Friday, February 5, 2016

Is Holiness Relevant for Today?

Is Holiness Relevant for Today?
Holiness has become a lost concept in today’s Christianity. If we don’t do something about it now, we will lose future generations to the enticements of secularism in the world.

Flowing robes, stiff collars, pious expressions, these are a few thoughts that come to mind when you think of the word Holy. Many people think holiness only applies to those that live in seclusion or who have chosen to live chaste lives. Holiness is often identified with religious people who are saintly and untouchable allowing the common man to flow with the current culture with very little consequence. This way of thinking eases the sinful conscious of the “common” man by determining that holiness is not required for everyone. By their honoring what they “perceive” as holy they feel at ease, while their own lives continue unchanged. Sadly this approach is very often seen in the church today. In many congregations, the pews are filled with carnal Christians. Although the leadership is expected to represent holy living, and rightly so, the congregation continues to indulge in secular delicacies. When did it come acceptable for Christians to claim to be faithful followers of Jesus, but live their lives in complete contrast? The line between sin and righteousness has been erased. Instead, we do whatever we feel like doing. The instruction in the Bible is there for us, but it hasn’t become a way of life. The world’s entertainment has become much too delicious for us to pass up.

Every future generation is affected by the previous generation’s complacency. We owe it to future generations to get serious about God; otherwise, they will not only follow our same nonchalant attitude but do it in excess. We must change the course of our lives and break this pattern of apathy that is in the church today.

Was God only looking at the present day culture when He commanded His people... 'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy. Leviticus 19:2(NIV) and again here, Peter exclaimed ... what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 2 Peter 3:11(NIV) Knowing that God is the same yesterday, today and forever and He does not change, we can all agree that the same guidelines of holiness that were set thousands of years ago are still relevant for today’s culture. I used to think to myself if only I lived a few hundred years back, holiness would have been a cinch. Reading late century books, most had religion tucked in them somewhere. There were no movies, television shows, magazines or music to be enticed by. When compared with today’s pull, it seemed doable. I’m sure those living in that time had their own struggles, their own obstacles, their own short comings.

Today’s television programs tell all, say all and show all. Reality t.v. has hit the airwaves and is becoming increasingly popular. The price people pay for the exploitation of their family’s life is devastating and the repercussion it plays is usually beyond repair. The sacredness and respect of their private lives have become front page news. The dirtier the scandal, the more we tune in to watch. Much entertainment from movies and television use our God’s Holy name as a curse word and delight their viewers with scenarios that contradict our Biblical believes. Yet, we sit there soaking it all in as if it doesn’t even faze us. We are drawn to these things and we gladly indulge in them.

The question is. How does God view all this? Does He really care what we watch, what we read or what we listen too? Many of us never even consider God’s thoughts in these areas. We just assume that as long as we’re not out there doing things we see, then we must be fine.

If holiness is what is required of our lives, let’s find out exactly what the Bible says about the subject. Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (Corinthians 7:1) When we become Christians there is a change that goes on inside us. Our spirit becomes new (born again). Our past sins are forgiven and the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. Our spirits are much like a newborn baby ... sensitive to its surroundings. There is an awareness that God is with us. Committing sin at this point brings conviction to the heart. The more conscious we are to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, the less likely we are to indulge in sin. Sin is much more identifiable when the Spirit is present. At the same time, the more we resist the Holy Spirit’s conviction on our hearts about sin, the more we indulge in sin until eventually we loose discernment between right and wrong or what is pleasing and unpleasing to God. This brings us to worldly entertainment. The more we partake of it, the less we will be convicted about it. The Bible says without holiness we will not see God. (Hebrews 12:14) Living holy is not just a suggestion, but a beneficial command.

Holiness is simply living our lives in a way that is more pleasing to God than to our own flesh. If I were to make a detailed list of what is holy and what is unholy, it would provoke insincere devotion. Holiness is not that. True holiness comes from a passion for God. Apathy comes when our passion for God begins to cool until it is nonexistent. This is a place where sin in many forms is unrecognizable. Worldly entertainment being the greatest downfall of our spiritual lives, with its anti-Bible implications, becomes accepted. This is a dangerous place to be in because many of us are blinded to it.

