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My Life with God

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Life Reference: Mark 6:41-44, Matthew 14:19-21

Focus Verse:

And straightway He constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while He sent away the people. (Mark 6:45)

I find it interesting that Jesus sent the disciples on vacation (or so it looks like) while He took care of crowd control. If we look in the preceding verses, we find that the disciples had just finished the busy task of dispersing food to the hungry crowd of over 5,000 men plus women and children.

Notice the verse states Jesus constrained them. Constrained means He compelled them; it was necessary…Jesus realized the need to get away once in a while.

Life Reflection:

There will always be someone to minister to; someone who needs your attention or needs something from you. What plans can you make to take time to get away and recharge your battery so that you can more effectively minister?

And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. (Mark 6:46)

Even Jesus took time to get away to pray and regain strength both spiritually and physically. Notice He took time to get away from everyone around, even His disciples. He exampled the need of getting into your prayer closet alone.

And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. (Mark 6:47).

It was growing late when they reached the middle of the sea. Meanwhile, Jesus was alone in the mountain praying. From this place of prayer, He could see the disciples and the storm they were encountering out on the sea.

Life Reflection:

No matter what you face in life, Jesus is always watching over you. He sees you where you are and knows exactly what you’re going through.  How does this change your perspective today?

And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. (Mark 6:48)

The 4th watch is thought to be around 3am in the morn… it is thought that they started out around 6pm. What should have been a few hours trip had taken them 9 hours just to get halfway across.

Jesus is watching from the mountain and sees them fighting against the storm that is buffeting them. They are trying to get out of the storm on their own…by their own strength and power….yet they are not making much progress, if any.

Life Reflection:

How many times do we do that when we encounter trials and situations? We try to figure out how WE can fix it…what WE can do to change or make things better rather than calling on JESUS and asking for His help.

None of the Gospels record the disciples praying for help although I’m sure by now they were to the place they definitely were. Remember, Jesus had His eyes on them the whole time….He could see exactly what they were going through. And now He decided it was time to step into the situation….so here comes Jesus walking on the water with waves rising and crashing around Him and the winds trying to buffet Him. Yet the elements could not harm Him for He was its Creator robed in flesh (1 Timothy 3:16).

To Mark, it looks like Jesus is ready to walk right on past leaving them to fight and struggle on their own until they cried out in fear. While Matthew records Jesus as coming directly to them. Matthew realized Jesus would not pass them by. He was confident Jesus would never leave or forsake them (Matthew 14:25-26).

Jesus would NOT pass them by! And He will not pass us by either when we’re in the midst of a trial. He’s watching from a distance, allowing us to go through things so we can grow stronger in our faith and walk with Him. Eventually, He will say enough is enough and come walking on the waters (situations) that are threatening to drown us.

Life Reflection:

We do not know His purpose or His plans for our lives.  So, until we see and understand, we need to rest in the assurance that He is our Loving Father and He’s looking out for us. If He cares for the grass and the birds in the field, how much more do you think He cares for you?

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 6:30)

Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:31)

But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:7)

When storms arise, some may question whether they are in the will of God or not. After all, if Jesus really said it, if this is really the will of God, then we shouldn’t be going through all this hardship, right? Wrong!

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (I Peter 1:7)

God allows us to go through trials so that He may receive glory out of it. People watch how you react and handle situations.

Life Reflection:

Are you becoming BITTER or are you becoming BETTER? Do you have a VICTIM or a VICTOR mentality? Are you submitted, praying “not my will but Thine be done”, or are those merely words while you are fighting against the storms and trying to do things your own way without considering God’s?

But when they saw Him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:
For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately He talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. (Mark 6:49-50)

Sometimes we get so wrapped up and focused on our problem that we are not spiritually discerning. We feel God has forsaken us and we are all alone with waves crashing around us ready to overtake us. We don’t recognize that Jesus has just stepped on the scene… all we see is the trouble surrounding us.

The disciples were still unsure it was Him even after He spoke to them. Peter had to put forth a fleece to confirm that it really was Jesus! (Matthew 14:28-31)

And Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.

