Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dry Wisdom from the Desert Monks

The Desert Monks were an early Christian movement of monks who sold their possessions, left their towns, and lived alone in the deserts of northern Africa. Their wisdom is still alive today, as related in the following story about the Monk.

A long time ago, a desert hunter could not believe his eyes when he came across a group of hermits spending time together at a nearby oasis. Among them was a monk. The wise monk took his chance meeting and teach a great truth.

The monk told the hunter to put an arrow in his bow and shoot it. The hunter did so. The old man told him to do it again. The hunter obeyed. A third time, the monk asked him to shoot an arrow. The hunter blinked, looked at the others, loaded his bow with another arrow, and shot it high and far.

The monk with a rare grin said, “One more time.”

“But if I bend the bow too much, it’ll wear out and break,” the hunter said.

To this, the monk said, “Same with us. Doing God’s work will wear out even the most dedicated followers. They need a break, like we are taking, and so do you.”

The Desert Monks lived by a belief that all Christians needed a break to practice three things to bring them closer to God: solitude, silence, and prayer.

Solitude: Solitude is not enforced loneliness; it’s getting away just to hang out with God. Try carving out some time each day to be alone with God.

Silence: Silence provides mental space for the Holy Spirit to speak and work in our lives ­– no radios, no television, no phones, no background noises to drown out His voice. Try things like reading the Bible in silence, journaling or mentally reflecting on what God says to you.

Prayer: Prayer is not only talking with God, but listening to Him. Allow the practices of solitude and silence to help you in your prayer life.

Christians need to take time off from active ministry every now and then to recharge their spiritual batteries. Use solitude, silence, and prayer to keep your life plugged into the “recharger” – God.

Day 1: Future Generation as an effective witness

Formerly Blind Leading the Blind

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick… For I have not come to call the righteous but the sinner. Matthew 9:13-13

An eye surgeon who went to China as a missionary, began preaching in one of China’s hospital. One of the first surgeries he performed was on a man who had been nearly blinded by cataracts. The operation was successful and the man recovered his eyesight.

A few weeks later, this missionary was greatly surprised when 48 blind men showed up on his hospital’s doorstep. These blind men had walked more than 250 miles from a remote area in China to get into the hospital, in order that they might get their sight restored. They had traveled the entire distance holding on to a rope that kept them together. And guess who had held the front end of the rope and led them all the way? It was the man who had his eyesight restored by the missionary surgeon.


We have been freed from the guilt of sin, and have our “eyes opened.” Are you leading others to same “Great Physician” Jesus Christ? Are you an effective witness? If not, start being a witness today and share what Jesus has done in your life.

Is Salvation Enough?

Why is it that so many people who know Jesus as their personal Savior live as they do not know Him? Unfortunately it is not uncommon to encounter fellow believer whose life is consumed by jealousy, anger, bitterness, or depression. Despite his or her decision to follow Christ, evidence of sin and disobedience indicates the lack of a growing relationship with God.

This brings us to the question, “Is salvation enough?” With your decision to accept Christ you are guaranteed eternal life in heaven. Yet, what does salvation mean for us in our lives on earth?

Paul provides valuable insights in his letter to the Colossians. He writes, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk with Him” (2:6). Walking with Christ requires a second commitment following your decision to accept salvation. You must choose to submit to His lordship over your life.

Contrary to salvation, submitting to Christ leadership is not a one-time decision. It involves laying your life completely before Him every day.

Is there an emotion, a habit, or an area of your life labeled with a “Keep Out” sign? Do not be afraid to allow God inside. He is the divine creator and Lord of the universe. Will you trust Him to be the Lord of your life? No problem is too large or too small for His concern.

Day 2: Future Generation as Leader of Leaders

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you. Titus 2:7-8

General Eiwson Hower demonstrates the art of leadership with a peace of string. He put it on a table and say: “pull it and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it and it will go nowhere at all.” It’s just that way when it comes to leading people. They need to follow a person who is leading by example.

John Maxwell: “The most important ingredient of leadership is integrity.”

Importance of Integrity:

Ø It builds trust.

Ø It has high influence value.

Ø It facilitates high standards

Ø It results in a solid reputation, not just image.

Ø It means living it myself before leading others.

Ø It helps a leader be credible, not just clever.

Ø It is a hard-won achievement.


