Cain Versus Abel

Soulwinning is very important to God. That, in itself, can never go wrong. But what is the state of your heart when you go out soulwinning? What is your motivation? Is it reward, glory, crowns, or is soulwinning a means to make yourself feel better? Win contests perhaps? The number of souls you have led to God will not even count as yours because you did not do any of the saving. You are simply an instrument used by God for His purpose. That is the privilege. That is the honor. Sadly, we often make something more out of it other than what it is.

As an instrument, one cannot have any claim to any kind, or degree, of success. It is very pompous for a Christian to say that he has given God his all and has run out of purpose for having been such a “faithful” servant. That is about the brightest red flag EVER.

Yet, we often lay claim to success as if we deserve its reward and glory. A scalpel does not receive praise as the surgeon who cuts meticulously with it. A piano does not receive praise as the pianist who plays concertos it. A hammer does not receive praise as the carpenter who builds infrastructure with it. A brush does not receive praise as the artist who paints masterpieces with it. Clay does not receive praise as the potter who forms perfection with it. No instrument can ever serve its purpose without the hand of its master. God says in Jeremiah 51:20, “Thou are my battle axe and weapons of war…” Christians are His to do as He intends for His Name’s sake, and because He is who He says He is.

That is the very same picture as a Christian who can never serve his purpose without the hand of his Master. The Bible does say that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens. Blessings and rewards are things that we cannot claim as rightfully ours. They are His to give. There is no such thing as blackmail when it comes to these things. That is why I believe that what one does matters not so much as the motivation behind it.

The story of Cain and Abel speaks of two young men -brothers- who gave offerings unto God (Genesis 4:1-10). Did both serve God? They surely did. Did both give all they had to please God? They surely did. Did both give offerings unto God? Yes, they did. Outwardly, they both showed obeisance to the Almighty.

However, did God accept both offerings? The answer is no. This eventually led to the murder of Abel at the hand of his brother Cain. The point is that God had a reason for accepting one offering while rejecting the other. Surely, Cain must have worked hard to be able to bring God gifts. That was the most likely reason behind his anger against God, but could only direct at his brother. But why did God not accept Cain’s willing offering?

Genesis 4:7 KJV “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door…”

Cain did not have inward humility and sincerity to back his outward offering to God. Point in fact is his very strong and negative reaction to the event. A true offering that is rejected breaks the heart of the giver. He questions himself, and he wallows in self-pity; not that God would turn away a true offering in the first place. A rejection to a supposedly true offering will give rise to anger by the one who offers –hence, Cain.

The point is, everything that a person is able to do for the Lord is due to God’s own omnipotence and grace. It never is because of the person himself. Sadly, we often let our service get into our heads. No one is immune because every one has innate pride. Glory is something one easily desires, as well. Every person requires validation – one that is the responsibility of parents everywhere; and because of their failure, this validation is sought for in other sources. Things could only get worse.

When does it stop? Salvation in Jesus Christ? Truthfully, no. That life-changing event simply marks the beginning of a real warfare against our enemies: the now old flesh, the Devil, and the world. That war is waged endlessly; and if any of these enemies are ignored, they taint whatever it is that you do for the Almighty God.

So, who takes the glory? Who actually owns it? Who deserves it? The Master or the tool?

Isaiah 10:15 KJV “Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.”

Pride. Arrogance. Haughtiness.

You know what else pride causes you to do?

Romans 9:20-21 KJV “[20] Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it , Why hast thou made me thus? [21] Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”

It makes you question the All-Knowing Lord of creation; He who holds all wisdom. He who owns all knowledge. It makes you call Him incompetent and unwise. It makes you elevate yourself over Him, and His glory. It makes you better than God; well, in your head that is. It makes you believe that you can do so much better than Him.

Does that not sound familiar?

Isaiah 14:12-14 KJV “[12] How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! [13] For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: [14] I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”

Whatever happened to Satan after his motives? And to think that he is even more powerful than us humans. It begs the question: whatever happens to Christians who serve God with wrong motives?

A true Christian will have his service tested through fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:13-15 KJV “[13] Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. [14] If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. [15] If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

What happens to those who did not acknowledge and invite Christ to be their own personal Lord and Savior?

Revelations 20:11-15 “[11] And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. [12] And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. [13] And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. [14] And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. [15] And whosoever was not found in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

A person first needs reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ before his service even becomes a factor in his life’s purpose. If you remain God’s enemy for your stubbornness and pride, then whatever “good” it is that you do will count as nothing by default.

The Bible points out two masters: God and mammon; but life has shown us another master in competition with God –ourselves. It is a battle for glory between God and Man. It is a battle between Abel and Cain –between truth within and showmanship without. It is a choice between being a God-pleaser or men-pleaser.

