Serenity Now!



For fans of the show Seinfeld, do you remember this episode? For those who never watched Seinfeld, well, “Serenity now” sounds a little dumb. This is another Seinfeld moment that one must witness to understand fully. But I’ll try to explain it anyway.

A new craze has hit the Seinfeld cast: whenever one is stressed, all one must do is say “Serenity Now!” and all the stress will melt away. A subplot throughout this episode is George’s successful nemesis, Lloyd Braun, who had been the advisor to the mayor of New York, has just been released from an psychiatric institution. All through the episode Kramer is busily trying to make sure Lloyd feels like he is completely sane regardless of the event that is happening. But back to “Serenity Now!”

Through this episode, Kramer and Frank (George’s dad) keep saying “Serenity Now” whenever they get a little over-stressed with a situation. Kramer explains that he has learned this coping technique and finds it to be a wonderful tool. As the episode continues, Lloyd and George team up to sell computers from the garage of Frank Costanza, George’s dad. Predictably Lloyd is completely outperforming George. Well this little fact prompts George to hatch a plan. He’ll hide the computers in Kramer’s apartment, say they’re all sold, claim victory after the competition is over, and then sell them later. Foolproof, right? What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

As it turns out, all that is achieved by saying “Serenity Now!” when stressed is a bottling up of the stress which leads to a major explosion. George learns this fact from one Lloyd Braun who tells him that the reason he (Lloyd) ended in a psychiatric hospital was because of “Serenity Now”. He told George “Serenity now, insanity later”.

George rushes to Kramer’s apartment after the competition ends and finds Kramer flipping out. We hear the sound of glass breaking, things crashing to the floor, all while Kramer repeatably yells “SE-REN-IT-TY NOOWWWWW!” The scene ends with George learning that Kramer just destroyed all the computers George was hiding in Kramer’s apartment. It was great. But I guess you just have to see it to appreciate it. So to refresh your memory or just for the first time, here are the highlights from “Serenity Now!”



So where did Lloyd, Frank, and Kramer go wrong? Is it wrong to seek serenity when times get tough? Well, no it isn’t. But the WAY they sought serenity in the difficult times was wrong. They thought through their effort they could find the peace they needed. But in the end, the serenity they sought eluded them and their situation was worse at the end than at the beginning. Before we judge too harshly, don’t we do similar things? Don’t we sometimes run from the very One we need to run to – to depend on – for our peace of mind and serenity? If we’re honest, we must answer “yes” to that question.

Jesus said “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30 NASB

How often do we actually go to Jesus? Yeah, I know, this is mostly about repenting and turning to Him in our salvation. But do you notice the on-going effects here?

His yoke is now my yoke

This means that the yoke that Jesus places on us – His teachings and restrictions – are not as burdensome as the ones we leave behind. This is an on-going condition too. Whatever we face in this life, we’re having it placed on us by Jesus Christ who is, of course, God. So if I am to be burdened, why not have the ones that have their root in the all-knowing, all-loving, all-sufficient God of the universe?

Learn from Jesus

So now this comes into sharper focus. Jesus is talking about discipleship here. He is the One who is teaching me. That is why His yoke is on me and I am tied to Him. He is teaching me all I need to know. Maybe (probably) I won’t know everything that I could know, but I will know everything I need to know. And who better than Jesus to teach me. So are you – and me – being taught by Christ?

Jesus is gentle and humble

Do I really need to explain this? Both genuine gentleness and humility are self-evident. Jesus is the definition of both these traits. As His disciple, I should take on these traits at some point. If you are His, you should too. Are you becoming increasingly gentle? How is your humility? What about those who are your Pastors? Are they gentle and humble? Or are they overbearing, arrogant, and harsh? Take a look at not only the leaders of your local church but those in general authority regarding Christian things. How do they measure on the gentle-meter?

Rest is in Him

Rest. That is one thing we don’t seem to get enough of these days. But it is exactly what Jesus promises us. If we come to Him, strap His yoke on, we will find rest for our souls. How good is that!

