How the pagan influences of Ephesus corrupted sound Biblical doctrine and led to the removal its lamp stand.Why Ephesus Lost A Lamp Stand to Paganism and Violence.
Wise people set goals for themselves in the New Year, areas they want to improve or even change. Some people sabotage their goals before they even begin. How will you maintain your growth? Setting positive habits builds a foundation of repeatable success.
“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid 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.” Philippians 3:13-14 NASB
A new year is upon us. The old year is past. This is the time to put away bad habits and start better ones. A dear friend, Jim Hogan, once challenged the sales team that worked for him, “Don’t be afraid to form good habits, everyone has habits, the best of us work from the good habits we already formed. Good habits create repeatable success.” — Crevier Sales Meeting 2008
Jim has always lived by example, he taught me the important value of doing things right from the beginning and repeating your good habits until they become one with everything you do. The highest compliment to Jim’s success is the fierce loyalty that his sales people had for him. Past employees often speak of his integrity, his character and the way he changed their lives for the better.
“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.” Romans 12:2 NASB
For the Christian, one who is committed to following Jesus, good habits are critical to your relationship with God and to your spiritual growth. In the passage above, Paul tells us that we can change our behavior through the renewing of our minds and that we can also know the will of God. So then how do we do this?
Like any good relationship, we need to spend time and make it a date. Yes, take the time to have a daily date with God. Read His love letter and talk to Him.
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 NASB
David, the psalmist understood how to change his ways and to draw closer to God. He knew that it would require his whole heart. It requires a 100% commitment to daily listening, studying and communication with God.
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” Psalms 119:9-11 NKJV
Recently, I was asked, “What methodology do I incorporate when studying the Bible? What habits have I put in place?” So here is my list of things that I do to have an impacting experience with God.
1.) Get a Bible you want to read. Each year I get a new Bible and I switch translations from the NASB to the NKJV. My wife and kids like the NLT. The important thing is to read God’s word.
2.) Get a quality Bible. Take some pride in picking out your Bible. I prefer goat skin leather and a binding that is called smyth sewn. The binding is critical, a smyth sewn binding will last and hold up over time. (Smyth Sewn Bindings) The paper should be at a 28 gsm or greater. The best Bibles made are by Schuyler, R.L. Allan, and Cambridge. (Evangelical Bibles) This year my wife bought me my first Schuyler Bible. It is such a beautiful masterpiece of craftsmanship.
3.) Develop a system to take notes in your Bible. Don’t just write notes, write with a purpose. One day someone else will read my Bible, I wonder how will my notes inspire their relationship with Jesus. I have developed a color code system over the years that works for me. Below is an example of it.
4.) Pray before you start and after. I always ask God to give me understanding and wisdom in comprehending His word.
5.) Get a book that corresponds to what you are reading. Get some perspective. Share what you learned with a friend.
6.) Get cozy. Find a quiet place, with a comfortable chair. Make this a place that you want to go to.
7.) Make the time you spend with God, consistent. Set a time to read your Bible. Keep your date with Him
8.) Keep a journal of your growth. Write down what you learned. Look back at it and see how you have changed.
God views us as exceptional. He loves us and created us each in a unique way. The one consistent trait, is that anyone can change. God gave us free will, the ability to end mistakes and to create better attitudes and behaviors. The only way this can happen is with God’s help and through having a relationship with Him. This year choose to make your new year exceptional; by maintaining a deeper relationship with God through prayer and the reading of His word.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.””Romans 1:16-17 NKJV
God Bless and have a Happy New Year.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
1 Peter 4:12-13New King James Version (NKJV)
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
Suffering for God’s Glory
Last week I talked about some of the difficulties that my family was endured. (Ramblings of Death, Illness and a Baby) It seemed that problems were coming at us faster than we could handle them. It was not just the big ones, (See the link.) but all the small ones that added to our stress and anxiety. The little things are the ones that just put you over the edge. The air conditioner failing, garbage disposal breaking and the dog deciding that the BBQ would make a great chew toy. It is in these moments that one wonders, “God where are you?” It is in these moments that you need encouragement. During trials it is critical to know your Bible and trust what it says. God uses His word to encourage us. Encouragement in trials is key to relieving the stress you are under.
2 Corinthians 4:16-17New International Version (NIV)
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
Surround Yourself with Hope
The world has become so negative. We are surrounded by destructive words, behavior and images that demean our self worth and break us mentally and spiritually. This is why we must combat the enemy who wishes to destroy us. There are 5 ways that we can build our lives with a foundation of hope and encouragement.
