Monday, June 18, 2018

Because of God's Unfailing Love and Mercy

"Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer." (Psalm 6:8-9)

Psalm 6 is a prayer of faith and repentance in time of distress. David pleads for God to help, heal, deliver, and save him, not on the basis of what he has done, but on the basis of God's unfailing love and mercy. David humbly acknowledges his own weakness, weariness, sorrow, and anguish while confidently reminding himself that God does hear his prayer. When our words fail and only our hearts cry out in tears, God still hears and understands us. "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle! You have recorded each one in Your book!" (Psalm 56:8) God cares! "Our tears are precious to God...because in our sorrow He brings to us blessings which we never could receive but for our sorrow. One of our Lord's Beatitudes is for the sorrowing: 'Blessed are those who mourn.' It seems strange to us that mourning ones should be put among the blessed or happy ones. The reason is, because only those who suffer can get God's comfort, and this is such a blessing that it is worth while to have sorrow just to receive it. God holds the tears of penitence as most sacred. Those who weep over their sins, cause joy in Heaven." (J.R. Miller)

God knows our every thought, word, action, trial, grief, foe, and trouble. God is with us and for us. "So be strong and courageous! For the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you!" (Deuteronomy 31:6) I find comfort, courage, and confidence in God's presence. 

"He is with His people . . .

  as a Father--loving and holding communion with them; 
  as the Lord Almighty--having all power to help them; 
  as a Guide--to wisely lead them; 
  as an Advocate--to plead their cause; 
  as a Friend--to supply and comfort them; 
  as a Savior--to deliver and protect them; 
  as a holy, sin-hating God
--to purify them!" (James Smith)

"Christ has completely and perfectly delivered all His people from the condemnation of sin, as He suffered the wrath of God for us on the cross, having our sins charged to His account. But His deliverance of us does not end there. He is still delivering us and keeping us from all that would harm or destroy us. He continually delivers us... 
from the power of sin which still plagues, corrupts, and contaminates us;
from the influence of the world; 
from the force of temptation;
from the deceitfulness of our own hearts;
and from the designs of all our foes
!" (Unknown) 

Prayer: Thank You, Abba Father, for Your steadfast love, grace, and mercy for me! Thank You for faithfully helping & guiding me in times of need, delivering & protecting me in times of danger, comforting & strengthening me in times of sorrow! Please enable me to trust You completely in any circumstances and to rest in You, Your perfect wisdom and timing. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Blessed Life Lives in God's Word

This blessed (happy) life flows from a series of choices:-
1. Avoid having destructive relationships with the wicked, sinners, and mockers. Do not follow their ways.
2. Delight continually in God's Word.

Watch where you walk, stand, and sit. Whom do you spend most time with? "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm." (Proverbs 13:20) Has God's Word captured your hearts? Do you, as a habit and a delight, meditate upon the Scriptures day and night? When we are rooted in Christ and are nourished spiritually by His Word, we achieve vitality, stability, and productivity. We'll be able to flourish from within, regardless of external conditions (neither drought nor storm can make us wither). Our time spent meditating on God's Word and praying will nourish our faith, refresh our soul, and help our roots grow deep and strong. In other words, we will be spiritually mature, healthy, fruitful and able to stand strong/firm even in difficult seasons of life. God's nurturing truth gives us the wisdom, guidance, hope, encouragement, peace, comfort, and courage for whatever we are facing. Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living than reading, studying, meditating on, memorizing, and applying God's Word. "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." (Joshua 1:8)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of Your Word! Please guide me through this life to know and to do Your will always. I delight to live by Your principles and I love to meditate on Your Word. May I be rooted and grounded in Christ and bear much fruit for Your glory and Your kingdom! In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

"He who walks by Scripture rule, walks most safely.
He who walks by Scripture rule, walks most honorably.

He who walks by Scripture rule, walks most sweetly."
(Thomas Brooks)

"The Bible contains . . .
  the mind of God,
  the state of man,
  the way of salvation,
  the doom of sinners, and 
  the happiness of believers. 

Its doctrines are holy, 
its precepts are binding, 
its histories are true, and 
its decisions are immutable.

