Does our righteousness exceed theirs?

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ;

In the days we have left, we must examine ourselves with more resolve, as the day of our Lord draws near. I pray that by God’s grace, I can exhort you to vigilance and self-examination, through the words of our Lord recorded below.

Matthew 5:19,20Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in NO CASE enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The Kingdom of Heaven is what we all look forward to, and these words are a solemn warning given to us regarding our righteousness. The context should make it clear – I believe – that the righteousness referred to here is not the imputed righteousness of Jesus (i.e. our new identity), but rather our attitude toward God’s commandments (i.e. our walk of faith).

The Scribes and Pharisees of our day

To enter the kingdom, our righteousness – our observance of God’s commandments which is done by faith – must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. The Scribes and Pharisees of our days are none other than many amongst our own selves. We know the scriptures and God’s commandments. We believe in the redeeming power of Jesus’ blood and in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within ourselves. Yet people of other faith – Muslims, Buddists and the likes – and even Atheists and Agnostics often are manifestly more in tune with the commandments of God than us His very Children.

How would we be able to answer for ourselves on that day? While it is true that them, being ignorant of Christ, are relying on their flesh (or idols) for good works, the fact remains that their lifestyles are often a better reflection of what a Christ-centered life should be.

Yes, their righteousness often exceeds ours. What a tragedy! We, who know better. We, who have been redeemed, should be the beacons of this world, the moral compass, the voice of voiceless, the hands of the handicapped, the bearer of the good news, those who points to the Way of Salvation by shinning bright by our lifestyle the very Light of Christ which has been placed in us.

Us, who have been preached the more excellent way, the Way of Faith, should be the bearer of God’s righteous decrees, the embodiment of what it means to love God and our neighbors.

But you see…the Children of Israel were in part guilty of the same…

Romans 2:13-15For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts…

The charge is that many Gentiles, who had not received the law of God were doing the things contained in the law, while Israel, who had received the law and was taught on it, was not.

Let it not be so today my brothers and sisters. For it is the doers, not just the hearers of the truth who will be justified. Your righteousness must exceed the one of your brothers and sisters who hardly display the characters of Christ.

Else, how will you respond on that day, and how will your brethren, the scribes or pharisees, who are in error change their ways?

Matthew 5:16…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

May our Father speak to our hearts. May He use the multitude of His mercies and patience toward us in Jesus-Christ.

The Lord be with you and me.

AMEN.

Forbidden Fruit

Dear Children of the Kingdom;

Oh that the grace of God and His mercy may be upon me at this time, that Christ may act in me mightily, that I may serve as His instrument to instruct you His people, serving you His Word, for the days in which we live are truly evil. But the fools and the uninstructed, not able to discern good from evil, keep moving forward and suffer dearly.

Proverbs 22:3The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.

The prudent sees danger and hides himself just as Joseph ran out of his master’s house when the master’s wife was determined to sleep with him.

Genesis 39:6-12Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph DAY AFTER DAY, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. 11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.

Look at Joseph’s primary concern: “There is no greater person in this house after my master than I. He has place everything in my hand, except you his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?

Sinning against God was Joseph’s preoccupation! He recognized everything he had, everything he was free to have…and that was precisely the reason he could not venture into committing such a great sin against God by going after the one thing He was not permitted to touch!

One can see the similarity between this account and Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, to whom God gave absolutely everything that belonged to Him here on Earth, save His tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. But as opposed to Joseph, they DID go after what was forbidden when tempted by Satan, and committed a great sin against God.

YOU TOO, ARE FREE

Much freedom my friend, has been granted to you too, when you were purchased and washed with Jesus blood. You have been made free! For with God, free is how His creatures, us, should be!

Galatians 5:1For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

But to you and me who have been given much freedom, much power, Satan is after the one thing that God has forbidden us to do: To disobey Him.

But sometimes, perhaps blinded by our freedom and power, or yielding to the lies of Satan, we act as fools, not recognizing the danger when we see it, or simply making light of it given who we are in Christ, free. As opposed to Joseph, we may think that because God has blessed us so much, we may afford to be careless here and there. We believe we may afford to disobey and enjoy sin, going after the one thing we have been forbidden. Hence, we do not see the danger for what it is and hide, but instead press on, only ensuring that we will reap the consequences.