And He went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.  (Matthew 14:28-31)

The winds didn’t cease immediately when Jesus stepped on the scene, but they did once He stepped into their boat. God allows us to go through trials to strengthen us, to teach us things, and to build our faith so that we can learn to trust Him more.

How is it that the disciples could so quickly forget the mighty miracles Jesus had performed? Things that were not humanly possible yet they had witnessed it with their own eyes? Just a few hours prior they had watched in amazement as Jesus fed 5000 men plus women and children with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. They had gathered up all the extra after everyone was filled…12 baskets FULL. It didn’t seem logical or possible, yet, with God all things are possible.

For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.  (Mark 6:51-52)

It was easy to believe then. That was the tingly, feel good service where everyone’s shouting and receiving blessings with joy. But as soon as they left the church service, the storm arose and their faith is gone….they were not understanding that Jesus is still God whether it’s in the good times or the bad.

Life Response:

He’s with us when we are blessed and He’s with us when were distressed. He’s still God and NOTHING can separate us from Him! (Romans 8:38-39)

So, whether you’re witnessing the miracle of the 5 loaves and 2 fish or you are struggling out of the tumultuous sea of trials, remember Jesus IS watching over you and He is with you! He loves you very much!

And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore. (Mark 6:53)

You will come through whatever trial you’re going through and safely reach the shore. Just keep your eyes on Jesus and place your trust in Him. He won’t pass you by!

BY DEONNA GREGORY

Life Reference: Genesis 1:27, 5:3; Luke 20:19-26

Focus Verse:

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them” (Exodus 20:45).

Have you ever walked down a hall of carnival mirrors? The first mirror shows you pencil thin. Wow! This is not too bad. You move to the next mirror. You are grossly overweight. Move on. As you stroll down the hall, your reflection undergoes wacky transformations. Each optical illusion is a shock—bulging Atlas muscles, an inflated head, exaggerated limbs. Mirror after mirror distorts your image into comical, coarse figures.

Life Reflection:

Are you satisfied with your physical image? What about your social or professional image?

How much time, money, effort do you spend trying to improve your image?

Whose Image?

The goal of the chief priests and scribes was to distort Jesus’ image. They constantly tried to trap Him into saying something politically incorrect. One trick question was, “Should we pay taxes?” (Read Luke 20:19-26.)

Had Jesus said no, the Romans would have put His name on the no-fly list. Had He said yes, the Jews would have labeled Him a traitor.

In reply Jesus called for a coin. “Whose image and superscription is on it?”

Staring at Jesus’ accusers was Caesar’s engraved image—his pointed chin, his hard forehead, and his dead eyes. It was Caesar’s autographed picture.

Jesus said, “Give to Caesar the things that bear his image and to God the things that bear His image.” Zip! Jesus’ accusers’ mouths were shut.

Bottom line: We belong to the one whose image we bear.

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him” (Genesis 1:27).

What an image! Beautiful! Perfect! But Self squeezed between God and His creation distorting Adam’s and Eve’s vision. When their focus blurred, they lost their paradise.

“And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth” (Genesis 5:3).

First, God created Adam in His perfect image, then Adam begat children in his distorted image. After the birth of Adam’s grandson Enos, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26). They yearned for what Adam had lost.

Life Reflection:

What did Adam lose in the garden?

What were the differences between Adam as created in God’s image and the sons of Adam as begotten in Adam’s image?

Fake Images

Satan excels at distorting man’s vision with smoke and mirrors, making unholy appear holy, evil appear good, and dirty appear clean. Even as God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, Satan played mind games with the Israelites, tricking them into thinking that they could fashion an image of God.

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5).

While studying to teach the second commandment to children, I did an Internet search on “idol,” looking for a picture of Buddha and his buddies. Can you guess what I found? Hundreds of links to American Idol.

We Christians do not bow at the shrine of carved sculptures. After all, we are sophisticated, civilized, and educated. But so is Satan. His mission has been the same since the Garden of Eden, and he is smart enough to match his methods with the times.

Life Reflection:

How is Satan attempting today to distort the image of Christ? The image of Christians?

What images are sophisticated, civilized and educated Christians tempted to worship?

