Wird Geladen

Lessons from my own bible study

Archive for the tag “Christ”

1 Corinthians 1:18-19

18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

It’s hard being a Christian. We do/say/believe things that society (natural man) says is weird (pathetic, lame, ridiculous, froo-froo), and then we get weird looks for doing it. There’s no question or argument that Christian values are not in line with the mainstream, and there’s always resistance to going against the mainstream.

Fear of man keeps a lot of Christians from being as expressive, as open, about their life, thoughts, opinions, and values as most people are. Nobody has a problem complaining to a stranger about how drunk they got last night. But imagine the looks you’d get if you said “God told me last night that I need to stop doing sit-ups.” I’m working to come to a place where I trust God’s judgement enough to not care if I get treated strangely for acting like I’m in love with Him. That will be a new kind of freedom in which God’s power can really go to work in my life.

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

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1 Corinthians 12:7-8

7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

These are just two examples, obviously- a metaphor for the entire range of unique gifts available from the God catalogue. But see how these two people got gifts that by themselves are useless? What good is wise advice if you’ve got no one to give it to? What good is a piece of juicy new information if you don’t know what its significance is?

Christians must interact with each other. We cannot thrive, cannot exist, would die entirely, without church. We’re each a little piece, completely indispensable but completely useless on our own. God’s plan is for us to work together to bring Heaven to Earth, and he does this by making sure no one can get anywhere on his own. It’s quite humbling.

It’s quite nerve-wracking, especially for me who is already reticent about my faith, and too lazy to go to church most days. But this verse is a call to action! I understand that the next move I need to make is to invest in a church- I won’t grow another inch until I do. I’ve grown so much in the last few months, I can’t imagine what’ll happen to me when I finally hitch into a church body and get activated.

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

1 Corinthians 2:10

10 But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.

At the time of Paul’s missions, the resurrection was fresh. It brought along Pentecost, and the deliverance of the Holy Spirit to the hearts of all humanity. If Paul was fired up about any one thing, it would have been the resurrection of Jesus, the abolition of the Law which heretofore damned all humanity, our salvation from that damnation by what was, I’m sure, the completely unpredicted, uncharacterized, misunderstood grace of God. People would not have understood the opportunity it gave us to go into the Cave of Wonders and find totally new, hidden, secret, miraculous treasures of God. That is, people would not have understood the opportunity God’s grace gives us humans for growth and progress in understanding. Unfortunately, they still don’t. That progress has stalled over the last 2000 years, and we’re still caught up on the whole salvation through grace through faith thing.

The focus of Paul’s whole ministry is that Jesus was resurrected, exactly like he said, so therefore he is to be trusted as a demonstration of God’s Power and faithfulness. What this told the early Christians is, “apparently God doesn’t work exactly like we’ve been thinking lo these thousand years. Apparently God has forgiveness, and grace, and unconditional love in His heart. Apparently He doesn’t want us to die. Apparently He’s personally, deeply, lovingly involved in our lives and maturation. Apparently he’s our father…” The thing Paul understood about the teaching power of the Holy Spirit wasn’t just some kind of self-improvement wisdom. It wasn’t a wisdom that helped clarify a lot of problems and questions the learned had been struggling with for years. It wasn’t good to know, privileged information, truth for truth’s sake. The wisdom that Paul understood was: the dynamic of our relationship with God has changed. Our lives mean something new now that Jesus has died and come back from the dead. The development of humanity has had a complete saltation, and it all has to do with Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection, his ministry of truth and understanding, and the Holy Spirit whom he poured out onto all of us so that we could begin to live in this new way. We know something you don’t, which is that we are now alive.

