Category Archives: Spirituality

Salvation for a Swindler!

Luke 19:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOOD FOR THOUGHT!

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

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Anchor

What Easter Represents

By Maria Fontaine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Questions From You!

HOW CAN I KNOW WHAT GOD’S WILL IS?

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Every one of us has countless decisions which we must face every day of our lives. Every time of conflict, of testing and trial is a time of DECISION. But the point is, HOW do you make your decisions? How can you KNOW you are making the right ones, those which will bring the best results and help you achieve your goals?

Putting it simply, for true Christians, MAKING A DECISION IS ACTUALLY FINDING OUT WHAT GOD’S WILL IS; what God knows will be best according to how HE sees the situation. After all, only GOD is way out there in FRONT, and only He knows what is going to happen, and only He is able to lead us.

But the worst thing in the World to do is to keep going ahead when you don’t know what to do. That was the tragic mistake of so many of history’s failures who thought they didn’t need the Lord’s direction. Sooner or later it always proves true that those who SUCCEED in God’s Kingdom are those who look to God’s WORD to lead them, and the ones who fail are those who go without it.

Unfortunately, there are many Christians who haven’t yet discovered that Jesus was serious when He said, “Ask and it SHALL be given you, seek and you SHALL find, knock and the door SHALL be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7). God means just what He says! It’s a PROMISE!

The following 7 points will help you to more clearly and easily discover the Will of God for your life. As you read them, think about them and APPLY these basic guidelines to ANY DECISION you are faced with. The Lord will NOT fail to show you the ANSWER you need! It is so comforting to know that whatever GOD shows you ALWAYS works out!

 
THE SEVEN WAYS TO KNOW GOD’S WILL!

NO.1 THE WORD is the FIRST place we look to find the Will of God! And when God speaks to you right through HIS Word, then you KNOW it’s right! The Bible is the SURE Word of God and it NEVER fails! In God’s Word you can find the answer to every question and the solution to every problem. When you ask God for answers, let Him speak to you through His Word!

NO.2 THE VOICE OF GOD’S WORD is when the Lord brings to mind a certain verse or passage from the Scriptures, or as you are reading, all of a sudden a verse seems to jump at you as if it were written just for YOU! It’s as if the Lord had whispered it in your ear. It begins to apply to you personally, and suddenly it becomes REAL! It’s no longer just mere words, but you finally get the point of what God is trying to show you!

NO.3 DIRECT REVELATION! Sometimes God uses a dream or vision, a voice or prophetic message to show you what to do. You KNOW it is from God if it AGREES with and DOESN’T CONTRADICT His WORD. It’s so wonderful to get the answers straight from the Lord! When you’ve got the concrete evidence from Him, His WORD on the subject, then you know you’re on the right track & you can go ahead & ACT with CONVICTION–& WITHOUT HESITATION! That settles it! You’ve heard from Heaven!

NO.4 GODLY COUNSELLORS! When finding God’s Will in a decision, it is often wise to ask others for their opinion. However, it is important to WEIGH the counsel you receive, and to prayerfully consider the SOURCE that it comes from! How RELIABLE are their leadings from the Lord? Do they bear GOOD FRUIT themselves and produce good results from their own actions and decisions? “By their fruits,” Jesus says, “you will know them!” (Matthew 7:20).

NO.5 OPEN AND CLOSED DOORS! If something is God’s Will, He’ll usually open the door and make it possible! Which direction is God providing or opening the way and the means to do it? That is one way to find out the direction God is leading. Of course circumstances and conditions are not always the final criteria for finding the Will of God, but they can sometimes be an indication.

Often by closing one door and opening another, the Lord leads and directs us. God has certain set-ups and situations which suddenly become golden opportunities. At times like these we should take decisive ACTION and not miss the Lord’s timing, otherwise what was a golden opportunity could become a LOST opportunity! So after you’ve prayed about any door that opens and perhaps have discussed it with others, and checked it with His Word, then GO ahead.