His yoke is easy

This refers to how well the yoke fit the oxen or other animal it was on. Jesus is saying He customizes the yoke He places on us so that it fit us well. This is a far cry from the one-size fits all mentality of Israel’s leaders at the time…and some leaders around today. Each of us have a highly-customized and individualized encounter with Jesus. I am not saying that we all get saved in different ways. No, we are all discipled and trained in a way that fits us, not the masses. So Jesus IS concerned with us as individuals with various personalities and differences. He is not looking to treat us all the same…but He does treat us equally.


So, where are you and your dependence? Are you, like Frank and Kramer, relying on “SERENITY NOW!!” to give you rest and peace from the daily struggles of life? Are you trying to get stress-free through a psychological trick or by denying there is stress in your life? None of the tricks will work. Denying stress won’t work. Heck, even getting out and performing works of righteousness won’t grant you peace or serenity.

Only Jesus can bring you the peace that defies explanation. Only Jesus can give you rest for your soul. If you haven’t come to Him to save you, won’t you do that today? Find peace and rest – Serenity – for your soul…find that He is concerned for you and your well-being.

If you already belong to Him but have been distracted by the stresses of life, stop and spend some time with your Savior. If you have some sin in your life, admit it and move on. Jesus isn’t about to shame His own when they come to Him in sincere repentance. You are never alone in this life. I don’t care if you’re married or not married. You are never alone because God is always with you. Getting weary is part of being human. We complicate things by trying to be busy “about the Lord’s work” 24/7. When we do this and don’t take time to simply experience the presence of Christ, we cheat ourselves and grow more weary by the moment.

If you are weary…if you are weighed down by the rules and regulations someone else has placed on you…come to Christ and find relief. Find peace. Find rest. And find serenity.

And find that serenity now.










The Cardiac Kids

As I have progressed through this life God has given me, I have learned that the major battle we have with God – I mean THE major battle – is over control. We see the issue of obedience as being one of control and, to be fair, in some ways it is control. And we humans don’t like ceding control to anyone…including God.


Back in the 1970’s there was a football team in the US that earned the nickname “The Cardiac Cardinals”. Many of their games were close that went down to the final few moments before the Cardinals would win. They kept giving their fans heart attacks (metaphorically speaking), thus the “Cardiac” part of their nickname.

Sometimes I think we Christians should be referred to as the “Cardiac Kids”. A similar nickname for sure but for different reasons. The reason isn’t because we are “winning” at the last moment in life. No, the reason is much more important than that. We have a heart problem that shows itself, in varying degrees, in all Christians. This heart issue only betrays a deeper issue but is evidenced by our struggle with a simple, four-letter word. What is that word? O-B-E-Y. We have problems with obeying God with the right attitude. Shoot, we have problems with obeying God with ANY attitude.

Why do we have difficulty with the word “obey“? I’ve found out that if I want to get a reaction from people all I have to say is the word “obey”. We react to it. Some people even hate that word. So what is the big deal with being obedient? Why do we hate it so, so much.

Obedience is a big theme in the Old Testament. I remember one of my professors at Capital Bible Seminary, saying during one of my Old Testament classes, that God desired obedience greater than He desired sacrifice. The same is true in the New Testament. We see obedience to God taught from Matthew to Revelation. Why so much? Well, perhaps it is addressed so much because we humans have a problem with it. Our problem is not an easy one to solve because we see obedience as being dominated. When we obey, we sometimes think that we have been pushed around…dominated….lost control of our life. We see obedience so incorrectly.

Jesus taught that obedience is more about our heart than we think. Take a look at John 14:23-24 to have a snapshot of what Jesus thought about obedience:

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and

We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the

word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” John 14:23-24 NASB

Why did Jesus link keeping His words with love for Him? What is the connection between keeping His commands and loving Him? And is keeping His commands the same as obedience? Why does Jesus make this link? Let’s think about this for a moment and consider some examples from every day life and see if this will help us. Have you ever loved someone? I mean really loved someone with every fiber of your being?