Now the name of that life is Slavation. The source of that life is Salvation. Without being saved from the Law, we could not live. We would indeed have to keep on living to avoid sin, living to fulfill the law. But with the Law abolished, we can live to fulfill God’s purpose for us. We no longer have to have God come down and bless exceptional men. We no longer take our orders in solitary, mysterious bursts. Every moment of our lives can be connected to God, who before could have nothing to do with us because we were sinful, unclean, and not fit to be in His presence! The dynamic of our relationship changed when Jesus rose from the dead because it tore down the curtain, turning us into creatures of love instead of creatures of sin, putting us into direct contact with our Maker, the one and only God who has the power, and wisdom, and knowledge, and love, and passion, and reality to deal with our lives in a truthful, meaningful, fulfilling way. The gift of Slavation is not “not damnation”. The gift of salvation is God himself, bridged by the Holy Spirit, “who searches all things, even the depth of God.” 

For my entire Christian life I’ve been taught the gospel in relation to “Your sins are absolved. Be glad and grateful you’re not going to Hell.” What we teach people when we teach the salvation from sin in church is the very nature of sin. What’s happening when we focus our teaching on how great it is not to have to pay for our sins anymore is that we get a great, deep understanding of Sin. Why are we studying sin in church? Sin ought to be the last thing on our minds! It doesn’t exist, technically; on paper there is no such thing. The law which defined and tallied sin no longer exists as of the resurrection of Jesus. So why do we go to sunday school to talk about a thing which is no longer relevant? It’s a terrible tragedy, a complete halt of progress, that our churches today focus on sin-and-Jesus’s-lack-thereof. We are meant to be mining the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, wherein the Holy Spirit will be our guide because he KNOWS the depths, he’s searched them and mapped them and will bring us through with Power and Glory. We ought to be much farther, as a race, in our relationship with God, than we are right now. We’ve had 2000 years, and we spent every one of them looking over our shoulder saying “I’m glad I avoided damnation!”

Now is the time for us to forget about sin. Now is the time for us to move forward in our relationship with God. Now is the time to take things to the next level. The days of Jesus’s ministry and the evangelical missions of Paul marked a radical shift in the course of Human development. They were the period of time in which God came available, freely, completely, biblically, personally, to each and every one of us. What is the next step in our development and understanding? Where are we going as Christians? What are we learning that will help us to stop fighting wars? Will help us to stop dying of disease? Will help us to stop polluting this gorgeous planet of ours? Will help us to stop worrying, crying, destroying, sabotaging, sinning, hurting, wondering? Does that sound like Heaven to you? Heaven is meant to be brought to Earth. We’re meant to bring ourselves up to God. The way I see it, we’ve been waiting 2000 years for Him to come down to us. If this section of Paul’s letter makes one thing clear, it’s that God is an actionable God, and we are meant to be actionable followers of Him. Paul explains here that we have the Power, given by God, through understanding, enacted by the Holy Spirit, to change the world completely, just like Jesus did. We have God’s power to stop wickedness, evil, unfortunate circumstances, sadness, badness of all kinds. We have the power to enact understanding in the hearts and minds of everyone we meet, and collectively raise the human consciousness to the next level of life, which will include none of the bad, and more of the Spirit of God. It starts with ourselves. God does reveal that power. He does give that understanding to those who see demonstrations of it, are hungry to learn, and willing to sacrifice whatever stupid Gods, rulers, and wisdom they chase around in exchange for solid substance, a joy which will anchor us in reality and understanding, make us feel like kids again, and raise us up from the dead. There’s no use working for salvation. Or trying to keep up with salvation. It’s over. It’s done. Move on. Ask God what’s next, and work for that instead.

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

1 Corinthians 2:7-8

7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

“None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (v.8).” A different translation calls them “The princes of this age”. It’s kind of an insinuation about the quality of our role models. Paul seems to be saying, “Your celebrities, the princes and authority figures, the people you give your time and effort into obsessing over- the people on TV, the glamorous job in this or that industry, the address you wish you could say you lived at, they lead to nothing. You’re following the wrong horse, because their flashy gold or lavish lives or book smarts or accomplishments or skills or nice features are not leading them or you toward God. In fact they’re actively working against Godliness by distracting your mind from fulfillment. They’re crucifying the Lord of Glory, as are we all, every time we choose wickedness over God.”

