Category Archives: God

Why Does God Allow Sin and Suffering?

By David Brandt Berg

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I was talking to a pretty young travel agent the other day, and during the course of our conversation we began to talk about God.

“Oh, I don’t believe in God!” she said. “If there is a God, why is there so much suffering in the World today? Why do thousands die of starvation every day in Africa? What kind of God would allow a terrible disease like AIDS to run rampant? Why was my best friend just crippled in an automobile accident?”

“Well,” I replied, “you can’t blame GOD for all the suffering in the World! He’s not some kind of monster that enjoys making people suffer. It’s not GOD Who causes all these things. A lot of it is the evil work of a powerful being called Satan, or the Devil, and he just loves to hurt Man and see him suffer! In fact, that’s one of his main tactics to try to turn Man away from God. He tries to give GOD the blame for his OWN dirty deeds!”

The young lady was quiet for a moment as she pondered this, and then she shot back with the atheists’ trump card question which they always try to stump Christians with! “Well then, if there is a God, and He’s ALL-POWERFUL, why doesn’t He STOP the Devil and not allow him to cause all this suffering? Why does He ALLOW evil in the World? For example, why didn’t He stop Hitler?”

“Well, that’s a very good question!” I answered. “But you see, if God had put a stop to Hitler, He also would have to put a stop to YOU!–Because YOU’RE a sinner too, aren’t you? I’m sure you’re not as bad as Hitler, but we’ve ALL been bad sometimes, haven’t we? The Bible says, `ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ (Romans 3:23). So He would have had to stop everybody in the whole World from doing ANYthing bad! Right at the very beginning God would have had to step in and use FORCE to stop Adam and Eve from eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. He would have had to interfere with our FREE WILL and the majesty of PERSONAL CHOICE that He’s given each of us to choose good or evil!”

“But wouldn’t it have been BETTER if He had MADE us all to be good?” she challenged.

“If the Lord had wanted ROBOTS, yes, He could have MADE everybody do good and love Him. But He made us with FREE choice and FREE will, so we could CHOOSE to love Him! You wouldn’t enjoy YOUR children much if they were FORCED to love you, would you?” I questioned.

Puzzled, she replied, “Well no, but what does this have to do with suffering?”

I explained, “Because Man was put here to make a CHOICE between good and evil, between doing things GOD’S way or his OWN, and THAT’S the ROOT CAUSE of why there is so much suffering, misery, pain, ill health, wars, economic troubles and so on in the World today.–Because instead of choosing to love and obey GOD, Man has chosen to REBEL against His loving rules that were made only for our health and happiness, and do things his own way, and so he is suffering from the consequences of his own wrong choices! `There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death!’ (Proverbs 14:12).

At that point she was called away to attend to a customer, so that was the end of our conversation. But I was thinking later about how much of the World’s suffering is not even caused by the DEVIL, and certainly not because GOD wants to be mean to people, but rather through MAN’S OWN FOOLISHNESS. Man is his own worst enemy!

Look at the untold suffering that Man has caused himself by continually fighting terrible wars in which millions have been slaughtered and maimed! Martin Luther called war “the greatest scourge that can afflict humanity; it destroys religion, it destroys states and it destroys families. Any scourge is preferable to it!” But is GOD to blame for Man’s wars? The Bible says, “What causes wars and fightings among you? Don’t they come from your OWN LUSTS that battle within you?” (James 4:1). God is not to blame for the suffering caused by war, but rather Man’s own selfishness, greed, pride and competitive spirit–the destruction of others for greed or selfish gain–THIS causes wars!

But, believe it or not, even more lethal than war is the death and suffering Man inflicts on himself through car accidents! AUTOMOBILES have killed more Americans, for example, than were killed in all of its wars put together!–56 THOUSAND deaths every year in the U.S. alone, and half of those caused by drunken driving!

Far too many of Man’s inventions, such as weapons of war, too-rapid transportation, towering skyscrapers, pesticides, lethal chemicals, drugs etc., are death-dealing and destructive and cause all sorts of suffering. When Man starts wilfully following his own way and building things that God never wanted in the World, what else can you expect?

If there were no automobiles, there would be practically no deaths and injuries resulting from highway accidents. Our air would not be polluted with smoke from factories and automobile exhaust if there were no cars and factories. Our MODERN unnatural LIFESTYLE is a large contributor to much of the World’s suffering! Up until about the last hundred-and-fifty years, the main form of land transportation was horses and carriages.  And most of the World went at a more peaceful, leisurely and healthful pace as a result.

It’s the unnecessary stress and rush and anxiety and tension of modern-day living that brings on so many of the various psychosomatic diseases like severe headaches, stomach ulcers, heart troubles etc. We have not learned to cast all our cares upon God, as we are advised to do in 1Peter 5:7, and so we let our worried and harried minds make us sick!

Also, much of the suffering brought about by SICKNESS is man-made and comes from a poor diet. God gave us natural sugar, but we bleach out its nutrients and make it unhealthy and white. We eat white bread when whole wheat is much better for us. We disobey God’s health rules by eating all kinds of junk foods, sugary sweets, chemical preservatives etc., instead of the delicious natural fruits, vegetables and foods that God has so abundantly provided. We also make ourselves sick voluntarily by smoking, drinking and taking drugs that harm our minds and bodies. Is it GOD’S fault if we voluntarily abuse ourselves in this way?–Of course not!

For another example of how Man causes his own suffering, look at the millions who are starving in countries like Sudan and Ethiopia. The deserts of Northern Africa used to be a beautiful, fertile, wooded area. But over several centuries people cut down all the trees! As a result, the topsoil eroded and there was nothing left but desert. As the people moved south, seeking fertile land, they continued to cut down the trees, and so of course the desert moved southward too!

Today there are THREE-AND-A-HALF MILLION SQUARE MILES of desert in the Northern part of Africa because men have disturbed the ecological balance of nature. As a result, untold numbers of people are dying of starvation there every day!

Can you blame GOD for this? Problems like these are caused by MAN’S own foolishness over a number of years, often centuries! Problems which have steadily grown over successive generations.

Also, there is a huge surplus of food in other parts of the World–MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS OF TONS A YEAR–so God has provided more than enough so that NO ONE needs to go hungry! But while the Western World spends hundreds of millions of dollars on storing or destroying these surpluses and on exercise and diet programmes to lose weight, and pay farmers NOT to grow crops, the poor nations of the World starve!

There are other forms of suffering that men bring on themselves. Take AIDS for example, which is particularly rampant among homosexual men. Homosexuality or SODOMY, as GOD calls it in the Bible, is strictly FORBIDDEN by God as being unsanitary, unhealthful, unnatural and cursed! “Men committing indecent acts with other men, and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” (Romans 1:27). AIDS, as well as a good many other diseases, are caused and spread by abusing the body in a way that is contrary to God’s Word and His health laws. So is it God’s fault when men suffer the consequences of their own sins? No! As the Word says, they receive “the DUE penalty for THEIR perversion.”–By LAW they were STONED!

