Editorial Be holy and separate: It's God's command
Johnson K Samuel
"Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord" (2 Cor. 6:17). "But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which you received from us" (2 Thes. 3:6)
Recently a young lady wrote her testimony in her blog on the internet describing the Lord's grace in her life and the wonderful upbringing that she received from her parents. Reactions to her testimony were many. Some described it as "weird". Some remarked that she is "isolated from everything". Some accused the family of selfishness "for not being more community focused".
One need not be surprised by these comments because godly behaviour and a strong moral character are far removed from the normal everyday life today. During the days of Roman emperors, Christians were persecuted because they were considered anti-social. The same attitude is prevalent today. Pentecostal believers may appear "reclusive" or "uncompromising", not because they are anti-social; they simply refrain from participating in those things which are ungodly. They are not selfish, they just follow Christ. The Bible says Christians should not love the world or the things of the world. (1 John 2:15). This is because worldly practises are evil. Yet Christians are expected to go out into the world and be a light to the world.
Holiness means Separation. The Lord Jesus, as a consequence of His redemptive work, established assemblies of His people - "Churches". They are groups of the 'called out' ones. They are to project the holy character of the One who is the Head. "And He is the head of the body, the church, that in all things He may have the preeminence" (Col. 1:18). From the beginning, Satan, the enemy of Christ and His church, has sought to hinder, frustrate and contaminate them through false teachers, un-scriptural doctrines and unholy people. The work of Satan will continue until Christ returns. "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions, which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thes. 2:15).
The idea of separation has three aspects. One aspect has to do with the believer's personal separation from the world and ungodly people. "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6:14). This verse refers to our relationship with people of the world and the instruction is obvious. There is great danger in establishing close, personal friendships with unbelievers. They tend to pull the believer down spiritually.
The second aspect of separation has to do with the rebellious members in the church. "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner-not even to eat with such a person" (1 Cor. 5:11). Sometimes it is possible that a believer returns to the sins of his past and into the world, refusing to repent. In such a situation, believers have no choice but to separate from the person.
The third aspect of separation is ecclesiastical, that is, separation from other churches and religious organizations which are not faithful to the Scriptures and subvert apostolic teachings.
True biblical separation should actually be a result of whole hearted love for our Lord - a faithful love that rejects heresy, and will not tolerate false teachers who desire to lead Christ's church away from Him. Let us examine how whole hearted is our love for the Lord, who loved us and gave His life for us. Are we slowly backsliding and conforming to the ways of the world?
The secrets to revival - Ezekiel 37:1-14
Pastor Biju Thomas, Houston, TX, USA
The writer declares that there are lot of Christians for whom it's been a long time since the Holy Spirit blew fresh life into their routine. We need a blast of the Spirit that knocks us around and not just a mere puff to kiss our cheek
If you are dry day after day and week after week, then you may be suffering from spiritual dryness and stagnation. The road to spiritual dryness is gradual downhill with wrong turns and blind alleys. The nation of Israel that once budded and flourished in the rain of God's blessings, became parched by discouragement and spiritual dryness because they departed from its calling to be the people of God.
Israel as people of God had turned their backs on their great benefactor who had given them a beautiful and fruitful land. They had persistently ignored his pleas, ridiculed his warnings and abused his blessings. They had rejected his love and rebelled against his authority. Consequently, God poured out his wrath on them and they were defeated in battle by the incredible strength of Babylon and permanently removed from their homeland.
One of the most amazing and well-known prophecies in the Old Testament is found in the book of Ezekiel chapter 37.
Ezekiel's prophecy has two acts and each of these acts has three scenes:
I. Miracle of the dry bones (vv. 1-10).
Scene 1 - The valley of dry bones (vv. 1-3);
Scene 2 - The fragmented dry bones becoming bodies (vv. 4-6), and
Scene 3 - the wind entering bodies (vv. 9-10).
II. Meaning of the dry bones (vv. 11-14).
The interpretation identifies the bones as the House of Israel and their dryness as their loss of hope (v. 11) and the wind as the Spirit (v. 14).
At some point during exile God calls and sends prophet Ezekiel to the valley of dry bones. The "plain" or broad valley appears to be that mentioned in Eze. 3:22-23 and 8:4, close to Ezekiel's residence in exile at Tel-abib. The vision of the Valley of Dry Bones was given to him more than 2500 years ago for the Babylonian exiles. He was supernaturally transported to a place where God showed him a valley full of heaps of dried-up bones, which represent spiritual condition of God's people. He identifies the valley of dry bones as the Nation of Israel cut off from God. Dryness symbolized a situation that looked completely hopeless.
