Tuesday, June 27, 2017

ARE YOU TRYING TO IMPRESS PEOPLE WITH YOUR SPIRITUALITY?



Image result for church clipart

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



Image result for Evidence of child of God




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



Image result for god's truthfulness

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).

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Your Invitation Has an Expiration Date




Image result for rsvp meaning


An invitation is a written or verbal request inviting someone to go somewhere or to do something. Have you ever been invited to something like a wedding or a bridal shower? Do you remember that your invitation had an RSVP date? What the invitation really meant was, your presence at the event would be appreciated, but you have to respond by the stated date. Otherwise, it is assumed you are uninterested or unavailable, and you’d not be included in the count.

Here’s another example. Manufacturers are in business to make money, and their target market is the public. After all, if we don’t buy their products, what will they do with them, and how would they earn a living? It is common knowledge that competition is fierce among manufacturers, so many of them use all kinds of advertisements to draw sales away from their competitors.
One of the strategies they use is price reduction --commonly known as sales -- and another one is coupons use. What’s interesting about both strategies is that both are dated: they have expiration dates, forcing the buyer to purchase products by the specified deadline. If products are not purchased by the expiration dates, the discounts no longer apply and one has to pay full price for the products in question.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve thrown money away when I let a coupon expire, yet I misplace them all the time or forget that I even have them. In other words, I don’t treat coupons as if they are as valuable as I say they are. Fortunately, the products will probably still be available, whether or not there’s a sale or coupon. I will just have to pay a bit more.

God loves us and would like us to respond to Him. Although we are unaware of a specific date, God’s invitation into a relationship with Him has a time limit as well.  That date is not readily available as one might see on coupons, but I can assure you, your invitation to come to God expires when you die, or when Jesus returns to earth, whichever comes first. The Bible says so. God knows when, but we don’t, and that is why each person needs to take this invitation seriously and treat it with urgency. It is better to have the assurance now that God has a place for you in heaven, than get to the end only to find your name is not on the list. What a disappointment and loss that would be!

Having explained time limits, let me explain God’s invitation again. Through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, our first parents, sin was passed on to us. That sin caused a separation between God and man. In order to restore that relationship, Jesus died to pay the price for our sin. God’s love through the death of His Son, Jesus, is enough to cover every single person, but each person has to choose what they want. God will not force salvation on anyone, neither is He going to wait forever while people toil with the idea of loving God or something else. People have to take responsibility for their sins and make plans for their eternal future.

Living now without faith in Jesus means living in eternity later without God, and that means spending eternity in hell. Using the word hell is not a scare tactic; it is the truth, and should be addressed as such. Sugar-coating it or calling it by any other name won’t change what it is. Jesus’ invitation to you is, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT).

How are you going to respond to this invitation? Time is running out with every day that passes. You probably don’t have as much time as you think. This is God’s assurance when you repent and put your faith in Jesus, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God” (1 John 5:1 NLT), and “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13 NLT). Respond to this invitation, before it’s too late for you!

       

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Eternity is Around the Corner



Image result for eternity





Quite often when people die, you hear their loved ones say, “He (or she) is in a better place.” This is a comforting thought, and I am sure everybody wants to assume that about their deceased loved one. However, before we go any further, we need to ask ourselves, “Where is this better place, and how do people get there?”

 The Bible, the Word of God, talks about eternity (time without end) as being either in heaven or in hell. There is no neutral or in-between place, so when people talk about a better place, they are referring to heaven, since hell is not a desirable place. Heaven, however, is not an automatic destination for the deceased.

When people die, their living loved ones can comfort themselves any way they want, but that does not guarantee their deceased loved ones are in heaven. The biblical truth is this: only those who believe on the name of Jesus (see Romans 3:22) -- whose names are written in the Lamb’s (Jesus) book of life (see Revelation 21:27) -- will go to heaven.  People who do not believe on the name of Jesus Christ before they die cannot be wished or prayed into heaven by loved ones: not even by the church.

Eligibility for heaven is not based on gender, age, or social or political standing, nor  does it  depend on good works or anything else people do. It is based solely on the sacrifice Christ made by dying on the cross (see Ephesians 2:5). By that act, He made Himself the bridge between God and man. Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for sin, making Him the only way for sinners to come to God by faith in Jesus (see John 14:6).

