Friday, December 26, 2014

A Christmas to Remember

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened. (Luke 2:9 AMP)

A Christmas to Remember
Would your reaction be any different? You’re outside, minding your own business, with nothing but a night sky, crackling fire, and an occasional bleating sheep or lowing cow. Then wham-o! An angel appeared and it’s more like day than night. I would have been scared out of my wits too. For those shepherds that first Christmas night, it was a Christmas to remember.

Today there are Christmases which we remember more than others. As a child one year I remember receiving a drum set. I must have made a big deal about them or my parents would not have purchased them. But I also suspect that there were moments they second-guessed themselves because I was probably the worst drum player they had ever heard. Believe me; I couldn’t carry a beat in a bucket in those days. I also remember Christmas eight years ago Marlo gave me an expensive watch. Now it wasn’t the gift of the watch I remember so well. The circumstances of that Christmas and its meaning carried much more weight than the gift.

Different situations in our lives cause us to view Christmas in a different light from one year to the next. Some are recalled more than others because of the sheer excitement of the gifts we receive. But some are held close in our hearts because of where our life is at the time, perhaps, recently coming through major trials or the first Christmas after the death of a loved one. A Christmas under such circumstances can sometimes take its toll physically, mentally, and emotionally. The truth is that most of us in adulthood have probably have seen those times and wish we could forget them. But those Christmases are the ones we remember most.

The Christmas we would rather forget is often one that helps build our character or reveal our shortcomings. You see, Christmas is traditionally a time of giving, happiness, and hope, So to have to mold Christmas into a situation that challenges our faith or shows us our wrongs just seems unfair. This time of year we don’t want to face our flaws. This time of year we want the warm fuzzes instead of having to look at reality. Christmas is supposed to be candy canes, rainbows, and fun. Thank you, but I’ll take my faith challenge after January 1st.

I used to buy Marlo everything she ever wanted for Christmas. For years she told me that if she could just have me that would make her happy. She said she would even live in a cardboard box if that’s what it took to have me. I would always reply, but you do have me, I’m right here in front of you. The only problem is that my heart was everywhere else. My heart was at work or involved in the community we lived in. I made countless attempts to buy her happiness, but it was all in vain. But when I was able to seek God and look at my life objectively through His eyes, Marlo finally got what she had wanted and prayed for. She finally had me, and I thank God that it didn’t take living in a cardboard box for me to finally get it. The first Christmas after that time in my life is one I will always cherish.

The best thing to remember about Christmas regardless of your circumstances is the angel’s first words to the shepherds.

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people. (Luke 2:10 AMP)

Jesus’ birth was not only good news then, it is good news now. I’m not preaching one of those you need Jesus now messages. I am saying that if you have a relationship with Him, then there is no need to fear or dread any circumstance in your life. Read Psalm 65. David was in the middle of one of the biggest trials of his life, but his relationship with God saw him through.

Want to have a Christmas to remember? Put your trust in Him. Not only will this be your most memorable Christmas ever, but you will also have something in your heart that will bring you unquestionable joy. From Marlo and I and our family, we truly hope this will be a Christmas you will never forget. David Wells

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Blessed Christmas 2014



You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
~ Luke 1:14 (NAS) ~


Friday, December 19, 2014

Birth and Life of a Missionary

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. (Mark 16:15 NAS)

Birth and Life of a MissionaryEven before he was born, the parents of James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) had prayed about their son going to China someday. But at age 15, Hudson Taylor was skeptical of Christianity and turned off “by the inconsistencies of Christian people” who claimed to believe the Bible but “were yet content to live just as they would if there were no such book.” He decided then to pursue a secular life and to live for his life only. His mother and sister, however, persisted in praying for him.

In June 1849, Taylor had a change of heart after reading a gospel tract he picked up from his father’s library. In it he came to understand the finished work of Christ and of His perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin. Salvation was apprehended in that moment as Hudson Taylor fell on his knees and accepted Christ as his Savior.

The next years saw Taylor learning the rudiments of medicine, studying Mandarin, and immersing himself deeper into the Bible and prayer. His heart was to have the Christian faith taken to the interior of China. Taylor was unhappy with the missionaries he saw who had adopted rich lifestyles and neglected going further inland to the rural and poorer areas.

