Friday, October 17, 2014

Growing in Obedience

If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:26 NAS)

Growing in Obedience
I served as a librarian when I was in high school. At that time, much of the library's administration and cataloging depended on the typewriter, so I was sent to the YMCA to acquire typewriting skills. While at the YMCA, I read in a brochure about a free Christian correspondence course, so I enrolled and got to know about Christianity. Before long, faith found its way into my heart.

One day, while at the public library near my school, a student from another school approached me and invited me to attend a church-organized student meeting near the library’s vicinity. My first visit was to an evangelistic meeting, and having learned much about Jesus through several Christian correspondence courses, I was ready and received Jesus as my Lord immediately. 

Among the first lessons I learned as a new Christian was ‘to obey is better than sacrifice.’ At the age of 15, I was in a dilemma to obey God or man concerning water baptism. I knew if I decide to obey God and be baptized, I would have to disobey my parents who are ardent followers of Taoism. If I have asked for permission, my parents would have objected, and if they had known the date of the baptism, they would have locked me up and barred me from ever getting involved with Christianity again. I was after all still a minor under their governance, too young legally to make my own decision.

Troubled over the matter, I sought help from my pastor who counseled me and advised me “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). What he meant was if obedience to God is such a difficult decision for me to make, then I should not go ahead with water baptism until I am ready to willingly give myself to God. I chose then to skip my first opportunity of water baptism.

Over the next few months, my heart was troubled because of my disobedience to God. I was yearning to serve God in the student ministry, but without obedience in water baptism, it was impossible for me to serve Him wholeheartedly. It then became clear to me that although salvation is received the moment I invite Jesus into my heart, water baptism is a necessary step to declare my faith in Him. Getting baptized is the outward expression of my obedience; a witness to myself and to the public.

So when the next baptism came, I chose to disobey my parents and went ahead with water baptism in obedience to my heavenly Father. My life took a turn after that when I told my parents what I had done. Throughout the genealogy of my family, every member has remained a follower of Taoism, and what I did was deemed by my parents as unforgivable, an act of rebellion, and a violation of trust. For many years since, I was persecuted. 

Initially, my parents tried to bring me back to their fold by punishing me. I was starved, disciplined, and locked up on occasions, but eventually they gave me up as lost after I repeatedly refused to participate in their religious practices, which included ancestral worship and bowing down to idols. I became to my parents as one who had gone astray and not known my own roots, and to the people of the community a renegade and an outcast. 

Obeying God is not always easy. Whether we are a youth or an adult, there is often a price to pay when we choose to obey God. Yet, we must not to be disheartened, but ought instead to count all things loss for the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. Honor God and God will give us honor (Philippians 3:8; 1 Samuel 2:30; John 12:26).

Dear Lord, thank You for granting us Your salvation the moment we receive You as our Lord and Savior. Help us not be ashamed to declare to the world our faith in You, and to obey You in all areas of our lives because of our love for You. Grant us the courage to choose the narrow way that leads to life even when persecutions prelude our obedience. You are the way, the truth, and the life, and in You alone we have eternal life.

Friday, October 10, 2014

God Holds All the Pieces

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV)

God Holds All the Pieces
I love jigsaw puzzles! It’s so much fun to open a new puzzle and run my fingers through the box, making sure all the pieces are separated. Then I spread them out on the table and start sorting them by color, design and texture until I have a multitude of piles. Of course, I start by finding the edge pieces and making the frame. That’s the easy part! Then patiently, carefully, gradually the scene unfolds as one by one each piece goes into place.

One time our family did a very large puzzle that took days to piece together. With great excitement we slipped the last few pieces in place, only to discover that the very last piece was missing! We looked high and low but it just wasn’t anywhere to be found. I kept hoping one of the children was playing a trick on us and was hiding the missing piece in his hand. But no, the piece was simply gone, leaving us with an incomplete picture on the table. I was frustrated and frazzled!

Much of life is like a puzzle. It’s easy to focus only on bits and pieces and fail to look toward the end result. Or when things don’t seem to come together and the gaps in the picture produce confusion, life may seem hopeless or out of control. Gradually depression and anxiety creep in and steal away the joy and peace of the present, and the hope for the future.

