Friday, September 30, 2011

A Mutual Friend

Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15b NIV)

A Mutual FriendWhile attending a wedding banquet, Peter saw seated at another table a colleague of his from a different division, so he walked over to greet him.

"Hi, John, what brings you here?" asked Peter as he gave his colleague a pat on the back.

"Oh hi, Peter, I'm surprise to see you here,” John responded, turning his head toward Peter. “Are you a friend of the bride or the bridegroom?"

"I'm a close friend of the bridegroom. What about you?"

"I'm a close friend of the bridegroom too! That makes two of us his close friends, yet we are not aware of that until now."

"Well, if Emanuel is a close friend of yours, that makes you my friend too," said Peter, not because he wanted to sound cordial, but because he knew the type of friends Emanuel would consider close to him. "Let's do lunch together sometime?"

Some of us probably have encountered a similar scenario described in the story. I personally have experienced such a situation, and I know how relationships can be drawn closer together because of a mutual friend.

As Christians, we know we have a mutual friend who draws us close together. This friend is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior (John 15:15b). Jesus said, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). We know this is true, because our hearts are closely kindred within us as brothers and sisters in Christ. Regardless where we are in the world, visiting a church or having fellowship with Christians while abroad, we know we are at home among friends, even if we are with people we do not know.

Having friends is a blessing, and all the more so with Christ as our mutual friend. Our Lord unites us together as a family of believers. Whether we know each other personally or online through social media or other Christian communities, we can all come together with one mind and spirit in the Lord. This is possible only because our Lord has brought complete and perfect unity to the world through His love (John 17:22-23; Colossians 3:14), and we have all been baptized by one Spirit into one body in this bond of love (1 Corinthians 12:13).

With Jesus as our mutual friend, when we are gathered together in His name, we know the type of friends we are with because we know who our Lord considers close to Him. Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15), and “whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me” (John 14:21). If we consider ourselves a close friend of Jesus, then we should love Him and do as He commands. By this everyone will know we are His disciples, if we love one another (John 13:35).

As siblings of one body, and with Christ as our mutual friend, we ought to encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We need not struggle or fight our spiritual battles alone, because in Christ we are one family. Rather than be anxious for anything, therefore, let us in every situation bring our requests to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6). For where two or three are gathered together in Jesus' name, He is there in our midst (Matthew 18:20).

Jesus is our mutual friend, the one who willingly died on our behalf (1 John 2:2-6). Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). All our sins and grief Jesus had bored in His body on the cross, that we might die to sins and live for righteousness (Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:17; 1 Peter 2:24). With humility toward one another, therefore, let us humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand that He may lift us up in due time (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Dear Lord, thank You for being our mutual friend, and for bringing all of us who believe in You close together. We know Lord we are not alone in our struggles because You have given us spiritual siblings to build each other up. Lord, we are forever grateful to You for bearing our sins and grief, and for laying down Your life for us. We praise and worship You Lord because You alone are worthy to receive all glory, honor and power forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Obeying Authorities

Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord. (2 Peter 2:10b-11 NIV)

ObedienceWhile I was still in high school, I did something that upset my parents so greatly, they had me starved, disciplined, and locked up on occasions. I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, an act my parents deemed as rebellion and a violation of trust. Throughout the genealogy of my family, every member has been a follower of a hybrid Buddhism and Taoism religion. What I did was in my parents’ eyes unforgivable, and for many years since, I was persecuted.

Initially, my parents tried to bring me back to their fold by punishing me. Eventually, however, 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 then to my parents as one who has gone astray and not known my own roots, and to the people of the community a renegade and an outcast.

Many a time, following Jesus requires us to do things most people would not do. We know the Bible says children are to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20). Likewise, we are to obey authorities because there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God (Romans 13:1). Yet, when the apostles were given strict orders not to continue to teach in the name of our Lord, Peter answered and said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:27-29). This is what makes the difference between blind obedience and obedience to God.

In following Christ, it is good to know where we stand in our obedience to God. Are we ready to count everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing our Lord, for whose sake willingly suffer the loss of all things to gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)? Will we stand to defend for what is right even if we know we may be disadvantaged or persecuted as a result (Psalm 82:3; Isaiah 11:4)? Do we side and follow the crowd or speak the truth to bring about justice when asked to testify (Exodus 23:2)?

The ‘wise’ of this world will deem us as fools for choosing to obey God despite knowing the consequences we may put ourselves into, just as my parents deemed me a fool to follow Christ. Yet, it is for this reason God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). The word of the cross to those who are perishing may be foolishness, but to us, we know it is the power of God for salvation (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Nevertheless, we should not confront or seek to go against the authority that is set over us, for it is commanded in the word of God that we should obey (Romans 13:1-4). Unless, therefore, we are commanded to do what is wrong or against the will of God, we should take heed to do what is right. For even angels, although stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on celestial beings or angelic majesties in the presence of the Lord (2 Peter 2:10-11). If therefore Michael the archangel did not argue or pronounce against the devil a railing judgment when disputing over the body of Moses, who are we to revile the things which we do not understand (Jude 9-10)?