Galatians 5:13For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

My friend, you are God’s child,  and you love the Lord. Perhaps you are great at praying with your family, or studying the scriptures, reading devotionals and hearing sermons. Perhaps you are growing in your understanding of the freedom and power given to you.

Continue my friend on this path, and do not let Satan lie to you. Do not either be a fool, but strive to stay away from the one forbidden fruit: Disobedience. Every day, Satan or your own flesh will seek to derail you, just like the master’s wife who kept going after Joseph…DAY…AFTER…DAY! 

But RESIST…RESIST…and you will conquer!

Lord, my Lord, may you be exalted in me, and in my friend, to the glory of your Father, our God in Heaven.

AMEN

The Diversity of Our Trials

Dear family, children of the Kingdom;

May the grace, peace and mercy of God be with you. I pray that the Lord Jesus grants me to share with you a few words regarding the suffering of the saints, in the hope that you will be encouraged to stay the course, not being ignorant of the schemes that Satan uses.

From several places in the scriptures, we know that the saints should expect suffering for the sake of Christ.

Philippians 1:29For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.

However – as a disclaimer – it should be noted that one could be suffering, not because of his allegiance to Christ and his continued resolve to honor Him, but because of his continued fellowship with sin. In such case, one should not appropriate to himself the verse above, but should instead meditate on the ones below.

1 Peter 2:20…what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?

This said, when one suffers for Christ’s sake, how does the persecution look like? You could be thinking of a missionary being imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, or for Christians being beaten for assembling themselves in someone’s house to fellowship. You could also be thinking of being forbidden to speak about God or pray in the school setting.

These cases certainly qualify as suffering for Christ’s sake. But allow me to submit to you that suffering for the sake of Christ comes in a much richer multitude of forms, many of them not falling into the “traditional” context of preaching the Gospel.

Consider what the Apostle Peter said… 

1 Peter 2:19,20Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust [Greek (4646): skolios]. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

Peter was exhorting servants (or employees) to be subject to their masters (or their employers), even if they were morally twisted, perverse or unjust (according the definition of the Greek word “skolios”). In other words, the worst kind. The employee is a child of God, and probably NOT “preaching” the scripture in the workplace. But he is a God-fearing person, and therefore he does good, he is honorable, with integrity because he recognizes that he must honor His God, and Him He should fear.

And this is enough to be persecuted for Christ’s sake.

You, who continuously endeavor to honor God in your life, you are being transformed into the very image of Christ. It is this fact – the fact that your character is displaying the attributes of God – that triggers the persecution. The employer, in this case, is nothing more than an instrument of Satan, and may never even refer to your faith. He or she will just persecute you.

HOW Satan persecutes you (and for how long) is not nearly as important as the simple fact that he is able to persecute you. The objective is simple: To cause you to stray away from Christ, even renounce your faith, which will manifest itself by Christ’s attributes progressively decaying in you.

Earlier in his letter, the Apostle Peter highlighted the fact that persecutions come in many different forms.

1 Peter 1:3-6Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various [Greek (4164): poikílos] trials.

The Greek word poikílos translated various properly means, of various kinds, diversified (“manifold”). In other words, the trials that we are subjected to have a variety of forms, they are very rich in their diversity.

Physical or mental persecutions, it really does not matter. The objective is simple: Lose your bearings, start sinning, take matters into your own hands, stop listening to Christ and hopefully simply give up that which you were given by Christ and charged to hold fast (the Gospel of Truth) and not lose.

My friends, you who endeavor to subject yourself to Christ that He may have His Way in you; stay strong and persevere. Persecutions come and will come in its many forms, sometimes not even suggesting that it is because you are holding onto Christ. But rest assured, He who is in you, is greater than He who is in the world. Hold fast, and you will conquer.

1 John 5:4 – And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Praise, Honor and Glory be given to our Lord, Jesus, the Christ.

AMEN.

Communing with Jesus

To the Saints in Jesus-Christ, grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus, our Lord. I desire to commune with Jesus in greater measure. I desire to discern His voice as clearly as I discern yours. But far too often, His voice seems faint, and sometimes, not even there. I desire to experience Him deeper, beyond simply my imagination or understanding of the scripture. Him I desire as a person, to converse with Him. Him I desire as my Master, my Guide, and the One who invited me and equipped me to work alongside Him.

