Category Archives: Religion

Loving People Despite Their Behavior

Loving people is hard, and it’s a struggle to do it well. If you haven’t found it difficult to love, at one point in time or another, you’re probably doing it wrong. Because loving people, especially when they’re behaving sinfully, is hard.

People by virtue are sinful, and sinful people make for difficult objects of love. Even regenerate sinners, God bless them, are difficult. (Maybe a little easier than non-believers? But hard to love nonetheless!)

The challenge of love is compounded when the people you’re trying to love are apathetic or even hateful towards you. The typical response given by society, and an extremely appealing solution, is to only love those who love you in return and to cut everyone else away. It is easy to be drawn by this idea, yet it is sinful to the core—for it stands against God’s second greatest command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I like the way Paul Tripp put it when he said, “If we only love our neighbor when he or she loves us in return, we’re not loving our neighbors, just ourselves.”

Most of us find it difficult to love unconditionally because love is treated like a bank account. People have to deposit into our banks, love, kindness, and charity, if they hope to receive the same kind of treatment in turn. The people with whom we’re frustrated and have a hard time loving are those people who haven’t deposited anything into our account. Their funds have run dry. Yet God would say to you and me, “love them anyway and put it on my account.”

Unconditional love is possible as we recognize what God has done for us. It is that realization that empowers us to love others unconditionally. God’s bank account from which we draw is infinite. He never withholds His grace or forgiveness, and “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Paying the ultimate price. God’s love was not contingent upon our behavior, if it were then we would never receive it.

When we love the undeserving, it’s a picture of Christ’s love. It’s a love that doesn’t make sense to the world. It’s a love that is unmerited. Because for Christians, their love should come from God, freely given as it is freely received.

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Two Kinds of Religion

There are two kinds of religion in this world. In the first kind, individuals must save themselves and in the second, God must save each individual. The religion that says people save themselves always falls short of salvation. For “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy rags” and “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (cf Isa 64:6, Rom 3:23).

Pick a religion. How do people in that particular faith come to a right standing before God? Think for a moment about Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, or any other ‘isms’. They have laundry lists of things that a person must do. Tim Keller argues that in almost all religions people essentially build a bridge to get from one side to the other. They build their bridge to salvation brick by brick, following certain rules and doing certain deeds.

I once asked a devout Muslim: “How do I become a Muslim?” He said to me: “Declare there is no God but Allah, and follow the Five Pillars. Then you will be Muslim.” To be a Muslim that’s all you have to do. Merely follow a set of rules. What about Buddhism? Their central tenet is that a person achieves enlightenment by following the 8-fold path. In all of these religions, it’s always about you and your ability to achieve your way to God or some inner peace.

I do concede though that religions have differences between them. But at the same time, all those religions fundamentally espouse rules and rituals that people must do to save themselves. People are “saved” by following that system, whether it is Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, etc.

How then is Biblical Christianity any different from the rest? Fundamentally, it says that you can’t save yourself. No matter how hard you try, your best isn’t good enough. The ‘you’ on your best day still fails God’s perfect standard. Jesus must save you! The Bible says humanity has been separated from God because sin has infected us all. His holy nature cannot allow sin to go unpunished. These axioms are antithetical to what the majority of religions proclaim.

In Biblical Christianity, God saves humanity because they can’t save themselves. Why did Jesus have to die? To save wretched sinners separated from a holy God. If men and women could save themselves then Christ died for nothing (cf. Gal 2:21). A Christian then is one who always stands before God purely on Christ’s finished work (cf. Heb 10:14). He or she looks to Jesus, the spotless lamb and trusts in Him alone for salvation (cf. Jn 5:24). To quote the classic hymn, ‘Rock of Ages’:

nothing in my hand I bring,

simply to the cross I cling

foul I to the fountain fly;

wash me Savior or I die.

Religion is always of two kinds: either humanity tries to save themselves, or God saves humanity. The faith that saves is always the one in which God saves us and reconciles us to Himself “for salvation comes from the Lord” (cf Jon 2:9).

