Category Archives: Love

The Pharisee and the Publican!

(Luke 18:9-14)

Based on the writings of David Brandt Berg

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Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus often taught in PARABLES. One of the shortest, yet one of the most profound of all His parables was that of the Pharisee and the Publican. The Bible tells us that Jesus “spake this parable unto those who trusted in THEMSELVES, that THEY were righteous, and who therefore despised and looked down upon others.” (Luke 18:9)

Before we read the actual parable, it might be helpful to know exactly what a “Pharisee”, and what a “Publican” IS. The PHARISEES were the most influential of all the Jewish religious sects of Jesus’ day. The word “Pharisee” literally means “the SEPARATED ones, SEPARATISTS”, which sums up the basic nature of their beliefs. They were the strictest LEGALISTS of the day, who pledged themselves to obey and observe ALL the countless restrictive rules, traditions and ceremonial laws of orthodox Judaism. They considered themselves to be the only true followers of God’s Laws, and therefore felt that they were much better and holier than anyone else. Thus they separated themselves not only from the non-Jews–whom they absolutely despised and considered pagan “Gentile dogs”–but they even set themselves above and apart from their own Jewish brethren.

The PUBLICANS, on the other hand, were considered by their fellow-Jews to be the absolutely WORST kind of characters! For the Publicans were TAX COLLECTORS for the foreign occupier and ruler of Palestine, Imperial ROME. They were officially-appointed Jewish tax collectors for Caesar, and were therefore considered TRAITORS by their brethren. The Romans would instruct the Publicans how much taxes to collect from the people, and then the Publicans could charge whatever they wanted to MORE than that for their OWN income. So they were usually extortioners, cheaters and robbers of the Jews, and were therefore absolutely DESPISED by their Jewish brethren who considered them the scum of the Earth.

So when Jesus told this parable, comparing a Pharisee and a Publican, He had chosen the two most OPPOSITE figures in the entire Jewish community. The one was held to be the BEST, the most RIGHTEOUS, the most RELIGIOUS, the most HOLY, the most GODLY of all men. Whereas the other was looked on as the WORST, FILTHIEST, TRAITOROUS scoundrel imaginable!

Here is the parable itself in Jesus’ Own Words: “Two men went up into the Temple to pray. One was a PHARISEE, and the other was a PUBLICAN. The Pharisee stood up and prayed thus within himself: ‘Oh God, I thank You that I am not like OTHER men are; robbers, extortioners, unjust, evil-doers, adulterers. Or even as this PUBLICAN! I fast twice every week and I faithfully give tithes, one-tenth, of all that I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even lift up his eyes to look toward Heaven, but he beat upon his breast and said, ‘God, be MERCIFUL to me, a SINNER!’

“Then Jesus said to those around Him, ‘I tell you the truth, that THIS man, rather than the other, went home JUSTIFIED before God. For everyone who EXALTS HIMSELF will be HUMBLED, and he who HUMBLES HIMSELF will be EXALTED!'” (Luke 18:9-14)

Which one of these two men did Jesus say was actually justified before GOD? The Pharisee who APPEARED to be so righteous and holy, and who no doubt FELT that he was a very righteous and good man? Or the tax collector, the sinner, who was DESPISED by OTHERS, and who apparently even DESPISED HIMSELF, who felt so ashamed of himself that he wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to Heaven, but simply begged God to have mercy upon him and forgive him?

So often, GOD’S way of looking at things is very different from OURS! He says, “MY thoughts are not YOUR thoughts!–Neither are YOUR ways MY ways!” (Isaiah 55:8,9) Although that Publican’s sins were undoubtedly many, because of his honest and humble CONFESSION and RECOGNITION of the fact that he was a SINNER–one who NEEDED God’s HELP–Jesus said HE was the one who left the Temple justified that day! Not the Pharisee who was so proud of his OWN goodness and his own righteousness, that he didn’t even think he NEEDED God’s help at all! If anything, he probably felt that HE was doing GOD a favor by honoring Him with HIS prayers!

But in the sight of God, self-righteous religious pride like this Pharisee manifested is the GREATEST and WORST of ALL SINS! That hypocritical “holier-than-thou” attitude, that causes people who are self-righteous to DESPISE and look DOWN on others who they don’t consider as holy or pure or faithful or good as they think THEY are! When people get this way, others usually find them to be the hardest, most narrow-minded and intolerant folks they ever met! Because instead of loving, forgiving and understanding others, they’re always criticising, judging and condemning folks who don’t do all the “good” things that THEY do!

The Gospels tell us that, “When the Pharisees saw Jesus sitting down and eating a meal with many Publicans and sinners who came and sat with Him, they were enraged, and asked His Disciples, ‘How can your Master eat with unclean Publicans and sinners?’ But Jesus answered them, ‘You need to go and learn what this means; ‘I desire MERCY, and NOT SACRIFICE!'” (Matthew 9:10-13) In other words, what He was saying was, “I would rather see you have LOVE and MERCY, and not just your dutiful keeping of the Law and making of sacrifices! I’d rather you’d give LOVE to others than to just be so self-righteous and CONDEMNING!”

Let’s face it, none of us have any goodness of our OWN, anything good about us is only the LORD, and HIS goodness! GOD is the ONLY One Who is good! His Word says, “ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) EVERYBODY is bad except those who have faith and have the goodness of GOD, the love of GOD, the righteousness of GOD! Even St. Paul said, “In ME, in MY SELF, there is NO good thing!” (Romans 7:18) Jesus got so infuriated by the hypocritical, self-righteous hypocrisy of the Pharisees that He told them that they were WORSE than the drunks and the prostitutes, the publicans and the sinners that they despised! And that there was more chance for such SINNERS to make it to Heaven, than there was for them!

