Category: Christian Living

Recognizing a True Church

Recognizing a True Church

There are true and false churches. How do we recognize a true church? But what makes a church true or false? Is it possible that a group of people who claim to be Christians does not exhibit the qualities of a true church?

In the early centuries of the Christian church, the idea of a false church is unpopular. There was only one worldwide church, the “visible” church throughout the world, and that was, of course, the true church. This church had bishops and local clergymen and church buildings that everyone could see. Any heretics who were found to be in serious doctrinal error were simply excluded from the church.

What is the church?

The church is the community of all true believers for all time. It is made up of all those who are truly saved. Paul says this in Ephesians 5:25, “… Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

The term “the church” here is applied to all those whom Christ died to redeem, all those who are saved by the death of Christ. They include all true believers for all time, both believers in the New Testament age and believers in the Old Testament age as well.

How to Recognize a True Church
Photo Credits: Religion News Service

Metaphors for the Church

Scripture uses a wide range of metaphors and images to describe to us what the church is like. In several passages, Paul views the church as a family (1 Timothy 5:1-2; Ephesians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 6:18). We are therefore brothers and sisters with each other in God’s family (Matthew 12:49-50; 1 John 3:14-18).

A somewhat different family metaphor is seen when Paul refers to the church as the bride of Christ. He says that the relationship between a husband and wife “refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). He goes further to say that it resembles an engagement between a bride and her husband-to-be (2 Corinthians 11:2).

The Bible uses other metaphors for the church such as:

  • Branches on a vine (John 15:5)
  • A building (1 Corinthians 3:9)
  • A field of crops (1 Corinthians 3:6-9)
  • An olive tree (Romans 11:17-24
  • A harvest (Matthew 13:1-30; John 4:35)

The church is also viewed as a new temple not built with literal stones but built with Christian people who are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) built upon the “cornerstone” who is Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:4–8).

We are also viewed as God’s house (Hebrews 3:6), with Jesus Christ Himself viewed as the “builder” of the house (Hebrews 3:3). The church is also viewed as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Finally, the church is viewed as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

Each of the metaphors used for the church can help us to appreciate more of the richness of privilege that God has given us by incorporating us into the church.

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The Marks of a True Church

At the Reformation, a crucial question came up: How can we recognize a true church? Is the Roman Catholic Church a true church or not? To answer that question, people had to decide what were the “marks” of a true church. What are the distinguishing characteristics that lead us to recognize it as a true church?

The Bible does speak of false churches. Paul says of the pagan temples in Corinth, “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God” (1 Corinthians 10:20). He tells the Corinthians, “You were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols” (1 Corinthians 12:2).

These pagan temples were certainly false churches or false religious assemblies.

What constitutes a true church?

1. The Word of God is Rightly Taught

In large measure, there was an agreement between Luther and Calvin on the question of what constituted a true church.

In the Lutheran statement of faith, they defined the church as “the congregation of saints in which the gospel is rightly taught.” Similarly, John Calvin said, “Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists.”

It seems appropriate that we take Luther and Calvin’s view on the marks of a true church as correct still today. Certainly, if the Word of God is not being preached, but simply false doctrines or doctrines of men, then there is no true church.

Preach the Word

2. The Right Administration of the Sacraments

This was probably stated in opposition to the Roman Catholic view that saving grace came through the sacraments. Thus, the sacraments were made “works” by which we earned merit for salvation. In this way, the Roman Catholic Church was insisting on payment rather than teaching faith as the means of obtaining salvation.

There are two ordinances of the church: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. An organization that practices baptism and the Lord’s Supper is a continuing organization and is attempting to function as a church. But it is not merely about instituting these sacraments; it’s more about administering them the “right way.”

Groups who do not administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper signify that they are not intending to function as a church.

True and False Churches Today

People often ask, “Is the Roman Catholic today a true church?”

We cannot simply decide for the Roman Catholic Church as a whole because it is far too diverse. Some Roman Catholic parishes certainly lack both marks. And some view participation in the sacraments as a “work” that can earn merit with God. Such groups of people are not the true Christian church.

On the other hand, there are many Roman Catholic parishes in various parts of the world today where the local priest has a genuine saving knowledge of Christ. They also have a vital personal relationship with Christ in prayer and Bible study.

JW's and Mormons: Are they False Churches?

What about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

We might have difficulty determining just how much wrong doctrines can be tolerated before a church can no longer be considered a true church. But there are many clear cases where we can say that a true church does not exist.

The Mormon church does not hold to any major Christian doctrines concerning salvation or the person of God or the person and work of Christ. Clearly, it is a false church.

Similarly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach salvation by works, not by trusting in Jesus Christ alone. This is a fundamental doctrinal deviation because if people believe the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they simply will not be saved. So the Jehovah’s Witnesses also must be considered a false church.

Bottom Line

When the preaching of a church conceals the gospel message of salvation by faith alone from its members so that the gospel message is not proclaimed, the group meeting there is not a church. When a group does not administer baptism and the Lord’s supper the right way, they are not a true church.

We can distinguish between a true and false church by using the Word of God. A true church has Christ not only as its foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11) but also the cornerstone of that foundation (1 Peter 2:7). One last thing, the true church governs itself by the authority of the Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Are you in a true church?


Reference Material: Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

Recommended Resource: Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem and Jeff Purswell.

Bible Doctrine takes a highly commended upper-level textbook on systematic theology and makes it accessible to the average reader. Abridged from Wayne Grudem’s award-winning Systematic Theology, Bible Doctrine covers the same essentials of the faith, giving you a firm grasp on seven key topics:

  • The Doctrine of the Word of God
  • The Doctrine of God
  • The Doctrine of Man
  • The Doctrine of Christ
  • The Doctrine of the Application of Redemption
  • The Doctrine of the Church
  • The Doctrine of the Future

Like Systematic Theology, this book is marked by its clarity, its strong scriptural emphasis, its thoroughness in scope and detail, and its treatment of such timely topics as spiritual warfare and the gifts of the Spirit.

But you don’t need to have had several years of Bible school to reap the full benefits of Bible Doctrine. It’s easy to understand–and it’s packed with solid, biblical answers to your most important questions.

Life Lessons from Jonah

Life Lessons from Jonah

Each of the chapters in the book of Jonah records a significant lesson the prophet had to learn. These parallel in many ways the life lessons God consistently and patiently tries to teach each of us along the way.

Overview of the Book of Jonah

Most people are familiar with the story of Jonah that nothing in it surprises them anymore. But what’s the book of Jonah all about?

It’s not simply about a great fish (mentioned only 4 times), or a great city (mentioned 9 times), or even a disobedient prophet (named 23 times).

It’s about God! Do you know that God is mentioned 37 times in these 4 short chapters? And if you eliminate God from the book, the story wouldn’t make sense.

Jonah’s Wrong Attitudes

I’m pretty sure most of us can relate to Jonah. He is one of the characters in the Bible who cause us to sigh and think, “Well, if there’s hope for Jonah, there’s hope for me.”

But then we must understand that the Bible was written for us so that we will not make the same mistakes they made.

You see, in his story, Jonah got into trouble because his attitudes were wrong.

What about our attitudes? Can we honestly say that we have become better people since God recreated us? 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”

Becoming a New Creation

You see, to be a new creation is to be changed. There has to be a change in character, change in viewpoints, change in our motivations, goals, and priorities. This is what we call sanctification, or becoming more and more like Christ.

In this article, I would like us to look at the life of Jonah and use his responses to God and the world around him for self-evaluation. If we find ourselves living out the same worldview as God’s resistant and reluctant prophet, then we are definitely in need of an attitude upgrade.

1. Wrong Attitude toward the Word of God

First of all, Jonah got into trouble because he had the wrong attitude toward the word of God, which is also the Will of God.

