Category: Christian Living

Man’s Opinions vs. God’s

Man’s Opinions vs. God’s

It is human nature to seek approval from those people around us; especially those people we value the most. Why? Why do you care about what other people think? Why do we base our value on what others’ opinions are?

Bible Verse: John 1:11-12 (NKJV)

“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

Reflection and Challenge

When Jesus came into the world, why did the world reject Him? Because they didn’t recognize Him. It sounds strange that when God came to the world He created and to the creatures made in His image, the world did not know Him.

That is because they were spiritually ignorant. Jesus is the “true light” (John 1:9) – the original of which every other light is a copy – but the Jews were content with the copies. They were taught that because they had Moses and the Law, the Temple, and the sacrifices, they had all they need.

They did not comprehend that all these were just shadows of the coming fulfillment and completion of the Old Testament religion. Sadly, their ignorance arose from their refusal to value and listen to God’s revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

Man’s Opinion vs. God’s

Some might say, “I don’t need to prove anything to you.” But the fact remains that people generally value man’s opinions over God’s. We care more about what other people think and say.

There are different terms for this definition, but what does God call it? God calls it the “fear of man.” It is human nature that we are far more interested in what other people think that what God thinks about a matter.

Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” Trusting Jesus is also the same as fearing God. When you seek God by trusting Him and valuing what He has to say through His revealed word, that is Godly fear.

Man's opinions vs. God's

Ecclesiastes 12:13 implies that it does not matter what anyone says about you if you are doing God’s will. If those people around you cannot value you based on God’s criteria, you don’t need them.

Some “spiritual-sounding” Christians might say that we have no value because we are dirty, rotten sinners that don’t deserve anything good. Well, that’s true. But that is not the whole picture. It does not take into account that every person was created by God and Jesus came to earth to save them.

If God did not value you, He would not have done that.

Always base your Value on the Truth    

After watching the new movie, “Captain Marvel,” I was reminded that every person bases their life on lies. But if we ever base our value on the truth, we will be set free and nobody can take that away from us.

This is what John 1:11-12 is all about. Since the Jews wanted to believe the lies rather than Jesus, those that believe and live according to the truth found in Jesus, God gave the Holy Spirit and they become heirs of God.

It does not matter what anyone says about you if you are right with God. If you are born again, your Dad owns it all. You are an heir to all the wealth, power, health, a perfect body, etc. Maybe we don’t have those things now, but the Holy Spirit is the down payment of all the blessings to come in the future.

Man's opinions vs. God's

I must admit that life is not at all easy. We all face trials and when that happens, it gets easy for us to get distended off of Jesus and our eternal home with God. When we get distracted by the shallow opinions of others, we are selling ourselves short for a temporary friend.

Jesus should be our best friend. He will always be there for us, to encourage or challenge us depending on the circumstances.

Closing Words

Let me just say that you and you alone are responsible to Jesus for your actions. So live up to your full potential by living according to His words.

Instead of caring more about what other people think, tell them about God’s wonderful gift of salvation. Are you loving people in general? Are you being patient with others? Are you encouraging other believers to use their spiritual gifts? Are you learning more from God’s word?

If we are living according to God’s word, we won’t have time to concern ourselves with the opinion of others.

God bless!

Spiritual Inventory Checklist

Spiritual Inventory Checklist

Like forgiveness, obedience is one of the major themes in the Bible; it is a clear indication that one has genuinely placed their faith in Christ. But how do we know if we’re living in obedience to the Lord? We can use Proverbs 4:20-27 as a personal spiritual inventory.

While Scriptures are clear that salvation is solely based on the finished works of Christ, good works which include faithfulness and obedience to the Word of God are the marks of true believers.

Spiritual Inventory Questions

Are we living in complete obedience to the Lord? Let’s ask ourselves:

1) What comes into my ears?  

“My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings.” – Proverbs 4:20

Whatever enters my ears will ultimately influence my mind, my heart and my decisions, so I’d better be careful what I listen to. In Ephesians 5:4, Paul warns us to beware of “obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes.”

They say, “Laughter is the best medicine,” because according to scientific studies, laughter does not only trigger the release of the body’s feel-good hormone endorphins, it also decreases stress hormones. The same idea is found in Proverbs 17:22? It says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine. But a broken spirit dries the bones.”

But what are we joking and laughing about? There are a lot of things Christians can joke about without having to resort to coarse or green jokes. So when unbelieving friends and colleagues engage in obscene talks, it is wise to walk away.