God has put people in our lives, because He trusts us to lead this people in the way that pleases Him. Are we doing the task that God entrusted to us?

Day 3: Future Generation as Conqueror

The Giant Killer

Then David said to the Philistine… “You come to me with a sword and spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts… this day the Lord will deliver you into my hands… and all the earth will know there is a God in Israel” 1 Samuel 17-45-46

David began with one simple but mighty act. He loved God. This was where his faith born – in love for the one who gave him life. Nothing was more important to David than his relationship with God. As a young man, when he faced Goliath, he realized it was his faith that was on trial. Goliath had the ability to crush him; in spite of this David was not overwhelmed by his opponent. David proclaimed his faith in God, and this was where he gained victory.

You may be facing a Goliath in your own life. Feelings of doubt chew at your thoughts and lately you wonder how you will be able to face the challenge. God is close to you, and He will not abandon you.

If David listened to his brothers’ doubting words, he would have suffered defeat. Instead, he put his hope in God.

God has victory in mind for your life. Remember, the true nature of battle is spiritual. The enemy of your soul has one goal and that is to discourage you. Satan wanted to defeat and discourage Israel. However, God trained and raised up a mighty warrior in David, and this is exactly what He want to do in your life. He wants to train you for battle and for the victory!

What was the motivation of David?

Why is He so confident to win regardless of what he has?

Can we see ourselves like David… The Giant Killer?

  • Giant killers are NOT OVERWHELMED by the challenge.
  • Giant killers FACE the challenge with higher purpose.
  • Giant killers are EAGER to win.


What giants are you facing today? What will be your initial steps to conquer those giants?

The Faith That Conquers

Whatever Goliath you face, the one truth you need to bury deep within your heart is this: God loves you, and when you place your trust in Him, He will not allow you to face defeat. You may go through times of failure. Life may not always turn out the way you planned, but, ultimately, God will be glorified, and you will be blessed.

Every challenge presents an opportunity for God to display His faithfulness and love. Instead of yielding to thoughts of fear and failure, make a commitment to trust God, even when you do not know what the next day will bring. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6)

David’s faith was not based on human understanding. It was founded in the sovereignty of God. Therefore, David knew he could not fail in his quest to defeat the Philistine giants.

How do you gain a conquering faith?

Recall past victories. David recalled how God had delivered him from paw of the lion and grasp of the bear (1Samuel 17:32-37). Spiritual victories are won in your mind. If you cave into feelings of fear, doubt, and misbelieve, you will suffer defeat, because your mental focus shifts from God and His infinite ability to the lies of the enemy. Set focus of your heart, mind, will, and emotions on the truth of God’s Word, and you will gain the victory in every battle.

Reexamine and reaffirm your motives. David did not rush into the battle without assessing the situation. He realized that the battle facing Israel was spiritual in nature not just physical. His primary motivation for seeking the victory was not personal gain. Instead, it was to bring glory to God

If your motives for victory are selfish in nature, God will deal with you. True victory comes as you surrender your life along with your desires, to Christ. Always ask three questions before dealing with any conflict or challenge: “What is my motivation? “What is God’s purpose for me?” and “What really is going on here?”

Reject discouraging words. There was no one to encourage David in his quest to defeat Goliath. The soldiers laughed at him. His brothers were embarrassed by his presence and urged him to go home. Even King Saul doubted David’s ability.

If he had listened to their comments, he would have given up, but he didn’t. He turned his heart toward God, and it was there that he found the encouragement.

Recognize the true nature of the battle. Goliath cursed David when he saw him. “Am I a dog, that you come to with sticks?... Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beast of the field” (1Samuel 17:43-44). David countered these threats with a wonderful reply: “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted… the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hands” (vv45-47). What a victorious to say “God Wins!”

Respond to the challenge with a positive confession. David made a positive confession of faith to those around him. He told the men who criticized, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” To Saul he said, “the Lord who delivered me…will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.” And to Goliath he said, “ I come to you in the name of the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel.” David’s words were a testimony of faith. He was convinced that he could not lose because God was with him.

Rely on the power of God for the victory. David did not need spear or a javelin to defeat Goliath. All he needed was his faith. A homemade slingshot was the weapon God choose for him. Human strength was not the victor here. God was the one who received the glory.

