Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #102

It's time for another Friday's Fave Five (hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story)

My Fave Five this week:
1. The free clothing swap on Saturday was fun. I gave away lots of clothes and picked up lots of "new to me" clothes.

2. My husband and I enjoyed our rare date night at George Fox University's Chinese New Year Celebration. 

3. One of my kids said to me, "You're like a nun who is married." Should I take that as a compliment :)?

4. I won a copy of The 5 Love Languages for Men from a book giveaway. Speaking of love languages, I greatly appreciate sweet acts of service from my husband (Eric is one of the kindest & most loving servant leaders in the whole world)! 

5. I love this prayer:
"Gracious and holy Father,
please give me:
intellect to understand You;
reason to discern You;
diligence to seek You;
wisdom to find You;
a spirit to know You;
a heart to meditate upon You;
ears to hear You;
eyes to see You;
a tongue to proclaim You;
a way of life pleasing to You;
patience to wait for You;
and perseverance to look for You.
A Prayer of St Benedict (480-547)
And I love this video: 
This video has touched me more than one way. It made me think of how God is so devoted to us, loving and caring for us all the time even when we cannot see how He is working in our lives. I am in awe of His love for me all over again.

The Great Commission with the Great Promise

- The Great Commission is a command (not a suggestion or an option) for every Christ's follower. Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (a confirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity), and teach them to obey His commands. We are not only to share the Gospel with others but also to help them grow in their walk with Christ. We must tell them about the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:26-33). We are to be Christ's ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) doing the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Jesus came from Heaven to earth to seek and save the lost. This should be our hearts' desire, too. We must go. We must be willing to go wherever and whenever God wants us to go and do whatever He wants us to do. We should echo Isaiah's attitude and response: "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8b) "Go, send, or disobey!" (John Piper) Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden upon me, only sustain me. Sever any ties but the ties that bind me to You and Your service.” (David Livingstone)

By the way, we must not forget to make disciples of our own children and equip them to share the Gospel and multiply disciples!
- Baptism is the outward demonstration of one's union with and commitment to Christ. It signifies our repentance, our death to sin, and our newness of life in Christ. "We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:4) Baptism doesn't save us. In fact, some who have been baptized have never truly been saved.
- Christ's promise of His presence is precious. He promises to be with us always through it all. His presence makes all the difference in the world! His constant Spiritual presence encourages, comforts, strengthens, guides, empowers, and preserves us.
- Prayer: Father, thank You for saving me and adopting me into Your family! Please help me to boldly share the gospel with those who need to hear. Please give me Your words, guide me by Your Spirit, and grant me the wisdom needed to draw them to You. Please give me opportunities to make more disciples for Your kingdom. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.
"Save some, O Christian! By all means, save some. From yonder flames and outer darkness, and the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, seek to save some! Let this, as in the case of the apostles, be your great, ruling object in life, that by all means you might save some." ~Charles Spurgeon (Note from me: Only God can save! Both Charles Spurgeon and John Wesley understood that and they just meant that Christians need to reach out to the lost with the Gospel in the hope that they might come to the Lord and be saved.)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Go and Do Likewise

- After Jesus told the story, He asked which of the three (the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan) was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hand of the robbers. The Jewish expert in the Mosaic Law wouldn't even answer the question simply with "the Samaritan". He replied, "The one who showed him mercy." The animosity that the Jews had towards the Samaritans was evident. The Good Samaritan exemplifies not only what it's like to love your neighbor as yourself but also what it's like to love your enemy. According to my dictionary, mercy = kindness, compassion, and forbearance shown to someone, such as an offender, who expects severe treatment. The Jews probably expected hatred, ill treatment, or indifference from the Samaritans. However, this Samaritan showed genuine love and care for a Jewish victim who (most likely) hated him, risked his own life (robbers could still be nearby), rearranged his itinerary, spent his own money (2 days' wages for a laborer), planned to return to reimburse the innkeeper for any extra expense, and was never rewarded or honored or thanked as far as we know. He had the right attitude of agape love which expects nothing in return. It's very interesting that Jesus chose to use a Samaritan as a hero of human kindness even though He was previously rejected by Samaritans (Luke 9:52-53). Again we see His heart of love, forgiveness, and mercy.