A merry heart does good like medicine - Proverbs 17:22

What about worldly music? I am reminded of what my music coordinator said about being on a bus or cab on our way to work. The driver then starts playing worldly music and sitting there unaware, we might start nodding our head and humming to the tune of the song.

Should Christians stop listening to worldly music? As new creations in Christ, we no longer belong to this world and so our desires are no longer for the things of this world. Worldly pleasures and entertainment, which includes worldly music, belong to this world and we want nothing to do with it.

What about the people we should seek counsel from? Psalm 1:1 tells us to avoid ungodly counsel. Why would you, a Christian, seek counsel from people who do not regard the Bible as authoritative? Christians must seek advice only from Christians who hold to the Bible as the final authority.

2) What is within my heart?

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” – Proverbs 4:23

It isn’t easy to keep or guard one’s heart for there will be many opportunities to give our heart to a person or path that we are warned against. But it is necessary to keep the heart in the sense of guarding it. Solomon is saying here that the heart should be kept and guarded against the way of the wicked (Proverbs 4:19).

Whatever the heart loves, the ear will hear, and the eyes will see. Do you notice how your kids always manage to find the ice cream shops and the toy stores no matter where you’re driving? If you love bags and shoes, I’m sure you will always manage to locate the best stores. The things that occupy the attention of your heart will determine the course of your life.

The Bible further warns us to avoid a double heart (Psalm 12:2), a hard heart (Proverbs 28:14), a proud heart (Proverbs 21:4), an unbelieving heart (Hebrews 3:12), a cold heart (Matthew 24:12), and an unclean heart (Psalm 51:10).

Do you want to live in obedience to God and not sin? Remember to always keep God’s Word hidden in your heart (Psalm 119:11).

3) What is upon my lips? 

“Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you.” – Proverbs 4:24

Whatever is in the heart will ultimately come out of the mouth (Matthew 12:33-34). As God’s children, we must be careful to “have sound speech that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:8) and speech that gracious and attractive (literally, “seasoned with salt” – see Colossians 4:6).

The ancient Romans, listening to one of their orators, would look at each other, smile and say, “Cum grano salis”“Take it with a grain of salt.” But Christians are supposed to put the salt into their speech and keep their words pure and honest.

For believers to stay on the path of the just, they must pay attention to what they say. Perverse and deceitful words are often used to cover perverse and deceitful actions and could lead us further along the way of the wicked.

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. - Psalm 34:13

Proverbs has a great deal to say about human speech; in fact, the word “mouth” is used over 50 times and the word “lips” over 40 times in some translations. Among other things, Solomon warns us about perverse talk and corrupt speech (Proverbs 4:24), undisciplined talk (Proverbs 10:19), lying lips (Proverbs 12:22), gossip (Proverbs 20:19) and deception (Proverbs 24:28).

In fact, “he who guards his mouth will preserve his life but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction” (Proverbs 13:3).

4) What is before my eyes? 

“Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.” – Proverbs 4:25

Outlook determines outcome. Abraham was the friend of God because he “walked by faith and waited for the city … designed and built by God” (Hebrews 11:10). Lot became a friend of the world because he walked by sight and moved toward the wicked city of Sodom (Genesis 13:10, 12).

Everybody has some wisdom before them that helps to determine their values, actions, and plans. We would all be wise to imitate David who said, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes” (Psalm 101:3), and the writer of Psalm 119 who prayed, “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things” (Psalm 119:37).

Out of distraction, we often depart the path of the just. For that, the blinders used on horses that do them much good would do many of us good as well. To be fit for His kingdom, Jesus said we must not look back or around (Luke 9:62). Instead, we must keep our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) as we walk the path of life.

5) What is the direction of my path? 

“Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.” – Proverbs 4:26-27

The Hebrew word translated “mark out” means “to weigh” or “to make level.” It is related to a word that means “scales” (see Proverbs 16:11).

The apostle Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Examine me O Lord - Psalm 26:2

It’s necessary for us to consider the destination of our present path as it would lead us to wise living. Carefully pondering where we are headed will help us to establish our direction and help us to not turn to the left or to the right.

The Lord is weighing our ways (Proverbs 5:21) and our hearts (Proverbs 21:2), as well as our actions (1 Samuel 2:3), and we had better do the same. Life is too short and too precious to be wasted on the temporary and the trivial. If we’re walking in the way of wisdom, God promises to protect, direct and perfect our paths.