Reckon the victory. Even before he stepped onto battlefield, David knew he would not lose. You can face any circumstance with confidence and hope, because it is not your strength, wisdom, energy, or power that is the ultimate source of victory. It is God’s ability, and when you place your trust in Him, you tap into an eternal force that cannot be harnessed by any human constraints.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Meet Your Commander N’ Chief

How do we strengthen our character? What methods should we utilize in order to be men and women of integrity? There are few answers as fitting as this: become acquainted with Jesus Christ.

It is wonderful for us to understand and embrace doctrines of faith, grace, justification, and sanctification. They all provide strength to resist sin and a steady arm to help us back up when we fall. But it is much, much better to be familiar with Jesus Christ Himself, to see His face, and to catch a glimpse of His splendor. This, according the J.C. Ryle, “is one secret of eminent holiness.” If we wish to become stronger in resisting sin, what better way than to study Him “who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15)?

Here we are, lacking in strength, courage, and patience. Lacking the power to stand, to move forward, and to make a difference in our evil world. We find it so easy to conform to this world and so very difficult to go against the flow. We seem to fall back two steps for every one step we take forward and all our “firm” resolutions turn out short-lived and useless.

This is the beauty of Christ’s sufficiency! In Christ alone “all fullness dwells” (Col. 1:19)—in Him alone do we find all that we need to successfully combat sin. We are strong Christians only in proportion as we lean on Him. It is only when we stop hoping in our own strength and place all our confidence in Christ that we will accomplish great things.

To know Christ and the power of His resurrection is the true secret of spiritual strength. Then only are we armed for life’s battles. Then only are we ready to journey through life, and move forward. Then only will we overcome the world and cause change. “I can do all things,” says Paul, “through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

Our own weakness highlights the power of Christ to strengthen our will! He promises “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) Let us, as the Apostle Paul did, boast all the more gladly in our weaknesses so that the power of Christ might rest on us.

With this in mind what better way is there to fortify our character than to dwell on Jesus Christ? Yet how do we do that? Here are two ways:

1.) Read the Gospels: It would be so beneficial if Christians studied the four Gospels more than they do. Of course, all Scripture is profitable (2 Tim. 3:16), and I don’t mean to esteem the Gospels at the expense of other sections of Scripture. But it would be good for those who are very familiar with the Epistles to become more acquainted with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Why do I say this? Simply, because the Gospels were written that we might familiarize ourselves with Christ. Think about it for a minute, the Holy Spirit has told and retold the story of His life and death, the things that He said and the things that He did, four times over. Four different witnesses have drawn a picture of our Savior and our Helper. Four different inspired hands have communicated to us His ways, His manners, His feelings, His grace, His patience, His wisdom, His love, and His power. How can we ignore such an open invitation to study and internalize these attributes and qualities?

2.) Talk With Him: How many of us wonder that our relationship with Christ isn’t strong when we neglect to invest the time and effort necessary to any friendship? I would challenge you, pick your closest human friend and then imagine what would happen if you invested the same amount of time and effort into that relationship as you do in your relationship with Christ. Would you be just as close? Closer? Or would you barely see each other, barely talk to each other, and barely care that you weren’t? Think of it this way: closeness with Christ will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from getting close to Christ. You decide.

I would encourage you, don’t hesitate to run to Christ this day. He is “a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24), who understands your weaknesses and turns them into strengths. We must be consumed with Christ or we will be consumed with this world and by this world.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why does God demand sexual purity?

Answer:God isn’t demanding sexual purity because he’s mean and doesn’t want us to have fun. He created sex and wants you to enjoy it at its best. And His best plan is for sex to be enjoyed in marriage, by one man and one woman who have made a commitment to love each other.

Here’s a thought: magsusuot ka ba ng damit na matagal nang hindi nalalabhan or would you prefer yung bagong bili or bagong laba? Siyempre, yung bago!

As with God, He wants us to have the best not second best… ok? Iba si Lord. He loved us so much He died on the cross for us to enjoy purity sa future relationship natin with the opposite sex and especially with Him.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What Does Eternal Life Mean?

There are some events in life that seem to go on forever: the half hour before the end of school each day (especially the last day of school), or the speech you have to make in front of the whole class, or the family dinner that takes so long for everyone to finish when you're waiting to eat dessert. And there are some unbelievable moments—when you finally learn to snowboard or win the game for your team or get a hug from someone you love—that you wish would last forever. While none of these events actually lasts forever, eternal life does. It wouldn't be called eternal if it didn't.