“China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women,” said Hudson Taylor. “The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, [and] souls first and foremost in everything and at every time—even life itself must be secondary.”

Within months after arriving Shanghai on March 1, 1854, Hudson Taylor along with Joseph Edkins set off for the interior, setting sail down the Huangpu River distributing Chinese Bibles and tracts.

Before long, Taylor was convinced that a special organization was needed to evangelize the interior of China, but he was wracked with doubt.  He was worried about sending men and women unprotected into the interior, and at the same time despaired for the millions of Chinese who were dying without the hope of the gospel. 

In 1865, Taylor wrote in his diary, “For two or three months, intense conflict … Thought I should lose my mind.” Then there was a break in his journal for seven weeks. Worn out and ill, Hudson Taylor had gone to friends for rest. While walking along the beach at the south coast of England in Brighton, Taylor’s gloom lifted.

“There the Lord conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service. I told Him that all responsibility as to the issues and consequences must rest with Him; that as His servant it was mine to obey and to follow Him.”

With absolute trust in God, Taylor’s new mission which he called China Inland Mission (CIM) grew and prospered. Thousands were inspired by him to forsake the comforts of the West to bring the gospel message to the vast and unknown interior of China. Today, the mission of CIM is continued under the name, Overseas Missionary Fellowship (International), to evangelize to the world.

The life and story of James Hudson Taylor is documented in many places on the worldwide web. Many like him had passed on and accomplished great tasks following the will of God. As followers of the Lord, we have also been called to the great commission, but few are convinced to live beyond the mundane when it comes to reaching out to others because of inconveniences and unpopularity. 

Unlike many of us, Hudson Taylor was willing to become a laughing stock to both foreign and Chinese onlookers just in order to help people see what he preached was not such a foreign message after all. He chose to wear the clothes of the common Chinese so as not to be seen as an outsider.

Hudson Taylor died on June 3, 1905 and was buried in Changsha, Hunan. During his 51 years of service there, CIM established 20 mission stations, brought 849 missionaries to the field, trained some 700 Chinese workers, raised four million dollars by faith, and developed a witnessing Chinese church of 125,000.

Dear Lord, thank You for the example set by J. Hudson Taylor to teach us not to neglect those who are yet unsaved, simply because of inconveniences or fear of being ridiculed. Help us to be always ready to do Your work and to surrender ourselves for Your service.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Righteous in Christ

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1 HCS)

Righteous in Christ
Stephen was born in a Christian family and grew up thinking that God is an angry God. Since young, he was afraid of failing because he did not want to anger God, so he started confessing every wrong deed he had done. Finally, he told himself he would do what he wanted to do first and come back to God later. Before long he was led astray and his life became bitter as he indulged in all kinds of sin—smoking, drinking, drug use and many other stuff.

A year after he thought he was going to die due to drug overdosed, Stephen came to the end of himself and wanted to return to Jesus. Hearing a sermon by a pastor about the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, he took hold of that truth as his armor against his sinful ways. Within two weeks, God delivered him from all his bad habits. Today, Stephen reigns over them. Two years has passed since, and the work of God in his life continues to amaze people around him. God has also been opening doors for him to preach the good news.

The story of Stephen Zechariah Christopher was written by him as a testimony, shared at NewCreation.org.sg. Like Stephen, many of us have our own stories to tell about our adventures with God. Although some of our testimonies may not be as spectacular as that of Stephen’s, each of us surely have experienced the goodness of God in our lives, even if we may have gone astray from Him.

Jesus, in the parable of the lost son, told a similar story of someone who chose to leave his father to explore the world. He squandered his estate in foolish living and after he had spent everything and worked in the fields feeding pigs, he came to his senses and decided to go back to his father. While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran and threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. He then celebrated the return of his son with a feast (Luke 15:11-24).

This is how our heavenly Father is like. Even when we have walked away from Him, if we choose to return, He would run toward us and throw His arms around our necks and kiss us. He would celebrate our return with much joy. 

Today, we are able to experience and receive God’s unmerited favor only because we have been declared righteous by faith and justified through faith in the finished work of our Lord at the cross and in His resurrection. We are now able to live victorious lives because we have peace with God through Christ Jesus our Lord. Our lives can continue to impact and amaze the people around us if we live to show out Christ in us. Our God will open doors for us if we let Him lead in all our ways (Romans 5:1, 9).

