RSS

Monthly Archives: March 2014

ON THE ISSUE OF ALCOHOL COSUMPTION BY BELIEVERS…

Should a Christian drink any beverage with alcohol in it? What does the Bible actually say about this issue?

We believe that the Bible is God’s inspired word, in which He reveals a great deal of who He is, who men are to Him, and how He expects men to relate to Him. In the Bible, He makes some of His feelings and will about certain issues very clear, and on other issues, a bit of understanding that is born of spiritual revelation and guidance, is required to know what God actually expects from His followers.

The issue of whether Christians should consume alcoholic beverages is one that has been debated since the beginning of Christianity and will continue to be debated till our Lord comes back! Various stands have been vigorously and religiously (pun intended) taken on this issue which have, for the most part, left believers and non-believers more confused than enlightened on what is actually expected of believers in Christ concerning alcohol intake. The following is my humble take on the issue…

  1. MY CASE FOR ALCOHOL CONSUPTION BY BELIEVERS

Let’s be clear about one fact: There isn’t a single place where the Bible states that alcohol intake is forbidden to God’s followers. So based on this, Christianity does not forbid alcohol intake. Any church that teaches that Christianity forbids it, is playing religion, pure and simple! I know of one particular denomination that forbids beer drinking, but allows any other type of alcoholic beverage. How can anyone not be confused by such an inconsistent and hypocritical stance on the issue?

Here’s something the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 11:18-19, when comparing Himself to John-the-Baptist:  “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon. 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” (NIV)

So let’s analyze this statement with a clear and unbiased mind: We know that John-the-Baptist maintained some very strict rules about his lifestyle which, no doubt, included abstaining from alcoholic beverages.

On the other hand we know that tax collectors and sinners do not shy from alcoholic beverages. So what they drank in the Lord’s presence must have been alcoholic. And we also know that ‘drunkard’ means one thing: A drunken individual!

So in that statement, the Lord Jesus clearly said: John-the-Baptist didn’t drink, and you thought he was strange for that. I came and I hung out with people who drank alcoholic beverage, and you call me a drunk.

Many pastors try to explain that what Jesus drank was ‘new wine’; the unfermented non-alcoholic kind of wine. But I beg to differ because if the Lord only drank non-alcoholic new wine, He would not have complained about people thinking of Him as a drunkard. He would have simply pointed out that what He drank wasn’t even alcoholic. (And if He didn’t even drink any kind of wine, but drank only water, He would have made that clear as well.) BUT HE CLEARLY DID NOT DEFEND THE CHARGE. He was only astonished at how inconsistent and hypocritical the people could be.

So whether the Lord Jesus consumed alcoholic beverages or not, He clearly never condemned it.

Neither does the apostle Paul, whose advice to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23 has been a ‘lifesaver’ to those in the Church who believe they ought to be allowed to indulge alcohol. They will religiously remind anyone that Paul told Timothy “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (NIV) You’d be amazed how many believers out there claim to have stomach issues so they can stand on this advice to quench their thirst for alcohol. It shouldn’t have to be so.

Here are perhaps, the most compelling statements made by the Lord Jesus and Apostle Paul, which make alcohol consumption by a believer not sinful:

Jesus said in Mark 7:14-23 “…“Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) 20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (NIV)

And Paul said in Romans 14:20 “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.” (NIV)

The bible makes it clear in these two passages that all foods INCLUDING alcoholic beverages are ‘clean’ before God, meaning acceptable to Him for consumption. ANYONE WHO SAYS OTHERWISE IS GOING AGAINST THE EXPRESS WORD OF GOD!

What we do see a lot of in the Scripture, is God’s contempt for heavy drinking and drunkenness. The book of Proverbs, for instance is full of rebuke of the practice. Isaiah 5:22 says ” Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink” (KJV). We know that anything done in excess can be bad. Therefore, God expects that anyone who consumes alcohol must do so wisely and with measure.

Consider this fact: A lot of the foods we eat contain trace amounts of alcohol. Do we sin because we ate such foods? NO! Understand something: It’s either sinful in God’s eyes or it’s not. No middle ground! God does not play with sin! If something is sinful, there’s no circumstance in which he would consider it okay to engage in such a thing. So if alcohol consumption is sinful, there’s no way Apostle Paul would have advised Timothy to touch it. Let us stop playing religion with this issue and teach the truth: Nothing that is ingested as food – alcoholic beverage, rum cake, dishes cooked with alcohol, foods that naturally contain alcohol – is sinful before God. What is sinful is the evil that proceed out of us – out of our hearts, minds, mouths, actions!

