God Keeps His Promises

Scripture is permeated with reminders that God is faithful. Notice this theme in the following ten texts:

Genesis 9:13-16 (NKJV): “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

Exodus 2:23-25: “Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. 24 So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.”

Deuteronomy 7:7-9: “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 “Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;”

Joshua 23:15: “Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all the good things have come upon you which the LORD your God promised you, so the LORD will bring upon you all harmful things, until He has destroyed you from this good land which the LORD your God has given you.”

1 Kings 8:22-24: “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; 23 and he said: “LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. 24 You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day.”

Psalm 89:1-2: “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations. 2 For I have said, “Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.”

Psalm 121:1-4: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? 2 My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.”

Heb. 6:13-19: “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. 17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,”

2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”

Revelation 21:5: “Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Overcoming Disadvantages

It would be easy to look at what others have, and then to focus on what we don’t have, and to get down on ourselves. We might be tempted to think that something isn’t worth the effort because of how it might be more difficult for us that it is for someone else. 

In the updated version of the book Cradles of Eminence, a common trait of over 700 famous men and women who had a significant impact in their fields of work is that they had to overcome some type of disadvantage.

Look for the bright side of your situation. A professional woman who had a very stressful job had a plaque hanging on her wall which read:  “The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.”

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. . . . Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus. . . .” (2 Cor. 4:8-9, 14a).

“Never to Die Again”

Several accounts may be found in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible of those who were brought back from death, such as: 

  • The widow of Zarapheth’s son (1 Kings 17:22; cf. Heb. 11:35a);
  • The son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:35);
  • Jairus’ daughter (Matt. 9:25);
  • Lazarus (John 11:1-54);
  • The reappearing saints (Matt. 27:50-53);
  • Tabitha (Acts 9:36-43); and
  • Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12). 

All of these would later again experience physical death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was unique: He rose from the grave never to die again:

“And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: I will give you the sure mercies of David.'” – Acts 13:34 (NKJV).

“Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 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 7:23-25

After Jesus rose again, He ascended to heaven to be seated at God’s right hand (Mark 16:19).

Jesus is our living Savior!

God’s Retirement Plan

A little plaque displayed in a Christian family’s living room read: “Working for the Lord doesn’t pay much, but the retirement plan is out of this world.”  There’s a lot of truth in that observation.  But how does it pay to serve the Lord? Does God reward us materially so that we will serve Him?

The devil challenged God in the book of Job, when he insinuated the main reason people serve God is because He arranges things so His followers have an easier way of life and never experience pain.  Isn’t it odd how the devil uses the absence of evil to speak against God?  In Job 1, the devil’s position was the absence of evil proves how desperate God is for followers, to the point He “pays” them by making life really easy. Today, this is turned around: they say the presence of evil in the world proves the non-existence of God.

God hasn’t promised to make the circumstances of life easier for anyone. Those who live for Christ will suffer persecution (see 2 Tim. 3:12). The Bible teaches we should welcome adversity, when it arrives, as an opportunity to grow spiritually (see James 1:2). However, God provides benefits in the form of spiritual blessings as we make sacrifices for Him. Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

Paul encouraged the Hebrews to live faithfully for Christ, in the same manner they had when it wasn’t financially profitable for them to do so: “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. 34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb. 10:32-34).

The passage says they had compassion on those who had been imprisoned for their faith “and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods” (v. 34).  “This may refer (1) to the losses which the Hebrews sustained in consequence of their becoming Christians; just as it sometimes now happens even in our own day. ‘When a Jew,’ says Ebrard, ‘shows himself determined to become a Christian, he is disinherited by his relatives; his share of the property is withheld from him; his credit and every source of gain, withdrawn; and he falls into a state of complete destitution.’ This same kind of injustice was extensively practiced in primitive times by both Jews and Gentiles. But (2) it is probable that the Apostle refers here more particularly to the heavy losses of property which the Hebrew Christians had incurred in times of persecution.” (Gospel Advocate Comm.).

We can learn about enduring financial losses and making financial sacrifices, by the way they perceived their setbacks as spiritual investments.  What we use – or lose – in service to God bring a greater return in three ways:

(1) It appraises higher. Heaven is far more valuable (see Matt. 16:26). Unfortunately, “some know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

(2) It last longer. God’s spiritual rewards are “enduring.”  Jesus said no investments in heaven can be lost or destroyed (see Matt. 6:19-21).  “He is not foolish who will give up what he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot lose.”

