Friday, June 28, 2019

Practicing Genuine Religion


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The apostle James stated, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (1:27). According to UNICEF, there are 151 million orphans(defined as a child who has lost a mom, dad, or both) worldwide.[1]Implementing a precise application of a biblical-based religion is an essential component of what Christianity is all about. Seeing God’s people apply it biblically is crucial to the testimony of the Gospel’s truth. John Newton explained, “Religion to a true believer is like water to a fish: it is his element, he lives in it, and he could not live out of it.

Allow me to provide critical principles in practicing genuine religion that pleases God daily. First, the precise application of a biblical-based religion is not an external façade. It radiates from personal testimony of God’s mercy received. God declared, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). Therefore, outward religion without heartfelt action is of no interest to our God.

Next, the precise application of a biblical-based religion is an application of God’s concern for implementing justice, mercy, and knowledge of God. Prophet Amos exclaimed, “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24). Therefore, outward religion without spiritual fruit in our lives becomes a mere formality.

Lastly, the actual application of a biblical-based religion sees one’s genuine faith-in-action. It is not an empty religion of legalism that the religious leaders n Jesus’ time showed: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). Therefore, outward religion without authentic compassion for the downcast, the outcast, and those needing God’s forgiveness is hypocrisy before God. D. Thomas added, “To attain religion should be the supreme aim of our life. It is not a means to an end; it is the grand end of being; it is the Paradise of soul.”

Listen to Jesus’ description of practicing false religion and its consequence:

Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for pretense make long prayers.  They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Luke 20:45-47)

Basically, the religion that the religious leaders practiced comes from purely showing off luxuries and exhibiting religious appearances, albeit, superficial in nature. Jesus gave an excellent picture for all of us to remember as we implement a precise application of a biblical-based religion. Keep our focus on serving others genuinely and be mindful of how God sees our personal objectives in doing them. Finally, let God be glorified as we serve those in need.

Let’s talk again!




[1]Source: https://data.unicef.org/topic/hivaids/protection-care-and-support-for-children-affected-by-hiv-and-aids/

Friday, May 31, 2019

Encounters in Moving Forward

Albert Einstein stated, "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." People are designed to move forward. Becoming stagnant due to past experiences leads to hopelessness. Having a clear understanding of life's journey towards the fulfillment of one's destiny is crucial. The Scripture is specific on what we need to expect, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28, ESV). Our journey with God produces assorted variables in fulfilling His plans and purposes. 
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What encounters can a believer of Christ expect in moving forward? First, there's the encounter of the unseen. In calling Abraham, the author of Hebrews shared this description," By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going(11:8). Anne Graham Lotz explained, "Abraham wasn't perfect. He failed, made mistakes. But, he would go back, get right with God, and then just keep moving forward. He didn't quit when things got hard. He just kept on going." Abraham, in his encounter of the unseen, responded with complete faith and trust in God's wisdom. 

Next, there's the encounter of the unforeseen. Elisha's servant saw angelic protection after seeing enemies surrounding them: So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17, ESV). Elisha reminded his servant in remembering God's power. When things seem to be unclear, we need to remember this adage, "Problems are not reasons to give up, but a challenge to improve ourselves, not an excuse to back out, but an inspiration to move forward” (Author Unknown).

Next, encountering the known. Joshua's experience of fear in accepting his assignment is a great example:

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, "Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you (Joshua 1:1-3, 5). 

God reminded Joshua of standing on God's abiding presence in moving forward. God called him to look ahead with God on his side. Stephen Covey told many of this saying, "We develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and obstacles." 

Last but not least, it is encountering the unknown. When the disciples received the Great Commission from Jesus, we see the great unknown in play:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20)

The disciples received their mandate and fulfilled their calling. They did it by never giving up no matter the obstacles along their way. We have Christianity today and tomorrow because of their perseverance.

In the end, we need to remember that in moving forward, Denis Waitley expressed a simple truth, "Don't dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer."

Let’s talk again!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Being Stewards of God’s Resources

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JoHannah Reardon[1] shared, “The word stewardship comes from the Greek word oikenomous, which means somebody who manages a household. A person doesn't own the household but manages it.” Simply stated, we don’t own anything we think we own. Thus, the truth of God’s word rings true for everyone, “for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Timothy 6:7 ESV).

