Activated

How to Make a Difference

By Maria Fontaine

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A sad part of my day is when I listen to the news. Almost everything is about people facing terrible situations. Both Christians and non-Christians face very painful suffering in one form or another in many parts of the world.

Much of the news is about some tragic circumstance somewhere. It ranges from financial crises to terrorism and wars and conflicts to drug-related violence to homelessness to persecution of Christians to devastation due to climate change to leftover land mines to lack of water in various places to horrible repressive governments.

Thinking about all that’s wrong can leave us feeling depressed if we stop there and we don’t take these situations to God in prayer. But He also uses this in my personal life as I look to Him for hope in a broken world.

Being reminded of the terrible straits that so many people are in always helps to divert my attention from what I consider my own problems and difficulties. Repeatedly being made aware of the suffering and trauma that so many people experience on a daily basis helps me remember the relative insignificance of my own difficulties and struggles and to be acutely aware of how blessed I am to be largely untouched by so many extremely sad and difficult things.

I see how very rich in spirit and blessings I am, how abundantly supplied for. My feet walk in pleasant paths, my eyes behold peaceful meadows, my ears hear beautiful music. I don’t hear the bombs of war. I don’t drink polluted water. I don’t live in a cardboard shack. I don’t hear words of cruelty from harsh taskmasters. I’m not imprisoned in a filthy cell.

I live in peace. Most people I encounter smile and say kind words. I have the freedom to openly talk about my faith. I can enjoy my loved ones. I have fun and friendship and fellowship. I have a warm bed. I can go out without fear.

I’m truly rich in so many ways that are so easy to take for granted!

Listening to the news helps me to pray for those who are suffering around the world. It also helps me to be much more positive and thankful for the “lightness” of my burdens, which are nothing compared with those of so many others.

We who are Christians may still have to struggle and face deep sorrow and suffering. Sometimes we may not feel very wealthy. However, in terms of spiritual provision, freedom, and answers to many of the questions of life, we are richly blessed.

As a result, we have the responsibility to share what we have with those the Lord leads us to, and to pray for those who are suffering and have incurred great loss.

When faced with the suffering and desperate needs of so many in the world today, you may not feel you have much to offer. But in spite of difficulties, deficiencies, inferiorities, disabilities, afflictions, or impediments, we all can do our part. Like the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus because he thought it would help others. (See John 6:9–13) And it did—in a far greater way than he could have ever imagined! What Jesus accomplished through the boy’s offering that day probably affected his and others’ lives forever.

Don’t underestimate the small things you can do: the smile that can cheer someone’s heart, the little word that can be an encouragement, the tract that can convey Jesus’ love, the little offering to God’s work, or the contribution to the poor. He uses some of the smallest things and weakest people as tools to have great impact on the lives of others. (See 1 Corinthians 1:26–28)

God had great commendation for the widow who, though she gave so little, comparatively gave more than the rich men because she gave all she had. He said, “Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had.” (Luke 21:4 CEV) He sees your heart and He knows what your sacrifices cost you, and it is great in His eyes.

 

 

Maria Fontaine and her husband, Peter Amsterdam, are directors of the Family International, a Christian community of faith.

 

 

Copyright © Activated Magazine. All rights reserved.

 

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Anchor

Overcoming Spiritual Apathy

A compilation

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Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”
—2 Kings 20:16–19 NIV

Webster defines indifference as: Want or lack of interest or concern. Apathy. Without significance. Spiritual indifference or spiritual apathy is the detrimental spiritual quality of knowing what to do, or what is necessary, but being unwilling to take the necessary steps in that direction. There are several incidences of this kind of indifference in scripture, but none is quite as blatant as these few verses in 2 Kings 20. Hezekiah has entertained the political leaders of Babylon, and in the process has openly, and with pride of heart, shown them all that he possesses and what he has accomplished. After they have gone, he is confronted by the prophet Isaiah with a scalding rebuke by the Lord for his pride and arrogance.

It is his reply to this rebuke and prophetic warning that shows his indifference and apathy to it all. 2 Kings 20:19: “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”

Are you kidding me? What gall. What audacity. These people are going to come back, take the kingdom of Israel into captivity, your own sons will be made eunuchs, and all you have to say is, “It won’t happen during my lifetime—I’ll enjoy peace and security as long as I live.” The patterns of spiritual indifference and apathy that creep into our life may not seem as bad as this example of Hezekiah, but they can become just as costly, if left unchecked.

Spiritual apathy, coldness, or indifference can affect even the most sincere Christian at one time or another. Human emotions being as fickle as they are, feelings of apathy or disinterest can sometimes replace the fervor we once felt for the things of God. Overcoming such apathy is necessary for continuing our walk with God. Failure to deal with the indifference and apathy will ultimately rob us of the destiny God has planned for our life. You and I will find out very quickly that we will get out of our walk and relationship with God what we are willing to invest into it. “Give and it shall be given back to you” is a universal principle of God’s kingdom. So, what must we do to address this critical problem in our spiritual life?