When the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, what did he do? He consciously and deliberately disobeyed God.

The Lord asked Jonah to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). But instead of going 550 miles northeast to Nineveh, Jonah attempted to go 2,500 miles west to Tarshish (modern-day Spain).

Jonah’s Deliberately Disobeys God

As we can see, God’s instruction to Jonah was crystal clear. It’s not as if God was speaking in ambiguity or uncertainty. He wasn’t speaking in parables or some figurative speech either. We must understand that God does not tell us one thing and expects us to do another thing.

Yet Jonah decided to disobey God. Now, why is that?

Jonah’s wrong attitude toward God’s word stemmed from a feeling that the Lord was asking him to do something impossible. Alright, what was God asking Jonah to do exactly?

Well, God told Jonah to go to Israel’s enemy, Assyria, and allow them to repent.

The Great City of Nineveh
Photo Credits: Jesus Way 4 You

Note 1: The city of Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and was also a large and prominent city in its day.

Just a quick refresher, when Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the Babylonians conquered Judah and the Assyrians conquered Israel. And the Assyrians were very abusive toward the Jewish people. Just read Nahum chapter 3 to see how wicked they are.

Jonah’s Patriotism Gets in the Way

For Jonah to preach God’s message of repentance to the Assyrians would be like helping Israel’s enemy. It’s like working with the enemy of your country that wants to destroy your people. Anyone who does that today would be considered a traitor and will be tried for treason.

In his patriotic zeal, Jonah put his country before his God. Jonah didn’t want the notoriously cruel Assyrians in Nineveh to escape God’s judgment. He would much rather have seen the city destroyed.

Note 2: We need to understand that there is a divine order that God has put in place with regard to submission to authorities. God is the one who sets up kings and rulers and we are commanded to submit to them.

But when the governing authorities hold to a position that is in clear and direct violation of the Word of God, we must choose to obey God rather than men (the same way Peter and the other disciples and Daniel’s friends did).

God’s Challenging Commands

What are some of the things God commanded us that we find very difficult to do?

1. Love your enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44, NKJV).

To love your enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who hate or abuse us is easier said than done.

2. Forgive those who have hurt or offended you.

This command is incorporated in the Lord’s prayer.

“Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12, NLT).

Take note that this is in the past tense. It means before we even come to God in prayer, we should have already forgiven our offenders.

Forgive your offenders

The Sovereignty of God

When the word of the Lord came to him, Jonah thought he could take it or leave it. That whether he does what God asked him to do or not won’t matter to God. And that God would leave him alone.

As it turned out, that’s not exactly what happened. God used a creative series of counter-measures to accomplish His desired result.

Lesson 1

Jonah learned the lesson of God’s patience. We can run far, but we can’t run away from God.

Jonah attempted to run as far away as possible from God. But before reaching his desired destination, God took a hold of him. We can see in the next events that took place that God was very patient with Jonah (Jonah 1:4-17).

Although God was no longer speaking to Jonah through His Word; He continued speaking to him through His works. God used the sea, wind, storm, and even the huge fish to carry out His plans. Notice that everything in nature obeyed God, except His servant Jonah.

In the beginning, I said that Jonah got into trouble because his attitudes were wrong. But his disobedience to God also brought trouble to a boatload of pagan sailors.

God had called the Jews to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3) but whenever they were out of the will of God, they brought trouble instead of blessings.

Self-Reflection

Are you a blessing to others, especially to those who do not yet have a relationship with God? Do unbelievers see God’s glory in you? As the saying goes, “You may be the only Bible some people read.” The idea behind this phrase is that Christians should live the “Christian life” for everyone to see.

2 Corinthians 5:20 says we are Christ’s ambassadors. Matthew 5:13-16 says we are the salt and light of the world. Are we living our calling and commission?

Going back to Jonah’s story, Jonah found himself inside the belly of a fish and stayed there for 3 days and 3 nights. He then cried out to God for deliverance and the fish vomited him onto dry land.

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Lesson 2

Jonah learned the lesson of God’s pardon. God forgives those who call upon Him. See Romans 10:11, 13.

While inside the belly of a huge fish, Jonah cried out to God for deliverance. And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land (Jonah 2:1-9).

But it didn’t end there. God gave Jonah a second chance. He gave him the same commission – go to Nineveh and preach the message of God’s upcoming judgment. And Jonah eventually obeyed God.

Think about Jonah’s experience. He had to experience getting stuck inside the belly of a huge fish for 3 days and 3 nights before obeying God.

Do we realize that oftentimes we find ourselves in deep trouble because of our wrong attitudes? We always like to blame Satan for our misfortunes and failures because it’s convenient. It takes away the accountability from us.

But if we would just look deep down, we would discover that we are as much to blame. Our blessings are often delayed because of our disobedience. We often get into trouble because of our rebellion.

When God commands us, we must listen and obey. In the ministry that God has entrusted to us, our part is to obey. In our partnership with God in accomplishing His purpose through us, our part is to obey. Disobedience is NOT an option!

God Gives Jonah Second Chance

What was the message that Jonah preached to the great city of Nineveh?

On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4, NLT)!

After hearing Jonah’s message, the people believed God, a fast was proclaimed for everyone from the greatest to the least of them and they put on sackcloth, including their animals. The king of Nineveh also got off his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

“For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Everything they did was a sign of repentance, humility, and surrender. But they did not stop there. They also cried out to God, prayed earnestly, turned from their evil ways, and violence (Jonah 3:5-8).

This is perhaps the greatest revival of all time as the entire city of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and cried out to God.

Lesson 3

Once again, Jonah learned the lesson of God’s pardon and forgiveness to those who call upon Him. But then, he also learned the lesson of God’s power as he saw a whole city humble itself before the Lord.

In the end, the Lord’s will has prevailed and Jonah’s efforts to thwart God’s plans were pointless.

This is a powerful reminder not only to Jonah but to us all of the sovereignty of God in every circumstance.

Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:9-10, ESV).

2. Wrong Attitude toward Circumstances

Jonah also had a wrong attitude toward circumstances; he thought they were working for him when they were really working against him.

Let’s break down what happened here in Jonah 1:1-5.

So, Jonah decided to disobey God and run away from Him. He fled to Joppa and found just the right ship waiting for him (ship heading to Tarshish).

He had enough money to pay the fare for his long trip, and he was even able to go down into the lowest part of the ship and fall into a deep sleep that the storm didn’t awaken him.

Hey, look at that! Everything seems to be working out perfectly for Jonah.

Stephen Prado, Jesus is Alive CMNV Monumento

Clearly, we can be out of the will of God and still have circumstances working on our behalf. We can be rebelling against God and still have a false sense of security that includes a good night’s sleep.

Could it be that it’s the devil who is going out of his way to help us disobey and escape from God? Of course! But most of the time we don’t see it this way. It’s because even when we are out of the will of God, things seem to be going smoothly.

3. Wrong Attitude toward the Gentiles

Instead of wanting to help the Assyrians find the true and living God, Jonah wanted to abandon them in their darkness and spiritual death and he wanted them to perish under God’s mighty hand.

Why do you think Jonah disobeyed God when he was first told to go to Nineveh and announce God’s judgments against it? It’s because he already anticipated what would happen.

Jonah knew that the Assyrians would repent and call out to the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness. And God, being merciful and compassionate, would relent or change His mind about destroying Nineveh. And that was the last thing that Jonah wanted to happen.

He was reluctant to preach God’s message because he didn’t want to give the Assyrians a chance to repent!

Now, think about that for just a moment. Jonah was God’s messenger, a representative of the God of Israel to the Gentiles. But he certainly didn’t act like one. When his one-sentence sermon brought in incredible results, which can be said to be the most responsive evangelistic effort in history, Jonah was displeased.

