Friday, October 31, 2008

God's way

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.
-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

Through Eyes of Love

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

rejoice, rejoice, rejoice and rejoice some more

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

Have Mercy!

by Matt Berryman (Florida, USA)

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

Be Prepared for Temptations

1Cor 10:12-14 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

"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

A Goal-Oriented Life

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

volunteering for God

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

precious in His eyes

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

never lack of anything

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.

The Benefit of Repetition

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

Experiencing Christ

Php 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

"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

Charateristic of LOVE

It is mentioned in 1 Cor 13:13 "now these three remain: faith, hope and love." The verse goes on to say, "But the greatest of these is love." And the context indicates that it is the greatest of those attitudes namely because while faith and hope have an end when they are fulfilled, love continues on forever.

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.


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:
1. Patient
2. Kind
3. Rejoicing in the truth
4. protective of others, trusting God, hopeful, persevering

And Love is characterized by not:
1. being envious
2. boasting
3. being proud
4. being rude
5. being self-seeking
6. being easily angered
7. keeping a record of wrongs
8. delighting in evil
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