God, The First and Last Rescue

O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might.
— Psalms 54:1 (ESV)

When we are terrified as young boys and girls, we cry and call our mothers. It is quite a funny memory but worth-remembering how our parents made us feel secure from all our fears as children. Sometimes, we even unwittingly cry their names at the worst instance of our fears.

God made David feel secure growing up. In Him, David found a secure place to hide where his enemies cannot overcome him. God is a fortress and a helper in times of calamities. At the very first sign of trouble, David made no hesitation to call his first and last reliable rescue. He knew it very well that God will not fail him. David has put his faith and trust on God and found rest for his soul.

Perhaps, the depth of our knowledge with God, and the gravity of our faith on Him can help us see His deliverance in our times of trouble. Time spent with Him will reflect our attitude in times of our “calamities.” Spending quality time with God, in prayer and meditation of His word, helps us know Him more in an intimate way and, thus, realize what God can do with all our troubles.

It is faith that enables God’s power to unfold into our lives. But faith only matters when founded on the truth of God Himself, revealed in His Word no less. No terror will shake a completely trusting child from the side of his Almighty Father.

Photo credit to owner.

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Running the Race

Edited by Mary Joanne Alorro

Photo credit to owner.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1,2

Our Christian journey, our walk with God, has been likened to a race. A race that, according to Apostle Paul in 1 Corintians 9:24-27, has an incorruptible prize — eternal life — which we need to strive for with certainty bringing ourselves into subjection with mastery.

The race entails hardships, challenges as we push through. It requires sacrifices and enough courage to finish what has been started. No runner runs a race without training himself. One has to undergo rigid training, despising the inconvenience and forfeiting the comforts, for the sake of the prize. We are all running for a prize. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses — people who during their time, professed the faith we are holding on to right now. They ran the race we are running and finished it. They bore the irrefutable sacrifices of a runner with purpose. And the writer urges us to run the same way.

But, as mentioned, running is not without hardships. Fatigue, injuiry, boredom, temptations, among others, are all laid right in front of us with one goal — to make us stop running. The writer says, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.”

Beset means to cause problems or difficulties for someone or something.

1. Weight is anything that hinders us. It can be the unresolved past issues, doubts, conflicts with others. We must lay them aside. We cannot run burdening ourselves with these weights. We need to offer them to God. Christ Jesus said in Matthew 11:28,29:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

We can come to Jesus to cast all these weights. There probably is no easy resolve for every conflict or issue, but God, who created everything by the word of His mouth, cannot run out of ways. Let us lay these burdens before Him and resolve issues with Him; and trust Him in His ways through these concerns.

2. Sin that easily beset us. God described sin in Genesis 4:7, “. . . Sin lieth at the door: and unto thee shall be his desire, and [but] thou shalt [must] rule over him.”

Sin is always lurking in every corner of our eyes, finding a way to get into us. Unto us is its desire lying at the door, ready to consume us at any given opportunity. But, God said, we must rule over it. By our faith in Jesus Christ, we obtained power over sin as Christ overcame sin. Sin has no power over us, to chain us down, not unless we let it.

In Jesus, we are more than conquerors. Sin cannot hold us hostage, nor can it block against us the doorway to God’s throne of grace.

John the beloved said in 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Why don’t we get some time to talk to God, reassess ourselves asking, how am I running? You know, the Bible never ended on telling us the conditions of running. It says, we should look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. We can learn of His life. He is truly God and truly human when He was on this earth. Just like all of us, He suffered in every way we do. But He knew what He has to do. He knew with certainty the run set before Him. So depite the agonizing pain He saw He was about to experience He said, “Not My will, but let Your will be done.” If He had ever quit? You and I won’t be here today. But because He endured the painful death on the cross crying ,”It is finished!” He is now at the right hand of the throne of God. Jesus wants the same for us right now. He sent us a Comforter, the Holy Spirit to encourage us on this race. He knew the hardships we suffer, but more so, He also knew that with Him, we can make it.

Shalom.

God, delivering His beloved

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer me!”

— Psalms 108:5-6

Reading through the pages of the Israelites’ history from the book of Genesis to the book of the prophets, we can learn of the “ups and downs” of the Israelite nation, conquering and being conquered by neighboring countries.

During the days of King David, Israel had become a great conqueror for God was with David. Philistines endured alot of defeats in its strongholds after attacks from David’s armies. Consulting God of their decisions and executing accordingly was their key strategy. We can read of an amazing journey of a nation where the LORD is God whose interest is prioritized.