And when God did not destroy Nineveh, Jonah became angry. Read Jonah 4:1-11.

God’s Love vs. Jonah’s Anger

In the 4th chapter of Jonah, we see God’s love and grace contrasted with Jonah’s anger and lack of compassion. So, God used a plant, a worm, and a wind to teach Jonah a lesson in compassion.

In a humorous but meaningful account, Jonah was forced to see that he had more concern for a plant than for hundreds of thousands of people (120,000). He just didn’t care if the Assyrians perished.

Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city (Jonah 4:10-11, NLT)?

That’s a huge contrast with Abraham who pleaded with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33).

God is compassionate and gracious

Lesson 4

Jonah learned, perhaps the most important lesson of all. Here, he had to learn the lesson of God’s pity, that God has compassion for lost sinners like the Ninevites and His servants must also have compassion.

We may have always thought that God’s desire for the salvation of the Gentiles only came up in the Gospels when the Jews rejected His message.

But the book of Jonah, unlike other Old Testament books, revolves exclusively around a Gentile nation. We see here that God is concerned not only for His covenant people Israel but for the Gentiles as well.

The story of Jonah is one of the clearest demonstrations of God’s love and mercy for all mankind in the entire Scriptures.

How is our attitude towards those who are still in the dark? How do we treat people who do not know the Lord, are hostile to us and are in danger of facing God’s judgment during the Tribulation?

Conclusion

As I said from the start, the book of Jonah is all about God. First, it is about the will of God and how we respond to it. Do you see yourself in Jonah’s shoes? How do you respond to God’s commands? Jesus said this in Luke 6:46.

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?”

To know God’s Word and His will is a privilege. But doing the will of God makes us grow in grace and become more like Christ. We may think it’s hard but God will enable us. We just have to allow God to work in us and He will transform us into His image from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB).

The book of Jonah is also about the love of God and how we share it with others. Incredibly, Jonah brought a whole city to faith in the Lord, yet he didn’t love the people to whom he was preaching. Jonah took God’s repeated pity on his own life for granted while he expected extinction for the sinners in Nineveh.

How often do we expect God to treat us one way while we pray He will treat others according to an entirely different standard? Let us apply Jesus’ words to Jonah’s situation and ours.

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NASB).

In other words, the grace we expect from God, we ought to ask Him to give to others.


Recommended Resource:

The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy by Timothy Keller.

An angry prophet. A feared and loathsome enemy. A devastating storm. And the surprising message of a merciful God to His people.

In The Prodigal Prophet, pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller reveals the hidden depths within the book of Jonah.

Keller makes the case that Jonah was one of the worst prophets in the entire Bible. And yet there are unmistakably clear connections between Jonah, the prodigal son, and Jesus. Jesus in fact saw himself in Jonah.

How could one of the most defiant and disobedient prophets in the Bible be compared to Jesus?

Jonah’s journey also doesn’t end when he is freed from the belly of the fish. There is an entire second half to his story – but it is left unresolved within the text of the Bible. Why does the book of Jonah end on what is essentially a cliffhanger?

In these pages, Timothy Keller provides an answer to the extraordinary conclusion of this biblical parable – and shares the powerful Christian message at the heart of Jonah’s story.

Blessings for Waiting on God

Blessings for Waiting on God

People say that waiting is probably the hardest thing to do. But God promises blessings for those who wait on Him.

Do you know that waiting is a command that is found multiple times in both the Old and New Testaments? Which means there is a blessing (or blessings) that comes with it. God did not give us commands to make life difficult for us or to punish us. On the contrary, God’s commandments were designed to protect and bless us.

The Challenge of Waiting

The game show “Family Feud” is very popular not only in the west but in Asian countries as well. And if we ask one hundred people to name the toughest thing to do, waiting would probably rank at number 1.

My job as a Lab. Tech. Involves performing scientific analyses on blood and other body fluids. This is primarily to aid the requesting physicians in their diagnosis and treatment of patients. So, we collect the sample(s) from the patients and tell them to wait an hour or so for the result.

Why We Should Wait on the Lord

Almost immediately they’d say, “What? That’s too much. I can’t wait that long. I’ve already waited for more than an hour to see the doctor. And now, you’re telling me to wait for another one hour?” To that, I would just wink at them. At times, I would respond, “We will do our best to finish your lab investigations before one hour. Thank you for understanding.”

Our lab receptionist often gets irritated every time patients nag at her about when their results will be ready. This can also be irritating for us because we have to speed up just to keep things calm.

People, in general, hate to wait.

Waiting on the Lord

What does it mean to wait on the Lord? When people in the Old Testament were told to wait on the Lord, most of the time, it meant waiting on God’s providential care. It’s about trusting the Lord to provide for their needs, keep them safe and secure, and work things out for their good.

Check out these two verses:

1. Hosea 12:6 (NIV)

“But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”

2. Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

These are not only commands but encouragements to rely completely on God in regard to their situation.

In the New Testament, waiting on the Lord often refers to Jesus’ second coming. There are a lot of passages that talk about the return of Christ. Let us look at just two of them.

Titus 2:13 (NIV)

“While we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 3:20 (NASB)

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

But in most all biblical instances, waiting on the Lord is expectant trust and hope in God’s movement and activity. It means trusting God to do things in His own timetable.

How do we wait on the Lord?

In my article, “The Power of Waiting on the Lord,” I mentioned the three P’s of waiting:

The Blessings of Waiting on God

The Benefits of Waiting on God

There are several benefits (or blessings) for the Christian who faithfully waits on God. Here are just three of them.

1. Waiting Builds Up Our Relationship with God.

When we do not know what to do about something, we should wait and pray. Prayer should be our first option, not last. Often times we get caught up just doing something that we neglect to hold still, listen, and know that He is God.

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a).

Prayer is two-way communication with God. We don’t just talk, talk, talk, and then walk away without letting God speak. I used to hear one pastor always say, “Communication is relation. No communication means no relation.”

This is true in every relationship. The reason married many couples today end up in divorce is a lack of communication. Both have become so busy with their own careers that they no longer have time to talk with each other. On the other hand, couples who are committed to always find time to talk and bond develop deeper intimacy.

It’s the same thing with our relationship with God. Spending more time talking with and listening to God deepens our relationship with Him. We will get to know God for who He is and learn to trust Him instead of depending on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT).

2. Waiting Allows God’s Perfect Will to be Done.

You may be praying for a better job, a promotion, a life partner, or the salvation of your friends and other family members. Keep seeking the Lord and wait for Him to carry out His perfect will in your life

The reason we end up making the wrong decisions is that we did not seek the Lord. Or perhaps we did. The problem is, we did not wait for His answer. We were in a hurry that we did not just trip. Worst, we ended up falling flat on our faces!

Why? It’s because we got impatient waiting for God’s directions and acted on our impulses. We chose to go with our guts and it turned out, it was a huge mistake. Too late now, huh?

The Benefits of Waiting on God

Patience is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Sadly, many Christians are struggling to let it be manifested in their lives. This fruit of the Holy Spirit, along with the other eight, is given to us the moment we got born again.

But we have to let it rule us, instead of letting the desires of the flesh reign. As the Bible says, the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit (Galatians 5:6-17).

My Will versus God’s

Failing to seek the Lord’s will before making major life decisions such as marriage is almost certain to end up in divorce. This is exactly what happened to my high school best friend, Tess.

Tess is a believer in Jesus and the leader of the dance ministry in our church. Like most single moms, my friend had been praying for a life partner.

While waiting for God’s providence, she focused her time and attention on her ministry in the church. As the leader of the dance ministry, she committed to training future dancers for the Lord.

