Tag Archives: just one minute

What Does Abundant Life Look Like?

In John 9, Jesus heals a beggar blind from birth, enabling him to live a full life, not just live on the edge of life. The religious leaders of the day opposed this healing for silly and irrelevant reasons. In John 10, Jesus responded to the religious leaders with the parable of the Good Shepherd (Himself), contrasting Himself with the false shepherds of that day.

Unlike the false shepherds, Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

What would Jesus say about today’s prominent religious leaders and Christians? Do we live the abundant life, reflecting our Master? Truth is, to the world, the church often appears weak and irrelevant. Too many churches do not preach the Word. They dilute the gospel and its mission. Its people are rampant in unbelief. Its young people look elsewhere for answers the church does not provide.

Christian marriages fail as often or more than those in the world. Where are the signs and wonders? How many churches go for years without a single conversion or baptism?

Recently, I heard of a church that was closed down and sold to Buddhists. Weak preaching and teaching and lack of faith in God’s power gave the people no motivation to keep coming. The few who were left sold the building to the highest bidder. False shepherds.

We have more Bible reference books than ever, better-trained pastors—but more ignorance. Most people still cannot give a reason for the hope in them. They don’t know how to pray with power. Again, false shepherds.

As a church, we have allowed the world’s agenda to govern our lives and attitudes. Few Christians develop a Christian worldview, applying Bible standards to situations in the natural world. Is it any wonder the humanists and secularists have taken over? It is because of our weakness, not their strength. False shepherds, just as in Jesus’ day.

What does the abundant life look like? Think of Brother Lawrence, a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery, a man of limited schooling, born in poverty, suffering from wounds of war and imprisonment, awkward and rough in appearance. He had none of the things most of us count as needful for life. Yet he exhibited a profound wisdom found in few men. He found such joy in practicing the presence of God, he became the envy of all who met and knew him.

The collection of his letters and conversation, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” has become a classic portrait of the abundant life Jesus intended for all of us.

What does this mean for us today? To really believe and practice God’s presence means His presence will be strong in our meetings. We will no longer need gimmicks to attract people. People will hunger for God’s Word and ways. Preachers will preach with Holy Spirit anointing. The church will manifest the presence of God in signs and wonders.

Salvations will come by the millions from every class and age group. The love of God in our midst will overcome oppression, racism, immorality, hatred, anger, fear. Social transformation will take place. The gospel will burst out of the churches into the surrounding communities and into other nations of the world. Laws will change, becoming more righteous and just.

Amen! Let that day come, Lord Jesus!

Tagged , , , , , , ,

What does a good God do with evil?

John 9 is a passage that probably applies to most if not all of us. The story really begins at the end of the 8th chapter when Jesus leaves the temple in Jerusalem. On His way out, He and His disciples meet a blind beggar who sits at the temple gate.

The man has suffered blindness since birth. The context suggests he was a fixture at the gate for years, seen by everyone as they entered and left the temple. He was a familiar sight to the disciples who asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”

It was the wrong question, and Jesus corrected them. His response is usually mis-translated in our English versions. Without going into all the technicalities of Greek grammar, His response should be translated something like this: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but let the works of God be made manifest in him.”

Jesus’ response should become a comfort to all of us. Not all of life’s misfortunes result from personal or family sin. This includes events such as the loss of friends or loved ones, congenital illness, accidents, death of a child, or a host of events that prevent us from developing gifts or fulfilling good and reasonable dreams.

The disciples reacted to the blind man like Job’s “friends” reacted to his calamities. Jesus reminds His disciples (and us) that God does not cause evil. He does not bring sorrows, calamities and limitations in our lives, even for His glory. These misfortunes come from the devil, whose work He has come to destroy. In other words, the only one at fault is Satan.

This should be good news to all of us who suffer for seemingly irrational purposes. We may even wonder what sin we have committed for God to punish us like this.