However, God asks question to Ezekiel, "Can these dry bones live?" At times we ask it of our lives, will God give me a second chance? Of course! Ezekiel's answer was, "only you know." In other words, this problem is bigger than me and I can't make these bones live again, only God can do that. The good news is that, it doesn't matter how dry these bones are or hopeless the situation may seem they can live again. These bones can rejoice again because God promised, "I will lift you out of the grave and put a "brand new" spirit in you, called Spirit of New Covenant." It is impossible for a prophet to blow spiritual life into this valley of dry bones.
The definition of revival is restoration to life or consciousness, to activate, set into motion, renew. Israel's revival is initiated with God, because His Spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). Although God in His sovereign grace initiates revival, we should pray consistently for a spiritual awakening. People say, "Well, we can do nothing, we've just to wait for the wind to blow." True revival begins when we recognize, we are the problem, and we repent of our sins, then Holy Spirit's job is to make you alive. Note the command God gave to Israel, "If my people called by my name, humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I in heaven hear, come, and heal their land."
I wonder how many of us are praying that? I wonder how many of us here talking about revival and interested in the convention are giving time to God in prayer. Let me ask this question, "Are you in the place where God can trust you with revival?" He has placed this treasure, namely Holy Spirit, in our earthen vessels. Are you one that He can use? Are you one that He can trust? Are you in intimate fellowship with God?
I remember my times in New York where we organize prayer meetings specifically for revival. It starts at 8:00 p.m. each night continued until 5:00 a.m. in the morning. The baptism of the Holy Ghost came to me in a mighty cleansing, empowering power! Some of the people wept aloud with joy and love. And I saw young people falling on their knees. I heard the cries of the penitent. People gave testimonies about their deliverance. It was a supernatural experience.
The vision of dry bones illustrate that the Holy Spirit brings us life through God's Word. First, God speaks to His prophet and commands him to prophesy: "then He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones." Second, He then commands the prophet to preach His word to the people and commands them to hear, "dry bones hear the word of the Lord!" The key word "prophesy" occurs seven times, the number that signifies completeness. A second term is "the word of the Lord" which signifies a prophetic word from God. The focus is on the preaching on the Word of God (vv. 4-5a). Nonetheless, the hearing of the Word alone is not enough.
The statement "but there was no breath in them," refers the need of the wind/Spirit to enliven the dry bones (v. 10). The connection between God's word and Spirit is linked in v. 4: "Prophesy to these bones...I will make breath enter you and you will come to life." The wind which God equates with His Spirit in verse 14 transforms the valley of dry bones into vast living warriors. God's Word empowered by the Holy Spirit when you hear it and receive it, will fill your thirsty soul. It will take you from the valley of dry bones and bring you to the land of abundant life. (Isa. 40:27-31). Whenever Ezekiel speaks of breath coming to give life to dry bones, it's the same word as Spirit, picturing the Holy Spirit coming to give life to us.
When Holy Spirit showed up on the day of Pentecost and those first believers in that place were filled with the Spirit. They could immediately do supernatural things that they could never learn to do on their own, even in a lifetime. They immediately began to experience life at much higher level. The connection between God's Word and Spirit is linked to revival.
The LORD brings revival through both authoritative preaching and the giving of the Spirit (cf. 1 Thes. 1:4-6; 2:13; 1 Cor. 3:14-18). There are nine hindrances to the Spirit's empowerment: prayerlessness, fear of man, pride, sin, running from one's calling, impure motives, lack of preparation, lack of belief, and lack of preaching Jesus
There are lot of Christians for whom it's been a long time since the Holy Spirit blew fresh life into their routine. The filling of the Spirit means that you come under God's supernatural control and you act outside your natural self. We need a blast of the Spirit that knocks us around and not just a mere puff to kiss our cheek. What you need to ask Holy Spirit is, "Spirit of God, breathe on me." And when I hear a sermon, give specific application for me. Lord, I need to hear your voice and be filled with your power. I need a change!
The story of D.L. Moody
In 1871 at one of Mr. Moody's meetings, he was stirred with a desire for spiritual power by two women who would attend the meetings. He could see that they were praying, and at the close of the service they would say to him:
"We have been praying for you."