If we should feel obeying God is a sacrifice, then let us set our hearts right, for to obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). Our God does not need us to sacrifice our will to obey Him, nor does He desire our blind obedience. Let us willingly offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is our true and proper worship (Romans 12:1).

Forgive us Lord for our occasional lapses in standing up for what is right, and for following the crowd at times even though we know they may be wrong. Help us not be defiant towards authorities set over us Lord, but to be willing to submit to them unless when against Your command or will. Grant us boldness Lord, not of arrogance but of strength, to obey and do Your will in counting everything a loss to gain You.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Art of Persuasion

Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. (Acts 28:24 NAS)

PersuasionMany of us know the influence of the media, how it can persuade us to purchase a product of a particular brand or a service from a particular provider. Frequently, what comes to mind when we need to purchase something is not an idea of our own, and we sometimes wish we have this same ability to influence others. In an article ‘The Art of Persuasion’ at ArticleSphere.com, author Priya Florence Shah shares seven tips on how we can successfully persuade anyone.

Supposing the person we wish to persuade is Ivan, tip one on persuasion is to enter his world by putting ourselves in his shoes to understand his environment and needs from his point of view.

Tip two is to mirror Ivan’s body language to make him feel at ease and comfortable to connect and share openly with us.

Tip three is to be cheerful and nice, ready to brighten up Ivan’s day with sincere compliments, even of small things, which can go a long way breaking the ice and setting relationship to a good start.

Tip four is to be sincere and trustworthy, always being there for Ivan to lend a hand when he needs help or when he needs someone to talk or look up to.

Tip five is for us to provide compelling evidences to explain to Ivan our ideas and suggestions with undeniable proof from testimonials by users about the circumstance before use and the results after.

Tip six is to show what’s in it for him, the benefits and advantages.

Tip seven is to genuinely care for Ivan by focusing on his interests, desires, needs, and expectations so as to satisfy his craving for attention, and thereby establishing mutual trust and respect.

Much like the seven tips of persuasion for closing a sale or obtaining a service sign up, we can also employ similar techniques to bring people into the kingdom of God, especially those who do not even know us. The first thing we need to do is to put ourselves in their shoes to understand them and their situations. In so doing, they will feel at ease and comfortable with us, and be more receptive to the message we wish to share with them. By staying cheerful and genuinely interested in them without preconceived prejudices, ulterior motives or the feeling of just doing the job, we can through our sincerity break the ice and establish closer relationships with them.

When we willingly give our hands to meet the needs of the people we wish to reach, and be there for them whenever they need us, even just to talk, they will increasingly trust us more wholeheartedly. Once we have earned their trust, delivering the message of the gospel will be much easier. By bringing to them compelling evidences of what Christ has done for the world and in our lives, we can share with them the good news and our testimonies of changed lives. We can also share what’s in it for them when they receive Jesus as Lord and Savior—salvation and eternal life (John 1:12-13; 3:16), peace with God (Romans 5:1), and a personal relationship with Him (John 15:15-16; James 4:8a).

All these, however, have to be done with genuine love and compassion so as to satisfy the hunger in their souls, that with the same mind toward one another, mutual trust and respect can be established (Romans 12:16). Whether they are persuaded by the message we have shared thereafter is not our concern (Acts 28:24), for neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

Notwithstanding the benefits of persuasion in sharing Christ to the world, we must be careful never to be persuaded or fall under the influence of false teachings or deceitful words from soothsayers (Matthew 7:15; 24:4, 11; Acts 20:30; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Psalm 35:20). Let us not be like Balaam, the son of Beor, who was easily swayed by persuasion because of his love for unrighteous wages (2 Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11). Instead, let us be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our toil is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Forgive us dear Lord for sometimes falling under the influence of persuasive words. We know Lord that persuasion can be good and bad, depending on how it is used. Help us therefore to wisely persuade the yet unsaved to bring them to You, yet not be swayed by soothsayers or false teachers. Keep us steadfast and immovable Lord, and guide us by Your Spirit to know what to say and do when building rapport with pre-believers.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Perfect and Holy Living

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 NAS)

Matthew 5:48My parents set high hopes on me even while I was still a little boy. Their wish was for me to someday become a learned and well accomplished man people look up to. Sadly though, I failed to live up to their great expectations, for I was merely an average student throughout elementary to high school.

Like me, some of us may be struggling to live up to the expectations of others, or even our own. We may feel disappointed, disgruntled or downcast when we fall short of or fail to meet expectations. As Christians, we may also at times struggle with certain expectations from the Bible, like counting all things loss for the sake of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8), and living perfect and holy lives (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:16).

