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The Finest Substance

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“Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives…so the lamps may be kept burning” (Exodus 27:20 NIV).

Olive oil is a very precious commodity to many countries. Many centuries ago, a very important lifeline was given to the people of Israel: the oil produced from their olive trees.

My husband David and I had traveled with a tour group to Israel. On a few acres of ground near Nazareth, we were shown a reproduction of a village-like setting that depicted how people lived in Jesus’ day so that visitors could connect the biblical stories and visualize the shepherd’s life.

The olive press they displayed was indispensable for living in former times. We were told that they would press ripe olives three times. The first expressed oil yielded the finest substance. God’s temple received the first and best oil for its lamps and other religious purposes.

The finest oil was reserved for where God’s presence dwelt. After the exodus from Egypt and while they were still tramping in the desert, Moses gave this command. “This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come” (Exodus 27:20 NIV).

God requires the first oil from us. That would consist of the first of our strength, the first of our day to seek Him, or the best of our abilities and talents. If we give Him our first, we will find that He will provide the rest.

By  Florence Simmons

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A Spectacular Ministry

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Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. (2 Corinthians 5:12 NLT).

The Apostle Paul had many critics in his day, both inside and outside the Church.  From his statement above, we can ascertain that it is possible to have a spectacular ministry without a sincere heart.

By the sheer power of personality, it is possible to do significant things, even while using the name of Christ.  When the Bible speaks of a sincere heart, it is not just about right actions, but about right motives.  To glorify Christ always has to be our chief motivation. How can we recoginse that our motivation may be flawed?  It’s when we have to build ourselves up and tear others down, such as Paul’s  detractors were doing.  We start doing things that will impress man rather than God.  Impressive things, as the world sees them, based on selfish motives, are always destined to fall. What is a sincere heart?  It’s one that seeks first to glorify God and not ourselves.  Paul’s answer to his critics was that they were trying to have prominent ministries without Christ being foremost in their hearts.  They were doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons.

Remember, it not the height or even the breadth of your ministry, but the depth of your love for Christ that motivates you, that impresses God.  It is not possible to be a man pleaser and a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10 NLT). There is nothing wrong with having a spectacular ministry, as long as a sincere heart accompanies it.

 By Ken Barnes

 

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The church must be holy

Jesus is victor

The true church understands that it must live a disciplined life. Although our High Priest loves us in spite of our weaknesses and failures, He encourages us to be a holy people because He is a holy God. Holiness may be an unpopular subject in some churches, but holiness in the Christian life is a precious treasure in God’s sight.

What I say here may hurt, but I say it anyhow. We have lived with unholiness so long that we are almost incapable of recognizing true holiness. The people of God in the churches of Jesus Christ ought to be a holy people. But ministers have largely given up preaching Bible-centered sermons on holiness. Maybe they would not know what to do with hearers who fell under the convicting power of God’s Word. Preachers today would rather give their congregations tranquilizers.

 L preach to my congregation week after week. And I pray that l may be able to preach with such convicting power that my people will sweat! I do not want them to leave my services feeling good. The last thing I want to do is to give them some kind of religious tranquilizer– and let them go to hell in their relaxation.

The Christian church was designed to make sinners sweat. I have always believed that, and I still believe it.
The messages preached in our churches should make backslidden Christians sweat. And if I achieve that objective when I preach, I thank God with all of my heart, no matter what people think of me.

Our Lord is a holy Lord, and His eyes are as a flame of fire. His X-ray eyes can see right through everything! We can hide nothing from God. He sees all and knows all. But apparently we have a hard time with that fact – preachers and lay people alike. We seem to think our respectability should be accepted by our Lord as spirituality. That is the same tragic mistake the self-righteous Pharisees made in Jesus’ day. We like to imagine we are important, and we like to hear people talking about our importance. But every one of us is going to die one of these days. There will be a funeral service and then we will be buried, just like everybody else.

Taken from the book ‘Jesus is Victor’ by A.W. Tozer published by GLS Publishing.

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A Lonely World

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“A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24, KJV)

A man told his friend: “I’m on Tumblr, Facebook and Flickr. I blog, I text and I Twitter, and I’m still lonely.” How ironic. In this digital age we can connect faster to another human being through various platforms. However, we can still end up being lonely.

We humans are a peculiar lot. There are times we want to be left alone, but, in reality, we can never abandon our God-given desire to connect with another person on some level. It’s called the “connect and communicate” function that is part of our need to survive. This isn’t a bad thing. From the cradle to the grave, we long to connect with another in some form or fashion.

Today’s technology can aid us in our quest to connect and communicate. But that is all it can do. It can never replace hearing someone speak, feeling their warm touch or seeing how much they care. Our desire to connect with another goes deeper than mere friendships and casual acquaintances. Adam’s sin left a hole in our soul. Without our connection to something greater, we can wander around in life aimlessly for years and not have the satisfying relationships we desire. The only remedy for this is to reconnect to the Great Connector and keep our connection to Him current. And nothing digital we have will ever do that for us.

