How to spot a wolf

I have gone camping many times in the North woods. At times, the rangers will post signs warning of wolves. Perhaps a dog strayed a little too far from its owner and became a wolf meal. Sometimes it is a deer that is hunted down by the pack of wolves. In the natural, wolves are strong predators that seek to kill those weaker. This is also true in the spiritual.

The world has an idea that the only people who are in churches are real Christians, people who follow Christ. The truth is that every time people gather to establish the Kingdom of God and to worship God, a supernatural battle also takes place. This battle against good is sometimes talked about in Scripture using wolves and sheep and shepherds.

Godly pastors are called to be shepherds of God’s people who are sheep. The responsibility of sheep is to follow and trust the shepherd and as they do, the flock grows. Wolves are the enemies of God who seek to devour the sheep. Wolves are agents of darkness who seek to devour the sheep and destroy the flock. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10, NIV84) Godly shepherds learn to be on the lookout for wolves and will do all they can to protect the flock.

How do we learn to discern the wolves?

“For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:27–31, NIV84)

In this verse we see that wolves are savage. That word means fierce, vicious, and cruel. Wolves are those who attack the flock to eat the sheep, scatter the flock. They cause confusion, disarray, and divisions. Wolves distort the truth. Wolves will seek to draw the disciples, the sheep to follow them. So wolves are people who come in and speak words that lead to confusion, division and a movement of sheep away from the shepherd to follow them.

Wolves are also false prophets.

“”Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:15–20, NIV84)

Prophets are leaders. False prophets are false leaders. Perhaps they are those who are not yet ready to lead, but the desire to lead is strong enough to cause them to begin to draw sheep away from the shepherd. A wolfish spirit seeks recognition, prominence and defends itself against correction. A wolfish spirit is independent and will not submit to the leadership in a church and will seek to assert the reasons that it should lead.

In this verse, the false prophet is “one who claims to be a prophet and is not and thus proclaims what is false.” (Louw, J. P., & Nida) So we know a wolf claims to be spiritual and claims to be a leader. A wolf claims to be a prophet and claims to hear from God but, in truth, is not and proclaims what is untrue. We see that they come in sheep’s clothing. The may act like they love or walk in humility but their motives are centered on themselves. Because they initially look like sheep, it may be hard at first glance to discern who is a wolf and who is a sheep. So we discern by the fruit. We look to their behavior over time and then we are able to distinguish between sheep and wolves.

What then is wolfish behavior?

“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” (Romans 16:17–19, NIV84)

Wolves create division in the church body. The word division means “the equivalent of ‘causing division’ is literally ‘to cause two groups in place of one group,” (Louw, J. P., & Nida) So when you see a church split, you can be assured that there are likely wolves involved. When you see a ‘leader’ start a ministry of people who were under the care of another shepherd, you see wolfish behavior.

Wolves also distort the truth.

“If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” (1 Timothy 6:3–5, NIV84)

The phrase “false doctrine” means “to teach that which is different from what should be taught—’to teach a different doctrine, to teach something different.’ (Louw, J. P., & Nida) What should be taught? Merely the pure and simple truth of God’s Word. “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:13–14, NIV84)

A wolf will add or remove or distort the Word of God in their teaching. Some wolves will add principles of psychology to the Word of God to distort the simple Gospel. Some wolves will intellectualize the Gospel and quibble over the meanings of words in order to promote their own gospel. Some wolves will over-emphasize an aspect of the gospel (such as grace) in order to minimize other truths (such as holiness).

What happens to wolves and their followers?

“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:29–32, NIV84)

In the church, the shepherd, the pastor is responsible before God for the sheep. When the pastor sees someone planting seeds of discord, he must protect the sheep. He obeys the Scripture. “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10–11, NIV84)

 

 

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What is the message we are to preach to the world?

There seems to be question in the hearts of believers in the church today? The question essentially revolves around the idea that it is unloving to talk about sin to the unbeliever because they will not learn the love of God.

The question was posed like this on Facebook… “I want to ask a serious question as a believer. If other people don’t even know the god that we are supposed to be showing them in love and by our actions how is telling them that the life they choose to live is wrong? I’ve never been one to tell someone that isn’t a believer that they’re doing something that is a sin against god. How else are they supposed to fall in love with him? When I wasn’t a Christian and someone told me something like that my honest answer was, “go to hell!” Another time I saw it posed like this… “I want to ask a serious question as a believer. If someone doesn’t even know the God of the universes love, the love that we are supposed to show by our lives and our love, who are we to tell them what they’re doing is wrong? Isn’t it his job to convict our individual hearts in his own way? I never understood why Christians thought it was our job to tell other people what they’re doing is wrong. I’d really like some answers, as a believer myself, because I feel in my heart that it is wrong and not right.”

Because it is believed to be unloving to address the sin because that is the job of God, the church then should stay away from the culture wars. If it is indeed unloving to point out sin, then the church has no voice in the issue of gay marriage, abortion, legalizing drug use, promiscuity, violent video games, divorce, or the other myriad issues that challenge our world today.

