Knowing Christ

My dear Brothers and sisters;

Oh that we need to have our eyes opened so that we may know what we ought to know, namely, the surpassing value of knowing Christ. I pray the Father, in the name of Jesus, that He may grant to us such blessing, for if we do not know Christ, and the value of knowing Him, we have no hope of seeing ourselves transformed. We will continue to be at the mercy of our sinful dreams and desires, at the mercy of the latest current of our societies. At the mercy of our many limitations as human beings. And we will simply not know what we should know, until it will be too late.

The Apostle Paul knew the “Value” of Knowing Christ

We see in his letter to the Philippians that the Apostle Paul had come to understand the surpassing value of knowing Christ. He came to realize that knowing Christ was the greatest treasure he had to possess, above – and actually in lieu of – everything else that He had.

Philippians 3:7,8 But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…

Knowing Christ was, for Paul, worth everything and more. He did not simply consider that everything that he had – and was in his society – to be little to lose in order to gain that intimate knowledge of who Christ is, but he also considered them to be a real waste, an encumbrance.

Philippians 3:8Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ.

One element that is very interesting to note is that Paul plainly declared that he did not yet know Christ, but that this was his goal, and that he was doing everything to reach it.

Philippians 3:10-12My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, 11 assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. 12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.

But my question to my God is HOW? HOW Father may I KNOW THE VALUE of Knowing Christ?

If I know the value, my life will change. My desires will change. My pursuit will change. At this point, it matters more to me that know the value of knowing Christ, for if I do not know its value, how will I pursue that knowledge. Paul knew the value, hence he made “every effort to know Christ”.

Oh my people, the answer is right before our eyes! It is right there in the passage itself: CHRIST HAS TO TAKE HOLD OF ME FIRST!

Philippians 3:12 – Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.

The verb translated “taken hold of” is katalambánō [Greek: 2638], and it has a forceful, almost violent connotation to it. It means to grasp something in a forceful (firm) manner; (figuratively) to apprehend (comprehend), “making it one’s own.”

Is that how the Christian life starts? I am not sure. Perhaps not necessarily. But one thing seems sure to me: Understanding the value of knowing Christ starts this way. Christ must take hold of me. He must apprehend me. He somehow must manifest Himself to me FIRST.

We know that the consequences of Christ taking hold of us are pretty severe, if Paul’s loss of everything is any indication. Could it be therefore that there is timing to when Christ does decide to take hold of each one of us, so that He does it when He knows it is the right time? I ask God for I do not know.

But one thing Paul does offer is the following. Whatever truth we DO know, we should strive to live up to it.

Philippians 3:16,17In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. 17 Join in imitating me, brothers and sisters, and pay careful attention to those who live according to the example you have in us.

May God open your eyes and mine, that we may understand these deep truths, and the value of knowing His Son, Jesus, the CHRIST.

In Jesus name. AMEN.

Confession without Repentance

My dear brothers and sisters;

I ask the Father of mercies, in the name of Jesus, His Son, that He pours upon us His mercies, and gives us a heart of repentance toward Him, for such a heart is one of great value before Him.

Have you wondered if there was a relationship between confessing the Lord Jesus, and repentance? If there is one, what is it? Are they synonymous? Does one come before the other? If yes, which one? “Must” one come before the other? In Acts, the Apostle Paul summarized in ministry as follows:

Acts 20:21I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.

I submit to you that having faith in Jesus necessitates that you have confessed Him as Lord. I also submit to you that your confession is only valid if you have repented toward God first. One must first repent before their confession of Jesus as Lord can be considered valid.

On the day the Church was born (on the day of Pentecost), after Peter explained to the assembly what they had just witnessed – the disciples speaking in tongues – they were deeply hurt because he had testified that Jesus, whom the Jews had crucified, was indeed the messiah and was now resurrected and glorified.

Acts 2:37When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what should we do?”

But now look at the response Peter gave when they asked “Brothers, what should we do?”

Acts 2:38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We can glean at least two elements in Peter’s response.

Anyone can repent, at any time: God protects a man’s ability to repent 

Peter instructed the people to repent, and he expected them to do it on the spot. In other words, repentance can be done immediately, and without the Holy Spirit. It is a God given ability, an ability that He protect so that anyone can be saved. Neither the Devil, the Angels or any other creatures can steal or nullify this ability.