Closing Thoughts

After going through this spiritual inventory checklist, can you say with all honesty that you are living a life that is pleasing to God? Are you obedient to Him in everything?

One of the marks of a true Christian is OBEDIENCE. If you claim to have placed your faith in the Lord Jesus but you’re still living like the rest of the world, you’re not only fooling God but yourself.

Let us continually ask God to examine our heart and mind, and reveal to us any area of our life that is not yet fully submitted to Him.

Organize Your Borrowed Life

Organize Your Borrowed Life

Year after year-end, we look backward to the past whole year just to most often than not, realize that we have not gained spiritual growth, no positive changes or we are far from realizing what we wanted to achieve. All this is because we fail to include the key player who is also the Master Planner of our future.

Where God’s presence is missing, chaos and disorderliness will surface. However, our God is not a God of disorder such that everything will only be in order if we plan and organize our borrowed life, the biblical way.

Putting your God-given Life in Order

In the church at Corinth, the believers must have gotten so excited with their experience of the Holy Spirit that they were speaking in tongues at the same time even when there was no one to interpret the message. This is one of the things that the apostle Paul pointed out when he wrote:

God is not a God of disorder but of peace

Paul wanted to address their disorderliness in worship because it was causing confusion among them. He reminded the congregation that our God is not the God of disorder. Although this was written to the believers in Corinth, it is also useful in correcting us at this present time both as a church and as individuals (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Pointers on How to Organize your Borrowed Life

PPray for God’s perfect will

L Listen to God’s instructions

AAbide in God’s word

NNever compromise

Pray for God’s Perfect Will

Start by praying.

When it comes to starting our plan with prayers, we can follow Nehemiah’s great example. Upon learning that the surviving Jews from the Babylonian captivity were in great distress and that the walls of Jerusalem were also in ruins, Nehemiah wept and mourned for many days. He fasted and prayed before the God of heaven, recognizing his sins and the sins of Israel and asked for God’s guidance in his determination to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:1-4).

Each morning is the start of something new, something fresh. That is why we should start every day and every chapter of our life with a prayer, asking God to carry out His perfect will in all our thoughts and plans. Our prayer shall be for God’s guidance and direction in always seeking the truth in Him that we may take the right path because if God is with us, we can never be lost (Psalm 25:4-5; Psalm 32:8).

Let me hear of your unfailing love

We do not believe in fate or fortune-telling. We’d rather ask for God’s instructions and put our trust in Him. Unlike a horse with a horse bit that is pulled in any direction by someone in control, Christians must pray for God’s perfect will.

Listen to God’s Instructions

I believe that every Christian knows how to pray and ask for God’s guidance. But do we know how to listen? I mean really listen. Hearing is different from listening. When we say we “listen” to what someone is saying, it means we “obey” that very thing that is said to us.

Listening to God’s instructions is as equally important as praying for His directions because those who listen to instruction will prosper (Proverbs 16:20 NIV). But what does it mean for us to prosper when we listen and obey?

To “prosper” does not only mean to achieve economic success; it also means to succeed. The Bible gives us several examples of great people who listened and had the heart to obey God’s instructions and prospered. Abraham obeyed God’s command to go out of his country into a place where He will show him and prospered (Genesis 12:1-4).

Noah obeyed God’s instruction to build a massive boat, making him the laughingstock of his community and was saved from the flood, along with his entire family and a pair of each kind of today’s living creatures (Genesis 6:13-20). Moses obeyed God and led the Israelites in crossing the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:1-22).

My sheep listen to My voice

King Solomon knew nothing about ruling a nation when he succeeded his father David as king at the age of 20. But when God visited him in a dream one night and asked him whatever he wanted, instead of asking for wealth and honor, Solomon asked for a discerning heart (wisdom) to govern the nation of Israel and to distinguish between right and wrong. God was pleased that He also gave these to him in addition to what he asked for (1 Kings 3:5-9).

*Read here: Blessing Through Obedience

Just like them and many others, we should learn not only to listen but to have an obedient heart. And as God’s sheep, we must be sensitive to His voice and follow His instructions (John 10:27). God, who is our good Shepherd, knows each of us very well and He is always there to guide us if we only know how to listen and obey Him.

In organizing your borrowed life by having it in order according to God’s will, you must not only listen. More importantly, you must be a “doer” of the Word. What you hear should not only end on the blueprints; you are to take action by doing exactly what He said. This is what we call “faith in action.”

