Author: Alice A. Anacioco

The 3 Levels of Tribulations

The 3 Levels of Tribulations

The term “Tribulation” generally refers to a state of great suffering or trouble. In Christian eschatology, the Tribulation will be the final 7-year period of Daniel’s 70 Weeks when Jesus will judge the wicked world and restores Israel. It will be a time of great distress that occurs prior to the return of Christ to rule and reign here on earth for a thousand years.

However, tribulation could not only refer to a future event. Even now, God’s people and the world are going through two of the 3 levels of tribulation.

Level 1 Tribulation

This is the tribulation of all the unbelievers in the world which started when man disobeyed God’s command and was driven out of the Garden of Eden, a paradise of full joy and contentment, and God cursed the earth (Genesis 3:17-19).

So from that time that man became sinful until now, the people of the world work and work so hard in order to eat, while at the same time suffering all kinds of illnesses, accidents, and all kinds of misfortunes under the bondage of the devil who has become the ruler of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Level 2 Tribulation

This is the tribulation for the believers after Jesus came to earth to be the second Adam and Son of God. This is classified further into 2 sub-levels:

A. The tribulation of compromised or unfaithful believers in Christ.

Apparently, there are Christians who compromise to the world and do not fully obey the commands of God. Their tribulation is just like that of the unbelievers in the world. They are suffering the curse of God on earth from the time of Adam and Eve.

So just like the people of the world today, the unfaithful Christians work and work with no contentment and are suffering all kinds of illnesses, accidents, and misfortunes in life. They sincerely believe they are saved and have full salvation.

The 3 Levels of Tribulation

However, that salvation is only partial because they have no salvation from sickness and accidents and they do not enjoy the open floodgates of heaven to supply all their needs according to God’s riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).

They may only have salvation of their souls so they may be saved in the end and not go to hell if they remain faithful and hold on to their faith in Jesus Christ.

B. The tribulation for the faithful and carefully obedient believers in Christ.

These are the people of God that the Bible says God will protect just like Noah when God spared him and his family during the Great Flood (Genesis 6-9), and Lot when God rescued him during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19).

Remaining faithful and obedient to God does not mean being free from difficult times trials and suffering. The faithful righteous believers will suffer persecutions because it is part of the “cross” that Jesus said in Matthew 16:24. But the Lord will “make their yoke easy and their burdens light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

*Read here: What is the Christians Response to Trials

When they cry out to God, He will deliver them from all troubles (Psalm 34:17-20) because the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the Day of Judgment (2 Peter 2:9).

And their light persecutions will accompany their hundredfold blessing in this present age and in the age to come. When the Great Tribulation will start, these faithful carefully obedient believers will just fly to the Wedding Banquet in heaven without experiencing death (Matthew 16:28).

Level 3 Tribulation

This is the final Great Tribulation spoken of by Jesus immediately following the rapture of the faithful believers. There will be great tribulation that is unequaled from the beginning of the world and never to be equaled again. And unless those days will be shortened, no flesh would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened (Matthew 24:21-22).

The elect are the Jews, the chosen people of God, and they will suffer greatly. As Jesus said, “They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into all nations. Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:23-24).

Jesus also said, “Jerusalem will be surrounded by enemies” which is how they “will know that its desolation is near” (Luke 21:20. What is the status of Jerusalem now? It is surrounded by Arab nations who want nothing more than its destruction.

The 3 :Levels of Tribulation

The great destruction of Jerusalem is just about to happen but the faithful believers who are now going through the narrow gate will take their “flight” while the vast majority of compromised believers who go through the broad way will go into destruction where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 7:13-14).

These are the “believers” to whom Jesus will say, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

Concluding Thoughts

Each one of us will encounter trials and tribulations that will place some pressure on us in possibly every area of our life. Trials are part of life and we cannot always expect life to be trouble-free and smooth-sailing.

Even we as Christians should not expect to navigate through life without encountering challenges, obstacles, and difficulties. Question is: are we suffering tribulation as a result of compromise and disobedience to God? Or are we suffering persecution for being faithful followers of Christ?

To go through trials and tribulations now is one thing; to go through the horrors of the Tribulation in the future is another thing.

God is loving, merciful and gracious; He wants everyone to accept His offer of salvation and be caught up to heaven before the terrible Day of the Lord.

Have you accepted Jesus’ invitation to be part of His heavenly kingdom by acknowledging that you a sinner in need of a Savior? 


Guest Author: Bishop Moses R. Chungalao

Recommended Resource: Lord Why?: Trials & Tribulations are all in His Plan
By Reno Johnson

If you find yourself facing adversity and discouragement, take hope and strength knowing that God is with you in your trials. In Lord Why?, Pastor Reno Johnson will help you learn to see difficulties as opportunities, not obstacles. He provides practical, biblical wisdom for overcoming whatever types of opposition you face.

What is Covenant in the Bible?

What is Covenant in the Bible?

The concept of “covenant” has been revolutionized by research in recent decades of studying the Old Testament. What is the idea of covenant in the Bible?

Many scholars, whether conservative or liberal, have maintained that “covenant” is the organizing principle around which Old Testament theology must be constructed and understood.

It has become clear that in the near eastern world of the second millennium before Christ, formal covenants were the primary way people who were not blood relatives related to one another.

The Meaning of Covenant

The word “covenant” basically means “contract;” it is an agreement between God and His people. In the said agreement, God makes promises to His people and usually requires certain conduct from them.

As used in Scriptures, the word “covenant” is the Hebrew word “Berith” which means “to cut or divide.” This is an allusion to the Jewish sacrificial custom in connection with covenant-making, where the two parties involved would divide the animal by which the covenant was ratified and laid them out in two halves.

After that, the contracting parties would then “walk between the pieces” to establish the covenant.

What is Covenant in the Bible?

In the Greek Septuagint, covenant is the Greek word “Diatheke.” Unlike Hebrew, the Greek differentiates between a covenant where one party is the recipient (diatheke) and the other the benefactor, and other covenant made between equal parties.

