focus on today.  His word gives us instruction on how we can learn from the past and look to the future, but we must live in the now.

Paul said, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17 NAS emphasis mine).


. . . one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13b-14).

Many have become Christians because of the witness of a believer. That testimony cannot be denied.  Sharing what your life was like before you met Christ, how you came to trust in Him and the difference He has made in your life can often make someone understand his own need for a relationship with Him.

The apostle Paul certainly had not forgotten what he was like before he met Christ. He often gave testimony of how he persecuted the Christians. However, God’s forgiveness was so real to him that his focus was on walking daily with Him and fulfilling His calling in his life.  Paul learned from his past.  Once he understood that Jesus was truly the prophesied Messiah, he turned from his old life and never looked back.

Those who refuse to learn lessons from their past often spend time in resentment (of what was done to them) or regret (of what they have done to others or what they neglected to do).  Growth comes in obtaining forgiveness from God, learning not to repeat the sins and mistakes of the past, and living each day with a focus on how to fulfill God’s purpose in your life.

Questions for reflection:

  • How often have you wasted today in regrets of yesterday or bitterness toward someone? The remedy is given in Philippians 4:8-9.  If your mind dwells on bad things of the past, good things of the present may be crowded out.
  • Do you realize you are where you are today because God put you there?  In Paul’s address to the Athenians, he said that God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord (Acts 17:26-27a). How should that affect your attitude toward your life, your neighbors?
  • Some cannot leave the past behind because those were “the good old days.”  Today never seems to measure up to the past.  What is the error of that thinking?
  • Do you spend time complaining because of where you live . . . you have not become “successful”. . . you do not have the wealth you desire. . . your talents are going unseen?  If so, what do you need to change? Notice that Paul’s focus, “one thing I do,” was fulfilling the call of God on his life.
  • What are some lessons you have learned from your past?  Paul did not repeat the sinful acts of his past.  Have you made the same determination?
  • Can you help prevent someone else from making the same mistakes that you made?  Do you invest your time in mentoring young believers?


The global financial crisis of 2008-2009 devastated many lives. Some lost their entire life’s savings: not only those who made bad judgments and overspent but also those who saved, invested, and planned so that they would not be a burden on their families during their retirement years. They planned but the unexpected happened. They were not even guilty of greediness as in the case of the parable of the rich man in Luke 12:16-21.  The Lord concluded His teaching on this parable by telling His disciples, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). You may lose earthly treasures, but if you have given your heart to Christ, you cannot lose the treasure of your eternal relationship with Him.

The Bible does not tell us that we should never plan.  God’s word tells us that our plans should be directed by Him and that when the unforeseen comes, continue to trust in Him, His promises and His provision.

Nehemiah, an incredible example in this area, planned according to his prayers.  Having learned of the distress of his fellow Jews and the ruined condition of Jerusalem, Nehemiah’s heart was broken. He asked God to allow him to be part of the solution, planned what he would do when God granted his request and then waited on God’s timing.  Read his story and observe how he prayed, planned and trusted God.

Examine the following scriptures about God’s involvement in our plans.

  • Proverbs 16:9 and Proverbs 3:5-6 – How much better would your life be if your plans started with God’s plans for you?
  • Proverbs 21:5 – Contrast steadfastness, faithfulness and diligence with hastiness, impulsiveness and being unprepared.
  • Isaiah 30:1 – What does God say about those who plan without consulting Him?
  • Matthew 25:1-13.  Compare the wise and the foolish virgins in light of their planning or lack thereof.
  • Acts 16:6-10, Romans 1:13, 2 Corinthians 1:17 – Notice that even though Paul made plans for ministry, God often had something better. 

The man or woman of God will work hard, be diligent, be prepared and plan for the future, but will stand ready to do God’s bidding even when it is different than you initially thought He wanted you to do.

There are two days in every week about which we should not worry, two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

One of the two days is YESTERDAY, with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control.  All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed. We cannot erase a single word we said.  Yesterday is gone.