But God is in control. He’s the One holding all of the pieces, and at just the right time, He can and will put them in place to make a beautiful picture out of even the most difficult and trying situation. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. His plan and purpose are much higher than anything you and I can comprehend. We can rest assured that one day He will slip that last piece into place and the picture of life will be complete. With God, there are no missing pieces. What comfort to know that He holds all the pieces in His sovereign hands. Not one of them is lost or misplaced. Ann Shorb

Friday, October 3, 2014

God Does Not Make Mistakes

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him not anything was made that was made. (John 1:1-3 ESV) 
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV) 

God Does Not Make Mistakes
At four and a half years of age, our daughter Stephanie was a free, unrestrained spirit. She appeared so minute, as she examined the over-rip clouds in the sky. She often shared the heavens with me in similes, metaphors, and exclamations:

“Mommy! The sky is moving!”

“See the clouds swimming in the sky!”

“Mommy! Who painted the sky?”

“Does God have a great big paintbrush, Mommy?”

“Mommy, God’s moon is walking with me!”

“God’s stars are winking at me!”

“I’m glad God shares beautiful things with us, aren’t you, Mommy?!”

Now, years later, the news media bombards us with hurricanes, torrential rains, floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes destroying homes and lands. It flashes the moral decay of men and women who, politically religiously, lead our nation. It fills the airways with the assassinations of world leaders, the threat of nuclear war, and world oblivion. It brings into our homes crime, violence, gangs, and the illegal use of drugs. It speaks to us of the hungry, the diseased, the dying—of shattered homes and broken lives; and it fills our minds with thoughts of bankruptcies, poor economy, and deep recession.

When I can see no reason in it all, I return to the Windowsill of Heaven where I am reminded of the unquestioned trust of a little child in “heavenly things,” and I find God there—still just as real, still just as near as He was in those shared moments with Stephanie.

I focus my eyes on Him, “who made heaven and earth and everything therein.” I kneel and pray, “Lord, when I cannot see the purpose, when I can’t answer the “whys,” keep me walking by faith. Continue to remind me that You still are in charge and that You do no make mistakes.”

As I rise to face the world again, His moon “walks with me,” and His stars “wink at me” - and the child in me knows that there will come a day when we shall have the answers—a day when we shall see God and know Him!

Am I focused on God who is in charge of all things and who never makes mistakes? Laura Anne Harrison

Thank You, Lord, for “being there” in every thing, in every time . . . and for always being in charge.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Forgiven

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9 NIV)

Forgiven
In her 25 years of marriage, Deb has dealt with domestic violence and cheating, yet she chose to forgive her husband. She realized forgiveness was a crucial step in helping her heal. Deb and her husband had separated twice and gone through marriage counseling. She believes this has made their marriage stronger and they now tackle their issues together.

“Forgiveness is for you, not the other person,” Deb said, sharing her story at SheKnows.com with hopes of helping others. “It does not excuse them for what they did to you, but why carry that around with you for life? Release it and let it go.”

The Book of Hosea recorded for us another story of a loving husband who forgave his wife for unfaithfulness. Gomer left Hosea and found another man, but Hosea remained faithful. He searched for her, redeemed her, and brought her back home to himself.

“You are to live with me many days,” Hosea said to Gomer. “You must not … be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you” (Hosea 3:3).

Forgiving someone who hurts us badly is not going to be easy. It requires love and grace. Unless we love someone deeply, we will find it difficult to forgive, for love requires us to be patient and kind. It does not seek to dishonor the other, and is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, and does not keep record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Love is not condoning wrongdoings, but is forgiving someone the wrong done to us. It is not burying what had happened, but keeping no record of the wrongs done. Forgiveness is not something a wrongdoer can do or undo to restore a broken relationship or to redeem oneself. It is grace extended by the one who has been hurt to willingly forgive the other without seeking revenge or returning evil. Grace is love expressed in kind to another even while he or she has done nothing deserving of forgiveness (Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8).

In grace our Savior God came down to reveal His love to us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He forgave us all our sins, and in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of God's grace. If we, therefore, confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness (Titus 3:4; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:9).

