Paul speaks about “the holiness which is no illusion” (Ephesians 4:24 – J.B. Philips translation). This does not come through understanding doctrine but through Jesus Himself living His life through us. The secret of godliness mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:16 is not the doctrine of Jesus having come in our flesh, but Jesus Himself Who came in our flesh. It is by looking unto Jesus and not at any doctrine that we are going to be transformed into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). Remember this all your life.“Church is like a hospital, where the worst cases are welcome. They can all be cured. No-one need feel that he or she is too wretched to be helped.”
Every doctrine can lead you astray: (1) if you don’t keep your eyes on the Lord Himself, and (2) if you do not love all who love Him, whichever group they are in, and whatever doctrine they may hold. Jesus Himself is the Head of the church which is His Body. But if a doctrine becomes the Head, then people will become Pharisees – and the purer the doctrine, the greater the Pharisees that will be produced! Remember the words of the hymn: “Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord”.
The image we present as a church must be consistent with the image Jesus presented of the Father – especially what we see in John 8:1-12, where He was on the side of the repentant adulteress against the religious Pharisees. Jesus preached the highest standard of holiness ever preached on earth, and yet He mingled with the worst of sinners (e.g., Mary Magdalene, who was given the privilege to be the first to see the risen Lord). He never once criticised such sinners or reminded them about their past. This is our calling as a church too – to preach the same standard of holiness that Jesus preached, and yet to be warm to the worst of sinners and backsliders, to draw them to Him.
Our church is like a hospital, where the worst cases are welcome. They can all be cured. No-one need feel that he or she is too wretched to be helped. Some churches are like clubs where the rich and the self-satisfied meet together. But we want to be a hospital for the worst of sinners.
Seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first at all times (Matthew 6:33). Then you will prosper in everything you do, and God will work on your behalf like a Mighty Champion (Jeremiah 20:11). This is what I have experienced all through my life.
Seeking God’s kingdom does not refer primarily to evangelism or missionary work. It means to make God the Ruler of your life, to live at all times under God’s authority, and to allow His heavenly values to take precedence over the pull of money, earthly pleasures, and man’s honour.
To seek God’s righteousness first means to long for His nature to be manifested in your inner life and in every part of your external behaviour.
May this truth grip you all your days! And when you have children, you must teach your children also this truth, so that they too can find the same result in their lives. Thus, generation after generation the Lord will have a witness on earth until He returns.
One day a very wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country for the sole purpose of showing his son how it was to be poor. They spent a few days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.
After their return from the trip, the father asked his son how he liked the trip. “It was great, Dad,” the son replied. “Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked. “Oh Yeah,” said the son.
“So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father. The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.
“We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.”
“We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.” The boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “It showed me just how poor we really are.”
Too many times we forget what we have and concentrate on what we don’t have. What is one person’s worthless object is another’s prize possession. It is all based on one’s perspective.
Sometimes it takes the perspective of a child to remind us of what’s important.
A New Year prayer: “Teach us Lord, to number our days, so that we can present to Thee a heart full of wisdom” (Psalms 90:12)
Spiritual growth and transformation into Christlikeness do not happen overnight. It happens slowly – day by day and little by little. As we sing in the chorus: “Little by little and day by day; little by little in every way, my Jesus is changing me; I am not the same as I was last year; and though the picture is not quite clear, I know He is changing me; Although it’s slow going, this I am knowing – that one day like Him I shall be”. So, let us yield ourselves to the Lord every day this year, so that He can do that work of transformation in us.
Transformed by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word
When the Holy Spirit is allowed to be Lord in our lives, He will liberate us first of all (2 Corinthians 3:17) – freeing us from the power of sin, from the love of money, from the traditions of men that are contrary to the Word of God, and from being enslaved to the opinions of people. The Holy Spirit will then show us the glory of Jesus in the Scriptures and seek to transform us slowly into that likeness, by changing our way of thinking so that we begin to think the way Jesus thought (2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 12:2). The Holy Spirit wants to do that work in us this year. So, submit to Him.
Transformed by Praise and Thanksgiving
“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:18-20). The Holy Spirit wants to give us a spirit of thankfulness that frees us from all gossip, slander, bitterness, and anger. In the seven glimpses of heaven that we see in the book of Revelation, we find that the inhabitants of heaven are constantly praising God. The atmosphere of heaven is one of constant praise, without any complaining or grumbling. The Holy Spirit wants to bring this atmosphere into our hearts and into our homes this year. So, submit to Him.
Transformed by the Grace of God
“The grace of God enables us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live in a righteous, godly way in this evil world” Titus 2:11-12. God wants to transform our thought-life through His grace and make our speech so gracious that it blesses everyone we meet this year (Colossians 4:6). God’s grace also wants to transform the way husbands and wives behave towards each other this year (1 Peter 3:7). And in every trial that we face this year, God can give us grace that is sufficient to meet the need (2 Corinthians 12:9). So, humble yourself in every situation this year – for God gives His grace only to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).
Transformed by Obedience
We are told that Jesus “learned obedience through the things He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Anything that His Father said “No” to, Jesus also said, “No” to. That involved the suffering of denying His own will always. After years of such self-denial, “Jesus was made perfect” (Hebrews 5:9). “Perfect” here means “complete”. In other words, Jesus graduated from the school of obedience and got His degree. This is the degree the Holy Spirit wants us to get too. So, He will take us through many tests. If we fail in any test, He will give us a chance to do it again! He wants us to get the same “degree” that Jesus got and to make us overcomers (Revelation 3:21)! This is the most important degree that we can ever get. So, this year, let us say “No” to our own will and “Yes” to God’s will in every situation, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Transformed by Encouragement from God
“God wants to encourage us in all our trials, so that we can encourage others with the same encouragement that He gives us in our trials” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). We are surrounded by people who are facing many trials and problems. If we want to help them to overcome, we have to go through many trials and problems ourselves first and overcome. The strength and encouragement that God gives us to overcome in our trials will then be what we can offer to others. God wants to make us a blessing to every person and every family that we meet this year (See Galatians 3:8-9, 14). He wants us to encourage someone or the other every day of this year (Read Hebrews 3:13). May it be so.
If you are a man or a woman and claim to be a believer and part of the church, you are Jesus’s wife. You are His Bride and He is the bridegroom, and if we are His Bride, we need to ask ourselves the question, “what type of wife am I?” Am I asking God to send me a spouse, when I’m not even a good wife to Him. If you are saved, do you recognize you are part of the Bride of Christ? And instead of getting people to try and understand your love language, how about you trying to understand God’s love language.
Do you know what God’s love language is?
A) Quality time B) Words of affirmation C) Gifts D) Acts of service E) Physical touch F) All of the above
Answer: F, all of the above.
First of all, Jesus loves quality time. He loves when you spend time with Him in prayer. He loves when you dedicate the morning and just bask in His presence, and seek His face and dwell in His Word. He loves quality time when you dedicate the evening or when you set apart a time in your life where you’re fasting to get closer to God. You want to hear His voice and want to know His sound, and want to be in His presence. God loves quality time.