But it is as if He hardly speaks. It is as if I do not recognize Him, understand Him or even hear Him.

Oh my dear friends, do you too, wish you were close to Jesus? Do you wish His experience in your life was more tangible than it is now? Do you wish He was more real than the One spoken of at Church? Do you wish, like me, that you could feel in greater measure, His presence?

I believe the reason for this very limited experience I have of Him has nothing to do with His love for me, and everything to do with my lukewarm love for Him. Yes, my tongue has run out of words to express how much I love Him, but there also lies my frustration. For it has become abundantly clear that if words are the only thing I have to express my burning love for Him, then long ago have I reached the limit of my love. I have long ago exhausted my vocabulary, and I now painfully realize that if this is all I can give Him, then I am the most miserable among men. For words, unless they are Words of the Holy Spirit Himself, have no value.

There must be more…I want to feel Jesus…there must be more! There has to be more. What is the issue? What is the problem? Why can’t I experience Him that much?

I counsel you to carefully consider the case the Apostle Paul brought before the Corinthians, in the form of two questions

2 Corinthians 6:15-18 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God

Here lies the problem. Christ has no agreement with the devil. None whatsoever. A believer shares nothing with an unbeliever. None whatsoever. The temple of God cannot be used for idols.

YET, we ARE the temple of God. YET, we ARE guilty of placing idols in that temple. We ARE guilty of making deals with Satan while belonging to Christ. When interacting with unbelievers, we are not recognizable as Christians, so much we resemble them.

If you are honest with yourself, you know that at least some of this applies to you. Too comfortable you are with the enemy. We are comfortable with the enemy! But we also desire to experience Christ in greater measure.

This cannot be my friend. This cannot be. And unless we do something about it, our experience of Christ has little hope to go any deeper. We will have to satisfy ourselves with songs, teachings, and far too sporadic and rare experiences of Him, like shooting stars that disappear as fast as they appear.

The solution

2 Corinthians 6:16-18…as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”

2 Corinthians 7:1 – Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

The promise is there…the Father says, I will welcome you, I will be a father to you. You will be sons and daughters to me. Now you may say, “I am already a son”, “I am already a daughter”. That is very true! But are you experiencing that relationship to its full extent? Do you feel and experience the closeness of Jesus, or of the Father, as a daughter does with her father? If you are like me, I think not. You may be a son, but you do not know your Father, for you have no relationship with Him.

Let us cleanse ourselves my friend, from everything that defile our body, and from everything that defile our spirit. What do we meditate on, what do we watch, what are our dreams, what activities do we partake in, what are our hobbies?

Unless we are serious about cleansing ourselves, there is no hope of a deeper experience of Jesus. You will not commune with Him. You will not recognize Him. You will not understand Him. You will run out of vocabulary to express your love for Him, and those words will be as empty as words can ever be.

He will not be swayed by our lukewarm love. He will not be swayed by our half-hearted consecration to Him. He will not be fooled when we prostitute ourselves in the dark of night.

2 Timothy 2:12-14 –
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.

Dear Father. Forgive me. Yes, you have given me great and exceeding promises. I know that words are just words unless your Spirit utters them through my mouth. Give me your grace and fly to my rescue. For I have sinned, being too comfortable with the one who seeks to slay me, my enemy, Your enemy! Give me strength, give me strength in the Lord Jesus, to cleanse myself of all these things that I still take pleasure in, but which hurt my experience of Him. In the name of Jesus, I pray, not only for myself, but also my fellow readers. AMEN.

The Miracle of the New Birth: Am I Born Again?

Friends;

I pray to God in the name of the Lord Jesus, that the grace of His Son may be upon me to write unto you these few words on the miracle of the new birth. The miracle of being born again.

Many of us certainly believe that we are born again (or, born from above, or, born of the Spirit), for without this new birth one cannot be identified with Christ and has no hope of a future with God. But are you?

John 3:3,5,7Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”…5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”…7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

IT STARTS WITH “OUR” VIOLENT DEATH

The new birth is a miraculous act performed by God, whereby He first kills us, and buries us, and then bring us back to life.