This is in no way intended to justify Christians who do not go beyond Sunday morning service for the Lord. They are, in themselves, failing God a different way. They have Christ in them, but they still struggle with coming to grips with the fact that He is already their only reality.

Going back, there is an obvious tell for Christians, who are actively serving the Lord in Church, if their service to God is for Him and not for themselves. It directly involves those Christians who are not as active, or even absent, from any ministry or service. A proud Christian is one who looks down on others who do not do what he or she does for the Lord. A proud Christian is one who condemns them, makes fun of them, and waves away their supposed Christianity. Why not pray for them sincerely instead? Why not become a friend instead? Is not that one of the many messages and commands of Christ? To love thy neighbor, the one who needs you? Why take on a arrogant stance and assert your expected rewards from God over those who “will not” receive anything? Or worse, why ignore them completely?

Romans 14:10 KJV “But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”

Do not serve God in order to be right with Him. It does not work that way. Get right with

od, and thus be able to serve Him truthfully. God will only accept true service done for Him. Serving God goes beyond soulwinning and involvement in Church ministries. If those are the only things that you consider as true service, your Christianity is shallow. Your Christianity’s goal is the limelight. It is called the Christian Life, after all. There are too many factors that affect how you serve the Lord. Ignore one, you destroy the rest. You live a pretentious life –a pretentious service- to an All-Knowing God. The Christian Life is not limited to what you do as a Christian, but how you live that life in every single aspect that we so easily ignore for personal glory’s sake. Nothing else is more disgusting.

And with that said, I submit the Word of God to have the last say:

Colossians 3:17, 23 KJV “[17] And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. [23] And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

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Spiritual Warfare

There is no one in the whole of existence who is actually trustworthy than the Heavenly Father. Despite being fully OMNI, He allowed for events to unfold as they are because, otherwise, He would not be God. There would be no point to giving Man free will.

How is it that there is a dilemma?

The Almighty God is perfect and holy. His intention and desire for Man is for the best, but Man (in his God-given intellect & will) made his own definition of what is best. I believe that we want for ourselves what God wants for us. We just want to do it in our own imprefect ways, and these ways lead to self-destruction (Pro. 14:12, 16:9). We do not realize that we fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:10 KJV).

Thus, Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

If that sounds easy, you are right. It is easy. If that is difficult to live by, you are right again. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Jesus challenges us with, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation (Matt. 26:40-41 KJV).

The Christian life is hard work. The salvation part is done, but the spiritual warfare is constant. Do not delude yourself into ever thinking that there is respite in this war. That is where many of us fall -the learned complacency. The thing is, repentance from one’s sinful ways and obedience to the Word of God make it a joyful life despite the battles. If you are not careful, like many of us have not been, you will be devastated. You will experience even worse difficulties because God may love you, but He also is a Just God. He will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5), but He will have you live in the consequences of your sins (Jer. 30:12-15 KJV).

Obedience requires trust. The evidence for that is everywhere: in homes, in school, in Church, in the office, in friendship, in relationships, and in so many other avenues. Where leadership is involved, you can be sure that obedience only happens when there is trust.

People will be people, and people will keep failing you. The interesting, but sad, part is that we continue to seek out people who we can trust. Realize that it is always a risk. On the other hand, trusting God carries with it no risk. Whatever challenge you might think there is in terms of trusting God, it is the work of the enemy. That enemy could be the devil and his minions, the world, and even yourself. We all have giants and demons that we constantly battle against every single moment.

There can be no rest in prayer and devotionals. Christians have a direct line to the Almighty through Jesus Christ, but we seldom realize how profoundly powerful that fact is. We have, in our disposal, God’s power, security, strength, and courage. We do not face each day weaponless, but we face each day seemingly powerless because we do not abide in the Lord. How you prioritize God will always gravely affect the way your life goes each day.

Are you not tired fighting? Are you not weary? Are you not exhausted? Don’t you just wish that Christ comes back now, so we can all rest in His eternity?

We are all tired, but we will never be defeated.

Keep your eyes on Jesus. Forget the stormy waves crashing round about you. When you are at the end of your rope, grab a hold on the hem of Jesus’ garment.

1. Know GOD! TRUST!
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9 KJV).”
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end (Jer. 29:11 KJV).”
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever (Heb. 13:8 KJV).”
“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10 KJV).”
“In my distress I called upon the Lord , and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears (Psalm 18:6 KJV).”
“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord , the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. [29] He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. [30] Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: [31] But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:28-31 KJV).”
“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil (Pro. 3:7 KJV).”
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4 KJV).”
“For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things (1 John 3:20 KJV).”
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. [9] Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. [10] Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up (James 4:8-10 KJV).”