Jesus said, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). This never-ending life is promised to those who believe in Jesus. "But how can this be?" you might ask. "After all, everyone will die at some point." True. But death isn't the end of the story. Jesus promised that someday we'll live forever with him. That means we'll live again after we die.

As a promise that this will happen, we have the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his followers that the Holy Spirit would come and make his home within every person who believes in Jesus. (Don't just take my word for it. Read John 14:15-17, 26.) We're told about the guarantee in Ephesians 1:14. "The Spirit is God's guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised." That inheritance, which we will receive as God's children, is eternal life.

Eternal life is more than an existence that never ends. It's a quality life that's filled with joy.

In the Star Trek movie Generations, Guinan tells Captain Picard about a place called the Nexus. She describes it this way: "It was like being inside joy, as if joy was something tangible and you could wrap yourself up in it like a blanket."

I don't believe in the Nexus. But I do believe in the new heavens and the New Earth. What will it be like there? Like "being inside joy, as if joy were something tangible and you could wrap yourself up in it like a blanket."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

think about this...

Purpose in life

Purpose, meaning, a reason for living—these are all things we desire and search for in life. Despite steps each one of us takes to find purpose and meaning, we still feel empty, unfulfilled. That is because there is a spiritual emptiness in each of our lives. We each have a hole in our heart, a spiritual vacuum deep within our soul. Possessions won’t fill this hole, nor will success. Relationships alone cannot satisfy this emptiness, and morality, in and of itself, falls miserably short of occupying this space. In fact, even religion cannot fill the void in our heart.

There is only one way to effectively fill that void. This way will not only help us to have a life that is full and rich on this earth, but—more importantly—will give us the absolute hope of spending eternity in the presence of God. Before we can truly appreciate this good news, though, we need to understand the bad news, which is a serious problem we all have.

The Problem: Sin

Someone may say, “But I’m a good person. I try to be kind and considerate to others. I live by the Ten Commandments.”* That’s a great place to start. God set up these rules for our benefit, and they are his standard for what is good. Let’s take a look at a few of them and see how you measure up. (For more details, see the “good person test” link on the home page.)

”You shall have no other gods before Me.” Have you ever loved or desired something or someone more than you love or desire God?

”You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Have you ever used the word God as a swear word?

”You shall not steal.” Have you ever taken anything that is not yours, no matter how small, regardless of its value?

”Honor your father and mother.” Have you ever dishonored either one of your parents?

“You shall not commit adultery.” Jesus said if you even look upon a woman with lust in your heart, you are guilty of adultery.

”You shall not lie.” Have you lied even once? Be honest now.

These are only six of the ten commandments. If you’re honest with yourself, you will admit to breaking each of these many times. If you stood before God today, would he declare you guilty or not guilty of breaking his law? If you’re like every other person on earth, you have absolutely failed the test. The truth of the matter is that the Ten Commandments, or the law, as they are called in the Bible, were not given to make us look good but to make us realize how sinful we are. The Bible tells us, “No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what his law commands. For the more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it” (Romans 3:20). You might say that God’s law was given to show us that we are not good by God’s standards and therefore desperately need his help and forgiveness for our terminal condition as sinners. Romans 3:23 clearly says that “all have sinned.”

Think about it, if you only sinned three times a day, by the time you’re 20 years old you would be responsible to God for breaking his Law over 20,000 times. Are you ready for that day? To repeat what was said above, before we can truly appreciate what God did for us to solve our monumental problem, we must first acknowledge that we have a problem, in fact a very serious problem. Keep reading to learn about the greatest act of love in the history of mankind: God did something to solve our guilty condition. The hope for heaven is in His goodness, not ours.

The Solution: Jesus Christ

But there is GOOD NEWS---GOD LOVES YOU, IN FACT HE IS CRAZY ABOUT YOU AND HAS DONE SOMETHING SO THAT YOU WON’T HAVE TO GO TO HELL. He has provided the way to be declared not guilty. This is why Jesus came. The same verse in Romans that says that the penalty for sin is death goes on to say, “but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to take our punishment for us, to bridge the chasm of sin that separates us from God. This was the only way for God to remain just and fair, and still provide a way for us to be forgiven and made right again (Romans 3:26).

Jesus’ death on the cross was a substitutionary death—He paid the penalty of death in our place. He was completely sinless, and did not deserve to die. He died for us. But because He was sinless, His death satisfied God’s justice, and Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.