- Jesus talks a lot about kindness and compassion. Being kind and compassionate is one of the most desirable, distinctive character traits in His followers. Our kindness and compassion please God and glorify Him. We are to love everyone. Are we kind, helpful, thoughtful, caring, compassionate, friendly, gracious, and merciful? Are we good neighbors to those who need us? Are we always willing to meet others' needs even when it costs us (time, money, energy, effort, inconvenience, etc.) ? True kindness and compassion is an outpouring of agape (unconditional, selfless, sacrificial love) expressed in action. Jesus commands us to go and do likewise. Don't just feel moved but then do nothing. "Sympathy is no substitute for action."(David Livingstone) "No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he had only had good intentions." (Margaret Thatcher) Faith without action is dead. Love without action is hypocrisy. What are we doing to reach the lost, to help the needy, to give hope to the hopeless, to save the unborn, to feed the hungry, etc.? Sympathy and good intentions just don't cut it!

"One kind act will teach more love of God than a thousand sermons." (Unknown)

"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now." (Unknown)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Blessed Are the Obedient

Jesus considers favors/kindness shown to His people (members of His Body) as shown/done to Himself personally. God notices everything we do, no matter how small or insignificant (we think) it is. This passage of the Bible reminds me of James 2:17, "Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." Faith without deeds is useless and meaningless in God's eyes. God wants us to provide food and clean drinking water to the poor & the needy and show hospitality. Our acts of kindness, mercy, and compassion are proofs of transformed lives walking by faith and in love (agape). The evidence of our love for Christ is obedience to His commands/teaching. Good works cannot and do not save us, but good works demonstrate that we are saved. Be doers of the Word! Love and serve like Jesus! Blessed are those who put faith and love into action (see verse 34)!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Let Your Light Shine!

- Like the disciples, we are the light of the world as a result of our relationship with Jesus who is the ultimate Light of the World"Jesus gives the Christian both a great compliment and a great responsibility when He says that we are the light of the world, because He claimed that title for Himself as He walked this earth (John 8:12 and John 9:5)." (Guzik) We, Christ's followers, are to reflect the light of Jesus and the Gospel in this world of darkness (sin and spiritual blindness) for God's glory. We are mere reflectors of Christ's light, pointing others to Him, the True LightReflect the love and character of Christ in attitude, words, and deeds. The Bible also links light to God's Word. Speak God's truth in love boldly. Live out the Christ life which is in us. Light is what enables us to see and makes vision possible. Light illuminates, exposes, guides, and directs. May we help others see the dangers of sin, understand the truth of the Gospel, and realize the need for a Savior! Light reveals things that are hidden and light gives warmth. When we live our lives according to God's Word and God's will, we become a beacon of light to this weary, wicked, & lost world, giving people hope and help. We are to influence the world, not to be influenced by the world. 

- A city built on a hill stands out visibly and cannot be hidden. "One who travels the Holy Land is impressed with the fact that multitudes of villages were built on the tops of the hills...When night came, the light in the houses on the hill could not be hidden. From a great distance, one knew the location of the next village because of the light from that hilltop.” (Dwight Pentecost) We Christians are being watched by the world whether we like it or not. You are the only Bible some unbelievers will ever read, and your life is under scrutiny every day. What do others learn from you? Do they see an accurate picture of your God?” (John MacArthur) 