The other day we should not worry about is TOMORROW, with its possible adversities, its burden, its large promise and poor performance.  Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow’s sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds-but it will rise.  Until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow, for it is yet unborn.

This leaves only one day –TODAY-anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities-yesterday and tomorrow-that we break down.

It is not the experience of today that drives us mad-it is remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread of what tomorrow may bring.

Let us, therefore, live but one day at a time. –

Source unknown


. . . Behold, now the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).

There is always the possibility that someone reading this has not trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. If that is you, know that you are not reading this by mistake.  Jesus Christ is God.  He chose to leave Heaven, live a perfect, sinless life here on earth and die a sacrificial death so you could have a relationship with Him and live forever with Him.  Trust Him now.  Don’t put that decision off. You are not promised tomorrow.

Tomorrow may be too late.

Reflect on those you have known who did not have any warning about their impending death, such as my friend Carolyn did.  Anything could happen to any of us at any time.  In the parable of the rich man, God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:20).

Today is the day of salvation.  If you need to make your life right with God, do it today. If He has been asking you to spend more time with Him, start today. If He prompts you today to talk to someone about His offer of grace, don’t put it off. If He impresses you to do something for someone, do it today.

Using the following scriptures, examine how “living in the now” would change your life.

Psalm 50:15 – Do you try to handle your “day of trouble” by yourself, or do you turn to God for help?

  • Psalm 71:15, Psalm 96:2 – Are you aware that today might be the last day that you have to tell someone about God’s working in your life?
  • Psalm 90:12, Psalm 103:15 – Your days “are numbered.”  How do you deal with that reality?
  • Psalm 118:24 – What changes would you need to make in order to spend your day rejoicing?
  • Psalm 139:16 – What difference does it make to you that God planned your life long before you were born? See also Jeremiah 29:11.
  • Proverbs 23:17 – Does envy occupy your thoughts? What is the remedy?
  • Proverbs 24:10 – Adversity can be a testing ground for the believer.  What does this verse and James 1:2-5 have in common?
  • Proverbs 27:1 – Does the uncertainty of the future motivate you to be as productive today as you can be?
  • Habakkuk 2:4 – This verse is repeated three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38). How should “living by faith” make a difference in your daily life?
  • Matthew 6:11 – Reflect on Jesus’ instruction to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
  • Matthew 24:42 – Jesus is coming back.  What do you want to be doing when He does?
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16 – What do you think is the significance of your “inner man . . . being renewed day by day?”
  • James 4:13-17 – In the context of reminding us that our plans are determined by the Lord’s will, James concludes this section with Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin. Since time is short and tomorrow is uncertain, the Lord expects us to do acts of mercy today.

“Waste your money and you’re only out of money, but waste your time and you’ve lost part of your life.” Michael LeBoueuf, Working Smart: How to Accomplish More in Half the Time

Benjamin Franklin said, “Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you may be hindered tomorrow.  One today is worth two tomorrows; never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”

Learn from the Past, Look to the Future, Live in the Now 

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© Stephanie B. Blake

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Seven Parenting Hints from the Word of God


 Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward (Psalm 127:3)

“There are no illegitimate children – only illegitimate parents” (Leon R. Yankwich, judicial opinion, 1928). Not every child is planned by his parents, but every soul is planned by God. Parenting is perhaps the hardest, but most rewarding job there is. There is no greater calling.

Unfortunately, just as in marriage, much of parenting is on-the-job training. Some of us had good examples of parenting modeled before us. Some of us had terrible models. Only God can give us the guidelines needed for raising children that will honor Him.

Raising children is a bit like growing an orchid. One expert said that growing an orchid requires experience, education and to be preventive in respect to problems. In raising children, add a great deal of nurturing, time and love, and you have a start in the process.

Sow a thought, reap an act;

Sow an act, reap a habit;

Sow a habit, reap a character (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

A Christian has an advantage in that God’s word is a living tool to help cultivate the life that has been entrusted to a parent for a few years.

1.  The godly parent must tell his children of God’s work in his life.

God chose Abraham so that he would direct his children and their families to keep His way and do what is right and just.  Abraham’s blessings were not for him alone, but for future generations.  God expected him to guide his family, especially his children, in His ways.