Read it to be wise, 
believe it to be safe, 
and practice it to be holy. 

The Bible contains . . .
  light to direct you,
  food to support you,
  and comfort to cheer you.

It is . . .
  the traveler's map,
  the pilgrim's staff,
  the pilot's compass,
  the soldier's sword and
  the Christian's charter. 

Here too, Heaven is opened--and the gates of Hell are disclosed.

Christ is its grand subject, 
our good is its design, and 
the glory of God is its end. 

The Bible should . . .
  fill the memory,
  rule the heart
  and guide the feet. 

Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully.  

The Scripture is . . .
  a mine of wealth,
  a paradise of glory,
  and a river of pleasure!

It . . .
  is given to you in life,
  will be opened at the judgment,
  and be remembered forever. 

The Bible . . .
  involves the highest responsibility,
  rewards the greatest labor, and

  will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents!"

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Mutual Encouragement and Edification

God desired, intended, and deliberately planned for us to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ and not to suffer wrath (God's righteous indignation and just condemnation for our sin and rebellion)How merciful and gracious our God is! Jesus, the Lamb of God, bore the wrath and punishment we deserve. We, Christ's followers, have been delivered/rescued from God's wrath. On the other hand, the unsaved are under God's wrath. "Wrath is the destiny of Christ-rejecting souls." (Hiebert) God is just and at the same time, His love, grace, mercy, compassion, and patience are measureless! "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) God cannot be good if He does not hate evil. God cannot be just if He does not punish sin. Through our Lord Jesus Christ (Who satisfied God's wrath and paid for our punishment when He died on the cross), we have been saved from the penalty of sin (justification), we are being saved from the power of sin (sanctification), and we shall be saved from the presence of sin (glorification). He died for us so that we may live with Him for eternity. Paul points out that both the (saved) living and the (saved) dead will be forever living together (intimately united) with Christ. This clearly implies that Jesus did not stay dead but He is alive (He's resurrected). "If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living." (Romans 14:8-9)

Therefore because of the marvelous truth regarding our blessed hope of Christ's return, Paul exhorts us to encourage (comfort) and edify (build up) one another. Paul acknowledges that the believers in Thessalonica were already doing this and spurs them to excel even more. Knowing great truths about Christ's return should strengthen our hearts and minds and influence how we live our lives. May we come alongside one another and help one another face trials and difficulties with courage and confidence. Let's keep reminding one another that because Christ died for us and now lives in us, we would not have to experience the wrath of God in the day of the Lord. Let's build one another up in faith, love, and hope! Mutual encouragement and edification are needed in the Body of Christ for we live in a world of increasing spiritual darkness. When one encourages and edifies another person, both will benefit and be blessed.

"Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:13)
"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 10:25)

Prayer: Thank You, Abba Father, for Your unending love, grace, and mercy! I am forever grateful for Christ's substitutionary sacrifice for me. Through Jesus, I received salvation, instead of Your wrath. Please help me faithfully share the gospel with those who need to hear. Please show me how I can best daily encourage and edify my brothers and sisters in Christ. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Arm Yourselves with Faith, Love, and Hope

"But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet." (1 Thessalonians 5:8)

Paul likes to use a contrast between light (day) and darkness (night) to represent God/His truth and evil/wickedness, respectively. We, Christ's followers, are children of Light and are to walk in the light of Christ, not in darkness ruled by Satan. "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord." (Ephesians 5:8-10) We belong to the day; therefore, we are to live accordingly by being sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 

Be sober 
(spiritually stable, self-controlled, clear-headed, prudent). Be sober so that you can stay alert, watchful, and not be enticed by the deeds of darkness/evil passion. Live calmly and obediently. Our character and conduct must be consistent with our confession.

While we wait for Christ's return, we continue to live in a world of spiritual darkness that is hostile to God's truth. There is a spiritual battle, a battle for people's hearts and minds. Christ's followers are called to be soldiers in that battle. Dress properly. Arm yourselves against spiritual warfare by putting on faith and love as a breastplate (to protect our heart, the very center of our life) and the hope of salvation as a helmet (to protect our head/mind). Both breastplate and helmet are defensive weapons used to protect us from the Enemy's assault. 