Revelation 2:5: Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.

This was the command of Christ to the Ephesians Church, and it is still the answer for you and me when we find indifference and apathy controlling our life…

Passion is born in our hearts as we … begin to do what is necessary to move back to where we need to be in Christ. Remember what you once had in Christ. Repent of where you have allowed that to go in your life, and renew what God has destined for you.

—Peninsula Florida District, AOG (http://www.penflorida.org)

 

Responding to the “whatever” worldview

Apathy. That often smug assurance that “it” just doesn’t matter. That vague sense of superiority that comes from a “whatever” worldview. Nothing really matters. No one can ever know for sure. So why bother?

Every believer who has tried to make the case for Christianity has encountered this response. It’s not that the skeptic is considering our truth claims and rejecting them, or countering them with evidence that they are false, or that his worldview is true. Instead, most skeptics I’ve dealt with have developed a comfort level regarding the “unknowability” of ultimate things. They often argue that the fact that people disagree about such things—that they have differing views—is itself evidence that no one can ever know whether God is, what He is about, or most importantly, what He may want of us. And so, they often don’t bother to try to investigate these things for themselves.

But if the Christian worldview is correct, such apathy may itself be hazardous to one’s spiritual health. Not long ago, I tried to make this case in a conversation with a skeptic. It went something like this:

“Let’s say this was 50 years ago, and when I saw you, you were chain-smoking cigarettes with your kids always nearby. I know where medical science is headed, so I tell you that you are hurting yourself, and your kids. You respond that no one can really know such things; after all, you can point to doctors who advertise cigarettes and smoke them themselves, and you feel fine when you smoke.”…

My friend’s response was not unexpected. It went like this: “Have you ever noticed how so many things are bad/wrong only at certain points in a cycle? Eat eggs, don’t eat eggs; give your kids soy, soy is bad; babies should sleep on their backs, no their stomachs, no their sides, no their backs, etc., etc. … What I am saying is that I do what feels right to me, and that is the best I can do. … I think the ‘answer’ to many of these things is unknowable.”

Fair enough. Some things are unknowable, and for some things, it doesn’t really matter. But that of course is the point of being thoughtful: deciding which is which. So, I conceded that for some things, the right answer might be “it doesn’t matter.” … But for other things—like smoking—it will never “come back around.” Science will never say that smoking is good…

“So,” I concluded, “the trick is, which is this? Are questions of eternal life like laying a child on her side, or like smoking with my kids in the room? I hope you see the answer matters. If you were smoking 10 hours a day with your kids present, you would be harming them. Getting the right answer on that would matter. Getting the right answer on your relationship with God also matters, both to you and to the people you influence.”

—Al Serrato (http://pleaseconvinceme.com)

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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The Holy Spirit and the Messiah

By Peter Amsterdam

free-bible-studies-online-anchorIn the Old Testament, the Spirit of the Lord generally came upon or interacted only with specific individuals and only on a temporary basis. It was prophesied, however, that a time would come when God would pour out His Spirit in abundance upon all His people. (Joel 2:28–29)

The Old Testament also includes prophecies about the Messiah who was to come, who would be powerfully filled with the Spirit of God and would do great things in God’s name. While the Jewish people did not think that this Messiah would be the Son of God, as they had no concept that God was a Trinity, they understood that the Messiah, an anointed king, would be greatly empowered by God’s Spirit.

Referring to the Messiah, the book of Isaiah says: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1–2)

This prophecy tells us that the Messiah would descend from the lineage of David, the son of Jesse, and that God’s Spirit would rest upon Him, meaning that the Spirit would remain on Him. He would be endowed with wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, and the fear of God. Isaiah prophesied further about the Messiah, declaring again that God’s Spirit would be upon Him. (Isaiah 42:1)

Later it was again prophesied in the book of Isaiah that God’s Spirit would be mightily upon the Messiah and that He would be anointed and do His work with the power of the Spirit of the Lord:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1–3)

These prophecies were fulfilled in the life of Jesus, the promised Messiah. All four of the Gospels speak of Jesus being filled with the Spirit at the beginning of His ministry, when He was baptized by John the Baptist. (See Matthew 3:13–17; Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–22; John 1:32–34)

Later, when asked about Jesus, John the Baptist said: “He whom God has sent utters the words of God, for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.” (John 3:34–35)

On the advent of Jesus’ ministry, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him without measure and remained on Him permanently. Immediately after this, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness, where the Devil tried to defeat Him, to no avail. (Luke 4:1–2) After overcoming the temptations, Jesus began ministering to others in the power of the Spirit. (Luke 4:14–15)

When Jesus returned to Nazareth, the village where He grew up, He was chosen to read from the Scriptures in the synagogue. The passage He read was from Isaiah, about the ministry of the Messiah, and at the end of the reading, Jesus made it clear that it was speaking about Him—that He was the Messiah upon whom the Spirit of the Lord had fallen:

“And He rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:20–21)

Jesus was stating that His ministry had begun, that He would proclaim the good news, bringing liberty to the captives, healing and freeing those who were oppressed, with God’s Spirit upon Him. The Holy Spirit, who descended upon Jesus, played a major role in His ministry—leading, guiding, and empowering Him.

