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This Week’s Question: James 2:5 teaches that God has chosen the poor of this world? Why has He done so?

The story of the rich young ruler is instrumental as a backdrop to this question. The ruler began by asking in Mark 10:17, “…what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus, in response, listed several commandments and the ruler acknowledged compliance. Scripture teaches that Jesus’ love for this young man prompted Him to address a deeper issue; one that promises to keep many who claim to be Christ’s followers, out of Heaven – a weak faith! In Mark 10:22 Jesus said, “…One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Jesus’ instructions proved too costly for this young man, despite the fact that his Heavenly reward would far eclipse his earthly possessions (see Mark 10:23)!

James does not claim, absolutely, that the poor will inherit the kingdom. Instead, he adds the qualifier, those who are “rich in faith.” To be rich in faith one has to be totally dependent upon Jesus, which disqualifies many “privileged” believers. Putting one's total faith in Jesus means a person cannot rely upon one’s personal traits, assets, or external factors to survive or gain social advantages over another person, race, or group. Common factors used to one’s advantage are gender, race, possessions, class, social standing, ethnicity, family name, position, unfair laws and practices, the criminal justice system, educational systems, and notoriety. If a person systemically capitalizes on such factors to gain an advantage, then his/her dependency is not wholeheartedly on The Lord, and their faith, if any is claimed, is weak.

That was the sin of the rich young ruler; and we see this scenario being played out in today’s college admissions scandal. We also see it ever present in America’s political, criminal justice, civic, social, and financial institutions. For poor people, who have few social advantages, many have no recourse but to place their welfare squarely in God’s hands out of love for Him and His justice. For that group, Matthew 6:31-33 is their hope, “Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” This deep and unfeigned faith in a loving and caring God was manifested in the rich theology of the Negro Spirituals which survived the slave experience, the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras, and some have been woven into traditional Christian circles. It was also the impetus behind the Civil Rights movement in which protesters (of all races and nationalities), countered bitter hatred and vitriol with faith, hope, and love – the three pillars that undergird Christianity. Oppression, discrimination, and social injustice have historically forced many African-Americans to maintain a strong faith in God’s justice; whether it is realized in this world or the next.

This unfeigned faith of many African-Americans is also a major factor in why my father, the late Rev. Clarence L. Hilliard, and founder of the church I currently pastor, prophesied that the Black Church, as a group, will lead Christ’s Church Movement in these latter days. Two passages The Lord placed on his heart while unveiling this prophecy are Zephaniah 3:10, “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, The daughter of My dispersed ones, Shall bring My offering;” and Psalm 68:31 “Envoys will come out of Egypt; Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God.” My father effectively used social action and mentorship to help bridge the racial divide within the Christian Community while simultaneously serving two evangelical associations in leadership capacities: National Black Evangelical Association (NBEA); and National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) – the effects of which are still being realized throughout Chicago and its suburban communities.

Unfortunately, Many Black churches (but especially the mega- and more prosperous churches), have forfeited its leadership responsibility because they have adopted the ways of the dominant culture, or have figuratively sold their birthright for a mess of pottage (see Genesis 25:29-34). But for those lesser churches that continue to put their faith, hope, and trust completely in The Lord; it is quite possible that this prophecy will become reality in a manner that continues to spillover into the evangelical community, and reach those who are burdened by the plight of the poor, powerless, and oppressed here in America and beyond. Nevertheless, the only bond that can keep them unified, as a group, is, they are rich in faith; and therefore, are the rightful heirs to the kingdom of Heaven!

Next Week’s Question: What is the fundamental missing element implied in this James passage? And why is it so important?

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Intentional Grandparenting: What? Why? How? #4

Dear Grandparents who care deeply about the spiritual health of your grandchildren,

Christmas season is, for many grandparents, a mixture of joy, sadness, and stress. If you are experiencing the joy of good and healthy relationships with your grandkids (whether biological or temporarily “adopted”), our one word of encouragement is “Alleluia!”

But often we, at the same time, experience higher-than-usual tension in other grandchild relationships­­. It overcomes our joy—and sometimes breaks our hearts. Satan loves to see that happen.

