Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Is Anything More Valuable Than Your Soul?



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As Jesus was nearing the end of His life, He made sure His disciples knew how things were going to unfold. He talked about the importance of His followers being willing to lose their lives for His sake. During one such occasion, He asked them, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26.).  It has been hundreds of years since this question was first posed, but it still needs to be asked, and needs to be answered honestly.

What does this question mean? No matter what you think it means, the manner in which it is posed suggests what the correct answer should be. Although everyone is at liberty to answer this question either way, “Yes” would be the wrong answer, because the question is suggesting that you shouldn’t put anything above your soul.

There are individuals who have claimed to be Christians, but with the passing of time, instead of growing in faith, they are living in sin, and don’t seem to care. They avoid the Church, maybe in an effort to avoid confrontation by caring Christians. They act like they either have no conscience at all, or don’t care; I find that very bothersome and scary. How can “Christians” who know what the Bible says about sin feel comfortable living in it? Whatever sin they are “enjoying” cannot be that much more important than their souls, can it?   

The book of Hebrews addresses this issue. I think we all need to pay attention, because God cannot be mocked. He always fulfills His promise, whether it is to bless or to punish. When He said He’d destroy the world for their increased sins, He did! See Genesis 6:9-22, 7:11-24. When He first called Abram, He promised to bless him, make him into a great nation, and make him famous and a blessing to others (see Genesis 12:2-3). Again, He did! These fulfilled promises assure us of God’s faithfulness. See also: Genesis 15:4-5; 15:13-16.

The author of the book of Hebrews says, “If we deliberately continue sinning, after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies” (Hebrews 10:26-27 NLT). And to prove his point, the author reminds us of the consequences that resulted from disobeying the laws of Moses in the Old Testament, and goes on to explain why it will be worse for people who trample on the Son of God, and disrespect the blood of the covenant (see verses 28-29). This message should wake up any Christian who is willfully living in sin-“Is anything worth more than your soul?” No! The pleasures of sin are so temporary and fleeting, and in the end, they sting!
John addresses the issue of Christians caught up in sinful lifestyles this way: “Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep sinning, because they are children of God” (1 John 3:9 NLT). His recommendation for prevention? “Anyone who continues to live in Him will not sin” (verse 6).

And how do we live in Him? By reading, studying, and meditating on His Word, allowing it to transform our way of thinking and living. As part of a vibrant relationship, we need to maintain open communication through prayer. Nobody can be applying the Word of God and praying for deliverance from temptation while living in sin!

The difference between the children of the devil and the children of God, according to John, is this: “Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God” (1 John 3:10 NLT). So if you claim to be a Christian but are enjoying living in sin, you need to ask yourself if you are really a child of God. It is very possible that you do not know Jesus in a personal way: that you are making a false claim. However, you can make a decision now to live for God by placing your faith in Jesus.

You decide where you are in your spiritual journey. Either you are not a Christian and need to be, or you made a decision for Christ at some point, but did not follow through. Either way you need to repent and allow the Word of God to guide you into godly living.

If you are a Christian, God has called you to be an ambassador for Christ. How are you going to accomplish that by living in sin? An ambassador represents his country of origin to another, by portraying his country in the best possible light. That is what God expects of His children; that we portray Him in the best possible light to the world. We don’t have to figure out how to do it; He has already given us the blueprint—godly living, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings” (John 8:31).  Let’s follow it! We've been redeemed by the blood of Christ; nothing should be more valuable to us than our souls!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Faith Is Not Dependent On Facts


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Faith is defined as reliance, loyalty or complete trust in God, and the Scriptures define it as, “The confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). In short, faith believes that through God, the seemingly impossible will happen!


Facts are the hard evidence of a case or situation that cannot be disputed. Facts predict the outcome of a situation. For instance, when the Israelites left Egypt en route to the Promised Land, they had a number of challenges to overcome. One of their challenges was finding themselves sandwiched between the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian armies pursuing them from behind, with nowhere to go. Here are the facts about the Red Sea: it’s too deep to wade; it is impassable from one bank to the other without an adjoining bridge, a boat, or an airplane. Nevertheless, God miraculously made a way for the Israelites to cross it, getting to the opposite bank safely, on foot, and on dry ground.

Based on known facts, one could have predicted that the Israelites were going to perish, either at the hand of their enemies, or by drowning in the sea, but that’s not what happened; they got across safely without bridges, boats, or airplanes. The Egyptian army, in its pursuit of the Israelites faced the same facts like the Israelites, but without God in the equation, they drowned when they attempted to follow the Israelites on dry ground.    

This is where faith and facts part company: if you walk into a grocery store with no money (fact), you can’t expect to walk out with a bag of paid groceries. Faith however, can allow you to walk into the store with no money, and walk out with a bag of paid groceries, and maybe, even some extra cash in your pocket. Here’s the definition of faith as a math equation:
No money plus (+) complete trust in God to provide needed groceries (equals) =paid bag of groceries at no cost to you! That is how faith works in all seemingly impossible situations.    