1. Why Jesus can Bridge the Gap
Jesus came to this earth with a clear objective in mind: to bridge that gap between us and God.
When the Israelites of the Old Testament sinned, the high priest would go into the temple and offer an animal sacrifice to God to atone for their sins. In a symbolic sense, this was a way of putting one’s sins on the animal, which stood in the place of the guilty person. The Bible teaches, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

The sacrificial rituals carried out by the Israelites in the Old Testament foreshadowed what Jesus would do when he came to this earth. He took the sin of the world upon himself when he hung on the cross so many years ago.

Numerous Old Testament prophecies pointed not only to his birth and life but also to his death, including the way in which he would die.

Jesus knew from the beginning that he had come expressly to die for the sins of humanity. He also knew that this sacrifice would be made on a Roman cross. He was arrested on false charges after Judas Iscariot, one of his own disciples, betrayed him. But it was no accident. If humanity was going to be put in touch with God and have the barrier that separated them removed, something drastic had to be done. In essence, with one hand Jesus took hold of a Holy God, and with the other hand he took hold of the sinful human race. As crude nails were pounded into his hands, he bridged the gap for us!

We must not forget, however, that three days after his crucifixion, Jesus rose from the dead!

2. We put Jesus on the Cross
The necessity of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross shows just how radical our situation was as fallen people. It’s been said that you can tell the depth of a well by how much rope is lowered. When we look at “how much rope was lowered” from heaven, we realize how grave our situation really was.

For that reason, don’t blame the people of that day for putting Jesus on the cross. We are just as guilty as they. In reality, it was not the Roman soldiers who put him on the cross, nor was it the Jewish leaders: it was our sins that made it necessary for Jesus to volunteer for the torturous and humiliating death.

Whenever you are tempted to doubt God’s love for you, take a long look at the cross on which Jesus died. Then realize that, for all practical purposes, it was not nails that held him to the cross, but love.*

Many of us have heard this story at some point in our lives. Yet the significance behind this heart-wrenching scene is often missed or misunderstood. This was not simply some “good teacher” being crucified for his beliefs. It was God in human form who hung on that cross, bridging the gap between sinful people and a holy God.*

Matthew’s Gospel tells us that when Jesus hung on that cross, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Many Bible scholars believe that those words marked the precise moment at which God placed the sins of the world upon his Son. The Bible, speaking of God, says, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (Habakkuk 1:13). For that reason, the holy Father had to “turn his face” and pour out his wrath upon his own Son. On the cross, Jesus received the wages that were due us. He was not heard that we might be heard. The ear of God was closed to Jesus for a time that it might never be closed to us.

3. Does it Have to be Jesus?
Haven’t there been other religious leaders who have claimed to have the way to God? Haven’t some of them also died as a result of their message?

While the answers to these questions may be yes, the truth is that not one of these others leaders was fully God and fully human. That is why Jesus is uniquely qualified to deal with sin. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Acts 4:12 tells us, “there is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.” And, most important, Jesus Christ rose from the dead!* This is one of the most reliable truths of ancient history. There were hundreds of witnesses, many later willing to give their lives for what they actually saw. It’s one thing to die for something you believe to be true (i.e. current day suicide bombers); however it would not make sense for someone to sacrifice their lives for something they knew to be false.

The Response: Accept God's Offer

To know Jesus Christ personally and have your sins forgiven, you must acknowledge that you are a sinner separated from God and that your only hope is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came and died for your sins. To stop here, however, would be to stop short of salvation.
There are two things you must now do to enter into a relationship with the God from whom you have been separated.

1. Repent (Turn From Your Sins)
As Jesus began his public ministry, his first message was “Turn from your sins” (Mark 1:15). In essence, Jesus was telling the people to repent—to acknowledge their sinning, change their minds, and change the direction of their lives. *

Look at it this way. In the past, we have been blinded by our sins, causing us to run from God. As we repent, we do a “U-turn” and start running toward him. It is not enough just to be sorry for our sins. We must also change our lifestyle, for the Bible teaches that “God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin” (2 Corinthians 7:10). In other words, if you are really sorry for something, it will result in a change in your actions.

The apostle Paul summed up this change succinctly when he quoted Jesus, who had said that people must “turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me (Acts 26:18).