2. Seek the Lord FIRST! PRIORITIZE.
“I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word. Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word (Psalm 119:147-148 KJV).”
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matt. 6:33-34 KJV).”
“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: [7] Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord , and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:6-7 KJV).”

3. Ask Jesus to fuel your faith. ABIDE.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief (Mark 9:23-24 KJV).”
“But Jesus beheld them , and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26 KJV).”
“And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27 KJV).”
“And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God (Luke 18:27 KJV).”

4. Fill yourself with God’s Word. MEDITATE.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success (Joshua 1:8 KJV).”
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me (John 5:39 KJV).”
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17 KJV).”

5. Fill your day with prayers. DRAW NEAR.
“Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17 KJV).”
“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice (Psalm 55:17 KJV).”

6. Ask. When you ask, BELIEVE.
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matt. 21:21-22 KJV).”
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed (James 1:5-6 KJV).”
“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matt. 21:22 KJV).”

7. Mortify your flesh! DENY.
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5 KJV).”
“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live (Rom. 8:13 KJV).”
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16 KJV).”
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness (Rom. 6:16 KJV)?”
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. [13] Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Rom. 6:12-13 KJV).”
“Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. [3] Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (James 4:2-3 KJV).”

8. Forsake FEAR! BRAVE.
“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee (Deu. 31:6 KJV).”
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest (Jos. 1:9 KJV).”
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness (Isaiah 41:10 KJV).”
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27 KJV).”
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10 KJV).”
“…Be not afraid, only believe (Mark 5:36 KJV).”

9. Take the fight to the enemy! CONQUER.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us , and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, [2] Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. [3] For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. [4] Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin (Hebrews 12:1-4 KJV).”

There is so much to do as we wage war against the enemy. We prepare and we do battle simultaneously. It is an exhausting situation to be in, but what the Almighty God really wants us to do in the face of all evil is stated well in 1 Peter 5:7-9 KJV: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. [8] Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: [9] Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”

Jesus gives further instruction in Matthew 11:28-29 KJV: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

We can truly find rest and strength in the Heavenly Father. He says in Psalm 91:1-2 KJV, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”

All of this can be summed up in just one verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14. It says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

God’s daily gift is a fresh new start (Lam. 3:22-23 KJV). Yesterday, and all its mistakes, has ended. What you choose to do today is what matters.

The Bigger Picture

Why do we not have enough laborers for the Lord today?

The world is different today in terms of how information is spread and/or is manipulated. There is a boom in technology that allows for a very rapid dissemination of news. Many Christian Churches today do not address issues and concerns to the human psyche (both emotional and mental). Many church leaders (young or old, new or veteran) are so focused on “ministry” that they ignore problems that keep a Christian from serving the Lord in spirit and in truth. Guess where these broken Christians find the attention that they desperately need? Secularism. Liberals. Motivational Speakers. The Internet.

Are we to minister to the world, but not each other?

The worst part is, “strong” Christians in church ridicule these fellow believers for finding attention and acknowledgement somewhere else, without realizing that the attention and acknowledgement should be coming from them. What’s the point of their maturity if they don’t use this to pull up struggling Christians around him/her. Shouldn’t their maturity help them to also focus on their fellow believers and helping them keep their own focus on Christ?

A missionary said, “Our goals in life are to glorify God, serve God, and to do the will of God”. Isn’t taking care of your neighbor (and we know how Jesus defined this term) a part of this? Why is there a shortsighted view to how the Christian life should be lived?

Sadly, many Christians today find more peace in personal (which is really isolation) communion with the Lord rather than being in church (which really means fellow believers). Why is that? Church is supposed to be a refuge for troubled believers, but the truth is, only a small percentage of these troubles are addressed. These are the “lucky” ones, for lack of a better term. In fact, these troubled Christians are judged and condemned and looked down upon by their fellow believers. I mean, come on. Seriously?

Most people in Church are MARTHAs, while the rest of the congregation are struggling to become MARYs.

It isn’t that most Christians do not understand what their responsibility is in Christ’s kingdom. It’s just that they’re still so messed up, they’re still struggling within fighting both demons and giants, and they’re not finding a fellow warrior in church to help them fight tooth-and-nail against their enemies. To what end? To become ready to serve the Lord with no hang ups.

What happens when struggling Christians commit themselves to ministry? They eventually struggle worse because their responsibility grows while their internal battles are getting worse. What happens? They fall out of the service for the Lord; and, surprise surprise… They are judged even worse by the so-called faithful Christians.