Are we storing up bitterness and hurting ourselves and our loved ones over the wrongdoings of our spouse? Are we too distraught to have the heart to forgive the wrong done to us? Are we able and willing to extend grace to the one who broke our heart and move on?

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates relationships. We need to forgive and let go if we hope to move on and stop hurting ourselves and our loved ones. Just as our Lord loved us so much that He gave His life for us even while we were yet sinners, let us forgive the ones who hurt us, even if the relationship is not going to work out the way we hope (Proverbs 17:9; Ephesians 4:31-32).

Dear Lord, forgive us for hurting others because of the bitterness we store in our heart and our unwillingness to forgive. Teach us to let go and move on, regardless how the future develops in our relationships. Give us a heart of love that extends grace even to people who do not deserve our forgiveness. Purify us from all unrighteousness and set us free from our hurting heart to experience Your healing, love, and grace.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Great Rescue

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 NAS)

A Great Rescue
When a child riding a bicycle was attacked by a neighbor's dog, his family cat ran to the rescue by hurling itself on the dog and chasing it off. This incident was caught on surveillance cameras and took place at Bakersfield in California on May 13, 2014. Four-year-old Jeremy sustained various bite marks which required stitches. The dog identified as an eight-month-old Labrador and Chow mix was reportedly surrendered by its owners to the police and was later put down. For its heroic deed, the cat was honored with the ceremonial first pitch at a minor league baseball game.

The story of the cat risking its life to save Jeremy was reported in the local and overseas news. Another story far greater than this of God becoming man and giving His life to save us all is found in the Bible. Surely, such good news deserves much more global coverage. For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person someone might dare to die, but God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (Romans 5:7-8; John 15:13).

Not all dogs are of course like the dog that bit Jeremy or all cats like the cat that saves the day. The decision to pursue the right or wrong path is entirely our own. Nevertheless, it is not doing good or bad that decides our eternity. For by grace we have been saved through faith and this is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so no one may boast. God did not send His Son, Jesus, into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16-17).

Whether to follow Jesus is our choice. But when the day comes for Him to sit on His glorious throne, He will separate the ones who are true to Him and those who are not of Him. Like the cat that received honor for doing good, those true to Him shall be blessed and inherit the kingdom. But like the dog that was put down for wrongdoing, those not of Him who continue to dwell in sin will face the eternal fire (Matthew 25:31-46).

Are we certain or in doubt of our eternity? Are we assuming we can earn our salvation through good works? Are we thinking to ourselves we are not that bad to warrant severe punishment?

The epistle to the Romans makes it clear that all have sin and the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. If we confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in our heart God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-10).

This is the testimony that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (1 John 5:11-12; John 14:6).

If we have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, rest assured our eternity is secured, for God has given us eternal life through His Son. Rather than be put down for our wrongdoings, therefore, choose to be honored for saving others by bringing them to Jesus and continue to walk in Him all the rest of the days of our lives (Colossians 2:6).

Dear Lord, thank You for laying down Your life to save us even while we were yet sinners. We know no amount of good works we do is good enough to save us or to earn our salvation, for You alone are the way, the truth, and the life. Forgive us and cleanse us from all our sins and iniquities. Grant us Your free gift of salvation as we confess with our heart and mouth You are our Lord and Savior in whom we have eternal life.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Spillovers

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5 NAS)

Spillovers
Sipping a cup of coffee or tea is a pleasure for many of us, but have we ever wondered why a cup is usually accompanied by the saucer? The answer by a forum participant at Answers.Yahoo.com is it “keeps spills contained, provides a rest for the teaspoon, protects the table from the teacup's heat, and it looks elegant.” That, in essence, summarizes the role of a saucer to a cup. Its purpose is to provide containment for overflowing or drippings that flows down the side of the cup, besides looking good for those specially designed.

When King David in Psalm 23:5 said, “My cup overflows,” he was referring to God’s goodness and lovingkindness toward him, which more than abundantly exceeded beyond mere sufficiency. All of us, without a doubt, would like to be blessed far more abundantly beyond what we ask or think, but life in the real world is not always overflowing with milk and honey. Sometimes, we need to go through times of living humbly, and at times when blessings are found lacking, spillovers may temporarily be sufficient to see us through our desperate need (Psalm 23:5-6; Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 4:12).