Why Did Jesus Die?

Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die? If you haven’t pondered the question, you are missing the crux of Christianity. It is at the cross of Christ that God’s justice and mercy meet.

One of the tragedies of being human is that we sin. We all do what we should not do and fail to do what God requires, our conscience testifies. People usually respond by saying, “Well, everyone does what they shouldn’t do. Nobody is perfect.” I completely agree with that statement, but that does not change God’s standard– “be perfect therefore as I am perfect” (Mat. 5). The prevalence of sin does not obligate God to lower His standard for humanity. On the contrary, the bar remains ever the same, for God is unchanging. This presents a problem for humanity, how is sin reconciled before the God whose standard is unchanging?

As human beings, when we show mercy to people, it is always at the expense of justice. Someone deserves a certain consequence or punishment for injustice, however for mercy’s sake it is withheld. We don’t pour out what a person rightfully deserves. Justice is sacrificed at the expense of mercy.

God does not dispense mercy at the expense of justice like we do. If God chose to “simply forgive sin” He would cease to be God. The very essence of being God is His holiness. He must punish sin. If an earthly judge just let prisoners run rampant because he wanted to be merciful that would be unspeakable. It would be a gross violation of justice. If that’s the standard for a mere earthly judge, how much more holy must God be? As the prophet Habakkuk states, “His eyes are too pure as to behold evil.” God will not sacrifice justice for mercy.

Every individual’s sin demands payment, and God desires that no one be separated from Him. He reconciles the tension through Jesus. It is at the cross of Christ that God can be both just and merciful. The Lord bore the sins of the world so that those who believe in Him could have everlasting life. The cross is the only foundation on which any person stands before God; it is where the righteous demands of the law are satisfied. Acceptance before God is not found in what you do, rather it based solely on the finished work of Christ. (That’s why no one can boast it is all of grace. If you work for it then there is boasting, but if it is a gift boasting is void.) If salvation could be achieved through what we do, then Jesus Christ died for nothing (Gal. 2).

On the cross, Jesus experienced the full wrath of the Father. Christ paid the penalty of sin for each and every individual, so that those who believe in Him alone through faith could be saved (Eph. 2). “By a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 9). It is a gift to be received for those who recognize their need for a Savior.

Only at the cross is justice satisfied and mercy offered to those who believe in Him.

How deep the Father’s love for us,

how vast beyond all measure

that He would give His only Son

and make a wretch His treasure.

As Sparks Fly Upward

Job captures the human condition when he says: “Man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward”(Job 5:7). Painful and stressful situations are inevitable, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. They crouch behind corners and pounce when we least expect it. It is often believed that these circumstances are plagues from God and are not part of His plan. (I know that’s how I feel sometimes.) The reality, however, is that God has ordained difficult, stressful, painful situations – trials – as a means of transforming people into His image. As we recognize trials as God’s instrument, we can find joy in the midst of our trials and respond rightly to them.

Mental Response to Trials

It was Chuck Swindoll who said, “show me a man or woman who’s never endured suffering, and I’ll show you a spiritual wimp.” There is some truth to that statement. Trials and suffering produce spiritual maturity. It says in James 1:2: “Count it all joy when you experience trials of various kinds.” The verb “count” in Greek is noteworthy suggesting something done with your mind. The way it’s written suggests that one should dwell on the given situation and come to the conclusion that “This is good for me.” Not because the situation itself is good, (let’s be honest, trials hurt), but because of what you learn, and what it produces in your life, which is spiritual maturity.

Trials Come in Many Colors

As a child, I used to think of trials as the big problems and situations of life e.g. Abraham having to offer Isaac. However, the Greek word poikilois, translated asvarious in James 1:2 – “when you encounter various trials” – has the meaning “many colors.” When James uses it, he conveys that trials come in different colors. We can experience testing with finances, family, work, friendship, rebellious children, classes, etc.