If the two parties come together in agreement, making it a two-way arrangement, the word “Suntheke” is used, which means “to place together.”

Of Meals and Marriages

People in Asia Minor, ancient Mesopotamia and first century Palestine depended on covenants to appease the gods, regulate personal affairs, international relations and business deals. All kinds of covenants existed between equal partners, between greater and lesser partners, and between absolute sovereigns and object servants.

Covenants were often memorialized with stone pillars (stellae) as Jacob and Laban did (Genesis 31:44-47). A ceremonial meal between the parties involved would signify the harmonious nature of the new relationship and a marriage between the two families seals the compact.

In every case, the gods of all parties involved were called to witness and guarantee the contract, agreement, vow or treaty.

Fortunately for Bible scholars, the people of the ancient Near East went out of their way to write down all kinds of covenants. All during the twentieth-century archaeologists dug up, dusted off, and deciphered clay tablets and stone monuments that recorded countless covenants regulating the commercial, political and religious life of nation after nation.

Perhaps the most significant covenants for Old Testament studies turned up in the archives of the Hittite monarchs, which were discovered in 1906 among the ruins of Boghaz-koi in Turkey.

*Related Article: What is the Adamic Covenant?

The Covenant Form

It has been demonstrated quite conclusively by Meredith Kline and others that the structure of the Hittite treaties between oriental monarchs and their abject vassals parallels in close detail the covenant format between Yahweh and Israel found in Exodus chapters 20 to 23, Joshua 24 and the Book of Deuteronomy.

When the one, true living God initiated a relationship with the descendants of Abraham, He utilized a covenant style universally understood at the time:

  • a preamble identifying the absolute sovereign
  • a brief history of relations between the absolute sovereign and the subject people
  • the benefits for and obligations of the subject people
  • an oath of allegiance and its accompanying blessings for obedience
  • a list of witnesses and directions for keeping the covenant

At times there followed instructions for periodic renewal of the covenant.

The Old and New Testament

The Bible is divided into an Old Testament and a New Testament. “Testament” was a synonym for “covenant” in the English era of King James I. All of God’s Word concerns an old and a new form of the way in which He provides for a personal, mutually committed relationship between Himself and those who He calls and who respond in faith to Him.

Various other biblical covenants predate the “old covenant” or elaborate aspects of it. People of God’s covenant have a basis for saying, “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song 2:16).


*ReferenceNKJV Prophecy Study Bible, 2015 Edition
Understanding God’s Message in the Last Days
General Editor: John Hagee

The prophecies of the Bible assure us that God will prevail. The NKJV;Prophecy Study Bible, 2015 Edition; has hundreds of pages of special features that offer a broad understanding of prophetic themes, salvation, covenants, and other important doctrines of the Christian faith.

Features include:

  • Introduction to Bible Prophecy
  • Index to Prophetic Passages
  • Top 20 Questions about Bible Prophecy
  • Diamonds for Daily Living
  • Evidences
  • Spokesmen for God
  • Bible Insights
  • Bible Prophecy Charts
  • Full concordance
What is the Cost of Our Salvation?

What is the Cost of Our Salvation?

People often say, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” That is sound advice in the world of business where there is always someone – or crowds of someones – trying to separate you from your money. A famous quote by P.T. Barnum, “There’s a sucker born every minute” expresses the starting point of every con artist.

When talking about our salvation, people often question how it is even possible to gain eternal life just by believing in Jesus as stated in John 3:16. Modern readers ask by reflex, “What’s the catch?” There has to be more to it than just believe. It’s a simple fact that nobody gives away anything of great value. There has to be a hidden cost.

John 3:16

Still, many others are offended by the Bible’s offer of free salvation. Why? Because they don’t want anything for which they didn’t work hard and pay dearly.  If God forgives them, they want to be able to say that He had to because they earned it. You know what? That’s a pride thing.

Is God’s Forgiveness Cheap?

Is our salvation really cheap because we can have it for free? If not, how much does it cost? And why did God choose to pay for it? What would He get in return for sacrificing His only begotten Son to die on the cross for man’s redemption?

British Pastor G. Campbell Morgan who spent considerable time in the United States in the period between the two world wars, shared how in one of his evangelistic meetings in England, encountered a coal miner who told him that he would give anything to believe that God would forgive sins, “but I cannot believe He will forgive me if I just turn to Him. It is too cheap.”

In reply, Dr. Morgan said to the man, “You were working in the mine today. How did you get out of the pit?” He answered, “The way I usually do. I got into the cage and was pulled to the top.” “How much did you pay to come out of the pit?” Morgan asked. “I didn’t pay anything.”

“Weren’t you afraid to trust yourself to that cage? Was it not too cheap?” The man replied, “Oh no! It was cheap for me, but it cost the company a lot of money to sink that shaft.”

The Cost of Our Salvation

In today’s world of credit cards and electronic banking, it’s pretty easy to disregard the cost of a lot of things that are rather important. This is exactly true with sin. The society we live in teaches us to enjoy temporary pleasures while ignoring the price that God had to pay for the forgiveness of our sins.

Sin is like credit card; enjoy now, pay later

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ suffered the following for our sake:

1) Abandonment

In Jesus’ final hours, He was separated from His Father and their fellowship was broken for the very first time since eternity past (Mark 15:34). Some might think that Jesus feared the cross that is why He was in anguish moment before His crucifixion and started to sweat blood.

Jesus was in extreme, deep anguish as He faces the reality of being separated from His Father, resulting in a rare medical condition known as “Hematidrosis.”

2) God’s wrath

At the cross, the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus because of man’s sin. Christ took on upon Himself the penalty for our sins and the condemnation we all so deserved (Romans 5:9; Isaiah 53:5-6).

Although Jesus lived a perfect life of obedience to the Father, all of mankind’s sins were placed upon Him and experienced the fullness of our guilt, shame, and transgressions.