How can we protect, maintain, or regain our personal spiritual and relational balance in such situations? One crucial step is to stop allowing those stressful relationships to dominate our thoughts. Let’s focus instead on the most vital relationship in life: our relationship with Yahweh, our Father in heaven (Philippians 4:8).

How can we refocus on Him? One way is to ponder the timeless truth revealed in the ancient names and descriptions of God that we see in the Scriptures. Here are several of His names and descriptions; may He soothe your heart today with these realities:

  • Are you being ignored, unnoticed by your grandchild? God is El Ro9570812857?profile=originali, “The Living One who sees me” – Genesis 16:6-14; Psalm 139:7-12.
  • Feeling alone, abandoned, or even rejected by your grandchild or their parent(s)?? He is Immanuel, “God with us” – Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23. 
  • Are you worried, anxious, or even depressed about your grandchild’s relationship with you or with God? “The Lord is my Shepherd” – Psalm 23:1-3; Philippians 4:4-8.
  • Are you frustrated, unable to heal that relationship? Brokenhearted? God is Jehovah-Rapha, “The Lord who heals” – Psalm 147:3.
  • Do you struggle with forgiving that grandchild who disappointed or offended you personally? Imitate the mercy, grace, and steadfast love of Jehovah – Exodus 34:4-7a; Luke 15:11-20.

What now? In the words of Romans 15:13 (ESV): “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

P.S. Does pondering these names of God encourage you? If so, then here’s another way to cultivate your legacy of spiritual influence on your grandkids when they need encouragement: Share one or more of these names of God with them!

(c) John C. Garmo

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This Week’s Question: What is the fundamental missing element implied in James 2:1-9? And why is it so important?

The first section of this chapter, James 2:1-9, addresses partiality, and included under that topic are discrimination, partisanship, and a host of other divisive ills including racism, sexism, nationalism, chauvinism, jingoism, and a host of other similar beliefs. James criticizes such behaviors, without explicitly stating the root cause. Consequently the question we must consider is what is the fundamental missing element in that passage? It should not be difficult to recognize that love is the missing element (see James 2:8)! As stated in an earlier post, the motives behind partiality are fear, lust, and pride; which, according to the Bible, do not emanate from God since lust and pride are denounced repeatedly in The Bible, and Paul, in II Timothy 1:7, states explicitly, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” So the real question is why is love so important? From a Biblical perspective, there are many reasons to justify love, but for this discussion we will focus on three: (1) God commands His followers to do so; (2) Love is the distinguishing characteristic that separates God’s children from satan’s; and (3) From God’s perspective, a person’s motive is more important than one’s deeds.

Let’s start with the commandment. When Jesus was asked, “… which is the great commandment in the law (see Matthew 22:36)?” He stated two. Beginning in Verse 37 “Jesus said, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’" These commandments, according to Jesus, are inseparable and summarizes the entire Bible! The problem is many of Christ’s purported followers are resolved to expend energy building the vertical dimension of love (with respect to God), while ignoring the horizontal dimension, by disdaining one’s neighbor. Once again I John 4:20 brings clarity to this issue, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” The bottom-line is this: There is no optionality with respect to Christ's followers loving one another despite their differences; It is commanded of them by God!

The second reason love is important is it clearly identifies God’s true children according I John 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Nicodemus was told by Jesus that no one can either see or enter the Kingdom of God, unless they are born again (see John 3:3, 5). To be “born again” means to be “born of God” and requires transformation, since all are born into sin, and thus, are born as minions of satan. However, once someone surrenders their heart, soul, mind, and strength to The Lord, transformation is realized and that person’s life should forever change according to the following: “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (II Corinthians 5:16-17). Those who have been transformed view others differently, because The Holy Spirit endows them with a lens of love!  The bottom-line is this: God is love, so for anyone to be identified as His child, he/she must have that same impartial love, for others. So how do we know God loves impartially? John 3:16 teaches that God’s love for the world (which is impartial and unconditional), is the motive behind Him sending Jesus to die for our sins, and His example is the one that must be followed!