This is your opportunity. Ask Jesus to forgive your sins now. He will forgive you, taking away the guilt of your sins, filling you with His Spirit as the deposit that guarantees your future with Him (see 2 Corinthians 1:22) and writing your name in His book of life.. Don’t count on your loved ones or your priests to wish or pray you into heaven after your death. It just doesn’t work that way.

If you refuse Christ’s offer for salvation, you have automatically and personally chosen to go to hell after you die. Remember: if you die without making this decision, you’ve missed the opportunity to go to heaven for good!

So, while you still live, I encourage you to make the decision that guarantees you will spend eternity in heaven. Your loved ones will then be able to confidently say without hesitation, at your passing, “He (or she) is in a better place.” Please make this decision soon: hopefully today, because eternity is around the corner!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

JESUS IS COMING BACK





Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet, prophesied both of Jesus’ first and Second Advents (see Isaiah 9:6-7). As we know, the First Advent was fulfilled when Jesus was born. The details of the events surrounding His birth happened exactly in the manner in which they were prophesied. That fulfillment was proof that the Word of God is dependable. We celebrate that First Advent as Christmas, characterized by festivities, giving and receiving gifts. Looking back, we see that, that advent was very obscure, very few people knew anything about it, or cared about it. The key people mentioned in that event included: His parents-Joseph and Mary; the Inn Keeper; the shepherds; and the Wise men.

Similarly, the Second Advent will be fulfilled unerringly; Jesus is definitely coming back! Whereas He came as a helpless baby the first time, and did not catch the attention of many, things will be a lot different with the Second Advent. The Second Advent will not be obscure in any way; rather, as the Bible says, “Every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7 NIV). He is going to come with the armies of heaven and the Christians who were raptured seven years earlier. This occasion is going to be grand, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. He is coming as the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Ruler of the nations, and the Judge of the world, and He will hold sinners accountable for their wickedness, and reward the righteous.

Before His Second Advent though, there will be the rapture of the Church. The Bible describes the rapture as the sudden removal of all Christians from the earth to join with resurrected believers and Jesus Christ Himself, in the air. The rapture will usher in the tribulation period, a seven-year time of suffering, lawlessness, and severe persecution of Christians. At the end of the tribulation period, Jesus will return to earth to cleanse the world of sin and evil, and establish His Millennial Kingdom (a thousand-year rule). This will be Jesus’s Second Advent.

Jesus’ return to earth is mentioned not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament. Jesus Himself spoke about His Second Advent while He was here on earth. Towards the end of His ministry, Jesus promised His disciples He’d return from heaven, “I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3 NIV). Furthermore, the day Jesus ascended into heaven (forty days after His resurrection), two angels appeared to the distraught disciples who were amazingly watching, as their Master went up. The angels comforted them by saying, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11 NIV).

In the book of Revelation, John, the author, recorded for us Jesus’ message to the Churches. He said, “Behold, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done…I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star…Yes, I am coming soon (Revelation 22:12, 16, 20 NIV)! God is faithful; none of his promises has ever failed, and will not fail now! So let’s be ready; Jesus is coming back soon!     


After the millennium, there will be no more tears, pain, or suffering, which is what God had in mind right from the beginning of creation. There will be peace, no political garbage and lies! We will have one Ruler who is kind, loving, and just, and totally trustworthy. Wow! What a world that will be! We’ll get to call it our permanent home; a city whose Founder and Maker, and Ruler is God Almighty! Amen!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

BE A SAINT




Who is a saint, and when does one become a saint? There are
people who think sainthood is pronounced upon a person after
their death, based on how good/holy they lived. According to the
Scriptures, saint is another name for Christian. The apostle Paul
addressing the Church at Ephesus called them saints; “Paul, an
apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus,
the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 1:1). These addressees were alive,
so one does not need to be dead to be called a saint. Hence those
of us who are in the body of Christ Jesus are saints, whether we
are in or out of our individual earthly bodies.

Having established that we are saints, we should also establish
that unless the Lord draws us we cannot come to Him (see John 6:44),
and therefore sainthood is a calling. Paul writing to the church
in Rome addressed them this way, “To all in Rome who are loved
by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:1). The online dictionary
defines Call as: 1) Making a request or demand, 2) Speaking
in a loud distinct voice so as to be heard at a distance, and one
of the definitions for to be: is to become. So CALLED TO BE
SAINTS means, God requested/demanded that we become
saints. To become something different from what we are requires
a transformation from one state of being to another; example:
going from a cocoon to a butterfly. We are transformed from a
state of unbelief/ungodliness to belief/faith in Christ, resulting in
the newness of life and the renewal of the mind. We are not called
to act like saints; we are called to be saints.