Right before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples that He would send the “promise of the Father,” which was the Holy Spirit, the power of God, and that they were to wait in Jerusalem until they received this power from on high. (Luke 24:49)

The Holy Spirit which led, guided, and empowered Jesus was going to do the same things for His disciples. Jesus prepared His disciples for His departure, saying that in order for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, He had to leave, but that once He was gone, the Spirit would come to them. He said, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)

Jesus said it was necessary that He ascend to heaven, to return to the Father and be glorified, before the Holy Spirit—the Comforter, the Helper—could come.

Jesus had been with His disciples for about three and a half years. They had traveled with Him, lived with Him, learned from Him, heard Him preach to and teach the crowds. They had seen Him heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. They had private instruction from Him and watched how He interacted with others—the rich, the poor, the outcasts, the religious. They saw Him get arrested and crucified. They knew He was dead, yet He stood before them in the upper room alive again. Then came the time for Him to go. He had been many things to them, and now He was going to depart. He had told them He would ask the Father to send them another Comforter or Helper. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16)

The word Helper or Comforter used in this verse is translated from the Greek word paraklētos, which is defined as called to one’s side, to one’s aid, a helper, aider, assistant; as well as one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, counsel for defense, an advocate.

Jesus is saying the Father will give the disciples another Comforter, which infers they presently have one. Jesus, the Helper, Comforter, Counselor, and Advocate they presently have is going to depart, and in His place the Father is sending the Holy Spirit. What Jesus had been to the disciples, and what the Holy Spirit was going to be to them, was very similar.

  • Both “come forth”/“are sent” from the Father into the world. (John 5:43, 16:28, 18:37; John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13)
  • Both are called “Holy” and are characterized by “the truth.” (John 6:69, 14:26, 6, 16–17)
  • Both teach. (John 13:13; 14:26)
  • Jesus came to convince and to convict the world, though many did not receive Him, as is also the case with the Holy Spirit. (John 1:11–12; John 16:7–11, John 14:17)

While Jesus was Helper and Comforter to the disciples, as well as teacher and truth-teller, and a witness, He said that after He departed He and the Father would send another Comforter who would do these things as well. This Comforter would mightily anoint the disciples in their mission. That is exactly what happened.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

“Do Small Things with Great Love”

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorYou are doing something great with your life when you’re doing all the small things with His great love. Love defies logic and keeps on loving when it makes no sense because that is what love does. What matters is that in the act of loving we become more like the givenness of Love Himself. What matters most is not if our love makes other people change, but that in loving, we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone, we become more like Someone. Regardless of anything or anyone else changing, the success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving.

No matter what the outcome looks like, if your love has poured out, your life will be success-full.

We in this vulnerable communion of brokenness and givenness will simply keep surrendering again to love because God is love and this is all that wins.

Bottom line today? You aren’t ever missing your best life, when you aren’t missing opportunities to love like Christ.

—Ann Voskamp

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Do you want to be successful for the Lord and with others? Love, and you can’t lose, for love never fails! Do you want the key to every heart? Try love! It never fails, because God is love, and it’s impossible for Him to fail!

Always remember, no matter how busy you are‚ how important the work is, or how great your calling may be, love is the most important thing! Without love, all your good works are worth nothing to the Lord. Without love, all your accomplishments are empty ashes. Love is the only thing that’s going to endure beyond this life. Love is the only thing that lasts. Love is what you’re on earth to learn above all. So love!

—David Brandt Berg

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Whatever we become here in mortality is meaningless unless it is done for the benefit of others. Our gifts and talents are given to us to help us serve. And in serving others we grow spiritually.

We are here to help each other, to care for each other, to understand, forgive, and serve one another. We are here to have love for every person born on earth.

Anything we do to show love is worthwhile; a smile, a word of encouragement, a small act of sacrifice. We grow by these actions.

—Betty J. Eadie

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What is success in My eyes? What do you receive eternal rewards for? What is considered “success” in My kingdom? What is true accomplishment for Me? How do I measure it? What is most important to Me? It’s very simple: love and faithfulness.