Let me pull out the essential questions that are being asked and the assumptions that are being made. There is first the assumption that we are only supposed to proclaim love through our actions. Because of this assumption, the question is asked “how can it be loving to tell people they are wrong?” The assumption is that God will tell people of their sin. Because of this assumption, the question is asked “isn’t it wrong to tell people their choices are sinful?” The assumption is made that our message to the world is that God is love. Because of this assumption, the question is asked “How is the world supposed to fall in love with God if we tell them about sin?”

The outcome of these assumptions and questions is the idea that if people would only fall in love with Jesus, God would deal with the sin and thus the message of the church becomes one of “see how good God feels – try it and you will like it too.”

Our definition of what we are to tell the world should NEVER come from how the world likes or dislikes our message. Our definition of what we are to proclaim must come from what the Bible says we are to proclaim.

The idea that living a life of love with Jesus is enough to draw people into a relationship with Christ is false. When we believe that lifestyle alone is enough, the Gospel becomes merely another method of social justice and moral goodness. Indeed, we are told that faith comes from hearing the message proclaimed. We MUST use words and proclaim the Word of God to the world in which we live. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”" (Romans 10:14–15, NIV84) Why is preaching the Words of the Bible so important? The Scripture itself tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NIV84) It is this very Word that Jesus became: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NIV84) And Jesus Himself pointed out that He fulfilled the Word and expected that we would teach all of the Word. “”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17–19, NIV84)

Paul demonstrated and taught us how to preach.

We preach the Words of God with the power of God. “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Corinthians 1:17, NIV84) “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:21–24, NIV84)

We preach the message of the cross with a demonstration of the Power of God. “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:2–5, NIV84)

We preach the Gospel including the recognition of our sins and the need for Christ’s death. “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Corinthians 15:1–8, NIV84)

 

Jesus taught those who followed Him what to say.

Our ministry is to proclaim fully the message of the Kingdom of God. After we proclaim with our words, we establish the Kingdom through actions. “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:7–8, NIV84)

The first group that Jesus sent to preach was the twelve. They went and preached that people must repent.

“He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (Mark 3:14–15, NIV84) “Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” (Mark 6:7–13, NIV84)

After Jesus rose from the dead, He reminded His followers to preach repentance.

“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”" (Luke 24:45–49, NIV84)

 

The early church in Acts also preached the need to repent. People were called to repent and prove their repentance by their actions.

“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:38–41, NIV84)

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (Acts 3:19, NIV84)

“how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”" (Acts 10:38–43, NIV84)

“”So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:19–20, NIV84)

Jesus came to bring the good news, but it came with the message of repentance.

“Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”" (Luke 5:31–32, NIV84)

“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”" (Luke 10:1–16, NIV84)

“I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”" (Luke 13:5, NIV84)

 

So what is the Gospel Message we are to proclaim to the world today? It has not changed in over 2000 years.

We proclaim who God is. We declare His holiness, His power, His authority. We declare that nothing unclean can be in His presence. We declare His love and His justice.

We proclaim who we are. We declare that we are created by God to live in relationship with God. We declare that our sin separates us from God and that we have become powerless to cleanse ourselves of our sin.

We proclaim who Christ is. We declare that He is God and man. We declare that He is the sacrifice for our sins, that He died for us and rose again forever breaking the power of sin. We declare that He is Savior AND LORD!

We proclaim the need to respond. Each one must decide to accept and enter into a relationship with God as God has made a way or to reject it. We proclaim the outcomes of each choice. To those who repent and believe, there is LIFE and the promises of God and the loving relationship that we were created for. To those who reject the message, there is judgment.

 

This has been presented many ways. Here is a tool to help you.

I Ask

Because I Care!

 

If you were die today, are you sure you would go to heaven?

 

You can know for sure! The Bible says, “These things were written to you… that you may KNOW you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13

 

The Bible says there are four things you need to know to have a new life, an eternal life!

 

All of us have sinned.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

 

Sin Separates us from God

For the wages of sin is death, (separation from God) but the gift of God is eternal life in
Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

God loves us and Christ died for us!

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

 

We must turn from our sin, invite Christ into our heart to take control.

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

 

To accept Jesus as your Savior, believing, pray this simple prayer from your heart:

Dear Lord Jesus,

I know that I am a sinner, and I believe you died for all my sin. I am asking you now to come into my heart and take away all my sin and save my soul. I believe by faith that you are hearing my prayer right now and I am trusting you as my only Savior to take me to heaven when I die. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Ingrid Hansen has published several books available on Amazon.com.

 More information can be found on the main website ingrid-hansen.info.

 

 

 

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Fighting the Good Fight of Faith – Lesson 1: An Introduction to Faith

 

Faith is the crux of our relationship to God. It is how we come to God. It is how we walk with God. It is by faith, that we will spend eternity with God. Faith is also the least understood and perhaps the most intangible part of being a Christian. Faith is part of the armor of God (Eph 6:16). Faith empowers us to receive miracles. Faith empowers endurance and transforms us into overcomers and conquerors. Faith lived, directs our steps into the destiny and the purpose of God.

