Tag Archive | Christ

A SPECIAL GIFT (guest post)

 

Two months ago my husband had a birthday. From some of the gifts he received, there was one gift that didn’t look as beautiful as it usually packs a gift. There were several lines of creases on the wrapping paper. It seems that the person who gave the gift had to uncover the crease of paper several times before finally succeeding in wrapping the gift. But all our impressions about the gift changed after we opened it. Not because the gift contained expensive item that was deliberately camouflaged with makeshift packaging as some people do to make a surprise. Not also because the gift contained the items we needed. The gift is “only” five small sachets of chocolate powder commonly used for instant drinks. On the sachet there was a pink paper that is usually used by children to make crafts, with congratulatory sentences and simple prayers in the typical handwriting of children. It was a gift from our niece, Joceline, who was only five years old. Instantly our hearts became warm.

Her mother told me how Joceline really loved all forms of chocolate. Usually she often whines with a sad and miserable face if her chocolate has to be given to someone else. But at the time she was very excited about wrapping her chocolate and writing a card to give to my husband. We still remember how Joceline gave her gift with a smile on her lips and sparkling eyes. Although the nominal value of chocolate powder is much lower than other gifts, but now we have more than enough reason to place the gift in a special position in our hearts.

What about us and the Father in Heaven? Have we offered the best of ourselves to the Father and pleased Him? Have we offered this whole life as a special gift to Him?

LOVE AND FAITH

In Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4 it is written the story of a poor widow who put two copper mites into the temple treasury. This passage literally tells about giving offerings in the temple, but I believe that we must have the quality of giving as the poor widow did, in every aspect of our lives. For truly everything we do in this life must be our offering and worship to God.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44 NIV)

Jesus didn’t just sit and see, but He view attentively how people put money into the temple treasury. The Lord Jesus observed and perceived each of them. His eyes penetrates to the bottom of the heart. More than just knowing the nominal value of the money, He knows every way of their lives and motivation. Among the many people who made offerings, He praised a poor widow who gave her two copper mites, the smallest and least valuable coin among the coins circulating in Judea at that time.

What was the distinguishes the poor widow’s offering from others? Were the coincidences that made offerings at that time were all rich people and this woman was the only poor person? Were there no other poor widows who also made offerings at that time? We don’t know for sure because the Bible doesn’t tell details about it. But surely this is NOT ABOUT THE AMOUNT OF MONEY and also NOT ABOUT RICH OR POOR. This is about HEART ATTITUDE AND LIFE BEHIND AN OFFERING.

Jesus’ words in verse 44 are the key: “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” ” At that time two copper mites was equal to the cost of food for one person per day. Not fancy food, of course. We must remember that she was a poor widow. The two copper mites certainly means a lot to her. It money was all she had to live on, but she gave all to God. That’s what makes her offering worth much higher than the others. In this poor widow’s offering there was a SACRIFICE based on FAITH. He will not give all her living if she didn’t has faith that God must preserve and will never leave her. In other words, letting go of all her living is the same as entrusting her life into God’s hands. That is the BEST part she can give to God.

Now let’s look at this in a broader context. Indeed, we will never be able to “give” to God because everything comes from Him:

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (Psalm 24:1 NIV)

For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:7-8 NIV)

If the whole universe including ourselves belongs to God, then what can we give to Him? Nothing at all! So, when we “give” offerings to God we are actually “offering back” what is truly His mine. This is not just money, but our entire life! Whatever we do in this life must be an offering that pleases God, but everything must be done in faith in Christ.

Faith is the assurance of our hope for God’s promise. Faith makes us willing to sacrifice because we believe that what we do in God will not be in vain. We sacrifice our pleasure in sin and fleshly desires in order to obey God’s word. Faith affirms us to be faithful until the end because we believe that there is a reward that awaits us in Heaven. And only faith makes us fully able to entrust our whole lives in His hands as long as we walk in the world. Faith must be the basis of all our actions, because without faith everything we offer is like ordinary activity without eternal value. And above all, LOVE must be our driving force and main motivation because without love all our sacrifices are nothing and useless.

…and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2b-3 NIV)

SINCERE

In previous events, Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23:1-36; Mr 12: 38-40; Luke 11:37-54; Luke 20:45-47). These Pharisees and Scribes were people who were very respected and influential at that time. Their words were like the law that the Jews must obey. Jesus called them hypocrites, who knew and taught the truth but they didn’t do it. They look godly and holy on the outside, but they full of trash and decay inside. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 NIV).  Everything they do is done for people to see…” (Matthew 23:5a NIV). It seems that at that time there was a special pride if it was seen as a pious and devout person, so there was a tendency to do everything in order to be seen by others. In the midst of such a spiritual atmosphere, sincerity is something rare.

Return to the poor widow with her two copper mites. What can be proud of with two copper mites compared to the offerings of rich people who must be jingling loudly when put in the offering treasury. The jingling might invite admiration and respect from the people who saw it. This was in contrast to the poor widow’s offering. There was no pride gained by this widow in the human eye even though she gave all her income. I believe that she only gave sincerely to her Lord without seeking human praise, because it was impossible for Jesus to appreciate this woman’s offering if she did it with the wrong heart.

God sees the heart more than performance. Incorrect motivation makes everything we do become wrong. Doing good but not sincere is the same as deceiving ourselves, others, and God. Sincerity means what we do and say are the same as what is in the heart. More than that, we are like the Pharisees and hypocritical scribes. If we long for our lives to be offerings that are pleasing to the Father, then all our deeds must be truly sincere and not just look beautiful on the packaging.

Everything we do in sincerity and sacrifice to give the best that is moved only by love and based on faith in Christ will be an offering that pleases God.

A HEART THAT IS BANDED TO GOD

In fact, none of our offerings can amaze and fascinate God because wealth, talents, and creativity that we offer are come from Him. No matter how good we sing, it will not be as beautiful as the singing of angels in Heaven. As great as our ministry or work that we do, there will always be weaknesses. What distinguishes one person’s offering from others is that HEART is involved because there are no things we do without involving the heart, whether our hearts are right or wrong! In the heart there is a motivation for each of our actions, which in turn will DETERMINE THE QUALITY of our offerings.

The gift from Joceline is worthless compared to other gifts we received. But because of the attitude of her heart – love, sincerity, sacrifice and willingness to provide what she herself likes, also joyful when she was giving up her gift – making her simple gift becomes a special gift. How about our hearts??