2.  MY CASE AGAISNT ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION BY BELIEVERS 

By His declaration in Mark 7:14-23 the Lord set us free and we are free to eat and drink what we want. What is expected from us is to exercise this freedom in a wise and godly manner. Therefore, the reason a believer ought to consider abstaining from alcohol consumption is that it can cause a lot of harm to the Body of Christ in so many different ways, namely:

  • Offending people
  • Bringing shame and reproach to a believer
  • Hinder a believer’s walk with, and growth in, the Lord.

a. Offending people:

Paul’s statement in Romans 14:20 (quoted above) says it all: The very purpose for which he made that statement was to encourage the Christian brethren who consumed alcohol to abstain from alcohol consumption because doing so was causing problems for some other believers who felt that it was wrong.

This brings up reason #1 for a believer to abstain from alcohol consumption: Stay away from it because your drinking might be a problem for those around you – believers and unbelievers – who believe it’s wrong for a believer to drink alcohol. You will agree with me that most unbelievers expect that believers should abstain from alcohol consumption! Many believers have left the church because they could not stand what they perceived to be ‘hypocrisy’ from their fellow believers. And many unbelievers have found it hard to accept the Lord because they feel that the church is one very hypocritical place.

So out of love for God, Jesus and your fellow men, you ought to do the right thing and give up alcohol consumption because you do not want to:

  • Offend anyone
  • Cause anyone to sin in their heart
  • Be a stumbling block to anyone

Consider it as part of your sacrifice unto God as a believer who loves Him and wishes to do only things that will benefit His church, and nothing that would cause harm to her.

b. Bring shame and reproach to a believer:

In advising both Timothy and Titus as church leaders, Paul taught them that:

  • “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach…” (1 Timothy 3:2, KJV)
  • “Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.” (1 Timothy 3:11, KJV)
  • ” For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate…” (Titus 1:7-8, KJV)
  • “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world…” (Titus 2:11-12, KJV)

Even in the secular world, certain positions require that the holders thereof refrain from any kind of behavior that would bring reproach to them and, consequently, to their position. There’s even an expression: ‘sober as a judge’! By virtue of their exalted position, judges are to be without reproach! This is ever more true with Christians! A drunken believer, or worse yet, a drunken leader in the church, can never be a good thing. They can only bring shame and reproach to the church. The passages quoted above cover ALL BELIEVERS: The bishops (referring to the leaders and anyone in a high position within the church), their wives (referring to women), and  “ALL MEN” (see Titus 2:11), referring to EVERYONE who considers himself a believer, not just those in leading positions.

And as we can see in 1 Timothy 3:2, a bishop must be … “apt to teach”. How is a believer going to be teaching people the word of God while drunk? He would only incur shame and reproach. Therefore, in order to ALWAYS be ready and ‘apt’ to teach the word of God, a bishop must NEVER be drunk.

c. Hinder a believer’s walk with, and growth in, the Lord:

Alcohol impairs. It impairs a lot of things in a man: his mind, his senses, his spirit, his speech, his vision, his motor skills… This can cause – and it does cause – a lot of problems for a believer who seeks to walk with God. And if a believer cannot walk with God, he cannot grow in God.

Here are some other advices given by the spiritual giants from whom we learn how to walk with the Lord:

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:6: “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” (KJV throughout)
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:8: “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.”
  • 1 Peter 4:7: “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.”
  • 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…” 

As someone who wakes up in the middle of the night to spend hours in prayer on a daily basis, I can tell you that prayer is indispensable for a successful walk with the Lord and for spiritual growth! I can also tell you, as someone who used to get seriously drunk, that you can’t spend time in prayer while drunk! Notice all the crucial advice given to us believers by  Apostles Paul and Peter:

  • Do not sleep, but watch
  • Put on the breastplate of faith and helmet of salvation
  • Watch and pray
  • Be vigilant; or be devoured by the devil

These are all indispensable actions that a believer MUST CONSTANTLY take in order to succeed as a follower of Christ, and for every one of these actions to be successfully executed, we must be sober! Think about this:

  • You can’t go before God all drunk or at least intoxicated and expect to get into his holy presence.
  • With the alcohol numbing your senses, how do you expect to communicate with God?

So if you can’t spend time with the Lord in prayer because you’re drunk all the time, how do you expect to grow in Him?

And if your argument is that you’re not always drunk, well here’s the problem: During those times when you are drunk or at least intoxicated to a degree, you could fall into all kinds of troubles that can affect your standing as a Christian. 1Peter 5:8 addresses this: Your enemy the devil will be watching for those moments when you’re spiritually weak from drunkenness or even mild intoxication, to attack you in some way!

I could go on and on about reasons for a believer to abstain from alcohol as a matter of spiritual duty, but anyone reading this ought to have gotten the point by now.