Since we are the light of the world, let us shine wherever we are. We are to light the way so that others may find the Way to God and His salvation. Our lives can shine a spotlight on Jesus as the Answer/Solution to so many problems in this world. Keep sharing the Gospel of God's grace and proclaiming Christ. Do people see Christ in us? Does how we live demonstrate that we are children of God/children of Light? When others interact with us, do they see love, joy, peace, contentment, patience, grace, mercy, compassion, hospitality, sincerity, integrity, humility, purity, justice, courage, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, goodness, forgiveness, trustworthiness, etc.? Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in our lives? Good deeds are works of God wrought by His indwelling Spirit as we abide in the Vine. When others see our good deeds, they witness the beauty of what the Lord has done in us and through us and they may give praise and honor to God, our Abba Father. We should not be doing good deeds for attention, applause, admiration, or appreciation. That would be wrong motives. We do good deeds because we love God and love others...because we want to honor and glorify God...because God wants us to do so...because we want people to see that all the good they see in you and me come from our Heavenly Father and praise Him. Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be all the glory)! The distinctiveness of our shining examples in Christian character, commitment, convictions, conversations, and conducts regardless of our circumstances does draw people to Christ. Let us not despair over the moral decline going on all around us. The darker the night, the brighter the light shines! We must live the Gospel out in our daily lives so that it will validate the Gospel we speak with our lips.

"When the people of God are set free from the compulsion of self-exaltation and self-justification and self-preservation, so that we live for the eternal good of other people, then we become the light of the world and the salt of the earth, and people notice in us the reality of God and give Him glory." (John Piper)

- Why is this world still so dark? Could it be because many Christians are hiding or hindering Christ's light?
"God should show through our life, but sadly sometimes our life's bulbs can be dirty, dimming His light. Think about these two factors that can dim God's light:

Unconfessed Sin. Just as dirt accumulates on a light bulb, so the dirtiness of sin can accumulate in your life. If you are not careful to keep your heart clean through daily confession and repentance, unconfessed sin can keep your life from shining God's light.

Have you ever known a Christian who you wondered about their heart's condition? They showed no signs of spiritual fruit and lived in open sin. While we cannot know a person's heart, we can see his light. Allowing sin to go unconfessed can dim God's light and hinder the effectiveness of a life's testimony.

Fear of Men. How often have Christians hidden their lights because of a fear of the opinions of others? We all want to be accepted and appreciated by our peers, yet our world tells us that talking about Christ and faith is taboo. We are told that religion is for Sunday, and Monday through Saturday is a different life. But God desires that you would allow His light to shine through you every day of the week. As the children's song goes,
"Hide it under a bushel?
No! I'm going to let it shine."
How clean is your life's bulb today?
Has unconfessed sin dimmed the light of Christ?
Or are you purposefully hiding your light for fear of what others think?
Christian, would you fear man's opinion so much that you would allow someone to die not ever knowing Christ?

Take time today to inspect your life. Ask God to reveal any dimming sin or actions that are keeping your life from brightly showing God's light. Also ask God to give you strength to shine for Him even when others would hide their lights out of fear." (Dr. Paul Chappell)

"We are His word to the world. Are we clearly heard?" (Unknown)

"Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible; the ninety-nine will read the Christian." (Dwight L. Moody) 

"A Christian's life should be nothing but a visible representation of Christ." (Thomas Brooks)

"You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips." (Oliver Goldsmith)

"So let our lips and lives express
The holy gospel we profess;
So let our works and virtues shine,
To prove the doctrine all divine." (Watts)

Ye are the light of the world,
Driving the darkness away,
Shedding your beams on the lost,
Changing their night into day.

Then let your light ever shine,
Showing the right way to go;
Gladly the lost ones will see—
God’s boundless love they will know.

Ye are the light of the world,
Causing the clouds to depart,
Throwing the sunshine of peace
Down on the poor burdened heart.

Then let your light ever shine;
Loved ones are panting for rest;
Sunshine their souls will revive,
Lifting them up to the blest.

Ye are the light of the world;
Thro’ you the true light must shine,
Calling the lost sons of men
Home to the Father divine.

Then let your light ever shine,
Hallow the Name that is love;
You will each shine as a star,
Fixed in the orbit above.

Let's all shine brightly for Jesus!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Heart of the Gospel

John 3:16 is the Gospel in a nutshell! Here God demonstrates what true love is. He loves us so much that He gave His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place for our sins and punishment. God loves everyone and His salvation is available to everyone but not everyone will be saved. Only those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will be saved. "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10)  Salvation's cause is God's love for us. Salvation's cost is the death of Jesus on the cross. Salvation's condition is through faith alone in the finished redemptive work of Christ. Salvation's consequence is eternal life in Heaven with Him. 

