Category Archives: Christianity

Stand Up and Stand Out for Jesus!

Based on the writings of David Brandt Berg

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There was once a young man who was a lumberjack. He worked chopping down trees in the vast forests of northern Canada. One day he went for a few days leave to a nearby town where a Christian pastor witnessed to him on a street corner and led him to Jesus.

“Now that you’ve asked Jesus to come into your heart, Jake, your life is going to change,” the pastor said.

“How?” asked Jake, leaning over to take a closer look at the Scriptures that the pastor was showing him from his Bible.

“Well, look, it says right here in God’s Word, `If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away, all things have become NEW!’ (2Corinthians 5:17). So I want to warn you, Jake, that when you go back to that lumber camp, it’s going to be very difficult for you!”

“Why’s that, pastor?”

“Because, as you know, most of those lumberjacks are tough, hard, wicked men, and they don’t like Christians!”

“That’s for sure!” agreed Jake, eyeing two of his friends engaged in a drunken brawl at the other end of the street.

“But, Jake, you’ll no longer be the same as you were before, cursing God, speaking foul language and doing evil things!–You’re going to be so different they’re going to PERSECUTE you!”

“Oh!” said Jake.

So Jake went back to the camp and a few months passed before he came back to the town for his next leave. He wondered if he’d run into the pastor again, and yes, there he was, standing on a street corner passing out tracts. One could hardly miss him, his happy smiling face seemed to light up the whole street, as he beamed the Love of Jesus on all who passed by.

“Hey, pastor! Nice to see you!”

“Hi, Jake!” exclaimed the pastor, very glad to see the converted lumberjack again. “Tell me, how did it go at the lumber camp?”

“Oh, fine, just fine!”

“I told you it was going to be difficult to live a Christian life there, didn’t I?”

“No, no,” replied Jake, “it wasn’t hard!–Not at all!”

“You mean they didn’t persecute you or make it tough for you?” the pastor asked, surprised.

“Oh, no! You see…they never even found out that I WAS a Christian!”

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THAT kind of a sample is NOT being a real CHRISTIAN! Something you BELIEVE in, you TALK about! If you believe in your football team, you talk about them! If you believe in your political party, you talk about it! If you like your work, you talk about it!–And if you really believe in and love JESUS, you’re going to talk about HIM and share His Love with OTHERS!–Like Sophie, the washer-woman, who was made fun of one day by someone who said they had seen her talking about Jesus to a wooden Indian in front of a cigar store! Sophie perked up and replied, “Maybe I did; my eyesight isn’t so good any more! But talking to a wooden Indian about Jesus is not as bad as being a WOODEN CHRISTIAN and never talking about Jesus to ANYONE!”

Jesus said, “If men have a candlestick, they don’t hide it under a bowl or a jar.”–They don’t sit alone in some corner and hope nobody will find out that they’ve become a Christian.–But “they put the candlestick on a STAND so that it will give light to the WHOLE HOUSE!” (Matthew 5:15; Luke 8:16). They stand up and TELL others why they’ve had such a miraculous change in their life! Once you’re saved it should be IMPOSSIBLE to hide the Love of God and the Truth of Jesus! If you have Him in your heart and you have His Love, He wants you to SHOW it and to try to SHARE it with OTHERS! It’s the LEAST you can do for Him Who gave His LIFE for YOU!

Look at most COMMUNISTS today! Look how much you hear about THEM and THEIR cause. They’re certainly dedicated, often very sacrificial, determined and active, willing to even lay down their LIVES to reach their goal of World domination! Can the same be said of the vast majority of CHRISTIANS?

Unfortunately, the vast majority of so-called Christians today are afraid to do anything that would make them stand out as being peculiar or different from the crowd. They’ve lost their TEETH, they’ve lost their CONVICTIONS, they’ve lost their BOLDNESS to take a definite stand for Jesus and be utterly fearless about what people say or think about them! So many try to figure out just how far they can go and yet not hurt their reputation. They’re like some of the man-pleasing Jews in Jesus’ day, of whom the Bible says, “Among the leaders, many believed on Jesus. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise from MEN more than the praise from GOD!” (John 12:42,43).

They don’t want to be real outstanding Christians for fear of being called fanatics, or “fools for Christ’s sake” (1Corinthians 4:10), like the Christian businessman who walked down a busy street in London with a sign pinned to the front of his hat which said, “I’M A FOOL FOR CHRIST!” When passers-by turned to have another look at the man they thought must be a religious fanatic, they saw another card on the back of his hat which said, “WHOSE FOOL ARE YOU?”!

How sad that so many Christians rarely dare to be different, or venture to vary from the norm. They try to tiptoe along very daintily in their walk with the Lord and not disturb anybody! How unlike the Christians of the Early Church, of whom it was said, “These are they that turned the WORLD UPSIDE DOWN!” (Acts 17:6). They were called disturbers alright! But names like Paul and Peter and Stephen and Philip live on to this very day, and their influence is still felt, while the passive compromisers–like so many half-hearted Christians that are drifting around today–just faded into oblivion!

Naaman is a dandy bad example of just such a compromiser: He was a man who, if he had stood up for his faith, could have converted the entire nation of ancient Syria to faith in the true God. Naaman was the second most important man next to the King. He was the top general, the Minister of Defense. He had gotten miraculously healed from leprosy when he went down to see Elisha in Israel, and he even started witnessing to his wife and handmaid and a few close friends that there was no other God but the God of Israel. But when the King of Syria asked him to worship with him in the Temple of Rimmon, the heathen, pagan, devil-god that the Syrians worshipped, he failed to stand up for his new-found faith, and he weakly apologised to Elisha, “The Lord pardon Thy servant in this one thing that I do.” (2Kings 5).

