Why PRAYER Matters

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DO YOU FEEL life is empty—everything seems senseless and nothing keeps you going? Or do you feel abandoned, alone and afraid because of the cycle of violence and devastation around you? Do you have pressing needs and inner longings but don’t know what to do? When things like these happen, we need to pray and trust in its efficacy.

However, today’s fast-paced life has diminished, if not completely dissolved, some people’s trust in what prayer can do; hence, because of their hectic schedules and multifarious tasks, they are too busy, focused on their jobs and have no time to pray. Even worse, praying—which is the way we can connect and communicate with God—has become a forgotten part in many people’s lives as they give priority to their worldly needs and concerns.

Ironically, this is happening at a time when tremendous advances in communication technology have led to increased worldwide connectivity. Using the Internet, cellphones, fax machines, laptops, and the like has become a way of life in the 21st century and has enabled millions of people from across the globe to become more interconnected than ever before. Now, you can have the choice of sending a text message or an email, uploading your own video on YouTube, broadcasting your online presence on social networking websites such as Facebook, Multiply, or Friendster, etc. So with such instantaneous, world-shrinking communication, have people chosen to reach out among themselves and forgotten about God?

From the point of view of faith, although, the “information superhighway” is getting wider and longer, bridging more people the world over and changing lives dramatically, it should not overwhelm us or adversely affect prayer, our very vital link to God. Given the extreme busyness, rapid progress, and complexities of life, we need to realize that there is no substitute for prayer.

Finding time to pray

We should always find time to pray, however busy or preoccupied we are. By praying we make our needs and requests known to God:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” (Phil. 4:6, New King James Version)

And as we live in this world where the minds of people are “full of evil and madness” (Eccles. 9:3, Today’s English Version), we need to pray all the more for God’s abiding love and protection. The prophet Isaiah also foretold what will torment mankind in these last days:

“… But they will see nothing but trouble and darkness, terrifying darkness into which they are being driven. There will be no way for them to escape from this time of trouble. …” (Isa 8:22, 9:1, Ibid.)

Undeniably, all kinds of troubles continue to ravage many countries: wars, epidemics, high inflation, social inequalities, environmental disasters, among others, making life miserable.

On the other hand, no matter how comfortable our lives and no matter how charmed our existence may be, things, at times, will still go wrong as we journey in this complicated world. Eventually, we need to call on God.

Hence, in the face of either unpleasant or pleasant circumstances, praying really matters, not having prayerless lives. In other words, amid the hustle and bustle of everyday living because of cutting-edge technology, we should never forget to communicate with God, establishing a regular time with Him each day through prayer.

Answered prayer

God, indeed, is our “refuge and strength” and “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1, NKJV) and His ears are open to our cry and supplications (Ps. 34:15; 31:22). Nevertheless, we must understand that it is not only praying to God that matters; who does the praying matters as well. Being heard by God in their prayer is a privilege that He has given to His people. It is predicated on God’s calling or election:

“… They will call on my name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God’.” (Zech. 13:9, NKJV)

Therefore, one must first belong to God’s chosen people so that his calls on Him will be granted. In the Christian Era, our Lord Jesus Christ declared who they are—the chosen ones who have been given the right and privilege to worship and pray to Him (Christ) and to our Lord God:

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16, Ibid.)

He likened them to branches joined to the vine:

“I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me.” (John 15:5, Contemporary English Version)

Christ is the vine and His chosen ones are His branches. Analogous to the relationship of the vine to the branches is the relationship of the head to the body—the head being referred to is our Lord Jesus Christ and the body is His Church (Col 1:18).

The Church being referred to here whose members Christ has redeemed with His blood is the Church of Christ:

“Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, t feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.” (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation)

Undoubtedly, the Bible testifies that the members of the Church of Christ have received a very great blessing—they can confidently approach God—because they very well know that He sees their needs and hears their cry (Ps 31:22). Hence, in the pain of struggle of living in this world, they can always find comfort in Him.

Obedience and patient trust

However, just as there are unanswered prayers too, even if the ones praying are God’s chosen ones. The Bible attests to their disappointment when their prayers are unreciprocated (Ps. 77:2-3). This is so because they ignore God’s advice; thus, during calamities and disasters He says, “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me” (Prov. 1:28, New International Version).

And so, whenever we receive God’s message or advice during the congregational worship service, we should not ignore them. Instead, we should follow all of them.

Obeying all His commandment will ensure God’s favorable response to the calls of His righteous servants. His statement concerning the importance of obedience is unequivocally stated:

“But I did command them to obey me, so that I would be their God and they would be my people. And I told them to live the way I had commanded them, so that things would go well for them.” (Jer. 7:23, TEV)

Refusal to comply with God’s commandments is the reason things turn for the worse in man’s life—and or Him to reject his requests. Even King David wrestled with the problem of unanswered prayer when he declared:

“HOW long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (Ps. 13:1, NKJV)

“I spend the night in deep thought; I mediate, and this is what I ask myself: ‘Will the Lord promise no longer stand? Has always reject us? Will he never again be pleased with us? Has he stopped loving us? Does his promi6-9, TEV)

Yet, in the end, David’s fears and doubts turned to trust and faith in God when he averred, “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (Ps. 13:5, NKJV).

Indeed, obedience and patient trust in God are important qualities that His people should possess so that He will not withhold His answers to their supplications. They should never complain or become impatient and lose hope if their prayers are not immediately answered:

“When we suffer, we should sit alone in silent patience; We should bow in submission, for there may still be hope. … The Lord is merciful and will not reject us forever. He may bring us sorrow, but his love for us is sure and strong. He takes no pleasure in causing us grief or pain.” (Lam. 3:28-29, 31-33, TEV)

Clearly, the Lord God is very eager and willing to help solve all the worries and provide all the needs of His chosen people:

“And yet the LORD is waiting to be merciful to you. He is ready to take pity on you because he always does what is right. Happy are those who put their trust in the LORD. … The LORD is compassionate, and when you cry to him for help, he will answer you. The Lord will make you go through hard times, but he himself will be there to teach you, and you will not have to search for him anymore. If you wander off the road to the right or the left, you will hear his voice behind you saying, ‘Here is the road. Follow it’.” (*Isa. 30:18-21, Ibid.)

Taking refuge in prayer

We should emulate God’s first servants who relied on the power of prayer in their lives when they were beleaguered with worries and troubles.

  • Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed to the One who can save Him (Heb. 5:7, NIV). We must follow Christ in being prayerful: He “offered up prayers and petitions.” He also prayed fervently as He entreated God “with loud cries and tears.” Thus, God granted His requests not only because of the above qualities but because of His faith and “reverent submission.” If Christ, who was endowed abundantly by God with great qualities and power, firmly believed in the value of prayer, shouldn’t we as well?
  • King David prayed when he was experiencing grave anxieties (Ps. 69: 16-20, NKJV). He drew near to God and said, Hear me, O LORD, for Your lovingkindness is good … And do not hide Your face from Your servant, For I am in trouble; Hear me speedily. … Deliver me because of my enemies.” King David firmly believed that no matter how numerous and grave the problems servants of God experience, all of them can be easily solved by Him. Like David, shouldn’t we plead to God to have mercy on us and to not refuse our entreaties, in these times of adversity and severe hardship?
  • The prophet Jeremiah prayed for the people’s deliverance in spite of sin (Jer. 14:7-9 TEV). He prayed, “Even though our sins accuse us, LORD, as you have promised. We have turned away from you many times … We are your people; do not abandon us.” When Jeremiah felt the heavy burden brought about by the Israelites’ sins against God, he made them acknowledge their sins and begged God not to abandon them. Let us neither hid our sins from God nor make excuses. Like Jeremiah, shouldn’t we implore Him not to abandon us, even if we fall into sin?
  • Apostle Paul prayed unceasingly for the welfare of the Church (Col. 1:9-12, NIV). He asked for knowledge of God’s will and strength, so that members of the Church “may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father” and that they “may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way.” He did pray for these to ensure that members of the Church remained strong in the faith and walk worthily before the Lord. This is also the aim and spirit of the present Church Administration in order to make sure that we will be worthy of the promised salvation come Judgment Day. Shouldn’t we care also for our brethren in the faith by praying for them?

Constant prayer

We must not give up praying—constantly doing it. It does not mean though that we should use vain repetitions (Matt. 6:7). Rather, we should keep our pleadings persistently before God, believing He will answer them. It comes as no surprise then that Christ told His disciples to always pray and never become discouraged (Luke 18:1).

If at times we ask God something and then receive no answer, this does not immediately mean He is saying no or that He no longer cares. We just need to keep on praying. We just have to trust that amid troubles and tribulations, He will answer our prayers—in His way, in His time:

“Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Ps. 62:8, NKJV)

“Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled … Return, O LORD, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake! … The LORD will receive my prayer.” (Ps. 6:2-4, 9, Ibid.)


 

By ROLAND A. AGUIRRE

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

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Aaron’s wooden rod

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THEN THE LORD SAID TO Moses, “Tell the people of Israel that each of their tribal chiefs is to bring you a wooden rod with his name inscribed upon it. Aaron’s name is to be on the rod of the tribe of Levi. Put these rods in the inner room of the Tabernacle where I meet with you, in front of the Ark. I will use these rods to identify the man I have chosen: for buds will grow on his rod! Then at last this murmuring and complaining against you will stop!”

So Moses gave the instructions to the people, and each of the twelve chiefs (including Aaron) brought him a rod. He put them before the Lord in the inner room of the Tabernacle, and when he went in the next day, he found that Aaron’s rod, representing the tribe of Levi, had budded and was blossoming, and had ripe almonds hanging from it! When Moses brought them out to show the others, they stared in disbelief! Then each man except Aaron claimed his rod.

The Lord told Moses to place Aaron’s rod permanently beside the Ark as a reminder of this rebellion. He was to [bring it out and show it to the people again] if there were any further complaints about Aaron’s authority; this would ward off further catastrophe to the people. So Moses did as the Lord commanded him.


(Excerpted from Numbers 17:1-11, Living Bible)

 

 

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂
Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

Immanuel

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THE BELIEF OF the Iglesia ni Cristo concerning the Lord Jesus Christ’s true nature—that He is man as He Himself taught (Jn. 8:40)—has put us at loggerheads with those who uphold a different view—that He is also God. As we firmly uphold the biblical teaching that Christ is man and therefore not God, proponents of the Christ-is-God doctrine are also insisting in their belief because they are convinced that they also have biblical proofs to back up their claim.

However, if we are to examine closely the supposed biblical basis of their teaching, we will discover that this stems from their erroneous understanding of the Bible. There are verses that they have understood to mean that Christ is God, as they would like to believe He is. One of these verses is Matthew 1:23 which says:

“A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel (which means, ‘God is with us’).” (Today’s English Version)

Apostle Matthew was actually quoting here a prophecy of Prophet Isaiah (Is. 7:14) which was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, would be called Immanuel, meaning “God is with us,” believers in the deity of Christ hastily jumped into the conclusion that Christ is God.

Ascribing the name Immanuel (meaning “God is with us”) to Christ does not imply that Christ Himself is God who is with us. The meaning of one’s name does not denote one’s nature or state of being. For instance, a lady may be named Rose or Daisy but this doesn’t mean that she is a literal flower. We can cite so many names of biblical characters whose meanings do not denote the state of being of the persons bearing them. Apostle Peter’s name means rock (Jn. 1:42) but he is not a literal stone. The Lord Jesus gave the brothers James and John the name “Boanerges” meaning the sons of thunder (Mk. 3:17); but they were not literally born to a thunder. And here is another which should make the proponents of the Christ-is-God doctrine rethink their stand: the last of the 13 sons born to King David was named Eliphelet, meaning “the God of deliverance” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p. 167); but this doesn’t mean that David’s son is the God of deliverance Himself.

Reconciled to God through Christ      Jesus answered him

Why is it then that Christ was named Immanuel which means, “God is with us”? This signifies that God is with us through the Lord Jesus Christ. God is in Christ and through Him, we have been reconciled to God as what Apostle Paul taught:

“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,

“that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (II Cor. 5:18-20, New King James Version)

Apostle Paul explained that God who is in Christ is reconciling the world to Himself. Man needs to be reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus because man was separated from God and became His enemy on account of man’s sins and evil works:

“It is because of your sins that he doesn’t hear you. It is your sins that separated you from God when you try to worship him.” (Is. 59:2, TEV)

“At one time you were far away from God and were his enemies because of the evil things you did and thought.” (Col. 1:21, Ibid.)

As to how man can be brought near or reconciled to God through Jesus, Apostle Paul explained further:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:13, New International Version)

Man must be redeemed by the blood of Christ to be reconciled to God. Apostle Paul testified that it is the Church of Christ which has been redeemed or purchased by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation). And once man is reconciled to God through redemption by Christ’s blood in the Church of Christ and continues to obey His teachings, man will receive the love of the Father and the promise that God and Christ will dwell in him and make him Their home:       

“Jesus answered him, ‘Whoever loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and my Father will love him, and my Father and I will come to him and live with him’.” (Jn. 14:23, TEV)

Now only will Christ and the Father love and dwell in him; he will also be one with Christ and the Father:

“I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe you have sent me. I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me.” (Jn. 17:21-23, Ibid.)

To be one with Christ is to be one with the Father because the Father is in Christ. On the other hand, Christ is in those who are one with Him and with the Father Indeed, God is with us through the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s sending of the Lord Jesus has made it possible for us to receive the many blessings which we should have been otherwise denied because of our sins. Hence, if one rejects Christ, he also rejects God:

“For whoever rejects the Son rejects also the Father; whoever accepts the Son has the Father also.” (I Jn.2:23, Ibid.)

God is with us through Christ. Thus, anyone who is separate from Christ—one who does not belong to the Church of Christ which He redeemed with His precious blood and which He reconciled with God—is without God. This is underscored by Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:12:

“Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (NIV)

Hence, the name “Immanuel” does not in any way prove the alleged deity of Christ. It simply means that God is with us through the Lord Jesus Christ.


By RUBEN D. AROMIN

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂
Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

Balaam’s prophecies

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WHEN BALAK HEARD that Balaam was coming, he went to meet him at Ar, a city on the Arnon River at the border of Moab. Balak said to him, “Why didn’t you come when I sent for the first time? Did you think I wasn’t able to reward you enough?”

Balaam answered, “I came, didn’t I? But now, what power do I have? I can say only what God tells me to say.” So Balaam went with Balak to the town of Huzoth, where Balak slaughtered cattle and sheep and gave some of the meat to Balaam and the leaders who were with him.

The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, from there Balaam could see a prat of the people of Israel.

Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stand here … while I go to see whether or not the LORD will meet me. I will tell you whatever he reveals to me.’ So he went alone to the top of the hill, and God met him … .

The LORD told Balaam what to say and sent him back to Balak to give him his message. So he went back and found Balak … .

Balaam uttered this prophecy:

“Balak king of Moab has brought me from Syria, from the eastern mountains.

‘Come speak for me,’ he said.

‘Put a curse on the people of Israel.’

How can I curse what God has not cursed,

Or speak of doom when the LORD has not?

From the high rocks I can see them;

I can watch them from the hills.

They are a nation that lives alone;

They know they are blessed more than other nations.

The descendants of Israel are like the dust—

There are too many of them to be counted.

Let me end my days like one of God’s people;

Let me die in peace like the righteous.”

Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you here to curse my enemies, but all you have done is bless them”

He answered, “I can say only what the LORD tells me to say.”

Then Balak said to Balaam, “Come with me to another place from which you can see only some of the Israelites. Curse them for me from there.” He took him to the field of Zophim on the top of Mount Pisgah … .

Balaam said to Balak, “Stand here … and I will meet God over there.”

The LORD met Balaam, told him what to say, and sent him back to Balak to give him his message. So he went back and found Balak … with the leaders of Moab. Balak asked what the LORD had said, and Balaam uttered this prophecy:

“Come, Balak son of Zippor,

And listen to what I have to say.

God is not like men, who like;

He is not a human who changes his mind.

Whatever he promises, he does;

He speaks, and it is done.

I have been instructed to bless,

And when God blesses, I cannot call it back.

I foresee that Israel’s future

Will bring her no misfortune or trouble.

The LORD their God is with them;

They proclaim that he is their king.

God has brought them out of Egypt;

He fights for them like a wild ox.

There is no magic charm, no witchcraft,

That can be used against the nation of Israel.

Now people will say about Israel,

‘Look what God has done!’

The nation of Isarael is like a mighty lion … .

Then Balak said to Balaam, “You refuse to curse the people of Israel, but at least don’t bless them!”

Balaam answered, “Didn’t I tell you that I had to do everything that the LORD told me?

 


 

(Excerpted from Numbers 22:36-41; 23:3-26, Today’s English Version)

 

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂
Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

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Outreach Program and Evangelical Mission

Outreach April 12

Hey, Neighbor!

We believe it pleases God to reach out and help our neighbors, our fellow man. By the way, this is a commandment from our Almighty Father.

So the Daly City Congregation of the Church of Christ is hosting a Community Outreach Program & INC Evangelical Mission. And, not only Daly City, but also in which the various Northern District Locales will be participating.

This event will be held Sunday all day. And guess what, it’s a hop-skip away from the Serramonte Mall. (Now who in Northern California doesn’t know where the Serramonte Mall is?)

How convenient: you can even flip-flop from shopping errands at the mall, then health checks and services at the Outreach venue, and vice-versa!

Perhaps a fun-filled family encounter of a different kind is on the horizon. A hot date of a different kind: one that solidifies respect, love and devotion within the family unit, the core of a healthy society.

We’d be honored for you to join us at the FREE Community Outreach Event which involves in Spiritual Enrichment, Medical Mission, and Family Activity Fun. Oh yeah, and this is OPEN TO ALL!

So join us …

When:    Sunday 12 April 2015

Where:   699 Serramonte Blvd., Daly City CA 94015
                JEFFERSON UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT

Time:      The whole day–12 Noon to 6PM

 

See you there!
(I could use an Eye Health Check, myself.)

 

By Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

The Israelites leave Egypt

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THE ISRAELITES TRAVELED from Rameses to Succoth. There were about 600,000 men walking. This does not include the women and children. Many other people who were not Israelites went with them. A large number of sheep, goats and cattle went with them. The Israelites used the dough they had brought out of Egypt. They baked loaves of bread without yeast. The dough had no yeast in it because they had been rushed out of Egypt. So they had no time to get food ready for their trip.
The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years. On the day the 430 years ended, the Lord’s divisions of people left Egypt. That night the Lord kept watch to bring them out of Egypt. So on this same night the Israelites are to keep watch. They are to do this to honor the Lord from now on.

The law of the firstborn

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give every firstborn male to me. Every firstborn male among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.”