"Why don't you pray for the people?" Mr. Moody would ask.
"Because you need the power of the Spirit" they would say.
"I need the power! Why?" said Mr. Moody, in relating the incident years after, "I thought I had power. I had the largest congregations in Chicago", but the two women kept praying for him. There came a great hunger into his soul as he visited New York.
"I was crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit. Well, one day, in the city of New York - oh, what a day! - I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name... I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were no different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world - it would be as the small dust of balance."
Watch your 'LIFE' closely
Pastor Shibu Cherian, Atlanta, USA
Pastor Shibu Cherian is an Ordained Minister with the Church of God, and currently serves as an Associate Pastor of the Atlanta Church of God (http://www.atlantachurchofgod.org). He is a certified Chaplain, a Bible Teacher & has a passion for teaching and mentoring. He is currently undergoing the Doctor of Ministry program from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, TN. He resides in Lilburn, GA with his wife Nissy and three daughters Priscila, Pheba & Persis.
"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:16)
The Bible exhorts all born again believers to maintain an ethical life & be reflectors of the light of the Gospel through Jesus Christ. In 2 Cor. 2:14-16, Apostle Paul says that God "through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the ones who are perishing we are the aroma of death leading to death, and among those who are saved we are the aroma of life leading to life". Since God has placed every born-again child of God with so great a responsibility, it is essential that we, as His children, be willing and committed to put into practice our Christian faith on every level of human intervention.
As a member of God's holy nation "called out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9), it is essential that every child of God should live a life by a set of principles that define his/her Christian faith. We should watch our life 'closely' and demonstrate the love, compassion and wisdom of Christ in practical ways. Since our 'life' is all about relationships, there are several relationships in our lives (listed below) that we should carefully watch out for as we live out an exemplary life as children of God in this fallen world:
1. Our relationship to God:
The first and foremost relationship that we need to watch out for is our relationship to God who has saved us from the power of darkness and has given us all the privileges of His eternal kingdom. We should enjoy a close personal relationship with Christ and live under the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit. We should devote our life and talents to help the growth and ministry of the body of Christ.
As we enjoy a deep, personal & intimate relationship with God, it goes without saying that we should seek God's counsel in every decision, His wisdom and strength in all our plans, and lean on His comfort in facing every trial and sorrow that confronts us. Some of the practical ways in which we can maintain our relationship to God are as follows:
* A commitment to daily prayer and to maintaining other spiritual disciplines.
* Reading, meditating and memorizing the scriptures daily by hiding God's Word in our heart. (Psalms 119:11)
* Seeking earnestly to bring a balance, harmony and a sense of purpose in every area of our life by having a humble, honest and sincere attitude to oneself and to God.
2. Our relationship to our family:
In the midst of our hectic schedules, we should always take time out to spend with our family. After God, the most important relationship we need to nurture is that to our spouse (husband/wife). This should be a solid relationship built on love and trust as well as faithfulness to each other till 'death-do-us-part'. As parents, we should take the responsibility in raising our children in godly ways. As sons or daughters, we should always honor our parents no matter how old or smart we are (Eph. 6:2-3). Some of the ways by which we can watch out in maintaining our relationship to our family are as follows:
* A continuous loving commitment to our life partner/parents/children.
* Prioritizing family first after God.
* Controlling anger in disciplining children.
* Evaluating oneself as a role model before the family.
* Resolving any family conflicts as soon as possible.
* Having a daily time of family prayer & seeking the face of God.
3. Our relationship to our church:
As a part of God's royal priesthood, we should perform a priestly role in relationship to our church. In this regard, we should act as good examples in leading others to a closer relationship with God. Our effectiveness is dependent on the development of our character and spiritual maturity, and our ability to maintain loving relationship with others through a sincere desire and willingness to serve. We should be trustworthy, sincere and should be able to maintain a high sense of integrity in character, emotion, thinking, behavior, relationships, work & surroundings. We should cooperate with others in our church family and work together for the extension of God's kingdom here on earth (1 Cor. 3:9).
Some of the ways by which we can watch out for regarding our relationship to our church are as follows:
* Serving our church humbly using the talents/abilities that God has gifted us.
* Being 'companion-helper' to all brothers/sisters in our church.
* Giving great care to maintaining our testimony/witness both inside and outside the church walls.
