Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Philippians 4:4-7 (NRSV)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life."
-John 8:12 (NRSV)
I was busy one afternoon helping my family decorate the house and put up a Christmas tree in the living room. We decorated the tree with lights and glitter, and finally we placed a big, shiny star on the top.
As I sat back to admire the lights and glitter, it dawned on me that Jesus is the light of my life. He shines in my life with all the blessings of good health, a loving family, a job that I enjoy, good friends, peace, joy, love, financial blessings, food on the table, a roof over my head, and clothes to wear.
These and similar blessings are reason for a spirit of praise and thanksgiving. Rejoicing in the Lord not only makes us glad but also helps us begin to understand something of God's greatness and creativity in all things. As I looked at the star on top of the Christmas tree, I remembered and acknowledged that Jesus is the real reason for the Christmas season. He is the star, the light, in my life.
by Agnes Lim Miin (Singapore)
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
-Revelation 3:20 (KJV)
HERE in South Africa, we celebrate Christmas in the sunshine of midsummer, often at the beach. But there must be something more significant to ponder at this time than the difference between building sand castles on the beach and snow people on the lawn, as some in the northern hemisphere might do.
Perhaps the story of the bent-over woman can help. Despite her ailment, she still thought it important to go to a synagogue to worship God. Jesus, as always, did not miss the opportunity to show the love and power of God. He called her forward and placed his healing hands on her body and her life. Then came the problem. The leader of the synagogue protested that Jesus had broken the law. What can we learn from this story at Christmas?
We learn that for Jesus the situation had not changed much since his birth. There was still no room for him - no room in the hearts of the leaders to acknowledge that a miracle had happened. And if we are not careful, the clutter of Christmas can leave no room for the miracle of the birth of Jesus in our hearts. Do we find there open doors of welcome or no room? We face that choice every Christmas, no matter where and how we celebrate.
by Gavin Leverton (Western Cape, South Africa)
Friday, December 5, 2008
-Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)
THE other morning I sensed the Lord wanted me to pray for the people who had made the clothes I was putting on. Not knowing who they were, I began to think about them. What country do they live in? Are they men or women, young or old? What are their circumstances? What religion do they profess?
A quick check of some of the clothes in my closet shows that they are made in many different countries, on different continents. Although I realize I can never know who these people are, they are a great blessing to me; but before that day I hadn't even thought of them. But they are real people, trying to make a living. They may work long hours in hard conditions to make my clothing, and I am awed and humbled by their work on my behalf.
Even if I tried, I could not reach them to thank them, but I can pray for them. I can pray that they will be blessed, that they know God, that their lives will be made easier through faith in God who loves them. Through my prayers, I become part of God's touching their lives.
by Valerie Cullers (Oregon, USA)
Friday, November 14, 2008
-Psalm 119:11 (KJV)
I was part of a group of young men being addressed by an older church leader. He encouraged us to memorize scripture so we would have it with us always. There would be times, he said, when we would not have ready access to a Bible. Or we might lie awake at night, unable to sleep. He reminded us that in those situations we could call forth and meditate on scripture we had memorized.
Another reason to memorize scripture is found in our Bible verse for today. We can counter temptation by quoting scripture. Jesus did this when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matt. 4).
Reading, studying, and memorizing God's word take effort, but the rewards far outweigh the effort we expend. Having scripture hidden in our heart provides continual blessings in our daily walk with God. Jesus said, "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John 6:63, NRSV).
by David L. Burkholder (Virginia, USA)
Thursday, November 6, 2008
-Matthew 25:36 (KJV)
MY friend Julie was sick with a chronic, mysterious affliction that had her living on liquid protein and pain medications. As her weight dropped to under 100 pounds, our conversations nearly always centered on her symptoms and my suggestions: "Maybe you should try this - or this - or this. ..."
After a while, I had nothing to say; I couldn't pray anymore. Julie wasn't healed, and she wasn't getting better. I wanted to avoid her because I couldn't find a remedy for her illness. Then one day, while reading about the king who said, "I was sick, and ye visited me," I saw with new eyes what the Lord expected of me. The king didn't say, "I was sick, and you healed me," or "I was sick, and you gave me all the right answers to fix the situation." The king said, "You visited me."
How marvelously simple! I realized that what my friend needed was my care. By caring about those who are sick - giving of our time, not solutions - we touch the heart of God. Ministering to those who are sick is not about our ability to solve problems or offer advice. It's about letting people know that they are not alone. It's about showing that God cares for them, and so do we.
by Leslie J. Wyatt (Missouri, USA)
Friday, October 31, 2008
-Hebrews 10:23 (NRSV)
APPEARING forlorn, the little girl crouched in the corner of the ward near a woman with bandaged limbs. She was there to spend her school vacation with her mom. But her mother was no ordinary patient, and this was no ordinary ward. This was a mission to treat those with Hansen's Disease. It was not exactly a place you'd expect a little girl to spend her vacation.
During my visit there, I witnessed the impact of leprosy on people and their loved ones. I thought about the passage in 2 Kings 5, and I could imagine how desperate Naaman must have been to be cured. When he heard about Elisha, Naaman went to the prophet's door, only to have a messenger tell him to wash in the Jordan River. Despite his anger and mis-givings, Naaman acted on God's direction that came through the prophet and was rewarded with a miracle.
Like Naaman, I've found that God's directions don't always make sense to me. They may challenge my understanding of how to deal with my circumstances. But when I act in faith on what the Bible says, its promises prove true. What God has promised will surely come to pass because God is trustworthy.
by Eunice Tan (New South Wales, Australia)
Read Genesis 37
I often like to think that when God gives you a blessing or a mission or in some way jumps down into your life, great things are about to happen. You are about to go on an adventure that will be exciting and fun and filled with happy God moments. But that’s not what happened to Joseph.
I once heard a minister say that one of the most dangerous times in our lives is right after God has spoken in to them. I think that is an interesting point that could be argued using chapter 37 of Genesis. Not to crack open any deep theological discussion, but look what happened to Joseph immediately after he had his dream.
In the first half of the chapter he has a dream in which his brothers bow down to him. After hearing the dream, they decide to either kill him or sell him into slavery. How can that be? I mean God just gave him a huge dream, a vision that was wild and amazing? How can the first step towards having people bow down be landing in slavery?
I want God to make sense, but He doesn’t. All too often, He seems to choose the exact opposite of what I would choose. It’s like He tells me to move to the ocean. So I buy bathing suits and a boat and a dock and I do everything I can to get ready for water. Then He says, “OK, you’re moving to the ocean, so the first thing I want you to do is go spend a few years in the desert. I want you to go a million miles away from the ocean.”
That doesn’t make sense. That is illogical. But I swear that is how God works. When Joseph had a dream of greatness, the first step was slavery. When Christ was called forward to save mankind during the baptism with John, the next thing he did was go spend 40 days alone. When you were called to get a new job, the next thing that happened was you got a promotion at your current one. When you were called into the ministry, instead of going to seminary God asked you to study Italian for a few years.