Romans 6:3,4Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death…

The death by crucifixion that Jesus-Christ experienced is the best image given to show us how our new birth starts. It is an extremely violent act, whereby our whole being, our identity, who we are, is killed by crucifixion, with the same violence that Jesus experienced when He was crucified.

Romans 6:6…our old man is crucified with him…

The necessity of such a death results from the fact that we are utterly corrupted by sin, and therefore impossible to repair. Everything about us is corrupted, the most important of which being our minds, where everything about us originates.

Romans 6:6 – …Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

We are utterly corrupted by sin, having completely forgotten the reason we were created in the first place: To have a perpetual, vibrant and loving relationship with God, being in communion with Him, partaking into His activities, and enjoying everything He created for us. Therefore, we should be killed, so that a completely new “us” will be created: A man with a new mind, uncorrupted, untainted by sin. A man, who once again understands why he exists, why he was created.

THEN THE RESURRECTION COMES…

The miracle of the instantaneous yet violent death we are subjected to when God begins the process of our new birth, is only matched and surpassed by the miracle of our resurrection, where a new identity, which shares absolutely nothing with our former self is created.

2 Corinthians 5:17 …if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

Yet, in Romans 6, instead of equating the resurrection of Jesus to the fact that when He returns, in the future, we too will be resurrected, God instead ties Jesus’s resurrection to a much closer, present and very practical reality.

Romans 6:4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, JUST AS CHRIST WAS RAISED from the dead by the glory of the Father, WE TOO MIGHT WALK in newness of life.

To be born again is not a future, but a very present reality. And we are born again now so that now we can walk now completely differently than we did in the past.

The Christian walk, which only those who have experienced the death of Christ in their own selves can experience, is nothing short of a miracle, equivalent to nothing less than the fact that Christ was resurrected by the Spirit of God.

If you think Christ coming back to life was a miracle, then so is the Christian walk. It is nothing short of a miracle. The same Spirit that raised Jesus is the same Spirit that enables us to walk like Christ. It is a miracle than one can walk like Christ, and THIS IS PRECISELY what God is after when He creates you at the new birth.

My friend, when you confess that you are born again, I pray that you will understand what was done in you. You have been killed, re-created, and been given a new identity, and a new ability: To live by faith, freed from sin, fully able to live a miraculous life, one that testifies in the most solemn way, not only to your family, friends and coworkers, but also to all the spiritual powers, both angelic and demonic, that BEHOLD, A SON OF GOD IS BORN.

May the peace and grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

AMEN

The Day of Salvation

My name is Delfit and I used to live in what you would consider your average US city in the middle of the country. My town was not known for anything in particular. We had our schools and businesses, and typically, life was smooth sailing. We had the same issues every other city had. Not everyone got along, and there were certain people and areas you would rather avoid. Nothing out of the extraordinary, a city with good and bad. But then there was also my community. What kind of community we were exactly I am not sure, but we sure loved each other. There might have been a hundred or so of us, young and old, and everything in between. We usually spent a lot of time together.

One day I met this guy. I do not remember his name. Matter of fact, I do not think he ever told me his real name, but I met him at the local Perkins, a favorite breakfast restaurant in town. He looked kind of my age, was usually wearing a hat, blue jeans and would typically leave his jeans shirt opened, revealing a plain white shirt underneath. Really nothing special about him. But he was a very nice guy and we became friends, really good friends. But that was the strangest of friendships, because I do not remember what we would usually talk about. In addition, from the very first time we met, I had always sensed that there was something odd about him. Really odd. I always felt that he was hiding something from me. Well, first, I kind of knew that he was not from town, and I did not know where he was from, or even what he was doing in town.

And the more time we spent together, the more that I felt it. Where was he from? I became fixated with that question. One day I brought him to my group, and introduced him. Everyone was nice toward him, but no one sensed the same thing I was sensing. They treated him well, just like any other person, but no one ever felt the same feeling I had. That was very strange. He was MY friend, but I was the one having a strange feeling about him, not my group. He would not typically come to my group but I would usually seek him out. Over time, as I could not contain that feeling anymore, I started to bring it up, day after day among my friends, to the point they had become annoyed with me, and him especially. Why was I fixated on him anyway, they would ask me? I actually started to think that I may be I was going a little crazy.