Abide in God’s Word

Without God, all our efforts amount to nothing.

Everything we plan and everything we desire will just go down the drain. But if we truly abide in Him and He abides in us (John 15:7), then we are transformed into a new creature with a changed heart and a renewed spirit. This spirit will cause our desires to be in line with God’s will so that whatever we ask for shall be done by our heavenly Father.

Joshua 1:8 NKJV

Joshua 1:8 exhorts us to meditate on God’s Word day and night and we will become prosperous and successful. To meditate continuously is to always tune in to God and soak our spirit in His words. If indeed we have Christ living in us, we ought to live Christ-like lives, not just momentarily or temporarily, but continuously until the end (Colossians 2:6; 1 John 2:6).

Are you abiding in Him?

Never Compromise

A. To compromise means to live like the world does (Romans 12:2).

How do you know you are not compromising? If what you believe and stand for are opposed to the “norm” and what’s acceptable to the people in the world. We are to abandon the chase for pleasures, status or possessions and stop living like everyone else.

God is good and His will is always pleasing and perfect. Nothing impure is acceptable to Him that is why we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. We must let go of our old outward behavior and start acting in a way that is pleasing to God as a result of a transformed mindset; one that is possible only when we are totally surrendered to Him.

When the mind and behavior are changed, the perfect will of God in us is completed. Our desires will no longer be based on earthly motives but on heavenly goals. Being aligned with God’s perfect will, we will develop a heavenly mindset that is centered on seeking first His kingdom in our lives (Matthew 6:33).

As new creatures in Christ, we no longer follow the desires of our flesh listed in Galatians 5:19-21. Instead, the fruit of the Holy Spirit will start to manifest in our lives. Does this mean we will no longer have selfish desires? No! But the Holy Spirit will enable us to live righteous lives if we let Him.

B. To compromise means not doing what we know is right.

This is called the “sin of omission” (James 4:17).

Knowing what is good and yet failing to do it makes us guilty of the sin of omission. When James wrote this, he knew that it is far easier to think and talk about dependence on God than it is to live it. Yet he made it plain that if we know these things, we are accountable to do them.

As Christians, we have already been brought into the light and in the knowledge of God’s truth so there are no excuses.

Jesus makes the same point in Luke 12:41-48 when He told the story of servants and how they obeyed their master in his absence. Jesus concluded the story with this application: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48).

Conclusion

We are confident that as long as God is with us and provides our agendas, we will have boundless hope and will reach His promised future. God will see us through to a glorious conclusion, no matter the hardships, suffering, and trials we would have to experience for God to fulfill His will in our lives.

Letting Go And Letting God

Letting Go And Letting God

Romans 1:17 says, “the just shall live by faith.” It does not say the just will only get saved by faith. Genesis 24 is a great example of Old Testament saints living by faith even though they did not have the Holy Spirit. That should convict us, just for the fact that we have the Holy Spirit. Do we live by faith? Are we letting go and letting God take control?

Bible Verse: Genesis 24:14 (NKJV)

Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, “Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,” and she says, “Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink” – let her be the one You have appointed for thy servant Isaac. And by this, I will know that You have shown kindness unto my master.”

Reflection and Challenge

It is amazing how many individuals in this narrative had radical faith in spite of being only people. Isaac had to trust God, Abraham, and the servant to find him a suitable wife. Abraham had to trust God and the servant to do the same. The servant had to trust God to direct him to the right woman and that Rebekah would be willing to move. Rebekah had to trust God that Isaac would love her. Not to mention, the parents letting her go.

I think it is funny that whenever you must trust God, you end up needing to trust another person (s) as well. How well do we trust others?

I am not saying that I have this type of faith but these people in Genesis 24 are definitely inspiring and we can learn a valuable lesson from them. Technically, the passage deals with the marriage relationship, but radical faith can be applied to every other type of decision in our lives.

Faith is the opposite of fear. In spite of this decision being one of the most important in their life, they let go of control and let God. That is a good definition of radical faith, “Letting go and letting God.”

Faith - Opposite of Fear

As Christians, we say that we get saved by faith, but never live by faith as Romans 1:17 says. WHY? Is it possible we don’t trust God enough to take care of us in our everyday life? He saved our soul. Is He not able to take care of our body as well? That is called fear.

I have heard that the Bible says, “Fear not!” 365 times. That’s one for everyday of the year. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” God will never lead you using fear.