Isn’t Christianity supposed to be growing people in the Lord? Christ and His blood is absolute in power, but there is still a need to recover. There is a need to rise up. There is a need to address the guilt and shame of the past. But, why am I seeing a Christianity bent on growing church buildings instead? Why am I seeing a Christianity where church leaders sue each other over land while the world is watching (and they cover it up, too)? Church is the people. Many of us know that. But, to the ignorance of most, the people are ignored. Churches should be filled with broken people (and it is), but if this brokenness is ignored, that congregation is wasting everybody’s time, effort, and money.

If you are not “strong” in the Lord… If you are not “faithful” in ministry… Then, you are accused of a problematic Christianity. Your salvation in Christ, which is secure according to God’s Word, is questioned. Why? Because you are being “weak”.

The veracity of one’s Christianity today is judged by the world (yes, the local church is also a type of world, especially when it deviates from the most basic truth in the Bible…love) as an outward obedience to the church hidden behind the commandments of God’s Word. There is a manipulation to get people to surrender to full-time ministry (because short-term surrender is just not the same) even as these people are not ready; even as these people are struggling with sin; even as these people are depressed, or ashamed, or guilty.

Take for example the Apostle Paul. He planted churches, but what did he do? Did he ignore these churches and the Christians in them? Did he keep going to further places just to solely plant churches? No, he revisited these churches. He wrote them letters. He rebuked immorality. He corrected the infected gospel. He addressed people’s problems. Why? So, they can serve the Lord much better once these were addressed and resolved and won against. What do you think happened even when Paul had to stop going out into the world to preach Christ and plant churches? The people in those churches he planted, and whose problems were addressed, went on out to the world and preached Christ and planted churches, and addressed problems, and grew people; and the cycle went on and on.

For as long as Church leaders do not acknowledge that Christians have a need for their problems to be dealt with, there will always be a vacuum in the ranks of Christian soldiers. All we have are Christian survivors, not Christian warriors.

Too much emphasis is placed on supporting missionaries who are out on the front lines. Hey, every Christian is on their own front line. If you want total and relentless support for missionaries and local churches, take care of your people. You can always say that nothing is more important than reaching others for Christ, but how can you get people to surrender themselves to God wholeheartedly when they are not all right? You cannot simply ignore every Christian’s internal struggles just because you had to swallow yours in the past. You cannot sweep people’s needs under the rug and go straight to standing up…because you have to be a man; you have to sacrifice yourself or you do not love God.

There is a bigger picture.

An unhealthy person, if he/she feels even a small stab of pain will be unable to give his/her all to a task -any task. If he/she does, it will be half-baked; not because he/she is spiritually weak, but because he/she is troubled and is unable to keep that focus on Jesus Christ.

Do not skip any step on the ladder of success towards the kingdom of God. Take care of each rung. God’s rewards are not to be earned. They are not goals. The goal is “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Matthew 22:37-39 KJV)”. Do you see the word “reward” in those words that Christ Himself spoke?

Rewards are a gift for a job well done. They are not to be earned. They are not to be goals. They are not pedestals on which we prop ourselves up in heaven. Do we not remember how Jesus rebuked the disciples as they debated as to who should be sitting beside Him in heaven? Do you also not remember the parable that Jesus gave on Matthew 20:1-16 (KJV)? Everyone is equal in God’s eyes. Are those who become Christians late unworthy of the rewards that the old ones believe they are entitled to? Why do you think so? Our salvation is through Jesus Christ. Our perfection is due to His imputed righteousness. Our success and achievements in the world is by His grace alone.

Don’t confuse movement with progress. You can run in place all the time and never get anywhere. -Denzel Washington

When you say you’re better than the next Christian because you did more for God… When you believe you’re better because you led more souls to Christ…. When you think yourself better because you gave yourself to full-time ministry… Wake up! You did nothing for God. God did something through You. There’s a difference. If you really are a mature and strong Christian, why hold on to that piece of glory?

Let’s not kid ourselves. Pride is innate to every person. It is apparent that you yourself have a problem that needs to be addressed. Instead of blaming or calling out fellow believers who are struggling in their Christianity, why don’t you try to address where your hurt is coming from. As you heal from that, why not try to inspire fellow believers to serve God? Why focus on your struggles (not enough monetary support, not enough staff members) instead of praising God for what He has done so far through your service (church buildings, Christian schools, more churches planted, locals in the mission field serving Christ, etc.)?

Don’t be so haughty. It makes obvious your own hang up.

If church fails to address the problems of its members, each of those members (although they do not leave God) will leave the church to look for someone or a group of people who will help him or her address that need or internal struggle. Now, doesn’t that make you sad? Shouldn’t that person be able to find that readily in the local church? I wonder what your reaction might be to that statement. Is it one of compassion or is it the more common apprehension?