It’s a matter of wisdom. Note that in none of the passages quoted above did the Apostles command anyone to not drink at all. They only advised – very strongly – to be sober! To me, personally, being sober means to not be even remotely intoxicated. Totally alcohol-free! To another, it may mean a glass a wine, no more. I don’t know what it means to you, dear reader. Even if the Lord Jesus did consume alcohol in those times when He dined with alcohol drinkers, the fact remains that He did not go around drinking and getting drunk. So even if it was that He drank some, I know that He was wise and strong enough to know how little He ought to take. And that’s the problem with the rest of us. We seldom know our limits, and often end up getting very intoxicated, which then brings a world of shame to us and to the church. As we know, the Lord prayed EVERY NIGHT! So it’s clear that on those occasions when He dined with alcohol, He made sure that He took very little if any, so as to be sober and ready to spend time with the Father later in the night. And we know that He was ALWAYS ready to teach. So even if He drank at all, it would be in such an insignificant amount that it wouldn’t have any effect on Him at all.

In my case, the Lord advised me to completely stay away from alcohol! God knows me, and knows that I’m not the type of person to have one or two bottles of beer and call it the day or night. In fact, the words of Isaiah 5:22 quoted earlier, used to refer to me. I was known for a mixture called Black & Tan, which was a  mixture of dark ale and regular beer. Needless to say, it was a powerful mixture. For this reason the Lord didn’t just advise, but ordered me to entirely stay away from the substance. And He did a great miracle for me and enabled me to give up alcohol cold turkey!

Therefore, I’ll close with this:

  1. If you know in your spirit that the Lord is prompting you to abstain from alcohol, do so! Because even though alcohol consumption is not sinful in itself, anyone who’s been ordered – or feels led – to abstain from it would be committing the sin of disobedience if he still indulged in it.
  2. Even if you haven’t received any command from the Lord to totally abstain from alcohol, and you do drink regularly, there might be an occasion when He might want you to abstain, and order you to abstain. It might be for any reason, which He might reveal to you or not. He sees and knows things that we don’t. Examples: It may be because there’s someone around who might get offended by your drinking at that very moment. You don’t know this, but the Lord does. You might be getting pulled over by the police in a routine traffic stop later on after you’ve left the place where you are about to drink. The Lord knows this and is trying to keep you out of jail. He may be wanting you to share His word with someone some time later, or in that very place where you are, so He needs you to stay clean and sober for the task ahead.

This is why my personal advice to anyone who seeks to honor God with his own life is to totally stay away from alcohol. The detrimental effects of alcohol consumption to a Christian far outweigh whatever benefits he may gain from it.

May God grant us the grace to always do the right thing in our walk with Him here on earth, and in our race to be with Him in heaven FOR ETERNITY!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on March 31, 2014 in SHORT MESSAGES

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APPREHENDED FOR SERVICE

Every believer would love to hear the words ‘The Lord’s hand is upon you.’ Because that would mean that the Lord’s blessings, protection, favor and every good thing that He has to give, are flowing into the believer’s life thru His mighty hand.

But do we ever stop to consider the other side of that coin, which is that the Lord’s hand being upon a believer also means that He has ‘got His hand on’ the believer, or that He has ‘laid hold of’ the believer?

Now why would the Lord lay hold of a believer?

Knowing the answer to this question is the ultimate goal that Apostle Paul sought to attain as a follower of Jesus-Christ. He declared this in Philippians 3:12, where he said:

“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (KJV)

So Paul had come to understand that God had apprehended – laid hold of – him for a very specific purpose. Therefore, he made it his life goal to lay hold of that purpose! To discover that purpose and fulfill it!

Here’s a larger quote of Paul’s powerful and memorable declaration:

“That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:10-14, KJV.

Our great God NEVER does anything without a clear and strong purpose. So if He decided to lay hold of someone, it’s ALWAYS for a very specific and worthy purpose. Paul understood this, especially considering the unusual way in which Christ literally apprehended him while he was on his way to Damascus. So he figured that the only life worth living for him would be that one life that God had planned for him to live from the moment He apprehended him onward. The only purpose for his life would be to serve the Lord in the ways that the Lord had intended for him to serve Him; to accomplish whatever tasks the Lord would want him to accomplish.

It is this understanding that drove Paul day in and day out, and helped him to live such a successful life as a servant of our Lord Jesus-Christ. Verse 12, quoted above, summarizes Paul’s reason for living as a believer. He had gotten the clear understanding and had accepted the idea that there was a specific reason for which Christ had saved him and brought Him into His kingdom and workforce. EVERY WORKER IN AN ORGANIZATION HAS A SPECIFIC TASK FOR WHICH HE WAS HIRED, AND MUST STRIVE TO DO ONLY ONE THING IN THAT ORGANIZATION, WHICH IS FULFILL THAT TASK.

The problem with Christianity these days is that most believers want the hand of the Lord to be upon them only for the purpose of bestowing His blessings upon them, and they would rather not think of the fact that it also means that they have been apprehended – laid hold of – by the Lord in order for Him to use them to perform some very specific tasks in his kingdom.