One day, a fellow church member introduced Tess to her cousin who was at that time working in another country. They then started communicating through their phones. Six months down the road and they officially became a couple. Another six months passed and they decided to meet in person.

They met and the next day the guy proposed. Without taking some time to seek the Lord, Tess said “Yes!” What happened a year later left my friend devastated. It didn’t work out no matter how hard she tried.

Tess’s story is a classic example of “my will versus God’s.” If she would have just waited and consulted with God, she’d be spared of the heartaches and troubles.

So many of us are waiting for something and as we wait, we can become discouraged and start asking when the waiting will ever end. Will God ever answer my prayer?

The point here is, let us all learn to wait and wait patiently for God’s timing (Psalm 37:7a, NASB).


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3. Waiting Focuses Our Attention on Heavenly Things.

Patiently waiting on God enables us to get our attention off this world and focus on heavenly things (Colossians 3:1-2). How so? To wait on God does not mean moping around doing anything. Being idle causes us to get bored all the more while waiting on the Lord.

Although we cannot tell how long we have to wait, we can be sure that God will answer our prayers in His own time. In the meantime, let us focus on God and His works. Let us be God’s instruments to accomplish His will and purpose on earth.

May we desire heavenly and eternal things over earthly which are only temporary (2 Corinthians 4:18).

As we wait for God’s directions, His answers to our prayers, and His Second Coming, let us continue to occupy. Let’s get down to doing the Father’s business – fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)!

The Benefits of Waiting on God

Conclusion

What if we get tired of waiting?

Reality check; it doesn’t matter how strong you think you are. There will come a time when you grow old and weak. At which point you begin to lose all the energy needed to keep up with the daily challenges of life.

God’s promise? He will not only give us strength and power; He will also renew our strength from time to time (Isaiah 40:29-31). We just need to learn to wait.

Yes, we get tired; we become weak. But God will enable us to do what we need to do. Here’s more, God will let us soar during a crisis. Do you know what they always say? Walking in the ordinary pressures of life can be much more difficult than flying like an eagle in a time of crisis.

We are also able to run when the challenges are many and to walk faithfully in the routine day-to-day demands of life.

As another Christian blogger said, “Prayer is powerful. But always remember that God works according to His timetable, not yours. Be patient.”

But we need to trust God and wait patiently for Him to carry out His perfect will. If we take the time to pursue God’s direction and wait for His response, we will get much better results.

When we trust in God to direct our steps, rely on His timing, and live for Him, He will see us through to victory.

Here’s a beautiful and encouraging song by Don Moen, “Like Eagles.”

 

How to Dwell in the House of the Lord

How to Dwell in the House of the Lord

No person can claim to be a Christian and say attending church is not necessary. Every follower of Christ goes to the house of the Lord at least once a week for fellowship. We go to church not only to meet with fellow believers but more importantly, with God.

Bible Verse: Psalm 27:4 (NKJV)

“One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.”

Learning from David

King David had been on the run, not just once but several times. It was during those times that he wrote most of the hymns and poems we read in the book of Psalm.

But what made David feel safe and secure despite the circumstances he was facing? The secret of David’s public confidence was his private obedience to God. He took time to fellowship with the Lord and get directions from Him.

David knew that the most important part of his life was the part that only God could see, and this was one priority he would not negotiate.

Longing to be with God

Being in God’s house on Sunday is refreshing. Entering the place where other believers have come to worship and sing praises renews our spiritual walk. It also refocuses our thoughts on God.

But we do not have to be in a {church} building to dwell in worship with the Lord. Psalm 84:2 addresses dwelling with God anytime, anywhere. In this verse, the psalmist says that his “soul longs for the courts of the Lord.”

Longing to be with God

David longed to build a temple for the Lord to dwell in, but for some reason, God allowed Solomon to build it. God promised to dwell with the people of Israel if they would keep His laws.

After Solomon prepared the temple with a special place of the ark of the covenant, the ark was placed inside. And the Shekinah glory of God filled the temple and the priests could not continue with the service (1 Kings 6–8).

“I have surely built You an exalted house; and a place for You to dwell in forever” (1 Kings 8:13).

How to Seek God’s Presence

To experience God’s presence, we need to seek Him and His will all the time.

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 13).

We can talk to God anytime – in church, in prayer, and in the Word. If we seek Him, we will find Him. God also promised to give us the strength necessary to get through troubled times (Psalm 84:5). When our life hits a dry spot, God will “make it a spring” (Psalm 84:6).

There is a special blessing and protection for anyone who earnestly seeks God. It may not be a promise to prevent all trouble, but to give security and blessing even in the midst of it.

Beholding God’s Beauty

There is beauty in the nature and presence of God; David knows this very well. He says we can perceive God’s beauty by faithfully seeking Him. King David could not think of a greater occupation than to fill his mind and heart with the goodness and greatness of God.

As Charles Spurgeon said, “The character of God is attractive, and fitted to inspire us with love for Him, and to make us, as it were, run after Him.”

Don Stewart also says this of the beauty of God:

“The beauty of the Lord can be defined as God possessing everything in His character that is desirable. Everything good and righteous has its ultimate fulfillment in God.”

A Doorkeeper in God’s House

In Psalm 84:10, the psalmist made no apologies. He wrote, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

In effect, he told Satan that he was not interested in serving him. The doorkeeper was a lowly servant, but even this position in God’s house would be a place of honor.

The writer of Psalms 84 calls God a “sun and shield” (Psalm 84:11). The sun warms and causes fields to grow, and the shield protects. God is the great Provider and Protector. He promises to bless those who trust in Him, withholding “no good thing” (Psalm 84:11-12).

We are God’s Dwelling Place

With the birth of Jesus, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory” (John 1:14). Jesus promised to prepare a dwelling place for us with the Lord.

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

For us to go there, we must have Jesus dwelling in our hearts. We read in 1 John 14:15, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

Don’t just dwell with God on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night pilgrimage. Seek His presence every day through prayer and Bible study. Find the time to celebrate the joy of being a Christian. Let the Savior know how thankful you are for what He has done for you.

Closing Words

Does Jesus dwell in your heart? When was the last time you longed to dwell with the Lord? Are you willing to be a doorkeeper?

May we have a heart like David’s; a heart that always seeks after God above anyone or anything else. When we delight ourselves in God, He promises to give us the desire of our hearts (Psalm 37:7).

This desire will be the Lord Himself.


Recommended Resource:

Adoring Christ: Beholding God’s Beauty and Becoming Like Him by Kori de Leon

Adoring Christ and becoming like Him is the most fundamental and crucial aspect of human life. We long for love, beauty, power, security, and fame because these things describe God, who is majestic and beautiful. And He has designed humanity in His image to participate in His glorious likeness.

In Adoring Christ: Beholding God’s Beauty and Becoming Like Him, author Kori de Leon discusses how adoring Christ sets our hearts free from self-focus and pursuing glory in the wrong way so we can see the grandeur of God and participate in His glory the right way.

Covering a wide range of topics like loveliness, dignity, and spiritual vitality this book specifically geared for women concludes each of its twelve chapters with a section designed to help readers actively engage with the truths presented in the book.

Glory is God’s design for mankind. Together with the Bible, this book will encourage you to get lost in the wonder of God and His character as you enter into an adoration that will lead you to glorious transformation.

God’s Promise of Comfort

God’s Promise of Comfort

The theme of Isaiah chapter 40 is God’s promise of comfort for His people. As the Jewish remnants were about to leave Babylon, Isaiah announces God’s future blessings for them.

The Jews were few in number and were facing a long and difficult journey. What kind of future awaits them? Will they be able to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple?

As the remnant in Babylon looked back, they saw failure and sin, and they needed encouragement. And so, God gave them His message in four voices with a special message.