Then one day things got even worse. I went to meet him at Perkins as we usually did. But within two minutes of me seating down, I saw what I believe was a mom and two young girls. They seemed to be about 5 or 6 years old, the same age as Elvea, my best friend in my group. I loved Elvea! A sweet little girl, we could easily spend hours together. I am not sure whether I knew her parents because in our community that did not really matter much. Everyone took care of everyone, you know, what you might call a real community in its truest sense. Except for the fact that now I had increasingly become the odd one of the group, the one with the fixation on the strange friend.

Anyway, back to the restaurant.

Within two minutes of me seating down with my friends, I had this overwhelming feeling that I was being watched from some distance. And as I turn, I saw the mom, or at least I think she was the mom, with the two young girls. As the girls look at me with the softest yet most curious look, their mom almost rushed out of the restaurant with them, as if she did not want her girls to keep looking at me or to interact with me. Well, things could I have just ended there, except for the fact of what I felt. This time, although I did not even get the chance to speak with the lady, or to even see who she was, I felt exactly what I had been feeling about my friend from the first day we met. In fact, I cannot explain it but somehow, I knew that they knew each other. I just knew it. But no matter how hard I would push my friend, he just wouldn’t say much. Yet, he would always be there, and it was obvious that he too enjoyed my company as I enjoyed his.

Call me crazy but by now I had formulated my own theory. My friend came from somewhere. I don’t know, somewhere. May be from space I don’t know, but he just wasn’t a normal guy, and meeting that woman with the two girls convinced me even more of that. Them too were from somewhere. Who knows, another planet, space, I don’t know. But I loved them! I really, really love them, yes, even the woman and the two girls I had not even spoken with. I loved these people and I wanted to be with them! Who were they, were did they come from? Could I be with them? These people sure weren’t from my town, or from this country, but now I was convinced, not even from earth. Well, that theory did not go too well with my friends back at the camp. I was officially crazy, and from that point, everyone was just about tired to hear about him.

But then came the day that change our town forever. Some kind of disaster struck our town. It did not really feel like it was of natural cause although it looked like it. The sky was lit in bright orange with the raging fire just on the outskirt of town. The town was now in a permanent darkness, because the dark, thick smoke had completely covered the sun. Then, everything stopped working. Everything was broken, it became very dangerous to venture outside at any time of the day, and there was hardly any water. I remember going into town and those bad guys had made camp right in front of the grocery store. With the orange sky and the smell of smoke feeling the air, it felt like overnight we were in the wild west, but a very scary wild west.

What I did not tell you is that Elvea, myself and the rest of the group we were always meeting in this building, with one story. Actually, two stories. I think the ground floor had a few shops and a parking garage. The second floor, where we usually met, was essentially just a plain big open area. Like an office space before it has been partitioned. We were always there, because that is where we usually met. And I remember that there was one section of the roof that had a few panels missing. No one really cared for that section except that if you took a pick in that hole, it was dark with an impossible number of copper pipes, all intertwined. Although they were made out of copper, they were all dark. I am not sure if they were dirty or if they were simply dark, but there was a lot of them! I mean, there was basically no way anyone could go through them, say, for servicing, so small the gap between them was. And for whatever reason, you just had the feeling that they went on for miles and miles high, deep into the roof. Very strange. In any case, there was something really eerie about that roof section.

Now that room had become our refuge. We did not really know what was coming, but everyone knew something was coming, and everyone knew there was no way out. Everyone was afraid, but no one knew what to do. We were like sitting ducks, waiting for our fate, whatever that fate was. But somehow, somehow as we all looked at each other in the eyes, there was this sense that this was it, we were all going to suffer and die. Everyone, all of us!