What kind of witness was that to the nation when they saw him walking into the Temple of Rimmon with the King? They must have doubted the stories they’d heard about him being healed by the God of Israel. “Maybe it was the god, Rimmon, who healed him. After all, we see him worshipping there every day with the king!”

There is no such thing as “neutrality” or compromise in the Christian life! Jesus said, “He that is not FOR me is AGAINST me!” (Matthew 12:30). The Christian life should be an on-fire, all-out, 100%, dedicated life devoted to the cause of winning the World for Jesus! The day has now come for Christians to stand up and give bold expression to their convictions, to rise up and FIGHT the forces of darkness that are at work in the World and that are pressing in on us at such an alarming speed! But there isn’t any place in the battle for “chameleon” type Christians who change colour with every crowd and melt into the surrounding World without any convictions or moral courage! That’s the real problem of Christianity today–all the supposedly “secret” Christians who are merely trying to smuggle their own souls into Heaven without anyone else finding out!

Do YOU practice your religion secretly for fear of the opinions of men?–Or do you have the conviction and Christian courage to stand openly with the other great Christians of all ages, to stand up for your faith at every opportunity no matter WHAT the cost in popularity or position! Jesus says, “I wish that you were HOT or COLD!–But if you are LUKEWARM, I will spew you out of My mouth!” (Revelation 3:15,16). With God, it’s usually ALL or NOTHING at all! There’s no halfway with the Lord! He abhors the halfhearted, the lukewarm, the indecisive, the compromisers, the “so-far-and-no-further” folks!

Jesus Himself “made Himself of no reputation, was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was despised and we did not esteem Him.” (Isaiah 53:1-3). Yet most Christians today are not willing to be the least bit despised for Him and speak out when and where they should for Jesus, to shun the opinions of men and to dare to take a stand for the right, for the TRUTH of God’s Word! Look how much JESUS suffered for US, and yet how little many of us are willing to suffer for Him!

The Bible says, “This is how we know what God’s Love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And WE ought to lay down OUR lives for our BROTHERS!” (1John 3:16). We ought to be willing to lay down our lives to do WHATEVER we can to win as many lost souls as we can while we still can in these last dark days! There’s NO greater work in the World than to witness the Words of God, to preach the Gospel, to tell people about God’s Love, to show them the Love of Jesus!

There is a very meaningful true story about an old lady whose son was appointed “the Ambassador to the Court of St.James”, meaning he was appointed to be American ambassador to England. That was always considered to be the greatest ambassadorship in the World, especially in the days of the zenith of the British Empire’s glory. But when friends came to her with the great news, instead of being overjoyed she nearly wept. She just sadly shook her head and said, “To think that he might have become an ambassador of the GOSPEL, and he dwindled down to nothing but an ambassador to England!”

Think of that! He could have been an ambassador, not of the United States, but of the Kingdom of HEAVEN!–Of the GREATEST King of all, the King of Kings, JESUS! He could have been an ambassador not just to a little country like England, but to the whole WORLD, an ambassador from the greatest Kingdom there will ever be, and could have had a palace forever On High!

THAT’S an appointment that’s open for YOU! Will you TAKE it? In this whole World there is no higher position than to be a child of God, and no greater honour than to stand up for Jesus and be a witness for Him!

Stand up for Jesus TODAY!–You’ll be GLAD you did, and so will God!–And all those who receive your message of His Love!

 

 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

The Spirit of Love!

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He knew the joys of Earth
Would pass away and soon depart,
For he’d tasted HEAVEN’S Love,
The Saviour dwelt within his heart!

Yet he stumbled down life’s road
And seemed to wander aimlessly,
Torn between the World and Christ,
Who had beckoned, “Follow Me!”

He wanted to obey,
To heed the Shepherd’s call,
But he didn’t have the strength,
When e’er he’d try, he’d fall!

Till late one night he found Her,
And like a Goddess from above,
She took his hand and sweetly whispered,
“I am the SPIRIT of GOD’S LOVE!

“Through the Son, you know the Father,
But you need to receive ME.
For I am the loving MOTHER
Of the Holy Trinity!

“Let Me thrill you, let Me fill you
With My power in your soul!”
“I am YOURS!” the pilgrim answered,
“Take my life, take FULL control!”

Empowered by Her kisses,
Transformed by Her loving hands,
Renewed by Her caresses,
He became ANOTHER man!

He cared less about himself,
And more for OTHERS, and was bold
To tell them of his Saviour
And lead scores into His Fold!

So many christians today are like this!–Even though they have come to know Jesus, “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6), they have received Him and His wonderful Love into their hearts, their relationship with Him is somehow INCOMPLETE, something is MISSING, they are somehow lacking the life and love and joy that He has promised to all who love and follow Him!

Such Christians often become so weak, so unmotivated, so powerless, that they settle for a cold, lifeless, TRADITIONAL Christianity which has very little or nothing to do with the THRILLING and CHALLENGING kind of life that Jesus offered to His disciples, as we read about in the Gospels of the New Testament! This dry, almost lifeless counterfeit Christianity has so little to do with Christ and His teachings that it would more aptly be called CHURCHianity, as the foundation and basis for much of such religion today is church buildings & the church services and churchy rules and taboos which have “made the commandment of GOD of NONE EFFECT by their traditions!” (Mark 7:6-13)

It is so sad, so pitiful, that so many Christians are ignorant of the fact that God could fill their lives with His Love and joy and power in such a way that would THRILL and FULFIL and SATISFY them beyond their wildest dreams! Jesus promised this power to His disciples when He told them that after His resurrection they would “be endued with POWER from on High”, that He would send a special COMFORTER to comfort, lead and give them the power and strength to “GO into all the World and preach the Gospel to EVERY creature!” (Luke 24:49; John 14:26; Mark 16:15)

This wonderful power that God has provided for His children is the HOLY SPIRIT, Who, to many people’s surprise, is pictured in the Bible as a beautiful WOMAN!–She is the COMFORTER, the SPIRIT of LOVE, the MOTHER FIGURE of the Trinity! In the beginning when God created Man, the Bible tells us that He said, “Let US make Man in OUR image, after OUR likeness–male AND female created He them!” (Genesis 1:26,27)–So God’s Trinity is male AND female!