Now to Him who is able to keep us from stumbling and present us before His glorious presence, blameless and with great joy—to the only God our Savior—be glory, majesty, power, and authority through Christ Jesus our Lord before all time, now and forever. Amen (Jude 1:24-25).

Dear Lord, thank You for loving us so much that You would run toward us and place Your arms around our necks and kiss us even while we are still a long way off. Your unmerited favor and overflowing love overwhelm our hearts, and we cannot help but declare Your praises and worship You. Our lives we now willingly place before You to do whatever You would have us do according to Your will, for only in You we can truly be satisfied and completely set free from our unrighteous ways. To You O God our Savior be all glory, majesty, power and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.    

Friday, December 5, 2014

Spiritual Maturity

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11 NAS)

Spiritual Maturity
At the age of 17, Edison was unsure what the years ahead would be like for him. He had completed junior high school but was unable to further his studies because of his grades. Two options were opened to him—to pursue vocational studies or to get a job.

Edison tried first to get into a vocational school, but his application was rejected. Left without a choice, he started work in a fast food chain as a crew, but after a while he gave it up. He then took up a junior clerical job with an accounting firm but knew in his heart that was not it.

A year later, Edison joined the navy and was assigned a logistics clerk position after a pre-enlistment checkup. While in the navy, he learned many things and grew in maturity. After two years, he was ready to enter the concrete jungle of the world at large, and with God by his side, he had nothing to fear.

Not many of those coming of age think like Edison anymore. These days, teens face greater challenges making decisions that could be life threatening, and they are not just about smoking or sex, but include crack and deadly drugs, violence, depression, drinking, among other vices. Problems like lying, cheating, learning disabilities, emotional trauma, and the like are also just as disconcerting. Many a time, we may not be able to understand what is going on in the minds of teenagers, but we must not lose heart guiding them.

The only one thing that differentiates between those in trouble and those that are not is the values the teenagers have learned and adopted from the adults. As Christian parents or guardians, therefore, we need to set good examples for our young, so as to teach them godly values from the word of God. We ought also to take time to listen to them, show them love and respect for themselves and for everyone else, and lead them to the right path, which direction they must eventually choose for themselves.

Just as there is need for teenagers to grow up in maturity, parents and guardians ought also to grow in spiritual maturity to better guide children. How we guide them along the way is of utmost importance. Let us pave our ways and our children’s ways to grow and progress steadily (1 Corinthians 3:2; 13:11-12; Hebrews 5:12, 14; 6:1). 

Dear Lord, help us understand our children, so we might guide them in the path of Your righteousness. Teach us in the understanding of Your word that we might grow in spiritual maturity to better guide them by examples, and instill in them Your godly values. In our busyness, remind us to take time to listen to them and to show them love and respect for themselves and others. Guide and lead them to the right path in their making of decisions that they might grow and progress steadily in You. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Heroic Sacrifice

For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. (Romans 5:7 NAS)

Heroic Sacrifice
Tyler knew he didn't have school the coming Monday because it was a holiday, so he asked his mother if he could stay over at his grandfather's trailer in the suburb of Rochester N.Y. at Penfield. Tyler knew the place very well because he had stayed with his grandfather many times.

At around 4:45 in the early morning on that Monday, an electrical fire broke out and spread quickly while the trailer’s nine occupants slept. Tyler was the first to wake up and he alerted six of his relatives, including two younger children ages 4 and 6, all of whom escaped. He then went back to help his grandfather and disabled uncle. When the firefighters arrived, Tyler's body was found near his uncle, who also perished along with his grandfather.

The heroic deed of 9-year-old Tyler J Doohan was reported in the news in January 2014 by USAToday.com and CNN.com.

Not all of us are likely to willingly die for another, unless that someone is dear to us or is our loved one. The Apostle Paul knew that when he wrote, “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.” Thankfully for us, our God is not like man, otherwise all of us would be doom to die in eternity. But God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were helpless and yet sinners, Christ died for us. He did not send His Son into the world to judge the world but that the world might be saved through Him (Romans 5:6-8; John 3:17).

Are we willing to risk our lives without knowing where we would be in eternity? Are we aware that no matter how noble our intent or heroic we are to even be willing to die for another, without Christ as our Lord and Savior, we would still have to face eternal death?