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21 NIV)

HOW FAR or TO WHOM we believe, love, sacrifice and give, it’s all DEPEND ON WHAT OR WHO IS the treasure to us. If God becomes our most valuable treasure, our hearts will be banded to Him. If our heart truly banded to God, we will definitely make Him the center and our main reason for living this life. The poor widow has offered her two copper mites to God. Now, let us rededicate our “two copper mites” – that is our whole lives – as a special gift for Father with love, faith and sincerity. I believe the Holy Spirit is with us. His strength and power will help us not only to choose what is right, but also to do it with the right heart and in a way that pleases God. Amen.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo by: Sella Irene

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NO DECEIT (guest post)

Since ancient times “what appears before the eyes of men” has become a measure. Look at how a great prophet like Samuel mistakenly recognized Eliab as the anointed of God only because of his appearance or his height (1 Sam 16: 6-7). We also use this perspective often when interacting with other people, right ?! For example, sometimes we quickly conclude someone is mature and wise just because he doesn’t talk much. Even though the reality is not necessarily so. In Proverbs 17: 27-28 it is written: “He who has knowledge spares his words, [And] a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; [When] he shuts his lips, [he is considered] perceptive.” (Proverbs 17:27-28 NKJV) This shows us how easy it is to judge someone’s personality only from the outside.

Conscious or not, often our judgments and attitudes toward others are influenced by what we see and what we hear. Indirectly this makes ourselves to be a person who is more concerned with “what appears outside” like our appearance and the way we speak in order to get the “image” that we want in the eyes of others. We become a person who cares deeply about what other people say. We feel “okay” when people say we are great, cool, kind, humble, and various other compliments. On the contrary, we feel bad or even feel rejected when people say our performance isn’t as good as usual, considered boring, not smart, our opinions are not accepted, and so on. The judgment of others becomes very important to us as if it contributes to our self-worth.

Without realizing it, we carry such a mindset when worshiping and while serving God, whether to get a positive assessment from others or even to obtain God’s “favor”! We diligently come to church and serve so that others see us as godly people. We sing, close our eyes, and raise our hands in worship, but actually our minds are wandering everywhere. The prayers we offer are just strands of beautiful sentences that we speak eloquently but without faith. Our services to God is only the talent that is presented well without any life offered on the altar. Even worse, we wrap our speech with “spiritual languages” while in church, even though we often emit our emotions with inappropriate words in the work environment. We are kind and friendly to all economic strata while in church, but we often discriminate people in our daily activities. Not the kind of worship that is desired by God. What God longs for is we come to Him with sincerity, without falsity!

We will learn about this from Jesus’ conversation with Nathanael. According to tradition, Nathanael and Bartholomew were considered to be the same person, namely one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. The opinion developed since the ninth century may be based on writing a list of the names of 12 disciples in the three Synoptic Gospels (Mt 10: 1–4; Mk 3: 13-19; Lk 6: 12–16) who always juxtaposed Bartholomew’s name with Philip, while Nathanael was a friend of Philip. The story of Nathanael began when Jesus went to Galileam, where He met Philip, whom He called to follow him. Philip rejoiced that he had found Jesus and immediately invited his friend, Nathanael, to meet Jesus. Then there was a very interesting conversation between Jesus and Nathanael in John 1: 45–51.

GOD LOOKS AT THE HEART

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.

(John 1:45-48 NIV)

Regardless of the estimate of who Nathanael really is, what is interesting is Jesus’ statement when he saw him: “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (John 1:47 NIV)

There was a quality within Nathanael that Jesus likes: there is no deceit. No deceit means no guile nor duplicity. This means that everything in Nathanael’s self – his actions, his heart and mind – all are sincere, not acting, and without falsity. What appears on the surface is a reflection of what is in him, without pretense. As what appears in people’s eyes, that’s how he is. Not made up, not hypocritical. Nathanael’s sincerity was the opposite of the condition of the Israelites of that day, especially the scribes and Pharisees, who were only concerned with outward things. On different occasions Jesus criticized them: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 NIV)  In the midst of such Israeli conditions, it is not surprising that Jesus called Nathanael as truly Israelite.

No matter how good one’s performance in the human eye, one’s value is not determined by what appears outside because God’s eyes penetrate far to the bottom of the heart: “…..The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7 NIV)  God knows every thought and motivation that we don’t even realize. God wants whatever we do, more than just because we care what people say. God wants us to do our best not because we just carry out our obligations, even more than just professionalism. Let us not do something just because of politeness, especially if there is a hidden purpose.

Proverbs 23: 7 is a real example of insincerity: For as he thinks in his heart, so is he [in behavior—one who manipulates]. He says to you, “Eat and drink,” Yet his heart is not with you [but it is begrudging the cost]. (AMP version) This verse also serves as a reminder for us to be careful of kindness and hospitality accompanied by hidden intentions, as well as a warning to ourselves so that we do everything with a pure heart. God wants us to live without falsehood and not hypocrisy. A life that is in harmony between heart, mind, words, deeds. A piety without pretense. Life isn’t just good on “packaging”, but really beautiful and fragrant. This quality isn’t produced overnight, but is the result of spiritual discipline and consistency to continually decide life with a sincere and pure heart before God.

EASY TO BELIEVE IN GOD

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

(John 1:48-49 NIV)

Nathanael was surprised how Jesus could know him even though they had never met before. Shortly after hearing Jesus’ answer “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you”, Nathanael gave a spontaneous statement that showing his belief in who Jesus is: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” (John 1:49).  Look, how easy for Nathanael to trust Jesus, even though Nathanael had made a skeptical statement when Philip told him about Jesus of Nazareth. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46 NIV).

Nathanael is an example of how people who are with no deceit will easily to believe in God because his heart is sincere and pure before God. Why is it sometimes difficult for us to believe in God? One of the causes is because we are not truly sincere and pure towards God. Unconsciously we still have a hidden agenda and veiled motivation for God. We don’t come to God with ” as we really are “. Often it is hidden deep in the heart, but God who sees the heart knows everything. Therefore, allow God to investigate and justify our hearts, straighten out and show our mistakes, so that there is no obstacle between us and God. Let the psalmist’s prayer before this omniscient Lord also be our prayer: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24 NIV)

SEE GREATER THINGS THAN BEFORE

Jesus said, “You believe[h] because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”

He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

(John 1:50-51 NIV)

Living with no deceit will make us uncomplicated in trusting God and easier to follow God’s guidance because we believe in Him. Walking in God’s guidance will lead us to greater things, as Jesus promised to Nathanael: “You will see greater things than that”. Larger things aren’t just about miracles, God’s help, blessings, promotions, and things like that. Much bigger than all of that is the knowledge of God. Jesus said to Nathanael: “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” This is similar to Jacob’s dream at Bethel in Gen. 28:12, but this time with a special revelation regarding the Son of Man. Previously Nathanael acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God but Jesus stated that He is the Son of Man, as prophesied in Daniel 7:1-14. This equipped Nathanael’s understanding of Jesus. When we read the rest of the story, Nathanael was one of those who saw Jesus when He appeared on the shore of the lake of Tiberias after His resurrection in John 21:2.