Name some methods Satan uses to seduce us into idolatry.

Generation Image

“I am Generation Image. The generation that speaks in images is making itself heard.” This advertising slogan by Nikon, a leader in the imaging product business, raises a red flag for Christians.

Do we hear the message Generation Image is screaming from the pages of social media sites? Do we get the picture? It’s all about self—self-image, self-promotion, self-deification. It is the so-called New Age doctrine that is as old as the Garden of Eden. Self-worship is the root of idolatry.

Like Israel in the time of the judges and kings, the idolatry is engraved into our culture. The only difference is the form of images. Instead of worshipping carved idols, we revere bulging portfolios, velvet voices, pigskin-carrying quarterbacks, and enhanced figures. We imagine making a million (or billion) like him. Starring on YouTube like her. Dictating to subordinates like that guy. Power. Pleasure. Possessions. Popularity.

What images do our children idolize? Whose pictures are posted on the walls of their rooms? Who are their heroes? Whom do they spend hours watching on YouTube? Whom do they dress like, walk like, and talk like? Our children will become like what they worship.

Do we envision our children becoming Hollywood stars, country-and-western artists, NFL champions, or American idols? Every day we read about the tragic end of the lifestyle of the rich and famous—perversion, addiction, and suicide. Stop. Reality check. Are we so enamored by the images flashed before us that we unconsciously glorify them by our conduct and conversation? Do our unrealistic expectations pressure our children to live up to a certain image?

One of the leading causes of death amongst teenagers is suicide. The Centers for Disease control report that it is the third leading cause of death, behind accidents and homicide, of people aged 15 to 24. Even more disturbing is the fact that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 14.

Taken from http://teensuicidestatistics.com/ Accessed 1/3/19

 

We stand in danger of being drawn into Israel’s cycle—prosperity, idolatry, immorality, bondage. As we glory in our prosperity, we teeter on the edge of a dangerous precipice, one step away from idolatry. Let us carefully consider our position lest we lead the next generation over the cliff into immorality and bondage.

“So these nations feared the Lord, and served their graven images, both their children, and their children’s children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day” (II Kings 17:41).

Read that verse again. They feared God, yet served idols? Is this possible? Did they go through a form of worship? Showing up for the ceremonies, shouting “Hallelujah” at the right time, bowing their knees, but not their hearts? Yet bringing their sacrifices to the groves, indulging in the sexual perversion, rejoicing in their freedom from the law? Does this sound familiar?

Revival came to Israel only when they tore down their idols. So, it will come to our lives when we tear down the images that our culture has built upon every high place. The idols must go!

Jesus, the Master Teacher, often used images to teach eternal lessons. Satan, the great imitator, is not about to let the visual teaching tool gather dust in his tool box. Consider the effect of pornography on our culture and the recent rise in sexting among teens. The master of deceit is still flashing images before our eyes, attempting to infiltrate our minds with his message.

We would do well to adopt the psalmist David’s consecration: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me” (Psalm 101:3).

Life Reflection:

Is there a connection between preteens’ and teens’ perceived images of success and the suicide rate among them? What can we do to protect our children from the distorted images portrayed by our society?

It is possible to engage in a ritual of worship in church, while bowing to idols on our computers, iPads, smart phones, and cameras? Discuss.

Are there idols in your home or life that need to be torn down? When do you plan to do that?

The Image of God

For generations mankind struggled in vain to regain the image God created—to be perfect, to be godlike, to be super-heroes. But nothing man did was enough. The carnal man prevailed. Then Jesus came.

“In whom [Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God. . .” (Colossians 1:14-15).

“And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10, New International Version).

Jesus, God revealed in flesh, the image of the invisible God showed us the way to put off the old man and be renewed into the image of our Creator—the image that Adam lost in the garden.

Let Me Lose Myself
(These words are as I remember them.)

Many years I longed for rest
Perfect peace within my breast,
And I often sought the Lord alone in tears.
But I could not pay the price,
Would not make the sacrifice;
So I wandered on and on for many years.