One of the things that saddened Jesus during His time here on earth was the lack of faith among the people and especially, His own disciples (see Matthew 17:14-19). Although they’d all witnessed His power at work, time and time again, they never seemed to remember it when a need arose later! On a storm-tossed sea with Jesus in the boat, the disciples were alarmed; they woke Him up, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown” (Luke 8:24 NLT). After He rebuked the storm, He asked them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25 NLT). Jesus must have found that very disappointing; did they really think they were going to drown with Jesus on board the boat?

Can a boat drown with Jesus on board? No! But then, why do we sometimes behave as if that were possible? The Scriptures teach us, “It is impossible to please God without faith” (Hebrews 11:6 NLT). We need to have and exercise faith, if we’d like to be pleasing to God, because after all, He’s promised us, “I will never fail you, I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:6 NLT). Also, He encourages us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 6:6 NLT). Which portion of these promises don’t I understand, and what about them don’t you understand? We need to stop worrying so much!  

Worrying does not change anything, (see Matthew 6:27); only the prayer of faith and the Spirit of God (Zechariah 4:6) can move the supposed mountains we worry about. The Scripture commands us, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT). When we pray more specifically and remind ourselves about God’s promises and past provisions, our fears, worries, and concerns will disappear. The facts we know about a situation don’t have to have any bearings on the outcome, because faith in the power of God makes all the difference, it makes possible, the seemingly impossible!

Lord, please forgive us for worrying so much. When we worry, we imply we don’t trust you, and that you don’t have the ability or the power to help us. Please forgive us for being so ungrateful and so faithless! You provide for even the birds of the air, how much less for those for whom you died and rose again! Lord, we turn our needs and concerns over to you, please intervene, and help us to always remember your many blessings. Thank you in Jesus’ name!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

THE WHOLE TRUTH



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What is truth? Truth is defined as the state of being the case: facts, verity, and actuality. Personally, when it comes to information sharing, I like to be told everything. I do not appreciate half or partial truths; I hate surprises. There are people who excuse their half-truth presentation of information as a way of protecting people’s feelings.

Having said that, I have heard people, including Christians, who say hell should not be mentioned when the love of God is communicated. They claim it is enough for people to know God loves them. People should not be intimidated by the mention of hell. The gospel message, however, is not complete without the mention of hell (eternal separation from God), because that is the reason Christ died. He died to save us from hell! Yes, people should know God loves them. They should also know what He is saving them from and the implication of not responding to that love.
A parent might say to a child, “I love you. Don’t touch this hot burner.” As inquisitive as children are, don’t you think the child could ignore that instruction and touch it anyway? I believe so. A better approach is, “The burner is hot; you will get hurt if you touch it. I love you and don’t want you hurt, so don’t touch it”

People faced with decision making need to know the facts on which to base their decisions. They need to know their options in order to make the best possible choices. After they know the facts, they are responsible for their decisions and the outcomes. They have no one to blame but themselves for untoward outcomes. On the other hand, if their decisions are based on partial truths, they could be surprised by the outcome and may even feel that others are to blame for their predicament.
God makes sure He tells us the whole truth, and He expects us to go and do the same. When we focus on protecting people’s feelings by sharing partial truths, we really do them a disservice. The idea of hell is frightening, but that is the reason we need to share it. We tell this truth with compassion.
The gospel presentation should therefore include:

Who God is (Our holy Maker who hates sin), “I am God almighty; walk before me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1 NIV84). (Also see Leviticus 19:2)
Who we are (sinners), “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV84).
The consequences of our sins (death), “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 NIV84).
God’s provisions for our sins (the death of His Son Jesus), “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3 NIV84).
The blessings that come with accepting God’s provision (salvation). “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned” (John 3:18 NIV84).   
The consequences of ignoring His provision (condemnation and hell), “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18 NIV84).


 Most people would prefer to hear the whole truth and believe on Jesus for salvation, rather than have their feelings protected with half-truths. Let’s be diligent and share the gospel, undiluted, with compassion and urgency.   

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

ARE YOU TRYING TO IMPRESS PEOPLE WITH YOUR SPIRITUALITY?



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Which Scripture passage comes to mind when you think, “Faking Spirituality”? Do you remember the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira? If not, please allow me to refresh your memory. You can read the full account in the Acts of the Apostles (see Acts 5:1-11).

After Pentecost, having been empowered by the Holy Spirit, the believers lived in love and shared everything, even their possessions. Those who had property sold it and brought the money to the Apostles to benefit the entire community, although it wasn’t required. They did it, because it was the right thing to do, as expressed by John, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17 NIV). They did it joyfully, not looking for any recognition, for God loves a cheerful giver (see 2 Corinthians 9:7).