God told Moses He performed the miraculous signs in Egypt so Moses would be able to tell the wonderful stories to his children and grandchildren that would prove that He is the Lord.

What children see, they copy. The best compliment or most searing criticism could be, “Your child acts just like you do.”

Read and discuss Genesis 18:19 and Exodus 10:2.

2. The godly parent must teach his children the Word of God

The Bible is life’s operating manual: a parenting guidebook. Humans are tri-dimensional: physical, mental, spiritual. Some parents make sure their children are nourished physically, send them to school to get education, but leave the spiritual until they can make the decision for themselves. God makes it clear He expects parents to be in charge of their spiritual development.

The Jewish people were very serious about this instruction from the Lord. Christians should be as well. God told His chosen people to devote themselves to His words: teach them to their children, talk about them at home, on a trip, going to bed at night and rising in the morning, in other words, at all times.

From his childhood, Timothy was taught the scriptures by his mother and grandmother. Paul instructed him to remain true to those things he had been taught. Paul reminded him that God’s word teaches us what is true, helps us recognize what is displeasing to Him, and how to straighten out things that are wrong. God’s word equips us for all He wants us to do.

Read and discuss Deuteronomy 11:18-19, Proverbs 22:6, 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:14-17.

3. The godly parent knows how to lovingly guide his child

No one likes being constantly criticized, scolded and ridiculed. God tells parents (especially fathers) not to provoke or discourage their children. That can cause them to quit trying. Rather, discipline them with the discipline of the Lord.

You may have had godly parents. You may have had very bad parents. Don’t duplicate the bad habits of ungodly parents. You can stop the pattern.

It is the responsibility of the child to learn to be obedient. It is a parent’s responsibility to love them enough to do what is necessary to mold their character into God-honoring humans.

Listen to your child. Quality time comes out of quantity time. You cannot set 10 minutes aside and say, “OK, now we are going to have quality time.”

A godly parent has the most input into the lives of their children through their actions and their words. If your words do not match your actions, your children will know the difference.

Read and discuss Ephesians 6:1-4, Colossians 3:20-21

4. The godly parent comforts his children

God, the Holy Spirit, is called the Comforter. He promises to comfort us as a child is comforted by its mother.

Life is tough. Children need someone to lean on, to count on. Children need to learn how to handle difficulties while at home. It prepares them to handle the challenges of the outside world.

Paul told the Thessalonians that he and his friends dealt with them as a father deals with his children: encouraging, comforting and urging them to live lives worthy of God.

Although you should be the primary teacher in your child’s life, many others are also training him: teachers, neighbors, people at church. Some reinforce your training. Some do not. It is easy for a child to be confused. Lead by example and your child will see the difference. If you tell your child not to lie, but you lie, he will not trust you nor will you be able to adequately comfort him when he encounters trials in his life.  It is important that you let your child know that you also need God and His comfort – that you are a sinner and you need His guidance.

Accept your child for who he is. His personality may be the opposite of yours. God gave your child his personality, his temperament. Your job is to help him build his character. You will be unable to comfort your child unless he knows you respect him.

A child who knows he is loved and accepted will be able to take the discipline necessary to mold his character.  Reinforcing positive behavior will often prevent the need for discipline. If he makes his bed (even if it is not as you would have done), take note of it and don’t remake the bed.  If he is careful to watch after a sibling, say something about it.  Praise goes a long way with a child.

How many of us felt we could not measure up to the standards set by our parents – that we were never good enough at music, art, sports?  Are there negative comments that keep popping up in your mind?  That is preventable in your relationship with your children.  It is not necessary to say anything untrue, but every positive action can prompt a compliment from you. “I really enjoyed hearing you practice the piano,” is better than “You played that piece perfectly.”

Read and discuss Proverbs 15:1, Isaiah 66:13,  Colossians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 2:11

5. The godly parent provides for his children

Parents are instructed to provide for their families, especially their children. This is such a strong teaching in God’s word that those who refuse to provide for their own are said to have denied the faith and are worse than unbelievers.