Repentance emanates from a deep conviction that you are personally responsible and guilty of murdering Jesus, the Son of God, who, being sinless, did not deserve to die.

Jesus did not simply die FOR you. 

Jesus died BECAUSE of you. YOU have the blood of Jesus in your hands. YOU are guilty. YOU are a murderer.

Unless one is deeply convicted of this truth, one cannot truly repent. And unless one repents, one cannot be forgiven of his crime.

One MUST repent before he can be forgiven of their sins

From the response, we also see that repentance is a necessary condition for receiving the forgiveness of your sins. How can one be forgiven unless he 1) is made fully aware of his crime, and 2) acknowledges his crime, and 3) seeks grace for his crime? This is the process of repentance, a process that Peter, through His preaching that day, enabled in the people who were present that day. The people indeed did rightfully ask:

Brothers, what should we do?

Answer:Now that I have made you fully aware of your crime of your charge, you must acknowledge it as true. Then you should seek grace from the great Judge, and He will forgive you.

Many who have confessed Jesus as Lord never got saved

Romans 10:9,10If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

I submit to you that this passage must be understood in light of the account of the day of Pentecost.

Confession of Jesus as Lord necessitates that repentance has taken place first. One must first repent toward God. One must first acknowledge his state as guilty of murder before God. The one YOU once murdered is now ALIVE. He is LORD. How can you expect that your recognition of His Lordship (He is LORD) will be judged valid, genuine, unless you have first repented of your crime toward Him?

Hence, we conclude that your confession is invalid without true repentance. You are still in your sins. You are still dead.

But to those who have indeed repented, and confessed Jesus as Lord, a new call, a shout from heaven has been issued: Bring forth fruits Worthy of Repentance!

In Jesus Name. AMEN.

The Charge Against Rich Believers

Grace, mercy and peace be with you in abundance, from God, our Father, and from Jesus, our Lord and King. Oh my friends! How are the riches of this world so capable of shutting forever the doors of heaven to those who desire to go in. Jesus made it explicitly clear that it will be especially hard, virtually impossible it seems, for rich people to enter His Kingdom.

Matthew 19:23,24 [CSB] – Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 

And His words were soon confirmed through the composition of the earliest churches.

1 Corinthians 1:26,27 – Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. 27 Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong.

Our concern in this rather long article, is on people who are rich within the church. In other words, rich Christians. 1) We will first look at how God deals with them, as opposed to those who are poor. 2) We will then look at two categories of sin that are particularly specific to the rich in the church. 3) Then we will identify who the rich are. And lastly, 4) We will look at what the rich believer should do. 

I. The Rich Must Realize that No One Can Boast in God’s Presence

Poor or rich, no human should boast in God’s presence. But it is the rich, the intellectuals, the educated, the ones of “noble birth” who are more likely to boast in His presence.

1 Corinthians 1:28,29 – God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, 29 so that no one may boast in his presence.

Matthew 11:25 – At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants.

The problem with the rich is the trust they place in what they have, who they are, or what they have achieved. And for the rich who enters the church, God has a very specific way of dealing with this issue. As recorded in James, the poor, the one who has nothing, will be shown the precious value of what he truly possesses (the riches of heaven). But the rich, on the other hand, the one who lives comfortably, will be shown the worthlessness of everything that he possesses.

James 1:9-11 – Let the brother of humble circumstances boast in his exaltation, 10 but let the rich boast in his humiliation because he will pass away like a flower of the field. 11 For the sun rises and, together with the scorching wind, dries up the grass; its flower falls off, and its beautiful appearance perishes. In the same way, the rich person will wither away while pursuing his activities.

This apparent harshness toward the rich is not the evidence of God’s hatred of the rich, but of His determination to open his or her eyes so that he or she may see life the way He (God) Himself sees life. What we have are nothing, the intelligence we have is worthless, our family inheritance or name has as much value as the most beautiful flower that fade away in an instant under severe weather. And so the rich believer will be humbled, and through that painful process, will be brought to glorify God. But the poor believer will go through a different path, although leading to the same outcome, for he is in need comfort in the midst of his suffering. And so God will show him how exalted he really is.

II. Two Major Charges Against Rich Believers

Jesus and James present at least two categories of sin committed by the rich believers.

A. Preferential treatment: Despising the poor

The first charge is the preferential treatment given to the rich and how the poor are despised.