Faith is described in Hebrews 11 and yet seems to be very misunderstood. The outcome of faith is simple. We receive all that God intends for us and all that God intends for us is very good. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV84) Those who lived faith did many awesome things. “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” (Hebrews 11:32–34, NIV84)

Faith is the tool of prayer and the carrier of healing. “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”" (Matthew 17:20, NIV84) Faith is absolutely essential to the Christian life. We must do all we can to grow and cultivate a lifestyle of faith.

Faith is so essential that without we most certainly will miss out on what God intends for us. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV84)

Faith is very much like a seed that grows. Its measurement is never by the size of the miracle seen or received but by the degree of transformation in the heart of the person with faith. Faith grows. Jesus did his first miracle before anyone knew enough to put faith in him. When those who were with him saw water turned into wine, their faith grew. “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” (John 2:11, NIV84) There came a time when the Lord taught difficult things about character, and the apostles knew their faith needed to grow. “The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”" (Luke 17:5, NIV84) Each one of us has a measure of faith (Rom 12:3) and each one of use should exercise that faith in order for faith to grow strong.

If I want to strengthen my muscles and grow strong in my body, I will start with what I have. I will feed my body foods that will nourish my muscles and then I will exercise my muscles and they will progressively grow stronger. If I persevere in the process, I can expect that I will be much stronger than when I started. Faith is the same way.

I have always has an awareness that God is real. However it took a long time before I entered into a relationship with God. Faith that God is real was my seed. That faith allowed me to begin to look for God.

When I was 13 years old, I did not yet have a personal relationship with God. I did however want real spirituality and real faith. I was diagnosed at the age of 13, after dealing with the disease my entire childhood, with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA). I was told by a team of doctors at the Children’s hospital that I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 30, I would never have children and my life would always have pain. They told me to stop all the strenuous activity I was doing to “buy time” before the wheelchair.

Emotionally I was stunned and devastated by the diagnosis and the prognosis. There really was no one who could counsel me through this. I whispered a prayer up into the air knowing that God was somewhere and I asked God “why me?” He did not answer that question… ever. He did however place some thoughts into my heart that at the time, I did not realize were from Him.

God’s answer and guidance was simple. “FIGHT!”

I took some of the drugs the doctors offered to try to slow the disease. I decided to forego the handful of drugs each day to mask the pain and chose instead to endure the pain. But I also decided to FIGHT. I was not in a wheelchair yet so until that day came, I would live each day, even if it was filled with pain, actively.

I had always loved long bike rides of 20+ miles. The doctors told me give up bike riding and start swimming to preserve the joints. I hated swimming. I loved bike riding. I chose to continue to do the long bike rides even though when I got off the bike my pain was horrible because the doctors told me in a few years I would not be able to do it. I wanted to ride while I was still able, even if it meant a great need to endure great pain.

I now know that this was faith in action. The faith principle is this. The diagnosis is not the prognosis. If you want a different outcome than everyone else, you will need to fight for it. That fight is the daily choice. We are to fight a “good fight” (1 Tim 6:12)

There was a woman in a crowd who fought with a little faith and pushed her way through the crowd to touch Jesus. Her faith healed her. “And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”" (Luke 8:43–48, NIV84) Her faith grew that day.

I fought for years the JRA and each day and each week I kept riding my bike. I endured three orthopedic surgeries by the time I was 17. The JRA got worse, the pain got worse, and the doctor kept telling me to quit riding. I told the doctor that I would ride as long as I can because he was telling me a day would come when I no longer could, and today I still could even if it brought me to tears. I fought.

Four years later, I was still fighting. The pain was worse, but I was still riding long rides. I was 17 years old. I started college and the Lord led me to a Christian who introduced me to the Gospel of Luke.

Soon, my faith grew because I knew personally who to have faith in and that was JESUS. Jesus became my Lord! Jesus was in control of my life. And I kept fighting. Only this time, Jesus was riding his bike by my side.

A few months passed. I was in love with JESUS. I only knew him a little but I loved HIM with all my heart. One day, Jesus came into my room. He brought me close into His presence and the intimacy and the brightness of his holiness brought me to tears.

My faith grew that day because I learned I could experience the presence of God.

I left that encounter of God changed. I had drawn close enough to God that sickness had to flee, much like to woman with the issue of blood.

That day and every day since then, there has been NO trace of the arthritis in me. Every blood test is negative. My faith grew.

What I learned from my childhood and that experience is that we must keep fighting for a different outcome. Fighting may be painful, but quitting is even more painful. Faith is expressed often in the daily battle to keep standing and keep going even in the presence of overwhelming obstacles. Faith endures!

I learned to hold on, to press in and that overcoming is possible. My faith grew.

I now have two wonderful children, no arthritis, and I still love to ride my bike.

“for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4, NIV84)

 

Ingrid Hansen has published several books available on Amazon.com.

 More information can be found on the main website ingrid-hansen.info.

 

 

 

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What to do in the midst of hard times

Many people I know are struggling with difficulties and pressures from life. I see it on people’s faces. I read it on the Facebook newsfeed. I hear it on the news. As we approach a new year, many hope for a new beginning that ushers out the hard times and brings in better times.

I will start with this. God wants to bless you and to prosper you. It is His plan and purpose that your life would fulfill his purpose for you. “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19–20, NIV84)

Jesus came to restore the promise of life. ” I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10–11, KJV 1900)

So there is a good question to ask in the midst of hard times and that is this: WHY? Why am I not living life to the full? Why am I in this place?