However, there were times when Israel suffered adversities. We know when David placed his insecurities and pride above God’s will, tragic consequences follow, either by pestilence or defeat in a war, or other likes. The point was, God does not tolerate iniquities, and every action has its reward simply because He is a just God who renders justice to whom it is due.

Yet above the idea the unbelievers may have conceived about God, He is a merciful and loving God. David, who wrote about God casting them off which certainly resulted from their disobedience, said:

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

— Psalms 86:15

God is the just rewarder of our works. He does not overlook every evil ways, nor unjustly rebuke an offender.

“So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.”

— Psalms 18:24-27 (Emphasis mine.)

1. God has an intimate relationship with His people.

Ever wondered how accessible God is for His people? Wonder no more. You can be part of His people too! Perhaps, we ask how God can possibly pardon a sinner such as ourselves. Of all that we’d ever done, we think God can find somebody else who’s way better or “more forgivable” to become part of His “nice people.” That is not true.

The church is a group of people, not the building no matter how glamorous, who have a personal experience with the Lord Jesus Christ: sinned – great or not so great; repented of their sins (resolved to turn their backs on their sinful pasts – may sometimes unintentionally sin, but striving by the grace of God to grow into the image of Christ day by day); and received the free forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ Jesus’ atoning death at Calvary (not through their church attendance; no, not with their tithes). Now these forgiven individuals gather themselves – now called as Church – to worship God with their lives, fulfilling His commandment in loving one another with the love of Christ and reaching out for the lost.

The expression of God’s love on the bloody cross at Clavary presents the extent of God’s sacrifice to reach out for His people – you, me, all of us. This fact testifies of His willingness to reconcile us back to Him and establish a personal relationship – a Father and a friend. God said:

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

— Isaiah 1:18

2. We can take confidence in His love.

Amazing! David can just say “That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer me!”? Like, really? A man, apparently quite invisible compared to God’s greatest creations, can ask God for deliverance referring himself as His beloved. Look at that!

John 1:12,13 says:

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Describing the extent of God’s love, Paul said:

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

— Romans 8:31-32 (Emphasis mine.)

God has opened this great opportunity for us. All we need to do is grab this truth and apply this into our hearts. If we are in a genuine relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, we can call upon Him and He’ll answer us! Speaking of His desire to show His people of His great and mighty works, God said:

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”

— Jeremiah 33:3

A true relationship with God acknowledges His grace in and through our lives. And this grace does teach us to submit to His will and pleasure. To submit to His will means to pursue His heart, to learn of it, to win it each and everyday. This is the picture of an intimate relationship with God. He gave up His best, covering our sins – no matter how red – by the blood of His dear Son, to win us back to Him. The question is, how would we respond to this love? Will we sit and reason with Him to settle our sins before Him, and live a life that will glorify Him?

Shalom.

(Picture not mine.)

Saved to Share

“Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”

— Isaiah 6:5:8

A sinner and with unclean lips, Isaiah turned to be one of the major prophets of the Old Testament. The Bible has numbers of great peoples of faith that came from sinful pasts.

From a Persecutor to an Apostle

Apostle Paul, for one, used to be called as Saul by name. The youngest member of the Sanedrin, a pharisee and an expert of the law of Moses, a devote follower of Judaism, he ran after Christians, persecuting every single church and believers, arresting them back to Jerusalem to be judged. For all he knew, he believed he was doing the will of God until a special encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. Perplexed and overwhelmed, his advocacy crashed before his eyes realizing that he was wrong all along. Writing to Timothy of his testimoty, he said:

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” (Emphasis mine)

— 1 Timothy 1:12-13

Abundantly Graced

We have been graced abundantly by God. His goodness we cannot afford ourselves, He made available for us through His grace by His Son, Jesus Christ.

“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

— Romans 5:7,8

God expressed this unfathomable love through the sacrificial death of His only Son, who laid down His life so we can be redeemed from the condemnation of sin. We can do anything but atone ourselves of our sins, we being sinners and “without strength,” thus incapable of freeing ourselve from bondage. The Lord Jesus Christ came to give us this freedom; this atonement from sin: salvation and a hope for eternal life.

How do we respond?

The coming of Christ have been for us, sinners. I was a sinner, you were a sinner. But so also are our friends, family members, that man who is walking down the street. Jesus Christ came for you and me and for that person. As someone represented Him to us, He needs someone to represent Him to that person too. How will we respond? As Prophet Isaiah did, can we say to God “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”?

Shalom.

(Picture not mine.)