James 2:1-4 – My brothers and sisters, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. 2 For if someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor person dressed in filthy clothes also comes in, 3 if you look with favor on the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor person, “Stand over there,” or “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,” 4 haven’t you made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

The seriousness of this sin cannot be overemphasized. In the very next verse, James gives one of the reasons for the gravity of this sin: The poor are God’s chosen people to be rich in faith and heirs of His Kingdom.

James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?  

One can certainly understand why one of the – if not “the” – most dreadful warning given by Jesus was in direct reference to the treatment (or lack thereof) of the poor.

Matthew 25:41-46“Then he will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels! 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger and you didn’t take me in; I was naked and you didn’t clothe me, sick and in prison and you didn’t take care of me.’
45 “Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

B. Misuse of Wealth

In Matthew 19, after a rich man had rejected the advice that Jesus gave him, to give his wealth to the poor and follow Him, Jesus declared that it will be very difficult for those who are rich to enter His Kingdom.  Yet this person, from what is recorded, was not a bad person! He had first asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. To which Jesus replied that he should keep the commandment: Do no kill, steal, commit adultery, etc. And this was his answer

Matthew 19:20 – “I have kept all these,” the young man told him. “What do I still lack?”

Yet, when it came time to doing what Jesus told him after “Give all to the poor and follow me”, he could not do it. Kingdom access: Denied!

Jesus also gave a parable to illustrate how the rich misuse their wealth.

Luke 12:16-21Then he told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? 18 I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. 19 Then I’ll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?’
21 “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

This man looked at his wealth as his security for the future. This, according to God, qualifies as foolishness.

III. Who is the Rich Believer?

My friend, here are a couple of question: Do you consider yourself a Christian? Do you have a safe roof to sleep under? Are you secure in terms of what you will eat tomorrow? Do you have a decent, regular income? Are you considered at least in the middle class?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, then, you are very likely a rich believer. You may not be a millionaire, but you are rich. The vast majority of the earth population live in deep poverty, with no access to clean water, food shortages, and no decent roof above their head. Yet you might be looking at your investments, dreaming that one day they may generate the kind of return that will allow you to retire and simply “enjoy” life…like the man in the parable of Jesus. If so, how are you different? You are not looking at hurting anyone and neither did he! But your trust in your riches is the problem, your dream to be rich is your problem.

The 12 disciples of Jesus were certainly not as rich as the man in Matthew 19. Nevertheless, what Jesus declared about the difficulty of the rich to enter His Kingdom made them very nervous, and rightfully so! This prompted them to seek some reassurance from Him!

Matthew 19:25,27 – When the disciples heard this, they were utterly astonished and asked, “Then who can be saved?”…27 Then Peter responded to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you. So what will there be for us?”

So you see, one needs not be “crazy” rich to fall into the category of the rich believer, and hence, being found guilty of the sins described above.

IV. What Should the Rich Believer Do?

The answer to this question is simple, but the implications are profound. James says, do not engage in preferential treatment. Jesus says, invite those who cannot repay you. And Paul says.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 – Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and willing to share, 19 storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of what is truly life.

You the rich, I pray that God will open your eyes, that you may see where you are falling short. You may be a good person, a good man and woman, but you may be in danger of being found wanting. Your trust in your riches, in your intelligence, in your lineage, or in your name may be brought to full display upon His return, to your shame in the presence of His Holy Angels, unless you repent and hid those words that He has pronounced to warn you.

To the King Eternal. Rich in Mercy and ever Faithful. JESUS.

AMEN.

I Must Face My Goliath

My brothers and sisters;

Perhaps this title sounds cliché, since the account of David and Goliath – recorded in 1 Samuel 17 – is a classic biblical story in its truest sense: A young man, a shepherd, not even considered worthy to be counted among the men of war, slays a giant that no soldier dared challenging.

When a Goliath presents itself in your life, you have no other option but to face it. And to overcome it, you have one weapon: Your Faith in the Lord Jesus.

Hence, since it is evident that not all challenges we face in life require faith, you will realize that Goliath, as used in this letter, is not merely a major challenge, but instead the opportunity, sometimes orchestrated by God Himself, to demonstrate your faith for His own glory, your own exponential growth of faith, and the work of His Kingdom.

Goliath makes itself known

We learn in 1 Samuel 17 that Goliath presented Himself to Israel every single day for 40 days!