NO.6 BURDENS, strong impressions or feelings can sometimes be an indication of God’s leading. It isn’t always wise to go by feelings, but if something is really of God you’ll have an inner CONVICTION, what many Christians call the “Witness of the Holy Spirit”! It can be a still small Voice in your heart! In your heart you feel you just have the FAITH. You just KNOW that’s the Will of God and that’s what you’re supposed to do, or not do. His Word says, “You will hear a voice beside you saying, this is the way; walk ye in it.” (Isaiah 30:21).

NO.7 A FLEECE is the term given to a system of CHECK AND DOUBLECHECK with God. It’s like an agreement with God to show you if you are on the right track or not. And if you ask Him whole-heartedly, you won’t be disappointed! Sometimes you can actually specify the kind of revelation you’d like God to give you like the Prophet Gideon did in the Bible. (See Judges 6:36-40.) Gideon laid a fleece (sheepskin) on the ground and said, “Now Lord, if the fleece is wet with dew in the morning, but the ground is dry, then I’ll KNOW it is You talking to me!” But then he wanted to be doubly sure, so the next day he said, “If the fleece is dry and the ground is wet, I’ll believe it!”, and that is just what the Lord did each time! Then Gideon knew that God was with him. If the Lord hadn’t done the miracle, Gideon might have quit entirely and lost heart!

Regarding fleeces: Although they seem like an easy and supernatural way, they are the LEAST RELIABLE of the 7 ways to discover God’s Will, only to be used in conjunction with the other more dependable points shared above. In fact, the more ways you employ in making decisions, the greater the assurance will be that your decision is right.

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What a comfort it is when you know that you’re in God’s Will! It’s the SAFEST PLACE to be in the whole World! No matter if war is breaking out all about you and there is darkness and storm, you’ll be safe in the hands of God as you follow Him to victory.

Just be sure it’s RIGHT, then GO ahead. To the right place, at the right time, with the right people and God will bless it! He will lead you if you’ll follow. But don’t run off on your own just because something LOOKS good to you; be sure to keep in line with His WORD and with His blessings. Any combination of two or three or more of these little guidelines can help to CONFIRM God’s Will for YOUR life.

And that is why we wanted to share with you these guidelines to help you to keep in touch with your Heavenly Commander-in-Chief at all times. That’s one line of communication that can NEVER be broken. You’ll always have a hotline to Heaven and you can get your orders straight from the Lord Himself as He guides you through the many difficult situations you will face. Even when you seem to be all alone, God will always be there by your side to direct your every move. All you have to do is ASK Him, and the answer will come! Whether it be in public, at home or in any situation, God is EVERYWHERE! “He knows, He loves, He cares, nothing His truth can dim! He gives His very best to those who leave the choices up to Him!”

This is actually the FIRST requirement in finding GOD’S Will: Having no will of your OWN! His Word says, “Offer your bodies as LIVING SACRIFICES, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be NOT conformed to THIS World, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind, that you may KNOW what is the good and acceptable and perfect Will of God!” (Romans 12:1,2). SURRENDER your will, your body, your mind to the Lord and let HIM make the decisions, and you will never be disappointed!

Our prayers are with you as you follow God to GREATER VICTORIES, both in your personal life, and as you stand up for His Truth and witness His Love to others! God bless you! And He will as you DO His Will and follow Him!

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Anchor

Sharing Absolute Truths in a Changing World

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorThe popular world view today is that there is no absolute truth; there are only opinions. If there are only opinions, then one person’s opinion is no more valid than another person’s. Most discussions about Christ will simply be an exchange of opinions. The idea that there is truth has become alien to much of our thinking, with the criteria being if it seems to be good for me, then it must be true. And whether it is true or not, we then measure the benefit of a religion by the good it does its followers.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Jesus Christ is superior to all that preceded Him, not because what He said was better or more complete, though it was, but because He is Himself the message and has absolute unmatched supremacy in God’s revelation.

