Saturday, April 27, 2013

What's Important?

33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33 (NLT). 

What is truly important to you? Wealth, possession, people, goals, and other desires all strive for our attention to be first place. However, God desires to be the central and focal point of our life. To "seek the Kingdom of God . . . live righteously" means to continually seek God in our daily lives first and foremost for all our needs, wants, and desires and to live a life that pleases God (righteousness).

However, many people lose track with God worrying about money, possessions, and status (Mark 4:1-20). Fear and lack of faith is often the root of worry. Yet, worrying and stressing is pointless and a complete waste of time (Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 12:22-31). Instead of worrying, we are to continually seek God and live rightly (e.g., moral, honest, and virtuous). As we seek God first, God provides for our needs (Luke 12:31). God promises that He will never leave us and never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6). Even more, God promises to supply all our needs as we seek and trust Him (Luke 12:31; Philippians 4:19-20; Ephesians 3:20-21). Where God guides, He provides.

Everyone is to plan for the future with God’s help, guidance, and Holy Spirit. Still more, we are to all do good, work hard, and care for our families (2 Thessalonians 3:6–13; Hebrews 2:7). God condemns worry, not work (Matthew 6:25, 27–28, 31, 34). So, let us all live one day at a time with God and make an active effort to keep God first place in every area of our life!

31 He [God] will always give you all you need from day to day if you will make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. Luke 12:31 (TLB).


Monday, April 22, 2013

In God We Trust

5 This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans (flesh), who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. 6 They are like stunted shrubs (bushes) in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren (hot and dry) wilderness, in an uninhabited salty (bad) land. 7 But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence (see also Psalm 40:4). 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit (see also Psalm 1:3). 9 The human heart (mind) is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? 10 But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives (mind). I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Jeremiah 17:5-10 (NLT).

The prophet Jeremiah is listed among the major prophets of the Old Testament and he ministered primarily to the southern kingdom of Israel (Judah). Judah had turned their hearts away from wholeheartedly following the one true God and continued to sin. God called the prophet Jeremiah to warn Judah of their sins before the coming destruction.

Jeremiah proclaimed that the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and "Judah's sin is engraved . . . on the tablets of their hearts" (Jeremiah 17:1) In the Holy Scriptures, the heart was the organ of reason, feeling, action, intelligence, and will where sin lives. The heart embraces our innermost being and the center of life. Unfortunately, our hearts are prone and bent toward sin, selfishness, and sickness from the time we are born. The human heart has a deep bent or inclination to sin that only God can repair and redeem. As humans, we cannot change our hearts through self-reform, self-will, or human efforts. Only God as the Great Physician can diagnose our heart problems and bring the necessary healing. As the Great Physician, God can repair our sinful hearts and place His Word on our hearts as we seek, love, and trust wholeheartedly in Him (Jeremiah 31:31–34). As we seek and trust God, God’s Holy Spirit transforms and strengthens our hearts and brings life, discernment, and healing to our whole bodies (1 Kings 3:9; Proverbs 3:5-6; James 1:5). Unfortunately, those who do not trust in God continue in their deceit and wickedness and have neither salvation nor security. On the other hand, those who trust in God are written in heaven (Luke 10:20) and the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27).

Moreover, the Holy Scriptures teaches us to continually protect and safeguard our hearts from sin and wickedness (Proverbs 4:23). We can protect our heart by setting boundaries on our outward actions and inward desires. To set these boundaries, we must continually seek God and bring glory to Him in every life situation (Colossians 3:17). A good rule of thumb to remember: will this action or desire bring glory to God?

People who totally trust in God are fruitful and lively, despite any outward crisis and difficulties. Those who trust in God flourishes like trees planted by water (see Psalm 1) with abundant strength, not only for their own needs, but even for the needs of others (Isaiah 40:29-31). In contrast, those who do not trust in God are infertile, weak, and unfruitful. In times of misfortune and suffering, such people are often damaged, broken and spiritually weak (see also Jeremiah 13:1-11).

God can turn us away from sin and evil as we turn our hearts to trust completely in Him. God is ready and willing to clean and repair our hearts and give us a new heart if we seek and trust Him (Psalm 51; Amos 5:5-6). As we continually seek God, God send His Holy Spirit to help us resist sin, evil, and temptations. Self-help, money, and riches will never solve the sin and evil problems of our hearts. Only our committed trust in God will bring God's blessing or lasting happiness, despite any outward struggle or crises.