Trials Reveal Our Condition

 Recently, I got a mundane job that pays close to minimum wage working in a freezer. I definitely believe that it’s a trial from God! This job is making me work on my pride and is helping me to realize what’s important in life. I’ll admit that when I signed up for it, there wasn’t an ounce of joy. I was embarrassed and I wanted to buy a mask to hide my face. However, I’m realizing that working at this job will produce spiritual maturity.

 The trials of our lives reveal our human condition. They show the areas of our life that haven’t conformed to the image of God. I didn’t understand I had a problem with pride until I faced my trial. Then I realized I am a prideful person, and that I need to change. I didn’t enjoy this realization, but now I can work on my pride. When you face trials it reveals your sinful areas and then by the power of the Holy Spirit you can change.

The Place of Wisdom

 What is a Christian’s response to trials? It’s true that we ask God for deliverance, but what James suggests is to pray for wisdom. People use this verse for almost anything: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (1:5). However, the context of James chapter 1 is trials. When we find ourselves in a trial we pray to God for wisdom in dealing with it. “Lord, what do I do about this situation?” Wisdom is vital in responding to our various trials. We also pray to God for understanding in what we can learn from our testing. Even in the worst of trials, there is a nugget of wisdom to be taken from it, and we pray to God for it.

Hope is Key

 Hope provides the necessary endurance to overcome trials. It says in Romans 5:3 “Tribulation works patience.” If you think about it, often tribulation does just the opposite. I know people in whom tribulation has worked bitterness and hatred. Why then does the Apostle Paul say, “it works patience”? This statement is found in the context of hope. When you have hope you can endure the most agonizing trials imaginable. Our hope in trials is the knowledge, that in the end, it’s shaping us in the image of our Savior.

 As long as sparks fly upward, you will experience all sorts of trials and testings. It’s not fun or enjoyable in any way, but when we recognize what God is doing through it, we can embrace our trials wholeheartedly. For we know that as we endure it, we are becoming spiritual men and women of God.

How to Deal with Criticism?

Have you ever noticed that people have opinions on just about everything? This includes the big and little decisions we make in our lives. Some argue that what people say is irrelevant. These individuals may often shrug their shoulders to any and all criticism. On the other hand, there are those who live life crippled by the opinions and disapproval of others, constantly thinking of what (insert important person) says about them. There are consequences that follow from either extreme. It is only when we recognize the approval that comes from God that we can find a balanced approach that avoids both extremes.

Don’t Close Your Eyes to Criticism

Taking criticism is hard. No one enjoys being confronted in areas of weakness, especially when it’s done the wrong way. However, when we ignore criticism we do so at our own expense. We all have our blind spots and pitfalls, and if ignored they will lead to unnecessary pain.

[Whenever Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was about to implement a plan, he would always take the plan to his greatest critics to examine. His critics, of course, would usually proceed to tear his plan apart showing him why it would never work.

Someone asked him why he wasted his time showing it to a group of critics instead of taking it to advisors who were sympathetic to his ideas. He answered, “Because my critics help me find the weaknesses in the plan so I can correct them.”

In the same way, God uses the judgmental person to reveal our blind spots so we can make the necessary changes. If we truly want to be pleasing to the Lord, we will accept the exposure of our faults so we can correct them, even if the revelation comes from a hateful person.]

~Kent Crockett

This begs the question, whose criticism matters?

The people that give good criticism are the people that know us well and “do life” with us. (I know the phrase “do life” is a cliché but it’s true.) Those who spend time with us are able to see exactly where we fall short and our areas of improvement. It is important to reflect on their feedback and think through how we are showing Christ in our lives.

As we reflect on the criticism we receive, we are able to distinguish between good and bad criticism. Sometimes the criticism is based on a faulty worldview and is given for the wrong reasons. There are even times when people misinterpret a situation or play the part of God – making judgments on what God only knows i.e. the motives of the heart. Regardless of what the situation may be, we wash away the dirt and take the nugget. If there is no nugget, we are no better or worse for having checked.

