Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Marriage is Bound by God’s Love

Marriage is God’s idea and cannot change its components no matter what. Its idea must be preserved and given the highest priority as far as any human relationship is concerned. In Fashioned for Intimacy, Jane Hansen says, "The union between the man and woman was to be inseparable; it was not to be divided.” God created marriage to benefit humanity and to provide partnership based on God’s love and godly principles. Biblical marriage is a testimony of God’s miraculous power and the manifestation of His love that binds two people as one.

Genesis 1-2 provided the backdrop of God’s creation, including the first man placed in a Garden. Pat Joyce explained, “ The word "man" is Adam in Hebrew meaning mankind or human being.  It is used here as a common noun not the name of a man nor a reference to males only.” Adam received God’s charge over the Garden and all of God’s creation by naming all animals in it. While doing so, God saw Adam’s need for another being just like him: Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him (2:18 ESV).
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God created another being like Adam: So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribsAnd the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man” (2:21-22 ESV). Pat Joyce shared, “The word woman in Hebrew is the feminine form of man (ish = man, ishshah = woman), and Adam called her woman recognizing in her the female version of himself--a human being--his perfect counterpart.” Here are some words to confirm connection: Woman; Madam; and Female.

The next scenario becomes the most important event in human history, i.e., God’s institution of marriage: “…made into a woman and brought her to the man.” God officiated the first marriage at the Garden of Eden after presenting the woman to him. God’s design for marriage never changed ever since.

In our modern setting, allow me to share some principles of making a marriage stronger under God’s love as God intended. First, for marriage to stand out above others, it must be partnered with God’s blessing unwaveringly. When God become fully involved in the process between two people, the result can only be a marriage made in heaven with God’s hand upon it. Single people must stand on God’s word and that God knows every need and desire to release the blessing of a right and a good partner.

Next, for marriage to withstand instabilities, it must be instituted by God’s love unconditionally. Every marriage is a miracle that God provided, so let God cover with His agape love- “the love that keeps on loving even if the other person become unlovable.”

Finally, for marriage to exceed expectations, it must be supported by God’s power unceasingly. “Let no man put you asunder, as God supports it” must become the guiding principle of every Christian marriage. Michael Ventura shared, “Marriage is a journey toward an unknown destination -- the discovery that people must share not only what they don't know about each other, but what they don't know about themselves.” Therefore, keeping marriage bound in God’s love requires intentional attention. It begins by praying for one another. Here’s a beautiful prayer by Bishop Slattery, soon after his marriage, to be used each day in their family devotions at home in Boston, Massachusetts.

A Prayer for a Married Couple
O God, our Heavenly Father, protect and bless us.
Deepen and strengthen our love for each other day by day.
Grant that by Thy mercy neither of us ever say one unkind word to the other.
Forgive and correct our faults, and make us constantly to forgive
one another should one of us unconsciously hurt the other.
Make us and keep us sound and well in body, alert in mind, tender in heart, devout in spirit.
O Lord, grant us each to rise to the other's best.
Then we pray Thee add to our common life such virtues as only Thou canst give.
And so, O Father, consecrate our life and our love completely to Thy worship,
and to the service of all about us, especially those whom Thou has appointed us to serve,
that we may always stand before Thee in happiness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Following Jesus Today

Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated a central truth about following Jesus nowadays “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” Christ and His teachings are inseparable. Therefore, Christ and those following Him cannot follow Him without His teachings fulfilled in their lives as well. What does it mean to follow Jesus in a post-Christian era? The apostle John reiterated the Scriptural principle needed as a Jesus-follower: “Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9b, ESV).

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Understanding the four primary focus of Jesus’ teachings from the Gospels provides anyone with the means of following Jesus proactively. First, faith in Jesus and His words is a must. Our faith in the goodness of God is confirmed after the crucifixion overcame all the powers of death. We know, therefore, that God will be with us always, even to the end of the age. Max Lucado stressed, “In our faith we follow in someone's steps. In our faith, we leave footprints to guide others. It's the principle of discipleship.”