The Bible: When you have alot of other choices

Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.

— Proverbs 4:13

King Solomon of Israel, the writer of Proverbs, reigned after his father, David, for many years. As a son to David, he was instructed of the fear of the LORD by a man after God’s own heart. As for David who understands the importance of a relationship with the One true God, he did not waste the opportunity to pass on peices of Godly instructions he’s gotten in many years unto his successor, Solomon, who later would ask of God this wisdom with which he’s going to rule Israel.

1. Take fast hold of instruction.

We grow having been taught that the greatest treasure is education. That is because, unlike gold and other possessions, our learnings will never be stolen from us. Here, the Bible seems to contradict that thought. Can we actually lose our learnings, or instructions, we gained throughout our years? Perhaps, we may. Or we can. . . if we are not careful. Remember those beliefs or practices we used to have back in the days of our grandparents? Perhaps many of the beliefs and practices they had were no more applied today given that new “trends” or scientific discoveries proved them to be either inefficient or ineffective, or both. The instructions of God are no exemptions. If we weigh in more to current “trends” of this society, even if at the expense of our Biblical convictions, we shall soon lose our grasp about the teachings of God. They cannot defend nor keep us had we forced ourselves out its territory. The word of God endures, as an anchor securely fastened at great rock, holding tight a huge vessel from bullying waves. It is like a house built on a rock that will not be destroyed by flood in as much as the flood cannot move the rock.

Holding on to the word of God keeps us, not us it. We may be tossed and beaten up by strong persecutions or deceitful flatteries, we must not let go of this spiritual teachings which secure the very foundations of our lives.

2. Keep her.

We are given the power to choose. Setting the expectation among His people as they are set to inherit the Promised Land, God said:

“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.”

— Deuteronomy 11:26-28

The keeping of the word of God is a decision we should make. It does not accomplish itself by accident. The reason why Christian faith survives to this day is because our forefathers in faith kept it; our leaders upheld it; nations were established on it. Should the first century Christians compromised and traded it with the pleasures of life during their time, we might have no Christian faith to talk about today. Or, perhaps, what once considered as a thriving religion is now reduced as a myth — or its eventual destiny should we compromise it now.

The instruction printed on the word of God is far more than a set of religious Do’s and Don’ts. It is our life. It is our gateway to eternal life; the blessings of God follows our obedience to it; in living by it, we surround ourselves by His protection.

(Picture not mine.)

One Press Away

I recall a very sensible message from a known film, The Inconvenient Truth, which discusses about the effects of global warming, how it progresses, our contribution to it, and how we can help mitigate it. It says that new form of technologies must be applied with an improved attitude, and to do otherwise would lead to disadvantageous events we will not like.

We say that we live in a new era, the information age. Almost everything we do is reliant to computers including socialization. Social media has come into existence to connect people regardless of their locations. With its use, we are never more connected to those we care for and love despite the distance. Just like any technologies, from the most microscopic inventions to the most destructive bombs, social media, powered by internet which can reach to almost all parts of the world, can either build a very meaningful life, or destroy one. Again, it is entirely dependent on how we use it.

Social media is a very powerful tool to connect with those we love and value. We can reach them wherever they are, share our thoughts together, and exchange endless conversations like we literally are close to each other. However, the platform provides more than just an exclusive medium of communication and virtual window of shared updates and profiles by those within our circle. It expands to a vast network of connections far beyond our known sphere of influence. Given the scale of any possible effect of every piece of information we communicate with it, whether relevant or not, more sense of responsibility must be applied on each actions we take, and proper controls must be in place. Without these, we are letting loose an unbridled powerful machinery, capable of devouring any established society on a larger scale, or any individual soul on a smaller level. Untamable and run by the whimps of an enormous number of users who are inspired or swayed by limitless tendencies and ideologies, this tool can redefine any man-made morals and orientations of any established societies, and the future, ultimately, of our children.

There is no problem with being heard. No, being seen and acknowledged is, by itself, alright. But this freedom also warrants a cloak of excuses to express “anything” despite the cost. Promotion of a culture of lies, gossips, fake news, among others, social media has become a tool to defame an individual without just cause. Many of its’ recepients, regardless of the possible effects of the contents, will consume and “share” any post, all in the name of entertainment. We are driven by an impulse to soak our minds into loads of unnecessary pieces of information; use our time, money and effort over irrelevant issues just because they are “trending” or temporarily entertaining; and neglect more important concerns just to keep ourselves updated with things that are almost, if not completely, not concerned to us. Sadly, the effects of each sharing are mostly irreversible. You cannot reformat the inumerable viewers’ minds polluted with unclean contents. You cannot undo sharing incriminating information about an innocent person. You cannot change the mind of hundrends or thousands who read an article of lies, intended to unjustly shame and degrade an institution, or person, without just cause.