Watching our life 'closely':
As God's children burdened with a responsibility to carry on our earthly ministries as 'ambassadors of Christ', there is one particular area where Satan will try to tempt us into backsliding. It is in the matter of sexual purity. As we deal with people of opposite sex both within and outside our church, there is every possibility that temptations may arise in a form least expected, which may compel us to transgress our covenant laws with God and with our life partner. In this regard we should always take preemptive steps to avoid chances of any impropriety by maintaining a very positive and healthy relationship with one another & with our heavenly Father.
In conclusion, we should take great care in watching our life 'closely' on a daily basis. This will happen only when we realize and affirm that we are 'the' representatives and servants of God working for the glory of God and for the extension of His kingdom here on earth. May God help us in this regard is my hope and prayer!
Meditation: Charge that to my account
Saju John Mathew
Reading passage: Philemon 1:1-25
People are not just souls. The have a personality and social relationships. Paul, when in prison, became the spiritual father of Onesimus, a runaway slave. (Even prison can become a platform for evangelisation). Onesimus is now serving Paul in prison. He was a genuine, beneficial and useful (that is the meaning of his name - v.11) servant.
Paul considered him as his own very heart (v.12).
Paul was happy to appoint him as his personal assistant (v.13). Nevertheless, he wanted to send this new convert back to his master. "I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favour you do will be spontaneous and not forced," (v.14) Paul said.
Look at the way Paul deals with his convert. When he sent him back, he introduced Onesimus as his son, not as a former slave of Philemon, or not even as "Brother Onesimus!" (If Philemon saw him as his former slave, he would look to him with grudge ... Now, Onesimus is Paul's son!). "If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand; I will pay it back" (vv.18-19).
Paul was ready to pay a cost for someone who had accepted Jesus. He was not like the Pharisees Jesus talked about in Matt. 23:15 'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." Which breed do we belong to? The Pharisees, who struggle to see conversions and then forget the converted, or, Paul, who in love reckoned the convert as his son?
Evangelism is about giving. It demands you, and, all that you have too. We all speak about John 3 16 - the 'so great love' God has shown to mankind. How about 1 John 3:16? 'This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. " Looking at a helpless man, will you say, "Charge that to my account?"
Prayer: Lord, help me to understand that witnessing is giving. Amen
The promises of God
Benson B. George, Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia
Benson B. George, Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia, dwells on the many wonderful promises of God. Our Lord works to fulfill them in our lives if we all lead a blameless life before Him.
First of all let us try to get an insight of what exactly is 'Promise'. What does the word promise mean? A promise is a commitment given by one to another to carry out or refrain from performing certain acts. We make many promises to our fellow mates and beloved ones. But the question is, are we successful in fulfilling the promises we make? The answer to the preceding question would be negative in most of our cases. Many a times we fail to stand by our promises, we fail to stand by our commands, we fail to obey. It is due to our human nature to say something and act in a different manner. On the other hand, God's promises never fail, He fulfills and provides us with all that we need at the right appointed time.
Through this message I would like to bring out certain amazing promises which our God Almighty has given to each one of us, and the wonderful manner in which our Lord works to fulfill each one of them.
He shall supply all your needs
The first promise which I would speak about is the promise that our Lord provided us for the sustenance in this world. As the Bible says: "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19). When we live in this world each one of us have our own needs and requirements. May it be food, clothing or shelter God has given us the assurance that he would supply all that we need at the right time. So we need not worry about our tomorrow or our future, God will sustain us even through the times of trouble. Our Savior will provide us with unpredictable things, which we might not have ever imagined and He will bless us abundantly. This shows our God's unfailing grace and love for each one of us.
"My grace is sufficient for you"
Secondly, God has promised us Salvation through His grace. This Salvation can be obtained only through faith, it is through the obedient faith that we have access to the Grace of God (Rom. 5:2). "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cori. 12:9). It is only through His grace and mercy that we all live in this world today. He has given us the eligibility and made us worthy of this life we enjoy. It is not our capacity or strength but it is all that He has provided us. He has delivered us from the eternal separation and given us a new hope in life. We are all thankful to Him for all His wonderful deeds, so we must glorify and praise His name at all times.