Another cause of misery and suffering is the pitiful poverty and squalor of the poor in the Third World’s huge cities. Shanty towns have sprung up around cities from Bombay to Cairo to Rio de Janeiro to Manila, where millions of squatters live in little shacks and lean-to’s, in the midst of foul water, garbage, sewage, filth and the most unsanitary conditions imaginable!

But God didn’t intend for people to live that way! They never should have come to the city in the first place! They would have been much better off to stay out in the country, where there’s fresh air and food, plenty of good hard work and exercise, fewer people, beautiful clean flowing streams, and plenty of place for the children to play, and where they can have animals and enjoy all the other benefits of good healthful country living. This is the good wholesome, healthful country life that God designed for Man!

But the poor see the fine cars and beautiful homes and all the fancy material luxuries and useless bric-a-brac that the rich own in the cities, and they think that those things will make them happy! They think that in the city they will be able to work less and make more money and live in luxury!

So they swarm to the cities, and soon their families fall apart, their children get into drugs and crime, they can’t find work and they suffer from terrible disease and malnutrition. In many instances, they wind up virtually living in their own excrement–washing in, cooking with and even drinking horribly foul polluted water!

Is it any wonder thousands die from typhoid and cholera and every other kind of disease? “Cities,” as the great historian Toynbee said, “are the festering sores on the World.” But they’re not GOD’S fault! They’re a MAN-MADE curse!

In some countries, the poor crowd into the cities to escape civil war, guerilla activity or criminal groups and bandits in the countryside, so their suffering is sometimes brought on by OTHERS’ greed and oppression and Man’s inhumanity to Man in WAR.

Of course, much of the reason that millions of people around the World suffer deprivation, want and squalor is because of the selfishness of the RICH. Most of the rich simply do not share their wealth or lands as they should, or invest it in jobs and industries to employ the poor.–Or pay the poor decent wages or fair prices for their labor and produce so that they can make a decent living. If they did, there would certainly be enough to go around, as the Lord INTENDED for there to be. In His Word He REPEATEDLY advises and even COMMANDS the rich to share with the poor because He doesn’t want the poor to suffer!

So MOST of the suffering in the World is not GOD’S fault at all, but MAN’S fault, because of disobedience to God’s Own loving laws! And believe it or not, the rich ALSO suffer! In some ways even more than the poor! The poor at least have the HOPE that riches could one day make them happy. But the rich have it all and are STILL not happy. In fact, a good many of them got their riches by robbing and cheating the poor. This is contrary to God’s laws for happiness and SPIRITUAL prosperity, which say that we must show love and concern and give and share with our fellow man.

Consequently, the rich usually suffer from a bad conscience as well as fear that someone will try to take away their riches. So they have to live like prisoners in their own homes, behind the high gates and walls that they’ve built to keep out thieves and robbers and their enemies! But the demons of Hell are able to pass through those walls and gates and enter into their homes with fear and sickness, worry and death!

Another very difficult kind of suffering that God allows is the PERSECUTION that His followers suffer at the hand of the godless Gospel-rejecting wicked. For millenniums the righteous have suffered pain, persecution and deprivation at the hands of a wicked World! In fact, any Christian who courageously stands up and actively fights the evils of this World is bound to suffer persecution. “For ALL who live GODLY in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer PERSECUTION!” (2Timothy 3:12).

If we were to try to cover ALL the causes of suffering in this World, it would probably take a book! But we hope we’ve at least given you SOME answers to one of the great eternal questions of this life: “Why does God allow suffering?”–Because WE’VE brought it on OURSELVES! Though we can understand MANY of the reasons through reading God’s Word and through prayer, we probably won’t know ALL the answers to that question until we get Up There, as there are some things we won’t understand until we see things as God sees them.

A very fitting illustration of this is the story of Doctor Handley Moule, when he visited a coal mine immediately after a terrible underground explosion. At the pit’s mouth was a large crowd, among whom were the relatives of the trapped and suffering miners.

“It is very difficult,” he said, “for us to understand why God should let such an awful tragedy happen. But I have at home an old bookmarker given me by my Mother. It is woven in silk, and when I look at the wrong side of it, I see nothing but a tangled mass of threads. It looks like a big mistake! One would think that someone had made it who did not know what she was doing. But when I turn it over and look at the right side, I see there, beautifully embroidered, the letters, ‘GOD IS LOVE!'” “We are looking at this today,” he continued, “from the wrong side! Someday we shall view it from another standpoint and we shall understand.”

God ALWAYS has a purpose and a plan in suffering, even though we can’t always see it right away! Sometimes, “His ways are past finding out” (Romans 11:33), and we just have to TRUST God, knowing that whatever He does, He does it in LOVE, and that if we don’t understand NOW, we will LATER!

Lastly, we must also mention the BENEFITS of suffering. Suffering is often GOOD for you! The ancients Greeks believed this, and this is why the Greeks put a lot of sorrow and suffering in their Tragedies. They called it “catharsis”, a purging or purifying. They believed that deep emotion and weeping washes away the impurity, the silliness and foolishness in you, and makes you honest and pure. Like an old poem says:

I walked a mile with Folly,
She chatted all the way,
But never a thing I learned from her,
For all she had to say!

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And never a word said she,
But oh, the things I learned that day,
When Sorrow walked with me!

It’s amazing how suffering often brings out the sweetness and goodness in people! The sorrow, the suffering, the sacrifice and sadness brings out the best in them, the compassion, the love, the tenderness, the brokenness, the love and concern for others! Suffering is meant to be a strength-giver to you, and to equip you for giving strength to others. The Bible says, “We comfort others with the comfort that we ourselves are comforted with of God!” (2Corinthians 1:4). And for us who are Christians, it gives us the desire to give OTHERS the answer that WE’VE found that can solve ALL their problems and suffering–JESUS!

Many times suffering turns people to God and inspires them to plead with Him for forgiveness and to repent and ask God to save them. They realise that God is dealing with them and they ask, “Lord, what did I do wrong? Why did I need this?” As King David said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but in my suffering I cried unto the Lord and He saved this poor man out of all his troubles!” (Psalm 18:6; 34:6; 119:67). Suffering and affliction drive us closer to the Lord!

And finally, let us never forget that “we have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but He was in all points tempted like we are.” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus Himself knows what it’s like to suffer! He suffered more than any of us! He suffered for ALL the sins of ALL the World, and some day soon, God’s Word promises us, all the suffering for those who love God will come to an end, and He “shall wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things are passed away”! (Revelation 21:4).