1 Samuel 17:16 Every morning and evening for forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand.

We also learn that from the very first day, Goliath had already informed the Israelites about what they had to do.

1 Samuel 17:8-10“…Choose one of your men and have him come down against me. 9 If he wins in a fight against me and kills me, we will be your servants. But if I win against him and kill him, then you will be our servants and serve us.”

Yet, rather than facing him, the Israelites will put themselves – every single day for 40 days – in formation to engage the Philistines, only to run for their lives whenever Goliath would come.

1 Samuel 17:21-24Israel and the Philistines lined up in battle formation facing each other. …suddenly the champion named Goliath, the Philistine from Gath, came forward from the Philistine battle line and shouted his usual words, which David heard. 24 When all the Israelite men saw Goliath, they retreated from him terrified.

Are you occupying yourselves so as not to face your Goliath?

It should be noted that ultimately, none of the activities that the army of Israel was engaging itself in at that time actually mattered, for they would never have won that battle through them. Goliath was there, and he was the challenge they had to face.

Do you have a Goliath in your life – an opportunity to demonstrate and exponentially grow in faith – which, in fear, you are trying to avoid? Perhaps, just like the army of Israel, you are engaging in activities which, to the casual observer, is a beautiful demonstration of your faith as a Christian. Perhaps you are very active at you Church. Or perhaps you enjoy participating in conversations to defend the scriptures. Or maybe, you use the “I am not good enough” card, as an excuse for your sloppiness, as if it is by their own strength that Jesus’ followers are to face their Goliath.

When Goliath shows up it changes everything. At that point, it must be faced, everything else becoming of little priority.

Jesus, Abraham and many others had to face their Goliath

Abraham had been a God-fearing man for some time. He obeyed God and knew how to properly offer sacrifices to Him. But when his Goliath showed up, everything else became secondary. He had to face it.

Genesis 22:1,2After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered. 2 “Take your son,” he said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

Jesus did many great things during His ministry. He taught, healed, cast demons out of people and demonstrated the worth of the Kingdom of God. But then the time came when His Goliath came also, and He had to face it: It was His own sacrifice. Everything else became secondary to facing His Goliath. And just like Abraham, Him too did face His Goliath and overcame.

Philippians 2:8he [the Lord Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on a cross.

Jesus could have chosen to avoid His Goliath and continue His ministry, but then the whole plan of man’s redemption would have been in jeopardy. And who knows what would have been the outcome of Abraham refusing to sacrifice Isaac, His son?

Likewise, it is reasonable to believe that there are consequences, perhaps very big ones, when we refuse, often in fear, to face our Goliath. I pray that we, me first, find the strength and courage in Jesus to face our own Goliaths. They are there for a reason, for God’s glory, your own exponential growth of faith, and the work of His Kingdom.

In the name of Jesus. AMEN.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ;

May the grace and peace of God our Father, and of our Lord Jesus-Christ be with you. I thank the Father of Lights, in the multitude of His mercies toward me, for allowing me to write these few lines concerning Christmas, a widely celebrated holiday. The question before us is whether Christians should celebrate Christmas.

This question is not a trivial one, and for many, it is a sensitive one. Many indeed have already written extensively on it. Bible scholars largely agree on the fact that Christmas was not the time when Jesus was born, and its secular origins leading to how it is celebrated today are also very well-documented.

I submit to you that the celebration of Christmas be viewed in light of our freedom in Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:29,30…why is my freedom judged by another person’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thanksgiving, why am I criticized because of something for which I give thanks?

The Apostle Paul was addressing the question of whether Christians should eat meat sacrificed to idols, and his answer was, Yes, they can…but!

1 Corinthians 10:25-29Eat everything that is sold in the meat market, without raising questions for the sake of conscience, 26 since the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it. 27 If any of the unbelievers invites you over and you want to go, eat everything that is set before you, without raising questions for the sake of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This is food from a sacrifice,” do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who told you, and for the sake of conscience. 29 I do not mean your own conscience, but the other person’s.

The reason why Christians were allowed to eat meat sacrificed to idols is because Christians, by thanksgiving, recognize that regardless of what others may say or practice (e.g. offering a meat to their idols), there is only one God, and everything belong to Him, including that meat sacrificed to idols.

1 Corinthians 8:4-6About eating food sacrificed to idols, then, we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—as there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him.