Compare that to the power of the wisdom which comes from God. “Which God decreed for our glory”, meaning our glorification- literally our improvement. I’m all about self improvement. I’m bad at mental math and analytical thinking. I wish I were better with numbers, less forgetful, more detail oriented, and focused. I wish my brain worked a lot better than it does, lets put it that way. I understand now that God is the road to my self improvement. More than these mind-sharpening apps and self-help books I’ve got, God can provide actual change at the foundational level. Our improvement is actualized by the power of God. Just since beginning this Word of Wisdom series I’m not forgetting things anymore. Little details don’t escape my notice, and I make fewer and fewer stupid mistakes. I don’t even get distracted as much. This is because I know I’m growing. When I forget something, I pray to God, “Thank you, God, for improving me away from such stupid mistakes. I know that next time my mind will be clearer and your wisdom will make me that much more capable. I’m getting better, God, by your Power.” This is working because I’m choosing to go where I know wisdom exists, and away from Death and Destruction. I’m turning down temptation to sin and devote my mind to frivolous matters (TV princes and the ruling wisdom of my day, for example). The improvement I see in myself is a demonstration of God’s power for everyone to see.

And not so I would be glorified, but so I would be improved. So that I can get prepared to use His power. I started this whole series because I wanted to know God’s will for my life. Wouldn’t that make the job search/city search easier if I knew where God wanted me to go? But we need to be useful in order to be used. In order to find out what God’s will for my life is, I first need to be capable of fulfilling that will. The wisdom of God teaches me everything I need to know so that I can become mature, powerful, and capable of achieving my potential. Because we need to be capable, trustworthy, of using the power. No one gets the power of God who isn’t of the right spirit to use it.  That’s why it is “Secret and hidden”. And until I understand the fear of God, His will for me is to seek and find that understanding wholeheartedly.

God can’t be glorified until we’re glorified. We cannot have God’s power until we understand what it’s for. We do not get God’s power until we seek Him. And then it WORKS.

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

Ecclesiastes 2:26

For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

Solomon’s talking about an eternal preference over a fleeting one. The joys and passions of anything that isn’t the wisdom and knowledge of God is characteristically unsatisfying. We accept the illusion of satisfaction. The gift of God is a) wisdom in the first place, and b) that that wisdom should come to be solidified (“He lays up solid wisdom (aka “substance”) for the righteous (Prov 2:7),”), come to be felt inside of us, and thus come to “fill the void” in a much more real way than worldliness can, which is meaningless, wind for fools to go chase.

Practically, what this means is, whenever I am tempted to sin or wickedness or anything that will not please God, I ought to focus on the fact that by choosing the right way, and pleasing Him, I will get a little nugget of solid wisdom down in the hole of my stomach. I ought to pause, and concentrate. Feel the void, search for the hole, and then reach out and grab the pebble of wisdom myself. That is what a choice for right or wrong amounts to- taking a piece of solid wisdom and putting it inside of me forever. Forever. I keep that. I don’t lose it like Solomon lost his temples and fields, like sinners lose their “treasures.” The knowledge and wisdom of God will open our eyes to understand what is true, what is false, what is real, what is not, what ought to be, and what is. If we are willing to change absolutely everything about how we see the world. 

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

Isaiah 40:13-14

13 Who has directed the spirit of the Lord,
    or as his counselor has instructed him?
14 Whom did he consult for his enlightenment,
    and who taught him the path of justice?
Who taught him knowledge,
    and showed him the way of understanding?

Understanding may be a series of steps which lead to a solution. I imagine a rubber tube, being stretched out longer and longer, thinner and thinner. Our arteries are the thickest tubes in the body. Most of the blood cells moving are in the center and don’t get to deliver oxygen- they get skipped over. As they thin out to capillaries, the tubes become so thin that only one blood cell can go through at a time. The capillaries are the much more effective, much more immediate, much more active, much more successful tool because every red blood cell gets used to the uttermost. If understanding is a way which can be improved, then our understanding tube can be stretched out and made more effective. We can get in contact with the details, insights, and powers of our mind that at the moment are being skipped over because they’re in the middle of the tube. This will allow us to see the big picture and make appropriate decisions which will lead away from Death and Destruction (Job 28:22). 