Until that perfect day, we will have to endure some suffering, but our compensation, our reward waiting for us in Heaven, far outweighs the temporary pain and suffering we may experience down here. As the Apostle Paul said, “For I judge that the sufferings of this present time are NOT WORTHY to be compared to the GLORY which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18).

Are YOU saved and ready for that Day?

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Who Should Get the Credit?

Speak Up for Jesus!

Based on the writings of David Brandt Berg

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As Christians who are seeking to please and serve the Lord, when we succeed in a task or accomplishment, what should our reaction be? Should we exalt ourselves like most people in the World do, and have the attitude of, “Oh, look what a great thing I did!–I’m just WONDERFUL, aren’t I?”–Or should our motivation and attitude be something other than mere pride and the desire to receive praise and esteem from others?

The answer really depends on whether we are doing GOD’S Will and serving HIM, or if we are doing your OWN will and serving our OWN interests. If we’ve given our heart and life to JESUS, and our desire is to please and serve HIM, then we will no doubt be looking to Him for help and guidance, and will therefore want to give HIM the thanks and credit when He helps us to succeed!

Like Peter did when the awestruck crowd gathered around him after the lame man was healed at the Temple one day. The Bible tells us, “All the people ran together unto Peter and John, greatly wondering. And when Peter saw it, he answered the people, `Oh, men of Israel, why do you marvel and stare upon US as though we by our own power or holiness have made this man walk? GOD has glorified His Son, JESUS, of Whom we are His witnesses! By faith in HIS name this man is now healed!” (Acts 3:11-16).

God’s Word tells us, “Let the redeemed of the Lord SAY so!” And, “You that make mention of the Lord, DON’T be SILENT!” (Psalm 102:7; Isaiah 62:6). The Lord wants and expects His children who know and love Him to SPEAK UP and let others know that HE is their God, their Strength, their Helper and their Saviour! So we shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to let people know that we are the LORD’S, on HIS side, and that HE is the One we’re living for, and that HE is the One Who helps us to accomplish His Will! “For it is GOD which works IN us, to do His Own good pleasure!” (Philippians 2:13).

And if you constantly remind yourself and others that you are just a TOOL in the LORD’S hands, that HE is the only One Who can really accomplish anything, then HE will get all the glory for anything good that He does through you. And you will find that He will BLESS and USE you MORE than you ever have been before if you faithfully give HIM all the glory!

To truly accomplish God’s will and purpose, you must rely on the LORD’S help. To meet the challenges you face, you must know that REAL strength comes “not by your OWN might, nor by your OWN power, but by MY SPIRIT, says the Lord!” (Zechariah 4:6). But if WE try to take the credit and glory to ourSELVES, God will not be able to bless us nearly as much as He would like to.

The Bible tells us the story of King Herod, a pompous ruler who, “on the appointed day, wearing his royal robes, sat on the throne and delivered a public address to the people. After his oration, the people shouted, ‘This is the voice of a GOD, not of a man!’ Immediately”–the Bible says–“because Herod did NOT give PRAISE to GOD, an angel of the Lord struck him down and he was eaten by worms and died!” (Acts 12:21-23).

God did not kill Herod just because he made a great speech. In fact, God probably HELPED him to make that speech in the first place! But when he refused to give GOD the glory, and didn’t silence the people for giving HIM so much credit, but rather took it all to HIMSELF, God was very displeased and therefore smote him!–“Because he did not give the praise to GOD!”

How different is the story of the good kings, prophets and men of God throughout the Bible whom the Lord was able to mightily bless because they gave HIM all the credit and glory! A good example of this is David, who when he was just a young lad, boldly came before the enemies of his people and accepted Goliath’s challenge to confront him in battle.

Before engaging the giant, David loudly cried out to Goliath so that ALL would hear, “YOU come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a shield: But I come to you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied! This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand! And all these people who are gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the LORD’S, and HE will deliver you into our hands!” (1Sam.17:45-47). And the Lord did the miracle and enabled little David to triumph over the giant, and everyone KNEW that it was GOD’S doing, because David gave the LORD ALL the credit.–Even BEFORE Goliath was defeated!

If you really want God’s BLESSING and His help, be like David, and boldly declare not only what you’re against, but also what you are FOR!–That you are for JESUS and for GOD and HIS WILL! “The LORD is on my side! I will not fear what MAN can do unto me!” (Psalm 118:6).

In the Book of Acts, we find another good example of speaking up for the Lord and giving God the glory. The Apostles Peter and John prayed for a lame man who was then miraculously and instantly healed, & it says, “All the people ran together unto them greatly marvelling. But when Peter saw it, he rebuked the crowd and said, ‘Why do you look upon US as though WE by our OWN power or godliness have done this good deed? GOD has glorified His Son, JESUS, and by faith in HIS Name this deed has been done!'” (Acts 3:11,12).

God’s Word says, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glories glory in THIS, that he understands and knows ME, that I am the LORD!” (Jeremiah 9:23,24).

If you really BELIEVE in something, or you really LIKE something or are excited about something, you’ll TALK about it, you’ll BOAST about it, you’ll GLORY in it! If you believe in your favourite athletic team, you’ll TALK about them! If you believe in your political party, you TALK about it! If you enjoy and believe in your work, you TALK about it! If you enjoy your leisure and your play, you TALK about that!–And if you really believe in JESUS, you’re going to talk about HIM! As Jesus said, “Out of the FULLNESS of the HEART, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34).

This doesn’t mean that you have to become a learned theologian, priest, preacher or minister of some organised religious organisation. In fact, you can glorify the Lord WHEREVER you go just by acknowledging and mentioning the Lord and His Love and not being ashamed or afraid to speak His Word and His Truth to others.

By simply saying, “Thank God!” when things are going well, you are giving God the glory and it is a witness to those who hear you! Every time you say, “Thank the Lord!”, you are giving GOD the credit and being a faithful witness. Even if you only say, “God bless you!” to others, you are reminding them of the Lord.

But if you feel somewhat uncertain and unsure of yourself, if you feel incapable of boldly speaking His Name before others, take heart from the disciples of the Early Church. After the powerful religious authorities threatened and commanded them to stop telling others about Jesus, they desperately prayed, “Lord, consider their threats and empower Your servants to continue to speak Your Word with BOLDNESS!” They confessed their weakness and fears and cried out to the Lord for help, and He answered!–“And they were all FILLED with the HOLY SPIRIT and spoke the Word of God with GREAT BOLDNESS!” (Acts 4:29,31).

Jesus promised us, “You shall receive POWER after the HOLY GHOST is come upon you, and you shall be WITNESSES to Me in all the World!” (Acts 1:8). So if you feel the need for more power to stand up for Jesus and to speak His Name boldly before others, simply PRAY and ask Him to FILL you with the power of His precious HOLY SPIRIT, and He WILL!