Jesus told them to their faces, “Truly I tell you, the Publicans and the harlots will go into the Kingdom of God before YOU!” (Matthew 21:31) He even told His OWN disciples, “Truly I tell you, unless YOUR righteousness SURPASSES that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will certainly NOT enter into the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:20) In other words, unless you are better than THEY are, you’ll never get to Heaven! And the only way that you can be better than THEY were, is to have CHRIST’S righteousness, because the Pharisees were as good as anyone could possibly BE in the NATURAL.

Jesus so hated the Pharisees’ hypocritical pretense, pretending to be so righteous and right all the time, that in the most bitter denunciation He ever uttered against anyone, He publicly told them, “WOE unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you make clean the OUTSIDE of the cup and of the plate, but WITHIN you are full of EXTORTION and FILTHINESS! You BLIND PHARISEE, clean first that which is WITHIN the cup and the plate, then the outside of them may be clean also!

“WOE unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like WHITE-WASHED TOMBS, which indeed look BEAUTIFUL on the OUTSIDE, but on the INSIDE are full of DEAD MEN’S BONES and EVERYTHING UNCLEAN! In the same way, on the OUTSIDE you APPEAR to others as RIGHTEOUS, but on the INSIDE you are full of HYPOCRISY and INIQUITY!” (Matthew 23:25-28)

The thing that made the Pharisees so self-righteous and hypocritical was their PRIDE! They were too proud to confess that they were SINNERS like everyone else. In fact, they not only couldn’t CONFESS their sins, they couldn’t even SEE their sins! They couldn’t admit that there was anything that could possibly be wrong with them, and therefore they became “blind leaders of the blind”! (Matthew 15:14) It’s almost a relief to KNOW you’re bad, to honestly admit that you’re NOT good. After all, God has SAID so in His Word, that NOBODY is good! That’s why the worst kind of people in the sight of God are those who PRETEND to be good and look down on everybody else. His Word says, “There is NONE righteous, no, not one! Therefore, by GRACE are we saved through faith, and that NOT of OURSELVES. It is the GIFT of GOD, not of our own WORKS or GOODNESS, lest any man should boast.” (Romans 3:10; Ephesians 2:8,9) We just need to be honest and confess, “I’m no good, I’m bad, I’m a sinner, of course I make mistakes! Anything good about me is only JESUS!”

GOD’S idea of righteousness is not the supposedly sinless perfectionist, but the pitiful, hopeless, humble, sinful SINNER who knows he needs GOD! Those are the ones He came to save! “For I came NOT to call the RIGHTEOUS,” Jesus said, “but SINNERS!” (Matthew 9:13) God’s idea of goodness is GODLINESS–a sinner who knows he needs GOD and depends on HIM for Salvation. Not the self-made, self-righteous, hypocritical Pharisees who think they can save themselves by their own goodness!

God’s idea of saintliness is a SINNER saved by GRACE, a sinner who has NO perfection, no righteousness of his own at all, but is TOTALLY dependent on the grace and the love and the mercy of GOD! And believe it or not, those are the ONLY kind of saints there are! There are no others!

So which of the two are YOU like? The PHARISEE? Or the PUBLICAN?

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PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we know that self-righteousness is PRIDE, and pride is the OPPOSITE of LOVE and HUMILITY. So, Lord, please give us LOVE today. Help us not to condemn others, or ever think or pray, “I thank You, O God, that I am not as this man.” If we’re critical, lifted up in pride and glad we’re not as bad as others, then WE are even WORSE!

You said, “I will have MERCY and NOT sacrifice.” We must spend time alone with You to learn what this means! Lord, please help us to LOVE and FORGIVE OTHER men’s sins as YOU have forgiven US! And help us to have mercy upon OTHERS as YOU have had mercy upon US. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Peace!–In the Midst of Storm!

Compiled from the writings of David Brandt Berg

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Have you ever been in a big storm, a powerful hurricane, earthquake or typhoon? Were you afraid or scared or worried? Well, most people ARE when caught in such storms because they never know if they’re going to get blown away or if the lightning is going to strike them or the wind will rip the roof off their house or somehow hurt or even kill them!

But this little family is peaceful and unafraid, even though all around them a terrible storm is raging! The wind is howling, big trees are being uprooted and blown down, lightning is flashing and thunder is crashing! But they don’t look worried at all! They’re perfectly at peace and at rest!

Do you know what a mother hen does with her little chicks whenever danger is near? She gathers them under her wings and covers and protects them there. Well, the Bible says that the Lord does the same thing with HIS children. “He shall cover you, and under His wings you can trust. There you need not fear the terror by night, nor the destruction by day, for the LORD is your refuge and place of protection.” (Psalm 91)

If we belong to the Lord and stay close to Him, He will take care of us.–ALWAYS! So that even if we’re in the middle of a terrible storm like we see in this picture, His strong and loving Heavenly hands will be there to keep, protect and take care of us. Even when all is dark and stormy OUTSIDE, we can have the sunshine of His love and rainbow of His blessings and peace INSIDE!