Christianity without love will keep people from you. It will keep people from bolstering up Church ministries. Well, you may say that you have helped so many people and that there are those who run to you for help. But, ask yourself this: how many more are apprehensive about you? How many more are repulsed by you? How many more stumbled because of you?

It takes so much work to earn someone’s trust, but it will only take a single moment, a single word, or a single act to push someone away. They are harder to be won according to the Bible (Proverbs 18:19 KJV). And, what is so irksome is that the offender will dismiss the offended as a mere annoyance to his/her day. There will be no attempt at an apology because to him/her, he/she did nothing wrong; or, in the very least, he/she will only need God’s forgiveness. But, are we not supposed to make things right with our fellow Christian if we do them wrong (Matthew 5:23-24 KJV)? Some people go on as if there was never any mistake made. You can’t just ignore reality just because you double your efforts in the ministry.

Just because you’re doing a lot more doesn’t mean you’re getting a lot more done. -Denzel Washington

Don’t hide.

Bow that heart. Look up to God. Forget what you think you’ve done. Try to get back to the basics, just like the rest of us.

“When you get it, reach back, pull someone else up, each one teach one.”

Friend or Foe

If people leave you for the one or few things that they know about you… how much more when they know every single thing?

You see, this is why I compartmentalize friendship. Every person in my tight circle knows only a maximum of one or two things. This is because person after person has proven to me that their acquaintance or friendship only lasts until their specific need of me -be it spiritual, financial, psychological, emotional, and yes, even sexual- has been cut off.

It is mighty rare to find a person who becomes an actual friend. It is even more rare to find a friend who actually cares about you for you.

I rarely have need of friends because I’ve always given myself to their needs instead. The heartbreaking part is that whenever I needed a friend, nobody’s there; or, at the very least, nobody’s there who’s genuinely there for my benefit -not for their own egos.

Christian “friends” have hurt and abandoned me more than the unbelieving ones. More Christians have judged me than unbelievers have. (Well, to be honest, I have never really cared if an unbeliever judges me. It is, as one might say, expected. Should we have that same expectation from a Jesus-believing Christian though?) Do you know why this is common in today’s world, or ever? No one who knows, in themselves, that they are unclean will judge others for their own sins. They will have a more humane approach to help you understand that what you did was not cool. This is how Christians ought to be, right? It is unfortunate that this hovers more in the world of ideals rather than on the actual.

To add, most Christians rebuke you because their own personal morals were offended. They don’t rebuke you to correct you. They don’t even rebuke you and love is at the foremost of their minds. They rebuke you primarily because they believe themselves better than you. If you think about it, in that moment, are they really?

Why is this so? It is because, sometimes, it isn’t godliness that is needed to be someone’s neighbor…

It is being available to simply listen.

You don’t need similar life experiences or good chemistry to be a friend. This is divisive and is truly common in local churches today. To be a friend, you just need to be there for that person to keep him/her from feeling all alone.

Being a friend is more than just saying, “I’ll pray for you”. Those are just words. It is to actually pray when no one knows that you are. It is to actually pray without the need to announce it. When you want to encourage someone with your prayers, tell that person himself/herself. Whisper it. There is no need for an audience.

Being a friend is more than just saying, “I’m here when you need me” or “I’m just a call or text away”. Again, those are just words. It is to actually ask someone genuinely how their day went. It is to actually make time for coffee or grab a quick lunch together or a pat on the back to remind the other person that you are more than just an assurance -you are a presence.

Being a friend is more than just… advising. It is more than just saying, “Just pray to God”. No person who’s emotionally-charged or anxious is receptive to any advice; and, I mean ANY. It is to actually be a shoulder, a sounding board, and most importantly, a listening ear.

It isn’t about telling someone else to “be strong” or “move on” or “man up”. It is letting that person break down because it is only then that he/she will be able to get back up. You can’t get up if you were never down.

Being a friend isn’t about telling someone his/her mistake. Believe me, that person knows it. Your morals are not needed because you yourself are immoral. Being a friend is reminding the fallen that God remains merciful, gracious, and loving, which is the exact same way that He was and is to you. Being a friend is emphasizing God’s open arms and redemptive embrace. HE will never turn anyone away. So, why should you?

Being a friend is never about how big of a person you are. Be reminded that we’re all equal way below God’s holiness and perfection. It’s about realizing God’s goodness to you and paying all of that forward to others. You see, God didn’t save you & me, nor has He ever intended to save the world, so that we can prop ourselves up on pedestals.

Far. From. It.

He intends for us to serve others (Gal. 5:13 KJV) because it is in serving others that we serve Him.