Then my Perkins friend showed up. Except for those few times in the very beginning when he came, he never really came to that building, to us. We would just meet at Perkins. But here he was. He came, and held me tightly by the upper hard, as if to secure me. Then all of the sudden we ran me through the open space and he carried me into that opening in the roof. All of the sudden him and I were inside and he did not stop. We kept running vertically, passing among all the pipes. I do not know how we did it, but here we were, running vertically. Actually, I almost felt like we were flying, but we were moving our feet frantically (at least I was), although they barely touched anything, I was tightly attached to him and we were moving fast! Really fast! I think I must have passed out at some point. But here we were. And that feeling I had about how deep that rooftop was turned out to be true. It was deep, really deep, with no end in sight! But like someone who knew exactly where he was going, my friend was just passing through those pipes, in that dark expansive place. No one could go through those pipes. I mean, I remember how there was hardly any space between them, and how eerie it felt. But here we were my friend and I, him carrying me at a frantic speed.

Then I must have lost consciousness because I do not remember how it ended. But eventually it felt like I regained consciousness, lifted my head and opened my eyes. I was in this room, a very bright and white room. The room was not big and there at the other side was my friend, seating on a desk, as if he had just been waiting for me to wake up. I do not know how long I had been unconscious but here he was, and I immediately knew where I was. This was his place, this is where he lived.

This was a different world entirely, inaccessible from my world, from where I came from. I mean, who could fly for miles through that dark roof among those tightly knit pipes? This was his place, on the other side. I stood up and there was this door by the stairs. I went to it, and opened it. And there they were. The two girls. I remember their look. Oh how can I forget what I felt when I saw them at the restaurant? How my heart burnt with love for them. But not only them, the adult woman was there too, and many, many other kids and adults were there with them.

But this time, this time they did not run away, but run toward me, hugged me and I knew that I would be with them forever. The moment had arrived. This had become my home, my home for eternity. But then, in a flash I was back in that building with my friends, back on earth, back in my town! My friend from the other world was also there with me, but no one could see him. Elvea! Where is Elvea, my sweet girl, my sweet friend? Here she came running to me, her sweet voice marred by fears. She knew something was about to happen, and would not let me go. “Where were you? Where were you Delfit? I want to come with you, take me with you?” My heart was broken. I was on my knees, holding her tighly in my arms, her little chest so pressed against mine I could feel her heart beat. I began to cry. “Take me with you Delfit, I want to go with you Delfit. Why can’t I go with you. Take me with you Delfit, I want to come with you. Please do not leave Delfit, please, please, don’t go”. “Elvea…I can’t” tears pouring down my cheeks. I started to cry uncontrollably holding her tighter and tighter against my chest. I knew what I had just happened. I was leaving, and my little Elvea was staying.

Why Does Grace Save Through Faith?

To my brethren who have been called to be saints;

May the Grace, mercy and peace from God, our Father, and from Christ-Jesus our Lord be with you. We live in a time where there seems to be a sudden reawakening of the churches to the unmerited, divine favor of God, otherwise known as Grace.

Grace is everywhere now. Every congregation would like to be known as being in the Grace of God. They rename themselves to reflect it, revise their mission statements to highlight the unmerited, divine favor of God. Grace is like our newfound friend, we cannot get enough of it. Every day it seems, a new song is released to celebrate that Grace of God. A Youth conference here, a concert there, and yet another T-Shirt. Oh that God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son to die for me! It is not about what I have done, or will ever do, but about what He (Jesus) has done. Who can resist Grace? Looking around, it seems that we love it, and cannot get enough of it. Grace seems to have no limit, able to save even the worst of sinners, promising them glory with Jesus, for God knows their name. We have a place in heaven, by God’s side, and that is all thanks to His Grace.

But the very same cornerstone verse that speaks of the saving power of that Grace of God throws in…a wrench…

Ephesians 2:8,9For by Grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

In all its portrayed all-encompassing power and glory, Grace seems to have a seriously limiting factor in its ability to save us…it can only save us through faith. Why? Why didn’t the passage say… “For by Grace you have been saved”, period! No, it says… “For by Grace you have been saved through faith”. It seems clear that unless faith is there, the Grace we have fallen so much in love with simply can’t save us. But why? Why is it so?

The Grace of God saves through Faith because Jesus HAS TO BE Glorified

We understand that the faith in question is faith in Jesus-Christ.