I gave a pretty clear answer in the Bible when I said, through Paul, “One thing is required of a servant, and that is to be found faithful.” That pretty much sums it up. Faithfulness to Me, and faithfulness to love—that’s the true measure of success in My eyes.

—Jesus, speaking in prophecy

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If you want your life to count, you have to focus it. You don’t have time for everything, and not everything is of equal value.

Matthew 22:37–39 says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’”

Jesus said there are two things that are more valuable in life than anything else: loving God and loving each other.

Have you ever wondered why God didn’t just take you to Heaven when he created you? Why did he put you on Earth? You’re only here for 100 years at the most, and you’re going to live for eternity in Heaven or Hell. Why didn’t God just take everybody to Heaven?

The Bible is very clear that God put you here on Earth to do two things: to learn to love God and to learn to love other people. Life is not about acquisition, accomplishment, or achievement. It’s not about all the things the world tells you it’s about. You’re not taking your career to Heaven. You’re not taking your car to Heaven. You’re not taking your house to Heaven. But you are taking your character. You’re taking you.

God put you on Earth for 80 to 100 years so you can learn to love him with all your heart and learn to love others. Life is one giant lesson in love.

—Rick Warren

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“Do small things with great love.” What do these words mean for you? I’d like to share with you what it means to me and how it’s changed my life.

Do you have a list of role models, mentors, or heroes that have had an impact on who you are or who you want to be? Perhaps this list for you is long or short, but either way, the names on that list are those who have had a profound impact on how you view the world and what role you want to fulfill in this world.

For me, my list consists mostly of women who I have known in real life and deeply admire, mostly for their commitment to mothering and leading their families. I also have a short list of female heroines that I haven’t met, but I’ve had the privilege of reading about and studying. …

I’d like to share with you how Mother Teresa inspires me each day in the simplest way. As a wife and mother, working and living in my home each day, I often feel that perhaps my reach, or my impact in this world is tiny … maybe a little insignificant. Don’t get me wrong, I take care of my family as if my life depends on it and I work hard, every single day. Then I see these great saints, heroines and such who went out into the world and changed lives. Occasionally I can’t help but wonder what more can I do to change this very broken world?

Then there’s Mother Teresa, who has said the most beautiful, simplest things that speak to me. She often said that we don’t need to do big things, or have great power in this world to make a change. That we can actually promote change in this world by starting at home and loving our family. She’s so right. She also said to do small things with great love. For me personally, these two, simple, profound quotes speak on a level that I so need to hear, every day. My work at home is making an impact. It’s the small things that I do with great love that are going to leave a mark on this world and be the change.

When we choose to “do small things with great love” when we are at work, at school, in the grocery store, at the beach, on vacation, or wherever your life journey takes you … you can make a big impact in the smallest way.

—Mandy Velasquez

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

Faith Strengtheners

By Maria Fontaine

free-bible-studies-online-anchorThe topic of living and experiencing faith is such a big and sometimes nebulous concept. It can be challenging to answer the question, “What is it that can give me faith or strengthen the faith I already have and make it useful for me today?”

One thing that encourages me that things will work out is knowing that God’s love for me is so great. I know that He will always make it as easy as possible for me. Everything won’t always be smooth, but in His love, He always gives grace and brings me through in His time. He doesn’t allow things to be hard for no reason. He won’t allow anything to come my way that He knows isn’t going to be helpful to me in some way.

South African pastor Andrew Murray (1828–1917) once faced a terrible crisis. Going into his studio, he sat a long while, quietly, prayerfully, thoughtfully. At last, picking up his pen, he wrote these words in his journal: “First, He brought me here; it is by His will that I am in this place of distress and trouble: in that fact I will rest. Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child. Next, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow. Last, in His good time He can bring me out again—when and how He knows best. Let me say, I am here [in this difficult place], 1) by God’s appointment, 2) in His keeping, 3) under His training, 4) for His time.”

Another thing I do is to take little minutes with Jesus whenever I feel distracted by battles and burdened by problems, pouring out my heart to Him about my troubles, often hearing a few words from Him that help me to understand, or to hang on, to not take it so hard, or whatever He knows I need to hear to bring peace to my heart.

He promised in His Word that He would always provide the comfort we need: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18 KJV)

Additionally, the praise lessons that I’ve learned and have been able to practice through the years keep me on an even keel. Praise truly does have power, and God rewards praise because it’s a sign of my faith in Him—faith that He will help me in the situation as long as is necessary, and faith that He will bring me out eventually. Praise is powerful, and it’s one of my invincible weapons. There is so much in the Bible on praise. Reading King David’s praises in the midst of the terrible problems he faced motivates me to have faith, too.

Closely related to praise is positiveness. When I’m trying to build up my faith, I can’t be focusing on anything negative.