Jesus demonstrates to the disciples (and to all of us) that God desires to bring good out of the evil in our lives. Having secured the blind man’s permission, He heals the blind man, enabling him to see for the first time in his life. No longer does he have to sit and beg at the temple gate. Now, he has the opportunity to live a fulfilling life rather than live on the edge of life.

What a lesson to us! Jesus wants to make the works of God manifest in us. He especially wants to heal those areas of misfortune in our lives that come to us through no fault of our own. When we give Him permission to heal, no longer are we bound to our past or to family or environmental circumstances we cannot control.

God does not cause evil, but He can use evil to humble and prepare us for His greater works in us. When we give Him permission, He will change our circumstances in ways possible only with Him. He will make a way where there is no way.

Someone has said, “The Crucified God is not in control of evil, sickness and suffering because He is too busy destroying them and bringing good out of them.”

All of this is part of the Good News that we should make part of our own lives and share with those who have yet to hear of Him.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Perceive Jesus

Many people say they believe in Jesus, but they are not true believers. What we believe about Jesus makes all the difference.

In John 7, Jesus’ own brothers “believed” in Jesus, but they believed He was a magician and a secular Messiah. They saw Him as a celebrity who needed to put Himself out before the world.

This chapter takes places near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, just before He goes to Jerusalem. These brothers, His own flesh and blood, grew up with Him from infancy. For nearly three years, they saw his miracles and heard Him teach. They regarded themselves as on His side.

But something did not penetrate their thinking. They still did not understand that He came to seek and save the lost, to destroy the works of the devil, to reconcile fallen men, women and children to God.

If Jesus’ own flesh and blood did not really know Him, what does that say about us in our own day? Many in our own generation have gross misconceptions of Jesus. To some, He is a moral wisdom philosopher and example. Others see Him as a revolutionary. Still others view Him as a fulfiller of wishes, a mystic, a political figure. Very popular today is the misconception of Him as the name-it-and-claim-it proponent of the prosperity gospel.

Most people see Jesus as a real person, but disagree strongly about who He was or is. Some say He was a sinner like everyone else. Even many so-called “evangelicals” in our age of tolerance find it hard to accept Jesus as the only Way.

It is clear that John, the writer of this gospel, identifies Jesus Christ with His passion. Two-thirds of John’s gospel is taken up with the final week of His life, with His death and resurrection. He came into this world to give His life—to become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Any other identity we give to Jesus is wrong.

Correct belief in Jesus’ identity is critical to our salvation. Jesus Himself said, “Except you believe that I am He [that is, God], you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). By God, Jesus clearly meant He is One with the all-righteous Father, maker of heaven and earth. This is a far cry from the ideas of many people, including many who go to church every Sunday.

We cannot pervert the truth of His nature and discount His exclusive and stated mission without paying an eternal price.

Do we believe in Jesus as He really is, or do we impose our own assumptions and presuppositions on Him? It is easier than we think to let the relativistic standards of the world influence our perception of the One we call Savior and Lord. Satan works overtime to distort the understanding of God’s children.

How we perceive Jesus influences the way we pray, or mis-pray or don’t pray at all. How we perceive Jesus influences the degree we share His passion for the lost and the importance of His Great Commission.

Let us resolve to better know Him so we may better share Him with millions who hunger and thirst for the righteousness only He can give.

Tagged , , ,

God’s Sovereignty, Human Responsibility

creation-of-adamHolistic healing—the harmonious relationship of body, soul and spirit— comes when we learn to live our lives governed by the grace of God. How do we know we are governed by the grace of God? I submit to you a simple test. Ask yourself this question: When were you saved?

Now—what is the very first thing that comes into your mind when you read this question? The answer to this question—the only biblical answer—is, “At the cross, by the eternal plan of God the Father before He created the world.” (Read the details in Romans and Ephesians.)

There is a delicate balance between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. To the degree we tip that balance to the human side, we err. God takes the initiative. We love Him because He first loved us. Even the process of conviction comes from the Holy Spirit. If we associate the moment of our salvation mainly with the day we knelt at our bedside, walked down an aisle, prayed the sinner’s prayer or any other thing, to that degree we make our salvation a thing of our own doing more than God’s grace.

