LOVE AS A SIGN OF MATURITY- I John 4.11-12

By Infamous Hussy from Wikimedia Commons

How do you know if a person has matured as a person? Well, you’d notice that he has become responsible with anything that you’d entrust to him most especially with his relationships.

Love in the Christian’s heart works in the same way. A Christian’s maturity is not measured by his ability to preach and teach. It is not how well he can explain the mystery of the Trinity, election and pre-destination, the miracle of Jonah, the symbols in the book of Revelations, Christology and Soteriology or even Descatology.

It is not how well he leads a Bible study or a Sunday school class or how well he sings in the choir. A Christian will be measured by how much he loves. How much he cares for his family. It will be the sign that God indeed dwells inside his heart and in his life.

CONCLUSION

May the Love that came down on Christmas dwell and grow in our hearts even more deeply that we may respond with unconditional worship and bear love as the sign of our faith in Christ.

END OF CHRISTMAS SERIES

Image above: By Infamous Hussy at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

 

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OUR UNCONDITIONAL WORSHIP- I John 4.10

Worship is a Lifestyle

Our response to God’s unconditional love can only be unconditional worship. Worship is actually service. We worship not just by bowing before him both in our personal and public prayer. We worship God whenever and wherever we serve Him in any manner. It is the kind of worship that is not dependent on the availability of time, on how we are doing, if things seem all bad or all good. Worship springs from the love that we have for God.

We can love God totally because we experienced first His love in our lives. It is all but fitting to give Him our gift of worship. The wise men offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Those are very expensive gifts but do you know which gift touched God’s heart the most? None from the three! It was their act of worship. They traveled far and wide at night with just a star guiding them, across perilous desert and mountain, and vast land just so that they could worship Him. They not only gave treasure; they gave time, energy and their lives.

If we cannot give time to prayer and meditation and corporate worship, how can we respond if God would need our whole life?

TO BE CONTINUED

GOD’S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE- I John 4.8-9

Motivational Words: God's Unconditional Love is the Source of our Worth Images: © 2009 Mary Fairchild and Darleen Araujo

Love came down at Christmas 2,000 years ago, in a stable and lay in a manger. He dwelt among men to reveal the Father, taught the will of His Father and, remained obedient unto death, even death on the cross so that you and I might be saved from sin.

It has been all because of love, an unconditional love. It is not because of anything good man has done or even can do; it’s all because God has loved us without any regret in spite of man’s willful sinning. It is a faithful love and is never changing in spite of man’s faithlessness and shortcomings.

In spite of all our sin and uncleanness, God had made a way for us to be redeemed through Christ, our salvation. If we have received Him in our hearts as our Lord and Savior, come judgment day, the Lord can then declare us not guilty of any sin.

Do you know what the innkeeper’s fault was? He did not provide accommodation to Mary and Joseph? If we will give him the benefit of the doubt, we can say that the inn was really full that time. Even if he wanted to give them space, there was no room for them in the inn. Besides, the text did not say that Mary and Joseph had no means to pay neither did it say that the innkeeper drove the couple away. There was just no room for them in the inn. Maybe, it could have been different if it was Herod’s son who wanted a room because he knew Herod definitely.

The problem was that he did not know who Mary was and who was the baby she was about to give birth to. Had he known, he could have opened the entire inn for the baby Jesus. The problem was he did not know. He did not know because his didn’t care to know. He didn’t give time to know. He was not attuned with the revelations of God unlike the shepherds who had made themselves available and were willing to leave everything, even their sheep, just to see God.

Jesus left His glory in heaven to become a man so he could save us from death. He loved us that much. How about us? What can we leave so we could show Him how important He is to us?

TO BE CONTINUED

Love Came Down at Christmas- 1 John 4.7-16

Several months after the Luzon killer earthquake in 1990, there was a Christmas TV ad for MY San Biscuit that caught my attention. It was a short film clip about Christmas. It showed a hand with a pencil, erasing the image of Santa Claus and drawing the image of Christ.

It has been a campaign to focus on the Christ of Christmas, who is the true essence of our celebration. The narrator said that we need a change of heart, less ho, ho’s and more hallelujah’s; he used the term “put Christ back into Christmas”.