Moses said to the people, “Remember this day, the day you left Egypt. You were slaves in that land. The Lord with his great power brought you out of it. You must not eat bread made with yeast. Today, in the month of Abib, you are leaving Egypt. The Lord made a promise to your ancestors. The Lord promised to give you the land of these people: the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites. The Lord will lead you to this land where much food grows. There you must celebrate this feast during the first month of every year. For seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the seventh day there will be a feast to honor the Lord. So for seven days you must not eat any bread made with yeast. There must be no bread made with yeast anywhere in your land. On that day you should tell your son: ‘We are having this feast because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ This feast will help you remember. It will be like a reminder on your forehead. This feast will remind you to speak the Lord’s teachings. This is because the Lord used his great power to bring you out of Egypt. So celebrate this feast every year at the right time.

The Lord will take you into the land of the Canaanites. He promised to give this land to you and your ancestors. Then you must give him every firstborn male. And every firstborn male animal must be given to the Lord. Buy back every firstborn donkey by offering a lamb. If you don’t want to buy the donkey back, then break its neck. You must buy back from the Lord every firstborn of your sons.

“From now on your son will ask you: ‘What does this mean?’ You will answer, ‘With his great power, the Lord brought us out of Egypt. We were slaves in that land. In Egypt the king was stubborn. He refused to let us leave. But the Lord killed every firstborn male in Egypt, both human and animal. That is why I sacrifice every firstborn male animal to the Lord. And that is why I buy back each of my firstborn sons from the Lord.’ This feast is like a mark on your hand. And it is like a reminder on your forehead. It will help you remember that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his great power.”

The way out of Egypt

The king sent the people out of Egypt. God did not lead them on the road through Philistine country. That road is the shortest way. But God said, “They might think they will have to fight. Then they might change their minds and go back to Egypt.” So God led them through the desert toward the Red Sea. The Israelites were dressed for fighting when they left the land of Egypt.

Moses carried the bones of Joseph with him. Before Joseph died, he had made the sons of Israel promise to do this. He had said, “When God saves you, remember to carry my bones with you out of Egypt.”
The people of Israel left Succoth and camped at Etham. Etham was on the edge of the desert. The Lord showed them the way. During the day he went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud. And during the night the Lord was in a pillar of fire to give them light. They could travel during the day or night. The pillar of cloud was always with them during the day. And the pillar of fire was always with them at night.


(Quoted from Exodus 12:37-42, 13:1-22 of the New Century Version of the Bible)

 

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr

King Balak Sends For Balaam (Part 1of 2)

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THEN THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL sent messengers to the Amorite king Sihon to say: “Let us pass through your land. We and our cattle will not leave the road and go into your fields or vineyards, and we will not drink water from your wells; we will stay on the main road until we are out of your territory.” But Sihon would not permit the people of Israel to pass through his territory. He gathered his army and went out to Jahaz in the wilderness and attacked the Israelites. But the Israelites killed many of the enemy in battle and occupied their land … .

When the king of Moab, Balak son of Zippor, heard what the Israelites had done to the Amorites and how many Israelites there were, he and all his people became terrified … So King Balak sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor near the Euphrates River in the land of Amaw. They brought him this message from Balak: “I want you to know that a whole nation has come from Egypt; its people are spreading out everywhere and threatening to take over our land. They outnumber us, so please come and put a curse on them for me. Then perhaps we will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. I know that when you pronounce a blessing, people are blessed, and when you pronounce a curse, they are placed under a curse.”

So the Moabite and Midianite leaders took with them the payment for the curse, went to Balaam and gave him Balak’s message. Balaam said to them, “Spend the night here, and tomorrow I will report to you whatever the LORD tells me.” So the Moabite leaders stayed with Balaam. 

God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men that are staying with you?”

He answered, “King Balak of Moab has sent them to tell me that a people who came from Egypt has spread out over the whole land. He wants me to curse them for him, so that he can fight them and drive them out.”

God said to Balaam, “Do not go with these men, and do not put a curse on the people of Israel, because they have my blessing.”

The next morning Balaam went to Balak’s messengers and said, “Go back home; the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” So they returned to Balak and told him that Balaam had refused to come with them.

Then Balak sent a larger number of leaders, who were more important than the first. They went to Balaam and gave him this message from Balak:” Please don’t let anything prevent you from coming to me! I will reward you richly and do anything you say. Please come and curse these people for me.”

But Balaam answered, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not disobey the command of the LORD my God in even the smallest matter. But please spend the night, as the others did, so that I may learn whether or not the LORD has something else to tell me.”

That night God came to Balaam and said, “If these men have come to ask you to go with them, get ready and go, but do only what I tell you.” So the next morning Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite leaders.

(Excerpted from Numbers 21:21-24, 22:2-21, Today’s English Version)

 

 

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

SAFETY LAST?

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“SAFETY FIRST.” At no time has this adage been very true than in our time with the spate of natural calamities besieging our planet. Upon the onslaught off unusually record high-magnitude earthquakes like the one that shook New Zealand in February 2011 and then Japan in March that triggered a devastating tsunami which took more than 20,000 lives in Sendai; tornadoes that ravaged the southern part of the United States one after the other totaling 875 in April 2011 alone (Http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Natural Hazards/view); and, more recently, floods brought about by the swelling of the Mississippi River—disaster preparedness for natural calamities or man-made disasters has taken on a new urgent dimension. But can the same sense of urgency be said of man ensuring the safety of his soul on the day of Judgment?

Safety FirstWhich should take precedence

Protecting one’s self and loved ones, even one’s earthly possessions, is important. But above our physical safety, we should prioritize the safety or salvation of our soul. As to why, Apostle Paul asked: “… Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body?” (Rom. 7:24, New International Revised Version). Why did Apostle Paul say that sin brings death to his body? The Bible explains that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23) and the lake of fire, the second death (Rev. 20:14, New International Version), is the full payment for sin. In the lake of fire, God’s anger will be fully felt undiluted in the cup of His wrath. All those whose sins were not forgiven are destined to be “tortured with fire and sulfur in front of the holy angels and in front of the Lamb. And the smoke from their torture will go up forever and ever …” (Rev. 14:10-11, New English Translation). How can man be made to account for the sins he committed when he is already dead? It is stated in the Bible that the dead will be raised to face judgment (John 5:29-30; II Cor. 5:10). Hence, those whose sins have not been forgiven will be eternally punished. This is man’s gravest problem that the threat of any natural calamity is nothing to compare with.

Destruction like no other

The damages brought about by the recent spate of natural disasters cannot be compared to what is to happen on the day of the Lord, as the prophet Zephaniah records: “The great day of the LORD is near00near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, … Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth” (Zeph. 1:14-15, 18, NIV). In the same vein, Apostle Peter said that “that same word of God is keeping heaven and earth that we now have in order to be destroyed by fire. They are being kept for the Judgment Day and the destruction of all who are against God. … But the day of the Lord will come lie a thief. The skies will disappear with a loud noise. Everything in them will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be burned up” (II Pet. 3:7, 10, New Century Version).

It is for this reason that man should strive to do his best to be among those who will be safe from the destruction of the world.

What safety costs

That man will try as hard as he can to ensure his own safety and that of his loved ones from accidents or calamities that can bring harm or worse, death, can be seen in the care and steps he takes to prevent these unfortunate incidents. On a larger scale, an instance of the lengths man goes to ensure his safety can be gleaned from the installation and upgrading of an earthquake and tsunami warning system by the Japanese government costing $1 billion (http://www.businessinsider.com/tsunami-japa-earthquake-video-2011-3) and an annual maintenance cost of $20 million (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/12/us-tsunami-preparation-edUSTRE72BOQ620110312).

Yet, as much as man exerts every effort to protect his life, he has no power over death since it has been appointed by God because of sin (Heb. 9:27; Rom. 5:12). Thus, if man takes great pains to ensure that he has more than a fighting chance to survive from an accident or a calamity, should he not owe it to himself to all the more be certain of the safety of his soul?

A mindset that courts disaster

It is thus very ironic that man’s concern for his physical safety is matched by his lackadaisical attitude toward the safety of his soul. Many believe that by simply professing their faith and expressing that they have accepted our Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior, they are, by their own count, in Christ Jesus. Indeed, believing in our Savior is a very important prerequisite for salvation, for whosoever shall not believe in Him will perish (John 3:16).

However, to declare that all one has to do to be saved on Judgment Day is to believe in the Son of God simply does not square with the truth taught by our Savior Himself: “So Jesus said to those who believed in him, “’If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples’” (John 8:31, Today’s English Version).
The true disciples of Christ, the true Christians, are those who have believed and accepted Him as their Savior and continue to obey His commandments.

The commandment that should not be disregarded

Man’s foremost need is the safety of his soul. As such, our Lord Jesus Christ taught: “I am the door; anyone who comes into the fold through me will be safe (John 10:9, Revised English Bible). Those who are sure of the safety or salvation of their souls have come into or entered the fold. But which is the fold or flock that man should enter, it being the proof that he has obeyed Christ? The flock is none other than the Church Of Christ, as attested to by the apostles: “Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood” (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation)Notice

Notice that it is the Church Of Christ which has been purchased or redeemed by our Lord with His own blood, not the whole world as many have been misled to believe. As to why, is because it is Christ who built this Church (Matt.16:18). Not only is He is founder, He is also the head and the Church is His body (Col. 1:18). Those who have been redeemed are the ones granted the divine privilege to serve God: “So surely the blood of Christ can do much, much more. Christ offered himself through the eternal Spirit as a perfect sacrifice to God. His blood will make us fully clean from the evil things we have done. His blood will make us pure even in our hearts. We are made pure so that we can worship (serve) the living God” (Heb. 9:14, Easy-to-Read Version).

Is there any other way for man to receive the divine election to worship God? The Bible clearly states: “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22, NIV). Hence, one should not avoid entering the Church, for only those who join it will be accorded the divine privilege of worshiping and serving God.

Is membership in the Church optional?

“I do not have to be a member of the Church Of Christ because what counts today is one’s personal relation with Christ,” some people argue. But who has a true relationship with Christ? “This mystery is very great, but I speak concerning [the relation of] Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32, Amplified Bible).

Christ’s relation to His Church is not superficial, that the Church can simply be waved off as inconsequential, as the apostles further testify: “For a husband has authority over his wife just as Christ has authority over the church; and Christ is himself the Savior of the church, his body. … Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. He is its Savior. Can we say then that membership in the Church is simply not needed?

What is the great blessing that awaits members of the Church Of Christ? In Romans 5:8-9, this is clearly written: “But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God’s anger!” (Ibid.).

It is for this reason that we exhort our loved ones and friends to examine and compare the beliefs of the Church Of Christ with those of their religion while there is still time, so as to make the all-important step of obeying Christ by entering the Church Of Christ to be saved. Let us remember—the safety of our soul is paramount; hence, it should be safety first of our soul!


 

By NORMAN A. REYES
Source: God’s Message Magazine

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

 

Paul and Silas in prison at Philippi

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ONE DAY AS we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had an evil spirit that enabled her to predict the future. Sher earned a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes. She followed Paul and us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They announce to you how you can be saved!” She did this for many days, until Paul became so upset that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I order you to come out of her! The spirit went out of her that very moment. When her owners realized that their chance of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the authorities in the public square. They brought them before the Roman officials and said, “These men are Jews, and they are causing trouble in our city. They are teaching customs that are against our law; we are Roman citizens, and we cannot accept these customs or practice them.” And the crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas.

Then the officials tore the clothes off Paul and Silas and ordered them to be whipped. After a severe beating, they were thrown into jail, and the jailer was ordered to lock them up tight. Upon receiving this order, the jailer threw them into the inner cell and fastened their feet between heavy blocks of wood.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, which shook the prison to its foundations. At once all the doors opened, and the chains fell off all the prisoners. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped; so he pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for a light, rushed in, and fell trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. Then he led them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your family.” Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in the house. At that very hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; and he and all his family were baptized at once. The he took Paul and Silas up into his house and gave them some food to eat. He and his family were filled with joy, because they now believed in God.


Quoted from Acts 16:16-34, Today’s English Version

 

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

The solution to man’s miseries

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ABRAHAM H. MASLOW, an American psychologist, presented five levels in the hierarchy of human needs beginning from physiological needs, which include the most basic ones such as food, water, clothing, and shelter. He said that only when these basic needs are satisfied can man progress to higher levels such as safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization.

Unfortunately, many people today cannot even fully satisfy their basic necessities, as many are not properly nourished, clothed, and housed. Their desolate condition is further exacerbated by the worsening condition of the economy to due to unemployment, political instability, and terrorism. Consequently, more people are added to those who live below the poverty line. As as their chances of improving their wretched condition diminishes, they become anxious and feel hopeless.

     “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap
nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not of more value than they?”

Do not worry
Fortunately, our Lord Jesus Christ comforts those who are in this kind of miserable situation. He said reassuring;

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what yo will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Mt. 6:25, New King James Version)

Why did our Lord Jesus say that we should not worry about the things we need in this life when, in fact, we really need all these things to survive? Our Lord explains further:

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil or spin; And yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

“For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For our heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” (Mt. 6:26-29, 32, Ibid.)

The Almighty God, our Creator, knows what we need to survive, In fact, God gave us everything–food, water, air, and other resources–just as He provided the birds and other animals with their food and shelter. Thus, according to Christ, we should not worry about what we will eat or what we will drink. However, this does not mean that we should no longer work to find all these things. In fact, God commanded us to work hard in order for us to eat (Gen 3:19). Christ is only telling us that worrying too much far all the things we need as do the Gentiles who are without God (Eph. 2:11012) will not do us good. Besides, being too anxious about material things is tantamount to underestimating the power of God in giving us what we need.

But seek yee first ...

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness
Our Lord Jesus Christ clearly pointed out which man should seek first. he said:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Mt. 6:33, NKJV)

After having sought the kingdom of God and His righteousness, God will surely add to hi all the things he needs in this life. So, what man should put as priority is for him to be in the kingdom of God. Which is the kingdom referred to? It is the kingdom that God has given to the flock:

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.” (Lk. 12:32, Today’s English Version)

Apostle Paul taught that the kingdom, which God has given to the flock, also refers to the kingdom of the Son into which man ought to be transferred for him to be redeemed by the blood of Christ. Apostle Paul wrote:

“Giving thanks to the Father,, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints (God’s holy people) in the Light.

“[The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the  kingdom of the Son of His love,

“In whom we have our redemption through His blood, [which means] the forgiveness of our sins.” (Col. 1:12-14, Amplified Bible)

Significantly, the kingdom here on earth refers to the Church of Christ, which was purchased by the blood of Christ:

“Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.” (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation)

The Church of Christ was redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. If one is a member of the Church of Christ, then he has sought the kingdom of God where there is redemption and forgiveness of sins.

The righteousness
On the other hand, which is the righteousness of God which man should also seek? The righteousness of God is the gospel, which is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’.” (Rom. 1:16-17, NKJV)

The gospel is essential to the attainment of salvation. Thus, it is of utmost importance for man to hear the preaching of the gospel or the words of God through the duly appointed messenger, like Apostle Paul:

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless  you believed in vain.” (I Cor. 15:1-2, Ibid.)

In these last days, the gospel of God has been entrusted to the messenger whose work is likened to that of a bird of prey. he will bring God’s righteousness to people. The prophecy declares:

“Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.

“Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, who are far from righteousness: I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, For Israel My glory.” (Is. 46:11-13, Ibid.)

This prophecy was fulfilled in Brother Felix Y. Manalo, the messenger of God in these last days who came from a country in the Far East–the Philippines. He began preaching the gospel; consequently, in fulfillment of the prophecy, the true Church of Christ emerged in the Philippines concurrent with the outbreak of the First World War on July 27, 1914, the time signaling the beginning of the period “ends of the earth” (Mt. 24:3, 6-8, 33).

And the promise
Having found the kingdom of the Son, which is the Church of Christ, and the righteousness of God, which is the gospel of salvation, members of this Church have the assurance that they will receive all the promises of God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, then you will ask for anything you wish, and you shall have it.” (Jn. 15:7, TEV)

This is indeed a great privilege. While opportunities for other people are so elusive, they are, however, within reach for members of the Church of Christ who are always obedient to His words or commands. In the face of many hardships and difficulties plaguing the world today, the righteous servants of God have nothing to worry because they can always ask the Father all their needs through prayer. God surely will not lack in everything they need:

“Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart.

“And with all his abundant wealth through Christ Jesus, my God will supply all your needs.” (Philip. 4:6, 19, Ibid.)


 

 

 

By NOEL I. ILAN
Source: God’s Message Magazine
Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Samuel, the prophet

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THE BOY SAMUEL served the LORD and wore a special linen garment and the clothes his mother made for him. She would bring new clothes every year, when she and her husband came to offer sacrifices at Shiloh.

Eli would always bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “Samuel was born in answer to your prayers. Now you have given him to the LORD. I pray that the LORD will bless  you with ore children to take his place.” After Eli has blessed them, Elkanah and Hannah would return home.

The LORD was kind to Hannah, and she had three more sons and two daughters. But Samuel grew up at the LORD’s house in Shiloh.

Samuel served the LORD by helping Eli the priest, who was by that time almost blind. In those days, the LORD hardly ever spoke directly to people, and he did not appear to them in dreams very often. But one night, Eli was asleep in his room, and Samuel was sleeping on a mat near the sacred chest in the LORD’s house. They had not been asleep very long when the LORD called out Samuel’s name.

“Here I am!” Samuel answered. Then he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. What do you want?”

“I didn’t call you,” Eli answered

“Go back to bed.”

Samuel went back.

Again the LORD called out Samuel’s name. Samuel got up and went to Eli.

“Here I am,” he said. “What do you want?”

Eli told him, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to sleep.”

The LORD had not spoken to Samuel before, and Samuel did not recognize the voice. When the LORD called out his name for the first time, Samuel went to Eli again and said, “Here I am. What do you want?”

Eli finally realized that it was the LORD who was speaking to Samuel. So he said, “God back and lie down! If someone speaks to you again, answer, ‘I’m listening, LORD. What do you want me to do'”

Once again Samuel went back and lay down.

The LORD then stood beside Samuel and called out as he had done before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

“I’m listening,” Samuel answered. “What do you want me to do?”

The LORD said:

Samuel, I am going to do something in Israel that will shock everyone who hears about it! I will punish Eli and his family, just as I promised. He knew that his sons refused to respect me, and he let them get away with it, even though I said I would punish his family forever. I warned Eli that sacrifices or offerings could never make things right! His family has done too may disgusting things.

The next morning, Samuel got up and opened the doors to the LORD’s house. He was afraid to tell Eli what the LORD had said. but Eli told him, “Samuel, my boy, come here!”

“Here I am,” Samuel answered.

Eli said, “What did God say to you? Tell me everything. I pray that God will punish you terribly if you don’t tell me every word he said!”

Samuel told Eli everything. Then Eli said, “he is the LORD, and he will do what’s right.”

As Samuel grew up, the LORD helped hi and made everything Samuel said come true. From the town of Dan in the north to the town of Beersheba in the south, everyone in the country knew that Samuel was truly the LORD’s prophet. The LORD often appeared to Samuel at Shiloh and told him what to say.


(Quoted from I Samuel 2:13-21, 3:1-21 of the Contemporary English Version of the Bible)

 

 

 

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

Jacob was named Israel

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GOD SAID TO JACOB, “Go to Bethel at once, and live there. Build an altar there to me, the God who appeared to you when you were running away fro your brother Esau.”