So where does one begin? Holiness isn’t a set of rules and regulations we must follow. It truly begins with a heart change. Once our heart comes in line with God, our actions will follow in succession. Repentance is the antidote for holiness. It must begin with acknowledgement of our wrong choices and our apathy before God. Like I mentioned before, when we are in this state, we cannot always discern right from wrong. Just because something seems right doesn’t mean it is. I once heard a friend say concerning R rated movies. “It’s ok if I watch them because they don’t have any effect on me.” His discernment wasn’t there. Without God’s word we would not know right from wrong. A 2-year-old doesn’t understand what is right and wrong. They must be taught otherwise they will grow up to do whatever they please. In the same way, we too must search God’s word to find out what truth is and what is not. Without the Spirit’s convicting power and the truth that we find in the word of God, we will not know what it means to live holy.

Once we have gotten our hearts right with God, then our desire for holiness will grow. The closer we come to God, the deeper our hunger to live pleasing to Him will develop. It’s only because of our desire to please God that we will turn the television off when we hear God’s name used blasphemously; or avoid a movie because of its playful acceptance of sex before marriage; or change the radio station because of a song’s casual reference to getting drunk and partying.

Holiness will challenge us at times. It is in contrast with our sinful nature, but with continual seeking of God we too will see the Lord. Holy living is a direct fruit of a heart that is devoted to God. Unless our hearts are fully devoted to God, holiness with be absent from our lives. Seek Him with your whole heart. Naomi Cassata

Friday, January 29, 2016

It Starts at Home

It Starts at Home
Last week a friend called and was relating to me an event that occurred at her place of work. She reminded me through her experience that we must be very prayerful and sensitive to those around me. I’d like to share her account with you.

I went in to work and as always, hugged one of the co-workers. What I experienced shook my world. You see, it was very cold outside and when I wrapped my arms around my friend, she was just as cold as the temperature outside. I have known all along this lady struggles to make ends meet, but is very faithful to come to work, to the point of taking the bus everyday.

I asked her if she had a coat, and embarrassed she responded, “no.” I took off my coat and gave it to her and felt a deep pain because I knew at home I had more than one coat in my closet, and here was a lady without one, in this cold weather.

It didn’t end there, as I walked around the corner I noticed the big box we’d set up earlier in the month! It wasn’t just any box, it was a box labeled and designed to collect coats for the needy. There were already several in the box, and for that I was grateful, but I was shaken by the fact, a lady I work with 5 days a week, 8-10 hours a day, is in need of the very thing we are collecting for others. How could I have missed this? 

Her story is not uncommon. I think we have good intentions, but often overlook what is right in front of us. Collecting coats or toys or food is an awesome thing, but if we are overlooking the people in our circle, have we not missed a beat? It is easy to assume that people have provisions if they are working, but I am a witness that sometimes this just isn’t the case. Sometimes there are needs that do not have top priority because we have to keep the electric running, or food on the table. 

We are in the winter season, and in most places it is very cold. I dare say many reading this today have more than one coat in your closet. I challenge you today to pray and ask God to reveal, first if there is someone in your circle that is in need, and then if your circle of friends and family are provided for, then ask Him to show you who else might be in need. 

Please understand there is a fine line of balance here! I am talking to those who have more than one proverbial coat in the closet. If you have food on your table, and more than enough clothes to keep you warm, and you go out of your way to give to others who come collecting for the needy, but you have family members or friends (including brothers in sisters that you sit by every Sunday) that are hungry and cold, then you need to take inventory! 

I know people who barely get by and they give everything they have—unselfishly—to those in need around them without concern of being recognized for their good deeds! That’s CHARITY! That’s LOVE! Still there are others who could give up a coat for a friend! You could invite someone to dinner, throwing in an extra box of macaroni and cheese cost little. There have been times when I had very little, as well as my neighbor, but we combined our ‘little’ and came up with a great dinner!

After talking with my friend, I’ve taken inventory. From all appearances I don’t have much. I live simply, but you know what I found? 5 coats in my closet (I can only wear one at a time); 10 sweatshirts; 3 pair of gloves; 2 scarves and I could continue on but you get the point. Is God telling me to empty my closet? I didn’t hear those words, but I was made aware of how much I have. Then it was like my eyes were open and someone within my circle was without a coat (it is 5 degrees here, bad to be without a coat). There was no hesitation on my part to give what I have, but a humble reminder that as bad as it may seem at times, there is someone who may have it a little worse.

Let’s look at our close circle and pray and ask God if there is something we can do, and then ask Him to stretch us a little further to see if there are others, outside of our circle! Let’s not be guilty of assuming someone around us has the basic provisions! Let’s take it to God and ask for guidance!