Meditation by Bob Valleau

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I Believe in God

Ten reasons that strengthen my Christian faith

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When Thomas met the other disciples he said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25). Does your faith also need reasons or evidence? I notice that for some people faith comes easy. For others, however, before they can bring themselves to believe it must in some way ‘make sense’, ‘feel right’ or ‘fit somehow into their worldview’. Normally I believe strongly in the existence of a good personal creator God. But sometimes I encounter situations that cause me to doubt, for example, when God does something or allows something to happen that I disagree with. When I doubt and also when I don’t doubt I find that reasons and arguments strengthen my faith. What can be proven about God? What are we looking for? What can we expect to find? I see in this natural, physical world, the fingerprints of a powerful, intelligent outsider.

  1. About reason:

Everything in the known universe has a cause. The universe itself also needs a cause. Even the ‘big bang’, if it actually occurred, must have had a cause. We can choose to call this initial cause ‘God.’

  1. About complexity:

Our body is very complex machine! It is amazing how complex our world is. There are just so many necessary details. The amazing complexities that I see in nature fill me with wonder and encourage me believe in the existence of an intelligent designer. We can choose to call it designer ‘God.’

  1. About good and evil:

What is good? What is bad, wrong or evil? Can ethics simply be the product of our changing public opinion? The fact that most -if not all- people are conscious of good and evil suggests that ethics and morality go beyond socially learned behaviour. The fact that some kind of moral code appears to be burnt onto every human ‘hard-drive’ suggests the existence of a moral lawgiver. We can choose to call this moral lawgiver ‘God’. It therefore seems reasonable to me to believe in the existence of a powerful initial cause, an intelligent designer, a universal legislator. You can call this ‘great entity’ God or give it any other name. What else can we discover about this ‘great entity’? Is it likely to be a thing, like energy, or a person, something like you and me?

  1. Over logic:

I see a person as something more, higher or greater than matter and energy. I also notice that it is the greater that creates the smaller. For example, a person creates a computer; a bird builds a nest – but never the other way round. Who or what could create people like you and me? Our creator must also have a ‘personhood’ equal or in some way greater than that of ours.

  1. About beauty:

Why do we see and enjoy so many different colours? Why can a sunset be so beautiful? Why does our planet have such a diversity of flowers? Why do we have so many attractive flavours and aromas? Why does music exist? Not everything in our universe needs to exist. Since beauty is part of this creation, it must also be appreciated in one way or another by its designer. The appreciation of beauty is a trait of ‘personhood’. The fact that beauty exists, suggests to me that God is a person, who can also appreciate and enjoy it.

  1. About virtues:

The process that we call evolution is a value-free process. A mechanical universe has no room for virtue; it has no need for morality. But something in us knows that virtues such as love, humility, empathy, self-sacrifice, generosity and forgiveness are real. The existence of such virtues tells us something about the Creator. Ethics and virtues are things that are valued by persons. The fact that virtues exist suggests that God is a person who also values them. An important characteristic of ‘persons’ is that they have a strong desire to communicate with others. If God is a person it should not be considered as odd that this God should want to communicate with us. In fact, we should actually expect it. Christians believe that God has communicated a number of times with humans and that his supreme revelation came in the person of Jesus Christ. How Jesus help us to believe in God?

  1. About Jesus:

Did a person called Jesus really exist? Was he a myth? Most historians believe in a historical Jesus just as much as in Aristotle or Constantine. Has the Church made Jesus ‘divine’? Jesus himself was clearly not confused about his own identity. He came to this earth with a mission. The disciples of Jesus became slowly convinced that Jesus was God in human form: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1-14). That is why the enemies of Jesus accused him of blasphemy and wanted to kill him. The life and words of Jesus help me believe in God.

  1. About the resurrection of Jesus:

Friends and enemies of Jesus agreed that his tomb was empty. How did it become empty? The evangelists say that Jesus rose from the dead. Alternative explanations are quite weak. Moreover, after the resurrection, many people saw Jesus alive: “He [Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep [have now died]. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:6-8). The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the explanation that best fits the facts and it helps me to believe that Jesus was a genuine revelation of God.

  1. About good changes:

In Jerusalem, the city where Jesus was crucified, just a few weeks after the resurrection, 3.000 people believed the Christian message. This explosion of Christianity and the testimony of millions of changed lives also today cannot be accounted for without the real, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. In addition, sometimes I see extremely unlikely and otherwise unexplainable answers to prayer. The God of the Bible is still active today. In order to believe, Thomas wanted some evidence. The resurrected Jesus appeared to him and said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe”. Was this evidence proof that Jesus was God? No, but it helped. Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27, 28). Certainty about His resurrection helped Thomas believe that Jesus was God. Like Thomas, we have no evidence to prove that God exists, but the evidence and reasoning do help. Faith is a choice, for God or against God. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:1).