The Voice of Pardon

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned. For she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2).

The nation of Israel had sinned greatly with their idolatry, injustice, immorality, and insensitivity to His messengers. And at the moment Isaiah spoke this, Jerusalem was well aware of her sin. Isaiah made her aware of it.

God's Promise of Comfort
Photo Credits: Live Law

Yet, the prophet declared that “her iniquity is pardoned.” This is real comfort! Their sinfulness did not stop them from being God’s people. God still loved them. Though He would chasten them, He would not forsake them.

Some Christians today believe that God has already forsaken the Jews because they have rejected Christ as Messiah. But anyone who knows the Bible pretty well should know that God keeps His promises. God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham and will never break it.

The Voice of Providence

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low. The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth. The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5).

As the Jews head back to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, they can only imagine the challenges that await them. But the Lord promised He would go before them to open the way.

The picture here is of an ambassador repairing the roads and removing obstacles, preparing the way for the coming of a king. God would remove every obstacle before them so they can travel with ease.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

The God of Comfort: 100 Bible Verses to Soothe Your Spirit

Are you filled with worry? Does anxiety interfere with your joy? God knew His people would suffer from anxiety even though He warned us not to worry. The God of Comfort is another soothing reminder for your spirit. Inside you’ll find Scripture and reflections that will guide, support, and assure you that God is with you through every trial.

Each of the 100 Bible verses includes a:

  • supportive reflection
  • simple prayer inspired by the Bible verse
  • minimalistic designed interior which is great for men and women

This beautiful book is chock-full of rich insight on everything from trusting the Lord, to bringing your troubles to Him in prayer, to finding refreshment for your soul.

The God of Comfort is:

  • a great self-purchase to help you work through your own anxiety and worries
  • a thoughtful gift for a friend who is going through a challenging time
  • a meaningful gift for an essential worker, teacher, or co-worker

How does this apply to Christians today? Building a road is much like the kind of preparation that God must do in our hearts. It’s expensive in the sense that accomplishing it would require an expert engineer (God) to deal with the problems that need to be fixed.

We need to understand that the glory of God is not only revealed to Jerusalem or Judah. God reveals His glory to every heart that is prepared as described in Isaiah 40:5. We can be assured of this because it’s the mouth of the LORD that said it.

The Voice of Promise

The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the LORD blows upon it. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8).

Isaiah must be thinking of the beautiful green grass covering the hills of Judah after the winter rains. And then how quickly the grass dies and the hills end up brown and barren.

“People are like grass.” They are frail and weak. Even man’s beauty is fleeting and passes as quickly as wildflowers. In the same way, the nations of Assyria and Babylon have come and gone. Like the grass, nations and their leaders fulfill their purpose and then fade away. But the Word of God abides forever (Psalm 37:1-2; 90:1-6; 103:15-18).

Men are like grass

As the Jewish remnants begin their journey home, they could depend on God’s promises. Perhaps they were especially claiming 2 Chronicles 6:36-39).

Peter makes a beautiful application of this passage in 1 Peter 1:22-25 as he gives a stirring call for love among Christians. Since the Word of God is eternal, we are both obliged and able to sincerely love one another. In need of more love for others? It begins with having more of the incorruptible seed set in our hearts and allow it to grow.

The Voice of Peace

O Zion, You who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, You who bring good tidings. Lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid. Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand. And His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm. And carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young (Isaiah 40:9-11).

Isaiah speaks of a message so great (good tidings) that must spread as quickly and widely as possible. The message had to be shouted out, so the messenger is told to lift up his voice with strength. The messenger had good news to shout. The good news on that day was the defeat of Babylon and the release of the Jewish captives (Isaiah 52:7-9).

Today, the good news that needs to be shouted out is the defeat of sin and Satan by Jesus Christ. We invite people to accept the gift of salvation that God freely gives to all who will trust in Christ (Isaiah 61:1-13; Luke 4:18-19).

Some scholars say this invitation to “behold your God” speaks of a study and a long-term mission to know the greatness and the character of God. Nothing is far greater than for a follower of Jesus to study and know their God.

Another aspect of our God to behold is the fact of His return. The Lord will return to earth to rule and reign. Maranatha, come, Lord Jesus!

Closing Thoughts

What a comfort to know that we are never alone, both in our joys and struggles. God spoke to the Jewish remnants in four voices with a special message for them through the prophet Isaiah.

In the same way, God speaks to us through His Word (the Bible) to give us His message of forgiveness, providence, promise, and peace. We can rest in God’s promise of comfort because He is faithful.

Ignorance Leads to Contention

Ignorance Leads to Contention

Do you notice how ignorance of the facts often leads to contention? People immediately react negatively when told that one of the people closest to them is spreading lies about them. They then go on with their counterattack without first getting to the bottom of the story. They never bothered to find out if the report they heard is true or not.

Bible Verses: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.”

“Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas, or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

Divisions in the Church Today
Photo Credits: xpastor.org

Problems Among the Corinthians

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians addresses several problems within the church that have come to his attention. One of which is the contentions (or quarrels) reported to him by some members of Chloe’s household.

The church in Corinth had become factious, advocating different leaders: Paul, Apollos, Peter, and possibly a Christ party. Not only was the church divided over leadership types, but also over several moral issues and the use of spiritual gifts. The main point of contention was Paul’s authority.

How did Paul approach this problem of division in the church? First, he pointed to the unity of Christ: only one Savior and one body. Then he reminded them of their baptism, a picture of their spiritual baptism into Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Division in the Church Today

A few years ago, the church was divided into denominations. Now, we aren’t much better off. We have the same problem the church at Corinth had. Many Christians today follow a favorite preacher. Why are so many people naive enough to believe they can be spiritually fed by a preacher? Or that their favorite preacher knows everything about the Bible or God?

I know for a fact that nobody completely understands the mind of God or His word, because He is infinite and we are finite. That fact should humble us all. We should not base all of our knowledge on one or two favorite preachers.

I have learned over the years that different Christians emphasize different aspects of the character of God. Preachers do the same thing. We all have our favorite topics we like to talk about because we all know our knowledge of the Bible has gaps. This is true of the pew-sitters and the pastors.

I wish I understood why this fact does not humble more people including preachers. Does your lack of understanding humble you?

I have heard so many preachers criticizing other preachers. I truly believe that if the Church and pastors were more humble, criticism of fellow believers would stop. Not to mention, why does it matter what the next person or the next pastor says, especially if they are wrong?

Know and Study God’s Word

The only way to know if someone believes something wrong is by getting to know what the truth actually is. How well do you know the Bible?

Since Only God wrote the Bible and no pastor fully understands the Bible, why are you not studying the Bible for yourself? The main reason I was able to write “Life According to the Truth” was God gave me knowledge and understanding after asking God many questions while studying the scriptures.

The pew-sitters do not need to be ignorant. You do not need a seminary degree to know the Bible. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

I would have to admit studying the Bible is not easy. It takes work but is also very rewarding as Psalm 1:1-2 says:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law, he meditates day and night.”

There is no reason why any Christian should be ignorant or divided. There is no reason to rely on preachers or ministers to spiritually feed you. Just ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and He will. Have you asked Him?

2 Timothy 2:15

Spiritual Authority in the Church

One of the underlying issues in Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians is the nature of spiritual authority.

Why should the Corinthians (and we) listen to Paul’s words? It’s because they were not his opinions or his agenda but God’s instructions. When God’s Word sets up a barrier or sends a change of direction in our lives, are we willing to listen? Or do we look for another opinion?

We can always find someone who will tell us with great confidence exactly what we want to hear. Or we can keep getting counsel until someone tells us what we wanted to do in the first place. But God’s Word has a history of contradicting our wishes.