We must all repent and turn our whole hearts to God in love, commitment, and faithfulness (see Psalm 78:8; Isaiah 1:16-20; Hosea 6:1-3; Zechariah 1:3; Malachi 3:7). Repentance means to turn from sin, evil, and self-centeredness and turn to following and loving God and our neighbors (see also Jeremiah 18:1-17; Matthew 22:34-10). God’s blessings and restoration flows to those who confess and repent of their sins and honor God by seeking what is right (Jeremiah 17:26; Jeremiah 18:7-11; see also Psalm 51). Most important, seeking God brings true life (Psalm 1:3). The Holy Scriptures are clear that God blesses those who trust and obey Him and seek His will (Proverbs 3:1-12).

Today, our world applauds self-importance, wealth, assertiveness, possessions, and independence (Jeremiah 18:12). However, God applauds a humble heart committed to trusting, obeying and loving Him and loving our neighbors (see Proverbs 3:5-6; Jeremiah 11:4; Matthew 22:34-40). God does not convict human resources but He does want everyone to seek His will and way first and foremost in every life situation and circumstance (Jeremiah 17:7; Matthew 6:33). So, let everyone seek and trust in God!

3 Never let loyalty (faithfulness, truth) and kindness (love) leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. 4 Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek His will (acknowledge God) in all you do, and He will show you which path to take (direct your path). 7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. 8 Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones. Proverbs 3:3-8 (NLT).

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Wiersbe, Warren W. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gospel In A Nutshell

For I am not ashamed of this Good News (Gospel) about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life." Romans 1:16-17 (NLT), see also Habakkuk 2:4.

God loves ALL people, regardless of race, identity, sin, gender, or age (Acts 10:9-16). His love is endless and very wide (Romans 8:38-39; Ephesians 3:14-21). No human can comprehend the never-ending depth of God’s love for all people of every tribe, nation, and tongue. God wants a close and daily relationship with everyone, from the least to the greatest, as Friend and Lord.

Yet, God also calls everyone to repentance from sin and to faith in Jesus Christ. The Gospel message declares we are saved by grace (unearned, undeserved favor from God) through faith (complete and genuine trust) in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross. Saving faith is simply trusting and believing in Jesus Christ, and sincerely reaching out to Him to accept His wonderful gift of salvation. As we turn and continually seek God found in Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Spirit cleans us from the inside with a renewed heart and soul. Plainly, God does the cleaning of our lives as we continually seek Him by faith. Our persistent faith in God found in Jesus Christ gives us strength, courage, and victory over every life challenges and struggles. Jesus Christ sends us the Holy Spirit as our Friend, Helper, Counselor, Guide, and Instructor (John 14:15-29).

The God who saved Israel from the Egyptian soldiers (Exodus 15:2), Jonah from the fish’s belly (Jonah 2:9), and the psalmist from death (Psalm 116:6), saves ALL people who believe in Jesus Christ and faithfully follow His message of love from sin and sin’s consequences. God relents from sending His judgment as we turn from our sins (Jeremiah 18). Through Jesus Christ, we are now free from the power of sin (Romans 6:1-23) and free to live like Jesus Christ in God’s everlasting love (Romans 8:38-39).

Only God found living in Jesus Christ saves humankind from sin and sin’s destruction: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8 NASB); “Salvation comes from the LORD” (Jonah 2:9 NASB); through Jesus Christ we can stand before God justified, “not guilty” (Romans 3:21-5:21).

In a nutshell, the Good News or the Gospel message is that Jesus Christ

1. Died on the Cross at Calvary on a Friday over 2000 years ago;
2. Through His death humankind can receive righteousness and salvation;
3. He was buried in an empty tomb;
4. Came back to life (resurrected) on a Sunday morning by the Holy Spirit;
5. By confession with our mouth and faith in our hearts that Jesus Christ is the risen Lord and Savior of the world, humankind can be reconciled and given peace with God;
6. Sin and sin’s consequences from the past, present, and future are forgiven; and
7. Finally, the Holy Spirit cleanses a person’s heart and gives that person a new start and new life.

God through Jesus Christ has instructed all believers to take the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to all people. The Gospel of the Kingdom is the power of God to give salvation from sin, heart peace and the hope of eternal life through the Person and life of Jesus Christ.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16-17 (NKJV).

GOD LOVES YOU AND HE CARES ABOUT ALL YOUR NEEDS. God loved you so much that He became a Man through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God’s only Son. God gave His only Son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the entire world on the Cross at Calvary on a Friday afternoon more than 2000 years ago. Then three days later on Sunday morning, God raised Jesus Christ from the dead to offer salvation to all people.

Salvation is God’s gift to all people. No one can earn salvation by work or effort, but only through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10). By having faith and belief in Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross for your sins, you are made right with God the Father and declared holy and righteous (Romans 3:21-31). Most importantly, you will now have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. You can approach God about all your concerns and needs through prayer.

Now, this belief in Jesus Christ is more than an intellectual agreement that Jesus is God. This belief means placing your complete trust, hope, and confidence in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as payment for your sins and acceptance of Him as Lord over your complete life. While our good works and efforts do not save us, God saves us so we can do good works of love for others.

After rising from the dead, Jesus Christ ascended into heaven and His physical presence left the earth (Acts 1:1-11). Nevertheless, Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit so that His Spiritual Presence would still be among all humanity who had faith in His life, death, and resurrection.

Our next step is faith in Jesus Christ. The Holy Bible tells us that everyone has fallen short and sinned against God, even with our so-called good and nice deeds (Romans 3:23). The wages of sin against God are death, darkness, and despair (Romans 6:23). Yet the GOOD NEWS is that God has sent His special gift, His Son Jesus Christ, to suffer for our sins. You can receive this gift from God simply by calling on the name of Jesus Christ, to accept Jesus with all your heart as your Lord and Savior, ask Him to cleanse you from all your sins, and then you are SAVED! (Romans 10:13). With that simple prayer, you have become a new creature in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Find a good Holy Bible to read daily. The Holy Bible is God’s love letter to you. Then, find a good Bible-believing church to serve and worship God. Church is a good way to find other believers in Jesus Christ to help you daily in your love walk.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ask for the Holy Spirit!

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! Luke 11:13 (NIV).

Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is God and the active presence of God on earth. He moved over the face of the waters in Genesis, came upon Moses in the wilderness, inspired the prophets and the apostles, rose Jesus Christ from death just to name a few of His mighty works. The Holy Spirit is the greatest gift God gives people through faith in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and Jesus Christ living inside of believers—God's Presence.

The Holy Spirit is a part of the Trinity —God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. When a person sincerely trusts Jesus Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of him or her and fills that person’s innermost being. The Holy Spirit transforms people from within to become more Christ-like. A believer’s moral conduct and love for God and others proves God’s presence in our lives. The Holy Spirit brings about Christ-like behavior and obedience to God (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit living inside believers brings empowerment, direction, and strength to live and serve others according to the teachings and commands of the Holy Bible. Most importantly, the Holy Spirit transforms believers so they are able to live, act, and look more like Jesus Christ and want to become part of God’s plan to build up His church. Simply put, the Holy Spirit within believers helps us please God every day.

Moreover, the Holy Spirit is the presence of God at work in the world. Because the Holy Spirit’s presence, people are made aware of sin and their need for God. Many people are unaware of the Holy Spirit’s presence and activities. However, to believers who receive and love God through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit gives a whole new way to look at life. The Holy Spirit provides an overwhelming heart peace with God and comfort through prayer. Unlike worldly peace, which is usually defined as the absence of conflict, this peace is confident assurance in any circumstance God is present!

By faith, believers of Jesus Christ can call upon the Holy Spirit’s power each day for daily use and help in any of life’s situation. The Holy Spirit directs a believer’s heart, path and helps a believer choose right from wrong. Also, the Holy Spirit counsels, helps, encourages, and strengthens a believer of Jesus Christ. As the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit teaches believers the truths of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, His physical presence left the earth. The God through Jesus Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Advocate to care for, guide, and help His disciples and also to provide instruction, sanctification, and guidance. Jesus Christ kept His promise at Pentecost that continues today. This same God through Jesus—who lived with the disciples, who died and was buried, and who rose from the dead—now lives on the in the hearts of believers to love and be with them always. As promised during His earthly ministry, God through Jesus Christ poured out the Holy Spirit so that His spiritual presence would still be among His people.

During the Old Testament period, the empowering gift of God’s Holy Spirit had previously been given only to select individuals such as Judges, priests, kings, and prophets. With the New Covenant today, the Holy Spirit now comes to live in ALL people, regardless of race, gender, or status, who have sincerely trusted Jesus Christ for their salvation and acknowledged Him as Lord and Savior. In essence, you can receive the Holy Spirit simply through heart faith in Jesus Christ and through asking in prayer for His presence to come live in your heart.

The Holy Spirit begins the Christian experience with God through Jesus Christ. No believer can be united with Jesus Christ, adopted as God’s children, nor become a part of the body of Christ except by baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the power of believers’ lives. He begins the lifetime process of changing believers to become more like Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit works in believers to help us become like Jesus Christ. When we receive Jesus Christ by faith as Lord and Savior, believers begin a personal and intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Moreover, the Holy Spirit unifies the Christian community in Jesus Christ and He can be experienced by all. He works through all people through faith. 

Many people think of the Holy Spirit as being an experience of divine power. The Holy Spirit in both the Old Testament and the New Testament is the core of the experience of new life, strength, and energy and liberation from sin and death. As God, the Holy Spirit brings spiritual refreshment and renewal. The Holy Spirit is the power of God that transforms the individual into the image of God and makes the believer like Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the agent of holiness for the church and its leaders. He keeps the church pure and He promotes holiness in its members.

The Prophet Zechariah calls the Spirit “a spirit of grace and prayer” (Zechariah 12:10-12). In the same way, the Holy Spirit helps believers in our weakness. Often, we do not know what we to pray for, but the Holy Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. All of these benefits of the Holy Spirit are available by simply asking God to fill you with the Holy Spirit once you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. 

No matter how impure your life is right now, God offers everyone a fresh start through faith in Jesus Christ. Through heart faith in God through Jesus Christ, a person can have his or her sins washed away and receive a new heart and spirit from God. The Holy Spirit has the power to make new people and creates a new life.

The Holy Spirit’s presence is in believers’ lives, not only spiritual and mystical. The Holy Spirit is a powerful Person on our side, working for and around us. He teaches, helps, and guides believers toward all truth. Moreover, the Holy Spirit ministers to both the head and the heart and gives us the power, strength, and ability genuinely to love and to overcome hatred and evil in our world. A believer does not have to wait for a certain feeling or emotion to know that the Holy Spirit has come within. You will know the Holy Spirit has come because Jesus Christ promised He would in John 14 - 16.

A believer’s complete focus and hope must be on trusting God, relying on His Holy Spirit, and loving others. In essence, if people live their lives guided and directed by the Holy Spirit, loving God and others, they are in perfect harmony and obedience with the intent of God’s Law. People who produce and reveal the fruit of the Spirit satisfy the Law of God. At the right time, believers will reap a blessing from God walking in step with the Holy Spirit.

So, yield your life fully to God. Ask God for His Holy Spirit in every area and circumstance of life. Then, live and pray each day by the Holy Spirit.

Friday, April 5, 2013

What God Wants

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God (see also 1 Corinthians 13). 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son (Jesus) into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him (see also John 1:18; John 3:16). 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (see also 2 Corinthians 5:21). 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God (see also Exodus 33:18-23). But if we love each other, God lives in (among) us, and His love is brought to full expression in us. 13 And God has given us His Spirit as proof that we live in Him and He in us (see also Romans 5:5; Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 1:22). 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who confess (acknowledges) that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love. 19 We love each other because He loved us first. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And He has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their brothers and sisters (people). 1 John 4:7-21.

What does God want from us? Jesus Christ answered that question simply. God desires our total and wholehearted love, dedication, and obedience to Him. Next, God desires love for our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). Love given and shown for God and our neighbor fully satisfies all the laws and commands of God (Romans 13:8-10). Both the Old Testament and the New Testament stress the importance of wholehearted love for God and our neighbor.

In reality, being loved is the most powerful inspiration in the world! Love is the greatest and most significant reality we can experience. The Good News is that Jesus Christ revealed to us how to love God’s way. Jesus Christ loved sacrificially for others by dying on the Cross at Calvary for our sins and obediently loved God in every way. God wants us to love like Jesus Christ’s unselfish love, even for those who hate us.

Love is the essence of God’s message to the world, which goes beyond the limits of race and nation. Loving God and our neighbor are the foundation for all biblical ethics in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. In fact, Jesus Christ summed up the entire Holy Bible in love. God wants us to love not only people who look and act like us but also people much different from us, including our enemies. People never get tired of this kind of sincere love.

Love is more than simply passionate feelings. Love is NOT trivial bickering, jealousy, and selfish desires. God’s love means helping others, by giving, listening to others, committing time to others' welfare, encouraging one another, and by getting hurt without fighting back.

If we have a right relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, we will have no problems with His commandment to love. If we love God, we will love our neighbor and we will not want to do anything to harm him or her. God Himself has taught us to love one another through the life and teaching of Jesus, the Cross at Calvary, and the Holy Spirit. Love should characterize all people, especially people professing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. If we are full of God's love, God’s love will overflow to others. Your love for God and other people will show that you are genuinely a disciple of Jesus Christ.