Friday, April 25, 2014

Words of Truth

The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. (Ecclesiastes 12:10 NAS)

Words of Truth
Before writing an article, I usually spend a little time pondering on the topic and do a little research. I would google to find anecdotes and personal testimonies for inclusion in the article whenever possible to sustain my readers’ interest and hopefully keep them wanting more. Once in a while, some words I hardly use would come to mind and I would goggle to search out these words to see if they are suitable for the story I am writing.

Many writers providing editorial services know what it means to write on a topic we are unfamiliar with. We search the web to gather as much information as possible on the topic we are paid to write. Yet, frequently we encounter words, content, or terms we used which our customers or hirers deem incorrect, unnecessary, or not meeting their expectations.

In the Book of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher or Teacher was said to have pondered, searched out, and arranged many proverbs to impart knowledge to his people. He also sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly (Ecclesiastes 12:9-10).

As Christians, we are in a sense like preachers and teachers, called to lead others in the truth. We are urged to do our best and be diligent to present ourselves approved to God as workmen who do not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. God’s word is truth, and we are to be sanctified by the truth and guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth (2 Timothy 2:15; John 17:17; 16:13).

Are we regularly studying the word of God to internalize God’s precepts and truths in our hearts? Are we doing our part to ponder and search out the words of truth in our teachings and writings to ensure they are correct? Are we diligently imparting knowledge of the truth and of Christ Jesus accurately? Are we sharing real personal stories of spiritual triumphs to engage people to want to know more about Christ? Are we paying attention to the Holy Spirit and letting Him guide us on the words to use? 

When we lead fellow believers or reach out to the yet unsaved, we need to be careful not to misrepresent God or His teachings. The Bible warns us that those who teach a different doctrine and do not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and of godly living are conceited and lack understanding. These are the people whose minds are corrupt, and they have been robbed of the truth in thinking godliness is a means to financial gain. Always examine everything carefully and search God’s word to verify the truth (1 Timothy 6:3-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:21, Acts 17:11).

Forgive us, dear Lord, for our occasional lapses in verifying the truth before leading our fellow believers or reaching out to others. Internalize Your word and precepts in our hearts, Lord, that we might not lack knowledge or understanding to presumptuously teach or write the wrong things. Sanctify us and grant us wisdom to accurately handle the word of truth as we ponder, search out, and arrange the content and words to use in our Christian writings and teachings. Your word is truth, O God, and we will hold fast to Your word and not be ashamed. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Blessed Easter 2014

Wishing Everyone a Blessed Resurrection Day!

Blessed Easter 2014

For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be 
Lord both of the dead and of the living.
~ Romans 14:9 (NAS) ~

Friday, April 18, 2014

Amid Trying Times

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:17-18 NIV)

Trying Times
While many parts of the U.S. were facing frigid cold conditions the last few months, many people in the tropical countries were facing the exact opposite—extreme heat and drought. Going outdoors to chill out and relax was near impossible, and many turned to the shopping malls and air-conditioned rooms indoors instead.

Like the discomfort we feel during extreme weather conditions, we know how we feel during times of extreme distress, sadness or desperation. If a loved one is ill and needs medical attention amid the worst of times when we are struggling to make ends meet, how would we feel? If we are out of a job and something came up that needs us to increase our financial support for a dependent, would we stay nonchalant? More often than not, multiple problems in life come at the same time, and we are frequently left helpless and desperate at our wits’ end.

Are we facing multiple problems and desperately seeking help? Are we feeling all dried up and in desperate need to calm down and relax? If we are, then we need to turn to God to find relief rather than seek addictive alternatives like drinking, smoking or drugs. Such unhealthy addictions do not provide relief but add up to greater despair.

Too often we are burdened by the cares in our lives to make time to chillax. We worry too much for an extended period, and in our desperation or extreme distress condition, we turn to unhealthy or addictive alternatives for comfort instead of crying out to God for help.

The psalmist exhorts us to cry out to the Lord who hears us and delivers us from all our troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those of us who are crushed in spirit. We may have many problems, but we can rest assured the Lord will deliver us from them all (Psalm 34:17-19).

Make time, therefore, to go to a quiet place to get some rest amid difficult and trying times. Cast our cares and anxiety on the Lord, for He cares for us and will sustain us, and not let us be shaken (Mark 6:31; Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7).

Hear our cries, dear Lord, in our times of need and desperation. Deliver us from all our troubles, for we are unable to handle them on our own. You know, Lord, every of the troubles we are facing and the burdens we are carrying. Grant us relief, O Lord, and sustain us. Do not let us be shaken, for our hearts are weak and broken, and we are crushed in spirit. Draw us close to You, Lord, so that we might not go astray to seek alternatives in our moments of weakness. Help us plan our time and schedules wisely, Lord, so we might make time to calm down, relax, and rest in Your presence. 

Blessed Good Friday 2014

Remembering Good Friday

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, 
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
~ John 3:16 (NAS) ~

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cut to the Heart

"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:36-39 NKJ)

Cut to the Heart
I had a strange dream last night. I was at a Bible study with my pastor and some people I knew—mostly some co-workers of mine and some nondescript college students. We were discussing the Crucifixion. Somehow we ended up talking about Isaiah 11, where the Savior is described as "a Rod from the stem of Jesse" (v.1) and "a Root of Jesse" (v.10). Someone asked what that meant, and I explained how Jesse was David's father, and how Jesus was descended from David—hence, our Savior was from the family "stem" of Jesse. But for some reason the discussion wandered away from the discussion of the Crucifixion, and my Pastor and I had to reign in the off-topic speculating and get back to the Cross. People just seemed to trivialize the Crucifixion, to take it for granted, not realizing what it was or what it had done for them. The people there didn't seem ready to discuss it. So let's discuss it today.

