Have A Right Priority in Your Life

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:7-14 (KJV).

“A garden requires constant weeding and caring, if it is to be guarded against weeds and nettles – and so does the human soul.” This is the testimony of a mature Christian towards the close of a rich and full life. Thirty years had passed since Paul’s conversion. During those years God had used him to establish many churches, mightily attesting his ministry with signs and miracles. From the first Paul had spent himself unstintingly in the work of the gospel, travelling constantly and undergoing great hardships. He had come to know the reality of victory over sin as he grew in likeness to his Lord. And among his many joys he had had one unique experience of being, as he put it, lifted up into the third heaven to receive remarkable revelations of spiritual truth.

Yet at the end of all this, he states that he still has not attained to all that God had purposed for his life. Here is one of the greatest Christians of all time saying towards the end of his life that he still needs to press on to the goal. To most believers, alas, salvation begins and ends with the new birth and its assured escape from Divine judgement. Not so for the apostle, nor indeed for anyone else who seeks like him to be a true disciple of Christ. Here in this passage he declares his firm belief that Christ had laid hold of him with a purpose. He, in return, was determined to lay hold of that purpose at any cost. This is a tremendous and solemn truth, that when the Lord lays hold of us at conversion, it is with a purpose extending far, far beyond just the saving of our souls out of hell fire and into heaven. If so mature a man as the apostle Paul had to say at the end of thirty years of untiring Christian service that he had not yet attained, but had still to strive to fulfil all of God’s purpose for his life, what a vast thing that purpose must be.

Paul goes even further in this passage. To him everything that the world considers as precious is worthless rubbish, when compared to this supreme objective of grasping the purpose of God and fulfilling it. He considers this a prize worth the giving up of everything in the world (verse 14). When we look around us and see believers coveting worldly possessions and clinging to material things, giving these a greater place in their lives than the things of God, we are forced to conclude that their Christianity is very far removed from Paul’s.

It is a mark of spiritual infancy to think of salvation only in terms of an insurance policy to escape the flames of Hell. When we mature spiritually, we realize that God has saved us in order that we might walk each day in the pathway that He has already planned for each one of us from eternity (Ephesians 2:10). That pathway was what Paul called God’s purpose for his life. If we are satisfied with having received His grace but are uncommitted to fulfilling His will for our lives, then no matter how thoroughly evangelical we may be, we shall go through life without accomplishing anything of lasting value to God. Of course the Devil’s first aim is by one means or another to blind people to the grace of God in Christ Jesus, thus preventing them from being saved (2 Corinthians 4:4). But if he does not succeed there, then his next aim is to blind that new believer to the fact that God has a very definite plan for him. To a large extent he has succeeded here. There are thousands of true believers who never seek the will of God with any degree of earnestness, even in major decisions that they make in their lives.

The Christian life is depicted in this passage in Philippians chapter 3, as one in which we have to be continually pressing on. No degree of spiritual maturity attainable on earth will ever absolve us from this need of constant urgency. It is because many believers have neglected this lesson that they have no living testimony. Their only testimony relates to an experience in the distant past when on a blessed day they perhaps raised their hand or signed a decision-card in some evangelistic meeting. That was wonderful, but nothing has happened since! Proverbs 24:30-34 with its picture of a garden gone to waste, describes the condition of the man who relaxes after his salvation. A garden requires constantweeding and caring, if it is to be guarded against weeds and nettles – and so does the human soul.

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** Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author at cfcindia.com / Photo by Markus Winkler at Pexels

What Does it Mean to be a Proverbs 31 Woman?

The older women in the church are charged with teaching the younger women and girls the skills and character traits necessary to take care of their homes and families.

A woman that yearns to please God strives to be like this ideal example, but with the understanding that every Christian is a work in progress, brought “to completion in the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Proverbs 31 paints the picture of an ideal woman, the best example of a virtuous wife and mother. This final Proverb echoes Proverbs 1:7 — “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

What sort of woman is the wisdom literature talking about, what are her qualities, and do they exclusively apply to wives and mothers?

What Is the Meaning of a Proverbs 31 Woman?

Commentary from the ESV Study Bible regarding Proverbs 31 tells us that the ideal woman is virtuous, strong, and selfless. She does not wait to be served but rises early, even before sunrise, to delegate tasks and engage in business.

She possesses “a range of manual, commercial, administrative, and interpersonal skills.” This woman “opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” (v.20). She is loving, dignified, and her virtues increase her husband’s reputation: “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land” (v.23).

She is sharp but honest, engaged in business for the benefit of her household. Above all, she fears the Lord for “a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Characteristics of a Proverbs 31 Woman

What woman can live up to the example given in this Proverb? Every wife and mother looks back at certain events in her life and cringes with painful regret. “But what if I told you that the heart behind Proverbs 31:10-31 is one of celebration, not condemnation?” asks Lysa Terkeurst.