I found this account of someone who was spending the night in a rickety hotel in a large city in Brazil. He said, “A friend and I ascended to our room, high in the building, in a tiny, creaking elevator. From our window I saw slums spreading out far beneath me, and I felt uneasy. That evening I prayed, ‘Lord, please save us from any danger of fire. You can see that we’re at the top of a dilapidated hotel, which is nothing but a firetrap. There isn’t a fire station anywhere near, and I can’t see any fire escapes outside the building. Lord, You know that this building would go up in flames in a second, and at this very moment it’s probably full of people falling asleep with cigarettes in their mouths…’

“By the time I finished praying, I was a nervous wreck, and I hardly slept a wink all night. Next morning, as I evaluated the evening, I realized that my bedtime prayer had focused on my negative feelings rather than on God’s assurances and promises, and I learned an important lesson: unless we pray in faith, our prayers can do more harm than good.” (From an account by Robert J. Morgan)

This story is a good reminder to me to make sure my focus is on His promises—which strengthen my faith—rather than only on what is bothering me. I know He does want to hear about what is troubling me, and I need to tell Him everything that’s on my heart, but at the same time, the strengthening of my faith comes from making His promises my central focus. As the quote says, “True faith goes into operation when there are no answers.” (Elisabeth Elliot) As difficult as it may be, faith often means focusing on the promises even if there are no visible solutions.

Next, comparing—positively! When I’m going through something big, or when a whole lot of worrisome thoughts are trying to inhabit my mind, or when my eyes are in a very painful state and are hindering or delaying my work, the Lord always reminds me to think about people who are much worse off than I am, having many more struggles, afflictions, and difficult circumstances. Usually this does it for me, because I become thankful for my little afflictions and that I don’t have to deal with the tremendous struggles that so many others have.

Something else that helps me is to think about the fact that the Lord considers the trial of our faith a beautiful, valuable thing. The Bible says, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7 KJV.) If the Lord looks on the trial of our faith as having such importance and value, then it makes me feel like that’s the way I should be looking at it, too.

It certainly makes me want to not disappoint Him. Jesus expects me to believe Him, and I can’t fail Him. I know He’s looking to me to fulfill the commitment I made to Him to love Him and others, to cherish His Word, to keep His Spirit in first place in my life, to honor and respect Him for the great God that He is, and to prove it by my words and actions. I’m so indebted to Him for all He has done for me.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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Bear One Another’s Burdens

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorBear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
—Galatians 6:2 NKJV

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A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him for dead.

Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite [temple assistant], when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.

But a certain Samaritan [a people despised and shunned by the Jews of those days], as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”

So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? (Jesus,Luke 10:30–36)

With the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus taught that our neighbor is anyone who needs our help, regardless of race, creed, color, nationality, condition, or location. If we have love, we won’t just pass by someone in need; we’ll take action, like the Samaritan did. That’s the difference between pity and compassion. Pity feels sorry; compassion does something about it. The compassionate put feet to their prayers and kind deeds to their kind words. Love is making a connection between God and somebody who needs His love, and we do that by showing others His love and manifesting it with action. “The love of Christ compels us.” (2 Corinthians 5:14 NKJV)

Love is the greatest need of man, so love is the greatest service to man. Love is spiritual, but is manifested in the physical. Love is seen as it is put into action. … Love is preferring the happiness of others to our own. Love is choosing to suffer, if necessary, in order to help someone else. Love is courage. Love is sacrifice. Love is never lost; it always has an effect sooner or later.

—David Brandt Berg

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“Bear one another’s burdens,” the Bible says. It is a lesson about pain that we all can agree on. Some of us will not see pain as a gift; some will always accuse God of being unfair for allowing it. But, the fact is, pain and suffering are here among us, and we need to respond in some way. The response Jesus gave was to bear the burdens of those he touched. To live in the world as his body, his emotional incarnation, we must follow his example. The image of the body accurately portrays how God is working in the world. Sometimes he does enter in, occasionally by performing miracles, and often by giving supernatural strength to those in need. But mainly he relies on us, his agents, to do his work in the world. We are asked to live out the life of Christ in the world, not just to refer back to it or describe it. We announce his message, work for justice, pray for mercy . . . and suffer with the sufferers.
—Philip Yancey

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One of the beautiful aspects of the Christian gospel is that we really don’t have to live for ourselves in order to find the good life. In fact, the opposite is true: those who seek to save their lives will lose them. Jesus offered an alternative vision as the one who came to serve. As the apostle Paul encouraged the Philippian Christians to not merely look out for their own interests, but also to have the interests of others in mind, he looked to the life of Jesus. … How different the world might look if each day we took time to think about the needs of someone else—even just once per day?
—Margaret Manning

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Joni Eareckson Tada is the president of JET Ministries, a ministry which aims to serve the disabled. She is herself a quadriplegic. A few years ago she was a spectator at the Los Angeles Special Olympics. Her husband Ken was the coordinator for track and field events. Joni was among a large crowd watching the participants prepare for the 50 meters running race.

