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A Book Review: Eternity Now: The New Testament Series

Eternity Now: The New Testament Series. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2022.

In August 2022, I received a complimentary copy of Eternity Now: The New Testament Series from Thomas Nelson publishers because I am a Bible Gateway Blogger Grid member who promised to read the books and publish an honest review of the series. My analysis is below.

The Series

This series consists of five books titled with a content description.

Volume 1: The Legacy—Matthew, Hebrews, James, Jude

Volume 2: No Going Back—Mark, 1-2 Peter

Volume 3: Grand Tour—Books of Luke: Luke, Acts

Volume 4: Death to Life—Books of Paul: Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians,

Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy,

Titus, Philemon.

Volume 5: Now But Not Yet—Books of John: John, 1-3 John, Revelation

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Content

The books are formatted presentations of the New Testament using the New English Translation. The editors describe the series as books that reveal “the history shaping story of how Jesus Christ changed the world and what that means to you. The reader-friendly format presents the New Testament books across five paperback volumes, making it easy to carry anywhere and read anytime.”

Design Décor Description

The books arrived in a beautiful display box—so attractive that one would be proud to place the boxed set on any bookshelf as a lovely décor addition. All five books have coordinated covers using blue, orange, black, and two shades of green. When put together, the spines of the books create an attractive design when placed in the series box. Each cover describes the book as coming “From the #1 Bestselling Book of All Times” (a.k.a. The Bible) along with a title, subtitle, quotation, and an acknowledgment that what is inside comes from the New English Translation Bible (NET). When I first received the books, I had no idea the publishers were using a unique concept in designing them to make them look like small fiction or non-fiction books—great to fit into one’s purse or briefcase.

The Positives

  1. The books are easy to pick up and browse through, easy enough for any late elementary or junior high student to read.
  2. The “ministry-first” concept is impressive, meaning there are no restrictions regarding quoting or sharing any of the Scriptures when using them in books, magazines, newspaper articles, and more. One does not have to gain permission to use as much of the translation as desired.
  3. Its simple format is excellent for seniors who might have problems holding a large, heavy Bible.
  4. I enjoyed how the layout shows the chapter headings and accurate subtopics.
  5. Another positive is that the books bold all prophecies from the Old Testament.
  6. This innovative approach to Bible reading seems accurate compared to my usually read Bible—the New American Standard Bible.

The Drawbacks

The drawbacks listed below are all due to “my personal preferences,” which may or may not affect other readers.

  1. All five books lack verse numbers while representing their story format. I understand that by not including verse numbers, one will experience more ease in reading. However for me, many times, as I was reading, I wanted to look up the Bible verse but could not find “the address” to do so.
  2. The books did not create that sacred feeling of reading the Bible. While the editor’s intent is to read each book like a novel, reading them as a novel was bothersome.
  3. Words referring to Jesus were in lowercase letters. My preference would have been to use the names of Jesus as He, Him, and Himself. Other words like scripture are also noted in lowercase.
  4. I missed the red lettering of Jesus’ words prevalent in many Bible versions.

Book’s Purpose

The book’s primary purpose is obvious. It is to get the Bible into the hands of those who might never pick up a Bible themselves, making this set a lovely gift for any occasion for boys, girls, men, and women. Not everyone will appreciate the novel format, but many will find it the most enjoyable way to read the Bible. Therefore I recommend this book series.

God Bless,

New English Translation Bible Verses:

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16 NET

Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the scriptures or the power of God. Matthew 22:29 NET

For these things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled, “Not a bone of his will be broken.” John 19:36 NET

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures. Luke 24:45 NET

Prayer:

Lord, give me wisdom as I approach my Bible reading. Lead me to Bible verses You want me to read and learn from. Allow me to obey all Your sacred principles, which You have made available through Your Holy Scriptures. You are a mighty God, and I love You. Amen

Books by Patti Greene

BIBLE WORD SEARCH PUZZLE SERIES

 

Two Years Ago Today, Mom Went to Heaven!

Initial Remarks

Today marks two years since my dear mom passed away—August 27, 2020. I wrote the following letter four months after my mom died, recollecting the time my husband John and I spent living with her for four years in her home. I mailed this note to a few very close friends at the time, but today, I feel like posting this in her honor and sharing that I am still sad about a lot of things, but I know moving on would be what she would want for me.

Dear Friends

First, I want to thank all of you who have prayed for John and me over the past few years. We were in a unique season of life—a life we never expected to be in. It was challenging and rewarding at the same time.

Most of you know that in January 2016, I moved into my parent’s home when my dad was ill with leukemia and dementia. John was working overseas at the time. Dad died in February 2016.

Being concerned about mom, I stayed with her after Dad’s passing. The idea of her alone in the house made me want to stay with her. Unfortunately, 2016 brought a diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer to mom on top of all her other ailments, so I continued to stay at mom’s house. John came home from his overseas assignment shortly after mom’s diagnosis and moved into mom’s house with me.

We locked up our house, and our life became different—more different than we ever expected. John retired after completing his overseas assignment but found a little part-time work, and life moved on. We settled into our life with mom in west Houston, trying to adjust to not being in our own home. I did fine for the first two years. But, the last two years were physically and emotionally tough on me. As mom progressively needed more care and attention, I became more nervous and anxious. I was not my usual self. I had a hard time coping, although I was able to conceal it from others for the most part.

John saw and experienced my constant exhaustion, my need for respite, and my emotional stress worsening daily. He was my rock. I cannot imagine any other person being so kind and generous as giving up his home and life to partner with me in caretaking my mother – his mother-in-law. John occupied my mom with mind-boggling conversations and debates. He made dinner most days, and towards the end, his help and love truly inspired me as he provided nursing duties way beyond his pay grade. Christ-like love was indeed in action!

God knew my fragile mental state. And I hate to say it, but COVID was the lifeline I needed to be able to move back home. It had become apparent that I was not doing well with our 24/7 living arrangement at mom’s house. When COVID hit: Mom’s housekeeper was able to move in with her even though we were back towards the end of mom’s life. John, me, and mom all sleeping in the same bedroom, available for whatever.

Even being home was highly stressful, with daily visits to mom’s house, more doctor’s appointments than ever, and issues relating to mom’s declining health.

If you have not guessed by now, two thousand twenty has been the roughest ride of my life!

I am omitting many “specifics” so I do not get bogged down and miss the point I am trying to share with you.

The fact is, a good friend said, “God has positioned people who can take our hands and help us find our way through the fog and storms.” You are those people!!! Your prayers helped me to pray and not lose my heart. Your prayers helped me to pursue seeking the Highest God, your prayers helped me to stay strong in the Word of God, and your prayers reminded me that challenges are for our spiritual growth. This journey was not anything I had ever imagined, but God knew I had to go through it. This season was sent to accomplish things in me that could not have been accomplished any other way.