The third reason love is important is God’s children’s deeds must be motivated by love. Otherwise, one’s actions, no matter how beneficial they seem, are meaningless according to I Corinthians 13:1-3, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” Verse 1 and part of 2 speak of spiritual gifts. Within today’s church community, many rely upon their spiritual gifts as evidence that they are children of God. The problem is many do not realize that vertical love for God, without an unconditional horizontal love for one’s neighbor, renders that gift meaningless to its bearer. Can God can still use that person to fulfill his purposes? Absolutely, but with an improper motive, it yields no benefit to the gift’s bearer!

Verse 2 is interesting because it addresses one’s spiritual walk and ministry, which on the outside appears vibrant, God-centered, and effective according to outward appearances. However God looks into a person’s heart, and if love is missing, then every deed performed in His Name is an exercise in futility because as Paul states, “I am nothing.” Jesus confirmed Paul’s assertion in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Jesus’ prophecy is a sad commentary for many who put self-interests, partisanship, political ideology, or popular or public opinion above God’s Word and His commandment to love. If love is not the motive behind everything we say, think, or do, then our deeds, no matter how effective they may seem to others, are meaningless!

In verse 3 Paul addresses charitable giving and personal sacrifice, which, in the minds of many, should automatically qualify a place in Heaven for the benefactor! Two examples are provided by Paul and both seem commendable. The first is selling all of one’s possessions to feed the poor. But what if that deed, instead of being an act of love, was done to spite someone else; or done just to realize a tax break. Paul declares categorially, “it profits me nothing.” The same can be said for someone who sacrifices their life to save others. What if the person is a suicide bomber, or the act were committed out of vengefulness or hatred towards someone else. If love was not that person’s primary motive, it is a vain exercise from God’s perspective, and will yield the self-sacrificing person no benefit when they come before God’s judgment.

In many ways James 2:1-9 is a reflection of American culture. Many, who have superior attitudes, look down upon, castigate, or harm others who they deem their “lessors.” They also actively fight to keep immigrants out of this country, have no compunction about separating families at the border, and immigrants who are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to enter this country are subjected to inhumane squalor conditions, which has led to several deaths. Also (and this is an unfortunate waste of valuable resources), vast amounts of time, energy, and resources are utilized to keep people of color disproportionately incarcerated, uneducated, financially deprived, and unable to vote. Nevertheless, the hope for those who are poor but rich in faith is found in Matthew 20:16, “So the last will be first, and the first last...” In summary, if all who claimed to be disciples of Christ lived according to the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you), and allowed that to be the motive behind everything they said, thought, and did, then this would be a better world because partiality would be a sin of the past since Christ's Disciples are the salt of the Earth and the light of the world (see Matthew 5:13-16).

Next Week’s Question: Since too many have a romanticized view of love, what is love from a Biblical perspective?

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Philip L. Hilliard - Who Am I?

Who am I? I am Rev. Philip L. Hilliard, the Senior Pastor of Austin Corinthian Baptist Church (ACBC), located on the Westside of Chicago. ACBC, was founded by my father, the late Rev. Clarence L. Hilliard – my mentor and spiritual leader, and I studied and received Biblical training under him. Therefore, I have no formal Bible Training since my undergrad degree is in business and I spent over 30 years in the Information Technology field; most of which was spent traveling coast-to-coast managing the implementation of and building computer information systems as a consultant. I assumed the role of Senior Pastor in 2005 when my dad went home to be with The Lord!

My dad was a Black Evangelical Prophet who put The Lord first in everything he did, and his whole focus was to build up the Kingdom of God by spreading unadulterated Gospel Truths to everyone he encountered. He grew up in Buffalo, NY and was a civil rights leader who fought for justice and fair housing. Because he championed justice, he received hate mail, but that never deterred his fight for justice, and he is noted for the following:

  • Cohorting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by driving him around when he visited Buffalo, NY;9570813274?profile=original
  • Debating Malcolm X on the University of Buffalo South Campus in 1963;9570813298?profile=original
  • Developing the Funky Gospel (an abbreviated version appeared in Christianity Today in January 1976) – an equivocal message that Jesus challenges (then and now), the status quo and sides with the poor, powerless, and oppressed;
  • Being forced out of his team pastorate position at Circle Evangelical Free Church, a church that sought to bridge the racial divide by adopting, what it called, the Open Church;
  • Holding long time Board Chairmanship for National Black Evangelical Association (NBEA) and simultaneously holding position of Social Action Commission Chairperson for NBEA and NAE (National Association of Evangelicals); and 
  • Championing the cause of social justice, with his dissenting viewpoint, at the Consultation on World Evangelization conferences in Lausanne, Switzerland and Pattaya, Thailand.

