An Ugly Tree

3 To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for
ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for
the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of
righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be

Jesus came to give us beauty instead of ashes. To transform the
ashes of our life into something beautiful — for His glory.

As I was walking one day, I came upon a tree. It was short,
twisted, and poorly shaped. Obviously, it had faced many storms
and had suffered greatly. To be honest, the tree itself, was

But that day something transformed that ugly tree into
something gloriously beautiful, and very pleasant to look at.
It was covered with little pink flowers. In fact, the tree was
bursting with life coming from inside its gnarled branches.

As I looked at the tree, enjoying the beautiful sight, it
reminded me of us as believers — who may not be very desirable
on our own — but with Jesus’ life and love flowing through us
— we become glorious creatures.

So no matter how twisted and ugly you may have become because
of the storms of life, if you allow Jesus to live and manifest
through you, everyone will see beauty instead of ashes and

7 “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made
the LORD their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots
that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by
the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves
stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.

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The Weapon of the Spirit

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the
Spirit, which is the word of God;

A soldier needs a weapon. In Bible days a sword was the most
effective weapon available. Today we have machine guns and
other sophisticated weapons.

But there is no weapon more powerful than the one God has
provided for His children: the Word of God.

To help you grasp this better it may help to remember that this
whole universe came into existence by God releasing words. To
realize how much power is in God’s Words, you have to
understand how much power God has.

All the power of God is behind His Word. Once He has spoken
something, God never changes His mind but causes His Word to be

So don’t lightly esteem the Word of God and think it is not a
powerful weapon. You just need to learn how to use it — the
same as with any weapon.

There are spiritual forces arrayed against us. But God has not
left us without all we need to live in safety and victory. But
unless we “take” God’s provision — His Word — and speak it
boldly against our enemy, we will be in trouble.

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The Blessing Of The Lord Will Make You Rich

22 The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no
sorrow with it.

All Christians generally agree, that in Old Testament times,
God prospered His people when they were obedient. But sadly,
because the devil’s lies have infiltrated some of the Church’s
teaching, many do not believe it’s still God’s will to prosper
His people today.

But the Lord does not change. He still desires His people to
enjoy abundance. Any problem lies with us — not with God.

6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not
consumed, O sons of Jacob.

For us to receive and walk in God’s blessing, we must walk in
faith. This is the main problem why Christians today are not
blessed. They simply do not believe prosperity is God’s will
for them. If you don’t believe something is God’s will, you
cannot have faith to receive it.

The cure for lack of faith is feeding on God’s Word, which
builds you up. As long as you base your beliefs on the
circumstances around you, instead of what you see in God’s
revealed will — the Bible — you will not have all that God
has provided for you.

We must quit believing the lies of the devil — no matter who
says them. Whatever is contrary to God’s Word in the Bible is a

I am not criticizing other ministers or churches. Even Peter
fell into the trap of repeating the devil’s lies. We all must
guard against believing the devil, and stick to what God has

23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You
are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of
God, but the things of men.”

If you study the Bible you will see that God is clearly for the
prosperity of His people, in both the Old and New Testaments.

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though
He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you
through His poverty might become rich.

In the Bible we are warned against trusting in riches instead
of God. There are verses that tell us we should not love money
or serve money. But these verses should not be taken out of the
context of the whole of Scripture and twisted in their meaning
to steal what Jesus has provided for us — abundant provision
in every area of life.

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God Is A Genius

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge
of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past
finding out!

33 Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches
and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to
understand his decisions and his methods!

AMOS 4:13 LB
13 For you are dealing with the One who formed the mountains,
made the winds, and knows your every thought; he turns the
morning to darkness and crushes down the mountains underneath
his feet: Jehovah, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, is his name.”

12 But our God formed the earth by his power and wisdom, and by
his intelligence he hung the stars in space and stretched out
the heavens.

29 All this also comes from the LORD Almighty, wonderful in
counsel and magnificent in wisdom.

5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has
no limit.

PSALM 104:24 LB
24 O Lord, what a variety you have made! And in wisdom you have
made them all! The earth is full of your riches.

Just because you can’t figure out any way out of a situation,
does not mean God cannot.

God has all knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.

He has the ability to create everything you see, and everything
you can’t even see, just by speaking a word.

If we were able to measure God’s intelligence, we would find
that it is perfect and complete. There is nothing God does not

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Seed, Time and Harvest

22 “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold
and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

Planting seeds. Then harvesting the crop. As long as the earth
exists, this is the way things work on earth.

This is true in the spiritual realm as well as in the physical
realm. The Bible teaches that our words and our actions are the
seeds we plant, that produce a harvest in our life.

If we are merciful to others, we will be treated with mercy. If
we show love and respect, others will show love and respect to
us. If we speak words of faith and blessing, good things will
increase in our lives. But if we continually speak fear, doubt,
and trouble, life will not go well for us.

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he

The world has a saying based on this principle, “what goes
around, comes around.” We reap what we sow. Using modern terms,
we harvest what we plant. And the more we plant, the larger our
harvest will be, good or bad.