To the extent we tip that balance, we become less able to hear the Holy Spirit, and we become more vulnerable to the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil. We become more prone to the stress of believing lies rather than truth, of living at a lower level than God intended for us.

If we are honest with ourselves, none of us fully accepts the grace of God in our hearts, even if we believe it in our minds. Our habits of thinking and doing are still deeply rooted in fallen natures which want to do everything in our own strength. We are more ungodly in our thinking than we imagine.

Instead of kicking ourselves for our failures, we must daily remind ourselves that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” Learning to live by God’s grace is a lifelong process. Knowing God saved us at the cross through His Son should better help us to accept ourselves because HE accepts us and aids us in transforming our awed lives and characters. This is a difficult, but necessary step toward holistic healing.

Psychology tells us that to accept ourselves, we must look into our past to heal ourselves. But God, the Great Physician, accepts us at a deeper level, and He did it before we were born. To experience full healing, we come to know ourselves best when we first learn to know God’s grace. This is when true healing takes place.

Our failure to live by God’s grace explains the poor health of so many churches and our culture. When the church does not live out the full healing power of grace, we cannot live as salt and light, and we cannot change the culture around us. All of this makes the church appear powerless, unable to bring the Great Physician to a hurting world.

Paul preached the finished work of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). His emphasis upon God’s grace in Jesus Christ helped to spread the gospel across the Roman Empire. Let us pray for an unprecedented Great Awakening to the truth of God’s holiness and God’s grace and see the gospel once again spread like wild fire throughout the unreached world!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Slaves to Stress

IMG_3180Body, soul and spirit—we are all three, and each affects the others.

Did you know that 75-90% of doctor visits take place for stress-related ailments—headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety, upset stomach, sleeping problems? These stress-related issues chronically affect 43% of adults, costing billions of dollars a year to the workplace, causing hazards to others. The tendency is to self-medicate with alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex.

These issues affect Christians as well as non-Christians. The real cause of stress often has spiritual roots. It may affect people who have gone to church all their lives and are busy in the Lord’s work. Why? Because they have unresolved issues they can’t resolve simply by reading a good book, going to church or Bible study, memorizing scripture, as good as these things are.

Stress often comes because we have learned lies about ourselves from life experiences and from the father of lies, to render us useless, to harm us and even kill us. Often, we have little idea how sin corrupts everything. The enemy, more clever than we, has kept us from seeing the truth.

The Bible warns us that sin has power in this world. Lies about life can destroy us. The enemy keeps these lies below our consciousness to wound and harm us for decades without our knowing the lies are there. We experience continual defeat, and defeat causes stress.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” Jesus said. Paul also said this when he wrote, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

For this, we need not just to “get information” but get the help of the Holy Spirit to discern our situation and to speak truth to us through applied scripture. When the truth of scripture shines on the lies of the enemy and of life that have governed and limited us, the enemy retreats, and we gain freedom. The source of our stress is removed, and we regain physical and emotional health as well as spiritual health.

Psychology alone, which depends upon humanistic theories, does not suffice for this spiritual work of renewal and setting free. But it can take place through the help of men and women gifted and trained in biblical counseling.

Biblical counseling is not just another form of psychology, nor is it simply limited to spiritual issues. Rather, it is a means of applying the truth of the Bible to all of life—spiritual, emotional, mental, physical. A biblical counselor enables a person to identify the source of his problem—the lie that is keeping him in bondage—and to shine the light of the Word upon it. The light of truth always dispels the works of darkness.

Biblical counseling is a new and growing avenue of grace and redemption, setting people free and renewing minds for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. It is winning people to Christ and setting men, women and children free to become the people God meant them to be.

