Standing Strong on God’s Extravagant Love

God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love . . . he sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:9–10 NLT).

Everything in life changes—relationships, jobs, fame. One minute you feel like a hero; the next minute you feel like a zero. But there’s one thing in the universe that will never change: God’s love.

Knowing that God still loves you no matter what happens — your failures, your brokenness, your sin — provides a rock solid foundation in your life.

Consider the small word “so” that goes before “love” in the Bible’s most famous verse, John 3:16. The verse says, “God so loved the world . . . ” (NIV).

God loves you with an extravagant, lavish love that can never be taken away. It’s beyond comprehension. He loves you on your good days and your bad days. He loves you when it’s raining and when the sun is shining.

God says he doesn’t want you to just recognize this lavish love intellectually. He wants you to recognize it emotionally. Love is God’s nature. God created the universe and everything in it for no other reason than so he could love it. And God created you so he could love you.

In fact, in Jesus, God shows us what real love, his love, looks like. “God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love . . . he sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:9–10 NLT).

Many people say they love you. God showed you how much he loves you. He loved you so much it hurt. He sacrificed his Son. When Jesus died for you, he was saying he loved you so much he’d rather die than live without you.

And the Bible says that’s what real love, the kind of love that you can build your life upon, looks like. Real love makes sacrifices. Real love endures to the end. Real love gives all.

That’s the kind of love only God has for you. And he’s waiting with open arms to show you.

Talk About It:

How does it make you feel when you read, “God loves you with an extravagant, lavish love that it can never be taken away”?
When are you most likely to doubt the love of God?
What does God’s self-sacrificing love demonstrated in Jesus tell you about how you should love others?

Summary Of Daniel

The genre of the book of Daniel is Narrative History, Prophetic Oracle, and it includes Apocalyptic material. The prophet Daniel wrote it around 530 B.C. and his writings records the events of the Babylonian captivity in 560-536 B.C. to which Daniel was a servant. It also describes the apocalyptic visions given by God, and reveals the events and plans for everyone’s future. Key personalities of this book include Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Belshazzar, and Darius.

The purpose of this book is to provide a historical account how the Lord God protected and provided for His faithful followers while in captivity. It also includes a vision of future redemption and hope.

•    In chapters 1-6, Daniel writes about his own life in captivity. He was selected to work for the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel (or his Babylonian name Belteshazzar), and his friends made bold and tough decisions and several times displayed their integrity to stand for Godliness instead of culture. They rejecting the king’s food, prayed when it was illegal to do so, and refused to bow to the king’s idol, for which they were thrown into a scorching furnace. Daniel interpreted the king’s dreams twice then was promoted as chief over all the wise men in Babylon. Yet, through all the great things that Daniel did He claimed it was God that did it through him and he gave all the glory to God, “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him” (2:22).

•    Chapters 7-12 contain the visions that Daniel received from God and the events that are involved in his prophetic ministry. A portion of these includes the results of the earthly kingdoms that he lived in. They also mention the coming Messiah and the apocalyptic events to come. “As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, “My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time” (12:8-9). To be continued…

When You Call on God, He Will Answer

Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13 TLB).

Are you at a place in your life where you need to be rescued? Are you ready to call out for help? It doesn’t take a special phone or a bat-signal. All you have to do is ask and Jesus will rescue you. You can ask him to rescue you in any area of your life: a relationship, a financial situation, a health issue, anything. But you have to ask.

In Psalm 91:15, God says, “When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them” (NLT). That’s not just talk, because God doesn’t lie. It would be contrary to his character because he is total truth.

Notice that God says you have to do your part and then he’ll do his part. You call, he answers. That’s it. Just call on the name of the Lord. And the name of the Lord is Jesus.

It’s vital to understand that in any rescue operation, the rescuer gets to determine the means and method of the rescue. You don’t get to determine how you are saved. It’s not up to you; it’s up to your Savior. And Jesus says, “I am the way . . . No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV).

Jesus doesn’t say he’s a good way or a nice way or even the best way. He says, “I’m it.” If there were a plan B, God wouldn’t have sent Jesus — his plan A — to Earth to die for you. So if you’re going to be saved and have all your sins forgiven, there’s only one way it will happen, and there’s only one person you can call on: Jesus.