Some of you have been where I was. Some of you have not. However, I want you to know that when we experience tears and disappointment, it does not have to dimmish our relationship with the Lord. He allows each new experience to make us aware that we need to trust Him so solidly that we can tell Him the down and dirty of all we think and encounter. When I had questions, God was there. When I cried, He was there. When I could not handle it anymore, God was still there. Even though there were times I could not feel His presence, you kept me hanging on to Him. That was possible due to your prayers. Thank you!

Mom died on August 27, 2020. John and I received a call at 1:50 a.m. from my older brother to come home. I had my cuddle time with mom; then, at 3:50 p.m. that afternoon, she took her final breath.

It has only been a few months since we left that season of our lives. Still, thankfully God is showing me why the experiences I encountered were essential. I do not understand many things that came about during that season. But God always pointed me back to Him—calling me to trust Him when I couldn’t see the whys of the past or the wonders of the future. During my caregiving time, I encountered burnout, compassion fatigue, taxing emotions, and the perps of spending time with my dear mom. I knew the challenges were in His hands. Thanks for your prayers!

Life is an adventure. I wailed many times during this period, “Lord, I can’t handle it anymore!” But He knew and knows when it is time to step in for relief. God moved when I reached the pinnacle of my despair in August. These years are now part of my life story. I recognize that “being out of our comfort zone” is usually the only way we can grow, and I thank God for it. I experienced many sweet times with mom that would not have been possible any other way, but it was still strenuous and tough on me. So, thanks again for your prayers!

Each day, I feel a little more rested and restored. I know that the Lord will use this experience for His glory. There are so many Biblical principles that I had read in Scripture but not experienced before. I encountered so many aspects during these 4+ years: love, forgiveness, gratitude, and boundaries—to mention the positive ones. Sometimes it is hard to see circumstances clearly when living under stress or in a bleak period. Still, when the light is slowly restored, we can feel God’s peace and presence in extraordinary ways—even supernaturally. We start understanding the why, the why not, the how much longer questions of life. In these times, we must depend on the prayers of our friends like you. And for that, thanks again for your prayers!

My takeaway is to encourage you to look at your circumstances through the eyes of our heavenly Father. Commit to renewing your mind daily with prayer and Bible study. Remember that darkness does not stay forever in whatever situation you face. Even through hard times, He is close by—guiding us, building our faith, and waiting to meet our needs. He has a purpose for everything we experience in life, to prepare us for His assignments here on earth or for our heavenly home.

Today—Two Years Later

Yes, John and I have moved on; that is a long story. Still, one thing we both know is that God directed and allowed us to spend time with mom. However, I encountered difficult times caregiving at points along the way. If you are caregiving, hang on! Memories are being formed that will be cherished more with time. The emotional journey has a purpose that God will use in your life ministries.

While living with my mom, I wrote a book titled Christian Caregiving: Practical Advice for a Happy Ending. I wrote it during the first two years of living with mom. If I had waited until later, the book would probably never have been written. I left out the hard part, the biography of my experiences as time passed, because I hadn’t experienced that. However, it is a good book for those starting on the journey of caregiving with lots of Scripture references. I am not posting this as a sales pitch for my book, but I wanted you to know good things come from caregiving. Our strength in Him and knowing that He always has His best for us in mind keeps us going.

Mom, I love you, and I always will. Thanks for loving me. I still miss you two years later.

God Bless.

Verses from Christian Caregiving:  Practical Advice for a Happy Ending [9780692115381-Available on Amazon.com. Only $7.44 today.

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).

Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established (Proverbs 16:3)

Books by Patti Greene

BIBLE WORD SEARCH PUZZLE SERIES

Barnabas: Leadership in Action

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Following Christ involves denying ourselves to follow Him. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Luke 9:23 NASB1995).[1] This verse is crucial for Christian leaders to heed. Barnabas’ years in ministry possessed a heart intent on following Jesus. This goal was accomplished using Jesus’ style of leadership—servant leadership.

Barnabas

Barnabas was born and raised on the island of Cyprus. His training and upbringing stemmed from him being a Levite of Jewish descent. His name occurs twenty-three times in the Book of Acts and five times in the letters that the Apostle Paul wrote.[2] Before Jesus’ disciples called him Barnabas, Acts 4:36 says he was called Joseph (Joses) which means “Son of Encouragement.” Luke interprets Barnabas into the Greek words huios paraclete’s, which may well be translated as “son of encouragement,” “son of comfort,” or “Son of Exhortation.” Some say it could mean “son of a prophet,” but then doubts are cast why Luke calls him the “Son of Encouragement.” Some scholars question why Paul calls him the “son of encouragement in Acts.[3]

Barnabas’ central timeline includes selling property and giving the profits to the Jerusalem church, meeting and introducing Paul to the church in Jerusalem, being commissioned to travel to Syrian Antioch to evaluate what was happening with the preaching and Christianity there, leading the first missionary journey with Paul, set out on a missionary journey with his cousin John Mark, and an instrumental leader in Cyprus, Antioch, and Jerusalem.[4]

Barnabas’ Qualities, Strengths, and Weaknesses

Throughout the Book of Acts, one sees qualities of generosity, encouragement, leadership, loyalty, friendship, consistency in being a team player, and a love for God. His focus on the mission God had prepared for him is evident through his words and actions.

Godly character and behavior remained pivotal throughout Barnabas’ life. His strong personality was built by his love and dedication to his salvation and call upon his life. Due to this, Barnabas naturally had multiple strengths.

  1. Big-hearted: When Barnabas sold his land to give to the early Christian community, that behavior was rare then. Could it be that this was one of the first relief work missions that one sees from the New Testament?
  2. Persuasive: In Jerusalem, Barnabas received a cool reception because the disciples could not believe that Paul had changed from a persecutor to a follower of Jesus. Barnabas persuaded them, and they eventually thought he was a disciple of Christ.[5]
  3. Loyal: Barnabas was faithful to John Mark when he abandoned his work on the first missionary journey. He did not allow the disagreement when Paul refused to have John Mark participate in the second missionary journey to affect their relationship. Due to the encouragement of Barnabas, vital contributions from both Paul and Mark have been made to the Christian faith and the New Testament.
  4. Exceptional evangelist: Many souls were saved as he traveled from city to city, church to church
  5. Discerning: Barnabas discerned that Paul’s character had been transformed from a sinner to a believer in Jesus Christ.
  6. Humble: Barnabas followed wherever he was needed. He did not show one-upmanship or comparison to other people as he lived his life.
  7. Filled with the Holy Spirit: Barnabas would not have been able to minister as he did without the Holy Spirit leading and guiding him.
  8. Encourager: As an encourager, he could keep the peace with Paul through a lasting friendship and encourage those he met along his life journey.