Sometimes we get the opposite of what we expect, like Joseph getting a shackle instead of a scepter. But when it comes to God, He always gives us what we need.
by Prodigal Jon
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
1 John 4:7-21 (NRSV)
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
WHEN my little grandson, Aidan, visits, I find joy in doing the things he enjoys. However, on one visit, I was not feeling well. Pain kept me from our usual activities, and my face was weary and worn. As Aidan and I sat reading books, he suddenly looked up at me. He put a tiny hand on each side of my face and said, "Grammie, I like your face." What a blessing! My little grandson was seeing me through eyes of love.
How wonderful it is to receive unconditional love! We are wise to pause and ask ourselves if we extend the same love to others. When interacting with people who are disagreeable or unkind, seeing them through eyes of love becomes more challenging. Yet we know that Jesus commanded God's children to "love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:12, KJV).
Having received God's unconditional love, we can surely forgive and love one another. We have the example of Jesus on the cross saying, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34). We are able to forgive those who hurt us as we allow God to transform our hearts so that we see one another as God does - through eyes of love.
by Sandra Sullivan (West Virginia, USA)
Monday, October 20, 2008
Philippians 4:4-9 (NRSV)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
We've learned that each situation in life presents choices. We can see faults in family members and withdraw from our relationships, or we can be grateful that they overlook our faults and bad habits and decide to do the same for them. We can grumble about our jobs and co-workers, or we can be thankful we are able to work and earn an income. We can criticize neighbors, or we can appreciate their willingness to help in time of need. We can grumble about the material possessions we don't have, or we can be thankful for sufficient food, water, and shelter. We can despair when illness or aging makes daily life more difficult, or we can face new challenges with determination and make the most of our abilities.
Regardless of the circumstances, these choices are ours to make.
(by Diana C. Derringer (Kentucky, USA))
Friday, October 17, 2008
When [Bartimaeus] heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
-Mark 10:47 (NRSV)
MY cat has a habit of jumping onto the roof. Later, if she becomes desperate to get down, she'll come within my reach so I can grab her and whisk her down to food, water, and shelter. Kitty's cooperation depends on the length of time she has spent on the roof. If she has been there only an hour, she stands out of reach. But after a day in the heat or rain, Kitty, in her desperation, is ready.
Hoping to end my late-night climbs, I decided to cut a limb that was hanging over the roof to eliminate her means of getting on top of the house. But the following night, the cat was again on the roof, soaked in rain. As I climbed the ladder, Kitty let out a loud cry and jumped into my arms.
I realized that we sometimes behave like Kitty. God is always reaching for us when we're lost, but as St. Augustine said, God "will not save us without our consent." Like Kitty, we have to be needy enough, lost enough, humble enough to accept the mercy we need. When we admit our need, we will see the hand of God reaching out to us. May we acknowledge our deep need for God's grace.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
"Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position." 2Peter 3:17 "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." 1Peter 5:8
Despite the fact that "No one who is born of God will continue to sin" 1John 3:9a, the saints are subject to the same kind of temptations which are common to all men. There are ways to escape temptations. Some may involved avoiding circumstances which lead to temptation in the first place. Or to learn to flee from temptation. Or to resist it as Jesus did in the wilderness. But in any case we can never excuse ourselves for sinning. For God does not allow tempations beyond what we can handle. "Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey— whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." Rom 6:16-18 And Jesus said, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin."John 8:34, a behavior of which is not characteristic of the saints.
Therefore watch that you never say to yourself "I couldn't help myself", for in doing so you call into question God's faithfulness.
The Boston Christian Bible Study Resources
Monday, October 13, 2008
1Cor 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Similarly James writes, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." Jas 1:12 And the Lord says to the church in Smyrna, "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." Rev 2:10 And at the end of Paul's life he says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day— and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." 1Tim 4:7,8
To obtain the prize one must first know the rules. For "if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules." 2Tim 2:5 One must also go into strict training. In Greek the word is "temperate" or "to exercise self-control" (1Cor 7:9) Athletes, in preparing themselves for the games, abstained from unwholesome food, wine, and sexual indulgence Paul went even further, abstaining from marriage and from receiving a salary for his ministering. And one must persevere to the end with determination and with the goal in mind. At the end of his life Jesus prayed, "I have accomplished the work which you have given me to do." John 17:4
Are we living with purpose, with a measurable goal in mind, a task which the Lord will hold us accountable? Or are we living aimlessly?
(thanks to The Boston Christian Bible Study Resources. God bless us)
Thursday, October 9, 2008
1Cor 9:16-18 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.
As the Lord had commissioned Paul to preach, the Lord would hold him accountable to do so. Likewise there are responsibilities the Lord has entrusted to all of us and we will be held accountable to carry them out. Paul could not preach voluntarily. In fact he did not volunteer for this service but was drafted into it. However what Paul could do voluntarily was to give up his personal rights to a wife and to getting paid, in order to serve God better.
"If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." Mt 5:41 The Lord forced him to go the first mile preaching the gospel. But Paul voluntarily went the second mile by giving up his personal rights. How far are we willing to go with the Lord voluntarily? How far as a slave and how far as a son? What personal rights and freedoms might we relinquish to serve God better?
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Philippians 1:3-11 (NRSV)
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God's grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
by Liz Palmer (New South Wales, Australia)
AS a new Christian, I compared myself to other Christians. I felt I wasn't good enough. I was sure I was a disappointment to God.
Then one September day, my little wattle tree bloomed for the first time. I was so excited to see the early blossoms that I took my son to share the moment with me.
Next to that little tree was a more established wattle tree. At this time, it was big, bushy, and in full bloom. It was beautiful. I took great pride in that big wattle tree. However, I took as much pride in the smaller wattle tree that was beginning to bloom.
As I looked at my two trees, one beautiful and established, the other smaller but starting to bloom, I realized that God sees us in a similar way. Yes, God rejoices in established Christians who have grown in their faith and are producing an abundance of fruit. But I am sure God rejoices just as much in new Christians who are beginning to grow.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
1 Peter 5:6-11 (NRSV)
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
by Angel M. Mattos-Nieves (Puerto Rico)
I had taken out a commercial loan to help support the construction of a hospital we needed in our community. The time to repay this large amount of money was approaching. I became anxious and unhappy because I did not have the money to pay the loan.
Then I stopped to think about all the blessings in my life. I thought of my wife and my children, my house, my work, my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ, my parents, all the beautiful experiences of my life. I am rich! I told myself.
I felt ashamed. Kneeling, I gave thanks to God and asked for forgiveness, casting all my anxieties on God. After my prayer, I felt at peace and happy, as if everything had been taken care of.
Days later, I received a letter from my sister in Ohio. Since she was going through some rough times in her life, with her husband and her daughter in the hospital, I opened the letter with some trepidation. To my surprise, inside the letter was a check for exactly the amount I needed to repay my loan. My sister was repaying me for a loan I had made to her and forgotten.
When it comes to living the Christian life, hearing the Word once is not enough. Just like with food we need to develop a habit of taking in the Word on a regular basis. And especially concerning those things which call for action, seeing as our flesh is in opposition to the desires of the Spirit and as such will take every opportunity to avoid application, including making us forget. Besides, you'll find that as you read the same thing you read a year ago, suddenly you'll discover something new. That's been my experience. Keep safe. Keep in the Word.