Broken families and relationships, trodden dignity and reputations, easy advertisement of disorderly behavior and misconduct, sexual promiscuity, promotion of acts outside of norms and morals – these are easy results of irresponsible broadcasting of concents on a social media. However, social media platforms are not bad per se. But at least before we press that “Share” button, we can ponder on the possible effects of the contents we are broadcasting. Perhaps, we can develop sense of responsibility on what we participate in. We choose only ones that are true and can edify prospect recepients.

Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel Prize Foundation, was once headlined as “The merchant of death” because of his invention of dynamite. The original purpose of the invention was actually for demolition of infrastructures, buildings and the like, until people use it to destroy their own kind. Many people are killed by it during wars and conflicts. Regardless of its true purpose, no matter how noble its inventor’s intention, put it on the hands of those who care less to anything but his selfish desires, it will definitely lead to unwanted outcomes. Social media is both wonderful and powerful tool. We are never more than connected with those we love and cherish from afar. But we can make it even more useful and meaningful if we make it an avenue of life-building thoughts and ideas.

Shalom.

By Him, Through Him, and For Him

Edited by Mary Joanne Alorro

“For by You I can run against a troop, By my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven;

He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” Psalms 18:29-30

As we grow up, we come to realize our potentials; skills we have acquired over the years; and the abilities we never knew we had. We want to achieve more and excel believing we can deliver more than what we already have.

Quite often, life appears to be more of a competition than simply living. In our studies, work, and even ministries sometimes, we create in us a culture of competing against someone to prove who is best suited to be on top and be recognized. Well, I can say, this ought not to be the case. Our diversity provides a meaningful environment where we can share complementary attritubes for each other’s lacking. More to that, we possess distinct characters and play different roles for which we are vested with varying set of skills and abilities. Our potential best suits our purpose and calling, and not for comparison with other people. We are placed on our own respective undertakings to pursue and perform excellently God’s will for us in advancing His kingdom on Earth. And in this life, we are never left alone, but empowered and accompanied by our Master Planner and the Author of our life — God.

However, there are times when we question ourselves if we can ever be good enough. Perhaps, we question our qualifications and competence. Let me share you a story about a man named Nehemiah (Book of Nehemiah).

“‘O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.’ Now I was cupbearer to the king.” Nehemiah 1:11

Reading the life of Nehemiah we learn about a man who was decisive and courageous in delivering the Lord’s work. He was a wise and brave governor, making sure that the job was carried out despite persecutions and threats.

Learning of the destruction of his city, Nehemiah wept and mourned, fasted and prayed fervently unto God for His grace and mercy for His people. At the end, when given the chance to speak before the king of Persia, Nehemiah bowed in prayer to God, asking for His grace.

Granted with the favor in the sight of the king, Nehemiah went to carry out the former’s orders in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. His passion for this cause encouraged him to pursue it and to deal with it wisely, ensuring its success, despite the disunity among his people and the opposition of other people under the Persian rule.

He found his strength in the joy of the Lord. Obviously, his passion revolves around his love for his nation and its reconcilation unto God. Hence, the Lord gave him prosperity over his endeavour, and his efforts did not go in vain.

Nehemiah, being a trusted official of the king, was chosen by God to lead His people in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, not because of his qualifications. He apparently had to rely on the favor of God throughout the process. I believe he was chosen because of his heart for it. We have our desires and passions. We are called to some endeavours, and what we need is to be right with God, and allow Him to enable us. Across the chapters of the Scriptures, we learn how God qualifies the unqualified to take up His work. It reads in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29:

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised i the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, So that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

Therefore, it is not all about what we can do by ourselves but about what He can do through us. Living in the calling of God leads us to a life that depends on His grace, every single day. We have plans, ambitions and desires, and we also have gifts and talents for everything we do. But left alone, there is nothing more we can do on our own. We need to acknowledge Him who sustains and enables us to pursue our respective undertakings.

Here are few points we can ponder in view of our text:

1) Identify and acknowledge your situation. You cannot shun away from your circumstances and just focus on positive things. Situations, no matter how messed up or frustrating, are a reality we need to identify. Know the extent. What is the source of the circumstance and how does it affect you? Acknowledge them. Accept that they exist. They affect you in a way or another. And you need to address them if not now, sometime sooner or later. Truth is, they remain no matter what we want to think. And no amount of worry can move an inch of its stature. So identify and acknowledge them.