Few weaknesses are evident in the Bible. However, one weakness found was hypocrisy. One can only assume that if one backslides and is not living for the Lord, the Holy Spirit’s evidence in their life would wane. It is unknown if Barnabas experienced a dip in his spiritual life, but there is no evidence in the Bible of any other faults. Regarding hypocrisy, Paul accused Peter and others (including Barnabas) of being hypocrites because they separated themselves and feared the circumcision party. Paul mentions that “even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy” (Gal. 2:13). Not knowing the heart of Barnabas on this matter, this weakness may or may not be accurate since we should never judge others primarily based on the word of only one person and this one incident.

Principles and Issues on Leadership

Many secular scholars over the years have tried to conceptualize and define leadership. Peter G. Northouse defines leadership: “Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.”[6] While that is a helpful definition, Jesus’ life and lifestyle would be more appropriate if one were to look for the Biblical description and qualities a leader should possess. C. Gene Wilkes discusses seven servant leadership principles. These principles are seen in one degree or another in Barnabas.

  1. Jesus humbled himself and allowed God to exalt him.
  2. Jesus followed his Father’s will rather than seek a position
  3. Jesus defined greatness as being a servant and being first as becoming a slave.
  4. Jesus risked serving others because he trusted that he was God’s Son
  5. Jesus left his place at the head table to serve the needs of others
  6. Jesus shared responsibility and authority with those he called to lead
  7. Jesus built a team to carry out a worldwide vision.[7]

Critical Analysis: Barnabas’ Servant Leadership Qualities

Barnabas’ leadership qualities are detected in various locations in the Bible that closely mimic the same leadership model Jesus portrayed.

  1. Barnabas’ humility and generosity are recognized in Acts 4:37 where he sold a tract of his land, brought the money, and laid it at the apostle’s feet to be appropriated as needed in the Jerusalem church.
  2. Barnabas’ belief that people can change for the good is noted in Acts 9:26-27 when the disciples were afraid of Paul. Barnabas described to the apostles that he had talked to Paul and that he had spoken out boldly for Jesus.
  3. In Acts 15:35, Barnabas is regarded as a leader proclaiming the word of the Lord. His leadership is also seen in his involvement with the Council of Jerusalem. It was there that Paul and Barnabas were given “the right hand of fellowship, that we might go to the Gentiles” to proclaim God’s message of salvation (Gal. 2:9).
  4. Barnabas continued in Jesus’ footsteps by being a risk taker. When Paul would not allow John Mark to accompany him on his second missionary journey, he took John Mark under his wing, and they proceeded to proclaim the Lord to the world, even though John Mark deserted them on the first missionary journey.
  5. Serving others through his preaching, teaching, and mentoring was everyday behavior for Barnabas. In Acts 13:42-43, the people in the synagogue begged Paul and Barnabas to continue to speak to them. Both these men served the Lord by encouraging them to continue in the grace of God.
  6. Barnabas loved God and recognized God’s authority over his life. In Jesus on Leadership, Wilkes says, “Barnabas’s relationship to God helped him see past the fear of others and come alongside Paul who would ultimately take the message of Jesus to all people groups.”[8] Last, Barnabas did build a close-knit team by mentoring Paul and John Mark. However, he also left the mark of Jesus upon all the churches and cities he traveled sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Synthesis: How Barnabas’ Leadership is Applied to Ministry Settings

Studying the life of Barnabas brings many principles that one can bring to a servant leadership style. Values arising from these principles may be valuable to any believer—those working in a secular or Christian environment.

Like Barnabas did, striving, desiring, and working toward a life of holiness is essential to one’s spiritual growth and ability to lead. His lifestyle was built on character, integrity, and submission to the Lord. His determination steered him to possess and retain God’s heart. He lived and served as Jesus did, and Jesus’ influence led him to behave and interact lovingly with others. Standing up for what is right and acknowledging God as our strength in our ministries creates a life that others will want to emulate. Honesty and honest work are vital, as well. Leading like Christ and behaving like Christ is how ministry workers should behave and lead. Just as Barnabas served people, so must those in ministry. However, how is that done? Author and Pastor C. G. Wilkes says, “Servant and leader stand together as a model for those entrusted with the well-being of a group. Leaders who follow the example and teachings of Jesus will lead first as servants.”[9] My personal goal for ministry leadership lines up with Wilkes’s beliefs, and that is to pray for humility, patience, a desire to put others before me, take risks, and equip others well.

Conclusion

Believers are all sinners—even Barnabas. The Apostle Paul writes a summation verse that encompasses how we can live in our fallen nature.

Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14).

Pressing on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus is a worthy goal. When that goal is in the forefront of a believer’s mind, as it was with Barnabas, servant leadership will follow.

Legend says this Barnabas died a martyr’s death at Salamis in AD 61. He is remembered as being possibly one of the seventy mentioned in Luke 10:1 and the traditional founder of the Cypriot Church.[10] Most would agree with Norman Blackaby and Wilkes that, Barnabas’ leadership, and character “made a lasting difference in the lives of millions because he demonstrated the heart of God.”[11]

God bless,

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we see Barnabas relating to others, let me have the same qualities as he had. I want to be more generous. I want to encourage others and be loyal to my friends and family. Help me, Jesus to continue to have a love for all things of God and to put others before myself. You are a good God and I love You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Books by Patti Greene

BIBLE WORD SEARCH PUZZLE SERIES

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This article may not be reproduced except for written permission from the author. For the full annotated paper and bibliography, please contact me through the comment section of this article. [This paper was written for a college, academic, research class by Patti Greene.]

 

 

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble online!

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Bibliography

Note: All linked Bible verses come from the NASB1995 version.

“Barnabas.” in Lexham Bible Dictionary. Logos Bible Software, accessed June 2, 2022. www.logos.com.

Brooks, James. “Barnabas.” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. revised ed. edited by Chad Brand, Eric Mitchell, and Holman Reference Editorial Staff.

Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2015.

Barnabas. (2002). In R. Brownrigg, Who’s who in the New Testament, Routledge (2nd ed.). Routledge. Credo Reference:

http://library.dbu.edu:2048/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/routwwnt/barnabas/0?institutionId=2659.

Blackaby Norman and Gene Wilkes. Character: The Pulse of a Disciple’s Heart. Birmingham: New Hope, 2012.

Cross, Frank and Elizabeth Livingstone, ed. “Barnabas.” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. accessed June 2, 2022.

https://www-oxfordreference-com.library.dbu.edu/view/10.1093/acref/9780192802903.001.0001/acref-9780192802903.

Northouse, Peter G. Leadership: Theory & Practice. 9th ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2022.

Wilkes, C. Gene. Jesus on Leadership: Timeless Wisdom on Servant Leadership. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 1998.

Zodhiates, Spiros. ed. Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible: Key Insights into God’s Word, New

            American Standard Bible, rev. ed. Chattanooga, TN: AMG.

The Left Engine

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The Pilot and Passengers

The airplane pilot calmly addressed the passengers.

 “We are experiencing trouble with the left engine. We are currently talking to Chicago about the problem. Maintenance will be arriving soon. We will try to start the plane again, wait for a period of time, and try to start the engine again. Please sit tight while we address this problem.”