It is a gift to be allowed to know God personally, because in fact we will not be able to know God if He doesn’t reveal Himself to us. If at this time we can trust and know God, it is because the Holy Spirit has placed the seeds of faith in our hearts. This is Paul’s statement that understands how valuable the knowledge of God is:

But whatever former things were gains to me [as I thought then], these things [once regarded as advancements in merit] I have come to consider as loss [absolutely worthless] for the sake of Christ [and the purpose which He has given my life]. But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ (Phillipians 3:7-8 AMP)

Believing and knowing Christ is the most valuable thing in life. Without Christ we will be lost, aimless, and unsaved. Therefore let us faithfully follow Christ. Let’s keep living in sincerity and true piety with no deceit, so that we become people who are easily formed by God and obey Him. By continuing to believe and live in His guidance we will increasingly know Him and experience greater things with Him in all areas of our lives. Amen.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo Credit: Google Images (Edit with: pixlr app)

THE SECOND CHANCE (guest post)

There are certain circumstances in our lives that the way out can be obtained only through a breakthrough. A divine momentum that will produce a supernatural leap, which is impossible to achieve in ordinary situation. This momentum can be a scarce chance that given by God. But unfortunately sometimes we fail to recognize and take that chance. If we ponder deeper, the failure is mainly because of ourselves. Either because we don’t know, don’t want to do it, fear, worry, hesitate, and so forth. Eventually we lose the momentum that we don’t know when it will come again, or even never come again. That was what the Israelites experienced. They failed to enter the Promised Land at the first opportunity because they rebel against God. As a result, they have to wander in the desert for 40 years.

THE FIRST CHANCE

God brought the Israelites out of Egypt with miraculous signs. After passing through several stops, three months later they arrived at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1) and camped at there for about 13 months. In Sinai God gave the Ten Commandments and various rules about the ordinances of worship and daily life. Then the Lord commanded to count the number of all the men from 20 years old and above who are able to go to war. In fact, God was preparing them to enter Canaan, the Promised Land.

Furthermore, God led them until they arrived at Kadesh Barnea, which is an 11-day journey from Sinai (Deuteronomy 1:2). Then Moses sent 12 men, including Joshua and Caleb, to spy on Canaan. After 40 days the spies returned and reported: “We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:33) Israelites became angry and rebelled against God by intending to return to Egypt. Only Joshua and Caleb who still believed God could bring them into Canaan. God was angry and decided that the rebellious generation who was 20 years old and above would not enter the Promised Land. As a consequence, they must wander in the desert for 40 years! (Numbers 14:1-38)

“For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this desert; here they will die.” (Numbers 14:34-35)

Because of remorse and fear of God’s punishment, the people finally attacked Canaan. But because of God was not with them, they were easily defeated until they scattered by the enemy (Numbers 14:39-45). That was the failure of the Israelites to enter the Promised Land at the first chance. But God keeps His promise, though to get the SECOND CHANCE they have to wait for 40 years!

THE RESPONSE IN DEALING WITH THE SECOND CHANCE

After 40 years of circling in the desert, the Israelites finally arrived for the second time in Kadesh. They are a generation that was under 20 years old on the first occasion that happened in the past decades. Now, they will enter the Promised Land with their children, while their parents have perished in the wilderness.

It teaches two things to us:

From those who eventually die in the wilderness we learn that THERE ARE DIVINE MOMENTUM WILL NOT COME TWICE IN THIS LIFE. Therefore if God commands something for us to do, let’s immediately obey and believe it even though it seems impossible. Because if we reject it, we may miss it forever.

On the other hand, from this story we affirmed that THE GOD’S GRACIOUS HANDS IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE FOR HIS PEOPLE. The Israelites had failed at the first chance, but God gave them the second chance. This means we always have the reason to hope. “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverb 23:18)

Then, how should we behave when God grants us a second chance? Let’s learn from the preaching of Moses to the generation that will enter Canaan in DEUTERONOMY 9: 1-6.

There are THREE MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGES to us:

First: HEALING FROM THE TRAUMA (Verses 1 – 2)

Hear, O Israel. You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky. The people are strong and tall—Anakites! You know about them and have heard it said: “WHO CAN STAND UP AGAINST THE ANAKITES?”

The Anakites are the ones who on the first chance ago have terrified the Israelites. The Israelites also have a history of losing the battle against them. The Anakites are a scourge and a bad memory for Israel, so among them there is a thought: “WHO CAN STAND UP AGAINST THE ANAKITES?” The meaning behind that statement is “No one can stand up against the Anakites.” The fact that the enemies of Israel are the people who  greater and taller than them, with the cities are large with the wall upto the sky, made the Israelites see an impossibility to win. But … to enter the Promised Land, God commanded the Israelites to fight against them. This means they must RESOLVE THE TRAUMA AND DARE TO FACE ALL THE IMPOSSIBILITY IN THE FUTURE.

Trauma can be a hindrance to enjoying the noble things God has provided for us in the future because trauma binds our hearts to the past. Trauma makes it hard to believe that with God we can overcome challenges greater than us. Therefore we must solve it.

If there is past event that when we remember that our hearts become injured again, depressed by excessive regrets, , and always afraid and worry if it happens again. That’s the trauma. There is only one way, come to Jesus who is able to set us free. Forgive if anyone should be forgiven, including forgiving ourselves. Do not let failure be a burden that hinders our steps toward the future, but make it a valuable lesson.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

God does not want us to escape reality. God wants us to be HEALED AND RESTORED. Past mistakes or failures can not be changed, but God is able to change our future. It begins with our decision today to come to Jesus and lay the burdens of our hearts upon Him: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) The time we are free from the trauma, there is nothing that stifles our steps to walk with God and through all our future impossibilities with Him.

Second: GOD IS WITH US (Verse 3)

But be assured today that the Lord your GOD IS THE ONE WHO GOES ACROSS AHEAD OF YOU LIKE A DEVOURING FIRE. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you.

The Lord reveals Himself to His people as THE ONE WHO GOES ACROSS AHEAD OF YOU LIKE A DEVOURING FIRE.

GOES ACROSS AHEAD OF HIS PEOPLE: This shows that He is the God who gives direction and leads us to the goal. A guarantee that our journey will surely succeed whatever happens.

“who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.” (Deuteronomy 1:33)

“The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land.” (Deuteronomy 31:3a)

GOD LIKE A DEVOURING FIRE: It states that He is a jealous God: “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, A JEALOUS GOD.” (deuteronomy 4:24) As a jealous God, He accompanies and protects us as His own. On the other hand, He wants to be the only God in our lives. Therefore don’t turn to other gods. Be faithful and follow His lead, then the Lord will lead us to His triumphal path.