3) Physical pain

During the hours that led to His crucifixion, Jesus was mocked, beaten and humiliated (John 19:1-16). And in His weakened state, He was forced to carry the cross on His shoulders which He was eventually nailed to and died an excruciating death.


*Recommended Resource:

He Died for Me: A Physician’s View of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ
By Mark Marinella, M.D., F.A.C.P.

When you meditate on Jesus’ death, do you ever wonder what He really went through? Offering a physician’s view of Christ’s last hours, Dr. Marinella provides historical background on crucifixion as a method of execution; and offers a medical analysis of the physical and physiological pain Jesus endured.


Closing Thoughts

When God offers forgiveness for our sins if we believe in His Son Jesus, that forgiveness did not come cheap. Jesus suffered the agony and shame of the cross as the bearer of the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2). He gave His life in our place. That was a payment of infinite value, and it involved infinite suffering on the part of Jesus.

Jesus Christ our Savior has suffered greatly on our behalf. He shed His blood so we might become part of God’s family (John 1:12), all because He loves us so much and He desires that our broken fellowship with God be restored.

*Read here: What Does John 3:16 Teach About Salvation?

In light of what our salvation cost, we are to give up the pride that insists we don’t want anything we haven’t earned. Instead, let us accept His offer of free salvation and respond to His call for us to live a sacrificial life of service, doing the Father’s business and living to please Him.

God In A Pillar of Cloud

God In A Pillar of Cloud

When traveling through clouds or fog, we have to exercise caution, because hidden dangers are enveloped in mist and obscured. But that is also why the cloud was a perfect cloak for God. It allowed Him to journey with His people, the Israelites, yet remained hidden. The “pillar of fire,” too, revealed and concealed God’s presence (Exodus 13:21-22).

Bible Verse: Exodus 14:19-20 (NIV)

“Then the Angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.”

Reflection and Challenge

Knowing that the enemy was in pursuit, and hearing the wind blowing all night, the Israelites must have wondered what was going to happen and why God was taking so long. But God always knows what’s best for His people and He is always on time.

We may not always understand God’s ways because His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9), but His way is always the right way. So let us be reminded that God knows what He’s doing; He isn’t in a hurry, and as long as we follow Him, we are safe and in the place of His blessing.

Going back to the verse, when God led His people out of Egyptian slavery in a pillar of cloud, He did not only make sure that they knew He was near, but also that they could not exploit His presence nor control His movements.

“The Lord said He would dwell in the dark cloud” (1 Kings 8:12). But what does the cloud teach us about God? Why did God wrap Himself in a pillar of cloud while leading the nation of Israel out of Egypt into the Promised Land? The cloud indicates that partial vision is our normal experience of God (1 Corinthians 13:12) and that we know infinitely less than what there is to know.

Do you sometimes feel that despite your best efforts, you are not able to draw close to God? Why does our attention constantly slip away from Him in prayer? Perhaps, you might say, “It’s because I’m exhausted from work and all that my body wants to do is rest.”

*Related Article: When God Seems Far Away

Or maybe you are deeply thinking of something else that concerns your family; your job or you’re already planning in advance what you can do tomorrow to make things less tiring and stressful. But then again, maybe it is because God wraps Himself in a pillar of cloud.

When we are trying to pray but it seems our hearts and minds are lost in a fog, we are to move through it by faith. Regardless of how we feel at the moment, we need to make a firm decision to trust that God is present though hidden. When we do, we will be at peace with the dark cloud and then God’s light is revealed.


*Recommended Resource:

Finding Jesus in the Exodus: Christ in Israel’s Journey from Slavery to the Promised Land
By Nicholas Perrin

If you want to understand who Christ is, you have to begin by understanding what Jesus meant when He said in Luke 24:27, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”

In Finding Jesus in the Exodus, biblical scholar Nicholas Perrin shows that the Bible’s story of the Exodus from beginning to end is filled with prophetic foretellings of the person and work of Christ:

  • Moses as a great deliver and prophet
  • The voice in the burning bush
  • The Passover Lamb of God
  • The unleavened bread
  • The rock and pillar of cloud
  • The red sea crossing
  • The manna from heaven

You will see all of these and more as examples of Christ in the story of the Exodus.

Your Bethel Moment With God

Your Bethel Moment With God

Do you still remember your Bethel moment or first encounter with God? Do you know that God enjoyed that moment as much as you did? Our Bible Reflection and Challenge today has its entire context in Genesis chapters 34 and 35.

Bible Verse: Genesis 35:1

Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.”

Reflection and Challenge

In Genesis 34, Jacob’s daughter Dinah was violated by a young man from a nearby city. As soon as Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, learned of it, they staged a fierce and bloody counter-attack. Strangely enough, God is silent through this whole ordeal. There was no indication of His approval or disapproval.

But as we enter the 35th chapter, after the heartache and crimes had passed, God spoke to Jacob. God called him from the scene of tragedy to revisit the sacred site where they had first met – Bethel. Do you notice how God seems to be as present in chapter 35 as He seems to be absent in chapter 34?

It is worth noting that more than 20 years earlier, Jacob had given Bethel its name, “House of God.” It is in that place where he experienced his first encounter with Yahweh and was awakened to a vivid awareness of His presence (Genesis 28:16-17).


The Encounter [Streaming Video Purchase]
By David A.R. White

Stranded in the middle of nowhere, five strangers take refuge in a deserted roadside diner. An arrogant businessman, a lonely woman, an estranged couple, and a teen runaway, they appear to have nothing in common. But the Christlike proprietor seems strangely all-knowing and offers more than temporal nourishment.

The Encounter 2: Paradise Lost [Streaming Video Purchase]

The follow-up to the Pure Flix hit movie, “The Encounter” increases the intensity and action as a group of damaged individuals face the life-changing decision of accepting Christ – invited by a man claiming to be Jesus Christ himself.