Here are a few powerful quotes from Chris Tiegreen:

It [love] is the identifying feature of a Spirit-filled Christian. Where love is absent, so is the Spirit. Where the Spirit is absent, so is love.

If there is any single mark of belief, it is love.

No matter how spiritually mature a believer is, it is a false spirituality if he or she is not thoroughly saturated in love. -Chris Tiegreen

The Christian life is a loving life. An unloving life is not Christian. Let love, above all else, define you.

It’s a win-win when we stop thinking about how we win and start helping others get their own win -yes, even if it costs us our own win.

Christianity was, and will never be, about you and me. It will always be about God, and then others.

The Narrow Road

Matthew 7:13-14 KJV “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

quote20180113124813The verses you have read easily means choosing to enter between the wide gate or the narrow one. It symbolizes heaven or hell, right or wrong, and salvation or destruction. It is a picture of how effortless it is to choose the convenient way. After all, that is where everybody else is going. It is a metaphor of how a few people dare to go against the current and taking the highly unpopular way.

Life has been much the same way since time immemorial. People are divided between conformists and non-conformists, rightists and leftists, the upstanding and rebels, conventional and radical, religious and extremists. Of course, where Man is involved, all things become tainted where egos are concerned. It is quite appalling how people can show utter disrespect to each other simply for their differences, be it on the economic, geographic, ethnic, politics, or religion.

However, do the gates broad and narrow symbolize something else? Perhaps, the word “way” in the verses refer to one’s mind? The mind is, after all, the center of all human activity and interaction. It is the center of one’s emotions, and the waypoint of belief and faith. Does this connote the same message for Christians and unbelievers?

Narrow-mindedness has a negative connotation in the world. If you think about it, the term is easily confused with close-mindedness. The latter is something many of us really roll our eyes over; and, it also is closely associated to Christianity in its religious form and the other religions of the world. It has brought so much pain and suffering to many people in varying degrees in every millennium. However, narrow-mindedness is not close-mindedness.

Now, what if the Bible is the narrow way while all the other belief systems comprise the wide gate? Do you see it?

quote20180113124947Let us focus on three major belief systems: liberalism, conservatism, and humanism. To be a conservative is to value traditional practices and disliking change or an influx of new ideas. To be a liberal is to value change in the cause of improving how things are done and seen, or simply progress. To be a humanist is to center on Man’s personal interests and values, to stress his individual dignity, worth, and self-realization through reason (Merriam-Webster).

To be a liberal is to challenge the conservative way of thinking into the radical based on the merits for the needed change. However, there is no total or actual change to the thought or doctrine, it focuses instead on how one sees a certain issue –correcting it, really. Humanism is taking liberalism to its extreme form where the actual thought or doctrine is changed to its opposite –for as long as it centers on the human.

To be more specific: for the conservative, Earth is the center of the universe, and every heavenly body revolves around it. For the liberal, the sun is the center of the solar system while the Earth is but a tiny speck in this vast universe we are in. To the humanist, Man is the center of the universe. Everything in it is his to do with as he pleases.

These are only loose and general statements, but they do provide a good bird’s eye view. In fact, the world has become even worse today. Here’s  how:

Hypocrisy was always the bread and butter of religion, politics, and yes, even parenthood. Lately though, this has been adapted by everyone else in the world –scientists, free thinkers, cultists, and atheists. For example, the Man of today does not only want to be left alone to do or believe whatever he wants, but to also be acknowledged and accepted as such. No, it is no longer enough to come out of one’s closet for any reason, scientific facts have to be bent to accommodate their sensibilities; or else, they are offended.

If so, why not shed all Earth-destructive technology and industry while they are at it? If Man wants to be left alone to do whatever he wants, why not give the same justice to nature and its ecosystems?

quote20180113125123Lopsided.

But, take a long hard look where most people are at, or at least, headed towards.

The wide gate.

Think for a second about what is now seen as backward, useless, and foolish.

The narrow way, and by that, I mean Christianity –is the one that Jesus Christ established.

As a manual is to any device or machine, so is the Bible to a person. Unfortunately, just like most people, we only check the manual out once the device or machine has broken down; and, so it is with our own lives. Many people only turn to God, or call His Name, when things have already become very desperate, when there no longer seems to be any way out, or when you are taking your last few breaths. Every rebellious thought simply vanishes away with the hope and wish that if God is real, then He better be real in that moment.

Moreover, because God is who He has always been, He will not turn anyone away –especially, His own children through Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, there are people who are such enthusiasts in learning all that they can about a device (smartphones, appliances, etc.) or machine (motorcycles, cars, yachts, etc.). Imagine how well these are maintained, and the resulting longevity. Look for a Christian, or a Christian family, that studies the Bible and lives out its instructions. You will see a life that you will actually wish you had.