Talk It Over

How do you draw strength from the “total truth” nature of God’s character?
Why is it important that God says we have to do our part and call on the name of the Lord?
What’s the most surprising element to your story of how Jesus rescued you?

Summary Of Ezekiel

The book of Ezekiel is Narrative History, Prophetic and Apocalyptic in genre and even contains Parables. The prophet Ezekiel wrote it approximately 571 B.C. (this date is accurately precise because this book contains more defined dates than any other book in the Bible.) Key personalities include Ezekiel, Israel’s leaders, Ezekiel’s wife, King Nebuchadnezzar, and “the prince”.

It was written to announce judgment upon Judah, to allow them one last chance to repent. It also foretells of the coming deliverance of God’s nation from captivity in Babylon. It mainly discusses the events during the Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel is a priest who is called by God to deliver His messages.

•    In chapters 1-3, God commissions his servant Ezekiel. He receives visions, and his message is to confront God’s sinful nation, “I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day ” (2:3).

•    Chapters 4-24, Ezekiel delivered the message of doom to the captives. He told several parables, one that compared Israel to an adulterous woman (16:1-63). He taught them that God was cleansing His chosen nation, “Fou have borne the penalty of your lewdness and abominations’, the LORD declares” (16:58).

•    From chapters 25-32, Ezekiel condemns judgment upon seven particular nations who mocked YHWH, the God of Israel because of the captivity; they too would soon see their fate. These nations are Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt.

•    In chapters 33-48, a message of deliverance and restoration is written. This includes not only the current nation of Israel but also the future of the coming Messiah, the Temple, and the Kingdom of God in the End age. In chapter 37, he writes the famous vision of the valley of bones, “He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, Fou know” (37:3)

God Is Working While You’re Waiting

I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for he has promised” (Psalm 130:5).

God wants you to wait patiently for him to answer your prayer, but he also wants you to wait expectantly. Have faith. Trust God to hear and to answer. When you wait expectantly, you demonstrate that you believe God’s promises. You believe he’s going to keep his word.

Daniel Boone, the famous frontiersman, was once asked, “Have you ever gotten lost in the wilderness?” He said, “No, I’ve never been lost. I’ve been bewildered for weeks at a time, but I’ve never been lost.”

Maybe you feel bewildered right now. You’re bewildered about your marriage: “I’m praying for it to get better, but it’s not getting any better.” You’re bewildered about your career: “Do I go up, down, change jobs?” You’re bewildered about relationships. You may feel powerless and hopeless, like you can’t do anything to change your situation on your own. You’re bewildered.

Don’t be discouraged! Don’t give up! Look up. Turn to prayer. I have had many, many requests in my life that I’ve prayed to God that have never been answered. I can think of one prayer that I have prayed almost every day for years, and it hasn’t been answered. I don’t know why God hasn’t chosen to answer that prayer, and I don’t understand it. But I have decided this: Whether or not God ever answers that prayer, I am going to die believing his promises. Because God is a good God, and he knows what’s best, even when I don’t understand it.

When God doesn’t answer your prayers, you need to remember a couple of important truths. First, God is in control, and you’re not. He knows better what you need than you do. There is no mountain too tall that he can’t move it. There is no problem so big that he can’t solve it. There is no sorrow so deep he cannot soothe it. God is in control, and he has a plan.

The second thing you need to remember is that, whether or not you ever receive your answer, God will honor your patience — if not in this world, then in eternity.

“I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for he has promised” (Psalm 130:5 TLB).

Talk It Over

  • What promises of God can you claim while you wait for him to answer your prayer?
  • How has God shown his faithfulness to you in the past?
  • What do you expect God to do in your life? How do your expectations reflect his greatness?

Summary Of Lamentations

The book of Lamentations is book of sorrowful songs or poems. The name implies that the topic is expressing grief over something (to lament). Jeremiah, also known as the “weeping prophet” writes this after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. It was written soon after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.; he was an eyewitness. He predicted this destruction (as did others), watched it take place, and now in this book he is sadly reflecting on it. Key personalities are the prophet Jeremiah and the people of Jerusalem.