So Jacob said to his family and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods that you have; purify yourselves and put on clean clothes. We are going to leave here and go to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who helped me in the time of my trouble and who has been with me everywhere I have gone” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods that they had and also the earrings that they were wearing. He buried them beneath the oak tree near Shechem.

When Jacob and his sons started to leave, great fear fell on the people of the nearby towns, and they did not pursue them. Jacob came with all his people to Luz, which is now known as Bethel, in the land of Canaan. He built an altar there and named the place for the God of Bethel, because God had revealed himself to him there when he was running away from his brother.

When Jacob returned from Mesopotamia, God appeared to him again and blessed him. God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but from now on it will be Israel.” So God named him Israel. And God said to him, “I am Almighty God. Have many children. Nations will be descended from you, and you will be the ancestor of kings. I will give you the land which I gave to Abraham and to Isaac, and I will also give it to your descendants after you.” Then God left him. There, where God had spoken to him, Jacob set up a memorial stone and consecrated it by pouring wine and olive oil on it. He named the pace Bethel.

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(Quoted from Genesis 35:1-7, 9-15, Today’s English Version)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

FREEDOM and RESPONSIBILITY

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Violating or abusing God’s laws that govern freedom has made the life of man bitter instead of better.

 

 

“GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH” so ardently proclaimed Patrick Henry, a great American orator during the movement for independence in Virginia, USA, in his speech delivered on March 23, 1775. This famous line had become more popular among so many orators and speechwriters as time went by. Such indisputably fervent expression of the importance of liberty in man’s life had reverberated throughout the United States of America and in various parts of the world where there were struggles for freedom. Indeed, it has become a timeless message of inspiration in man’s burning quest for liberty. A lot of gallant and unselfish people unwittingly helped in shaping the history of their countries through their unquestionable sacrifices, including that of shedding their blood, which all the more all the more underscored the value of freedom. What Patrick Henry said is just one of the many notable quotes concerning freedom or liberty, written and delivered by famous and well-educated people. George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics, was not satisfied with simply sharing his understanding and definition of freedom. He also expressed his worries on how people react upon realizing its true meaning. He said, “Liberty means responsibility, that is why most men dread it” (emphasis ours). Soren Kierkegaard, a 19th-century Danish philosopher and theologian voiced out his concern about man’s exercise of freedom when he said: “A man’s worst difficulties begin when he is able to do as he likes” (emphasis ours). These words manifest the faulty and dangerous ideas that many have concerning the meaning of freedom. To them, it means an absolute right to do anything, unmindful of the negative and harmful results of their actions. Indeed, so many have become abusive in many aspects, all in the name of what they think is freedom.

Freedom of religion becomes dangerous.
when the so-called religious people adamantly misuse and distort the concept of religious freedom. Quite a few have become excessive and irrational in their actions that border on fanaticism. Who would ever forget the horror that shocked the world when Jim Jones and his followers committed mass suicide (sometimes labeled as mass murder) in Jonestown, Guyana on November 18, 1978? History is replete with examples of abuses administered under the guise of religious freedom. Until now, innumerable people have become victims of “religious persons
who believe that they are free to act according to the dictates of their religious beliefs and conscience believing that no no should or should stop them because they  are simply exercising this constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion. What is ironic is the fact that these people who reason out that they are merely practicing their religious freedom are the very same people who deprive others of such.

Another dangerous result of man’s misconception on the true meaning of religious freedom is the unabated proliferation of religious organizations that all claim to be of God. Nowadays, so manny entertain the idea that a man can belong to any religion or serve God any way he wants and still merits salvation on Judgment Day. Despite the fact that a great number of people believe that this is a welcome development, the truth remains that this misconception is extremely dangerous because according to our Lord Jesus Christ, the crooked path or way will only lead many to destruction. He says: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” (Matt. 7:13, New King James Version, emphasis ours). Unfortunately, many crooked paths or religions have been established by men: “The way of peace they have not known, And there is no justice in their ways; They have made themselves crooked paths; Whoever takes that way shall not know peace” (Isa. 59:8, Ibid., emphasis ours). It is man’s duty to use his freedom in finding the only good way in the midst of so many paths or religions. To accomplish this, man must first learn the biblical meaning of freedom and the proper way of using it.

What the Bible says about freedom.
It is but fitting and imperative that we consult the words of God as we tackle the issue of freedom, more so of the so-called freedom of religion. After all, long before men even started to talk about freedom and gave various meanings to it, God had already given the very first taste of freedom to the first people He created when He told Adam and Eve: “… Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat …” (Gen. 2:16, Ibid., emphasis ours). He had also emphasized even then that the freedom He gave should be exercised and enjoyed within the confines of His laws or else suffer the fatal consequence. He said: ” … but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17, Ibid., emphasis ours). Hence, freedom does not mean people can do anything as they like. But the first couple abused the freedom that God gave them by eating the forbidden fruit. They were deceived by Satan to believe that doing so would be very beneficial to them–they would not die, instead, they “will be like God” (Gen. 3:4-5, Ibid.). But the result was the exact opposite of what they thought it would be. They were immediately driven out of the Garden of Eden and from then on, what used to be a blissful life turned into a very difficult one until the time they returned to the ground. Hence, ever since the very beginning, violating or abusing God’s laws that govern freedom has made the life of man bitter instead of better. Freedom, depending on how it is used, can make or break a person. The Bible says: “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25, Ibid., emphasis ours). On the other hand, the Bible says: “in Flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction …” (II Thess. 1:8-9, Ibid., emphasis ours).

The main reason God gives freedom.
When God sent Moses to free His ancient people from bondage in Egypt, He told him the importance and the main reason He gave them freedom. He said, “… Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they ma serve Me” (Exod. 8:1, Ibid., emphasis ours). These words of God explicitly tell us that with freedom comes responsibility. It is not given by God for no important reason. In the case of Israel, God wanted them to serve Him. We ought to consider the living condition of the people of Israel when they were in bondage in Egypt. They were not free to serve God, which was their most important responsibility. Thus, freedom should never be made as basis for running away from responsibilities especially from one’s sacred duty to serve God. it should not also be used as an excuse for ignoring, and worse, for promulgating man-made laws and rules in serving God. For it is written: “Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you” (I Sam. 12:24, Ibid.). Man must serve God with all his heart based on the truth and nothing but the truth. The truth is the word of God (John 17:17, Ibid.). Exercising one’s freedom even with the sacred intention to serve Him is considered vain by God Himself if it deviates from the truth or is based upon man-made doctrines, in fact, even though it is done wholeheartedly and devotedly (Matt. 15:9, Ibid.; Rom. 10:2-3, Today’s English Version). If only people had strictly adhered to these laws of God, then false religions and other ways of serving God would not have multiplied and proliferated in the world.

The most important freedom.
Although Freedom from poverty and all sorts of oppression is critical, the most needed one is the freedom that only our Lord Jesus Christ can give. He Himself said, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36, NKJV, emphasis ours). The freedom alluded to by our Lord is the true and most beneficial one. It is the freedom from sin and from the curse of the law (John 8:34; Rom. 6:18; Gal. 3:13). The reason all men need to be freed from sin and from the curse of the law is for them not to die. For it is written, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23, NKJV). Death that is the full payment for sin is the second death in the lake of fire or the eternal salvation (Rev. 20:14, Ibid).

The only beneficiaries of the most important freedom.
For one to be freed from or to be forgiven of his sins, it is imperative that he be included among those redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7, Ibid). Although all people who claim to e Christians believe that they are among those who became beneficiaries of Christ’s blood, the Bible is very specific as to which alone was purchased by His blood. “Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood” (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation). The very proof that the Church Of Christ is also the one freed from the curse of the law was stated by Apostle Paul written in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus …” (NKJV, emphasis ours). The ones who are in Christ Jesus are the members of His body, the Church, of Which He is the head (Col 1:18, Ibid.). They have no more condemnation because Christ the Savior will save His Church (Eph. 5:23, Ibid.).

Responsibility of non-members of the true Church.
God  “… desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4, Ibid.). Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us the incomparable value of knowing the truth when He said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32, Ibid., emphasis ours). Jesus also said, “… I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, Ibid., emphasis ours). Christ’s reason for letting man know that He is the way and the truth is in order for man to belong to Him by entering the fold: “I am the door; anyone who comes into the fold through me will be safe” (John 10:9, Revised English Bible). The fold or the flock is the Church Of Christ purchased by the blood of Christ or freed from sin (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation). These biblical passages clearly prove that it is never prejudicial to say that for anyone to be saved, he must fulfill his responsibility to enter the Church Of Christ. This is the truth that our Lord Jesus Christ wants all people to know and obey for them to be truly set free.

Responsibility of the members of the true Church.
The members of the true Church Of Christ must be overjoyed by the fact that amongst the many people in the world, they are the ones who have received the true freedom. Yet freedom comes with responsibility: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13, NKJV, emphasis ours). The works of the flesh that should no longer be found among those who have been given liberty or freedom are the various works of wickedness because “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21, Ibid., emphasis ours). total renewal of life and loving and serving one another are just a few of the many responsibilities that the members of the true Church Of Christ must fulfill. Man’s most important duty is to serve God and to obey His commandments. After all, this is God’s very reason for giving freed to the first couple (Gen. 2:16-17), to His ancient people (Exod. 8:1), and to the Church of Christ (Heb. 9:14).
By ISAIAS T. SAMSON JR.
Source: God’s Message Magazine

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Esau Sells His Rights

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THIS IS THE STORY of Abraham’s son Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebecca, the daughter of Bethuel (an Aramean from Mesopotamia) and sister of Laban. Because Rebecca had no children, Isaac prayed to the LORD for her. The LORD answered his prayer, and Rebecca became pregnant. She was going to have twins and before they were born, they struggled against each other in her womb. She said, “Why should something like this happen to me?” So she went to ask the LORD for an answer.

The LORD said to her, “Two nations are within you; You will give birth to two rival people. One will be stronger than the other; The older will serve the younger.”

The time came for her to give birth, and she had twin sons. The first one was reddish, and his skin was like a hairy robe, so he was named Esau. he second one was born holding on tightly to the heel of Esau, so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skilled hunter, a man who loved the outdoors, but Jacob was a quiet man who stayed at home. Isaac preferred Esau, because he enjoyed eating the animals Esau killed but Rebecca preferred Jacob.

One day while Jacob was cooking some bean soup, Esau came in from hunting. He was hungry and said to Jacob, “I’m starving; give me some of that red stuff.” (That is why he was named Edom).

Jacob answered, “I will give it to your if you give me your rights as the first-born son.”

Esau said, “All right! I am about to die: what good will my rights do me?”

Jacob answered, “First make a vow that you will give me your rights.”

Esau made the vow and gave his rights to Jacob. Then Jacob gave him some bread and some of the soup. He ate and drank and then got up and left. That was all Esau cared about his rights as the first-born son.


 

(Quoted from Genesis 25:19-34, Today’s English Version)

 

 

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

For they are no longer two, but one

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*(I am posting this for my friend at Safeway, Marcello,
who’s getting married soon.)

It is but proper and appropriate to know whom

the Bible identifies as truly married.

 

THE MANY CHANGES in society and the various problems in life have resulted in the shifting outlook of many people regarding marriage. One need not be a keen observer to now that a lot of people today are making a mockery of this holy institution. Statistics shows high incidences of divorce or separation among married couples who find it convenient to dissolve their union and spare themselves (or so they think) of living a turbulent life for some perceive “irreconcilable differences”.

The utter disregard of many of the marital bond can also be seen I the growing incidence of infidelity or unfaithfulness among husbands and wives and their failure to keep their vow of love to each other. Nowadays, it is also a common practice for a man and a woman to live together as if they were husband and wife without the benefit of marriage “What for? What is important is that you get along well with each other!

As if the foregoing scenarios were not enough, there are countries today that allow same-sex marriages. Hence, it is no longer unusual to see two men or two women making a travesty of God’s purpose in creating man and woman as a man marries another man and a woman marrying one belonging to her own gender. That this is seen among celebrities truly aggravates the situation—sending wrong signals to the general public.

We, members of the Church Of Christ, God’s people in these last days, must not in any way be influenced or misled by these false beliefs concerning marriage Thus, it is but proper and appropriate to know whom the Bible identifies as truly married according to the will of God, and in turn share this knowledge with loved ones who are not yet members of the Church.

Whom God has truly joined together
Who are truly married? Our lord Jesus Christ answers: “…Haven’t you read the scripture that says that in the beginning the Creator made people male and female? And God said, ‘For his reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Man must not separate, then, what God has joined together” (Matt. 19:4-6, Today’s English Version.). God joins together as husband and wife individuals coming from opposite sexes, that is, a man and a woman not a man and another man, or a woman and another woman! The Bible clearly disapproves same-sex marriages. Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ is against a man and a woman living together without being united by God in marriage. Our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, is strongly opposed to premarital and extra-marital affairs Precisely, for such relationships run counter to or are a grave violation of God’s will.

A life-long commitment
How does God join together a man and a woman? Until when shall their union be? How long shall they be bound together as husband and wife? The learned Apostle Paul answers: “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband” (Rom. 7:2, New King James Version).

As divinely designed, Paul teaches clearly that only death can separate the couple who are bound by God’s laws, “Till death do us part!” goes their solemn vow. And the two ought to recognize the authority of God’s law over each other’s whims and wishes, thus: “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does:” (I Cor. 7:4, Ibid.). Again, this is for as long as each of them lives (Rom. 7:2, Ibid.).

No to divorce
True Christians or members of the true Church Of Christ understand fully well that so long as a legislation does not run counter to a divine mandate, they are duty bound to obey them, thus: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do Right” (I Pet. 2:13-14, New International Version). Otherwise, God’s will prevails, as when our Lord Jesus Christ resolved the issue on divorce, thus: “some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Matt. 19:3-8, Ibid.).

To close the issue, Christ declared with finality: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9, NKJV).

The adulterer’s lot
Adultery is not to be dismissed lightly. Addressing the Christians at Corinth, Apostle Paul strongly wrote: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:9-10, Ibid.).

The reward of the obedient lawyer man successfully argue his way and win a divorce case, but the biblical truth remains: “Blesses is everyone who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine In the very heart of your house, Your children lie olive plants All around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the LORD (Ps. 128:1-4, Ibid.). This reiterates what the Psalmist sang, thus: “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways. …” “Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commandments” (Ps. 119:1-3, 6, Ibid.).

 

 

By NICANOR P. TIOSEN
Source: God’s Message Magazine

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Making Full Use of God’s Gift

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Far back to the time of Israel, God’s people of old, there were servants who possessed exemplary traits, hence, were models or paragons of virtue.

 

AT ALL TIMES, God seeks His people to serve Him with much vigor and enthusiasm. Truly so, for He is not at all pleased if anyone among them should wax cold in the faith.

It is thus that God expects the ministers who lead the Church of Christ, His nation in these last days, not to wane in their enthusiasm. And there is no reason for them to lose vitality in the performance of their duty, for they have a lot of examples to emulate and draw inspiration from. For one, there’s the dynamic leadership of the apostles following Christ’s ascension. Then, far back rot the time of Israel, God’s people of old, there were servants who possessed exemplary traits, hence, were models or paragons of virtue.

“A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
But a faithful ambassador brings health.”

                 –Proverbs 13:17, New King James Version

With power, love, and self-control
In his second letter to Timothy, Apostle Paul advised his fellow worker in the Church, thus: “So I ask you to make full use of the gift that God gave you when I placed my hands on you. Use it well. God’s Spirit doesn’t make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control” (II Tim. 1:6-7, Contemporary English Version).

Ministering to the needs of the brethren is a God-given gift or endowment that Timothy, a young worker in the Church of Christ during the first century, received after his ordination. And as attested to by Apostle Paul, spiritually-endowed ministers like Timothy are not cowardly but brave. Precisely, for God has given them power, love and self-control–traits that true leaders of God’s nation ought to possess.

The same learned apostle equally advised the Christians at Thessalonica, thus: “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire ..” (I Thess. 5:19, New International Version). Following this inspiring instruction, it would do well for all the members of the true Church Of Christ in these last days to keep their fervor and move into action with the ministers in the lead.

Should have genuine interest
The Christians at the time of he apostles were experiencing severe tests in life. It was thus that Apostle Paul commissioned Timothy, whom he esteemed highly, to so great a task, thus: “We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith,, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. you know quite well that we were destined for them” (I Thess. 3:2-3, Ibid.).

Knowing that members of the Church Of Christ in the first century could not escape persecution and trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them” (I Thess 3:2-3, Ibid.).

Knowing that members of the Church Of Christ in the first century could not escaped persecution and trials, the administration of the Church then, like Apostle Paul who was administering the Church in the Gentile lands, deemed it fit to send Timothy to care for the newly converted believers in the Church. Regarding Timothy, Apostle Paul said, “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare” (Phil 2:20, Ibid.). The Church Of Christ today is at a time when the world is undergoing economic crisis. It thus needs ministers who have genuine concern for the well-being of the brethren who are entrusted to their care.

Should keep God’s statutes
and heartily seek Him
Far back during the time of the Israelites, the prophet Jeremiah, without mincing a word declared thus: “The she shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the LORD; so they do not prosper and all their flocks is scattered” (Jer. 10:25, Ibid.). This, of course, did not speak well of the leaders of Israel who were expected to provide a good example of the people. And they could not claim ignorance, or what knowing not to do, for God was not remiss in giving them their statutes and commands as a faithful servant affirmed thus, “You have  laid down precepts which are to be fully obeyed” (Ps. 119:2, Ibid.).

In the same manner, ministers of the Church Of Christ in these last days should set the example in seeking God’s statutes and in heartily seeking Him. And this is indeed appropriate, for they are the ones whom God expects to usher the brethren to perfection and spiritual maturity.

Remembered by the brethren
Notably, as a leader, Apostle Paul successfully made those to whom he preached the gospel hold on to the teachings he passed on to them, and he praised them for this. He did the same, for they remembered him in everything, thus: “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you” (I Cor. 11:2, Ibid.).

The same is true of the former leaders of the Church Of Christ in these last days. Even long after Brother Felix Y. Manalo, God’s messenger in these last days, was laid to rest on April 12, 1963; and Brother Eraño G. Manalo, the Church’s Executive Minister (1963-2009) passed away on August 31, 2009, their labors or what they worked about are still not forgotten. The members of the Church fondly remember them and continue to live by what were taught to them–teachings that are wholly based on the Holy Scriptures, and which the present Church Administrator, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, continues to uphold and safeguard.

Good and faithful servant
Hence, since times past God has been expecting His people to love and be faithful to Him with a commensurate reward, thus: “Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints! For the LORD  preserves the faithful, And fully repays the proud person” (Ps. 31:23, New King James Version). Similarly, God clearly draws the demarcation line between a wicked servant and a faithful one, thus: “A wicked messenger falls into trouble, But a faithful ambassador brings health” (Prov.13:17, Ibid.).