Did you ever hear the Bible story of Rahab? A long time ago, there was a city called Jericho which was so wicked that God was going to punish and destroy it. But within the city was a dear little woman named Rahab who was kind and helpful to God’s children. And because she was good to God’s people, God was good to her!

The huge protective walls that ran around Jericho were very high and very thick–so thick that many people actually had their houses ON the walls, as did Rahab. When the day of God’s judgements came, He shook the city and caused the ENTIRE WALL to COLLAPSE to the ground! Except for ONE tiny little part of it that remained standing all alone–and that was the house of Rahab! Because she had faith and because she had received and been good to God’s children, when He destroyed the entire city and everybody else in it, her little house didn’t fall and she and her family were spared and protected! (Joshua 2 and 6)

So why worry? If you’re the LORD’S child, HE will take care of you! His children who stay close to Him live in a CHARMED CIRCLE of His protection! It’s like a special FORCE-FIELD that nothing can get through without His permission! Of course this doesn’t mean that the Lord will NEVER allow us to be harmed or tested, but He’ll never allow us to have any INSUFFERABLE harm or any UNBEARABLE damage, and He promises to always save us out of our troubles. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord DELIVERS him out of them ALL!” (Psalm 34:19)

If He doesn’t deliver us any other way, He delivers us by DEATH! Because for the CHRISTIAN, the one who loves the Lord, death is no problem! It’s our HOMEGOING to HEAVEN, and you couldn’t go to a better place than Heaven! Then all your worries will be over and you will have graduated from this life! He will either take CARE of you or He will TAKE you, so you’ve got it made one way or the other!

So the most important thing is to make sure that you belong to HIM. Then you’ll KNOW that everything will be all right and that WHATEVER happens to you will be for your GOOD. He says that “ALL things work together for GOOD to them that love the Lord.” (Romans 8:28) If you are His child, you’ll know that everything that happens in your life comes from Him and is somehow for your good!

Then even if there’s a terrible storm and great destruction all around you, you won’t need to fear! The Lord says, “Fear thou not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, I am thy God! You shall be SAFE in the midst of storm, in the hollow of My hand, for underneath you are MY Everlasting Arms.” (Isaiah 41:10; Deuteronomy 33:27) He is ALWAYS there, He’ll NEVER EVER leave you, for He promises, “I am with you ALWAYS, even to the End of the World!” (Matthew 28:20)

If you would like to have such peace and assurance and heavenly protection, all you need to do is receive and love God’s Son, JESUS! Then, no matter WHAT difficulties or hardships arise in your life, HE will help you to BRAVE the storms and FACE the winds and NOT be swept away! No matter HOW dark the clouds become that may sometimes overshadow you, the Light of His Love will ALWAYS come bursting through to encourage you and to give you hope and strength to pull through!

He and His Love are just that WONDERFUL! He will brighten your life and give you peace that the Bible says even “passes your own understanding–PERFECT peace, because you TRUST in Him!” (Philippians 4:7; Isaiah 26:3) No matter HOW dark or stormy or difficult the outward conditions may be, in your HEART the sun can always be shining, the birds can always be singing, the flowers can always be blossoming, and all can be well and happy in Him!

So may God bless you with His PEACE and His LOVE through the one and only “PRINCE of peace”, JESUS CHRIST! He LOVES you and will come into your life right NOW if you’ll just ask Him into your heart! He says, “Behold, I stand at the door (of your heart) and knock. If any man hear My voice and open the door, I WILL come into him.” (Revelation 3:20)

Simply pray: “Lord Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God and that You died for me. Please forgive me for all my sins. I ask You, Jesus, to please come into my heart and give me Your free Gift of Eternal Life! Help me to love You and to love others by telling them about You and Your Love. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

God BLESS you! We LOVE you!

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Anchor

Countercultural Christianity

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorBut you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
—1 Peter 2:9

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Every generation must face this quandary of how to maintain cultural influence, and in our changing world, the conversation has been resurrected again.

In an effort to appeal to outsiders, some Christians simply copy culture. They become a Xerox of what they perceive as hip in hopes that people will perceive them—and their organizations, ministries, and churches—as “cool” and give them a chance. Unfortunately, this pursuit of pop culture removes the church from its historically prophetic position in society. Relating to the world by following the world is a recipe for disaster.

The next generation of Christians aren’t separatists, antagonists, or striving to be “relevant.” Instead, they are countercultural as they advance the common good in society. The next Christians see themselves as salt, preserving agents actively working for restoration in the middle of a decaying culture. They attach themselves to people and structures that are in danger of rotting while availing themselves of Christ’s redeeming power to work through them. They understand that by being restorers they fight against the cultural norms and often flow counter to the cultural tide. But they feel that, as Christians, they’ve been called to partner with God in restoring and renewing everything they see falling apart.

Paradoxically, in our current cultural context, this not only opens up more people to personal salvation, but it also sustains a God-glorifying testimony to the world of His restoration power at work. It’s truly good news to the world. Rather than fighting off culture to protect an insular Christian community, they are fighting for the world to redeem it. …

A commitment to being countercultural rather than being removed or “relevant” isn’t always easy. Living differently can be hard. Going against the ebbs and flows of culture can create friction and sometimes provoke a hostile reaction to the good we are trying to create. Theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon remind us that this should be expected, for “whenever a people are bound together in loyalty to a story that includes something as strange as the Sermon on the Mount, we are put at odds with the world.”