Hence, Christmas has become so commercialized. Perhaps, it is a marketing strategy for business to make people focus on Santa Claus because that would attract people to buy more for gifts since they have more to spend, as if it is the most essential.

Perhaps, for Christians “putting Christ back into Christmas” is not an issue. The fact that we are all here to worship shows that we know the essence of the season although; we get caught up in the frenzy sometimes. “Last year. I only have three godchildren, now I have six yet my bonus has not increased, yet.” “A handkerchief again?” “Picture frame again?” “Towel again?”

I’m not saying that you should no longer give gifts to your godchildren. Gift giving is an expression of love, however, I’d like to emphasize that the primary responsibility of godparents is not to give gifts every Christmas but to become partners of the parents in leading their godchildren to Christ.

TO BE CONTINUED

Thy Kingdom Has Come- Concluding Part

Read: Luke 2:19

The kingdom of God has come on us. Jesus reigns completely. However, it may be difficult to understand at first how these words “The kingdom of God has come on us”  could bring comfort to a Christian who is having a hard time finding a job; struggling to get enough money for enrolment or food for the family; or one who is having trouble with his relationships. Let us notice what Jesus told Pilate before His crucifixion. He said in verse 36 of John chapter 18, “My kingdom is not of this world”… in verse 37, “You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.”

Christ’s rule is not how the kingdoms of the earth rule. He rules in the hearts and minds of men by the power of truth. He is a witness for the God who has made the earth and against the sin, which has ruined it (Isaiah 55:4). He came to reveal God’s truth which otherwise could not have been known concerning God and his will and good-will to men which he confirmed through the miracles He has performed among many people. By the word of His testimony, He sets up and keeps up His kingdom. Christ’s kingdom is not of the world where truth fails but in the hearts of men where the truth reigns eternal.

In this world, we need to endure all kinds of suffering. It is to remind us that this is not our home and that this world has no room for Jesus. However, those who belong to the kingdom hear His voice and follow Him faithfully no matter how this world makes it difficult for us. God has chosen us and has destined us to be heirs with Christ. There is great glory waiting for all who are in Christ. Jesus is preparing for us a new home, a whole new kingdom where all sufferings will cease. As Jesus has said, “I have overcome the world!”

On the first Christmas, Christ has come as a baby. However, at the fullness of time, He shall come again as King in all His glory and splendor. Those who belong to the kingdom shall meet Him in the clouds and shall be with Him forever (1Thessalonians 4:16-18). He expects our loyal service.

Let us keep and ponder God’s truth in our hearts. Let us always keep in our hearts and minds the great mercy and grace that we have received through Christ -by His death and resurrection- for that will give us the power to live as loyal people of the Kingdom of God.

END OF SERIES

Thy Kingdom Has Come- Part IV (The Angels)

Shepherds and Angels

Read: Luke 2:13-14

The first evidence of Jesus’ royalty was the singing of the heavenly hosts. A multitude of angels heralded His coming with great rejoicing.

However, the great rejoicing does not end there after the announcement. In fact, it has only been the start. Those who belong to the kingdom have a great part in that heavenly rejoicing. In Luke 15:10, Jesus said, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” We bear the task of sharing the love of Christ. How will they know if we will not tell them? That would be the greatest Christmas gift we can give anyone. Let us allow the “stone that has struck the image by its feet to grow into a mountain”. Let the mountain in reply echo the glorious strain, Gloria, In Excelsis Deo, “Christ is born today in our hearts”.

TO BE CONTINUED

Image above courtesy of: Simply Divine Love Blog

Thy Kingdom Has Come- Part III (The Shepherds)

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Giorgione

Read: Luke 2:8

The angels announced the birth of Jesus to poor, night-shift shepherds in fields where they lay keeping their sheep that night. These men were no ordinary shepherds; they were the strong and tough kind of men; men of no fear. They had to tend and protect the flock at night from thieves and from wolves that might attack the sheep. Usually, shepherds armed themselves with slings and they were accurate with it. Yet when the glory of God shone around them, they were afraid. However, when they had realized the heavenly revelation- Baby Jesus was born in the city of David- they were quick to follow as the angels said. God chose them to receive the news of the Messiah’s birth and ordained them to be the earliest evangelists (v.15-17).