You see, there are some things only God can do and some things only you can do. Only God can remove your sins and give you the gift of eternal life, but only you can turn from your sins and receive Jesus as your Savior. That brings up the second thing you must do to respond to God’s offer.

2. Believe in Jesus Christ and Receive Him Into Your Life
Having seen the enormity of your sin and having decided to turn from it, you then must believe in and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Becoming a Christian, however, is far more than following a creed or trying to live by certain standards. Jesus said that you must be “born again,” or more literally, “born from above” (John 3:3). This spiritual rebirth happens when we personally believe in Jesus Christ, receive him by inviting him into our lives, and turn from our sins. In other words, we ask Jesus to come and take residence in our lives, making the changes he deems necessary. A person must take this all-important step in order to become a child of God.

Notice that this offer is yours for the asking, and it is free. You don’t have to work for it, trying to clean up your life before you make this life-changing decision. The Bible says: “The free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Being a Christian also means having a personal relationship with the living God. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus said, “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.” To better understand the meaning of this verse, it is important to understand the culture at the time it was written. Eating together in Bible times was a long, drawn-out affair. People would not sit on chairs behind tables in a formal setting as we do, but they would sit on the floor, reclining on pillows around a low table. The relaxed atmosphere made meals a time when you would not only satisfy your appetite but also receive a gratifying serving of enjoyable table conversation. You would share your heart and life with those who sat beside you.

Consequently, when Jesus says that he will “share a meal” with us, it implies intimacy, closeness, and friendship. He offers this to us, but we must first “hear him calling” us.

To hear God calling us, we must know how he speaks. One way in which God speaks to us is described in the Bible as a “still, small voice.” This could be described in another way as that tug you may have felt on your heart from the Holy Spirit showing you your need for Jesus. He may even be speaking to you right now! It is at that point that you must “open the door.” Only you can do that. Jesus will not force his way in.

What God Has Done for You

What actually happens when Jesus Christ comes into your life? First, he saves you from your sins and the punishment you deserve as a result of them—eternity in hell. This is called salvation, or regeneration, and has to do with what takes place in your heart: God gives you new life, a new perspective.

Second, he justifies you. Justification has to do with your standing before God and includes the complete removal and forgiveness of your sins. Think about it! When you receive Jesus Christ into your life, you are completely forgiven. God’s Word tells us, “Brothers, listen! In this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins! Everyone who believes in him is freed from all guilt and declared right with God (justified)—something the Jewish law could never do” (Acts 13:38-39). Speaking of our sins, God says, “I will never again remember (your) sins and lawless deeds” (Hebrews 10:17). What a wonderful promise!

Justification, however, is more than just the forgiveness and removal of the guilt and condemnation that accompany sin. While God has removed your sins and forgiven you of them, he has also placed the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ “into your account,” so to speak. You don’t have to earn it or try to achieve it; that would be impossible. It is yours as a gracious gift from the God who loves you. To understand justification more fully, read the following Scripture passages and notes below.*

1. God Promises Us His Gracious Forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9). The word confess means “to say the same thing as another” or “to agree with.” To confess means that we are agreeing with God about our sin. We are seeing it as he does. We know that God hates sin. Therefore, to truly confess our sin means that we essentially feel the same way God feels about what we have done. After committing that sin, we will be determined to put it out of our lives and never do it again. That is true confession in the biblical sense. The reason many believers are not experiencing the forgiveness and joy they desire is because they have not yet truly confessed! Once we have met God’s conditions, however, we will know his gracious forgiveness. We may not “feel” forgiven, but we are. We have his word on it.

2. God Has Balanced Our Moral and Spiritual Budget (Romans 5:1-2). When God makes us right in his sight, he does so by placing all of the righteousness of Christ to our credit. This balances the moral and spiritual budget for us. We now have sufficient “capital of character” to get on with the business of living.

Up to this point, salvation has been God’s responsibility. From this point on, it continues to be his responsibility except that we are responsible for the wise investment of our “capital of character”—that is, we are responsible for living as God desires us to. It is as if your checking account were empty, but then someone made a $100,000 deposit. What you do with that money is up to you.

3. God Calls Us His Children (see Luke 15:11-32). This incredible story illustrates what happens when a person turns from sin and returns to God. First, notice that the father in the story did not give this prodigal son what he deserved—banishment. In the same way, we do not receive from God what we deserve—punishment for sin. Second, the young man was given what he did not deserve—the rights and privileges of full sonship. Likewise, although we are not worthy to be called children of God, he calls us sons and daughters. In summary, he doesn’t give us what we deserve (judgment). He gives us what we don’t deserve (forgiveness and justification).