In the Bible’s Book of Proverbs, King Solomon describes God’s Spirit of Love and Wisdom as a “SHE” that was with God “from the beginning when He had not yet made the Earth and when He prepared the heavens.” (Proverbs 8:1-35) God’s precious Holy Spirit is His Own Heavenly Mate, the spiritual Mother of His Son, Jesus, and the Mother of us ALL in SPIRIT!

Of course, everyone who has ever received Jesus into his heart has received a MEASURE of the Holy Spirit, “being born again of the SPIRIT”. (John 3:8) But to receive the FULL anointing or infilling, or what the Bible calls “BAPTISM” of the Holy Spirit, is usually a SEPARATE experience that happens AFTER you have received Jesus.

A glass of water makes a good illustration. A glass may not be a FULL glass of water but if it has SOME water in it at least it’s not completely empty, it IS a glass of WATER. Well, that’s how a lot of Christians are. They have just a LITTLE bit of water, a little BIT of God’s Spirit, just enough to SAVE them.

But being BAPTISED with the Holy Spirit is as if the water was poured in till the glass was FILLED UP and RUNNING OVER! It is such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that you fill up and run over! Jesus said, “He that believes on Me, out of his innermost parts shall flow RIVERS of LIVING WATER!”–This spake He of the SPIRIT which they that believe on Him SHOULD receive! (John 7:38,39)

This baptism or infilling of the Holy Spirit is a baptism of LOVE!–Love for God and love for others!–Love enough to REACH them with the Gospel, to WIN them to the Lord, such a Love that you just love EVERYBODY! In fact, the Holy Spirit of God IS Love because “GOD is LOVE”! (1 John 4:8)

So to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with the LOVE of God! Of course, at the same time it is also a baptism of the POWER of God, the power that enables you to tell other people about Jesus, to share His Love with others.

Just before leaving this World and ascending to be with His Father, Jesus told His disciples, “You shall receive POWER, AFTER the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and you shall be WITNESSES unto Me in ALL the World!” (Acts 1:8) Receiving the power of His Holy Spirit will make you want to be a WITNESS and OBEY His command and tell OTHERS about Jesus, and show them that He loves them!

Receiving God’s wonderful Spirit of Love not only fills us with His Love and power, but also gives us what the Bible calls “GIFTS of the Spirit”! (1 Corinthians 12) These gifts include supernatural WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE, gifts of HEALING, working of MIRACLES, the ability to PROPHESY, and speak in new TONGUES and LANGUAGES, etc! (1Corinthians 12:4-10) These marvellous gifts of which we read so much about in the New Testament are still as real and available TODAY as they were in the days of the Apostles, for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!” (Hebrews 13:8)

So if you want to be a lively, active Christian who OBEYS the Lord, preaches the Gospel and wins OTHERS into His Kingdom, thereby laying up for yourself an ETERNAL CROWN and reward because of your faithfulness to Him, you certainly need to be filled with His precious Holy Spirit!–You cannot do the Master’s WORK without the Master’s POWER!

“Have YOU received the Holy Ghost since you believed?” (Acts 19:2) Have you received this overflowing power of God’s Love in your own life since you received Jesus? Do you have any of the beautiful “gifts of the Spirit”, God the Father’s wonderful gifts for His children to enjoy, and tools for your work for Him? You can have them right NOW! All you have to do is ASK!

Jesus promised, “Ask and it SHALL be given you, seek and ye SHALL find, knock and it SHALL be opened unto you!” (Matthew 7:7) When you ask God for the Holy Spirit, you’ll KNOW that you’ve received Her because He’s PROMISED Her!–Just like when you received JESUS into your heart, you knew He came in because the Bible SAID He would! (Revelation 3:20)

She’s calling YOU, to come and follow and serve Jesus, to live for ETERNITY, to know such JOY and THRILLS and FULFILMENT beyond anything you’ve ever imagined! Heed Her loving call and ask God to fill you with His precious Holy Spirit right NOW! Why wait? He is more willing to give than you are to receive!

Receive God’s Spirit of Love and power now by simply praying this little prayer:

“Dear Jesus, I love You, and know that I need more of Your Love and Power in my life. So I ask You to please fill me with Your Holy Spirit right now, to give me the strength to truly follow You and tell others about You and Your Love! In Jesus’ name I pray, amen!”

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Anchor

Metanoia = A Change of Life

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorThe term “metanoia” is derived from the Greek prefix meta, meaning “over,” “after,” or “with”—and nous, meaning “intellect” or “mind.” Translating literally, metanoia means a change of one’s mind or purpose. The term is generally used in two different contexts, both of which retain this literal meaning. In the Bible, the term is most often translated as “repent.”

The Christian scholar Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225 AD) argued that, in the context of Christian theology, metanoia is best translated as “change of mind.” In this specific context, the change of mind may be taken to refer to the change from nonbeliever to believer. Furthermore, this particular kind of change of mind is expected to entail a wholesale change in the person’s behavior and disposition; the person who experiences metanoia is expected not only to embrace a pious attitude but to act accordingly. Hence the word “repent” refers to renunciation of sin in both thought and act.