I’ve been married now for 12 years. I love my wife. I mean I really, really love my wife. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her. If she asks me to do anything, I’ll do it as quickly as possible. You know what? My wife feels the same way. We love each other. We demonstrate our love for one another by keeping each others desires and requests paramount. How could I do any less for God? Think about this for a moment.

Let’s say I tell my wife I love her. Now let’s say that my wife asks me to perform a reasonable act of service. it doesn’t matter what she asks. She asks me to do something for her. Now let’s say that I’m watching something on TV or reading a really good book. I turn to her and say “No, I don’t think I’ll do that for you. I have better things to do. Love ya babe!” Now, does my statement that I love her mean anything? No, they’re just words.

But let’s change this a little. Let’s say I respond “Geez honey, I just sat down and began to watch my game. Why didn’t you ask me to do that earlier?” I do what she asks me to do, but have I demonstrated my love for her? In all honesty, no. You see, robotic obedience, obedience with a bad attitude, or rejection of a request indicates a bad heart. I may say I love her but my actions betray a corrupt heart.

How is my heart condition with God? Do I obey with a poor attitude? Do I obey out of guilt? Do I obey out of an attempt to get God to accept me or like me? If I do, my obedience to God really means little. I should obey out of a heart that is thankful and one that has love for my God.

Obedience to God’s commands – whether those commands came through the burning bush, a prophet, Jesus, or an apostle – reflects my heart condition more than anything else. And my heart condition reflects my soul condition. So if my soul condition is ok and my heart condition is ok, my hands and feet will be ok too. In other words, if I am not battling God for Sovereignty (the Soul issue – authority) that will reflect itself in obedience (the Heart issue – control) and will work itself out through my hands and feet – that is, my work for the Lord will be the natural outworking of my vision of Him, and my  obedience to Him.

Obedience can be forced and many do force it. But that is just fake obedience because the heart and soul issues aren’t right. My heart needs to be right with God so that I can keep His words and obey Him with the right attitude.

So how is my heart? How is yours? Are we ready, wiling and able to obey what God wants us to do? With a good attitude? Or do we need to visit the Great Cardiologist and have some work done?

We all have issues with obedience. but hopefully, as we are progressively sanctified, those issues  become less and our heart becomes more His and less ours.   Then we’ll no longer be a Cardiac Kid!

When a Smudge is more than a Smudge


There is difference between reading the Word of God and observing the Word of God. That difference is important.That difference is essential in understanding the Word of God. Learning to observe the Word is essential to accurately handling the word of God.

I love movies that don’t cause me to think all that much. To be fair, though, I also love movies that make me think or remember historical events. I suppose the type of movie I want to see depends on my mood. One of my favorite movies to watch when Im in my “turn brain off” mode is National Treasure 2. I find that movie fun to watch even though there are violent parts and reminds us of the assassination of President Lincoln and the American Civil War that we seem to continue to fight.

In one scene in this movie, Ben, Abigail, and Riley are examining a document that purports to show that Ben’s ancestor was part of the group of conspirators that killed President Lincoln. As they examine the document in question they come across something. Ben draws Abigail’s and Riley’s attention to it. Riley says ” yeah, it says smudge”. Both Ben and Abigail found the”smudge” interesting and investigated further. Riley seemed dismayed by the process. Well Ben and Abigail kept looking and their perseverance paid off. What Riley saw only as a smudge turned out to be a cue that began their quest to clear Ben’s family name. Sometimes this happens in our approach to the Bible. What some see as just a little smudge others see as something relevant and probably important. How do you see the Bible? How do you read it?

There is difference between reading the Word of God and observing the Word of God. That difference is important.That difference is essential in understanding the Word of God. Learning to observe the Word is essential to accurately handling the word of God.

When we read the Bible with have the the words processed in our brain and we gain a superficial understanding of what was just read. We often times rush through our reading in order to get to the next portion of Scripture to read. Although this reading of the Bible far too often passes for our study of the Bible, it really shouldn’t. Let’s take a look at observing the Bible and how that impacts not only our understanding of the Bible but also our progressive sanctification.