Did you know that John 3:16 is the most searched Bible verse? It's probably also the most memorized Bible verse. May we never become so familiar with it that we take it for granted and forget its significance. Let us reflect upon John 3:16, the heart of the Gospel!
"For God... the greatest Lover

so loved... the greatest degree
the world... the greatest company
that He gave... the greatest act
His only begotten Son... the greatest Gift
that whoever... the greatest opportunity
believes... the greatest simplicity
in Him... the greatest attraction
should not perish... the greatest promise
but... the greatest difference
have... the greatest certainty
everlasting life... the greatest possession"

"It was the opinion of the Jews that the Gentiles, whom they often term the world, עלמה olmah, and העולם אומות omoth haolam, nations of the world, were to be destroyed in the days of the Messiah. Christ corrects this false opinion; and teaches here a contrary doctrine. God, by giving his Son, and publishing his design in giving him, shows that he purposes the salvation, not the destruction, of the world - the Gentile people: nevertheless, those who will not receive the salvation he had provided for them, whether Jews or Gentiles, must necessarily perish; for this plain reason, There is but one remedy, and they refuse to apply it." (Adam Clarke) "He is the atoning sacrifice (propitiation) for our sins: and not only for ours (Jews'), but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)

Even though we all deserve God's wrath and condemnation, God our Savior "wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4), "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9b). The purpose of the Messiah’s mission is not to judge or condemn, but to offer the grace of the Gospel, salvation, and eternal life, to people in the world. At His first coming, Christ came to save the world. When He comes again, He will come in judgment upon those who refuse His offer of salvation. Because of God's amazing love, kindness, grace, mercy, and patience, we are offered a pardon and the sentence of condemnation has been delayed. Condemnation is a result of rejecting Jesus (as stated in the next verse, John 3:18b: "Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son").

- Prayer: Father, thank Your for Your amazing love and gracious gift of salvation through Jesus Christ! Thank You for the promise of eternal life with You in Heaven! Please help me to have a heart like Yours that loves everyone and wants everyone to be saved. Please make me a bold witness ready to share the Gospel with anyone who needs to hear. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Golden Rule

- As Jesus was concluding His Sermon on the Mount, He gave a general principle to guide our conduct. He tells us to treat others the way we want them to treat us. This is a golden rule that should be observed by everyone in everything (as long as it's in line with the Scriptures...I'll explain more about this later)Motivated by love (for God and for people) & clear conscience and guided by justice, mercy, & compassion, we are to do to others as we would desire and expect them to do to us...were our circumstances and theirs reversed. This one rule is simple yet very reasonable, valuable, and influential. It is active benevolence. It's the practical application of "Love your neighbor as yourself". If we want to be treated with kindness, mercy, grace, respect, courtesy, etc., then we must do the same for others. It starts with you and I...what we do, not what or how others do or respond. Even if they don't do what we wish they would do, we still do it. Always do the right thing because it's the right thing to do! If rightly applied, this golden rule would destroy abuse, betrayal, unkindness, disrespect, dishonesty, slander, theft, slavery, adultery, murder, and other atrocities seen in this world.

"It seems as if God had written it upon the hearts of all men, for sayings of this kind may be found among all nations, Jewish, Christian, and Heathen." (Adam Clarke) "Alexander Severus, a Heathen emperor, so greatly admired this rule of Christ's, that he ordered it to be written on the walls of his closet." (John Gill) 

"Following the golden rule we shall be led to our duty and therefore to blessedness." (Unknown)

- Without selfless love and the Scriptures as our guide, this rule can be wrongly applied. If one is evil and wicked, he/she may wish evil to himself/herself. One may use it as an excuse to establish revenge and retaliation. It doesn't work in every case; for example, a criminal would love for a judge to treat him the way the judge wants to be treated but the judge cannot do so. It doesn't work when people wish others to do things that are sinful, foolish, and unreasonable. 
Reciprocity in evil or in folly is definitely not what Christ has in mind.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Four Ethics of the Gospel

Four tests of faithful covenant living include social, moral, and ethical commands. These are what God desires from His children.