The Lord loves words of affirmation, not because He needs to be affirmed, but He knows that when you affirm Him, it affirms you! Can I mess with you a second? You don’t read the Bible for God, you don’t read the Bible for God, you don’t pray for God, you’re not watching this message for God, you don’t listen to sermons for God, you don’t worship for God, all that’s for you. You praying is not going to make God any more faithful.
It’s not going to make Him any more Holy, it’s not going to make Him any more righteous. You worshipping is going to help your mind from worrying, because you can not worry and worship at the same time, and a lot of us has got it muddled. We think we’re doing God a service, because we attend church, because we are giving, because we are praying, because we are fasting, and God’s like… don’t you understand I’m already Holy? I can’t get any holier than I already am. I am in a lane all by Myself, there’s no league, I have no competition. The devil’s not even my adversary, I have no competitors, no adversities! You are doing this for you, you’re doing this for your words of affirmation, it affirms you.
He loves when you use your gifts, why? Because He gave them to you. He loves when you worship, because you are using that gift. He loves when you exercise your gift of artistry, your gift of speaking, that gift of business skills, He loves when you do that, because it shows Him off.
The Lord loves acts of service, when you are serving your community, when you’re serving your wife, when you’re serving in the Church. He loves service because you are His hands and feet, so it makes Him look good when you do this!
And God loves physical touch, you know how you touch the heart of God. Anytime you choose His will over your will, that touches His heart. Anytime you say, “God I don’t want to do this, but I trust you and you’re my husband and I’m going to follow you, and I’m going to submit to you, it gives God glory.
Once upon a time… Many years ago, there was an Emperor, who was so excessively fond of new clothes, that he spent all his money in dress. He did not trouble himself in the least about his soldiers; nor did he care to go either to the theatre or the chase, except for the opportunities then afforded him for displaying his new clothes. He had a different suit for each hour of the day; and as of any other king or emperor, one is accustomed to say, “he is sitting in council,” it was always said of him, “The Emperor is sitting in his wardrobe.” Time passed merrily in the large town which was his capital; strangers arrived every day at the court. One day, two rogues, calling themselves weavers, made their appearance. They gave out that they knew how to weave stuffs of the most beautiful colors and elaborate patterns, the clothes manufactured from which should have the wonderful property of remaining invisible to everyone who was unfit for the office he held, or who was extraordinarily simple in character. “These must, indeed, be splendid clothes!” thought the Emperor. “Had I such a suit, I might at once find out what men in my realms are unfit for their office, and also be able to distinguish the wise from the foolish! This stuff must be woven for me immediately.” And he caused large sums of money to be given to both the weavers in order that they might begin their work directly. So the two pretended weavers set up two looms, and affected to work very busily, though in reality they did nothing at all. They asked for the most delicate silk and the purest gold thread; put both into their own knapsacks; and then continued their pretended work at the empty looms until late at night. “I should like to know how the weavers are getting on with my cloth,” said the Emperor to himself, after some little time had elapsed; he was, however, rather embarrassed, when he remembered that a simpleton, or one unfit for his office, would be unable to see the manufacture. To be sure, he thought he had nothing to risk in his own person; but yet, he would prefer sending somebody else, to bring him intelligence about the weavers, and their work, before he troubled himself in the affair. All the people throughout the city had heard of the wonderful property the cloth was to possess; and all were anxious to learn how wise, or how ignorant, their neighbors might prove to be. “I will send my faithful old minister to the weavers,” said the Emperor at last, after some deliberation, “he will be best able to see how the cloth looks; for he is a man of sense, and no one can be more suitable for his office than be is.” So the faithful old minister went into the hall, where the knaves were working with all their might, at their empty looms. “What can be the meaning of this?” thought the old man, opening his eyes very wide. “I cannot discover the least bit of thread on the looms.” However, he did not express his thoughts aloud. The impostors requested him very courteously to be so good as to come nearer their looms; and then asked him whether the design pleased him, and whether the colours were not very beautiful; at the same time pointing to the empty frames. The poor old minister looked and looked, he could not discover anything on the looms, for a very good reason, viz: there was nothing there. “What!” thought he again. “Is it possible that I am a simpleton? I have never thought so myself; and no one must know it now if I am so. Can it be, that I am unfit for my office? No, that must not be said either. I will never confess that I could not see the stuff.” “Well, Sir Minister!” said one of the knaves, still pretending to work. “You do not say whether the stuff pleases you.” “Oh, it is excellent!” replied the old minister, looking at the loom through his spectacles. “This pattern, and the colors, yes, I will tell the Emperor without delay, how very beautiful I think them.” “We shall be much obliged to you,” said the impostors, and then they named the different colors and described the pattern of the pretended stuff. The old minister listened attentively to their words, in order that he might repeat them to the Emperor; and then the knaves asked for more silk and gold, saying that it was necessary to complete what they had begun. However, they put all that was given them into their knapsacks; and continued to work with as much apparent diligence as before at their empty looms. The Emperor now sent another officer of his court to see how the men were getting on, and to ascertain whether the cloth would soon be ready. It was just the same with this gentleman as with the minister; he surveyed the looms on all sides, but could see nothing at all but the empty frames.