We thank God for this new avenue of grace and redemption that has become available at India Bible College & Seminary. Pray that God will call more men and women into this unique ministry, and that millions of people in India and beyond will receive its benefits.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Walk in God’s Light

2016-11-in-the-lightThe light of God is like a great feast of endless delight for all who accept His invitation to partake of it. With His light, we know we are headed in the right direction. He sent His light into the world through His Son, Jesus Christ, in whom there is no darkness at all.

Those who gladly receive the Light that is Jesus Christ will experience transformation. We receive a changed nature and become part of His new humanity. We receive a more childlike nature, more inclined to trust the word and the person of Jesus Christ in opposition to the prevailing culture. We more readily delight in the truth of God.

Our eyes will open to things we never saw before, and which others, who do not have the Light, cannot see. We will more readily speak the truth. We will more readily see the true mind and character of God and desire that above all else. We will more readily live a life of fruitfulness, joy and peace.

This does not mean we can or will attain sinless perfection in this earthly life, but we will have greater ability to understand ourselves and our world from God’s viewpoint. We will put less trust in human wisdom. We will better understand that human wisdom will disappoint us in some way because human understanding always falls short of God’s perfect Light.

Every follower of Christ has the Holy Spirit who provides the potential to experience all the light of Christ. Because of sinful habits we have developed since birth, we may still allow emotions, social or business pressures, cultural norms and other things to sway us—things that seem logical and even good to us, but do not take into account the full truth God makes available to us.

David was a man after God’s own heart, and yet he allowed Bathsheba’s beauty to capture him more than the Light of God. He suffered dire consequences for his acts, and brought untold suffering upon himself and others that continued even after he repented. In many ways, Judas and Peter perceived the Light better than any of us, yet they betrayed and cursed the Light for short-sighted reasons. If they failed, we are also subject to failure.

Jesus invites and warns us at the same time when He says, “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” We have the Light now, but if we ignore the Light, we will not always have Him. If we continually look to our own light, darkness will overtake us, and he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.

The Light of God is found in the Word of God through the Spirit of God. We must learn to let His Word speak to us in our daily lives, let it challenge our ideas, let it take precedence over cultural norms and trendy presumptions. Learning to follow the light is difficult for people like us with sinful tendencies to wander.

Let us remember that in the end, it is not we who possess the Light, but the Light Who possesses us. This is the ultimate message of the Good News, and let us make sure that others see signs of the Light in us.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Grace to the Graceless

2016-10-graceOur effective fulfilling the Great Commission sometimes depends upon how we honor the most dishonorable people of our lives with God’s grace. This may include parents who mistreated, neglected and abused us.

To a degree, we all experience dysfunction. All parents are sinners. Yet some of us have or had parents who gave us little more than misery and torment. Just the thought of them revolts us. God commands us to honor our parents, but how do we honor them?

You cannot truly obey this command until you first know God and the great work He has already done for you through Jesus Christ — deep in your heart, not just in your head. This requires a supernatural act, the earnest of the Holy Spirit, assuring you of deep gospel truths in deep ways, as they apply to your unique situation.

Those truths include God’s foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justifying and glorifying of you before creation (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-5). You may have terrifying or awful parents, but long before God created Adam and Eve, He chose to pull you from this muck and make you His own. Not even the cruelest parents can pluck you from His hand.

Vietnamese people have a proverb that well illustrates this fantastic truth: “The lotus grows in mud, but it doesn’t smell of mud.” You are that lotus. Discover who you really are in Him, and He will give you the grace to honor wretched parents even as He has chosen to honor you.

Remember that God is a “Father to the fatherless” (Psalm 65:8). He can use everything for the good of those who love Him and are called of Him (Romans 8:28). Take a small step of faith toward Him, see Him act, then take another step. Be honest with God about your feelings. As a man, He was “despised and rejected . . . a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” (Isaiah 53:3) so He understands your situation perfectly. He wants to help you do what you can’t do yourself.

Remember that honor is primarily an action, not a feeling. It is an offer of God’s grace to graceless people. It does not mean trusting them or tolerating further abuse or rewarding their evildoing. Thank God He is big enough he can even use such nasty people to bring you into the world and adopt you into His royal family!