(Fortunately, because of the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf,
we can receive forgiveness and cleansing from our sins and not
reap the harvest of death and failure we deserve.)

13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the
law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the
curse for our wrongdoing.

1 JOHN 1:9 NKJ
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Too many people think God “moves in mysterious ways” and any
spiritual blessing we may receive is just like winning the
lottery — entirely by chance. But the Bible teaches us that
the kingdom of God operates on the “seed principle.”

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap
sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap

So the wise course of action is to continually give out what
you would like to receive. If you desire respect, respect
others. Would you like people to give you things? Then
continually look for opportunities to give to others.

38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in
full — pressed down, shaken together to make room for more,
running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give
will determine the amount you get back. ”

Seed, Time, and then Harvest is how God operates.

When Jesus wanted to explain to people how God operates in His
Kingdom (or rule), He told them it could be illustrated by
planting a seed, which will then grow, and produce a harvest.

MARK 4:30-32 NLT
30 Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What
story should I use to illustrate it?
31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the
smallest of all seeds,
32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows
long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”

When seed is planted, it grows up, and increases.

First you have the seed, which must be planted. Then the seed
grows. Growth takes time. This is why it can be helpful to
remember this principle as “seed, time, and then harvest.”
Those are the three phases of receiving what God has provided
for you. Plant the seed. Be patient and keep believing while
the seed grows. Then you will reap a harvest of blessing.

Jesus said this is the way He could illustrate how the whole
kingdom (or rule of God) works.

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A Faith Fight

12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal
life, to which you were called and for which you made the good
confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Too many people have the idea that if something is God’s will
for them to have that it will just automatically happen without
any effort or involvement on their part.

Not so!

We have to cooperate with God. We must believe what He says. We
must resist doubt and fear. To walk in the fullness of blessing
God desires for us, we must fight the good fight of faith.

Israel was our example.

11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and
they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the
ages have come.

They had to fight the giants in the land to possess what God
said was already theirs. The promised land belonged to them
already because God had given it to them. But it was still
inhabited by others (including giants), who had to be driven
out before they could enjoy what was theirs.

Since the Bible talks about the “good fight of faith,” you know
that standing in faith may often involve a struggle.

There is a reason the Bible tells us to hold fast our
confession of faith (Hebrews 4:14, 10:23). God knew we would be
tempted to doubt because of the circumstances we would see in
our lives.

God knew that faith would be a struggle.

So we should not be surprised at the fiery trials that happen
to us. The devil is trying to steal our faith by trying to get
us to doubt God’s faithfulness to His Word.

1 PETER 4:12 NRS
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is
taking place among you to test you, as though something strange
were happening to you.

We may have to fight with our own logic. It may tell us it is
impossible for things to work out, that God’s Word will not
work for us, that we should not expect good things to happen to

But victory in and through Jesus is the plan of God. It is
possible. We must continue in faith. That is the fight we must
engage in.

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What Is Sin?

1 JOHN 3:4 KJV
4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin
is the transgression of the law.

Sin is breaking the Law, missing the mark set by God.

The word “sin” is a translation of the Greek word “hamartia”
which means to miss the mark.

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious

Religious tradition labels many things as sin which the Bible
does not. People make up all kinds of rules based on what they
think is right. But God is the judge and only God can decree
what sin is.

9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of
God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

God has not left us to wonder what sin is. The Bible reveals it
to us. We don’t have to guess, or make it up as we go.

Just because you do something someone else thinks is wrong does
not mean it is a sin. So don’t let people condemn you over
things the Bible does not clearly say are wrong. God is the

8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty
deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the
basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

Another error is to think being tempted is a sin. Temptation
itself is not sin. You cannot help being tempted. Even Jesus
was tempted — but He never yielded.

15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with
our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet
without sin.

A common mistake is believing that having bad thoughts is a
sin. It is not a sin to be tempted with bad thoughts. It only
becomes a sin when we embrace those thoughts as our own and
decide to act on them.

15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is
allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

God is against sin because it is deadly. Sin brings forth
death, not life and blessing. God loves people, so He is
against everything that harms people.

All sin harms people. (Just because you don’t see how a sin
would harm anyone, does not mean you know more than God.)

But no human can be right with God by never sinning. We have
all fallen short and need a Savior. It is only by God’s grace
and His forgiveness that we can be right with God.

20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the
law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

We can be glad because Jesus came to save sinners, and He paid
the price for the forgiveness of all sins by shedding His

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness
of sins, according to the riches of His grace

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The Original Temptation

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field
which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God
indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

The original temptation, still being used by the devil to keep
people away from the blessings of God today, is to doubt that
God’s Word is truth and that God desires the best for us.

The devil’s false idea is that God is holding out on us,
keeping back something good that would make our life better and
more enjoyable.

But God is not withholding anything good from us. When He gave
us Jesus He gave us everything. Now it is our responsibility to
learn how to receive what He has given us and use it for the
glory of God and the good of mankind.