A retiring drug smuggler, his drug-addicted wife and his ruthless bodyguard find themselves trapped by a suspended DEA Special Agent at a Thai resort owned by a troubled former Wall Street investment banker and his wife, who mourn the loss of their only son in a devastating tsunami.

It is an explosive mix of personalities. Violence looms, but a mysterious guest, claiming to be Jesus Christ, arrives to offer each of them one final chance at redemption in this inspiring, thought-provoking thriller.

Special Features:

  • Making of Paradise Lost
  • Commentary with David A.R. White and Bruce Marchiano
  • English and Spanish Subtitles

When God spoke to Jacob again, after many years of trying to outmaneuver his father-in-law, He identified Himself as “the God of Bethel” (Genesis 31:13). Now God is calling Jacob back to the place of encounter. Why? What’s with Bethel that God is choosing it over any other location to be His meeting place with Jacob?

Indeed, God’s choices in these matters are as mysterious as His decision to allow events to run their course or intervene. But no matter what we think and believe, God’s sovereignty is evident. This means that God will always accomplish His purpose for He said, “My counsel shall stand” (Isaiah 46:10 ESV).

Can you recall a Bethel moment with God? Life-changing encounters with Him? And does it surprise you to learn that God enjoyed the closeness you shared as much as you enjoyed it? Perhaps you would do well to revisit that place because God uses these special encounters to reveal Himself to your true self, redeemed and remade in Him.

Please do share your Bethel moment with God in the comment section below.

The Effective Prayer Life

The Effective Prayer Life

A healthy prayer life is one of the best indicators of a healthy spiritual life because it is through prayer that a Christian develops a closer, more intimate relationship with God. It is also said that a Christian who spends a considerable amount of time with God in prayer is more likely to experience God’s blessings in all areas of his life.

Admittedly, many Christians are finding it hard to develop a prayer life that does not only keep them in constant communication with God but also one that is effective and powerful. Having an effective prayer life is one of the keys to living victoriously as followers of Christ here on earth while waiting for His return.

Developing An Effective Prayer Life

So what kind of prayer is considered effective and how do we develop it? We read how God’s people in the Old Testament have succeeded in accomplishing their God-given missions because they always consulted God first: Abraham, Noah, Joshua, David, Daniel and his friends, etc.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul repeatedly exhorted the church to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and encouraged them to pray for one another (James 5:16; 1 Timothy 2:1; Ephesians 6:18). And in Colossians 4:2-4 (NLT), Paul succinctly gives us a great lesson in effective praying:

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.”

A. First, our praying must be FAITHFUL

“Devote yourselves to prayer” means, “Be steadfast in your prayer life; be committed, persistent and don’t quit.” This is the way the early church prayed (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:46). Sadly, too many of us pray only occasionally – when we feel like it or when there’s a crisis. But God commands us to “pray continually” (Thessalonians 5:17). It’s because Jesus knew that there will be times when we would feel fainthearted.

We live in a broken world that is ruled by Satan and as followers of Christ; we are constantly engaged in a spiritual battle that can only be won on our knees through prayer. As the battles loom, it will be easy for us to lose heart because our eyes tend to focus on the circumstances.

Let us remember that defeat is never an option for us. But the only way to emerge victoriously is by being committed to praying strenuously and remaining faithful. This does not mean that we should walk around muttering prayers under our breath. Rather, it means we are to be in an ongoing dialogue and constant fellowship with God so that prayer is as normal to us as breathing.


*Get the movie, War Room here:

War Room, Exclusive Collector’s Edition DVD

Tony and Elizabeth have it all – good jobs, a beautiful daughter, and their dream home. But their marriage is crumbling, and Tony is flirting with temptation. When Elizabeth meets her new client, Miss Clara, shes challenged to establish a “war room” and a battle plan for prayer. What will happen if she steps out in faith? 


B. Our praying must also be ALERT.

To be alert when we pray means we must be watchful. The concept “watch and pray!” is often used in the Bible and it had its beginning in Bible history when Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:9). This carries the idea of staying awake or standing guard to make sure a location is safe. Just like the guard at the city gate, prayer demands attention.

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” – Matthew 26_41

Jesus also used the phrase in the Garden of Gethsemane in Mark 14:38 and Paul in Ephesians 6:18. When Paul exhorts the church to be alert, he’s basically telling them to stay awake while they pray, be mentally alert and spiritually sensitive to the needs for which they pray. There are times when we struggle to stay awake when we pray because our mind and body are tired. At other times we pray as if we are asleep and our prayers sound and feel tired and sleepy.

We are to be alert, vigilant and watchful when we pray because at times we are easily distracted by this world that we tend to take our eyes off Jesus and His soon return. We’re foreigners on this earth just passing through and need to be ready at any time to stand before God and give an account of our lives to Him.

C. Our praying should also be THANKFUL.

Thanksgiving is an important ingredient in successful praying (Philippians 4:6). If all we do is ask, and never thank God for His blessings and gifts, we are selfish. That is why in the ACTS formula of prayer that has been taught to children and new believers for many years; “T” which stands for Thanksgiving is included.

Thanksgiving focuses on what God has done, is doing and will be doing. There are so many things we need to thank God for, including His love, salvation, provision, and protection. We need to give God thanks for everything because sincere gratitude to God is one of the best ways to put fervor into our praying.

D. Finally, our praying ought to be PURPOSEFUL.

Too often our prayers are vague and general. We ask God “to bless our pastors, church leaders, missionaries.” We ask God “to bless our family and loved ones.” How much better it would be if we would pray for specific needs. By doing so, we would know when God answered and we could praise Him for it.

*Related Article: The Importance of Praying for Others

When Paul asked the church at Colossae to pray for him and his associates, he asked for two specific needs: 1) that God would grant them opportunities both inside and outside of prison to preach the gospel and 2) they would preach the truth with courage and clarity.