The Scriptures don’t care nearly as much about how we feel as they do about how we obey. By the way, God never asks us to do something that is not for our own good. Even if that means giving up something that looks innocent and desirable.

Final Words

Reading Paul’s letters, we see that he had tough words for the Corinthian church. Many of these apply almost directly to wandering churches today. They were all true counsel. These instructions from God continue to be practical in the world we are living in today.

Needless to say, God’s Word won’t have the intended effect unless we allow them to transform us. Are you willing to obey God even when what He tells you is painful to hear and inconvenient to do?


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Cultures in Conflict Discovery Guide: Paul Proclaims Jesus As Lord – Part 2 by Ray Vander Laan

How do you live in a culture where the worldview conflicts with Christianity? Learn from Paul as he presents his beliefs to the most powerful court in Athens and settles among the Greco-Romans of Corinth, who valued wealth and class, worship of multiple gods, and decadent pleasure seeking above all else.

Join renowned teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan as he guides you through the land of the Bible. In each lesson, Vander Laan illuminates the historical, geographical, and cultural context of the sacred Scriptures.

Filmed on location in the Middle East and elsewhere, the That the World May Know® film series will transform your understanding of God and challenge you to be a true follower of Jesus.

God’s Will On Prayer

God’s Will On Prayer

I am certain that every Christian knows how to pray. But believers in Jesus Christ must know God’s will on prayer. We may be able to communicate with God constantly and regularly. We can even recite the longest prayers. But not knowing the will of God on prayer often leads to disappointments.

How so? That’s because we may not receive the answers that we’re expecting. In other words, God may not grant our prayers and petitions. But knowing what God wants us to pray about and presenting them to Him will lead to a desirable outcome.

The Christian’s Prayer Life

We often hear people say that the backbone of the Christian life is prayer. That being said, a Christian who spends less time in prayer may not be able to withstand trials and difficulties. On the other hand, a Christian who always takes the time to seek God’s counsel even on the simplest matters will be victorious.

How often should Christians pray, and how long? In this post, we will look at just two of the passages that talk about the will of God on prayer.

The Will of God on Prayer

Encouragement on Prayer

The Bible verse that is often quoted when exhorting and encouraging believers to maintain a healthy prayer life is 1 Thessalonians 5:17. We read, “Pray without ceasing.”

Reading the complete sentence, this is what it says.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Understand that in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Paul addresses the believers in Thessalonica concerning the Day of the Lord. He assures them that when this dreadful day comes, it will not overtake them as it does those who are in darkness. He then goes on to encourage them to remain sober and watchful.

In light of this future event, Paul exhorts them to comfort, uphold and be patient with each other (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15). Finally, he gives them three important instructions:

  • Rejoice always
  • Pray without ceasing
  • In everything give thanks

Rejoice Always

Other translations render this verse as “Always be joyful.”

Now, we must clarify that happiness is synonymous with joy. Although most people use these words interchangeably, they are not the same thing. I’d say happiness is always superficial and is dependent on external factors.

For instance, one’s happiness stems from having a successful professional career or having all the money to buy his or her wants. But whenever they fail to reach their goals, their happiness will quickly turn to sadness and disappointment. In short, the source of happiness is worldly possessions and accomplishments.

Happiness vs. Joy

In contrast, joy starts from the inside which inevitably extends outwardly. Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is rooted in God; the source of joy for the Christian is God.

When the Word exhorts Christians to “rejoice always,” this goes to say that we are to be joyful not only in happy times but in sorrows also. And we can do this because our joy is not based on circumstances but on God.

Keep in mind that although circumstances change, God does not!

Pray without Ceasing

It is the will of God for Christians to pray continually.

I know what you’re thinking. Sure, we can’t close our eyes, bow our heads, be on our knees, or fold our hands non-stop. It does not mean we keep mumbling our requests and petitions to God. You see, these are customs of prayer, not prayer itself.

We all know what prayer is. It is how we communicate with God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:13-14; 1 Timothy 2:5). Prayer is communicating with God. And we can live each minute of the day in a constant, flowing, conversation with God.

This is not to eliminate the significant value of setting a time when we shut out all other distractions and focus on God in a time of closet prayer (Matthew 6:6). But there is also room – and great value – in every moment-of-the-day fellowship with God.

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

We must understand what this phrase is saying. We don’t give thanks FOR everything but IN everything.

Imagine having to comfort a friend or relative whose loved one just got murdered. How are you supposed to tell them to thank God for what just took place?

There will be times when we have to deal with difficult and impossible situations. God does not command us to thank Him for any tragedy that He allows. Rather, we thank God despite what happened because we recognize that His sovereign hand is in charge. Scripture assures us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Things happen not by fate or chance, as some often claim. God is still on the throne and He is in control. Nothing happens that God does not allow.

Charles Spurgeon quote on prayer

The Will of God for Christians

After each one of these exhortations: rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, we are told to do this because it is the will of God.

The idea here is not that this is the will of God so we must do it. Rather, we can do it because this is God’s will. It isn’t easy to always be joyful, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, but we can do it because it is God’s will.

The will of God in prayer and every aspect of life is doable not because we are tough or capable. We can do all things because God enables us to. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).

Persistence in Prayer

The story of the widow and the judge and Jesus’ illustration while teaching His disciples how to pray (Luke 11:1-13) are very telling. They give us a very important principle on prayer – be persistent. This means we should always pray and never give up.

In Luke 18:1-8, a widow came to a judge seeking justice in a dispute with her enemy. This judge is described as someone who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. Initially, the judge ignored the woman’s plea. But because she kept bothering him, the judge finally decided to avenge her.

In Jesus’ teaching on prayer, He used the example of a friend who went to his neighbor at midnight to borrow some bread for his unexpected guest. At first, his neighbor refused to help because they are already tucked in bed. But the man kept knocking and showed no sign that he was giving up.

Jesus said although the neighbor won’t do it for friendship’s sake, he will get up and give the man whatever he needed because of his persistence.

Partnering with God

The principle Jesus taught His disciples on prayer still applies to Christians today.

We are to learn a lesson from the unjust judge who rendered a just decision in the end. When we cry out to God day and night, He will surely bring about justice for us and will not delay (Luke 18:6-7).

How to Pray the Will of God

After Jesus’ illustration on the importance of persistence to His disciples, He says this in Luke 11:9-10.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (See also Matthew 7:7-11.0

Now, don’t get me wrong. When we pray persistently, it’s not that we are trying to persuade God to do anything.

Persistent prayer isn’t about convincing God to do anything. Rather, it is about passionately partnering with God in what He already wants to do.

Final Thoughts

It is the will of God for His people to never give up on prayer. Although there will be times when God seems to be ignoring our prayers and petitions, He assures us in the Word that He is always listening.

To make our prayer effective, we need to pray under God’s will.

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).

We pray for the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 7:10) and realize that God always answers prayers.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy KellerChristians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful.

In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act.

With his trademark insights and energy, Keller offers biblical guidance as well as specific prayers for certain situations, such as dealing with grief, loss, love, and forgiveness. He discusses ways to make prayers more personal and powerful, and how to establish a practice of prayer that works for each reader.

Dr. Keller’s previous books have sold more than one million copies. His Redeemer Presbyterian Church is not only a major presence in his home base of New York, it has also helped to launch more than two hundred fifty other churches in forty-eight cities around the world.

His teachings have already helped millions, the majority of whom pray regularly. And with Prayer, he’ll show them how to find a deeper connection with God.