The story of Ruth in the Old Testament is an example of the Lord’s provision, love and care for us during difficult times. Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, were so poor she had to pick food fallen on the ground left behind by harvesters gathering the crops. So when Ruth rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants and said, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. Also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her” (Ruth 2:15-16).

Gleaning from what is left behind on the ground is similar to the role of the saucer keeping in containment the spillovers from the cup. As humbling as it seems, spillovers might sometimes be the only means by which we are able to keep our loved ones and ourselves alive while we wait. During such times when our cup is not overflowing with plenty, humility to pick up leftovers may be the only solution to make ends meet.

Is our cup overflowing? Praise the Lord and forget none of His benefits. Is our cup empty with only spillovers in the saucer? Fret not, God will not leave us wanting and will restore to us all that we need. In the meantime, stay open to alternatives and do not despise roles that are seemingly humbling, so long as they are means to sustaining our loved ones and ourselves. Just as not all cups and saucers are designed elegant or beautiful, we need not concern ourselves as to how others look at us. Look ahead, for the days are coming when we shall rise again with cups overflowing and the saucers spilling over with plenty to bless others (Psalm 103:2; Job 42:10, 12; Joel 2:25).

Have this attitude in us while waiting, to keep deception and lies far from us. Seek God to give us neither poverty nor riches so we might not have too much and disown Him or be in want to steal and profane the name of our God (Proverbs 30:8-9).

Dear Lord, thank You for overflowing our cups with Your blessings, and for emptying our cups at times to lead us back to You. Open our eyes amid our struggles to see the roles we can play to make ends meet, so we might be able to provide for our loved ones and ourselves. Keep us looking up and looking out while we wait. Put away deception and lies far from us and give us neither poverty nor riches so we might not deny You or profane Your name. Restore to us, beyond spillovers, Your abundance so our cups might once again overflow with Your blessings to extend help to others who are struggling.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Unlocking the Power

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19 NIV)

Unlocking the Power
Those of us who use a smartphone or handheld tablet computer would probably be familiar with apps like OneDrive, Dropbox, iCloud Drive or Google Drive. These apps allow users to store photos, videos, information and other type of files remotely on the ‘cloud’ or the Internet using borrowed space provided by vendors on their storage devices, servers or computers. Files uploaded to the storage are secured through an algorithm built into the respective storage device, similar to the lock and key. Users who wish to retrieve their files from storage must first have the right key, which is the login user ID and password, in order to unlock the lock to access the system’s storage space.

Securing the things we consider important under lock and key is nothing unusual, but securing ourselves under closed doors out of fear is. On the evening of the first day of the week after Jesus’ death on the cross, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:19-21).

As followers of the Lord, we have been sent to share the gospel to the yet unsaved. But many a time, we ‘lock’ ourselves behind closed doors when it comes to sharing. Although we have been empowered with the Holy Spirit, we are fearful of what others would think of us if we speak out for the Lord. In so doing, we fall into the danger of being like the teachers of the law and Pharisees who shut the door of the kingdom of heaven and would not let those who are trying to enter get in. How sad it would be for us if by our actions or avoidance we prevent others from coming to the Lord (John 20:22-23; Matthew 23:13).

Are we ashamed or fearful of sharing the gospel? Are we preventing others from knowing the Lord by the way we live or by our action? Are we living out Jesus Christ in us? Are we waiting and still searching for the key to unlock the confidence in us to boldly share God’s grace and salvation to the world?

God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace. For by grace we have been saved through faith, and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so no one may boast. Let us, therefore, not be ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (2 Timothy 1:7-9; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 1:16). 

Rather than securing ourselves behind locked doors the next time around when opportunity knocks, let us let the Holy Spirit be our guide, and He will teach us what we should say. For He who dwells in us is greater than the one who is in this world, and He is the key to unlocking our confidence and boldness in God, of power, love and self-discipline (Luke 12:12; John 16:13; 1 John 4:4).