But the reason there was a caveat to this permission was the effect of our eating on the conscience of the unbelievers who were eating precisely with the objective of honoring their idols. Paul laid this argument as follows

1 Corinthians 8:9-11 …be careful that this right of yours in no way becomes a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone sees you, the one who has knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, won’t his weak conscience be encouraged to eat food offered to idols? 11 So the weak person, the brother or sister for whom Christ died, is ruined by your knowledge. 12 Now when you sin like this against brothers and sisters and wound their weak conscience, you are sinning against Christ.

There are several key elements which demand our attention:

Element 1: Paul Is Referring To Unbelievers as “Brothers” and “Sisters”

While these terms are often used to refer to members of the church, the context of this passage indicates (from the best of our understanding) that Paul is using them here to refer to unbelievers. And he refers to members of the Church as “the ones who have knowledge”. Which knowledge? The knowledge “all true Christians” have that there is only one God and one Lord, which he restated a few verses earlier (1 Corinthians 8:4-6).

Paul therefore, is not talking, as some may suppose, about different beliefs systems within Christianity, regarding eating and drinking, for every Christians should know that everything is the Lord’s.

Element 2: Christ Died For The Unbelievers Too!

Instead, Paul seeks to remind us that Christ died for all, including unbelievers. Indeed, it is God’s desire that all will accept His gift of salvation through Jesus. Therefore, Christians should be careful with their actions because they might contribute to the loss of some of those unbelievers. This is sinning against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:12)

Element 3: The Contrast Between 1 Corinthians 8 And 1 Corinthians 10

In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul stated…

1 Corinthians 8:10For if someone sees you, the one who has knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, won’t his weak conscience be encouraged to eat food offered to idols?

When a Christian goes into an idol’s temple, he is aware that all the food he will find has been sacrificed to idols. And the unbeliever seeing him may be further encouraged to eat food offered to idols. But while the Christian is enjoying his freedom in Christ, the unbeliever will dig himself or herself deeper in his or her idolatry. Hence, the unbeliever may perish, and therefore the Christian, acting unwisely, is sinning.

In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul stated…

1 Corinthians 10:25-27Eat everything that is sold in the meat market, without raising questions for the sake of conscience, 26 since the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it. 27 If any of the unbelievers invites you over and you want to go, eat everything that is set before you, without raising questions for the sake of conscience.

Here the Christian does not have prior knowledge of the meat. He is invited by someone and is free to eat without consequences. Matter of fact, he is even advised not to ask to meat provenance (why should he complicate matters!).

But, if he is informed by his host that the meat was sacrificed to idols, then the case becomes similar to 1 Corinthians 8 and he should therefore refrain from eating it, for the same reason – not to embolden the unbeliever further.

1 Corinthians 10:28, 29 – But if someone says to you, “This is food from a sacrifice,” do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who told you, and for the sake of conscience. 29 I do not mean your own conscience, but the other person’s.

The Celebration of Christmas May Not Be A Different Problem

There may lie the difficulty of the Christmas celebration. We are free in Christ and therefore we recognize that everything is the Lord’s including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! They are the Lord’s. And if by giving Thanks we celebrate these times, I believe our Thanksgivings are accepted.

We are also free to celebrate Christmas with whomever invites us. But are we allowed to celebrate it in a way that would encourage some further in their idolatry? The answer is No, we are not. The idol’s temple gave a different meaning to the meat that was sacrificed in it, and so is the declaration of the host that the meat he just served was sacrificed to idols. Outside of the idol’s temple, and in the absence of the host’s confession, the Christians was permitted to eat meat sacrificed to idols.

I submit to you that similarly, in celebrating Christmas, Christians should not engage in activities which challenge the sovereignty of God and of Jesus. For instance – and I pray I am speaking with the Lord’s permission – decorating your house and exchanging gifts are permitted, while teaching your children the mythical person of Santa Claus and his reindeers, who rewards children for their good deeds is not, since only God is worthy of our praise and worship, and it is God who give good gifts.

James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Some unbelievers think very little of Santa Claus, although they would not mind taking a picture with him or even decorate their house with him. This may be similar to the past when some unbelievers did not think much of idols, and easily ate the food sacrificed to them.