Render true judgments. Administer/execute true justice. Judicial decisions must be made impartially according to God's principles. Hate injustice. "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8) "God invites and commands His people to not just be aware of injustice but to pursue justice. Not just to pursue justice but to live justly...We do justice because justice is rooted in the character of God and thus must reflect in the character of His followers." (Eugene Cho)

Show mercy and compassion/kindness to one another. Putting our love into action should guide our relationships with others. "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6) Be quick to forgive and give grace & mercy. 
We are to have tender hearts that sympathize/empathize with others. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Suffer with those who suffer. Deeply moved by others' afflictions/ hardships. Feel their pain. Genuine caring hearts that want to comfort and uplift the hurt, the sorrowful, and the distressed. "I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary." (Charles Spurgeon) "
We must feel the strain, and carry the burden, and endure the struggle ourselves--and only then can we be touched with the feeling of sympathy, or can give help to others in life's stresses and overwhelming needs. So we see one compensation of suffering--it prepares us for being helpers to others." (J.R. Miller)

Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless/orphans, the foreigner, or the poor. Don't take advantage of the helpless and the less fortunate. O
ppression is clearly forbidden. We are expected to protect and help the oppressed, the weak, and the needy. 
"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." (James 1:27) "Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow." (Isaiah 1:17) "Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns...Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge." (Deuteronomy 24:14, 17) We should be kind and give to those who are unable to repay us. "If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: 'The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,' so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to." (Deuteronomy 15:7-10)

Do not plot or plan evil in your heart against others. "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18) "Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning's light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud people of their homes, they rob them of their inheritance. Therefore, the Lord says: 'I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity." (Micah 2:1-3) Any evil or ill thoughts are sinful. It's very important for us to 
take captive our every thought and make it obedient to Christ.

The Gospel covers all these ethics. Matthew 25:31-46 (The Sheep and the Goats), Luke 12:32-34 (invest in eternity), Matthew 5:21-22 (murder in the heart and thoughts), Matthew 5:27-28 (adultery in the heart) and more. These ethics are also implied in the "Love your neighbor as yourself" command.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matthew: 23:23)

Prayer: Father, please create in me a clean heart and nurture justice, mercy, compassion, kindness, goodness, generosity in my heart. Please purify my thoughts, grant me the mind of Christ, and help me follow in Christ's footsteps. Do Your work & have Your way in me and receive all the glory! In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Free to Serve

- Freedom is given to us so that we can serve others in love, not so that we can do whatever we want. Freedom in Christ as a result of being saved by grace is not meant to be viewed as a free get-out-of-Hell card and a selfish opportunity for the flesh to satisfy its desires. Abiding in Christ (living by the Spirit) empowers us to love & serve God and others. Liberty is not license to sin. "Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God." (1 Peter 2:16) "But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." (Romans 7:6) We are free from ceremonial law, but not from moral law, free from the slavery of sin, not free to continue in sin. free to serve others, not free to indulge selves. Do not abuse God's grace; do not misuse your freedom in Christ. "True liberty is only realized in obedience. The abuse of freedom is bondage, from which there is no self-deliverance." (T. T. Lynch)
- When we love our neighbors as ourselves, service is a way through which we express that love. We must abandon our pride, selfish ambitions, superior attitude, and prejudice. Instead, approach  everyone with the "What can I do for you?" mindset. Let us serve one another humbly, cheerfully, and faithfully.