Such is the picture of the bearers of the gospel. God usually use simple people for great tasks. God has called us from our simplicity to be bearers of His good news. We do not need to be great public speakers to be evangelists. We do not need to become pastors except in instances when God calls one to be. As people of the kingdom, we only need to take with us the good news about Christ wherever we go and whatever we do like, the shepherds lay keeping their sheep.

TO BE CONTINUED

Image courtesy of: www.lib-art.com/artgallery

Thy Kingdom Has Come- Part II (The Manger)

A Manger Scene Painting

Read: Luke 2:6-7

The present Christmas festivities demand some extra cash than what we normally have. It seems that the joy of Christmas depends on how much money people hold in their hands. However, we cannot blame them. Life has been difficult the past years. It is so ironical that the first Christmas is a picture of scarcity: “no crib for a bed”.

Jesus was born in a stable -a place for feeding cattle- because there was no room in the inn. His parents laid him in a manger, instead of a cradle. The word, which we render swaddling clothes, came from a word that signifies to rend, or tear, which meant that his very swaddles were ragged and torn. Matthew Henry commented, “His being born in a stable and laid in a manger was an instance of, [1.] the poverty of his parents, had they been rich, the innkeepers would have easily made a room ready for them; but being poor, they must shift as they could. [2.] The corruption and degeneracy of manners in that age; that a woman in such condition was treated heartlessly. If there had been any common humanity among them, they would not have turned a woman in a delicate condition into a stable”.

(Source: Matthew Henry commentary on Luke 2:1-20 c/o http://www.blueletterbible.com)

However, if that was the condition and Jesus the ruler of the kingdom was in that condition, does it mean that those who belong to the kingdom should be in the same condition? No! Of course not!

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich.” Those who belong to the kingdom are rich! Can you say this? “I am rich!” “We are rich!” We can confidently say, “I am rich” because Jesus is our King and we belong to His kingdom! In Psalm 37:25, David said, “I have been young, and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his offspring begging bread.” That is a testimony of no less King David himself. God does not forsake His people. They receive grace at the time of need. In the middle of poverty, the people of God will thrive.

Church-based Christian generosity was Paul’s way of addressing the issue of poverty in the first century church in second epistle to the Corinthians. Paul urged the Corinthian believers to show their love for the brethren. He was not asking them for what they do not have but he encouraged them to be generous with what they have. In that way, we will have a sense of equality just like in the Mosaic principle- “those who had gathered much had nothing over, and those who had gathered little had no lack.” That is the kingdom of God in action.

The problem sometimes, kindness is abused. However, that should not hamper the people of God from showing their love for the brethren.

There was a story (I just don’t have the means to verify its accuracy) about a couple who went into a city for a conference. Since there were many delegates, accommodation in hotels were full. The poor couple had nowhere to stay. They had to go to a small and old hotel. They knocked at the door. The hotel manager let them in. He told the couple “the hotel is full, and we do not have any room for you. But, if it is Ok with you, I offer my personal room so you can have a place to stay for the night.” The couple was grateful. Therefore, the manager fixed his room for the couple. A few months afterwards, the manager received a letter from the couple offering him a better job in New York City. He agreed. When he arrived in New York, the couple welcomed him in Waldorf Astoria Hotel. They told him, “This is our hotel and we want you to manage it.”

In Matthew 25:40, the King has said, “Verily I say unto you, since you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” Whenever we show kindness, we are serving the King. Then we will not be like the innkeepers in Bethlehem who has driven the Lord away because there has been no room for love in their hearts.

TO BE CONTINUED

 

Image from: www.seekingGod.com

Thy Kingdom Has Come- Luke 2.1-20 (Bethlehem in Judah)

Nativity Scene

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given…” -Isaiah 9:6 (KJV2000)

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…” –Luke 2:11 (KJV2000)

Read: Luke 2:1-4

Bible Scholars say that among Biblical writers, only Luke dated the events he wrote by referring to Roman Emperors. His intention was to write a thorough and factual account of Jesus’ life by setting events in their historical context and here in particular, Christ’s birth.