—Robert Arp
 

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According to Mark’s gospel, John the Baptist went about “preaching a baptism of repentance [metanoia] for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3) From Matthew’s perspective, the essence of the Baptist’s message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2) Metanoia here and elsewhere in the Bible means “not just a change of inward disposition but a complete turn-around of one’s life, with all that such a re-direction implies of the need for God’s help on the one side and of ethical conduct on man’s side.”

—Lewis and Demarest

 
A change of mind and purpose

Simply put, metanoia is a word filled with remarkable meaning by the preaching of Christ and the apostles. … The word means “after-mind” and signifies a change of mind: thinking one way, but then afterwards thinking another. …

The gospel is what the change of mind is about. The preaching of Jesus and the apostles speaks to the nous [mind], and men change or don’t change their mind as they hear it. When a man changes his mind at the preaching of the gospel, he has experienced metanoia. Thus, the proclamation of metanoia at the beginning of the New Testament is the doorway into the entire rest of the doctrine of the New Testament: Change your mind! About what? Listen! A radical mind-shift in the religious world is about to happen … no, it is happening now… What we thought about God and the law and righteousness and forgiveness is all about to change. Hear! Metanoia and believe the gospel!

New Testament metanoia is a divine call to a radical mind-shift in the way men think about religion. Therefore “repentance” is an entirely unsatisfactory translation of the amazing word “metanoia,” which gives a completely different feeling to the preaching of Jesus and His apostles. Was the major proclamation of Jesus and the apostles “Repent! Feel sorry for your sins”? Or was it “Metanoia! Think a new way”! Do you see what a difference these two words make? Which one is in keeping with the gospel of grace as we know it from the New Testament? Not the first, but the second.

The gospel calls us to a new way of thinking about religion. Whereas men think that they are good, and that obedience to the law is the way of salvation, and that the law only requires partial obedience, and that most people won’t perish, Jesus calls us to believe that there is none good, and that no one will be saved by obedience to the law, because the law requires perfect obedience, and that is the broad road that leads to destruction. The apostles call us to believe that the cross of Christ is the power and the wisdom of God, the only way whereby we are saved, and live, through faith, while the world thinks that the cross is foolishness.

—Eli Brayley

 
Genuine repentance

True repentance is metanoia, Greek for a complete change of direction. Many people are sorry but never really change, like King Saul. Poor Saul never learned. He apologized and was sorry many times, but he never really repented, he never turned and went the other way. Saul would break down and weep before the prophet Samuel, but he didn’t weep because he was repentant; he wept because he was sorry he was about to lose the kingdom. (1 Samuel 15:24–30) He didn’t really confess and forsake his sin, the evil root beneath the outer show. (Proverbs 28:13)

Though King David also committed great sins, he had great repentance and a genuine change. Therefore God had great forgiveness for him. David sought God’s heart. (1 Samuel 13:14; Psalm 51) David deeply loved God, and he really wanted to glorify God and please Him. God loved David in spite of all his sins and mistakes because David was willing to confess and change—and he went on to become one of God’s greats, in spite of himself.

So true repentance is not just being sorry: it is “metanoia,” a complete change of mind and heart and direction—a whole new man, a new personality, a new creature in Christ Jesus—born again! Only God can do it, but we must put forth the effort of a believing will.

You’ve had a genuine repentance when your heart is changed, your life is changed, you’ve had a complete change of mind. It means a complete turning around and going the other way!—Like when you’re driving your car down the street and you decide you want to go the opposite direction, you have to make a U-turn.

When you do, you’re doing exactly what the word “metanoia” translated in our New Testament means: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” (Matthew 4:17) Do you know what Jesus was saying when He said that? He was saying, revolute your life—for the kingdom of God is at hand! He said, turn around and start going the other direction. You cannot keep on living the same way. You cannot travel the same way anymore. You cannot go back and be a slave of mammon and serve God. You cannot serve God and mammon. It’s impossible; Jesus Himself said it. You’ll either “love the one and hate the other, or hold to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24) Which are you serving?

—David Brandt Berg

 
Repentance for salvation

When Paul calls for the elders of Ephesus to come to the island of Miletus, he tells them that he publicly and from house to house was “thoroughly testifying both to Jews and Gentiles repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21) Then, when standing before King Agrippa, Paul says, “I did not become disobedient to the heavenly vision, but I declared first to the ones in Damascus and Jerusalem, and unto all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and that they should turn to God, while producing works worthy of repentance (metanoia).” (Acts 26:19–20) Paul is proclaiming the same message as that of John, Jesus, and Peter, continuing to present that repentance is necessary for salvation and that the fruit or works worthy of repentance (literally, a continuous process under the control of the Holy Spirit) indicate true repentance.

The Bible also teaches that repentance is a gift from God. In Acts 5:31, Peter and the other apostles tell the Sanhedrin, “God exalted this One to His right as Ruler and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Then, after Peter explains his calling from the Lord to go to the Gentiles with the message of salvation, his Jerusalem brethren respond by “glorifying God, saying, ‘Then God also gave to the Gentiles repentance unto life.’” (Acts 11:18)

In our day and age, the condition of repentance is largely absent from the message of Christian salvation. Too often salvation is offered as a free ticket to Heaven, a ticket costing us nothing. However, the Bible teaches that both the call to repentance and the condition of repentance are absolutely necessary for the salvation process to take place: The verb form [of metanoia] expresses the call for the action of making the decision to change the direction of one’s life; the noun form metanoia states the condition necessary for salvation. Only when these two are present will the fruit of repentance follow. Simply put, a person must perceive that he needs a change in the direction of his life. He must make the decision for change, and then surrender his life to Christ, receiving Christ’s Spirit into his own spirit. Herein lies the cost, the surrender of his life. This is necessary because, as Biblical language makes clear, no person has the ability to change himself; spiritual change comes only from God. The good news is that repentance is God’s gift to all who surrender to Christ.