Then one day while knelt in prayer,
Jesus whispered to me there,
“Take up your cross and follow Me to Calvary.”
Oh, how hard it was to die, and all self to crucify,
Just to lose myself and find it, Lord, in Thee.

Let me lose myself and find it, Lord, in Thee.
May all self be slain, my friends, see only Thee.
Though it costs me grief and pain,
I will find my life again.
If I lose myself, I’ll find it, Lord, in Thee.

Life Reflection

Whose image do others see in me?

Life Response

Surely God is displeased with the distorted reflections displayed in Generation Image’s mirror. Let us tear down the idols in our lives and worship only at the feet of Jesus.

We belong to the one whose image we bear.

My Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me recognize the tactics of the enemy and resist his attempts to seduce me into worshiping at the altar of self. May Your image be reflected in my face, my attitude, and my action. Make me in Your image.  

More Life with God References

Romans 8:29
Hebrews 1:1-3

Written by Barbara Westberg
This Bible study is a revision of an article published in the Pentecostal Herald. It is reprinted here with permission.

Life Reference: John 8:31-32, 43-45

Focus Verse:

“That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee” (Proverbs 22:21).

Before giving testimony in a legal proceeding, the witness is required to give an affirmation to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Some version of this wording can be found in the legal system of many countries. To tell less than the whole truth is perjury—lying.

Have you ever heard someone counter truth with a resolute “well, in my opinion . . .” or “I believe that . . .”? It’s as if they place their opinion above absolute truth. There is a danger in this, especially when we are speaking of the Word of God.

Life Reflection:

Why is “the whole truth” so important in our lives?

How does opinion compare to truth?

Satan Is the Father of Lies

From the very beginning Satan’s goal has been to twist and destroy truth. This is clear in his interaction with Eve in Genesis 3. By adding just one small word he changed truth into a lie. It was his nature to do this. John 8:44 says,

“Because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

We are constantly being warned of scams, which can sometimes dupe the intelligent as well as the gullible. A scam is a trick or swindle dressed up to sound like truth. It may be a legitimate-looking email, a phone call, or even a personal encounter, but the intent is to deceive and steal from us. It is important to learn how to distinguish between truth and a slick lie. An abundance of words stated with great passion does not necessarily mean something is true.

Life Reflection:

What are some of the current scams that are being used to deceive people?

Do you know someone who has fallen for one of these false schemes?

Why do you think they were deceived?

While we need to be careful with our personal business to make sure we are not taken in by some deceptive story, we must also be careful to recognize truth from falsehood in understanding God’s Word. We are warned of this in II Corinthians 11:13-15.

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”

How to Determine Truth

How do we determine if something is certain truth, an opinion, or deliberate deceit? We must ask ourselves a few questions.

  • How reliable is the source?
  • Does this align perfectly with the Word of God?
  • Have I sought God for His direction and guidance on the matter?

A Look at Truth

John 17:17  – God’s Word is truth.
Psalm 117:2 – Truth is eternal.
John 8:32 – Truth sets us free.
Ephesians 6:14 – Truth is part of our armor.
John 4:24 – Worship and truth are joined together.

 

Life Reflection:

How do we distinguish between the truth and false doctrine?

Life Response

Truth is not negotiable or open to discussion. When we become careless with truth, supplanting it with personal views and opinions, we are in effect aligning ourselves with the father of all deceit. We cannot allow ourselves to compromise truth. This not only endangers our own souls, it also jeopardizes the souls of our children and future generations. Our mandate is clear—embrace unadulterated truth and pass it on to the next generation.

“We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done . . . that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children” (Psalm 78:4, 6).

Life Reflection:

What is our personal responsibility in imparting truth to the next generation?

Truth is unchanging and eternal. It is ours to cherish and pass on. Hold it tight.

My Prayer:

Lord, give me the discernment to recognize truth and not be deceived by any of Satan’s tactics. Help me to embrace Your truth wholeheartedly and to make it my personal mission to pass it on to the generation which follows.

More Life with God References:

Psalm 86:11
John 14:6
John 17:17
II Timothy 2:15
II Timothy 3:16-17

 

This Bible study was adapted from an article originally published in Reflections Magazine.