She argues that these words of wisdom, which were read aloud at the Sabbath, are not “meant to tell a woman she is supposed to be more. They are a celebration of who she is.” The Proverb does not describe “a woman with a spotless house” or “with perfectly behaved children wearing matching, designer outfits. Honestly, it’s not even the woman who’s married and has children.”

These words describe “a woman who honors God by seeking Him in everything she does and trusting Him wholeheartedly with her life. She has a heart of reverence that overflows into a life of spiritual maturity and wisdom.”

She is not born this way; she gets there by a process of refinement, which is a work of the Holy Spirit. A woman that yearns to please God strives to be like this ideal example, but with the understanding that every Christian is a work in progress, brought “to completion in the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Just a Wife, or All Women?

One reason a woman might skip past Proverbs 31 is that not all women marry, and not all who marry become parents. Should an unmarried woman, or a wife with no children, still aspire to the qualities of a Proverbs 31 woman?

Marriage is an especially intimate relationship, yet aspects of an intimate relationship are not mentioned by the writer in this piece of wisdom literature. His greatest concern has to do with the woman’s character and how she interacts with people.

The writer is hopeful that the young men of his community will seek out this sort of wife, and that the young girls will aspire to her ideal. But even if they never marry, every female who sincerely loves the Lord is developing the characteristics of a Proverbs 31 woman.

At many times and in many locations around the world (even now), professing faith in Christ has been risky for women. They have had to truly love the Lord in order to endure the ridicule and isolation they sometimes face(d).

One historian wrote that, in his opinion, the church was attended by the “silly and mean and stupid,” and “disproportionately populated by women.” Certainly, the church attracted individuals who needed to be cared for — sheltering vulnerable people has always been a function of the church.

But it took great courage to be a Christian woman. For one thing, many of them attended Christian fellowship without their husbands; they “often converted to Christianity while their male relatives remained pagans, lest they lose their senatorial status.”

One might argue that any woman with a sincere Christian faith is well on her way to becoming the ideal example of Proverbs 31.

The Christ and the Church as the Proverbs 31 Wife

Proverbs 31 describes an ideal woman, but also the ideal bride: The church. “God created marriage to be a metaphor of Christ’s relationship to the church,” wrote John Piper.

As such, the selfless, hard-working, considerate, pleasing woman of this Old Testament passage represents everyone who makes up the body of the Christian church. “The union of man and woman in marriage” contains “a truth about Christ and the church,” which is that “God ordained a permanent union between His Son and the church.”

Marriage between a man and a woman should reflect this: The man is the head, giving his life for the woman; the woman submits to the man who lays his life down for her. “Human marriage is the copy, not the original” (Piper).

Taken as a metaphor, Proverbs 31 is not simply describing wives and mothers, but also husbands and fathers; unmarried men and women; couples without children; and those who have survived their spouses.

Anyone who calls himself or herself a Christian is a bride of Christ through the Spirit, which unites the global church. Each person and each fellowship have responsibilities such as spreading the good reputation of the bridegroom (v.23) and caring for the poor (v.20).

Chad Ashby comments: “The church ought to be characterized by […] single-hearted devotion to her Bridegroom,” which is embodied by the Proverbs 31woman. “After all, John Gill reiterates, she is ‘a woman actually married to Christ.’”

Final Words from the New Testament

“Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves” (1 Peter 3:4-5).

God wants his bride to love him, to submit to him, and then he will give his bride discernment. He will increase her courage and soften her heart, so she is disposed to give generously; to act charitably.

He will ensure that when “she opens her mouth with wisdom, […] the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (v.26). His bride is his treasure. We, the church, are his bride.

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** By Candice Lacey at Christianity.com / Picture created by Mike Waters at Joyful Toons

12 Wonderful Responsibilities God Has Given to Men

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

Millions of men around the world faithfully strive to honor God in all their vocations in life. Here are ten wonderful responsibilities God has given to men:

1. To Work

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15)

2. To Be Courageous

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

3. To Be Strong

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

4. To Love

And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)

5. To Be a Husband

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

6. To Be the Head of His Wife

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:23-24)

7. To Serve Sacrificially

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

8. To Be a Father

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. (Proverbs 23:24)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:7)

9. To Be Compassionate

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. (Psalms 103:13)

10. To Provide

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)

11. To Be Accountable

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)

12. To Be Honorable

The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him! (Proverbs 20:7)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

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**By Beautiful Christian Life / Picture created by Mike Waters at Joyful Toons

8 Signs Your Christianity Is Too Comfortable

In many parts of the world today, it can be easy to live a comfortable life as a Christian. Certainly where I live—in Orange County, California—this is the case. But is that a good thing?

I’d like to suggest that the Christian faith is inherently uncomfortable. To be a disciple of Jesus is to deny oneself (Matt. 16:24), to take up a cross (Luke 14:27), to be subject to persecution (John 15:20; 2 Tim. 3:12), to give up the creature comforts of home (Luke 9:58), to forsake the priority of family (Luke 9:59–62; 14:26), to be willing to give up all material possessions (Matt. 19:21; Luke 14:33), to be crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). And this is just the beginning.