I sat in seat 14F on the tarmac for two and a half hours when the pilot addressed the issue. I wondered why they did not get all the passengers off this plane and onto another plane. Why stress us all out wondering if it were our last day on earth or whether angels intervened to make us safe? At this juncture, all the passengers and I could do was trust the pilot.

The Left Engine

But why all the concern with the left engine? I get it now that I am off the plane and can indulge in mindless research. The left engine is the engine that, if it fails, will have the most adverse effect on the control and performance of the aircraft. To understand why the left engine is critical, one must also understand the right engine. The right engine’s slipstream does not strike the rudder and does not affect the aircraft’s control. Still, if the right engine were to fail, the left engine’s slipstream would counteract the airplane’s instability and deviation toward the dead engine, assisting in aircraft control. [1] However, this same positive counteraction does not occur if the left engine encounters trouble.

Trusting God in our Spiritual Life

I compare the left engine to our spiritual life. In life, we sometimes have trust issues—some rational, some not! Regardless of our problems and issues, we have a heavenly Father to support us in our time of need. When Jesus’ disciples thought they would perish in the storm, Jesus came to the rescue calming the storm. He can do the same for us today because sometimes we veer off in the wrong direction (Mark 4:35-41).

On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let’s go over to the other side.” After dismissing the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And a fierce gale of wind developed, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling with water. And yet Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who, then, is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

So, how is your “left engine?” Just like how the pilot kept reassuring us that all would be okay, God, the creator of heaven and earth, reassures us continually that He has everything under control.

Let us all be diligent in maintaining our spiritual life—our left engine. We must keep our leverage firmly planted in Jesus Christ, His Word, and in prayer because it will be critical if our left engine fails!

God bless.

Bible Verses:

They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: Put your trust in the Lord your God and you will endure. Put your trust in His prophets, and succeed” (2 Chronicles 20:20).

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the Lord (Psalm 4:5).

I will raise my eyes to the mountains; From where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who watches over you will not slumber (Psalm 121:1-3).

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock  (Isaiah 26:4).

Prayer:

Lord, give me your guidance at all times. Let Your Holy Spirit lead me through conviction, other people, the Bible, and prayer. Allow me to see where I am veering away from You, so that I may fix it before my left engine—my spiritual compass— gets off track. Gently allow me to recognize Your plan for my life and give me the trust I need in You to believe wholeheartedly that You are where my trust needs to be—always. Amen.

Bibliography

[1] “The Critical Engine.” Accessed May 26, 2022. www.thebackseatpilot/critical engine

All verses are taken from the NASB.

Please feel free to share, forward, or copy this blog with authorship included. Thank you.

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Books by Patti Greene

  

 

A Book Review:  A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip W. Keller

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller is a beautifully written book with enriching insights into this Old Testament chapter. Using the New International Version, the author takes the six verses in the chapter and describes his “shepherd insights” so his audience can revel in the spiritual truths of seeing the Lord as mankind’s shepherd, restorer of soul, comforter, and more.

Phillip Keller (1920-1997), author of this one-hundred thirty-one-page compact book, gained widespread accolades for his authorship of this book. Being born in East Africa, the son of missionaries, Keller became familiar with the open air, nature, and shepherding. Subsequently, Keller traveled the world as a nature photographer and an expert in the science of soil management and crop production. These life experiences prepared Keller to author this book and his other thirty-five Christian books.

Summary

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 is written by someone who valued his early life being raised in the outdoors, while David wrote Psalm 23 when he was fleeing and wandering from place to place to avoid King Saul. David was exposed and defenseless., “Today, this is not the case. Many who either read or study the Scriptures in this twenty-first century come from an urban, manufactured environment. They miss the truth because they are not familiar with such things as sheep, wheat, soil, or grapes.” Keller compares how shepherding sheep calls for attention and care to how he desires man to come under the shepherding of our tender and gentle Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Keller achieves his goal by taking each of the six verses in Psalm 23 and explaining that “One of the outstanding marks of a Christian should be a serene sense of gentle contentment.”

Keller’s purpose is to lead people to transformation and behavior change by yearning for Jesus’ presence in their lives. Like the sheep have their shepherd’s presence, one’s behavior will change to follow Jesus’ will for their life. Transformation is an important goal that Keller wants his audience to understand. He wants the Lord to be our shepherd and live by the Holy Spirit’s direction in our life. Keller shows how this purpose is obtainable by explaining the necessary requirements to lie down and trust the shepherd, Jesus. For example, the book states, “Instead of loving myself most, I am willing to love Christ best and others more than myself” and “Instead of exercising and asserting my will, I am willing to learn to cooperate with His wishes and comply with His will.”

Some will find Keller’s thesis clearly stated at the end of the book, although its presence is noted throughout its twelve chapters. Keller sums up his thesis when he states, “For when all is said and done on the subject of a successful Christian walk, it can be summed up on one general sentence, “Live ever aware of God’s presence” through Keller’s analogies, similes, and metaphors throughout the book—comparing sheep and shepherds to man and Jesus Christ, an accomplished book was birthed.

We see this thesis in many illustrations throughout the book. In Chapter Eight, titled “Your Rod and Your Staff, They Comfort Me,” the shepherd’s staff primarily guides sheep, whereas, in our walk with God, God’s Holy Spirit will guide us to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). Another comparison between the sheep and man can be seen when young David leads his flock of sheep by keeping them safe whereas one’s “Good Shepherd” goes ahead of us, anticipating danger and praying that one might not depart from the Lord or perish.

Keller’s main points that accomplish his thesis and purpose are displayed in each Bible verse he mentions throughout the book. He wonderfully blends the culture of the day within this psalm. The psalm communicates the sheep’s transformation and humanity’s purpose to transform and lie in God’s holy presence.

Critical Evaluation

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 did not explicitly state its purpose and thesis until later in the book. However, it was apparent that the author’s underlying approach was to show a parallel between the shepherds and sheep and man to God while calling for a transformation and life in His presence.

Keller’s claims and arguments are well-supported. One illustration the author used came from Chapter 10 when he talked about how sheep are troubled by nose flies and fly around a sheep’s head, then hatch to form larvae. Eventually, irritation and severe inflammation occur. He proceeds to compare how applying an antidote to their heads changed their behavior upon many applications. In the same way, Keller tells us that we must continually come to Him for our daily anointing of God’s presence. Illustrations like this are a powerful testimony to what is needed to get back on the right and productive track.

The strengths in Keller’s book abound. He was raised in a rural area, a Christian home, contributing to this book’s strength. From the gorgeous cover on the gift edition to the beautiful well-placed photographs in the book to the elegant, simple language used. Keller had a comprehensive view of shepherding as he shepherded a flock for many years. His perspective allowed him to have a unique view on the topic. Another positive in Keller’s book includes insightful Biblical principles from each chapter, which coexists with Keller’s shepherding approach, as shown below.