2) Know God, who He is, what He does and what He can do. It is important that we know who God is and what He can accomplish in and through us. Learning the identity of God helps us trust Him and His ways. Knowing what He does and can do settles our hearts that He can deliver us. We can read the Scriptures that teach us about the identity and working of God. Have you read about David defeating the champion of the Philistines, Goliath? That moment when the Israelite armies were probably holding their breath with every word that comes out of David’s mouth as he spoke against this giant defending his nation and its armies.

“Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, And that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.'” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)

Think about that courage and audacity of David. Where did it all come from? And why did not anybody else from King Saul’s army have such confidence? Well, perhaps, because even as a shepherd, David spent most of his time in the field communing with God as he attended to the sheep. This acknowledgement of God in everything he did is I think something his father Jesse did well in teaching his children. Fighting bears and other beasts to proctect the sheep is a part of David’s daily devotional. Imagine that for an exercise of faith — both spiritual and physical.

Maybe you are too overly familiar with the importance of knowing God because you think you already do. Or do you really? Whatever your take on that is, I encourage you to start your journey in knowing God more so you know how truly dependent we all are ought to be to a God who is ever powerful and sovereign. Step out in faith and pursue His calling for you.

3) Settle your relationship with God. Pursuing this noble journey requires getting rid of anything that hinders you from obeying His will for you. Right. But how did that enter this discussion? Well, we are talking about pursuing God’s calling and purpose. If we are truly intentional about that, then we better fix any encumbrance weighing our journey with and for Him. To put this with more emphasis, we read how a man who was born blind testified of how Christ Jesus healed him:

“We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” (John 9:31)

God’s ears are only open to those who worship Him and does His will. For a man who was born blind and with the medical world those days appearing to be incapable of giving sight to his eyes, the act of Jesus Christ should had been a miracle — something that defies nature. Now how can a miracle, an act which can only be performed by the Holy and Just God Himself or through an instrument hallowed unto Him, be administered by a sinner? That doesn’t make any sense. If Jesus was sinner, He cannot do anything like that. Good news is, He isn’t. He is the Christ who knew no sin but took upon Himself our sins to redeem us. To Him be all the glory and honour forever and ever!

Because the Scriptures say that God doesn’t listen to a sinner, we cannot just play with fire, then when get burned, ask God to heal us. Why? God did not ask us to play with fire, in the first place, now how is it that He suddenly enters the picture when trouble comes in? The Lord rewards us according to our righteousness and the cleanness of our hands. He is Holy, so the people who would call upon Him should also be holy. The Scriptures say in Isaiah 59:1,2,

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

You see? There is a reason why we cannot treat God just like a doctor who enters the scene only when we get sick or have some health issues. God should be part of our everyday lifestyle. That means, He should be part of our daily living, each decision we make should be outlined by His will that is revealed to us by His Word and His Holy Spirit.

Question is, after realizing that we just cannot reach out to God with our hands unclean, how do we settle our relationship with Him to start with:

(a) Acknowledge and REPENT of your sins before God. Repentance go beyond our feeling sorry for our sins. It is a change of mind about doing a certain sin, therefore, turning our ways from it.

(b) Believe that Jesus Christ has died, been buried, and risen from the dead for you, for your sins to be forgiven; and that all He did is complete and sufficient to cover all your sins.

Our journey with God will only make sense when our relationship with Him is settled. It makes a point where we start the journey and determine where it will end — in His Eternal Kingdom in Heaven. Our efforts in doing our best for His glory will only matter when we are fully connected with Him. And there is nothing that can connect us back to Him but by the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Shalom.

Taking Up the Yoke

Edited by Mary Joanne Alorro

I am always thrilled watching kids and having fellowship with them. For me, they are empty vessels we can freely pour out love, joy, encouragement, and acceptance to strengthen and give them a cheerful perspective growing up. Becoming part of their growth is something I joyfully take part in. And seeing them grow and achieve their highest potentials, esp. realizing their calling is a full reward of the time and effort I spend for and with them. But to fully play the role of an influencer requires the willingness to objectively guide them in the right way; and courageously but gently correct any undesired behavior and attitude, instilling the sense of accountability and responsibility over their mistakes. I know it is challenging to own up our wrongdoings and that is why it is my prayer that you’d be encouraged of its great results as you read further.