One last note, if it is cold outside and you are warm, you are blessed! If you ate dinner last night, you are blessed! If you have a coat and warm clothes, you are blessed! If you have a car to drive you where you need to go, you are blessed! If you have a job, you are blessed! There are many, all around us, who would have given anything for a meal last night, and you might be surprised to find out they are not homeless, but are a part of your circle of friends! Jounda LaMance

James 2:15-16 (AMP)
If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day, And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 

Jehovah Jirah, Lord our Provider! Thank You for our daily provisions! Thank You for meeting our needs! We have been more than taken care of and we know that it is all because of You! We also recognize that everything we have is a blessing from You! Help us Lord to remember this! Help us not to be selfish with what we have and help us Lord to see those around us that might be in need! If there is something we can do, give us the wisdom and direction to be a blessing, so that YOU receive all glory and honor and praise! In Your Mighty Precious Name we pray, AMEN!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Doing What We Don’t Like Doing

Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:24 NAS)

Doing What We Don't Like Doing
One of the resolutions I have made for this year is not to be afraid to do things I do not like doing.

Over the years of working life, I have been very selective of the kind of jobs I do. This is because I believe that unless I am doing what I like doing and have been blessed with the relevant skills and talent that are God-given, I would never be really happy.

So when I was laid off from a writer's job by a corporation a few years ago, I sought to find another writing job as I believed that my interest in writing was the God-given talent He had meant for me to pursue. The wait, however, proved to be too long to keep my loved ones going, hence, without a choice I took on the only door opened for me during then of a contract job with a non-profit organization.

The job turned out to be more challenging than expected because I have to do beyond the scope of the designated position, project management and budget planning which are areas I do not particularly like. This has caused increased stress not only for me but also for my family. Nevertheless, I continued with the organization following the direction I believe is God-led, and after a year, I was signed-on to a permanent position.

Now, with the demands of the job increasing by the day, I am left with little time to do what I really like—writing. Nevertheless, my desire and resolution is to walk with God and be found willing to do, beyond the things that I like, what God wants me to do.

Perhaps, like me, some of us are presently doing whatever we can to make a living. We may not be liking our job or doing what we like. But are we willing to still work at it with all our heart as working for the Lord and not for human masters? 

Enoch walked with God and was reckoned for his faith as one who pleased God. Like him, are we resolute in pleasing God and making God’s will our will? Are we willing to give our best in whatever we do at wherever we are placed? Whether at work or in the church, it is the Lord Christ whom we serve, and it is from Him we will receive an inheritance as a reward. (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5; Colossians 3:23-24)

Dear Lord, grant us a willing heart to make Your will our will, even if it means to leave our comfort zone to do what You would have us do. We know where You place us, You will also accompany us and give us the ability and the strength. Your love assures us Your will is the best for us, and to please You is our pleasure and our joy.

Friday, January 15, 2016

White as Snow

"Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool." (Isaiah 1:18 NAS)

White as Snow
Wow! Where do I begin to speak about the Word of God? From my past posts it can be seen that God took me on a journey through His word that began with a simple, “Come to me and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28)”, to “Cast your cares upon the Lord because He loves you” (1 Peter 5:7). For me, these two verses were the beginning of wisdom. They are the perfect starting point for anyone new to Jesus and His salvation. In the Word, Jesus said that, if I called upon His Name, then I would be saved. I did, and so did He, just as He had promised, long before I was born. I now stand forgiven in Christ; a new man; a new creation.

God never ceases to amaze me in what He will do and has done in my life. Every promise He made to me has been kept. He promised to save me – He did (Isaiah 45:22). He promised to always be with me – He has (Matt 28:20). He promised that He would never let me go it alone – He hasn’t (Ps 73:23). Every step I have taken with God has been blessed and accomplished through His strength, His wisdom, and His love. There has not been a time in the last fourteen years that God has let me down once. He has always held me up in whatever situation I faced. God’s work in my life has given me to confidence to follow Him anywhere because I know that it is He who will accomplish it through me. I have His word on it (Ps 62:8).

Isaiah 1:18 is one of the most beautiful, joyful, and extraordinary set of words ever written. Jesus is asking me to reason with Him about the fact that His salvation and forgiveness have washed away my sins to the point of His not seeing them anymore as they once were, dirty and stained, but now sees them as being as white as snow and like new wool, fresh and clean. This is a promise I can grasp a hold of and cling to when Satan or others around me try to “help” me remember who I once was before Jesus.