Peter’s Vision of Unclean Food

Peter’s Vision of Unclean Food

One passage that is often grossly misinterpreted by some Christians is Peter’s vision of unclean food (or animals) in Acts 10:9-16. Accordingly, this account in the New Testament shows how believers today are free to eat anything and everything. Unlike the OT saints who had to adhere strictly to several dietary restrictions, we can consume all kinds of meat, including the blood of animals.

By the way, this post is not about whether Christians can eat blood or not. It is also not about eating foods sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8:4-13). I have another article that tackled this problem among believers in the church at Corinth.

Peter’s Vision in Acts 10

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.

Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven (Acts 10:9-16, NIV).

Interpreting Peter’s Vision

The most important principle of Bible interpretation is to do it in the context of the passage. This is because context determines the meaning.

We must always consider the immediate context. What do the surrounding verses say? What’s the overall theme and train of thought of the passage? Or the overall context or theme of the entire book? To correctly assess the meaning, the interpreter should look at all the circles of context.

Hermeneutics: Basics of Bible Interpretation

The church was born on Pentecost as followers of the risen Lord gathered in one place, and the Holy Spirit came to rest on each of them (Acts 2:1-2). Scripture tells us that they were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5). We see that the focus of Christ’s ministry was the lost sheep of Israel, the Jews (Matthew 10:5-6, 15:24).

But when we get to chapter 10, we see a pivotal shift in the book, for it records the salvation of the Gentiles.

The Gentiles Hear the Good News

What Peter saw had nothing to do with food; what’s clean or unclean. Instead, God used a vision about food to teach Peter that the Gentiles were not unclean. Peter was hungry, and a vision about food would certainly speak to his condition. Furthermore, the distinction between “unclean” and “clean” foods was a major problem between the Jews and the Gentiles in that day.

Peter’s Christian friends criticized him for eating with the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-3). Yet, God used this centuries-old regulation (Leviticus 11:1-47) to teach Peter an important spiritual lesson. Peter got the message, loud and clear (Acts 10:28, NIV).

The fact that Peter invited the three men (Gentiles) who came looking for him to lodge with him (Acts 10:19-23) is another indication that the walls were coming down. The following day, He set out with the men and some of the other believers from Joppa. When they arrived in Caesarea, Cornelius and his relatives and close friends met with them.

God Shows No Partiality

Faith comes only through the Word (Romans 10:17) and Peter preached that Word.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

Christian Jewelry and Wall Decors - Lord's Guidance

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil because God was with Him” (Acts 10:34-38, NIV).

God does not show partiality when it comes to sin and salvation (Romans 2:11; 3:22-23; 10:1-13). He is no respecter of person as far as nationality and race are concerned. All people have the same Creator (Acts 17:26) and all people need the same Savior (Acts 4:12).

The Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit

As Peter was just getting started in his message, the people believed, and the Holy Spirit came on all of them (Acts 10:44).

“And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (Acts 10:44-47)?

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God” (Acts 11:15-17).

The witness of the Spirit was crucial, for this was God’s own testimony that He had indeed saved the Gentiles.

With this event, the period of transition in the early history of the church ended. Believers among the Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles have all received the Spirit of God and are united in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27).

The Same Gift for All: Salvation

As soon as he returned to Jerusalem, Peter was met by members of the strong legalistic party in the church of Judea (the Jewish believers). They rebuked him for fellowshipping with Gentiles and eating with them.

Note: Keep in mind that these Jewish believers did not yet understand the relationship between law and grace, Jews and Gentiles, and Israel and the church.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free

Acts 11:5-12

“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance, I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’”

“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.”

Peter told them the story from the beginning. And when he was finished, the Jewish legalists dropped their charges and glorified God for the salvation of the Gentiles (Acts 11:18).

Closing Words

The vision of Peter shows us that salvation was made available to all who believe (John 3:16). “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

As Christians, we are to receive one another and not dispute over cultural differences or minor matters of personal conviction.

Some of the Jewish Christians in the early church wanted the Gentiles to become Jews. And some of the Gentile believers wanted the Jews to stop being Jews and become Gentiles. This attitude can create serious division in the church even today. So, we must follow the example of Acts 11:18.


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Recommended Resource:

Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard G. Hendricks (Author), William D. Hendricks (Author), Charles Swindoll (Foreword)

Living by the Book, The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by by Howard G. Hendricks and William D. Hendricks For every person who draws strength and direction from the Bible, there are many more who struggle with it. Some call it a long book with fine print and obscure meaning. Some call it a mystery, a chore to read, or an undecipherable puzzle.

The good news is you can easily solve this problem. With over 300,000 sold, this revised and expanded edition of Living by the Book will remove the barriers that keep Scripture from transforming your life. In a simple, step-by-step fashion, the authors explain how to glean truth from Scripture.

It is practical, readable, and applicable. By following its easy-to-apply principles, you’ll soon find yourself drawing great nourishment from the Word—and enjoying the process! The Living by the Book Workbook is the perfect compliment to provide practical application of lessons.

Psalm 51 Devotional

Psalm 51 Devotional

Today’s post is a devotional and reflection on Psalm 51. In this chapter, we read of King David’s confession and repentance after the prophet Nathan rebuked him of his sin (See 2 Samuel 12:1-14).

Living in a No-Fault Society

We live in a society where most people have adopted the “I’m-not-responsible” mentality. Every time we do something wrong, we say, “Oh no, not my fault!” We blame our parents, others, and even God, but never ourselves.

Picture this scenario after the fall:

Adam was out walking with his sons Cain and Abel. As they passed by the gates of the Garden of Eden, one of the boys asked, “What is that dad?” Adam replied, “That’s where your mother ate us out of house and home.”

See? Adam faced responsibility like a modern man – he blamed his wife.

But isn’t this what Adam did? Oh yeah! When he and his wife were caught in disobedience and God confronted them, Adam immediately pointed his finger at Eve. And Eve in her defense blamed the serpent.

We’ve been living in a no-fault generation since the time of Adam and Eve.

You Are the Man!

In Psalm 51, Prophet Nathan has confronted David with a story of wrongdoing: “King David, a poor man’s lamb was stolen and eaten by a rich man giving a party. What shall be done?” David, reacting instantly said, “The man who did this should die!”

Nathan looked at the ashen face of King David and said, “You are the man!”

Psalm 51: David's Confession and Repentance

Right there and then, King David confessed and repented. The fountains of his soul broke as the pent-up passion of remorse, shame, guilt, and anxiety released the flood of tears. He approached God’s throne sobbing and said:

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness. According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:1-3).

Taking Full Responsibility

Without hesitation, David took full responsibility. As king, he held absolute power, living beyond the reach of the people. Why confess? There was not a reporter waiting to ask, “Is it true that your subordinate set up a rendezvous with Bathsheba?” No one else knew about this. Yet, David confesses of his “transgressions, iniquity and sin (Psalm 51:1-3).

While a modern man would say, “It’s the woman’s fault for bathing naked in the moonlight on the roof. She should have used a shower curtain. She did it on purpose!” Or turn at the prophet of God and say, “You, Nathan, are out of step with the new morality.”

David claimed the sin as his own without ever mentioning Bathsheba. He never tried to blame Uriah either.

How do you react when a servant of God confronts you with a sin you thought nobody else knew? Do you immediately confess and repent? Or do you harden your heart and point out the hypocrisy of others, especially your church leaders?

David’s Three-Part Confession

David’s confession had three parts, not one thought three times, but three different views of one repentance.

“My transgression” was the open rebellion against God, knowing what he did was wrong, yet he did it anyway. “My iniquity” refers to David’s deception in trying to hide his sin. To conceal the fact that David got Bathsheba pregnant, he murdered Uriah.

There is no such thing as a secret sin. Sooner or later, God will expose all deception and shout it out from the rooftops. “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).

“My sin” was David’s murder of Uriah, breaking his fellowship with God. David acknowledged his sin before God and said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.” (Psalm 51:4).