Yet, it is through maintaining this cultural orientation that the world can experience God’s restoration power and people will be convinced that our faith is all we claim, all that Jesus commissioned His followers to. As the apostle Peter encourages, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12 NIV)

Is a countercultural community the answer to restoring the soul of the world, winning the skeptics, and revitalizing our faith? We’ll have to wait and see. For now we know that the clear call of Jesus is for the Christian community to be salt on a rotting world and light in the dimmest places.

—Gabe Lyons

 
God’s new nation

God called His people a new nation, a holy nation. That means a whole new culture, a whole new way of life, a brand-new people. We come from all races, creeds and colors, but now we’re all one in Christ Jesus, and that is a miracle in itself. (Galatians 3:28) No matter what nationality, race, or place we originally came from, we all now have the same faith, love, wonder-working power, and changed lives.

There are many different governments and kingdoms of man, but only one kingdom of God. We are a people without a permanent country on this earth because we seek one to come, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 13:14; 11:10) We seek a country established by God Himself, and it is certainly not any of the nations on the face of this earth. Not even the most Christian ones could be called His country.

We belong to the kingdom of God; that’s our country. We seek a better country, a country which we already have in our hearts, thank the Lord, the kingdom of heaven! That’s our country—the best country in the entire universe, one that has never persecuted the poor or oppressed the weak, a country that’s never lost a battle, and never fought a war for the wrong reasons!

We are strangers and pilgrims here on this earth, God’s representatives and ambassadors of His soon-coming kingdom of love, the greatest kingdom the world is ever going to know.

—David Brandt Berg

 
By this everyone will know

There are some ways in which we don’t want the church to be countercultural. Churches accommodate themselves to culture in a whole number of very good ways. It’s a good thing, for instance, that Christians around the world use a word in their local language for God …

Being countercultural is a strong theme in the Bible. Jesus told his followers that they “do not belong to the world.” (John 15:19 NIV) St. Paul told the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world.” (Romans 12:2) But it is quite another thing to figure out just what that means. There are a bewildering array of cultures and subcultures which proclaim and embody different values, ideas, and intuitions. How do we decide what we are to be counter to?

The Bible makes clear that the most significant way in which Christians demonstrate their distinctiveness is in the nature of their life together. How the Christian community’s members interact with one another, engage in discourse, and welcome others, for instance, are all part of their witness to God. This is what Jesus was getting at when he told his followers that “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35) The apostolic church was noted for its distinctive relationships. The life of the early Christians—“all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44)—was countercultural in the context of a Roman society stratified by divisions of wealth. A central part of St. Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians is that, if they want to follow Jesus, all Christians actually need one another—no matter how unlikely that may seem and how much the world presses them to think otherwise.

Interdependence, relatedness, community: these are ideas that strike me as pretty countercultural in our contemporary society.

—Jesse Zink

 
Sent to be a witness

The particular notion that we are “in the world but not of the world” is based on the prayer of Jesus in the Last Supper discourses in the Gospel of John. Jesus said, “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world,” and “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:16, 18 NAB)

We are sent into the world to witness and share the good news that we have come to know in Christ. Peace is possible. Love is real. All creation has dignity and is sacred and can bring us closer to God.

This loving witness is costly. We may stick out or be misunderstood. We could end up like the one we follow, and so we must embrace the cross. We may have to pay a major price for proclaiming prophetic messages. Christ, after all, is our model for countercultural gospel living.

In his prayer recorded in John 17:22, Jesus declares that the ultimate aim of all countercultural Christian living is not actually division and separation, but unity: “And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

As we live our countercultural Christian lives, may we remain rooted in this vision. May we always remember that we witness Christ’s love in order to more boldly manifest the union and love that is found in God alone.

—Julia Walsh

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Open Up!

by Maria Fontaine

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“When I was in my first year of college, I started going out with a real sweet boy. We went many places and had a lot of good times together. He was very sweet and loved the Lord, but he was the silent type–very into himself, shy and untalkative. I liked him very much and I THINK he liked me a lot too! I have to say I THINK he was quite fond of me; I wasn’t really SURE because we never really communicated very much. We hardly ever spoke together about anything other than the time of day or what we were doing or where we were going or about college. We never had any really deep conversations or talked about matters of the heart at all!

“I didn’t realise that this was a problem until finally I began developing rather serious feelings about him! He had gotten to the final year of his studies without getting married or too involved with anybody, and I THINK he was really shy and scared of getting too serious. So he started to cool things off, and this broke my little heart! I then started thinking and praying about what went wrong, and it finally dawned on me that I didn’t really know what HE thought about our relationship, and HE didn’t know what I thought! That’s when I realised that during the entire time we had been together, we hadn’t had any kind of deep heart-to-heart communication at all!

“After we had broken up, I was still wondering why, and I thought, ‘Why didn’t I ASK him? Why didn’t we just honestly TALK about the things we felt and thought?’ If we HAD, it would have been so simple and prevented the whole problem of me not understanding and not knowing his feelings and him not knowing mine! It was just RIDICULOUS to be that close to someone and still know hardly a thing about what they felt and what they thought!

“So, I learned a good lesson! I learned to ASK! And I learned the importance of honest, open, humble communication. I learned the importance of ASKING when I don’t understand things, and trying to get the OTHER person to be honest and express what he feels and thinks, and that I need to be honest about MY feelings too!” So writes the author of “The Importance of Good Communications!”

 
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE KEEP THEMSELVES TO THEMSELVES?