Practically speaking, how can we honor dishonorable parents? Here are some suggestions:

  • Become willing to forgive them and release emotional baggage. Only the Holy Spirit can help you do this. With Him all things are possible (Mark 10:22). Read Lewis Smedes’ Forgive and Forget—a helpful book.
  • When possible, call and listen to them, and say nothing when they say hurtful things.
  • When possible, do acts of kindness for them.
  • Accept them where they are. Don’t expect them to match your expectations.
  • Note any good things they may have done and express gratitude for them.
  • Don’t criticize your parents before other family members.
  • Create safe boundaries to prevent manipulation.
  • Teach your children to love their grandparents.
  • Pray for parents who mistreated you.
  • Let your relationship with Christ shine through. Who knows? God’s grace in your life, shown to them, may eventually bring them to Christ. It happens.

Sometimes the hardest people to win for Christ come from under our own roof. Let God use this acid test to train you to reach around the world in His name.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Do You Truly Know Him?

More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached, “What this world needs more than anything else is personal knowledge of the true character of God. Our basic problem is a profound ignorance of God’s character.”

If anything, those words are truer today than ever before—a profound ignorance of the character of God. Tragically, this is true even in many churches that call themselves “Christian.”

Too many Christians have bought into the lie that God is a creation of our psychological state, and that we can pick and choose what parts of God we like and leave out whatever makes us feel uncomfortable. Too many Christians have bought into the lie that religion begins and ends with ourselves, that God is about “meeting my needs and the needs of my family.”

The names of God in the Bible do not allow us this fantasy. God’s names in the Bible do not result from philosophical speculation but are the names God gives to Himself. They reveal His true being. They shatter our ignorance. They remind us that He makes us, we don’t make Him.

God reveals who He is through His names because He wants us to experience Him. He wants us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” God is always greater than what we think of Him. If we are attracted to the God of love and grace, we must also experience the holy and righteous God who hates and judges our sin. We must also experience the God who demands our total submission to Him. In our present culture, these truths cause discomfort even in the church.

When we adapt God to our own desires and dreams, we cannot experience a true relationship with Him. True relationship with anyone is impossible with fantasies about that person, even more so with God. Whenever we leave something out of God’s character, we experience less of Him, not more. We know less of His love and grace. We know less of His power. In the end, He becomes remote and impotent to us, and we trust Him less, not more.

In today’s world, a remote God is the last thing we need. With all its confusion and turmoil, the world looms large, and God appears small and ineffective even to many Christians, unable to help them overcome daily problems of raising families, deal with health issues, find hope in turbulent electoral politics, face the prospect of death.

God is pleased to reveal hundreds of names of Himself in the Bible. The multiplicity of God’s names in scripture reveal how great He really is—and how little we truly know Him. The multiplicity of His names also demonstrate God’s continuing and patient invitation to us to know Him better.

When we allow Him to surround and embrace us with who He really is, and not who we want Him to be, we discover joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of war, opportunities in the midst of obstacles, accomplishment in the midst of mundane toil.

The multiplicity of God’s names speak of the greatness of God. Let us proclaim this great God to a fragmented world and anticipate His promise of that day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Monica’s Prayers

Monica's-PrayersEach believer in Christ is called to do great and mighty things for God. To say, “I am just a small and insignificant person” shows lack of faith and insults God to think He cannot work through you.

The name of “Monica” is remembered for the lasting influence she had upon her son, Augustine. A Christian woman of the 4th century, she was called by God to pray him into the Kingdom. It doesn’t sound like much of a calling—to pray for a single person—but Monica did not waver in her commitment because she knew God had placed this upon her.

Augustine was not a promising prospect. Highly intelligent, he was also lazy, a lover of pleasure and sensuality. Monica tried to teach him to pray, but he twisted her intentions by praying, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet!” He took a lover and had a son out of wedlock, and he did many other things that broke Monica’s heart, but she never stopped praying for her son with many tears.