Four Helpful Suggestions

Here are four helpful suggestions from Bible.org on handling criticism:

    1. Commit the matter instantly to God, asking Him to remove all resentment or counter-criticism on your part and teach you the needed lessons.
    2. Remember that we are all great sinners and that the one who has criticized us does not begin to know the worst about us.
    3. If you have made a mistake or committed a sin, humbly and frankly confess it to God and to anyone you may have injured.
    4. Be willing to learn afresh that you are not infallible and that you need God’s grace and wisdom every moment of the day to keep on the straight path.

People Do Not Define Us

It is also possible to be so consumed by criticism that we allow it to define us. We can care so much about what people think that God’s view of our lives is peripheral. We should always remember that what God has to say is what is ultimately important. People are flawed and they only have glimpses of our lives. Paul, when he was criticized for his ministry, responded by saying, “Therefore, we have as our ambition whether at home or absent to be pleasing to Him, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:9-10).” Paul pretty much says, I’m aiming to please God and that’s Who we will ultimately stand before.

Steven C. Roy tells a fictional story of a superb violinist who had a fear of large crowds and so avoided giving concerts. In response to overwhelming criticism, the musician decided to hold a concert in the largest hall in London.

The young violinist came onto the stage and sat alone on a stool. She put her violin under her chin and played for an hour and a half. No music in front of her, no orchestra behind her, no breaks—just an hour and a half of absolutely beautiful violin music. After ten minutes or so, many critics put down their pads and listened, like the rest….

After the performance, the crowd rose to its feet and began applauding wildly—and they wouldn’t stop.

But the young violinist didn’t acknowledge the applause. She just peered out into the audience as if she were looking for something—or someone. Finally she found what she was looking for. Relief came over her face, and she began to acknowledge the cheers.

After the concert, the critics met the young violinist backstage…. They said, “You were wonderful. But one question: Why did it take you so long to acknowledge the applause of the audience?”

The young violinist took a deep breath and answered, “You know I was really afraid of playing here. Yet this was something I knew I needed to do. Tonight, just before I came on stage, I received word that my master teacher was to be in the audience.”

“Throughout the concert, I tried to look for him, but I could never find him. So after I finished playing, I started to look more intently. I was so eager to find my teacher that I couldn’t even hear the applause. I just had to know what he thought of my playing. That was all that mattered.”

“Finally, I found him high in the balcony. He was standing and applauding, with a big smile on his face. After seeing him, I was finally able to relax. I said to myself, ‘If the master is pleased with what I have done, then everything else is okay.'”

While we may get constructive or destructive criticism from others, we must always remember that our Master is the final judge on the matter and we will stand before Him on the Day of Judgment. It is His opinion of what we do that ultimately matters (2 Cor 5:9).

God’s Two Books

How do we know God? Have you ever asked yourself the question, “How can finite human beings know the infinite and eternal God?” I believe it was John Stott who said, “God has two books; He has His works in creation that reveal His glory, and He has His words in Scripture that reveal His Grace. The first we call nature and the latter we call Scripture.” Theologians refer to the first as general revelation and the latter as special revelation.

His Works in Creation

From creation, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse (Romans 1:20). When we go outside and we see the stars and the sky, the mountains, the animals, the beautiful sun, we know that there is a creator God. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” cries the Psalmist! Creation points to a creator. Every civilization throughout history has had some notion of God. Their reflection on their world led them to believe in His existence. Yet, many of these civilizations failed to distinguish between the creator and His creation, leading to the spiral of darkness we see towards the end of Romans 1.

The existence of God is also evident from our conscience, which is a part of general revelation. Conscience is latin for “with knowledge.” We all have knowledge of right and wrong, and God gives this knowledge. There is an absolute standard for morality. There are certain things that are absolutely wrong, at any given time, anywhere. As hard as we try to deny it, there are moral absolutes and when push comes to shove we all recognize it. I remember talking with a guy who told me, “I don’t believe rape is wrong. I mean who says it’s wrong?” As he spoke, I sat there agape, and then I responded, “That may work well in your bubble, but if you were faced with rape, would that be ok?” His silent facial response was priceless. It’s humorous that people will believe there is no moral standard until someone wrongs them.