Why is it that my friend found it so difficult to communicate? Why do some people keep a curtain over their mind and heart, so that others cannot even catch a glimpse of their innermost thoughts and feelings? There are a number of different reasons:

Some people are brought up from childhood to believe that it’s a sign of WEAKNESS to show your emotions, or to talk too much about your feelings. They are suffering from the classic British condition of “the stiff upper lip”! Consequently, they have never developed the ability to talk meaningfully with another person. They have never learned how to share openly with someone else and they have difficulty finding the words to say.

Others are fearful of exposing what they feel or think. They do not want to run the risk of being rejected or hurt if someone else disagrees with them.

Others have the attitude that talking won’t do any good, so why bother? They may have tried at some point to get through to another person, and it didn’t work, so they stopped trying altogether.

Some people do not believe that they, as a person, have anything to offer. They do not think that their ideas are worthwhile. They have a low opinion of themselves, and as a result, they withhold their comments and personal feelings.

Hangups and fears such as these keep us at a shallow level of communication. But if we can be freed from these negative and restrictive attitudes, then we can move to deeper, more meaningful levels. There are many different levels of communication between people, ranging from shallow cliches and chit-chat to deep personal honesty and baring of the soul.

 
LEVELS OF COMMUNICATION:

TALKING IN CLICHES is the most common type of communication between people. This type of talk is very safe! We exchange niceties such as, “How are you?”, “How is your family?”, “Where have you been?”, “I like your dress!” etc. In this type of conversation there is no personal sharing. Each person can remain safely hidden behind his screen.

Then there’s the type of conversation in which we simply REPORT FACTS. In this kind of conversation we share gossip and the news of the day, but we don’t commit ourselves as to how we FEEL about them.

“Did you hear about Joy? She’s pregnant again.”

“Really? That reminds me. I think the cat is about to have her kittens.”

But REAL communication begins when we’re willing to step out of our solitary confinement and risk telling others of our IDEAS AND DECISIONS and how we FEEL about them! If a person is to really SHARE himself with another individual, then he must get to the level of SHARING HIS PERSONAL FEELINGS. Sharing heart-to-heart, and not just superficially, helps draw people closer together, and makes us more honest and humble. All deep relationships, especially marriages, must be based on this kind of openness and honesty in order to succeed and grow.

“I really have something on my mind that I need to talk to you about, John!”

“Sure! Let’s go for a little walk together! I always appreciate these times when we can share heart-to-heart.”

 
HOW TO HELP OTHERS OPEN UP MORE!

Most people who are very quiet and withdrawn don’t really want to be that way. They know they NEED to be freer and they don’t really WANT to stay behind their walls, but they need SOMEBODY to be LOVING and UNDERSTANDING enough to help pull it OUT of them. If you’re INTERESTED in people and you LOVE them, then YOU need to learn how to get them to come OUT of themselves and try to respond and to communicate. (Proverbs 20:5; Isaiah 50:4a)

One way to do this is to gently probe and ask specific QUESTIONS. “Well, what do you mean by that? Could you explain that to me?” And if they were to say, “Well, I’d like to but I don’t want to get involved”, you could ask something like, “Well, WHY don’t you want to get involved?” With most people, if you really probe and question and really press them, then usually they’ll eventually come out of themselves and be more specific because they WANT to. They just NEED HELP!

 
THE “SILENT SUFFERERS”:

There are also the “silent sufferers”! Those who hold their feelings and emotions in and suffer in silence because they don’t expect that others would want to listen to all their problems and woes! To suffer in silence is, in a way, admirable, that they are able to take it and suffer on their own. But wouldn’t it be better if they would just honestly ASK for HELP and PRAYER? When you’re suffering in silence, it just makes everybody miserable, because they can usually sense that you’re suffering and that something is wrong, and they become worried about you. They don’t know if you’re upset or angry at them or sick or what! Granted, in some cases it is better to BEAR troubles rather than BARE them! (Galatians 6:5). But in MOST cases, it’s much more healthy just to let it all spill out and let others help you! (Galatians 6:2; James 5:16) It prevents a lot of misunderstandings and gets you some PRAYER and SYMPATHY and all the things that you need and would probably like to have when you’re feeling down! (Proverbs 12:25; 27:9)

In fact, lots of times it really helps to talk about the things you’re going through, even if the person you’re talking to DOESN’T have any solution! Often a person will say, “Oh, it just really helped to talk about it, just to get it sorted out in my mind”. Of course, for a Christian, one of the MAIN benefits of sharing your heart with others is that you can ask them to PRAY with you. You can ask for prayer, and that does a LOT of good! “One can chase a thousand, and two can put ten thousand to flight!” (Deuteronomy 32:30)

 
COMMUNICATION WITH GOD:

One thing that is sure to help our communication with others is if we have good communication with GOD. What kind of level do we communicate with JESUS on? Do we strip away all cover-ups and honestly lay our hearts bare before Him? Or are we like the native woman with the bundle of dirty washing? She had taken it to the riverside with the purpose of washing it, but was ashamed to open it for fear someone would see how dirty it was! So she just plunged the whole bundle into the water, joggled it up and down several times, and then took it home. Wet, but still dirty!