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see...And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (Hebrews 11:1, 6) Faith (trust, belief, conviction) in God as Creator and Ruler of all things, Provider and Giver of eternal life through Christ Jesus. Faith in Jesus Christ as Messiah, the only Way through Whom we can be saved. Faith in God's promises. Faith protects our hearts from doubting, fearing, worrying, and wandering. Faith also keeps us sober (spiritually stable in spiritual warfare).

Love (agape) is unconditional, selfless, and sacrificial. It's treating people the way Jesus would treat them. Love God. Love people. Love like Jesus. Do everything in love. Love protects our hearts from hatred, fear, self-centeredness, greed, covetousness, jealousy, temptations, idleness, all sorts of evildoing. If we love God, we will obey His commands (which includes loving everyone). If we love people like Jesus, we will put the needs and well-being of others above ours. If we love people, we will share the gospel with them because we do not want to see anyone perish.

Put on the hope of Salvation as a helmet to protect our mind/thoughts. This "helmet" protects us from the Enemy's lies, doubts, despair, and discouragement. Biblical hope is absolute certainty (blessed assurance) based on God's Word. This living, confident hope helps us endure and persevere even amidst trials and suffering. Our eternal security in Christ gives us boldness to stand firm and steadfast, to resist Satan and worldly influences, and to encourage and comfort one another. In Christ/because of Christ, we have been saved from the penalty of sin (justification); we are being saved from the power of sin (sanctification); we shall be saved from the presence of sin (glorification). In this verse, Paul directs our attention to the hope of complete salvation in the future (forever saved from the penalty, power, and presence of sin). This blessed hope assures us that no matter how difficult the battle may be, there will definitely be ultimate victory and inspires us to live a holy life for God. "All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure." (1 John 3:3)
If we keep our faith in Jesus Christ, if we love one another like Jesus, if we have the confident hope of salvation, the Enemy cannot do anything to us!

"You need to get your heart right; that's the breastplate of faith and love that covers your heart. You need to love Jesus; you need to love one another. You need to put your faith where God put your sins: on the Lord Jesus Christ. That's the breastplate; you need to wear that. If you don't wear that, you're not ready to live in these dark days. And then, not only keep your heart right, but you keep your head right. Put on the helmet of salvation, the helmet of the hope of salvation." (Adrian Rogers)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for my salvation and for Your Word which gives me assurance! As I await Your return, please bless me with a childlike faith, Christlike love, and unshakable hope. Please empower me to effectively do Your kingdom work and draw people to You.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Day of The Lord

Christians (including the believers in Thessalonica) are fully aware that Christ will return and that His return will be sudden (nobody knows when). Therefore, we must be ready at all times. Be on the alert. The day of the Lord is certain to come at a time when people are not expecting. "The Day of the Lord refers to God's special interventions into the course of world events to judge His enemies, accomplish His purpose for history, and thereby demonstrate who He is--the sovereign God of the universe." (Reginald E. Showers)

"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives." (2 Peter 3:10)

"Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed." (Revelation 16:15)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, as each day is one day closer to Your return, please help me be alert, self-controlled, faithful, and mindful of how I live. Please empower me to do Your will and to show and tell the world what a wonderful Savior You are. Use me, Lord, for Your glory and Your kingdom. Maranatha!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Because of Christ, We Can Grieve With Hope

"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

It's natural for people to grieve when their loved ones die; however, there's a difference between how Christians grieve (with hope) and how non-Christians grieve (without hope). Paul wanted the believers in Thessalonica to know and understand what would happen to Christ's followers who already died (and who will die in the future before Christ's return) so that the believers could grieve with hope of resurrection. These believers were excitedly looking forward to Christ's return (expecting it to happen in their lifetime) and were concerned that their fellow believers who died would miss the Rapture. Paul assured them that those who knew Christ (as their Lord and Savior) and died would be brought back to life when Jesus returns.