With this marked difference, it will do well therefore for leaders in the Lord’s flock today, or the ministers of the Church Of Christ in these last days, to be faithful. And through a parable, our Lord Jesus Christ emphasized the value of being good and faithful, thus: “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord'” (Matt. 25:21, Ibid.). Truly inspiring!

Incessantly proclaims the good news
First-century God’s faithful servants, like the apostles of old,, were never weary in doing their duties, thus: “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 5:42, NIV). The faithful servants’ enthusiasm in proclaiming the Good News was not seasonal. It was not an on-and-off engagement as recorded in the Book of Acts–despite the intense persecutions encountered.

For that, they were greatly rewarded. They succeeded in winning converts as attested to in teh gospel of he Lord according to Mark, thus: “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop–thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown” (Mark 4:20, Ibid.).

Thus, it behooves then for ministers of the Church Of Christ in these last days, to emulate the examples shown by God’s faithful servants of old whose vigor and enthusiasm in serving Him did not wane. They, too, ought to keep the power, love and self-discipline endowed to them through their ordination and make full use of their God-given gift.

 

by NICANOR P. TIOSEN
Source: God’s Message Magazine
Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Love of the brotherhood

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“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

                                                          —-John 13:34-35,
                                                              New King James Version

 

ONE OF THE QUALITIES of the Church of Christ that many expel from the outside admire is the closeness and the warmth of its members towards one another. People would often see that brethren in the Church are delighted to greet each other. When there are brethren (and even non-members) who fall victim to calamities, others would run to their aid at a moment’s notice. And even in instances when a member succumbs to other difficulties, fellow members are willing to come and lend their support.

The reason for all these is love, plain and simple. The members of the Church are taught to love one another. Apostle Peter wrote: “Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind” (I Pet. 3:8, Revised Standard Version). Apostle Paul even specified the quality of love for one another: “Now that by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves and have come to have a sincere love for your fellow believers, love one another earnestly with all your heart” (I Pet. 1:22, Today’s English Version).

The love that Jesus Christ has for us
must also be the kind of love we should
accord towards one another.

 

Sincere love must be possessed and expressed by the members of the Church to their fellow brethren and must be done wholeheartedly. Apostle Peter went on further to say:

“But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’.” (I Pet. 4:7-8, New King James Version)

Take note of how profound the kind of love that we must have for one another–fervent love. Thus, the members of the Church of Christ must exert great effort not only to have this fervent and sincere love for the brotherhood but also to preserve this in their heart as well.

What love of the brotherhood proves
We must also remember that love for God entails the love for the brethren. Apostle John explained: “And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (I John 4:21, New International Version).
How does a person demonstrate that he truly loves his brother? The Holy Scriptures gives us this guide:

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love off God be in him?” (I John 3:16-17, Ibid.)

The love that Jesus Christ has for us must also the kind of love we should accord towards one another. He gave the following commandment to us:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this you all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, NKJV)

True disciples of Jesus manifest their love for one another, proving that they truly love God.

Thus, members of the Church of Christ demonstrate their love for God not only by worshiping Him and praising His name abut also by helping their fellow brethren in times of need. We know this is truly pleasing to the Almighty God and to the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Do not repay evil with evil”
What if members of the Church have misunderstandings and disputes? As any other human beings, we feel a variety of emotions, ranging from happy to sad, from anger to pity, etc. Concerning anger, this is what we are taught and must observe in order to maintain the love for one another: “If your become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day” (Eph. 4:26, TEV).

Being angry at times for a reason is human nature. However, we are commanded that if we become angry, we must not allow it to lead us to sin What is one way by which our anger might lead us to sin? If, because of it, the love of the brotherhood is ruined That is why the Apostle James warned, “Grudge  not one against another, brethren lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door: (James 5:9, King James Version).

Should some misunderstandings occur, we ought not to bear grudges against brethren, for we would endanger ourselves to condemnation. Even if others do us wrong, as true Christians we must never take revenge. That is why Apostle Peter taught: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (I Pet. 3:9, NIV).

The Holy Scriptures is clear on this; those who bear grudges will be judged. But those who show genuine love instead of vengeance are assured of inheriting God’s promised blessings. This is explained in I John 4:17:

“In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.” (NIV)

One of the greatest examples recorded in the Bible of one who was wronged yet showed no grudge, was Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob. Joseph was thrown by his envious brothers into a pit and later sold for some amount of silver to Midianite traders who brought him to Egypt and in turn sold him as a slave. But despite the cruel acts his own brothers committed against him, he had no thought of retaliation even when Joseph became successful and powerful in Egypt. The book of Genesis recorded what transpired:

“when Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil that we did to him’. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, ‘Behold, we are your servants’. Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not  be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones’. And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Gen. 50:15, 18-21, NKJV)

Maintaining a harmonious relationship
The harmonious relationship among brethren can be seriously affected by wrongful acts, provoking hem to be angry with one another. The Apostle Paul even chastised the brethren in Corinth for such things: “No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!” (I Cor. 6:8, Ibid.)

Some may not think of themselves as frauds or cheaters but in fact are becoming such by being guilty of what the book of Psalms states: “The wicked borrows and does not repay, …” (Ps. 37:21, Ibid.).

Is this not cheating? Does it not ruin the love of the brotherhood if one borrows from brethren and never repays? Thus, the Scriptures warn: “But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; The future of the wicked shall be cut off” (Ps. 37:38, Ibid.).

To avoid ruining the love of brotherhood Apostle Paul advised: “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8, Ibid.).

Should we and our family ever lack material needs, instead of borrowing from others, we should be reminded of Apostle Peter’s exhortation: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:6-7, Ibid.).

As His children in these last days, we have the Almighty Father who is willing to help us in times of need. When we love one another, we can be assured that God will also be there for us. As the apostles exhorted:

“May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow more and more and become as great as our love for you. In this way he will strengthen you, and you will be perfect and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all who belong to him.” (I Thess. 3:12-13, TEV)

Hence, loving our brothers and sisters in the faith simply assures us of great blessings, in this earthly life and in the life to come, for in this way we manifest that we truly belong to our Father in heaven.

 

 

by ERWIN J. GORGONIO
Source: God’s Message Magazine
Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Joshua is chosen as successor to Moses

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THE LORD SAID to Moses, “Go up the Abarim Mountains and look out over the land that I am giving to the Israelites. After you have seen it, you will die, as your brother Aaron did, because both of you rebelled against my command in the wilderness of Zin. When the whole community complained against me at Meribah, you refused to acknowledge my holy power before them.” (Meribah is the spring at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.)

Moses prayed, “LORD God, source of all life, appoint, I pray, a man who can lead the people and can command them in battle, so that hour community will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
 
The LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a capable man, and place your hands on his head. Have him stand in front of Eleazar the priest and the whole community, and there before them all proclaim him as your successor. Give him some of your own authority, so that the whole community of Israel will obey him. He will depend on Eleazar the priest, who will learn my will … In this way Eleazar will direct Joshua and the whole community of Israel in all their affairs.” Moses did as the LORD had commanded him. He had Joshua stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole community. As the LORD had commanded, Moses put his hands on Joshua’s head and proclaimed him as his successor.

 

 

 

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂
Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

WHAT MAN NEEDS TO DO NOW, More Than Ever

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PANDEMIC DISEASES, SOCIAL UNREST, internecine wars, economic downturn, and natural calamities cast a dark cloud over many people’s lives the world over and leave many worrying about the security of their family—and their future.

Given these difficult circumstances, many have preoccupied themselves with their work and career in order to secure their needs. Others have focused on their academic study hoping that a good education can lead them to a better life. But despite their best efforts, the bright future that many long for remains a frustratingly elusive dream. And without many of them noticing it, they have already neglected the most important thing in order to overcome every trial and hardship in life.

What matters most
Truth is, the most important thing to do is to trust in God by faithfully obeying His commandments and always worshiping Him in His temple—where His laws are taught. The Bible says:

“Many people will come and say, ‘Let’s go to the mountain of the LORD God of Jacob and worship in his temple.’ The LORD will teach us his Law from Jerusalem, and we will obey him.” (Isa. 2:3, Contemporary English Version)

God’s word is very vital to every servant of God if we are to enjoy His constant guidance. It serves as a guide and light (Ps. 119:105, Today’s English Version) for our path so we will not be led astray from righteousness. Imagine how difficult it is for a person to find his way in a very dark place without a light to illumine him. Indeed, life without light is a life of uncertainty and chaos.

However, many find it hard to prioritize the worship of God over their work, career, or study thinking that they stand to lose if they give God first place in their lives. Thus, material or worldly pursuits are still their main purpose of living.

But what is the great advantage if one always worships God and receives His teachings? His word will not only help us overcome the difficulties of life but it will help us progress, as God Himself explains:

“I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress.” (Ps. 32:8, Living Bible)

Moreover, the Bible guarantees that one who worships God will receive His protection, kindness, and blessings (Ps. 84:10-22, CEV).

Therefore, now that life’s problems are so severe, man must all the more worship God. This is the key to having a bright future which man really yearns for.

The acceptable worship
The one who truly gives importance to worship does his best to make sure that God will find his worship acceptable. Such worshiper presents himself to God as “a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for His acceptance” (Rom. 12:1, Revised English Bible). And he does this by living a life in a manner that is totally pleasing to Him (Rom. 12:1, Last Days Bible).

To do this, one must accept and believe the words preached during the worship service as God’s very words and allow these words to change his life for the better. Apostle Paul attests:

“And we will never stop thanking God for this: that when we preached to you, you didn’t think of the words we spoke as being just our own, but you accepted what we said as the very Word of God—which, of course, it was—and it changed your lives when you believed it” (I Thess. 2:13, LB).

On the other hand, God will not be pleased if one doesn’t listen to His words. As a consequence, God will refuse to hear his prayers (Prov. 28:9, Easy-to-Read Version). For it is hostility against God if one lives in sin and refuses to obey His laws (Rom. 8:7-8, New Living Translation). In such condition, how can one receive God’s grace to overcome life’s problems? Moreover, those who disobey God will not inherit His kingdom (Gal. 5:19-21, LDB).

Hence, for a worship to be acceptable to God, one must live in holiness and avoid doing what displeases Him.

The true worshiper
In John 4:23, the Lord Jesus speaks of the true worshipers and how they worship God. They are the ones who gained the right to serve God after being counted among those cleansed by the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:14). The Bible attests that the Church of Christ as purchased by Christ with His blood (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation).

In view of this, if anyone wants to be certain that his service and worship are acceptable to God, he must be inside the true Church. Hence, it is imperative to join the Church of Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ guarantees that those who do so will be saved (John 10:9, 16, REB).

Thus, members of the Church Of Christ do not only have the right to worship God, but also have a bright future ahead of them: life in the Holy City. And if troubles beset them in this life, God promises to listen to their prayers and grant their petitions (Isa. 65:17-19, 22-24, The Message).

 

By BIENVENIDO A. SANTIAGO JR.
(Based on the lesson preached by Brother Eduardo V. Manalo during his Pastoral Visit in the local congregation of Belfast, Ireland on September 20, 2014.

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

God’s covenant with Abraham

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WHEN ABRAM WAS 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him. The Lord aid, “I am God All-Powerful. Obey me and do what is right. I will make an agreement between us. I will make you the ancestor of many people.

Then Abram bowed facedown on the ground. God said to him, “I am making my agreement with you. I will make you the father of many nations. I am changing your name from Abram to Abraham. This is because I am making you a father of many nations. I will give you many descendants. New nations will be born from you. Kings will come from you. And I will make an agreement between me and you and all your descendants from now on: I will be your God and the God of all your descendants. You live in the land of Canaan now as a stranger. But I will give you and your descendants all this land forever. And I will be the God of your descendants.”

Then God said to Abraham, “You and your descendants must keep this agreement from now on. This is my agreement with you and all your descendants: Every male among you must be circumcised. You must obey this agreement. Cut away the foreskin to show that you follow the agreement between me and you. From now on when a baby boy is eight days old, you will circumcise him. This includes any boy born among your people or any who is your slave. (He would not be one of your descendants.) So circumcise every baby boy. Circumcise him whether he is born in your family or bought as a slave. Your bodies will be marked. This will sow that you are part of my agreement that lasts forever. Any male who is not circumcised will be separated from his people. He has broken my agreement.”

Isaac–the promised son
God said to Abraham, “I will change the name of Sarai, your wife. Her new name will be Sarah. I will bless her. I will give her a son, and you will be the father. She will be the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will come from her.”

God said, “No. Sarah your wife will have a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will make my agreement with him. It will be an agreement that continues forever with all his descendants.

After God finished talking with Abraham, God rose and left him.

(Quoted from Genesis 17:1-15, 19, 22, International Children’s Bible,
New Century Version
 
Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂
Illusration by Nestor G. Magalpo Sr.

Is Jesus Christ the True God and Creator?

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When Jesus and his disciples were near the town of Caesarea Philippi … Jesus asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter spoke up, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” –Mathew 16:13-16

TRUE BELIEVERS OF JESUS since the first century have shared with Apostle Peter his affirmation of faith. Church history witnesses to the fact that many of them, particularly the early Christians, suffered intense persecutions and even death for upholding the conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Sadly, nowadays there seems to be a collaborative effort on the part of skeptics to portray a radically different Jesus.

With the persistent attempts to modify the Bible’s portrayal of Jesus, is is not surprising that many Christian-professing seek to preserve the real portrait of Jesus by placing emphasis on His unique attributes. Unfortunately, they went beyond the teachings of the Bible to the point of attributing to Jesus qualities that were not attributed to Him by His apostles and the early Christians. In effect, they failed in their attempt to preserve the real portrait of Jesus in the Holy Scriptures.

Jesus the Creator?
Majority of Christian-professsing churches attribute to Christ either the role of Creator or co-Creator. They consider this belief as a “necessary truth” to justify their claim that Jesus is the true God. They present verses from the Bible as their bases. One of these verses comes from the Gospel according to Apostle John:

“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 13:1:3, New King James Version)

Since Christ is the subject of this verse, proponents of the Christ-is-God doctrine claim that this is, beyond reasonable doubt, a direct reference to Christ’s role as the creator of the world. Hence, they believe that our Lord Jesus Christ has prior existence. They cite the very account of the creation of man to support their belief:

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’ …” (Gen. 1:26, Ibid.)

Through the pronouns “us” and “our” refer to any number more than one, yet proponents of the Trinity doctrine are quick to limit “us” and “our” to three–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. According to them, the doctrine defines the role of Jesus as co-creator with the Father.

Comparing spiritual things with spiritual
The Bible is not composed of a single verse. So one must not immediately accept a belief no matter how popular it may seem just because someone cited a verse from the Bible to support it. Instead, they should follow the sound advice f Apostle Paul to compare spiritual things with spiritual (I Cor. 2:13). The doctrine about Jesus’ alleged role as co-creator with the Father should be examined in the light of this biblical principle set forth by Apostle Paul. Noteworthy is the fact that the writers of the Bible never coined the word “co-creator.” The Bible does not support the belief that God had a co-creator. In Isaiah 44:24, God declares:

“… I am the LORD, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself” (NKJV, emphasis ours)

The God who spoke in Genesis 1:26 is the same God speaking in this verse. The prefix “co-” from the term “co-creator” is defined as “together” or “associate” as opposed to the term “alone” which means “unaccompanied” or “unaided.” Moreover, the expressions used in Isaiah 44:24 were “all alone” and “by Myself,” which leave no room for the belief that God had a co-creator.

There is only one Creator
The early chosen people of God learned from Him that He alone created the world–that He alone created the world–that He is without a co-creator. The profession of faith of God’s early nation was as follows:

“You alone are the LORD, Creator of the heavens and all the stars, Creator of the earth and those who live on it, Creator of the ocean and all its creatures. You are the source of life …” (Neh. 9:6, Contemporary English Version)

The essential truth is further proven by the actual account of the creation of man as recorded in Genesis 1:26-27:

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to our likeness’ … So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (NKJV)

God created man in His (singular) own image. In the image of God, He (singular) created them. The actual account of man’s creation attests to the fact that God did not have a co-creator. He created man all by Himself. Why then did God say, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness?” If God the Father was not talking to the “other persons of the Trinity,” to whom was He talking then? A plain comparison with the terms used in the same book of Genesis guides us to the fact that God was talking to the cherubim or angels in heaven:

“Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us‘ … and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden. …” (Gen. 3:22, 24, Ibid., emphasis ours)

This is not the only instance in which God used the pronoun “us” to refer to Him and His angels. In Isaiah 6:8, 1-2, we find God asking in the presence of seraphim or angels, “Who will go for us?”

It is indeed to the angels that God said “Let Us make man in Our image, according rot Our likeness” since they were already in existence before the creation of the world and of man. It does not mean, however, that they are God’s co-creators, for God, being Almighty, does not need one. Hence, the belief that Christ is God’s co-creator is bereft of biblical foundation. Even the very belief that Christ pre-existed runs counter to the teachings of the Bible. Apostle Pau provides us a definite stands as to the beginning of Jesus’ existence:

“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” (Gal. 4:4, NKJV)

The beginning of Jesus’ existence was when He was born of a woman or Mary (Matt. 1:18, 20). The fact that Jesus was conceived and born is a strong proof against the belief that Christ is a creator. It proves that Christ is a part of God’s creation. In fact, Apostle Paul refers to Jesus as the “first-born of all creation” (Col. 1:145, New American Standard Bible). The expression “firstborn of all creation” does not imply pre-existence especially when it is compared to Apostle Peter’s teaching:

“He (Christ) indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” (I Pet. 1:20, NKJV, emphasis ours)

In other words, even before the world was created, there was already God’s plan that He eventually promised through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures concerning the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:2-3).

Created through and for Christ
Other people ask, “If Christ did not have a prior existence and He did not create us, why then did Apostle John say that ‘All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made?'” In Colossians 1:16, Apostle Paul writes:

“For through him God created everything in heaven and on earth, … God created the whole universe through him and for him.” (Today’s English Version)

God created the whole universe through Christ and for Christ. The clear distinction between God the creator and Christ through whom God created the whole universe can be seen here. God created the whole universe through Christ in the sense that through Christ in the sense that through Christ, man will be reconciled to God. This is proven in the context of the verse cited above:

“And through him to reconcile to Himself all things … by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation …” (Col. 1:20-22, New International Version)

It is through Christ, through His blood, that all who were once enemies of God will be reconciled to Him. Furthermore, God appointed Christ to be the mediator between God and men as proven in I Timothy 2:5:

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” (NKJV)

Notice the distinction between God and Christ, between the One to whom Christ will mediate men and Christ who is the one Mediator between God and men. Moreover, Apostle Paul teaches that the one mediator to God is the Man (not God) Christ Jesus.

God created the whole universe for Christ in order that man will be holy and without blame as taught by Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:4, 7:

“God chose us to belong to Christ before the world was created. He hose us to be holy and without blame in his eyes … We have been set free because of what Christ has done. Through his blood our sins have been forgiven. We have been set free because God’s grace is so rich.” (New International Revised Version)

God chose us to belong to Christ “to be holy and without blame.” Though man sinned and was condemned to suffer the eternal punishment (Rom. 6:23; Rev. 20:14), nevertheless, eh can be counted holy and without blame through the blood of Christ. Only through the blood of Christ shall man’s sins be forgiven (Heb. 9:14).