Third: DON’T BOAST YOURSELF (Verse 4 – 6)

After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, DO NOT SAY TO YOURSELF, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. IT IS NOT BECAUSE OF YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS OR YOUR INTEGRITY that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that IT IS NOT BECAUSE OF YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

The Israelites won over their enemies not because Israel was great in war, but because of the wickedness of the enemies themselves. Therefore there is a warning from God: “Don’t say to ourselves that all because of our righteousness and our integrity”. Boast ourselves, though only in the heart, is tantamount to arrogant which also means stealing the glory of God. And why does the statement “It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity” is written more than once in this passage? Because human tendency is pride of himself and feel that every achievement because of their effort and hard work. Even we as children of God can also feel all the blessing we receive is because we are living righteously, already diligently serving, praying, fasting, reading the word of God, and doing other righteous things. That isn’t pleasing God’s heart. That’s why from now on if our life is successful, don’t connect that success with all the good and right things we have done, because it can make us become arrogant.

THE WAY TO THE SECOND CHANCE

From the story above we know how to respond when God takes us on the second chance: heals from the trauma, follows God’s lead, and does not boast about having succeeded. Now, what should we do to get a second chance?? Learning from the failed of Israelites at the first chance because of sin and rebellion so they must wander in the wilderness, there are two things we must do:

First: REPENTANCE. Sin is the separator between us and God. As a human, the child of God can still fall into sin. But if we continue to live in sin, we will not be able to do God’s will for us. Therefore let us ask for forgiveness and leave our sins immediately. God’s promise is: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

There is always a restoration in repentance and reconciliation with God. Jacob, Samson, Jonah, Peter, Paul, are some examples of people who had a second chance after their repentance.

Second: HUMBLE. When the Israelites failed at the first chance, God took them around in the wilderness. The goal is to humble them (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). If we want to get a second chance we must believe in God’s leading and follow His ways. All that requires humility, for only humble people are willing to obey and submit to the authority. “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (Psalms 25:9)

More than that, every chance comes only from God. We can not force Him. He will give it according to His wisdom and omniscience about our lifetime. But as long as our heart is still beating, let’s hope for the second chance. And if the second chance is no more, at least we have cleared our hearts before God, healed and restored, so that we can freely worship Him and doing our best of every part God entrusts to us in the rest of the time we still have. Let’s learn from Moses’ life about this. Moses had made a fatal mistake for hitting a rock in Meribah in Numbers 20: 2-13 which caused Moses and Aaron not allowed by God to enter Canaan. Moses prayed for grace to be allowed to enter and see Canaan, but God did not grant it. “…But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter…” (Deuteronomy 3:23-26) How’s Moses’ reaction?? He was not disappointed with God. He continued to serve the Lord and did his work thoroughly to the end. In Hebrews 3: 1-6 it is said “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,…” May this article strengthen us to do our best in every chance that God gives us, for God will count every one of our deeds. God bless you, amen.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Image source: www.pixelstalk.net   (Edit with Pixlr app)

CONQUER YOURSELF (guest post)

Hello my dear readers! I just wanted to let you know that this guest post is the last post of my blog this year. I’ll be back on January next year. I personally want to say thank you very much for the support, comment, suggestion, and likes on my posts throughout this year. I also want to say sorry if during December I’m inactive do blogging just because I’m on vacation in Paris. Thank you very much. God Bless you all.

 

 

In the previous guest post (PUTT OFF YOUR EGO) , we understand that every response and our reaction to everything is influenced by the ego. That’s why we must abandon our old human ego, and begin to look at ourselves in the Divine perspective and act in harmony with what God says so that we don’t fall into the sins caused by the ego. To completing that post, let us together learn about conquering ourselves as Paul did while he served the Lord with his whole life.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it TO GET A CROWN THAT WILL LAST FOREVER.

Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.

No, I BEAT MY BODY and MAKE IT MY SLAVE so that after I have preached to others, I myself will NOT BE DISQUALIFIED FOR THE PRIZE.

    (1 Corinthians 9:25-27 NIV)                

Paul made an analogy that every Christ’s follower is an athlete in a match. A truly athlete not only exerts his energies, but also invests his entire life to focus on winning in every game. They keen to practice to become more and more expert in their field. They struggle to control themselves: regulate their diet, condition their thoughts and feelings, and often have to overcome their laziness and pleasure. Paul says that all the self-denial they do is for a mortal crown, but we, the spiritual athletes, are fighting for an eternal crown. In the context of 1 Corinthians 9: 25-27, the eternal crown isn’t talking about salvation, but the eternal blessedness which will be a prize to the genuine servants of God and Christ. Isn’t it for eternal blessing we should try harder?! Now let’s see the spiritual life of the Apostle Paul.

Paul’s dedication and totality to the preaching of the gospel is unquestionable. The letter of 2 Corinthians 9: 23-28 describes Paul’s sacrifice and suffering in ministry. He was physically abused, faced with disasters and dangers everywhere. He has to work hard so often not sleep, starvation, thirst, cold, fasting, and so on. None of the suffering made him weak and retreated. It is precisely from a person who is willing to die for the Gospel came out this statement: “No, I BEAT MY BODY and MAKE IT MY SLAVE so that after I have preached to others, I myself will NOT BE DISQUALIFIED FOR THE PRIZE.”

There are two points emphasized by the apostle Paul, that are “I BEAT MY BODY” and “MAKE IT MY SLAVE”.

I BEAT MY BODY

The body which Paul speaks of in this context is not physical, but the existence of the human self in which there are thoughts, feelings, and will with all its strengths and weaknesses. So, the meaning of “I beat my body” is discipline himself by hardships, handle it roughly like a boxer one buffets his own body. This self-discipline isn’t enough just once but every day, constantly, and for the rest of our lives!

Often we angry, hardened, and unwilling to tolerate others. On the contrary, we become weak to face ourselves. We too often surrender to our desires, feelings, and thoughts. Though we know that what we want or what we are doing isn’t good and even wrong, but we are powerless to stop it. If we want to win we must be like Paul. He applied a very hard discipline to himself. He is beating his flesh, defeating his ego, forcing himself to do what he should do, not what he wants to do.

BECOME SLAVE

Paul disciplined himself very hard like a master to his slave. Being a slave is an unpleasant word. In the days of slavery, a slave had no right to question, deny, and resist his master’s orders. The life of a slave is wholly owned and controlled by his master. Paul says “MAKE IT MY SLAVE”. Paul made himself his slave. In other words, Paul doesn’t allow himself to be controlled by his own will, feelings, and thoughts. Then to whom did Paul subdue himself? To God.