But others are careful to perpetuate, year after year, and generation after generation, the person of Santa Claus, their children truly believing in his existence and his purpose. This may be similar to the past when other unbelievers thought highly of idols, and would eat the food, not just because it was food, but “because” it was sacrificed to idols. We are not permitted to engage in activities which would only further encourage these beliefs.

These statements, are in agreement to how Paul concluded his teaching on the matter, that whatsoever you do, you ought to ask yourself this main question: Is it to the Glory of God?

1 Corinthians 10:31So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

In Jesus Name. AMEN.

NO! My Friends, Christ is NOT There!

Friends;

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with you in abundance, through Jesus, the faithful Witness. Oh my dear friends, it is noteworthy that one of the very signs of the end-times resembles so much the fulfillment of the great commission, recorded in Matthew 28.

Matthew 28:19 – Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost

The wise child of God ought to ask Himself: Is “Christ everywhere today” the fulfillment of the great commission? Or is it the fulfillment of Christ’s Own prophecy regarding the great tribulation?

Matthew 24:23 – Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not…26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

As I observe the times in which I live, I believe that Matthew 24 is unfolding before my very eyes. And it is not a call that I am hearing here and there saying…hey, here is Christ, hey, he is in the desert. NO…what I am hearing are SCREAMS so loud my temples feel like they will explode! They are SCREAMING…CHRIST IS HERE, CHRIST IS HERE, CHRIST IS HERE it is too hard to bear.

Look, look my friends how churches are proliferating everywhere and embracing worldly practices. When was the last time you saw churches innovating and disturbing the fabric of their surrounding? They sure are modernizing, but they are not innovating. They copy everything from the world and offer nothing for the world to copy. They have become masters at blending with their environment…Ohhh the tragedy!

Look how Youth camps and conferences are in record attendance. Look how today’s Worship services rival the best performances of Hollywood, looking more like rock bands and Hip-Hop concerts, employing EVERY known technique to appeal to the senses: Light, smoke, mood, sound effects, etc.

Everyone is screaming…CHRIST IS HERE…and I cannot bear!

No…No! NOOO my friend! It is a lie and I will not fall for it. CHRIST IS NOT HERE! CHRIST IS NOT THERE!

1 Corinthians 1:13 – Is Christ divided?…

Just like Jesus was born in a lowly place and not in a palace. Just like the blood of salvation was offered outside the gate of the city and not in the midst of the Temple, just like Jesus appeared to meet His disciples in small houses and a beach shore, or on a road to Damascus to convert a sinner rather than in a manicured Synagogue that screamed holiness, Jesus is found among the lowly and the humble, the ones who endeavor to obey His voice.

Jesus Has chosen His residence, and His residence is the heart of the Humble.

John 14:23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

Humble yourself before Him with a sincere heart…and Christ will come! Christ will be there!

In His Name. AMEN.

Were Not Ten Cleansed?

Dear Servants of Jesus-Christ;

May the peace, mercy and grace of God our Father, and of His Son Jesus-Christ, our Lord, be with you. Through God’s Spirit, I trust that I may exhort you to press on and continue to abound in good works, even when the beneficiaries of your good deeds do not express any gratitude toward God.

Luke 17 records such instance, where Jesus, in disappointment asked

Luke 17:17Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?

Let’s take a look at the context.

Luke 17:11-19On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

The response of the nine lepers is, unfortunately, not uncommon of those who receive the mercy and grace of God. They rejoice greatly indeed at the grace they have received, for they see their burden lifted. But their joy does not translate into God receiving any glory. At times, it is the messenger of God who is at fault, as he or she may seek glory for himself. But in the case above, it is the recipient who is not rendering to God what is due to Him. To the servants, this may be discouraging.

We see that Jesus said“Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”. As the perfect messenger of God, Jesus never sought glory for Himself, but for His Father, and by the grace of God, such ingratitude did not deter Him to continue to abound in the good works His Father had commissioned Him to perform.

As we honor Christ by serving others, we should adopt the same attitude. We should share the grace of God freely, while we lament on the reality that many who will receive this grace will not return and glorify God. Their newfound freedom will not translate into a God-honoring life.

We see in verse 15 that the one who returned praised God with a loud voice!

Here is something the servants of the Lord may learn. For it is evident that the leper who returned – as well as the other nine – knew that it was GOD who had extended His mercy to Him through Jesus. We too, we must ensure that the recipients of our good deeds are fully aware that the it is GOD, not us, extending His grace on them.