*Read here: The Importance of Faith

Faith is a choice. God shows up when His people trust Him as He did at the end of the servant’s prayer. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). God answers when we trust Him. Why don’t we do it more?

This principle is applicable to every area of life, not just the marriage relationship. God leads us to decisions or crossroads, just to see what we will do. The best decision is to choose to trust Him. He will come through. How well do we trust Him in our lives?

How To Receive God’s Guidance

How To Receive God’s Guidance

There is no question that God’s people need His guidance and we read over and over the subject of God’s guidance in the Old and New Testaments. But how do we receive God’s guidance and direction in our lives? In Proverbs 3:1-12, conditions are given for receiving God’s guidance.

Conditions for receiving God's Guidance

Conditions for receiving God’s guidance:

1. We must learn God’s truth and keep them within our hearts (Proverbs 3:1-4).

The will of God is revealed in the Word of God (Colossians 1:9-10), and the only way to know His will is to study His Word and obey it. By receiving the Word within our hearts, we experience growth in godly character so that loyalty and kindness become beautiful ornaments in our lives (Proverbs 1:9; 3:3).

It is not enough for believers to carry the Bible in their hands; they must let the Holy Spirit write God’s Word on their hearts.

2. We must trust the Lord and obey Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).

These are the key verses in this chapter, a promise God’s people have often claimed as they have sought the Lord’s guidance and direction for their lives. And this promise has never failed them – if they have obeyed God. God keeps His promises when we obey His precepts because our obedience prepares us to receive and enjoy what He has planned for us.

To “not depend on our own understanding” does not suggest that God’s children turn off their brains and ignore their intelligence and common sense. It simply cautions us not to depend on our own wisdom and experience or the wisdom and experience of others.

*Read here: How to Love the Lord Your God with All Your Mind 

Abraham did this when he went to Egypt (see Genesis 12:10-20), and so did Joshua when he attacked the little town of Ai (See Joshua 7). When we become “impressed with our own wisdom” (Proverbs 3:7), then we’re heading for trouble.

God has promised to guide and direct us on which path to take, but the fulfillment of that promise is predicated on our obedience to the Lord. We must trust Him with all our heart and obey Him in all our ways.

That means total commitment to Him (Romans 12:1-2). The word translated “trust” in Proverbs 3:5 means “to lie helpless, facedown.” It pictures a servant waiting for his master’s command in readiness to obey, or a defeated soldier yielding himself to the conquering general.

3. We need to share God’s blessings (Proverbs 3:9-10).

The division of “spiritual” and “material” does not apply to the followers of Christ, for everything comes from God and belongs to God. The Old Testament Jews brought the Lord the firstlings of their flocks and the first crops of their fields (Leviticus 23:9-14), and in this way acknowledged His goodness and sovereignty. The New Testament parallel is seen in Matthew 6:33.

4. We must submit to God’s correction (Proverbs 3:11-12).

Discipline is a part of God’s plan to help His sons and daughters mature in godly character (Hebrews 12:1-11). God chastens us, not as a judge punishes a criminal, but as a parent disciplines a child.

God acts in love, and His purpose is that we might “share in His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Sometimes God chastens us because we have rebelled and need to repent; other times He chastens us to keep up from sinning and to prepare us for His special blessing.

No matter how much the experience hurts us, it will never harm us, because God always disciplines in love (Deuteronomy 8:2-5).

Conclusion

The promise of God to guide and direct us will never fail if we obey the conditions God has laid down. God keeps His promises when we obey His precept because our obedience prepares us to receive and enjoy what He has planned for us.

Warning: God Will Humble You!

Warning: God Will Humble You!

It is human nature to claim credit for all the great things that happen in our lives. Like we accomplished them in our own strength. Especially in America, God has blessed us immensely. But as James 1:17 says, “Every good . . . and perfect gift is from above.” So be warned; God can and will humble you. Because God does not allow for pride in the lives of His children. 

Bible Verse: Daniel 4:37 (NLT)

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All His acts are just and true and He is able to humble the proud.”

Reflection and Challenge

The grand lesson God wanted King Nebuchadnezzar to learn – and that we must learn today – is that God alone is sovereign and will not permit mortals to usurp His throne or take credit for His works. We are but creatures, and God is the Creator; we are only subjects, but He is the King of kings.