Are we ashamed to bare our hearts before the Lord and others, for fear that they will see what a mess we are? Jesus knows our hearts, He knows our faults and weaknesses and He loves us UNCONDITIONALLY the way we ARE, and not the way WE think we OUGHT to be. (Psalm 139:4) He’s just waiting for us to open our hearts to Him so that He can “forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9)

As we surrender and open up our lives to JESUS and tell Him everything on our hearts, we will find it easier to open up to OTHERS! When we KNOW that Jesus accepts and loves us in spite of OUR failures and defects, then this helps us to accept and love and have compassion on OTHERS. This then leads to a desire and a willingness to lend them a sympathetic ear and to want to share our hearts with them and give them the same answers that WE have found in JESUS!

So if you have problems and you have something on your heart, get it out in the open! Talk about it with someone you love and trust! You’ll never have any chance of dealing with the matter unless you get it OUT! There would be far fewer misunderstandings in the World if people would just honestly and openly communicate with one another and be more open about themselves! It may be a little difficult at first, but if you work at it, it becomes much easier! The Lord always seems to bless HONESTY and GOOD COMMUNICATION! And maybe He wants to bless YOU for it too! Why don’t you TRY it and see?

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Anchor

Be Enthusiastic!

Based on the writings of David Brandt Berg

free-bible-studies-online-anchorIf there’s anything that catches people’s attention and causes them to take notice of what you’re saying or doing, it’s enthusiasm! The word enthusiasm is derived from two Greek words: en, which means in, and theos, which means God. So enthusiasm literally means “in God,” or “God in us.” Thus the truly enthusiastic person is one who acts and speaks as if he were possessed by God.

God’s Word tells us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) and “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord!” (Romans 12:11 NIV)

The same driving passion, the same irresistible compassion that motivated the apostles and martyrs and every great man or woman of God throughout the ages should motivate every child of God in everything they do, everything they say, everywhere they go, with everybody. The apostle Paul summed it up in these few famous and ringing words which have cried out from the heart of every true Christian in every true good deed he has ever done, and for which indeed he is willing to die: “The love of Christ compels us!” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

Regardless of what you may lack in the way of natural talents, abilities, or even material goods, if you obey God’s Word and let Him live in you and through you so that your heart burns with His love, then He will be able to greatly use you and make you a blessing to many.

As a young man, David Livingstone faced an important decision. “I have found that I have no unusual endowments of intellect,” he wrote in his diary, “but this day I resolve that I will be an uncommon Christian.” He “purposed in his heart” to give his all to the Lord, and determined to become an enthusiast for the truth—and he was! He became one of the greatest missionaries the world has ever known.

The British historian Arnold Toynbee said, “Apathy can only be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal which takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.”

What greater ideal could anyone have than to bring everlasting salvation and eternal heavenly life to a lost and dying world that is perishing without it? And what better “intelligible plan” could anyone have than that given by Jesus to His followers: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”? (Mark 16:15) As Christians, we should be the most enthusiastic people in the entire world!

The apostle Paul was another of God’s great enthusiasts. Even before his conversion, he showed a great deal of enthusiasm—though with the wrong ideal and the wrong plan.

But as soon as Paul’s eyes were opened, he became an enthusiast for the right side. When others saw his total dedication and enthusiasm for the Lord, they got on fire for God too. The work he started spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.

Nothing could quench Paul’s enthusiasm. At one point he testified, “Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day [adrift] in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from the Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers! I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (2 Corinthians 11:24–27 NIV) Did Paul let these difficulties and obstacles stop him? No! He went right on serving God no matter what hardships or difficulties befell him.

Nothing can stop the man who is on fire for God. He will keep going no matter what, because he knows he is doing the right thing for the right cause and for the One who is always right!

So where do we get such enthusiasm, this inspiration that fills a life with fire and fervor for the Lord? From the Holy Spirit of God! The Bible says, “Our God is a consuming fire,” (Hebrews 12:29) and repeatedly compares His Spirit to a fire or flames of fire. (See Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:3–4; Revelation 4:5) So if you want to be enthusiastic for the Lord, full of His fiery anointing and inspiration, just pray and ask Him to fill you with the power of His Holy Spirit, and He will.

Someone once asked a great man of God what was the secret of his success, and he replied, “I just get on fire for God, and the world comes out to see me burn!”

As Christians, our hearts should be so full of the love of Jesus that we want to overflow and share it with others. You’ve got to be alive and enthusiastic to be able to show others that what you’ve got with Jesus is better than what they’ve got without Him.

Why did people listen to Jesus? Jesus spoke from His heart, from the Spirit, and it brought life; it moved people. It didn’t just tickle their ears, but it reached and touched their hearts. He said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) The words the scribes and the Pharisees (the religious leaders of Jesus’ day) spoke were well-educated, but they were dry and dead and only brought death. Why? Because they only spoke from their heads.

That’s the difference! You cannot kindle a fire in any other heart until it is burning within your own.

Of course, we should not only be enthusiastic in presenting the gospel to others, but in everything we do. Whatever task is set before us, the Bible tells us we’re to “do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” (Colossians 3:23) In everything you do, even the most menial tasks, you can be happy, inspired, and full of enthusiasm. If you’re asking the Lord to inspire you, He will give you that divine spark of His Spirit that will make every little task a joy!

Let’s get on fire for God by earnestly praying and faithfully reading His Word. Let’s ask for His Spirit to inspire us with the vision of the great things He wants to do through us. And then let’s do our part by putting our whole heart into whatever He asks us to do for Him and others.

Come, let’s set the world afire for God and enlighten the hearts of all men everywhere! “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!”

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

Jesus Loves Me!

