Category Archives: Purposeful / Intentional

Seeking Victory Over An Oppressor

Samuel records an important event in the history of the Israelites in chapter 7, one which we can still learn from and apply to our lives today. The Israelites were subject to the wickedness of the Philistines, who did not serve YHWH. By my observation, in some ways this is not very different from our environment today. We may not be pressed upon by another nation in the USA, but we are surely corrupted and pressed upon within our nation by many in power and influence who are against YHWH, even when they claim to follow him. We witness as people claim what is bad to be good and the other way around. They practically worship the environment, but not the one who created it. They worship at the altar of self and convenience and sacrifice their children through abortion and demand that it must be free and unlimited. They demand everyone accept transgender and homosexual disorders rather than help people overcome it or even allow some to express openly a disagreement with it based on YHWH’s word.

How might we get free of this ongoing struggle? Well, we see in 1 Samuel 7 we should seek the LORD, reject idols and other things which we put in priority for our lives ahead of him (e.g. could be money, job, even spouse or kids, church, public opinion).   Come together with prayer and fasting. Admit our sins and ask forgiveness. Change our sinful ways and turn to YHWH’s ways. And yes, we have to rise up and take action when confronted by those who stand against YHWH. In our society that means continuing to teach and evangelize according to the Bible, not public opinion or what many churches teach. We must not let fear of rejection or animosity stop us. We must get involved in local, state and federal government and vote and influence others to vote based on righteousness of YHWH rather than what the news media or social media say.

1 Samuel 7:1-14

Deliverance from the Philistines

      1And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took the ark of the LORD and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD. 2From the day that the ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.

      3Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” 4So the sons of Israel removed the Baals and the Ashtaroth and served the LORD alone.

      5Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah and I will pray to the LORD for you.” 6They gathered to Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the sons of Israel at Mizpah.

      7Now when the Philistines heard that the sons of Israel had gathered to Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the sons of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8Then the sons of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry to the LORD our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it for a whole burnt offering to the LORD; and Samuel cried to the LORD for Israel and the LORD answered him. 10Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel. 11The men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car.

      12Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” 13So the Philistines were subdued and they did not come anymore within the border of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14The cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even to Gath; and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. So there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Grow In Pursuit of Christian Virtue

I could get lost for awhile in the opening introduction of 2 Peter 1. In our society we really don’t understand today much about what a bond servant actually means. I found a helpful study on Shoreshim Ministries podcasts series ‘Returning to our Roots’. To summarize with great simplicity, it is a servant who has been released by his master after a certain number of years and then chooses, willingly, to devote his life to serving his master as a bond servant because he loves and trusts his master. This is a far cry from what we might simply think of as someone who is “trapped” or “forced” to be a servant. He chooses to serve his master with permanent commitment.

There is much more in this chapter of course. We receive faith. We do not accomplish this simply on our own. We seek grace and peace in the knowledge of our Creator. We are encouraged to grow in Christian virtue and to remember that eternity waits for us beyond our fleshly bodies. Reflecting on eternity always stretches me in my natural thoughts to be more long term focused and less focused only on this world. It is too easy to think of 30 years from now as “long term”, but really it is quite short compared to eternity. Let us remember that in guiding how we live our lives.

2 Peter 1:1-15

Growth in Christian Virtue

     1Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

      12Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. 13I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.

Be Zealous For What Is Good

Be zealous for what is good, even if you face intimidation and trials. Be ready to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and reverence. Do not simply be passive or indifferent to the sin around you. YHWH does not want us to accept the sin around us or make excuses for it. We may not be able to stop others from sinning, but we certainly can make the case through our actions and our words that their sin is not acceptable to YHWH and they should repent. We should certainly be living differently than those who do not believe and we should expect them to slander us for it.

1 Peter 3:12-22

     13Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Let Our Light Shine For Christ

Many in our society try to compartmentalize their faith. Satan has convinced people that it is ok to keep your faith not only private, but invisible. In this way our faith will not hinder our careers or other pursuits where people may persecute or harass us for our faith. This is in direct contradiction to Christ calling us to be a light to others to shine and draw them to Him. We must not keep our faith invisible or entirely private.

Matthew 5:14-16

    14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

For the most part, in the US, we don’t see the levels of life threatening persecution that are common in some majority Muslim countries in the Middle East or in atheist countries like China. Our brothers and sisters in Christ certainly need our prayers. They face true difficulty for their faith. They stand strong. If someone claims to be Christian there, you know they mean it. There are few lukewarm Christians there, because it is not worth the cost unless you really believe.