Sainthood is not a cloak we put on and take off when we feel
like it. We are to be saints around the clock, 24/7. It should be
our new nature, our state of being. We are to be saints at home,
away from home, when we are awake and when we are asleep. We
should be saints at all times; in the company of believers as well
as in the company of unbelievers, no matter what. ‘Saint’ should be
our identity; the identity by which we are known.

How can we vibrantly maintain our sainthood? Let’s compare
sainthood to professions in the circular world. We need to have the
mindset that we are saints. We need to learn all we can about being
saints, by studying the manual for saints, by attending in-services,
seminars, and training sessions about saints. This will equip us to
get better at being saints. The word says we should not neglect the
assembling together of the saints, as some are in the habit of doing,
but we should encourage one another (see Hebrews 10:25). It also says we
should correctly handle the word of truth. (see 2 Timothy 1:5). Every so
often, professionals go through certification and re-certification
to ensure their skills and knowledge are up to date. We receive
our certifications and re-certifications through the trials we go
through to confirm that we are applying the lessons we learn on
how to maintain our sainthood.

Sainthood is ongoing, and takes perseverance. We should get
better at being saints with the passage of time as we keep our gaze
on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (see Hebrews 12:2).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD




“Occupational hazard” is a very common expression in our society that refers to potential risks, dangers, or perils associated with one’s job or profession. For example, people who work with asbestos run the risk of developing lung cancer later on in life; roofers run the risk of falls and injuries. Most professions, if not all, have associated risks. 

So are there associated risks with Christian service (ministry)? The answer is yes!  There are associated risks for just being a Christian; Jesus warned, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV). The early church was bitterly persecuted. The hymnist captured it this way, “Mocked, imprisoned, stoned, tormented, sawn asunder, slain with sword.” The Church today still faces persecution in horrible ways, including isolation and being disowned by loved ones. Persecution and the like in themselves, as harsh as they sound, are really not the worse hazards associated with Christian ministry.

The worst, I believe, is DISCOURAGEMENT, which can happen to any Christian, no matter how spiritually mature. How does one arrive at discouragement? Discouragement creeps into our lives for various reasons and at different times. Discouragement can ensue when there’s not enough support or cheering on (encouragement), not enough supplies to work with, obstacles and threats in the way, and the absence of fruit. Discouragement, if not appropriately addressed, can lead to despondency and throwing in the towel.     

First King 18 recaps for us the contest between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to call on Baal to send down fire to consume their sacrifice, which of course didn’t happen.  On the other hand, God answered Elijah! When he called, fire came down from heaven, burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. After demonstrating that “The Lord-He is God! The Lord-He is God!” (1 King 18:39 NIV), Elijah had the prophets of Baal killed. King Ahab’s wife Jezebel swore to kill Elijah in revenge. So what did Elijah do?  He ran for his life; he went into hiding! He was so discouraged, he wanted to die. This was his prayer: “I have had enough, Lord, take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 King 19:4 NIV).

Elijah was exhausted, persecuted, and afraid, which led to discouragement, to the point of wishing he were dead (maybe he had no prayer support). Before his discouragement, he was fine. He had challenged the people, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is god follow him” (1 King 18:21 NIV). He had also challenged the king without fear of punishment, telling him that he and his father’s house had made trouble for Israel (see 1 King 18:18). He then taunted the prophets of Baal about their god who could be asleep, deep in thought, busy, or travelling (see 1 King 18:27). Discouragement, however, changed everything for Elijah; he threw in the towel!

Discouragement can be a serious occupational hazard in Christian ministry. Let us remember to pray for one another, for our missionaries, and for our pastors. Let us cheer them on, and if at all possible, make sure they have all they need to get the job done. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Terrorist Turned Evangelist/Missionary





For years now, terrorism is a big global issue. We can describe terrorists as murderers, evil, wicked, heartless, ignorant, and on and on. But thank God that a number of Muslims have seen the light, trusted Jesus, and turned their back on the darkness. Jesus died for all mankind, terrorists included, and the Bible tells us, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NLT). Terrorists can come to faith in Jesus, because God is able to make that happen. Let’s turn the pain, frustration, anger, and even hatred that we feel toward them into prayer.