Carrying the responsibility over the consequences of what we’ve done wrong in the past regardless of any reason we had at that time is a good exercise for our spiritual muscles thus beneficial for our spiritual growth. To take responsibility for our mistakes is not just a lesson for kids but for us all who need to be reminded from time to time that though we can never undo our mistakes, we can always come humbly to the Lord to repent and ask for forgiveness. Doing so doesn’t exempt us facing the negative results of those actions. But the good news is that when we are being accountable over what we do at work, at home or anywhere else even as we wait for the Lord is a good opportunity for letting God mold our characters as He deem necessary for us and those around us.

Tempted to count his achievements as king, David commanded to count his people in defiance of God’s will.

“Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, ‘Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.'” – 1 Chronicles 21:1,2 (ESV)

The act displeased God so He commanded His prophet to tell David of His displeasure and the consequence of his doing.

“But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. And David said to God, ‘I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.’ And the Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying. . .” – 1 Chronicles 21:7-9 (ESV)

David was offered three plagues from which he chose one to smite Israel for his sin. When God had held the plague, He commanded David to set up an altar at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. Thus, David set up the altar at all its cost saying, “I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings without cost.” (v. 24)

There are times when hiding from our mistakes is easier than admitting them. However, to grow in our spiritual walk is our personal responsibility and it has a price. Our bad decisions and actions require our boldness to acknowledge them before the Lord and owning up the consequences. For God is just as it is said in the scripture:

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” – Colossians 3:5-6 (ESV)

But thankfully, God’s mercy is abundant as it is written in Psalm 145:8 (ESV):

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

The difficult task of taking up one’s yoke is a subject matter I have personally much to learn from. Perhaps, we can take it from those people who hid and denied their mistakes and see how that decision resulted to their own regrets. Or we can also take it from those people who took the nerve to take up their yokes responsibly and know how they were rewarded.

You can argue and say that other people seemed fine hiding their sinful acts as you can justify that we’re just merely humans committing sins—big or small—each and every single day. But if we’re honest enough, do you think they have peace doing so? Would you have peace knowing you’re not taking up your own yoke? Yes, we’re not perfect and we fall many times more than we can count but to come to the Lord in humility every time is one small step that will lead us to walking away farther from our sinful patterns and freeing us from our self-destructive lifestyle.

Shalom.

What is Sin?

Edited by Mary Joanne Alorro

Sin — many of us know what it is and how it affects us yet we seldomly take it seriously. Now, what is sin really? Sin literally means “to miss the mark.” So there is a mark to hit and for some reason, we miss it. We can easily relate this to archery, dart or shooting. God has set a mark. God called us to be holy as He is holy. Apparently, He is not saying, be holy like your pastor, small group leader, the friend you just met, and so on. God compares us to His holiness. Nobody meets that standard but Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus became the only worthy sacrifice to purge our guilt from our sins. He, a sinless person, paid the penalty of our sins by giving His life on the cross of calvary effectively pacifiying God’s wrath and the cry of justice our sins and transgressions deserve.

Going back, the Scripture says in Romans 3:23,

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

In the same chapter, it says:

9 “All. . . are under sin,

10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;

11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.

12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Without doubt, we have all sinned in the sight of God. We have fallen short of His glory. We have missed the mark He’d set for us. So it does not matter how well you support a charity institution or a family, help a commuity nor does it matter how well you perform in your job. It does not count at all how “better” you are compared to your neighbor. All sort of sin in the sight of God have the same result: DEATH. The scriptures put it this way:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

God sees the gravity of sin as serious as He sees it necessary to send His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to release us from its bondage. God has to do something to free us or we will be spending our eternity in the lake that is burning with fire and brimstone also known as Hell. If Hell is but a state of mind or a situation, why would God need to sacrifice His Only Son to suffer for sins He didn’t commit? For the Son, why would He, Jesus Christ, see it a necessity to come down from His glorious throne in Heaven, worshipped by His angels 24/7, just to live like us and eventually suffer His humiliating death on the cross prepared for sinners? Why would God see it necessary to lay down His life for us? Because as real as there is a sun tomorrow morning as we wake up, Hell is awaiting those sinners who continually turn their backs to God. Sin is turning our backs to God, to His law, His commandments, His will, His Lordship into our lives. Sin is our act of rebellion against God, keeping God out of our lives, our decisions, our relationships, our businesses, our careers, our families. Sin is disrespecting God’s sovereignty over us. We neglect His law to follow our own lusts and pleasures. That is sin; and sin with all certainty leads to death. Psalms 119:11 says,