—Bill Klein

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Activated

Just Do It!

By Peter Amsterdam, adapted

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Every day, when you step out the door to go to work or on an appointment, or to take the kids to school or the park, or when you’re at home working or cooking or cleaning, if you’re praying as you do so, you’re going to “the market,” so to speak, and you should take along a pretty big “basket” of faith and expectancy for God to work in and through your life to fulfill His purposes. Through our prayers we create a vacuum for God to work, and we should expect that He is going to respond according to His will.

The key is doing. Staking out the land and catching the train of golden opportunities. Being flexible and willing to change as needed—whether that means changing yourself, changing your plans, or changing your schedule.

Here are a few concrete actions we can take:

 
Have faith

Faith and trust in God and a willingness to follow where He leads. When we ask God for opportunities and open doors, He will not fail to bring them along in His time. Thank Him for them and then actively pursue them—even if they are new, different, or unexpected.

 
Begin

To follow in the direction God leads us, we’ve got to be willing to try new things and follow through. We have to show God that we mean business and we’re serious. If you do that, you can bet your bottom dollar that He is going to come through, sweep away the obstacles, and do over and above His part of the bargain.

 
Recognize opportunity

Some of the opportunities that come your way won’t pan out. Some of the risks you take won’t bring forth any spectacular or visible fruit, at least not immediately. Sometimes you might have to keep going with something for quite a while before it blossoms.

Sometimes the risks you take might even cost you. Not every single venture or opportunity will be immediately successful. Some might not be successful at all. But it’s better to try something new and discover that it doesn’t work than to never try anything different or outside the box. It’s better to boldly seize an opportunity—even if you’re not quite sure where or how it’s going to go—than to play it so safe and walk with such hesitancy that you miss the open doors and setups that God wants to engineer.

If you jump at an opportunity and it doesn’t seem to be working well, you can put it on pause and commit it to prayer. If something doesn’t pan out, you can close the door and move on to something else. That’s not failure. That’s experience. That’s trying the new. When opportunities come around, if you hesitate, you might not get a second chance. So don’t be afraid to give new things a try.

Being willing to experiment and try new things is exactly what it takes to be in tune with the needs of today. You have to be able to endure a bit of failure too. Pioneers, explorers, inventors, and entrepreneurs often face setbacks and failures—sometimes many—before they hit their eureka moment. It’s not a bad sign if you don’t strike gold immediately. Finding out where it isn’t can be just as valuable in some cases as finding out where it is!

 
Seize the moment

What if Lazarus’ family had said to Jesus, “Well now, Jesus‚ we’re not quite ready for Lazarus’ resurrection! We haven’t got his room ready yet, and we’ve got to get his clothes back from the people we gave them to. Wait till tomorrow and we’ll roll away the stone. You can come back tomorrow, Lord, and raise him from the dead.” Jesus would probably have been far gone from there by that time, and it would have been too late.

The secret is following God and moving with His Spirit, which includes being ready to take advantage of His setups. And His setups sometimes defy human logic and earthly conventions, meaning they will happen on God’s timetable, not ours.
 

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The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.
—Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881)

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Often, the most extraordinary opportunities are hidden among the seemingly insignificant events of life. If we do not pay attention to these events, we can easily miss the opportunities.
—Jim Rohn (1930–2009)

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It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.
—Whitney Young (1921–1971)

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Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, “Certainly I can!” And get busy and find out how to do it.
—Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919)

 
 

Copyright © Activated Magazine. All rights reserved.

Salvation for a Swindler!

Luke 19:1-10

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Contrary to what many people think, Jesus was not against riches, especially not when they were put to good use. Now, whenever the subject of wealth and affluence is mentioned in the Bible, many people almost automatically remember the sad story of the rich young ruler who went away sorrowfully after having rejected Jesus’ admonition that he share his riches with the poor. (Luke 18:18-25) But have you ever heard about Jesus’ encounter with a certain wealthy business man of Jericho?

Zacchaeus, the man in our story, was quite an infamous character, especially when contrasted with the many devoutly religious figures who walked the streets of Jericho, “the city of priests.”

He was the wealthy head of a large office of government tax collectors, and to the Jews, tax collectors or publicans, as they were called, were the absolute lowest of the low, only to be compared with common prostitutes. Well known for being cheaters, extortionists, and robbers of the poor, these men were also considered as traitors to their brethren, since, though they themselves were Jews, they worked for the much-hated government of Rome.

Here was a man with governmental authority to bleed from the people as much tribute as possible, and anything he could gouge from them above that went straight into his own pocket.

But one day something happened that completely changed all this for Zacchaeus. He had already heard all about Jesus and the many miracles which He’d performed, yet even more fascinating was the fact that, like himself, Jesus also had a bad reputation, and was known to be a friend of publicans and sinners. In fact, one of Jesus’ Own disciples, Matthew, had one time been a tax collector in Nazareth!

For some time Zacchaeus had wanted to meet the “Carpenter-turned-Prophet.” Often he wondered, “How can a man supposedly so religious be a friend of people like myself, when the priests and even many people of my city practically spit at the mention of my name? Would Jesus be my friend too?” he wondered. He had no real friends outside of his immediate family, and more recently he’d begun to feel quite dissatisfied. He’d begun to realise that it took much more than wealth to bring true warmth and satisfaction. After all, he had practically everything money could buy, a fine home and a stable position, but something was missing.–Exactly what, he wasn’t sure.