Its purpose was to express despair and teach God’s people that disobedience to the Lord results in immense suffering and distress. Jeremiah pours out his emotions in compassion, and empathy for God’s nation, as he watches them inhabit a foreign land.

•    In chapter 1, Jeremiah mourns for Jerusalem and Judea as it lays in ruin by the raid and destruction of Babylon, “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! She has become like a widow who was once great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a forced laborer!” (1:1).

•    Chapter 2, He described the anger of the Lord who brought judgment to the wicked land (as God had warned), “In fierce anger He has cut off all the strength of Israel; He has drawn back His right hand from before the enemy…”(2:3).

•    Chapter 3, we see Jeremiah expressing his troubled spirit and suffering in gloom. He too is afflicted, as his homeland has been pillaged. On the other hand, he reminds us in verses 19-23, that God is faithful and will restore and bring His promise to pass, “The LORD’S loving-kindness indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail”(3:22).

•    Finally, in chapter 4, we read that God has brought justice and ruled mightily. During the siege, the city of Jerusalem suffered incredibly. Starvation was so bad and widespread that the Israelites resorted to eating their own children. The nation was warned about their sin and disobedience and the penalty of the coming judgment of God, and in verse 11 we read, “The LORD has accomplished His wrath..”.

Only Believe

While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.” But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.”
—Luke 8:49–50
Have you ever experienced a time when everything was going well, and suddenly the bottom dropped out? Maybe it was a tragedy, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of your career, or bad news from your doctor.

If so, then you will find yourself in the touching story of how Jesus dealt with a man named Jairus. Everything was going wonderfully in his life—until his beloved twelve-year-old daughter grew very ill. No doubt he had called in the finest physicians, but she grew more and more ill. There was nothing he could do.

We don’t know whether Jairus was a believer in Jesus. The Bible doesn’t say. Being the head of the synagogue, he would have been a man of faith, a religious man. He had probably heard about Jesus and believed that he could save his daughter’s life. So he found the Lord and begged Him to go and lay hands on her. He had faith in Jesus and placed his complete trust upon Him.

Jairus’s faith was dramatic, especially when the story shifts, and it is revealed that his daughter had died. Still, Jairus believed the Lord could intervene. At this particular time in the ministry of the Lord, He had not raised anyone from the dead. He had healed people, but there had not been any resurrections. I love what Jesus said to Jairus at this point: “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well” (Luke 8:50 NKJV).

Jairus reached out to Christ and found what he needed from Him. His little girl was raised from the dead. It is a glorious story, and it serves as a simple reminder that everyone needs the Lord. Some people don’t think they do. But in reality, everyone desperately needs Him.

Under His Protection

But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.
—Acts 28:5

When the apostle Paul was placed on a ship bound for Rome, he experienced a shipwreck along the way. But the Lord had appeared to Paul and assured him that no lives would be lost. They would reach their destination safely. Everyone made it ashore, and as Paul was warming his hands over the fire, a venomous snake fastened itself onto Paul’s hand. Paul simply shook off the snake, and everyone thought he was some sort of god because he survived. But Paul’s time had not yet come.

This reminds us of one thing: until God is done with us, we are indestructible. Jesus said of believers, “They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them” (Mark 16:18 NLT). This doesn’t mean we should hold snake-handling services as some so-called churches have been known to do. Nor should we go out and drink poison to test our faith. That is testing the Lord, and it isn’t what God is saying.

Here is what it does mean: until God is done with us, nothing will stop us. We don’t have to live in constant fear for our lives, because until the day the Lord is done with us, we will be safe in His protective care.

And what about the day when He is done with us? As Paul himself said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NKJV).

Meanwhile, we are not to unnecessarily risk our lives. We are not to do foolish things to endanger ourselves. If we seek to stay in the will of God, we have nothing to worry about.

That’s a great outlook to have while we live in a dangerous world. We can thank God because we are under His protection

Two Steps to Knowing Gods Will

If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him” (James 1:5 TLB).