God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that man would eventually sin and fall short of His glory (Rom. 3:23). It would have then become meaningless for God to create man only to punish him in the end, knowing that man would fall to sin. So before creating man, He had already foreordained a Redeemer and a Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, so that despite man’s sins, he may still have the chance to receive the grace of salvation. Without Christ and without the shedding of His blood, there is no forgiveness (Heb. 9:22). Without forgiveness, there is no salvation (John 8:24). Without any hope for salvation, man will only end up in destruction. In other words, without Him who will both redeem man from his sins and mediate him to God, the creation of man would only be rendered useless. And if the creation of man would only be rendered useless, the world that God created for man would also be rendered useless. Thus, “Without Him [Christ] nothing was made that was made.”

John 1:3, therefore, is about the redemptive and mediative roles that Christ fulfilled as foreordained by God even before the creation of the world. It teaches neither that Christ is the true God nor that Christ is the creator of the world and of man. In truth, the belief that Christ is the true God and creator is diametrically opposed to the fundamental teaching of the Bible. In His intercessory prayer, the Lord Jesus said to the Father:

“And eternal life means to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, whom you sent.” (John 17:3, TEV)

When asked with the same question that Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Christians must speak up and say, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. You are the greatest of all those sent by God. You are our Lord, Savior and only Mediator to the Father” (Acts 2:36; Acts 5:31; I Tim. 2:5).`

By FRANKLIN T. BUNAG
Source: God’s Message Magazine
Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Joseph interprets the king’s dreams

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AFTER TWO YEARS HAD PASSED, the king of Egypt dreamed that he was standing by the Nile River, when seven cows, fat and sleek, came up out of the river and began to feed on the grass Then seven other cows came up; they were thin and bony they came and stood by the other cows on the riverbank, and the thin cows ate up the fat cows. The the king woke up. he fell asleep again and had another dream. Seven heads of grain, full and ripe, wee growing on one stalk. Then seven other heads of grain sprouted, thin and scorched by the desert wind, and the thin heads of grain swallowed the full ones. The king woke up and realized that he had been dreaming. In the morning he was worried, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. He told them his dreams, but no one could explain them to him.

Then the wine steward said to the king, “I must confess today that I have done wrong. You were angry with the chief baker and me, and you put us in prison in the house of the captain of the guard. One night each of us had a dream, and the dreams had different meanings. A young Hebrew was there with us, a slave of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us. Things turned out just as he said: you restored me to my position, but you executed the baker.”

The king sent for Joseph, and he was immediately brought from the prison. After he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came into the king’s presence. The king said to him, “I have had a dream, and no one can explain it. I have been told that you can interpret dreams.”

Joseph answered, “I cannot, Your Majesty, but God will give a favorable interpretation.”

The king said, “I dreamed that I was standing on the bank of the Nile, when seven cows, fat and sleek, came up out of the river and began feeding on the grass. The seven o(Other cows came up which were think and bony. They were the poorest cows I have ever seen anywhere in Egypt. The thin cows at up the fat ones, but no one would have known it, because they looked just as bad as before. Then I woke up. I also dreamed that I saw seven heads of grain which were full and ripe, growing on one stalk Then seven heads of grain sprouted, thin and scorched by the desert wind, and the thin heads of grain swallowed the full ones. I told the dreams to the magicians, but none of them could explain them to me.”

Joseph said to the king, “The two dreams mean the same thing; God has told you what he is going to do. The seven fat cows are seven years, and the seven full heads of grain are also seven years; they have the same meaning. The seven thin cows which came up later and the seven thin heads of grain scorched by the desert wind are seven years of famine. It is just as I told you–God has shown you what he is going to do. There will be seven years of great plenty in all the land of Egypt. After that, there will be seven years of famine, and all the good years will be forgotten, because the famine will ruin the country. The time of plenty will be entirely forgotten, because the famine which follows will be so terrible. The repetition of your dream means that the matter is fixed by God and that he will make it happen in the near future.

“Now you should choose some man with wisdom and insight and put him in charge of the country. You must also appoint other officials and take a fifth of the crops during the seven years of plenty. Order them to collect all the food during the good years that are coming, and give them authority to store up grain in the cities and guard it. The food will be a reserve supply for the country during the seen years of famine which are going to come on Egypt. In this way the people will not starve.”

(Quoted from Genesis 41:1-36, Today’s English Version)

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

The Knowledge That All Must Seek

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THERE IS NO WAY to overemphasize the importance of knowledge to e are our life. Knowledge is power, so the saying goes, which is why many people aspire for it. And throughout history, it is the unrelenting pursuit of knowledge that has brought progress to man. A great portion of knowledge an wisdom has been transmitted in various institutions of learning. Some have been discovered through efforts and experimentation of persistent people. Although much of the knowledge discovered and acquired by man has contributed greatly to his welfare and progress, not all kinds of knowledge are beneficial to man. There are some that result in the destruction of lives and properties.

On the other hand, there is this kind of knowledge that is far more important and beneficial than any worldly knowledge. This is what we should seek and aspire for However, this knowledge cannot be learned in school and one’s intelligence is not a guarantee to enable him to know and understand it. Apostle Paul enlightens us:

“And how from your childhood you have had a knowledge of and been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to instruct you and give you the understanding for salvation which comes through faith in Jesus Christ [that is, through the learning of the entire human personality on God in Christ Jesus in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness]. Every scripture is God-breathed–Given by His inspiration–and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience,  and for training in righteousness [that is, in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action].” (II Tim. 3:15-16, Amplified Bible)

Knowledge of the sacred writings or the Holy Scriptures can give us the understanding for salvation which comes through faith in Christ Jesus. This makes such knowledge different and unique from any worldly knowledge man has and can acquire. Although the knowledge that is learned and acquired from educational institutions may bring progress and make life easier for man, this cannot lead him to the salvation of his soul. But this does not mean that anybody can gain right knowledge and understanding of what the Bible teaches concerning God and salvation. The Bible is not like any ordinary book that can be easily understood by anyone who knows how to read. Apostle Paul teaches in I Corinthians 2:6-7:

“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, or the rulers of this age, who care coming to nothing. But we speak of the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages of our glory.” (New King James Version)

Right understanding of God’s wisdom cannot be gained by just reading the Bible for this is hidden in mystery as has been ordained by God.

Unraveling the mystery
Although God’s wisdom and knowledge contained in the Holy Scripture is hidden in mystery, this can be unraveled and understood for the welfare of man’s soul. For us to understand and benefit from this, the Apostle Paul gives us this guide in I Corinthians 2:11-12:

“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (Ibid.)

Apostle Paul has made it clear that no one knows the things of God except His Spirit. Thus, only those who have received the Spirit of God can understand and explain His wisdom and knowledge which He has hidden in mystery. Only they can unravel and reveal to us the mystery of our Lord God for our own benefit. And indeed, there are people who have been given and have received the Spirit of God and, thus, have understood and are able to explain the words of God, although it is hidden in mystery. Foremost among them is our Lord Jesus Christ:

The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to  heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed.”  (Luke 4:18, Ibid.)

Our Lord Jesus Christ was sent by God. He received the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit, hence, He was able to understand and preach the Gospel, which He is during His ministry here on earth. Thus, the messenger of God, inasmuch as He has the Spirit of God, can understand and preach the Gospel. He is the one who can explain the mystery of God’s knowledge and wisdom. No wonder the inspired preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ elicited awe and amazement from the people, particularly the Jews. John 7:15-16 narrates the following:

“The Jews were amazed and asked, ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?’ Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me’.” (New International Version)

The Lord Jesus did not learn or get His knowledge of God’s words from the learning institutions of this world. So although He did not undergo formal education from any school, He was able to preach and explain God’s words by virtue of His commissioning. The same could be said of the other messengers of God, for instance the apostles. Inasmuch as they learned from our Lord Jesus Christ and they, too, received the Holy Spirit from God (John 20:21-22), their preaching also elicited like response and reactions from those who heard him preach. Recorded in the book of Acts is this:

“They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.” Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’. When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:7-13, NIV)

Not based on man’s understanding
Knowledge of God’s words that gives one understanding for salvation is not based upon man’s own wisdom as proven in the aforementioned cases. It is not gained through persistent studies and having doctoral degrees from theological schools. As Apostle Paul state, “Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7, NKJV). One’s educational attainment, however high it is, does not guarantee that a person can already understand God’s teachings and can preach the pure gospel. “And how shall they preach unless they are  sent?” Apostle Paul asks rhetorically (Rom. 10:15, Ibid.).Therefore, one needs to be a messenger o f God to be able to preach His words. This does not mean, however, that no one among the messengers of God was schooled or educated. This is proven by Apostle Paul, no doubt a messenger of God, when he said of himself in Acts 22:3: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today” (New American Standard Bible).

Apostle Paul was educated and learned, having had formal education but he did not preach based on human wisdom. He did not use his worldly education as basis of his authority to preach and in converting people to Christ. In Galatians 1:11-12, he said:

“But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (NKJV)

Apostle Paul testified that the gospel he preached was not according to man but he received it from God through the revelation of Jesus Christ. His authority to preach was given to him by our Lord God. And being one of the true messengers of God, he was able to preach and explain His words that would lead man to salvation. Thus, for man to gain knowledge and understanding concerning God and to receive salvation from whom should he seek such knowledge? In the book of Malachi 2:7, the Bible teaches this:

“It is the duty of priests [Jewish Priesthood] to teach the true knowledge of God. People should go to them to learn my will, because they are the messengers of the LORD Almighty.” (Today’s English Version)

If man wants to gain true knowledge about God and to learn His will that he must follow in order for him to attain salvation, he must seek such knowledge from the messenger of our Lord God. Listening to the preaching of God’s messenger is very important, for it is from the messenger that one can gain the true and right knowledge concerning God. Such knowledge, if he accepts and believes, can assure him of eternal life.

The knowledge to eternal life
What then is the true knowledge concerning God taught by His messengers that will lead man to eternal life or salvation? Cited earlier was Malachi 2:7 and verse 10 of that same chapter says the following:

“Have we not all one Father? Dod not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?” (Mal. 2:10, NIV)

The Prophet Malachi, one of God’s messengers, taught clearly that the Father is the one God who created us. This is the true knowledge concerning God taught since the time of His early messengers, a teaching that has endured up to the time of the Christian Era as testified to by Apostle Paul, another messenger of God: “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (I Cor. 8:6, Ibid.).

And why did Apostle Paul say that “for us,” referring to the Christians, to whom he wrote this epistle, “there is but one God, the Father?” Because for others, this is not the knowledge that they have known about God: “But not everyone knows this” (I Cor. 8:7, Ibid.), Apostle Paul said further. That’s why there are those who teach that, aside from the Father, who is the true God, there is also God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. But this teaching is unbiblical. The Bible, the book that contains God’s revealed knowledge and wisdom, teaches clearly that the Father alone is the true God. This is the knowledge concerning God taught by His messengers and learned by the true Christians. This is also the same knowledge about God that the Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest of God’s messengers, taught:

“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, an said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, … And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’.” (John 17:1,3, NKJV)

In teaching that the Father alone is the true God, Christ did not teach that He Himself and the Holy Spirit are Gods. And how important is it to possess such knowledge about God? Christ emphasized that this is the knowledge that will lead to eternal life. This is the knowledge that all people must seek and know, which only the genuine messengers of God have been able to teach throughout history.

By RUBEN D. AROMIN
Source: God’s Message Magazine

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

 

Miriam is Punished

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MIRIAM AND AARON began to talk against Moses ,,, “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t He also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard this. (Moses was a humble man, more humble than anyone else on earth.)

Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “I want the three of you to come out to the Tent of my presence.” They went, and the SORD came down in a pillar of cloud, stood at the entrance of the Tent, and called out, “Aaron! Miriam!” The two of them stepped forward, and the LORD said, “Now hear what I have to say! When there are prophets among you, I reveal myself to them in visions and speak to them in dreams. It is different when I speak with my servant Moses; I have put him in charge of all my people Israel. So I speak to him face-to-face, clearly and not in riddles … How dare you speak against my servant Moses?”

The LORD was angry with them. and so as he departed and the cloud left the Tent, Miriam’s skin was suddenly covered with a dreaded disease and turned as white as snow. When Aaron looked at her and saw that she was covered with the disease, he said to Moses, “Please, sir, do not make us suffer this punishment for our foolish sin. Don’t let her become like something born dead with half its flesh eaten away.” So Moses cried out to the LORD, “O God, heal her!”

The LORD answered, “… let her be shut out of the camp for a week, and after that she can be brought back in.” Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until she was brought back in.

(Excerpted from Numbers 12:1-2, New International Version; 12:3-15, Today’s English Version)

 

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

Joseph is made Governor of Egypt

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THE KING SAID TO JOSEPH, “God has shown you all this so it is obvious that you have that you have greater wisdom and insight than anyone else. I will put you in charge of my country, and all my people will obey your orders. Your authority will be second only to mine. I now appoint you governor over all Egypt.” The king removed from his finger the ring engraved with the royal seal and put it on Joseph’s finger He put a fine linen robe on him, and paced a gold chain around his neck. He gave him the second royal chariot to ride in, and his guard of honor went ahead of him and cried out, “Make way! Make way!” And so Joseph was appointed governor of all Egypt. The king said to him, “I am the king—and no one in Egypt shall so much as lift a hand or a foot without your permission.” He gave Joseph the Egyptian name Zaphenath Paneah, and he have him a wife, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, a priest in the city of Heliopolis.

Joseph was thirty years old when he began to serve the king of Egypt. He left the king’s court and traveled all over the land. During the seven years of plenty the land produced abundant crops, all of which Joseph collected and stored in the cities. In each city he stored the food from the fields around it. There was so much grain that Joseph stopped measuring it—it was like the sand of the sea

Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons by Asenath. He said, “God has made me forget all my sufferings and all my father’s family”; so he named his first son Manasseh He also said, “God has given me children in the land of my trouble”; so he named his second son Ephraim.

The seven years of plenty that the land of Egypt had enjoyed came to an end, and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in every other country, but there was food throughout Egypt. When the Egyptians began to be hungry, they cried out to the king for food. So he ordered them to go to Joseph and do what he told them. The famine grew worse and spread over the whole country, so Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians. People came to Egypt from all over the world to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.

(Quoted from Genesis 41:39-57, Today’s English Version)

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

Clearly Imminent Danger

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WHEN WE THINK of a natural calamity that literally sends people trembling in fear, most likely, earthquake comes to mind. Precisely, for not only have we many times felt actual shaking of the earth but we have also borne witness to the extent of devastation following a great temblor.

Ironically, despite directives and reminders from geologists, seismologists, and many disaster coordinating agencies, people have always been caught unprepared. Earthquakes are so unpredictable that no humanly possible system ever has ably warned people to flee the dreadful disaster. When an earthquake strikes, whether in the dead of the night or under the glare of the blistering sun, victims are equally helpless as they are under its mercy.

Today, more than ever, earthquakes hit places at a rate so fast that not everyone is able to keep track of them all. Men of science can only go as far as giving general explanation on how they occur. “By an erupting under-the-sea-volcano,” some would say. “Due to the movement of the earth plates,” other scientists would explain. Thus giving rise to the so-called volcanic and tectonic origins of earthquakes.

But what does the recent frequent occurrences of earthquakes in the world mean? Why do they happen? What do they portend? Where are these earthquakes and other disasters leading mankind? What danger imminently looms ahead?

God’s warning
How do members of the Church of Christ consider all the dreadful disasters happening in the world today? Do these disasters come as a surprise to them? Moreover, should God’s servants bewail, like the rest of mankind, the world’s current deplorable condition? The book of Psalms states:

“You have warned those who have reverence for you, so that they may escape destruction.” (Ps. 60:4, Today’s English Version)

We, the members of the Church of Christ in these last days, believe that God is sending a warning. God is warning those who have reverence for Him so “they might escape destruction.” God wants His people to be saved from His judgment, hence, His warning:

“You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its fractures, for it is quaking. You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger.” (Ps. 60:2-3, New International Version)

Earthquakes! The earth is shaking. It is quaking. God Himself has caused the land to quake, thus:

“Thou hast made the land to quake, thou hast rent it open; repair its breaches, for it totters.” (Ps. 60:2, Revised Standard Version)

Being saved from the ultimate curse
Totally ignoring the resulting havoc, many people regard earthquakes as merely ordinary natural events due to their frequency of occurrence. But for God’s servants, it is His warning for them to escape the ultimate curse that He shall bring upon this world, thus:

“The earth will crack and shatter and split open. The earth itself will stagger like a drunk, sway like a hut in a storm. The world is weighed down by its sins; it will collapse and never rise again.” (Isa. 24:19-20, TEV)

God has issued a warning; “The earth will crack and shatter and split open.” And before this inevitable destruction God said, “The earth itself will stagger like a drunk, sway like a hut in a storm. The world is weighed down by its sins; it will collapse and never rise again.” Therefore, God has consigned this world to total destruction and to a horrendous end. This is why He gives us (His people) a warning so we will be spared from the world’s impending destruction.

Redemption is drawing near
What further proves that the earthquakes of great magnitudes and intensities signal the nearing end of the world?

“‘Teacher’, they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will the sign that they are about to take place?'” (Luke 21:7, NIV)

When His disciples asked our Lord Jesus Christ concerning the signs indicating when the end of the world is near, His response was:

“There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” (Luke 21:11, Ibid.)

Isn’t this similar to what was mentioned by the prophet Isaiah that when we see earthquakes of great intensity occurring, it means that God is giving us a warning? Christ’s Second Coming, which is also the end of the world, is truly imminent which is why God is warning those who have reverence for Him and the elect.

However, although a horrible end awaits this world, the elect looks forward to it with much anticipation and eagerness. Why? Christ said:

“At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:27-28, Ibid.)

Salvation to last forever
There is no reason for the chosen ones, the members of the Church of Christ, God’s people in these last days, to be afraid of therefore. It is true that the day of Judgment is a day of wrath, but it is also a day of salvation–the day when the promised eternal life shall be given. Salvation which is forever is drawing near. Of this, the book of God attests, thus:

“Lift us your eyes to the heavens, And look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, The earth will grow old like a garment, And those who dwell in it will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not be abolished.” (Isa. 51:6, New King James Version)

God’s pronouncement is firm: “the heavens will vanish like a smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies, But My salvation will last forever” (Isa. 51:6, NIV). Clearly, God’s promise of salvation, which He intends for His people, is stronger than the heavens and the earth which shall pass away.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest of God’s messengers, assured His servants of the promised salvation, thus:

“Because I have come down from heaven to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me. And it is the will of   him who sent me that I should not lose any of all those he has given me, but I should raise them all to life on the last day.” (John 6:38-39, TEV)

Whom Christ promised to raise to life
But whom did our Lord Jesus promise to raise to life on the last day? In Matthew 17:18, Christ said:

“And so I tell you, Peter: you are a rock, and on this rock foundation I will build my church, and not even death will ever be able to overcome it.” (Ibid.)