When men and women, created in God’s image, refuse to submit themselves to Him, they are in grave danger of descending to the level of animals. “Do not be like a senseless horse or mule,” warned King David, who was guilty of acting like both (Psalm 32:9). Like the impulsive horse, David rushed into sin when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then like the stubborn mule, he had delayed confessing his sins and repenting (2 Samuel 11; 12).

This is what happened in the life of Nebuchadnezzar. After years of conquest and growth of the Babylonian empire, he was filled with pride. Even though Daniel was his number 2 man, he was still filled with pride. That is also true in our lives as well. After all the things God has done in our lives in the past, why do we still try to take the credit? Why don’t we give it to God, who truly deserves it?

God Does Not Delay

God is patient with sinners, but when the time comes for Him to act, He does not delay. As we read in Daniel 4:31-33, a solemn voice from heaven interrupted King Nebuchadnezzar’s egotistical meditations and announced that the time of probation had ended and judgment was about to fall.

The words were still on the king’s lips when everything began to change. His mind became like that of an animal (Daniel 4:16) and he was driven from the royal palace to live in fields with the beasts. Since he was beastly at heart, God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar’s brutish nature to be revealed openly.

As Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way, God does not like the credit going to others. God humbled Nebuchadnezzar for his pride. Eventually, he learned the lesson that God wanted him to learn through his difficult experience (Daniel 4:17, 25, 32), and that is, to acknowledge the sovereignty of God.

Warning God Will Humble You

God can and will humble you as well. As Christians become more and more proud, we better turn back to God and realize He deserves all the credit. He will humble us if we don’t. The Bible teaches both divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and when we accept both, we find no contradiction or conflict. No person is freer than the believer who surrenders to the sovereign will of God.

The first thing King Nebuchadnezzar did after his ordeal had passed was to praise the Lord (Daniel 4:34-35). What an exciting expression of worship! When was the last time you praised God for everything He has done in your life?


*Recommended Resource: 

Determined to Believe: The Sovereignty of God, Freedom, Faith and Human Responsibility
By John C. Lennox

A fresh look at the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human freedom. Challenging widely held assumptions about theological determinism, Lennox explores the different types of predestination and the problems they pose; investigates what the Gospels and Paul’s Letter to the Romans say about responsibility; and tackles the issue of Christian assurance. 

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:

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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.

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?

Condemning Immorality In The Church

Condemning Immorality In The Church

Bible Verse: 1 Corinthians 5:6 & 11 (NKJV)

“Your glorifying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such person.”

Reflection and Challenge

Ouch! Sin infests everything. Like leaven, sin seeps into everything. The church is supposed to be without sin, but even one sin in one person has the tendency to grow throughout.

The same is true in a church. As one person excuses sin, more and more people will excuse it. It sounds to me like God hates sin in the church and wants us to get rid of that sin.

In those days the individuals whom you ate with was significant. Quite often church members ate together. Thus, if you were removed from fellowship and eating together, it resulted in a major barrier in the relationship.

1 Corinthians 5:11 stated several of the sins that God required a break in fellowship. Some people will not like this list at all but it does not matter what people say. It only matters what God’s word says. I have heard that 65% of people today believe cohabitation is acceptable.

That is scary because that 65% must include many Christians. That is, in spite of verses like this that say sex before marriage and cohabiting is a sin, which should not happen to anyone that claims to be a Christian. God commands they should be removed from fellowship. It is a shame that Christians accept any sin. Do you practice or accept this sin? You shouldn’t according to God.

*Related Article: Church Discipline: Correcting Another Believer

This list also included being covetous. Actually, every person commits this sin sometime in their life. The root word implies lust for or a very strong desire for something anything other than God. If we seriously examine ourselves, we all have those things that we set as a priority over pursuing God. These things take our attention off of God. That is sin in God’s eyes. Have you repented for that sin?

Idolatry is the worship of other things. Those things take the place of God in our lives. And yes, it is true, Christians can worship God at church but worship other things the rest of the time. Is God your highest priority all of the time? Or do you focus on other things as well?

Remember, God said Christians that commit these sins should be removed from the fellowship. Do you have pet gods? This includes revilers, drunkards, and extortioners. God does not want sin at your church. It is true you can hide your sin from other believers, that does not mean you can hide it from God. As we examine ourselves is there anything in your life that has not been confessed?

Here is a clip from Paul Washer’s sermon on why Christians must abstain from sexual immorality. He goes on to say that true love for God and for others will lead to sexual purity.