Category Archives: Jesus

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.

When We Should Not Forgive!

by David Brandt Berg

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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

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Blessed Above All People

By Maria Fontaine

free-bible-studies-online-anchorSometimes our struggles can seem so difficult, so monumental. In fact, sometimes they are difficult and monumental. Life is certainly not easy for any of us! But the thing to remember is that when compared with the heartbreaks, devastating loneliness, frustration, hopelessness, and lack of love and purpose that many people who do not know the Lord face, without the promise of an eternity with God, our problems seem less significant!

As God’s children, we’re blessed with the constant companionship of His Spirit, and fellowship with our friends and loved ones who share our faith. We have confidence in the Lord’s unconditional love, and we know that even though we make a lot of mistakes, His forgiveness is readily available to us if we will just come to Him and ask for it. Many of us haven’t yet learned to not succumb to guilt, remorse, and condemnation despite our knowledge of the Lord’s unconditional love and forgiveness, but we’re learning, and we know by faith that we don’t have to be weighed down by regrets, bitterness, guilt, and condemnation. We have His Word to claim, that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1–2)

So if you’re weary with the trials and tribulations of life on earth, if you’re tempted to grumble about how bad you have it, remind yourself that compared to the poor lost people of the world who don’t know the Lord, and sometimes don’t even have anything to eat or a place to live—as His children, we are blessed! Jesus died to save us so that we could help Him to save others. We are called to love and comfort others with the same comfort and love He gives to us. (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Each of God’s children has a unique calling. The Lord has a plan and purpose for each of us. If we question or become bitter about His plan for our lives, it can cloud and hinder the precious time that He has given us on this earth to live for Him.

As His disciples, we are called to go out into the sea of humankind, seeking those who are lost, sinking, and drowning, to offer them life, hope, and truth. We have the vastness of His riches to share with a lost and dying world—we have His wonderful comfort, the power of His Word, our knowledge of the future He has promised for all His children. We are called to share what we have received with the dying and desperate of this world who have lost hope of any comfort or who lack the knowledge of God who loves them or the heaven that awaits them. They desperately need God’s love and truth, these who die a thousand deaths before their physical body is laid to rest in the grave. Won’t you do everything possible to share with them the lasting joy and peace of mind and eternal life that you have in Jesus?

The Lord has given each of us our assignments for our time on earth. God’s Word says that Jesus came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) Jesus said, “As My Father has sent Me, so send I you.” (John 20:21) His Father sent Him to the earth to die that we might live. Our job is to “die daily” to self for others that they may live—giving of our selves every day that others might find eternal life in Jesus.

Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) If you will look at both Jesus’ life and Paul’s life, you’ll see they weren’t very easy. Jesus never promised us a life of ease, but He did say that this life is but for a moment, and if we suffer for Him, we’ll also reign with Him. (2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 2:12) However, He even says that He will give us things right here and now in this life that will make our lives fulfilled and joyous! (1 Peter 1:8; John 15:11)

The Lord is able to use even the sadness we feel when we lose someone to become aware of His sadness for His loved ones who are lost to Him. He tells us to weep with those who weep and let our hearts be broken for those who don’t yet know Him. These are dying spiritually every day without His love. Just as our hearts ache and we are engulfed with sadness at missing those who are gone from us now, so does His heart long for His lost children. You know how it is when your heart is broken and you’re devastated by some tragic experience or loss. You can feel it physically—you sometimes feel sick to your stomach; your heart actually aches.

Just as we as parents miss our children when we are away from them, and just as we are desperate to know that they are safe and happy and well, so does the Lord care for His children. He wants them in His arms, close to His bosom and safe in His home—all the same things we wish for our children.

Do you remember what it was like before you found the Lord, when all seemed lost to you, you were in great despair, and your life seemed meaningless, empty, and void of understanding? Do you remember how unhappy and desperate you were? The Lord heard your heartcry, and He reached out to you and took you in His arms in your time of need. And to do this, He probably used some person, someone who was a faithful witness, who was overflowing with thanksgiving and joy for the wonderful love of the Lord in his or her heart.