Jesus said, “Whoever shall be ASHAMED of Me and of My Words, of HIM also shall the Son of Man be ashamed!” (Mark 8:38). But He also says, “Whoever shall CONFESS ME before MEN, HIM will I also confess before My FATHER which is in Heaven!” (Matthew 10:32). So stand up for Jesus NOW, then, when you stand before the Lord one day soon, HE will stand up for YOU before our Heavenly Father! And all Heaven will know that you were NOT ASHAMED of Him and His Words, but CONFESSED Him before others!

Stand up for JESUS today, and He will stand up for YOU, and you will hear Him say, “WELL DONE, My good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord!” (Matthew 25:21; Acts 7:55,56). God BLESS you!

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

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God’s Love for Humankind

By Peter Amsterdam

free-bible-studies-online-anchorGod loves unconditionally. What does unconditionally mean? We could say that God’s love has no bounds, is unchanging, and without limitations. Unconditional love is sometimes defined as a love that is “given freely” to the loved one “no matter what.”

Each of us has sinned, and sin brings separation from God, and there is nothing we can do by ourselves to repair that breach. Nevertheless, God loves us. His love isn’t dependent on us, as we can’t earn His love. He loves us despite our sinful nature. He loves those who don’t love Him. He loves us all “no matter what.” It doesn’t mean He loves all that we do, but He loves us. In fact, He loves humanity so much that He made it possible for the breach caused by our sins and wrongdoing to be bridged through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus. Though we are sinners, God, because of His love for us, made it possible for us to be reconciled to Him.

As it says in Romans, chapter 5: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8 NIV)

God loves us not because of who we are but because of who He is. He is the creator of all things. He’s the Almighty. He is all-powerful and knows everything, and yet He loves you and me. In fact, not just you and me and those of us who are Christians and who appreciate the great sacrifice He made in giving His only Son to die for us, but He loves every single person in the whole world equally and unconditionally. He loved us before we believed in Him, before we loved Him. Even if someone has never heard of God the Father, even if someone says they hate Him, He still loves that person unconditionally. God’s love is unfathomable. It is perfect. It is unconditional.

The foundation point for us as Christians in helping to meet the needs of those we come in contact with, regardless of whether those needs are physical or spiritual, is the understanding that every person is precious to God, regardless of age, race, nationality, physical appearance, economic status, religious belief, political affiliation, or sexual orientation. None of that matters; everyone is loved by God. He loves the beggar on the street as much as He loves the richest man in the world.

God asks that we value every individual, that we see humankind through His eyes of love, which means that we will look at others without bias, prejudice, or preconceived negative opinions. By embracing God’s perspective and seeing others as He does, we will avoid stereotyping people, or thinking of ourselves as better than others.

We don’t have to like every person’s belief system, lifestyle, or choices. We may not agree with them. They may live without regard to God’s moral standards, they may live lives of grave sin, but no matter what their state, God loves them. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)

Each person on earth is God’s creation just as we are, and God loves them just as He loves us. We are all equal in God’s eyes. God loves each human being, and Jesus died for each human being. We are instructed to love people, and to show God’s love in both practical and spiritual ways, to the best of our ability.

Jesus said that the two most important commandments are to love God and to love others. (Matthew 22:37–40) When we remember that Scripture says that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, that love is of God, that God is love and He loves us all, (Genesis 1:26–27; 1 John 4:7–8) then the awesome love of God becomes our touchstone; it’s an example of how we should love others. When we look at this benchmark, we understand that we are to emulate God’s attributes of love, compassion, and mercy, just as Jesus did.

We are told to let our light so shine that others may see our good works and glorify God. (Matthew 5:16) This is a call to action, as it expresses the understanding that God intends for us to interact with others in a manner that reflects Him. It’s a call to emulate Him, to treat others with love, compassion, and mercy. We’re called to be conduits of His beautiful, unconditional love to others. This, like many other things on the path of discipleship, often requires some sacrifice. But when you think about Jesus’ sacrifice for us, there really is no comparison.

This touching story makes the point well:

The story has been told of a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. He hesitated only for a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”

The little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

What a tender and beautiful example of love! The Bible says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)

James, the brother of Jesus, expressed that the true practice of our faith consists of both outward and inward action. Outward toward others in practical ways, and inward through our devotion to God. He said: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27 NAU)

Manifesting our faith is not only inward activity; we are called to express it through our Christlike, Christ-emulating actions. This calls for sacrificing time we would use for ourselves, and instead giving it to others. It’s letting go of previously made plans in order to help others in need. It’s living our faith by intentionally doing things for the benefit of those in need.

In his book Well Done, Thomas said, “Roll-up-your-shirt-sleeves Christians see Christianity as faith and action. They still make the time to talk with God through prayer, [they] study Scripture with devotion, [they are] super-active in their church and take their ministry to others to spread the Good Word.”

As Rick Warren said in The Purpose Driven Life: “In heaven God won’t say, ‘Tell me about your career, your bank account, and your hobbies.’ Instead he will review how you treated others, particularly those in need.”

Jesus set the example of the “roll-up-your-shirt-sleeves” concept. He constantly showed love to others. He felt compassion for those in need and was moved to loving action. He was merciful. He showed kindness. He fed the hungry and healed the afflicted. He fought against evil and unrighteousness.

Jesus said: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Let’s do what we can to be tangible examples of God’s love for humanity, by following what He shows us to do to share Him and His love with those in need, spiritually through introducing them to Jesus, and practically through ministering to their other needs.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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God’s Masterpiece

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorWe are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
—Ephesians 2:10 NLT

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The reason you have value is because of what God says about you, not because of what other people say about you.

Many people lack self-esteem. They don’t feel good about themselves because they’re always trying to pump themselves up by the kind of clothes they wear, the kind of car they drive, and the things they say. They’re always trying to pump themselves up to make them feel better about themselves because they really don’t accept themselves—which is rebellion against God.

If God wanted you to be somebody else, you wouldn’t exist. But he wanted you! He made you to be you. Real self-esteem comes from three facts:

  1. God created you.
  2. Jesus died for you.
  3. God’s Spirit lives in you.

The Bible says, “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT) The New Testament was written originally in Greek. The Greek word for “masterpiece” is “poema.” It’s the word we get “poem” from. God says, “You’re my poem. You’re my masterpiece. I don’t want you copying somebody else. I’ve put gifts in you—heart, abilities, personality, and experiences—and I want you to use them.” You have worth because of what God says about you and has done for you.

You’re not just wanted; you’re needed! The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:4–6, “There are different spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, and yet the same Lord is served. There are different types of work to do, but the same God produces every gift in every person.”

You are needed. You’re needed in your church. You are needed in your community. You are needed in this world. If you weren’t needed, God would not have made you. He didn’t create you to just sit and soak and sour. He brought you here to make a contribution with your life. And everybody is needed.