When Jesus prayed at Gethsemane the night before His arrest, He specifically asked the Father if it is possible for the cup to be taken from Him (Matthew 26:39-42). When God appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked him what he wanted, he asked specifically for wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-14).

Many times our prayers are ineffective because they are too general. We need to step forward in our relationship with God and start praying for specific needs. If we have known the Lord for many years, we need to stop praying childlike prayers and grow in our prayer life by being specific when presenting our requests to God.

Closing Thoughts

Effective prayer is a prayer we know God hears that’s why it is important we all learn how to pray effectively. Developing an effective prayer life may sound like a challenge to some but if we would all just apply these principles taught by the apostle Paul, we can have a prayer life that will change our lives and the way we approach God

When we pray without ceasing with a grateful heart while staying alert and be specific in our requests and petitions, we will be able to tap into the presence of God which in effect will release His power, anointing, and blessings.


*Recommended Resource:

The Daniel Prayer: Prayer that Moves Heaven and Changes Nations
By Anne Graham Lotz

Join Anne Graham Lotz in a Thrilling Discovery of Prayer that Really Works. The Daniel Prayer is born deep within your soul, erupts through your heart, and pours out on your lips, words created by and infused with the Spirit of God. It’s really not an everyday type of prayer. It’s a prayer birthed under pressure. Heartache. Grief. Desperation. This book will help you pray effectively for your nation, for your families, and for yourself.

Nicodemus Transformed By Jesus

Nicodemus Transformed By Jesus

Do you know how many people have been brought to the point of faith in Christ as a result of reading the account of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:1-15? Countless! Transformed by Jesus whom he met in the shadow, Nicodemus has been instrumental in bringing countless others to the light.

Who was Nicodemus?

Nicodemus meets with JesusNicodemus was a Pharisee (John 3:1), which means he lived by the strictest possible religious rules. The Pharisees were a group of influential religious Jews who were extremely fastidious about keeping the written Law, every ritual and every little minute kind of tradition that had developed.

In the gospels, the Pharisees are often presented as hypocritical who often opposed Jesus throughout His ministry. They tell people to do things that they don’t do and they put burdens on people on legalism.

But not all of them were hypocrites (as one may infer from Jesus’ comments in Matthew 23), and evidence indicates that Nicodemus was deeply sincere in his quest for truth. And He came to Jesus because he rightly considered Him “a teacher who has come from God” (John 3:2).

The Bible also tells us that Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin (John 3:1; John 7:50-51), which was the highest legal, legislative and judicial body of the Jews. Under the rule of the Romans in the time of Christ, the Jews were allowed a measure of self-rule and the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem was the final court of appeals for matters that have to do with Jewish law and religion. It is this Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem that Nicodemus was a part of.

The Meet Up

John 3:2 says Nicodemus came to speak with Jesus at night. Why at night? Many speculated that Nicodemus was afraid or ashamed to visit Jesus in broad daylight, so he went to see Him at night. It could also be that he came to Jesus by night because he wanted to have a quiet uninterrupted conversation with the new Teacher “that God has sent.”

Apparently, Nicodemus knew there was something special about Jesus and he wanted to know more. Nicodemus probably thought long and hard about what to say to Jesus. Then he started the conversation by calling Jesus “Rabbi,” which is the Jewish word for Teacher.

We can see that Nicodemus has great respect for Jesus because he calls Him “Rabbi,” a title which no doubt is the same title many used to address him, for he was a teacher of the law as well. He further refers to Jesus as a “teacher come from God.”

How did Jesus respond? He ignored Nicodemus’ greeting and spoke directly to his deepest need, which is to enter the kingdom of God. The Bible tells us that Jesus knows the hearts of men (John 2:24-25; Matthew 9:4; Matthew 12:25) so He knew exactly why Nicodemus had come.

Nicodemus needed help; he knew that he had no assurance of getting into heaven even though he has done everything he knew necessary. He has kept every rabbinic traditional law and biblical law he knew to keep. And that is why he has climbed the ladder to the top and became a highly respected teacher of the Old Testament Scriptures.

You must be born again

In essence, he was asking Jesus, “What do I do? What more do I need to do? What things do I need to delete in my life? What am I doing that I need to stop doing? What I am I not doing that I need to do?”And Jesus said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

To many Jews, to be born a Jew was to be born into the kingdom of God. Can you imagine how shocked Nicodemus was when Jesus tells him that his natural birth as a Jew will not save him and that he must be born again?

Jesus is saying, “Nothing you’ve ever done makes any contribution. Everything you are needs to be dead because everything you have done and accomplished is not enough to get you into the kingdom of God. You can’t get to God’s kingdom unless you’re born from above.”

Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus meant by this so he asked, “How can I be born when I am old? I can’t possibly go back inside my mother and be born a second time” (John 3:4 paraphrased).

*Note: The original words used for “born again” can be stated “born from above” (Strong’s concordance).

And Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again” (John 3:5-7).

The Need for Spiritual Rebirth

In His statement, Jesus made it clear that He wasn’t talking about a physical birth, like a baby being born. Rather, He was speaking of a spiritual rebirth – getting a new life from God. To be born again is to have another birth that comes like your first birth, from above. You have to be created by God, again, spiritually.

His entire life, Nicodemus had been trained to believe that he could earn God’s approval by following a list of rules and so it was difficult for him to understand that this new life was given by God. Here’s a man, “the teacher of Israel” (John 3:10), who thinks he has reserved seats on the 50-yard line of heaven and Jesus tells him that he is not getting into heaven without being regenerated.

*Related Article: Is Born Again a New Religion?

In John 3:5-7, Jesus was not teaching that the new birth comes through water baptism as some may interpret it. In the New Testament, baptism is connected with death, not birth, and no amount of physical water can effect a spiritual change in a person.

The emphasis is on believing (John 3:10-21) because salvation comes through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The evidence of salvation is the witness of the Spirit within (Romans 8:9), and the Spirit enters the life of a person the moment he or she believes.