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to God the Father except through Him. All things came into being through Him, and without Him nothing came into being that has come into being. But as many as received Jesus and believed in His name, to them God gave the right to become children of God. For in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world (John 14:6; 1:3, 12; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

Jesus’ death on the cross was more than just a good deed to save us all. He did it out of love for us, even while we were yet sinners. Although He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, born in the likeness of men. Being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name. This same Jesus is coming back to us in power and glory (Philippians 2:6-9; John 14:28; Mark 13:26; Matthew 24:30). Are we ready when He returns?

Dear Lord, thank You for coming to our rescue when we were lost. We are forever grateful to You for loving us so much that You willingly give up Your all to come in the form of man and die on the cross to save us all. We exalt Your name above every name, for You are the way, the truth, and the life.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014


Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart, 
In the company of the upright and in the assembly.

~ Psalm 111:1 (NAS) ~

Friday, November 21, 2014

Place of Solitary

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. (Mark 6:31-32 NIV)

Place of Solitary
It was an hour or more just before sunrise. My wife and I were all set to go with the ranger on a jeep with another ten to fifteen people to visit the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and National Park in the North West Province of southern Africa. We were all excited at the prospect of seeing untamed wildlife in its natural habitat.

The ride through the reserve was an experience of a lifetime. All of us were feeling a sense of adventure and in high spirits as we breathed in the fresh air and the awe-inspiring sights of endless valleys and infinite unobstructed view of mountains, which seemed to span beyond the horizon. Along the way, we saw elephants, rhinos, lions, buffaloes, leopard, hippos, giraffes, and deer, among other animals.

Not all of us are likely to get to visit a park that gives us such deep and lasting impression. The truth is we do not need to travel far to appreciate the magnificence of God’s creation. If only we would stop and pause in our busyness, even just for a little while, we would be able to see the glory of the flowers, the birds, the sea, and much more. If we would quiet ourselves and pay attention, we would hear the sounds of nature amid the noises, the chirpings, the breeze and the winds, the sea waves, and much more. There is no need for us to see auroras or exotic wildlife to know our God exist, for “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1 NIV).

When we look up into the night sky and behold millions of stars and the moon, do our heart feel stirred up within us? When we see a picturesque view of God’s handiwork, do we feel overwhelmed with awe? How do we feel when we see falling leaves or falling snow, sunrise or sunsets, gorgeous landscapes, panoramic views or exotic sights beyond our imagination?

Traveling abroad on a trip is a good way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the world to get back on track with God and experience tranquility in His creation. But if we are unable to go on a holiday or leave town to a distant somewhere that allow us to quiet ourselves and spend time with God, we need simply to find a place away from the crowd. Converse with God and listen to Him in the surroundings of nature or in a room. Stay in tune with God and be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Ephesians 4:23).

Like the disciples who were too busy even to eat, Jesus is saying to us, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” In response to our Lord’s loving care, let us know when to stop and pause amid our busyness to go away by ourselves to the place of solitary (Mark 6:31-32).

Dear Lord, our hearts are filled with awe when we behold the wonders of Your creation. Thank You for giving us so many samples of Your handiwork to assure us of Your presence and Your greatness. Remind us in our busyness to set aside time to go away to a quiet place to commune with You. Keep us in tune with You and renew us in the spirit of our minds to hear and know Your direction in all we do that Your likeness in us may shine through. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Don't Doubt

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NAS)

Don't Doubt
Elliot was not really interested in what he was doing, but he did not have a choice because he had to provide for his family, pay the bills, and contribute to a fund for the support of a sick mother. He has just started on a contract job with a non-profit organization a while ago as a digital content administrator, but his real interest was to be a writer or to do some editorial related work.

Ever since Elliot was laid off from a corporate job nearly two years ago, he had been struggling to make ends meet working as a freelance writer. During days and months when project assignments fall to a low or none at all, he would only take bread for his meals, and even that was a luxury. As a believer of the Christian faith, he knew what the Bible said in Philippians 4:12 about getting along with humble means and living in prosperity; going hungry and being filled; suffering need and having abundance, in any and every circumstance. Nevertheless, the struggle was real with a cut of a fifth of his remuneration from his last employment. At times, he was tempted to think he was deluding himself to believe when things were going well that God was blessing him and his family, and when things were doing badly that God was teaching him something.