Then one day Jesus passed through Jericho. When Zacchaeus heard that He was in town, he dropped everything, closed up his office, and hurried off to see for himself. A large crowd with Jesus in their midst, was already moving slowly down the road, but poor Zacchaeus was so short he couldn’t see a thing. Quickly he spotted a large sycamore tree up ahead of the crowd. As Jesus passed by, maybe he could see him from that tree. Completely forgetting about what people would think of him, Zacchaeus ran past the crowd and scurried up into the tree.

When Jesus finally reached the tree where Zacchaeus was, all of a sudden He turned & looked up searchingly. Drawing near and looking straight up at Zacchaeus, Jesus called, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down. I must stay at your house today!”

“Wha … what did He say?” Zacchaeus was shocked! “He called me by my name! He wants to stay at my house?” As Zacchaeus slid down from the tree, it was hard to believe that there hadn’t been some sort of mistake. How could Jesus have known his name? But as soon as he realised that Jesus was serious, he answered, “Why, this is an honor! Please do come to my house! You’re so very welcome!” And Zacchaeus joyfully escorted Jesus to his home.

By the time they arrived, the crowd that followed stood outside murmuring indignantly, saying, “How can this be! Jesus has gone to stay with a man who is a sinner and a publican!” They were ashamed to the point of disgust, thinking, “How could He, Jesus, come to our fair city, a center for religious training, and yet choose to lodge with such a scoundrel as that?” But Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. He had looked beyond Zacchaeus’ outward appearance to see the desperate hunger and emptiness for love and fulfilment within his heart.

In that one moving meeting with Jesus, Zacchaeus had found the answer! now wealth and possessions were not important except to give them to others. Excitedly, Zacchaeus declared, “Jesus, right here and now I want You to know that I’ve made up my mind! I am going to give to the poor one half of all that I own! And to make amends for those whom I have cheated or taken advantage of, I promise to restore unto them four times more than I took from them!” What an amazing commitment, considering that that sum must have been very large!

Here was a man who’d lived luxuriously and selfishly all of his life, but who, after meeting Jesus and hearing the Words He shared, had experienced a dramatic change! Suddenly, for the first time in his entire life, he felt that he understood the true meaning of love and giving.

Then Jesus exclaimed, within earshot of the grumbling crowd outside, “Today salvation has come to this house! For truly the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost!” It didn’t matter how bad Zacchaeus had been before, the Lord’s Love was more than enough to forgive. In fact, there was no mention recorded of Jesus’ having to bring up all of Zacchaeus’ sins, because Zacchaeus had already shown the tangible fruit of repentance by putting his love into action. He had accepted Jesus into his heart and life and home and had become a follower of Jesus’ example and teaching. He had become a new-born child of the Kingdom of God!

This was the beginning of an entirely new life for Zacchaeus! No longer would he be indifferent to the people and the World around him. Now, instead of treating others as mere opportunities for gain, he was going to take a personal interest in using his wealth as a means of helping the needy. And because he “received the Lord joyfully”, his good testimony has echoed down through the ages as an example of what God can do with a man who surrenders his will to Him! He had found that giving, instead of being painful, brought happiness and satisfaction! He was learning the truth of Jesus’ Words: “Give and it shall be given you, heaped up, shaken together and running over!” (Luke 6:38)

FOOD FOR THOUGHT!

  1. You can never be too bad for Jesus, only too good! Jesus got along much better with people who knew they were sinners than He did with the self-righteous and ultra high-minded, religious folks who thought they were so good! “And Jesus said to the priests in the Temple, ‘I tell you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will go into the Kingdom of God before you! For John (the Baptist) showed you the true way of righteousness, and you did not repent and believe, but the tax collectors and prostitutes did!'” (Matthew 21:31,32)
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  3. Jesus had quite a few rich friends who were supporters & members of the Kingdom of God. Take, for example, Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus, both well-to-do members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jewish church; The Centurion of Capernaum, a top officer in the Roman government, whose servant Jesus healed. Then there was Joanna, who went about with Jesus & who was the wife of King Herod’s steward & lived in the royal palace. And what about Martha, Mary & Lazarus who were among the wealthy families around Jerusalem! (See John 12:1-8.)
     
    Although some of Jesus’ disciples were from humbler classes, Peter, James, John, Andrew, & Matthew had been established businessmen. But one thing is for sure, they placed not only their money, but their very lives in service to the Lord & His urgent cause of winning the World for Love!
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  5. If you can’t be a disciple, then you can support the ones who are! “And you shall have treasure in Heaven!” (Luke 18:22 and Matthew 10:40-42) Although Jesus didn’t tell Zacchaeus to abandon his home & money, it is obvious that through his conversion to Love, instead of “laying up treasures on Earth,” he began to put his resources to good use by helping the poor.

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

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What Easter Represents

By Maria Fontaine

free-bible-studies-online-anchorAnything so unspeakably priceless as Jesus offering His life in payment for our sins required immense strength of spirit and depth of character and closeness to His Father in order to accomplish such a colossal mission—His ultimate goal.

Even then, in the midst of facing what He had to do for the salvation of humankind, Jesus requested that if it were possible that the Father would let the cup pass from Him. (Matthew 26:39) What was the cup? It was His great agony and the suffering that He would have to endure. We might picture His cup filled with the consequences of the sins of the world!—All that God’s justice had decreed was due for all the sins that had ever been committed—past, present, and future. As a paraphrasing of 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For God took the sinless Christ and poured into Him the cost of our sins. Then, in exchange, He poured the pure gift of God’s goodness into us.” He who was without sin bore the weight of punishment for the transgressions of the entire world, in order to free us from them.