Read and discuss Matthew 7:9-10, 2 Corinthians 12:14, 1 Timothy 5:8

6. The godly parent is in charge

Is being in charge a scary thing for you? If so, are there some things that you need to change before you can become a good example to your child?

Don’t leave your child guessing what you believe or what your values are. Joshua took his place in his family seriously and declared that he and his whole family would serve the Lord.

Foundation for a strong family is to put God first. You are in charge of the development of your child for a short time. The best gift you can give them is the knowledge that God is in control.

Your children will never know what your values are if you are not around. A qualification of those in leadership in the church is that he must manage his own family well with children who respect and obey him.

Your child wants you to be in charge. Surveys of children from divorced families revealed that children given an opportunity to choose their parent most often chose the parent who is in charge. That parent made the child feel safe and secure.

Read and discuss Joshua 24:15 and 1 Timothy 3:4-5

7. The godly parent must correct his child

Discipline has as its root disciple. It is not a negative word (like punishment). Discipline involves firm, reliable and kind guidelines. Your child should know what is expected of him.

Discipline is most effective when begun early. If both parents are involved in raising the child, the discipline should be agreed upon.  It is confusing and damaging to a child for one parent to say one thing and the other something else.

If you don’t discipline your child, who will? Discipline comes from a Latin word meaning to teach.  Paul was able to tell others to follow him as he followed Christ.  That is the primary duty of a Christian parent.  Model the teaching you have learned from God.

We are born in sin and must learn what is right. Observe a two year old who has never had any instruction. Left to himself, no one wants to be around him.

Remembering that God disciplines each of His children, decide to discipline your own the same way God disciplines you. As a child of God, we still need discipline.

Read and discuss Proverbs 3:11-12, 13:24, 23:13, 29:17, Hebrews 12:7-11

As Christians, we are children of God. God, the Father, is the best model of a parent. What He does for us, we should do for our own children. If you are a true Christian disciple, your children will know it. Your example will prepare them for whatever God has planned for them.

Each generation can make known Your faithfulness to the next (Isaiah 38:19).

© Stephanie B. Blake

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The Child Who Chose to Be Born

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).

Occasionally an angry child will tell his parents, “I did not ask to be born!”  And in every instance but one, that statement is true. Only one child in all of history chose to be born.  His name is Jesus.

How could it be possible for a child to choose to be born?  Only God, who declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) could do such a thing.  Only the Creator could choose to manifest Himself in the same form He created. For he knows how we are formed (Psalm 103:14a NIV).

The Son of God stated many times that His Father sent Him; however, He chose to be sent. God has revealed Himself to us as a triune God, a Godhead of three totally unified in one Divine Person. He is a relationship within Himself. God refers to Himself both in the singular and the plural.

  • Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One! (Deuteronomy 6:4).
  • Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. . . So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:26, 27).
  • And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). See also Matthew 28:19-20.

Jesus did not become the Son of God at His incarnation. In His divinity as the Logos, the Son of God, He chose to be born as the Son of Man.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit decided that in Him [would dwell] all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). As the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), Jesus would reveal the everlasting love of God in an undeniable tangible form – as the Son of Man. God the Father sent the Son, God the Son chose to come, God the Holy Spirit made it happen. That is why Isaiah could describe the entire Godhead as he prophesied the coming of the Christ Child, For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). “In the Hebrew text there is no comma between “wonderful and “counselor.” This means that there are really four, not five, titles given to the child who is to be born.” [1] The name (singular) of the child represents the entire Godhead.

Until the coming of Jesus, God spoke through various ways . . . to the fathers by the prophets, but now in last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person (Hebrews 1:1-3).

No one has seen God at any time (John 1:18a, 1 John 4:12a). John finishes the first statement with the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:18b) and the second is in the context of God loving us and us loving one another because He abides in us. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us (1 John 4:12b). We see God through Jesus, who demonstrated His love and asked us to do the same (John 15:12-13).

Logos, Son of God, sent into the world

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-3, 14).