The parable of the talents teach us a very crucial lesson on this issue (see Matthew 25:14-30). Like each of those servants who were given at least one talent by which they were expected to be productive unto their master, so has our Lord given EVERY SINGLE believer at least one type of gift, or talent, by which we are to serve Him and help build His kingdom.

So here’s what getting saved basically means: It means being called to serve! Salvation is a call to service in the kingdom of God. It means that when a person gets saved, God basically gets ahold of him, and says to him ‘come and serve Me’, and He then assigns some specific task to him, AND EMPOWERS HIM – gives him the gifts, talents, grace, power – to fulfill that task.

And here’s one of the major reasons we go to church: To come into the Lord’s presence, where we get to receive more and more of His power, grace and gifts. What for??? TO SERVE HIM!!! So imagine not putting all the anointing that we receive to work!!! That’s akin to not using the talents that we receive from the Lord. God forbid!

Which is I why I URGE you, in the words of Paul in verse 15 quoted above: “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude!” Have this attitude that was in Paul, which is born out of a total conviction that your life will have been lived in vain if you fail to achieve ALL that God has purposed to use you to accomplish in this world. DO NOT LEAVE TO CHANCE THE SUCCESSFUL FULFILLMENT OF GOD’S PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE! Rather, like Paul and like every successful servant of God dead or alive, DETERMINE to achieve ALL that God has put in you to achieve in this world to His glory! LET THAT BE YOUR SOLE REASON TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD!

As the parable of the talents shows, some of us are endowed with more than one talent or gift. Therefore, seeking the reason for which you were apprehended by God means seeking to know in what ways (PLURAL) He has gifted you for His service. It means seeking to serve in as many areas of service as possible.

Therefore, brethren please be wise and:

–   See your service unto the Lord as an employment in His Kingdom. The way you see yourself as an employee at your workplace, which drives you to do well in your job, is the way you need to see yourself being employed in God’s vineyard. That way you can be more serious about the fact that you have a job to do in His kingdom, and take that job seriously. If you serve in any capacity at your local church, for instance, render that service as you would at your paying job. Show up on time; be determined to do your best. SERVE WITH FEAR! We are afraid to disappoint our earthly superiors at work because we know there would be consequences. We must fear the Lord even more, and serve Him with trembling, knowing that our services are being recorded in heaven, and that we will one day have to answer for it.

–   Be mindful of the fact that there’s a reward for your services from heaven, not from the senior pastor of the church, or the leader of the Christian ministry where you’re serving. See God as your employer would DOES reward your services.

– But most of all, LET US SERVE HIM WITH LOVE AND DEVOTION! Let us do it because He is God, and deserves our love and worship, and SERVING HIM IS A POWERFUL FORM OF WORSHIP! It is a powerful way of telling Him: You are my God, my Master and Owner!

Yes, we have to make money in order to meet our financial responsibilities in life. So we must work for a living, and this can make it very difficult to also devote ourselves to serving the Lord in some way. But Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and with God this is all the more true! If you hunger to serve the Lord, HE WILL help you find a way to serve Him despite your burdensome life. And if you serve Him under very hard circumstances, the greater will be His reward upon your life! So drop whatever excuses you have been making for not serving the Lord in some way. Determine that you will play a role in advancing His kingdom on earth! Look within you and figure out what you would like to be doing for Him! You’ll be amazed to find that He’s been waiting for you to simply start serving Him in that way!

May our great God richly bless your life as you endeavor to pursue and achieve that for which He apprehended you, to His glory! Amen!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 29, 2014 in SHORT MESSAGES

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

WHAT DO YOU WANT, AND HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT IT?

Stray dogs have no home and must, therefore, fend for themselves by visiting dumpsters. Now imagine a stray dog that has decided that it will only eat from the best dumpsters, no matter how hard it may be for it to do so, and has found a rich man’s house whose dumpsters are full of exotic food leftovers, ie. $100/lb steaks imported from Japan, lobster flown in from Maine, caviar from Russia, desserts from Paris, etc… But rich neighborhoods don’t usually tolerate stray animals; so the dog takes a huge risk by venturing there. The rich man’s servants are sure to kick, spit on, and verbally abuse the dog when they see it hanging around the back of the house near the dumpsters. But the dog knows what it wants, and is willing to put up with it all!

So while most of this dog’s friends go to the easy dumpsters, it goes to the better, though more dangerous, ones, and ends up looking better than them because it eats better food! Because you see, the leftovers of a $100/lb steak still carry pieces of the $100/lb steak. The leftovers of lobster from Maine still carry pieces of that succulent lobster. And the leftover from the Parisian cake still carries all the heavenly goodness of the original cake. So by eating all this better food, the dog looks better than the rest!