C. S. Lewis once said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

But comfort-seeking is our default mode in a consumerist society, so we often find ourselves in “comfortable Christianity” without even knowing it. What are some indicators that our Christianity has become too cozy, more like a pleasant bottle of port than the uncomfortable, sharpening faith the New Testament envisions? 

Here are eight signs that your Christianity might be too comfortable:

1. There’s absolutely no friction between your Christianity and your partisan politics.

If you’re all-in with one political party and never feel any tension whatsoever with your Christian faith, it probably means your faith is too comfortable. Whether you’re a lifelong Democrat or a diehard Republican, a robust Christian faith should create dissonance with politics at various points.

A faith that aligns perfectly with one political party is suspiciously convenient and lacks prophetic witness.

A faith that aligns perfectly with one political party is suspiciously convenient and lacks prophetic witness.

2. There are no paradoxes, tensions, or unresolved questions.

If you never ponder or wrestle with the mind-boggling tenets of Christian theology (e.g., the Trinity, the incarnation, God’s sovereignty coexisting with human action, the Holy Spirit’s presence, to name just a few), your faith is probably too comfortable.

A healthy, uncomfortable faith constantly rocks you, prods you, and blows your mind. It’s a faith that leaves you restless to want to know more, not satisfied you’ve grasped all there is to grasp about God.

3. Your friends and coworkers are surprised to learn you’re a churchgoing Christian.

A sure sign your faith is too comfortable is if nothing in your life sets you apart as a Jesus follower, to the point that even those who know you well can’t tell you’re a Christian.

A comfortable Christian is one who easily blends in, looking and talking and acting just like his or her lost neighbors.

4. You never think about or even remember the Sunday sermon on Monday.

If Sunday sermons at your church are so forgettable (or you’re so disengaged) that you rarely recall them after you leave church, your Christianity is probably too comfortable.

Biblical preaching shouldn’t leave us apathetic or unchallenged. The Word of God is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

5. No one at your church ever annoys you.

If you go to church with people who are always easy to talk to, always fun to be around, and always closely aligned with your opinions, tastes, and preferences, your Christianity is too comfortable.

One of the glorious things about the gospel is that it creates a new community out of disparate types of people who, in many cases, wouldn’t otherwise choose to spend time together.

6. You never feel challenged, only affirmed.

If your Christian faith never confronts your idols and challenges your sinful habits—but only ever affirms you as you are—this is a sure sign of a too-comfortable faith.

Healthy faith doesn’t just celebrate you as you are, but relentlessly molds and refines you into the likeness of Christ.

Healthy faith doesn’t just celebrate you as you are but relentlessly molds and refines you into the likeness of Christ, which is a beautiful but necessarily uncomfortable process.

7. You’ve never had to have a ‘truth-in-love’ conversation with a fellow Christian.

It’s always more comfortable to just “live and let live” when there’s an offense or sin that needs to be called out. It’s more comfortable to just shrug when we see others in our community making unhealthy decisions.

But this isn’t true Christian love.

Love isn’t opposed to truth, and if your faith doesn’t include the capacity to speak hard truths in love, it’s too comfortable. 

8. No one in your church could comment on any area of growth they’ve seen in you.

To believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ is to believe in change. Though not always linear, the Christian life should be marked by growth, forward momentum, and change for the better.

If you’re a Christian who’s grown so little that no one in your church could identify any area of improvement, your faith is too comfortable. 

Why is it important that we avoid falling into comfortable Christianity? Because comfortable Christianity is far from the costly, inconvenient, idol-crushing, cross-shaped path for disciples of Jesus. Comfortable Christianity has little prophetic to say to a comfortable, consumerist world. Comfortable Christianity has little urgency in mission and little aptitude for growth.

Uncomfortable Christianity, however, leads to life and transformation. It leads us to rely on God and not on ourselves; to serve rather than be served; to live lives marked by sacrifice. It leads us to do hard things, to embrace hard truths, to do life with hard people for the sake and glory of the One who did the hardest thing. It may be uncomfortable, but it will be worth it. On the other side of discomfort is delight in Christ.

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**Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Brett McCracken’s new book, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community, and is published in partnership with Crossway / Photo Francesco Ungaro at Pexels

Power with God and Power with Men

It is written in Genesis 32:29 that “God blessed Jacob there”. The word “bless” is perhaps the most frequently used word in the prayers of Christians; but few understand its real meaning.

What is blessing? What was the blessing Jacob got? It is described in verse 28 as “power with God and power with men”. This is the blessing that we all need and that we should be seeking for. And this alone can make the sun to rise upon our lives. Nothing less than this is what God desires to give His people.

Jesus referred to this blessing when He asked His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. He said, “When the Holy Spirit is come upon you, you shall receive power” (Acts 1:8) – power with God and power with men. Jacobs would be transformed by the Spirit’s power into Israels. This was what made the sun to rise upon Peter’s life and upon the lives of the other disciples that day in the upper room at Jerusalem.