Out of love for us, He who knew no sin suffered the price of sin for us and was made a curse for us, so that through His death He could destroy sin’s power over those who would come to Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:14; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24)

Our human intellects, no matter how brilliant, can never fully understand these deep spiritual truths. However, physical illustrations of these concepts, even though insufficient at their best and “seen through a glass darkly,” can at least help us to a partial, very limited understanding. Jesus taking our sins and evil into Himself could be symbolically likened to a terminal disease permeating the body and infiltrating the cells. His becoming sin for us was like His taking into Himself the resulting consequence of death.

The Bible says that Jesus poured out His soul unto death, and set us free through His blood. (Isaiah 53:12) The cup now symbolizes new life through His blood shed for us. (1 Corinthians 11:25) Sin, death, ungodliness, and all that is evil is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:54) All of the evil of mankind, and the full settlement for all sin for all time was made. And what does Jesus ask of us? The Scripture says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20; Romans 5:8–11, 6:6–11)

He who was life and truth and the Word made flesh was destroyed in the flesh, but His spirit could not be destroyed. (Luke 23:46; 1 Peter 3:18) What was destroyed for all who turn to Jesus was the power of sin and death, the spirit of the world, and those spiritual forces bound to them. Their power was broken and conquered by Christ for any who would receive His sacrifice and gift of love. These forces of Satan no longer have any power or authority over His children beyond what Jesus allows for a purpose—to teach us and strengthen us, to cause our witness to shine even brighter, and to draw us closer to Him.

What Jesus did through His death and resurrection to bring us salvation is something so very mysterious and beyond our human comprehension that we won’t be able to fully understand it until we’re liberated from the realm of the flesh into the spirit—and maybe not even then. However, every time we reflect on what Jesus did for each one of us—and for all of us—it renews our sense of reverence and awe.

What, in practical terms, does such limitless love mean to us as Christians? What does it say to us? What is its significance? What does it mean to us personally?

Christian writers throughout the years have tried to explain the essence of Easter in various ways:

  • A demonstration that life is essentially spiritual and timeless.
  • The rare beauty of new life.
  • News of a great victory, the assurance of a great triumph.
  • A declaration that we are immortal children of God.
  • The “out of the grave and into my heart” miracle.
  • A fact of history, without which history does not make sense.
  • The door of the holy sepulcher—the portal through which we enter the kingdom of God.
  • The descent of God to the human level and the ascent of man to the divine level, becoming the sons of God.
  • The thing that turns the church from a museum into a ministry.
  • A second chance.
  • The assurance that the truth does not perish; it cannot be destroyed.
  • The crowning proof of Christianity.
  • The right to live nobly now because we are to live forever.
  • The knowledge that we are living in a world in which God has the last word.

Easter represents all that our salvation is. (John 11:25–26)—And that’s worth celebrating! Easter stands for everything that has been and forever will be possible in our resurrection-empowered lives. It represents:

  • Freedom from condemnation of past mistakes and failures. (Romans 8:1)
  • Liberation from fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14–15)
  • The guarantee of hope for an eternal future in a home that Jesus has gone to prepare for us. (John 14:2–3)
  • An alternative to the temporal, sin-laden, suffering-plagued existence of this world. (John 16:33)
  • The opening of the door of heaven to us.
  • The blind given sight. (1 Peter 2:9; John 9:25)
  • Common men and women becoming kings and queens. (Revelation 5:9–10)
  • The drowning man rescued.
  • The brand snatched from the burning. (Zechariah 3:2)
  • The power to preach good tidings, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. (Isaiah 61:1,3)
  • The paralyzed becoming mobile. (Matthew 11:5)
  • The earth coming to life in the spring.
  • The knowledge that man can live forever. (1 John 2:17)
  • A demonstration that anything wonderful can happen when all hope seems gone.
  • Complete forgiveness. (Isaiah 1:18)
  • Freedom from the law of death. (Romans 8:2)
  • The truth let loose in the world. (John 1:17)
  • The sting taken out of death (1 Corinthians 15:55)
  • The guarantee that there are no illnesses nor pain in heaven. (Revelation 21:4)
  • The promise of eternal life with our loved ones. (Acts 16:31)
  • The assurance of a glorious future, no matter how bad the world gets.
  • The power to conquer all impossibilities. (Luke 1:37)
  • Divine healing power. (Mark 16:17–18)
  • A way of life, not just a religion or a ritual. (John 10:10)

All of the above impossibilities became possible—all the potential of the universe was released—when Christ’s victory over death was won.

The resurrection and its results are worth repeatedly examining, since in this—one of the greatest moments of history—we continue to find Easter wonders.

Like the little girl said when her daddy asked her, “Do you know what Easter means, honey?” The three-year-old, throwing up her arms, shouted at the top of her voice, “Surprise!” Yes, indeed! Death was surprised! Sin was surprised! The grieving disciples were surprised! Modern man is surprised! Jesus is alive—and the whole world is filled with His resurrection miracles!

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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The Message of the Cross

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorWhen you go throughout the world, you see many churches with steeples. When the Communists tried to outlaw religion in Russia and in Eastern Europe, they forgot that the cross was on many of their churches and cathedrals. The cross is worn on the necks of so many people, but they don’t know what it means. What does it mean to you tonight?

First, the cross shows us the depths of our sins. We don’t realize what sin is in the sight of God—how deeply it offends Him and how it separates us from Him. Before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed in Gethsemane. He was agonizing, sorrowful. He prayed to God, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39 NKJV) He looked into the cup, and what did He see in that cup? He saw the sins of the whole world! He saw murder, war, racial prejudice, adultery, lying, and fraud.