Referring to the Church which He built, Christ declared: “not even death will ever be able to overcome it.” Hence, if death shall not be able to overcome the church built by Christ, members of His church will surely be raised on the last day as Christ Himself promised. They may experience physical death and be laid in their graves when their time is up, but shall not remain in their earthly resting place, for they will be raised to life to receive the eternal life. Salvation awaits them as also attested to by the apostles, thus:

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s judgment.” (Rom. 5:8-9, New Living Translation)

Apostle Paul declared that those who “have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ” will certainly be saved from God’s judgment. Man needs to be forgiven of his sins, otherwise he suffers God’s punishment in the lake of fire. But forgiveness of sins and salvation come with redemption. And that which was redeemed or purchased by the blood of Christ is the Church of Christ (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation).

Holding on firmly to the hope
Inasmuch as God’s promise to His people is true and firm, He expects them, as the apostles advised the early Christians, to hold on firmly to their hope and to be dedicated in their hope and to be dedicated in their obligations to Him, thus:
“Let us hold on firmly to the hope to profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. … Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.” (Heb. 10:23, 25, TEV)

The dreadful disasters happening in the world today signify that the day of the Lord’s coming is very, very near indeed. It behooves us then for members of the Church of Christ to brave all the hardships by firmly holding on to their hope as they can trust in God’s promise. Why must the elect brave the hardship while awaiting the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ? What assurance do those who stand firm in their hope have? In Romans 8:35 and 37-39, Apostle Paul wrote, thus:

“Who, then, can separate us from the Love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? … No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels or other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above or the world below–there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ibid.)

Patient only at the start
One needs diligence for him to be able to reach the goal, though, for God resents those who are patient only at the start, thus:

“I know what you have done; I know how hard you have worked and how patient you have been. … You are patient, you have suffered for my sake, and you have not given up. But this is what I have against you: you do not love me now as you did at first.” (Rev. 2:2, 3-4, Ibid.)

May this call the attention of those who became remiss in their duties to God for whatever reasons. We cannot risk earning God’s displeasure. We cannot afford to grow cold in the faith and give up our membership in the true Church of Christ, hence, we ought to heed Christ’s admonition, thus:

“So wake up, and strengthen what you still have before it dies completely. For I find that what you have done is not yet perfect in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you were taught and what you heard; obey it and turn from your sins. If you do not wake up, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not even know the time when I will come.” (Rev. 3:2-3, Ibid.)

Seeking the Lord’s help
As the end of the world draws near, there is no abating the spate of disasters that will endanger even the lives of God’s people. This is not at all surprising. It reminds us of what King David, God’s servant of old, during his time said when he had near-encounters or had brushed with death, thus:

“The danger of death was all around me; the waves of destruction rolled over me. The danger of death was around me, and the grave set its trap for me. … Then the earth trembled and shook; the foundations of the mountains rocked and quivered, because God was angry.” (Ps. 18:4-5, 7, Ibid.)

With the onslaught of natural calamities as well as man-made disasters in different parts of the world today, this earth is no longer safe to live in. More so as these disasters forebode an impending end for the human race. But faced with this clearly imminent danger, must God’s people in these last days lose hope? Ought they be discouraged? On the contrary, they should be able to bravely proclaim like King David, thus:

“In my trouble I called to the LORD; I called to my God for help. In his temple he heard my voice; he listened to my cry for help.” (Ps. 18:6, Ibid.)

God’s promise
Bleak may the future be for many of the world’s inhabitants, but God’s servants have no cause for worry. God is angry with mankind because of their transgressions, which is why He is going to put an end to this world. But because of His love, He has afforded man a chance. He sounded off a fair warning, that the latter should heed. God’s judgment for the sinner is irreversible, but His promise to His people will likewise stand:

“God says, ‘I will save those who love me and will protect those who acknowledge me as LORD. When they call to me, I will answer them; when they are in trouble, I will be with them … I will reward them with long life; I will save them’.” (Ps. 91:14-16, Ibid.)

By NICANOR P. TIOSEN
Source: God’s Message Magazine

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

The rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram

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KORAH SON OF IZHAR, from the Levite clan of Kohath, rebelled against the leadership of Moses. He was joined by three members of the tribe of Reuben—Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—and by 250 other Israelites, well-known leaders chosen by the community. They assembled before Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! All the members of the community belong to the LORD, and the LORD is with all of us. Why, then, Moses, do you set yourself above the LORD’s community?”

When Moses heard this, he threw himself on the ground and prayed. Then he said to Korah and his followers, “Tomorrow morning the LORD will show us who belongs to him; he will let the one who belongs to him, that is, the one he has chosen, approach him at the altar. Tomorrow morning you and your followers take fire pans, put live coals and incense on them, and take them to the altar. Then we will see which of us the LORD has chosen. You Levites are the ones who have gone too far!”

Moses continued to speak to Korah. “Listen, you Levites! Do yon consider it a small matter that the God of Israel has set you apart from the rest of the community, so that you can approach him, perform your service in the LORD’s Tent, and minister to the community and serve them? He has let you and all the other Levites have this honor—and now you are trying to get the priesthood too! When you complain against Aaron, it is really against the LORD that you and your followers are rebelling.”

Then Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, but they said, “We will not come! Isn’t it enough that you have brought us out of the fertile land of Egypt to kill us here in the wilderness? Do you also have to lord it over us? You certainly have not brought us into a fertile land or given us fields and vineyards as our possession, and now you are trying to deceive us. We will not come!” …

The Korah gathered the whole community, and they stood facing Moses and Aaron at the entrance of the Tent. Suddenly the dazzling light of the LORD’s presence appeared to the whole community, and the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Move back from these people, and I will destroy them immediately.”
But Moses and Aaron bowed down with their faces to the ground and said, “O God, you are the source of all life. When one of us sins, do you become angry with the whole community?” The LORD said to Moses, “Tell the people to move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”

Then Moses, accompanied by the leaders of Israel, went to Dathan and Abiram. He said to the people, “Get away from the tents of these wicked men and don’t touch anything that belongs to them. Otherwise, you will be wiped out with them for all their sins.” So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.

Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing at the entrance of their tents, with their wives and children. Moses said to the people, “This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it is not by my own choice that I have done them. If these men die a natural death without some punishment from God, then the LORD did not send me. But if the LORD does something unheard of, and the earth opens up and swallows them with all they own … you will know that these men have rejected the LORD.”

As soon as he had finished speaking, the ground under Dathan and Abiram split open and swallowed them and their families, together with all of Korah’s followers and their possessions.. The earth closed over them, and they vanished … The LORD sent a fire that blazed out and burned up the 250 men who had presented the incense.

Excerpted from Numbers 16:1-14, 19-33, 35, Today’s English Version)

 

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

Of Life’s Vicissitudes and God’s Promises

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TALKING ABOUT VICISSITUDES, not only does the sea’s ever changing surface but life’s unpredictable nature come to mind as well. As defined, they are the unpredictable changes or variations that keep occurring in life, fortune, etc.–hence, shifting circumstances. They are life’s ups and downs, so to speak.

No one living in this world is spared from experiencing both light and trying times. The poor and the affluent have their own alternating share of contentment and worries. Observably, though, the worries come in droves for both. And when they start coming one after another, there is no telling how fear grips the heart. But ought we to sit on a chilling problem and let fear take its toll on us?

From whom inward peace emanates
Come to think of it, when we always think about the things that cause us to worry, the more that we shall have no peace or quietness within us, thus:

“For sighing comes to me instead of food, my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” (Job 3:24-26, New International Version)

Mulling over one’s miseries won’t drive them away. Sighing and moaning won’t stop water-laden clouds from bursting and pouring out in torrents. Worrying would only aggravate the situation–robbing us of peace, quietness, and the much-needed rest.

God does not want His people to continually suffer inner turmoil. Rather, He wants us to have inward peace as what the Psalmist declares: “Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on Him” (Ps. 62:5, Contemporary English Version). Indeed, we ought to look toward God for the peace that we so desire for He knows what’s best for us,. He knows what the future has in store for us.

There is hope for the future
When the Israelites, God’s people of old, were taken into captivity at the height of the Babylonian supremacy, they had a truly dark existence. They could only mourn and week, But God in all His mercy comforted them through the prophet Jeremiah, thus:

“This is  what the LORD says: ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded’, declares the LORD. ‘They will return from the land of the enemy . So there is hope for your future’, declares the LORD. ‘Your children will return to their own land’.” (Jer. 31;16-17, NIV)

From the message of God to the Israelites comes a lesson in perspective. The horizon may be dim and prospects truly bleak, but even in the tightest of situation, God is able to squeeze His people out. Indeed, there is always hope for the future, through God’s help.

Will bring much praise, glory, and honor
For the Christians trials are not to be feared. Tests are a welcome treat. Apostle Peter said:

“These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–an your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus ‘christ is revealed to the whole world.” (I Pet. 1:7, New Living Translation)

By analogy, Apostle Peter showed how one’s faith is tested to be strong and pure. Gold, a prized metal, is rid of its impurities by subjecting it first to the fire. And one’s faith is far more precious to God than mere gold! Members of the true Church of Christ are truly blessed for remaining strong in the faith. The fiery trials that they triumphantly hurdle will bring them much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

An opportunity for joy
“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” (James 1:2-4, Ibid.)

Apostle James, the overall administrator of the first-century Church of Christ, couldn’t have said it better. A positive look at trouble couldn’t have been more enunciated. The fledgling Church was struggling for survival through fierce persecution and the faith of the brethren was being put to a test. Apostle James admonished the Christians to let troubles be an opportunity for joy. The test to one’s faith provides endurance an opportunity to grow and develop, molding the brethren to be strong in character and ready for anything.

Pitting one’s self against the harsh realities of life early on and emerging unscathed is reflective of strength of character, the strength to maintain one’s faith.

A time to rejoice
Easier said than done, but for God’s faithful, running into problems and trials is a time for rejoicing, thus:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us–they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” (Rom. 5:3-5, Ibid.)

Like Apostle James, Apostle Paul talked about running into problems and trials as good for the brethren as they help them to learn to endure. He averred that endurance develops strength of character, thus affording the Christians, the members of the Church of Christ, confident expectation of salvation.

‘Cheer up … I have overcome the world’
Apostle Peter, James, and Paul merely learned what they shared with the brethren through our Lord Jesus Christ. During His ministry on earth, Christ cheered up His servants, thus:

“I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, Living Bible)

Our Lord Jesus Christ knew too well t=what His disciples would go through as He Himself was not spared. He was very much aware of life’s trials and sorrows that were to be encountered on earth. But, He steadied the disciples’ resolve with the inspiring words, “I have overcome the world.” Moreover, before leaving, Christ bade His disciples, thus:

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled and afraid.” (John 14:27, Ibid.)

Our Lord Jesus Christ lived at a time when the Roman empire was at its peak and the world (the whole span or extent of the empire) was enjoying some amount of relative peace–pax romana. It was a fragile kind of peace, for ensuing centuries saw turbulent times.

The worst trial brings great reward
Then as now, life’s vicissitudes abound. A condition of constant flux or alternation, leaning heavily on the negative or the worst, does happen. Nonetheless, the admonition of the author of the letter to the Hebrew Christians rang clear:

“Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord, no matter what happens. Remember the great reward it brings you!” (Heb. :35, NLT)

No matter what, God’s people are exhorted to have confidence in Him. They ought to remember always the great reward awaiting those who trust in what He can do and survive the worst of trials.

So much is at stake. Members of the Church of Christ cannot risk throwing away the great fortune and blessing–the demonstration of God’s love for them, thus:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Rom. 5:8-9, New King James Version)

The Church of Christ is set to receive the great reward as it was redeemed by Christ (Acts 20:38, Lamsa Translation).

Being purchased by the blood of Christ is equivalent to being redeemed, saved, and hence, receiving the reward. The prophet Isaiah had long announced this, thus:

“Indeed the LORD has proclaimed To the end of the world: ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, “Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him”‘ And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; And you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.” (Isa. 62:11-12, NKJV)

God’s offer
Benevolent and kind, God wants to see His children being able to hurdle all of life’s difficulties. Through the psalmist, God desires them to experience His loving care, thus:

“The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. … Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the LORD’.” (PS. 32:8, 10, NLT)

Parents are expected to walk with their children through life. Conscientious parents truly want their children to succeed. They give them sound advice, solicitously watch over them and guide and lead them through turns and bends. Paradoxically, there is a limit to what parents, even those with the noblest of intentions, can do. None among them can say with finality: I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. But, the Father Almighty can, and will. His unfailing love surrounds those who trust Him.

The condition set
That the Almighty Father is kind, tolerant, and patient is beyond doubt. He has proven this since time immemorial. However, man, the recipient of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience has laid them to waste by his transgression of God’s commandments. However, God does not at once mete out punishment for the sinners. Instead, He gives them time to reflect and to turn from their sins, thus:

“Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see how kind He has been in giving you time to turn from your sin?” (Rom. 2:4, Ibid.)

If this is not the epitome of kindness, what is? The sad truth is, many people just don’t care to realize how God is long-suffering toward us that we may be put right with Him. There is no question about it; He could easily snuff out our life. But, generous as He is, He affords everyone a chance.

‘I would not forget you’
Bible history attests to man’s ingratitude. God’s centuries of cuddling Israel went unappreciated or even unrecognized, thus:

“Yet Jerusalem says, ‘The LORD has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us’. Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” (Isa.49:14-15, Ibid.)

This ought to quell any rising accusation against God–that He deserts or forgets His children. “Never!” is God’s resounding answer. Even if it were possible for a mother to forget her nursing child or to feel no love for a child she has borne [nowadays there are indeed mothers who abandon their biological children], God stands pat: “I would not forget you!”

‘Call to me when trouble comes’
The world is too much to bear. There are times when even God’s people are too perplexed to even think of a solution to their problems, God says: “Call to me when trouble comes; I will save you, and you will praise me” (Ps. 50:15, Today’s English Version). ♥

 

 

by Nicanor P. Tiosen
Source: God’s Message Magazine
Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Jesus heals the blind, the deaf, and the crippled

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JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES went to Jericho. And as they were leaving, they were followed by a large crowd. A blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was sitting beside the road. When he heard that it was Jesus from Nazareth, he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” Many people told the man to stop, but he shouted even louder, “Son of David, have pity on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him over!”

They called out to the blind man and said, “Don’t be afraid! Come on! He is calling for you.” The man threw off his coat as he jumped up and ran to Jesus.

Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man answered, “Master, I want to see!”

Jesus told him, “You may go. Your eyes are healed because of your faith.”

Right away the man could see, and he went down the road with Jesus.

Jesus heals a man who was deaf and could hardly talk
Jesus left the region around Tyre and went by way of Sidon toward Lake Galilee. He went through the land near the ten cities known as Decapolis. Some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk. They begged Jesus just to touch him.

After Jesus had taken him aside from the crowd, he stuck his fingers in the man’s ears. Then he spit and put it on the man’s tongue. Jesus looked up toward heaven, and with a groan he said, “Effatha!” which means “Open up!” At once the man could hear, and he had no more trouble talking clearly.

Jesus told the people not to say anything about what he had done. But the more he told them, the more they talked about it. They were completely amazed and said, “Everything he does is good! He even heals people who cannot hear or talk.”

Jesus heals a crippled man
Jesus went back to Capernaum, and a few days later people heard that he was at home. Then so many of them came to the house that there wasn’t even standing left in front of the door.

Jesus was still teaching when four people came up, carrying a crippled man on a mat. But because of the crowd, they could not get him to Jesus. So they made a hole in the roof above him and let the man down in front of everyone.

When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the crippled man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Some of the teachers of the Law of Moses were sitting there. They started wondering, “Why would he say such a thing? He must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.”

Right away, Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said, “Why are you thinking such things? Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and pick up his mat and go on home? I will show you that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins on earth.” So Jesus said to the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and go on home.”

The man go right up. He picked up his mat and went out while everyone watched in amazement. They praised God and said, “We have never seen anything like this!”

(Quoted from Mark 10:46-52; 7:31-37; 2:1-12, Contemporary English Version

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

Clothing Oneself with Humility

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THE WORD “HUMILITY” may evoke visions of being on center stage yet remaining modest amid praise and honor, of someone saying “I was wrong” or “I need help,” of not expecting royal treatment even if one is occupying a prominent position, or of putting others’ interest first before one’s own.
We fondly remember great men and women for their acts of humility, admirably reaching down to others from the pedestal of power, opulence, and influence. Indeed, everyone loves a humble person.

A valuable quality in man
To become worthy before Him, god requires man to, among other qualities, walk humbly with him:
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8, New King James Version)
To walk humbly with God is to “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God” (I Pet. 5:6, Ibid.). Thus, humility before God is to recognize His sovereignty. A humble person is not self-centered. In all humility, he brings to God all the honor and praise, for to God alone belong all the glories:
“To you alone, O LORD, to you alone, and not to us, must glory be given because of your constant love and faithfulness.” (Ps. 115:1, Today’s English Version)
Hence, living in life’s luxuries and having all the trappings of a powerful person should not make a servant of God vain, boastful, and egotistical. We should realize that all things, including power and wisdom, come from God.
And when man’s life seems to fall apart because of troubles and tragedies, he should all the more turn to God in deep humility for His guidance and help. Humbling experiences in whatever form should make man realize his feebleness and powerlessness—and his need for the Almighty God.

Putting on humility and meekness   Opposite Outcomes
Apostle Paul emphasizes that the elect of God should, first and foremost, put on or clothe themselves with meekness and humility:
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.” (Col. 3:12, NKJV)
The elect being referred to are those whom God said, “This is my people” (Zech. 13:9 Ibid.). In the Christian Era, they are the chosen ones who have been called into one body and given the privilege to worship and pray Christ and to the Lord God (Col. 3:15; John 15:6). The body referred to by Apostle Paul is the church headed by Christ (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation).
As the elect or chosen people of God, Church of Christ members should foster humility and meekness. Not only should we be humble and meek towards our fellowmen but most especially toward the Lord God.
But who are truly humble and meek? How are humility and meekness expressed by God’s people?
The Bible sets the standards in knowing who truly humble and meek:
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:21-22, NKJV)
Those who disobey or oppose the teachings of God cannot be considered meek and humble. The meek, as Apostle James said, are “doers of the word,” meaning, they live by the words of God—faithfully obeying them.
Thus the servants of God must not let material possessions, power, or success in life hinder them from humbly obeying His will. Even if they reach the pinnacle of power and become figures of influence and affluence, the people of God should never lose sight of the true essence of humility and meekness—the willingness to obey His commandments.
In addition, clothing oneself with humility can also be expressed by submitting to the authority of the Church elders. Apostle Paul exhorts the Christians, thus:
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble’.” (I Pet. 5:5, Ibid.)
The elders referred to are those who have been placed to shepherd and oversee the flock of God (I Pet. 5:1-2, Ibid.).
Indeed, true servants of God are duty-bound to submit to the authority of the Administration placed by Him to edify and oversee the Church of Christ (Col. 1:25; Heb. 13:17). The Church Administration does all—teaching, guiding, and advising the members—in order that they become worthy of attaining salvation. Thus, it is incumbent upon them to wholeheartedly and modestly submit to the Church Administration, even if they are being admonished, reprimanded, and disciplined for having committed mistakes and having fallen into sin. They should accept the Church Administration’s corrections with a humble attitude, knowing fully well that such are for their own benefit.
Moreover, the Psalmist made it clear that the humble citizens of God’s nation are those who trust in Him and are contented in His ways:
“My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.” (Ps. 131:1-3, New International Version)
We should be careful not to become proud or haughty. Pride and arrogance leads to discontentment, which, in turn, makes one restless and wanting for more attention and praise. Conversely, when one is humble he is content with what he has, quietly trusting in God who is the basis of his contentment.