Now as a couple of examples elsewhere in which the Bible teaches about reminding others consider 2Peter 3:1-3 "Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires." And likewise we have to be reminded not to start quarrels over things which aren't that important. Paul writes to Timothy saying, "Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen." 2Tim 2:14
Consider practicing some scripture memory, as God instructed, "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Josh 1:8
Monday, October 6, 2008
"Know" here is ginosko - relational knowledge, which is somewhat obvious from the context. For it's one thing to know about Christ, his resurrection and sufferings, but quite another to personally experience them. The power of Christ's resurrection is something all believers anticipate experiencing, namely our resurrection from the dead."Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." 1Cor 15:20 But there is also the sense in which we have already be raised with Christ. That is, "having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead." Col 2:12 That is, while we were dead in sin with regards to our relationship with God, those of us who are now in Christ have be raised from that condition of spiritual dead and are now in a living relationship with God. But what also is implied in the power of his resurrection is the power to overcome the corruption of the flesh, namely what we refer to as sanctification, which is the process by which we are made more like Christ with regards to our desires and attitudes.
Fellowshipping in his sufferings is somewhat inevitable in the process of living the Christian life - if you're doing it right. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" 2Tim 3:12 But "consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Heb 12:3 And "if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Rom 8:17
And not only his daily sufferings, but also conforming to his death. His death was the fulfillment of his mission. And as Jesus prayer just prior to his death, "I have finished the work which You have given Me to do." John 17:4, likewise we seek to identify the mission God will hold us accountable for and seek to complete it, so that at the end of our life we may likewise say, "I have finished the work which You have given me to do."
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
OBJECTS OF LOVE.
The Bible generally deals with three objects of love. First of all there is love towards God, as revealed by one's obedience. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." John 14:15 And John writes, "This is love for God: to obey his commands." 1John 5:3
Secondly is love for other Christians. Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34,35 And thus such love for fellow Christians is indicative that one believes in Christ, as John also writes, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." 1John 3:14,15 And thus preference is given to doing good for fellow Christians as Paul writes, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Gal 6:10
And thirdly is the general love for everyone else. For "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom 5:8 So also should we seek the welfare of those who are yet to come to faith. Paul also writes, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." 1Tim 2:1-4 God wants everyone to be saved, and so should we.
ATTITUDES OF LOVE
In 1Cor 13 Paul speaks of Love as incorporating a number of attitudes, many of which elsewhere are referred to as the "fruit of the Spirit".
Just to categorize from 1Cor 13:4-8 concerning what attitudes are and are not incorporated in Christian love:
LOVE is characterized by being:
3. Rejoicing in the truth
4. protective of others, trusting God, hopeful, persevering
And Love is characterized by not:
1. being envious
3. being proud
4. being rude
5. being self-seeking
6. being easily angered
7. keeping a record of wrongs
8. delighting in evil
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Let us be a prayer worrier! If there's something we're worried about right now, then pray about it. Ask for what we need, or put it in his hands to deal with it. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 1Peter 5:7 Even Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane prayed about his anxiety concerning his crucifixion. And God strengthened him to face it.
This is the peace that doesn't make sense - the peace of mind which is gained by faith in God. Pray until we attain such peace. It will guard our hearts from evil desires and our minds from evil thoughts."You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." Is 26:3
Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
-Psalm 80:3 (NRSV)
A few years ago, my son and I restored an old desk that had several layers of paint on it. We gathered the necessary materials - paint stripper, putty knives, rubber gloves, and sandpaper. First we applied the paint stripper, let it stand, and scraped off the old layers of paint. Then we sanded off the remaining bits of paint, making sure to get into all the little nooks and crannies. To our delight, beautiful light oak wood began to appear under all those layers. Finally, we applied a new coat of stain and two coats of varnish to protect the bare wood. The desk was like new again, restored to its original look. It sits in my study today as a beautiful reminder of what its creator intended.
We too can be restored, to be the people that God intends us to be. But like the paint layers on that old desk, over time we have accumulated layers of sin that need to be removed. When we allow Christ into our lives, he will penetrate the areas that need forgiveness and restoration. And when we are new again, Christ covers us with love to protect us. Because of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, we can be saved from our sin.
Monday, September 29, 2008
[Jesus] said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear."
-Luke 12:22 (NIV)
THE company I was working for reduced staff, and I lost my job. This left me feeling very concerned about the future. Would I be able to provide for my wife and children?
One day when I was feeling particularly worried, I took a walk in a nearby park. Suddenly a flash of brilliant blue caught my eye. It was a kingfisher that had just flown down from a nearby branch. Quickly the bird was back up in the tree, gulping down a worm. This surprised me. I had thought that kingfishers ate only fish. The bird flew down to the ground and back up into the tree six or seven times. Each time it returned to the tree with a worm, which it swiftly swallowed. Then it began to sing a happy song.
The kingfisher easily caught many worms. Although they weren't its preferred food, it seemed to be happy. Then I realized that the God who provides food for a kingfisher would no doubt provide for me and my family. Even if I had to survive on less money and fewer goods than before, I could still be joyful in God.
Friday, September 26, 2008
A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a `sinner.'" But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
Zacchaeus was not the kind of man that people looked up to as an example of a righteous man, but rather whom they looked down upon as a sinner, and rightly so. Jesus describes him as a man who was lost, without salvation. But that's the kind of person Jesus came to save.
However notice again that while Jesus gratiously takes initiative in calling on this man, the offer of salvation itself is not unconditional. It is contingent upon repentance - such as we see here with Zaccheus who took practical steps at making amends for sins of omission and sins of commission.
But notice also that Jesus declared him "saved" at the very declaration of his intention to repent, prior to its being carried out. When a person sincerely intends to repent of his sins and believe in Jesus, it is at that point they are saved. For a person is saved not by works of righteousness, but by faith. Though there is a correlation between the two.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
An example of such a choice was the contrast between Mary and Martha's reception of the Lord in Luke 10:38+ Martha played the hostess, which was good, but the Lord indicated that Mary made the better choice by sitting and listening to him. Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
So consider all the choices you make daily concerning how you utilize your time, resources and efforts, whether you are settling for what is good, or whether there may be a better choice.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true.
-2 Samuel 7:28 (NRSV)
ON-LINE auctions are an excellent way for me to add to my collection of out-of-print books. I read the descriptions carefully and examine the pictures in detail, trying to make sure the item is exactly what it is represented to be. Then, if my bid wins, I wait for the mail to bring my long-awaited purchase. When it arrives, I eagerly tear into the package - sometimes to find that the item has been misrepresented.
Many of us are victims of false advertising, but our greater disappointments are with people who turn out to be different than we first thought. A friend may betray us; the one we marry may have flaws we never suspected; a business partner may take advantage of us. Can people be trusted? Unfortunately, not always.
But there is good news. There is One who never changes, who never disappoints us, and whom we can always trust. Jesus Christ is and always will be exactly what God's word declares him to be. Jesus always loves, always cares, and is always with us wherever we go - regardless of the circumstances we face and the pain life brings.