Chapter 1:      God is our shepherd. One needs to deny themselves and belong to Him.

Chapter 2:      When depending on Christ, contentment comes.

Chapter 3:      By having God in one’s life, behavior changes.

Chapter 4:      Being in Christ’s presence guides life’s directions.

Chapter 5:      God is our shepherd. He knows what He is doing.

Chapter 6:      Willingness to do what God wants is beneficial.

Chapter 7:      Thank God for difficulties in life.

Chapter 8:      Reading the Bible gives spiritual understanding.

Chapter 9:      God knows all our circumstances—good and evil.

Chapter 10:    People should have Christ and the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Chapter 11:    Trust in God’s goodness and mercy.

Chapter 12:    Live in God’s presence.

The disadvantage some see in this book revolves around Keller’s lack of formal education. However, when one reads Acts 4:13, we see how uneducated and untrained men can be used in ministry equally. When the rulers, elders, and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem, “they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus (Acts 4:13 NIV). A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 is read by people from various backgrounds and social statuses. Many proficient authors educate themselves through their life experiences and personal Bible study. Another disadvantage is that Keller does not connect the chapter title with its corresponding Bible verse in the Contents or for each chapter. Additionally, the book could have included both an index and a glossary, which would help the reader.

Conclusion

All people could benefit from this book—those who rejoice in the Lord and those with affliction, Bible teachers, and more. Being so awed by this book, I immediately bought a copy for my friend, who is reading it one chapter at a time, and following up her reading with intentional meditation and contemplation. This is the type of book I would love to read or reread wrapped up in a blanket, on a cold, snowy day, with the fireplace aglow.

I do value this book tremendously. One reason is that I have a blog titled “Greene Pastures” located at GreenePastures.org. There is an “e” at the end of Greene because that is how I spell my last name, plus GreenPastures was already taken as a domain name. Second, I love reading innovative ideas and commentaries. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 falls under that category.

Keller’s writings contain a plethora of common sense and easy-to-understand Biblical principles. I have not read his other books, but I will choose a few to read in the future—The High Cost of Holiness and Elijah: Prophet of Power. Keller is a man who has been used mightily by God to encourage transformation and living in God’s presence. His influence spans the globe, and I wholeheartedly recommend A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.

God Bless.

 Works Cited

Keller, W. Phillip. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.

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My Favorite Pericope: James 1:5-8

Today, let us summarize a pericope from James 1:5-8.

Did I catch your attention with the word “pericope”? It is not a common word used outside of theological studies, but I will share my new vocabulary with you since I recently learned its meaning. Oxford Lexico defines a pericope as “an extract from a text, especially a passage from the Bible.” ¹

So, let’s move on!

JAMES 1:5 SAYS

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

We all encounter trials! That is why we need wisdom. We must ask God for wisdom. Why? Because He gives it to us liberally and without reproach. Reproach means “disapproval or disappointment.”

SOLOMON’S PRAYER FOR WISDOM

In that night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you?”

And Solomon said to God, “You have dealt with my father David with great lovingkindness, and have made me king in his place. Now, O Lord God, Your promise to my father David is fulfilled, for You have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth.

Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours?”

God said to Solomon, “Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge that you may rule My people over whom I have made you king,

wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed nor those who will come after you. (2 Chron 1:7-12 NASB).

JAMES 1:6 STATES

But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

If we do not believe God will give His wisdom to us, James compares us to a wave of the sea tossed by the wind. We need to be solid and firm, not insipid about our faith.

JAMES 1:7-8 CONTINUES

For that person ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James calls the one who does not believe he will receive wisdom from God a “double-minded man.” Some scholars call him a “double-souled man.” James also says that such a person should not expect anything from the Lord. What a tragedy when God wants to give us the best life possible by emulating Himself!

SOLOMON AND THE BABIES

In 1 Kings 3:16-28 (CEV), Solomon, a man of wisdom, had to make a difficult decision.

Two women came to him, and the first woman told him that she lived alone in the same house with another woman. This woman had a baby boy, and three days later, the second woman also had a baby boy. While they were sleeping, the second lady rolled over her baby, and he died. Then, she got up and took the first woman’s son out of her bed and put the dead baby next to her.

As you can imagine, the first woman saw the dead baby in the morning and knew it was not her son. In front of King Solomon, they continued arguing back and forth.

The king said, “Someone bring me a sword.” When a sword was brought to Solomon, he ordered that the living baby be cut in half, so each woman could have a part of the baby.

The real mother screamed, “Your Majesty, I love him very much, but give him to her. Just do not kill him.” The second woman shouted, “Go ahead and cut him in half. Then neither of us will have the baby.”

With all his godly wisdom, Solomon said, “Don’t kill the baby.” Pointing to the first woman, he declared, “She is his real mother. Give the baby to her.” And all Israel was amazed when they heard how Solomon wisely made his decision.

This kind of wisdom is possible for us as well. I experienced God’s wisdom when I asked Him for it early in my spiritual walk.

MY FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH PRAYING FOR WISDOM

Back in the 1970s I was an elementary-grade teacher in the Fort Worth, Texas school system. Each spring, teachers selected by the district to be retained had to decide whether to sign a new contract, confirm their agreement to stay for the upcoming school year, or not sign and seek opportunities elsewhere.

Before me was the question of whether to stay in Fort Worth, or move to Houston. It was my first encounter with genuinely seeking God’s wisdom.

On April 1, 1977, our principal walked into my classroom while I was teaching and, in front of everyone, handed me my contract for the upcoming year. “I need it back by 4:00 p.m. today,” he said.

I was struck with fear of being forced to make such a consequential decision so quickly! I gave my students some busy work and consulted my Bible. I prayed, then searched the Scripture for the Lord’s direction.

I eventually came upon Ecclesiastes 11:5:

Just as you do not know the path of the wind, and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes everything.

While it does not make sense to anyone else but me, that verse might as well have said, “Patti, move to Houston.” That very day, I told my principal I was moving and never looked back.

I can say that following James 1:5 in asking for God’s wisdom, He answers. It might not be the way one might envision or in the timeline preferred, but God loves us so much and has so much compassion on us that He always answers at just the right time.

HOW TO ATTAIN WISDOM

  1. Ask for wisdom—not human understanding, but divine wisdom from God’s Holy Spirit.
  2. Make it a habit to cleanse yourself from all known sins.
  3. Trust in God’s word to guide you as you seek His wisdom, then
  4. Trust that God’s wisdom will change your life.

God makes wisdom attainable to us. My charge is for you to follow the steps above and always recall this Godly pericope from James 1:5-8.

PRAYER

My dear Lord, when I am fearful to ask You for help, understanding, or wisdom, guide me by Your Holy Spirit, to You—to trust You and have faith. I want to live my life fully attuned to Your will and ways, but sometimes I fail. Please give me the courage to ask for wisdom in faith to be stable in all my ways. Amen.

BIBLE VERSES

  1. Wisdom and Understanding—King David said, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His Commandments; His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10).
  2. Faith—Jesus said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to” (Matthew 17:20b).
  3. Stability—Paul said, “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.” (Colossians 2:5).
  4. Freely Given–Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:7)

God Bless,

¹”Pericope.” Dictionary. Accessed December 12th, 2021. https://www.lexico.com/definition/pericope.

Edited by E. Johnson.

Linked Bible verses come from the New American Standard Bible.

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Psalm 51 Bible Study

Are you looking for a Bible study to teach or to work on yourself?

Below you will find a Bible study on Psalm 51 that can be worked on at any time. By studying straight from the Bible, my prayer is that you will discover spiritual truth and direction in your life or in the lives of others.

BIBLE STUDY TEXT: PSALM 51 (NASB)

Read 2 Samuel 11:1-27 and 2 Samuel 12:1-25 for background information about King David’s sin and Nathan’s rebuke of him. This will enhance your understanding of the Bible study lesson.

A few years ago, a man wrote to Dear Abby needing help. The article titled, “Dear Abby, Guilt over affair leaves husband thinking of suicide.” This man had been married for 19 years and had two children. He fooled around, convincing himself that the women knew what they were doing and that he never promised them anything. His affairs became public, and his reputation was in ruins. He asked “Dear Abby” to provide a solution. He signed off calling himself Shattered in Louisiana. ¹

We find a similar real-life story in the fourth and most well-known penitential psalm, Psalm 51. Penitential psalms are psalms that express deep sorrow leading to a person’s true repentance of sin. Most scholars claim that King David wrote this psalm, or if not, by someone who knew the extent of the deep suffering he experienced. This prayer psalm was written after Nathan, the prophet, confronted David about his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. King David was on his palace rooftop when many say he should have been with his men in battle. He looks out and sees Bathsheba bathing. He asks his men to fetch her and bring her back to the palace, where he has sex with her. She becomes pregnant. David arranges for her husband to come home from battle, anticipating that he will sleep with her and then he would take the responsibility of fatherhood. However, being an honorable man, Uriah does not go into Bathsheba and camps in tents away from her presence. David arranges for Uriah to be killed in battle. [1]

  1. As a married woman, what do these two stories speak to you about being faithful in marriage?

KING DAVID’S CALL FOR MERCY, FORGIVENESS, REPENTANCE, AND CLEANSING. Read Psalm 51:1-2.

The King James Version uses the word mercy to describe what David wants from God. He is crying out to God for help. David’s goal is for God to blot out his sin, so he can be cleansed and resume fellowship with Him. To grasp how the Bible looks at blotting, cleansing, and washing away sins, refer to Isaiah 43:25, Leviticus 11:32, and Isaiah 1:18, respectively. He is aware that he willfully rebelled against God and is grieved. David is ready to confess his sin and have fellowship with God again. Today, our sins are covered by Jesus’ death on the cross.

  1. Describe a time you reached a breaking point, and you called out to God for forgiveness?

RECOGNITION OF SIN. Read Psalm 51:3-6.

David begins to openly concede he has sinned. In verse 3, David acknowledges that his sin is “ever before me.” Although he knows his sin was towards Bathsheba, Uriah, and the entire nation of Israel, he is addressing his grave sin toward God. His sin against the LORD was the most offensive. David shows his seriousness when talking of his sin by calling it EVIL.

  1. What does David’s example teach us about the seriousness of sin?

In verse 5, David is now ready to accept whatever judgment God may choose for him. David recognizes that he was born in sin in verse 5. He is not using that as an excuse for his sin, but he acknowledges that he is human. All humankind has a sinful nature within them. Here it is important that one mustn’t think David is criticizing conception or birth, but that he is just conversing with God regarding what he understands about human nature. Moving to verse 6, we find David wanting God’s truth to be within his innermost being.

In the Compact Bible Commentary, the inward parts are described as “a rare word in the Hebrew Bible, indicating something clouded over, difficult for anyone to see but God.” ² David trusted God so much that he does not mind God searching for his innermost being. These verses conclude with David desiring wisdom—God’s wisdom. [2][3]

  1. In James 1:5, what does James say we should do if we lack wisdom?

PURIFICATION, HYSSOP, SNOW, AND BONES. Read Psalm 51:7-9.

These verses contain the phrases, “purify me, wash me, make me hear joy and gladness, let my broken bones rejoice, and hide thy face from my sins.” David is pleading for cleansing from his sin. Verse 7 mentions hyssop. Hyssop was a bush whose stems were dipped in blood or water and then sprinkled on people who needed cleansing. See Leviticus 14:4 and Numbers 19:6. Ceremonial hyssop was used on lepers and others during this period. Today, we receive our cleansing from the mighty blood of Jesus Christ. David desires true repentance and pleads for a clean heart—one that will wash him, make him joyful, and heal him. He wants his life to be as white as snow. When a person accepts Christ, there are testimonies of how they feel so clean and pure inside. That is David’s desire to have his life like that again. He also wants his sins hidden from the LORD. Verse 8 is intriguing. David declares how his sin has affected his eyes and bones. It is easy to deduce that more had been affected as well. Keep in mind that when we sin, our sin does affect us. We can become depressed, ill, and even suicidal. We should take a special interest in caring for our friends and loved ones if we see their destructive behavior. Verse 9 circles back around to David desiring God to blot out his sin. (See Psalm 51:1) This repetition shows that David really is serious about repenting of all his sin.

  1. What matters most in David’s life at this point is God’s forgiveness. What matters most in your life, and how is God intertwined in the matter?

CENTRAL VERSE EXPRESSING THE HEART OF DAVID. Read Psalm 51:10-12.

The central verse (theological principle) in this Bible study comes in Psalm 51:10 when David says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” David desires to be renewed, restored, and transformed. In verse 10, the word create is the same word used in Genesis 1:1, which states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God in His power called the world into being, and God in his power can cleanse David from his agonizing sin. David wants a new heart and a new spirit. He recognizes that he cannot do this by himself. It is up to God. We see God cleansing Israel and giving Israel a new heart and spirit in Ezekiel 36:25-27. This concept is very similar to Psalm 51 where it speaks of sprinkling water on the Israelites for cleansing, giving them a new heart and a new spirit, and allowing them to walk in His ways again. David wants to be in God’s presence again when he says he does not want to be cast from God’s presence in verse 11. He wants God’s Spirit, and he is ready to do the Lord’s will. In our life, we do not want to quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Striving to keep ourselves clean from sin is necessary for God’s Holy Spirit to move in our lives and keep us from temptation. Compare to Acts 15:8-9.

  1. While the LORD did forgive David, there were still consequences to his sin, one being the death of his son when he was 7-days old. (2 Samuel 12:18) What outcomes have you seen in your or other peoples’ lives due to sin?

Verse 12 speaks of regaining the joy of one’s salvation. David wants that “feeling” of purity and love for God back into his life. He wants it to be a sustainable feeling as well. He does not want to lose fellowship with his LORD again.

  1. Describe a time you or someone you know lost fellowship with God but then had it restored.

SINNERS CONVERTED, RIGHTEOUSNESS DELIVERED, RIGHTEOUS SACRIFICE, AND A BROKEN AND CONTRITE HEART. Read Psalm 51: 13-17.

In verses 13-15, David expresses his desire to be of service to God. He wants to teach others (sinners) and take what he has experienced and learned to help others. He wants to see people restored as he had been. It is a glorious event when we see others offering themselves up to serve God. Romans 5:20b eloquently states, “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” David recognized his sin, and now that he has experienced restoration, he wanted to share God’s righteousness with others. Verse 14 speaks, delivering David from bloodguiltiness. Scholars believe this refers to Uriah’s blood. David experienced forgiveness for all his sins. He got right with God.

  1. What does God call David in Psalm 51:14?
  2. Have you ever experienced God’s gift of salvation? Would you like to share your salvation testimony with the class?

DELIGHT IN GOD. Read Psalm 51: 18-19.

When we look at verses 18 and 19, David is longing for God’s security. This is what he is referring to when he says, “Build the walls of Jerusalem” The walls were to be a security to God’s holy city, and that is how he wants his heart to be—secure in His LORD and to delight in Him. David gave God the sacrifice He desired, his heart. He is ready to be “the man after God’s own heart” that many call him today.

  1. Where can we find our security in God?

APPLYING THE TEXT.

· God is gracious and compassionate; therefore, when we repent, He forgives and cleanses us.

· Sin is serious and destructive.

· We must cry out to God to create a clean heart in us.

· God desires a broken and contrite heart from us.

· Once true repentance occurs, we are restored and able to delight in the Lord, our God.

CONCLUSION: REMEMBER THE MAN IN ADULTERY. Read Psalm 51:17.

At the beginning of this study, a man asked Dear Abby for advice on dealing with his guilt over affairs, leaving him thinking of suicide. Dear Abby’s answer was purposely not shared. There is only one solution for this man. It is to follow King David’s path calling on the LORD to wash him, cleanse him, and seek repentance in Jesus Christ. Then, in God’s grace, he will become pure. His broken spirit can be healed, and he can face life with a renewed heart and spirit. If not, he will remain Shattered in Louisiana.

PRAYER

Dear Heavenly Father.

Thank you for washing me clean when I transgress against You. Lead me away from sin. Give me wisdom so that I can live with a pure heart. Keep my spirit steadfast in You. Lord, I want to be in Your presence always. Let me sing Your praises. Give me a broken and contrite heart so that I can praise You always.

In Christ Alone, Amen.

God bless,

Bibliography

Carson, D.A., R.T. France, J.A. Motyer, and G.J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary. Downsers
Grove: Intervarsity, 1994.

Hays, J. Daniel and J. Scott Duvall, eds. The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook. Grand Rapids: Baker
Books, 2011.

Hill, Andrew E. and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Pfeiffer, Charles F. and Everett F. Harrison, eds. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody
Press, 1962.

Radmacher, Earl, Ron Allen, H. Wayne House. Compact Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson,

Van Buren, Abagail, "Dear Abby: Guilt over affair leaves husband thinking of suicide," Accessed 4
October, 2021.

https://www.mrt.com/news/article/DEAR-ABBY-Guilt-over-affair-leaves-husband-7477821.php.

Wiersbe, Warren. The Bible Exposition Bible: Old Testament, Job—Song of Solomon. Colorado Springs,
David C. Cook, 2004.

[1]Van Buren, Abagail, “Dear Abby: Guilt over affair leaves husband thinking of suicide,” Accessed 4 October, 2021, https://www.mrt.com/news/article/DEAR-ABBY-Guilt-over-affair-leaves-husband-7477821.php.

[2]Radmacher, Earl, Ron Allen, H. Wayne House, Compact Bible Commentary, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004. 378.

Permission: I, Patti Greene, am the copyright owner of the above material titled Psalm 51: Bible Study. I consent to use this material with the expressed purpose of individual or group Bible Study only. Please give credit to the author by including: “Written by Patti Greene @ GreenePastures.org  for use in Bible studies only.”

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Guest Blog: Do NOT Mismanage God’s Affairs by Lucky Atugbara

Do NOT Mismanage God’s Affairs by Lucky Atugbara

Dear Readers,

Once upon a time, in the not-too-distant past, my husband and I lived for two years in Lagos, Nigeria. Some people pray, “Lord, I will do anything for You, but please don’t send me to Africa.” Being sent to Africa was one of the best things in my life. I needed to be there. God sent me there to learn some important spiritual lessons that I could only have learned from being there! I also met some lovely life-long friends during the process.

One of them was our driver Lucky. Like many people in Nigeria, two jobs are a reality. Lucky worked for us at a secular job as our driver, but his “REAL” job was that of a minister. Some people believe that pastors must have higher education. I agree that education is an excellent plus for pastors, but in some situations and some countries, that is not realistic. Lucky is a self-taught minister of the gospel, and he is good at it. Theologian A.W. Tozer sums it up when he says, “The thing that must really be understood is that our knowledge of God cannot be acquired simply through academic processes. What we really know about God is what He has faithfully revealed to us.” ¹

Lucky occasionally sends me his Sunday sermon messages. I devour them! God is using this man to preach the gospel in Lagos. Below is a recent sermon he sent me. Yes, I edited his “speech” a little—with his permission—to make it more readable to my blog followers. I hope you enjoy it, and as you read it, look for the main point. The main point is the essence of our walk with our triune God.

Patti Greene

  1. God will never allow spiritual growth if we do not manage our lives correctly. So instead of praying for something from God, we should pray for the spirit to handle our sin, guide us into His truth, and be responsible for what He has given us. God will not allow you to have something you have prayed for if you cannot manage them.
  2. God created men and women to worship Him—as God. He required a manager to manage what He made. Note that whatever you mismanage, God will not allow that area of your life to grow—until you can handle it.
  3. If we ask people why God created man, they usually say, “It is to worship God.” Correct, but we must worship Him with the right motives, the right desire, and glorify Him because He is God.
  4. Whatever you mismanage, you will most likely lose. Whatever is under your care, work diligently to protect and care for it. God cannot give you what you pray for if you do not manage what He has already given to you well. He can only provide you what you can handle. You pray for a new house. But God looks down on the apartment you have and sees it is not well-kept or clean. So, He says, “No! You have not managed the apartment I gave you, so you may not have a house.” He only gives you what you proved you could manage.
  5. Some people might get jealous of your ministry. They may not understand what is going on behind the scenes and making your ministry grow and flourish. If you do not manage your church or church assignments correctly, you may lose them, just like if you mangle your body, you might lose part of your arm, leg, or health. If you mess up your relationships, you might lose them. If you mishandle your children, it is possible to lose them. If you blow your money or bungle your business, you could lose them.
  6. To my pastor friends, I say, “So stop crying, Pastor. Don’t say, ‘I don’t know what’s happening to me. Life does not give you what you deserve but for what you fight for. Start reading Philippians 4:6.”

Ask. Seek, Find

My dear friends, the only way we can defeat the enemy we face is to pray. We must appreciate and tell the people that God has blessed us in one way or another.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7 NASB).

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6 NASB).

GOD BLESS YOU, MY BELOVED MADAM,

I hope you liked my sermon and have extracted something from this message.

In God’s Grace,

Lucky

Bible Verse:

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve (Colossians 3:23-24).

Prayer: 

Dear Lord, I come to You today lifting my heart to You. I desire to work and serve You diligently. Please take away all my ungodly motives, my wicked spirit, and any desire to be “seen” for my works. Make me desire to live a life pleasing to You in grace, love, and humility. Remind me that my purpose in life is to understand the revealed truths You give me through Your Word. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

¹ Tozer, A.W. Delighting in God: True and Absolute Freedom is Found only in the Presence of God. New Delhi: General Press, 2020.

Verses are taken from The New American Standard Bible (NASB).

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  • Answer Me – Devotional Workbook
  • Christian Caregiving

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Transformation Should Be the Result of Worship

Transformation and Worship

 

Transformation is defined as a change—a metamorphosis. When we truly worship, we involve balancing our minds, emotions, our and will. We submit ourselves to God because He is worthy. Romans 12:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 both explain how we can be transformed in our everyday life.

 

Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

 

         Transformation involves worshiping God because He is worthy, He commands us to worship Him, and it should lead to our change. But it involves much more as we strive to worship God in spirit and truth.

 

Defining Transformation

 

Transformation means being changed on the inside, not just on the surface. If we switch to be more like the world, we are masquerading. We have the choice of whether to be a conformer or a transformer. God wants our lives to be transformed into the image of Jesus. 

First, we should give our bodies in holy service to Him. Second, since we are made in God’s image, we have our mind, which involves our intellect, emotions, and will. Our goal should be to think like Jesus does by understanding how false philosophy and Satan operate. We should be before the Lord daily in prayer, Bible study, listening to sermons, songs, and being quiet in meditation before the Lord. Third, we should not base our attitude on our feelings, but on the Holy Spirit—orienting our lives to say, “Not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).

When transformation occurs, we radiate the glory of God. People see Christ living in us. God’s spirit will be upon our hearts. We become more and more like Jesus as we allow ourselves to be transformed and desire God to be everything in our lives. A transformer’s values are different than those of most other people.

Spectator or Participant

 

Unfortunately, some believers are not interested in transforming their lives. They are comfortable with how they are even as they sit in the pews, week after week as an observer. They are conformers, not transformers. A vast majority of people want to be spectators and not participants.

 

Respected Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe says that a renewed mind is happy to hear God’s word from whatever source it is available. A transformer does not have a “celebrity attitude.” According to Wiersbe, transformers worship, pray, sow seeds and trust God to do His work, whereas a conformer runs from seminar to seminar seeking new techniques, latest fads, and other quick fixes. A transformer’s goal is to become more Christlike in character and conduct. Wiersbe says, “God’s call to real worship, to an experience of transformation, is a call to dangerous and costly living.”

 

Tidbits

 

Extra tidbits regarding transformation are:

 

– The word of God should transform everyone: pastors, leaders, and laypeople.

– Transformation involves prayer, church attendance or gatherings, Bible study, meditation, and more.

– When believers present themselves as living sacrifices, transformation happens.

– A transformer hungers and thirsts for more of God. And worship is NOT a chore for him.

 

Defining Worship

 

Wiersbe talks about how we have a problem with defining worship (and transformation.) He says it is difficult to do, but there are people in the Bible that we see worshiping God. There are multiple words in the Bible for worshipping God.

 

One of the most used words is Shachah, which means “to bow down and do homage” in Hebrew. In Greek, Proskneo means “showing reverence to God.” While there is true worship and false worship, we must remember that genuine, authentic worship is “an adventure with the Spirit.” William Temple defines worship as “the submission of all our nature to God.”

 

In defining worship, we must consider that true worship is balanced and involves our mind, emotions, and will. It is when we can feel Jesus’ presence and experience Shekinah’s glory. It is when God’s Spirit touches ours. God is the object and focus of our worship. Wiersbe defines worship as “our human response to God’s initiative and our response to God’s love for us.” Worship is an ongoing thing—not to be confined to one day a week. Worship is when we experience a transformation in our souls. To do that, we must communicate with Him daily.

 

Bible Verses: In text

 

Prayer:

Oh Lord, let me be more like You. Increase my desire to become closer to You–I want to see my life from Your perspective. I want to rest in Your holy presence. Jesus, thank you for loving me. Transform me into Your image, to do Your work, as I seek Your Shekinah glory in my life. In Your Name. Amen.

God Bless.

 Edited by E. Johnson

 

Wiersbe, Warren. Real Worship: Playground, Battleground, or Holy Ground? 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004.

 

Bible verses are taken from The New American Standard Bible.

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Books by Patti Greene

  • Awaken Me – Devotional Workbook
  • Anchor Me – Devotional Workbook
  • Answer Me – Devotional Workbook
  • Christian Caregiving

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Sacred Snippet: Tootsie Pops

I love how God can take the simple things in life and turn them into a blessing.

This morning I stopped at CVS with the intent to purchase only some computer paper. However, I decided to check out the candy row to see if they had a bag of Tootsie Pops. I had searched two other stores previously to no avail. Lo and behold, I discovered CVS had my favorite low-calorie candy—three points per pop for those who know what I mean! ¹

As mostly what happens to us all, we go into a store with good intents and come out with more. I even added some colorful Post-it Page Markers to my other two items. As I left the drug store, I hit the red light under Houston’s Katy Freeway. There I saw a young man. His legs were so skinny—like they were diseased. All I had to give him was a Tootsie Pop. I cannot say I was extremely generous by giving him the entire bag, but I wanted to give him something sweet to eat. I wrestled opening the bag; finally, I had to use my teeth to open the bag. Not cool, but I was afraid the light was going to turn green.

Once the bag was open, I reached in and started to pull out an orange and red pop, but then stopped. It was like the Lord said, “Give him your best.” God knew that red and orange were not my favorites, but chocolate and purple were. So, I quickly reached in, opened my window, and gave him a chocolate and purple Tootsie Pop. It might not seem like a big sacrifice, but when you understand the last two bags of Tootsie Pops I bought had no purples in them, you can understand my “sacrifice” a little better.

Now, here is the best part. I handed this young man the two pops. He saw them and gave me a big old grin through his crooked yellow teeth, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “thank you.” Yes, it was a small gesture on my part, but it started me out on the right foot and started his day out with a little sweetness too!

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