And this alone can provide the answer to the crookedness of our self-life. It is not a question of reformation or of good resolutions or even of our determination. It is a question of the Holy Spirit possessing us fully and governing and ruling our lives.

But where does the Spirit lead us? Always to the cross. It is only when we are crucified, that Christ can live in us in His fullness. It was when Jesus was baptized, buried under the waters – symbolically accepting death to Himself – that the Holy Spirit came upon Him (Matt. 3:16). It was when Jacob was broken, that he was blessed. It was only after Moses’ self-confidence had been shattered through 40 years of looking after sheep, that he was ready to deliver Israel. The rock had to be smitten before the living waters could flow. The Israelites had to go through the River Jordan (symbolizing death and burial) before they could enter Canaan (symbolizing life in the fullness of the Spirit). Gideon’s army had to break their pitchers before the light inside was visible. The alabaster vial had to be broken before the odor of the ointment could fill the house. Peter’s boastful self-confidence had to be shattered before he was ready for Pentecost. We find this truth throughout Scripture.

It would be dangerous for God to empower an unbroken man. It would be like giving a sharp knife to a 6-month-old baby, or like handling 20,000 volts of electricity without proper insulation. God is careful. He does not give the power of His Spirit to those in whom ‘self’ is still unbroken. And He removes His power from a man when he ceases to be broken.

Jacob was now blessed by God Himself. Earlier, Isaac had laid his hands on Jacob and blessed him when Jacob brought him the venison (Gen. 27:23). But that had brought no change in Jacob’s life. The real blessing came at Peniel. And this is the lesson we need to learn too. No man can ever give us this blessing. A man – even a saintly man like Isaac – may lay his empty hands on our empty heads and pray for us. Yet, we may get nothing. Only God can really empower us. When Isaac put his hands on Jacob’s head, the sun merely set on Jacob’s life. But when God blessed him, the sun rose! Power belongs to God and He is the only one who can ever give it to us.

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** Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author at cfcindia.com / Arnie Chou at Pexels

Progressive Sanctification

Jesus told His apostles to teach others to obey all that He had commanded (Matthew 28:20). One who loves the Lord will first of all seek with all his heart to find out what those commandments are; and then he will seek to obey them (John 14:21).

Under the Law, God gave man commandments, but not the power to obey them. Why then did God give the Law? Only in order that man might discover that he’s unable to come up to God’s standards, and thus see his need of a Saviour and a Helper. “The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24).But now God has made a new covenant with man. And He has given us, not only commandments, but also an Example in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrated by His earthly life that it is possible for us to obey all of God’s commandments.

God has also promised under the new covenant to put His Laws into our minds and to write them upon our hearts (Hebrews 8:10). He does this through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. The Holy Spirit is our Helper Who not only shows us what the will of God is, but also gives us a desire to do that will and grace to obey all of it too.

God is the One Who is going to sanctify us entirely (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We can’t do it on our own. We have to depend on Him – for He is the One Who works in us giving us both the desire as well as the ability to do His will. But we have to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12,13). We have to work out what God works in, for He hasn’t turned us into robots!

God cleanses us from the guilt of sin. But we are commanded to “cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). We have to do this, as and when we get light on any defilement within us. It is thus, as we “by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) that the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – will become more and more manifest in us. This is what it means to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Thus our path will become one of increasing light (Proverbs 4:18). This is the glorious way of sanctification that God has made for us.

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** Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author: cfcindia.com / Picture Creator: Mike Waters Copyright: © 2008 Michael D. Waters

Fruit of The Spirit – Gentleness

May we never forget the pit of sin the Lord dragged us from and become like the unmerciful servant… Matthew 18:21-35

The fruit of the Spirit is essentially the character of Jesus. The quality of gentleness is the opposite of harshness with others. It is power over one’s Spirit that exudes a meek and mild person like Jesus.

What comes to your mind when you think of gentleness?

A common misconception is that gentleness is weakness or passivity. True gentleness, however, is just the opposite. It requires great strength and self-control.

Gentleness comes from a state of humility. Therefore, someone who lacks gentleness is often prideful and easily angered, or feels the need for revenge.

In order to be gentle, we must not view ourselves as better than someone else. Rather than asserting superiority, someone who is gentle wants to help others, even when they have been done wrong.

An example of gentleness can be seen in John 8, when the Pharisees bring a woman who was caught in adultery to Jesus. The Pharisees told Jesus that the Law of Moses commanded them to stone such a woman, to which Jesus responds, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).

After everyone left, Jesus did not condemn the woman, and said to her, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

Just like how Jesus was gentle with the woman in this story, God is gentle with us. Even in our sin, He continues to love us. He does not keep record of our wrongs, but offers forgiveness if we come to Him.

God wants us to be gentle to others. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

A gentle heart comes from having love for others. This is shown in our thoughts and in the way we interact with those around us.

So how do we grow in our gentleness?