Next, maintaining hope in Jesus’ promises anchors our faith. Because of the resurrection, we have confidence in the communion of saints — that those we love who have died live on joyfully in the nearer presence of God. We have hope that we too are headed for eternal life. One promise we can apply is hoping for His return: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3a). This promise is a clear message Charles Spurgeon wanted every believer to remember: Our hope in Christ for the future is the mainspring and the mainstay of our joy down here today.

Another principle Jesus displayed is loving others as He did. The crucifixion is the ultimate expression of God’s self-giving love for us. Jesus lays down his life for strangers, for the sake of the world in general, giving up his own life in exchange for ours. Dieter F. Uchtdorf emphasized, “Love is the measure of our faith, the inspiration for our obedience, and the true altitude of our discipleship.”

Lastly, applying peace in all circumstances of life proves our faith in His ability to protect us. Jesus illustrated the kind of peace we must wish for others especially our enemies at the cross when He uttered forgiveness for them (Luke 23:34). Soren Kierkegaard highlighted a key aspect of following Jesus:

Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. If Christianity ... is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men's lives.

The bottom line of following Jesus remembers a powerful message from Billy Graham, “When we come to Christ, we’re no longer the most important person in the world to us; Christ is.” In answering the question, “What following Jesus means today?” begins by following Jesus with a declaration of the mouth. Next, following Jesus with a decision of the mind. And lastly, following Jesus with a disposition of the heart focused on pleasing Jesus in all aspects of one’s faith life. Remembering these things keeps us aligned as followers of Jesus and as a witness to a fallen world.

Now more than ever, followers of Jesus must take the time in becoming serious towards applying Jesus’ teaching for our Christian journey today until He comes again for all of us.

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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Basic Christian Disciplines: Keep it Going!

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The coming New Year poses another opportunity for Christian growth. However, along the way, it is also accompanied by various challenges. Knowing this fact, therefore, we must strive forward and keep going ahead. Tom Landry emphasized, “The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they've always wanted to be.” It begins by remembering we are not alone in our battles. We are cheered on towards achieving the prize “…by so great a cloud of witnesses…” The Christian journey is a marathon, not a sprint and perseverance is the attitude required for completing our Christian race. The Scriptures are filled with encouragement for keeping us going.

·      Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24
·      Therefore I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like I am beating the air. 1 Corinthians 9:26
·      You were taught to put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires. Ephesians 4:22
·      You need to persevere, so that after you have done God's will, you will receive what He has promised. Hebrews 10:36

With these promises in tow, let’s keep going by applying some basic Christian disciplines. First, maintaining a discipline of daily immersing ourselves in reading the Scriptures. Its is keeping God’s word at the front and center of our life (Joshua 1:8; Colossians 3:16). Phillip Brooks explained: “The Bible is like a telescope. If a man looks through his telescope he sees worlds beyond; but if he looks at his telescope, he does not see anything but that.” Next, maintaining a discipline of prayer and fasting. We need God’s power operating at maximum efficiency (1 Samuel 7:6; Luke 2:37; Acts 13:1-3). Marilyn Hickey emphasized, “Fasting and praying are Bible-based disciplines that are appropriate for all believers of all ages throughout all centuries in all parts of the world.” Another vital discipline is living by faith, not by sight. It sees life with eyes open for God at work (2 Kings 6:17; 2 Corinthians 5:7). Somebody said,

To walk by faith is to fear God more than man; to obey the Bible even when it conflicts with man’s commands; to choose righteousness over sin, no matter what the cost; to trust God in every circumstance; and to believe God rewards those who seek Him, regardless of who says otherwise.[1]

Next, maintaining discipline in serving others as Jesus did (1 Samuel 12:24; 1 Peter 4:10). James Packer clarified, “When the New Testament speaks of ministering to the saints, it means not primarily preaching to them but devoting time, trouble, and substance to giving them all the practical help possible.” Therefore, serving others is a mark of Christian discipleship. Lastly, maintaining a discipline of a worshipping lifestyle. Each day, there’s clear intent in creating an atmosphere of lifting Jesus higher above everything else (Hebrews 13:15; Colossians 3:16). Delesslyn A. Kennebrew wrote, “True worship, in other words, is defined by the priority we place on who God is in our lives and where God is on our list of priorities.”