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:1-4).

. . . when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. . . Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God’” (Hebrews 10:5, 7).

The Humble Jesus Received God’s glory

Rich with prophesies about the coming of the Lord Jesus, Isaiah is often quoted by the writers of the New Testament. These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him (John 12:41).  Through Isaiah, God said, I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another (42:8).  (See Isaiah 44:6-7 and Revelation 1:4-8 for one example of Isaiah’s prophesy about Jesus).

Jesus has always been and will always be God. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  As man, He did not seek glory apart from the Godhead. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges (John 8:50). Satan tried to get Him to do that very thing in His temptation experience.

He did not seek his own glory distinct from his Father’s, nor had any separate interest of his own. For men to search their own glory is not glory indeed (Prov. 25:27), but rather their shame to be so much out in their aim. This comes in here as a reason why Christ made so light of their reproaches: “You do dishonour me, but cannot disturb me, shall not disquiet me, for I seek not my own glory.’’ Note, Those who are dead to men’s praise can safely bear their contempt.[2]

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men (John 2:24 NIV).

Jesus, however, did receive and accept glory as part of the Godhead.

  • For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. . . And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:11, 13-14).
  • When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).
  • “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son that Your Son also may glorify You . . .Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:1, 24).
  • Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
  • For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17).
  • “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You” . . . “Let all the angels of God worship Him”. . . But to the Son, He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” . . . (Hebrews 1:5, 6, 8).  Read the entire chapter for amplification.
  • Saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:12-13).

The uniqueness of Christianity is the Person, Jesus Christ, and the distinctiveness of Christ is the fact that He is the God-man. In other words, He is a divine-human Being, something unique in time and eternity. It is also a concept very difficult to understand, for we have no basis for comparison with another God-man in history nor do we get any help from our experience. Yet this is not a dogma imposed on us simply to receive without question; it is a conclusion which grows out of the evidence in the Bible. Many facts point to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is God; many others lead to the conclusion that He is truly human; at the same time we see only one Person moving across the pages of the gospels. This union of undiminished deity and perfect humanity forever in one Person is called the doctrine of the hypostatic union (that is, the union of two hypostases or natures), and this is the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.[3]

When His work was completed, He asked His Father to restore His pre-incarnate glory: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:4-5).

Jesus’ Choices

Have you ever thought it strange that when the Son of God became the Son of Man angels appeared to shepherds instead of priests – that a widow instead of a princess was privileged to see the Infant in the temple – that a virtually unknown man recognized the baby as the promised Messiah instead of a government official?

If you were in charge of planning the announcement of the Son of God, who would you have notified? Would you have chosen a woman of royalty to give birth to Him or would you have chosen Mary? Would you have prepared a man of political standing and reputation to go before Him and announce the beginning of His ministry or would you have chosen John the Baptist?  Would you have chosen a man of substantial wealth and influence to raise Him as his foster child or would you have chosen Joseph? Would you have prepared a palace for His birth or a manger?

The revelation of His imminent coming was to male and female, young and old, peasants and princes, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor.  Of the men, there were wise men, a priest, shepherds, Joseph and Simeon.  Of the women, there was a virgin, a widow, a married woman who was barren until God miraculously gave her a child.

God used His creation, a star and angels, as well as dreams and prophecies to announce the coming of new covenant through His Son to people of all stations.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:28-29).

Jesus chose to tell people He was coming 

There are hundreds of Old Testament prophecies surrounding Jesus, many of which had to do with the unusual circumstances of His birth. The New Testament notes their fulfillment. Just a few of them are:

  • He would come as the Son of God (Psalm 2:7, Luke 1:32, 35).
  • He would come as the seed of woman (Genesis 3:15, Galatians 4:4).
  • He would come as the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:3, 17:7, 22:18, Acts 3:25, Galatians 3:17).
  • He would come as the seed of Isaac (Genesis 17:19, Matthew 1:2).
  • He would come as the seed of Jacob (Numbers 24:17, Luke 3:34).
  • He would descend from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10, Luke 3:33).
  • He would come as the seed of David (Isaiah 9:7, Jeremiah 23:5, Matthew 1:6, Romans 1:3).
  • He would be called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:22-23).
  • Great persons coming to adore Him (Psalm 72:10, Matthew 2:1-11).