However, even here in the US we face some level of cultural backlash against openly living out our faith in business. There are law suits or rebukes that we may offend someone. We each must decide what we are willing to do for Christ. What are we willing to risk to honor and obey Him? It is better to decide ahead of time, before the persecution comes to avoid rationalizing why we can accept a little more private faith… really an invisible faith… because we want to protect our “success” or comfort.

Daniel stands as an excellent example. He was successful at his job. He was liked by the king. He not only stood to lose these things, but also he knew he faced the lion’s den. He prayed anyway. He could have closed his window perhaps or blocked it. He could have prayed when he knew no one would be around. He refused to change his prayer behavior because of outside pressure. He did not let “it’s illegal” become an excuse to stop praying to God or to hiding his relationship with God. Daniel was a man of great faith, whom I admire.

How many of us avoid praying or have almost no prayer time even with no persecution? How many of us just allow ourselves to get “too busy” for prayer? We let the daily concerns and activities of the world choke out our prayer life with YHWH.

I hope and pray I would do like Daniel, while admittedly hoping I never have to face a situation like that one. I have, however, made conscious choices to not hide my faith at work, even if that would be more easily accepted. I am increasing my prayer time and asking YHWH to help me truly enjoy and look forward to prayer time. I pray YHWH gives me courage and boldness to live for Him and I encourage you to do the same.

I invite you to pray with me for yourselves, your family, and your brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe that they would be bold for Christ and let their light shine, even if it results in persecution.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Glorify the LORD Through Your Actions And Words

Do not continue in the desires of those who do not follow Yeshua, in sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and idolatries. Do not expect them to understand why you do not continue in these things with them. However, remain fervent in your love for Yeshua and live according to the Father’s ways, as Yeshua did. Act in such a way that Yeshua is glorified through our actions and words… in how we treat one another. But do not let this be an excuse to accept sin as we should continue to help one another to move away from our previous godless ways so common in culture around us and move ever closer to the LORD.

1 Peter 4:1-11

Keep Fervent in Your Love

      1Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 4In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; 5but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.

      7The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Instructions for Godly Living, Not For the Faint of Heart

We are continuing in 1 Peter 3 after he writes about servants honoring and obeying their masters in chapter 2, even if they are unreasonable masters. He writes about how Christ is our example in how we react to the way in which others treat us. Then we pick up in chapter 3 and continue into some important and deep guidelines for how we are to live in a godly way.

1 Peter 3

Godly Living

      1In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

      7You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

      8To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

10For,
“THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS,
MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT.

      11“HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD;
HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT.

      12“FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS,
AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER,
BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.”

      13Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

Sadly, our culture continues to depart from godly virtuous living. Women are taught they should not obey their husbands, or only if the husbands deserve it. Peter paints a very different picture and with a purpose that goes well beyond ego or pride or hurt feelings that one may struggle with while submitting… Peter points directly to how this behavior may win souls for Christ.

Similarly, husbands are guided to dwell with understanding with their wives, not to dismiss them and run roughshod over them.

All together we are to be kind and humble and, when necessary, suffer for doing what is right. We are not to trade insult for insult, but rather return blessing.

Prayerfully reflect over this guidance and how to apply it in your life today. Let our lives preach the gospel to our spouses and to the world.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

 

 

Take Time To Learn About And Celebrate Sukkot (Tabernacles)

Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles (also Booths), is at first strange to those of us growing up in a Christian church or non Jewish culture because so much of the Old Testament is not taught or not taught as relevant anymore. As the Lord has revealed more to me in my study and prayer it has become quite a meaningful celebration for my family. The celebration is coming up soon, so I encourage you to take some time to learn more and consider participating with your family, or even by yourself.

The Lord wants His people to remember how He led His people out of bondage in Egypt under Moses. He provided for them in the desert and they were in humble accommodations for 40 years.  But even in this He was in control and sustained them, provided for them. He dwelt among them in the Tabernacle in their camp. Even today, we can harvest great value from this celebration if we choose to pursue it. Not only am I reminded of His liberation of His people from slavery, but also of His liberation of us from the law of sin and death through the sacrifice of Jesus. We can leave behind our bondage to sin and He will provide even as the journey may be difficult at times. From a very practical perspective it also reminds me to be thankful and humble, not to take for granted the nice home and secure lifestyle that my family is blessed with.  We are to be reminded that He provides this as well, lest we slip into a bit of arrogance and self dependence and let it begin to separate us from our dependence on the Father. Finally, it reminds us to look forward to the return of the King, when Yeshua returns to dwell among us for His thousand year reign on earth… as the Father dwelt among the Israelites in the Tabernacle in the wilderness.