There are several answers to this question. Each of us must determine which answer is correct for our situation and then follow the path to peace.

The process of change requires many times that we let go of the old to embrace the new.

First, is our difficulty the result of sin?

Everywhere that we allow evil a foothold in our life, we will reap the consequences of sin, which is death. (Romans 6:23). We are also told that our actions have consequences. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7–8, NIV84)

Sometimes, the sin and it’s consequence are easy to spot. Did you lie at work and now no longer have a job? Did you steal and now have problems with the courts?

Other times, it is not so easy to spot sin and its consequence. Know this, every place we allow sin a foothold in our lives is a place and a doorway to reap destruction. “and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:27, NIV84)

We must always examine ourselves for sin. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NIV84)

We must know what God considers sin. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19–21, NIV84) “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:29–31, NIV84)

We must ask God to search our hearts and embrace the conviction of the Holy Spirit. “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;” (John 16:8–10, NIV84) “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24, NIV84)

Hardships in our lives will not change until we repent of our sin. We will never be able to embrace the blessing and purpose of God while at the same time walking in rebellion and disobedience to God. Repentance involves admitting our sin, acknowledging that we deserve the consequences of our sin, asking for forgiveness and receiving the grace of God to leave the sin behind. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:9–10, NIV84)

We make a choice to let go of sin and to repent and to begin to obey God. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24, NIV84) It is the process of repentance which will bring us to change and to life. “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:11–14, NIV84)

Second, is our difficulty the result of spiritual warfare?

We know the devil seeks to destroy us. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8–9, NIV84) The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10, KJV 1900)

When we are faced with spiritual warfare, our greatest weapon is the Word of God. Every promise of God is a weapon. Our tongue speaking the truth of God will send the enemy away. “no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17, NIV84) We must fight! “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10–18, NIV84)

 

Third, Is our difficulty the result of a season of testing?

Job, Joseph, Daniel, David and many others faced the testing of their faith. “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:32–38, NIV84)

It is in this season where we learn the joy and outcome of endurance. “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3–5, NIV84) Our character grows. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2–4, NIV84)

Endurance produces growth. “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” (2 Peter 1:5–9, NIV84)

We become overcomers and conquerors through endurance. “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:7, NIV84) As we endure, we understand the love of God never leaves us even in difficult times. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37–39, NIV84)

 

Hardships due to the consequences of sin must change through the process of repentance. Hardships due to spiritual warfare must be fought until we overcome. Hardships due to testing require endurance and perseverance.

In every hardship, there is a path to blessing. Be Blessed in the coming year.

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An open letter to Americans

It is with the same sadness and heartbreak that I watch the news reports of the Newtown, Connecticut School shooting. With tears in my eyes, as a parent, my heart grieves and mourns for the families. I too wonder and ask the question why?

Why did innocent lives perish? Why do families have to suffer? Why does an entire town go through a loss? Why does a young man choose a path of violence?

I also wonder when this will end. Sandy Hook elementary school is the most recent and with the youngest of victims. However, perhaps we should consider our history. This is the second mass shooting in the United States THIS WEEK! In an Oregon shopping mall filled with Christmas shoppers a gunman opened fire to kill.

Take a look at this year alone. This is ONLY the last 6 months of 2012.

December 11, 2012. The Oregon Mall shooting. September 27, 2012. Five were murdered by 36-year-old Andrew Engeldinger at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis, MN. August 5, 2012. Six Sikh temple members were murdered in Wisconsin. July 20, 2012. Twelve people murdered during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO. 58 others were wounded.

Our president addressed the nation. “As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

We must take “meaningful action”. However no one seems to know what that action is. Let us consider what actions are possible.

To the families of the victims: Please know that Americans grieve with you. We can never fully understand your loss. However, we will mourn and grieve with you. (Rom 12:15). Our arms and our hearts extend to you. We shed tears with you. We stand together as Americans here to help in any ways we can, to support you even as we do not know how and we find that there are no words that we can say to express our heartache with you or the love we want to show you. We pray for you. We ask God who is the author of comfort and peace to bring healing to your lives. We know this. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18, NIV84) And we trust that God hears our cries and sees our tears. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3, NIV84)

To the family of the shooter. You also are grieving. You also have many questions. You lost a mother to murder. You have become the focal point of the nation’s grief. I pray for your comfort as well.

To the community of Newtown, CT: So many of you are connected to these families. I pray that the wisdom and counsel of God will help and strengthen you. I pray for your wisdom. I ask God to protect you and comfort you.

But now… there comes a time as a nation that we must begin to ask the more difficult questions of why we have become a nation of senseless violence?

There are those who would respond and say we need to get rid of guns. However, we need to consider what happened in Newton, CT. It appears that the shooter decided at some point he was going to kill. He tried to buy guns at a sports store and the laws worked because of the background checks and delays. He left without a legal gun. He then decided to find guns ILLEGALLY. He went to his mother’s home and murdered her and used her legal weapons that he acquired illegally. He then went to a school which already has laws against guns and illegally forced his way into the school. He then illegally began to murder others. Ironically, in China on the same day, a man took a knife to 22 children in a school. Why did the Chinese man use a knife… because guns are more difficult to find.