Revelation from Creation is Limited

Even though we know God through creation, this revelation is limited. Being in awe at creation doesn’t help me enter a relationship with God. Even our own faculties are limited in knowing God personally. God is infinite and we are finite human beings. It was the French Astronomer Laplace who, while looking at the sky with his telescope, said pointedly, “There is no evidence of God.” President Sawyer, when he heard this, he said, “Laplace may as well have swept his kitchen with a broom, looking for God because you can just as easily find God in your kitchen while sweeping as you can by using a scientific instrument.” Through natural means, one cannot evaluate the supernatural. Any well-minded scientist will tell you that the method you use to investigate an object must correspond to the object itself. For instance, if it is a material object, then the means of investigation must be materialistic. Similarly, if you are investigating God, then your method must correspond to God Himself.

His Words in Scripture

God is incomprehensible, but He can be apprehended because He has revealed Himself in Scripture. God has given us His Word so that we can know Him. Apart from God’s Word, it is impossible to know God personally. Granted, through creation we can know God’s existence, but it is only through the Bible that we can know God intimately and know the Gospel. We can liken this experience to knowing another person. I know my friends and family because we have spoken to each other. They have told me about themselves. If they didn’t communicate, I wouldn’t know them. If God didn’t speak through His Word, we would not know Him. This is why it’s important to read God’s Word. That’s the means God has ordained for us to know Him.

I remember sharing the Gospel with a Hindu. I kept telling him, “You can only truly know God through His Word.” He kept insisting that creation was enough to know God intimately, and so I told him again, “You can only truly know God through His Word.” As I kept repeating myself, I felt so convicted, God has revealed Himself through the Bible, and I have not been giving the Bible its due weight.

A non-Christian said to me recently, “If I were a Christian I would study the Bible cover to cover. I don’t think I would be able to put it down. I mean, if you’re telling me that it’s the Word of God, that’s what I would do. But… I’m not a Christian.” From the mouth of a pagan, truer words have never been spoken. God has given us His Word; let’s pay heed to it.

 

Redeemed Sinners in the Hands of a Mighty God

When we think about the heroes of the faith we often have a misconstrued view of them. It is common to believe that those individuals were a touch above everyone else, and that in order to be used by God we need those special skills too. It is true that those believers were gifted, but their impact on God’s Kingdom was not because of their ability, rather it was a result of the God who wielded them. When we grasp what God is seeking and how He works with His creation we too can significantly impact this world for Him.

God Used Moses

In Exodus 3, God says to Moses that He has seen the afflictions of His people, and He will deliver them. God tells Moses His plan for the nation of Israel, and then commands him to go to them saying, “I AM has sent me to you.” God then shows to Moses several signs he can display to confirm God’s message to the Israelites. After seeing God’s miraculous power, Moses says to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” God’s response to Moses is classic. He says, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? The Lord responds essentially by saying that He is God. Moses you’re worried about speaking, but you forget that I made your mouth. We often forget in the midst of our challenges that we serve the Almighty God, and He has made everything. Even though we are immensely inadequate God can work through us if we will just realize that He is God.

God Used Asa

One of my favorite verses is “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) This verse is written in the context of judgment, but it brings hope to those who want to serve God. The history of the nation of Israel with regard to its Kings is not complicated: they have many bad kings and the occasional good one. A great king was Asa, and he did what was good and right in the sight of the Lord (2 Chronicles 14:2). When Asa became king, the first thing he did was remove the pagan altars and the high places, shatter the sacred idol pillars and chop down the Asherah poles (2 Chronicles 14:3). He removed before God everything that was a sin. (Interestingly, if we want to be used by God we also have to destroy the idols in our lives.) In battle before the Ethiopians, he sought the Lord, and his army was able to triumph over a million men.