Retaining your position in life. When a person becomes a Christian, he may be tempted to use it as an excuse to make inappropriate changes in his life. They may use it as an excuse to divorce an unbelieving spouse and commit adultery by marrying another Christian. Or they may feel pressured to make some unncessary changes in their life. Paul relieves this pressure. Becoming a Christian doesn't necessarily mean that you have to drop out of school and become a missionary. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to change jobs, nor your culture, nor your language. There will be adjustments you will have to make. But we all should learn to appreciate the variety and diversity of circumstances and background which encompass the body of Christ. Let's integrate Christ into the life and circumstances into which God has led us, rather than necessarily seeking to escape such circumstances
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
By the power at work within us [God] is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.
-- Ephesians 3:20 (NRSV)
ONE morning I had an appointment and was running late. After I had stopped at a light behind three or four other vehicles, the light finally turned green. But we didn't move. I craned my neck to see the problem.
A car that had made a right turn appeared to be blocking the way as it waited for another light. I could see a large gap between that car and the one ahead of it. "If that car would just move forward to close the gap, we could all get through our light," I muttered.
Eventually the car moved. As it did so, I saw that it was towing a very long, low trailer. I realized that I had been seeing only a part of the situation.
Afterwards, I wondered how many times I have made a decision based on what I could see without asking God to reveal the bigger picture. I thought of the times God seemed not to answer a prayer or to be responding differently than seemed logical to me.
God sees the whole picture, and acts in my life based on a higher view than mine. I have learned not to make decisions on my limited view but to trust God, who looks beyond what we can see.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
In our every day life, we have to make decision even forced to make decision. All decisions that we make will bring their own consequences. Bad decision will come with bad consequences. Therefore, in making decision, we need God's guidance. we need to seek God's help in order not to decide wrongly.
Sometimes out of curiosity or being unable to get rid of the temptations, we took the risk to go the opposite of God's way. We go astray from what we know is God's will and God's leading. As a result we return hurt and suffering. Sometimes, long after the side trip, we still carry the burdens and pain we brought on ourselves.
As a kid tried to learn riding bicycle, he would frequently fell and hurt himself. But he knew that they were the consequences of taking the risk to ride the bike. The hurts will heal by some medications as well as time. Some pains will heal when we take medication as prescribed by a doctor but some will take months to recover. Just as the doc and time healed us, we have a God and Savior who will heal us as well. When we humbly ask forgiveness, we are reconciled with God. Sometimes the consequences are with us long afterward, but our God is also with us, giving us strength to prevail.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Your Father knows what you need before you ask.
-Matthew 6:8 (NRSV)
Very often we find we have so many things to pray for that we don't know how or where to begin. Our prayers can be jumbled and muddled as we pour out our needs to God. We feel confused and mixed up as we try in earnest to convey all we think God needs to know.
But we need not fear. God who knows each one of us intimately knows our needs before we even speak. God also knows our fears, our sins, and our feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. God knows every detail of your life and mine.
As Jesus talked to the woman at the well, she told him some personal facts. But Jesus already knew them! When Jesus walked along the road in Jericho, he already knew Zacchaeus was in the tree; in fact, he knew all about Zacchaeus too.
God knows about us as well. Even before we were born, God knew us. From the moment of our conception God has watched us. When we are in turmoil over how and what to pray, we can offer God simple words and our heart's yearnings. Our powerful and amazing God already knows the facts.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Jesus said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
-Matthew 19:19 (NRSV)
FOR the past eight years, I have been in prison. I have an eight-year-old daughter who often writes me letters to encourage me. Since the letters are from a little girl, they are always short: "Dad, I love you, and I will wait for you until you come back." Her letters always touch my heart. I have done nothing for her during these years, so I decided to save money to buy a special present for her birthday.
Last week I heard that a friend's daughter was sick and needed money to see a doctor. I knew my savings would be a great help to the family, but I needed the money too. That night I couldn't sleep, tossing and turning all night. Why? Because there was a struggle in my heart. I had prayed that God would take care of my friend's little girl, but I didn't want to do anything for her. Then the verse "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" entered my mind again and again. It seemed as though Jesus himself were asking me, "If this little girl were your daughter, what would you want others to do?" Immediately I knew what I should do, and I did it. I now understand what Christ's love is all about.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
by Kevin Heffernan (California, U.S.A.)
MY dad brings his camera along wherever he goes. For him, even a walk around the neighborhood can turn into an opportunity for a photo shoot. As years have gone by and our family has welcomed in-laws, children, and grandchildren, Dad has zoomed out his camera lens more and more so that we all fit in the picture.
Watching Dad has taught me something important. To help us maintain perspective on our circumstances, my wife and I apply the concept of zooming out. When money is tight, a loved one is ill, or a conflict arises, we take a few minutes to shift from our limited viewpoint to God's more long-term outlook. This is a practical way to increase joy and to decrease fear.
Focusing on close-up shots of any problem can be overwhelming. God does not want us to live in fear. Rather, God wants us to experience the abundant life possible for us. When we feel consumed by a situation, we can "zoom out."
Friday, August 22, 2008
In the previous posting we talked about 'Goliaths' of many kinds that we have to face in life. In order to be able to face and overcome those Goliaths, we need to have proper training as David had as a shepherd. Besides, we need to be equipped with the right tools.
Most of the time we are being surrounded by Goliaths. We cant move forward because he is right in front of our way but we cant move backward either because another kind of Goliath is standing there. We try to go to the left but the Goliath of family crisis is hindering us. We turn to our right, hoping to see an opening to escape but Goliath of financial problem is also staring right to our face.....where should we go? what should we do?
I could imagine if David was also in that situation. When he saw the giant Goliath, he might speak to himself "What a giant!..we could I run?! But can I run away?..If I run away, King Saul must be very angry at me and have me killed"...So what did David do? He faced the giant in faith!! He looked up at God and step forward fully relying in Him.
We are in the very same situation quite often then not. Surrounded by giants of life issues and have no where to go. What can we do?..Look up to God because He is watching over is...He will deliver us from that giants...We might think that God is not watching but He does...Remember when we go watching our child taking part in activities in school?...When he is performing with his teammates, we as parents will try our best to focus on him. We did not really look at the entire team but we focus on our child alone. Even though there are many of them out there doing the activities or performance but our focus is on our child only. We just know what and how he is doing. He might do not see us because we are sitting in the middle of a big crowd..but at times, when he look up, he will see us sitting there.....
As a child of God, we just need to look up to the Father...we know He is right there focusing on us, watching us....take a time to look up....
Thursday, August 21, 2008
In our life, everyday is a challenge by itself. Carrying out our responsibility as fathers, sons, daughters, employees, employers, teachers, students and so on challenges us in various ways. Quite often we failed in our battle against those challenges. We failed in overcoming those obstacles. But whether we realize it or not, more often than not, our failure was usually due to our own attitude towards those challenges. Are we well prepared?. Are we using the right tools?