Acts 20:20-22I [Paul] did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

It seems therefore that it is by God’s Own design that His unmerited favor (His Grace) can only be accessed (for salvation) by those who have faith in His Son. The love of the Father for His Son is such that unless one honors His Him (the Son), one cannot experience His saving Grace. Having faith in Jesus is how we honor Him (Acts 4:12). Having faith in Jesus is how we submit to His Lordship (Luke 6:36, James 2:1). Elsewhere (Hebrews 11:6), God also makes it clear that it is impossible to please Him without faith. Unless one honors the Son, one cannot benefit from the saving power of that Grace.

Yet, there is also a very practical aspect to why Grace only saves through faith, and what it means to have faith in Jesus. The answer lies (at least in part) into HOW Grace saves through faith.

Grace saves us through what it teaches

Titus 2:11For the Grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age

The Grace of God does not manifest itself through some kind of feel-good sensation or divinely appointed fragrance that God has poured over the earth. No! The Grace of God manifests itself through a specific message that not only informs us, but also teaches us to renounce our current lifestyle. And when we read Titus 2:11 carefully, we see that what Grace trains us in, is in nothing else than living the very lifestyle that Jesus Himself taught us to live.

Faith in Jesus therefore, in the context of salvation, is believing and accepting the message and training of Grace. One must believe in the message of Grace to be saved by it. In other words, one must believe that he must renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. One must believe that he should live self-controlled, upright and godly lives today! AND one must believe that Grace HAS the ability to train him to become such a person!

Recognizing that by their own effort, they could never be saved, the disciples asked Jesus in despair…

“Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25). How did Jesus respond? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” What did He mean? Well, if we look at Titus 2 again…He meant that we will have the best teacher to get us there…we will be taught how to be holy, and we should believe in that teaching! And if we do, we will see the results that are otherwise impossible for man to achieve. The question is…do we believe Jesus when He says it? Who can transform us but God Himself? Do we believe that if we follow the training of Grace, it will produce the intended results? This is what it means to believe in Jesus, without which, even Grace can’t save us, for we would not believe its message, let alone follow its training.

My friend. I exhort you to pray, and to pray in earnest. If you feel that you have been missing on this training from Grace, either because of not understanding the scriptures, not being properly taught at your church or whatever other reason, pray…pray my friend! God, your Father, will hear you. He will hear your imperfect, but honest and sincere prayer. And He knows how to give good gifts (Matthew 7:11). He will not ignore such a request.

May the Lord Jesus be glorified in our lives. AMEN.

When God Empowers Your Enemies

Children of the Kingdom;

May the grace, mercy and peace from God, our Father, and from Jesus-Christ, our Lord and Savior, be with you. May the Lord, by His grace, give us a Spirit of discernment, that we may recognize the times when God empowers our enemies.

I would like to submit to you that it is imperative that we recognize that at times, according to His own wisdom, God will purposefully empower our enemies, for them to rule over us, at least, for a period of time. And in those cases, WE SHOULD NOT FIGHT BACK! Instead, we should submit, humbling ourselves before the great God, and hang onto our faith. Unfortunately, this is often hard to do.

It is a feeling you might have experienced, or are currently experiencing, such as an evil boss or a dictatorial regime.

Consider what Jesus said to Pilate, when He was brought before Him

John 19:10, 11 – …Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above…

We see here that not only Jesus recognized Pilate’s authority over Him, but He also knew perfectly that it was none other than God Himself, His Father, who had given Pilate that authority. Therefore, rather than fighting back, we see Jesus instead submitting to Pilate.

Several times in the Old Testament was Israel either defeated in battle or enslaved. There too, God often declared plainly that He was the One who had given those enemies that kind of power and authority over them. As a prime example, consider this stunning declaration from God to Jeremiah, regarding what He had just done, which would be become soon evident to the people.

Jeremiah 27:15-17, 21, 22 – You recently repented and did what was right in my eyes by proclaiming liberty, each to his neighbor, and you made a covenant before me in the house that is called by my name, 16 but then you turned around and profaned my name when each of you took back his male and female slaves, whom you had set free according to their desire, and you brought them into subjection to be your slaves.

17 “Therefore, thus says the Lord: You have not obeyed me by proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim to you liberty to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine, declares the Lord. I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth…21 And Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials I will give into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives, into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon which has withdrawn from you. 22 Behold, I will command, declares the Lord, and will bring them back to this city. And they will fight against it and take it and burn it with fire. I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without inhabitant.”