Speaking of sons and daughters, read on to see how God has adopted you into his family.

Adopted and Assured

We have looked at what happens when we are regenerated (when Christ comes into our lives) and when we are justified (when God forgives our sin and puts his righteousness in its place). Now let us look at another incredible thing God has done for us. He has adopted us into his family as his children!

Adoption means “to be given the rights of a son.” In essence, you have been given the full rights of sonship in the family of God as though you were born that way. The story of the Prodigal Son illustrates this (Luke 15:11-32). The wayward son thought that after leaving home, he would no longer be considered a son but would instead be treated as a hired servant. Much to his surprise, when he made the long journey home, his father welcomed him and smothered him with kisses. The father then gave orders to bring out the best robe and to put a ring on his finger, signifying full rights as a son. That is exactly what God has done for you! Take some time now to examine three Scripture passages that assure you of your adoption into God’s family.

God Disciplines His Children (see Hebrews 12:5-9). Recognizing you are now a child of God is not some distant hope but a present reality. One of the ways God will remind you of this is by correcting you and bringing you back into line like a loving father when you stray away from him.

Before we were believers, we may have felt no sense of guilt for certain things we did or did not do. But now that we are Christians, God’s Holy Spirit shows us the way to live, which includes correcting us. He does this not because he hates us, but because he loves us as his own dear children. Understanding this truth should help us in the way we behave.

You Have an Approachable Father (see Galatians 4:6). The Aramaic word translated “dear Father” is abba, which is a word of affection that a young child would use endearingly toward his or her father. A western equivalent of that phrase would be “papa” or “daddy.” God does not want to be viewed as some distant, disinterested father, but as a loving, approachable father to whom you can turn at any time because you are his child.

His Promises are Not Based Upon Your Feelings (see 1 John 5:11-13). There will be times as a Christian when you may not “feel” God’s presence. You may even be tempted to doubt that he has come into your life. But 1 John 5:13 does not say, “I write this to you who believe in the Son of God so that you may feel you have eternal life.” This is because feelings come and go. They fluctuate. Nor does the Bible say, “I write this so that you may hope—if God is in a really good mood—that you have eternal life.” It does not say, “I write this so you can try and be good enough for eternal life”-- our sin disqualifies us no matter how good we are. It says, “I write these things so that you may know you have eternal life.” Eternal life is yours! Stand on God’s promise to you. You are forgiven, justified, adopted into his family, and assured of salvation. Now that is reason to rejoice!

Friday, January 04, 2008

A Stumbling Block: What it is and What it isn't (by randy alcorn)

The stumbling block of 1 Corinthians 8 (and Romans 14) is an action, taken by a biblically informed believer, that does not in itself violate any scriptural precept or principle, but which a less knowledgeable or less mature believer might imitate, in a way that violates his conscience.

In context, the mature believer feels free to eat meat offered to idols, because meat is meat and it's a provision of God, and idols are nothing. But the immature believer has come from a background of idol worship, so when he sees his brother eating meat, it eggs him on to do it. However, he associates the meat with the idols, and therefore is violating his conscience by eating it.

A stumbling block, then, is not just anything that causes someone to be offended.

It is not a stumbling block to commit adultery, because adultery is inherently sinful. It's always a bad example to do wrong, obviously, but this isn't what the passage is dealing with.

It is not a stumbling block for a man to have long hair and a pony tail, if the people who are offended by this are not thereby tempted to have a pony tail themselves, and in doing so violate their conscience.

It cannot be a stumbling block when a woman is offended at a man's beard, unless she is tempted to grow a beard and in doing so would violate her conscience. It is not a stumbling block when a man is offended at a woman nursing a baby in church, since he is presumably not going to be tempted to start nursing a baby.

The church people who are most offended by wine drinking would typically never be tempted to drink wine in the first place. Drinking alcohol may be a stumbling block, but not to those offended by it, but rather to those who may imitate this action without sufficiently strong conscience and self-control. They might not be able to handle it, so it would do them damage, become addictive and lead them into sin.