For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. (1 Corinthians 7:22 NKJV)

Many people want to rise from their downfall and abandon their bad habits, but in reality they continue to do it again and again. They are powerless because they have been enslaved by their own minds, feelings, and wills. Dear reader, if we want to be free and not enslaved by ourselves, then we must subdue ourselves to God. All our existence must be submissive to God like a slave who has no right to himself.

SERVING GOD UNTIL THE END

An athlete’s struggle has begun since he decided to attend a match, and an athlete’s victory is not only determined when he is in the arena, but is largely determined by his preparations.

We are spiritual athletes. Our race starts from the moment we decide to accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. Since then our lives are not ours anymore but belong to God. God is the Master, and we are His servants. The sign that we have made Christ as our Master is if we serve Him, not serving our own desires.

Unfortunately, the greatest obstacle for us to devote ourselves completely to God is OUR SELF. All that comes from outside us can indeed affect and trigger, but the final decision remains in our hands. Live in holiness or adultery, be patient or angry, forgive or grudge, faithful to a spouse or an affair, honest or lie, and so on, we decide it. It’s not just about choosing between sin and not, but also about everything that doesn’t support our devotion and service to God, even though it is not evil. For example: praying or sleeping longer, reading the Bible now or later, excessive shopping passion, moody, and so on. Often we have to wrestle with ourselves to make the appropriate choice of God’s will. James said: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” (James 1:14 NKJV) That is why we should not compromise with ourselves but must conquer it under the feet of Christ.

To conquer yourself means discipline to say “no” to ourselves to all things that not build our quality of life in Christ, and force ourselves to submit and say “yes” to everything that pleases God as our Master, even if we don’t loved it!

Conquering oneself requires a strong commitment. Not so that we may obtain salvation because salvation is not through man’s work but a free gift from God on the basis of grace. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and to all believers that the purpose of our struggle is: “….. so that after I have preached to others, I myself will NOT BE DISQUALIFIED FOR THE PRIZE.” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27 NIV).

If an athlete is disqualified, then there is no longer any chance of winning a prize. When we are “disqualified”, so we will not get eternal rewards from God for all our ministries. How can? For, if we don’t conquer ourselves to God then we will be controlled and enslaved by our own desires. In other words, our master isn’t God but ourselves. The person who is the master of himself, will not be able to serve the Lord because what he serves is his own ego. This thing will be hinder our purity in serving God.

Knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [and not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [real] reward. [The One Whom] you are actually serving [is] the Lord Christ (the Messiah). (Colossians 3:24 AMP)

God doesn’t see the number of activities in the ministry, but the most important is the transformation of life. Have our lives been in harmony with the gospel we preach? Have we lived righteously as the truths we know? Are we becoming more and more like Christ that we serve? If the answer is “no”, maybe we have not become a true servant of Christ. Maybe we serve because of hobbies, pride, happy to perform, develop talent, love to socialize and organize. All that isn’t wrong. But if we just stop at that stage and do not want to undergo a process of self-conquest that erodes our ego and transforms ourselves, then we can never serve God in the right way and pleasing to Him.

Look at the Apostle Paul. In his second letter to Timothy, the last letter he wrote from prison in Rome before he was beheaded by Emperor Nero, he said: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV) Paul was surely believe that he has finished his race very well. It is the hope and purpose of all believers.

Dear readers … Before this year’s end, let’s make a commitment and ask the Holy Spirit to help and strengthen so we can discipline and subdue ourselves. If we are always obedient to conquer ourselves under the will of God then our lives will bear the fruits of the Spirit. We will be more loving, able to rejoice even in distress, peace, be more patient, more generous, kinder, more faithful, gentle, and more self-controlling. If the fruit of the Spirit is abundant in our lives, then our ministry will be blessing our neighbor and glorify God’s Name. Until the time comes, we will receive eternal rewards for every of our labor in Jesus Christ. May the last post of this year be a blessing to you, and we will meet next year in a more mature spirituality.

Amen.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

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GOD’S LOVE IN THE SUFFERING (guest post)

Not a few Christians have the mindset that when they were saved and become followers of Christ their lives will be free of all problems and sufferings. Some of my friends were disappointed because their lives after receiving Christ didn’t get better and sometimes even become harder than before. And then they begin to doubt God’s promises that say,

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. (Isaiah 43:1-3)

For God do not afflict willingly nor grieve the Children of Men. (Lamentations 3: 33)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1Peter 5:7)

 We all know that God really love His child.  If God is so good and loving, why does He allow suffering to His children? Even His begotten son had to suffer tortured beyond humanity and death on the cross.  This is the most common question that has been haunting many people especially for Christians. So, why the problems, trials, and tribulations seem to be part of our lives? My dear readers, this time, Sister Sella will give all of us an explanation as the answer of the question above. All comment hopefully could be reply by Sister Sella.  Thank you very much, dear readers.

 

Suffering is not a comfortable word to imagine. Even some of our prayers contain requests about the health, blessing, and protection of God. If we ponder more deeply, the point is to be escaped from suffering. But the facts… sadness, failure, loss, and the things connoted as suffering will always be a part of life. Not because God does not love us, but because the Lord has a noble purpose for our benefit:

Suffering is one of God’s ways to teach, mold, and purify His people: “Remember how THE LORD YOUR GOD LED YOU ALL THE WAY  IN THE DESERT these forty years, TO HUMBLE YOU AND TO TEST YOU in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deuteronomy 8:2 NIV)

And any suffering that we must bear because of the truth as the people who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, or the suffering that we go through in obedience to God, is a process to produce the unshakable spiritual quality and makes us more firmly holding on to God as the only hope. Not just for the present life but to eternal life: “Not only so, but WE ALSO REJOICE IN OUR SUFFERINGS, because we know that SUFFERING PRODUCES perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)

The various forms of suffering – whether caused by sin and human error, or the suffering that God allows in the lives of His chosen people, like Job – all can be used by God to reveal His love even in ways that transcend our understanding !!

THE CARE OF GOD

A few weeks ago, one of the chapters in the book “A Heart for God” by Sinclair B. Ferguson helped me to see suffering from another perspective: SUFFERING IS ONE OF GOD’S WAYS TO CARE FOR HIS PEOPLE. But … If God cares and loves His people, why should He show it through suffering? So let’s see the life of Naomi in the book of Ruth.

Once upon time there was famine in the land of Israel. One from Bethlehem-Judah named Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, went to country of Moab to live there. Then Elimelech died there. Naomi was left with her two sons, who eventually married women from Moab, Ruth and Orpah. Then her two sons died too, so Naomi alone with her two daughters-in-law.