ONE OF THE BIGGEST HINDRANCES TO THE SUCCESS OF CHRISTIANITY AS A FAITH IN THIS WORLD is that its followers have not learned to do what it takes to become who God has in mind for them to be! We all want the blessings promised in the Word of God, but we are far too unwilling to pay the price for those blessings.

During Jesus’ time, there was a woman who knew what she wanted for her daughter, and was willing to pay whatever price in order to get it. Here’s her story, as told in Matthew 15:21-28:

“Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.”  (NIV)

The divine plan for the salvation of mankind was that Jesus would bring it to the Jews first, then make it available for all other peoples after His death and resurrection. Therefore, He concentrated His ministry on the Jews only. But here came a woman who was not of Jewish descent, and who needed healing for her daughter. And she came to the Lord to ask of Him divine healing, which, at that time, was exclusively reserved for the Jews. And in order to remind her of this, the Lord gave an analogy in which He basically likened the woman to a dog. But the woman reacted to the insult by agreeing with it, and made a plea for JUST A CRUMB of the thing she needed.

If every believer in this world learned how to attract even just a crumb of the Lord’s power in their lives, Christianity would be so much more effective than it has been, because the power of the God that Christians call upon would be so much more evident in their lives! And this evidence would validate Christianity as not just a religion, but as the place to find the one true God who is real, and who does great and mighty things in the lives of those who believe in Him!

The point of the story of the stray dog is that good things do not come easy! And since the things that come from God are the BEST OF THE BEST, they couldn’t possibly be expected to come easy! With this understanding, every believer ought to determined himself to do whatever it’ll take for him to obtain what he needs from the Lord. All over the Bible we see stories that teach us that there are prices to pay to get the results we need in life! The Canaanite woman in this story had to put up with being called a dog in order to receive the healing for her daughter! The stray dog had to put up with all manner of abuse and beating in order to eat the better food that it desired! Hannah, the mother of the great prophet Samuel, had to put up with being called a drunk by the high priest in order to receive Samuel! Blind Bartimeaus had to put up with insults from the crowd in order to get the Lord Jesus’ attention and get Him to heal his blindness.

Here’s a story I love to tell of a young woman who desired to change her life from one of poverty and lack, to one of prosperity and abundance. When she heard about the principle of sowing and reaping, she decided to sow her meager salary for the next 6 month. So the next time she got paid, she faithfully took her entire salary to church and sowed it. She did the same with her next 5 paychecks. Was this easy for her to do? NO!!! She got kicked out of her apartment for her inability to pay her rent, and had to move in with friends. Feeding herself and affording the basic things a person needs in life obviously became a serious issue for her as well. She had to endure abuse and insults from people who thought she was stupid and crazy to take her entire salary and give to the church – for 6 months!

Sometime after she did this, the chief of the community where she lived heard about what she did and decided to honor her actions by giving her a parcel of land. Then shortly after this, the representatives of a big multinational company came to that community to buy a piece of land on which to build a factory. The woman’s land happened to be exactly where they wanted, and they bought it for a very substantial sum. The woman invested the money into a business deal that made her a millionaire. This is how the young woman went from being a poor office worker to becoming a millionaire.

So I ask you, dear brethren, what do you want in this life, and how badly do you want it??? Badly enough to put up with the tough price that you might have to pay in order to get it? The Lord Jesus made this one thing clear to us in Luke 14:28, where He said “…for which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (KJV)

Some of the major things that prevents people from doing what it takes to follow divine principles are: lack of knowledge, fear, indiscipline, carelessness, spiritual weakness, etc…
– Lack of knowledge of what to do. So many churches do not teach the divine principles that are hidden throughout the Scriptures. If that young lady had never heard of the principle of sowing and reaping, she would not have tried it. This is why the Lord lamented in Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (KJV)
– The fear of the hardship that comes with doing what it takes; the fear of what people might say…
– Indiscipline, which prevents those who do know of the principles, from properly following the principles, and seeing the results.
– Carelessness of those who don’t care about the way their lives reflect on God. They don’t understand that their lives must give glory to God, and so they don’t care to put to work the divine principles which would help to conform their lives to that which would give glory to God. and because they don’t care, they don’t hate their life situations enough to want to do what needs to be done to change it.
– Spiritual weakness, that prevents so many believers from tackling tough spiritual issues. Under this category come factors such as weakness in prayer, in fasting, in the study of the Word, etc… WITHOUT SPIRITUAL ENABLEMENT FROM GOD, a believer cannot live victoriously in this world!!!

So once again, I ask you, what do you want, and how badly do you want it? Badly enough to determine in your heart and mind that nothing, not the fear of hardship, of humiliation, of pain, of uncertainty, of having to wait on God’s time, of going on long fasts, of praying for long hours, will stop you from doing what you need to do in order to see a change in your life? I hope so! And I pray that our good Lord would pour His grace upon you to help you do what it takes to get what you need, to His glory!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 22, 2014 in SHORT MESSAGES

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

YOU ARE GOD’S LOVE LETTER TO THE WORLD!