Reflecting on preparedness and tool choices, the battle between David and Goliath gives a very good example. Prior to being called to face the giant, David was a young and brave shepherd. He used to defend his flocks against foxes with only his slingshot. When he came to battle against Goliath, Saul lent him some armor, which was too big and too heavy for David. So instead of taking the armor and sword, David wisely chose his slingshot. The slingshot had served him well in defending his flocks. he really knew how the slingshot works. But the most importantly, he came against Goliath in faith to God.
Quite often we also make choices. When we rely on our own devices, we quickly find that the job overwhelms us. When we rely on armor and sword, we find that the armor and sword are too heavy for us. But when we step out in faith, relying on God's power and grace, even with the least sophisticated tools, there is no end to what we can accomplish. Even with only five loaves and two fishes, we can do beyond our expectation if we walk in faith and totally relying on God's power and grace.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
by Tori Tremaine Walker (Kentucky, U.S.A.)
The psalmist prayed, "Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me."
-Psalm 119:133 (NIV)
AFTER visiting a friend, I began my journey home, following his directions through miles of beautiful farmland. Time lagged as I drove on and on past unmarked roads winding their way through fields of corn. I began to have doubts. Could he have made a mistake in the directions? Maybe he left out something or forgot an important turn. I almost turned to go a different way that I thought must be correct. But then common sense took over, and I realized I could trust his directions. He had lived in the area all his life; certainly the route he outlined would lead me safely home. Sure enough, before long I reached the highway and headed home. His directions were perfect!
God also offers us direction for life. But often we doubt God's guidance or think maybe we have a better way. Sometimes we neglect to seek God's direction at all.
The guidance we need comes through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts, through prayer, through situations we experience, and through people God brings into our lives. God will give us direction if we ask, and we can be certain that God's guidance is always trustworthy.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Is there any time in life when we feel like giving up? When we fed up of many things around us? Time when we lost almost all of our confidence to move on? I'm sure there is..
There must be time when we feel everything is not as we have wished for...Surely, if God asks us to do something during that trying moment, we will certainly try not to say yes to God. We will try our best to negotiate even though we know God is able to do whatever He wants to do. At that time, we will be the best person in reasoning.
Just like Moses when God first called him and told him to go and speak to the people of Israel. He tries his best to reason with God. He reasons about what to tell them if the ask about God's name, what if the do not believe that Moses has really seen God. God gives him answers to all his questions even shows him signs that He is really a true God. But even with all that signs and assurances, Moses still not willing to do it. Because he acknowledges God power and strength, he use his own weaknesses to reason with God. "I am not good in talking. I am slow of tongue". Very good argument but what God said in response?..."Who has made man's mouth?"...Reading the Book of Exodus up to this point, I am expecting God to use His power to transform Moses into someone who has the ability to speak with authority. But He does not do that. Maybe Moses was expecting the same or perhaps he was expecting God to give him task that will not involve talking. But God is beyond man's expectation. Far beyond. Indeed, He put Aaron in the picture. Moses and Aaron will compliment each other. Moses does the talking with God, Aaron does the talking with the people of Israel.
When we feel lost, when we feel defeated, when we feel we are full of shortcomings to be able to do that job, talk to God. Speak out our inabilities to Him and He will provide 'Aarons' for us.....
Thursday, August 14, 2008
by Kenny A. Noble (Indiana, U.S.A.)
I was preoccupied with tasks around the house and paid little attention to the distant voice outside my back door. I assumed that I was hearing the neighborhood children playing, but later I realized that someone was calling for help. Finally alarmed, I ran toward the sound and discovered a neighbor with his fingers caught in the engine belt of his garden tractor.
"Help me!" he cried.
I cut the engine belt and set him free. He had tried to repair the running engine. Fortunately the motor had stalled, leaving his fingers only pinched and bruised.
I left feeling guilty, knowing that if I had responded at his first cry, I could have spared him some of his suffering. As I prayed to become more sensitive to my surroundings, God helped me to see that I also sometimes fail to notice the emotional pain of the people around me. I realized that preoccupation with personal interests had often made me insensitive. I determined from that moment on to listen more attentively and to be sensitive to the needs of those around me.
Love has been the central of Jesus's teaching. Firstly, He tells us to love God with all our heart. Secondly, He tells us to love one another, to love our neighbors, to love our enemies. Why love God?. By loving God, we will do our best to obey God's commands. If we do not love God, we will ignore all His commands. But love must be put into act and in good faith. We cannot just say we have love but do not put it into action. Loving God means doing and following His commands.
Love one another, love your neighbors, love your enemies. It might be easy to love one another especially families and friends. So as to love our neighbors. But how about to love our enemies? If we love our enemies, do we still have enemies? Loving our enemies is similar to making friend with our enemies. I realize that what Jesus wants us to understand is that we live in peace with one another. To love one another is the way of living that He wants us to practice. By loving one another we do not have enemies.
But that love need to be put into act not merely in word and in tongue. And the act of love must be in good faith....
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
by Paul M. Nagano (California, U.S.A.)
The Word became flesh and lived among us . . . full of grace and truth.
-John 1:14 (NRSV)
WHEN I was first introduced to Christianity, I had no real knowledge of God or that God was a God of love. My Sunday school teachers taught me John 3:16, "God so loved the world . . . ." They also taught me Psalm 23 and the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Being taught from the Bible was a real revelation to me. In reflection, what really convinced me that these teachers were genuine and that what they were teaching me was true was the way they lived their lives. Whenever I was absent from Sunday school, they would visit me and express their love and care for me.
I was from an immigrant family - poor, lonely, rather isolated, and neglected. But what I was taught became truly meaningful and life-transforming; what I was being taught was made flesh in the lives of these Sunday school teachers. Over time, my whole life and purpose in life were transformed as the Word became flesh to me personally. I surrendered and committed my life to God's love and have endeavored to serve God as a minister for 63 years. In Jesus, the Word of God became flesh. When love becomes flesh, things begin to happen. They did in my life.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
by Tony Nancarrow (South Australia, Australia)
All of us make many mistakes.
-James 3:2 (NRSV)
EVEN though Simon the Pharisee neglected to offer Jesus the customary courtesies of hospitality - foot washing, a kiss, anointing - he is appalled that Jesus would allow this sinful woman to touch him. Jesus then tells a parable about two people whose debts were forgiven by a compassionate moneylender. One had been given a large sum and the other a much smaller amount. Jesus asks Simon which of the two would love the moneylender the most. When Simon identifies the one who has been forgiven the most, Jesus draws parallels between the parable and the woman who has anointed his feet.
A marginalized and judged woman responded to the generous love and grace of God in a way that a religious leader was unable to do. God's way is unbound by legalism. Rather, God's way is the way of grace, forgiveness, generosity, justice, compassion, and inclusion - a message embodied in Jesus.
Like Simon, we all know what it is like to make mistakes and to think ourselves always right. But God's love and forgiveness challenge our self-righteousness. If we truly receive the freedom God's grace gives us, we will be slow to judge and quick to forgive.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
-1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
LOOKING up at the hills near Lake Elsinore, California, I remembered the hills behind the neighborhood where I grew up. They were a great place to play - fairly safe, with just a slight element of danger to add excitement to our days. Several years later, those hilltops and tiny caves were gone, replaced by large, modern homes.