God promised that I would one day preach the Gospel, which I have done from time to time, and through the articles I write and post. God promised me in 1999 that I would go to bible school, and here I am, learning and growing. God has promised to take care of me in any and every situation, something He has never failed to do. I lean on the promises of God because I know that I can trust them, and because I know their source. Every word found in the Bible is a promise from God that He is in control of your life, if you promise Him to step out of His way and let Him lead it, He will. God’s promises never fail (Isa 54:10; Heb 6:18). Bobby Bruno

Friday, January 8, 2016

Created for God's Purpose

Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; (Isaiah 44:24 KJV)

Created for God's Purpose
This verse states something that I think we hear all the time, and don't always pay it too much attention ... Something that seems so obvious, and yet when we really think about it, it completely blows the mind away. Or it does mine, at least. I know I certainly do not think about it half as much as I should but I think that maybe if I did meditate on it more, I would see life, my life, and the lives of others, much, MUCH differently ...

The verse starts by stating that God is my redeemer, but this isn't really the BIG thing that I want to look at ... it also says that God formed me from the womb – again, this is incredible, but it's not the BIG thing I'm looking at. I look at those first two statements in the context of the whole verse, which shows me that God is not only my redeemer, but He also is creator of all things. In other words – the very beginning of all existence in this Universe, is the same creator that formed me in the womb! The Lord God – Maker of Heaven and Earth – creator of life itself – God unsearchable – He Who knows the stars by name ... the very same God took the time to form me, and create me. The very same God is my Maker, and my Redeemer. I am but a speck ... not even that. I'm even less than a speck on the incredibly vast, infinite canvas that is God's created Universe. Comparatively, I am so small, and seemingly insignificant, and yet God cares about every detail in my life. He cares so much that He wants me to commune with Him, to rely on Him, to trust in Him and nothing or no one else ... I say 'me', but I also mean 'you'. He planned us all from the beginning. I sit here and think; 'why me? ... What makes me so unique? What makes me so desirable to God?'. Quite simply – just the fact that I was created for His purpose. He is a good God, and He cares A LOT about my welfare. Imagine that! The very source of existence, my reason for being wants ME to exist for HIM eternally ...

The price didn't come cheap ... and to be honest, I think sometimes we think it did. Or at least I know I act that way a lot of the time. I spend far too much time selling myself short for things that just don't matter, when God is saying “I gave EVERYTHING so that you could enjoy life with me! Just come and see what you can have!” - God's redemption of man was no small thing. It was not just a light, quick fix like some kind of headache tablet. It was a once and for all sacrifice that was never done before, and will NEVER be done again. If it was to be done again, then it would nullify the whole thing in the first place. What God did, was become a man, therefore leaving the glory of Heaven in order to live on earth – a song puts it as 'You laid aside Your Majesty, gave up everything for me. Suffered at the hands of those you had created ...' The fact that God gave up so much, and suffered so much, in order to give me so much is truly astounding ... The fact that I could mean so much to God is just unfathomable! May it never be something that I would take for granted, and may it always be something that I would appreciate with every ounce of my being! And, may I always continue to offer Him everything and all He asks for – myself. 

We may not seem like much in this vast, expansive Universe ... but the Bible tells us that we have a purpose, and that God cares about everything about us. Even the little things. Every single detail ... So we might seem insignificant to some, but the God of Heaven – the Creator of all existence, says that we are worth something, and therefore it is His opinion that we should probably be bothered about. 

On our own, sure, we could not come to God. Because He is all Holy, and we are not. It is only by Jesus' sacrifice that we can come into communion and fellowship with Him. That's why Jesus said He was the ONLY way to the Father. Nothing we could do is good enough. But isn't it then incredible that God made the way!? Knowing that we couldn't do anything, God did something about it! We cannot earn God's love, and we cannot pave the way ourselves. It is not within our capacity to do so – God has done it all for us. 

He cares enough to take the time to form us. He cares enough to make it possible for us to fellowship with Him, when we can't physically do anything. All He asks is for us in return. For our bodies, “as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12) – All we can do is offer ourselves to a life of worship to Him. Is it easy? No. Not at all. But it's possible. And God gives us everything we need. The strength, the correction, the faith, the peace, the love, the joy ... get the picture?

What does God want with me? Well, He wants to make me into the person He created me to be. He knows what He's doing so the best I can do, and the best we can all do is say 'Lord, forgive me of my sins. Forgive me of the way I took my eyes off You. I choose You Lord! Because You chose me first! I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Come into my life. Take me as I am, and change me into who you created me to be. Teach me, lead me and guide' – and watch Him do His incredible work! Jonathan Boustead

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Opportunities for a New Year

New Opportunities for a New Year
Last year was interesting for me. I would have never guessed that some things ended up the way that they did. We only guess the future.