Psalm 51 Devotional

To restore his fellowship with God, David cried to God, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).

Hyssop was the branch with which the blood of the lamb was applied over the doorposts of Jewish homes in Egypt in the night of Passover. Once the blood was applied, that home was safe from the death angel.

The Bible says, “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission from sin (Hebrews 9:22).

A Plea for Restoration

David was a musician since childhood. He had played for Saul and brought gladness to his heart. But because of his sin, he could no longer enjoy music. Sin had destroyed his song and so he begged this of God:

“Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which You have broken may rejoice” (Psalm 51:8).

Sin consumed him like the excruciating pain of a broken bone.

Nathan told David that God would forgive him, but the sword would not depart from his house (2 Samuel 12:10). David suffered deeply for his sin. His first child with Bathsheba died shortly after its birth (2 Samuel 12:15-18). His daughter Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13:1-20). Absalom became a rebel who wanted to kill him (2 Samuel 15 – 17).

David first asked God to “blot out his sin” and then to “wash it away” (Psalm 51:1-2). The Hebrew word for wash meant “to trample.” In those days, women put clothes in the stream and trampled them clean with their feet.

There is no English word for the Hebrew word here translated “cleanse.” The closest word would be to “unsin.” It means that when David stands before God, He will say to him, “I find no fault in this man. He is whiter than snow.” God will not say, “Oh, David, you had a great career but you ruined it by committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah.”

David Looks Ahead

After David’s confession, Nathan said, “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13). David’s sin was gone – forgiven instantly. David continued to be open to the word of prophecy, and as he looked into the future, he saw the millennial reign.

“Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem” (Psalm 51:18).

What a joy and encouragement to know that God will not count our sins against us when we confess and repent. When we cry out to God, He does not retain His anger forever and pardons our iniquity. He will show us compassion and casts our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

Concluding Thoughts

We must take responsibility for our lives and stop making silly excuses. When we go astray from the will of God, we must accept that we are “guilty as charged” and confess our sins. God will rush to blot them out, never to remember them again (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12).

We must not try to conceal our sins, nor blame them on others. We must, by all means, avoid doing things that we know full well are in rebellion against God.

Each of us must choose the New Jerusalem or the Lake of Fire. Our eternal soul is at stake. When we come before God and cry out to Him, He promises to forgive and restore us.


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Recommended Resource: Praying with the Psalms: A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Words of David by Eugene H. Peterson

Prayer is both our most human action and our most human language. But, as with any other language, we may find ourselves clumsy and undisciplined in our attempts at it.

Praying with the Psalms can help Christians become fluent in the language of prayer, encouraging us to pray even when we don’t feel like it, and to learn prayers that are both honest and right.

Based on the life and words of David, the Psalms provide insightful reflections on depression, anger, frustration, fear, and insecurity, as well as joy exhilaration, triumph, and gladness.

Praying with the Psalms offers daily readings to guide us in expressing to God the wide range of human emotions. Through this enriched communication with God, we are led to a deeper understanding and a truer following of his will.

The Power of Great Faith

The Power of Great Faith

The great faith of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 is one of the well-known stories in the Bible on the power of faith to heal. This centurion was a man of power and influence. Everything about this officer should have prevented him from coming to Jesus.

The centurion was a professional soldier, and Jesus was a man of peace. He was a Gentile, and Jesus was a Jew. Yet, when this one centurion’s servant became ill, he sought help from the Great Physician. Why?

It’s because this soldier had one thing working for him. He was a man of great faith. He understood that Jesus, like himself, had authority and was under authority. All Christ had to do was speak the word, and the disease would obey Him the way a soldier obeyed his officer.

Faith to Heal

When the centurion came to Jesus asking for help, Jesus said that He would come to his house to heal his servant (Matthew 8:5-7). But the centurion said Jesus did not have to come to his house. “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).

Jesus marveled and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Matthew 8:10)! And his servant was healed that same hour.

So, you see, faith is not only a saving faith but a healing faith. The Word of God promises divine healing and miracles (Psalm 107:20).

The Power of Great Faith

Jesus Promises Healing

In the first promise of healing, the Lord said this in Exodus 15:26:

“If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

David said that God’s medicare program was so successful for the Israelites that …

“He also brought them out with silver and gold, and there was none feeble among His tribes” (Psalm 105:37).

The Agent of Healing

Healing is not a result of wishful thinking. The centurion didn’t wish healing upon his servant. Instead, he sought out the One who had the power to heal, Jesus the Son of God.

We read this in Isaiah 53:4-5.

“Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed.”

The words borne and carry denote more than sympathy. They represent actual substitution and the removal of the thing being borne. When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), death and all its power were conquered, including the power of sickness. Disease is subservient to Jesus.

The healings of Jesus were continuous. Jesus never turned away anyone seeking healing.

“When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:16-17).

Healings in the Church Today

Does Jesus’ ministry of healing continue until today? This is the question that many Christians are asking. Let us look at what Scriptures say about this.

To the church, Jesus said this:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:12-13).

This promise has never been rescinded. At the beginning of the New Testament church, this power was committed not only to the apostles, who would soon pass away. It was also passed on to the elders (James 5:14).

People could be healed in every church where elders would pray the prayer of faith and anoint with oil in the name of Jesus. The power of Jesus to heal has never been diminished. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 12:8).

The centurion said, “Speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8). We, too, can call on Jesus to heal us. We call on Jesus and exercise great faith because the power of great faith to heal is still at work today.

Does God Always Heal?

If God still works miracles today and His healing ministry continues, why is it that some people don’t get healed? Perhaps you know somebody who was terminally ill and had been prayed over many times but did not receive their healing.

I used to have this question too. I wondered why God heals some and lets the others succumb to death. What could be God’s basis for deciding who gets healed and who doesn’t?

I wrote an article as to why doesn’t God heal everyone who asks in faith for healing. In it, I shared the story of a former Muslim who came to faith in Christ. After studying and comparing the Quran and the Bible, he concluded that the evidence for Christianity is more compelling.

You can read all about it here.

At the end of the day, we need to acknowledge that God is sovereign. We may not have the answers to all our questions but we need to trust God for He knows what He is doing.

Closing Thoughts

Twice the Gospels record that Jesus was amazed (or marveled) at the faith of the centurion: 1) Matthew 8:10-12 and in Luke 7:9 and 2) at the unbelief of the Jews (Mark 6:6).

This is an early indication that the Jews would not believe, but the Gentiles would. Also, in both of these miracles, our Lord healed from a distance. This was a reminder of the spiritual position of the Gentiles “being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:12).

Praise God for healing; praise God for miracles!

How is your faith? Can you say with confidence that you have great faith? The kind of faith that heals?


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Faith Believing in the God Who Works on Your Behalf by Yonggi Cho and Wayde Goodall

Faith by Yonggi Cho and Wayde Goodall What can we learn from the Scriptures about how to trust God no matter what, and believe in something that is not yet seen?

As a young man with only weeks to live, Yonggi Cho was healed of terminal illness, saw the resurrected Jesus, and quickly began sharing God’s hope with others. Those listeners became the world’s largest church.

In Faith, Pastor Cho and Dr. Wayde Goodall share how to:

  • Understand and grow in your faith.
  • Walk with the Holy Spirit and produce the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Overcome mistakes and continue to depend on Christ in times of discouragement.
  • Believe for and trust God’s supernatural power.
  • Use every situation to accomplish tremendous things for God’s kingdom.

For our lives to work, we need faith—the kind of faith that gives birth to hope and chooses to believe in every circumstance. God will answer prayer, heal, and perform signs and wonders as we walk daily by faith. You can trust God as your source, security, and assurance.