People ask the question, “What is sin?” Sin is coming short of God’s righteousness. God is righteous and holy. He cannot look upon sin. A diamond may be perfect to the natural eye. But if you take it to a specialist and he looks at it through a glass, he sees a defect in it. And God looks at us that way… The Scripture says all have sinned. We have all come short of God’s requirement…

The Bible says that we are sinners by nature and by choice. James 4:1–3 says: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” We are all that way. Sin has affected our minds. The Scripture says, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)

Sin also affects your will. Jesus said, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34 NKJV) There’s something of which you are guilty. You can’t break this habit. You would like to, but you have no power to do it. You are a slave. You cry for freedom, but there is no escape. But Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32 NKJV) Then He said that He was the truth. (John 14:6)

Sin also affects your conscience. Every one of us has a conscience. Sometimes it’s a little red light that comes on every time we sin against God. But you can have a conscience that doesn’t work any longer. You have gone against your conscience for so long that it’s dead. You are no longer shocked or offended by sin around you or sin in your own life.

There’s a penalty to sin. The wages of sin is death. The Cross says to the world tonight, “You are a sinner. You are under the sentence of death.” That means spiritual death, eternal death. But not only does the Cross show us our sins, it also shows us the love of God. God is saying tonight, “I love you. No matter what you have done—how bad you have been—I love you.” And the death of Christ is what makes the good news. God is saying to you, “I love you. I forgive you because of what Jesus did on the cross.”

The Cross is a pardon; it’s a reprieve from death for people who don’t deserve it. None of us deserves to be saved. None of us deserves to go to heaven. But God is love, (1 John 4:8) and God is grace and mercy. “Grace” means something that you don’t deserve, something that God just gives you. God offers you a pardon tonight. He offers you forgiveness; He offers you assurance of heaven if you die. And that can happen right here tonight. “God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 KJV) …

Jesus died on the cross for you, and the Scripture says that you can never be the same once you have been to the Cross: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

Do you feel that your life has been a failure? Is your life turned upside down? Do you wonder which way to turn? The choice you make tonight will affect your whole life. It will also affect where you spend eternity. Where will you be a hundred years from now? You won’t be here, but the Cross guarantees a future life. The Cross is followed by the Resurrection. The death of Christ was not the end. There’s a Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Scripture teaches that Christ is reconciling the world unto Himself. He’ll reconcile you. You are separated from God by sin. But when you come to the Cross, you are united with God, and you become a partaker of His own nature.

—Billy Graham

 
Symbol of our faith

Why is the cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer, look no further than the cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal, the other vertical. One reaches out like God’s love. The other reaches up as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of his love, the other reflects the height of his holiness. The cross is the intersection of both. The cross is where God forgave his children without lowering his standard.

How could he do this? In a sentence: God put our sin on his Son and punished it there. “God put on him the wrong who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 MSG) Or as another version reads, “Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 CEV)

Envision the moment. God on his throne. You on the earth. And between you and God, suspended between you and heaven, is Christ on his cross. Your sins have been placed on Jesus. God, who punishes sin, releases his rightful wrath on your mistakes. Jesus receives the blow. Since Christ is between you and God, you don’t. The sin is punished, but you are safe, safe in the shadow of the cross. This is what God did, but why, why would he do it? Moral duty? Heavenly obligation? Paternal requirement? No. God is required to do nothing. Besides, consider what he did. He gave his Son. His only Son. Would you do that? Would you offer the life of your child for someone else? I wouldn’t. There are those for whom I would give my life. But ask me to make a list of those for whom I would kill my daughter. The sheet will be blank. I don’t need a pencil. The list has no names.

But God’s list contains the name of every person who ever lived. For this is the scope of his love. And this is the reason for the cross. He loves the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16) As boldly as the center beam proclaims God’s holiness, the crossbeam declares his love. And, oh, how wide his love reaches. … It’s nice to be included. You aren’t always. Universities exclude you if you aren’t smart enough. Businesses exclude you if you aren’t qualified enough, and sadly, some churches exclude you if you aren’t good enough. But though they may exclude you, Christ includes you.

When asked to describe the width of his love, he stretched one hand to the right and the other to the left and had them nailed in that position so you would know, he died loving you.

—Max Lucado

 
God’s altar

Moses said that without the shedding of blood, there’s no remission of sins. (Leviticus 17:11) That was the Law, but Jesus said, “This is the new testament in My blood.” (1 Corinthians 11:25)

Jesus died on God’s altar, the cross, believed upon by every Christian, trusted by every son and daughter of God who believes Jesus Christ for their salvation and His blood shed for their sins. He was the final ultimate sacrifice for sin. He was the final ultimate Lamb of God slain for the remission of your sins. He took the punishment of your sins in His own body on that tree, the cross, and that was the last sacrifice of blood for sin as far as God was concerned.

It cost a priceless gift for you to get saved, and that was Jesus and His blood. That’s the highest-priced gift anybody could ever receive, the highest cost anybody could pay for your salvation, and only Jesus could do it. No matter how much you sacrifice and try to pay for it by your own works, the price is too high for you. Only Jesus could pay it! God Himself spared not His own Son, Jesus Christ, but let Him die on the cross in order that He could freely give us all things. Such love!

—David Brandt Berg

 
Revelation of God

The cross of Jesus is the revelation of God’s judgment on sin. Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in time or eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God. He made redemption the basis of human life; that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God.

The cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” … The cross is not the cross of a man but the cross of God, and the cross of God can never be realized in the human experience. The cross is the exhibition of the nature of God, the gateway whereby any individual of the human race can enter into union with God. When we get to the cross, we do not go through it; we abide in the life to which the cross is the gateway.

The center of salvation is the cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened—but the crash is on the heart of God.

—Oswald Chambers

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.