"Law makes us act from outward compulsion, but love makes us serve from inward compassion." (Unknown)
"Love is the doorway through which man passes from selfishness to service." (Unknown)

PrayerFather, thank You for our freedom in Christ! Please help us to love and serve others with humility like Jesus does. Please open our eyes to see the needs of others and how we can meet those needs. Please free us from our self-centeredness. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

To ponder: What practical things can we do to serve others? Do we serve others with genuine, unconditional love (without expecting anything in return) and Christlike attitude/servant heart/humility? Do we get annoyed when someone interrupts our free time with his/her needs? Do we serve grudgingly? Do we demand recognition or appreciation? Is it a joy for us to serve others?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Love God and Love People

- Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. The heart (essence) of all commandments rests in these two greatest commandments. "This is suggested in opposition to the numerous commandments in the law, according to the opinion of the Jews, who reckon them in all to be "six hundred and thirteen": of which there are "three hundred and sixty five" negative ones, according to the number of the days of the year; and "two hundred and forty eight" affirmative ones, according to the members of a man's body. Christ reduces all to two, love to God, and love to the neighbour." (John Gill)
- Jesus says that the most important commandment of all commandments is: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind! The heart, soul, and mind represent the whole person. God desires from us, His children, our undivided love and devotion. He wants us to love Him with our whole love Him above all else even our own life. He wants us to always keep Him first in our heart and at the forefront of our mind. The whole Christianity boils down to one primary thing: Amo Dei = Love God! We must love God completely with all the affections, the will, and the thoughts/the understanding...with all we have and all we are at all times under all circumstances. This is agape love, the committed, devoted love which makes a decision to sacrifice all for the One we love. Obviously, no one is capable of loving God perfectly all the time. This unattainable standard of all-encompassing love for God shows our desperate need for God's amazing, inexhaustible grace
- Jesus says in John 14:15, "If you love Me, keep My commands." Our obedience to God demonstrates our love for God. To love God is the priority of life. It should rule our hearts & thoughts and guide our decisions, words, and actions. The second most important commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself, which should flow out of the first and greatest commandment. "Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:10) Without love, I am nothing and gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) We naturally love ourselves and want the best for ourselves. Jesus wants us to treat others/to care for others the same way. Do good to all! "The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5)
- Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you so much for loving me first with an everlasting love! Thank You for Who You are and for all You have done for me! I love You! Please purify my heart, soul, & mind and help me love You more and more with every part of me. Please make my life a living expression of Your love to the world for Your glory. Please give me Your eyes to see where and how I may be a blessing to others each day. Please enable me to love others like Jesus... unconditionally, sacrificially, and selflessly. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

"The true measure of loving God is to love Him without measure." ~Bernard

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fellowship and Encouragement

- "The Greek word translated stir up has come into English as paroxysm, which means a 'convulsion.' In this context the Greek word speaks forcefully of the tremendous impact believers can have on each other." (from NKJV Study Bible's commentary) We are to stimulate one another to love (God and people) more/better and to do good works for God's glory. Let's think of ways we can get one another excited about loving (agape) and doing good deeds. I like the root words for "enthusiasm" which are 'en' (meaning 'in') and 'theos' (meaning 'God'). When we're really in God (abiding in Christ), we delight in sharing His love with others and in doing what pleases Him. We will enjoy doing good deeds, motivated by our love for God and people. Those who have been redeemed from all wickedness and been purified by Christ are eager/enthusiastic to do what is good (Titus 2:14). Enthusiasm is contagious. One of the ways to stimulate others is by example. Our enthusiasm for the work of God can rub off on each other. Other ways include praying, sharing God's Word, studying God's Word together (as we're doing here), and encouraging. Right now I'd like to encourage y'all with these verses and a quote :). "God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8) "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven." (Matthew 5:16) "Life is ripe with opportunities to learn love...The world is not a playground; it's a classroom, and the eternal lesson is learning how to love better." (Henry Drummond)

- Do not stop meeting with brothers and sisters in Christ. Fellowship with other believers is important. It helps strengthen one another's faith and exhort one another to fruitful service. Brothers and sisters in Christ should be there for one another...helping, serving, refreshing, comforting, edifying, encouraging, praying with & for one another. The goal of our assembling is not just to have a social gathering or check off a to-do list; it's meant for mutual spiritual edification. When Christians are united in serving the Lord, they can become a mighty force for the kingdom of God. Let us enjoy the strength and fellowship available in the body of Christ. We are better and stronger together. "Christians are like coals of fire--together, they glow; apart, they grow cold." (Unknown) 
"Christian fellowship provides us

With encouragement and love;
It will help us in our journey,

Till we reach our home above." (Sper)

- As time gets closer and closer to Christ's return, we should encourage one another even more to remain faithful to Him, to be strong & courageous, to fight the good fight of faith, and to run the race with perseverance.