“Does not the stuff appear as beautiful to you, as it did to my lord the minister?” asked the impostors of the Emperor’s second ambassador; at the same time making the same gestures as before, and talking of the design and colors which were not there. “I certainly am not stupid!” thought the messenger. “It must be, that I am not fit for my good, profitable office! That is very odd; however, no one shall know anything about it.” And accordingly he praised the stuff he could not see, and declared that he was delighted with both colors and patterns. “Indeed, please your Imperial Majesty,” said he to his sovereign when he returned, “the cloth which the weavers are preparing is extraordinarily magnificent.” The whole city was talking of the splendid cloth which the Emperor had ordered to be woven at his own expense. And now the Emperor himself wished to see the costly manufacture, while it was still in the loom. Accompanied by a select number of officers of the court, among whom were the two honest men who had already admired the cloth, he went to the crafty impostors, who, as soon as they were aware of the Emperor’s approach, went on working more diligently than ever; although they still did not pass a single thread through the looms. “Is not the work absolutely magnificent?” said the two officers of the crown, already mentioned. “If your Majesty will only be pleased to look at it! What a splendid design! What glorious colors!” and at the same time they pointed to the empty frames; for they imagined that everyone else could see this exquisite piece of workmanship. “How is this?” said the Emperor to himself. “I can see nothing! This is indeed a terrible affair! Am I a simpleton, or am I unfit to be an Emperor? That would be the worst thing that could happen–Oh! the cloth is charming,” said he, aloud. “It has my complete approbation.” And he smiled most graciously, and looked closely at the empty looms; for on no account would he say that he could not see what two of the officers of his court had praised so much. All his retinue now strained their eyes, hoping to discover something on the looms, but they could see no more than the others; nevertheless, they all exclaimed, “Oh, how beautiful!” and advised his majesty to have some new clothes made from this splendid material, for the approaching procession. “Magnificent! Charming! Excellent!” resounded on all sides; and everyone was uncommonly gay. The Emperor shared in the general satisfaction; and presented the impostors with the ribald of an order of knighthood, to be worn in their button-holes, and the title of “Gentlemen Weavers.” The rogues sat up the whole of the night before the day on which the procession was to take place, and had sixteen lights burning, so that everyone might see how anxious
they were to finish the Emperor’s new suit. They pretended to roll the cloth off the looms; cut the air with their scissors; and sewed with needles without any thread in them. “See!” cried they, at last. “The Emperor’s new clothes are ready!” And now the Emperor, with all the grandees of his court, came to the weavers; and the rogues raised their arms, as if in the act of holding something up, saying, “Here are your Majesty’s trousers! Here is the scarf! Here is the mantle! The whole suit is as light as a cobweb; one might fancy one has nothing at all on, when dressed in it; that, however, is the great virtue of this delicate cloth.” “Yes indeed!” said all the courtiers, although not one of them could see anything of this exquisite manufacture. “If your Imperial Majesty will be graciously pleased to take off your clothes, we will fit on the new suit, in front of the looking glass.” The Emperor was accordingly undressed, and the rogues pretended to array him in his new suit; the Emperor turning round, from side to side, before the looking glass. “How splendid his Majesty looks in his new clothes, and how well they fit!” everyone cried out. “What a design! What colors! These are indeed royal robes!” “The canopy which is to be borne over your Majesty, in the procession, is waiting,” announced the chief master of the ceremonies. “I am quite ready,” answered the Emperor. “Do my new clothes fit well?” asked he, turning himself round again before the looking glass, in order that he might appear to be examining his handsome suit. The lords of the bedchamber, who were to carry his Majesty’s train felt about on the ground, as if they were lifting up the ends of the mantle; and pretended to be carrying something; for they would by no means betray anything like simplicity, or unfitness for their office. So now the Emperor walked under his high canopy in the midst of the procession, through the streets of his capital; and all the people standing by, and those at the windows, cried out, “Oh! How beautiful are our Emperor’s new clothes! What a magnificent train there is to the mantle; and how gracefully the scarf hangs!” in short, no one would allow that he could not see these much-admired clothes; because, in doing so, he would have declared himself either a simpleton or unfit for his office. Certainly, none of the Emperor’s various suits, had ever made so great an impression, as these invisible ones.
“But the Emperor has nothing at all on!” said a little child. “Listen to the voice of innocence!” exclaimed his father; and what the child had said was whispered from one to another. “But he has nothing at all on!” at last cried out all the people. The Emperor was vexed, for he knew that the people were right; but he thought the procession must go on now! And the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever, to appear holding up a train, although, in reality, there was no train to hold.
“Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” ~ Isaiah 26:2-3
Prayer: Father God, the peace that comes through faith in You surpasses all human understanding. Help me to keep my faith in you alone that I would have peace and not falter in my thinking. The world wants to destroy the peace I have through faith in You. Protect my mind and heart from the things of this world. Pour out your perfect peace. In Jesus’s name I pray, amen!
The Bible is filled with reminders of how important it is to pray for one another. Jesus gave us the best example as He prayed for those who followed Him. Paul also left us prayers written for the churches he had visited over time. The truth that rings through all is this: “Keep on praying” (Matthew 7:7), “Pray at all times” (Ephesians 6:18), “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
It’s that important.
So, if we’re called to pray for the “church,” what is the church, exactly? The Bible reminds us that the church is more than just a building or a gathering place of people. And it’s much bigger than any single denomination, social status, or country. The church quite simply is the body of believers all around the world who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is referred to in the Bible as the Greek word “ekklesia” and is defined as “an assembly,” or the “called out ones.”
In a world that is often very dark, and in times that we know the end is drawing nearer, may we be found faithfully praying for one another until Christ’s return. Many believers are persecuted, even killed, daily all around our world. Many are being intimidated by others around them, or are ridiculed and attacked because of their beliefs. We can be sure of this – Satan is very aware of the power of our prayers. And he will do everything he can to render us ineffective and to silence our voices. May God help us to recognize those traps and do all we can to show His love and light in this world that so desperately needs Christ’s hope and healing.
Here are 10 powerful prayers for the church:
1. Pray for unity in the church.
“I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
We are so incredibly in need of your power and your strength. We ask that you would fill us with your Spirit of love and unity among believers all around our world. We ask for your help to set aside our differences and look to the greater cause, the cause of Christ. Please help us to truly live out a life of love. We know that this is only possible through the power of your Spirit, so we ask that you would move across our land in miraculous ways, with fresh filling and awareness, turning your people back to you, drawing others to come to know you. We need your unity and your love to stir our hearts and give direction to our days. We need your wisdom to guide us, we need your Spirit to lead us, to live out godly lives that would bring honor first to you. We thank you that you are always with us; and give us great purpose and hope.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
2. Pray that God would be glorified in all things and that the name of Christ is exalted.
“To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)
We give you the glory and honor for all that you’re doing in our lives every day, even in the times we can’t see it or understand your ways. Shine your light in us, through us, over us. May we make a difference in this world, for your glory and purposes. Set your way before us. May all your plans succeed. We may reflect your peace and hope to a world that so desperately needs your presence and healing.
Thank you that:
Your ways and thoughts are far greater than ours
You had a plan to redeem and make all things new
Your face is towards the righteous
You hear our prayers and know our hearts
You reign supreme
We are more than conquerors through the gift of Christ
You are holy and just
Help us not to follow after the voice of the crowds, but to press in close to you to hear your whispers and seek after you alone. We will declare that your love stands firm forever. For your lovingkindness endures forever.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
3. Pray that God’s Spirit and power would fill the church.
“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
Fill us with the power of your Holy Spirit this day. Fill us with your joy, your wisdom, and with constant reminders that Your Presence will go with us, and you will give us rest. Thank you that you came to give new life, peace, hope, and joy to your children. Thank you that your power is made perfect in our weakness. We know that you are with us, and you fight for your people. We believe that it’s not by might, nor by power, but by your Spirit that you make a difference in our world. We choose to trust you today and to recognize the authority of who you are in our lives.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
4. Pray that the body of Christ would faithfully show love to a hurting world in His Name.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Help us to keep our eyes on you, so that we can follow your promptings and respond to your call. Help us to see when another soul around us needs to be encouraged. Help us to be faithful to carry one another’s burdens, remembering that we’re all in this life together.
For your reminder that both in seasons of celebration and in seasons of brokenness, you’re still with us
That your Word says you are close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit
Our comfort abounds through Christ
That our greatest source of help and strength comes from you
That though we face trouble and loss in this world, we can be assured you have overcome it all
We ask for:
Great miracles for this hurting world
The comfort of your Spirit to bring a covering of grace and healing to all those who have been broken.
Through our own struggle and pain, help us to be your vessels to offer comfort and strength to others who are hurting.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
5. Pray for God’s provision and that the church would be faithful to give generously.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
You are Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides. We thank you that you own it all and hold everything in your hands. We thank you that you know our needs before we even ask. You’re aware of all that concerns us, and you have a plan and provision. You alone can move mountains to make a way for your children. We ask for your answer, in your timing, for every need that weighs our hearts down.
Forgive us for doubting you, for worrying, and for trying to work everything out on our own. Help us to trust you more. We choose to recognize and to believe that you are able to accomplish far more than we even thought possible.
We thank you in advance for your miracles, for paving out pathways, for your provision for those who love you – the church. Thank you for the abundance of blessing and goodness you have already stored up. Thank you for teaching us to be content in all circumstances. We love you Lord; we’re leaning on you.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
6. Pray that the church would be faithful to go into all the world and share the gospel of Christ.
“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)
Thank you that sin and death have been conquered by Christ, and that your power is everlasting. He paid the price to offer us the gift of eternal life. Help us never to forget or take for granted this huge gift of love on our behalf. Help us not to hide this great truth or to keep it to ourselves out of fear of judgment. Forgive us for being too busy, or distracted by other things, for not fully recognizing what you freely given, what you have done for us. May we be found faithful to go into all the world – our communities, the nation, the whole world. May we share this light of hope that so burns within our hearts. Open doors that no one can shut, Lord. Protect your people as we carry the truth of Jesus into all the world.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
7. Pray for the leaders of every church, that their hearts and minds are directed towards Christ.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9)
We pray for every leader in our churches around the world – give them your wisdom and discernment as they lead. We pray that their hearts would be directed first to you, that they would recognize where their true help and strength come from. We ask that you would guard their coming and going, that you would be their refuge and their peace. We pray that you would surround each one with wise counsel, that they would be humble and kind, patient and loving through their actions and words. We pray that their faith in you would be unwavering.
We pray for their families – give them great strength, protection, and grace for the days ahead. We ask that you would continue to pave the way for strong, faithful men and women to serve your people. We ask you for the outpouring of your Spirit to raise up those you’ve chosen to lead.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
8. Pray for the church to have a love for God’s Word and to walk in His wisdom, humility, and strength.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Thank you that you have victoriously overcome sin, and death, and any evil that we may face today. And because of you, we are overcomers too. We too can have victory, and we can walk strong in your peace.
Thank you, Lord, that You are producing in us great endurance through the hard places. You are building spiritual muscle. We press in close to your presence today and ask that no matter what obstacles we’re facing as a church, we choose joy.
Keep your words of truth planted firmly within us, help us to keep focused on what is pure and right; give us the power to be obedient to your Word.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
9. Pray for God’s power and protection against the attacks of the enemy.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
The battle feels intense some days. We get tired and weak, and t’s hard to keep going in the face of defeat. Help us to remember that you will never leave us – that you’re our Refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
We know that the enemy wouldn’t be fighting so hard against us if we weren’t making a difference for your Kingdom. He wouldn’t be trying so hard to stop us if he didn’t think you had so much good still in store. Remind us that this battle belongs to you Lord, and whatever we’re up against can be taken down in one fail swoop by your mighty hand. Help us to trust you more and to never waste time spinning our wheels fighting in our strength.
Thank you for your daily presence in our lives; that we can be assured your heart is towards us, your eyes are over us, and your ears are open to the prayers of your people. Thank you that you surround us with favor as with a shield, and we are safe in your care.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
10. Pray that God would wake up the church and stir us to action.
“Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18)
We pray for your great healing on our land. Shine your face and your blessing over us. Give us courage to go into all the world and take the message of the Gospel of peace. We need you now, more than ever before. Our times are in your hands.
Thank you that you are:
Rich in mercy and full of grace
Forgiving and merciful
Strong and mighty.
For us and you fight for us still today
Wake us up Lord! Remind us to live aware, listen to your words, and be willing to make a difference in this land. Give us courage to speak out. Help us not to stay silent but to do all things through your wisdom and love. Bring honor to your name in these days Lord, for you alone are worthy.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
P** By Debbie McDaniel at ibelieve.com / Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Rawpixel
One of the most common things that couples say to me is, “My wife and I just can’t seem to have a normal conversation anymore with each other. Our words seem so superficial and only about the facts of the day. We just never get to those heart-to-heart times of fellowship we used to have before we got married.” Have you ever thought or said these words? If you have, then this article is for you.
Why does conversation seem to turn in this superficial direction within a marriage? Once you understand why the communication has deteriorated between you, then you will see how to change it.
Why does communication deteriorate over time?
1. Holding resentment from past unresolved conflicts. This is one of the most common and obvious reasons why communication deteriorates in a relationship. If a prior conflict is not fully resolved, the heart becomes closed and the walls will go up and communication will shut down. This is why Solomon told his son, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.” (Prov. 18:19). If you have been fortifying your heart with bars, you have unresolved issues. If you want the superficiality to be removed then you must identify and deal with these conflicts.
2. Hardening your heart. When you refuse to resolve your conflicts, a hardened heart will always be the natural result. Why is this true? Paul equated hardness of heart with an unwillingness to repent of your sin. He warned the Romans that, “because of your“hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:5). If you are hard-hearted today, there will not be any heart-to-heart fellowship between you. It is an impossibility!
3. Allowing pride to control you.When pride controls your heart, you will relate to each other in one of two ways. First, you can be verbally harsh, authoritarian, and speak to your spouse with a superior attitude. Or secondly, pride can also make you indifferent to your mate’s requests to talk, and cause you to be unwilling to confess your own faults. These attitudes will only result in the walls being fortified between you. Remember, “By pride comes nothing but strife” (Prov. 13:10). Pride is the death-nail to heart-to-heart fellowship.
4. An unwillingness to talk. When one or both of you stops being willing to talk, your hearts only grow harder, and the walls are strengthened (Acts 7:57). This refusal to talk things through is another sign of the pride and hardness of your hearts. You are, in reality, moving further backwards and not forward in your relationship.
5. Dominating the conversation. If you dominate a conversation by the number of words you use, to attempt to overpower your mate’s point of view, this will only further drive you apart. You should never think that you “will be heard” by the number of words you use (Matt. 6:7). If you say the same thing over and over again but just in different ways, and you don’t allow your spouse to respond, nothing will get accomplished. This again only reveals more pride within your heart.
6. Trying to control and force. When one or both spouses attempt to dominate the conversation, this is a controlling and forcing technique that only assures there will not be a true heart-to-heart conversation. Trying to control a person or a conversation is not love! Controlling behavior is also another form of pride.
7. Not being a good listener.Listening is a vital part of good communication. But, do you want to be heard more than you want to listen? Do you interrupt your spouse and not allow them to complete their thought before you begin your rebuttal? Solomon declared this behavior as folly. “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Prov. 18:13). The word folly means stupid or to be without wisdom. This unwise practice will guarantee that there will be no heart-to-heart fellowship.
8. Lying and deceitfulness. When there is dishonesty between two people there will be no trust. Lying to one another is a rejection of your marital oneness with each other. Paul said, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25). If Paul taught this truth concerning Christians in general, how much more would it hinder your marital oneness (Gen. 2:24)? Lying and deceitfulness calls into question your entire relationship together.
9. Harsh and condemning words. Harsh words are like small knife wounds or razor blade cuts that slowly drain the life out of your love relationship. David said of his enemies who constantly pursued him, “Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, working deceitfully”(Ps. 52:2). When harsh and condemning words are allowed to thrive in a relationship, they will bring destruction to every marriage. Be assured, there will be no heart-to-heart conversation within this marriage!
10. You don’t want to reveal anything that might be used against you in the next conflict. If you are afraid to be honest about what you are thinking, feeling, or what you have done, there can be no real intimacy in your conversations. This kind of fear will shut down any real heart-to-heart discussion, because there is no trust. If you are afraid to open your heart to your spouse, it reveals that there are several basic needs missing in your marriage.
11. Not spending time together. Sometimes the distance grows between a couple not because they have a major communication problem, but simply because they just don’t spend much one-on-one time together. When you don’t take the time to date each other, pray with one another, or recreate together, the closeness and friendship between you will die. Before you were married, as you dated, you spent plenty of one-on-one time together, which is why the communication was so much better. Don’t allow all of the distractions of life to keep you from the one person you are to be one flesh with.
These are just a few of the hindrances to heart-to-heart communication. If you recognize yourself in any of the above issues, you must realize that this is the reason the communication has deteriorated in your marriage. I would suggest asking God to forgive you, and then turning to your spouse and doing the same. Then take the steps in the next few paragraphs.
How to change the way you communicate, and get back to heart-to-heart fellowship.
1. You need to confront the problem. Many times, when couples struggle and they sense the distance growing between them, they beat around the bush with their mate, and don’t specifically address the problem. This is a major mistake. When this happens the problem only gets worse. If your car was running roughly or wouldn’t start, you wouldn’t just hope that the engine trouble would resolve itself. You would take the car into the mechanic to get the problem resolved. If you chose not to do this, one morning you would go out to start your car, and it wouldn’t run. So, don’t let the lack of heart-to-heart fellowship in your marriage get any worse. Resolve to talk to your spouse about it today.
How should you bring up this problem with your mate? Choose a weekend day, when you and your mate are not tired, and there are no distractions. Find a time when you can be alone, with the children playing outside, or at a friend’s house. Ask your spouse to sit down to talk, and express that you believe that you are drifting apart. Express your love and desire to change things between you. Don’t blame your spouse, but express that both of you are at fault, and that both of you need to make some changes. Go through the following steps.
2. Reconcile past issues. If you regularly fight about specific issues with your spouse, or you have past issues that have never been resolved, make a list of these conflicts and begin a discussion about how you can resolve them. Without a truly reconciled relationship with your spouse, your communication will never be heart-to-heart. Unresolved conflicts are what caused you to drift away from each other, and resolving them is the first step back. To help, I have two worksheets that would be very helpful for you to begin the process. Go to www.covenantkeepers.org and click on “Articles” and then “Worksheets” and print “How to Resolve Conflicts” and “How to Solve Conflicts.” Work through these together with your spouse to begin the reconciliation process.
Jesus made it absolutely clear that resolving conflicts with anyone was one of His top priorities. He said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Matt. 18:15). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus also said, “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). So, if you have resentment toward your mate, or you know your spouse is upset with you, you have the responsibility to go to them and try to reconcile the issue. Keep talking and praying until it is resolved. When you take this step, you are removing one of the greatest impediments to having a heart-to-heart relationship again.
3. Admit your communication failures. Humility concerning your faults and your communicative abilities, is absolutely essential to opening up a new and deeper fellowship with your spouse. God has explained in many places throughout the Scripture that if you want revival and awakening in your souls, you must humble yourself. God spoke through Isaiah the Prophet and said, “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones’” (Isa. 57:15). Jesus spoke heart-to-heart with anyone who would listen to Him, and He was “gentle and lowly at heart” (Matt. 11:29). Humility is a fundamental key to this entire process.
Go back and look at the list of communication failures that I gave at the beginning of this article and consider if any of these are yours. Do you do any of these behaviors? If you do, turn from these today!
4. Be vulnerable. How does vulnerability affect your ability to communicate with your spouse? It reveals your willingness to be honest and open with your mate. Vulnerability allows you to admit your faults, ask forgiveness, and listen to your wife or husband’s thoughts, and speak heart-to-heart. This is why Jesus taught His disciples to, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5). What is Jesus encouraging in this verse? He wanted His disciple’s to be honest with themselves about their own sins before they ever tried to tell others about their faults. Honesty with yourself is an absolute necessity if you want to become vulnerable with your mate.
King David revealed his own vulnerability throughout the Psalms. What an example for all of us to follow. He could talk about his failures and sins, his fears, his personal struggles, and his hopes (Ps. 51:3; Ps. 34:4; Ps. 119:81; Ps. 42:5). But the question is, will you be vulnerable like this with your mate? If you won’t, then don’t expect your spouse to be vulnerable with you. If you want heart-to-heart communication with your mate, then vulnerability is essential!
5. Vulnerability also requires that you walk in humility. The essence of vulnerability is humility. You know your own struggles and faults; therefore, you are not quick to judge your spouse for his or her faults. You can admit your needs before your mate. You can give and receive encouragement and correction from your spouse. Note how open Paul the Apostle was with the elders of the church of Ephesus. He said to them, “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews” (Acts 20:18-19). Can you talk about your struggles with your spouse? If your husband or wife has some helpful encouragement or correction, will you listen to it and not get angry?
Humility also enables a mutual submissiveness with your mate that further enables this openness and vulnerability. Peter clearly commanded this kind of fellowship with others when he said, “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’” (1 Peter 5:5). Humility is the key to this submissive attitude that can listen to the other. In addition, without this vulnerability and humility, you will forfeit the great grace God wants to bestow upon your marriage relationship.
6. Choose your words carefully. One of the most critical requirements for heart-to-heart fellowship with your spouse will be the words that you choose to use. As Solomon said, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). The word soft in this verse means tender or gentle words. The word harsh means to speak offensive and hurtful words. So, which takes place with your spouse on a regular basis, tender and gentle words, or offensive and hurtful ones?
Only you have the ability to choose how you will speak with your mate. You are the only one who can change the words you speak. Don’t blame-shift and excuse your own responsibility by saying, “I wouldn’t talk the way I do, if he or she didn’t come off so harsh toward me.” Being honest with yourself is vital in changing this part of your communication. You have the choice as to how you will respond! God has made it clear what He wants, He said, “choose what pleases Me” (Is. 56:4). This is your responsibility!
You can say things several different ways if you choose. When your spouse fails to do what you have asked them to do, you can say, “This is the fifth time I’ve told you that this bothers me. What is your problem? Are you deaf, or are you just dumb?” Or, you can say, “Honey did you forget about this or that issue? This is really important to me.” Then explain the reason why this issue is so important to you. Which response would create a conflict, and which would help you get to a solution? The answer is obvious!
7. Become a better listener. In most marriages one person is more verbal that the other. The person who is more verbal usually dominates the conversations which hinders the less verbal person from taking. Consequently, the less verbal spouse begins to believe their mate does not value their thoughts and opinions. This causes the less verbal person to retreat and not share equally, which destroys the ability to have a heart-to-heart fellowship together. This is why James taught the church, “My beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”(James 1:19).
How can you change this imbalance? It is just a choice. The more verbal spouse must learn to use less words, and the less verbal person needs to use more words. For couples that just can’t seem to do it, I recommend using a kitchen timer. Set it for one minute, and say whatever you need to say. Then reset it for your spouse, and allow them to talk without interruption. This ensures equal time. Eventually people learn to discipline themselves to give this equal time to each other. Remember, you can’t have heart-to-heart talks when only one person is allowed to talk.
8. It takes two to tango. The tango is the most intimate dance that two people can enjoy. Each must move and step in a precise manner, or the couple will step all over each other, or fall to the floor. My point is that communication is like the tango. Both partners must participate and work together to enable heart-to-heart fellowship. It can’t be done alone. You need a willing heart, and your spouse also must be willing. You both must deal with your own personal faults, and you both must choose to be vulnerable with one another. Each of you must listen and give equal time to the other to respond.
Therefore, I encourage you to respond to the Lord in your personal life, and allow Him to work within you to change the way you communicate. Focus on getting to the place of heart-to-heart communication with each other. It will take work, but the work will bring the rewarding relationship you desire.
All of the steps I have just outlined in this article must be obeyed by both partners. It can’t be done by just one spouse alone. One of you must choose to start to speak heart-to-heart with the other. Trust that God will soften your spouse to respond. Remember, not even God Himself with all His power and authority, can by Himself fix the relationship with mankind. Ultimately, reconciliation requires men to respond to Him in repentance. This is why Jesus commanded those who heard Him to, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). So, I am asking you to repent of your side of the problem as it relates to communication, and humble yourself before God and your spouse. You take the step to start the conversation. You won’t regret it!
There are a few theories out there on why women over a certain age are not married. Many of these may be stereotypical while others hold some truth.
I will be focusing on one of the most important reasons for why some single women are not married.
Before I go ahead, I want you to know this was hard to write, not because it’s not true but because of the magnitude of truth. I had touched on it in a previous post but had felt the burden in my spirit to focus squarely on it.
I know God wants me to speak about this and to do so in clear terms.
Here it is:
We are not married because we will forget God. Because getting married will take us away from God.
We have knowingly or unknowingly replaced God with marriage where our true service and our true love is not God but marriage or what we believe marriage will give us.
Our prayers for a good man have been unanswered and heaven has been silent not because God wants to deny us the good gifts he has for us but because he knows that this very thing we want will take us away from him.
We may promise or vow that we will be closer to him when we get married but is that really the truth?
We have to realise that God sees through our words. He is the only one that knows the true state of our hearts and our intentions.
Which means we can’t pay lip service to loving him.
WHERE IS GOD IN YOUR LIFE?
What are the things that matter to you? The things you focus all of your time and energy on. Many of us are so consumed with the need to get married and have children that every other thing takes second place.
Marriage becomes an idol in our lives and this idol will only grow bigger when we’re married to include the very husband and children we have desperately desired.
When we do this, we miss out on the most important relationship we could ever have.
One thing about idols is that we often don’t even realize what they are. We don’t realise how our identity, our happiness and our successes are tied to these idols.
Dear friend, it’s time for some honest introspection. Have you placed marriage on a pedestal? Do you believe your life will only make sense when you’re married and have children?
Do you equate your marriage with finding your purpose?
Well, I’m here to tell you that it will not happen. Should you force God’s hand or marry without recourse to him, you may find that your marriage becomes a den of problems rather than a haven of peace.
These words may seem harsh and hard but it wouldn’t be the first time. A look at the Bible will show how God feels when we demote him from his rightful place in our lives. The first and everlasting commandment is that we love God and that he remains number one in our lives.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”
“You shall fear the Lord your God and him only shall you serve…”
Deutronomy 6:13 (para.)
GOD MUST COME BEFORE MARRIAGE
Nothing and no one should take his place.
If you know you may have unknowingly done this, I know God is calling you to repent and come back to him.
“Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,”
Never forget that God gave us marriage as a gift and for a purpose – for companionship, for his glory and propagation of his kingdom. We cannot misuse this gift.
Similarly, God is not a trader neither is he Santa Clause. Be careful that your worship is not a trade by barter where you believe you should be rewarded with a good husband for serving God.
We are to serve him and love him because his is God and is worthy of all our praise.
GOD LOVES YOU AND WANTS THE BEST FOR YOU
Here’s another truth, repenting and changing our ways does not mean we will get married. Even if we were to love God without pretence or expectation, we have to realise this is not an automatic opening for marriage.
Marriage is not a reward for being good
Why? Because God’s plan for your life may mean that you will get married now, later or not at all.
I know this is hard to read much more accept but it doesn’t change the truth. God knows the path he has for you, trust him to bring it to pass. I promise you that it will be the best for you.
We need to remember that Our time on earth is merely a blip in eternity.
According to Rick Warren of The Purpose Driven Life “Measured against eternity, our time on earth is just a blink of an eye, but the consequences of it will last forever. The deeds of this life are the destiny of the next.”
Which means we have to be careful how we spend it since it is this temporary life that determines our permanent location (heaven or hell, life or death).
I hope looking at your life this way gives you perspective and helps you prioritize the permanent things over the temporary.
GET MARRIED FOR THE RIGHT REASONS
Dear friend, please don’t get married for marriage’s sake. Do it because you believe it is the right time and the right person.
Don’t scheme, pretend, lie or sin to get married, your life and identity in Christ is worth more than that.
I am always comforted knowing that God knows what’s best for us. You might not understand why it’s taken this long, you might even think he’s forgotten you, but know that he hasn’t.
He wants us to trust that he will give us what is right for us. Even if you’re feeling the pressures, even if everyone around you is getting married (and did it on their own terms, without God), realise that you’re different. No two lives are the same, so stop focusing on the lives of others.
As God’s child, you’re working under heaven’s rules not earth’s rules. This means you cannot live according to the precepts of the world even though you’re in the world.
Be encouraged! Remember that with God, it will all work out for your good and will definitely be better than anything you could have imagined for yourself.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
A dictionary definition of a Christian would be something similar to “a person professing belief in Jesus as the Christ or in the religion based on the teachings of Jesus.” While this is a good starting point, like many dictionary definitions, it falls somewhat short of really communicating the biblical truth of what it means to be a Christian. The word “Christian” is used three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Followers of Jesus Christ were first called “Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11:26) because their behavior, activity, and speech were like Christ. The word “Christian” literally means, “belonging to the party of Christ” or a “follower of Christ.”
Unfortunately over time, the word “Christian” has lost a great deal of its significance and is often used of someone who is religious or has high moral values but who may or may not be a true follower of Jesus Christ. Many people who do not believe and trust in Jesus Christ consider themselves Christians simply because they go to church or they live in a “Christian” nation. But going to church, serving those less fortunate than you, or being a good person does not make you a Christian. Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile. Being a member of a church, attending services regularly, and giving to the work of the church does not make you a Christian.
A Christian is not all about rituals, going to church, or doing certain things while refraining from other things. Becoming a Christian is all about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ, through repentance and faith, is what makes a person a Christian.
The Bible teaches that the good works we do cannot make us acceptable to God. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” So, a Christian is someone who has been born again by God (John 3:3; John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:23) and has put faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that it is “…by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
A true Christian is a person who has put faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, including His death on the cross as payment for sins and His resurrection on the third day. John 1:12 tells us, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” The mark of a true Christian is love for others and obedience to God’s Word (1 John 2:4, 10). A true Christian is indeed a child of God, a part of God’s true family, and one who has been given new life in Jesus Christ.
What Is a Believer?
In the New Testament, the word believer is used for a person who is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah and the author of salvation. The Greek word usually translated “believer” or “believing” carries the idea of faithfulness and loyalty (John 20:27; Acts 16:1; 2 Corinthians 6:15). A believer is one who faithfully trusts in Jesus Christ.
A believer is one who has received the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God into their hearts and repented of their sins, resulting in a new creation (John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17). A believer does more than hear Jesus’ words and accept what He said about God; a believer allows the information to change him (see John 2:23–24). Saving faith is more than mental acceptance of the facts regarding Christ; it involves repentance and unreserved commitment to Him. True believers are those who hear the Word of God, believe it in their hearts, and recognize the value of the message to the extent that they take up their crosses to follow Jesus (Luke 9:23; 14:26–33).
In the Bible, believers were also called disciples. A disciple is one who actively pursues becoming like the one he or she admires. The disciples of Jesus were so committed to becoming like Him that their detractors began calling them “little Christs,” or “Christians” (Acts 11:26). The unbelievers may have meant the term as an insult, but such a name is the highest compliment believers can receive. Our goal as believers is to be “little Christs” in our words, actions, and values (Romans 8:29).
Sadly, the term Christian has lost most of its meaning in our secular world. It has come to mean one’s religious preference, akin to Buddhist, Muslim, or atheist. Today, many people call themselves “Christians” or “believers,” but the label has more to do with culture or upbringing than true faith in Christ. Not so in the first century. Believers lived quite differently from their unbelieving peers. They may have come from any number of wicked pasts, but they had been redeemed and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:9–11). There were no cultural benefits of being a believer. To believe in Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah often meant persecution, rejection, and even death (Acts 8:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 4:8–10).
Believers “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Such faith often comes at a high cost relationally, socially, financially, and even physically. Jesus warned prospective believers to “count the cost” of following Him (Luke 14:25–33). Paul warned that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Believers across the world are right now suffering for their faith, just as Paul and the other apostles did. Even in nations once free, believers are facing increasing hostility toward the exercise of their faith.
A believer has many promises of God to comfort and encourage him and motivate him to greater service. A believer has experienced the new birth: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1). A believer has a relationship with God that sets him free from his old life of guilt, shame, and sin (John 8:36; Romans 8:2). A believer experiences a love like no other and is empowered to love others (John 10:11; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:11). A believer has access to God’s presence and fellowship with the Holy Spirit, who comforts, protects, leads, and guides (Ephesians 2:13, 18; Hebrews 4:16; John 14:16–18).
Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13–14). Believers are those who have found the narrow road that leads to life and remain steadfastly on it no matter who or what opposes them (John 8:31; 2 John 1:9).
How Do I Know If I’m A Christian?
Jesus taught that the condition of a person’s heart will manifest itself in his or her behavior: “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart” (Luke 6:43–45; cf. Matthew 7:16). So, when considering whether or not you are a Christian, you can consider the kind of fruit that is produced in the life of a Christian:
1. Complete trust in Christ’s death and resurrection as sufficient payment for the debt we owe God. A Christian is one who trusts Christ exclusively. Doubts come when we fear we must add something to the work of Christ to ensure our salvation. Ephesians 2:8–9 makes it clear that we are not saved by our works, but by God’s grace alone. No matter how righteous we may appear, none of us come close to earning salvation (Romans 3:23; 5:12; 6:23). We can neither add anything nor take anything away from the Savior’s sacrifice. When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” He meant that He had paid in full the sin debt of all who trust in Him (John 19:30). A Christian rests in the gracious promises of God in Christ.
2. Obedience. A Christian is one who obeys the Lord. In our rush to magnify the wonderful grace of God, we often treat obedience to God as optional. But 1 John 3:6–9 says that a person’s attitude toward sin is how we tell who belongs to God and who belongs to the devil. Salvation transforms our hearts (James 1:22). Romans 6 gives a thorough explanation of why we turn from sin when we are saved: we have died to it and are now alive in Christ. The attitude of a true follower of Jesus is one of sorrow over sin. Proverbs 8:13says, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil.” A Christian hates his own sin and has a strong desire to turn from it. A Christian loves the Lord and shows that love through obedience (John 14:21).
3. The witness of the Holy Spirit. A Christian is one who is led and encouraged by the Spirit. Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” When we surrender our lives to Jesus, His Holy Spirit comes to indwell us and changes the way we view the world, ourselves, and God. He brings an understanding of spiritual truths we could never before grasp (John 14:26). He helps us commune with the Father when we don’t know how to pray (Romans 8:26). He comforts us by bringing to mind the promises of God. He gives us a knowing that quiets our hearts when doubts arise. Romans 8:14 says that “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the children of God.” A Christian has confidence of his or her adoption into God’s family because of the testimony of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:15).
4. The love of God’s people. A Christian is one who shows a sincere love for the family of God. First John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” Although we should love and befriend everyone, Christians naturally gravitate toward other Christians. Second Corinthians 6:14–18 explains why. God’s instructions are for us to grow in love by serving our brothers and sisters and helping them bear their loads (Galatians 5:13–14; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:22). A Christian is known for his love for other Christians (John 13:35).
5. Ongoing discipleship. A Christian is one who continues to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Jesus did not call us to be fans, but followers. He calls us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). All Christians go through seasons of greater and lesser growth, but there is always an upward move toward God. It may at times be two steps forward and one step back, but there will be progress. If we continue in the same worldly mindset we had before conversion, chances are that we were never really converted at all. A disciple is one who looks to Christ for instructions. A disciple yearns to be more like Jesus and rids his or her life of distractions, temptations, and obstacles to that goal. When God adopts us as His children, He desires that we take on a family resemblance (Romans 8:29). A Christian will look more and more like the Savior.
It is good to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If you question whether or not you are a Christian, then self-examination is in order. Doubts about our salvation can be troubling, but false assurances are worse. Thankfully, we have Scripture as our guide. There are specific things we can look for when determining the validity of our profession of faith: trust in Christ, obedience to His Word, the presence of the Holy Spirit, love for God’s people, and continued spiritual growth. We don’t need to live in doubt. When Jesus is Lord of our lives and we live to please and honor Him, we can know beyond a doubt that we are Christians (Matthew 6:33; Luke 6:46; John 14:15).
How To Become a Christian
Jesus Christ declared that He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The question then arises – why did we need to be ransomed? The idea of a ransom is a payment that must be made in exchange for the release of a person. The idea of a ransom is most frequently used in instances of kidnapping, when someone is kidnapped and held prisoner until a ransom is paid for the person’s release.
Jesus paid our ransom to free us from bondage! Bondage from what? Bondage to sin and its consequences, physical death followed by eternal separation from God. Why did Jesus need to pay this ransom? Because we are all infected with sin (Romans 3:23), and are therefore worthy of judgment from God (Romans 6:23). How did Jesus pay our ransom? By dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21). How could Jesus’ death sufficiently pay for all of our sins? Jesus was God in human form, God come to earth to become one of us so He could identify with us and die for our sins (John 1:1,14). As God, Jesus’ death was infinite in value, sufficient to pay for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:2). Jesus’ resurrection after His death demonstrated that His death was the sufficient sacrifice, that He had truly conquered sin and death.
This is the best part. Because of His love for us, God has made it exceedingly simple to become a Christian. All you have to do is repent and turn from your sinful ways, and receive Jesus as your Savior, fully accepting His death as the sufficient sacrifice for your sins (John 3:16), fully trusting Him alone as your Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). As mentioned, becoming a Christian is not all about rituals, going to church, or doing certain things while refraining from other things. Becoming a Christian is all about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ, through faith, is what makes a person a Christian.
Are you ready to become a Christian?
If you are ready to become a true Christian by receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior, all you have to do is believe. Do you understand and believe that you have sinned and are worthy of judgment from God? Do you understand and believe that Jesus took your punishment upon Himself, dying in your place? Do you understand and believe that His death was the sufficient sacrifice to pay for your sins? If your answers to these three questions are yes, then repent of your sins and place your trust in Jesus as your Savior. Receive Him, by faith, fully trusting in Him alone and making Him Lord of your life. That is all it takes to become a Christian!
**More on how to become a Christian? To be born-again or saved? HERE
It is terrible but true—sexual predators target churches. In the mind of a predator, a church offers a compelling target and, too often, an easy target. I recently worked my way through On Guard by Deepak Reju and learned that there are at least six reasons why sexual predators specifically target churches.
“…Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)
1. Christians Can Be Naïve About Sexual Predators
Some sexual offenders state it outright—they go after churches because Christians tend to be naïve. Anna Salter says, “If children can be silenced and the average person is easy to fool, many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.” Reju says, “Christian are, generally speaking, trusting folks.
Child abusers recognize this fact and want to take full advantage of it.” He quotes a former prosecutor who lays it out: “For a variety of reasons, we naively tend to automatically lower our guard when we are amongst professing Christians. This same naïveté is why offenders flock to the faith community; no other environment provides them such quick and easy access to children without fear of raising concerns.”
2. Christians Can Be Ignorant of the Problem
Christians are not only naïve, but also ignorant—ignorant of the problem of abuse and the extent of the problem within faith communities. Many Christians consider it unlikely or impossible that abuse could happen within their church, so they fail to take adequate measures, they ignore warnings and they disregard reports.
Reju says, “Many Christians don’t know how to distinguish likability and trustworthiness. They confuse the two categories, assuming that if someone is courteous and nice, they must also be trustworthy. Moreover, some Christians behave as though the problem doesn’t exist, and some look with suspicion on reports of abuse. They believe children are lying and are more prone to take an adult’s word. Sexual predators know that these dynamics operate in churches, and they know they can get away with a lot on account of it.”
3. Many Churches Offer Sexual Predators Access to Children
Perhaps most simply of all, churches offer access—and often very easy access—to children. Reju says this well: “Because churches are always looking for help with children’s ministry and often are facing shortages of volunteers, sexual offenders know that churches are desperate. In children’s ministry, volunteers are often late. Some cancel at the last minute when they had promised to volunteer.
Others don’t even bother showing up for their service. So, when a courteous, kind, reliable man walks in and offers to help, who’s going to turn him down? No other organization provides such quick and easy access to children. Sexual predators know this, so they show up at churches, eager to make themselves known and ready to serve.”
4. Many So Called Christians Abuse Authority
Sometimes authority is put in the hands of evil individuals who then abuse that authority by taking advantage of others. Christians are rightly taught to submit to authority, but not always warned that there are situations in which authority can and must be defied. “Child abusers will use positions of spiritual authority to gain access to children and abuse them.
Ask yourself: If a pastor or priest walks into a room, what’s your normal disposition? Most of us have a degree of caution around strangers until we’ve gotten to know them and built a trusting relationship. But pastors and priests are often afforded trust just because of their position as clergy.” This, of course, has been proven again and again by sickening news headlines.
5. Churches Can Be Manipulated by Sexual Predators
Church offers religious roles or language that abusers can manipulate to accomplish their ugly purposes. Child abusers often use church-based roles in order to provide rationale and cover for their abuse. An offender may take on a role like Sunday school teacher, nursery worker, youth minister, camp supervisor or pastor in order to gain the position he or she needs to access children. He may “also use religious language to confuse a child’s understanding of God, sin or faith. An offender might tell a child that he is loving the child when in fact he is abusing him.
The child might have a sense that he is sinning in some way, especially if he hears from his parents or the church that sex outside of marriage is sin. But when a Sunday school teacher or pastor or priest tells him something like, ‘God told me to do this, so you must obey me,’ or ‘This is not sin, but love,’ the child will not only be confused but will be inclined not to second-guess a religious authority figure.” Religious roles and language can provide all the cover an abuser needs.
6. Many Churches Offer Cheap Grace
Sometimes abusers are caught, but even then they may get away with their crimes. Abusers count on receiving cheap grace—grace that comes far too freely and with far too little cost. “Abusers are not dumb. They know that if they cry, offer words of contrition and promise never to do it again, they are very likely not to have to face significant consequences.
Pastors and churches are very forgiving. They are quick to apply the gospel—and very, very slow to apply the consequences that come from the law.” An offender will weep and admit that he was wrong and promise never to do anything like it again, and the church may respond by determining they will let it go this once. But when they do that, they simply allow the offender to go right back to his behavior, and allow the child to remain a victim.
In the face of all of this, it is no wonder that the Bible calls us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). But while all of these dangers are true, and while abusers are deliberate in targeting churches, this does not mean that we are left defenseless. For that reason the bulk of Deepak Reju’s book is dedicated to creating and enforcing policies that will protect the innocent—innocent children who participate in church activities, and innocent adults who care for them. Please, will you have someone in your church read the book and see how you can better prevent abuse in your church fellowship.
** Article by Tim Challies at Church Leaders – challies.com / Book by Deepak Reju called “On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church” / Photo by Adrien Olichon at Pexels
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