Here goes the first key to not only protecting ourselves from sinning by robbing God of His glory, but also to giving the recipients everything they need to give God His glory.

But we should refrain – in our desire to see God glorified – from adopting the carrot-and-the-stick approach, whereby we first “force” the needy to hear “the gospel preached” before his or her physical need is met. At best, this often results in hypocrisy, for the recipient knows that unless he publicly praises God first, he will not be freed from his burden.

A servant seeks to please His Master. Many will not return and give God glory, but simply move on and enjoy the grace they have received. We should not be discouraged. We should move forward, ever abounding in good works, for just as we see our Master working, we too, should be working.

May the Lord continue to empower you for the work of His Kingdom.

In Jesus name. AMEN.

Drawing Inferences from Past Blessings

Dear friends;

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father, and of His Son, our Lord Jesus-Christ, be with you as you read these lines. Friends, the accounts of the people of Israel – how they repeatedly tempted God – soon after He had saved them from the Egyptians by partying the Red Sea, are recorded to teach us that we should guard our hearts from falling unto unbelief, by constantly drawing inferences from His past work in us.

Indeed, one of our greatest deficiencies is either the unwillingness or inability to draw inferences from – or said another way, to extrapolate – God’s blessings in our lives. We can recognize God’s blessing in a specific situation in our life, but we are either unwilling or unable to deepen our understanding of God and His Character. As a result, we are unable to see past that specific blessing or situation. We are either unwilling or unable to derive from that specific experience, that God will bless us again, again, and again.

We see this happening to Israel. The same people who witnessed the partying of the Red Sea, only 3 days after started to murmur against God because they could not find any water to drink. There God made another miracle by making the water of Marah sweet and then brought them in a place with 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees.

Exodus 15:22-25 [ISV] Then Moses led Israel from the Reed Sea and they went to the desert of Shur. They traveled into the desert for three days and did not find water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water at Marah because it was bitter…24 Then the people complained against Moses: “What are we to drink?” 25 Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree, which he threw into the water, and the water became sweet.

Soon after they started to complain about what they should eat, going as far as regretting having left Egypt! This is where God responded with another miracle where He first brought quails, and every morning, He brought Manna for them to eat [Exodus 16:4-35].

Exodus 16:2,3 [ISV] The whole congregation of the Israelis complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert. 3 The Israelis told them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt when we sat by the cooking pots, when we ate bread until we were filled—because you brought us to this desert to kill this entire congregation with hunger.”

We see here the failure of the Israelites to make inferences from each blessing of God. They could not – or were unwilling to – conclude that if God had saved them from the Egyptians, He not only could not, but also would not let them perish in the desert.

In the times when Jesus walked on the earth, we saw the same issue taking place, at multiples times. And Jesus rebuked his disciple for it, addressing this issue as a lack of faith…by failing to understand!

Matthew 16:8-10 [ISV]Knowing this, Jesus asked them, “You who have little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you don’t have any bread? 9 Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the 5,000 and how many baskets you collected, 10 or the seven loaves for the 4,000 and how many baskets you collected?

We must do a better job at drawing inferences from God’s blessings. We should see them beyond their immediate context and see in them opportunities to better understand God’s ways. This is yet another mechanism by which our faith grows. When we face a new situation, regardless of whether we have faced something similar in the past or not, we should a better job at inferring that if God blessed us in the past, then He will do it again. We should not fall unto unbelief.

Reading how God responded to the Israelites back in Exodus, or how Jesus addressed His disciples in Matthew, it is clear that God knows that we are capable of such exercise for He is the one who has created us, as intelligent beings, and beings who can choose to hear Him, and therefore be strong in faith.

Do not be doubtful dear friend in the face of your calamity. Learn to draw inferences from God’s blessings! Be strong in faith.

In Jesus name. AMEN.

You Are Being Watched!

Dear friends;

I pray that the Grace of God, His peace and mercy are upon you as you read these words. In the name of the Lord Jesus, I would like to assure you that you are regularly being watched. You may not like this fact, but Christians especially should be very mindful of the fact that their lives are under a constant microscope. What you do is known, everything you say is recorded, and whatever you think is known!