Just as neighborhoods change over the years, so do people. We go through various experiences that change us. Whether the results are for the better depends largely on our attitude.
Consider the apostle Paul. Both he and his living conditions changed after his experience with Christ on the Damascus Road. Rather than arresting Christians, he became a courageous and bold defender of the faith. He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and imprisoned. Paul certainly had good reason to complain, but he thanked God. Why? Paul recognized that his greatest treasure was Jesus Christ and the righteousness Christ offers.
Change is inevitable for all of us. So when it comes, we can look for the new opportunities God is offering in it and, like Paul, we can rejoice, give thanks, and embrace the change.
Friday, August 8, 2008
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
-Psalm 34:7 (NRSV)
HAVING lived through two experiences that changed my life, I have learned that God's concern for my life is real.
Several years ago, on two separate occasions, I was attacked by an armed assailant. I never thought I would experience such traumatic and frightening events. However, prior to each attack, I sensed God's presence. Seconds before each attack, I heard the words of Psalm 34:7: "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them." Afterward, I understood why God had brought to my mind those words.
Today, after many years, I also know that a Christian is not guaranteed a life free from unpleasant or ugly situations. But God cares for us and never abandons us. We can be secure in this hope.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God.
-Colossians 4:2 (TEV)
A mother robin built her nursery on the beam supporting my back porch roof. The beam was a dry, safe place for raising babies, but I pictured the floor covered with bird droppings. I decided the nest had to go. I batted it down with a broom and dropped the dried mud, sticks, and string into my garbage can. Two days later, another nest appeared in the same place. With the broom I again made short work of the robin's painstaking creation. Several days later, yet another nest rested on the beam.
My heart softened as I thought, If this mother robin has worked that hard, carrying one stick at a time, one drop of mud at a time to the beam, maybe I should leave her alone. So I did.
The robin's persistence reminded me of the story Jesus told his disciples. A widow repeatedly brought her case before a hardened judge. Because of the woman's constant requests, the judge finally agreed to hear the case. Jesus was illustrating that we should continually bring our needs before God in prayer. If a woman's repeated request eventually caused an uncaring judge to consent, certainly our consistent prayers will gain the ear of our loving heavenly Father. Often we become discouraged and give up praying. Instead, the story in Luke tells us to continue praying and never give up.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Recently, I found this interesting site http://www.gotquestions.org/why-read-Bible.html.It explains quite clearly the reasons to why should we read the Bible. I am truly blessed by its insight. Therefore, I would like to share it with you.
The article says:
Simply stated, we should read and study the Bible because it is God's word to us. 2 Timothy 3:16 states that the Bible is "God-breathed." In other words, it is God's Word to us. There are so many questions that philosophers and people have asked that God answers for us in Scripture: What is the purpose to life? Where did I come from? Is there life after death? What happens after death? How do I get to heaven? Why is the world full of evil? Why do I struggle to do good? In addition to these "big" questions, it gives a ton of practical advice in areas such as: What do I look for in a mate? How can I have a successful marriage? How can I be a good friend? How can I be a good parent? What is success and how do I achieve it? How can I change? What really matters in life? How can I live so that I do not look back with regret? How can I please God? How can I gain forgiveness? How can I handle the unfair circumstances and bad events of life victoriously?
We should read and study the Bible because it is totally reliable, without error. The Bible is unique among so-called "holy" books in that it does not merely give moral teaching and say, "trust me." Rather, it gives us the ability to test it by checking the hundreds of detailed prophecies that it makes, by checking the historical accounts it records, and by checking the scientific facts it relates. Those who say the Bible has errors have their ears closed to the truth. Jesus once asked which is easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven you," or "Rise, take up your bed and walk." Then He proved He had the ability to forgive sins (something we cannot see with our eyes) by healing the paralytic (something those around Him could test with their eyes). Similarly, we are given assurance that God's Word is true when it discusses spiritual areas that we cannot test with our senses, by showing itself true in those areas that we can test (historical accuracy, scientific accuracy, and prophetic accuracy).
We should read and study the Bible because God does not change and because mankind's nature does not change - it is as relevant for us as it was when it was written. While technology changes around us, mankind's desires and nature do not change. You find, as you read the pages of biblical history, that whether you are talking about one-on-one relationships or societies, "there is nothing new under the sun." And while mankind as a whole continues to seek love and satisfaction in all of the wrong places, God, our good and gracious Creator, tells us what will bring us LASTING joy. His revealed Word, the Scriptures, are so important that Jesus said of them, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). In other words, if you want to live life to the fullest as God intended, listen and heed God's written word...it is even more important than eating!
We should read and study the Bible because there is so much false teaching. The Bible gives us the measuring stick by which we can determine truth from error. It tells us what God is like. To have a wrong impression of God is worship of an "idol" or "false god." We are worshiping something that He is not! The Bible tells us how one truly gets to heaven...and it is not by being good or by being baptized, or by anything else we DO (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:1-10; Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:10f., 5:8; 6:23; 10:9-13). Along this line, God's Word shows us just how much God loves us (Romans 5:6-8; Isaiah 53:1f.). And it is in learning this that we are drawn to love Him in return (1 John 4:19).
The Bible will equip you for serving God (2 Timothy 3:17; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). It will help you know how to be saved from your sin and its ultimate consequence (2 Timothy 3:15). Meditating on it and obeying its teachings will bring success in life (Joshua 1:8; James 1:25). God’s Word will help you see sin in your life and help you get rid of it (Psalm 119:9,11). It will give you guidance in life, making you wiser than your teachers (Psalm 32:8; 119:99; Proverbs 1:6). The Bible will keep you from wasting years of your life on that which will not last and does not matter (Matthew 7:24-27).
Reading and studying the Bible will help you to see beyond the attractive "bait" to the painful "hook" in sinful temptations, so that you can learn from others' mistakes rather than making them yourself. Experience is a great teacher, but when it comes to learning from sin, it is a terribly hard teacher. It is so much better to learn from others' mistakes. There are so many Bible characters to learn from, both positive and negative role models, both often coming from the same person's life at different points. For example, David, in his defeat of the giant, Goliath, teaches us that God is greater than anything He asks us to face (1 Samuel 17). David, in his giving in to the temptation to commit adultery with Bathsheba, reveals just how long-lasting and terrible the consequences of a "moment's pleasure" can be (2 Samuel 11f.). Knowing the Bible gives us a real hope and peace when everything around us seems to be falling apart (Romans 15:4; Psalm 112:7; Habakkuk 3:17-19).
The Bible is a book that is not for mere reading. It is a book for studying so that it can be applied. Otherwise, it is like swallowing food down without chewing and then spitting it back out again...no nutritional value is gained by it. The Bible is God's Word. As such, it is as binding as the laws of nature. You can ignore it, but you do so to your own hurt, just as you would do so to ignore the law of gravity. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough just how important the Bible is to our lives. Studying the Bible can be compared to mining for gold. If you make little effort and merely "sift through the pebbles in a stream," you will only find a little gold dust. But the more you make an effort to really "dig into it," the more reward you will gain for your effort.
May all of us be blessed.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Paul wrote, "I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself."
-Philippians 3:12 (TEV)
FOR as long as I can remember, I have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. As a young child, I attended church regularly.