The starter’s gun fired, and off the contestants raced. As they rushed toward the finish line, one boy left the track and started running toward his friends standing in the infield. Ken blew his whistle, trying to get the boy to come back to the track, but all to no avail.

Then one of the other competitors noticed, a Down syndrome girl with thick bottle glasses. She stopped just short of the finish line and called out to the boy, “Stop, come back, this is the way.” Hearing the voice of his friend, the boy stopped and looked. “Come back, this is the way” she called. The boy stood there, confused. His friend, realizing he was confused, left the track and ran over to him. She linked arms with him and together they ran back to the track and finished the race. They were the last to cross the line, but were greeted by hugs from their fellow competitors and a standing ovation from the crowd.

The Down syndrome girl with the bottle glasses taught everyone present that day an important life lesson: that it’s important to take time out from our own goals in life to help others find their way. Reflecting on the episode afterwards, Ken was reminded of some verses from Romans 15:

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. … May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.”

—Author unknown

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God has ordained that we may learn to bear one another’s burdens, for there is no man without fault, no man without burden, no man sufficient to himself nor wise enough. Hence we must support one another, console one another, mutually help, counsel, and advise.
―Thomas à Kempis

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

The Greatest Story Ever Told

By David Brandt Berg

free-bible-studies-online-anchorThe basic events, characters, and conditions of the future have already been revealed in the Bible and by His prophets, the foretellers of the future. (Ephesians 1:9; Isaiah 42:9; Numbers 12:6) God has already revealed them in His Word and prophecies—some of which have already come to pass and been fulfilled, proving that God’s Word is true. Therefore we can just as surely expect that the remaining prophecies of God’s Word about the future will be completely fulfilled, too, just as those in the past have been. (2 Chronicles 20:20b; John 16:4a; Isaiah 34:16, 40:8; Ezekiel 33:33)

There are thousands of prophecies in the Bible which have already been fulfilled, including prophecies about the history of nations, the rise and fall of empires, even the names of great kings and the amazing fulfillments of prophecies in the little land of Israel, particularly those concerning Jesus Christ, the Messiah, about whom hundreds of prophecies in the ancient writings of the prophets have all been fulfilled in His birth, life, and death for you and me. (Isaiah 44:28; Daniel 8:20–21; Isaiah 9:6; 11:1–5; 53:2–4)

His was a life of love! Born in love, living in love, and dying in love for you and me, so that we too might live in love for Him and others. (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9–10; Ephesians 3:19; Romans 8:38–39; 1 John 3:16) But His story does not end there, because He rose again! And He made many other promises and predictions to His disciples before He finally ascended on high, caught up in the clouds in the air to depart to be with His Father God in heaven and His precious Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:1–7, 18–20; Mark 16:16–18; John 11:25, 26)

Before He went away, He promised His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also.” For He said that “In My Father’s house are many mansions, and if it were not so, I would have told you.” ( John 14:2–3) That place that He is going to prepare for us, that heavenly city is specifically described in detail in His holy book, the Bible, in its last book, the book of Revelation. (Revelation 21–22)

Dear John, the beloved disciple, Saint John the Revelator, described it in prophecy exactly as being 1,500 miles long, 1,500 miles wide, and 1,500 miles high—the greatest, most enormous city ever built, that could only have been built by God Himself. It is surrounded by a beautiful over-200-foot-high wall composed of 12 layers of precious jewels and having 12 gates, each gate a single gigantic pearl, and filled with beautiful dwelling places for His beloved children who have loved Him and been saved through faith in Jesus’ death for them on the cross.

Only they will be permitted to live within it, in its heavenly beauty of gorgeous splendor and paradise! Free forever from pain or sickness or death or evil, to live with Him and each other forever in eternal happiness. (Revelation 21:4; 22:5,14) Only they can walk its crystal golden streets and dwell in its gorgeous mansions in the presence of God forever. (Revelation 21:24, 27)

Each gate is guarded by a mighty angel, for outside, upon the surface of a new earth without seas but watered by rivers and lakes, there are still nations with kings, populated by people who are not yet ready to enter that beautiful city. (Revelation 21:24–26) They are not yet prepared for its purity and holiness, as they at first did not receive Jesus as their Savior because they had never heard of Him. (John 1:12; 3:16–17; Acts 4:12; 10:35; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 11:13, 16) They are the resurrected good of all ages who did not rise in the first resurrection at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in the beautiful rapture of His saints, the bride of Christ, after the terrible Tribulation. (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17; Revelation 20:4–5)

They are the unsaved dead of the first 6,000 years of world history who have been brought back to life and placed upon the earth’s new paradisiacal surface because their names were found written in the Book of Life and therefore deserve their first chance to hear the gospel of Jesus and His love and of the wonderful love of God, His Father, who created all things and made all things for our benefit and our pleasure to know and to love Him.