One couple, Ananias and his wife Sapphira, like the others, sold a piece of property. The two agreed to give only part of the proceeds to the Apostles for community use, and that was their right (see 2 Corinthians 9:7). However, when Ananias brought the money, he wanted the Apostles to believe that he brought the total amount. Sapphira, coming in a few hours after her husband’s report, not knowing what had transpired earlier, confirmed her husband’s report, which was a lie. Needless to say each was rebuked sharply by the Holy Spirit, and they were buried side-by-side, a few hours apart (see Acts 5:4-10). It was a good lesson for the rest of the group, and it should be a lesson for us as well.

Ananias and his wife were not rebuked for surrendering only part of the money; they were rebuked for deception. They were trying to give the impression that, like the others, they had surrendered all.
Do you ever pretend to be something that you really are not? Do you like to tell others how often you read your Bible, how much time you spend in prayer, how you do this, that and the other good work? Think about it! Do you try to impress others with how often you fast, give to charity, and so forth? 

Do you criticize others when you are guilty of the same thing? Do you put others down so you can appear to be better? (See Matthew 7:6). God wants you to be yourself.  He sees what you are and what you do, and why. He will take it from there. “Your’ Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:18 NIV). You don’t need the applause and commendation of men. God will reward you in due time.  


Jesus called the Pharisees, “Whitewashed tombs” because they were such hypocrites, “Everything they do is done for men to see” (Matthew 23:27). That definitely is “Faking Spirituality.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

YOU WERE BOUGHT AT A PRICE





Anyone who purchases a product with his or her hard-earned money likes to value and protect that product, and in addition, expect that product to perform as specified by the manufacturer. For example, how would one feel if one spent thousands dollars buying a car that keeps breaking down and leaving one stranded day after day? I am very sure one would be very disappointed and frustrated, and maybe, even return the car to the dealer.

In the same way, God gave His one and only Son to die to pay for the sins of the world, and expects those whom He purchased to live and function in a certain way. The apostle Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth about sexual immorality in the Church (i.e. among Christians). He told them, “Flee from sexual immorality” and then reminded them, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20 NIV). Since we’ve been bought, we have a Master to obey; we can’t live any how.

It cost God the life of His Son Jesus to free us from sin. The expression, ‘At a Price’ is an indication that our salvation was very expensive, and because of that He does not take sin lightly. What is the point in giving His life if we are going to continue to live in sin anyway? When He said, “You are to be  holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be mine” (Leviticus 20:26 NIV), it was not a suggestion; it was a command.  He bought us, He owns us, and has the right to demand that we live up to His standard. He deserves our admiration, obedience, and honor!  

Which sin do you struggle with? Is it fornication, extramarital affairs, lying, gossip, or something else? It is not too late to turn your life around. God is ready to enable you to turn your life in the right direction, but you have to be willing to identify the sin and be willing to flee from it; you have to want to change.  Jesus said to His disciples before He ascended into heaven, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in …” (Acts 1:8 NIV). Our way of life is included in being witnesses. We received the power that gives us victory over sin when we came to faith in Jesus, because that is when the Holy Spirit came to indwell us.

There are many who say God is love and will forgive, and that is true.  But the Scripture asks, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase” (Romans 6:1 NIV)? The answer of course is, “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer” (Romans 6:2 NIV). Let’s not take His grace for granted. 

Our faith becomes questionable when we continue to live in sin. This is what the Scripture says about that, “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin” (1 John 5:18 NIV). In other words, continuing to sin intentionally, is an indication that one has not been born of God. Ouch! May our way of life match the truth of God’s Word, and serve as proof that we were bought at a price!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

EVIDENCE THAT YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD



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Are you a child of God? You might be surprised that I asked, because you are wondering, “Isn’t everyone a child of God?” What kind of evidence should there be?

Here are the Bible’s answers to these questions. God is the creator of all life; He created man in His own image, and so in that sense, yes, everyone is a child of God. However, Satan cunningly lured us into his camp, by deceiving Adam and Eve in the Garden, and thus causing a separation between us and God. The Bible explains our condition this way: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). Sin has definitely put a separation between us and God.

In order for that separation to be bridged, God sent His only Son to die in our place -- to take on the punishment that we deserved. As a result, Jesus became our sin-bearer. And the Bible says faith in Jesus as our Savior restores our relationship. God doesn’t force us to believe in Him; it is a choice each individual has to make on his or her own. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 NIV). Also, the apostle Paul reminded the Church of Galatia, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26 NIV).

Sin placed us in the devil’s kingdom of darkness, but God transfers us into His kingdom of light when we place our faith in Jesus. Only then can we claim that we are God’s children. The apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians of God’s promise: “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV). If being created by God automatically made us His children, this promise, “I will be,” would not be necessary. But as it stands, we need to become His children.