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

Wanting God At The Center Of Our Lives

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
                                                                                                 Gal 5:6

No action we perform is going to put God at the center of our lives. The tips in this series only work to clarify and solidify in our minds “Yes, that is what I want: for God to be at the center of my life.” Once that mindset is decided, God takes up the work alongside us, with us, to form a union in Him.

We must never underestimate the two-sidedness of this relationship; the urgent desire that God has for us to get to know Him. The whole reason Christ died was to set in place the spiritual mechanisms that let us and God be united. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 that it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that our hearts and lives become God-focused:

No one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received that spirit so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  
1 Cor 2:11-12

Wanting A God-Centered Life Requires A Deeper Choice

Choosing to focus our lives on God only comes after a harder decision has been made: change. We have to want the inevitable changes that come as the Holy Spirit moves us into Godliness.

Paul says to the Galatians:

Walk by the spirit, and you will no longer gratify the desires of the flesh.
Gal 5:16

A God-centered life requires that we deny ourselves and let the Holy Spirit transform us into new beings entirely. This verse is not a commandment but a truth! When we choose to change, the Spirit clears out our sinful human habits- anything about us that does not worship God- and fills us with light to guide us toward ultimate righteousness.

Change is a painful and daunting task. It requires we do that one thing which is completely anathema to our Selves: submit. In the war between God and Self, Satan fights his hardest on the side of Self, and submission is what He fights against.

The Holy Spirit Helps Us

But even here we find comfort through the Holy Spirit! In this miserable struggle between Self and God, the Holy Spirit offers us the ultimate pass: we do not have to earn our Godliness. Technically we cannot. Before Christ, we were not worthy of God’s love. Now the Holy Spirit makes us worthy through no power of our own. All we have to do is submit to letting ourselves be changed. God does the rest. It’s still not easy, but at least it only requires one step.

Success Comes Through God Himself

But isn’t that beautiful?! Responsibility for our salvation does not lie in our hands! Our livelihood and flourishing success is not ours to worry about! What a comforting thought.

When we desire God to be at the center of our lives, changes will come that amaze and thrill us. Our hearts come to see the enormous value of empathy, love, compassion, and consideration. This is because our work is no longer our own. Our decisions aren’t guesses- we don’t worry that what we’re deciding is right, useful, effective, or righteous. We can trust that everything will be set up for us to the good of the Kingdom.

This is all because every move and prayer contributes to a higher project for which we are not ultimately responsible, and to which all of our contributions can only be put to use for good. The most mundane parts of our day gain meaning because God accepts our offer to let them contribute to His Kingdom.

God works all things for the good of those who love Him.
Romans 8:28

Our thoughts, passions, urges, and directions come from no other place than God himself. They go to no other place than God’s glory.

Practical Application- Change + Tips 1-5 = Trust

Build others up and let it change the way we speak. Pray regularly and let it change the way we use our time. Be responsible with our bodies and possessions and let it change the way we live. Concentrate on what and how much we sacrifice to God and let it change the way we think.

Feel the urge to submit to these changes, but also feel the urge to resist them. Where there is resistance, know that God is immediately at hand to discuss the matter. Waste no time with thinking “I’ll worry about that later” or “I wonder what that means?” God is always in our thoughts, available the instant an issue arises. We can ask for strength in the desire to overcome our natural sinful urges. We can ask for clarity to see how important it is that we overcome this temptation in the first place. We can pray to be successful, even if not a single ounce of ourselves actually wants to be. When we do this, God carries us through and set us down closer to His center.