Even if you grew up all your life with the knowledge of the Lord ever since you were a little child, you likewise are probably the fruit of someone’s faithfulness to witness to your parents, or their parents before them. How convicting it is to think of what the Lord has done for us, and how He used some faithful messenger, someone like you to do it! He beseeches us to do the same for others, for those who are lost and lonely in the cold and darkness—to imitate His example by sharing His love and Word and truth with others.

What if you had no purpose in life, no hope for the future, no one to go to when you were fearful, no one to comfort you when you were sad, no one to help you when you were confused, no way to get rid of your burdens of condemnation, no way to deal with the death of loved ones, no way of knowing where they had gone or if you would ever see them again, no way of dealing with loss or injury or illness or catastrophe, no one to help you when you are lonely? If someone helped each of us to know Jesus and His salvation, how can we fail to do the same for others? If Jesus loved you so much that He died for you, He also loved them so much that He died for them. Someone made it possible for each of us to know Jesus, and it’s now our responsibility to pass the message on!

The Lord wants us to have great concern for others, realizing that they live in turmoil and confusion and lack of love, and we have the answers in Him and His Word that they’re looking for. The Lord promises great returns if we’ll give unto others. “Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Colossians 3:24 NLT)

What a marvelous cycle! As we give to others, the Lord promises to give to us—strength, faith, and joy. As a result, others will see us and they’ll know we’ve been with Jesus, and they’ll want Him too. And so the cycle will go on and on. Praise the Lord!

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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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.

Activated

The Prayer Principle

By Peter Amsterdam, adapted

free-bible-studies-online-the-prayer-principle

“Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’” (Luke 11:1 ESV)

Prayer was an integral part of Jesus’ life and ministry. There are numerous references throughout the Gospels of Jesus praying. He taught His disciples to pray, they saw Him pray, they heard Him pray for them, and He gave counsel about praying. Before many of the major events, miracles, and decisions in Jesus’ life, and right up until the time of His death, Jesus spent time in prayer. The fact that Jesus made a point to pray and to teach His disciples about prayer indicates that it is an important part of discipleship.

Taking time alone in prayer was a regular occurrence in Jesus’ life. He took time away from the crowds, and sometimes from His closest followers, to pray. (See Luke 5:15–16; Mark 1:35–37) He also prayed in His disciples’ presence.

Seeing Jesus’ example of prayer had a definite impact on the disciples, as evidenced throughout the book of Acts, which often speaks of them praying. Jesus also gave His disciples instructions on how to pray. He said, “In this manner, therefore, pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:9–13)

He also taught His disciples how not to pray: “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5–8 NIV)

Jesus taught about being persistent in prayer, as the Gospel of Luke recounts: “Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.” (Luke 18:1 NLT)

He also taught the power of prayer, that prayer gets answered, and that prayers should be prayed in faith and confidence—knowing that God is all-powerful and that nothing is beyond His capability to answer and do. In the book of Matthew, He said, “If you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” (Matthew 21:21–22 NLT)

He exhorted His disciples to watch and to pray against falling into temptation and sin. “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” (Mark 14:38)

Jesus also prayed for others, as Matthew recounts in his Gospel: “One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. But Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.’ And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.” (Matthew 19:13–15 NLT)

As shown by the accounts of His praying before His arrest, Jesus prayed desperately. The Gospel of Luke tells us: “He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. He said, ‘Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.’ He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” (Luke 22:41–42,44 CEB)

Prayer is important in our lives; it’s part of our communication with God. Prayer is a means of communicating with God, of abiding in Him. It’s a means of connecting to His power. It’s a means of loving and helping others as we pray for them. It’s a means of guarding our spiritual life and health. It makes a difference in the lives of others as we pray for them. It gives us the opportunity to humble ourselves before God, as we implore His help and when we ask Him for forgiveness.

 
 

Copyright © Activated Magazine. All rights reserved.