However, as Asa got older he began to depend on his wealth and did not seek God (2 Chronicles 16:3). The Lord had orchestrated events in such a way that Israel could have wiped out their enemy. But instead of trusting in God, Asa depended on another army. That’s when the prophet tells him: God is always looking to support someone whose heart belongs to Him. God pretty much tells Asa, you think you’re special but your success is only because of Me. The principle being: God determines who will rise and fall and He is always seeking to support a heart that is fully committed to Him.

God Used Carrey

William Carrey the ‘Father of Missions’ started out repairing shoes for people. He told men and women that he wanted to go to India to do missions, and many scoffed at him. One man said to him, “Sit down, young man! When God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without your help or mine.” Carrey had only a primary school education, but he had a heart that wanted to serve God, and a desire to share the Gospel to unreached people groups. Carrey said, “we have only to keep the end in view, and have our hearts thoroughly engaged in the pursuit of it, means will not be very difficult.” The Lord enabled that man who loved Him to learn 34 different languages, and the people of India have the Bible because of him.

God Used Moody

In order to be used by God we don’t need a particular set of gifts; we just have to be willing and committed to Him. In fact, it is God who does the gifting and qualifies the called. Henry Varley spoke at a prayer meeting and said the famous words, “the world has yet to see what God can do with a person wholly committed to Him.” A person in the back said to himself, “By the grace of God I will be that man.” The person who made that decision was D.L Moody the Billy Graham of the 19th Century. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Moody was able to lead thousands of people to know Christ. He had a 4th grade education, but his heart was fully committed to God.

God Can Use You

Our impact on the Kingdom of God does not depend on our ability; rather it is contingent on our relationship with the Savior. When we have a heart that belongs to God there is no limit to what He can do with our lives. God used Moses the weak communicator, Carrey the Shoemaker, and uneducated Moody. God can use you and me if we would just give our hearts to Him, and place His will above our own. “The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

 

What Needless Pain We Bear

I hate to admit it, but I am an anxious person. When there is uncertainty, I am often filled with anxiety and fear. I always want the future to be crystal clear. It makes me uncomfortable and nauseous when the path is narrow and I am unable to see what lies ahead. Being a Christian, I’m always reminded and convicted by God that anxiety is foolish since God is in control, and I am His child.

When I feel the ground crumbling beneath my feet, the passage I often run to is Matthew 6, where our Lord says:

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

God Sustains Creation

Whenever I walk outside, I do not see birds falling from the sky. As I walk to my car, I do not have to step over bird carcasses. The Lord provides for His creation; He is our caretaker. Our Lord provides for birds that are infinitesimal in value compared to humans. How much more will He provide for His own children? There is no reason for us to be anxious if we are children of the living God.

Non-Christians are Anxious

The only people who have the right to be anxious are non-Christians. They do not believe God is in control, so they worry for their future. If I did not believe in Christ, then it is only natural for me to be anxious. After all, what is the basis for non-Christians to have peace? In the Christian life, the hope for peace is always rooted in the Word of God. Anxiety is permitted only for non-Christians, not for those who believe in the promises of God.

Anxiety Reveals Unbelief

Anxiety also reveals our lack of trust in the character of God. If we believe that God loves us and does not withhold any good thing from us, what do we have to be anxious about? Any situation or circumstance that comes our way is ordained and controlled by the living God. He will use it all for our good, and ultimately it is meant to draw us into His arms.