As Christians, the apostle we reference most often is the apostle Paul (aka Saul) of Tarsus. Before he became an apostle, he was a terrorist! He persecuted the Church of Jesus Christ; he was one of the witnesses and was in total agreement when Stephen was stoned to death for testifying about Jesus. Why was he a terrorist? As a Pharisee (the strictest sect of Judaism—see Acts 26:5), Paul wanted nothing to do with Christianity (The Way, as it was called). He took it upon himself to preserve Judaism, and in his own words, “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem… I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.” (Acts 26:9-11 NLT)

Paul continued his terrorist acts until Jesus got his attention. He had received letters from the High Priest in Jerusalem, requesting the cooperation of the synagogue in Damascus, to arrest and bring back to Jerusalem any Christians in Damascus (see Acts 9:1-2). As he neared Damascus, his trip was interrupted; Jesus had a dialogue with him.
“Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

The response, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:3-6 NLT). That was the turning point in the life of this terrorist; he became a new person: a believer!
Saul, received marching orders (from God) while in Damascus. Immediately, he started preaching Jesus and fellowshipping with the very people he had gone to terrorize and arrest. Those who heard him speak about Jesus as the Son of God could not believe what they were hearing. They questioned, “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem? And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?” (Acts 9:21 NLT) His arguments about Jesus were so convincing that the Jews in Damascus could not refute his proofs. On his return to Jerusalem, the believers there were afraid of him, and could not believe that he had become a believer of Jesus Christ.

This dramatic change is proof that no matter how much people hate Jesus, God can turn them around, making them useful instruments in His service. Our current-day terrorists can be confronted just as Saul was; they can understand the truth about Jesus, believe in Him, and take the message to their former colleagues. This is a call for Christians to sincerely pray for all non-Christians, especially the terrorists and all who support and encourage their cause, just as Stephen prayed for those who killed him (see Acts 7:60).

On Paul’s return to Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit commissioned him and Barnabas to go and preach the gospel; they travelled extensively, preaching to both Jews and Gentiles. Through their ministry, many believed and were saved, many were healed, Christians were encouraged to live for the Lord, and churches were planted (see Acts 13-14). In addition to sharing the gospel, he continued to encourage the churches he planted and individuals he discipled through letters, and constantly prayed for them. Those letters (Epistles) continue to build and strengthen the Church today. Indeed, Paul was a terrorist turned evangelist/missionary!

Saul, the most anti-Jesus individual mentioned in the Scriptures, worked extremely hard for the cause of the gospel. His hard work was not without suffering. This is his own testimony: “I have worked harder (than the other apostles), been put in prison more often, been whipped without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea…I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep warm.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)   

So, is there hope for terrorists? Yes! If we Christians pray fervently, this hope can be realized. The Scriptures tell us, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT) As we pray for them, let’s also pray for churches that are experiencing the brunt of this evil: that God will encourage them, and that they’ll find it in their hearts to pray for their persecutors. Let’s pray until we have numerous Paul-type-terrorists turned evangelists and missionaries!



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

THE PARTY IS CRASHED





In the beginning, God created man in His own image.
God maintained camaraderie with man through friendship with man in the Garden.
“Should God have fellowship with man? I don’t think so,” said the devil.
So the devil devised a plan to destroy the friendship between God and man.
Through the devil’s scheme, man disobeyed God, and lost friendship with God.
The devil was ecstatic. He had succeeded. He beamed with pride. 
But God said, “Not so fast, Satan! It’s not over until it’s over.”    

God was grieved of course, but in order to satisfy His justice, sin must be redressed.
So God became Man, in the Person of His Son Jesus, and lived among men.
Through his Son Jesus, God showed man how to restore friendship
Through faith in His Son Jesus.
The devil incited the people against Jesus. They hung Him on a cross, He died, and He was buried.
Again the devil thought to himself, “Finally, I have done it! Man will forever be estranged from God, and be my partner in hell.”
“Not so fast, Satan! It’s not over until it’s over.”

Now, after Jesus died, Satan was so overjoyed he threw a party.
Who was at the party?
Satan and his demons of course!
They slapped each other on the back and congratulated each other.
“We did it, we did it! The tomb is tightly sealed, what good is a dead Savior?”
Not so fast. Not so fast, Satan! It’s not over until it’s over.