My mother, Annie Pearl Williams Hilliard, grew up in Oxford, North Carolina, the daughter of a sharecropper. She experienced first-hand the discrimination and injustice imposed upon Blacks in the south. Her own father was arrested and on the brink of a lynching until an influential police officer, when he saw it was Bennie Williams, intervened because of his “good family name.” Eventually, my grandfather left his sons to farm the land, traveled to Buffalo, found work, and saved money to move his family.

A major focus of ACBC’s ministry has been to bridge the racial divide, because that is what the Kingdom of God (which is already among us), is all about! To that end, I meet with a multiracial group of Pastors and others, at least weekly, in different forums to address issues that are dividing God’s Kingdom. It is hard to miss the fact that God’s Word is taking a backseat to political ideology, fearmongering, racism, nationalism, injustice, and equality. On Wednesdays I lead a thought-provoking Bible Study, and we are currently studying James 2 which I believe speaks to various spiritual issues that plagues today’s Church and Evangelical Communities. Each week I will post a question and on the following week my answer and another question. God is a God of justice, so when we live His way, everyone benefits equally!

Today's Question: Broadly speaking, what are the major issues James confronts in Chapter 2, what is the gist of his arguments?

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This Week’s Question: There should be little disagreement that discrimination remains a part of the social fabric of America, so what are the underlying problems with showing partiality or favoritism, as commanded by James in James 2:1-9?

According to James there are several problems associated with showing favoritism! Nevertheless, the favoritism James describes is not based upon an affinity one person has towards another because of one’s personal knowledge or an interpersonal relationship. Instead it is based upon a prejudicial attitude toward another person’s physical characteristics, which in this case is attire and jewelry (or lack thereof which is discrimination). However, the favoritism could have, just as easily, been precipitated by one’s gender, ethnicity, vocabulary, native language, citizenship, or a host of other factors. When physical factors are the sole basis for how one person treats another, James calls the offending party a judge with evil thoughts (see verse 2:4), and the Bible teaches “Judge not, that you be not judged (see Matthew 7:1).”


The second reason for not showing favoritism is a person’s actions may pit him/her against God. James teaches in verse 2:5, “…Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” Therefore, James identifies the poor who are rich in faith, as God’s chosen people. Thus anyone who offends anyone within that group, especially when the offended party does not retaliate, has to face God’s vengeance according to Romans 12:19-21, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”


The third and final reason James offers for not showing favoritism is it violates God’s law. Verses 8-9 teach, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” Being labeled a sinner or transgressor by God is not a badge of honor, because Scripture teaches, “the wages of sin is death… (see Romans 6:23).”

Thus, in the final analysis, showing favoritism, irrespective of one’s motive, is dangerous because it is a sin fueled by lust, pride, or fear (to be explained more fully in a future post), and pits the offending party against God for one of three possible reasons: (1) Being an evil judge; (2) Offending God’s chosen people; or (3) Forsaking the law of love. Finally, regardless of the underlying reason one shows favoritism, he/she has “hell to pay” when they come before God’s judgment seat!

Next Week’s Question: From a Biblical perspective, what is prejudice or discrimination?

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This Week’s Question: From a Biblical perspective, what is prejudice or discrimination?

James 2:1-9 is a great passage for answering this question because it uses four Greek words to define prejudice from God’s perspective. The dictionary definition is “a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” Using this definition as a backdrop, James, in Verse 1, warns against showing partiality or having respect of persons. The Greek word in that context is prosopolepsia, and means “the fault of one who when called on to give judgment has respect of the outward circumstances of man and not to their intrinsic merits, and so prefers, as the more worthy, one who is rich, high born, or powerful, to another who does not have these qualities.” This definition summarizes America’s perpetual discrimination which transmuted Native Americans into pariahs on their native resource-rich soil; systemically relegates African-Americans to second class citizenship; and explains why Mr. Trump proposes limiting America’s nouveau immigrant population to the skilled, while heartlessly incarcerating indigents.


In Verses 2 and 3 James gives an example of someone giving preferential treatment to a well-dressed person, while showing disdain to another dressed shabbily. The Greek word contextually is epiblepo, and means to look up to or have regard for someone. This definition explains why the American government extends exorbitant benefits to the rich, while simultaneously curtailing or threatening to curtail necessary social programs by arguing that it has no resources to continue serving its poor, disabled, and elderly population. Based upon political norms, one can easily conclude that America has the best government money can buy!


In Verse 4 James describes the fault behind prejudice as partiality. The Greek word contextually is diakrino, which means, “to separate, make a distinction, discriminate, or to prefer.” Another definition is, “to separate one's self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, strive with dispute, or contend.” These definitions sound very much like the impetus behind America’s Civil Rights movement, which was a fight, led by African-Americans, for equal social rights. It also explains why Muslims (domestically and internationally), are under heightened scrutiny by America’s governmental agencies.


James sums up this partiality discussion in Verse 9 by categorically declaring that anyone who is partial toward others commits sin! The Greek word in that context is prosopolepteo, which means to respect the person (in reality it means respecting or discriminating against a person because of external characteristics). Unfortunately, almost 250 years after the following Declaration of Independence words were penned: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” From God’s perspective, the sobering reality (based upon American History), is these words are merely an empty phrase penned on parchment, and many discriminators who defied these self-evident truths by their discriminatory actions, have hell to pay since the wages of sin is death (see Romans 6:23)!


Next Week’s Question: Does the Bible refer to prejudicial or discriminatory actions in Scriptures other than James? If so, where, and what is the context?

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Museum of the Bible Coming to Washington

“I read my Bible to know what people ought to do, and my newspaper to know what they are doing.” (Cardinal John Henry Newman)


The Washington Post yesterday included an article entitled “A New Testament”, subtitled “Coming to the Mall in 2017: God”—reporting that “the Good Book is coming to town in a big way” in the form of the Museum of the Bible. The proximity of the museum to the Smithsonian and the Capitol has some people wondering how it will fit in among the institutions lining the Mall.


At the center of the Museum of the Bible will be fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a Gilgamesh tablet, Elvis Presley’s Bible, and about 850 manuscripts. A third of the material will be related to Judaism and the Old Testament, including torahs that survived the Spanish inquisition and the Nazis. The Israeli Antiquities Authority has agreed to include permanent exhibits of objects from their collection of 2 million artifacts.


Considering that it is backed by the owners of Hobby Lobby, some see it as “an oversize piece of evangelical claptrap.” Museum overseer David Trobisch will try to convince critics that it won’t be an evangelical propaganda machine, saying visitors will be encouraged to engage with the Bible and choose their own interpretation of the Word.


Though Christians love the Bible, we do not worship it. Bibliolatry distorts the heartbeat of Christianity—Jesus Christ, not Scripture, is our Savior. To the Pharisees, who memorized the Old Testament, Jesus addressed these words:  “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” [John 5:39 NLT]  Dactylology calls the Bible “The Jesus Book”.


Though believers do not worship the Bible, we submit our lives to its Author. It is clear from a careful reading of the Bible that practical application of its principles to “the common light of day” is imperative. To neglect obedience is hypocrisy—preaching one way, living another. Jesus severely condemned the disconnect between creed and conduct as He observed it in prominent religious leaders [Matthew 23:23-26]. To be a sincere follower of Christ demands that we live by the Book.


The Book from Heaven gives us a map for the maze of down-to-earth living [Psalm 119:105], a source of comfort for the troubled soul [Psalm 94:19], an ethical compass for those who yearn to live purely [Psalm 119:11], and a guarantee of eternal salvation [John 3:16].  


Artifacts showcased in an imposing structure of steel and glass will probably not convince crowds on the Mall of the Bible’s timeless truths. The Spirit of Christ showcased in lives transformed by surrender to His sovereignty have a better chance of doing that.  


“The Bible rose to the place it now occupies because it deserved to rise to that place, and not because God sent anybody with a box of tricks to prove its divine authority.” (Bruce Barton, The Man and The Book Nobody Knows)


“The Bible grows more beautiful, as we grow in our understanding of it.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)


“There is a Book worth all other books which were ever printed.” (Patrick Henry)


“A single line in the Bible has consoled me more than all the books I ever read besides.” (Immanuel Kant)


“Read this book for what on reason you can accept and take the rest on faith, and you will live and die a better man.” (Abraham Lincoln)


“Sin will keep you from this Book. This Book will keep you from sin.” (Dwight L. Moody)


“We search the world for truth; we cull / The good, the pure, the beautiful, / From all old flower fields of the soul; /And, weary seekers of the best, / We come back laden from our quest, / To find that all the sages said / Is in the Book our mothers read.” (John Greenleaf Whittier)

Johnny R. Almond

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity

Interim Pastor, Nomini Baptist Church; Montross, Virginia

Blog http://GentleWhispersFromEternity-ScripturePersonalized.com/

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Learning from Ponce de León's Mistake

According to a popular legend, sixteenth-century Spanish explorer Ponce de León discovered Florida while searching for the Fountain of Youth. Many people are still looking for the Fountain of Youth in Florida today, but that’s not the subject of this blog.

Many explanations have been offered for what motivated this wild-goose chase. One historian speculated that the adventurous conquistador mistook the natives’ word “vid” (vine) for “vida” (life), which transformed their “fountain vine” into an imagined “fountain of life.”

In some ways, we probably should give Ponce de León kudos rather than ridicule. If you thought you could experience a Fountain of Youth, wouldn’t you do just about anything to find it?

But the folly of his pursuit was in thinking there’s some kind of external substance that can ensure never-ending youth and vitality. In contrast, Jesus told the woman at the well in Sychar, “The water that I shall give…will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Do you see the difference here? Instead of providing us with a life-giving fountain to swim in, Jesus says the living water will be IN us, springing up into eternal life.

The beauty of the gospel is that it transforms us from the inside out. There’s no need to find an external fountain, whether in Florida or somewhere else. Instead, we can find this fountain anywhere you are. And rather than just being a Fountain of Youth, the fountain Jesus offers is a fountain of eternal life.

However, despite the availability of this amazing eternal transformation, many people today are still making the same mistake as Ponce de León. They’re trying to preserve their youthfulness through external remedies—things like money…sex…power…friends…fitness…and fun. But while the Lord may indeed give us such things, at best they provide only a very limited Fountain of Youth.

Meanwhile, God offers us something much better than outside-in solutions. The Bible describes how we can go from weakness to strength and weariness to renewal through the transforming power of the Spirit:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint
(Isaiah 40:28-31).

Youthfulness, like just about any other issue of life, is primarily a matter of your heart, not your skin. As King David discovered, one of the benefits of worshiping the Lord from your heart is that “your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1-5).

So the choice is yours. Will you follow in the footsteps of Ponce de León and focus your attention on outward appearances? Or will you become radiantly renewed in the presence of the Lord, giving priority to the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4)?

In Revelation 21:6 we’re given a glimpse of those who will drink of “the fountain of the water of life” at the end of time. Thirst is their key trait, which is good news if you’re thirsty today. You don’t have to search the world for something to make you happy and keep you young. You just need to come into God’s presence and drink.


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God's Love Songs

With the approaching of Valentine’s Day, I found myself Googling “The Greatest Love Songs of All Time.” Wow. Pretty interesting list.

Many of the “secular” love songs could be described as mushy…overly sentimental…even corny. And some of your favorite songs probably didn’t make the list (sorry, but Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” was overlooked).