He will never forsake you
This is one of the most delightful and pleasant assurance which our Heavenly Father has provided us. As the Bible says: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Heb. 13:5). Our Lord never wants anyone of His children to perish, His love is never ending towards us. Even though we may face many obstacles in our daily life, the Almighty will never let us stumble and fall. "He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber" (Psa. 121:3). This is one of the greatest promises of our Lord, it gives us confidence and strength, we do not have to fear anyone or anything of this world for our Lord is on our side. He will protect us under His mighty wings, for He is our refuge and our ever present help in times of need. He will show us solutions to all our problems that we face. We must stand firm in the Lord and humble ourselves to Him.
Victory over death
God has promised us victory over death. He first resurrected Jesus by way of assuring our resurrection. Peter said: "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses" (Acts 2:32). Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3,4). Later on he adds: "but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 15:57). It is through this sacrifice of the son (Jesus) for the redemption of our sins that we have attained victory over death. It is through the blood of Christ that we are all worthy in the eyes of the Lord. What a great promise and our God fulfilled it for us by giving up His only beloved Son. We must always sing praises to the one above for the great love He has bestowed on us.
You will be saved and be forgiven
As we all know that Jesus died for the remission of all our sins, He suffered the pain and sacrificed Himself on that cross for us. Each and every individual who believes in Jesus and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins will be saved. "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord", and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9). "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). Let us pray for all those who have not accepted Jesus as their personal saviour and it is in hands of each one of us to spread the gospel to the people of this world so that they may be saved. We must take some time out to tell our friends about our saviour and share our views with them so that they may also acknowledge Jesus as their saviour and be saved through the blood of Christ.
He will give all that you ask
"And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the father. You ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:13,14). Through this promise the Lord has given us the power to receive all things through Christ Jesus. So we can call onto the Lord at any time and He will be always ready to fulfill our needs. We must never hesitate to kneel down before the Lord and seek His help. He will open closed doors for us and reveal all that is hidden.
He will come back
This is the promise of our Lord's second coming. It is yet to happen for the Lord is currently preparing a place for each one of us and when He would complete His work He would come back for us as He has promised. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me that you may also be where I am" (John 14:3). What a wonderful promise of coming back, it gives us a great spiritual strength that there is one awesome God up there for each of us who will take us along with Him. So let us all wait for the Lord and live a life in the footsteps which the Lord has set before us.
"My sheep listen to my voice ; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:27,28). All who walk in the ways of the Lord will surely have eternal life, our Father promises eternal life to all His children. He will never forsake them nor will He let them perish. Let us all walk and abide by His teachings. May each and every one of our hearts be as pure and as white as snow. When He looks down to us He looks at our heart and not our physical appearance. So we must examine ourselves and ask for forgiveness for all our wrong doings.
Finally, I would like to conclude that we must wait patiently for the Lord to work in our lives. We must not lose hope but have faith and continue to pray to the Lord, he will surely answer us. There are many more promises in the Bible as well which God provides us through prayers. All these promises would be fulfilled only when we first seek the kingdom of God, as the Bible says: "but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33) . So if we all lead a blameless life, God will certainly provide and fulfill all the promises and purposes that He has set for each one of us. Amen.
From the pulpit: The person who finishes the race
Rev. Dr. Baby Varghese
"And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we are incorruptible"
Very few know about John Stephen Akkeris, from Tanzania, who participated in the 1968 Olympics marathon. He was not a gold medal winner. His name was not on the list of medal winners. However, he was the one who attracted everyone in the Mexico City Olympics.
When the official blew the whistle, everyone began running the marathon race. Akkeris also ran as he was representing Tanzania. He fell down as he lost control. Blood was flowing from the wounds on his legs. He was deeply wounded and was in severe pain. He became tired. He lost a lot of blood. Soon, negative thoughts entered his mind but he never lost the heart. He eventually finished the race. He came to the finishing line. The last runner had finished the race an hour earlier. All the spectators had left the field. However, some ran and came to inquire about his wounds.
They asked him why he never quit the race even though he was suffering from pain. His answer made him an immortal one..."My country sent me to Mexico City not to start the race but the finish it." The next day's newspaper had more of Akkeris' picture than the medal winner.
This same mind set should be in a mature Christian. The writer of the Epistle to Hebrew wrote, "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." Hebrews 12:1
Our age does not limit us from this game. When our life is short, we have to mature more. We should not quit the race at the last moment. The loss will not only affect him but also his followers. Run constantly. The position we achieve does not matter but finishing the race is important. God searches for those who finish the race successfully.