Many of us are like Elliot. When things are doing well, we praise God and thank Him. But when things get stormy, we wonder whether God really cares or is He putting us on trial through a molding process. When the circumstances we are in become too great to handle and overtake us, we begin to doubt God’s love for us or that He exists. No amount of head knowledge about what the Bible said is going to help us if we are in doubt or choose to disbelieve. As children of God, we are never defeated unless we give up on God. Yet, God never gives up on us (Romans 5:8).

Are we struggling in our circumstances right now? Are we in doubt God exists or cares for us? Are we able to recall the times when God took care of us? If we have experienced His love and care for us in the past, surely, we can trust God to take care of us in the present and the future. Knowing God cares for us from the Scriptures is one thing, but experiencing God’s care for us is another. Are we assured of God’s love and care for us?

Jesus our Lord is the same yesterday and today and forever. He does not change. He is not slow about His promise, but is patient toward everyone, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. Let us, therefore, fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Like the psalmist, let us remember God and meditate on Him who has been our help, and in the shadow of His wings sing for joy (Hebrews 12:2; 13:8; 2 Peter 3:9; Psalm 55:19; 63:6-7).

Dear Lord, forgive our doubting hearts, especially during the times of our struggles. You know how it is within us when we see the lives of our loved ones falling apart because of us, and You know how it breaks our hearts not to be able to do anything about it. Help us cease striving to keep our calm and fix our eyes on You, the author and perfecter of our faith. In the shadow of Your wings, we will sing for joy, for we are confident that You who has begun a good work in us will perfect it until the day we see You face to face.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Of Things Unseen

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 NAS)

Of Things Unknown
The soldiers were apprehensive. They were about to attack their enemy—an army far greater in number and more experience in warfare than them—but all they have were only 300 men with trumpets of ram horns and torches in empty pitchers of clay. Yet their leader appeared nonchalant, unfazed or unaware of the dire situation they were in.

Surely, he could have come up with a better plan than this, the soldiers thought. Or is he planning on sending us to our deaths?

The Bible does not record how the soldiers felt when Gideon called the 300 men to battle against the armies of Midian. But we probably can comprehend how we would have felt in their situation (Judges 7:7, 16-22).

Perhaps, to some of us, trying out something we know nothing of might be fun, but for many, we are likely to feel the jitters of the unknown because of our inability to control what might happen. This is why faith is important because it is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Thankfully, we who are born of God need not be apprehensive about our future because we know from the word of God what lies ahead.

Are we, like the soldiers under Gideon’s leadership, sometimes wondering what our God is up to? Perhaps the things happening or going on in our lives are overwhelming or appear illogical or incomprehensible. Do we doubt God because of our inability to see what lies ahead?

Faith requires that we do not doubt, for whoever comes to God must believe He exists and He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Like Abraham who obeyed without knowing where he was going to receive for an inheritance, we who are in Christ, as the seed of Abraham and as heirs of God’s promise, ought also to walk in faith. Trust in the LORD with all our heart and do not lean on our own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will make our paths straight (Hebrews 11:6, 8; Galatians 3:29; Proverbs 3:5-6).

Dear Lord, the thrill and suspense of the great things You have planned for us in the days ahead sometimes scare us because of our lack of faith. Help us to trust You completely and not doubt even for a moment Your love for us and Your desire to give us only good things. No matter how incomprehensible or illogical the things going on in our lives may seem, grant us a heart that believes You are near, and that You reward those who earnestly seek You. Direct us on our paths as we acknowledge You in all our ways. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Attitudes

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:9 NIV)

Attitudes
Eustace was no ordinary boy. He was odious—a pain in the neck to the people around him. He liked bossing and bullying, and although he was a puny little person who could not have stood up even to a girl of his age in a fight, he knew of many ways to give people a hard time.

While accompanying his cousins on a sea trip, Eustace slipped away on his own when the ship docked at an island. After strolling inland for some time, he stumbled upon a dragon’s lair and coveted its treasures. Sliding a large bracelet over his arm, Eustace soon fell asleep. When he awoke the next morning, he realized he had turned into a dragon.