The Crucifixion is the tipping-point of human history. While we may count days and years by a calendar reckoned from the Birth of our Savior, it is really only His Death that makes a difference in the world. To put it bluntly, Jesus lived to die. While we celebrate Christmas with reckless abandon every year, we ought to remember that for sixteen-hundred years, Christians spent more time and effort focusing on Easter—the Crucifixion and Resurrection—than on Christmas. The Crucifixion is important, folks, and we must not forget that.

In today's verses from the book of Acts of the Apostles, we have the tail end of Peter's first sermon to the Jews of Jerusalem during Pentecost. The end result was that "about three thousand souls" came to Christ that day. (Acts 2:41) And what did Peter talk about? The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. In this last bit quoted above, we see the first result of such preaching: they were "cut to the heart" and asked the apostles what was required of them. (v.37) And what is the Peter's response? "Repent" and be baptized "for the remission of sins." 

What cut them to the heart? Peter told them that THEY had crucified Jesus, who is now "both Lord and Christ." In fact, Peter told them that TWICE. In Acts 2:23, Peter said that Jesus they had "taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death."

At this point, some will say, "Quit accusing the Jews of killing Christ! Jesus was a Jew, you know!" Yes, and every other persecuted prophet of Israel was a child of Abraham, too, but that didn't stop the Israelites from seeking their deaths.

Others might try to get technical and say, "But the Romans crucified Jesus, not the Jews." During the religious wars in Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, people were impaled on long stakes just the same way that the Romans used crucifixion - as a "deterrent" to other rebels and "infidels." But the Christian rulers didn't want the stain of such cruel deaths on their hands, and so they hired non-Christians to do the actual impaling for them. Did that make the Christians any less guilty? It was the Pharisees and Jewish leaders who brought the charges against Jesus, and who called for Pilate to free Barabbas instead of Jesus. But that's not all that Peter was talking about.

What put Jesus on that cross was the sin of all the generations since Adam, and the sin of all generations until the end of time. WE put Jesus on that cross with our sin, rebellion, and lawlessness. We nailed Him there with our own hands as we performed acts that were not in keeping with the will of God. Our society put a spear in Jesus' side with our belittling of God and our self-interest and pride. Our nation put a crown of thorns on His head instead of a crown of glory, because we seek glory only for ourselves. We ourselves have beaten and mocked Jesus from the court to Calvary every time we allow bitterness and anger and hatred to reign in our hearts. We stripped Him naked every time we ignored the poor and the fatherless, every time we allowed injustice and oppression to reign in our lands. As surely as any Roman soldier, as surely as any mocking Jew in first-century Jerusalem, you and I have nailed our Savior to a cross so He could die.

Does that cut to the heart? It ought to. It's meant to. The Crucifixion is not just some "read it and forget it" moment of history, it is the turning point of God's plan for the world. The violence done to the Son of God was the result of our sins - AND it is the moment when one Man bore those sins away and washed us white as wool. It is cruel and heartless and painful, and it is something we would just as soon forget. But we MUST remember it, and we must remember that although it was horrible, it was necessary. The sentence of death is no longer ours, for the Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world. Christ defeated death, but He had to die to do it.

Today, dear sisters and brothers, remember the Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus. Don't gloss over it as some inconvenient fact, some unexplainable glitch in the course of Jesus' life. The Cross is the bridge between us and God, the place where our salvation was bought and paid, where we were ransomed from the slavery of sin. Yes, let us read and preach the words of our Lord, and let us talk freely about His unswerving obedience to God the Father. And then, when necessary, let us be like Peter and talk freely about the Crucifixion.

Let's not forget the Crucifixion and why and how it happened. Let us remember that even as non-believers are confused by the Crucifixion and cannot understand it, to those whom God has called, our crucified Lord is wisdom and power. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25) Remember this, too: If thinking about the Cross cuts you to the heart, then that is a good thing, because it means God has touched your heart and elected you to join His Son in glory. Glenn Pettit 

Precious God and Father, I have sinned so much and am so broken today. Your blessed Son was broken and beaten and He bled for me, a sinner and fool for so long. I am cut, dear Lord, deep into my stony heart. Thank You for the Cross that showed us Your mercy. Thank You for dying for me so that I might live. All I ask today, Lord God, is that You teach me how to live again in this new life I have been given. Amen.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Emotional Storms

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3 KJV)

Emotional Storms
Emotional storms of inner turmoil are difficult to handle. Grief, fear, and worry can cause us great distress. To see us through life's difficulties, God provides His protection and peace. But protection doesn't mean that troubles won’t occur. 

Jesus allowed the disciples to experience the fear and anxiety of being in a boat on a raging sea. He permitted them to suffer because He had something far more important to teach them. He wanted the disciples to recognize their own helplessness, His sufficiency, and their dependence on Him.

God's peace is not dependent upon the calming of our circumstances or the removal of external pressures. It doesn’t mean the absence of conflict either. His promised peace comes in three ways.

First, Jesus Himself becomes our peace. Through His death, He reconciled us to the Father. And we are no longer His enemies (Romans 5:1). In God, we can be at rest.

Second, when we're in a right relationship with the Father, we have the ability to live at peace with our fellow man (Ephesians 2:14). Through God, we have the power to choose forgiveness, to keep no record of wrongs, and to show love to our enemies.

The third way His promised peace comes is through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. It enables us to experience an increasing sense of inner tranquility (Galatians 5:22-23). Karen McKenney