When we observe the Bible we see more than the smudges that others see as unimportant. When we observe – instead of read or simply see – we understand better what the author meant with words he chose.When we understand better the author’s intent when he wrote a particular passage. When we better understand the passage, the better application we can make to our life and make real life change. Isn’t that the purpose of reading the Bible? Isn’t our goal to change and become more like Christ? Of course it is!

Observing the Bible includes more than simply reading. Think of observing as reading more than the words of the page but hearing the author speak to your heart and mind. To observe means more than seeing a smudge. When we observe we look at many more things than just the obvious.

One of the things that we “see” when we observe the Bible is the specific contexts of the passage we are reading. Now what do I mean by using the plural “contexts”? There are three things that are important to consider their particular context.

The first context we consider is the grammatical context. This means that we look at the grammar of the passage to give us clues to its meaning. These include how the sentence is structured, what is the object, and what how the verb functions. When we consider the verb especially, we really need to know if it is active (the subject is doing the action), passive (the subject receives the action of the verb), or middle (the subject does the action of the verb in an more intense way than the active voice). We also want to consider the syntax of the passage. Syntax is best described as the rules of grammar that give meaning to the passage. All these variables go into observing the grammatical context of a passage.

Another context to consider is the historical context of the time. Words have meaning at particular moments in time. These meanings don’t always stay the same throughout the time the word is used. Sometimes a word changes meaning or falls out of use altogether as time marches on. But these changes don’t impact the meaning of the word when it was first used. We must understand what was happening in the culture where and when a particular word or passage was written.

The third context we consider when observing the Word of God, is literary context. This context is concerned with the how the words appear to us. “What type of literature is this passage?” is a common and important question we need to ask. There are various types of literature contained in the Bible. In  the Old Testament there is what is termed Historical Narrative. This is the typically how stories are told. The  there is Poetry. Hebrew poetry is unlike the poetry we may have learned in school. The Psalms are a great example of Hebrew Poetry.

Another type of literature is Prophetic. This type of literature is concerned with future events. Oftentimes this type of literature is misunderstood because we fail to recognize the the special rules for interpreting prophecy. Then there is Gospel literature. Gospel literature is kind of tweener literature. It is between Old Testament and New Testament. It occurred in the period of transition. Then there Epistolary literature. This is where the church get its marching orders. Understanding which type of literature we are reading is an essential step in understanding, properly applying, and accurately handling the Word of God.

So what do you think? Is a smudge just a smudge? Or should we take a deeper look at it? Well when it comes to the Bible we far too often look at the difficult parts of the Bible as a smudge and move on when. If we are like Ben and Abigail in National Treasure 2, then we will take our time and look deeply into the Bible so that we can reap the rewards of observing the Bible rather than simply reading it.

After all, the treasure of the Word of God is far more valuable to our being Christlike than what any of our ancestors did.

A Successful Day

I don’t want to teach what I know. I don’t want to teach what I believe. I want to teach what is true.

My dad gave me some of the best advice I ever received so that I could consider each and  every day a success. My dad told me over and over to learn something new every day. If I did that, I could view that day as a successful day rather than a wasted day. I’d like to say that I aways heeded that advice but, sadly, I haven’t always learned or wanted to learn something new each day. This is even more important when we consider our progressive sanctification. Am I really dedicated to learning God’s word each and every day of my life? Does the Bible even address this attitude that my dad tried to instill in me? Let’s take a look at a passage of Scripture and observe some important points regarding our learning His word.

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” 2 Timothy 2:15-19 (NASB)

There is a lot to unpack in these few verses. I want to consider a few important truths regarding how we should learn and what the effect of learning not only the proper things but also the proper way. Let’s dive in and see what we can observe regarding this very important topic of learning God’s word.

The first observation I want to bring to the front is that this passage is about false teachers. Paul dealt with people like this all the time. He worked on defeating them and did battle with them willingly. But for the purposes of this article, I want to focus on the steps we can take in order to be prepared for each and every challenge of life – each and every challenge to biblical Christianity.