The story of the adventures of Eustace Clarence Scrubb was written by C. S. Lewis in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace’s transformation was the result of his own condition on the inside. Like Eustace, the Bible also spoke of another, who because of his own prideful and wicked heart, fell from God’s grace. 

Lucifer was created perfect and beautiful—a guardian cherub—blameless until wickedness was found in him. His heart was proud because of his beauty and his wisdom corrupted because of his splendor. In his heart, he said, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly ... I will make myself like the Most High.” So God drove him out in disgrace—the great dragon and ancient serpent who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth along with his angels and cast down to the realm of the dead to the depths of the pit (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-18; Revelation 12:9).

Even today, Lucifer, the devil, or Satan, is still actively spending much of his time accusing the followers of Jesus. Nevertheless, we need not fear him because the Lord is our defense; He has paid the price for our sins and has replaced our dirty clothes with fine garments. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. We are from God and have overcome the enemy and his agents. Nothing will harm us because our names have been written in heaven (Job 1:6; 2:1; Zechariah 3:1-4; Psalm 118:14; 1 John 4:4; Luke 10:17-20).

Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:18-19).

Are we sometimes, like Eustace, bossing around, bullying, and causing pain to others? Are we afraid of the accuser because of the wrongs we have done? Do we at times harbor wrong attitudes within us? Have we ever prayed or wished for harm to come upon someone who wronged us? Are we desiring or laying up treasures that do not belong to us?

As followers of the Lord, let us have this attitude in us, that if in anything we have a different attitude, God will reveal to us. Nevertheless, we should keep on living by the same standard to which we have attained, and be watchful not to have Dirty Rotten Attitudes Going On Now (DRAGON) or any time later. Do not become proud as to think we have achieved much on our own without God, for every blessing we have today is by the grace of God. All our righteous acts are like filthy rags, and it is by grace we have been saved, not by our works (Philippians 3:15-16; Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Dear Lord, forgive us for the wrong attitudes we harbor at times. You know our weaknesses and You know when we stand accused, helpless on our own. Yet You have clothed us with fine garments and replaced our dirty clothes by paying with Your blood the price for our sins. Thank You for being our defender and for granting us authority to overcome all the power of the enemy that nothing will harm us. Set our hearts in tune with what is right that we may lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven and not store up treasures on earth.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Joy Amid Troubles

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22 NAS)

Joy Amid Troubles
I must admit I am not exactly the kind of guy who laughs at a joke or see things with a sense of humor. But when I received an email with an article titled ‘Psalm 23 for the Information Age’ by an unknown author, I could not help but chuckle at what was written.

    The Lord is my programmer, I shall not crash.
    He installed His software on the hard disk of my heart.
    All of His commands are user friendly.
    His directory guides me to the right choices for His name's sake.

    Even though I scroll through the problems of life,
    I will fear no bugs, For He is my backup.
    His password protects me.
    He prepares a menu before me in the presence of my enemies.
    His help is only a keystroke away.

    Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life
    And my file will be merged with His and saved forever.

    Amen.

This ‘psalm’ is of course NOT an attempt to modify God's word! It is simply a hypothetical funny presentation from a creative mind. In a sense, there are some lessons we can learn from this adapted version of the psalm.

Our Lord is the ‘programmer’ who knows the plans He has for us to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future. His word is stored in our hearts, and His yoke is easy. His Spirit guides us to make the right choices (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 119:11; Matthew 11:30; John 16:13).

Even if we are going through tough times or walking through the darkest valley, we need not fear because God is always behind and before us; His angels protect and guard us. He provides for us even amid trying times in the presence of our foes. God is always near to help us (Psalm 139:5; Exodus 14:19; Psalm 23:4; Psalm 91:5-16; Psalm 145:18).

Surely, God's goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives as we abide in the Lord and He in us, for in Him we are saved forever (Psalm 23:6; John 15:4, 7; 1 John 5:11-12).

Dear Lord, grant us a joyful heart even amid troubled times and desperate need. Help us who are struggling remain thankful and grateful to You, and to continue to trust in You. Refresh our spirit with a joy overwhelming regardless the circumstances we are in. Guide us by Your Spirit and Your word to make right choices. Protect and guard us from our foes. Let Your goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives as we continue to abide in You and Your word, just as You abide in us.

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. 

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