What we see is this. Those with evil in their hearts will use whatever tools they can to commit acts of evil. It could be guns, knives, cars, rocks, fire or anything else at hand. It is the desire to commit an evil act and the choice to commit an evil act that empowers evil to manifest.

Now I ask this question…. Why where there so many fewer acts of evil 50 years ago?

This is the question we must answer as a nation. What has changed in our nation that we have created a culture that empowers evil thoughts, evil choices and ultimately the manifestation of evil?

We are a nation that has removed God from our schools. We are a nation that has removed ourselves from churches. We are a nation that has created media that is increasingly violent, increasingly sexual and increasingly selfish. We are a nation that wants our deep thoughts to be expressed in a youtube video of 3 minutes or less. We do not want to take the time to consider that actions have outcomes and we are responsible for the consequences of our decisions. We are a nation that embraces every choice of lifestyle except those that call for holiness, character and integrity. We have chosen to abandon the concept of self sacrifice and embrace self-pleasure. We are a nation of video games and alternate realities that we fail to consider that there is only one reality and that is the life we are given. We are a nation that has chosen in a generation to disregard the wisdom of the generations that built our great nation and have chosen to seek our own comfort as the foundation of our lives.

It is only when we begin to address these questions that we will begin to see a true change in our nation.

Indeed, we must once again consider that our lives were created by God to be lived with character and integrity to help others. We must consider that the wisdom of God embraced by earlier generations is also God’s wisdom for our generation.

God has a simple promise for us. “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV84)

Will we humble ourselves and admit that our choices are not working? Will we humble ourselves and admit that we have opened the door to evil and closed the door to God?

Will we begin once again to pray and seek God? Will we begin once again to have an open heart towards God that seeks to embrace love, holiness, truth and integrity?

Will we turn from our wicked ways? Will we stop entertaining ourselves with violent movies, violent video games and say it is only a game?

Will we begin to listen to God? Will we receive His forgiveness and then His healing for our nation?

We will never be able to create laws that prevent evil. It is only a change of heart that embraces the goodness of God that will do away with the darkness of evil.

I pray for each of you that read this, that each of you will seek God and together God will use us to bring healing to our land.

 

In honor of the fallen:

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Olivia Engel, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeline Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6

Daniel Barden, 7
Josephine Gay, 7
Chase Kowalski, 7
Grace McDonnell, 7

Rachel Davino, 29
Dawn Hocksprung, 47
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Lauren Russeau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27

 

The choice to obey a law is a moral choice of submission. There will never be enough laws to legislate morality. Morals and values are issues of the heart and only a change of heart will change our nation.

 

 

Ingrid Hansen has published several books available on Amazon.com.

 

More information can be found on the main website ingrid-hansen.info.

 

 


 

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Evaluating your choices

Our responsibility for a choice continues well past the moment in time when we made the choice. We must also consider the outcomes of our decisions to see if our decision was a Godly decision or not.

Indeed God is above all and His plans can be beyond understanding. We often say about decisions made that “God is sovereign” and thus we should not worry about the results of our decision. This is a subtle incorrect theology and those in it will say now that we have made the decision, we can pray and not worry about the outcome. Those who embrace this thought will say things like “It does not matter, God is still on the throne and trust Him.” This incorrect thinking ignores the truth that God has given us choice and freewill to choose to sin or to live holy. This theology removes any responsibility for the outcome from those who made the choice.

Jesus understood those who would not evaluate their choices. He called them blind. “He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”" (Matthew 15:13–14, NIV84)

Some would say that once we make a decision, the only thing we can do is leave the rest to God. The truth is that life is a journey and we must always examine the fruit of our decisions. We must learn and grow in wisdom. We must constantly evaluate our decisions against God’s Word and decide if the decision was righteous or unrighteous. We must repent of those decisions that are unrighteous. God calls an unrighteous decision “sin” and we must also learn to call unrighteous decisions “sin”.

Some would say that it is unloving to point out the consequences of sin. The truth is that sin leads to death and God has always raised up people to speak to a generation that is engaged in sin. Nathan spoke to David. Jeremiah spoke to his people. There are and will continue to be people who care enough to tell the truth and hope the people will repent.

Do not run away when the truth hurts. Run instead to God who transforms darkness into light and who will heal your brokenness. This is the example of David who repented when Nathan confronted him about his decision to sin. Nathan also taught David that sin has consequences. “Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.”" (2 Samuel 12:13–14, NIV84)

Evil and sin will progress as far as we allow it. Sin is empowered by our decisions to turn away from God and His path. The strength of sin is never stronger than the grace of God. The decision is ours. It is not wise to keep walking with your eyes closed.