Here on the surface of the new earth they will be taught to know the Lord. (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4; Philippians 2:10–11; Hebrews 13:14) Meanwhile, they live on this paradisiacal new earth with all of its unspoiled, re-created beauty like the Garden of Eden of old. Perfect in every respect, with no evil, no curse, no thorns, no evil varmints and poisonous serpents and insects and the horrors of the cursed earth that had gone before. (Revelation 22:3) Here in this perfect environment they are learning about Jesus and finding Christ as the Son of God. (John 14:3; 1 Corinthians 2:9–10)

But before they arrive in this beautiful paradise of God, several great periods of world history will have passed by. There was the fall from grace of man and woman, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden for disobedience in eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12–14) Driven out then into a hostile world full of curses and a difficult environment, they now must eat of their bread by the sweat of their brow, and work hard to earn a living, because they had lost the favor of the Lord through disobedience. Tempted by Satan, the king of evil, they passed on to all mankind the vicious sin of unbelief and disobedience to God. (Genesis 3:19; Hebrews 3:12, 19; 10:35–39; Romans 5:12)

Finally man became so evil that God decided that He must send a great flood of water upon the earth to destroy them all! All, that is, except one man and his family alone. That man was Noah and his wife and his three sons and their three wives. Eight souls in all were all that were saved from that great Flood, in an ark which God told Noah how to build. (Genesis 7; 1 Peter 3:20) After the Flood, over a year later, the ark landed upon the top of Mount Ararat, on the border of Turkey and Russia. And as the earth’s surface became dry enough to walk upon it, Noah and his family and all of the animals that they had saved left the ark and spread down the River Euphrates toward the Persian Gulf.

But they had not gone far or lived long before people had become evil again, this time building a mighty tower which they thought was going to reach up to heaven so that they would be like gods in their pride and their earthly might! God was angry with them for it, and He confused their tongues and their languages and divided them into all the various languages that are spoken upon the earth today. So they could no longer communicate with one another or understand each other to finish the tower. So they left off building the Tower of Babel and drifted on down the River Euphrates and began to spread out further across the surface of the earth in all directions. (Genesis 8, 11:1–9)

And it seemed the more man multiplied and populated the earth, the more wicked he became, so that they even worshipped devil gods and idols and images, and practiced worship of these demons, even including human sacrifice and the sacrifice of their own children to these false gods. (Leviticus 18:21; 2 Kings 17:14–17; Jeremiah 32:35; Psalm 106:35–39)

Finally God decided He had to do something about these descendants of the two creatures that He had created in the beginning. So He selected a people who would receive His words and write the Bible—the Jews of Israel—and produce the Messiah, Jesus Christ. But then again even the religious leaders of these chosen people, sons and daughters of Abraham the faithful, had the Son of God crucified, who had been sent to them only to show them love and explain God to them! They also tried to destroy His disciples. (Matthew 27:17–25; Acts 8:1) But God blessed Jesus’ disciples, and the Christians multiplied and spread throughout the earth until the gospel had finally conquered the Roman Empire, and Christianity became the official religion of the Western world. (Acts 8:4; 28:30–31)

But as the Christians became rich and powerful and corrupt, they too began to build temples to worship their God, like the temples of other gods, and developed a priesthood who wrote their own laws and rules and traditions. (Acts 7:48–50; 17:24–25; Mark 7:6–13) Again God sent great men of God and reformers such as Martin Luther to preach the truth throughout the world and reveal again the free gift of God’s salvation by grace through faith, and that not of themselves but the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast, but the free gift of salvation paid for by Jesus Christ with His blood shed on the cross of Calvary. (Romans 10:9–10; Ephesians 2:8–9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5; Revelation 3:20)

These new Protestant Christians began to spread throughout the Roman Empire and throughout Europe and to North and South America and throughout the known world, until there were many Christian missionaries going to heathen nations. And there these missionaries gained many converts and won many of them with the love of God into true faith in the true Messiah, the true Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. (John 14:6; Acts 10:34–35)

However, it seemed that sin and evil will multiply even more rapidly and spread into every nation on earth. Finally the world will choose a completely godless government, an anti-Christ government and an Antichrist dictator, a false messiah who will pretend to be their savior but who will be the Devil incarnate! And he will declare that he is God and that all must worship him or die. (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4) He will establish a worldwide government and insist that there be no other religions but the worship of himself and his own image, which is set up by the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem where he is on a throne inside, claiming to be God.