Dear Lord, thank You for giving us the key to unlocking Your power through the Holy Spirit to confidently and boldly share the gospel and the testimony about You. Help us not hold back the sharing of the faith to others that we might not unwittingly be the ones to prevent them from coming to You or from receiving salvation. Guide us what we should say so that Your grace may be extended to the yet unsaved through faith to accomplish Your purpose.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Discipleship

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 NAS)

Discipleship
When asked what are the pros and cons of living in the city, a New Yorker replied that “public transportation is the best thing since sliced bread.”

“Hop on a bus or train for about $2 a ride and it takes you to most places in the city,” wrote the New Yorker nicknamed ‘meep meep’ in a discussion thread at Answers. Yahoo.com. “It’s easy access and you don’t have to deal with gas or cars. A lot of things are easily available. You can go out and find record stores, button stores, any type of cuisine … lots of diversity, which helps you expand your horizons when it comes to knowledge, culture and friendships.”

On the flip side living in the city, however, is “it can be extremely impersonal” ‘meep meep’ continued. “Overcrowding can be very annoying … the air’s not what you call good quality … everything’s a tad bit more expensive.”

Like the good and the bad about living in the city, many people today think of faith and belief in God as something worth their while only if it yields returns of invested time, perhaps getting blessed with material wealth or opportunities to connect or network with people of prestige. Notwithstanding the fact that God promised in His word He will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory, there are sadly some of us who fall away fairly quickly when living the Christian life becomes too difficult. To these people, faith is all about the pros and cons.

What a contrast in the days of Jesus’ ministry on earth when discipleship is all about giving our all to follow the Lord (Luke 14:33).

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple,” Jesus said. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). 

“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37-38).

By this, of course, Jesus is not saying we should hate our parents, spouse, children, siblings or even our own life because of following Him. It just means Christian discipleship requires that above all we put Jesus first in our lives and carry our own cross in enduring afflictions, reproaches, persecutions, and whatever is disagreeable to the Christian faith, even death, to follow after Jesus. 

Are we following Jesus the way expected of a true disciple or are we weighing the pros and cons? Are we putting Jesus first in our lives above all else? Are we willing to take our own cross and bear up in the face of whatever is disagreeable to the faith?

Discipleship demands we live our lives for Christ, knowing that to die is gain. Whoever clings to his or her own life will lose it, but the one who loses his or her life for Christ will find it (Philippians 1:21; Matthew 10:39).

Dear Lord, we desire to put You first in our lives, above everything and everyone else. Forgive us for the times when our minds waver and deliberate the worth of following You, especially when things are not going well for us because of keeping the faith. We know You have given us Your all when You willingly laid down Your life on the cross to save us, and You deserve our all. We would not ask for anything else in return for our ‘invested’ time or the time we spend with You, for better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere. Grant us strength and a willing heart to bear up and carry our own cross, for You alone are our worth and our salvation.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Till Death Do Us Part

Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33 NAS)

Till Death Do Us Part
As the bride walked down the church aisle with her father giving her hand to the bridegroom, the joy overflowing from within the soon-to-be married couple was beyond words could describe. Some months and years later, however, the feelings were no longer the same. Before long the couple discovered love alone was not enough to sustain their marriage. Staying together till death do us part became elusive—a vow too difficult to keep.

Marrying at an early age, less education and income, living together before marriage, premarital pregnancy, and no religious affiliation, among many others, are factors contributing to people at higher risk of divorce, according to an article at Divorce.USU.edu. The most common reasons people give for their divorce are lack of commitment, too much arguing, infidelity, marrying too young, unrealistic expectations, lack of equality in the relationship, lack of preparation for marriage, and abuse.

But what does the Bible say about divorce or separation? Some faith-based counselors suggest there is only one valid reason for a married couple to separate—if a person puts others in the family in danger.

Jesus, during His ministry on earth, was asked by some Pharisees as a test “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” Jesus’ reply was what God has joined together let not man put asunder. “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” the Pharisees asked. Jesus said to them it was because of the hardness of their hearts Moses permitted divorce, but it was not so from the beginning. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” Jesus said (Matthew 19:3-9).