Youth Forum: Jesus our Good Shepherd
Juby Varghese, Mumbai
Juby Varghese, Mumbai, talks about our Good Shepherd who takes good care of His sheep and leads us to our heavenly home
Jesus is known by different names, such as Lamb of God, Saviour, Immanuel, Christ etc. These names were given by divine inspiration, by His disciples and some by Jesus Himself. One such name which Jesus called Himself was "the Good Shepherd".
Who is the shepherd?
One who looks after the sheep.
What are the duties of the shepherd ?
1. Shepherd will love his sheep and look after them.
2. Shepherd shows the way to green pastures.
3. Shepherd rescues the sheep if it falls into the pit.
4. Shepherd protects the sheep if a wild animal attacks. Shepherd lays down his life for the safety of the sheep.
Jesus is our shepherd and we are His sheep.
Lets us see what Jesus our shepherd does.
1. Jesus looks after us and loves us. Isa. 40:17 says: He gathers the lamb in His arm and cares for them.
2. Jesus shows us the way to the heavenly kingdom. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life". In this confusing, crooked and perverse world, we sometimes may lose our way, but if we follow Jesus He will lead us through the path of righteousness. Jesus knows the way to the heavenly kingdom.
3. Jesus also rescues us from the pit of sin. He has authority to forgive our sins. He lifts us out of the miry pit of sin.
4. Jesus our Good Shepherd also protects us from the attack of wild animals, i.e. the devil's temptations and his schemes. We read in 1 Peter 5:8: Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Jesus will protect us from our enemies. In doing so, He was even ready to lay down His life for us. 2000 years ago Jesus the Good Shepherd paid the price so that we can be redeemed.
We who are His sheep should recognize His voice and follow Him so that when the Chief Shepherd appears we will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:4).
Let us surrender our lives to Him, our Good Shepherd and He will lead us to the heavenly fold.
Aid groups such as 'Church World Service' and 'World Vision' tried to reach the 1.5 million people who were affected by devastating monsoon rains in the northwest of Pakistan. The flooding far exceeded normal seasonal rainfall. They distributed food packages and temporary shelter material, and struggled "to be good stewards of limited available resources", as a World Vision spokesman said.
Christian love prompts men to help even those who nurture anti-christian feelings!
Christianity: a 'Faded Memory' for most young Britons
Researchers in Britain surveyed 300 young people from 'Generation Y' - those born after 1982 - who had attended a Christian youth or community project. The study found that young people were more likely to put their faith in friends, family or personal experience rather than God. Sylvia Collins-Mayo, a sociologist of religion and one of the researchers behind the study, said, "For the majority, religion and spirituality was irrelevant for day-to-day living; our young people were not looking for answers to ultimate questions and showed little sign of spirituality".
The situation is quite the same in all the western countries. The Church has miserably failed in its purpose of being the "Light of the World".
New definition for blasphemy!
Blasphemy allegations continue to fly fast and thick in Pakistan. The country's blasphemy laws easily allow Muslims to make false accusations against religious minorities. Two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy have been murdered recently. Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti chose to condemn the murders. On hearing this, a Muslim cleric, Allama Ahmed Mian Hammadi, however, has called Bhatti also a blasphemer as he is supporting the Christians! The cleric said: "It is not a cruelty to kill blasphemers and the one who commits blasphemy neither has got a right to live in this world nor is there any pardon for him".
Thus it is clear that minorities cannot live safely in Pakistan. No support can be expected either from the public or from official machinery.
A computer virus and a possible Biblical clue
Some specialists suspect that a computer virus is aimed at slowing Iran's race for nuclear weapons. A file inside the code is named "Myrtus" - which can be read as an allusion to the Hebrew word for Esther. The Old Testament 'Book of Esther' describes how Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them. Queen Esther's original name in Hebrew was Hadassah, which is similar to the Hebrew word for myrtle, a plant family. Computer experts are trying to trace the origin and purpose of the rogue virus program, which seeks out a specific kind of command module for industrial equipment. Israelis are not saying whether the virus has any connection to the secretive cyberwar unit it has built inside Israel's intelligence service. But some security experts see the reference as a signature allusion to Esther, a clear warning in a mounting technological and psychological battle as Israel and its allies try to breach Tehran's most heavily guarded project. The virus appears to be designed to attack a certain type of industrial control computer, used widely to manage oil pipelines, electrical power grids and many kinds of nuclear plants. Experts have observed recently that something - perhaps the virus or some other form of sabotage, bad parts or a dearth of skilled technicians - is indeed slowing Iran's advance.