It is important to have an accurate perception of what gentleness is. It should not be seen as a weakness, but rather as a strength. When we see it this way, we can begin to work toward becoming gentler.

In addition, it is important to acknowledge the ways in which God is gentle with us. He is the Creator of the universe, yet He is still gentle and loving toward us despite our sinful nature.

Finally, we can incorporate gentleness into our own lives. Through prayer, we can ask God to give us a spirit of gentleness and take away any feelings of self-righteousness. We can ask Him to reveal ways we can show gentleness to others so that we may reflect His character.

Prayers:

Father, I am so rough with my life and speech sometimes. Unkindness toward others can mark me. But you, Lord, tend your people like a shepherd gathers lambs into his arms. Help me communicate and lead others with a “gentle hand” and a “soft touch. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Gentle Like a Shepherd

“He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” – Isaiah 40:11

Lord, I know the fruit of Spirit is gentleness, but I get so moody sometimes. My commitments to be more controlled seem so fleeting and far from gentle. Help me organize my thoughts and control my tongue to be a joy to be around. Lord, you embodied the ultimate in gentleness, so help me to be like you today. In your name, amen.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” – Galatians 5:22-23

Father, I feel like a bucket of nerves today. Please help me to take your yoke upon me, instead of my temptation to achieve and impress, which makes me even more anxious. Lord, you are gentle and invite me to find rest for my soul in you, for your burden is light. Lighten my load and make me calmer and less anxious. Amen.

The Gentle load of God

“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Matt. 11:29

Father, it is so easy for me to judge and see the specks in others’ eyes while I am blind to my own. Help me deal with my own issues first, and then seek to restore others with a gentle spirit instead of a spirit of judgment. Allow me to avoid being tempted by judging others so that I might be gracious to others like Jesus. Amen.

Restore in a Spirit of Gentleness

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” – Galatians 6:1

Father, I find myself so easily pulled to the allures of the world. At times, I feel they have attached to my character. Help me to leave them quickly. Allow me as your beloved child to put on a heart of compassion, gentleness, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. I want to be like you, Jesus, and not the world. In your name, amen.

Put on a Heart of Gentleness

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” – Colossians 3:12

Lord, I get so confused and feel the hurts of life. I need your direction and guidance and not my feelings that bounce like a yo-yo. Thank you that your wisdom is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. I need all of you, Jesus. Help me live with that gentle wisdom today. Amen.

The Gentle Wisdom of God

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” – James 3:17–18

Father, it feels so natural to be harsh with people who are impolite and even rude. It is easy to criticize others when others criticize me. Help me, Lord, to be different though my emotions say otherwise. I want to be like Jesus, who did not revile others when He was mocked. Whether kind or rude, help me to be gentle among others, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. Amen.

From Harshness to Gentleness

“As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:7

Father, I confess how easy it is to be harsh to my boss and leaders, especially when they are not gentle with me. It is so natural to be unkind, instead of overlooking, critical instead of teachable, bitter instead of becoming better. Forgive me, Lord. Help me be subject to my employers with all respect…not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. Amen.

Gentle, even to those who are Unjust to me.

“Respect everyone and love the family of believers. Fear God and respect the king.” – 1 Peter 2:17

May the Lord help us to be gracious and merciful unto others, as He has been unto us

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**By K-Love pastors / GCU. edu Lauren Abraham / Photo by Vassu Chandu from Pexels

Is Sex before Marriage a Sin?

That’s right, God meant for us to fully enjoy sex, (Check out Proverbs 5:19). Perhaps the best book of the Bible about the joys of sex is the Song of Songs as it reminds us sex is strictly for marriage.

God loves sex. He really LOVES sex. He created sex and declared it, “good.” I say this often to my children (teens and college-age), and much to their dismay, because I want them to understand the gift of sex but only in the confines of marriage. I want them to look forward to it but remain pure. 

I want them to understand the struggles they may face in this, “If it feels good, do it” culture. In fact, God tells us in the very first chapter of the Bible “to be fruitful and multiply.” In other words, have lots of sex and enjoy each other. 

The Blueprint of God’s Design for Sex

The Bible says, “From the beginning of creation, God ‘made them male and female’” (Genesis 1:27Mark 10:6-8 ESV). It goes on to declare, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’” (Mark 10:6-8Genesis 2:24). 

Research suggests that a man’s oxytocin level increases following an act of sexual intimacy. A husband’s brain re-bonds with his spouse. And it’s not just chemicals that are being released; for a few moments, they are one.

Linda Savage writes about the mingling of spirits and bodies in sex in her recent article, “Spiritual Sex: Ecstatic Love Beyond the Physical,” she writes, 

… it is sexual energy that goes beyond physical sensations of pleasure and genital orgasms. It is not limited to genital stimulation and the release of tension through a quick and simple orgasm. When spiritual sex is consciously practiced, there is a quality of ‘mindfulness,’ which is heightened awareness and expanded consciousness. The more cosmic experiences utilizing sexual energy create ecstatic states. The essence of spiritual sex is enhanced awareness, extraordinary inspiration, and a sense of merging with the life force.