There are characteristics of the children of God, and there are characteristics of the children of the devil; they are not the same. If you are a child of God, you’ve become a new creation, your former way of life has become a thing of the past (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). God’s characteristics will be evident in your new life, because He lives through you, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NIV). The following characteristics are proof that a person is a child of God:

The believer/child of God:

Is indwelt by the Holy Spirit – “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9 NIV). Do you belong to Christ? If yes, do you have the Holy Spirit?

Has the assurance of being the child of God – “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16 NIV). The Holy Spirit gives us the inner assurance that we are God’s children. Are you a child of God? Do you have that assurance?

Has the hope and assurance of eternal life – “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2 NIV), and “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13 NIV). Can you say with certainty that if you die today you’ll be ushered into the presence of God?

Is controlled and led by the Spirit – “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14 NIV). When there is leading, there has to be following. In other words we take direction and instructions from God; we don’t do our own thing. Who is the charge-person in your life, God or … (insert your name)?

 Does not live in sin – “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:6 NIV). Do you claim to be a child of God? Are you enslaved by any particular sin? Reconsider your claim, and don’t allow the devil to find excuses for you. If the Holy Spirit lives in you, you should be uncomfortable living in sin.

Delights in pleasing God – “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (8:8 NIV). The opposite of this verse is also true: those controlled by the Spirit of God do please God! Do you sometimes sense God saying to you, “Good job!”? How does that make you feel?

Abides in Christ: Jesus describes Himself as the Vine and us as the branches. The branch, of course, will die if it does not receive nourishment from the tree. Receiving nourishment from the tree does not only keep the branch alive, but also helps it to blossom and bear fruit (see John 14:1-5).

Bears Fruit – According to the book of Galatians, the fruit we bear as a result of abiding in Christ is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (see Galatians 5:22). Is anything on this list missing in your life? What kind of fruit are you bearing? Is it fruit that can lead observers to the conclusion that you are a child of God? If you’re not bearing godly fruit, please pray for the grace to be able do so. You can then agree with the apostle Paul, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NIV).  

Accepts Corrections – we all need to be corrected from time to time, or we’ll make the same mistakes repeatedly. Correcting us when we go wrong is one of God’s ways of expressing His love for us, and He grants us grace to endure during those times. If we accept His corrections, we emerge from our experiences as wiser, mature, and better people. Job tells us, “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal” (Job 5:17 NIV). Also, Proverbs tells us, “My son do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12 NIV).


Dear child of God, we’ve been commanded to be light and salt (see Matthew 5:13-14) in the world, in order to make Christ attractive to people. We can’t be effective in ministry if there is no evidence in our lives that we are God’s children!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

GOD'S TRUTH IS THE ONLY TRUTH



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Truth is defined as that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality. There is something very refreshing and freeing about truth, because it does not change. Truth is non-negotiable; it is not affected by peoples’ view of it, and it does not take other positions into consideration; it stands alone. If it took other positions into consideration, there’d be no truth; it will cease to exist, and sadly, there’ll be only conflicting ideas that lead to chaos.  Consequently, there will be no need for law enforcement of any kind in society; everyone will be free to live out his or her own truth. What a messy world that will be! 

The Bible says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1 NIV). Will this fact change because someone insists there is no God? Of course not! If a child says to his parents, “You are not my parents,” would that change the fact that they really are, and could produce documents to prove it? Certainly not!

If you live on planet earth, anywhere in the world, you belong to God, and it behooves you to listen to what He says. One of the most basic things He wants us to pay attention to has to do with our relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus. In reference to Jesus, the Bible says, “To those who believed in His (Jesus) name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:14 NIV). Do you believe in His name? Until you believe in Him, you are not His child; you are His creation, and of course, you are free to disagree with His claim of ownership on your life.

If you do not wish to be a child of God, then you are all set; you don’t have to do anything different from what you are already doing. On the other hand, if you’d like to be a child of God, you’ll need to ask God for forgiveness of sin through Jesus. Disagreeing with this process of adoption is very unproductive, because disagreement is not an acceptable excuse for unbelief. It won’t exempt you from accountability. It will only place you in the category of unbelief for which the consequence is already spelt out. It goes like this, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18 NIV). 

God is Truth; He does not change, and He does not take His words back (see Malachi 3:6, Isaiah 31:2). So we are the ones who need to change. Our way of thinking needs to come into alignment with His Word. If He says our relationship with Him will be restored only through faith in Jesus, then that is the only way to go. Please don’t waste time going around in circles, and coming up with seemingly-cute arguments, because His Word will never change to accommodate your unbelief and disobedience. You are free to choose what you want to believe, but also, be aware that what God says is final! Time is running out; do it God’s way by placing your faith in Jesus today for salvation! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).