There are no little people in the family of God. Every part is necessary. Do you know what the most important light is in my house? It’s not the big chandelier in the dining room. It’s the little dinky light I turn on every night so that when I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I don’t stub my toe.

Every role is important. You are important. You have value because God said so and because he paid such a large ransom for your life when he sent his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for you.

—Rick Warren

 
God’s unfinished business

On a rare day that I actually had a bit of time to do some organizing, I came to a realization about myself (not the most impressive one): I have a lot of “unfinished business,” at least with personal projects. I often wonder why so many of my personal projects or work is left undone. Why does it seem difficult to complete even one? And why do I operate this way?

Is it procrastination? Busyness? Lack of organization? Too many pies up there in the sky? All of the above? What’s the solution to getting projects or other to-dos from “pending” in my brain to the complete version where they can actually make a difference?

In his book, The Weathering Grace of God, Ken Gire writes of the importance of “stillness.”

Poets know the importance of … stillness. They know that if they are still enough, long enough, the art they are working on will speak to them, tell them what it wants to be and what it needs from them to become it. All artists know this, whether they work with paint or clay, words or musical notes.

Michelangelo knew how to be still before the stone and listen to the David within it. Strauss knew how to be still before the Danube and listen to the waltz that was eddying about in its waters. Monet knew how to be still before the pond and listen to the lilies sunning on its surface. … Our culture knows little of this kind of listening.

The best ideas, and the completion of them, require not only time to do them, but also stillness and quietness of body, mind, and spirit. The Lord encourages us in the book of Psalms to “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) The finishing work, whether of a small project or of life itself, requires stillness in mind and soul.

It’s easy to start something. It’s good to start something. Well begun is half done, they say. But to finish something—to see it through to the end—that’s not always easy.

It takes time. Patience. Faith. And those aren’t always easy to come by. We don’t always find them by looking within or looking around. But when we look up, and with peace and quiet of mind, listen to the still, small voice of God that whispers to us when we take time to listen, we will know the path to take. We will know how to complete what we have begun … and what He has begun in our lives.

We are all, in a way, God’s unfinished business. He has started a lot of “projects” that are well begun, even perfect in their own right, but they are not complete. The work of the Master on His creation continues: the molding, the shaping, the cutting, the polishing. It all comes with the promise, “He makes all things beautiful in His time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

—Jewel Roque

 
A perfect work of art

I was getting a haircut one day when the guy cutting my hair suddenly stopped and said, “Look at that!”

I looked over my shoulder, and there was one of the most stunning sunsets I had ever seen. Several people got up out of their chairs and walked outside to take a look. It was such an incredible sunset that people stood there in awe.

Of course, it is a reminder that “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1 NKJV) God is a great artist; there is no question about it.

But God’s greatest masterpiece isn’t some of the sunsets you may have had the privilege of seeing, or the Alps (as spectacular as they are), or the islands of Hawaii and Tahiti (as gorgeous and beautiful as they can be).

God’s greatest masterpiece of creation is you. And it is me. We are God’s greatest masterpieces.

In fact, we read in Ephesians 2:10 that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” That word workmanship could be translated as “we are His work of art.” We are His poem. Or as another translation puts it, we are God’s masterpiece. …

In addition to “workmanship” speaking of a poem or a work of art, it is a word that speaks of something that is perfect. It carries the idea of rhythm, orderliness, and beauty. When I look at my life, I don’t necessarily see rhythm, orderliness, or beauty. And I can guarantee that I don’t see perfection. When we see ourselves, we tend to see our flaws. We see so many things that need to change. But God says, “You are my work of art. You are my poem. You are my masterwork.”

God is not like a doting father who’s oblivious to his child’s faults. Rather, He is your all-knowing, yet all-powerful Father in heaven who can envision what you will be when it is all said and done. God can look at you and can see what you will become before you have actually become it.

We look at ourselves and say, “I don’t get it. This doesn’t look like a perfect person. This doesn’t look like a work of beauty.”

But you are a work in progress. It is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. It is going to take all of your life on earth. It won’t be completely finished until you get to heaven.

Then you will see that you indeed are a perfect work of art—God’s masterpiece.

—Greg Laurie

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

When We Should Not Forgive!

by David Brandt Berg

free-bible-studies-online-when-we-should-not-forgive

The love and mercy and forgiveness that God offers us through Jesus Christ is so great, so wonderful, that we can’t really fully understand it! We certainly don’t DESERVE it! None of us are “good” enough to deserve forgiveness of sins and His gift of Eternal Life to us! Yet it is ours for the asking if we will only believe on Him, repent of our selfish, wrong ways and ask His forgiveness.–Such love!

This love and forgiveness that He has extended to us, Jesus commands us to show it to others. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be KIND one to another, tenderhearted, FORGIVING one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you.” Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer, instructed us to pray: “Forgive us OUR trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He then added, “For if you forgive men THEIR trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive YOU. But if you forgive NOT men their trespasses, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive YOUR trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12,14,15). Jesus said we are even to love and forgive our ENEMIES.

That is, providing they are SORRY. The Bible does NOT instruct us to forgive people who are NOT sorry and DON’T repent. After all, God does not even forgive US OUR sins unless we are sorry for them and repent of them. Yet some people have the mistaken picture of God as a “soft” over-indulgent Father who automatically forgives everyone on Earth for their sins, even if they hate Christ and never repent of their evil deeds!

There are CONDITIONS to God’s forgiveness: As Isaiah 55:7 says, “Let the wicked FORSAKE his way, and the unrighteous man his (evil) thoughts: and let him RETURN unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon Him; and let him return to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” God WILL have mercy and abundantly pardon, but FIRST the wicked must FORSAKE his evil thoughts and deeds, REPENT and ASK to be forgiven!

Jesus said, “Love your enemies and do good to them that persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44). But how far are you to go in loving and forgiving those who are vicious enemies who HATE you and want to rob, enslave or even SLAUGHTER you and your loved ones?

Look at the example God Himself sets with HIS enemies: At first, He gives them time to repent. He shows them Love, He shows them the right way and gives them time to change and see the Truth. But after a certain time limit, His patience runs out and He says, “My Spirit will not ALWAYS strive with Man!” (Genesis 6:3). And eventually He SLAUGHTERS His enemies if they keep on being rebellious and doing evil!–As He did in the great worldwide FLOOD when all of Mankind was drowned except Noah and his family! There are countless other examples of this all the way through the Bible.

So we are to give our enemies TIME, we are to be patient, show them love and forgiveness, that we’re READY to forgive them IF they will REPENT. But God Himself does not forgive people who DON’T repent. It is naive to believe that we’re to love and forgive enemies who do NOT repent and who insist on CONTINUING to do evil and harm to us and our loved ones and our nation! As Christians, yes, we are obligated to show love even to our enemies. But that does NOT rule out the fact that we are to DEFEND ourselves from their cruel attacks! It does not even rule out us ATTACKING them to STOP them from killing innocent people!

We must not be so “forgiving” that we lose all moral values and lose all sense of right and wrong, and by standing back and doing nothing to stop them, CONDONE them in their evil deeds! We may show them love to try to win them over, but we must NOT in ANY way condone their evil deeds! And, if necessary, we should not hesitate to STOP them if their evil, violent actions threaten our lives or the lives of others! And we certainly should NOT forgive them for criminal acts of murder, terror, intimidation or the torture of innocent victims!

When Jesus was dying a painful death on the cross, He showed GREAT forgiveness and love even to those who crucified Him, and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Who was He asking God to pardon?–The hypocritical Pharisees and high priests, the religious leaders who had condemned Him to death?–NO! THEY knew EXACTLY what they were doing in crucifying Jesus! Jesus was praying for the poor, ignorant ROMAN SOLDIERS who were simply carrying out their orders, and who really didn’t know what was happening. Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive THEM, for THEY know not what they do.”

Christ WANTED to forgive even His wicked religious enemies! He WANTED to, but they REFUSED Him! Jesus had WEPT over Jerusalem and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who KILL the prophets and STONE to DEATH those who are sent to you, how OFTEN I WOULD have gathered you, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings.–But YOU would NOT!” Therefore, because His bitter religious enemies REJECTED His love and forgiveness, Jesus said to them, “WOE unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You SERPENTS, you generation of VIPERS! How can you possibly escape the DAMNATION of HELL? You are children of HELL, and shall receive GREAT damnation!” (Matthew 23:37,29,33,14,15). Clearly, Jesus did NOT forgive such wicked enemies!

Some people will ask, well, what about the verse of Scripture that says you should forgive your enemies “seventy times seven”? (Matthew 18:22). Well, that’s NOT what Jesus said at all! Sad to say, a lot of people MISQUOTE that verse. What it actually says is: “Then came Peter to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my BROTHER sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I say not until seven times, but until seventy TIMES seven.'”

In this passage, Peter and Christ were talking about offences committed by a BROTHER, a fellow CHRISTIAN, in other words.–Not a bitter ENEMY who is trying to rob you, kill you or violate your wife! In the case of a Christian brother, the offense would not usually be something as bad as that. It would normally be some minor offense, because certainly true Christians wouldn’t normally do any major harm to each other. So when Peter asked, “If my brother comes to me and says he’s sorry, how many times should I forgive him?” The Lord as good as said it’s UNLIMITED!–PROVIDING he is SORRY and ASKS for forgiveness!

And you will note that even in the case of a brother–if the offense is SERIOUS enough and not just some LITTLE thing that you should be able to overlook and forgive and let pass–that you are NOT obligated to just AUTOMATICALLY forgive them. Let us look at Luke 17:3, where Christ instructed His Disciples, “Take heed to yourselves: If your brother trespass against you, REBUKE him; and, IF he repent, FORGIVE him. And if he trespass against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day TURN to you, saying, ‘I REPENT’, you shall forgive him.”

In other words, IF he comes to you and says he’s SORRY and REPENTS, you are to forgive him. But you are NOT expected to automatically overlook (and do nothing to try to rectify) SERIOUS OFFENCES or actual CRIMES!–Not even if it’s a brother who committed them.–And you are CERTAINLY not expected to meekly “forgive” a devil-inspired, anti-Christ ENEMY who is trying to violently overthrow and enslave your country!

So let us not be naive in our concept of the forgiveness and mercy of God, especially in relation to Christ-hating, anti-God ENEMIES! This passage of Scripture from Isaiah 1:18-20 can very well apply to such antiChrist forces: “COME now, and let us REASON together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” He promises a complete pardon, but then warns: “IF you be WILLING and OBEDIENT, you shall eat of the good of the land: BUT, if you REFUSE and REBEL, you shall be devoured with the SWORD! The mouth of the LORD has spoken it!” REPENT or PERISH!–Which will it be?

 
PRAYER FOR THE DAY:

Lord Jesus, You told us to PRAY for our enemies, and we have. Thank You for those who HAVE repented of their evil ways and have been reconciled. But wicked men and evil-doers who CONTINUE to reject Your Love and fight against Your people, we now commit them into Your hands. JUDGE them, O God! Amen!

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Anchor

In Partnership with God—Part 3

From the Roadmap series

If you haven’t yet read Part 1, go here. In Partnership with God—Part 1

If you haven’t yet read Part 2, go here. In Partnership with God—Part 2

 
free-bible-studies-online-anchorThe choice to live by a Christian value system, to seek eternal rewards above immediate gains or satisfaction is one that requires commitment and sacrifice. It takes giving something up. Aligning our life to heavenly priorities may not come naturally or happen automatically just because we are Christians. We have to develop a personal passion for it, even if we don’t necessarily always feel that passion.

What are you willing to set aside or postpone or even give up altogether? Here is a story of a Chinese couple’s devotion to the Lord, which was manifested simply out of love and a profound sense of values.

Eric Fellman speaks of meeting a Chinese couple in Hong Kong, while traveling to China: A friend took me down a narrow alley to a second-floor flat to meet a man recently released from prison in China.

A Chinese man in his 60s opened the door. His smile was radiant, but his back was bent almost double. He led us to a sparsely furnished room. A Chinese woman of about the same age came in to serve tea. As she lingered, I couldn’t help but notice how they touched and lovingly looked at each other. My staring apparently didn’t go unnoticed, for soon they were both giggling.

“What is it?” I asked my friend. “Oh, nothing,” he said with a smile. “They just wanted you to know it was okay; they’re newlyweds.”

I learned they had been engaged in 1949, when he was a student at Nanking Seminary. On the day of their wedding rehearsal, Chinese communists seized the seminary. They took the students to a hard-labor prison. For the next 30 years, the bride-to-be was allowed only one visit per year. Each time, following their brief minutes together, the man would be called to the warden’s office. “You may go home with your bride,” he said, “if you will renounce Christianity.” Year after year, this man replied with just one word, “No.”

I was stunned. How had he been able to stand the strain for so long, being denied his family, his marriage, and even his health? When I asked, he seemed astonished at my question. He replied, “With all that Jesus has done for me, how could I betray Him?”

—Eric Fellman

Most of us haven’t been called to endure hard labor in prison or to give up the person we love for 30 years. What we face each day is likely much more mundane choices, often nothing dramatic, and consequently we might not realize how crucial the choices we make from day to day may be to our future, both here on earth and in heaven.

We each need to seriously consider from time to time the health of our relationship with the Lord and how much we’re willing to commit to protect and nurture it. There are many activities that we can engage in that are simply time-consuming distractions, things that can take up minutes or hours that could be better spent in strengthening our walk with the Lord. Some distractions are not only nonproductive, but they can be detrimental to our spiritual growth.

Setting aside time or making time for spiritual pursuits is not the end goal. That is simply a means to an end. We have to dedicate time to building a deep, quality relationship with the Lord. We could be putting in the time but not accomplishing the goal if we’re not really connecting with Jesus.

Here’s a word from one of the great missionaries of the past which certainly makes clear his love for the Lord and his priorities when it came to connecting with Jesus. This is an excerpt from the diary of C. T. Studd. He wrote:

The Lord is so good and always gives me a large dose of spiritual champagne every morning which braces one up for the day and night. Of late I have had such glorious times. I generally wake about 3:30 AM and feel quite wide awake, so I have a good read, and then have an hour’s sleep or so before finally getting up. I find what I read then is stamped indelibly on my mind all through the day; and it is the very quietest of times, not a foot astir, nor a sound to be heard, save that of God.

If I miss this time I feel like Samson shorn of all his hair and so of all his strength. I see more and more how much I have to learn of the Lord. I want to be a workman approved, not just with a “pass” degree, as it were.

Oh! How I wish I had devoted my early life, my whole life to God and His Word. How much have I lost by those years of self-pleasing and running after this world’s honors and pleasures.

What a life the Spirit lives out in us when He possesses us. It is so simple, too. Just to remember, “I have been crucified with Christ.” I am dead. “It is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me.” My part is just to let Him live in me.

—C. T. Studd

C. T. Studd was so in love with Jesus, and so aware of his need for God’s Spirit, that he knew he had to have that time each day, and he made that sacrifice out of love.

That’s not to say that the goal is to get up at 3:30 in the morning to have time with the Lord. Each person is different, and what works for someone in their relationship with the Lord might not be so effective for someone else. There are basic components that help to build our spiritual life, such as reading the Word, praying, hearing from the Lord, meditating, praising, listening to uplifting music, or simply being quiet in His presence and resting in Him. But how you go about having quality time with the Lord is a personal decision.

Whatever you need spiritually, that is what you need to be fighting for, because that’s what’s going to help you progress and grow and be capable of fulfilling what the Lord will ask of you. It is your responsibility to make sure you get it.

It comes down to personal conviction and discipline in your relationship with Jesus. Obstacles can so easily come between you and that quality time. Only you can decide if you’re getting fed, nourished, and creating a spiritual vacuum for the Lord to fill.

—Maria Fontaine

With so many other demands for our attention, keeping our spiritual lives in focus is no small task. We live in a material world where much of what surrounds us is at odds with the spiritual life. We are surrounded by things we can see, feel, smell, touch, and taste; and in this environment, it is all too easy to forget that we are spiritual beings. Our souls need a connection with the power that created us. It is not enough to simply acknowledge that we are spiritual entities. We must physically stop, focus our thoughts, and set aside the never-ending to-do lists and the clutter that fills our brains, and then deeply imbibe the essence of the Spirit that makes us who we are. Doing so gives our spirits strength and flexibility, clarifies our purpose, and strengthens our resolve.

The Lord has made all that we need available to us. And it’s a good thing He did, because without that divine correlation that links our spirits to the source of our spirituality, our earthly works would be in vain and ultimately fail. Jesus said: “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV)

Here is a story that illustrates the practical benefits of time with the Lord.

A woman of nervous temperament visited the world-renowned physician, Dr. Howard A. Kelly. The cares of life threatened her physical strength and even her reason. Having given her symptoms to the physician, she was greatly astonished at his prescription: “Madam, what you need is to read the Bible more!”

“But, Doctor,” began the bewildered woman.

“Go home and read your Bible one hour a day,” the great man reiterated with kindly authority, “then come back to me a month from today.”

At first, the woman was inclined to be angry. But she reflected with a pang of conscience that she had neglected the daily reading of God’s Word, and “the secret place of the Most High” where formerly she had regularly communed with her Lord. In coming back to her God and His Word, the joys of her salvation returned.

When she presented herself to the doctor a month later, he said, “Well, I see you have been an obedient patient. Do you feel as if you need any other medicine now?”

“No, Doctor. I feel like a different person. But how did you know what I needed?”

Taking up his own worn and well-marked Bible, he said, “If I would omit my daily reading of God’s Word, I would not only lose my joy, but I would lose my greatest source of strength and skill. Your case called not for medicine, but for a source of peace and strength outside your own mind. My prescription, when tried, works wonders!”

—Author unknown

If you’re already maxed out, busy beyond description, facing emergencies and crises, and just generally stressed and tired, then this challenge to grow in your relationship with the Lord might be overwhelming. It might seem too difficult or too much for you.

Well, you’ll be happy to know that God is not in a hurry. As was said earlier, your walk with the Lord is a lifelong process. You can’t expect to be an overnight spiritual wonder! You have to give it time and have patience. It takes time; it’s a step-by-step journey of progress.

Although God could instantly transform us, He has chosen to develop us slowly. Jesus is deliberate and methodical in developing His disciples. He prefers to work in incremental steps in our lives.

Be patient with God and with yourself. One of life’s frustrations is that God’s timetable is rarely the same as ours. You may feel frustrated with the seemingly slow progress you’re making in life. Remember, God is never in a hurry, but He is always on time. He will use your entire lifetime to prepare you for your role in eternity.

—Rick Warren

How you live your life—which means how you spend your time—is who you are, and that will create your legacy. The things that are important to you define your character, and what you give your time, attention, and finances to shows your true priorities. And at the end of your life, it will be obvious what you invested your life in and how you lived in partnership with God.

Rick Warren tells a beautiful story in which he remembers his father, who was a minister and a missionary. May we all continue to live our lives with such passion for the Lord, the lost, and the mission:

My father was a minister for over fifty years, serving mostly in small, rural churches. He was a simple preacher, but he was a man with a mission. His favorite activity was taking teams of volunteers overseas to build church buildings for small congregations. In his lifetime, my dad built over 150 churches around the world.

In 1999, my father died of cancer. In the final week of his life the disease kept him awake in a semi-conscious state nearly 24 hours a day. As he dreamed, he’d talk aloud about what he was dreaming.

One night near the end, when my wife, my niece and I were by his side, Dad suddenly became very active and tried to get out of bed. Of course, he was too weak, and my wife insisted he lie back down. But he persisted in trying to get out of bed, so my wife finally said, “Jimmy, what are you trying to do?” He replied, “Got to save one more for Jesus! Got to save one more for Jesus! Got to save one more for Jesus!” He repeated that phrase over and over.

During the next hour, he said the phrase probably a hundred times. “Got to save one more for Jesus!” As I sat by his bed with tears flowing down my cheeks, I bowed my head to thank God for my dad’s faith. At that moment Dad reached out and placed his frail hand on my head and said, as if commissioning me, “Save one more for Jesus! Save one more for Jesus!”

I intend for that to be the theme of the rest of my life. I invite you to consider it as a focus for your life, too, because nothing will make a greater difference for eternity.

—Rick Warren

We are so privileged to know the Lord. We know the truth, we have peace in our hearts, we have the treasure of God’s Word, and we have the privilege and calling of sharing His salvation and love with others. And when we’ve fulfilled God’s plan for us on earth, we know we’ll spend eternity with Jesus and our loved ones in heaven. And all of that as a result of our life partnership with God! It doesn’t get better than that! Praise the Lord!

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

In Partnership with God—Part 2

From the Roadmap series

If you haven’t yet read Part 1, go here. In Partnership with God—Part 1

For Part 3 of this series, go here. In Partnership with God—Part 3

 
free-bible-studies-online-anchorIf we hope to have a deep, enduring, intimate relationship with the Lord, we need to be willing to spend time with Him. This time can be spent in a number of ways—reading the Word, praying, hearing from Him in prophecy, meditating, praising, listening to uplifting music, or simply being quiet in His presence and resting in Him. There’s no perfect formula that you have to follow to “make it happen” for you. We each have to discover what works for us personally.

Building our walk with the Lord takes an investment of time. We don’t develop a deep and mature relationship with Jesus by giving Him scattered minutes of our attention here and there. Our quiet time with the Lord doesn’t have to be the same time each day, or the same plan, but whatever we do, it will cost us something as we’re all busy people.

If we’re serious about having a life partnership with God, we need to dedicate time to building it. And it’s likely that that will mean giving up something else in order to make the time. We’re all busy, many of us to the point that each day is a race against the clock where we’re constantly reassessing our priorities and schedules, sometimes hour by hour. Extra time is probably nonexistent in your life, too; hence, the concept of “making time” may require some effort.

Obviously, in our busy lives, “making time” for something is not so simple. It’s challenging to find the time for the things that we have to do, much less something that can be seen as an “extra.” We can sometimes be tempted to feel that we don’t need to spend time in God’s Word or prayer, or that we can make it through our day just fine without it. However, stopping to take time with the Lord always pays off—if not immediately, certainly over time.

It’s a matter of priorities and what we put first.

Here’s a story that you might be familiar with, but it illustrates the principle so well that it’s worth reviewing.

An expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students. He stood in front of these high-powered overachievers, pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar, and placed it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered.

“Good!” he replied. And he again reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted.

Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.

Then he looked up at the class and said, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is this: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

What are the “big rocks” in your life? Are you putting them in first?

—Author unknown

 
What could be some of the “big rocks” for those of us who want to grow spiritually and bear good fruit in life or service to the Lord? Of course, we’d each need to figure out the details on this for ourselves, but some of the main ones to consider are:

  • Connecting with the Lord by giving Him quality time and our full attention.
  • Intercessory prayer.
  • Taking time to love others by showing concern, interest, sympathy, and understanding.
  • Spending time with our spouse and children.
  • Exercising and maintaining our physical health.
  • Our service for the Lord.

The gravel could be things such as:

  • Our work or study.
  • Maintaining our home and household.
  • Attending diligently to our responsibilities.

The sand or water could represent activities like:

  • Television, movies, novels, or other entertainment.
  • Blogging or online chatting.
  • Surfing the internet.

Having the conviction to organize your schedule and priorities so that you can protect your connection with God is a matter of Christian values. Of course, the application of those values is sometimes easier said than done. You might really want that time with the Lord, but it can be a struggle to prioritize it with the many responsibilities of everyday life that compete for your time. If you find that you are easily distracted and regularly neglect your commitments to your spiritual growth, then it may be time to reassess your priorities and how you invest your time.

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Many people go skimming over the surface things of life, without any sense of values: just living off the nonessentials, while the inconsequential things of life are crowding out the things that are worthwhile, and robbing them of the things that are in the long run really worthwhile.

No man or woman will ever be great in life or soul if they haven’t any real sense of values!

Trivial, temporal things so often are put first while God and His Word are crowded into a secondary place. When this happens, all of life is thrown out of balance, and the result is only disharmony, disruption, and confusion.

Are the great realities of life in the proper perspective in your life? Do you have a sense of values? Or do you let little trivialities and material things come before the reading of God’s Word and prayer? And do you excuse yourself by saying, “I’m busy, I don’t have time”? If that happens to you, it’s time to check your heart and your values.

There is life in the Word; it’s food for your soul. It’s absolutely essential to the growth of your soul! If you don’t have time for it, then your soul’s going to starve and you’re going to be a dwarf spiritually.

Prayer is communion with God. Without prayer, you walk unempowered in your own strength and wisdom. God’s Word says, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” On the other hand, it says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (John 15:5; Philippians 4:13.)

And that strength comes only through prayer and the reading of God’s Word. You can hardly expect to get the strength needed through a weak little hurried verse, or a little tiny prayer just before you hop into bed half asleep and sort of dazed! You can’t call that “seeking first the kingdom!”

I had an acquaintance who spent all of her years scraping, digging, slaving to build and decorate a little cottage where she could be comfortable for a few years. Just a few months after it was finished, she became seriously ill. At her bedside she said to me, “Time is closing in on me! There isn’t any left for me, and I spent the little I had on things that have not a bit of value in the place where I’m going.” She had a sense of values too late! Is it going to come too late to you?

I wish sometimes we could see all the events of life framed in the ultimate results they lead to. What a change there would be in our lives! We wouldn’t make such silly excuses for putting our Word-reading and prayer in the secondary place, and we’d not give ourselves to trivialities when eternal things are calling.

The one that lives for the present instead of eternity has no sense of values. It happens every day that someone will say, not by their word perhaps, but by their actions: “I just don’t care about getting the mansions in heaven and I’m not so interested in the eternal things! Give me rather a mansion here and a crown here, with a little fame and glory here, and perhaps a few trinkets here, and the favor of man and the pleasures of sin for a season—and I’ll be a little satisfied here.”

And the King of kings, who has offered them a robe of righteousness, a crown of glory, an eternal home among the many mansions there is put aside for these “other things” that really have no value!

—Virginia Brandt Berg

 
Our time with the Lord should rank as our highest priority, our most critical appointment. We can schedule a rendezvous with the Master of the universe, the mentor of all mentors, the wisest life coach, the most knowledgeable consultant ever. All He has to offer has been promised to us, if we seek first His kingdom and love Him with all our hearts, minds, and spirits and give Him our time on a regular basis as we work in partnership with Him. Pretty amazing trade-off, don’t you think?

 
 

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