On the third day, as the party was going on, there was a big earthquake.
All back-slapping and celebration stopped abruptly. “What’s going on?” Satan asked.
Before any could answer, he saw the stone at the mouth of the tomb roll away.
Jesus walked out with angels worshiping Him!     
“O, Nooooooo,” said the devil, “JESUS IS ALIVE, MY ENEMY IS ALIVE!!!  
“This wasn’t supposed to happen. Man will find his way back to God through faith in Jesus!”
“What can I do differently now?” asks the disappointed Satan.
Slow down, Satan. Now it’s really over!



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Once Upon a Time



I still remember the first line of many children’s stories I read as a kid years ago. Quite often, it went like this: “Once upon a time, many years ago, there was…” Do you remember reading any such stories? The stories were always things that happened in the past and the lessons that one could learn from them. Most often, the stories ended with a happy-forever-after.Let’s see how that format would work with the God-story!
Once upon a time, many years ago, there was God, His Son Jesus, and His Spirit: the three in One. “And God said, ‘let us make human beings in our own image, to be like us.’” (Genesis 1:26)  He still is, and will always be. Nothing else existed at that point (see Genesis 1:1). With no physical resources, He created everything you see today, and much more. He created the heavens, the earth, the sky, the seas, vegetation, and animals. Then He created man, Adam, and then his wife Eve, in His image and gave man authority over all that He had created, including the responsibility to name them. He placed man in a beautiful garden He had created--the Garden of Eden- and instructed him to take care of it, and to eat the fruits for food. There was only one tree that was off-limits to man—the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the center of the garden (Genesis 2:16-17).
Satan, envious of God’s position as LORD, tampered with God’s plans; he tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. God was heart-broken, man felt guilty for the first time, and God’s judgment fell. Man died spiritually: he was kicked out of the garden, losing fellowship with God. Consequently, sin passed on to every descendant of Adam and Eve (see 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
This means everybody starts life as a sinner and God’s enemy, but God, out of His love for us, put into action His plan to redeem us unto Himself. (See John 3:16) He sent His One and only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our substitute: to die in our place for our sins. Jesus died a cruel death at the hand of sinners, and whoever repents and declares their faith in Jesus is saved and their relationship with God is restored. The resulting relationship is a Father/child relationship. Unlike human parent/child relationships, we never outgrow our relationship with God. We’ll never be so grown that we are independent of Him. We’ll always have to submit to Him, depend on Him, and serve Him!
Having heard the story, we have a responsibility to respond. God doesn’t force us to accept His grace and love, but He makes it clear that death (eternal separation from God) waits at the end of a Christless-life (see Romans 6:23). If you’d like to spend eternity in heaven with God, you need to repent today, and ask God for forgiveness through Jesus. Timing is important! Planning to do something is not the same as doing it. If you procrastinate and die before getting around to doing this, your situation will be just like the person who didn’t care about the gospel message. There is no such thing as an almost-child of God: either you are or you’re not. Think about it!
The God-story can have an ending like the children’s stories, with a happy-forever-after.  Anyone who puts his or her faith in Jesus for salvation is promised an amazing hereafter- life, forever in the presence of the Almighty God. According to the Bible, there’ll be no more pain, tears, or death; we’ll live in mansions, and darkness and sin will be things of the past. No sinners will enter heaven; only the saved will, and we will reign with Him forever and ever, never again to be separated from Him or from our loved-ones.
A shorter version of the story looks like this: “Once upon a time, man rebelled against God, and was thrown out of God’s presence. Through the one sinner, all people became sinners. God sent His Son Jesus to die in payment for man’s sin. Through Jesus, all who believe will become God’s children.” Don’t delay; repent and call on Jesus today, and be assured that your name is written in heaven before it is too late!  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

NOW THAT WE ARE HIS CHILDREN


When we were unbelievers, we just followed the crowd. We gave ourselves permission to be in harmony with the world. We did not know any better, and if we did, we did not want to start any trouble or be any different from others, so we went along. This is really what conformity is; changing one’s mind, stand or position in order to be looked upon favorably by others. (Having no objections, raising no objections)

When we conform to the world, we agree with it, and accept its point of view about issues as if it were our own. The Bible says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV).  
The things the world calls us to conform to, are usually evil, things that God hates; things that we need to hate as well. In Christ, we have become a new creation; we need to walk in newness of life (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).

As Christians, we should no longer conform to the dictates of this world. The things we use to conform to as unbelievers are contrary to the things of the Spirit of God.  Now we need to have the mind of Christ.  We need to become more and more like Him in our thoughts and actions. The only way we can achieve this is to allow the Word of God to penetrate our hearts and renew our minds to think the way He does. We’ll not have renewed minds simply by us wishing or desiring it; it will take some effort on our part. We have to make time to study the Word, fellowship with other believers, learning from each other, and encouraging each other.