- Prayer: 
"Lord, help us see how much we need each other
As we walk along the Christian way;
In fellowship with sister and with brother,
You will keep us growing day by day." (Hess)

Brethren, We Have Met to Worship (written by George Atkins)

Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumbering on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving, can you bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers, and our children sinking down;
Brethren, pray and holy manna will be showered all around.

Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Savior, tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Is there here a trembling jailer, seeking grace, and filled with tears?
Is there here a weeping Mary, pouring forth a flood of tears?
Brethren, join your cries to help them; sisters, let your prayers abound;
Pray, Oh pray that holy manna may be scattered all around.

Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners, till our God makes all things new.
Then He’ll call us home to Heaven, at His table we’ll sit down;
Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Appreciate Your Pastors

- This is a request for believers in Christ to acknowledge and appreciate their pastors, elders, and deacons. We are to honor and respect them as our spiritual leaders. Their work is difficult and demanding. They toil with much effort and diligence and are subject to weariness (if not physically, surely spiritually). They dedicate themselves to praying, studying God's Word, preaching, shepherding the souls committed to their care, instructing, admonishing (if anyone goes astray), encouraging, counseling, strengthening the faith of their flocks, etc. Don't take them for granted. Don't put them on a pedestal, either. Respect, yes. Worship, no. They are not perfect and they have struggles just like any of us. They are not immune to heartaches, trials, or temptations, either. Keep them in your prayers. Show them and their families your love and support. Express your gratitude for their ministry in your life. They need encouragement, too. I am so thankful for my church's pastors who are true servant leaders upholding God's Word faithfully during good times and hard times. Last year in summer, our main pastor's daughter was senselessly murdered. Our pastor continues to stand firm in the faith and exemplify Christlikeness.

- Because of their important work (kingdom work), they are to be esteemed highly in agape love. We should humbly submit to their leadership so far as it is agreeable with God's Word.

- "Live in peace with each other."--Do your best to get along with others. "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18) The well-being of the Christian community depends on peaceful cooperation between brothers and sisters in Christ...between followers and leaders. "But love of peace must not make us wink at sin." (Matthew Henry)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Different Gifts

Here Paul listed seven gifts of grace given by the Holy Spirit: gift of prophesying, gift of serving/ ministering, gift of teaching, gift of encouraging/exhorting, gift of giving/contributing, gift of leading/governing, and gift of showing mercy (compassion). These gifts are to be used to meet the needs of the Body of Christ. There are more spiritual gifts than these. All gifts and abilities are from God. These gifts are not for us to show off or to compare or compete with other people's gifts or to elevate ourselves with. We should value and appreciate one another's gifts. Don't envy others' gifts. Everyone has been given some gifts. The believers' gifts are not to be laid up for selves but laid out in service. Don't hide them. Use them to serve God & others with humility. Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? Try this test and see if you agree: . In all faithful and give glory to God!

"But as we must not be proud of our talents, so we must take heed lest, under a pretense of humility and self-denial, we are slothful in laying out ourselves for the good of others. We must not say, I am nothing, therefore I will sit still, and do nothing; but, I am nothing in myself, and therefore I will lay out myself to the utmost, in the strength of the grace of Christ. Whatever our gifts or situations may be, let us try to employ ourselves humbly, diligently, cheerfully, and in simplicity; not seeking our own credit or profit, but the good of many, for this world and that which is to come." (Matthew Henry)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Not Our Own

- All the believers (around 8,000...see Acts 2:41 and Acts 4:4) were one in heart and mind (soul). Wow wow wow! Imagine how different this world would be if this were still true today! They agreed in doctrine & devotion, cooperated and shared selflessly, genuinely loved and cared for one another, and gave generously to anyone who had need. What a beautiful, remarkable picture of true unity among the Body of Christ! Oneness in Christ. 