Leviticus 23:37-44

    37‘These are the appointed times of the LORD which you shall proclaim as holy convocations, to present offerings by fire to the LORD—burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each day’s matter on its own day— 38besides those of the sabbaths of the LORD, and besides your gifts and besides all your votive and freewill offerings, which you give to the LORD.

      39‘On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. 40‘Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. 41‘You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42‘You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, 43so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’” 44So Moses declared to the sons of Israel the appointed times of the LORD.

We have not taken to live in booths in the wilderness as yet for this celebration, but we do set aside the Sabbath days of rest and break out the tent to go camping… so far in our own family room. It creates excitement for the kids and questions about why and what we are celebrating and it all points back to our Father who provides for us and sets us free.  I encourage you to consider taking steps in this direction that the holidays you celebrate would more and more be the holy days that God instructed and that point back to Him rather than (or at least in addition to) so many distracted man-made purposes associated with the holidays our nation(s) celebrate today.

I encourage you to do some personal study on this celebration. I include a few links below. However, be sure to validate everything you read against the truth of scripture.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Christ Is Our Example In Enduring Suffering

In our last article we focused in on honoring authority in 1 Peter 2:13-20. I have included those verses again here as context for our exploring verses 21-25.

We notice that we are called to honor authority even as we experience suffering from unreasonable people in authority. It is in this context we are called to follow Christ’s example. Even while being reviled and mistreated, he had no deceit in his mouth and did not revile in return. He did not issue threats, but rather trusted himself to the Father.

1 Peter 2:13-25

Honor Authority

      13Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

      18Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

Christ Is Our Example

     21For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

The last verse is worth reflection to be sure. We are apt to continually stray like sheep into sin, but we must return to our shepherd.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Keep Your Behavior Excellent Among Others Who Do Not

Peter was speaking to God’s people, the Jews, who lived as aliens and foreigners in amongst the Gentiles. He was clear that they should not mix and mingle their behaviors with those of the Gentiles, but rather keep their behavior excellent and abstain from fleshly lusts. The purpose of them being set apart and holy is to give glory to God and bring more to him.

1 Peter 2:11-12

     11Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Today, those of us who profess to follow Yeshua as Messiah, still find ourselves amongst increasingly pagan nations… even some which used to be more godly in nature. We should take the same advice. Do not adopt the wrong behaviors and attitudes of the nations, but rather remain set apart as we have been called to do as people of God… even if it means we feel we are different from those around us and living as foreigners in our own homeland.

Expect to be different if you are to be holy and set apart for God’s purposes.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Grow In Respect To Salvation

A simple message to reflect on from 1 Peter today.

1 Peter 2:1-3

As Newborn Babes

      1Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

We are to put aside some fleshly impulses toward malice and deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. Peter is not talking to unbelievers but to believers and followers of Yeshua. Let us take heed and not dismiss it as a message aimed at “those who are lost”. He is aiming it straight at those who already follow Yeshua.

He calls for us not to be complacent and satisfied with our current understanding of the word, but rather to long for more like a baby longs for milk. In this way we grow in respect to salvation. We are to avoid stagnating.

An interesting test to consider…

Do you feel you are already 100% in understanding and close relationship with the LORD… perfection mastered on earth? Of course most believes say “no”.

Do you want to be close to the LORD and walk more perfectly according to his ways? Most believers say “yes”.

Then we should expect to experience change in our lives. If we are complacent to just keep doing everything how we grew up or how we are doing it today, we are not growing in the LORD. We should expect and look for where we should drive real change in our lives, tangible change… not just “I am getting sort of better at… over time”.

Give it some time to soak on and prayerfully reflect on it. Then ask YHWH to show you were he wants you to change. Ask him to help you long for change like a baby for milk so that you may draw nearer to him.

Remember, change is uncomfortable in most cases, so don’t expect to “feel” like you should change. Look to YHWH’s word to understand where you should change based on what he has told us.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.