God’s way is actually the very best for us. God’s will for you
is actually what you would also choose for yourself if you had
all the information God has.

Just like a good parent, God does try to protect us from bad
things — which can sometimes seem good. But just because
things look good and we think they will make us happy is no
guarantee they will. God knows more than we do about what will
make us safe, happy, and fulfilled.

We should trust God. At Calvary God proved He is not selfish.
Jesus suffering and dying in our place should convince us that
there is nothing God will not do so we can be blessed.

The devil is a liar and a deceiver (John 8:44). Don’t fall for
his strategies to separate you from God and His blessings.

God cannot lie! He is dependable. God gave His Word to you so
you could know the truth and be set free.

Believe that God desires the best for you, and is providing the
best for you.

Don’t be tempted to think you can be happier, richer, or more
blessed by going your own way. You may need to learn to follow
God’s instructions more accurately, so you can walk in the
fullness God desires for you, but there is no way to be blessed
more than by following God’s Word.

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Are You A Pharisee?

6 Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven
of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”
12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of
the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and

Why did Jesus warn His disciples to beware of the Pharisees?
What did they do wrong?

(An entire chapter of the Bible (Matthew 23) is Jesus’ teaching
against the Pharisees.)

The Pharisees were conservative, faithful “church” members.
They accepted the Bible as the written Word of God. They paid
tithes. They believed in miracles (at least in days past). They
wouldn’t dream of stealing, committing adultery, or such
things. You would like living next to a Pharisee as they were
model citizens.

But instead of having a living relationship with God, the
Pharisees took the Word of God and made just another dead
religion out of it.

The Pharisee way of thinking is: keep up appearances. “It
doesn’t matter so much what you are on the inside, as long as
you keep the rules (at least publicly).”

Notice that Jesus likened their teaching to leaven, or yeast.
Why? Yeast spreads easily and rapidly. Humans are very
susceptible to approaching God in this manner, “Keep the rules.
Just do these 10 things and you are OK.”

Different groups may have different rules, but we all
accumulate them. It may be how many times each week you must
attend church meetings, or what kind of clothes you must wear,
or how you must wear your hair. Or, it may be a list of things
you cannot do. But, as long as you meet these requirements, you
are in good standing with your group (or denomination).

But, good standing with God is based on only one thing
according to the New Testament: faith in what Jesus did for us.
That alone is what makes us right with God. Not our works, but
Jesus’ work.

1 … He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of
the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

The Pharisees were hypocrites. That is, they put on an act.
What they pretended to be in public was not really what they
were like in private. They claimed to be perfect in keeping
God’s law, but as humans they were all sinners, just like the
rest of the people were. Yet, in public, they insisted that
others keep the Law perfectly, or be condemned.

They were quick to pass judgment on others, and slow to extend
mercy or help. The Pharisees had a legalistic view of God’s
Word and did not realize that God was merciful and wanted to
help people.

6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant,
not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but
the Spirit gives life.

Using God’s Word to “kill” instead of using it to minister life
is wrong. God’s Word is meant to help people and lift them up,
not place such hard demands on them that they cannot ever
measure up. When we load people down with heavy loads of rules
to keep in order to be right with God, we are ministers of

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,
2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the
official interpreters of the law of Moses.
3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow
their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.
4 They crush people with impossible religious demands and never
lift a finger to ease the burden.
5 “Everything they do is for show. . . .

If your “Christianity” is nothing more than a list of “do’s and
don’t’s” then you are missing real Christianity, which is a
living relationship with Jesus Christ.

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Prosperity Pleases God

27 Let them shout for joy and be glad, Who favor my righteous
cause; And let them say continually, “Let the LORD be
magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.”

Do you enjoy seeing your children — or anyone you love —
suffer lack?

Jesus taught us that God our Heavenly Father’s love for us is
much better than any earthly parent’s love (Matthew 7:11).

What kind of perverted being would God be if He delighted in
seeing His people suffer? (The only kind of suffering that
pleases God is when we are willing to be inconvenienced so that
others will be helped.)

Ultimately, poverty is the result of an operation by the devil
attempting to dis-please God. But it will not continue to

To achieve his plan, the devil has tried to confuse Christians
into thinking that being poor pleased God, and that being poor
was a sign of spirituality. This is a lie! (But being rich is
not a dependable sign of spirituality, either!)

The Bible does warn against trusting in money, serving money,
and covetousness, which is not just wanting more. It is really
wanting to take what belongs to someone else.

But the Bible does not teach that we should be poor, or that
poverty pleases God.

1 TIMOTHY 6:17-18 NET
17 Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be
haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain,
but on God who richly provides us with all things for our
18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be
generous givers, sharing with others.

God has richly provided (through His creation, and through His
redemption) all things for our enjoyment.

It is a lie that God wants us to be poor. This scripture tells
the rich people in the church to be generous, but it does not
say they should give everything away and become poor.

God enjoys our enjoyment of what He provides for us. God wants
us to be happy about what He has given us.

God created things for us to enjoy. When we enjoy what God made
and show our gratitude and appreciation to Him, God enjoys

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