The re-establishment of Israel as a nation is part of modern history. Israel has a place in the over-all plan of God for man. We will see events unfolding in front of our eyes at the appropriate time whatever any other country may plan or do.
Americans don't know much about religion
A survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life which aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history has revealed that Americans know relatively little about religion. We must remember that the U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared to largely secular Western Europe. The survey found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.
Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn't know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ. More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation.
Respondents to the survey were asked 32 questions. Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15. Those who said they attended worship at least once a week performed better on the overall survey. Out of 12 questions about Christianity, Mormons scored the highest, with an average of about eight correct answers, followed by white evangelicals, with an average of just over seven correct answers. Jews, along with atheists and agnostics, knew the most about other faiths, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. The survey of 3,412 people was conducted between May and June of this year.
Even those who profess to be Christians do not read and meditate on the word of God, thereby grow into spiritual maturity. The problem is further compounded by TV evangelists whose sole aim is to amass wealth for themselves by presenting their prosperity gospel to their listeners who will have Jesus working for them as an Automatic Teller Machine!
Hawking on the origin of the Universe
Great publicity was given recently to the release of Stephen Hawking's book "The Grand Design", in which he says: "because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing". Hawking is a retired physics professor of Cambridge University and an atheist. His claim is that gravity, not God, was responsible for creating the universe. Flatly dismissing the claim, Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote in 'The Times' that "belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the universe. Rather it is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence".
If gravity can create the Universe, who established the law of gravity? Hawking is silent on that question!
Personalities encountered by Jesus - 22: Simon of Cyrene
"... a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross" (Mat. 27:32)
The saddest and most terrible procession in recorded history is approaching Jerusalem's Gate of Gardens. Led by a mounted Roman centurion and a small company of soldiers, and followed by mixed crowd of jeering, curious and sympathetic spectators, three men drag heavy crosses toward the Hill of Skulls where they are to be crucified. Two of them are convicted thieves. The third is Jesus of Nazareth, whose crime was that He set love above the law of the Temple, and sought to bring into the dark and unbelieving thoughts of men the light of their Creator.
Weak from the night-long ordeal of interrogation, floggings and inhuman torture, this Man of Sorrows staggers under the weight of the heavy cross. At last, able to go no farther, He falls to the ground, and lies utterly exhausted beneath His massive burden. The centurion turns in his saddle and looks down at the Man stretched beneath the cross. He realizes at once that it is a physical impossibility for Jesus to bear the cross another step.
In the crowd, the centurion's eye falls upon Simon, a Greek Jew from Cyrene, on the north coast of Africa.
"You!" commands the centurion. "Take up this man's cross and follow us."
The Cyrenian has no choice but to obey. And the Scripture does not tell whether he performed his task willingly and with pity for the innocent Man who had fallen, or whether sullenly and with resentment for both Jesus and the hated Roman authorities.
But for Christians over the past two millennia, Simon of Cyrene is the most envied man in the New Testament story. Because in that important moment, he was chosen to bear upon his .husky shoulders a small part .of the Lord's burden, even though it led toward Calvary.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a respected member of the Jewish Ruling Council during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry. He was a God fearing man and did a lot of good works. Yet Jesus said to him ''unless you are born again you will not enter the kingdom of God". He believed in Jesus and accepted Jesus as his Lord and became a follower of Jesus' teachings.
Dear children, we may be members of a church or born in a Pentecostal family; but if we are not born again, we will not enter the kingdom of God. What does it mean to be born again, asked Nicodemus. God's word tells in Rom. 3:23 "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" and Rom. 6:23 says "the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". We have to believe in the way of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We have to acknowledge that we are sinners and we need the gift of salvation from eternal death which is the wages of sin. When we call on the name of the Lord and seek cleansing in His blood and accept Jesus as the Lord of our life, we will be saved from eternal damnation. That is how we are born again in the spirit and God's Holy Spirit will dwell in our hearts to guide us into a life of obedience to the Lordship of Jesus. It is very important for every individual to make sure that you have the born again experience. Regardless of whether you are born in a Pentecostal family or whatever background, you need to have this experience of salvation. And you have to grow in a personal one-to-one relationship with Jesus by knowing His will through His word and live in obedience to His word daily. John 1:12-13 says "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God. Children born not of natural decent - but born of God".