Over the years in ministry, the Apostle Paul had begotten many sons and daughters in Christ. Among them were Philemon and Onesimus. Onesimus was Philemon’s slave, but he ran away from Philemon, and in his flight he ran into Paul, became saved, and became useful to Paul and very dear to him as a spiritual son.
And as it happened, Philemon was Paul’s spiritual son as well.

Paul would have loved to keep Onesimus, but had to do the right thing and return him to Philemon. But knowing how angry Philemon must be with Onesimus, Paul decided to write a letter to Philemon about Onesimus.

POINT #1:
In his running, Onesimus ran into Christ, who transformed him into a better person.
His name means ‘useful’, but as a slave he had been useless to the point where he even ran away. But after finding Christ, he became a useful person! He now could fulfill his destiny as a ‘useful’ person.

=> LESSON: Like Onesimus when he ran away, we are all runaway slaves: Running from the devil and from all manner of issues that we need to rid ourselves of!
And like him we ran until we found Christ, who now gave us the power to go back and face our slave masters and become free from them!
Some of us are running right now! Running from sin, from your background, from bad associations, from what people think about you… You’re running because you don’t want to be a part of those associations anymore; you don’t want to be known by your background anymore; you don’t want to dwell in that sin any more…
CHRIST, who turned Onesimus’ destiny around and restored it into what it was supposed to be, will turn yours around for good as well!!!

POINT #2:
In the letter Paul basically put Philemon in a dilemma where Philemon couldn’t really do to Onesimus what he might have wanted to do him because in the letter Paul pointed out to Philemon that even though Onesimus was once his slave, he is now his brother (in Christ)!
So Paul put Philemon in a situation where his Christianity was tested!
He told him: Yes, I know he did you wrong; and he might have even done something that cost you money. WHATEVER it was, I’ll pay for it. Just forgive him and take him back AS YOUR BROTHER!

=> LESSON: Every now and then we find ourselves in situations where our Christianity is tested in so many areas. In this story we see 3 main areas:
1. FORGIVENESS: When we find ourselves confronted with the need to forgive someone who did us wrong in a big way. ESPECIALLY if that person is now a brother or sister in Christ! Either way, we must forgive them and move on!
THIS IS GOD WORKING ON YOU TO HELP YOU RID YOURSELF OF A BAGGAGE THAT YOU SIMPLY CANNOT CARRY AROUND AS A BELIEVER WHILE HERE ON EARTH, AND CANNOT CARRY INTO HEAVEN WHEN YOU DIE!
Also when you’re asking God for mercy and second chances, He’ll remind you, or put you in a situation where you need to forgive and give someone else a second chance, as a seed for you to sow into the request that you yourself are making of Him for a second chance.
2. BROTHERLY LOVE: Onesimus used to be Philemon’s slave. But now he was Philemon’s brother in Christ. Would Philemon still only see him as a slave, or would he accept him as a brother?
=> As Christians, do we still hold people captive to the way we used to know them? Do we still just see the former prostitute for who she used to be, or do we now see a sister in Christ, blood-washed like ourselves, and called into the same glorious light, freed by Christ to become a great person! Do we go around feeling holier than others, instead of humbly recognizing that we are all saved by grace?
3. FREEDOM IN CHRIST: Philemon ran the risk of jeopardizing his relationship with Paul AND WITH GOD, if he failed to forgive and accept Onesimus! So by forgiving and setting Onesimus free, he would have done the right thing by God and would have not only been setting Onesimus free, but he’d be setting himself free as well before God.
=>By forgiving someone, it is not just that person that you would be setting free. It is you yourself as well! Because as long as you refuse to set that person free in your heart, you are chaining your own self to the sin of unforgiveness and rebellion against the will of God.

POINT #3:
Why did Onesimus run from Philemon? Because he felt that he was better than being a slave! And you will agree with him that he was indeed destined to be greater in life than he could ever have been as a slave! HE COULD NOT have fulfilled his destiny if he had remained captive to Philemon!

=> LESSON: SOMETIMES YOU HAVE GOT TO RUN FROM WHAT’S HOLDING YOU CAPTIVE IN ORDER FOR YOU TO MAKE IT IN LIFE!
===> Paul himself acknowledged this to Philemon:
“15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.” (Philemon 15-16, NASB)

Note that I said ‘sometimes’. Because we don’t always have to run from every tough situation we find ourselves in. After Joseph was sold to Potiphar as a slave, he could have run away and run home to his father. But he did not need to run from Potiphar to fulfill his destiny. In fact he had to stay there in order to do so. BUT HE HAD TO RUN FROM THE CAPTIVITY THAT HIS JEALOUS BROTHERS WANTED TO KEEP HIM IN!