What’s the bottom line for 2019? Somebody shared this story as an added glimpse of how we can fuel our Christian journey in 2019:

There is a story about a great pianist who had just finished a concert and the crowd stood and gave him a raving applause. However, the renowned pianist did not seem satisfied. Only when a man in the rafters stood and began to clap did the pianist smile and bow before the audience. The man in the stands was his teacher.[2]

Just like the story above, the pursuit of spiritual growth is to know Christ and Him crucified. The focus must be clear, and our reason is firmly entrenched in Jesus Christ alone. When we do, our Christian journey is secure and victorious even in the midst of various challenges because we are “looking unto Jesus the author and the perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

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[1] What does it mean to walk by faith not by sight?. https://www.gotquestions.org/walk-by-faith-not-by-sight.html

[2] 13. Pursuing Spiritual Maturity | Bible.org. https://bible.org/seriespage/13-pursuing-spiritual-maturity

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Showing our Faith by our Works

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We are living in a time of faith-filled words only. Jesus walked His talk and expected His people to do the same on a daily basis. As Jesus' disciples, doing good works is the result of our faith in God.  

The apostle James provided an important principle to live by: What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (2:14, ESV). James expounded further in practical terms: If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (2:15-16, ESV). He, then, concluded the matter, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17, ESV). David C. Grabbe explained it this way:

In God's mind, true faith or living faith is virtually synonymous with obedience and works. Faith and obedience are interchangeable, even though they are not specifically the same thing. This is just like the Bible's usage of mind, heart, and spirit—they are not specifically the same thing, yet they are so interconnected that they really cannot be separated.

There are two things we need to avoid. First, we must avoid having rhetorical faith where speaking faith-filled words but lacking any manifestation of good works, thereby produces nothing.  Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers described, “Faith must be embodied in acts: "faith, without acts of faith, is but a dream." "The two cannot be separated, for they are given in one by God to man, and from him go back in one to God.” What’s the biblical application? John (the Baptist) replied, "Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same" (Luke 3:11, NIV).  

The other kind to avoid is a dead faith. Having a dead faith is characterized as being a spiritual person having only faith but without manifestation of good works. Steven J. Cole explained, “Genuine saving faith manifests itself in good deeds. If a person claims to have faith but has no resulting works, his claim is suspect.” Jesus Himself provided the means to keep our faith alive and manifesting good works: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NIV).

Maintaining the impact of showing how real faith works must be felt within and outside the sphere of our influence. It begins by having real faith producing good works seen and felt by the unbelieving community. It is the kind of faith with a distinct purpose of glorifying God as they witness its application. Next, real faith operating through good works is attained when Bible-believing Christians becoming doers of God’s Word and in their actions testifies of God’s changing power in one’s life (James 1:22a). William Booth shared this excellent insight:

Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again -- until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.

Finally, real faith through good works is affirmed when the needs in the community of believers are met especially during tough times as a reminder of God’s presence working through His people (Titus 3:14).  Martin Luther explained, “The true, living faith, which the Holy Spirit instills into the heart, simply cannot be idle.”  

In summary, here are three things we need to remember:
1.      Real faith leads us to do good works, therefore, never miss an opportunity to do so.
2.      Real faith with good works is a testimony to God’s Word of meeting people’s needs, therefore, let our faith equals our generosity in doing good works.
3.      Real faith only impacts people’s lives when our good works become an application of what we preach about God’s provision, therefore, let’s practice what we preach.

Let’s talk again!