One of the striking things about the tabulation of great love songs is that often they’re just a dim reflection of the kind of love God has for us, and wants from us. After all, the Bible tells us “love is from God” (1 John 4:7). That’s where it comes from. Our Lord is the ultimate Lover and the source of all genuine human love. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And even if you think you’ve got a pretty good supply of human love, it’s destined to run out someday unless you’re connected to the never-ending source of love.

Perhaps you’ve never really thought of God as the ultimate romantic. But if you take a look at the world’s great love songs, you’ll see they’re often more scriptural than you’ve ever imagined.

For example, when the Bee Gees asked the probing question “How Deep Is Your Love?,” can’t you hear Jesus asking you about that as well? In John 21:15-17, He asked Peter this question not just once, but three times. And Paul picked up on the same theme when he prayed for you to be rooted and grounded in love…able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).  

Yes, God’s love is very deep, very wide, very long, and very high. As John Mark McMillan says in his song, “How He Loves,” “if His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.”

So, I could go on and on about how the world’s love songs reveal the human craving for a love that ultimately must be found in a relationship with God:

  • We all want to experience a constant love like Whitney Houston expressed in her song, “I Will Always Love You.”
  • We want to experience the transforming love described in Celine Dion’s song, “Because You Loved Me.”
  • When we pass through life’s storms, we want God’s assurance that “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
  • We’re desperate to have someone who truly believes in us, even when we don’t believe in ourselves, and Kenny Rogers expressed this well in “She Believes in Me.”
  • We need someone who loves us not because we’re perfect, but rather says “I Love You Just the Way You Are,” as Billy Joel and Bruno Mars have sung about.

Yes, we’re looking for romantic love, but we also need something deeper and more durable than that. We want someone who sees us with grace—“Through the Eyes of Love,” as Melissa Manchester’s beautiful song says.

However, if your God is just a religious God, it will be pretty hard to see Him in any of these love songs. You definitely wouldn’t want a religious, angry, puritanical God to be your Valentine, would you?

I’m sure glad God saw to it that The Song of Solomon would make it into the Bible. Lest we think of Him as some distant, judgmental, religious tyrant in the sky, He reveals Himself there as our passionate Bridegroom and Lover, obsessed by our beauty—even when we feel anything but beautiful. And even when we’re down on our luck and down on ourselves, He sings love songs and dances with us (Zephaniah 3:17).

It’s so cool that Jesus didn’t choose to do His first miracle in a church service. Instead, He turned water into wine at a wedding! (John 2) Ironic as it might sound, Jesus wasn’t nearly as religious as we are. If we could grasp that fact, we would be much better at attracting unbelievers—and especially young people—to the Savior’s unending, sacrificial love demonstrated on Calvary.

What are your favorite love songs? They probably say a lot about what you need God to do in your heart today. So, go ahead and sing. Go ahead and dance. Throw caution to the wind.

He’s waiting to be your Valentine.


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Wholly Available?

Lately I’ve been thinking of an old chorus we used to sing 30 years ago in our church in Columbus, Ohio:

“Here I am, wholly available. As for me, I will serve the Lord.”

That was pretty much the entire song. But we sang it over and over, with great gusto.

The song got so much traction back then because it accurately expressed our hearts toward God. Back then most of us really were “wholly available.” Many of us were single or recently married. Either we had no kids, or else our kids could be easily transported from meeting to meeting in a basinet or stroller.

Our time commitments and financial encumbrances were few back then.

I remember the time our church had a guest Bible teacher come for two nights of meetings—on a Monday and Tuesday night. Everyone was there. We were hungry for God, and no one wanted to miss out on what was happening.

If your church today had a guest preacher on a Monday and Tuesday night, what percentage of the congregation would come?

Things have changed, it seems.

Our church in Columbus changed too, especially as we all got older. Eventually nearly all of us were married, and the financial commitments had grown considerably. We had 30-year mortgage payments to make, not to mention car payments and credit card debt. Soon we all had multiple kids, complete with even more financial responsibilities and all the normal activities of childhood.

Life was a lot more complicated and cluttered by then. And we quit singing the “wholly available” song, because it no longer reflected our current situation.