Naomi had two choices: stay in Moab in the sad memories of her husband and two beloved sons who died there, or return to Israel, the Promised Land, from where she came from. By God’s grace, Naomi returned to Israel with Ruth, Mahlon’s wife, who was determined to go wherever Naomi goes. This was Naomi’s word about her life:

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara,  because THE ALMIGHTY HAS MADE MY LIFE VERY BITTER. I went away full, but  THE LORD HAS BROUGHT ME BACK EMPTY. Why call me Naomi? THE LORD HAS AFFLICTED ME; THE ALMIGHTY HAS BROUGHT MISFORTUNE UPON ME.” (Ruth 1:20-21 NIV)

It was not words that comes out of a bitter and disappointed heart with God. It was Naomi’s recognition that GOD ALMIGHTY ALWAYS EXIST AND WORK in all her suffering. Naomi knew for sure that all things God allowed to happen in her life is to bring her back home, bringing her back to God and all His promises.

She remembered… when the famine occurred ten years ago, she and her family chose to leave Israel, the land on which the Lord had promised to bless and care for His people. Leaving the Promised Land is the same with to doubt the promises of God. She went away full, which is full of plans, hopes, and dreams of a better tomorrow, and possibly by bringing all their treasures, to build a new future in a foreign country. Then suffering for the sake of suffering was “forcing” her to return to the Promised Land despite with “empty hands”, nothing else can be expected and relied upon besides God!!

Sometimes we are also like that. When faced with problems, we don’t immediately seek God but instead seek help from others with our own strength. Sometimes we are so confident that we don’t fully rely on God until God allows suffering to rob all we have. Maybe it’s money, position, power, self-esteem, relationships, or anything else that WITHOUT WE REALIZE ALREADY REPLACE THE POSITION OF GOD IN OUR HEARTS. Sometimes we feel our hearts are right and our relationship with God is all right, until suffering discloses hidden secrets from the depths of our hearts and makes us realize our true reality. That’s when we are purified and our commitment with God is renewed!!

“I USED TO WANDER OFF UNTIL YOU DISCIPLINED ME; but now I closely follow your word. You are good and do only good; teach me your principles.” (Psalms 119:67-68 NLT)

Sometimes the bitter things permitted by God as a form of His care for His people. The care of God is not only about an abundant blessing, but also discipline, rebuke, and protection for His people. Discipline and rebuke so that we repent of sin and soon return to Him. Protection – not just for the salvation of body and soul – but also protect us from everything that potentially to lead us away from God. In order to care for us, sometimes God has to discipline, rebuke, punish, and let us through suffering for our good, like a father to his beloved child.

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the LORD’S DISCIPLINE, and do not lose heart when he REBUKES you, because the Lord DISCIPLINES those He loves, and He PUNISHES everyone He accepts as a son.” (Hebrews 12:5-6 NIV)

If God allows us to suffer, that means God cares about our lives. Why go through suffering? Only God knows!! He knows before anything happens, He knows our hearts, He knows our tendencies toward everything, and He knows exactly how to treat each one of us. He knows when to talk to us through the word we read, through the words of others, through an event, or through suffering. When we ask “why”, no human answer can satisfy us. For He is God. It is impossible to understand His decision with our mind. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)!.” (Romans 11:33 AMP)

One thing we must understand is that God is love and everything He does for us is out of love. When illustrated very simply, the God’s care is like parents who teaches and disciplines their children. A good parent will discipline their child to eat, learn, or sleep at the proper hour even if the child is in the mood to play. A good parent will supervise and not allow their child to do things that are not good for the child, and train their child to live in good habits that can make the child grow and develop to the maximum. When necessary, parents will be angry or punish their child who did wrong. In the feelings and limitations of a child’s understanding, of course the child will feel suffer and cry. But one day… according with their growth and maturity, they will know that all that their parents have done is for their good. So it is with our Father in Heaven. Whatever He does that makes us suffer is for our good, for He is a good Father.

THE GOOD FATHER

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN GIVE GOOD GIFTS to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11 NIV)

When we pray and say “Amen” about GOOD GIFTS from the Father, often what we imagine is: get promotion in career, prosperous life, running well in business, and other GOOD THINGS FROM HUMAN VIEWS. But something good in the eyes of man is NOT ALWAYS GOOD FOR US FROM THE FATHER’S VIEW because FATHER KNOWS US VERY WELL. Father really knows what is best for each of His children personally and specifically!! Something good for one of His children does not mean it is also good for His other children. We can not measure our lives by comparing with the lives of others. We can not say God is unfair because we have to experience a certain suffering, while others do not experience it. The Father gives and does every thing according to our maturity, His perfect time and His plan in each of our lives.

The good gifts of the Father is not only what is good for our happiness and prosperity in the world, but especially what is good and has an impact on our eternal life. Under certain circumstances and when if necessary, God can use the suffering in order to accomplish His plan although actually His heart is not willing to see us suffer: Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion according to the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.” (Lamentations 3:32-33 NLT)

The reason for every thing the Father allows to happen in our lives is: LOVE. If suffering has to happen (even if it is caused by our own mistakes or sin), it will not harm us because God’s purpose is not to destroy us but to build our lives in Him so that He can bless us and make us as His partner to do His works in the world.

In His wisdom and sovereignty, FATHER CAN DO GOOD THINGS THROUGH A BAD CIRCUMSTANCE, as God’s care in Naomi’s life. Who can surmise that after all the painful things she experienced, God not only restored her life but also touched the life of Ruth, even giving a new future for them both. Through Ruth, Naomi was supposed to live alone without heredity, eventually having a grandson, named Obed. As we know, Obed is the grandfather of King David. A priceless gift!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who  have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)

Therefore, if the situation is not good and suffering presses, do not lose hope because our Father must work together in it. But if we know for sure that we still have sin, it is better to straighten it out before God. God’s grace can sanctify and restore us. God is the Master to turn a ruined life into a new glorious one.

GOD WITH US

We can say that God’s care in Naomi’s life is remarkable because the Bible tells us the end of the story. But in everyday life, often we are in a dark valley without knowing “when and how” it will end. In such circumstances, our hope is that the good Shepherd never leaves us. His love always keeps us in spite of the time we can not feel Him. He always walks with us even though sometimes we can not see Him: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4 NIV) When God with us in the valley of the shadow of death, everything definitely in His control.

Dear reader, SUFFERING IN THE WORLD IS ONLY TEMPORARY, BUT THE LOVE OF GOD IS ETERNAL. If we remain faithful to God then we will get the reward: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Roma 8:18 NIV)

Therefore if God allows suffering to happen … Do not falter, because: “If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!” (Proverbs 24:10 NIV). Do not become weak, because: “The strong spirit of a man sustains him in bodily pain {or} trouble, but a weak {and} broken spirit who can raise up {or} bear?”(Proverbs 18:14 AMP)

All that power can only be obtained in fellowship with the Holy Spirit which will enlighten our hearts with His word, so that we may understand the will of God. Therefore, let us hold on to the Word of God when we are in distress. “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight. Your statutes are for ever right; give me understanding that I may live.” (Psalms 119:143-144 NIV)

Do not be angry and disappointed with God because His love never leaves us. The apostle Paul, who had experienced so much suffering in his ministry, said: “Rejoice {and} exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering {and} tribulation; be constant in prayer.”(Romans 12:12 AMP).