Without a doubt there were things that I could have done better:

  • I could have prayed more
  • I could have studied harder
  • I could have spent wiser
  • I could have exercised more
  • I could have read more
  • I could have found more creative ways to show my loved ones that 
  • I appreciate them
  • I could have saved more
  • I could have gotten to know more people

As you look at my list I’m sure that you can think of your own list.

There is one thing that I want to take more seriously, and that is Christ’s second coming. If I really believe that then it should be reflected in my life. I need to think about it. I need to pray about it. I need to tell others about it.

I encourage us not to take a few things for granted:

  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • The sensation of touch
  • Smelling 
  • Taste
  • Parents
  • Spouses (boyfriends / girlfriends)
  • Relatives
  • Church Family
  • Good Friends
  • Being able to read and write
  • Technology
  • Travel
  • God’s grace

With each new day we are given the opportunity to make decisions.

The Apostle Paul shares: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

This year I encourage us to forget those feelings of I “should have” / “could have” and press ahead. That word for “press” in this context means to pursue aggressively. I want to be closer to God in such a way that I have no time to get stuck in yesterday. Every single day I want to draw closer to God! This is my encouragement to you brother and sister who has ended this year burdened and feeling defeated. God can still lift burdens and give you the desire and the ability to serve Him!

So with this New Year embrace the new opportunities! Emeka Buffong

Blessed New Year 2016

Wishing You a Blessed Year Ahead!

Happy New Year

You crown the year with your bounty; 
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.

Psalm 65:11 (ESV)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Without Christ

Christmas Without Christ
Through our naked eyes, we could see that Christmas Season is the brightest and most colorful season of the year, but in spiritual sense, Christmas Season and its spiritual significance could be obscured by carnal hearts of men.

Right heart with God and an in-depth study of the Scriptures make a man to be more appreciative of the true essence of Christmas.

Christmas is C-hrist’s H-istoric, R-emarkable I-ncarnation S-tory, T-elling M-essiah’s A-waited S-alvation.

Every Christmas Season people are deeply engaged in the affairs of the world without realizing Christ’s remarkable visit to sinful men. Truly, lack of interest on spiritual things and an indifferent attitude toward God’s Word can lead people to carnality and pride.

Sometimes we ask these thought-stirring questions to ourselve: Does Christmas Season really help people draw closer to God or to gold? Does Christmas Season lead us to the Word or to the world? Does Christmas Season make a Christian spiritual or carnal?

We must realize that Christmas is a great reminder to us all, and we strongly believe that this season is a great help for spiritual Christians to grow in the knowledge of the Lord and become stronger.

As we go through this well-celebrated season, may we not forget “the most special person of the season” which is the Lord Jesus Christ. Bear in mind that “Christmas without Christ is a mess.”

MESS: M-essiah’s unrecognized significance (Luke 2:1-6), E-arthly affairs (Luke 2:7; 1 John 2:15-17), S-piritual confusion (Matthew 2:3-7), S-piritual poverty (Matthew 2:13-18; Revelation 3:17-22).

As we enjoy the Season, may we not overlook the spiritual significance of Christmas. Have a merry Christmas not a messy X’mas. It is a blessing to celebrate Christmas in the center of God’s will and to experience the spiritual richness of the birth of Jesus, which is the Savior of the world. —Jose Cabajar

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 KJV)

Blessed Christmas 2015

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government 
shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, 
Prince of Peace. 

Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Ink Spots

Ink Spots
Several months ago while doing our laundry I accidentally left an ink pen in one of my pockets. When I opened the door on the clothes dryer I saw bright blue ink all over the white laundry! The inside of the dryer was a disaster! I think it was a brand new pen; and the ink went everywhere! Even now I see the results of my simple mistake; ink spots remain on our laundry.

Likely you have heard someone sarcastically say “What I do is my own business; it’s no concern of yours.” That is not usually true. What we do affects others. If we sin, it touches the lives of those around us, just as the ink from one single pen went on most of the laundry.

In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he explained the seriousness of immoral behavior (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). Within these verses we find this statement. “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" (verse 6 NKJ). Just as a little yeast spreads, so does our sin. Sin may not be as easy to see as blue ink; but it leaves stains that only the blood of Christ can remove. Laundry can always be replaced; the closet of your mind will hold your choices for a life time. Pam Ford Davis


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