Often, God will also specifically instruct the people not to resist what would happen to them (e.g. Jeremiah 27:1-11).

Today, Christians often experience various levels of oppression and injustice, and at least in some respects, just like any other groups. For instance, you may feel unfairly treated at work, your boss having seemingly full control about your professional future. Or you may be oppressed by the current political regime of your country, with no obvious way out.

Whether due to no fault of your own, as in the case of Jesus in front of Pilate, or as a direct consequence of your own disobedience (as in the case of Israel), God will sometimes empower your enemy, to rule over you. Recognizing therefore this fact is critical as it will dictate our response: DO NOT FIGHT BACK for you will be fighting against GOD. Instead recognize, as Jesus did, that this power was given to your enemy by God Himself, for He is sovereign. Colossians 3 carries the same essence, that we should submit to our authorities, for it is ultimately the Lord Himself that we truly serve.

Colossians 3:22 – Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

It is in the same Spirit that we do not read about the early churches fighting back those who were oppressing them. They were persecuted, and sometimes martyred, yet, it served them well to recognize that ultimately, God had had to grant such treatment (as in the case of Job).

Paul gave a list of some of the perils Christians face and will continue to face. Yet He also recognized that God always has a plan that works for the good of His people.

Romans 8:35,36 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

The pain that comes with the Christian walk may often feel hard to bear. To stay silent when we want to respond, to hold our composure when we want to fight back, to humble ourselves when we want to rebel. There is indeed a fight that every Christian is called to engage in, but the ones described in this letter are not it! These are the times to stand still, and let God work in us, to transform us and conform us to the image of His Son.

Let us fight THE Good Fight, not the wrong ones!

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Our greatest challenge…Staying Awake!

Dear family of God;

May the peace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Allow me to submit to you that one of our greatest challenges is to stay awake. Spiritually awake.

1 Thessalonians 5:2,5 – …you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night…you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

For some, waiting on the Lord and being vigilant is a vivid daily reality. Such as those who live in a dangerous country, especially where being a Christian is synonymous to living with the fear imprisonment or death. Or the very poor, who wakes up not knowing whether he will have something to eat that day. Or the chronically sick, whose disabilities are the constant struggles of their lives.

But for many, like many of us in “developed” countries like the USA, or the many of us who never have to worry about whether we will have something to eat, waiting on the Lord and being vigilant amount to little more than fighting our daily, personal desires of the flesh. And outside of our personal fight against sin – which we discussed previously – all is smooth sailing, every day. There is no danger of imprisonment, our churches are generally fine, modern Christian concerts from popular bands are typically sold out, and we are not persecuted simply for wearing a Christian T-shirt or a cross. Eating today is a non-issue: Should we eat organic or out…that is our challenge! Looks like we got the good deal…or did we?

We are like the guard of a castle where no threat ever occurs. Every day is the same, smooth and quiet. Staying awake IS one of our greatest challenges. Just staying awake. Our faith might be rotting away and we are completely unaware of it…we are slumbering, we are falling asleep. Our church is in cruise control, our favorite morning songs and radio casts are always at hand. But unaware to us, for we are asleep, our burning love and zeal for God, for our Lord Jesus, and for His Kingdom is surely becoming a thing of the past. Every day is the same, and it looks like it will always be like that.

But occasionally, here and there a tragedy will take place…a tragedy that reminds us there are more important things in life than what we have been focusing on. And we will jump from our sleep as if awaken with a bucket of water. But soon, very soon, our heavy eyelids will bring us right back to sleep.

My friends. We, you and me living in a country like this one, or with enough means to eat every day, or with generally good health, are the Christians who are the most in danger, those of us who have a life that looks much better than most. We are the ones in danger of being caught off-guard when the Master comes. But here is the advice from the Apostle:

1 Thessalonians 5:8,9 – But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have not been appointed by God to experience His wrath…so…let us not be found asleep, but sober…by making sure our faith is strong and genuine, our love is active and fervent, and our hope is alive!

May the Lord be with you;

In the name above all names, Jesus our Lord.

Amen.