If you do not know Christ, the struggle is between leaving the comfort of the majority, and humbly coming over to Him. Nothing about that is simple because if it were, there would be more people crowding about Him.

If you are a Christian, the struggle is shedding everything that you know, and believe outside of the Word of God; and, with a humble heart, to trust and obey. This is an even worse struggle because this now involves who you are –turning your back on the ways of your former flesh, putting on the mantle of Jesus, and living as He lived.

Nothing in the Word of God is close-minded. When you turn Christianity into a religion, that is where the close-mindedness comes in. Hypocrisy is then given birth. However, God does not want us to deviate from our human design –His design. He simply wants us to obey His Word, and enhance the design to its best form –one that does nothing else, but bring glory to Him.

Matthew 7:24-27 KJV “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell notfor it was founded upon a rockAnd everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”

There is a need to be open-minded. For a person to learn, that is truly a necessity. There is absolutely nothing wrong about that. However, the danger is in becoming a sponge and you just soak up everything that comes to you. Hence, the need for narrowing, or focusing, the mind. It is by treading the narrow road, which is Jesus Christ; the One who can lead us away from our self-centeredness towards God and His glory.

John 14:6 KJV “I am THE WAYTHE TRUTH, and THE LIFEno man cometh unto the Fatherbut by me.”

Will you keep going where you are going? Or will you start moving towards the narrow road?

Casting the First Stone

Facebook features Memories where your posts in the past, on the same day, are listed. It is nostalgic and bittersweet at the same time. I am amused, and frankly embarrassed, by many of my posts and comments in the years that have passed. I sounded overbearing and proud. I see immaturity in how I saw things, how I reacted to them, and how I interacted with others.

On a lighter note, it does show a difference in me between then and now. I see things a little clearer than I used to. Though my emotions still get easily provoked at times; and though I can still be driven by impulses occasionally; I am no longer as volatile as I used to be.

Is this spiritual growth in Christ? I can only laugh out loud because I am aware of all my failures. I am apprehensive about admitting to that growth -should it be true. I feel undeserving and I know that I have a long way to go, a work in slow progress if you will; yet grateful for God’s faithfulness. He is the only reason that I am still here, that I’m still growing, and why I do not feel abandoned and alone.quote20180112165453

For much of these recent years, my cynicism of Church came to an all-time high. It was usually triggered by certain people’s unwillingness to deviate from the norm, methodology that no longer works, to that which does. Another is hard work given outside of Church, but within are last-minute scrambles to activities and projects that result to sub-par performance and the audacity to dedicate that to the Lord. Then, there is the walk that is no reflection of one’s talk, the misjudgments that came with it,  and of course the divisions. That was the culture I found myself in.

Culture affects Church. However, Church is supposed to influence culture. Church is supposed to propagate and cultivate away from humanized Christianity to what God intends it to be -all about Jesus. And what does Jesus represent? Love. Joy. Peace. Longsuffering. Gentleness. Goodness. Faith. Meekness. Temperance.

The Word of God says in Galatians 5:24-26 KJV:

“[24] And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. [25] If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. [26] Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Church is to help us grow in our reconciled relationship with God. We are to desire and have deeper intimacy with Him, and thus become His ambassadors in this fallen world. Jesus is the Head. We are His hands and feet. We are His body. We are to act like it. As the Church, the Body of Christ, we are to do as Galatians 6:1-2 (KJV), says: “[1] Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. [2] Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

Unfortunately, we act like we are the head. Something is seriously wrong when hate, disgust, and condemnation precedes a Christian’s outlook and behavior towards his fellow believer. One example is how we are told by the Word of God not to forsake the assembling of ourselves; but, that is not all that Hebrews 10:25 says, is it? The verse goes on to say that we exhort one another and so much the more as we see the day approaching. The preceding verse, which completes the context, says “and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to do good works.”

Taking the Bible fundamentally after all means removing one’s self from Old Testament Law to Christ’s simplified, yet powerful, commands. To love God, and to love one’s neighbor as he does himself (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27, Galatians 5:14, Ephesians 4:1-6).

Sadly, here we are bearing down on each other’s faults, scrambling over each other to pick the first stone up and throw before everybody else. We react on impulse. We do not pray, much less think first, before making a response. We have a misplaced sense of entitlement because we do this and that for the Lord. That leads us to cause divisions between each other. It should not even surprise us that a fellow believer falls into sin or has been living in one. Keep in mind that we are still in our sinful human flesh. Committing sin is very natural. One can even say, it is expected of us.