Transformation is a gradual process. As we continue to allow the word of God to renew our minds, transformation will become evident. Our way of thinking, attitude, and behavior will change. Our conscience will be more alive and sensitive to enable us to steer clear of what is evil, but draw us toward what is right.

The world is free, for now any way, to think what it wills about issues; our position on those issues should be based on the word of God. No more conformity! What will be the result of our transformation? The Lord will be pleased with us; we will be contributing to positive changes in our corner of the world, and in the process probably open up ourselves for persecution. But we need to remember that the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted Him, they will persecute us also (see John 15:20).
In the book of Matthew, Jesus says, “If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of His household” (Matthew 10:25 NIV). We might be called worse things, and treated with hate! 
Nevertheless, let’s take heart, because our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us, when we see Him face-to-face (see Rom 8:18).   

Now that we’re His children, let’s portray His image! 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A UNIQUE MISSIONARY OPPORTUNITY




The Great Commission—“Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 NLT) is a command, and is the responsibility of every Christian. If you’ve been taking this mandate seriously, you have probably been wishing you could go on a missions trip—short term or longer-- but not very sure about it.  When we think about traditional missions trip opportunities, we need to consider what is involved in the process,  including picking a geographic location, raising support, getting a passport and visa, getting immunized, purchasing a round-trip ticket, and of course, tearfully leaving loved-ones behind. All that sounds like a lot of preparation; however, there is a unique opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission that does not require any of that.

So what will this unique opportunity entail? It will cost you nothing more than the cost of your current living expenses; in other words, no increase in your daily expenditure. It requires no immunization, no airline ticket, no passport or visa, and no tearful goodbyes. All you have to do is leave your home or apartment and perform your usual routines: stroll through the neighborhood as usual, go to work or school, and go to the bank if you need to transact a financial business, or go shopping if you needed to buy something.

What is so unique about this?

This is a unique opportunity because there are people in all these places who have not heard the gospel, or do not quite understand it. All you need to do is prayerfully share your faith with whomever you meet, or invite them to church or whatever small-group you might be a part of.  Missions doesn’t always mean you have to leave home or your country of origin. Mission work is all around us, even in our homes, and on our streets. If God specifically calls you to leave home and go to a foreign country, that will be a different story, but until then, be diligent about sharing your faith right where you are and wherever you find yourself on a day to day basis.

Our sharing should be both by word and deed. Showing love and kindness to people usually opens the door for us to verbally share the love of God. So let’s look out for and grab opportunities God places in our path. Like in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:33-37), let’s go out of our way to show kindness to those who need us. Let’s be creative in finding ways we can serve our neighbors and friends, and in so doing be able to share the gospel of Jesus that brings salvation to all mankind. The Great Commission should be taken far and near, home and abroad!

We’ve been saved through the efforts of others who obeyed the Great Commission; let us also obey it so many more will be saved. The gospel spreads through multiplication, and we are all called to share it wherever we go. Let’s not waste time sitting around, waiting for another prompt from God; this is it. We need compassion for the lost, and the zeal to share with them. God has given us all we need to live godly lives (2 Peter 1:3), and that includes the courage and boldness to share with others.

Word of caution: we have not been called to convert anyone; our responsibility is to share the love of God. It is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to convict men of sin and convert. We need to follow our sharing with prayers that the hearts of those we share with would be softened and that they’ll understand their need for salvation. Follow-up contacts by phone, text, or email could help the process, and let’s remember, “A wise person wins souls” (Proverbs 11:30 NLT). Also, conversions don’t happen overnight in every situation, so prayerfully exercise patience.


So as you see, sharing the gospel is not that complicated. The unique opportunity is available to all Christians. And until God gives you specific instructions to go to another country, seize this unique opportunity, and enjoy the Great Commission right here at home! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

BE CAREFUL WHICH EXIT YOU TAKE





BE CAREFUL WHICH EXIT YOU TAKE

I was on the highway the other day, going home from a doctor’s visit. The exit off the highway that will take me home was further divided into two. This meant, off the highway, I had to make a choice. Which way should I go? I could go either to the left or to the right. Of course these two sub-exits lead to different destinations, and only one would lead me home. I went right; the driver behind me went left. What if the driver who went left really wanted to go to my house or to my neighborhood, would that left exit get him to that intended destination? No!