Paragons of humility
The Bible is replete with sterling examples who put on or clothed themselves with humility. These true servants of God, among many others, exemplified true humility amid diverse conditions and circumstances. They are to be emulated for their examples that speak volumes of what humility is all about.• King David manifested his humility before God when he and the nation of Israel were able to fulfill the duty of giving abundant offerings for the construction of the temple. In fact, it is not only obedience to God’s commandments that showed David’s humility but also his deep sentiment after giving their offerings in abundance: “But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You” (I Chr. 29:14, NKJV)
Apostle Paul was deeply humble, though he was the most learned among the apostles. Because he persecuted the early believers, he felt he was” … the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle …” (I Cor. 15:9, NIV). And although he worked hard and accomplished much as an apostle, he knew that God was the true source of his accomplishments, thus, acknowledging God’s power and grace. He did not take credit for what God had done (I Cor. 15:10, Ibid.).
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the best example of humility. The Bible testifies, “… He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death …” (Phil. 2:5, 8, NKJV). Even if it meant His death, He obeyed the will of God, humbly giving up His own will. His statement in the face of death powerfully expressed His humility and obedience: “… O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39, Ibid).

The fortune of the humble
God is truly pleased if His faithful servants—in the best of times and in the worst of times—remain humble and obedient to Him. And if ever they deny themselves and make sacrifices in being humble and meek, they are never at the losing end. Our Lord Christ Himself assures their great fortune:
“’Humble men are very fortunate!’ he told them, ‘for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them’” (Matt. 5:3, Living Bible)
Above all, the Lord God promises to uphold and to save the meek of the earth (Ps. 147:6, 76:8-9, American Standard Version). On the other hand, the fate of the proud and arrogant is grim because God opposes them. Apostle James attests, thus:
“… ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’.” (James 4:6, NIV)

By Roland A. Aguirre
(Source: God’s Message Magazine)

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

The tower of Babel

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AT THIS TIME the whole world spoke one language. Everyone used the same words. As people moved from the East, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia. They settled there to live.

They said to each other, “Let’s make bricks and bake them to make them hard.” So they used bricks instead of stones, and tar instead of mortar. Then they said to each other, “Let’s build for ourselves a city and a tower. And let’s make the top of the tower reach high into the sky. We will become famous. If we do this, we will not be scattered all over the earth.”

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built. The Lord said, “Now, these people are united. They all speak the same language. This is only the beginning of what they will do. They will be able to do anything they want. Come, let us go down and confuse their language. Then they will not be able to understand each other.”

So the Lord confused the language of the whole world. So the place is called Babel. So the Lord caused them to spread out  there from all over the world.

(Quoted from Genesis 11:1-9, International Children’s Bible, New Century Version)

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
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Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

Jacob was named Israel

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GOD SAID TO JACOB, “Go to Bethel at once, and live there. Build an altar there to me, the God who appeared to you when you were running away from your brother Esau.”

            So Jacob said to his family and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods that you have; purify yourselves and put on clean clothes. We are going to leave here and go to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who helped me in the times of my trouble and who has been with me everywhere I have gone.” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods that they and also the earrings that they were wearing. He buried them beneath the oak tree near Shechem.

            When Jacob and his sons started to leave, great fear fell upon the people to Luz, which is now known as Bethel, in the land of Canaan. He built an altar there and named the place for the God of Bethel, because God had revealed himself to him there when he was running away from his brother.

            When Jacob returned from Mesopotamia, God appeared to him and blessed him. God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but from now on it will be Israel.” So God named him Israel. And God said to him, “I am Almighty God. Have many children. Nations will be descended from you, and you will be the ancestor of kings. I will give you the land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, and I will also give it to your descendants after you.” Then God left him. There, where God had spoken to him, Jacob set up a memorial stone and consecrated it by pouring wine and olive oil on it. He named the place Bethel.

(Quoted from Genesis 35:1-7, 9-15, Today’s English Version)
Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
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REACHING BEYOND FRONTIERS

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THE BRETHREN IN SOUTH AFRICA patiently waited for the time they would be visited by the Executive Minister. They waited as Brother Eduardo V. Manalo made his way to different local congregations around the world. They waited, anticipating when it would be their turn to receive his blessing. On August 30, 2014, their patience was rewarded. The Executive Minister arrived in King William’s Town to lead the brethren in a special worship service to God.

Located at the southern tip of the continent, South Africa is known for its rich, diverse culture. It is inhabited by so many people of different backgrounds that it has been called the “Rainbow Nation.” Unlike the desert regions in other parts of Africa, the South African climate remains comfortable year-round. It is a country with a young, growing democracy that South Africans are well proud of. Reaching Far and Beyond

The journey to King William’s Town is not easy. Even by airplane, it takes almost a full day’s travel coming from the Central Office in the Philippines. The flight from the Philippines to Johannesburg, South Africa alone takes at least 18 hours. From there, one needs to take a 2-hour domestic flight to East London and drive at least another hour to get to King William’s Town. However, No distance could ever prevent the Church Administration from fulfilling its goal of visiting the brethren all over the world.

“He [Brother Eduardo] is able to reach even far places because God strengthens him,” Sister Kholeka Joyce Mjele, a deaconess from the local congregation of King William’s Town, said in Xhosa, one of the official languages in South Africa. Even though ministers were being sent to take care of the brethren in South Africa for decades now, the Executive Minister still wanted to see the progress of the Church there specially the brethren’s spiritual condition. His visit marked the first pastoral visitation abroad after the Church’s Centennial celebration.

The members of the church in South Africa understood that this was a blessing from our Lord God. They devotedly prepared for this special day, some having to drive more than 10 hours to reach King William’s Town. They were all eager to show how much they value the visit of the Church Executive Minister bringing them spiritual blessings. Although the house of worship, with its surroundings, is regularly cleaned, the brethren made a concerted effort to clean it even more and make necessary renovations. The brethren endeavored to ensure everything was ready for the sacred occasion.

They even wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity for non-members to hear the preaching of the Executive Minister. So they went out inviting their fellow South Africans to attend the special gathering. They also conducted an outreach program following the worship service to help those in need by giving them relief goods containing food and blankets.

The result of their hard work was astounding. Over 4000 people accepted their invitation. There were so many visitors that the Church compound was not big enough to accommodate them. The Church rented the St. Thomas Private School sports field, located just across the street from the house of worship, to raise three large tents for the thousands of guests. For them, it was the first time they had witnessed a community service event arranged at such a grand level. They arrived at the venue impressed by the generosity of the Church. “There’s no religion that has done this. This is the first one,” Ngeziwe Ngoyi, one of the South African guests from Frankfurt, King William’s Town, said in Xhosa. After the sermon of Brother Eduardo, they were moved by God’s message taught by the Church Administration.

Brethren were advised to continue in their calling no matter what tests or trials they experience in their lives. For the guests in attendance, Brother Eduardo emphasized the importance of joining the Church of Christ to be saved on Judgment Day. The Executive Minister underscored that membership in the Iglesia Ni Cristo is a result of God’s love, thus, nothing in this world is more important than this. Although many of the listeners had come from different cultural backgrounds with rigid customs, the Executive Minister also taught that they should not follow those traditions if it meant taking them away from their service to God.

In addition to English, the preaching of Brother Eduardo was translated into 2 of the native languages, Xhosa and Sesotho, especially for the guests to better understand the lesson. The interpreters were Brothers Madodandili Tyulu, Moiloa Monatisa, and Temba Kwayimani, students of the College of Evangelical Ministry (CEM), the Church’s school for ministers. Consequently, over a thousand guests have already expressed their desire to learn more about the Church and continue on listening to the true doctines taught inside the Iglesia Ni Cristo. “I want to be a member of this Church [Iglesia Ni Cristo],” this was what another guest, Mluleki Alfred Landuzi from Ginsberg, King William’s Town, declared in his native language. He added, “I’ve never seen this in any other church.” Truly, the entire day was filled with God’s blessings. It showed the success of the Church in South Africa and God’s love for the brethren in that part of the world.

In King William’s Town, what started with just a few people gathering to listen to tape recordings of worship services has grown into a full-fledged local congregation with its members gathering inside a worship service building dedicated to God. In the South Africa area, there are now five groups worship service (GWS) established in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Ladybrand, QwaQwa, and Maseru in Lesotho. More and more ministers and evangelical workers are being sent to South Africa to help the Church Administration in edifying the brethren and propagating the Gospel.

King William’s Town has brethren, both young and old, of different skin colors who speak different languages. They may all be very different in many ways, but they have all been brought united in one faith inside the one true Church. This pastoral visitation has all the more shown how united they are with the entire Church. They are thousands of miles away from the sight of the Church Administration, buy they, too, have joined the Abundant Fruit Bearing campaign.

Brother Eduardo Manalo’s dynamic leadership continues to inspire them, as well as the entire Church. He strives to visit brethren wherever they are in the world, no matter how far they may be. And because of this, the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) in the “Rainbow Nation” of South Africa continues to grow, abounding in faith, love, and hope bringing more praise and glory to the Lord God along the way.♥

Writers: Madodandili Tyulu, Temba Kwayimani, Moiloa Monatisa with assistance from Alejandro Sino Cruz, Jr.,   Markfel Serreno, Christian Reyes, Rhenz Cholo Villanueva, and Priscilla Shelton. Said in
Photographers: Angelo Eraño V. Manalo, Jeffrey Cabacungan, Christopher Alignay, and Ryan Canlas

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
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Aaron’s wooden rod

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THEN THE LORD SAID TO Moses, “Tell the people of Israel that each of the tribal chiefs Is to bring you a wooden rod with his name inscribed upon it. Aaron’s name is to be on the rod of the tribe of Levi. Put those rods in the inner room of the Tabernacle where I meet with you, in front of the Ark. I will use these rods to identify the man I have chosen: for buds will grow on his rod! Then at last this murmuring and complaining against you will stop!”

So Moses gave the instructions to the people, and each of the twelve chiefs (including Aaron) brought him a rod. He put them before the Lord in the inner room of the Tabernacle, and when he came in the next day, he found that Aaron’s rod, representing the tribe of Levi, had budded and was blossoming, and had ripe almonds hanging from it! When Moses brought them out to show the others, they stared in disbelief! Then each man except Aaron claimed his rod.

The Lord told Moses to place Aaron’s rod permanently beside the Ark as a reminder of this rebellion. He was to [bring it out and show it to the people again] if there were any further complaints about Aaron’s authority; this would ward off further catastrophe to the people. So Moses did as the Lord commanded him.

(Excerpted from Numbers 17:1-11, Living Bible)
Presented by Melinda de los Santos
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A New Life’s Resolution: Change Your Mind

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THE ENTIRE CHURCH keeps offering praises and thanks to the Lord God for fulfilling His wonderful promises to the Church. We are witnesses to how God has been with this mission, from the help and strength He gave the one man he sent to start this work in these last days to the millions who make up the Church of Christ today.

The same history of growth and expansion can be seen in the number of congregations of the Church. One example, among so many throughout the world, is the local congregation of Panginay, Bulacan, which celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. While in the beginning the congregation was small and ridiculed, it not only has flourished, with thousands regularly offering worship in their beautiful house of worship, but it is also surrounded today by several large congregations that all branched out of it.

When we look at the world around us, we see a dramatic contrast. We see a picture of rapid decline. The economy of nearly every country is sinking, with crime and civil strife on the rise, and many are crying out for change. IMG_0687

To bring about real change in the human condition and people’s lives, Apostle Paul wrote of a fundamental transformation that God had planned since the beginning for the good of all people. By following God’s plan for change, an individual is transformed into a “new being.” This change comes about when one is “joined to Christ” (II Cor. 5:17, Today’s English Version). For the person joined to Christ, the old, with all its bad habits and past mistakes, has been put away.

To explain how people can be joined to Christ, Apostle Paul likened the union to a man and woman who become one before God when they are joined in holy matrimony. God prohibits the dissolution of the couple’s union whom He joined together and made one. He established such an inseparable connection between Christ and His Church (Eph. 5:31-32).

To further illustrate this union, Apostle Paul also compared the one Church to a body. A single body is connected only to a single head. In this case the one head is Christ and the one body joined to Him is the one Church that He will save (Eph. 5:23). A body is named after its head. Thus, the one true Church, which is the one body of Christ, carries the name of Christ.      IMG_0688

Therefore, the true change that God wants all people to undergo begins by our first joining the Church of Christ, which Christ the Savior redeemed by dying on the cross (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation). It is only by joining the Church headed by Christ that a person can be joined to Christ, transformed, and made truly new. Such a change is not possible if a person simply professes Jesus as Lord or claims Him as Savior but does not become a part of the Savior’s body.

Newness in all you do
Becoming a true member of Christ’s body or Church is not by simply joining the organization. It means undergoing a fundamental change as well, in the way we think and live: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with fresh newness in all you do and think …” (Rom. 12:2, Living Bible).

The apostles, as administrators taking care of the early Church, described the behavior and customs of his world which true Christians should not copy. They include sexual promiscuity, indulging in “sinful desires, (getting) drunk, … wild parties, and … the forbidden worship of false gods.” When believers reform their lives, “unbelievers insult you now because they are surprised that you no longer join them” (I Pet. 4:3-4, God’s Word).”
The apostles also reminded the members of the Church of Christ that if they allow themselves to be overcome by any of these human, fleshly desires, they would then make themselves God’s enemies (Rom. 8:7). Instead of a life that lasts forever free of worries, their temporary life in this world would be meaningless and filled with trouble and heartache; and, in the end, a fiery punishment awaits (Heb. 10:27; Rev. 14:10-11).

Newness in all you think
In living a changed and transformed life, true Christians face the challenge of dwelling in a world surrounded by evil. Turn on the television, surf the Internet, or simply glance at a roadside billboard and you will be bombarded by visuals encouraging promiscuity and sinful desire. In the face of all theses, a mature Christian is not swayed.
As true members of the Church of Christ, we understand that we have not been put in this world to indulge in all its temporary pleasures. True and everlasting happiness awaits us on Christ’s return. He is coming soon to take us to our true home. Meanwhile, dangers surround us in this world in the form of troubles, heartaches, and temptations, all of which could prevent us from entering His holy kingdom.

Hence, instead of viewing this world as a playground, we should understand that this is the battleground wherein we “fight the good fight of faith” (I Tim. 6:12, New King James Version). Here we must flee from evil desires and pursue righteousness and holiness through the way we live our lives and serve faithfully our God (I Tim. 6:11). Having this perspective is part of the change our holy God wants us to undergo for our own good.
The Almighty Father wants the members of Christ’s body to grow to spiritual maturity and be just like the Head to whom we are joined, His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus. The Son is Himself now with the Father in the eternal kingdom because He always made the right choices. If our past mistakes were because of our wrong choices that came from a wrong way of thinking, the key to a Christian way of life and a happy future is to change one’s mind or attitude to a Christian way of thinking This is the reason for Apostle Paul’s guideline for all true Christians: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5, NKJV).

Since the Lord Jesus Christ remained humble and obedient even to the point of accepting death on the cross, then all the members of His body should arm themselves with the same spirit (Phil. 2:8, Ibid). We should be like Him in His way of seeking always the will of the Heavenly Father who sent Him (John 5:30). This means never justifying any shortcoming or transgression of God’s laws because of personal difficulties or hardships in life One of the most inspiring examples Christ gave to guide us is His prayer on the evening when He was about to be arrested and tortured to death: “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:38-39, New International Version).

Every Christian is expected to “imitate Christ” as Apostle Paul did (I Cor. 11:1, NKJV). He did all he could to reach forward to greater maturity in becoming more “Christ-like” for the sake of winning the prize of the life above (Phil. 3:12-14). Apostle Paul understood the reason for God calling him into the body of Christ. The divine calling meant a life of service, obedience and submission to God’s sacred ways, all inspired by faith and love, before he could attain the true life everlasting with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Father’s holy kingdom.

The kind of life that God seeks from all Christians is that they conduct themselves “whatever happens … in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” The parts of a healthy person’s body are never divided against the other parts. Instead, each part works together with the other parts, with each ready to sacrifice for the sake of the whole. In turn, all the members of the body should work together, “contending aw one man for the faith of the gospel,” until the day when the Head of the Church returns to bring salvation (Phil. 1:27-28, NIV).

In the Church of Christ, the members have the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ to transform us. True believers, who have Christ rule as their Head, don’t live according to the patterns and customs of this world that lead us to do the mistakes of our past. If the past way of making choices has brought no peace and distanced us from God, we are ready to change our minds. Now, we follow the pattern God’s Son has given. We should be always eager to learn; and the more we can learn, the more we can change and grow.

If the Savior sees that His teachings have shaped the members of His Church to have His humble attitude of love and obedience, He Himself will keep us “safe from the time of trouble” which has come upon all the people on earth. Only once we have made these changes can we live with true joy, peace, and hope and stand ready to meet the Savior Jesus Christ when He returns (Rev. 3:10, TEV). ♥

By JOEL V. SAN PEDRO
(Based on the worship service lesson taught by Brother Eduardo V. Manalo at the Local Congregation of Panginay, Bulacan, Philippines, Saturday, May 15, 2010)

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
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We Must Abound in Love

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LOVE IS VIEWED BY MANY as a feeling that naturally develops in man—something that one cannot avoid. And no matter how complex it may be, everyone has a unique way of expressing and explaining it.

Experts have provided various explanations on the behavioral and physiological patterns involved in this human attribute, but no matter what their explanation is, the true essence of love continues to mystify every human being that God created.

Christian love
The Bible portrays love in a variety of forms. There is love of God, of one’s family, and of fellow human beings. God is the first One to show His love for man when He gave him the breath of life and the senses to behold and enjoy the beauty of His creation. It is His great love that sustains the need of man. When man committed sin and became His enemy, God proved His love when He gave His only Begotten Son so that man may be given hope to receive the promised salvation.

The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the manifestation of God’s love for man, on many occasions, exhorted the Christians that they should love one another just as He loved them so as to prove that they are His disciples (John 13:34, New King James Version). It is also in this spirit that the Apostle Paul lauded the Christians on how they dealt with one another. Apostle Paul wrote: “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (II Thess. 1:3, Ibid.).