Let us still rejoice even though we are in the midst of suffering. Rejoice in the midst of suffering is not based on our feelings, but based on faith in every promise of God and believing that God must fulfill all of His promises, so that in the midst of suffering we can say: I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me.” (Philippians 4:13 AMP)

A M E N

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Additional source:  Sinclair B. Ferguson, “A Heart for God”, by The Banner of Truth Trust, Scotland, 1987

Note: I use this book in Indonesian translation, page 117-132   (“Hati yang Dipersembahkan Kepada Allah”, Momentum Christian Literature, Surabaya, 2010, cetakan-3, translated by Hendry Ongkowidjojo)

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THE CHANGE-MAKER (guest post)

God has the great project of salvation over the world. From time to time, God always calls and chooses people to be the ambassadors of His Kingdom. Those who are willing and credible to carry out the holy mandate of Heaven, that even powerful to save one nation. Not by working alone, but working together until “the baton” be accepted and continued by the next generation. If you and I are be there in it, what will we do for our generation? And what spiritual legacy that we will leave for future generations?

Moses, Samuel, and Manasseh, are three figures from different generation who are ON STRATEGIC POSITION TO MAKE CHANGES for the nation in their time. Yet there was a moment in the journey of the kingdom of Judah, where God mentioned their names in the statement: “Even if MOSES and SAMUEL were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go!….. I will send four kinds of destroyers against them,…..because of what Manasseh son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem.” (Jeremiah 15:1-4 NIV)

What had been done by Manasseh that made God so angry so that He said Moses and Samuel was not going to be able to mollify His heart??

 

FORGETTING AND MAKING FORGET

The meaning of Manasseh is “someone who forgetting” or “someone who makes us to forget”. There are at least two prominent figures named Manasseh in the Old Testament. The first Manasseh was Joseph’s son that born in Egypt. The second Manasseh was the 14th king of Judah (696-642 BC), the son of King Hezekiah.

The first Manasseh became consolation for his father:  Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh  and said, “It is because GOD HAS MADE ME FORGET ALL MY TROUBLE and all my father’s household.” (Genesis 41:51 NIV)

The second Manasseh, the king of Judah, made the people he led to forget God. He overturned all the spiritual and repentant reforms that his father had committed: “For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed;…..” (2 Kings 21:3 AMP) 

Manasseh’s history and all the sins he committed during his 55 years of rule were written in 2 Kings 21: 1-18 and 2 Chronicles 33: 1-20. He built altars for Baal and set up an Ashera pole. He bowed down to all the starry hosts, worshiped them, and built altars for them in the court of the temple of the Lord. He practiced various forms of occultism, even he burned his own sons in a sacrificial rite in the valley of Ben-hinnom.

“…..He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger……Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites……Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols…..he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” (2 Kings 21:6-16 NIV)

With all of his power and influence, Manasseh has made his people to forget God and led them into a severe apostasy! So severely, that sin and its effects were passed down through generations!

Ultimately Manasseh did repent. He even called on his people to return to worship God: “In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; …..Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God…..Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings  and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel. The people, however, continued to sacrifice at the high places, but only to the Lord their God.” (2 Chronicles 33:12-17 NIV). But because sin had dominated all areas of Judah’s life, so Manasseh’s repentance and appeal was not enough to restore their whole hearts to God immediately.

Let us return to Jeremiah 15:1-4 “Even if MOSES and SAMUEL were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people…..because of what Manasseh son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem.” (Jeremiah 15:1-4 NIV). Verily, God said it word to the prophet Jeremiah was not in Manasseh’s time alive, but some descendants after Manasseh died. Even though Manasseh has gone but his sin still has an impact on the life of the people he led! Then what about Moses and Samuel?

 

PRAY FOR NATION

“Moses and Aaron were among His priests, And Samuel was among those who called upon His name; They called upon the Lord, and He answered them.” (Psalms 99:6 NKJV) 

Moses and Samuel were two great intercessors who in the past have always prayed to God for the salvation of the Israelites. In Exodus 32:11, 32 Moses pleaded for forgiveness to the Israelites when God wanted to punish them for making a gold calf: But MOSES SOUGHT THE FAVOR OF THE LORD HIS GOD…”..But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”

God answered his prayer: In accordance with your great love, FORGIVE THE SIN OF THESE PEOPLE,…..The Lord replied, “I HAVE FORGIVEN THEM, AS YOU ASKED.” (Numbers 14:19-20 NIV)

So it is with Samuel. When Israel was deeply distressed by the Philistine occupation, they asked Samuel to pray: “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us,…..” Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. HE CRIED OUT TO THE LORD on Israel’s behalf, and THE LORD ANSWERED HIM. (1 Samuel 7:8-9 NIV)

In some instances when God was very angry and wanted to punish Israel, several times Moses and Samuel besought to the Lord and He heard them. So imagine how magnitude and severity of Manasseh’s sins until God said that Moses and Samuel will not be able to change His decision to punish Judah!

 

SALVATION OR DESTRUCTION

Moses, Samuel, and King Manasseh, are the people who are in a strategic position to make a change for their nation. Moses led Israel out of Egypt to the land of Canaan. Samuel was the last judge before Israel entered the era of kings. Samuel also anointed Saul and David to be king. During his priesthood, Samuel was committed to bringing Israel to life in truth: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.” (1 Samuel 12:23 NKJV)

In contrast to Moses and Samuel who prayed and brought salvation to his people, the king of Manasseh brought his people to destruction. So what is our current role, does our life make other people change in the right direction or vice versa ?!

 

A CHOICE THAT CHANGE THE WORLD

Being like Moses and Samuel or like King Manasseh, it all depends on our choices. I believe that none of us would deliberately choose to be like king Manasseh. But we can make mistakes without we realize. Therefore we must be very careful in everything to avoid becoming a stumbling block or causing a person to fall into sin. We must be wise, especially when we are in a position with authority to make important decisions which it decisions will affect the lives of many people we lead. Remember, more higher our position then more greater and wider the impact we make.

If we choose to be a change-maker who leads others to salvation, then we must return to the breath of Christian life that is intimate fellowship with God as the lifestyle of Moses and Samuel.