Marital infidelity, drug abuse, and non-support are some reasons also considered for separation, wrote Jack Wellman on October 29, 2011 at WhatChristiansWantToKnow.com. “But since we know that God hates divorce, the person or couple should seek marital counseling (Malachi 2:16)” he advised. 

So what does it take to keep a husband and wife together? The Bible’s advice: a husband is to love his wife as himself, and the wife must respect her husband. A wife is to submit herself to her husband so that if he does not believe the word he might be won over without words by the behavior of his wife. An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones. A husband is to be considerate, living with his wife, and is to treat the wife with respect as the weaker partner and heir with him of the gracious gift of life (Ephesians 5:25, 33; 1 Peter 3:1, 7; Proverbs 12:4). 

Besides sacrificial love and respect, faithfulness is also important in keeping a marriage together. Of the many lessons my wife and I learned in our marriage life is that a lasting and bonding relationship begins with accepting one another for who we are in spite of our failures, flaws, past, among other things. Mutual understanding and the willingness to give and take in loving care for one another are crucial. Hide nothing from each other, share joys and sorrows together, and hold each other up especially during trying times. Like a cord of three strands that is not quickly torn apart, a husband and wife, even if in a strained relationship, with Christ as the center of the family can stay strong and move on together (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

Dear Lord, forgive us for the times we feel like calling it quits with our spouse over matters that are not unresolvable. Help us sustain and grow our relationship as we cast our cares on You. Do not allow us to live with regrets the things we have permitted or done in the past that result in the strain we are facing today. Use all our broken pieces to make something beautiful, so we might get our lives back together and move on ahead with You as Lord and the center of our lives. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sheep and Goats

All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. (Matthew 25:32-33 NAS)

Sheep and Goats
A shepherd caring for both sheep and goats knows the two do not graze well together, so it is often necessary to separate them while they are feeding. Sheep prefer to eat short, tender grass, weeds, and clover, while goats prefer to eat leaves, twigs, vines, and shrubs, according to Dallas small farms examiner, Cindi Hinton, in her article at Examiner.com.

This was what Jesus meant when He said He will separate all the nations gathered before Him from one another when He returns in glory with all His angels. Just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats and puts the sheep on his right and the goats on the left, He will do the same to separate the righteous from the wicked.

He will sit on His glorious throne and say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” But to those on His left, He will say, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:31-46).

For to the right are the ones who are true to the Lord whose hearts and minds are one with God in loving and caring  for those in need. But to the left are the ones who are not of the Lord and whose hearts and minds are filled with vile, wickedness, selfishness, pretense and the like, devoid of love or care for others.

Jesus our Lord is the great Shepherd. He knows the ones who are His and is able to separate them from those who are not. “This separation will be so exact, that the most inconsiderable saints shall not be lost in the crowd of sinners, nor the most plausible sinner hid in the crowd of saints,” described Matthew Henry’s Whole Bible Commentary. But every one shall go to his own place (Psalm 1:5; Ezekiel 34:17; Malachi 3:18).

Are we assured of our place in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior? Are our hearts poured out to God our Father with Christ in us and His Spirit guiding and working through us? Are we so in love with the Lord to want to reach out and feed His sheep to meet the needs of the hungry and thirsty, to clothe and take care of them?

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep,” Jesus said. “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me” (John 10:11, 14). Do we know Jesus personally and intimately? 

For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness and with the mouth confesses, resulting in salvation. If we confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in our heart God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved. This is the assurance that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son, Jesus. Whoever has Jesus has eternal life and will not be disappointed, but whoever rejects Jesus will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him (Romans 10:9-11; John 3:36; 1 John 5:11-12).

Let us choose life and experience a personal God who loves and cares for us intimately. 

Dear Lord, thank You for loving and caring for us. You, O Lord, know every one of us who are Yours, and You know who are not. You see our hearts and know our thoughts. Protect us from those among us who disguise themselves as Yours that we might not fall prey to deceit or ill intent. Work in us every good thing that is pleasing in Your sight and give us the heart of a shepherd that loves and cares to reach out to those in need. To You be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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