The biblical stumbling block involves a more mature believer exercising Christian liberty in a way that hurts a younger less mature believer. It does so by prompting him to say "I guess I can go ahead and drink alcohol, watch R-rated movies, etc." when by doing so he will end up sinning because of being unable to handle this action that another believer might be able to handle.

In many churches, it is older Christians, who think of themselves as more mature, who are offended at the behavior of younger Christians. Almost never are they tempted to do what the younger Christians are doing that offends them (such as listening to rock music), and therefore their offense has nothing to do with the stumbling block of 1 Corinthians 8 or Romans 14.

Instead of saying "you shouldn't do that because it's a stumbling block to me," these "professional weaker brothers" should engage in healthy biblical dialogue concerning the subject and learn to accept those things that are no more than differences in taste. They should not pull out "stumbling block" as a trump card that means "you can't exercise Christian liberty in any area I'm uncomfortable with." In fact, those who are biblically informed enough to even be familiar with the term stumbling block should be mature enough not to trip over one.

Also, notice that in 1 Corinthians 8 the "stumbling block" action is taken in a spirit of pride, arrogance, and selfish independence. It is a deliberate flaunting of Christian liberty, at the expense of others. The stumbling block issue is as much a matter of the offender's attitude as his action.

Applying the Principles of 1 Corinthians 8-10 to Today's Issues

Begin by making a list of "gray" activities-things which do not seem to be absolutely right or absolutely wrong.

Then, try to fit each activity into one of the categories below:

1. Like eating meat in the market-Go ahead and do it.
2. Like eating meat in the idols' temple-Never do it.
3. Like eating meat served in a friend's home
a. Under certain circumstances, go ahead.
b. Under other circumstances, don't.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

The news from our mechanic threatened to scuttle our plans. A suspicious rattling noise prompted me to take our clunker of a car to the shop a day before we were scheduled to drive through the night to Florida for our family vacation. The mechanic informed me that the rattling noise was our transmission’s farewell song, and that we were going to have to replace it—a time-consuming and expensive repair.

Seriously discouraged, I made my way back to the church office. I was considering how I would break the news to my family, when the phone rang. On the other end of the line, one of our church members said, “Hey, Pastor, I hear that you’re going to Florida on vacation. You know, my wife and I are worried about you taking your family to Florida in that little car. Our cars belong to God, and we would like you to take one of them on your vacation. Your choice!”
Wow! I knew that his cars were beauties—so either one would have been incredible.

With vacation plans intact and with a heart of gratitude for God’s provision, my family made our way to Florida in our friend’s beautiful car. I’ve got to be honest: I loved driving that car. I loved the stares we got at stoplights; and I felt pretty proud as I pulled up to a gas station. As I was pumping gas into the car (it had a huge appetite for fuel!), a guy walked out of the gas station and said, “Hey, that’s a beautiful car. How do you like your car?”

This was a big moment for me. Do you think I wanted to tell him it wasn’t my car? No way! A spiritual battle raged in my heart for what seemed like an hour (but was probably only 10 seconds). Truth finally won out, and I said, “Well, it’s not my car, but I like it a lot!”

Through the course of life, we all have opportunities to take the credit for ourselves when we shouldn’t. In the spotlight of some success, it’s tempting to keep the applause focused on “me.” But when you think about it, we would have no success in our lives at all if God did not see fit to give us the opportunities to succeed, the brainpower, the education, the temperament and gifts to accomplish praiseworthy things. Even so, when people notice that we have something good going, an internal spiritual battle occurs: Do we keep the glory for ourselves, or do we turn the spotlight back to God where it belongs?

Paul had it right in Philippians 3:1-11 when he encouraged us to stop bragging about ourselves and to start rejoicing in the Lord. He put together an impressive list of his own accomplishments and then said they were like “dung” compared to the glorious reality of Christ in His life. Jeremiah said, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight” (9:23-24).

It’s not that we can’t enjoy our moment in the sun. Pleasure in good things is a gift that God has given us. It’s just that it’s important to give the credit for all we have and are to the appropriate person: God, the giver of all good things (1 Timothy 6:17).


Think back on some areas of accomplishment in your life. How were those moments (or how could they have been) used to bring God glory? What can you do in the future to tactfully give God the credit?

Think about some of the activities, hobbies, or pursuits that bring you genuine joy in life. Thank God for the opportunity to use the body and talents that He has given you to enjoy these things!
Read Acts 12:20-23, a sobering thought about stealing the glory from God.