One day, as Augustine tells it himself, he heard a childlike voice say to him, “Take up and read.” He saw this as a divine command to open the Bible and read the first thing he saw. When he opened the Bible, he found himself in the Book of Romans, and his eyes fell upon these words:

“…not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision of the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:13-14).

These short words struck him as a summary of his own life and a call to commit his life to Jesus Christ. It came as a word from the Holy Spirit. From this moment on, Augustine became a new man in Christ.

In coming days, Augustine became one of the most prolific and influential Christian thinkers and writers of all time, influencing Protestants and Catholics alike. Martin Luther and John Calvin were strongly indebted to him. His influence helped to end slavery in Europe. He helped to lay early Christian foundations for later scientific learning and research.

Augustine gave credit for his transformation to the faithful prayers of his mother, Monica, who never gave up on him even in his darkest days. In the end, Monica’s prayers not only influenced her son’s life but also generations of believers and of human society around the world.

Monica’s story and that of her son, Augustine, teach all of us the power of our influence, and how it may even change generations not yet born. God is glorified when we put ourselves into His hands. God told Jeremiah, “Call unto me, and I will answer and do great and mighty things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). God’s invitation to Jeremiah is also His invitation to us.

In dark days like our own, God especially loves to work His greatest works, through people willing for Him to use them.

All major revivals and awakenings begin in dark days when nameless people, known only to God, cry out to Him. The most influential people in the world are those not paralyzed by the times but energized by them because they anticipate His victory and their part in helping to make it happen.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

We Are Not Powerless

Not-PowerlessToday, millions of people feel alienated from society. To feel alienated is to feel excluded and powerless. Right now, Christians are coming under increasing attack. We are told we live in a “post-Christian generation.” Christians and Christian values are mocked as backward, stupid and harmful.

In the past, Christians have influenced society in dark days. In many ways, they have helped to reduce illiteracy, increase freedom, free slaves and addictions, helped children, increase scientific knowledge and invent new devices to improve life. Persecuted Christians held civilization together after the Roman Empire deteriorated and collapsed.

Do Christians have any influence in our world today? Is the 2nd coming of Christ our only hope? “We are not powerless…” said John Stott, “What we are, rather, is often lazy and shortsighted and unbelieving and disobedient to the commission of Jesus.”

John Stott, English preacher, author, and influential evangelical leader was named by Time magazine as one of the “100 most influential people of the world.” He has offered four ways by which the average Christian can influence this generation for Christ:

  1. Prayer. Most people dismiss prayer as a psychological device, but serious, Spirit-led prayer is the creative power of God to accomplish humanly impossible things for God’s kingdom and glory. Most people do not pray with power or seriousness. Even when we pray, we still act as if everything depends upon us. True prayers of faith move God to move mountains, including spiritually dull and rebellious cultures.
  2. Truth. All truth is God’s truth, never the devil’s truth. All lies are the devil’s lies. Writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.” The world needs more Christians who can effectively communicate Bible truth through words, art, literature, science and every other part of life. All truth vindicates the Bible, and the wise Christian who advocates the truth changes lives and society.
  3. Example. We help others see the advantages of Christian values by the way we live, work, raise our families and help others. Our example should present a clear difference between Christian and world values. Jesus tells us that when people see our good deeds, “they will glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). A complaint of many people is that they see no difference between a professed Christian’s life and that of anyone else’s.
  4. Group solidarity. Jesus began His ministry with only 12 dedicated men filled with the Holy Spirit, yet those 12 men’s influence changed the world, even in their own day. God has not changed. Robert Belair of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University has said, “The quality of a whole culture may be changed when 2% of its people have a new vision.”

All major revivals, awakenings and evangelism explosions begin in dark days when people get on their knees and cry out to God. Our crises become God’s opportunities to act in great and mighty ways. The most influential people in the world are those who are not paralyzed by the times but energized by them because they anticipate His victory and their part in helping to make it happen.

Tagged , , , ,