In v. 15, NASB translates the beginning as “Be diligent”. Some other translations use the word “study” here. So which is it? The Greek behind this word means “to hasten, exert ones self, or to give diligence.” So both ideas could be included though I personally like “be diligent”. I think it captures the idea here better and the emphasis is on exerting one’s self toward be properly prepared. So the first thing I want to observe about learning is that it is a process that takes effort on our part.

We need to work at learning – and stick to it – to be properly prepared. There are no shortcuts. Learning God’s word is hard work. It is rewarding work, but hard. Don’t be afraid to embark on a new study. Don’t be intimidated by it. Embrace the challenge and be diligent in pursuing to know the truth.

The next thing I want to draw your attention to is the idea of “accurately handling the truth”. This is really important to understand. To handle the Word of God is one thing. To handle it accurately is whole  different thing. Simply memorizing the Bible is not enough. Simply memorizing some Greek terms to impress others is not enough. To accurately handle the Word of God means that we research it. It means we look into the background of it. It means we endeavor to understand the various contexts of it – the culture it was written in, how it was written, and the grammar used to write it.

Once we understand these things, then we can observe what it says, interpret it correctly and then apply it to our lives. If we miss any of these steps, we may as well not even try. Whatever conclusion we draw will be incomplete at best and at worst dead wrong and false.

We are not to mess around arguing about a word here and there. We are not to have empty conversations about nothing edifying. We need to be diligent –  theres that word again – to seek out the essential and true meaning of any passage of Scripture. If we don’t diligently seek to understand His truth, then we will teach what we think is correct. We will teach the bias we have. We will teach what we think is right and it may not be right.

I don’t want to teach what I know. I don’t want to teach what I believe. I want to teach what is true.

 I must be willing to change what I know and change what I believe in order to conform myself to His truth. Then, and only then, am I truly learning the truths of His word. Then, and only then, can I accurately handle His truth. Then, and only then, may I share His truth with others.

After all, isn’t that the goal of learning something new each day. To share it with others so that they are then able to pursue the truths of God’s word for themselves.

Now THAT is what I call a successful day!

But It’s a Dry Heat!

No one enjoys being the heat of a trial, whether that heat is a dry heat or not. I get uncomfortable when the heat is on. I get tired when the heat is on. I sometimes lose energy when the heat is on. I get focused on Christ far less than I should when the heat is on.

In the 1980’s I was stationed aboard MCAS El Toro in Southern California. I remember “volunteering” for a special duty at the annual air show. I say “volunteering” in quotation marks because the Marine Corps has a neat way of getting folks to volunteer: they simply say “You have volunteered” and, voila! they have volunteers.

Anyway I was part of traffic control/guard duty for the air show. Guard duty isn’t much fun but at least I got overtime…just kidding! So I was guarding a rope (actually I was standing guard near a sensitive area) in the heat of the day. I was sweating like crazy and was quite uncomfortable in my uniform. By the end of the day I was tired, my knees ached, I was sun burned and I stunk to high heaven. But I stood at my post. I heard a civilian remark about my plight as he walked by. The comments went something like this:

Civilian #1: Man, it looks like that dude (me) is about to die!

Civilian #2: Yeah…should we offer him something to drink? That might help

Civilian #1: I don’t think he is supposed to drink when he is on duty.

Civilian #2: If he isn’t supposed to drink…

Civilian #1: But it is so hot out (it was over 100 at my post). Where is his OC? (I think he meant C-O)…

Civilian #2: But it is a dry heat!

All I could think of was “An oven on broil is a dry heat too!” No wonder I didn’t like civilians so much on that particular weekend. Man it was hot. I’m sweating now just remembering how hot it was.  Even though I felt like I was on the face of the sun, I stood my ground and didn’t leave. I stood in the heat and took it. It wasn’t easy or enjoyable but I did have a mission that I felt honor-bound to fulfill. “After all” I thought, “I’m a Marine. I can take this.”