To be born from above is to be born of God. To be born of God is to be born by the work of His Spirit. Jesus now describes the sovereign saving work of God through His Spirit by using the analogy of the wind (John 3:8). One of the symbols of the Spirit of God in the Bible is the wind or breath (John 20:22; Job 33:4; Acts 2:2).

What does it mean to be born again

Like the wind, the Spirit is invisible but powerful, and you cannot explain or predict its movements. Neither can the wind be controlled. That is the supernatural work of the Spirit in regenerating a person. No one, by his owns works, or manipulation or striving can direct the Spirit in His work.

But when the Spirit brings about the new birth, the effects are evident and we know that it is God’s Spirit at work, unseen and beyond man’s control. This goes to say that neither Nicodemus nor anyone else can save themselves, or anyone else for that matter. Salvation is the sovereign work of God alone, through the Holy Spirit.

Nicodemus must have been so dumb-struck by what Jesus just told him that he cannot conceive nor fathom how Jesus’ words could be true. So he asks in John 3:9, “How can these things be?” And Jesus gives him a gentle rebuke, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not know these things” (John 3:10)?

And Jesus went on to explain to Nicodemus the best news ever told. Nicodemus could be free from all of the rules that he followed. He could be given new life by the Creator of heaven and earth and of everything if only he would place his trust in God’s Son who was standing right in front of him.

The Transformation

As a religious leader among the Jews, Nicodemus came to Jesus representing “we” (John 3:2) but Jesus immediately treated him as “you” (John 3:3). Nicodemus wanted to learn more about Jesus, but he ended up learning more about himself. He came looking for information and Jesus offered him transformation.

After the encounter, Nicodemus must have become a follower of Jesus for we read of his participation in two other memorable moments in Jesus’ life: when he spoke up in defense of Jesus’ innocence in the high council (John 7:45-53) and when he joined Joseph of Arimathea to retrieve Jesus’ body, prepare it for burial, and place it in the tomb (John 19:38-42).

Closing Thoughts

Being religious is not the same as being a Christian. Are you a Christian, or are you just religious? There is a great difference between those who are religious and those who are reborn from above. Many people today could be religious like Nicodemus but our Lord’s words make it clear that we all need to be born again.

Though all human beings have experienced natural birth on earth, if they expect to go to heaven, they must experience a supernatural birth from above. We come to Jesus from many different places and with many different purposes, but wherever and whoever we might be, Jesus lovingly says to each of us, “You must be born again.”

Have you been born from above? Have you accepted Jesus’ offer of a new birth and transformation?


*Recommended Resource: 

The Case for Grace: A Journalist Explores the Evidence of Transformed Lives, Hardcover
By Lee Strobel

In The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel uses his journalistic skill to tell true stories of lives transformed by the grace of God, including his own.

Discover the “how” and “why” behind God’s redeeming love! Traveling 16,470 miles to uncover powerful personal stories from across the world, Strobel offers the experiences of orphans, addicts, wayward children, prisoners, and murderers as examples of God’s amazing grace. Each interview reveals a different aspect of the Lord’s forgiveness –and its transforming power in lives and relationships. 

Why Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

Why Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

Do you notice how the ambiance or mood changes whenever the “BER” months start? As early as September 1st when radio stations begin playing our favorite Christmas songs, we all get very excited knowing that Christmas is just around the corner. But what is the true meaning of Christmas and why should Christians celebrate it?

While many Christians today celebrate Christmas, there are others who don’t because they claim that Jesus Christ wasn’t really born on Christmas day which falls on the 25th of December. And they are right.

As I said in my article, Jesus: The Reason for the Christmas Season, historians and Bible scholars have found no solid, documented evidence that Jesus was born on December 25th. But based on Luke 2:8 and other indicators such as the birth of John the Baptist, they place the birth of Christ in the late summer or early autumn (that is September).

A Powerful Story

Before going any further, I would like to share a story that was told by Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias in one of his Christmas sermons. It’s about a shepherd from New Zealand who woke up one morning and finding himself in a dilemma.

This shepherd had two mother sheep that were ready to give birth to their lambs. But each in its own way ended up with a misfortune. One of them had just given birth to its little lamb but shortly thereafter, the mother had contracted various problems and died, leaving this lamb without a mother to take care of it.

Then shortly thereafter, the other mother sheep gave birth to its own little lamb and rather than her developing complications, the little lamb ended up with problems and lost its life.

So all of a sudden the shepherd looked at that situation which he found himself. On the one hand, he had a kind of a “motherless” lamb. On the other hand, he had a “lambless” mother. The solution looked rather obvious, didn’t it? All the shepherd needed to do was to get this little lamb over to that mother, have it nursed this little one and give it strength and life.

But it’s not as simple as that, because every time he made an attempt to bring this little lamb over to that mother to be fed, the mother, smelling a different aroma on the body of this lamb sensing it wasn’t its own, would turn away and back off from it.

The shepherd came up with a genius plan. He went and found the dead body of the actual little lamb, took the skin off its body, formed a little coat and put it on this one that was still alive. And then he carried this little lamb over to this mother to be nursed. The mother was ready to back off, sensing it was not its own. But suddenly it smelled a different aroma, one that was familiar to it and began to nurse this little one.

Mother sheep feeding little lamb

Meaning of the Story

This story is a powerful little illustration but really points beyond itself to the predicament to which we find ourselves as human beings in a sense of alienation from God. Because of sin, man who used to have an intimate relationship with his Creator was alienated from God (Isaiah 59:2).

Without God, man’s destiny is hell. We can read this in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. But God who is love does not want anyone to perish (1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). So what did He do? He sent His only begotten Son to take upon Himself the penalty for our sins, to die on the cross so that everyone who believes will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

*Related Article: What does John 3:16 Teach about Salvation?