But as culture continues to influence the church more than the church influences the culture, many Christ-followers have adopted the world view of sex. Many assume sex before marriage isn’t a sin because where exactly does the Bible say, “Thou shalt not have sex with your boyfriend/girlfriend, even if you think you’re going to marry him/her?” 

What Does the Bible Say about Sex Before Marriage?

Even though it is one of the clearest prohibitions in Christianity, one would be hard-pressed to find scripture on it. Many would refer to the Ten Commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” Exodus 20:14). But this passage is about having sex with another person’s spouse. 

Others might turn to the “sex chapter” in Leviticus 18 which lists every kind of perverse act that trashes the gift of sex such as bestiality, incest, threesomes, pornography, and other sexual sins. 

But, before you text your girlfriend the words, “Netflix and chill,” let’s trek to 1 Corinthians 7:2. It clearly states that sex before marriage is a part of the definition of sexual immorality. In fact, all Bible passages that condemn sexual immorality as being sinful also condemn sex before marriage! 

There are numerous scriptures that declare sex before marriage to be a sin (1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21Galatians 5:19Acts 15:20Ephesians 5:3Colossians 3:51 Thessalonians 4:3). Revelation 14:4 assumes that unmarried Christian men who desire to be faithful are not having sex.

Hebrews 13:4 considers sex outside of marriage to be immoral. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” And yes, for those of you wondering, oral sex is included in this definition.

Young people are told often, “Oral sex is not really sex.” This couldn’t be further from the truth: oral sex is sex and is meant to also be enjoyed within the confines of marriage. Please remember neither spouse should be forced or coerced into doing something he/she is not completely comfortable with. Oral sex is permissible within the confines of marriage but that’s a whole new article.

So, Is Sex Before Marriage Really Wrong?

The early chapters of the Bible were based on rules and commandments of the Jewish traditions. Sex before marriage was clearly condemned in Judaism, and the same goes for Christianity. This was the culture Jesus was raised in. These commandments and rules gave the blueprint for marriage. The words “sex outside of marriage” are never mentioned, however, it is implied that it is against God’s design. 

In fact, Adam wasn’t joined to Eve until God gave her away in the first marriage union of time. The same tradition goes for Noah, Shem, Abram, and Jacob. Everyone waits until they are united in marriage to have sexual relations. That’s because the other aspect of sex is to procreate. 

That’s right, God meant for us to fully enjoy sex, (Check out Proverbs 5:19). Perhaps the best book of the Bible about the joys of sex is the Song of Songs as it reminds us sex is strictly for marriage. However, there is one example of the condemnation of sex before marriage of a soon-to-be wife who had sex outside of marriage in Deuteronomy 22:13-19.

It was such a precious manner that the husband had the right to divorce her if she was found not to be a virgin. Also, because of how this law could’ve been misconstrued, laws were put in place to protect the woman as well. She had the right to prove her virginity had been taken in the marriage bed. 

What Does This Mean?

The Bible promotes complete abstinence before marriage. Sex between a husband and his wife is the only form of sexual relations of which God approves. Christians can mess up and receive God’s full forgiveness. But there is a stark difference between messing up and continuing to do so with the mindset, “I can always ask for forgiveness.” 

What matters is a fully repentant heart. Repentance isn’t just an attitude of the heart; it literally means to turn from the former life with a commitment to change for the better. We, as followers of Christ, must strive to live within the confines of his loving boundaries and celebrate the good gifts he’s given us — even if that means we have to wait until our wedding day.

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** By Heather Riggleman at Christianity.com / Image: Illustration by Rick Szuecs / Source images: Getty / Envato

The Busybody, Gossip and Meddler

Meddlers often gossip. They’re in the business of gathering information about people and their affairs with the purpose of sharing it with others. They have an inquisitiveness masked as care and concern, when in actual fact they simply cannot mind their own business.

Such people make healthy discipling relationships very difficult because you have to be guarded around them for fear of your issues being shared with someone else. Busy-bodies cause strife between saints, and always find themselves in the middle of conflict between others.

A busybody meddles in the affairs of others. Sometimes this meddling is under the guise of “helping,” but usually the “help” is unwelcome and uninvited. Busybodies are often people who are dissatisfied with the level of drama in their own lives and gain satisfaction by becoming involved in the problems of other people. Gossip is usually a staple of every busybody, but it is usually camouflaged as a “prayer request” or given under the pretense of asking for advice.

The Bible has strong words for busybodies (2 Thessalonians 3:111 Timothy 5:13). First Peter 4:15 warns us, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.” It is noteworthy that Peter lists meddling as prohibited right along with murder and theft. Busybodies within the church often camouflage their nosey meddling as compassionate concern. The difference between meddling and concern, however, is whether or not the intrusion is beneficial or productive in the lives of others.