So we always have to be careful to know what’s ‘good’ captivity, and what’s bad captivity. Good captivity is when God Himself puts us in situations that we hate, and from which we might wish to be freed from. So be careful about wanting to escape from tough and unpleasant situations. If it’s God who’s keeping you there, STAY! Stay there and grow spiritually by patiently learning the lessons that He seeks to teach you by placing you in that situation. But if the captivity is of the devil, or of people who don’t want your progress in life, the first chance of escape that you find, RUN!!!

SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO RUN FROM WHERE YOU CAME FROM! Because the people there will forever want to hold you captive to how they know you.
YOU NEED TO RUN FROM BAD INFLUENCES; FROM BAD FRIENDS, from those people who want to forever hold you captive to the kind of friends you all used to be together, and keep on doing the foolish things you used to do together.
YOU NEED TO RUN FROM BAD BOSSES who have been limiting you, who do not see your potential, and have no plans to help you grow in your career!
This is why when you become a believer, it’s imperative that you change your entourage! That you change the friends you keep! Stay away from those who would tempt you to keep on sinning. From those who can hinder your spiritual growth. From those who can hinder you from fulfilling your God-assigned destiny in Christ!

SO RUN AWAY! FROM ANYTHING OR ANYBODY THAT SEEKS TO HOLD YOU CAPTIVE TO THE WAY YOU USED TO BE, THAT SEEKS TO KEEP ON LIMITTING YOU! There’s greatness in you that needs to come out, and you need to carry that greatness and run to where you can be free to develop that greatness and be great for God!!!

Remember what Paul told Philemon in verses 15 and 16. Onesimus needed to get away from Philemon, who was limiting him as a human being, in order for him to go and become somebody better, who could be far more useful not only to Philemon, but to God and the Church as well!
Likewise we all need to get away from the people who limit and hinder us, so that after we have gone and grown in the Lord, we can come back and help to make their own lives better as well!

POINT #4:
Apart from the fact that Paul wanted to do the right thing and return Onesimus to Philemon, Onesimus himself needed to do the right thing and return to his former master as well! There’s that thing called RESTITUTION! When a person becomes saved, sometimes he must make restitution for wrongs that he had done as an unbeliever. God could not have allowed Onesimus to go around preaching righteousness when he himself had a wrong that he had done to his master, and that he needed to make right. So Onesimus needed to go and ask for forgiveness and receive freedom and blessing from his former master in order for God to be willing to use him.

=> LESSON: GOD CANNOT USE YOU AS LONG AS YOU BELONG TO SOMEONE OR SOMETHING ELSE! If you have restitution to make, you’re not free. You’re still captive to the issue for which you need to make restitution, and this will stand in the way of your relationship with God and prevent Him from fully using you!

POINT #5:
THE POWER OF FAVOR! So Onesimus had to go back to Philemon. But in doing so he faced a serious risk: Philemon could have had him killed! That’s how it was in those days. A slave’s life belonged to the master to do as he willed, and runaway slaves were summarily killed, or at least severely punished, to make example and deter others from thinking about running.
HENCE Paul’s letter, by which he basically told Philemon: I am sending your former slave back to you, and I am asking that the favor that you have for me, show it to your former slave, whom surely has no favor before you.

=> LESSON: Sometimes God will touch the heart of somebody who has favor with Him, but with whom you have no favor, and set that person up to show you favor!

POINT #6:
SO THE ONE THING THAT SAVED ONESIMUS’ LIFE WAS THIS LETTER!
Because of this letter, HE WAS ABLE TO BE FREE TO FULFILL HIS DESTINY!
It is said that he went on to pastor Timothy’s old church. HE WHO WAS BORN A SLAVE ended up a great pastor! All because of a letter that freed him from captivity, and made it possible for him to become the great person that God had purposed for him to be!
Onesimus couldn’t be useful to Philemon while he was a slave because Philemon was only using him then; A PERSON CANNOT BE FULLY USEFUL AS A SLAVE, because as a slave he can only be used and abused. BUT AS A FREE PERSON, HE CAN SERVE WITH ALL HIS HEART AND MIGHT AND GIVE OUT HIS BEST!

POINT #7:
FROM PAUL’S ACTIONS IN WRITING THIS LETTER, we can see that love is:
1. A PEACEMAKER; A TRUCEBREAKER.
In this story we see that Paul had found himself caught between 2 of his sons who were at odds with each other, and he had to step in to broker peace between them. A bad father would want to keep the 2 sons at odds, so he can profit from their division. But that’s not the way of love! It’s not the way of God. Love unites; love makes peace.
2. A TRANSFORMER: Love will allow you to change for the better. A master who loves a servant will allow the servant to grow and flourish as a person, and not seek to limit the servant in order to be able to keep on exploiting him.
As slaves in Egypt, the Israelites were severely limited by the Egyptians in what they could and couldn’t do. They had to be prevented from growing in power so they could be easily exploited. When the Israelites left Egypt, they left as runaway slaves. When they got to the Red Sea, they did so as runaway slaves, with their masters in hot pursuit behind them. And when they got into the Red Sea, they did so as runaway slaves. But once they got to the other side of the sea, they were free!!!! The sea had swallowed their captors and closed up behind them. They knew that no one was coming after them anymore! Thru their crossing of the water, they were transformed from captives to free people!