Anchor

Our Identity in Christ

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorSome things never change—the question “Who am I?” for example. That search for self is a universal, God-created experience. One thing that has changed in the last generation or two, though, is where people are looking for the answer. For many it’s not so much a search to find values and a purpose to base their lives on as a search for an identity, an image, with a heavy emphasis on individuality.

Never has there been so much importance put on expressing individuality as in today’s commerce and media-driven world. I did a quick search on the Internet and found 153,000 sites telling me how I could express my individuality—and most of them were selling something. There were the obvious ways (choice of clothes, hairstyle, music, diet, or car) and the more extreme (tattoos and body piercings). These days, anything marketable is fair game. Advertisements pitch items as diverse as custom cell phone tones, artisanal metal urns, hand drumming, and charity fund giving—all as means of expressing individuality. What consumers don’t seem to realize is that in their quest for individuality, they end up models of conform­ity—walking advertisements that promote other people’s ideas, tastes, creativity, and enterprise.

What was once a teenage rite of passage now follows us from cradle to grave—literally! A gift card company says, “You want your birth announcement to express your individuality in a special way.” A funeral home says, “Prearrangement means you can express your individuality in a funeral service.”

But stop and think. Are those surface things what make up the real you? Or is it the inner you, your spirit and the values motivating you and guiding your actions that determine the real you? What do you want to be known and remembered for—the image you project, or the positive influence you have on others? Who are you?

—Keith Phillips

 

Who does God say I am?

We all want to know who we are. We seek and search and try to “find ourselves.” Many of us have taken personality tests and other assessments. We learn that we are a lion, a beaver, an ENFP, an activator, a competitor, a high I, high D.

But as helpful as those tests can be, have you ever stopped to ask, “What does God think about me? Who does he say that I am?”

In all my years as a Christian, I had never asked the question quite this way until recently. And what I found is that God has a lot to say about what he thinks about us—a whole Bible full. But if we could summarize it in a short space, here’s how it might sound.

 
You are valuable

I am the Creator and you are my creation. I breathed into your nostrils the breath of life. (Genesis 2:7) I created you in my own image. (Genesis 1:27) My eyes saw your unformed substance. (Psalm 139:16) I knit you together in your mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13) I know the number of hairs on your head, and before a word is on your tongue, I know it. (Matthew 10:30; Psalm 139:4) You are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14) …

However, from the very beginning, you exchanged the truth about me for a lie. You worshiped and served created things rather than me, the Creator. (Romans 1:25) You have sinned and fallen short of my glory. (Romans 3:23) …

And yet, in my great love, I gave my unique Son, that all those who believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) While you were still sinners, Christ died for you. While you were still hostile toward me, you were reconciled to me by the death of my Son. (Romans 5:8, 10) Sin doesn’t have the last word. Grace does. (Romans 5:20)

Now everyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved. (Romans 10:13) You who have believed are born again. (1 Peter 1:3) I have adopted you. (Ephesians 1:5) You are children of God, heirs of God. (1 John 3:2; Romans 8:16–17) …

One day you will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet sound. (1 Corinthians 15:52) … You will be delivered from your body of death through Jesus Christ, and your dwelling place will be with me. (Romans 7:24–25; John 14:3) And I will wipe away every tear from your eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore. (Revelation 21:3–4) … You will enter my rest, inherit the kingdom I’ve prepared for you, and step into fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. (Hebrews 4:9–11; Matthew 25:34; Psalm 16:11)

But most of all, you will see my face and be with me where I am. (Revelation 22:4; John 14:3)

—John Rinehart

 

Righteous, holy, and loved

Where do you find yourself seeking identity outside of Christ? Do you find yourself holding tightly to something, in fear that you’ll be lost without it? Sometimes in God’s grace, he allows the very thing we fear losing the most to be taken away to reveal that we have sought our identity in something other than him. As he grows us in understanding our true identity is in him, we are then freed to enjoy and glorify him in the unique ways that he has created us.