The Greek word for "Sleep"/"Asleep" is koimao which is the root word for koimeterion (cemetery in English). The koimeterion (cemetery) literally means "a sleeping place, a place to lie down to sleep". Death for Christ's followers is merely being asleep. The sleep applies only to the body; the soul and spirit are with the Lord immediately after death. "After death the redeemed go consciously into the presence of the Lord, while the unsaved go into conscious punishment." (John MacArthur)

The hope we have in Christ is a blessed assurance/the absolute certainty of future good. Biblical hope 
is not an abstract concept but is embodied in the Person of Jesus Christ our Hope. Our confident, living hope of eternal life with God in Heaven is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.

We, Christ's followers, have this anchoring hope because we believe (trust, accept as true) that Jesus Christ died to make atonement for our sin, that He rose again (demonstrating His victory over sin and death and guaranteeing our bodily resurrection), and that He will bring with Him the believers who have died. Christ's death was the death of death and changed death to sleep (temporarily while awaiting the Rapture and bodily resurrection). Die we must but rise we shall (to everlasting life)!

"He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (2 Timothy 1:9-10)
No longer must the mourners weep
And call departed Christians dead;
For death is hallowed into sleep,
And every grave becomes a bed.
Now once more, Eden's door
Open stands to mortal eyes!
Now at last, old things past,
Christ is risen! We too shall rise.

(J. Sidlow Baxter)

Prayer: Thank You, Abba Father, for the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus! May You grant strength, comfort, and healing to my brothers and sisters in Christ who are grieving and help them to grieve with hope! You know I don't do well with grieving. Please keep reminding me that death is but a temporary separation for those in Christ and that someday all who trust in Christ will be reunited and part no more. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

No Drama, No Meddling, No Idleness

This is Paul's exhortation for Christ's followers: make it your ambition to lead a quiet life (no drama), mind your own business (no meddling), and work with your hands (no idleness). Seek earnestly to live a quiet, calm, restful, peaceable life, attend to your own affairs, and work hard.
  • Don't be frantic or restless. Don't cause trouble or stir up conflict. Don't feel like you have to get involved in every argument/every debate. We must learn to speak less and listen more. We must tame our tongue and have self-control. Avoid drama. Being quiet is a lost art nowadays. "He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'" (Psalm 46:10) "This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.'" (Isaiah 30:15) When we live a quiet life (including attaining quietness of heart and mind), we can be still and focus on God, listen to Him and get to know Him better.
  • Don't interfere with other people's affairs. Don't become busybodies. Don't gossip or spread rumor. 
  • Don't be idle/lazy. Don't take advantage of other people. "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.'" (2 Thessalonians 3:10) "Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work,doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need." (Ephesians 4:28) Paul was not just instructing the believers in Thessalonica to work hard; he also taught them by example. "Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you." (1 Thessalonians 2:9)

If we follow Paul's instructions, we will have an exemplary testimony to unbelievers. When we live this way with integrity without being a burden to anyone, non-Christians will notice and respect us.

"When believers display diligent work attitudes and habits and live in a loving and tranquil manner that respects others’ privacy and does not intrude or gossip, it constitutes a powerful testimony to unbelievers and makes the gospel credible… Believers who sacrificially love other people, exhibit tranquil lives, conscientiously focus on keeping their own lives in order, and faithfully carry out their daily responsibilities in the workplace (thus avoiding any welfare dependence)—all the while proclaiming the gospel in light of the return of Christ—are the most effective witnesses to their unsaved neighbors and loved ones." (John MacArthur)

Prayer: Father, please enable me to live a quiet life of trusting and resting in You, to take care of my family, and to diligently do the tasks You call me to do. Please have Your way in me and make me a fragrant aroma of Christ to the lost world. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Sanctification in Area of Sexual Purity

Sanctification is God's will for His children. To be sanctified (to be holy) is to be set apart (from the world, sin, and flesh) for God's use, service, and purpose. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 explicitly states it's the will of God (His heart's desire) that we are to abstain (deliberately refrain) from sexual immorality (which includes premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexual sex, pornography, sodomy, rape, molestation, incest, sexual perversion, prostitution, etc.), control our own body in a way that is holy and honorable (worthy of respect), not in passionate lust like the pagans who do not know God. "For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." (1 Thessalonians 4:7) Don't be like the pagans/unbelievers who view sex as means of gratifying their passionate lust and view sexual purity/chastity as weakness. They do what they do because they do not know God personally even though they may know about Him. We, His children, on the other hand, know God personally and thus have no excuse whatsoever to engage in sexual immorality. We no longer have to live like the unbelievers who are driven by their passionate lust for sexual gratification. "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (lust)." (Galatians 5:24) John Piper defines lust as "a sexual desire that dishonors its object and disregards God... If your sexual desire is not guided by respect for the honor of others and regard for the holiness of God, it is lust." 

We must be vigilant about avoiding/keeping ourselves away from those situations in which we might be tempted to commit sexual sin. We must not be foolish or arrogant in thinking that we can handle it or that we won't fall into temptation. So many people including pastors and Christian leaders have committed sexual sin. They lose their credibility and often their ministry. It is truly tragic when God's children commit sexual sin and live to please flesh like those who do not know God. "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

To please, honor, and glorify God is to do His will. Each day we have a choice whether to yield ourselves to His will or to do our own self-centered follow Christ's teachings or to follow the world's ways. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2) Sadly, some people constantly wonder what God's will is for their lives while ignoring to obey the will of God which was already written in His Word. Submit/surrender all to God and He will lead you.

Sanctification is the lifetime process of being made holy, of growing more and more mature spiritually, and of becoming more and more like Christ. The Holy Spirit works in our lives using God's Word to sanctify us as we walk in the Spirit, obey God's Word, and imitate Christ. If we want to do God's will and grow in holiness, we must spend time in God's Word and be doers of the Word. There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity. The process of sanctification is a beautiful interplay of the Holy Spirit's empowerment and the believer's responsibility. "It is time for us Christians, to face up to our responsibility for holiness. Too often we say we are 'defeated' by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient." (Jerry Bridges) 

"A holy life will make the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns, they just shine." (Dwight L. Moody)

"The best way to overcome the world (worldliness), is not with morality or self-discipline. Christians overcome the world by seeing the beauty and excellence of Christ. They overcome the world by seeing something more attractive than the world--the Lord Jesus Christ!" (Thomas Chalmers)

Prayer: "
More purity give me, more strength to o’ercome,

More freedom from earth-stains, more longings for home;
More fit for the kingdom, more used would I be,

More blessed and holy--more, Savior, like Thee." (Bliss)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Grow and Overflow in Love

 "Now may our God and Father Himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones." (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 NIV)

This is Paul's prayer for the believers in Thessalonica. He asked God the Father and Lord Jesus Christ to clear the way (removing obstacles/hindrances) for him to be able to visit them. He asked the Lord to make their love (agape) increase/grow and abound/overflow for one another...for everyone (including their enemies). Agape is a supernatural love (unconditional, selfless, and sacrificial). It's treating others the way Jesus would treat them. It's a fruit of the Spirit. Only God through His Spirit can put that kind of love in our hearts. Paul also asked God to strengthen their hearts (will, thoughts, motives, attitudes, & feelings, the wellspring of our spiritual life) so that they will be blameless (pure, faultless, irreproachable) and holy (separated from the world...set apart for God's use and purpose) in the presence of God when Jesus returns with all the saints. In Christ (because of our union with Christ and His righteousness imputed upon us), we are holy and blameless in God's sight. May we live accordingly! 

Every chapter in 1 Thessalonians ends with a reference to Christ's second coming. This precious truth should motivate us Christians to love like Jesus, to pursue holiness, and to be intentional about how we daily live. 

 "An overflow of love (1Th 3:12) is the only route to holy conduct in which no fault can be found (1Th 3:13). For unless love prevails, selfish motives inhibit ethical development by turning us toward ourselves and away from God and blameless living." (EBC)

Prayer: Thank You, Heavenly Father, for loving me with an everlasting love! Thank You for putting agape love in my heart! Please continue to make it grow and overflow. Please purify and strengthen my heart to be holy and be ready for Christ's return. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Appointed to Afflictions

Paul was concerned about the faith and spiritual welfare of the believers in Thessalonica so he sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage them. "Strengthen" is from the Greek word "sterizo"which means to make firm or stable, to cause to be inwardly committed. "Encourage" is from the Greek word "parakaleo" which means to call someone alongside. Timothy was sent to support these believers for spiritual stability and to come alongside them & urge them to persevere through difficulties with faith, courage, and confidence. To ponder: Do you know anyone who is going through trials and afflictions? Pray and ask God to show you how you may encourage and strengthen them. Let them know that you're praying for them and available whenever they need you.

Trial/Affliction is from the Greek word "thlipsis" (from "thlibo) which means to crush, squash, squeeze. Afflictions can be physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual distress which makes you feel squeezed and crushed due to intense pressure/great difficulty. To ponder: When we squeeze something, what comes out is what is on the inside. What comes out of you when you experience afflictions that squeeze you? How we respond to trials and afflictions reveal the reality of our faith. Trials and afflictions will come, sooner or later. They are unavoidable for Christ's followers in this present life in a fallen world. We are never promised a trouble-free life. In fact, Jesus states the opposite in John 16:33I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.Don't be surprised or discouraged by afflictions. God wants His children to stay spiritually strong and stable in the midst of the storms. He doesn't want our faith to be unsettled/shaken/disturbed. Remember that trials and afflictions are temporary and they serve a purpose. "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4)

"They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. 'We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,' they said." (Acts 14:21-22)

"Afflictions are sent for this end, to bring us to the throne of grace, to teach us to pray and to make the word of God's grace precious to us... Many are taught with the briars and thorns of affliction that would not learn otherwise." (Matthew Henry)

"There are no crown-wearers in heaven that were not cross-bearers here below." (Charles Spurgeon)

It helps when we remind ourselves of trials' divine purpose: proving our faith genuine, deepening our faith & reliance on God, humbling our souls, weaning us from the things of this world, drawing us closer to God, helping us learn & grow in spiritual maturity, molding us into Christlikeness, and making us useful to God. Trials and afflictions have their necessary place in the process by which God works out the sanctification of His children. God will allow only what is necessary for He does not delight to afflict or grieve His children. In addition, we are promised that Christ is always with us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. We are never alone no matter what trials we are going through. As sure as God puts His children in the furnace, He will be in the furnace with them.” (Charles Spurgeon) God's presence gives us peace and comfort. God may not remove our pain and sufferings but He will carry us through them. The Holy Spirit/the Comforter dwells in us, giving us the grace and strength to endure.

Prayer: Thank You, Abba Father, for carrying me and comforting me through all my trials! Please use me to be a blessing and encouragement to those who are going through afflictions. Please show me how I can help them stay strong in their faith and be emboldened to cope with any challenges. Please enable them and me to trust and rest in You completely, even in the fiercest storms of life. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Joy of Soul-Winning and Discipling

Paul's hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing result from leading people to Christ, seeing new believers' lives transformed by God and His gospel, discipling them to grow in spiritual maturity/Christlikeness, and looking forward to seeing them in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His second coming. Paul echoed the same thing to the believers in Philippi, "Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!" (Philippians 4:1)

Although I rejoice at each soul saved (no matter who witnessed to them), I would be thrilled and filled with special joy to meet people in Heaven who trusted in Christ as their Lord and Savior because of my witness. What a priceless reward it is in itself to take as many people as possible to Heaven with us! Christ's second coming should motivate us to be faithful in sharing the gospel with unbelievers. Evangelism is something that cannot be done (won't be needed) in Heaven. Those whom Paul led to Christ became Paul's glory and joy. "
As you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to glory/rejoice on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you." (Philippians 2:16-17) There's no better winning than winning souls for Christ!

"A missionary was once asked about his salary. The inquirer knew it couldn't be much, and he wanted to know why anyone would give so generously of himself to help total strangers, yet be paid so little. The missionary pulled out a letter and read these words: 'If it weren't for you, I wouldn't know Jesus Christ as my Savior. Every morning I kneel in prayer, thanking God for everything you've done for me.' 

'That's my pay!' exclaimed the dedicated servant of the Lord." (from Our Daily Bread)

"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)

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for our blessed assurance in Christ! Please help us to faithfully serve You, live for You, and reach out to the lost with Your gospel while we await Christ's second coming. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

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