Do we have the same attitude when we stand in the heat of a trial God has brought to us? Are we willing to sweat, aches, and stink to high heaven? Or, do we want to escape into the nearest air conditioned hut? What should be our attitude when we find ourselves in the midst of a trial?

When we seek out teaching about trials, we needn’t go anywhere else than James 1:2-4:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.   And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The first think we notice is what our attitude should be: consider it all “joy”. But what is “joy”? And why should we have it when undergoing a trial. Well, first joy is not an emotion and it is not to be confused with happiness. being joyful does not mean that we have a smile pasted across our faces. NO, joy is a result of knowing there is purpose in everything. Finding joy is as simple as knowing there is a purpose behind whatever you and I are experiencing. So now the question becomes, What is the purpose of trials? We’ll get there but first lets look at some other things in this passage.

In v. 2 we see that trails are a sure thing…Notice the use of “when you encounter”. It isn’t “if you encounter…’ If you are a Christian who is being sanctified by God, then you will face difficulties in this life. Having difficulties is not a sign of God’s judgement. No, facing difficulties as a Christian is a sign of God’s blessing.

In vv. 3 – 4 we see the purpose: the trial produces endurance (or perseverance) which leads us to the ultimate purpose of the trial which is to be complete, lacking in nothing. We see one of the key terms in progressive sanctification used here. That term is the one translated “endurance”. here. In NT Greek, that word is hupomone. It is a compound word made from the words hupo, which means “under”, and meno which means “to remain”. So the word means “to remain under”. Here in James the reference is to remain under the pressure and heat of a trial.

No one enjoys being the heat of a trial, whether that heat is a dry heat or not. I get uncomfortable when the heat is on. I get tired when the heat is on. I sometimes lose energy when the heat is on. I get focused on Christ far less than I should when the heat is on.

How about you?

Focusing on Christ  isn’t an easy thing to do but it is a simple thing to do. Oftentimes the simplest things are the hardest things.

So here we see that the aim of the trial is that we get everything we need to be complete. You see, that is the goal of progressive sanctification. Now, with all due respect to Wesley, this completeness won’t happen until we are in glory. For now, we need that perseverance to develop so we can joyfully stand in the heat of the trial without wanting to get into the nearest air-conditioned Quonset hut.

So how are you doing? My first pastor, Dr. Braun, once said that a Christian is “either going into a trial, in a trial or coming out of a trial.” Trials are a way of life for us, we might as well approach them joyfully since we know that the goal of the trial is not to break us but to make us more complete.


Ready to be Committed?

“Pray as if everything depends on God, then work as if everything depends on you.”

                                                                                                                                        –Martin Luther

We should never ask God to use us then make ourselves unavailable. That is what Nehemiah did here in chapter 1. This attitude should permeate us in our sanctification.

Do you see the progression in Nehemiah’s prayer? His concern about the problem led him to brokenness. While he was weeping and fasting, he expressed his conviction about God’s character. As he focused on the greatness and awesomeness of His holy God, he was quickly reminded of his own wickedness and therefore cried out in confession. After owning his role in the nation’s depravity, he prayed boldly and with confidence in God’s promises. This then leads him to a commitment to get involved. We see this in verse 11:

“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the

prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant

success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man. I was cupbearer

to the king.”


While Nehemiah was praying, his burden for Jerusalem became greater and his vision of what needed to be done became clearer. He didn’t pray for God to send someone else – he simply said, “Here am I, send me!” He knew that he would have to approach the king and request a 3-year leave of absence and so asked God for “success,” in his request to the king.  He wanted to see God break out on his behalf when he goes in front of the king to make his request. Proverbs 21:1 states “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse where He pleases.” Nehemiah was committed to get involved and not just sit on the sidelines and lament the condition of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was a different type of guy. We should be like him. He saw a problem with Jerusalem, was burdened by it, asked God to bless him with a plan, and then acted on the plan. How often do we follow these steps in our prayer time. Far too often we treat prayer as a one-way device: we summon God to listen to us but we fail to listen to Him. We lay our requests at His feet and then walk away. Instead of waiting and listening, we just move on as if God is constrained to do as we please.

No, God is not at our call, we are at His.

And this is how we should approach our responsibility in our progressive sanctification. As we saw in the last article, God has promised to fully sanctify every person He calls to salvation. We can count on His promise to do that. But we do have a responsibility to participate in our sanctification. God’s plan for each of us may vary greatly. The trials we face may be different – well, they WILL be different. Their difference may be in the nature, depth, intensity, or length of the trial. But there will be differences. All trials make us more like Christ and we need to embrace them fully…wait, I’m getting ahead of myself!

In our prayer life, as we fully participate in our sanctification, we must be willing to commit to God’s plan for our sanctification, rely on His promises, be very honest with God, understand our problem and ask God to bless us with a plan rather than for Him to bless our plan.

Where are you in this prayer process right now? Are you concerned about your problems? Do you have a conviction about God’s holy character? Are you ready to confess your sins? Do you have confidence in God’s promises? Are you ready to make a commitment to get involved in God’s kingdom work?

The walls of our lives have been toppled by our sin nature, deafness to God’s voice, selfishness, and arrogance. We are confronted with only two choices now:

  • learn to live in the rubble of our lives
  • or  to be bold enough to admit our sins, ask God for His plan for our sanctification, and then commit to be involved in that plan.


Which way are you going to proceed?




God Keeps His Promises

 If God said it in His Word, you can believe it and rely on it.


While Nehemiah spends time in broken confession in vs 6-7, he doesn’t wallow in a prolonged introspective examination of his failures and those of his brothers and sisters. He owns what he did wrong and then he quickly expresses confidence in God’s promises in verses 8-10:

“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my name.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and mighty hand.”


In this part of his prayer, Nehemiah recalls the words of Moses about the danger of Israel’s apostasy and the promise of divine mercy. His words are a skillful mosaic of great Old Testament warnings and promises, with quotes coming from Leviticus, Deuteronomy, 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles and Psalm 130. What was the promise Nehemiah was getting at? It was twofold. First, if Israel disobeyed, they would be sent to a foreign land. That had been fulfilled. The second part was that when the captivity was over God would send them back to Jerusalem. They were still waiting for that to be fulfilled. Nehemiah prayed, “Lord, the first part is true. We’ve disobeyed and we’re in captivity. But Lord, you’ve made a promise to bring us back home and protect us there – and that has not happened yet.”

Nehemiah is saying that since God kept His promise to scatter Israel because of he apostasy, he has confidence that Israel will be regathered because God promised to do that when Israel repented. So Nehemiah is expressing utmost confidence not only in God’s promises but also in God’s character. If Nehemiah doubted God’s character he would not have prayed the way he did.

But what about us? How does this relate to our sanctification? 


God promises in Romans 8 to glorify each and every person He calls:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

There is great comfort in knowing that the God who makes that promise to me is the One who will keep that promise to me. I have my part in  my sanctification but I can be sure that it will happen based on what God said through Paul in Romans 8. “How can you be so sure Mr. Bald Theologian?” you may ask. In Romans 8:28-30, all those things God talks about – HE “called..justified…glorified” are in the aorist tense in Greek. The aorist is the simple past tense. So if I’m not yet glorified (and who among us is!), then why did Paul use a aorist tense here? Well, it is a grammatical thing with Greek. When one wants to guarantee that a future event is going to happen, one uses the simple past tense. This use is called a “proleptic aorist” or “futuristic use of the aorist”.

Since our glorification is yet future and Paul (under inspiration) uses a past tense to describe it, we can be sure that we will be glorified one day. He who started a work in you will make sure it comes to completion.


Someone has calculated that there are over 7,000 promises in the Bible. The better we know the Word of God, the better we’ll be able to pray with confidence in God’s promises. 1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Are you as confident of God’s promises as Nehemiah was?

If God said it in His Word, you can believe it and rely on it. Nehemiah knew God would keep His covenant of love with his people. He also knew that, even though God did not need his help, he was ready to make a commitment to get involved.

In Whom We Trust, To Whom We Pray

In whom do you trust? Do you trust in your judgment? Your knowledge? Your wisdom? When confronted with an issue – whether big or small – do you ask God to bless your plan or do you ask God to bless you with a plan?   Recently my wife and I received a major lesson about trusting in someone’s word.

We were approached by a representative of a company that sells very high quality meat. After a few moments of talking, this rep began his sales pitch. He was convincing. He built trust by identifying himself as a Christian once he discovered that we are Christians. Near the close of his presentation, he asked my wife “Can you beat $3.00 per pound for meat at the store?” Stunned by the price, my wife said “I can get that for chicken on sale.” We decided to buy a bunch of meat right then and there. It was a great deal we thought. Well it was a great deal but not for us.   We discovered that this place sells meat by the portion rather than by the pound. That makes a BIG difference. We discovered that we had bought meat at the great price of about $9.00 per pound. Even on my worst day, I can beat that price at the store. I had trusted my judgment. I had trusted my knowledge. We didn’t pray about it. We just took this man at his word. We learned a hard lesson: the only One we can truly trust with full confidence is God Himself. Everyone else, we need to, quoting Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify.”


We jump quickly in the spiritual realm as well. We are confronted with a problem and we are quick to try to figure out how to approach the problem. We come up with a plan (with some backup plans of course). We then seek to spiritualize it by asking God to bless our plans. We really do get the order of operations wrong here. Instead of asking God to bless our plans when we are confronted with a problem, we should be asking God to bless us with a plan. But before we even get to that point we need to be convinced that Gods character is such that He not only CAN answer us, but that He is trustworthy enough TO answer us.  Let’s continue in looking at Nehemiah and learning some lessons about prayer here in chapter one.


After Nehemiah becomes concerned about he issues surrounding Jerusalem, he next expresses his conviction of God’s character in verse 5:

“I said, “I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who

preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments…”

In this verse, the word translated “Lord” is the Hebrew YHWH – the covenant name of God. Nehemiah is appealing to the personal name God revealed to Moses. He is appealing to Him based on His covenantal relationship with Israel. Nehemiah is convicted regarding the character of YHWH. YHWH is in charge. YHWH will listen. YHWH will answer. Otherwise, why would Nehemiah even approach Him? What else does Nehemiah say about YHWH? He next refers to His Lord as the “God of Heaven.” He acknowledged that YHWH was beyond the earthly realm and above all other gods. He is the One who is above all others. He is the God of heaven, not just a god in heaven. Do you see the difference? Nehemiah again is convinced of the character of God. He is above all others.


Nehemiah continues by referring to God as “great and awesome”. Have you ever listened to yourself referring to things of this earth as “great” or “awesome”? The Hebrew word we translate “great” has the idea of great in magnitude while the word translated as “awesome” has the idea of great respect or reverence. How many things we flippantly refer to as “awesome” actually deserve to be revered? I would say none, other than God. Ouch, that one left a mark on me. God deserves to be honored, revered and feared by all because of who He is.


Finally, Nehemiah describes God as the one who “keeps His covenant of love.” Nehemiah is convinced about God’s character. God keeps His covenants. Nehemiah is convinced of this fact. God is truthful, faithful and can be trusted. Artaxerxes thought he was in charge. He thought he was something great. He had a high opinion of himself. And Nehemiah, his cupbearer (a fairly high political office), could have thought the same of Artaxerxes and himself. But, as we have seen here, Nehemiah esteemed highly YHWH. He thought of Him as the only One to Whom his prayers need to be directed.


So how are you doing with your prayer time with God? Is He the ONLY One who can answer? If He is not the only One, who else is able? When faced with difficult decisions, what is your first response? What is your last resort? My hope and prayer for you (and me) is that we would all learn to not only be convinced about God’s character, but to rely on His character to answer us with the perfectly correct answer to our prayers.

After all, the One in whom we trust is the One to Whom we pray.