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorGive thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.
—Psalm 136:26 ESV

*

Occasionally, all too occasionally, I sense the truth of grace. There are times when I study the parables and grasp that they are about me. I am the sheep the shepherd has left the flock to find, the prodigal for whom the father scans the horizon, the servant whose debt has been forgiven. I am the beloved one of God.

Not long ago I received in the mail a postcard from a friend that had on it only six words, “I am the one Jesus loves.” I smiled when I saw the return address, for my strange friend excels at these pious slogans. When I called him, though, he told me the slogan came from the author and speaker Brennan Manning. At a seminar, Manning referred to Jesus’ closest friend on earth, the disciple named John, identified in the Gospels as “the one Jesus loved.” Manning said, “If John were to be asked, ‘What is your primary identity in life?’ he would not reply, ‘I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,’ but rather, ‘I am the one Jesus loves.’”

What would it mean, I ask myself, if I too came to the place where I saw my primary identity in life as “the one Jesus loves”? How differently would I view myself at the end of a day?

Sociologists have a theory of the looking-glass self: you become what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks you are. How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible’s astounding words about God’s love for me, if I looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?

Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, “You must be very close to God.” The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles. “Yes, he’s very fond of me.”

—Philip Yancey

*

As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you. …

I know you through and through. I know everything about you. Each hair of your head is counted. There is nothing unimportant to Me about your life. All these years I have followed you, and even in your strayings I have always loved you.

I know each of your problems, I know all of your needs and all of your wants, and yes, I also know all of your sins. Still, I will repeat again that I love you, not because of what you have or haven’t done, but because of you yourself, for the sake of the beauty and the value that My Father has given you, creating you in His own likeness. That value that you so often forget about, that beauty that you have covered with sin. I love you as you are, and I have poured out My blood to win you again. …

I care for you, more than you can even imagine—even to the death of the cross for your sake.

I thirst for you. Yes, this is the only way that I can express to you My love. I thirst for you, thirst to love you and thirst after your love. You are very precious to Me. I thirst for you. Come to Me, and I will fill up your heart and heal your wounds. I will remake you into a new creation, and even in all your trials will I give you peace. I thirst for you.

Never doubt My mercy, My desire and will to forgive, My yearning to bless you and live in you. I thirst for you. If in the world’s eyes you are of little importance, that means nothing. In this world, I have no one more important than you. I thirst for you. Open up to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me. Give Me your life and I will show you how much you mean to My heart.

It doesn’t matter how far you have strayed, it doesn’t matter how often you have forgotten Me, it doesn’t matter how many crosses you are able to carry, there is just one thing that you have to remember that is true, that will never change: I thirst for you, just as you are.

—Jesus, speaking in prophecy, as penned by Mother Teresa

*

The Bible tells us, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) He is not a cruel tyrant, not a monster who is trying to frighten everyone into hell, but a God who is trying to love everyone into heaven! He’s so close, so intimate, so personal, so loving, so kind, so tender, so gentle, so concerned. He is the great Spirit of Love who created you and me and this beautiful world and the entire universe! To show us His love and to help us understand Himself, He sent His own Son to earth in the form of a man—Jesus Christ.

God loves you so much that He gave His most priceless possession, the most cherished thing He had for you, Jesus, “that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) He shared His love with the whole world.

God is pictured in His Son, Jesus, a man who loved everybody, even the poorest and the worst of all. He came for love and lived in love and died for love that we might live and love forever. His death brings life, forgiveness, and eternal joy to those who love Him in return.

He loves you dearly, more dearly than the spoken word can tell! You can never understand the love of God. It’s too great, it passes all understanding. You just have to receive it and feel it with your heart. (Ephesians 3:19)

—David Brandt Berg

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For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
—Romans 8:38–39 ESV

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Makings by Breakings!

Compiled from the writings of David Brandt Berg

free-bible-studies-online-makings-by-breakings

For those of us who know and love Jesus, our whole experience in this life is like a great SCHOOLING. The LORD is our Teacher Who wants to teach each of us all we need to know about Him and His Love, salvation and service, and to help us to be yielded to Him and obedient to His Word.

God knows that none of us will ever be able to really accomplish anything for Him and His Heavenly Kingdom in our OWN strength. In fact, Jesus said, “Without ME you can do NOTHING.” (John 15:5) But the Bible says that we “CAN do ALL things through CHRIST!” (Philippians 4:13) If we will simply YIELD to the Lord and be truly WILLING to be whatever God may want us to be–not what we are, but what GOD wants us to be–THEN He can mightily use us!

Of course, to become willing, yielded and submitted to the Lord is not something that we learn overnight. It takes time, it takes breakings, it takes suffering. And it takes lessons and experiences that make us desperate and cause us to draw closer to Him.

The list is almost endless of all the men in the Bible whom God had to humble BEFORE He could use them, of all the leaders God had to bring down to the depths before they could stand to be exalted–lest they would have taken credit to themselves and not given God the glory!