God is love but He is also holy and just. He will not just let sin slide and let man get away with it. God made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might bec0me the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

In theology this is called the “Doctrine of Justification.” Not only is Christ’s righteousness imputed to us through faith, but our sin is imputed to Christ. That is how Christ paid for our sin debt to God. By having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, we can be seen as sinless, as Jesus is sinless.

In the same way that the little lamb was eventually cared for, love and nurtured by the mother lamb because it smelled the aroma of its own little lamb that died, we too can come to the Father. Because when God looks at us, He does not see us for who and what we are – sinful and unclean. Instead, He sees the holiness, perfection, and righteousness of Christ.

The True Meaning of Christmas

What then is Christmas all about?

A. Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Man sinned by deliberately disobeying God and so he deserves to be separated from God for all eternity. But because God is forgiving and merciful He made a way for man’s relationship with him to be restored. How? Through Christ!

We are forgiven because Jesus took upon Himself the penalty for our sins on the cross. Jesus gave His life; He shed His blood because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22 NIV). God did not only forgive us our sins, but He also reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). It’s important to emphasize that God initiated the reconciliation, not man.

Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness

This is what Christmas is all about. Jesus came so that our sins would be forgiven and be reconciled with God. What then should our response be? We must separate ourselves from the world. This is what it means to be holy (1 Peter 1:16). We are to share the love of God and the good news of salvation to everyone but we are not to conform to the patterns of this world (Romans 12:2).

B. Love which is demonstrated by Giving

You know what they say, “You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving.” God proved this to be true when He sent His Son to die on the cross, even when we were still in our sins so that everyone who believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (Romans 5:8; John 3:16). God gave first and He gave us the best gift; a gift that we did not deserve.

Isaiah 9:6 says, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given …” We have to understand that Jesus as man has been born but as God, He existed eternally with the Father. And again, this verse tells us that God gave us Jesus Christ His Son, not because we asked Him to but because He knew exactly what we needed.

For God so loved the word - John 3:16

When Christmas comes, are you more focused on what you want to receive or on what you can give to God and your loved ones? There’s nothing wrong with exchanging gifts as part of the Christmas celebration. However, let us not forget that the true meaning of Christmas is love which is demonstrated in our giving. We should aim to be the giver, not the recipient.

C. Life (Physical, Spiritual & Eternal)

Can man live without God? Someone once said, “God without man is still God, but man without God is nothing.” And while we do not find this exact phrase in the Bible, this truth is explicitly stated in many places in Scriptures such as John 15:5, John 1:3 and Jeremiah 10:23 among others.

We are also familiar with the acronym CHRISTIAN which means without CHRIST in my life I Am Nothing (I-A-N). What about those who continuously reject Christ, are they dead? Yes! They may be physically alive but they are spiritually dead and do not have eternal life.

For the wages of sin is death - Romans 6:23

We are all spiritually dead because of sin but the moment we receive God’s offer of salvation, our spirit gets regenerated or born again and we will receive eternal life. Romans 6:23 says, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Without God, we would have no life at all. There is no reality outside of Christ; no logic, no reason, and purpose for anything. But all these have changed because Christ came on that first Christmas eve.

D. Hope

It’s because of Christmas that we have hope. And unlike ordinary hope, the hope that we have in Christ does not disappoint (Romans 5:5). Why? Because biblical hope – the hope that is found in Christ – is a confident expectation of what God has promised and there is moral certainty in it because it is rooted in the faithfulness of God.

What is biblical hope

When God promises something, He is sure to fulfill it. God remains faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to Him because He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). The Bible says that faithfulness is part of God’s nature. Being faithful isn’t just part of what He does; it’s part of who He is.

Conclusion

So why should Christians celebrate Christmas? We celebrate this season for one reason and one reason only – Jesus Christ. We celebrate Christmas because a Savior has been born to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21).

Christmas is all about God coming in human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life of obedience to the Father, set an example for us to follow, to suffer and die on the cross for our sins and to rise again to conquer death and hell, in order to set us free from the power of sin and death and to rescue and deliver us from the wrath of God and the judgment that is to be poured out upon all flesh on the earth in a future event known as the “Great Tribulation.”

If that is not enough reason to celebrate the Christmas season, I don’t know what is. What about you, do you celebrate Christmas? Why or why not?

How Fertile Is My Heart?

How Fertile Is My Heart?

Jesus’ parable in Luke 8:4-15 called the parable of the sower is about the receptivity of the human heart. Matthew called this “the parable about the farmer planting seeds” (Matthew 13:18 NLT), but it could also be called the parable of the types of soil.”

The human heart is like the soil in this parable: If it is prepared properly, it becomes fertile and can receive the seed of the Word of God and produce a fruitful harvest. Now, the question you may want to ask yourself is: “How fertile is my heart?”

Hearing Means Listening

Notice how the word “hear” is used several times in Luke 8:11-15. It means much more than simply listening to the words. “Hearing” means listening with spiritual understanding and receptivity. It is a serious thing to hear and understand the Word of God because this puts on us the obligation to share that Word with others.

Everyone who receives the seed then becomes a sower, a light bearer, and a transmitter of God’s truth (1 Thessalonians 1:5-8). If we keep it to ourselves, we will love it, but if we will share it, we will receive more.

4 Different Kinds of Hearts

In the parable, Jesus described 4 different kinds of hearts, 3 of which did not produce any fruit. Let us not forget that the proof of salvation is fruit and not merely hearing the Word or making a profession of faith in Christ. Jesus had made that very clear in His “Sermon on the Mount” in Luke 6:43-45. (See also Matthew 7:15-20.)

A. The hard soil – Luke 8:5, 12

This soil represents the person who hears the Word but immediately allows the devil to snatch the seed away. How did the heart become hard? The “footpath” or “wayside” was the path that ran through the common field, separating the plots, and the foot traffic hardened the soil.

“Whatever goes into the ear or eye finally enters the heart, so be careful who you allow walking on your heart.”