Hezekiah’s Anxiety

I do not want anything in this life that God does not want for me. If it is not God’s will, I do not want it. King Hezekiah is a great example of a man who pushed for something that was not good for him. He feared death and wanted to live longer in this world, so He pleaded and pleaded with God. The Lord answered his prayer and extended his life. Yet, the extended life he lived was terrible for the nation of Israel! The worst thing God can do to a human is letting him have his own way. God’s plan is better than anything we can come up with…

Saved from Hell

At the end of the day, we should always be anxiety-free because we have been saved from eternal damnation. If you have accepted Christ through faith, you will never see or experience Hell. The closest we will ever be to that place is the suffering we go through in this life. Joni Erickson Tada, a quadriplegic and cancer survivor says it this way:

Suffering is like a little splash-over of hell, reminding us of what Christ rescued us from—like a tiny taste of what life could be like for all of eternity, were it not for God’s graciousness.

She goes on to say, what is the splash over of Heaven? Is it when life is a breeze and things are going your way? No, it is when you find Jesus present in your splash-over of Hell. Even in our suffering and pain, Jesus is there! If the Lord has redeemed you, what do you really have to be anxious about? No matter what happens, you can say, “It is well with my soul,” and “I have Jesus.”

Response to Anxiety

It is easy to grasp this conceptually, but applying it is another task altogether. What is our response when we are flooded with anxiety and fear? A hymnist put it well:

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Take all the worry and anxiety you have to the Lord. I cry out to God when I am afraid, and He reminds me of His promises. We cast all our anxieties on Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). As Christians, we have the privilege of coming before the Lord and casting it all on Him.

In the midst of our circumstances, we must always remember that God is in control and we are His children. Even though we may not know what the future holds, we know who holds our future. He is the ruler over creation, and He provides for His creatures. He has rescued us from Hell and He is transforming us into His image. He gives us the privilege as His children to lay all our anxieties before Him. Why then do we allow ourselves to be anxious?

2 Essential Ingredients for Ministry

For any ministry in the body of Christ, there are two essential ingredients that are a must. Regardless of your position and station in life, you must be in the Word and you must love people. With these two ingredients you form the bedrock of your life’s work.

Love the Scriptures

As we study God’s Word we are able to equip and encourage other individuals. The guidance we receive is not from the world, but from God. If are ignorant of the Bible, it isn’t possible to bring the healing that comes from God’s Word. Our words apart from Scripture are meaningless; they are ineffectual in transforming the life of an individual. It is the Word of God that is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, convicting the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12). In order to teach Scripture we must be in Scripture. Do we spend time growing in God’s Word?

In discussing knowledge there is always a danger of going overboard. It was Robert Anthony who said, “some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, some gargle, and others drown themselves.” We spend time in Scripture never just to acquire knowledge. Our goal is always to know our Savior cognitively and experientially. Our knowledge of Him through Scripture is the lens through which we interpret our experiences.

Love the People

By reading God’s Word, we grow in love and that manifests itself by showing love for people. Our love for people is what makes our theology warm and the lack of it makes our theology cold and distant. It is our love that distinguishes the body of Christ from the rest of the world. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). When a church has lost its love, that church has lost its ability to represent Christ. It may be a Baptist or a Presbyterian Church, but it is not Christ’s church. For the churches that bare the seal of Christ are marked by love.

If we love God’s Word and love people we will have the foundation for a fulfilling ministry.

 

True Love Judges

When you think of judgment, what words come to mind? Christians, religion, church? I’m sure that “love” was not the first word that popped into your head. The words “love” and “judgment” in our minds mesh as well as oil and water. They seem to be an unrelated pair. However, the paradox is that love exists only when there is true judgment.

Michael Ramsden from Oxford articulates it this way:

Love doesn’t exist in the absence of judgment, but in the presence of it. What makes the words “I love you” meaningful is when it is spoken by someone who has truly judged you, and knows you completely. This is the way God loves us. He knows what is going on in our hearts and [despite the junk] He loves us.

Love and judgment in this context provides us with great comfort. God knows all our flaws, weaknesses and sins, yet He still loves us. His love is not conditional.

Knowledge of a person always involves judgment; judgment about their character, actions, beliefs and values. I cannot love what I do not know. And I cannot know without making judgments. Love only exists when there is true judgment. How beautiful it is then that God has judged us.