PRAY: If you do not regularly communicate with God, you are making a big mistake in your life. God is our Heavenly Father, He loves us and wants to hear from us. He is an awesome and perfect Dad. These two verses say it best.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14)
He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, And shall not despise their prayer. (Psalm 102:17)
READ YOUR BIBLE: The Bible is God’s love letter to you, it is filled with hope and encouragement. How will you know God if you don’t read it? God has a plan for your life. Reading the Bible gives you clarity and peace. Memorize verses so that you will remember them in the middle of a desperate moment.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)
GO TO CHURCH: God created us to be relational, Church is a place where we are called to encourage one another, but also a place to be encouraged. Christians are called to care for one another. In the passage below, we are called to assemble together.
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
ENCOURAGING PEOPLE: We need to surround our selves with people who encourage us in our walk with God and in life. Look for people who use encouraging words that build you up and show you grace. Become one of these people, by building others up you will establish hope in your life through difficult times.
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)
POSITIVE SOCIAL MEDIA: Social media can either depress you or it can be a reminder of spiritual growth. If you look at my social media, I use it to encourage others with a daily reminder of God’s Goodness. I also surround myself with other like minded individuals. In the past month, so many people have inspired and encouraged my wife and I to keep enduring through these difficult moments. We have felt the prayers of thousands and have seen them answered.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
Give Praise to God
Although the last month was difficult I had so much to be thankful for. God brought a music album that encouraged me. It is from a friend of mine, Aaron Michael, so check it out. (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/promises/1337486248)
We had a church that prayed for us, and family who supported us. I also had a special friend (Jill) from Instagram; who every day would send encouraging messages and prayers into our lives. I must also give praise to God, who is amazing. God healed my dad, so he and my mother were able to celebrate their 63 wedding anniversary. On that very same day, my son Josiah was born. He was born healthy and my wife is in amazing health and good spirits.
To the follower of Jesus, encouragement is a #proofofyourfaith.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Psalm 34:17-19 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Sickness has spread through out our house today. I would like to say that today’s post was going to make a lot of sense, but I may be under a deep delusion since I have obtained some sort of flu bug and am writing this with a fever. I planned on writing some epic peace on the power of prayer, but am not sure if my concentration will hold long enough for me to be coherent. It seems that every time I do have a “brilliant” thought to convey; my mouth interrupts my brain with a desire to run to the bathroom, or I am called by one of my children; to save them from the porcelain demon. Epic blog post this will not be, but rather one of ramblings.
James 1:2-4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Every week I gather my notes, bible verses and convictions which are bound in prayer. I then begin my endeavor to share the love of Jesus with you. This week has been turbulent for me. My wife is due any moment with our new son to be, Josiah. His name in Hebrew means, “Jehovah has healed.” I sure pray that this is prophetic.
In all seriousness I really do mean that. For years I have prayed earnestly for my other son, Jakob; to be healed from a vaccine poisoning that he had as an infant. I have also prayed for a healing to my depression,(Depression and The Christian Faith) and with all the excitement of a new baby, we received word that my father has taken quite ill and their is the chance that I may not get to say, “Good bye.” It is impossible to be in two places at once, and definitely not a good idea to be sick with a flu and fever. This has left me torn and stressed. My desire is to be with my dad and comfort my mother, but my wife really needs me. I cannot wait for this demonic trial to stop tormenting me, but all in the good time of our heavenly Father. My trust will always be in the hands of my Father and His plan for my life. He is a good, good Father.
James 1:17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
Yes I do not blame God for my trials, I blame Satan. He is the one who comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He is the father of lies. The greatest lie he tells us, “This is all God’s fault.” I will not be persuaded by that liar. I do thank God for the opportunity to learn from my trials. I also ask God for more joy. It is from joy, that God grants inner peace so that Jesus can do His work of endurance and maturity. Trials after all are a #proofofyourfaith
Thank you Lord for the trials I face. Thank you Father, for teaching me patience and mercy. I know you love me and I know that you are there. You never leave or forsake me. Grant me strength to love, as you have loved me. Let me endure to the end, reaching towards you, falling into Your arms Jesus. Then this race will all be worth it, just to be with you, eternally.
Reading the Bible needs to be at the forefront of what we do in life.