God directs us to give careful thought to the decisions we make. If we are not seeing blessing in the outcome, perhaps the bad decision requires repentance. “Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”" (Haggai 1:5–11, NIV84)

We are admonished to pay attention to wisdom as we make decisions. We are warned that the path of poor decisions leads to death. “My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.” (Proverbs 5:1–6, NIV84)

We are told that Godly decisions can be made when we take the time to seek God, His Word and to consider the outcomes of the decision. We are told that the foolish who do not think about the outcome of their decisions will be deception. “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” (Proverbs 14:8, NIV84) The righteous will think before acting. “A wicked man puts up a bold front, but an upright man gives thought to his ways.” (Proverbs 21:29, NIV84)

Choices have consequences. Sinful choices have a penalty. Sometimes it is only when we see the poor outcomes do we begin to seek God and His will. “You will suffer the penalty for your lewdness and bear the consequences of your sins of idolatry. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.”" (Ezekiel 23:49, NIV84)

If we fail to understand and evaluate our choices, then sinful choices will destroy us. We become blind and deaf and unable to hear and discern the truth of God. “”Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the Lord? You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing.” It pleased the Lord for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious. But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons. They have become plunder, with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no one to say, “Send them back.” Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in time to come? Who handed Jacob over to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law. So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.” (Isaiah 42:18–25, NIV84)

Let us not only make choices but take the time to consider the outcomes of the choice.

 

Ingrid Hansen has published several books available on Amazon.com.

 

More information can be found on the main website ingrid-hansen.info.

 

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The decision to seek God

 

Very rarely do people begin the journey to seek God when they are comfortable. Most likely people seek God when things become difficult and people begin to realize that something is not right in their lives. Change is difficult and costly. We will only change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.

This was foreseen by the Lord from the beginning with His people. “After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time—if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God and provoking him to anger, I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you. There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell.” (Deuteronomy 4:25–28, NIV84) People can dwell happily for a long time in the land and in their comfort begin to lose their moral compass. In their comfort, they lose the sight of the path of holiness, righteousness and the intimacy with God that God has always intended. In their wanderings away from the commands of God, they wander away from God and also from the protection and blessing of God. They begin to suffer the consequences of evil.

As people begin to suffer from the consequences of unrighteousness, they begin to see the need to seek God. The grace of God always provides for repentance and a place to begin to seek God. “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.” (Deuteronomy 4:29–31, NIV84)

The people who had lost their way are told the begin to seek God. They are told to seek God with all their heart. This means that they are undivided in their decision to seek God until they find Him. To seek God with all of the heart means there will be no room in the heart for anything that does not seek God. The decision to seek God is the decision to once again obey God. In this decision to seek God, God promises the people that indeed He will be found.

We seek God the way God has decreed through His word. We seek God by giving to God. “But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you. You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit,” (Deuteronomy 12:5–8, NIV84) We cannot seek God except by obedience to His Word.

We seek God by beginning to thank God. We call on God in prayer. We begin to speak about Him. We worship Him and we praise Him. We look to God and not our own strength. We seek God for who He is; we seek His face and not what we want Him to do for us. We remember as we look in His Word what He has done both the miracles and the judgments and we expect that He will do so for us. “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, O descendants of Israel his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.” (1 Chronicles 16:8–13, NIV84)

We seek God by establishing our hearts and souls in devotion to God. We seek God by making room for Him to dwell in our lives. We seek God by participating in the church and building the corporate body of God. “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the Lord.”" (1 Chronicles 22:19, NIV84)

We seek God in humility. We acknowledge our sins. We lay down our pride and our strength and admit we cannot live without God and He is our creator and worthy of our lives alone. “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:14–15, NIV84)

We seek God in purity and in holiness. We turn aside from evil and wickedness and sin and embrace holiness and righteousness. “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.    Selah” (Psalm 24:3–6, NIV84)

We seek God and God alone. We seek God for the sole reason that we can be with Him. We do not seek God for a personal agenda of gain. “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, NIV84)

We seek God first with a decision of the heart. From the decision of the heart will come the actions of our lives. “My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.” (Psalm 27:8, NIV84)

We seek God by deciding to obey His Word. “Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:2, NIV84) We establish through our obedience God’s Word in our hearts and lives and begin to live holy lives. “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:10–11, NIV84)

We seek God at the time when we realize that only God has the answers we need. We forsake the evil and turn to the good. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6–7, NIV84)

We seek as the first and only priority of our lives God alone. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33, NIV84)

We seek God by placing our trust and hope in God. “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10, NIV84)

God waits for people to seek him. “The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” (Psalm 14:2, NIV84)

Today is a good day to begin to seek God.

 

Ingrid Hansen has published several books available on Amazon.com.

 

More information can be found on the main website ingrid-hansen.info.

 

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How to be Blessed by God

It is much easier to walk in the blessing of God when we submit ourselves to what God has already decided to bless. However many times we make decisions and choose a path and ask God to bless the decision we made.

I think the path of blessing lies in choosing God’s path.

Here is a short list of what God blesses.