Among the things that the apostles were thankful to God for in administering the early Christians was the fact that the brethren abounded in their love for each other, which was a very important part of their spiritual growth. How to achieve this in our time which is filled with troubles and difficulties is truly a big challenge. In fact our Lord Jesus Christ stated that many people would not measure up to this expectation: “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12, Ibid.)

Undeniably, lawlessness is rampant. The world, teems with people who have no regard for what is good for others or their welfare. They are only after satisfying their selfish needs and their greed leads them to become lovers of themselves. This is what Apostle Paul forewarned: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to their parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (II Tim. 3:1-4, Ibid.).

When someone becomes a lover of himself, he won’t be able to genuinely love God and his fellow men. Conceit is one single word that describes it. This is the root of many evils and lawlessness which make this world an increasingly unsafe, depressing, and frightening place to live especially to people who are most vulnerable.

Love’s great importance
There are people who find it easy to love than to hate just as they find it easy to do what is right than to do what is wrong. This may be argued by people with a pessimistic view of life knowing that lawlessness, chaos, turmoil, and other unpleasant things happen every single moment. But even if this world may be subject to doom and evil, we should not allow good to be overcome by evil. The only way for us to fight evil though is to have love in our hearts so that we can be triumphant in our battle.

We may not succeed in making the whole world be filled with love like what it should be, but we can still be victorious if, on an individual basis, we do what is good, learn to love first and not the other way around. Apostle Paul showed the importance of love, thus: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. If I speak in the tongue of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (I Cor. 13:13, 1-3, New International Version).

Love, indeed, is the greatest of all things for without it, everything and all one does shall be worthless. God’s choice of us to be His people is for us to do everything motivated by love: “…Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4, NKJV).

Even if we put forth all our efforts in serving God, if we do it not out of love, it is meaningless. Likewise, in our faith in Christ Jesus, love is also what really matters: “For when we are in union with Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor the lack of it makes any difference at all; what matters is faith that works through love” (Gal. 5:6, Today’s English Version).

What should motivate man to commit himself to action is not just faith but most of all love. Thus, those who teach that faith alone is enough in order for man to be saved are committing a serious and grave error. Faith must be coupled with works motivated by love.

Serving God abounding with love
Love is not imposed on anyone, rather, it is being earned as a result of his acts or expressions through tangible or intangible things. Many well-known people, dead or alive, have been greatly loved for their great and benevolent deeds. Shouldn’t we then love all the more God who since time immemorial has been showing His great and immeasurable love for us? The Apostle John stated the following: “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (I John 4:16, NKJV).

The kind of love, which God has accorded us is not just lip service—He proved it by giving us hope through our Lord Jesus Christ as an atoning sacrifice for our sins: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (I John 4:10 NIV).

The death of our Lord Jesus Christ has benefitted the people redeemed by His precious blood—the members of the Church Of Christ (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation). From being destined to suffer God’s judgment on account of sin, they have been put right with Him through the sacrificial death of Christ (Rom 5:8-9). This is indeed great love beyond measure—described by Apostle John as “complete love”: “In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him (I John 4:17, NIV).

It is only right that we recognize and value the love and great concern that God has shown us. We must love God too. To love Him means to obey His commandments (I John 5:3). Even in these difficult and perilous times, we should remain obedient to God because love knows no barriers.

Cultivating our love
If one allows himself to be hindered by anything from following what God commands, he could not really say that his love is true. Even his love for God is being negated by his refusal to love his brother or sister in the faith. Apostle John teaches: “If someone says he loves God, but hates his brother, he is a liar. For he cannot love God, whom he has not seen, if he does not love his brother, whom he has seen. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us. The command that Christ has given us I this: whoever loves God must love his brother also” (I John 4:20, 12, 21, TEV).

He who loves his brethren in the Church loves God. Anyone who says he loves God but hates his brother or sister in the Church is a liar. Thus, one thing that we need to continuously cultivate and nurture in ourselves is our love for our brothers and sisters in the Church. Apostle Paul exhorts, thus: “We who are strong in the faith ought to help the weak to carry their burdens. We should not please ourselves. Instead, we should all please our brothers for their own good, in order to build them up in the faith. For Christ did not please himself. Instead, as the scripture says, ‘The insults which are hurled at you have fallen on me’” (Rom 15:1-3, Ibid.).

This is the true essence of Christian love—doing what is good for one’s brother or sister. Nothing can be better than doing what is needed to edify them in the faith. If love is ever present and prevails among the true servants of God and they abound in it, surely there will be no chaos and strife. Above all, this will make them complete or perfect: “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection’” (Col. 3:14, NKJV). ♥

By NOEL I. ILAN

 

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

The Manna and the Quails

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THE WHOLE ISRAELITE community set out from Elim, and on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt, they came to the desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai. There in the desert they all complained to Moses and Aaron and said to them, “We wish that the LORD had killed us in Egypt. There we could at least sit down and eat meat and as much other food as we wanted. But you have brought us out into this desert to starve us all to death.” The LORD said to Moses, “Now I am going to cause food to rain down from the sky for all of you. The people must go out every day and gather enough for that day. In this way I can test them to find out if they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to bring in twice as usual and prepare it.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This evening you will know it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt. In the morning you will see the dazzling light of the LORD’s presence. He has heard your complaints against him—yes, against him, because we are only carrying out his instructions.” Then Moses said, “It is the LORD who will give you meat to eat in the evening and as much bread as you want in the morning, because he has heard how much you complained against him. When you complain against us, you are really complaining against the LORD.” IMG_0662

Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole community to come and stand before the LORD, because he has heard their complaints.” As Aaron spoke to the whole community, they turned toward the desert, and suddenly the dazzling light of the LORD appeared in a cloud. The LORD said to Moses, “I have heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them at twilight they will have meat to eat, and in the morning they will have all the bread they want. Then they will know that I, the LORD, am their God.”

In the evening a large flock of quails flew in, enough to cover the camp, and in the morning there was dew all around the camp. When the dew evaporated, there was something thin and flaky on the surface of the desert. It was as delicate as frost. When the Israelites saw it, they didn’t know what it was and asked each other, “What is it?”

Moses said to them, “This is the food that the LORD has given you to eat. The LORD has commanded that each of you is to gather as much as he needs, two quarts for each member of his household.”

The Israelites did this, some gathering more, others less. When they measured it, those who gathered as much did not have too much, and those who gathered less did not have too little. Each had gathered just what he needed. Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it for tomorrow.” But some of them did not listen to Moses and saved part of it. The next morning it was full of worms and smelled rotten, and Moses was angry with them. Every morning each one gathered as much as he needed; and when the sun grew hot, what was left on the ground melted …

The people of Israel called the food manna. … Moses said, “The LORD has commanded us to save some manna, to be kept for our descendants, so that they can see the food which he gave us to eat in the desert when he brought us out of Egypt.” Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, put two quarts of manna in it, and place it in the LORD’s presence to be kept for our descendants.” As the LORD had commanded Moses, Aaron put it in front of the Covenant Box, so that it could be kept. The Israelites ate manna for the next forty years, until they reached the land of Canaan, where they settled.

 

 

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.
(Excerpted from Exodus 16:1-21, 31-35, Today’s English Version)

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Peter and John before the Jewish Council

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WHILE PETER AND John were speaking to the people, a group of men came up to them. There were Jewish priests, the captain of the soldiers that guarded the Temple, and some Sadducees. They were upset because the two apostles were teaching the people. Peter and John were preaching that people will rise from the death through the power of Jesus. The Jewish leaders grabbed Peter and John and put them in jail. It was already night, so they kept them in jail until the next day. But many who heard Peter and John preach believed the things they said. There were now about 5,000 men in the group of believers.

The next day the Jewish leaders, the older Jewish leaders, and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander were there. Everyone from the high priest’s family was there. They made Peter and John stand before them. The Jewish leaders asked them: “By what power of authority did you do this?”

Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. He said to them, “Rulers of the people and you older leaders, are you questioning us about a good thing that was done to a crippled man? Are you asking us who made him well? We want all of you and the Jewish people to know that this man was made well with the power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth! You nailed him to a cross, but God raised him from death. This man was crippled, but he is now well and able to stand here before you because of the power of Jesus! Jesus is ‘the stone that you builders did not want. It has become the cornerstone.’ Jesus is the only One who can save people. His name is the only power in the world that has been given to save people. And we must be saved through him!”

The Jewish leaders saw that Peter and John were not afraid to speak. They understood that these men had no special training or education. So they were amazed. Then they realized that Peter and John had been with Jesus. They saw the crippled man standing there between the two apostles. They saw that the man was healed. So they could say nothing against them. The Jewish leaders told them to leave the meeting. Then the leaders talked to each other about what they should do. They said, “What shall we do with these men? Everyone in Jerusalem knows that they have done a great miracle! We cannot say it is not true. But we must warn them not to talk to people anymore using that name. Then this thing will not spread among the people.”

So they called Peter and John in again. They told them not to speak nor to teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “What do you think is right? What would God want? Should we obey you or God? We cannot keep quiet. We must speak about what we have seen and heard.” The Jewish leaders could not find a way to punish them because all the people were praising God for what had been done. (This miracle was a proof from God. The man that was healed was more than 40 years old!) So the Jewish leaders warned the apostles again and let them go free.  ♥

 

(Quoted from Acts 4:1-222, New Century Version)                                                           Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo Sr.
Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

The one place for worship

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THE ONE PLACE FOR WORSHIP

HERE ARE THE LAWS that you have to obey as long as you live in the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Listen to them! In the land that you are taking, destroy all the places where the people worship their gods on high mountains, on hills, and under green trees. Tear down their altars and smash their sacred stone pillars to pieces. Burn their symbols of the goddess Asherah and chop down their idols, so that they will never again be worshiped at those places.

Do not worship the LORD your God in the way that these people worship their gods. Out of the territory of all your tribes the LORD will choose the one place where people are to come into his presence and worship him … When you cross the Jordan River, the LORD will let you occupy the land and live there. He will keep you safe from all your enemies, and you will live in peace. The LORD will choose a single place where he is to be worshiped … You are not to offer your sacrifices wherever you choose; you must offer them only in the one place that the LORD will choose in the territory of one of your tribes. Only there are you to offer your sacrifices that are to be burned and do all the other things that I have commanded you. … You and your children, together with your servants and the Levites who live in your towns, are to eat these offerings only in the presence of the LORD your God. And you are to be happy there over everything that you have done. Be sure, also, not to neglect the Levites, as long as you live in your land. … If you obey this command, the LORD will be pleased, and all will go well for you and your descendants. Take to the one place of worship your offerings and the gifts that you have promised the LORD. … Obey faithfully everything that I have commanded you, and all will go well for you and your descendants forever, because you will be doing what is right and what pleases the LORD your God.

The LORD your God will destroy the nations as you invade their land, and you will occupy it and settle there. After the LORD destroys those nations, make sure that you don’t follow their religious practices, because that would be fatal. Don’t try to find out how they worship their gods, so that you can worship in the same way. Do not worship the LORD your God in the way they worship their gods, for in the worship of their gods they do all the disgusting things that the LORD hates. They even sacrifice their children in the fires on their altars. Do everything that I have commanded you; do not add anything to it or take anything from it. ♥

(Excerpted from Deuteronomy 12:1-5, 10-11, 13-14, 18-19, 25-26, 28-32,
Today’s English Version)

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo Sr

Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

Nebuchadnezzar credits himself for Babylon.

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Nebuchadnezzar and a rude awakening.

           All these things happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months after the dream, King Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the roof of his palace in Babylon. While on the roof, the king said, “Look at Babylon! I built this great city. It is my palace! I built this place to show how great I am!”

The words were still in his mouth when a voice came from heaven. The voice said, “King these things will happen to you. Your power as king has been taken away from you. You will be forced to live with wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow. Seven seasons (years) will pass before you learn your lesson. Then you will learns that God Most High rules over the kingdoms of men. And that God Most High gives kingdoms to anyone he wants.”

Those things happened immediately. Nebuchadnezzar was forced to go away from people. He began eating grass like a cow. He became wet from dew. His hair grew long like the feathers of an eagle. And his nails grew long like the claws of a bird.

         God rules forever! His kingdom continues for all generations. People on earth are not truly important. God does what he wants with the powers of heaven and the people on earth. No one can stop his powerful hand! No one can questions the things he does!”

         Then at the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up toward heaven. And I was in my right mind again. Then I gave praise to God Most High. I gave honor and glory to him who lives forever.

So, at that time, God gave me my right mind again. And he gave back my great honor and power as king. My advisers and the royal people began to ask my advice again. And I became the king again. And I became even greater and powerful than before. He is always fair. And he is able to make proud people humble! (Excerpted from Daniel 24:28-37, Easy-To-Read Version.)
Presented by Melinda de los Santos

*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂

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God and Loyalty

 

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IN ALMOST ALL FACETS of his life, man is expected to be loyal: a true friend; a faithful spouse; a trusted employee; or a law-abiding citizen with sworn allegiance to his country. Betrayal of trust is often considered a serious offense—with consequences ranging from a lost friendship, a broken family, or termination of employment to life imprisonment or capital punishment, as in the case of treason.

            History attests how betrayal of trust among nations had triggered a war too many. This explains why most people, or countries for that matter, avoid giving even a mere impression of being disloyal or treacherous, for the price to pay is too heavy.

            But while many strive to be loyal to their friends, spouse, employer or country—man must understand that most deserving of his loyalty is the Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of life who had shown indisputable faithfulness to His people: “…I love you people with a love that will last forever [eternal love]. That is why I have continued showing you kindness [loyalty]” (Jer. 31:3, Expanded Bible).

            Consequently, God exacts loyalty from His chosen and defines how it is proven: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you but (reverently) to fear the Lord your God, [that is,] to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being” (Deut. 10:12, Amplified Bible).

            The kind of loyalty God seeks is all-encompassing—in matters both great and small, serious or trivial: “Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones; whoever is dishonest in small matters will be dishonest in large ones” (Luke 16:10, Today’s English Version).

 

Proving loyalty

How did God’s servants of old prove their loyalty or faithfulness to Him? The Prophet Elijah declared, thus: “… LORD God All-Powerful, I’ve always done my best to obey you…” (I Kings 19:10, Contemporary English Version). Hence, loyalty to God is best measured by how much efforts one exerts in obeying His commands.

            Another example of God’s servants who embodied faithfulness to the Lord was Joshua, who declared: “If you are not willing to serve him, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors worshiped in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are now living. As for my family and me, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15, TEV).

            After reminding the Israelites how their ancestors turned away from God, Joshua made them decide on whom to serve. On his part, Joshua firmly declared that he and his family will serve only the Lord. So, although some Israelites back then were leaning toward worshipping other gods, Joshua did not go with the flow but stood firm in his loyalty to the only one true God.

 

A claim of loyalty

Fast forward to our time. Nowadays, many in their own estimation consider themselves loyal to God as proved by their confession of faith and even acts of worship and piety in His name. But are those ample evidences of one’s loyalty to God?

            What specific act do some people commit which God considers disloyal to Him? God declared this in Exodus 20:3-6: “You are not to serve any other gods before Me. You are not to make any idol or image of other gods. In fact, you are not to make an image in the heavens above, on the earth below, or in the waters beneath. You are not to bow down and serve any image, for I, the Eternal your God, am a jealous God. As for those who are not loyal to Me, their children will endure the consequences of their sins for three or four generations. But for those who love me and keep my directives, their children will experience My loyal love for a thousand generations.” (The Voice).

            The Lord God since the earliest times has forbidden the worship of graven images and idols, which He called “other gods,” Those who do so, according to Him, are “not loyal” to Him.

            What is these people who use graven images or statues in worshiping God insist that the homage and adoration they pay to those images are actually intended for God? God has made it clear that He will not allow those graven images and idols to share in His praise, as recorded in Isaiah 42:8: “I am the Lord. That is my name. I will not give [share; yield] my glory to another; I will not let idols take the praise that should be mine [my praise]” (EXB).

 

Knowing and serving other gods

What about those people who have totally shunned the worship and that they love Him sincerely? They can prove that they are loyal to God if they serve Him and no other inasmuch as God declared in Isaiah 44:8: “Don’t be afraid! Don’t worry [fear]! I have always told you what will happen [Have I not proclaimed it long ago?] You are my witnesses. There is no other [Is there another…?] God but me. I know of no other Rock; I am the only One” (Ibid.).

            God made it known that He is the only One God. Hence, to recognize any other besides Him undoubtedly amounts to being disloyal or unfaithful to Him. But who exactly is speaking in this verse that introduced Himself as the only one God? This is how the verse is rendered in another version: “Do not ye dread, neither be ye troubled; from that time I made thee for to hear (it), and I told (thee); ye be my witnesses. Whether a God is without me, and a former, whom I knew not? (Do not ye fear, nor be troubled; from that time I have made thee to hear it, and I have told thee; ye be my witnesses. Is there any God besides me, or any Creator, or any Maker, whom I knew not?)” (Isa. 44:8, Wycliffe Bible). Hence, the only one true God is the Creator or Maker of all things.

            And according to the Bible, who is the Creator or Maker? “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers?” (Mal. 2:10, New King James Version).

            The Bible is explicit that the only one true God who created all things is none other than the Father. Was this truth also taught by our Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles? In John 17:1,3, this is recorded: “After Jesus had finished speaking to His disciples, he looked up toward heaven and prayed: Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you. Eternal life is to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, the one you sent” (CEV).

            Take note of the statement of the Lord Jesus: He did not say, “Eternal life is to know ‘Me’, the only true God.” What He stated was clear: “Eternal life is to know ‘You’—referring to the Father, as the only true God. This should demolish and bring to rest once and for all the belief in the so-called Trinitarian God, which is totally unbiblical.

            Did the Apostles also preach the same truth taught by Christ, that the only one true God is the Father and Creator of all things?

            Yes, they did, as recorded in the first epistle of Apostle Paul to the Christians in Corinth. This is written in I Corinthians 8:5-6: “Even if there are so-called ‘gods,’ whether in heaven or on earth, and even though there are many of these ‘gods’ and ‘lords,’ yet there is for us only one God, the Father, who is the Creator of all things and for whom we live” (TEV). Apostle Paul made it clear that although there are many gods and lords recognized in this world, the true Christians believe that there is only one God, and He is the Father who is the Creator of all things.

            To insist, then, and believe that the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is God is clearly to contradict the statement of God Himself, of our Lord Jesus, too, as well as that of the apostles. Even worse, to believe in and recognize any other God besides the Father who created all things is to be disloyal to our Lord God.

            Is not our Lord God, our Creator, deserving of our utmost loyalty and devotion? If we strive to be loyal to our friends, to our spouse (if married), to our employer and even to our country of birth or citizenship—let us remember that more than anyone, it is to the Lord God that we owe our faithfulness and complete devotion. Let us recognize our Creator, the Father in heaven, as the only One true God, and let us strive to obey all His teachings and commandments.

 

By DENNIS C. LOVELINDO

Source: God’s Message Magazine

 

 
Presented by Melinda de los Santos
*For Free Bible Studies click here 🙂