… That is why the writer of Hebrews says, “Fix your thoughts on Jesus,” (Hebrews 3:1) and “fix our eyes on Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:2) Truth is decapitated when we sever it from Christ, which is what the Pharisees did, and consequently, knew nothing of spiritual life.

We can know the Scriptures inside out, but detached from Christ, it becomes a dead book. It would be like having a manual on a new car we have bought. We do not read the manual for the sake of reading. Rather, we want to get to know the car and be able to use it to its full potential. We are given the Bible so that we can know Christ and all that is made available to us in Him. There is an old hymn, “Break Thou the Bread of Life,” which has the great line, “Beyond the sacred page, I seek thee, Lord.” From Genesis to Revelation, every verse ultimately leads to Christ, and it is knowing Him that matters.

—Charles Price

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There are absolute truths that you can know, contrary to modern teachings that there are no absolutes. The modern teachers of that kind of non-absolutism philosophy would say, “You think that’s a hand, but you don’t really know it’s a hand; you’ve just always been taught it’s a hand!” They’d try to prove to you that it’s not possible to know anything with certainty, trying to tear down accepted truths of human existence and learning and religion. But we know and we believe that’s a hand, and almost anybody with common sense, even a little child, knows that’s his or her hand. So why try to tell them differently? You could say, “It’s actually an accumulation of 75% water and a lot of calcium and bone, and various kinds of minerals and substances, etc.” But it’s still a hand!

There are some things which you must accept as absolutely accepted truth, proven facts! Don’t let the theorists of non-absolutism try to tell you differently. The greatest absolute of all is God, which is why this doctrine against absolutism is a philosophy of Satan. By teaching that there are no absolutes, then they can say, “There’s also no God, no Bible, no morality. You don’t have to obey anything or anybody or keep laws. You don’t have to let anybody tell you what’s right or wrong; you can just do as you please!” And you wind up with chaos, anarchy, and confusion.

We as Christians and children of the Lord have to accept that there are certain things which we can know with certainty, which are proven from the Bible and from human experience for thousands of years, both spiritual truths and the ordinary everyday things of normal human life and existence.

—David Brandt Berg

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Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.
—C. S. Lewis

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Truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.
—Sir Winston Churchill

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It is a central heresy of our culture to say that all truth is relative; that one thing may be true for me and quite another may be true for you. This absurdity destroys the very notion of truth … and is the result of muddled thinking. No one can seriously believe that a belief which contradicts his or her own is just as true. The expression “It is true for me” is self-confuting. Either a thing is true or it is not. … Can we imagine saying, “Well, the earth is round to me; but it may be flat to you”? The earth is either round or flat; it cannot be both; and what you or I think about it is irrelevant. You may claim that religion and ethics is not a matter of truth at all. Very well, do not use the word “true”; but if you use it, do not render it unintelligible by adding that empty phrase, “for me.”
—Keith Ward

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Relativism is a revolt against the objective reality of God. The sheer existence of God creates the possibility of truth. God is the ultimate and final standard for all claims to truth—who he is, what he wills, what he says is the external, objective standard for measuring all things. When relativism says that there is no standard of truth and falsehood that is valid for everyone, it speaks like an atheist. It commits treason against God.
—John Piper

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Moral practice has always been difficult for fallen humanity, but at least there was always the lighthouse of moral principles, no matter how stormy the sea of moral practice got. But today, with the majority of our mind-molders, in formal education, or informal education—that is, media—the light is gone. Morality is a fog of feelings. That is why to them, as Chesterton said, “Morality is always dreadfully complicated to a man who has lost all his principles.” Principles mean moral absolutes. Unchanging rocks beneath the changing waves of feelings and practices. … How important is this issue? After all, it’s just philosophy, and philosophy is just ideas. But ideas have consequences. Sometimes these consequences are as momentous as a holocaust, or a Hiroshima. Sometimes even more momentous. Philosophy is just thought, but sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny. This is just as true for societies as it is for individuals.
—Peter Kreeft

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It has been said that truth, by definition, will always be exclusive. Jesus claimed to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Historically we know that Jesus claimed such exclusivity. Had He not made that statement, Jesus would have been unreasonably implying that truth is all-inclusive, which is an impossibility.
—Kim Triller

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

The Power of a Touch!

Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 8:43-48

Based on the writings of David Brandt Berg

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As Jesus taught the multitudes by the Sea of Galilee, a prominent leader of the local synagogue named Jairus came pushing through the crowd, and falling down before Him, pleaded for Jesus to heal his little daughter. “She’s at the point of death!” he cried in desperation! “Please, come and TOUCH her and make her LIVE!”

Jesus, full of compassion, agreed to go with him, and the crowd pressed behind Him. In the midst of the throng was a woman who had been sick for 12 years with a terrible bleeding haemorrhage. All this time she had gone from one doctor to another, but never with any success. She’d spent every bit of her money on doctors’ bills and suffered much from all their treatments, but still the bleeding continued.

Desperate, the woman thought, “Oh, if I could only TOUCH Him, I KNOW I could be healed!” Then, seeing Jesus afar off, she began anxiously making her way towards Him. It wasn’t easy to get through the pushing, shoving mob of onlookers who were trying to get close to Jesus, but that one thought compelled her: She had to TOUCH Him, even if only the hem of His garment!

Finally she came within reach, and stretching out her hand she was able to barely TOUCH His robe with her fingertips. No sooner had she touched Him than the bleeding stopped completely! A warm and wonderful feeling of health and well-being swept through her body and she knew that after all these years of pain and suffering, she was healed at last! Jesus paused for a moment, having felt that healing POWER had gone out from Him. Turning to the crowd He asked, “Who touched Me?” His disciples looked at Him with astonishment, saying, “With all this great crowd pressing around You, You ask who TOUCHED You?” But Jesus, knowing already who had touched Him, smiled and silently, knowingly turned to look upon the astonished woman.

Still trembling at the realisation of what had happened, she came and fell at His feet, telling Him what had happened to her. And Jesus lovingly, tenderly as a father would speak to his child, said to her, “Daughter, thy FAITH has made thee WHOLE! Go in peace and be healed of your disease.” Jesus was making it clear to all the crowd that touching His clothes was not what had healed the woman, but it was “her FAITH in Him that had made her whole”!

That woman had put her tiny grain of faith into action, and the result has echoed throughout the centuries: “Thy FAITH hath made thee WHOLE!”

There is a lesson to be learned from this story which we can APPLY to OUR lives NOW, today. Though many people thronged about Jesus, why was it that only ONE received that powerful healing touch from God? Many had gone to see Jesus out of mere curiosity, they were more interested in the sight of the man. Yet this woman, as soon as she heard of Him, BELIEVED in her heart that He could really help her, when all else had failed. So she pressed toward Him, full of faith, never giving up until she made that divine CONTACT with the Lord!

What an illustration of how PRAYER works! It’s not how LONG you pray or how MUCH you pray, but how much you BELIEVE! It’s like tuning in a radio station on your receiver. When you finally make the right contact, the signal booms in loud and clear and strong! Prayer is making contact between our human needs and God’s divine resources. All we’re doing when we pray is presenting our need and BELIEVING that God will do it. And if you are doing your best to trust the Lord and follow His Word, He will help you in your hour of need!

Anything wonderful can happen in that little margin of time when you don’t give up, but keep on believing and keep on praying! That frail sickly woman had only enough strength to draw close to Jesus, but when she ACTED on her little seed of faith, she made contact with the Lord.

What a blessing it is when we learn to contact God’s power through prayer. It is a spiritual seeking of that contact with His Spirit through OBEDIENCE to the Word of God that gets results!

It’s a shame that so many Christians today find their faith stronger in the men of medicine than in the Great Physician Himself, Jesus Christ. Actually, they haven’t lost FAITH, but they’ve just TRANSFERRED that faith to the MEDICAL profession! It’s not that doctors are bad, but they are not always necessary, or cannot help.

So often one will run to the medicine cabinet for one little ailment, ache or pain, without even considering that a simple prayer of faith could save them all that trouble! Even for a little HEADACHE, just a little faith in God can HEAL you! There’s nothing wrong with taking an aspirin, but why not give God a chance? PRAY that you may be healed, and He can not only HEAL you, but He can even show you what CAUSED it and how to avoid it or correct it!

One of the greatest of healing factors is FAITH, to know that God LOVES you and is going to take care of you no matter what happens. And did you know that faith not only heals, but it eliminates one of the greatest causes of disease and ill health? And that is fear and tension!

God is very willing to HEAL you and HELP you WHENEVER you need it! All you have to do is ASK! He says, “I am the God of all flesh; is there ANYTHING too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:37) Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you can ask what you will and it shall be done unto you!” (John 15:7) Have you asked the Lord for His healing power in your life?

* * *

  • Prayer is not only CHEAPER than medicine, but it is SURER too!
  •  

  • TRUSTING GOD for your healing keeps you close to the LORD, but trusting the DOCTOR for healing keeps you close to the DOCTOR –and BROKE!
  •  

  • Jesus MADE us, so He can FIX us!

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Anchor

Integrity and Christian Ethics

Part 2

free-bible-studies-online-anchorPart one on this topic covered ethics, examples of integrity, one’s internal compass of right and wrong, and the Golden Rule. Ethics without a moral foundation is like having a compass without a true north. That would be useless. You need the “true north” of personal conviction and ethics, which comes from God’s Word, if you’re going to have a functioning moral compass.

In Ethics 101, John C. Maxwell warns us that, from his point of view, there are five factors that can tarnish the Golden Rule as it applies to our personal integrity. To understand the complete message, you’d want to read the author’s explanation in full, but the general concept can be explained as follows:

While it is possible for people to act ethically, no matter what their social or economic status is, several factors prevent many from doing so.

The first is pressure, especially the pressure to succeed, and to do so quickly. To fight this pressure, make yourself slow down and examine what you’re doing. Begin this self-examination by asking yourself questions. Are you acting on the spur of the moment? Or out of fear or pride? Will your actions compromise your ethical code? It also helps to display reminders of the reasons you would want to act ethically, such as pictures of your family or symbols of your faith.

Pleasure is the second threat to ethical action. Pleasure tempts everyone. But decisions based on pleasure are weak decisions. Discipline is your primary weapon against pleasure’s temptations. Train yourself to do what you should.

Power is the third threat. If you focus on how much power you can obtain, what you can achieve, and what you can get away with, rather than on what you should do, you’ll go astray.

Closely linked to power is pride. If you feel self-important, you will only focus on yourself and how wonderful what you’re doing is, rather than looking at your actions with clear focus to see if you’re doing what you should.

Finally, a lack of priorities can cause you to act unethically. If you haven’t clearly established your priorities, you’ll stumble. You’ll act on a lesser priority when you should act on a greater one. To avoid this obstacle, review your priorities daily and judge your actions against them.—John C. Maxwell

It would benefit each of us to allot some time to think about these five “enemies” of the Golden Rule and how they’ve impacted our lives.

When we have integrity, we know our values, and can communicate them to others. We act on our values and live according to our convictions. We take responsibility for our decisions.

As Christians, our ethics should be centered on God’s Word and the principles He has put forth for His children. Following the truth of God’s Word, being motivated by His love, and seeking to be an example of a sincere Christian are touchstones for the decisions we make.

If you are looking to clarify and strengthen your personal ethics, if you want to build personal integrity, you can study God’s Word, meditate on His precepts, listen to His still small voice speaking to your heart, and ask Him to speak to you.

Besides building your personal integrity through such spiritual steps, there are practical steps that can be helpful as well, such as:

  • Writing a personal mission statement.
  • Promising carefully and always honoring your promises. Under promising and over delivering is better than the reverse.
  • Being honest and avoiding exaggeration.
  • Thinking before you speak, and then speaking carefully and intentionally.
  • Following positive role models.
  • Weighing your decisions so that they consistently reflect your ethical values.
  • Drafting a personal Christian ethical code.—Robert L. Turknett and Carolyn N. Turknett

Here are some excerpts from real people’s ethical codes:

  • I will not promise confidentiality in situations where I know the law requires me to divulge information.
  • I will not knowingly profit from the ignorance of others.
  • I will not create incentives for others to act unethically.
  • I will stop bullies who are bullying someone, even if I don’t know them.
  • I will not drive under the influence of alcohol. If I feel even slightly light-headed, I will get a ride or take a taxi.—Ronald A. Howard and Clinton D. Korver

Other points that represent a good code of ethics for a personal mission statement are:

  • I will put the Lord first in my life and seek to please Him above all, even if this is not easy or convenient.
  • I will witness the truth and do my best to lead others to salvation and the knowledge of Jesus.
  • I will be an example of Jesus’ unconditional love and forgiveness to my spouse and children, even when I’m tempted to be impatient, angry, or judgmental.
  • I will give of my time and finances to help God’s work and the mission.
  • I will not abuse my body, the temple of God’s Spirit.
  • I will not gossip or speak ill of others.
  • I will not mislead others when promoting my business, charitable work, or projects.

There is the idea floating around these days that “nice guys finish last” or “nice girls don’t get the corner office.” But that’s not true. Not if “nice guys” or “nice girls” equal those who live good lives, who are kind and genuine, who know what they believe and stick to it; give of their time, service, and goods to others; sacrifice even to their own hurt when necessary, and put God and family first. Even if they don’t get the corner office in this world, they’ll finish first in God’s books and the race He has set before us.

There might be times when it looks like you’re losing or suffering because of your decisions to live according to godly principles and convictions, but that’s when the heavenly vision comes into the equation. You will never lose by putting Jesus and others first, and any sacrifice you make in this life will be more than repaid, not just in heaven but here and now. Jesus said:

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?—Mark 8:35–37

We all have the opportunity to live a life of no regrets! “The time is always right to do what is right!”—Martin Luther King Jr.

Do you strive to live a life of integrity based on Christian morals? You define what kind of person you are. Your actions and choices will convince people that you are “the genuine article”… or not.

Will you choose to do the right thing instead of taking the easy way out? How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to keep your integrity intact?

As Christians, people expect a lot of us. It’s our duty to strive to be an example of how Jesus would act and live. Thus our standard of integrity should align with biblical standards and what Jesus would expect us to have in our interactions and business with others. If we stray from that standard or act in unethical ways, we risk hurting people’s faith or even causing someone to turn away from the Lord. On the other hand, if you have strong Christian ethics and your integrity is rock solid, people will trust you, your mission work or business will be more fruitful, and you’ll be an example of Jesus’ love and truth. That equals success in our lives as Christians.

 
 

From the Roadmap series
Copyright © The Family International.

Anchor

Integrity and Christian Ethics

Part 1

free-bible-studies-online-anchorPeople with integrity are those whose words match their deeds and whose behaviors mirror their values. Their honesty and ethics can be trusted unconditionally. They honor commitments. They are dependable. They are known for doing the right things, for the right reasons, at the right times. While numerous tales of integrity take place in public settings where others can see them, often the most powerful examples occur in the quiet stillness of a private moment—when no one else is looking.—Stephen Covey

That is similar to the line penned by William Shakespeare that is so often quoted: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Be truth-speakers at all times, people of integrity, people who can be counted on to deal with each other honestly, squarely, fairly, and with truth. That’s being a good example of Me‚ a good reflection of Me‚ and you will reap personal blessings for being upfront and honest.—Jesus, speaking in prophecy

Integrity might mean different things to different people, but I think most people would agree that it’s centered in maintaining clear values and beliefs, standing on Christian principles. As was just mentioned, it’s often in those moments when it’s just you and the Lord, when no one else would know, when no one else sees, that your character and integrity are tested.