(3) It touches deeper. The Lord knows the meaning of real sacrifice, like the woman who anointed him with expensive oil (see Matt. 26:6-13). 

Crying Out to God: Why We Can Believe in Prayer

Prayer requires opening our spirits and minds to God, and speaking to Him genuinely and sincerely. Numerous descriptions can be found in Scripture of the disposition and direction of our prayers:

  • Bowing the knees before the Father (Eph. 3:14)
  • Looking up to God (Psalm 5:3)
  • Lifting up our soul to the Lord (Psalm 25:1)
  • Pouring out our heart to God (Psalm 62:8)
  • Pouring out our soul to the Lord (I Sam. 1:15)
  • Calling upon the Lord (Gen. 12:8)
  • Crying out to God (Psalm 27:7; 34:6)
  • Drawing near to God (Psalm 73:28)
  • Crying to heaven (II Chron. 32:20)
  • Beseeching the Lord (Exodus 32:11)
  • Seeking God (Job 8:5)
  • Seeking the face of the Lord (Psalm 27:8)
  • Making supplication to the Father (Job 8:5; Jer. 36:7).

In order for us to experience the blessings God has in store for us through these types of petitions, we should pray to Him earnestly. James explained: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). Consider three realities that can help us pray earnestly to God:

First, His interest in us. God loves us and wants to hear from us. Peter encouraged Christians to “[h]umble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). When everyone else has forsaken us, the Lord will stand with us and strengthen us (2 Tim. 4:16-17). David recalled the reassurance of God’s nearness through prayer: “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:4-5). The Lord is always only a prayer away.

Second, He inclination toward us. God wants to answer our prayers. He asks us to turn over every care to Him so that He can comfort us with peace (Phil. 4:6-7). John reminded us that the Lord is waiting to respond to our requests: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15). Jesus assured every disciple: “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). 

Third, His integrity with us. The Lord is faithful and will never let us down. The Heavenly Father knows what is best for us. For example, Paul prayed for relief from difficult circumstances, and rather than removing the problem, the Lord gave Him greater strength to cope with it (read 2 Cor. 12:1-10). Similarly, Solomon asked Him for wisdom to be a capable leader ,and the Lord provided this and in addition gave him great prosperity (read 1 Kings 3:5-15). God will exceed our expectations. Paul explained that the Lord “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20).

What is the church?

“Church” is an integral subject to Christianity. During His earthly ministry, Jesus addressed this topic. He said, “upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18).

The Greek word which is translated church in our New Testament is “ekklesia,” which means “called out.” Let’s consider first what the church/ekklesia is not, then look at what it is. The church is not:

A physical building, made of wood and nails or brick and mortar.  We might use a shorthand “church” to refer to the church building or house – the place where the church meets. But in no sense is the building “the church.”

A state organization. In some countries, the church is the  government-sanctioned religion. Our Constitution discourages this type of approach to religious matters, so those in the United States would likely not have much confusion about this subject.  Jesus emphasized the non-worldly aspect of the church when He said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36).

A denominational organization. “Denomination” is used with money to indicate different values, and in a religious setting, it indicates different parts of a larger “church.”  Earl Radmacher, in his work The Nature of the Church, wrote: “People often speak of the various denominations or church, as, for instance, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church; but this use of ekklesia is never found in the Scriptures” (p. 150).

Now let’s look at how “church” is used in the New Testament.

In a general sense, “church” refers to the body of baptized believers over whom Christ reigns as Head and in whom His spirit dwells.  We can follow this definition by carefully reading Acts 2, especially beginning in verse 36 and continuing to the end of the chapter, verse 47: Jesus is Lord (v. 36), those who believe this should be baptized (v. 38), those who are baptized are added to His body (vv. 41, 47), and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which includes salvation from past sin and all its attendant blessings (vv. 38, 47).

“Church” is used in two senses with regard to this group: 

Church is used in a local sense, in which it refers to Christians who assemble and function together in a particular geographic area. Revelation 2 contains letters from Jesus to seven different local churches, each of which is identified as a church at a particular place. Jesus had this in mind in Matt. 18:17, in which a dispute would be resolved among members of a local assembly.

Church is also used to describe the universal, collective group of all Christians wherever they may meet.  Jesus gave Himself for this entity (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25). We can be part of it today (I Cor. 12:13).

“Love One Another”

What the world needs – and wants – is real love

The Spirit of Love

The Bible emphasizes that love is an attitude that is expressed in compassionate action. The ancient Greeks used four distinct terms that are translated in English as love:

1. Eros: Sexual attraction. This is physical love or attraction. Our word “erotic” derives from this term. It is not expressly used in the Bible, though it is implied in connection with the intimate relationship between husbands and wives (see, e.g., I Cor. 7:1-6; Eph. 5:22-33).