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32 NASB)
A while back, I posted The God We Should Worship . The purpose was to bring some clarity to the incorrect understanding that Muslims worship the same God as Christians. The central argument is that Christians worship Jesus because He is God, the Triune God. This is the core of Christian belief. We get this theology from the Bible. Jesus made this claim several times. Muslims view Jesus as a mere prophet whose teachings they regularly ignore. The differences between Islam and Christianity are apparent. One only needs to read the Bible to know that there is no grace of God in Islam. Grace is a character of God that he reveals in the Bible. Through the scriptures, God reveals Himself to us. I have found myself in awe of God as a result of seeking Him. One gets to know God by studying the Bible, memorizing scripture and praying. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the more I desire to be in His presence. I love him because he first loved me. For God is love. It is in His love for me that God reveals His Divine character of truth through His word.
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him”.(John 18:37-38)
The whole world claims we want truth, honesty, integrity, and transparency. The fact is that most people don’t even seek it. They personally don’t want truth to interfere in their daily lives. They don’t want truth to destroy their misguided conceptions of life. Most people would rather believe lies about themselves. They live in the guilt and shame of their failures. They can’t comprehend that God could love them. The truth of God’s word, tells us that He loves us. Those who truly seek truth become doers of truth. The person who does not apply the word of God to their lives is failing to live a Christ centered life. If you are not reading God’s word, you can’t apply it. If you are not reading and applying the Bible to your life; your Christianity is worthless.
“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:21-22 NASB)
Are you of the truth? Do you hear the voice of Jesus? Jesus told Pilate, that everyone who is of the truth hears His voice. If you don’t read God’s love letter to you, how will you distinguish the truth from a lie? Are you listening to the stranger’s voice? Examine your life for a moment. Is your Christianity weak? Do you struggle with your walk with God? Are you focused on loving Jesus or are you living in doubt? There are things that you can do to draw closer to God.
- Ask God for help. Seek His wisdom.
- Read the Bible everyday. This is critical. It’s good to have a plan. Write down what you learn. I journal through my Bible Everyday
- Memorize scripture. Take time while you are standing around and memorize scripture. (I use an app called fighter verses.)
- Pray. Write down your prayers and your answers . If you have a hard time praying, pray through the scriptures. (Try the Psalms)
God loves you! Let God’s grace shine on you. Seek His truth.
The cross shows us our value to God. It demonstrates God’s love for us and how precious we are to Him.
We despised him and rejected him;
he endured suffering and pain.
No one would even look at him—
we ignored him as if he were nothing.
“But he endured the suffering that should have been ours,
the pain that we should have borne.
All the while we thought that his suffering
was punishment sent by God.
But because of our sins he was wounded,
beaten because of the evil we did.
We are healed by the punishment he suffered,
made whole by the blows he received.
I do not consider myself a poet, that word belongs to those who dedicate themselves to that art. This past year, I have had some amazing times with God and have been inspired to write some of my thoughts down. I am confounded by God’s love for me. It overwhelms me at times and leaves me drenched with love, understanding and awe. On one such occasion, I wrote the following poem:
I Need to Know the Cost.
I need to know the painful cost,
of the blood He shed upon His cross.
So gruesome a price Christ did pay, His life, our sins He did slay.
Unworthy of Him who bore my sin.
All for love my soul to win.
His body so broken, His flesh torn to shred.
My life to be saved, with his blood that was shed,
I need to know the epic cost, of the life Christ gave upon His cross.
Lead me to the everlasting way; that my heart will never stray.
Fix my eyes on the eternal one, so Christ can finish this race I run.
So precious is your love for me, in Jesus name I am free.
Grow your love in me; still more, so others will see the cross you bore.
Oh Holy Communion remind me still,
of the precious blood that was spilled.
Repentance I need for my sorrowful sin.
His body so broken for my soul to win.
How precious is the life Christ gave, by grace and love, my life to save.
I need to know the painful cost, of the life we hung upon that cross.
Lead me to the everlasting way; that my heart will never stray.
Fix my eyes on the eternal one, so Christ can finish this race I run.
So precious is your love for me, in Jesus name I am free.
Grow your love in me; still more, so others will see the cross you bore.
© 2018 Stephan Caraway. All Rights Reserved
Final Thoughts: Since we are approaching Palm Sunday, ask yourself the following: Is your love for Jesus real, is your praise genuine or are you just a fan?
A big Happy Birthday today to my hero, friend and the best sister in the world. You inspire me with the way you live a conquering life for Jesus. Happy Birthday Rebecca!
“No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can effect, except those who have learned it by experience. Whenever I have prayed earnestly, I have been heard and have obtained more than I prayed for. God sometimes delays, but He always comes.”
― Martin Luther
Recently I wrote about what to do in the midst of The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life… Prayer is the most important tool we have. Most people fail to use it effectively, if they use it at all. The following passage explains a few of the attributes effective prayer should have.The follower of Christ should not wait for difficult times to pray, We should pray in preparation for them.