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

To store or from an older version, “hide” the word of God in our heart means to keep it, apply it, and live it. It is not just a memory verse or a pile of knowledge but a set rules or personal devotion we ought to live by. Many want to live life on their own terms that’s why words such as rules, commandments, laws and anything similar are least favorited. But looking into these words, we should ask, “Why are they set that way?” The Scriptures answer, “That I (or we) might not sin against You (God).” To discuss this further, one Bible critic once asked a believer, “Why would we set a moral standard if it is relative? Like what is moral with you might not be so with me and vice versa.” The believer then answered, “Do you lock your door when you sleep?” He said, “Yes.” Then the believer continued saying that it’s the reason why we need a moral standard– Jesus, God, the Bible as our moral standards. Because we live in a fallen world.

You know, if you cannot believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, then try to see the lives of people who genuinely live by it. There are those who once lived in drug addiction, alcohol, pornography; or even those who were once depressed and without hope. See what progress they have in their lives now because they started to believe and live by the word of God. It is not to restrict your freedom, my friend. God’s words aim to protect you and lead you to a more meaningful life. Psalms 119:9 says,

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”

“Young man” can be literal or figurative. So we definitely have no alibi. Aha! Right. So we cannot say this does not apply to us. You see, “young” can be interpreted to be someone with less experience about the word of God or life itself. We can be experienced and/or knowledgeable over something but not everything. Thus, living by the Word of God should give a concrete protection from falling and failing. Why? Because God is the Only Author of the life we are living right now. Who knows an invention better than its inventor? 2 Timothy 3:16,17 put it this way,

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Back to main topic, we all have sinned. At some point in our lives, we have missed to live by that Word of God. And as much as God’s Word can accomplish great things in our lives, so is the effect of sin cause great consequences. We need to understand that God takes this very seriously and He is looking forward to settle this with us. 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 says,

“… Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

The Scriptures enumarated a few:

1) Sexually immoral,

2) Idolaters,

3) Adulterers,

4) Men (and women) who practice homosexuality,

5) Thieves,

6) Greedy,

7) Drunkards,

8) Revilers, and

9) Swindlers.

We can discuss each one of these on a different forum. For now, perhaps we have a clear cut outlining on what is pleasing God and what is not. To reiterate, God does not intend to condemn us by laying these down before us. We condemn ourselves by our sins. He came to save. Not to condemn. By our decision to neglect His call, we condemn ourselves unworthy of Him and destined to eternal death (Hell). Pointing out which act is a sin or which person is sinning is not supposed to single us out to be humiliated in front of the so-called “saints” to judge us. Personally, the issue of sin does not concern us with our friend, pastor nor family. The issue of sin does concern us with God and with God alone! So let’s stop rationalizing and pointing our fingers to several folks whom we think we’re better than. God sees doing those unrigteous works a sin. And we need to personally settle it with Him. In Isaiah 1:18, God says,

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

God wants a reconcilation with us. Yup! We do commit sin. This writing dude is not exempted. God wants us to sit together with Him and settle our cases before Him — We, individually, and God Himself. No other mediator but Jesus Christ. You read that right. No, not your pastor nor any saint you have in mind right now. So, when God says that drunkeness is unrighteousness, and whosoever lived in it will not inherit His eternal kingdom, do not harden your heart and say, “It doesn’t actually mean that way. The world has changed, so is the Word of God. It has to ‘adapt’ to the current ‘trends’ of the world.” Seriously? Tell that to the never-changing God who created all things for His pleasure. Not to me. Because, first, why would I restrict you from doing what you want in life? Second and last, what does it profit me? None at all. And besides, that is the Word of God speaking to you and me. Not somebody else’s philosophy. God stands true to Himself, unchanging ever before the world began. So what should change His mind about His law? If the heavenly beings, so majestic and wonderful did not change a bit of His mind, who or what are we, helpless beings who came from earth’s dust and ashes to even attempt to do so? And yet, as discussed earlier, this Great God reached out to us, helpless and undeserving beings.

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.” (Hebrew 3:7,8)

To wrap up, God loves us. He did reach out for us no matter how undeserving we are. But it does not stop there. We have a responsibility to work out on our own — to humbly come unto His presence to settle our cases before Him. Acknowledge our sins before Him and ask for His forgiveness, then finally turn our backs to our sinful lifestyles. Sin no matter how small for us have the same result and gravity with gravest ones to God. If left unsettled, it will grow to overcome us and keep us from receiving God’s love and forgiveness. We need to settle it as soon as NOW! Yes. NOW. I will say it again, NOW! Can you feel it? It is that urgent. But it will always be your choice to respond to it. I hope and pray that by the time you decide to settle all your cases with God, it is not too late. When is too late? Who knows.