2. Storge: Social attachment. This refers to the organic bond between family members or a social group. The negative form of this word appears in Romans 1:31 and II Tim. 3:3: “without natural affection.”

3. Phileo: Sentimental affection. It “denotes an inclination prompted by sense and emotion…” (Thayer). The name Philadelphia means “city of brotherly love.” This is the love shown between dear friends, and should be maintained among Christians (Rom. 12:10).

4. Agape: Selfless action. The focus is on a conscious expression of kindness or benefit toward someone, by operation of the will or intellect, simply because it is right.  “Agape” is the highest form of love because it directs its expression from God’s example (John 3:16; I John 3:16, 4:19). Because it is related to the will, it is not dependent on feelings or emotions to generate or regulate it. In a manner of speaking, it is possible to love (agape) someone but not like (storge or phileo) them. This is why Jesus could command His followers to “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44). 

The Signs of Love

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul uses 15 verbs to describe how someone with agape love will conduct themselves. Rather than being ruled by emotions, which change with the mood of the moment, they are governed by the knowledge of uprightness, and a desire to be and do good even toward those who aren’t appealing or deserving. This love “shows mercy” (Luke 10:25-37).

The Source of Love

Love grows as we deepen our relationship with God: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8 NKJV).

Paul observed how loving others is the natural product of fellowship with God: “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9).

Jesus taught: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 NKJV).

The Three “Bears”

  1. We should bear each other’s burdens“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
  2. We must bear our own burdens“For every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal.6:5).
  3. Jesus will help us with our burdens “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Great Thoughts about God

In the opening chapter of his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer observed: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…. Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ‘What comes into your mind when you think about God?’ we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man.” 

Our thoughts of God are significant. Paul wrote, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). David wrote: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

While the Bible does not set out to prove God’s existence, it provides concrete reasons which lead to the undeniable conclusion He exists. God is expecting us to use our senses and our sense and deduce this. We may not be able to know everything (which is what atheists claim), but (unlike agnostics) we can be certain of enough items to understand God is real. Here are four convincing reasons:

1.  THE COSMOLOGICAL REASON: Every cause has an effect, so there must be an uncaused, first cause of all finite beings and things, and this is God. “For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God” (Heb. 3:4). “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Rom. 1:19-20).

2.  THE MORAL REASON: All people have a moral impulse, which calls for justice or reward that is not always experienced in this lifetime. Therefore, an eternal, spiritual world exists, and an eternal, spiritual being controls the rewards and punishments. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

3.  The ONTOLOGICAL REASON: We can deduce that God is real because mankind has an idea of an infinite, perfect divine being, who has no superior. “Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? 24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD” (Jer. 23:23-24).

4.  THE TELEOLOGICAL REASON: There is an observable order or design in the universe that cannot be explained by the object itself.  Therefore, there is an intelligent being who provided this order, and that Being is God. The law, order and design of the universe is evidence of a divine Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1; see also Job 12:7-10; Isa. 40:21-26; Rom. 1:20-21). God has a design for you and me, too: to love Him and serve Him (Eccl. 12:13-14).

Six Methods for Time-Effective Bible Study

If you’re interested in getting the most out of the time you have available to read the Bible, here are a half-dozen ideas you can try:

The Basic Approach: Try the old school method: Read the Bible through a chapter at a time. Begin in Genesis (or Matthew) and finish in Revelation.

The Alternative Approach: Use a translation other than the one you regularly use, and read through the Bible. If you usually use the King James Version, give the American Standard or New King James editions a try. The differences in expressions will be more noticeable, and will help you see more shades of meaning in a text.

Get Smart: Use your smartphone, desktop or laptop and  download a Bible-reading app. YouVersion, Olive Tree and Blue Letter Bible are popular options.

Listen Up: Find the Bible on CD – or cassette – and spend time listening to Scripture being read. You can also find it for smartphones or tablets on Audible or other online sources.

Book by Book: Select a Bible book and read it through more than once. You’ll see new features by re-reading it.

Keep Up with Class: Get involved in a regular Bible class and follow the Bible texts assigned for each  class. You’ll get the added bonus of being ready to participate or field questions about the text, and will feel better prepared to discuss the material.

More info on effective Bible Study is in our YouTube video: Three Keys for Profitable Bible Study (II Tim. 2:15).