If you want to know God’s will, you need to do a couple of things:

1. Admit that you need guidance.

We don’t really like to admit when we’re confused. Men especially don’t like to do this! It’s not in my nature to say, “Hey! I’m lost!” and stop and ask for directions. That’s why, when it comes to knowing God’s will, it takes some real courage to admit that we’re confused and need direction.

Psalm 25:9 says, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (NIV). If you’re arrogant and think you’ve got it all figured out, God’s going to say, “Be my guest. Go for it!” I’ve had people tell me, “I’ve been a Christian for 20 years, and I’ve never felt God guiding me.” My response? Maybe it’s because you’ve never admitted that you need it. You go to work assuming that you know what to do without praying about it. You make financial decisions all the time without praying about them. You make vacation plans without praying about them. You make career decisions without praying about them. If you’re single, you go out on a date without praying about it.

You think you know, but you might want to stop and admit that you need guidance, because it’s the first step in getting God’s will for your life.

2. Ask God in faith for directions.

The Bible says in James 1:5-6, “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (TLB).

Notice there are two keys to knowing God’s wisdom. First, you’ve got to ask the right person: God. You don’t ask your manicurist, your bartender, or some other “reliable” authority like a radio talk show host. You have to ask the right person! Then you ask with the right attitude: expecting God to answer. Have you ever asked God to lead you, but you didn’t really expect him to? Sure you have. That’s why you never got anything from it. You must ask with the expectation of an answer. God honors faith, and he promises wisdom for the next step of your life.

Talk It Over

  • What big decisions have you made about your life recently? How did you know it was God’s will? How did prayer affect your decision?
  • Whom do you go to when you need help discerning God’s will? How does that person point you back to God’s Word and prayer?
  • Why does God want you to pray expectantly?

How Do You Find Gods Will

God . . . invited you into this wonderful friendship with his Son, even Christ our Lord”(1 Corinthians 1:9 TLB).

God isn’t playing games with you. He wants you to understand his will, his purpose, and his plan for your life.

You may say, “I want God to guide me, but I still get confused. I don’t know what to do.” Often the problem is we’re looking for the wrong thing. You need to know what you’re looking for before you can find it.

So, what is God’s will?

God’s will is not a feeling.

Maybe you are looking for a feeling or a supernatural sign. You want God to pull your heartstrings so you’ll know exactly what to do.

The problem is that feelings are unreliable; they will often guide you the wrong way. Feelings can come from fatigue, hormones, or an event you’ve just experienced. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful” (NIV). Even your heart plays tricks on you. Even the Devil can create a feeling. If I had listened to my feelings, I never would have married my wife, Kay. The day before the wedding, my feelings said, “Run!” But that wasn’t God’s will. That was fear!

Don’t wait for a feeling when you’re trying to figure out God’s plan for your life.

God’s will is not a formula.

In our culture, we want everything to be easy. We want things to follow a simple formula that will instantly change our lives. We want a step-by-step guide.

But there’s a problem with this approach: There’s no room for mistakes. If God’s will is a recipe, what happens if you leave out one ingredient? Leaving baking soda out of a recipe is the difference between a birthday cake and a pancake. What if you have “52 Steps to Knowing God’s Will,” and you skip step 37?

God’s will is not a closed system. It is dynamic! It is not always an issue of choosing A or B. In fact, many times you can choose from A to Z, and any of them will be okay. It’s your choice. Why would God give you a brain and not expect you to use it? He lets you make choices, and he gives you second chances.

If God’s will is not a feeling or a formula, what is it?

God’s will is a relationship.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:9, “God . . . invited you into this wonderful friendship with his Son, even Christ our Lord” (TLB).

We find very little in the Bible about the technique of knowing God’s will. But we see thousands of verses that talk about developing a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Why? Because God’s will is a relationship.

The better you get to know God, the less confusion you’ll have about what his will is. Get to know God, and everything else becomes secondary.

Talk It Over

  • If you experience a feeling that you believe is telling you something about God’s will, what is a right, appropriate response?
  • Why do you think God allows us to make choices and even mistakes when we are searching for his will?
  • How well do you know God — and how can you get to know God better?

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