Accepted

We have heard stories about some men and women who went bitter about having relationships. Well, perhaps, their love and compassion were not reciprocated in a way they expect or deserve. They became that broken-hearted that they can’t take another risk of being rejected and abandoned. They have had enough.

In the world of people where each one seeks fulfillment and satisfaction, either from the things we do, or from people we share our lives with, truth is, we cannot always expect our efforts to be reciprocated. And that is the painful part of sacrificing. Sometimes, despite of how much we invest into our passions, we still appear to be lacking or unqualified. Hence, the attitude of independence, self-gratification, and selfishness. We are afraid to care anymore. We cannot take the risk of becoming attached to anyone, afraid of being rejected – sometime sooner or later. We cannot just blame people who seem to be heartless, incompassionate, and insensitive. They probably went through some tough experience from their family, former close friends, or even workplace. We became social beings, disconnected from each other.

Now that actually describes what really motivates us, what truly satisfies us, and what gives us real meaning and purpose. To be loved by the ones we love is natural. We do want to be loved, especially by those we hold dear. But, we must remember that in life, everything we see and touch do not last – no matter how we take care of it. Now, investing your life into these temporal things will, not for long, destroy you, devaste your outlook in life, and probably irreversibly damage your perspective to live up a meaningful life. You would then think of being left out, rejected, without purpose, unaccepted, unloved; and you think that Death is the only way out of this misery. It is called Depression.

“Do we have a remedy for all of these?” You might ask. Well, thankfully, YES! All our days, we are toiling for acceptance, belongingness and recognition. While we sacrifice too much to prove our worth and come up with the world’s standards, there is actually Someone who considers us more than enough to give up His best for. In fact, He actually laid down His life for us. And His name is Jesus. You don’t have to be a saint just to qualify for His love. (I am not saying that it is okay to remain on sinning and rebelling against God. That has to be a different issue to be dicussed on a separate article). Because long before you have heard of Him, He already have loved you, unconditionally. Yup! You read that right, my friend. That means, no matter how unworthy we think we are, so unclean that we even can’t forgive ourselves, Jesus Christ has died for us – you and me, simply because He has loved us, sinners who are worthy of death for all that we have done. (Now stop thinking you are better than your neighbor, ’cause, my friend, God does not compare you to that guy across the street. He compares you to His Son, Jesus Christ. You fall short of His glory, sinned in the sight of God; and the wages of sin is death. More of this on a separate article too. 😉) While you weep, feeling down on yourself, rejected and abandoned, God was there waiting for you to come unto Him. He wants to wipe those tears off, take all that burdens you are bearing, and fill you with His love. In Him you are secured, loved, accepted and cherished. He will be there when you need someone to talk to. He will be there to cheer you up when you are down. He will be there for you, simply because He loves you.

Now, how can we get access to this love? Forsake all your sinful lifestyle. Believe on Jesus Christ as you Savior and Lord, believing that His death on the cross is sufficient to forgive all of your sins. John 3:16 says,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Where is forsaking a sinful lifestyle in there? On a separate passage, it says:

“Testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21)

It says Repent. Repentance means “change of mind.” The Scripture is saying to us, lost in sinful lifestyle, to turn our backs to our sins and choose to follow God; to stop rebelling against His will and obey His word. We must forsake our old life and embrace a new life in Him. And there faith on Jesus Christ sets in. Forsaking your old life, you are facing a new life made accessible for you through Jesus’ death on the cross. Believing that His death is sufficient to pay the penalty of your sin, makes Him your Savior. Obeying and following Him makes Him your Lord. And by Him you will experience the goodness and love of God. So, to recap, what do you need to do? Do you have to earn a Master’s or Doctor’s degree? Do you have to inflict yourself with pain or give up your decent job so He can accept you? No. He just wants you to decide. Decide to choose Him. Decide to forsake what offends Him and pursue Him. That way, you can build a personal relationship with Him.

God is concerned about us. And He wants to build a relationship with us. Perhaps, the only way to live a meaningful life is through Him. Jesus made access for us to that life. You cannot always expect the world to accept you. But not so with God. With arms wide open, He is willing to receive you. And He offers a relationship where you can expect security that He is not going to leave you nor forsake you. All these are because God loves you.

You can reach us out if you need help with this.

Shalom.