Everybody in this world is on a journey, going somewhere. There are at least three groups of people on this journey, and there are two destinations to choose from. The people in the first group know where they are going, and know how to get there. They are sure they are on the right road and going in the right direction, and even know what to expect at their destination.

The people in the second group have no idea where they are going or where they’d like to go, and so how they get there isn’t a concern; they seem to be saying, “Any destination will do.” The truth is these people will be very surprised, terrified, and disappointed when they arrive at their unplanned destination. Their destination at the end of their journey will not be anything they’d like to identify with. But unfortunately, they’ll not be able to turn around, or go in a different direction. That destination will be their permanent home.

Those in the third group on the other hand, know where they want to go, but don’t know how to get there. Yet they assume and claim that they are already on the right path. The people in this group need to be redirected. Desiring to arrive at a particular destination will not get you there if you take the wrong road or wrong exit. The destination at the end of the road you are on is where you’ll end up, whether or not it was your intended destination. Some of the people in this group will accept re-direction, but the others won’t.  

So let’s break it down this way. The people in the first group are people who hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and understand that Jesus died in their place. They confess their sins to God, and accept His forgiveness through Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for their sins. This group is walking by faith in Jesus, and using the Bible as their roadmap to get to their destination out of this world – heaven. At their destination, they know without a doubt that they will see Jesus face to face and live with Him forever. I thank God I am a member of this group. His promises to us include: mansions, good health (no sickness), and eternal life (no death). Humanly speaking, heaven is an indescribable place (See 2 Corinthians 12:2-4). This is how the Bible describes it, “Now the dwelling place of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4 NIV).


The people in the second group don’t think God exists. They think when they die, it is over; there is nothing after death. Wrong! They argue about the concept that there is life after death, therefore, they live to please themselves, they are a law unto themselves, and they like to keep it that way. According to the Bible though, their conscience tells them differently, because God’s law is written in their hearts (see Romans 2:15).

The people in the third group believe God exists, they believe there is life after death, and they’d like to go to heaven. So far so good, but which route are they on; which exit are they taking? This group is travelling in the wrong direction; I’m sure you’re wondering, “How so?” Well, their beliefs are inconsistent with biblical teachings. For instance, some of them believe there are other ways to get to heaven, which there are not, according to the Bible. Others in this group believe Jesus is not the only way to heaven, they cite other deities. However, the bible clearly says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NIV). Jesus himself told His disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV). Furthermore, they also believe they are good people doing good deeds, and that should qualify them to get into heaven. The Bible addresses that position as well, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).

Which of these groups do you identify with? Which road are you on, and where is it going to take you? Do you need to be redirected? The Bible is the Word of God, and God does not lie. If whatever you believe or think does not line up with what the Bible says, you need to rethink your stand and position. Get on the right path and go in the right direction, by placing your faith in Jesus, the Son of God who died in your place.

Jesus is your only hope for eternal life! Arguing about your position isn’t going to change God’s mind. The Bible says, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life…There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son” (John 3:16-18 NLT). Place your faith in Jesus today and be saved! 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

STEPS TO VICTORY IN THE LIONS’ DEN OR FIERY FURNACE




The lions’ den and fiery furnace are allegories for suffering. But why do we suffer? Suffering can be the consequences of our own wrongdoing, God’s chastening, the devil’s effort to discourage us in our Christian walk, or the consequences of bearing the name of Christ. Quite often, the devil engineers problems in our lives to bring about discouragement, with the hope that we’ll disobey God -- his arch enemy. Yet, through the same suffering, God tests our faith and loyalty toward Him. There are other forms of suffering that come with the environment we live in – a fallen world, in which we become victims to all kinds of sicknesses. No matter the origin of our suffering, we can have victory through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Suffering is nothing new to the Church. Christians have been persecuted for years, since the beginning of the Church to the present. In recent years, in different parts of the world, Christians have suffered tremendously at the hands of wicked men. They have been driven away from their own homes, their properties confiscated, their children killed right before their eyes, while others have faced beheadings. As Christians, how we respond to suffering should be dictated by its cause.