During my teenage years, I stopped attending church. I began working weekends and after school to save money for college. My behavior changed, and much of what I said and did was not Christlike. I grew away from the church and from Christ.
After a number of years, I realized that I felt incomplete. It took me a while, but I finally figured out what had been missing in my life. It was Christ. But then I felt it was too late; I had done too much that was bad. I just did not feel "good enough" to come back to Christ.
But I started attending church again anyway, and realized that it was not too late. Jesus died on the cross so that we all could come back to him. Because of this great love, our past sins are forgiven. When we ask for forgiveness, God forgives us - not because we are good enough but because Jesus Christ is.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Jesus said, "I have come in order that you might have life -- life in all its fullness."
-John 10:10 (TEV)
I am a bicycle rider. I love the freedom, peace and contentment I feel when I'm riding my bicycle. Sometimes I ride on busy roads. At those times, I often ride the white stripe on the side of the road to leave as much room as possible between the passing cars and my bike. I find that I can easily stay on that stripe if I keep my focus well ahead of my front wheel. It is when I look down at the stripe just below me that I become wobbly and find myself in danger of falling into harm's way.
I see the same importance of focus in the Bible story about Peter. When Peter was walking on the water toward Jesus, he was able to stay on top of the water as long as he kept his focus out ahead - on Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves below his feet, he began to sink.
In life, we have a daily - sometimes even minute-by-minute - choice. When troubles come our way or life's cares begin to overwhelm us and rob us of the abundant life God intends, we can either keep our focus on Christ, with whom all things are possible (Luke 1:37), or look at our fears and begin to wobble. Keeping our focus on Christ frees us to keep our minds and hearts open to receive the abundant life God offers and to be a channel of God's love to others.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
As our body physically needs to warm up before going through heavy exercises, our spirit as well needs to be warmed up to enables us to face sufferings that its has to endure. The spiritual warming up or stretches will include praying, studying the Bible, attending prayer meetings and other activities related to faith development. These activities will prepare our faith for temptations of many kinds.
Without those stretching sessions our faith will easily fall even by the lightest temptations.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
When Thomas heard them saying that Jesus had appeared to them, he doubted. He wanted to see Jesus' scars. Not only that, he wanted to put his finger in the hole of Jesus' palms. He wanted to touch Jesus' scars. Only then he would believe. Only then he would admit that Jesus had risen.
I'm like Thomas some times. I questioned God for things that happened. I questioned God for the suffering I faced. I question God for the difficulties I endured. I doubted God's presence in my life. I doubted God's power in making me happy. I doubted God's love because He let me be in trial of many kinds. I doubted God's power to heal because of pain I suffered when I was sick.
We pray some times "God, why let this happen if you love us?" We become like Thomas. All we ask is a sign. We would only believe if we see signs. If we touch or experience the signs. But Jesus said "Blessed a those who believe without seeing".
When we suffer, the pain would disappear but scars would remain. When we looked at those scars, we were reminded that we were once wounded. We were once suffered. But what we do not realize most of the time is the fact that the scars are sign of us ever been healed. We do not realize that God has healed us. We forget that those scars are signs of God's love. Signs of God's presence.
Give thanks today when we saw those scars in our life....
Monday, July 28, 2008
Yesterday's sermon said about the importance of having the Words of God deeply rooted and grew in our life. It mentioned about the need for parents to encourage their kids to attend Sunday's school because the growing process of the words of God begins while we are still very young.
I'm very much in support of that and I thank God for reminding me something that I've learned through experience. While I was a kid, I would say that going to Sunday's school was something that I was waiting for. I remember that my Sunday's school teacher read to us the story of Joseph. He did it in a very entertaining way. He did it chapter by chapter. Each Sunday, he would spend thirty minutes on the story telling. So every time he ended, he would say, "Alright kids, come again next week to know what happen next to Joseph". And I could not wait for the next Sunday.
As a kid, we like listening to story. By telling stories of the Bible, kids will be encourage to come to Sunday's school. That was where I came to know about the story of Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel, Samson and Jonah. That was where I began to know the life of Jesus.
Another interesting way of attracting kids to attend Sunday's school is by providing biblical comic books for them to read. During my Sunday's school day, I used to collect comics book on the biblical events. I read about the journey of Joshua to Jericho through a comic books. So as the story of Paul. But I can hardly find those comic books nowadays.
When kids know the Bible it would be easier for them to study it when they grow up. When they become youth, they don't need the story telling session anymore. They need Bible Study session. But without the basic knowledge about all the characters in the Bible, it would be a little bit hard to make them interested in studying the Bible. It would be hard to talk about Abraham's faith if we do not know the story of Abraham. It would be difficult to tell about how God helped David in fighting Goliath when we do not know the life of David. How could we accept Jesus' teachings when we do not know who Jesus is?
No wander so many people distance their selves from God when they become youth because the words of God did not root and grow in their heart during Sunday's school day.
Friday, July 25, 2008
One day a father and his rich family took his son to a trip to the country with the firm purpose to show him how poor people can be. They spent a day and a night in the farm of a very poor family. When they got back from their trip the father asked his son, "How was the trip?"
"Very good Dad!"
"Did you see how poor people can be?" the father asked.
"And what did you learn?"
The son answered, "I saw that we have a dog at home, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of the garden, they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lamps in the garden, they have the stars. Our patio reaches to the front yard, they have a whole horizon."
When the little boy was finishing, his father was speechless. His son added, "Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are!"
Isn't it true that it all depends on the way you look at things? From one perspective, you may have possessions and provisions for the future, but from a spiritual perspective, you are on the verge of bankruptcy. Perhaps you need a change of perspective.
- Author Unknown
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
-Psalm 119:105 (KJV)
Why need lamp when there is a light for the path?
To see our step, we need lamp. To see our path, we need light.
With lamp, we see the details of what lie within a couple of feet in front of us. With light, we foresee what lie further ahead of our path.
With the brightness of a lamp, we may avoid stepping onto broken glasses lying on our way. With the shining light on our path, we may see the right direction of our path.
The words of God is a lamp of our feet. They help us to avoid being stumbled by rocks that were placed here and there on our path. We may not see those rocks unless we have lamp on our feet. There are many types of rocks lying on our way. They could be conflict in family, financial problems, relationship crisis, health issues and so forth. Without the lamp, we might step on those 'rocks' and worst ever being stumbled by the rocks. The words of God help us to foresee those rocks so that we are able to avoid it or at least not being stumbled by them.
Our path in life has many turns and junctions. We could end up at the wrong place if we take the wrong turn some where along the path. We need light to see the turns and junctions of the path. We need light to read all those signs and directions. Sometimes we take the wrong turn because we do not have the light with us. We simply take which ever turn that is available. Usually we tend to go for the most obvious turn or the wider path. What we do not realize is most of the time God's path is narrow and quite hidden. Without light we may miss the turn. The words of God is our only light that could lighten up our path for us to see clearly the path towards God.
We may have been walking on the wrong path. We may have taken the wrong turn. But if we ask for the light to lighten up our path, we would be able to go back and find the right path. We may get ourselves out of the predicament of being on the wrong path.