I know of some people who hesitate to receive Jesus as Lord because they are afraid they may not live up to the holy lives expected of Christians. This frame of thought is perhaps derived from the misconception that Christians conduct themselves in the best of behaviors to live perfect and holy lives by their own effort.

It is true that because God is perfect and holy, we ought also to be perfect and holy (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:16). But the Bible also says there is none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10), so how is it possible we are expected to live perfect and holy lives?

The answer is in the finished work of Christ (1 John 2:2). Our Lord’s death on the cross has become for us our righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). By His death and resurrection, Jesus has achieved for us what we can never achieve by our own effort. For it is by grace we have been saved through faith, not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of our own works or effort, that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Are we weak in living out Christ in our lives or hesitating to receive the Lord because we fear we are unable to live up to expectations? If we are, there is no need to, for the Lord is our helper; we need not be afraid (Hebrews 13:6). He will never desert us, nor will He ever forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Even if we have to suffer persecution or walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need not fear. The Lord is with us, His rod and His staff is a guide and comfort to us (Psalm 23:4). Why should we be weak or give up our salvation because of fear?

Let us therefore not be reluctant to take on the challenge to live holy lives, for the yoke from Christ is easy and the burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Our Lord is gentle and humble in heart; He will give us rest for our souls (Matthew 11:29). Even though we may not be perfect in keeping every instruction from the Bible, we need not be ashamed, for it is for this purpose we labor, striving according to the power which is mightily working within us (Colossians 1:29).

The word of the cross may to those who are perishing be foolishness, but to us who are being saved, we know it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). Rather than dwell in weakness or be a bystander, therefore, let us enter into the house of our God, for a day in His courts is better than a thousand outside (Psalm 84:10).

Dear Lord, strengthen us that we may in You live our lives holy and perfect, reflecting Your power working mightily within us, rather than displaying good behavior by our own effort or through pretense. Help us not be afraid to step out to honor Your holy name in everything we do Lord even if it means to be persecuted or disadvantaged as a result. Guide us Lord where we fail or fall short that we may strive towards perfection for the right cause and reasons.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Exemplary Behavior

in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8 NAS)

It was running late, and Tricia was feeling a little stressed. While on a busy boulevard, she tailgated a car, apparently driven by a very cautious man. When the light suddenly turned yellow, the man stopped at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

Tricia immediately hit the roof and the horn, screaming in frustration on missing her chance to get through the intersection. While she was still in mid-rant, a serious looking police officer tapped on her window and ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. The officer then took her to the police station where Tricia was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. Tricia was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

“I'm very sorry for this mistake,” said the arresting officer. “You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping the guy off in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the 'Choose Life' license plate holder of your vehicle, the 'What Would Jesus Do' and the 'Follow Me to Sunday School' bumper stickers, and the chrome plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk. Naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car.”

That was a fictional story adapted from the article ‘Mistaken Identity’ written by Henry W Farkas for NetFunny.com. Although intended for humor reading, the story illustrates true to life what can happen when we do not handle our behavior, stress or temper properly. Momentary lapse of composure during situations such as this can have adverse repercussion, especially if someone who is about to receive the Lord sees our not so nice behavior.

Like Tricia in the story, do we sometimes flare up when things are not going smoothly or according to the way we want it? Does our behavior reflect our faith in Christ even when feeling stressed? Are we exemplary of what it means by bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in patience, kindness, goodness and self-control, or are we a stumbling block to others (Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 8:9)? Is our lack of knowledge of the Scriptures or the power of God the reason we are doing the wrong things or in error at times (Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24)?

If our answers are uncertain or indicating a weakness in living out Christ in our lives, then we should be careful how we exercise our freedom, that we may not become stumbling blocks to the weak (1 Corinthians 8:9). We should determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in another person's way (Romans 14:13). Since we belong to Christ Jesus, and our flesh with its passions have been crucified, we should live and walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:24-25). Above all, we should in all things show ourselves to be examples of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech, and beyond reproach, having nothing bad others can say about us (Titus 2:7-8).

Let us who are weary or weak therefore come to God, and He will grant us strength, power, love, and self-discipline (Isaiah 40:29; 2 Timothy 1:7). Wait upon the LORD and He will renew us, that we may soar on wings like eagles, run and not get tired, walk and not become weary (Isaiah 40:31).


Dear Lord, forgive us for the times we fail to respond correctly when under stress, and for causing others to doubt the faith because of our not so nice behavior. Guide us therefore Lord by Your Spirit that we may be careful how we exercise our freedom. Help us not lay any obstacle or stumbling block in the way of another person, especially the ones who have yet to believe in You or have just received You. Remind us Lord to always consider what You would have done in a situation we may be facing now, that we may wisely choose the right path and glorify Your name.

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