Take this story, for example:

At a tennis tournament in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in January 1982, top-ranked pros Vitas Gerulaitis and Eliot Teltscher met in the semi-finals. They split the first two sets. In the eighth game of the deciding third set, Gerulaitis slashed his way to match point.

After one of their fiercest rallies, Gerulaitis hit a ball that struck the top of the net and dribbled over for what seemed a sure match winner. But Teltscher came tearing up to the net, dived at the ball and miraculously managed to loft it over Gerulaitis’s head. Stunned, Gerulaitis moved back late, pushing his shot wide.

The crowd went nuts. Teltscher had survived match point—or so it seemed. As the cheering died, Teltscher indicated that in his lunge toward the final shot, he touched the net—a violation. Never mind that the umpire hadn’t seen it or that a lot of money was at stake. For Teltscher, none of this changed the rules of the game or the gentleman’s code that is their basis. He shook Gerulaitis’s hand, nodded to the crowds and walked off the court—a winner in defeat.—Laurence Shames

For those of you who like sports stories, here is another true story about a man of integrity.

Bobby Jones was not only a consummately skilled golfer, but he also exemplified the principles of sportsmanship and fair play. Early in his amateur career, he was in the final playoff of the 1925 U.S. Open at the Worcester Country Club. During the match, his ball ended up in the rough just off the fairway, and as he was setting up to play his shot, his iron caused a slight movement of the ball. He immediately got angry with himself, turned to the marshals, and called a penalty on himself. The marshals discussed among themselves and questioned some of the gallery if anyone had seen Jones’ ball move. Their decision was that neither they nor anyone else had witnessed any incident, so the decision was left to Jones. Bobby Jones called the two-stroke penalty on himself, not knowing that he would lose the tournament by that one stroke. When he was praised for his gesture, Jones replied, “You may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.”

Doing what you know in your heart to be honorable, according to the principles of God’s Word and your personal conviction of right and wrong, is to live with integrity. Your conscience, what the Bible calls the Lord’s “still small voice,” is very often a reliable guide when it comes to determining right and wrong.

Gandhi put it well when he said: “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small voice’ within me.”

Now, here is a story about a single mother in California who died, leaving her eight children parentless.

The oldest daughter, who was 16 at the time that her mother died, took up the enormous challenge of raising her seven brothers and sisters. It was a tremendous struggle; she missed her mother terribly, but she managed to keep her brothers and sisters clean, well-fed, and in school.

When someone complimented her on the sacrifice she was making, saying she really didn’t have to do all that, she replied, “I can’t take credit for something I have to do.” The enquirer then challenged her, saying, “But, my dear, you don’t have to. You could get out of it.”

She paused for a moment and then replied, “Yes, that’s true. But what about the ‘have to’ that’s inside of me?”—Stephen Covey

We all have an internal compass that directs our thoughts and decisions. And how we develop our character depends on if we’re willing to trust and respect our inner conscience, which will inevitably lead us to make hard decisions from time to time if we want to do the right thing. It’s not easy.

There’s often a way, especially in today’s society and business world, to justify little deviances from what we know to be right, and such deviances can put us on a slippery slope pretty quickly. One wrong leads to another, and pretty soon our convictions wane, we excuse ourselves, and that’s when we run the risk of our character being weakened, damaging our integrity, tarnishing our reputation, coming to the point where we devalue the bond of our word and allow our personal happiness and peace of mind to come under attack through condemnation, regret, and embarrassment.

I think everyone wants to live without regret. But how do you do that? By making decisions that are based on your personal conviction, your personal Christian code of ethics.

Regardless of whether a person is a Christian or not, there are characteristics, attitudes, and actions that will hinder your success and hurt your reputation.—Behaviors such as lying, gossiping, having prejudices, not keeping your word, not following through on your commitments, not being dependable to do quality work, or not making your deadlines.

There are practical approaches to living a Christian, principle-centered life, one that you’ll be proud of. Let’s check out some advice of several outstanding men in the field of leadership.