Practically, this means we have to trust that those changes will be for the better of us and God’s Kingdom. We need to trust that they are at work even though we can’t feel them, and can’t see the end of the means of which we are a part; like ivy slowly covering a brick wall.

The Promised Result

Keep going in the faith, trust, and excitement that it will become easier and easier to find God as we search for Him. Our centers will get closer and closer to His, thus we’ll have less distance to travel. Get to know God so that we can contribute to His Kingdom. That’s the purpose of our lives.

TIP #5- WANT GOD TO BE THE CENTER OF OUR LIVES, AND HE WILL BE.

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This post has been the final addition in the “Putting God At The Center” Series, a project of learning how we can bring our lives to focus on God.  The four previous posts are: Centering Our Conversations On GodMealtime PrayerWorshiping God By Worshiping Our Bodies, and We Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To. If this series has helped you, I and other readers would love to know how! Please comment, like, and share!

Mealtime Prayer

Praying before we eat is one of the simplest ways I can think of for getting God into the center of our lives.

It waters our relationship with God

Paul is referring to the Corinthians’ failure to pray before eating when he says:

For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
Paul1 Corinthians 11:30

He implies that praying before every meal builds us up and makes us strong, both in faith and life.  Just as food is central to our lives, culture, and survival, so is the prayer that comes before it.  If we let God bless our food, we let Him also bless our lives, culture, and survival.

Mealtime prayer is an act of worship

Food sits before us, our appetite tells us to eat, eat, eat!  By sacrificing these impulses for just a few seconds to consider God and thank Him for his goodness, we affirm that we choose God first (I wrote earlier that we worship whatever we sacrifice to).  Mealtime prayer is an exercise of obedience through which we display our love and appreciation for Him who loves and appreciates us.

Meals offer us built-in check points with God throughout our day

Praying before each meal is the perfect opportunity to align ourselves with God’s peace, joy, and love.  Three times a day, they’re an opportunity/reminder to thank Him for our blessings, as well as invite Him into our hearts.  Through mealtime prayers we can celebrate God’s gift to us in short, positive bursts.

(I’d like to add here that a few weeks ago I put an alarm in my phone to ring at 3:00 every day- when it goes off and I stop whatever I’m doing and just say a short thanksgiving for letting me be where I am, doing what I’m doing, safe and sound.  I call it “Hour of Prayer”, and it has really be uplifting for me, so I recommend it to my readers as well!)

We must understand that sacrificing a few seconds before each meal is only going to be done, and thankful prayers only going to be prayed, if we truly delight in God’s warmth.  Thus mealtime prayer also allows us to constantly consider where our hearts lie.

“Examine yourselves, and only then eat the bread and drink the cup.”
  Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:28

Is God important enough to my heart that He comes before food?  Am I fully aware of the wonderful miracles Jesus has wrought in my life that brought me to this table here and now?  Do I understand what those miracles mean for me eternally?  Do I care?  Asking ourselves these questions three times a day will certainly yield answers, and quickly too.

Mealtime prayer nourishes our relationship with God.  We worship Him by sacrificing the time.  We remind ourselves what good things He’s done for us over the course of the day.  We consider our position in Him.  These three acts together bring us out of ourselves and focus our minds on God instead- both in the long and short term.  When we pray before we eat, we scoot closer to God in ten-second bursts.  It’s a powerful habit that will very quickly put Him at the center of our lives.

Tip #3- Make a point to pray before every meal, giving thanks to Jesus for His gift of freedom to us, and assuring God that we want Him to be at the center of our lives. 

The problem I have with all of this is that I can never remember to actually do it!  Praying before I eat is not a habit of mine yet, so I always end up sitting there after I’m finished thinking “Oh man, I should have prayed first!  I’ll get it next time.”  How do you remember to pray before meals?  What kinds of tips can you offer other readers to improve their (and my!) consistency in mealtime prayer?  Your comments will add huge value to this series!