  1. About the meaning of life:

Christian faith is a rational faith. It is not a blind step in the dark. It makes sense. It is worthy of our faith and trust. Furthermore, genuine Christianity works and is existentially satisfying: it gives me hope when facing the brokenness in this world, it gives meaning and direction to my life, and I am sure it makes me a better man. When Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10), he was speaking the truth.

By Philip Nunn

Courtesy: www.philipnunn.com

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Grace for humble

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It is significant, too, that the Scripture assures us that the same God who must resist the proud always stands ready to give grace to the humble, The Bible advises men and women to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. It is my opinion that if our humility had to show itself only under the hand of God, it would be a relatively easy gesture.

If the Lord should say to me,”lam coming and will stand at the front of the church and I will expect you to come and kneel before me and humble yourself,” it would be an easy thing for me to do because I know that no one will ever lose face in kneeling humbly before God Himself.

Any man would feel just as proud as ever even though kneeling before the eternal Majesty on high. But God knows our hearts and He doesn’t allow us to fulfill His demands for humility with a mere gesture.

God may use people whom you think are not worthy to shine your shoes and in a given situation He will expect you to humble yourself meekly and take from them whatever it is they are pouring on you. In that spirit of meekness you would be humbling yourself under the mighty hand of God!

Think of the example of our Savior, cruelly beaten and cut with the lash. That whip was not wielded by an archangel but by the hands of a pagan Roman soldier. The abuse that was heaped on Jesus did not come from any multitude of the heavenly host-but from wicked, blasphemous and dirty-tongued men who were not worthy to clean the dust from the soles of His sandals.

Jesus willingly humbled Himself under the hand of men and so He humbled himself under the hand of God.

Taken from the book “I call it Heresy” by A W Tozer

Published by Gospel Literature Service

 

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Good Habits for Happy Marriage

happy married life

American Calvinist Baptist Minister and Author John Piper’s wife Noel Piper writes about their successful marriage. An article ‘Will you cleave and leave your man? – letter to a would-be adulteress’ in desiringgod.org, talks about her convictions and habits for keeping her marriage from turmoil and sensual  encounters.

She writes, “I understood — as well as a person can at the beginning of the rest of her life — the happy, solemn weight of promising to be faithful to him until death parted us, no matter what challenges God might bring into our lives. It didn’t seem possible I would ever want anything else.”

And she willfully and wholeheartedly took the oath, “Noël, do you take John to be your wedded husband to live together in holy matrimony? Do you promise to love him . . . and forsaking all others, be faithful only to him so long as you both shall live?” There was not a doubt in my mind or heart when I declared, “I do!”

Like many others she also experienced the tempting storms in which their marriage could have been ship-wrecked. But God held them together.

“How could I have known that the worse of “better or worse” would lead to a season of sleepless nights when I wondered how I could keep on? I felt desperate for something different. That’s the time in our marriage when I would have been most likely to turn to someone else. But thank God, it didn’t happen. He held us together. There were a few habits that helped.”

She formed some practical and tough habits which is the embodiment of love and dedication to her husband John Piper.  These habits are still relevant in these post-modern times where people tend to be unfaithful at least in social media.  Try these habits to keep the marriage safe and pure.

  • “Not flirting with other men.
  • Avoiding men who seemed too interested.
  • Not meeting alone with any other man.
  • Having regular devotions together with Johnny.

Faithfulness required more than four habits, but these four have been central and essential.”

Men can also follow the habits. For her the hardest habit was the last one; to having devotions together with her husband. What she learnt from her parents – togetherness in prayer inspired her to keep the promise.

“The last is the hardest, but most important. My appreciation for it began, as with many things, with my parents. It is amazing my parents stayed together. About twenty years into their marriage, their rampaging differences seemed about to rip them apart.

Through even the most difficult months — years, really — Daddy and Mother took us all to church every Sunday. And every evening of the week, one of us kids was sent to the front porch to holler down toward the pasture and out toward the woods, “Sto-o-ory and pra-a-yers ti-i-ime!”

After all nine of us kids (later we were ten) had tumbled into the living room from the barn and creek and kitchen, Daddy read the next passage in our years-long path through the whole Bible. Then we kneeled at our chairs and took turns praying”

And she had questions and doubts of wandering away from the sanctity of their marriage. But she chose the path of faithfulness and it yielded great results in their personal lives. And for the millions of people who read and watch John Piper and his family, their life is a perfect example to follow.

She asks herself some important questions, and she picked up the right answer.

“What did it boil down to during my darkest nights? I was saved from wandering by some form of this question: What kind of a cleaver am I? Am I the deadly implement who will split my family — with a husband and five children — into shreds? Because, with or without divorce, that is what unfaithfulness will do to us.

Or will I cleave to the husband God has given me? Will I cling to my marriage and pray desperately for something different? I chose to cling, and God is still proving his faithfulness. He will do the same for you.”

Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled .. Hebrews 13:4

By Prakash P Koshy

 

 

 

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