A decade after the Bible teacher had preached to a packed house on Monday and Tuesday nights, we hosted an international preacher who had a highly acclaimed healing ministry. Overseas his crusades often drew crowds of 50,000 or more, and we were hopeful for a big crowd during this special midweek meeting.

However, people weren’t as available or as hungry as before. Only about 30 people showed up to hear this man of God who was used to preaching to thousands. The response was embarrassing, but it showed us that times had changes.

I’m now an empty-nest Baby Boomer, contemplating how to become wholly available to the Lord once again. Hope is rising in my heart, and I may even start singing that old chorus once again.

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Hello everyone,

I have information about spiritual warfare on my website:


including very informative and educational material about destroying witchcraft and dangers of the occult. 

Please read gospel tracts entitled: "Exposing And Destroying Witchcraft!" "Dangers Of The Occult: Exposed!" and "You Can Be Set Free!" at: http://valentinabestmusic.net/read-free-ebooks-online.html

I also have many other inspirational and motivational tracts on my websites at: 

http://www.godzangelmusic.com & http://www.valentinabestmusic.net

Please recommend this material to all your friends:


God bless you all!

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Love, Obedience, and Purity of Heart

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the “upper room discourse” lately, in John 13-14 in particular so far. It’s an interesting section, since it’s one of the few where you really see Jesus interacting with His disciples collectively, instead of just one or two at a time. Heck, we even get a line out of Jude/Thaddeus (aka Judas Not Iscariot) here.

It’s also a hard section to wrap your head around, and simultaneously kind of annoying because it sounds like Jesus is constantly repeating Himself—like He’s constantly rephrasing the same comments over and over because His listeners just don’t get it. Then again, He’s talking to His disciples, and we know they’re kinda thick.

Or at least we should—because after all, we’re His disciples, too.

Anyway, what seems inescapable here is the connection Jesus draws between love and obedience. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). ”Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21)

In fact, He connects our obedience with our ability to see Him work in our lives. “And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…. If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:21, 23).

This isn’t the first time Jesus makes this connection, though.  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). This word also helps contrain our obedience, so that it’s not blind—at best misguided, at worst satanic—obedience. Purity of heart is to want what God wants, in the way God wants it. It necessitates the right kind of obedience, and promises that God will manifest Himself as we do it.

Jesus illustrated this principle Himself later in John 14: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:30-31, emphasis mine).

Especially to the world, our obedience can look wrong, misguided, and overly submissive—and sometimes it is. There is a time to stand up. But as He prepares to enter the garden of Gethsemane and take up His cross, Jesus shows us what standing up should look like. It’s not “in your face,” but in His name. It is doing what God demands, and letting the chips—and our desires—fall where they may.

So, along with Jesus, “Rise, let us go from here” (John 14:31).

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Becoming Pregnant with the Purposes of God

One year I received a Christmas card from a mentor of mine, he signed the card, "May You Become Pregnant With the Purposes of God. He knew that part of my history involved issues with infertility but he also knew that my heart longed to be involved in some sort of ministry. God always seemed to speak to me through this friend and so I began to pray about his message to me. Instead of praying for more children, I simply prayed that God would indeed let me become pregnant with His purposes and to make them clear to me.

Since I am trained as a therapist, my first inclination was to use my professional skills to provide Parenting classes and workshops. So for the next several months, I worked diligently to market my classes/workshops. I can't even tell you how many letters were sent to daycares, schools, churches, and parents in the community. But I had little response. Then one day, God began to show me that it wasn't parenting classes and workshops that he wanted me involved in, it was spiritual parenting--Disipleship. He began to open doors that I never would have opened myself and He placed me in a position where I had the privilege of discipling approximately 45 of the 80 member congregation that I was in.

Most of these members were senior citizens who had been in the church all their lives, but somehow they missed being taught the basics of Christianity. How precious it was to see person after person between the ages of 60 & 80 come to me with tears in their eyes, thanking me for helping them to finally understand their Bible or teaching them to pray. I can honestly say that I've never experienced anything more satisfying than when I've been involved in discipling others.

My mentoring friend passed away before I had a chance to share how his words impacted my life but he would have rejoiced with me in all of the spiritual children God blessed me with.

Jenni B.

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