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This post has been the new addition in the “Putting God At The Center” Series, a project of learning how we can bring God to the center of our lives.  You can read the previous two posts:  Worshiping God By Worshiping Our BodiesWe Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To, as well as the project directive.  Stay tuned for the next installment, and please comment, like, and share!

We Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To

Look at the Israelites; those who eat the sacrifice are partners in the altar.  What pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, not to God.  Do not be partners with demons.

1 Cor 10: 18-20

The word eat in the Bible means to take part in, to internalize, to align yourself with.  We eat the bread of Christ, but we also eat tennis, or shopping, or sex, or TV marathons.  Thus Paul is not just talking about food here, but anything we might conceivably do or care about.  That’s the first thing to keep in mind while reading this passage (and the whole Bible, really).

The second thing we have to keep in mind is how we’re using the word “worship”.

15 Second context: Those Greeks who were not the converted Christians to whom Corinthians is addressed were called“pagans”.  They used to sacrifice animals during worship ceremonies to stone/gold/wooden idols and then eat the meat in a feast directly afterwards.

So many of these words- pagan, idol, sacrifice- have negative connotations to the Christian ear, but they are simply ideas which all humans carry out every day.  Any decision we make involves a sacrifice to an idol- giving up one thing in order to have something else.  This is an act of worship.  We worship whatever we sacrifice for.  We make it an idol- even temporarily- and put it above all other desires, implying that it deserves to be the pinnacle of our obedience.  To worship doesn’t mean fall on the knees and bow down, or write songs and poems about, or say high words, or burn in a golden cup.  Worship simply means to choose first.

Think about going to the gym.  You pay money for memberships, you avoid certain foods, you get up off the couch and stop watching Friends.  Almost anything is better than going to the gym.  But if you care about the results, you go anyway.  You sacrifice all the wonderful, lazy things in life to the idol of fitness, and worship your body by working out.

At Chili’s there’s a 16 dollar plate of ribs which is awesome, and there’s a 12 dollar bowl of pasta that’s just OK.  If you’re cheap like me you choose the 12 dollar pasta every time, and live with the mediocre decision.  You make a choice to keep your four dollars, and in doing so you’re worshiping money.

Here’s a final example:  I read the Bible every morning, which is where I get all the posts for this blog.  Before I start my Bible study, though, I sometimes spend about 20 minutes on the computer checking email, facebook, this, that, and the other.  In my heart I would like to make the Bible study first and foremost- that feels more important to me.  Certain days, however, I sacrifice my desire to have Bible study first thing to my desire to satiate my digital idol.  I worship whatever is waiting for me on the internet, and put God second.

I chose these mundane examples to make a point.  It may sounds ridiculous, or extreme, or like a technicality, but the psychological minutia of our daily, hourly, minutely choices is extremely important if we want a clear picture of what we hold at the center of our lives, as opposed to what lies just to the outside.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to spend less money or checking your email first thing in the morning.  The choices we’re making aren’t “bad” or “good”, but we need to be aware that even our smallest sacrifices form the foundational characteristic of our being.  

Thus, the first tactic toward getting God into the center of our lives is to think about and be aware of the duality of what we’re sacrificing and what we’re making sacrifices to.  With this in mind our choices are tinged with the knowledge that we are worshiping whatever we’ve just decided on.  This allows us to be keenly aware of what we’re partnering ourselves with- what we eat- and if we want God to be at the center of our lives we need to make sure we’re sacrificing things for Him, and not the other way around.

Tip #1- Keep an eye on what we’re making sacrifices to, so we can make sure we’re making sacrifices to God.

The clearer our focus is on what we worship through our sacrifices, the clearer our understanding will be of where we are, how we got there, and most importantly where we’re going.  If God is the End Result, then making movement toward Him through sacrifice means we are not lost, and the abundance of His joy (as detailed in Isaiah 55) becomes ours more and more completely.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first installment of the “Putting God at The Center” series.  Follow along next week for a look at how our bodies can be the perfect place to focus our efforts.  Comments, feedback, shares, suggestions, criticisms are always encouraged.

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