It was the time when all Israel was under Roman occupation. The words “dark streets” in the hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was a fitting description. It was the time when the empire was at its height. In those days of Augustus Caesar, the Roman Empire extended itself further than ever before or since, including Parthia and Britain. People call the empire Terraram orbis imperium—The Empire of the whole earth and that is why here in our text, Luke referred to the empire as all the world (v. 1) for there was scarcely any part of the civilized world that was not dependent on it. It was the time when Judea had become a province of the empire, so when the Roman Empire taxed all its subjects, the Jews were taxed as well. It was the first taxing that was made in Judea; the first mark of their servitude. Jerusalem was taken by Pompey the Roman general, about sixty years before this, who granted the government of the church to Hyrcanus, but not the government of the state for Judea was ruled by Cyrenius the Roman governor of Syria (v. 2): the Roman writers call him Sulpitius Quirinus. It was then, that the Messiah was born.

(Source: Matthew Henry commentary on Luke 2:1-20 c/o http://www.blueletterbible.com)

I observed significance for us of Luke’s mention of the Roman Emperor in the text in connection with the prophetic utterance of Daniel we can read in Daniel 2:31-45. It was about Daniel’s interpretation of a vision by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon about a great and frightening image. According to the vision, the head of the image was made of fine gold, the breast and arms were made of silver; the belly and thighs were made of bronze, the legs were made of iron and the feet and toes were partly iron and partly clay. Then a stone struck the image by its feet, it crushed the image to dust and the wind blew them away. Then the stone that struck the image grew into a mountain that filled the whole earth. Do you remember?

According to Daniel’s interpretation of the vision, the image represents four kingdoms of the world and in the days of the fourth kingdom, God will establish a new kingdom that shall stand forever and nothing could destroy. The stone that has struck the image by its feet and has grown into a mountain represents that kingdom.

In an insight section of the KJV2000 Devotional Bible, page 794, we can see a chart that shows a summary of the explanation of the vision. It is something like this:

Gold Babylon
Silver Medo-Persia
Bronze Greece
Iron/Clay Rome
Stone Kingdom Of God

 

In Matthew 16:15-18 (KJV2000), Jesus asked His disciples; “But whom say you that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter’s statement is the very foundation of the Christian faith and at the center of every Christian’s heart. It is a divine revelation from the Father. Jesus replied to Peter, “You are Peter, (from the Greek “petros” which means “rock.” It was not Peter as a person but his statement of faith) and upon this rock I will build my church…”

In Isaiah 9:6-7, we read, “For unto us a child is given, unto us a child is born and the government shall be upon His shoulders…” A child would be born who would be the ruler of His people. In the days of Caesar Augustus, the king of the fourth monarchy, the prophecy was fulfilled. The ruler of the new kingdom was born; the kingdom that shall never end and not even the gates of hell shall prevail against it- the church. Up to this very day, the stone is growing into a mountain that shall fill the whole earth.

Christmas indeed is a time for celebration for the King of kings and the Lord of lords has come to rule! It is the day of the fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption for His people. Just like in the hymn, “the hope and fears of all the years are met in thee (Bethlehem) tonight”. It is not only true for the Jews but for every believer as well. Christ meets your every hope and every fear especially those who depend on Him totally.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

Image above from: Bread Breakers Ministry

Strengthen Your Faith: Trust God’s Heart- Conclusion

Read the Bible and Pray

Sometimes, we encounter great hardships in our faith walk so much that we don’t understand what’s going on. While we strive to live by faith and not by sight yet a situation would strike us down and we feel so weak and worn out. The message of Jeremiah teaches us to accept the things that are beyond our control. Persevere in a life of faith in our daily lives and always look for hope in God.

No matter what you are going through right now, bear in mind that God is working something out. Whatever it is, you can trust him that He will do what is best for you. Remember, His plan is to prosper you and not to harm you. Let your faith be strengthened.

 

END OF SERIES

 

Image from:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5417236/6_ways_to_strengthen_your_faith.html?cat=34