Look at JOSEPH! Of Jacob’s 12 sons, he was his father’s favourite. His elder brothers finally became so jealous of him that they nearly killed him, threw him into a pit, and then sold him into slavery! But that’s what the Lord USED to humble him. Joseph had to be made a slave and a prisoner and be condemned as a criminal before God was able to exalt him to become the saviour of His people! (Genesis 37,39-41)

And look at MOSES! For 40 years he was groomed in the very courts of Pharaoh, and rose to become the second most powerful man in all of the mighty world empire of ancient Egypt. The Bible says he was “educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22), but God could not yet use him to lead His people to freedom, for he was full of the ways of the WORLD and not the ways of GOD. Moses had to be BROKEN first, and God allowed him to become a FUGITIVE from Pharaoh, and he had to spend 40 YEARS in the wilderness doing nothing but tending sheep, before he was finally broken and humble enough for God to use him for the task He had designed him for! (Exodus Chapters 2 & 3)

And consider King DAVID, the greatest king that Israel ever had: When he fell in love with Bathsheba, purposely had her husband killed in battle, and then tried to lie and cover up the entire crime, God had to completely EXPOSE him, HUMBLE him and severely JUDGE him! And he soon was driven from the throne by his own traitorous son, Absalom. (2Samuel Chapters 11,12, & 15)

But was David’s fall really a fall DOWNWARD, or a fall UPWARD? God’s way up is sometimes down–USUALLY in fact! Just the opposite of what we think! And David was humbled, and the whole kingdom was humbled, and they were all reminded that it was only the LORD Who made them great! And from that squeezing and twisting of David’s life came forth the sweet honey of the PSALMS, and the fragrance of His praises to the Lord for His mercy!

The great, brave and mighty prophet, ELIJAH, was able to call down fire from Heaven to confound the false prophets of Baal and to prove that he was right! (1Kings 18) But after slaying hundreds of false prophets, he panicked and ran away from one little woman, the wicked Queen Jezebel! Hiding out in the wilderness, he became so discouraged that he wished that he might die! But there in his time of desperation, this prophet of fire and thunder became a meek little man who learned to listen to the still, small voice of God! And he became a much better, humbler instrument in the hands of the Lord. A prophet who fearlessly returned to face not only the queen, but the king and all of their soldiers!

And look at the Apostle PETER! He swore to Jesus, “Though all others forsake You, I am ready to go with you both to PRISON and to DEATH!” (John 13:37; Luke 22:33) But just a few hours later, when Jesus was seized by the Temple guards and hauled before the Jews’ religious court, some people outside of the building recognised Peter and pointed him out as a friend of Jesus. Peter vehemently denied that he even KNEW the Lord, cursing and swearing that he had no idea what they were talking about! (Mark 14:66-71)

As he was denying the Lord the THIRD time, Jesus, Who was being led by His captors to another part of the building, turned and gazed upon Peter, and Peter remembered how he had sworn that he would never deny Him. The Bible tells us that Peter then “went out and WEPT BITTERLY”. (Luke 22:62) Was this the END of Peter’s service for the Lord? NO! It was shortly after this humiliating defeat, this great failure, that the Lord used Peter to become the leader of the Early Church!

Or consider the great Apostle PAUL: He was a prominent Jewish leader, known as Rabbi Saul, and had personally taken it upon himself to put an end to the fast-growing sect of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Journeying by horseback to Damascus, where he intended on capturing, imprisoning and executing as many Christians as he could find, God had to literally knock him off of his horse and BLIND him with the brilliant light of His presence! Trembling, helpless and blind, the great Rabbi Saul had to be led by the hand into the city where he was so astonished that he was unable to eat or drink for three days! A disciple of the Lord then came to give him God’s message and pray for his eyes, and Rabbi Saul was converted and became the great Apostle PAUL! But God had to humble and break him first, and make him a NEW MAN before He was able to use him! (Acts 9)

So even if you don’t always understand WHY you’re going through tests, trials, hardships and breakings, remember, GOD knows what He’s doing! He knows all the purposes and reasons behind each test, trial or trouble.

He promises, “ALL things work together for GOOD to them that love the Lord!” (Romans 8:28) He is not going to allow ANYTHING to happen to you, His child, except what is for your GOOD! Of course, we often feel like, “My goodness! A LOT of things happen that don’t look very good to ME!” But sooner or later you will find out that somehow or another they WERE good for you!

You will find that God gets some of His GREATEST VICTORIES out of SEEMING DEFEATS. Victories of yieldedness, brokenness, humility and utter dependence on HIM, which you MUST have if you’re going to be what GOD wants you to be! So take heart from these examples from the Bible and don’t be discouraged when things seem to go all wrong and your hopes are disappointed.

EVERYONE who has ever been of any real use to the Lord, had to first be broken, humbled and brought virtually to the END of THEMSELVES. Otherwise, they would be too proud and self-confident in their own flesh ly talents and natural abilities, and would take the glory to THEMSELVES if God were to use them. This is why He chooses to use the WEAK things and the FOOLISH things, “that NO FLESH should glory in His presence!” (1Corinthians 1:25-29)

GOD does not always see things as WE see them, “For HIS thoughts are not OUR thoughts, neither are HIS ways OUR ways” (Isaiah 55:8,9), and He does not judge or reward us according to our success or failures, but according to our FAITHFULNESS. In Heaven one day He’ll say to those who are true to Him, “Well done, My good and FAITHFUL servant!” (Matthew 25:21) He won’t say My “failure servant”, or My “successful servant”, but He’ll say, My “FAITHFUL servant”!

So above all, stay FAITHFUL to Jesus! And remember, your SEEMING DEFEATS can become great VICTORIES for the Lord if you will humble yourself and learn the lessons He is trying to teach you, like these men in the Bible did.

“For all these things happened unto THEM as EXAMPLES, and were written down as instructions to US, on whom the ends of the world are come!” (1Corinthians 10:11)

 

 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International