- "No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had."--They chose to relinquish their rights to their material possessions for the benefit of the community. Agape in action. Selflessness was demonstrated. This is a clear evidence of their unity (truly amazing that there's no dispute over the decision) and the Holy Spirit's work in them (to pull this off perfectly was definitely supernatural). They were not under obligation; they shared everything voluntarily out of their mutual love. They realized that everything (not just 10%) belongs to the Lord. "The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." (Psalm 24:1) None of our possessions are absolutely our own. We're stewards of God's resources. We should focus on investing in eternity (laying up our incorruptible treasures in Heaven).

- This system of community living and sharing everything in common does not work for long or in a larger scale because of people's selfishness and sinfulness. It's ideal but not practical. However, I believe that it's mentioned here as principles to teach us to deny self, love one another sacrificially & selflessly, be kind & compassionate, live simply & give generously, put others' needs above our own, use God-given treasures for His glory and for His kingdom, be willing to surrender all and submit to the will of God. This is also a good example for how churches should distribute their funds. The distribution was determined by the need of the recipients so that there were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:34-35). 
We ought to live lives of "New Testament" simplicity, not in luxury and self indulgence. There is a significant mismanagement of God’s money among His Church (the body of Christ) in affluent countries. The Church should not be spending billions of dollars on church buildings, church salaries, and unnecessary/extravagant personal items/hobbies/property. (Certainly, the worker deserves his wages, but his work must be in accordance with the Father’s will. The Church is not a business.) These resources should be spent on reaching the millions of people who have never heard of the Gospel even once, and on providing them with the Word of God in their own language. Sadly, we are spending the majority of our resources on the areas of the world where Christ has already been preached. "More than 95 percent of the total church budget in the United States is spent at home to maintain programs rather than to reach out in mission. Of the five percent that goes overseas to mission, less than half of one percent is used to reach the lost." (K.P. Yohannan, The Road to Reality, p. 118) We should also generously give food, clothing, shelter, and medical supplies where possible to the neediest from among mankind. We need to give to those who could not otherwise receive the basic needs of life from anyone else. Many of us are so comfortable and wealthy compared to these needy ones. If we live simply and pool our resources together, by God’s grace there will be enough for everyone throughout the world who is in need (remember the five loaves and two fish)...enough to eliminate poverty. 

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Luke 12:33, 34)

"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little." (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)

- Prayer: Father, thank You for all Your blessings...for Your faithful provision! Please help me be a blessing to others and be a good steward of what You have entrusted me with. 
Please guide me and show me how to use my time, talents, and treasures according to Your will and purposes. Unite us, Your children and fill us with Your Holy Spirit so that we may love and serve one another like Jesus and that the world will be drawn to You. May brothers and sisters in Christ join together in giving to those in need and to reach the lost across the world as You direct! In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Monday, February 9, 2015

What Should We Devote Ourselves to?

- There are four elements that are vital for church growth and individual spiritual growth: studying and applying God's Word, having fellowship with other believers, receiving the Lord's supper (in remembrance of Christ's death for our sins), and praying. These bring about unity among brothers and sisters in Christ and draw unbelievers to Christ. The early Church set up an example for what Christian churches and Christian individuals ought to do.
- The apostles' teaching--The early Christians grew in knowledge of the truth by steadfastly attending to the Apostles' teaching which is the same with the teachings of Christ. 
Fellowship is brothers and sisters in Christ (the Body of Christ) doing life together and sharing with one another. The early Christians met together, ate together, worshiped God together, and took care of one another's needs. Fellowship helps us strengthen and build one another up in the faith. "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Breaking of bread--This may refer to sharing meals or partaking in the Lord's supper. 
- Prayers--The early Christians recognized the importance of prayer (privately and publicly), their need for God's help. Want revival? Be people of prayer! "Pray continually!" (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
"I have never met anyone who spent time in daily prayer, and in the study of the Word of God, and was strong in faith, who was ever discouraged for very long." (Billy Graham)

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