B. The shallow (rocky) soil – Luke 8:6, 13

This soil illustrates the emotional hearer who quickly responds to the message, but his interest wanes and he does not continue (see John 8:31-32). In many parts of the Holy Land, you find a substratum of limestone covered with a thin layer of soil. The shoot can grow up, but the roots cannot go down, and the sun withers the rootless plant.

*Read here: The Christian’s Response to Trials

The sun represents the testing that comes to all professing believers to prove their faith. Sun is good for plants if they have roots. Persecution can deepen the roots of a true Christian, but it only exposes the shallowness of the false Christian.

C. The crowded (thorny) soil – Luke 8:7, 14

This soil illustrates the person who does not repent and “weed out” the things that hinder the harvest. There is enough soil so the roots can go down, but not enough room for the plant to grow up and produce fruit. The plant is crowded out and the fruit is choked.

“Cares, riches, and the pleasures of this life” are like weeds in a garden that keep the soil from being fruitful. The person with a “crowded heart” comes closest to salvation, but he still does not bring forth “fruit to perfection.”

D. The good (fertile) soil – Luke 8:8, 15

This soil alone is fruitful. It illustrates the individual who hears the Word, understands it, receives it within, is truly saved, and proves it by patiently producing fruit (see 1 Thessalonians 2:13 & 1 Peter 1:22-25).

*Not everybody produces the same amount of fruit (Matthew 13:8), but all true believers will produce some fruit as evidence of spiritual life. That fruit may include winning others to Christ (Romans 1:13), money given to God’s work (Romans 15:25-28), good works (Colossians 1:10, Christian character (Galatians 5:22-23), and praise to the Lord (Hebrews 13:15).

Closing Thoughts

Why compare God’s word to seed? Because the Word is “alive and powerful” (Hebrews 4:1). Unlike human words, the Word of God has life in it, and that life will be imparted to those who will believe.

When you consider how much teaching, preaching, and witnessing goes on in the course of a month or a year, you wonder why there is such a small harvest. The fault does not lie with the sower or the seed. The problem is with the soil – the human heart.

In order for the truth of God to take root in the heart, be cultivated, and be permitted to bear fruit, the heart must, first of all, be fertile. Sadly, many human hearts will not submit to God, repent and receive the word and be saved.

To which category does your heart belong? Hard, shallow, crowded or good? And if you say your heart is good or fertile, how fertile is it?


*Create your own Christian website for free like I did and share the love of God to the world, His goodness and faithfulness in your life. My recommended training platform will show you how to do that step by step.

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Important Biblical Principles On Giving

Important Biblical Principles On Giving

In chapter 16 of 1 Corinthians, we read that one of the most important ministries the apostle Paul had during his third journey was the gathering of a special “relief offering” for the poor believers in Jerusalem.

While this special offering was not the same as our Lord’s Day collection, it does give several important biblical principles on giving for believers today.

Giving is an Act of Worship

I believe it’s tragic when church members give only as a duty and forget that our offerings are to be spiritual “sacrifices” presented to the Lord (Philippians 4:18). Giving should be an act of worship to the resurrected and ascended Savior.

It’s interesting that Paul mentioned the offering just after his discussion about the resurrection. In the original manuscripts there were no chapter breaks, so the readers would go right from Paul’s hymn of victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-56) into his discussion about money.

Doctrine and duty go together, so do worship and works. Our giving is not in vain because our Lord is alive. It is His resurrection power that motivates us to give and to serve.

Giving Should be Systematic

Some Bible students suggested that many people were paid on the first day of the week during that time in history. But even if they were not, each believer was to set aside his offering at home and then bring it to the assembly on the first day. Paul did not want to have to take up a number of collections when he arrived in Corinth. He wanted the whole contribution to be ready (1 Corinthians 16:2).

If today’s church members were as systematic in their giving as they are in handling their other financial matters, the work of the Lord would not suffer as it sometimes does.

*Related Article: Biblical Principles of Tithing

Do you know that members of the Yoido Full Gospel Church, the largest Pentecostal Christian congregation in South Korea founded by Pastor David Yonggi Cho, would go to the bank days before worship day to exchange their old paper bills with new ones for their tithes and offering? And if they have no time to go to the bank they would iron them flat, making them crisp and looking new.

Preparing our tithes and offerings at home is a good practice to adapt. The word of God says, “Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give …” (2 Corinthians 9:7). What better way to decide how much we should give than seeking God at home before going to church.

Giving is Personal and Individual

Paul expected each member to share in the offering, the rich and the poor alike. Anyone who had an income was privileged to share and to help those in need. He wanted all to share in the blessing.

Do not wait to get rich before you start giving to the Church. As someone once said, “Little can become a lot in the hands of Jesus.” Do you want God’s blessings? Be a blessing!

Giving is to be Proportionate

“A portion of the money you have earned” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NLT) suggests that believers who have more should give more. The Jewish believers in the church would have been accustomed to the tithe, but Paul did not mention any special proportion.

Certainly, the tithe (10% of one’s income) is a good idea to begin our stewardship, but we must not remain in that level. As the Lord gives us more, we should plan to give more.

Honor the Lord with your wealth - Proverbs 3:9-10

You must be familiar with the quote that says, “When God blesses you financially, don’t raise your standard of living, raise your standard of giving.” But when Brother Jess Cortez (a guest author of this website) exhorted tithes and love offering at Church, he said that God’s principle is actually the complete opposite of this.

Based on Proverbs 3:9-10, the sequence is: 1) Do not raise your standard of living, 2) raise your standard of giving, 3) and then God will bless you to overflowing.

Final Thoughts

Christian giving is a grace, the outflow of the grace of God in our lives and not the result of promotion or pressure. An open heart cannot maintain a closed hand. If we appreciate the grace of God extended to us, we will want to express that grace by sharing with others.


*Create your own Christian website for free like I did and share the love of God to the world, His goodness and faithfulness in your life. My recommended training platform will show you how to do that step by step.

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