Those who stay away from wickedness are blessed. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” (Psalm 1:1, NIV84)

Those who embrace God are blessed. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:12, NIV84)

The righteous, those whose conduct and character are Godly, will be blessed. “For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:12, NIV84)

The pure in heart and those who seek God will be blessed. “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.” (Psalm 24:3–6, NIV84)

Those who have had their sins forgiven by God and do not embrace deceit are blessed. “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1–2, NIV84)

The nation who follows God will be blessed by God. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.” (Psalm 33:12, NIV84)

Those who trust in the Lord and not in the proud or what is false will be blessed. “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.” (Psalm 40:4, NIV84)

Those who care for the weak will be blessed. “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble. The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.” (Psalm 41:1–2, NIV84)

Those who spend time in the house of God and the presence of God will be blessed. “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.    Selah” (Psalm 84:4, NIV84)

Those who acclaim God will be blessed. “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.” (Psalm 89:15, NIV84)

Those who embrace God’s correction and discipline will be blessed. “Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law;” (Psalm 94:12, NIV84)

Those who obey God’s Word and seek God with all their hearts will be blessed. “Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:2, NIV84)

Those who reverence God and delight in God’s commands will be blessed. “Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.” (Psalm 112:1, NIV84)

Those who seek God’s help and hope in God will be blessed. “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God,” (Psalm 146:5, NIV84)

Those who seek and find wisdom and understand will be blessed. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding,” (Proverbs 3:13, NIV84)

Those who listen to God and seek God daily will be blessed. “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 8:34–35, NIV84)

Those who are generous will be blessed. “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9, NIV84)

Those who are humble, meek, cry out for righteousness are merciful and pure in heart seeking peace will be blessed. “”Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:3–9, NIV84)

Those who keep following Jesus will be blessed. “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”" (Matthew 11:6, NIV84)

Those who persevere in truth will be blessed. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12, NIV84)

Those to take to heart God’s Word will be blessed. “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3, NIV84)

 

 

Ingrid Hansen has published several books available on Amazon.com.

 

More information can be found on the main website ingrid-hansen.info.

 

 

 

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Choose Wisely

 

Choices have consequences. Choices have impacts. The impact of our choices ripples through our life and touches the lives of many others. It is important then to begin to understand the nature and consequences of the choices we have and how to make wise choices. The truth is when we learn to make good choices we will find ourselves with increasing good outcomes. When we make bad choices, we will find ourselves with increasing bad outcomes.

A choice is nothing more than an opportunity. It is an opportunity to grow strong or to grow weaker. A choice is a blessing from God. A wise choice opens the door to blessings and promotion. An unwise choice will lead to loss and death. “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19–20, NIV84)

A choice set before us reminds us of the goodness of God and how He created us to choose Him. God created us with free will to make choices and thus set a choice before mankind from the very beginning. “And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”" (Genesis 2:16–17, NIV84) The essence of free will is the decision on will we choose to honor God and His will in our decision or will be choose our own will and our own desires.

The Lord is very near us in the when we come to the place of decision. “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:14, NIV84) The Lord desires that in every decision we honor Him. “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Proverbs 8:10–11, NIV84)

We are warned against making unholy choices. We are told that choices have outcomes. Those who choose against the Lord’s will, will experience the consequence of that choice. “Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them;” (Proverbs 1:29–32, NIV84) The Lord will give us over to our unwise choices. God has chosen that in our free will we can reject His wisdom and thus experience negative consequences. “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28–32, NIV84)

So while we know that unholy choices lead to death and destruction, holy choices lead to a greater understanding of God as well as empowerment by God. “May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.” (Psalm 119:173, NIV84) “Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways, for the Lord detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence.” (Proverbs 3:31–32, NIV84) The word ‘violent’ in the Hebrew speaks of one who is wrong, false, damaging, walking in injustice and unrighteousness.

Before we make a choice, we are in a season where we realize that we will need to choose. I call this the time of “pre-choice”. How we spend this time is critical, because it will impact how we choose. The time of the “pre-choice” is the time where we walk in pride or in humility. The humble will seek God, His Word and His will with the intent to obey. The prideful will decide that they know enough to make a decision.

Before the choice, we can seek God for wisdom with the full assurance that He will answer. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1:5–8, NIV84)

We know as we seek God in the “pre-choice”, that God will speak through His Word. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7, NIV84) It is the Word that brings wisdom and truth. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130, NIV84)

In the season of the “pre-choice”, it is important to consider what all the outcomes of the choice will be. “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.” (Proverbs 14:15, NIV84) The unwise will vote based on other people’s opinions but the wise man will consider the outcomes of his choice. In fact, this season of the “pre-choice” is where wisdom or foolishness is established. “Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly.” (Proverbs 13:16, NIV84) The wise will acquire knowledge for the decision and the foolish will spend time doing other things. The wise who examine outcomes will prepare for the choice. The foolish who have not studied the issues related to the choice will accept the status que and even not make a choice. “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12, NIV84)

The “pre-choice” season is God’s season of preparation for us to seek Him, His Word and His desires for our future. The wise will use the time to honor God by seeking His choice. The simple will not.

If the “pre-choice” time has been spent with God, the time of the choice should be straight forward. We choose what honors God. “I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.” (Psalm 119:30, NIV84) “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”" (Joshua 24:15, NIV84)

Now the season of the “post-choice” is upon us. This is the time where we walk in the outcomes of the choice. It is good to watch and see if blessings or curses are the outcomes. If we find that loss and destruction and confusion are the outcomes, we can learn that we have chosen unwisely.