Some people have difficulty recognizing themselves as busybodies, so a few questions can aid in determining whether or not attempts to “help” are in fact meddling. A potential busybody should ask him/herself the following questions:

1. Is this any of my business? (1 Timothy 5:13)
2. Has God given me this assignment? (Ephesians 6:19)
3. Am I qualified to involve myself with this? (Romans 14:10)
4. Is my true motivation to bring help, or do I only want to feel needed? (1 Corinthians 13:1)
5. How much of my “discussion” about the situation could be classified as gossip? (Proverbs 11:13)
6. What was the result the last time I intruded in a situation that was not my problem? (Proverbs 26: 11)
7. Has my opinion been sought by those involved? (Proverbs 27:2)
8. Am I motivated by love for this person or by a sense of my own importance? (1 Corinthians 16:14)
9. Am I basing my “help” on Scripture or on my own opinion? (Proverbs 16:25)
10. Do I respond with anger when my “advice” is not accepted or found to be flawed? (Proverbs 17:10)

The answers to these questions can help us determine whether our involvement in the affairs of others is, in fact, meddling. If we recognize that our real motivation is the enjoyment of being in the center of other people’s issues, it may be time to let God deal with that insecurity. It is important to remember that busybodies rarely think of themselves as insecure. If we find ourselves often embroiled in the secrets of others, it may be wise to seek the oversight of a trusted friend or pastor. An objective person can help clarify our motivations and keep us from becoming a busybody.

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** What the Bible says about busybodies by got questions + Chopo Mwanza at Church Leaders / Photo by istockphoto

10 DEADLIEST Signs of Self-Righteousness You Probably Don’t Know

Do you know that you can be self-righteous without even knowing it? Thankfully, in this post, you will learn the little-known signs of self-righteousness so you can start overcoming them!

CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO LIVE A RIGHTEOUS LIFE. However, there is one particular type of “righteousness” that can easily prevent us from entering the Kingdom of God. In fact, this kind of righteousness had been heavily condemned by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is also the reason that Job was punished by God. This deceptive type of righteousness is so potent that it can easily spiritually blind a person and not even know that they have it.

I am talking about SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS. This problem has been a common sin throughout the history of the Church. After all, it is so easy to be self-righteous. It is a human and natural inclination that we all need to overcome.

It is so difficult to detect self-righteousness in our lives. In fact, it takes other people and the word of God to point it out for us. That’s why in this blog post, I want to share with you ten of the deadliest signs of self-righteousness.

Sign no. 1: Self-righteous people repel others

Have you ever been around a person who made you feel uncomfortable, unrighteous, and guilty because you can see how he OBVIOUSLY show his righteousness? This person constantly rubs on your face his righteous acts and in the process, unconsciously PUT PEOPLE DOWN. As a result, you don’t like to make friends with this person because he has this aura of making you feel spiritually inferior.

That’s exactly what self-righteousness does. IT REPELS PEOPLE. On the other hand, genuine righteousness DRAWS people toward you. Jesus Christ is the perfect example of a righteous Being. He draws people toward Him and not fend them off.

Sign no. 2: Self-righteous people parade their good works

The Pharisees and scribes are the perfect EPITOMAI of self-righteousness. For that reason, Christ ardently reprimanded them. Read Matthew 23, and you will see how many times Christ said, “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees.” Christ stated that we must exceed the righteousness of these people if ever we want to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:20).

So what’s wrong with the Pharisees and Scribes? They love to PUBLICLY display their righteousness to people. They were “wearing their righteousness outwardly.” When they fast, they want to appear to people fasting (Matthew 6:16). When they repent, they don’t produce the fruit of repentance (Matthew 3:8). When they give alms, they sound a trumpet (Matthew 6:2). And the list just goes on and on.

You get the point. Self-righteousness is more of the outward manifestation rather than an inward conversion of the person.

Sign no 3: Self-righteous people are uncompassionate

Being self-righteous makes you a person without much compassion. Why? Because you see other people full of sins and faults and you don’t understand why they are that way. You have a hard time looking into yourself and REALIZING THAT YOU ALSO HAVE A LOT OF UNCHECKED PROBLEMS. Instead of being compassionate, self-righteous people are very critical of others.

Sign no. 4: Self-righteous people hate and condemn sinners

Whenever you are in the presence of a thief, adulterer, extortionist, or somebody who have committed a horrible sin, does it make you feel uncomfortable? A self-righteous person hates sinners instead of just hating their sins.

JESUS CHRIST LOVES SINNERS. He even ate with tax collectors and talked to them. He spent more time with the perceived sinful people in His day than the Pharisees who are thought to be “righteous.”

The danger with self-righteousness is it makes you believe that you are in the position of God. You CONDEMN people and pass permanent judgment. You determine who will be part of God’s kingdom and who will not.

True righteousness loves the sinner but hates the sin.

Sign no. 5: Self-righteous people love the approval and praises of men

Among the motivations of a self-righteous person is to gain approval from people. He wants to look righteous, so people hold him in high regards. This is exactly what the Pharisees did. They did their alms in front of many people, disfigured their faces when fasting, loved to sit at the best seats in the synagogues, and enjoyed being called with pompous titles, just to name a few.