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.”And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)
Prayer is effective communication with a responsive God who has the desire to have a relationship with you. E.M. Bounds once said, “The [prayer] closet…is the battlefield of the Church; its citadel; the scene of heroic and unearthly conflicts.” The fact is that many Christians take prayer for granted. Why are we failing to pray? A pastor once told me, that the most difficult event to get people to come out to was a prayer meeting. He mentioned that he would be lucky if 10 people showed up out of his thousand member church. We wonder why there is so much evil in the world, yet we fail to pray. In this technology era of texting and twittering there is very little deep emotional conversation that takes place. In the same way that it affects the natural world it is also affecting the spiritual world. Recently, articles ranging from CNN to The Huffington Post discuss the dangers of losing face-to-face communication. ( Too Much Texting Could be Harming Your Relationship ) This lack of communication is also affecting the way people are praying to God. Are your prayers becoming like a twitter post to God? Are your prayers enduring and full of conviction or are they soulless babble?
Let see what Jesus wants us to learn about prayer.
Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,(Romans 12:12)
God wants us to have enduring prayer times. Luke basically gives the parable away by telling us what it is about. We are to pray at all times and not to lose heart. Pretty simple idea, so why do we have such a hard time with it. Texting allows us to cut out the chit-chat, it keeps our interactions brief and to the point. We have even reduced whole sentences to a simple emoji. Because of the influence of social media and technology we are failing in our interpersonal communication. In this same way, we have reduced our prayers to simple sound bites. God wants enduring prayers. A person who is devoted to prayer, perseveres through difficult situations and rejoices in the hope that God provides.
We need to devote our selves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
He wants us to have deep conversations with him, prayers that take time. God wants to hear our problems, sorrows, our brokenness, our praise and gratitude. This takes time. God wants our time. The problem with society is that if we don’t have a result from our communication we move on. Our impatience and our need for results drives us away from God. God is not going to solve your problems with a Twitter response and an emoji. He wants to transform your life and behavior into something beautiful. What excuses do you use to not pray? Is your prayer effective? Are you enduring in your prayer time? God wants you to be persistent in prayer. Is your love for God evident by the way you pursue Him? A person with a committed prayer life has direction and purpose. That person is led by God to level ground.
In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.(Psalm 18:6)
God wants heartfelt prayers. God wants us to pray from our heart. God wants us to reveal our deepest pain to Him. The widow was crying out for justice. She was praying with conviction. Do you pray this way? Abraham Lincoln said this,“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
Because God loves us, He wants to hear our concerns, our problems, our needs and our joys. God is love. He knows what is happening, but He is relational. It is when we communicate our thoughts to God that He reveals a better path for us. He opens our heart to his will. It is through this time of heartfelt prayer, that love grows inside of us. God is the source of this love, it is His perfect gift to you. Do your prayers flow with love?
By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8)
Enduring prayers of conviction breeds faithfulness to God. Jesus reveals the character of God in this parable. Persistent prayer reveals justice for the oppressed who follow Him. God is faithful to those who are faithful. The word Elect is used to describe those who follow after God.
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16b).
This is not our righteousness but the righteousness of Jesus Christ that abides in us. It is not a matter of just believing in God, but it is the constant state of mind to be chasing after God. I would often ask myself, “How can I expect to have an enduring and persistent prayer life if I fail to have an enduring and persistent relationship with Christ?” For most of my life my prayers were short and brief. I just wanted to get to the point. I always wondered why my relationship with God was so weak. I now realize that I had it backwards. My Prayer time was what grew my relationship with God. I needed to humble myself before God and confess my wrongs to Him. Prayer is communication. Can any relationship grow without enduring and persistent communication? Just ask any marriage counselor and they will tell you that without good communication your marriage will fail. The same is with your relationship with God. To have an effective relationship with God you need to pray and your prayers need to be persistent and enduring.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.(Psalm 145:18)
Does your prayer time carry your faith in difficult times? Jesus ends the parable with a question. He is referring to His second coming. When He returns, Jesus asks, “Will he find faith on the Earth?” Is your faith evident by your prayer life? Do people refer to you as a prayer warrior? America needs revival. The Church needs revival. The only way for revival to come is through enduring and persistent, heartfelt communication with God. This is what prayer needs to be. It is time for the Church to pray. It is time for the followers of Jesus to be driven to their knees in prayer. We need to bring our brokenness, our tears, our confessions to the cross of Jesus with enduring prayers. Oh men and women of God I plead with you; pray, pray and pray some more.
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7)