John C. Maxwell, called America’s expert on leadership, is a New York Times bestselling author who has sold more than 19 million books, some of which have been translated into more than 50 languages. He is a Christian. His book, Ethics 101, puts forth the concept that a person can live a life of integrity by following the Golden Rule: “Do onto others as you would have others do onto you.”

So ask yourself the question, “How would I like to be treated in this situation?” Doing this is an integrity guideline for any situation.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the Golden Rule. There are times that I think we are so familiar with this term that we altogether miss its powerful meaning. An interesting fact about the Golden Rule is that a rendering of it is found in most of the widespread belief systems. The Golden Rule is a guideline of life in almost every culture I know of. It may surprise you to know how similarly the world’s religions view this concept. Let’s look at a few of these:

Confucianism states: “Do not do to others what you would not like yourself.”

Zoroastrians are advised that “if you do not wish to be mistreated by others, do not mistreat anyone yourself.”

Muslims are taught no one is a true believer “until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.”

Hinduism warns never to behave “towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself.”

The Torah says, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.”—Jon Huntsman

It is interesting that so many other faiths have this fundamental value as a tenet of their religious conviction. That shows clearly just how important and valuable the words of Jesus are: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Take a moment to meditate on those words. Do you truly live them?

If you need a little more practical application of this Golden Rule approach to integrity, consider what you’re thinking about your decisions, what your “self-talk” is saying.

Rationalizing an unethical decision, such as by justifying or minimizing the potential impact of your actions, can distort your thinking. To see if you are rationalizing, ask yourself these questions:

If you were on the receiving end of this action, how would you feel?

Would you want a loved one to be on the receiving end?

If your action was covered on the evening news, how would you feel?

Would you want your child to emulate this action?

How would you feel if your mother, father, or someone you greatly admire knew about this?—Ronald A. Howard and Clinton D. Korver

In Ethics 101, Maxwell also explains that people make poor ethical decisions, or actively choose an unethical path, for three reasons:

First, they do what comes easily to them rather than what they know is right.

Second, they think they have to act unethically to get ahead.

Third, they let themselves be guided by situational ethics, doing what seems right in specific situations rather than adhering to a consistent code of behavior.

It’s worth our while to reflect on these three traps to see if we are either guilty of such behavior, or tottering on the brink and about to slip into poor ethical behavior.

Of course, it’s not easy to make the right decisions all the time. There will be times when it will cost us to make those hard calls, and you might even wonder if it’s that big a deal, really, in the overall scope of life. This is when it’s important to remember that good character can’t be developed quickly. You build it over years of conscious ethical choices. So if you want to be a person of great character, it’s those difficult daily decisions that make the difference, and if you choose the easy path, you might never reach your desired destination.—John C. Maxwell

Okay, what about the idea that you have to step outside your personal belief system or code of ethics as a Christian to get ahead. Is that true? I’m sure plenty of people would have you believe that, and might even actively try to win you to that school of thought, possibly in an effort to justify their own flawed thinking. But this is when it’s important to remember the “God factor.” God is all-seeing, all-knowing. He loves us and He wants us to be happy, and He’s eager for us to have what we and our families need. He is not a stingy, hard-line, long-faced taskmaster who wants us to suffer or live in squalor and poverty. He is a generous, loving God, who wants to provide what we need. So to think that we would have to step outside of the Golden Rule in order to get ahead is an insult to God. It’s like a slap in the face, telling Him that He’s not making good on His promises.

I will help to engineer things so that you will be happy, you will have your needs met, and I will even do extra things for you to reward you. You will forget about the sacrifices, because I will pay you back abundantly. And remember that when I pay you back to the point where you don’t feel that you’ve made a sacrifice, that’s where it has only reached one percent of your reward. My promise is to repay one hundredfold, so there’s much, much, much more yet to come!—Jesus, speaking in prophecy

 
 

From the Roadmap series
Copyright © The Family International.