Sadly, they have their rewards. They have not waited for a far GREATER reward that only God can give them.

Here’s food for thought:

When we do something good, we do it not to show how righteous we are, but instead, WE DO IT TO SHOW HOW AWESOME THE LIVING GOD IS. We do our good deeds so that people “may see [our] good works and glorify [our] Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Sign no. 6: Self-righteous people list their good works

Have you ever noticed how hard it is for us to forget the good things we have done to other people? Every time we do something good, we have this little notepad in our brain where we list all our good deeds. Afterward, we add them all up and show ourselves and others how righteous we are!

Sometimes we think so highly of ourselves that we felt that God needs us so badly. Actually, the reverse is true: It is US who desperately need God!

When we do this, we forget that our righteousness is just like FILTHY RUGS (Isaiah 64:6). Our righteousness pales down to nothing when compared to the righteousness of God.

In reality, it is not our job to list our good deeds. It is God’s. “For God is not unrighteous to forget [our] work and labor of love, which [we] have shewed toward his name, in that [we] have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10).

Sign no. 7: Self-righteous people reject correction

If we remain self-righteous, time will come that it will make us callous. We hold on to our self-righteousness and it will harden us. And by the time when we need to be corrected, PRIDE sets in, and we become unteachable.

This hardness of heart may spring from the belief that you know almost everything, that you already know what the scripture says, and nothing new can impress you anymore. You think that there’s nothing to learn anymore and you won’t let anybody tell you what to do. We have become too vain in our thinking that we won’t allow anyone to point out where we might have got it wrong.

True righteous people possess a child-like attitude. That is entirely different to what self-righteous people feel about themselves. Jesus Christ was teachable in spite of His wisdom and divine nature. He did everything and anything His Father told Him to do.

Sign no. 8: Self-righteous people talk back to God

For God to work with self-righteous people, they need to be humbled first. However, self-righteousness may persist.

Like Job, we may talk back to God and rationalize our thoughts and actions. We may show God how rich, how we have increased in goods, and how we have need of nothing (Revelation 3:17). We may tell God how good we are by following His commandments and that He owes us a pat on the back and praises! However, just like the Laodicean church, we didn’t know that we are actually “wretched, miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (same verse).

Sign no. 9: Self-righteous people think of themselves as important

Sometimes, in our zeal and passion in doing God’s work, we fall into the trap of thinking that it’s all about US.

We look at the results of our work and say, “Wow! Look how many people came into the church through me!” “Did you just see that? I just inspired the whole congregation with MY SERMON!” “Look at how much I am doing for the work of the church. I’m sure the church won’t grow without me.” “I pay a lot of tithes. The pastor will surely miss ME if I leave this church.”

This type of thinking is focused on the SELF. Self-righteousness literally means “SELF-RIGHT.” In reality, we must all be “CHRIST-RIGHT.”

Sometimes we think so highly of ourselves that we felt that God needs us so badly. Actually, the reverse is true: It is US who desperately need God!

Sometimes we think so highly of ourselves that we felt that God needs us so badly. Actually, the reverse is true: It is US who desperately need God!

Righteous people DON’T think about the things they lost for following God. But rather, they concentrate on the things God gave them!

Sign no. 10: Self-righteous people wallow in self-pity

Every time a self-righteous is chastened by God, he sulks in self-pity. Instead of seeing trials and challenges in life as a way to develop godly righteousness, they would instead pity and prevent themselves from developing the ENTHUSIASM to fight back.

James said that we must “count it all joy when [we] fall into various trials.” For a self-righteous person, he would just endure the trial and not actually rejoice in it. WE NEED TO SEE CORRECTION AS A WAY TO BRING US BACK TO OUR LOVING FATHER.

When God gives us a trial, it is NOT because He wants to prevent us from getting into the Kingdom, but to help us develop the righteousness that enables us to be part of His Family.

When we are corrected for our self-righteous arrogance, we must have a positive attitude, learn the lesson, and overcome. That’s the only way we can destroy the shackles of self-righteousness that restrict our spiritual growth.

Final Words

Here are the 10 deadly signs of self-righteousness. There’s no doubt; it’s HARD TO SEE THE SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS IN US. In fact, every time we do something good, the natural response is to have a certain amount of self-righteousness budding in our hearts.

However, if we truly see what we truly are without God, then we will realize that our righteousness must be from God. After all, it is CHRIST WHO LIVES IN US, and it is Him who helps us produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Instead of building our own righteousness, WE NEED TO BUILD THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD.

This is a profound and significant subject we all need to think about. Self-righteousness is indeed a fatal sin that we all need to overcome, and by being alert to these 10 signs of self-righteousness, I hope we can be more successful in becoming less like us and be more like God!

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***By Joshua Infantado at Becoming Christian / Illustration by Bill Donaghy