 For instance, God is not honored by suffering that results from our own wrongdoing; in that situation, we need to repent and make restitution where possible. Also, disregarding the law of the land or being insubordinate to superiors or bosses can incur punishment that can be referred to as suffering, but is that really suffering, when you bring it on yourself? The Apostle Peter’s instructions are clear: “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler” (1 Peter 4:15). Breaking the law has consequences, so if we suffer for breaking the law we shouldn’t be looking for sympathy. Breaking the law causes God’s name to be blasphemed, and brings shame to the Church. Christians should be the most law-abiding citizens, because all authority is set up by God our Father, and rebelling against such is rebelling against God (see Romans 13:1-6).
On other occasions, suffering comes for the simple reason that we bear the name of Christ and seek to please Him. This is the type of suffering that pleases God. It usually comes in the form of persecution, nevertheless, it is honorable, because it proves we are participating in Christ’s suffering (see 1 Peter 4:13). Jesus Himself said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). Again He encouraged the disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also … They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me” (John 15:20-21). The apostle Paul reminds us, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV).

Our attitude towards persecution should be joy: joy that we’ve been counted worthy to suffer for the name of our Lord, and slated for a reward in heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). In addition, James recommends joy in suffering because the process leads to maturity in Christ (see James 1:1-4).

This is the response God expects of us when we are persecuted: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28 NIV). That response would challenge observers and bring glory to God. In the Beatitudes, Jesus admonished his disciples, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 NIV).

Before we can be victorious in the lion’s den or fiery furnace in a God-honoring manner, we need to have a few things settled in our minds:

God’s power, ability, and sovereignty – God is all-powerful, and therefore able to deliver us from all trials and difficulties. However, He is also sovereign, and might not deliver us from every impending or ongoing suffering every time. He does things as He sees fit, differently to different situations at different times. When threatened with the fiery furnace for not worshiping the king’s golden image, the three Jewish young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, told the king, Nebuchadnezzar, “We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand O king. But even if he does not … we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18 NIV).  

Our position in Christ – We are loved by God our Father, and after giving us His Son, the Scripture tells us, there is nothing else that we need that He wouldn’t do for us. So when He doesn’t fix our problems right away, it is for a good reason. After all, we are reminded that, “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).

We are in an on-going battle – Our enemies-the enemies of God - are like their father the devil. They hate us with “cruel hatred” (from the hymn-A mighty Fortress), and will stop at nothing until they’ve caused havoc. They don’t know how to do good; they consistently plan evil. We need to always remember that we are in an on-going battle, and remain in a perpetual state of readiness (see Ephesians 6:11-18).

When we find ourselves in the lions’ den or fiery furnace, let us arm ourselves with the mindset that our Father is none other than the loving, all-powerful, and sovereign God. He’ll equip us and grant us the grace to do His will. That mindset should encourage us and make us hopeful that when our suffering is over, we will come out on the victory side, because God’s will and purpose for our lives and the Church will have been accomplished for His honor and glory. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

THE PATH OF MERCY





Mercy is defined as not getting the judgment one deserves. So let’s assume that you have a teenage daughter who went out with friends for an evening. You instructed her to be back home by 10 pm or lose driving privileges; she shows up at 11:30 pm. What would or should your response be? In order to teach her a lesson about obedience and responsibility, you should keep your word: suspend her driving privileges. Would you suspend her privileges if she says, “I’m sorry. I was having so much fun, I forgot to look at the time, and then on my way back, there was a road-block. This won’t happen again; please forgive me”? Maybe, maybe not.

God in His infinite love and wisdom clearly said to mankind (in the Garden of Eden), “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden- except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die” (Genesis 2:16-17 NLT). Man disobeyed (see Genesis 3:6). So what should God do, or how should He respond? God’s judgment stood: He threw man out of the Garden (man died; he lost fellowship with God). Later, God through the apostle Paul declared, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NLT). The free gift sounds good; it’s eternal life, but how do we obtain it? In the book of Acts, we’re told, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38 NLT).  Being holy, loving, and just, God will keep His Word to punish unless there is repentance on our part.

In other words, being holy, God will not co-exist with sin—the reason for separation from the sinner. His justice calls for restitution for sin, which, out of His love for man, He provided through the death of His Son, Jesus. So repentance is a game-changer; God honors His Word and forgives our sins, restoring our broken relationship.

If you’re a parent who’s been disrespected by a teenage child, you might choose to respond differently than other parents, and that’s okay. However, there’s only one way for God to respond to us in regard to our sins: either we repent and He forgives, or we don’t, and we die—become eternally separated from Him after this life. Repent now, and escape the punishment you deserve for your sins—experience God’s mercy today! Why today? Today is your day of salvation, because tomorrow could be too late for you.