Jesus chose Gabriel to announce His coming

Jesus sent Gabriel to Zacharias. And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings . . . your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:19, 13). Gabriel told Mary of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and when Mary visited her, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and the babe leaped in [her] womb for joy (Luke 1:44). At John’s circumcision, on the 8th day after John’s birth, both Zacharias and Elizabeth surprised others by naming him John.

Jesus sent Gabriel to Mary. Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin . . . whose name was Mary . . . behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and shall call His name Jesus  (Luke 1:26-27, 31). And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb (Luke 2:21).

This was not the first time Gabriel appeared with an announcement about the coming of the Messiah.  Both Zacharias and Mary would recognize Gabriel’s name as the messenger sent from God to Daniel to explain a vision he had seen (Daniel 8:16, 9:21).  In the explanation, God promised the coming of the promised Messiah (Daniel 9:24-27). On these two occasions, hundreds of years apart, God’s special angel messenger carried glad tidings. 

Jesus chose John the Baptist to be His forerunner

The Old Testament, filled with prophets announcing the coming of the Messiah, ended with Malachi predicting the return of Elijah (Malachi 4:5). The intervening four hundred years placed John the Baptist at the precise point in time in which Jesus planned for him to announce His imminent arrival. Jesus verifies John the Baptist was the prophet who prepared the way for Him (Malachi 3:1 Matthew 11:10) and was the Elijah to come (Malachi 4:5, Matthew 17:10-13). John’s miraculous birth and his mission were announced to his parents by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:11-19). 

Jesus chose His mother and foster father

Jesus chose His ancestry, linking His birth with His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. His legal right to the throne of David through Joseph’s lineage is recorded in Matthew 1:1-17.  There are some unexpected entries in that genealogy, Gentiles and women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and one who had been the wife of Uriah.

It was no mistake that Mary was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter and humble follower of God.  Matthew includes Joseph’s perspective on the arrival of the Christ Child.  God led him in successive dreams to do His will, protecting Mary and the Child (Matthew 1:20, 2:13, 19, 22).  His obedience brought about the fulfillment of many of the prophecies concerning Jesus (Matthew 1:21, 25, 2:14-15, 21-23).

His foster father taught the young Lord the craft of carpentry. Together, they worked with timber to construct useful objects. The One who used His human hands to learn carpentry was the same One who created the world and placed the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. The One who made tables with Joseph was the One who knelt around a table with His disciples at the Last Supper. The One who worked with wood as a young Man carried His own wooden cross to Calvary.  The One who formed furniture from felled trees knew that He would one day give His own life upon a tree. As he hammered nails into wood as He worked, did He think of the day when huge nails would pierce His hands and rip His flesh as He hung upon the cross?

Jesus chose His mother carefully. Mary’s response to the surprising news that she would bear the Christ Child was “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). As her young mind was filled with the word of the Lord, she quotes Scripture throughout her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Luke gives the account from Mary’s view and traces Jesus’ genealogy back to the beginning of the human race.

Jesus had prepared this girl to care for His needs as a child, nurture Him as a young Man and suffer with Him as He accomplished His purpose. He knew she had what it took to trust her firstborn Child as her Savior. He knew she would call upon God for the strength to bear the trials ahead. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (Luke 2:34-35 NLT).

Jesus chose the time of His birth 

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4).

Although the four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments are often called the “silent centuries,” God was at work during that time to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus.

The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures, did not exist until after the conquest of Alexander the great and the spread of the Greek language sometime between 300-200 BC. Many early Christians and New Testament writers depended heavily upon this translation as the Hebrew language was no longer used as widely as it had been.

The development of the Sanhedrin happened during this period.

The Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jewish nation, comprising 71 members is first mentioned’ in a letter written in 198 B.C. by Antiochus III of Syria to the chief Jewish representatives. Until the attack made by Antiochus IV on the Jewish nation and religion, the Sanhedrin, under the presidency of the high priest. regulated the internal affairs of the Jews. The authority of the Sanhedrin tended to diminish under the autocratio Hasmoneans; but after the Roman conquest of Palestine it enjoyed considerable freedom in the internal concerns of the Jewish people, not only in Palestine, but even (as the circumstances of Paul’s visit to Damascus show) to some extent in other provinces. We gather from John 18:31 that, while the Sanhedrin could sentence an accused person to death, this sentence could not be executed without the consent of the Roman governor. It was for this reason that the Lord Jesus, having been sentenced to death on a charge of blasphemy (because He confessed Himself to be the Messiah), was then brought before Pilate. Pilate, as the Sanhedrin knew, would not be interested in a charge of blasphemy, and so it was on a charge of seditious activity that our Lord was arraigned before the Roman judge.

Politically and religiously alike, the period between the Testaments is far from representing a standstill, but shows a steady moving forward to the accomplishment of God’s purpose in the redemption wrought out by His Son.[4]

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time (1 Timothy 2:5-6). 

Jesus chose the place and circumstance of His birth

Jesus chose Bethlehem as His birthplace and informed the Old Testament prophet Micah (Micah 5:2, Luke 2:4-6).

In 31 B.C. the civil wars which had raged in the Roman world for many years came to an end with the sea-victory won at Actium by Octavian, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, over his rival Antony and Queen Cleopatra, the last ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty. With this victory Octavian had the whole Roman world at his feet, and he ruled it until A.D. 14 as first Roman Emperor, under the name Augustus (which means something like ‘His Majesty’).

And so it came to pass that when the fulness of the time came and God sent forth His Son, that Son “was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king” (Matt. 2:1), Joseph and Mary having travelled to that place because “there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled” (Luke 2:1).[5]

As Jesus came to identify with all men, He chose a feeding trough – a manger – to lay His newborn head. He knew there would be no room in the inn. During His years of ministry, He said, “The foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20).  Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb.

Have you ever had the chance to share the gospel with those who are homeless?  In His birth, His lifetime and His death, Jesus chose to identify with them. 

Jesus chose to announce His imminent arrival to a chosen few 

Although prophesies abounded about the birth of the Christ Child, at the point in time when it actually happened, there was a special revelation to a privileged few. The message and manner in which they were notified were varied but all miraculous. Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus prepared

  • Zacharias and Elizabeth by sending John the Baptist as their miracle child.
  • Mary by purifying her heart and sending His special messenger Gabriel to let her know she had been chosen to bear the Christ Child.
  • Joseph by sending angels to appear to him in his dreams.
  • shepherds by sending an angel and a heavenly host.
  • Simeon in the years he waited for the Consolation of Israel with the promise from the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
  • Anna by speaking to her heart through the many years she spent fasting and praying in the temple.
  • wise men from the East by sending His star to lead them to come and worship Him. He chose the gifts that they brought: “gold to honor His kingship, frankincense to honor His Divinity, and myrrh to honor His Humanity which was destined for death. Myrrh was used at His burial. The crib and the Cross are related again, for there is myrrh at both.”[6]

Jesus chose His human Name

Names given to our Lord in the Old Testament looked forward to His coming as the Savior of the world.  As Gabriel appeared to Mary, he said, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).  An angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-21).

This is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, which was originally Hoshea (Num. 13:8, 16), but changed by Moses into Jehoshua (Num. 13:16; 1 Chr. 7:27), or Joshua. After the Exile it assumed the form Jeshua, whence the Greek form Jesus. It was given to our Lord to denote the object of his mission, to save (Matt. 1:21).  – Easton’s Bible Dictionary

Jesus (je’-zus) = Jehovah is salvation; Jehova, my salvation; Savior. Greek form of Jehoshua. – Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible names

Jesus means “Jehovah is salvation,” Christ means “Anointed One.” Since names were so important in Biblical times, Jesus knew that those who trust Him would understand why He chose the name He did. 