This evil tyrant will then begin to persecute all who will not worship him, and kill and slaughter and martyr them, fighting great wars against the religious nations who oppose him, and trying to conquer the entire world, bringing great Tribulation to the earth. (Matthew 24:15, 21; Daniel 11:31–37; Revelation 12:13–17, 13:6–7)

But suddenly there will appear in the heavens the sign of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, and He Himself will appear in the sky in the clouds. And there will be a great shout and the trump of God and the voice of the archangels calling the people of God to “Come up hither to your heavenly reward to be with your King forever!”

Suddenly all those who had died as Christians will rise from their graves with new heavenly bodies and begin to fly skyward, followed by the living Christians, who are instantly changed in the twinkling of an eye at that last trump and will rise together with them to meet the Lord in the air—Jesus with His bride, the true church of Jesus Christ from every faith and denomination all over the world. (Matthew 24:29–31; 1 Corinthians 15:51–52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)

While they are feasting and rejoicing in their great salvation and receiving their rewards for faithfulness, having done their Master’s will, God is raining judgments and His great wrath upon the wicked left behind on the face of the earth through great scourges and plagues. The Bible says that the ungodly gnaw their tongues for pain and yet repent not of their evil deeds. ( Revelation 19:6–9; Revelation 15–16; Isaiah 13:11–13)

God mounts His children upon heavenly white horses of great power and supernatural strength, and with this mighty army of saints and angels they ride out of the heavenly city through the skies to destroy the evil empire of the Antichrist in the Battle of Armageddon! Until only the good, and the people who had resisted the Antichrist and resisted his mark are left, even though they do not yet know Jesus nor have been saved in the time previous. Yet the Lord is going to give all these living their opportunity to hear the gospel about Jesus and His love and His salvation. (Revelation 19:11–21; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4; Philippians 2:10–11)

He will send His angels and His saints to rule over the earth and clean up the mess that has been left behind by the Antichrist and his reign and all of the remnants of man’s unrighteousness, to make it a new world, a cleansed earth! It is the same earth, but its surface purified and with the curse of God against evil lifted, and the Devil and his demons bound in hell for a thousand years! The earth is again restored to the beauty and perfection of the Garden of Eden. (Revelation 20:1–4) For a thousand years the earth is restored to its original beauty and purity and wonder and pleasure, so that all mankind rejoices in the kingdom of God on earth ruled by its King of kings, Jesus Christ, and His saints and angels. (Revelation 2:26–27; Revelation 5:10, 20:4)

All men still living are given an opportunity to know and love Him and to follow Him, and many are saved and regenerated, made new, living wonderful lives of righteousness and unselfishness and love for one another. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

But even in this perfect world with the perfect King of kings, there are many who still reject Him and resent Him and desire to go their own willful, wicked ways, as they had before. So that at the end of that thousand years, many will still not be regenerated and have rejected the Lord and resented His will. (Isaiah 26:10) So He allows Satan to be loosed from the pit of hell and to come back with his evil angels to go abroad through the earth and deceive as many men and nations as he possibly can, until Satan gathers followers from all nations to follow after him in a great war against the saints of God, the rulers of the earth.

God again rescues His saints from the earth, but this time He finishes off Satan and his followers and demons once and for all and forever, and destroys the surface of the earth and all of Satan’s evil rebels with a great flood of fire which completely burns up the surface of the earth and its atmosphere, the polluted heavens and junk-filled space. (Revelation 20:7–10; 2 Peter 3:10–13)

Then He renews the earth and completely remakes it into a new earth, more beautiful and more perfect than ever. (Revelation 21:1–5; Isaiah 60:19–22, 65:17–25)

Once the surface of the earth is purified and made perfect again, the Lord will see fit to permit His beautiful heavenly city to descend from the heavens and settle upon the earth, so that His habitation could be with His beloved people on this new earth in the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city—their home forever. (Revelation 21:2; Hebrews 12:22–23)

In the great White Throne Judgment of God, He has raised from the dead all of the other people of the earth who have ever died, and, sending the wicked to hell, He saves the righteous to live upon the surface of the earth to learn about Him and His love and His Son Jesus and His wonderful salvation from sin so that they too might be saved. (John 10:16, 27–29; Acts 3:21; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 1:10; 2:7)

And all the saved peoples of the earth and heaven live happily with the Lord and His angels in the beautiful paradise of the new earth and the city of God with Him forever in an eternity of love and life eternal. (Revelation 22:3–5)

That is very briefly the story of God and the earth and man’s history and the endtime of man’s rule on earth, and the establishment of the kingdom of God in the thousand years called the Millennium, and that final destruction of the surface of the earth and its atmosphere and all its pollutions and evil in a flood of fire, only to be remade anew for God and His children and their heavenly city forever!

However, many of the details and actual experiences of His children during some of these periods have not been made completely clear. Some of these secrets have not yet been revealed, of the experiences that we are actually going to live through and feel and see in the wonderful world yet to come. (Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Corinthians 13:12)

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.