Moses was close to God like a friend: “So the Lord spoke to Moses FACE TO FACE, AS A MAN SPEAKS TO HIS FRIEND…..” (Exodus 33:11a NKJV)

Samuel knew God so he acted according to the heart and mind of God: “Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest WHO SHALL DO ACCORDING TO WHAT IS IN MY HEART AND IN MY MIND. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.” (1 Samuel 2:35 NKJV)

If we become more intimate with God, we will to know Him more and change more and more like Him. The way we see the world, our love for our neighbor, our vision and our mission, all will be more in tune with His heart. If we always abide in Him then our lives will bear fruit for His glory. His power working within and through us, and will make us His effective tool for rescue souls and transforming the world.

Become a change-maker that transforms the world! Does it sound too grandiose? No! Because it is not by our own strength but by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Are only certain people that God can use? No, because God can use anyone who surrender and obey Him!

In large or small scope, God entrusts us with a mission: that is to save souls. One nation, one city, one family, or one man, all valuable in the heart of God. The change of one’s life is very meaningful because it will have an impact on the lives of others. Housewives, employees, entrepreneurs, students, laborers, artists, and so on, have the responsibility of making changes in accordance with our respective portions and positions. No matter how small our steps in God’s will, it will have an impact on the “world” around us.

We are a part of God’s “team”, which is composed of believers from all era. People who do God’s will and work their part in obedience and faithfulness until the end of their lives. From time to time, generation after generation, will complement each other until the whole of God’s plan is fulfilled.

Let us always stay in God’s love and choose to live righteously, and deliberately direct our lives to His will so that we can be used by Him to change the world around us. Nothing is impossible for Him. We just have to continue living in intimacy with Him, trusting, and giving our lives to do His will till the end.

Amen.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo Credit: Google Images (the text edited with pixlr app)

ONLY THROUGH LOVE (guest post)

Our Christian identity is not like ID card that reads “Christian”, the symbol of the cross, or a painting of Jesus hanging on the walls of our homes. Nor various attributes nuanced “Christian” that we use.

Our Christian identity is LOVE, because love is God’s “FINGER PRINT” in us. Only through the love then the world will know the Father through us.

Have we live and move only in and by Father’s love??

From the beginning the Christ followers had experience a variety obstacles and challenges. Acts 4 tells us that Peter and John were arrested by the priests because they proclaim Jesus’ resurrection. In Chapter 5 the high priest and his followers captured the apostles and put them in jail because of jealous and indignation. And after the martyrdom of Stephen in chapter 6 and 7, many obstacles and challenges increasingly expanded until now.

This is not surprising because the Lord Jesus himself said: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18–19 NKJV)

As followers of Christ in the modern world, we not only have to maintain the purity of faith in the midst of an increasingly free lifestyle, but we also have to be careful and thoughtful in dealing with various obstacles and challenges that may come. Knowingly or not, the world will continually see us. They see every speech and our actions. They assess how a follower of Christ to respond when treated not well.

When our hearts are hurt, whether we will reply to wounding with sharper “arms” or we will forgive them.  When we are insulted, whether we will turn disparage them or we give them smile. When we hated, whether we will respond with scorn or we will give them love. The world will see what our respond when all the unpleasant things happened to us.

In Acts 6 & 7, Stephen was being treated cruel and unjust. He was falsely accused on charges of blasphemy: Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.  And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” (Acts 6:9-11)

The result of all that is Stephen brought to the council and must take the punishment that should not be, that died at the hands a lot of people who stoned him. Right at the threshold of death, Stephen prayed: “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60 NKJV)

In the midst of overflows hatred and anger of crowd to him, Stephen’s heart surrounded by the love that enabled him to forgive those who wronged him. What kind of love that able to forgive that great sin? It was not love that comes from the heart of an ordinary person!

In Acts 6:3,5,8 was written that Stephen was a good reputation person, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, full of faith and power. All of it, are spiritual qualities which only owned by the pious people, namely those who actually maintain his relationship with God. People are not just run a religious duty, but always live in intimacy with God, abiding, and really put their lives on God.

The reflection of Stephen’s intimacy with God is look so clear in the council when the witnesses gave false testimony about Stephen: And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw HIS FACE AS THE FACE OF AN ANGEL. (Acts 6:15 NKJV)

Stephen was full of God’s presence. The glory of God is so real surround him until other people can see it! The Holy Spirit lives within Stephen so he filled with love that enabled him to forgive and faithful till the end. Musing for all of us is: Did anyone else see the glory of God through our lives??

We know that human nature is returning evil for evil, and kindness with kindness. Some are even repay kindness with evil. But as followers of Christ we are required to live in different standard of love:

“For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46 NKJV)

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Luke 6:27-28 NKJV)

Christ teaches us to love those who hate us because they don’t know what they did. They hate us because they do not know God the Father. “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” (John 15:21 NKJV)

If we hate them, then who will preach the Gospel of Salvation to them?! Hate those who “persecute” us is tantamount to closing the door of salvation for them. Father’s will is that everyone is saved. Therefore we must demonstrate God’s love for them through concrete actions. Thus they will get to know Father in Heaven through us.

If we’ve done a good and right thing but others are still figure out our mistakes… If we are currently facing particular pressure because we are the obedient Christians… If someone mock us as “fanatics” or “pastor” because we do not want to compromise with certain sin… No matter of the form of obstacles and challenges that happened, our first response must be LOVE. If our hearts are always filled with Christ’s love, then that love will keep us so that our next move will not deviate from love corresponding with Father’s will.

In 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 was written the extreme comparison of love. Let me quote it in full for we reflect together:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV)

Love is our Christian identity. Without love, all we do is nonsense, useless, and nothing! Let us not be known just as Christians who went to church, energetic in ministry, and is active in various social activities. All was good, but above all let us be known as a Christian who full of loving Christ.

However, how perfect the love of Christ! How high and deep His love is always far beyond of human’s love. Without His help, we would not be able to reach it. The love that could meet standard of God’s love is only love that comes from God’s Spirit alone!

“Now hope does not disappoint, because THE LOVE OF GOD HAS BEEN POURED OUT IN OUR HEARTS BY THE HOLY SPIRIT who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5 NKJV)

If we want to have the love of Christ, we must always be in with the Holy Spirit. If we continue to build intimacy with the Holy Spirit, from time to time, we will be change into more and more like Christ, so that we will enabled to love others as Christ has loved us first.

The core of Christianity is love because God is love. The reason of God’s works for the world is love. If we wish to be a blessing and bring many souls to Christ, there is no way other than we must always be connected with the Holy Spirit.

Let us open our heart and allow the Holy Spirit pour Father’s love till the love attached to be our identity that cannot be separated from our lives, flow through our lives, and touch a lot of people so they can feel and see it. Because only through love we can be a blessing and praising God.

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV)

Amen

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo credit: Google Images

Edit with: pixlr App