THERE IS PLENTY OF EVIDENCE IN THE SCRIPTURE THAT TELL US THAT THIS IS TRUE

Luke 8:17There is nothing hidden that won’t be revealed, and there is nothing secret that won’t become known and come to light.
Matthew 12:36 – I tell you, on Judgment Day people will give an account for every thoughtless word they have uttered 

We are not being informed of this fact to drive us to paranoia, but to wisdom. Many a Christian live foolishly and suffer the consequences for being ignorant.   

Look at what Jesus said in the book of Revelation, and how many times He said it…

Revelation 2:2I know what you’ve been doing, your toil, and your endurance. I also know that you cannot tolerate evil people…
Revelation 2:9I know your suffering and your poverty—though you are rich…
Revelation 2:13I know where you live…
Revelation 2:19I know what you’ve been doing—your love, faithfulness, service, and endurance—and that your last actions are greater than the first…
Revelation 3:1 I know what you’ve been doing. You are known for being alive, but you are dead…

Demons are also regularly watching you…

1 Peter 5:8,9Be clear-minded and alert. Your opponent, the Devil, is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him and be firm in the faith…

YOUR FAITH IS REGULARLY TESTED

Whether it is to make you slip in your walk of faith, or to make you realize where you are still weak so that you will take corrective measures, your faith is constantly under scrutiny. Every moment of your life is an occasion for the state of your faith to be manifested. The big tests and the small, all work to evaluate and strengthen your faith. The big attacks and the small, all work to destroy it.

But Sometimes, we have no one to blame but ourselves…

James 1:13,14When someone is tempted, he should not say, “I am being tempted by God,” because God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. 14 Instead, each person is tempted by his own desire, being lured and trapped by it.
James 4:3 – You ask for something but do not get it because you ask for it for the wrong reason—for your own pleasure.

GOD IS PATIENT

God’s patience toward us makes a lot of sense and is critical in light of the fact that our lives are constantly evaluated. He does not want us to perish, therefore He gives us an opportunity to come back, or to simply come on the right track.

2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some people understand slowness, but is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to find room for repentance.

BUT GOD’S PATIENCE HAS SOME CLEAR LIMITS

While the scriptures are full of evidences of God’s enduring patience toward us, there are also ample evidence that this patience is not without limit. One will do well to recall how He sent the big flood in the days of Noah, or how He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, or how He destroyed the people of Israel in the wilderness after He had saved them from Egypt. Lastly, one can read this clearest of statements from Jesus, a testimony of His patience reaching its limit.

Revelation 2:21,22 – But I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and who teaches and leads my servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refused to repent of her immorality.

GOD WILL SEND A POWERFUL DELUSION

We are informed in advance that God will send a powerful delusion to seal the fate of those who would have made light of His patience and not repented. It is a very powerful delusion because it is designed to separate the false believers from the true ones.

Distinguishing the true believers from false ones is a task best left in God’s hands. While we may have, with the Holy Spirit, the ability to distinguish between them, there are cases that even the most seasoned believers will not be able to discern. But here, God has engineered the most perfect solution. And His solution will absolutely separate the false from the true.

2 Thessalonians 2:9-11The coming of the lawless one will be accompanied by the power of Satan. He will use every kind of power, including miraculous signs, lying wonders, 10 and every type of evil to deceive those who are dying, those who refused to love the truth that would save them. 11 For this reason, God will send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie. 12 Then all who have not believed the truth but have taken pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.

Those among us who, rather than truly turning to God in repentance still have pleasure in what this life is so willing to offer will not be able to resist the deception that God will unleash on us. While the most clever among us can fool the rest of us about their faith, this deception will act as a precision device designed to extract the deepest and truest desires of their hearts and show that in fact, they still preferred this life rather than the life Jesus demanded.

Interestingly, looking at the immediate context of this passage, we can see that this delusion is associated with the great falling away in the Church, predicted in the scriptures (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

CONCLUSION

My friend, it is clear that God is patient toward us, but that He is also asking us to have a true change of heart. He is asking you and me to truly repent and follow Him. He does not want us somewhat dedicated to Him, or even 90% dedicated to Him, but 100% dedicated to Him. True, He is not talking about a perfect life for He knows that we are not capable, yet, of it. Nor is He asking all of us to be full-time missionaries and pastors. But He is talking about you making every effort possible, with the amazing power and help of the Holy Spirit, to live the most holy life you can possibly live, a life that honors His Son Jesus, who died for you. You are indeed being watched!

In Jesus’ name. AMEN.