Daily Bible reading points us in the direction God wants us to go. By applying God's word in daily events, we can find our way out of any confusion life throws our way.
Monday, July 21, 2008
He gave the loaves and fishes to His disciples to be distributed. His disciples distributed the loaves and fishes to the multitude of 5000 men. They all ate and fulled.
Jesus gives to us only five loaves and two fishes to be distributed to a big multitude. Do we have the faith to say that it would be sufficient to feed the multitude? Jesus' disciples did not complained. They did not say 'Lord, how could this be enough for them?' They did what was told. They distributed it as told by Jesus.
What happened when they distributed it? The food multiplied! And it kept on multiplying as they distributed them.
Jesus gives to us may be a little talent, financial resources and other form of gifts. What have we done with our 'five loaves and two fishes'? Have we given it to Jesus for blessing and distribute it to the multitude or the people who need them? What we don't realize is that only when we give what we have, we get more. Only when the food was were distributed, they multiplied.
Only when we distribute our gift from God, it will multiply and bless us and other people....
Friday, July 18, 2008
Elijah was once hunted by Jezebel for the death of the Baal prophets. Well, it happened when the Baal prophets challenged Elijah to call to God to bring down fire from heaven to burn their sacrifice. The Baal prophets burnt to death together with the sacrifice. Jezebel blamed Elijah for their death.
So God took him away to the top of a mountain. There at the top Elijah was almost blown away by the great wind. The wind was followed by a massive earthquake and fire. but God was not present in any of those events. In fear, Elijah trembled. He was speechless under great fear. When everything turned silent, God spoke in still small voice.
When God speaks through earthquake, we listen.
When God speaks through great flood, we listen.
When God speaks through great famine, we listen.
When God speaks through economic crisis, we listen.
When God speaks through accident, we listen.
When God speaks through family crisis, we listen.
When God speaks through diseases, we listen.
When God speaks through the gentle wind in the morning, we do not listen.
When God speaks through our wealthy, we do not listen.
When God speaks through unity and family love, we do not listen.
When God speaks within our comfort zone, we do not listen.
When God speaks through good health, we do not listen.
When God speaks in still small voice, we do not listen
When God speaks in mighty thunder, we do listen
Very often, even most of the time, God speaks in still small voice
are we listening?
How are we to listen?
We need to be in complete silence - get rid of all turbulence of life issues from our mind, forget about those noisy things of economic, family and relationship crisis.
We need to put our heart, mind and ears to Him.
We need to be closer, so close to Him.
Take time to listen to His soft and small voice.
If we are not listening to His soft voice, He will speak in loud and thunderous voice and we will be trembling in fear......
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
A few months ago, I planted two different trees of our local fruit. The soil type of the ground where I planted them are a little bit coarse and sandy. Prior to that, a friend of mind informed me that soil of that type is not very suitable for certain fruit. But I insisted to try it out. For the first two weeks, everything seemed alright. I watered them every other day. Both trees showed sign of adapting to the environment. A month passed by, one of them began to show unhealthy sign. Leaves began to drop and turned brown. I took an additional effort to watered it everyday. After two months, it dried out and totally gone. The other one still surviving until now.
The Bible talks about the very same situation in the parable of the sower. If the ground is coarse, sandy and hard, any seed will face difficulties in adapting. If our heart is 'hard, coarse and sandy' the words of God will not grow in our heart even though we water it with prayer, meditation of the words of God and singing song of praise to God. The soil type needs to be change. Need to be replaced with a new type. The 'coarse, sandy and hard' soil need to be soften, made finer and blended with more nutrient. We need to get rid of our 'coarse, sandy and hard' heart.
The two different types of fruit could also be seen as faith of two different Christians. The shared the same 'ground' (went through same trials), they went to same church, attending same prayer meetings, cell group meetings and did many similar ministries. Ideally, they grew in faith together. But one of them didn't last for long. His faith weathered and melted even with all the watering. Why?
The reason is that the other tree has long and strong root. It penetrates deep into the earth and manage to find adequate water for it to grow. The other tree only depend on the water that I gave every time I watered it. It root didn't go deep into the earth. The faith of the other Christian did not go deeply into his heart. We saw him growing in the beginning but that was only the external. The root of his faith did not spread widely and deeply in his heart. That was why when he was alone, when no one watered him, his faith weathered and melted. The other Christians knows that deep down there is hope, there is water. He went on spreading and digging deep with his root and found water, plenty of water to keep on growing and producing fruits.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Our words reflect what is in our hearts. As Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Therefore, when my heart is brimming with an emotion, that feeling will leak or perhaps even spout out of my mouth. If I have unresolved sin or guilt in my heart, at some point my mouth will reveal it.
I used to pray to say the right things or not to say the wrong things. That prayer, however, did not seem to be answered. Negative words still cascaded from my mouth. Now I realize that the problem goes deeper than my words. I need to ask Christ to move in my heart to correct my wrong attitudes. If my heart is filled with love, that opens the way for kind and appropriate words to flow from my mouth.
(Leigh W. Young (North Carolina, U.S.A.)
Only God can correct our heart..
we need to fill our heart with His love, grace and mercy..
only then our words and attitude will full of love..
only then we will be able to show love to one another....
Thursday, July 10, 2008
There are a lot of miracles that Jesus had performed while He was ministering on earth. One of my favorites is 'The Feeding Of The 5000 People'. Why?
It spoke about Jesus' compassion for the multitude that was following Him.
- He sees us when we are following Him. He knows our needs. He knows when we are tired and hungry. He has compassion on us.
- He sees us when we are following Him. He knows our needs. He knows when we are tired and hungry. He has compassion on us.
It tells us that Jesus can make small things big. The five loaves and two fishes were too small to be able to feed the crowd.
- When we think that we have less, Jesus sees that we have more. All we need to do is to give the five loaves and two fishes to Him even though that are all I have.
- When we think that we have less, Jesus sees that we have more. All we need to do is to give the five loaves and two fishes to Him even though that are all I have.
His disciples became worried of the big crowd and suggested that Jesus send them to go to the nearest town and bought food.
- We tend to worry very easily when we saw big challenge in front of us.
- We tend to make suggestion to God. We might say "Lord, let the trouble go out of my way"
- Jesus did not submit to the disciples' suggestion instead asked them about how much food the have.
- But Jesus will say "How much strength you have to face the trouble?"
- But Jesus will say "How much strength you have to face the trouble?"
- Jesus told the crowd to sit down.
- When we have give all that we have up to Jesus, all we need to do is 'sit down'. We need to relax, rest and not thinking of the trouble. Let Him do the rest.
- When we have give all that we have up to Jesus, all we need to do is 'sit down'. We need to relax, rest and not thinking of the trouble. Let Him do the rest.
- He fed them till they were all full.
- He will fulfill our need and give to us abundantly.
- He will fulfill our need and give to us abundantly.
- He told them to gather the waste.
- I think Jesus wants to tell us not to waste foods. We cannot waste our blessings. We need to use our blessings wisely.
- I think Jesus wants to tell us not to waste foods. We cannot waste our blessings. We need to use our blessings wisely.