=> LESSON: This is what happens at baptism! You go into the water as a condemned sinner, but come up from it a free person, with old things passed away! You go in as an estranged child of God, and come up from the water restored as a child of God!
=> That’s what Paul sought to accomplish in the lives of both Onesimus and Philemon. He sought to set them free from the animosity that kept them apart and hindered their ability to be free to grow into the sons of God they were supposed to be!

3. AN EMANCIPATOR: An emancipator works to set captives and slaves free! AND PART OF WHAT THEY DO IS THEY NEGOTIATE FOR THE FREEDOM OF SLAVES! There was no way Onesimus could have gone to Philemon on his own and ask to be set free. Paul’s letter served as the letter of emancipation! Through that letter, Paul negotiated the freedom of Onesimus by actually offering to pay for it.

POINT 8:
From all this we can see one powerful thing: Paul’s letter is a representation of Jesus-Christ! ALL MEN SINNED AND WERE CONDEMNED TO BE CAPTIVES OF THE DEVIL UNTIL JESUS CAME AND PAID THE PRICE FOR OUR FREEDOM! JESUS IS THAT LOVE LETTER!!!

For God so loved the world that He sent…Jesus His love letter to set men free!!!

You see, what we’re supposed to do is to simply take the LOVE LETTER that is the Word of God and present it to Satan and declare to him: Look! This Letter from God says that my sins have been paid for!!!! Satan you have no choice but to set me free!!!!

NOW GET THIS: As the words of a letter are carried inside an envelope, so did God’s letter of love unto men come wrapped up in the person of Jesus! So IF THE LORD HAD SHUT UP and not shared the word that He carried inside, you and I would still be lost today! But PRAISE GOD that the Lord opened Himself up as an envelope, and released ‘His contents’ in 2 major ways:
1. By spreading the word of love from God
2. By being transpierced on the cross, which released out of His body (out of His envelope) the blood which cleanses us of sin, and the water by which the Church was born.

Paul’s letter carried the words of the letter, and also a promise of payment. Likewise within the Lord’s envelope, he carried the word of God, and the payment for our debt – His blood, which, once He spilled it, declared that IT IS FINISHED!!!

==> LESSON: YOU AND I ARE NOW THE CARRIERS OF THIS WORD!!! We are the envelopes that carry God’s love letter to the world!!!
YOU AND I NOW CARRY THE LIVING WATER THAT GUSHED OUT OF THE LORD! That’s why He declared unto us in John 7:38 that “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (KJV) It is by that water that the Church was born, and we are to go about this world releasing that water upon people, thus multiplying the Church.

SO MY BELOVED BRETHREN, DON’T BE CLOSED ENVELOPES! RATHER SHARE GOD’S LETTER THAT HE HAS PLACED IN YOU TO SET THE CAPTIVES FREE!!
GO AND TELL PEOPLE THAT CHRIST HAS PAID THE PRICE FOR THEIR RELEASE!!! That He has paid for their salvation from sin; for their healing; for their prosperity; for their wholeness in every area of their lives!
SET PEOPLE FREE BY SPEAKING WORDS OF LOVE TO THEM! Tell people words that will encourage them in life; words that will build them up and help them grow in life; words that will help them see how important they are to God!

What would have become of Onesimus and Philemon if Paul had neglected to play this role in their lives? Their lives would have been hampered by the presence of the conflict that set them at odds with God’s plans for their lives.
So brethren think about this: How do you think the Lord will react when we show up before Him after going thru this life not opening ourselves up to pour out His words of love, of liberation, of transformation, of empowerment, of beautification, upon the people around us who badly need it?
It shouldn’t be hard to imagine that He would say “DEPART, YOU UNFAITHFUL SERVANT” to any such believer. Let that not be you!!!!

Now get this: No matter how battered and tattered an envelope may become, as long as the letter inside remains intact, that’s all that matters. Likewise you and I have no excuse for not sharing the word that we carry, because no matter how imperfect our envelopes (our bodies), what matters is that the word of God inside us “is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)

No matter what physical limitations we might suffer from, let us endeavor to find ways to share the love of God with others! So long as we are willing to be used, God WILL find a way to use us! He will make ways for us to release his water that we carry within us! That’s why He put it there in the first place!

May God bless you richly as you open yourself up to be pour out unto others, to His glory! Amen!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 21, 2014 in SHORT MESSAGES

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: