Jesus Would Never Abandon His Followers

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John 14:15-21

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 

19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

                                

Jesus gave these encouraging words to His disciples on the last night that He shared a meal with them before He was killed upon a cross the next day.  It is very clear throughout the whole evening of this Last Supper that the disciples really did not know what was going on right then, nor were they ready for what would happen next.  They were clueless.  Jesus knew this, and so He gave to them all of these precious promises.

Let’s make a list here of the wonderful promises that awaited the disciples beyond the crucifixion of their Lord, once He had risen from the dead.  Jesus told them:

    • The Father will give you an Advocate/Helper who will never leave you.
    • The Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth.
    • The Holy Spirit will live within you.
    • I, [the Son of God], will never abandon you as orphans — I will come to you.
    • You will see Me again.
    • You also will live again [both physically and spiritually].
    • You will know that I, and the Father, and you will all be united together.
    • I will love you.
    • I will reveal Myself to you.

    

It was very important that Jesus spoke these words of encouragement to the disciples that night, for it was only a few hours later that Jesus was arrested, tried and condemned to die upon a cross.  I’m sure that the disciples must have gone through some very agonizing emotional and spiritual conflict when their great Master was killed.  Truly, they would have felt as if they were abandoned, that they had become spiritual orphans.

These words of Jesus though, were not meant to apply just to these early disciples long ago.  Notice how Jesus ends his talk with promises for “those who love Him”.  This moved the scope of Jesus’ talk beyond the scope of just the Upper Room, and is meant for any person throughout history who has come to know who Jesus is, and has accepted Him as Lord and Saviour of his/her life.  We too can receive all of these same promises which Jesus gave to his first disciples, for we too who believe in Jesus are also His disciples today.

    

I can testify to the truth of these promises which have been real to me in my life.  When I accepted Jesus into my life at age 12, it was not just some mental assent to a doctrine about Jesus.  No, I had come to know Jesus as a real Person in the months that I spent reading the Bible to discover Truth.  I knew that when I put my faith in Jesus, that He indeed did send a Comforter to help me and guide me in the path of righteous living before God.

In addition to the inner prompting from the Holy Spirit as to how to live my life and what choices to make, I often also have felt the presence of Christ being with me.  I knew that when I gave my life to Jesus, that He would be my companion and Friend in life.  And that was something very huge for me, as my growing up years were difficult and lonely in so many ways.  And yet I never ever really felt alone, as I knew I could always talk with Jesus, and He would comfort my heart and heal my emotional wounds.

    

Now there are still many people who do not accept Christ or believe in God who would say that “religion is an emotional crutch for those who are psychologically weak”.  I take offense at this statement as I cannot deny all the times that God has acted in my life in very real ways that could never be explained away as some “psychological delusion”.  But there is one part that I have to agree with here in that statement.  “Religion” is not the answer.

You see, “religion” is for the most part, man-made rule and rituals that have been developed over time by those who want to control and define the “spiritual”.  This was the great problem of the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders who could not accept Jesus because He did not fit within their narrowly defined ritualistic set of rules.

But Jesus did not come to set up new rules.  In fact, these “commandments of mine” that He spoke of were not really new.  His two great commandments were “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind”, and “to love your neighbour as yourself”.  What Jesus was offering was not rules and rituals, but genuine relationships of men with God, and with each other.

    

And so I ask you, “Where are you my friend in your spiritual life?  Are you still pursuing rules of religion in the hopes that God will accept you?  Or are you basing the future salvation of your soul on a relationship which you have built with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?  I pray that you are doing the latter.”

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What Should We Say About Jesus?

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John 9:13 – 23

13 Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, 14 because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. 15 The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.

17 Then the Pharisees again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, “What’s your opinion about this man who healed you?” The man replied, “I think he must be a prophet.” 18 The Jewish leaders still refused to believe the man had been blind and could now see, so they called in his parents. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?”

20 His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind,21 but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue.23 That’s why they said, “He is old enough. Ask him.”

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Imagine what it what it would have been like for this young man who had been blind from birth to suddenly be able to see again.  We do not know exactly how old he was, but according to verse 21, he was no longer a child.  In fact, the Greek here implies that he was a young man for he was “of age” or “mature” now.

What happened to this young man was stunning to say the least.  And it left the Pharisees in a huge quandary.  How could they explain what happened?  What were they to do?  What were they to say about this man, Jesus?  Some said that Jesus was not from God, for He broke the Sabbath law handed done by God prohibitting work on the Sabbath day.  Yet others were unsure that such a miracle could be done by anyone unless God were with him.

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For us who live two millennia later and in another culture, it is difficult to see why the Pharisees had such a difficult time with this miracle that Jesus did.  I think it would be good then for to consider the historical and religious background of the whole situation.  To start with, we need to look at the regulations regarding the Sabbath which God spoke to Moses upon Mount Sinai.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”  Exodus 20:8-11

Most people are familiar with the “Ten Commandments” that God gave to Moses and the Israelite people.  Keeping the Sabbath holy for the Lord is Law #4.  The intent of this law was that God’s people (and all household members, servants and animals) would rest from their work (a practical issue) and set aside time to worship their Creator God (a theological issue).  All of this was good.

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But the Jewish people seemed to always get it backwards somehow.  In the Old Testament period, from the time of Moses until the time of the Exile hundreds of years later, the people couldn’t get the idea straight that God was their one and only God and King (theocratic monarchy).  And because of their polytheism (worshiping multiple gods), the LORD God sent them into Exile to disciple them for this sin.

Amazingly, when the Jews came back less than a century later, they were from that point on a completely monotheistic people.  The problem is they were so fanatical about their desire not to offend God, that they created hundreds of laws to regulate every day living and created ritualistic legalism, and forgot the importance of having a living and dynamic relationship with God.

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And so the control of the Pharisees became almost tyrannical in nature, even though they really believed they were helping the people to be in right relationship with God.  When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, they could not see the miracle (or the Man behind the miracle) because of their over inflated importance of keeping their “religious rituals” intact.

You know, there is an important application for us here for today.  When you get to the real root of the practices of the Pharisees, they believed that it was utterly important what you did in order to be acceptable in God’s sight.  And we have this tendency among people today.  It is still believed that “if I am a good person and do the right things, then I will be accepted by God and will enter Heaven.”

My friend, there is so much more to faith than rules and regulations.  Ultimately, all of us will also have to decide what we will do with Jesus and what we will say about Him.  Follow along in the next two Bible study articles on John 9 to see the progression of faith in this young man and learn from him.  My prayer is that you will see Jesus for who He really is.

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How Should We Pray To God

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There is a colleague of mine who reminds us weekly to send in current prayer requests and praise reports to her.  She then sends out the compiled list of our prayer/praise items to a large number of people who pray for all of us and the ministry work we do in Papua New Guinea.  Recently, she included in her reminder the following thoughts that someone else had shared with her.  I thought these were excellent thoughts worth passing on.  I will pick up on some of my thoughts after you read the six points below.

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“How Should We Pray To God”

1. I was reminded of James 5:17-18 which talks of Elijah praying and God causing a drought for 3 1/2 years and then he prayed for rain and it rained.  And we are reminded that he was a man like we are.  (Therefore pray! God is powerful.)

2.I was also reminded of James 4:1-3 where people don’t ask, so they don’t get, and then they ask but don’t get because they have the wrong motives.  They want it for their own pleasures and desires. (Ask with right motives.)

3. If we beg God, He might just give us what we ask for, but we might regret it later. Or at least others might. 2Kings 20:1-21:1 and 2Chron. 32:24-33:2 Hezekiah was told that he was going to die, but he prayed and wept and God healed him. God added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life. Unfortunately, Hezekiah responded in pride. God was angry with him and he repented. But he messed up when the Babylonians came and he showed them all the treasures he had and the temple. When he died, Manasseh became king at the age of 12.  He was Judah’s most wicked king reigning 55 years.  He would never have been born had God not healed Hezekiah. (Make sure what you are asking for is what God wants, because you might otherwise get something you really don’t want.)

4. I thought of Paul in 2 Cor.12:7-10. He said God had given him great revelation, but then to keep him humble he was given a thorn in the flesh.  He asked God three times to remove it, but God said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (God sometimes doesn’t give us what we ask for because He wants us to rely on Him and find our sufficiency in Him.)

5. The disciples asked Jesus how to pray and He said in Matt 6:9-13 the Lord’s Prayer which reminds us to ask for our “daily bread”. (Ask God for what we really need for the moment.)

6. Finally, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Jesus felt needs and asked if there was any way to avoid what he was about to experience. But He surrendered to God’s will and asked for the Father’s will to be done.)

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I was very impressed with what this person had to share.  So often I have read articles about prayer and there is much said about when and how often to pray, the body positions that can help us to pray and the kinds of prayers we can say.  But so much of this, while still helpful, seems to be focused in on the structure and physical elements involved in prayer.

But in these points listed above, I see so much clearer the reminder that we must have the right attitude when we come to God in prayer.  It is so important for us to remember just who we are and who God is as we approach Him.  Without denying the great importance that God places on each of us as individuals, I think it is still good for us to remember how very small and finite we are in this universe, and just how big and awesomely powerful our God is compared to us.

    

As I look into my current life situation, I am actually very grateful for being able to live with the muscular disease that I have. Of course it doesn’t feel very great many days as I battle fatigue and pain.  But my condition has brought me into a closer relationship with God than I ever had before.  It was in my days of sufficiency that I roared ahead in life and often forgot to include God in my daily affairs.  Now in my insufficiency, I seek out my God throughout each day, and I find He is not only there, but He meets me at my points of need so much more than I had even dreamed of.

And that is the point, I think, often when God “allows” difficulties and obstacles to come into our lives.  I believe that God wants us to slow down in our lives and humbly come to Him as our Maker, our Provider and our Sustainer.  That’s hard to do when we think so highly of ourselves and we seem to have no need for God in our lives.  And so God reminds us, sometimes gently, and sometimes not so gently, that we still need Him, and He needs us to come to Him.

My prayer for you my friend is that you too know this powerful God who loves to show His love and His mercy to us who are His created handiwork.  Let us come to God with a humble heart, and yet also come with expectant hearts that He will do great and mighty things in our lives.  Let us not presume too much, but also let us not assume that going to meet with God in prayer is optional for our lives.  Above all, let us let Him have His way in our lives.  You might be amazed at the wonderful blessings that lie in store for you as you remain obedient to Him.  May God bless you richly in Christ Jesus.

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The Practice Of Forgiveness

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There is no doubt that we all understand that it is important to forgive others.  We may not always feel like we want to forgive others who have wronged us or offended us.  But then we have to accept the forthright bluntness of the word’s of Jesus in Matthew chapter 6 verses 14-15, right after He taught His disciples how to pray to God the Father.  Jesus 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.

We have plenty of material and many sermons that tell us the importance of forgiving others.  But what I think is more helpful for most of us today is seeing in person or at least hearing about real situations that exemplify and flesh out what forgiveness looks like.  That is why the following message written by a close missionary friend of mine caught my attention.  I hope that it encourages and challenges you like it did for me.

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When You Hurt Someone

If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”   Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

“An email I wrote last month hurt someone I love. I was in a hurry and I carelessly communicated the exact opposite of what I meant to say. For weeks my friend carried the burden of thinking I was angry at her when nothing could be farther from the truth. Another friend finally wrote and bravely, lovingly confronted me with my seemingly rude, uncaring words. I was shocked and could not imagine how I could have been so terribly misunderstood.

Until I found and read that email from her perspective. Ouch. Ever done something like that? To quote an Accenture billboard, “It’s what you do next that counts.” I firmly believe that mistakes like mine can actually strengthen relationships if what you do next is to ask for forgiveness – as fast as you can.

Don’t make excuses or try to avoid humiliation. The Bible says, leave church and go! The truth is we only avoid hurting others if we keep our relationships shallow. Misunderstandings, purposeful angry words and other hurtful things will happen and they will change the relationship, for better or worse.

In the last month I listened to a preacher confess during a sermon that he let his long work hours hurt his marriage, and I heard an elder in a different church confess that he spoke hurtful words when his preacher came to him with a problem. Both of these godly men quickly made things right with the person they hurt, and when they realized that their sin involved more than just one person they publicly confessed it – in tears.

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 What an impact that must have had on the two congregations to have that pastor and that elder make their public confession and to ask for forgiveness in such an open way.  Wow!!  I’m sure that it was not easy for them.  But the personal peace they must have felt after taking care of this issue of the heart, plus the relationships that are repaired are worth the risk.  This reminds me of what happened in our village in PNG in 2001.

For six months I had been holding a “Bible School” program with people under our house.  (In PNG, most houses are built up on posts due to the flooding of the river, the chickens and dogs that run underneath, for good shade, etc.)  Our area back then was almost completely a Catholic oriented region.  At the end of the six months of Bible teaching, I challenged the people to consider making a public declaration of faith in Jesus and mark it with adult baptism in the stream behind our house, if they felt God was asking them to do that.

We did have three baptisms that were witnessed by most people in the village.  I thought this was a tremendous event for the sake of the Kingdom.  But about a week later I was “chastised” by some leaders of the village Catholic church and told not to preach or teach the people any more.  I knew that theology was a big part of the reason for this, but I also realized even more importantly that in this Papuan consensus-and-discussion culture, I had offended the leaders simply by not asking them to be involved with the overall decision making process that occurred.  I believe that if I had, they very likely in the end would have been happy to see these individuals making a stand for the Gospel.

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Very quickly I went about to restore these wounded and broken relationships by doing the culturally correct Papuan action.  Namely, Jill and I cooked a huge rice and tinned meat meal and invited the leaders to a meeting where I could apologize to them.  Not for the baptisms, but rather that I had not respected their village leadership.

At the end of the meal, the other correct thing to be done to show full forgiveness and acceptance of one anther was to shake hands with each other.  This then marked the end of the “wrong”.  And you know what?  The regional Catholic Bishop just happened to be there that night, and he shook my hands and said, “I am so glad you are in this village and teaching the people about God.”  Wow!  So restoring our relationships restored me to a place where the Catholic leaders even approved of the teaching and evangelism I was doing.

I am grateful for this reminder from my friend about practising forgiveness.  May we all follow this example and see relationships restored, lives impacted, and God glorified through it all.

The Joy of Reading God’s Word

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life.

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Passion For The Word Of God

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Reading God’s Word is one of the simplest and the most common spiritual disciplines for connecting with God’s heart. I choose to expose myself to every verse in the Bible at least once a year. Sometimes I read an inordinate amount of God’s Word in December, but I will finish reading all of it by the end of the year. This is not my study time, nor lesson preparation time, but simply an attempt to understand the broad scope of God’s written Word.

We can have different motives for reading the Bible. One motive is to read through the Bible to accomplish something. A better motive is to read through the Bible to learn something that can glorify our incredible God. Self-glorification comes from focusing on my accomplishing a spiritual activity.

Some of the religious people in Jesus’ day had an issue of spiritual pride. They had an immense knowledge of the Bible, but not a passion for God. Their passion was for accomplishment and self-righteousness. Their Bible knowledge led to more pride in their great accomplishment. When we read the Bible with a desire to develop passion for God, our Bible knowledge will nurture that passion and not lead to pride.

–Taken from The Path toward Passion (Nine Disciplines that Connect Your Heart to God’s) by Dean Trune. (Click on the blue title for more information about this resource).

Holy Spirit, teach me as I read Your word and convict me when I read it only to accomplish rather than to know You better. May I learn how to pray through Your living word, seeking wisdom and knowledge from Your heart.

Posted 30 Aug 2011

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Reading God’s Word is a great thing to do.  Not because we “have to” but because we want to do it.  Reading God’s Word has become a natural part of my daily life.  Or if not daily, certainly it is a regular part of my week.

I heard recently a powerful preacher say that if we can spend some good devotional time in the Bible at least four times a week, then we will see our personal life grow in a positive direction, which includes our marriage, our business life, and our interpersonal relationships with others.

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Now you may have heard about the many “plans” that are out there that are meant to help you with your Bible devotional readings.  And all of them are great, in their own ways.  Having a plan for reading Scripture is a good thing for many of us who like or need to have structure to guide us in our daily lives.

The main thing, as the devotional says above, is not to get so caught up in the “plan” that we forget to worship the One who is to be found in the Scriptures.  As I reflect on Scripture passages that speak about the benefits that come from regularly reading God’s Word, the following verses come to mind, each which teach an important truth:

2 Peter 1:20-21  The Bible’s origin comes from God, not man.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.  For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 10:14, 17  Salvation and Faith come from hearing Scripture.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?…. So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

2 Timothy 3:16-17  Every part of Scripture is beneficial for us.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed.

Psalm 119:11, 105  God’s Word guides us and helps us to not sin.

Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.

Your word is a lamp to guide me
and a light for my path.

Joshua 1:8  God’s Word helps steer us to be successful in life.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

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These are just a few of the rich promises that lay within the pages of the Bible.  And there are many ways in which we can read and learn the messages that God’s Word contains: using devotional guides, studying themes, following Bible reading plans, etc.

The main message here is not to worry so much about “how” to read the Bible, but rather that we are reading God’s Word.  This is how we learn about who God is and what He has done for us.  That is how we build our relationship with God.  And that is what the Christian faith is all about.

God And His Word Will Guide Us

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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Trusting God for the Future

God will reveal what we need to know for the future when the time is right. We know that, for some reason beyond our understanding, some things must wait in a trusting relationship with God.

Other texts make some things clear:

  • It is always the will of God to pray for sexual purity and to ask God for that to be true within family, friends, and society. This means celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in the “one man/one woman” marriage bond. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, NASB).
  • It is always the will of God to pray that others hear about Jesus Christ and His salvation. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day”(John 6:40, NASB).
  • It is always the will that we baptize and coach those who take that step: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
  • It is always the will of God that we become a people of God with other believers together as the power of the Holy Spirit flows through us, and that everything in heaven and on earth be “summed up,” joined together under the Lordship of Christ. “He made known to us the mystery of His will . . . the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth” (Ephesians 1:9-10, NASB).

–Adapted from Power Praying (Hearing Jesus’ Spirit by Praying Jesus’ Prayer) by David Chotka

Lord, thank You for what You have revealed to me in Your word, so that I am able to pray with clarity about what is on Your heart and mind for my life. May I be obedient in these things as You teach me to hear the voice of the Spirit.

Posted 19 Nov 2011

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Perhaps the most frequently asked question by Christian young people is, “What is God’s will for me?”  Now this could mean they are wanting to know what God’s overarching plan is for their life.  Or, the person may simply want to know which decision they ought to make as they consider more than one option of what they could do in the realm of day-to-day living.

What’s interesting these days, is that these questions are being asked by Christians of all ages.  There is certainly more options available to most people living in the developed western culture.  Along with that is greater freedom to make important life-changing decisions.  Then add into this the current instability of our society, where job security is no longer guaranteed, and the economic downturn is causing many people to have to rethink their options and their lifestyle.

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It is good to know then that in the midst of the turbulent world in which we live, that we can be sure that there are still some absolutes upon which we can stand and which can help to guide us in how to live.  I am thinking of the Bible, which provides us with tangible and realistic ethical principles which can guide us in how to live our lives, just as the North Star has been a point of reference for sailors over the centuries which helped them to navigate the seas.

Many of us though desire to know more clearly and specifically what exactly it is that God would have us do.  I looked at this issue briefly in a recent article as I tried to encourage people to go forward when we sense that God is leading us to make important decisions.  (You can read that article here.)  Take a good look at the three questions near the end of the article.

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What is important to realize is that Christianity is not just a religion with a book full of rituals which we must perform to be in good standing with God.  No, Christianity is a relationship with a Living God.  And He is intimately concerned about us and desires that we seek His help and His guidance in our lives.  1 Peter says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

We also know from Scripture that God is ready to guide us in our daily decision making, as long as we are prepared to fully trust Him as to what He is telling us to do.  Proverbs 3:5-6 say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

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And knowing that God cares so much just about me and about my wife, Jill, helps me to relax and not worry too much about how things will turn out for us in 2012.  Sure, there are some big questions in front of us.  Do we maintain a home in Canada?  Do we consider living long-term in Papua New Guinea again?  Is that even an option?  How does living and working in Dallas fit in, like I did this year?  Do we let my muscle condition dictate where we live, or not?

Yet in the midst of all these questions, I have a sense of peace knowing that my God will walk before me and show me that way.  As we head into the New Year, do you have this sense of peace?  Let God’s Spirit and His Word, the Bible, provide you with this security, and give you hope for a good new year.

Christian Perspective On Wealth

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The Plinky Question for this week is:  “What Does Wealth Mean to You?”

That’s an easy question, isn’t it?  I mean, isn’t the answer obvious? Wealth is money, jewelry, fancy cars, exotic holiday locations, power, lots of material objects, land & property, and on and on goes the list.  But if that is the answer, then only a very tiny fraction of people in the world would be considered “wealthy people”.

And yet, there is a stunning and sad fact of life that goes along with the thought just expressed above.  If you ask this question “What is wealth?” to the average person, you will find them stating what I just wrote above.  And then if you ask a related question, “Do you think wealthy people are generally happy?” most people would very quickly answer “No!  I doubt that.”  And why is that do you think?

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Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Rich people get bored.  How many days can you just sit on a beach and drink champagne?
  2. Rich people have to be suspicious of everyone.  Every hand that reaches out to shake their hand will often ask for some kind of hand out or suggest ways that they can help spend that money.
  3. Rich people live in fear.  They become targets for kidnappers and potential blackmail people.
  4. Rich people can buy but not hold friendships.  Once the money is gone, supposed friends seem to disappear.
  5. Rich people cannot escape the inevitable no matter how hard they try.  How many plastic surgeries will they endure to keep looking young, and their money does them no good when they die?

Now if even just half of what I suggest here is true, then there is certainly no way that I ever want to be a really wealthy man.  I mean really, if riches ultimately cannot provide a person with joy and true long-lasting friendships, then why pursue those riches.  (Ah ha, I’ve just revealed a part of what true wealth is: it is having true meaningful relationships with others, and possessing an inner spirit of joy.)

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Just recently, I worked through a Southeast Asia translation on the book of Matthew.  Consider from the English back translation how they translated the words in Mt. 6:19-21:

“Don’t gather treasure for yourself in this world, where termites and rust will destroy that treasure of yours, and a thief can break in and steal it.  Instead, gather your treasure in heaven, where termites and rust cannot destroy it, and a thief cannot break in and steal it.  For where your treasure is, that is where your heart is also.

Notice here the two dangers we face if we build up our “treasures” here on earth?  We face the possibility that either termites or rust will destroy whatever we own.  Now that probably sounds pretty odd to you, doesn’t it?  When was the last time that we had to fight off termites or deal with rust in our comfortable North American homes?

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Consider this from the perspective of someone who lives in a remote village in some developing country though.  And it is more than Southeast Asia that I am thinking of.  It is the Pacific Island countries, the tropical jungle areas of South America, the dusty sun-baked villages of Africa, and many more places in the world.  There is still a majority of the world living in poor to poverty-stricken areas.

For these kinds of people, their vast wealth in life can be listed on a short piece of paper: 2 sets of clothes (maybe), a wooden, mud or bamboo hut, a couple of old dented pots, a machete, and an ax if they are real fortunate, etc.  And so for them, the danger of termites eating through their walls and floors, and rust damaging their few tools and cooking items is certainly a real threat to their livelihood, and perhaps their very survival.

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But Jesus’ words are meant for even these poor people to hear.  We must not put our trust and our hopes in even these few meager items, for life is more than just surviving from day to day.  And life is most certainly more than all the trinkets, gadgets and possessions we have in the West.  No, real life begins and ends in our relationship with God.

You see, it is really all about perspective and values.  If we view life totally from a “Me” perspective, and if we place a high value on the things of this world, then everyone from the billionaire to the shanty town dweller will be yearning for more than what they presently have. So a very “wealthy” person or a destitute person have it all wrong when it comes to what is of true worth in this life.

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In Matthew 13, Jesus teaches many parables, and in verses 44 – 46, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a great treasure found buried in a field and to  a fabulous costly pearl found at a market.  Jesus states in these parables that finding the joy or having God rule over one’s life (i.e. the meaning of “Kingdom of Heaven”) is worth so much that a person would be willing to sell all earthly possessions to be able to own that field, to buy that pearl, to become a citizen with God’s Kingdom.

So what is my perspective on wealth?  I know that I am a child of the King, and an heir to all the promises of God and all the blessings and riches of Heaven.  I have the love of God my Father, and the salvation bought for me by Jesus, and the joy and presence of the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of other believers.  What more could I ever want.  Truly, I am a wealthy man.

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