In highlighting the role of being stewards, notice what the Scriptures say:

1.     God made us stewards: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
2.     God provision for being a steward: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
3.     God’s expectation from His stewards: Serve with good will, as to the Lord and not to men. Ephesians 6:7

The first principle in becoming a successful steward of God recognizes the simple fact that stewardship is God’s idea. Therefore, our role is instituting it in our lives systematically. It occurs when God’s people apply biblical stewardship in every aspect of their lives: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Dr. Jim Eckman[2] shared A.W. Tozer’s four questions in revealing where our idea of treasure revolves around:

1.     What do we value most?
2.     What would we most hate to lose?
3.     What do our thoughts turn to most frequently when we are free to think of what we will?
4.     What affords us the greatest pleasure?

Next, stewardship is God’s initiative. Therefore, our role is influencing others personally in understanding the concept. It occurs when God’s people let others know about biblical stewardship of God’s resources: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Somebody said an interesting view of money:

Money has been defined as that something which buys everything but happiness and takes a man everywhere but to heaven. But money used in the right way can confer a great deal of happiness and be the means of starting many a person on the path to heaven.

Finally, stewardship is God’s invitation to living free of greed and grace-filled living. Therefore, our role is impacting every generation purposely. It occurs when God’s people take responsibility for seeing people learn about biblical stewardship, thus, weakening the work of the enemy and love of money:  “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

In the end, here’s what we need to remember, according to Harvey Nowland:[3]

Christians need to understand that opportunities to achieve God’s agenda in building His kingdom involves not only our material possessions, but also our abilities, knowledge, skills and relationships. To make it really simple – everything from your backyard and bank account to your mind and body - is a resource that you must manage for God. No false humility required here, you are an important member of God’s management team – stewardship.

Let’s talk again!



[1] https://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/churchhomeleadership/accountablegod.html
[2] https://graceuniversity.edu/iip/2011/02/faithful-stewards-of-gods-resources/
[3] https://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/faith-based-family-finances/stewardship/stewardship-being-co-managers-with-god

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Becoming a Keen Listener

Eugene Raudsepp shared an interesting illustration of the value of listening with intent:

[1]A zoologist was walking down a busy city street with a friend. In the midst of the honking horns and screeching tires, he exclaimed to his friend, "Listen to that cricket!" The friend looked at the zoologist in astonishment and said, "You hear a cricket in the middle of all this noise and confusion?"Without a word, the zoologist reached into his pocket, took out a coin, and flipped it into the air. As it clinked on the sidewalk, a dozen heads turned in response. The zoologist said quietly to his friend, "We hear what we listen for."

In highlighting the value of listening, the Scriptures provided specific guidelines towards becoming a keen listener. 

·      Training our ears to hear and learn from others: Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding. Proverbs 2:2, ESV
·      Submitting oneself to better advice: The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15, ESV
·      Maintaining one’s cool when facing trouble: Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Proverbs 17:27, ESV
·      Accepting other’s insights: Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Proverbs 19:20, ESV

As far as listening is concerned, God exemplifies it towards His children. On the other hand, believers are expected to do the same level of listening with others as well. Dietrich Bonhoeffer offered this timely advice:

Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.

From a spiritual perspective, focusing on God’s words sharpens our listening skills. It happens when we become conscious of God’s words and purposefully listens coupled with the application. As a result, those within the sphere of our influence greatly benefit from us becoming a conscious listener to them as well. Robert W. Herron expressed it this way. “Good listening is like tuning in a radio station. For good results, you can listen to only one station at a time. Listening requires a choice of where I place my attention.”

Due to the lack of listening skills, the simple situation worsens unnecessarily. Thus, to avoid aggravating a simple case, applying some strategies in becoming a keen listener is required. It starts by developing patience in listening though being attentive. It’s interesting that “the word 'listen' contains the same letters as the word 'silent'” (Alfred Brendel). Purposefully, we must practice listening without interrupting others. In this regard, John Maxwell provided this reminder: “Earn the right to be heard by listening to others. Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it.”

In the end, becoming a keen listener involves a decision to see other people’s value and hearing their opinions first before seeing the value of our idea. When this process becomes firmly established, we will earn the right to be heard and to express our opinion.

Let’s talk again!




[1] Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/magazine/19811001/33.html

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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