Jesus chose the town in which He grew up

And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23).

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Philip said to him, “Come and see” (John 1:45-46).

It was not by accident that He spent His youth in Nazareth, a place despised by others. He knew that He would be despised and rejected of men (Isaiah 53:3). He could then identify with those who did not measure up in the eyes of men.

In this quiet and obscure village, He learned submission to His mother and foster father all the while knowing His calling was to do the will of His Heavenly Father. “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:29-52).

The years in Nazareth prepared Him for His ministry. Submission to His earthly family prepared Him for the trials ahead. Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered, and having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8).

Jesus Chose to Be Born In Order to Die 

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8)   the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8 NIV).

Jesus took on man’s skin because it is only possible for a man to die.  In order to offer salvation to mankind, He chose to be our substitute.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death on the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11 NKJV).

In the NKJV above, Paul said that Jesus made Himself of no reputation (verse 7). Many other translations render that emptied Himself; NCV but he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing and NLT he gave up his divine privileges.  Even though The Message is a paraphrase, not a thought for thought or a word for word translation, it does bring some clarity to our modern ears.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of the status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lives a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion.  Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth – even those long ago dead and buried – will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11 The Message).

In his comments on this passage, Charles Ryrie says the doctrine of Kenosis (Greek for “an emptying”) is derived from verse 7 – emptied Himself or made Himself of no reputation:

But in what sense does Paul mean that Christ emptied Himself at the incarnation? “Emptied” may be a misleading translation because it connotes Christ’s giving up or losing some of His divine attributes during His earthly life, and that was not the case. Therefore, the kenosis cannot be understood to mean a subtraction of deity but the addition of humanity with its consequent limitations. Indeed, in the passage itself, the verb “emptied” is explained by three participles which follow—(1) taking the form of a servant, (2) becoming in the likeness of men, and (3) being found in fashion as a man. The kenosis is further explained in the text by the parallel clause which follows, “He humbled himself.” The idea is that by taking on humanity with its limitations, there was a humbling which, although real, did not involve the giving up of any divine attributes.

If our Lord did surrender some of His divine attributes when He came to earth, then His essential character would have been changed, and He would not have been fully God while on earth. You cannot subtract any attributes without changing the character of the person. . . Thus any doctrine of kenosis which says Christ surrendered attributes at the incarnation is in direct conflict with scriptural evidence concerning His person during the incarnation.

What is included in a proper statement of the true doctrine of the kenosis? The concept involves the veiling of Christ’s preincarnate glory (Jn 17:5), the condescension of taking on Himself the likeness of sinful flesh (Ro 8:3), and the voluntary nonuse of some of His attributes of deity during the time of His earthly life (Mt 24:36). His humanity was not a glorified humanity and was thus subject to temptation, weakness, pain, and sorrow. Choosing not to use His divine attributes is quite different from saying that He gave them up. Nonuse does not mean subtraction.[7]

Jesus chose to be born the Son of Man. In Heaven, in His perfection, He maintains both natures.  He identified with man as a child, as a boy, as a young man who carried out His Father’s call during His life. He still identifies with us as He intercedes for us at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens (Hebrews 7:25, 8:1).

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Jesus chose to be born the Son of Man so that you could be born again as a child of God.

© Stephanie B. Blake

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.  All rights reserved

[1] Guffin, Gilbert L. The Gospel in Isaiah, Convention Press, Nashville, TN 1968, Foregleams of Christ, p. 69

[2]Henry, Matthew: Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1991, S. Jn 8:48

[3]Ryrie, Charles Caldwell: A Survey of Bible Doctrine. Chicago : Moody Press, 1995, c1972

[4] The Period Between the Testaments,1949 F.F Bruce. Reproduced by permission. Prepared for the Web in March 2008 by Robert I. Bradshaw.

[5] ibid

[6] Sheen, Fulton, Life of Christ, McGraw Hill Book Company, New York, 1958, p. 40.

[7]Ryrie, Charles Caldwell: A Survey of Bible Doctrine. Chicago : Moody Press, 1995, c1972

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