In my flesh, I have gifts that are riddled with pride and imperfection, I have desires that often seek my own will more than God’s, and I have blessings that I’m prone to hold tightly to rather than use for God’s glory. But that is not my identity anymore. I am righteous, holy, loved, and able to bring Christ glory through the gifts and blessings he has given me. Not by anything of my own doing, but by the grace of Jesus Christ.

Praise God that he loves us enough to take our broken, rebellious hearts and, because of the sacrifice of his son, offer us a new identity in Christ. Let’s not settle for anything less.

—Sarah Walton

 

Reconciled to God

In our new identity in Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin, (Romans 6:6) but we are reconciled to God. (Romans 5:10) This new identity completely changes our relationship with God and our families, just as it changes the way we see the world. Our new identity in Christ means we have the same relationship with God that Christ has—we are His children. God has adopted us as sons. We are able to call Him “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15–16) We are both joint heirs (Galatians 3:29) and friends (John 15:15) of Christ. And this relationship is even stronger than those we have with our earthly families. (Matthew 10:35–37) Instead of fearing God as judge, we have the great privilege of coming to Him as our Father. We can approach Him with confidence and ask of Him what we need. (Hebrews 4:16) We can ask for His guidance and wisdom (James 1:5) and know that nothing will take us from Him. (Romans 8:38–39) …

We are no longer citizens of the world, but apart from it. (2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1) We understand that we are a part of a heavenly, God-ruled kingdom. Things of the earth no longer draw us. (Colossians 3:2) We don’t fear or overemphasize suffering on earth or the trials we face, (Colossians 1:24; 1 Peter 3:14; 4:12–14) nor do we place importance on things the world values. (1 Timothy 6:9–11) Even our bodies and our actions reflect that our minds are no longer conformed to the world (Romans 12:1–2) but are now instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:13) And our new kingdom perspective means we understand that our enemy is not the people around us but the spiritual forces that endeavor to keep the people from knowing God. (Ephesians 6:12) …

One of the greatest blessings about our identity in Christ is the grace we’re given in order to grow into the spiritual maturity that truly reflects our new identity. (Philippians 1:6) Our lives in light of our identity in Christ are filled with a heavenly Father, a large, loving family, and the understanding that we are citizens of another kingdom and not of this earth.

—From gotquestions.org

 

In Christ, God has given us a new identity

I know better, but sometimes I feel like God loves me more when I’m keeping my raw emotions in check and less when I’m a little unglued. Do you ever feel that way? Well, God made a powerful statement about Jesus that encourages me in this regard: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 NIV) I found a new perspective in this verse when I realized that Jesus had not yet gone to the cross, performed miracles, or led the masses. God loved His Son and was pleased with Him not based on how He was performing but simply because Jesus is His Son. His Father established and affirmed Jesus’ identity before Jesus began His ministry. Jesus heard God, believed God, and remained filled.

In Christ, God has given us a new identity. (Romans 6:4) But unlike Christ, we tend to forget who we are. We look to fill our days and our lives with activities and performances, hoping to please others and even God. Our humanity makes us vulnerable and in need of daily reassurance. It’s similar to the phenomenon of being satisfied with a large dinner, only to wake up the next morning feeling famished. Truth comes in and fills us up. But our cracks, crevices, and circumstances allow the truth to drain right out of us, leaving a hollowness that can haunt.

Therefore, we must stand moment by moment in the reality of our identity before we throw ourselves into any activity. Grasp the truth and rub it deep. Let it sink in quickly and resist the drain of the day’s performances. Hear God say, “You are my daughter, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Well pleased because of who you are, not because of what you do. Well pleased because of an unfathomable, unconditional love—not earned but simply given.

 
—Lysa TerKeurst

You are God’s masterpiece ( Ephesians 2:10)

His perfect love is not based on our perfection or anything except Himself. (See 1 John 4:8) … He says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14) He says that nothing can separate you from His love. (Romans 8:35) Don’t let the enemy steal your identity. You are God’s masterpiece. Believe it!

—Joyce Meyer

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.