When those who have greater maturity see the wrong decisions being made, they should prepare themselves to teach and instruct with the hope that those who are making wrong decisions will repent and begin making wise decision. “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:22–26, NIV84)

There is an answer to those who chose unwisely. It is the grace and mercy of God that draws us to learn from our poor choices and come to repentance. “AND WHEN all these things have come upon you, the blessings and the curses which I have set before you, and you shall call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, And shall return to the Lord your God and obey His voice according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your [mind and] heart and with all your being, Then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion upon you and will gather you again from all the nations where He has scattered you. Even if any of your dispersed are in the uttermost parts of the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and from there will He bring you. And the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will do you good and multiply you above your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with all your being, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:1–6, AMP)

God loves repentance. “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”" (Luke 15:10, NIV84) God’s grace gives us opportunity to repent. “… for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NIV84) Repentance is nothing more than being honest with ourselves and God and acknowledging that we made wrong choices. We then acknowledge that God wants better choices and will empower us to make wise choices. We choose to obey God instead of self.

The process of repentance is shown in Psalm 51. It is born of humility that acknowledges the wrong and seeks to make things right.

The outcome of repentance is that we begin again. We become wiser. We grow and we learn. We also walk in the mercy of God. “”Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18, NIV84) God will also restore us to His original plan for us. “”I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm— my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.” (Joel 2:25–26, NIV84)

Each day we must make choices. “Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15–16, AMP)

 

 

Ingrid Hansen has published several books available on Amazon.com.

 

More information can be found on the main website ingrid-hansen.info.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Changing the land

What a time it was…. The people of the land had expressed their popular opinion. They had decided that they wanted to live NOT like God’s holy and chosen people, dedicated to God and living under God’s blessing. Instead, the people had decided to embrace the standard of the world around them.

When the people choose Saul, God will prepare Samuel.

It was not Samuel, God’s spokesman and prophet, that the people rejected. It was God himself that they rejected. “So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” (1 Samuel 8:4–7, NIV84)

The people wanted Saul. They wanted to trust a man and not God. “But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”" (1 Samuel 8:19–20, NIV84)

When the people reject God to become like the world, God will prepare His church to become like Samuel.

Samuel did not like how the people were acting, so he prayed. (1 Sam 8:6).

The church must pray. We must pray in humility. “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV84) We must pray continually. (1 thess 5:17) We must think clearly. “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” (1 Peter 4:7, NIV84) We must pray for the heart of evangelism. “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (Philemon 6, NIV84) We must pray in the power of the Holy Spirit. “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” (Jude 20, NIV84) We must pray for an open door. “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” (Colossians 4:3, NIV84)

The church must pray continually until it understands its identity in Christ. “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:16–23, NIV84)

Samuel prayed until he received revelation and understanding from the Lord. “And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”" (1 Samuel 8:7–9, NIV84) Samuel was told to listen to the people, but not to follow the people. Samuel was still God’s leadership on the earth. Samuel was to warn the people solemnly. The phrase “warn solemnly” is the Hebrew “haed tard” twice. It means to bear solemn witness. When God repeats a word, He is establishing it. Samuel’s role now was to bear witness to the truth. It is a protest against what is false and the establishment of truth.

The role of the church when the people choose evil is to be a witness to the truth and the light. Truth is never subject to the popular vote or personal opinion. Truth will always be ready to light the path in the darkness. Those who embrace the truth must shine brightly to help those in the darkness. It is the high calling of those who follow Christ. “Then Jesus came to them and said, “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 am with you always, to the very end of the age.”" (Matthew 28:18–20, NIV84)

Samuel warned the people without condemnation. He spoke and warned of the outcomes and consequences of their choices. He warned them of the natural consequences of a king who would use the people for personal gain and also the spiritual consequences of a broken relationship with God. “He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day.”" (1 Samuel 8:17–18, NIV84)

The church must warn solemnly and soberly without condemnation or hatred on both the natural and the spiritual consequences. What happens when society chooses to reject God’s standards of sexuality and embraces the culture of pleasure instead of the standard of commitment and faithfulness. The natural consequences is that our society no longer has strong committed secure families for our children to grow up in. People walk with wounded hearts as divorce increases and they do not know how to heal. What happens when people disregard God? They find, they are unable to hear Him, they drift away, they learn that God lets them choose to walk away from His protection.

Samuel warned the people even as the people failed to listen. Samuel listened to the people who rejected God. Samuel told God. “When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.” Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Everyone go back to his town.”" (1 Samuel 8:21–22, NIV84)

The church must intercede for the people who reject God. And then the church must allow God to deal with the people. The church must remember that it is God’s great desire that all would come to Him. Our role is to be agents of light, truth and love to a broken and hurting world.

Eventually, the people saw the truth of the warnings of Samuel.

“The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.” “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”" (1 Samuel 12:19–25, NIV84)

Samuel, whose heart was filled with love for the people, responded with the heart of God. Samuel was ready to show the people how to return to God. Samuel was ready to show the people the love of God. Samuel was ready to teach the truth to the people.

The church must be prepared. At some point, the harvest will come. The church must be ready to love the people, to respond with God’s heart and to teach the people the heart of God.

Are you ready church for God to prepare you to be a Samuel?

 

Ingrid Hansen has published several books available on Amazon.com.

 

More information can be found on the main website ingrid-hansen.info.

 

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