The consequences will come into play because God is just, and it isn’t our job to enforce them. Our roles as Christians is neither to coddle nor condone. It is not to dismiss or cast out. A Christian who commits sin already feels so ashamed to even dare to think about drawing back to God. This is why God created the Church. In Jesus’ Name, we are to be encouraging beacons of light that lead the fallen back to the mercy and truth of God. Yet, reality has been showing that we are the ones who push the fallen further away from Him. We condemn. We hate. We look down on them.quote20180112165624

1 John 4:20-21 KJV “[20] If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? [21] And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”

Is your name going to be the answer when God asks a fellow Christian this question?

Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Galatians 5:7 KJV)

My friend, it is called the Judgment Seat of Christ, so we ought to stop sitting on it. For once, can we just let Him do the judging?

Where it may be justifiable for Christians to feel scandalized over the failures of others, we all need to realize that that in itself is very human. We are to be holy because God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Sure! But, we cannot make ourselves holy -Christ does that. We are to be like Him as well, right? We are to mortify our flesh and that very much includes setting ourselves up better than others (Romans 12:3).

We need to keep in mind that our righteousness are just like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6 KJV). For those who lord their “righteousness” over others, the Bible says, “…his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him… “ (Habakkuk 2:4). With that said, we ought to realize that we have nothing over others, nor they us. 

The apostle John does say in 1 John 4:7-8 (KJV)“[7] Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. [8] He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

1 John 4:20 (KJV) states: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

Drawing closer to God and serving Him should open us up for His love to flow through us towards everyone -especially for each other. It is the Church’s purpose. We are supposed to be there for each other in love and support. The Bible is not intended to bash people in the head over with. If we exhort, we ought to do so in love. If we lift someone up, we ought to do so in love. If we admonish, we ought to do so in love. If we call someone out, we ought to do so in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16 KJV “[15] But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: [16] From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

Many folks today do not reject God and Church because they dislike God and Church. They do so because of their aversion to Christians. It is local and global, and it carries centuries-old scars. Memories may fade, but the feelings generated from all those events resound to this day. Even worse, today’s Christian produces the same wounds in today’s world. We just cannot seem to learn our lesson. Much of this world will throw itself into the lake of fire because of us -both you and me. We all shall be made accountable, not by each other, but by God.quote20180112165732

If that does not break your heart, then perhaps it is time to examine yourself in the light of God’s Word. It may be that you are only hiding your own sins behind someone else’s. If you find yourself  justifying your behavior, then you may be seeing others through your own eyes in light of your own accomplishments, instead of Christ’s. 

Romans 12:16,18 KJV “[16] Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. [18] If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”

If you have gone ways outside the will of God, that’s alright. God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. All we need to do is confess.

If Christ, in His love, chose to die for us while we were yet His enemies (Romans 5:8), should we do differently? If Christ, in all His holiness and perfection, withheld judgment from an adulteress (John 8:1-11), should we do any different? If Christ proved Himself to Thomas instead of berating Him for wanting proof (John 20:19-29), should we do differently? If Christ could give Peter the opportunity to right himself with Him after denying Jesus thrice (John 21:15-17), ought we to do the same?

Romans 12:10 KJV “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.”

1 John 4:12 KJV “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”

Get right with God. That is the only way that enables you to get right with others. Jesus could not have said it any better when He spoke to Peter. 

Luke 22:31-32 KJV “[31] And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: [32] But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

Philippians 2:1-4 KJV “[1] If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, [2] Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. [3] Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. [4] Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

1 Corinthians 16:23-24 KJV “[23] The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. [24] My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.”

Tit for Tat

For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah.

And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.

Jeremiah 1:15-16 KJV

It has been said that we all fall sometimes. I have several of these falls under my belt. Each time was devastating to me personally, but how each has affected those closest to me has been wracking me with so much guilt.

Consequences.

Do you ask God for mercy thinking that He would also take away the consequences? Oftentimes, we desperately ask for God’s mercies so that He, too, takes away the guilt. God will always forgive, of course. However, the consequences of our sins will remain because God is not only love, but also just.

Moses was forgiven, but he was not allowed entry into the promised land. David was forgiven, but his sins destroyed his family. Samson was forgiven, but he still had to die even when his final act was for the glory of God. Man’s sins are forgiven through his humble acceptance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, but he still has to die a physical death.

Forgiveness does not equate exoneration from justice.

We shall all face judgment.

We shall all suffer through the consequences of each mistake.

It truly begs the question: why do you ask for God’s mercy? Are you really sorry for the sin or for getting caught?

Examine your heart, your motives, and your desires. God’s forgiveness is absolute, but keep in mind that Jesus still had to die to make it so.

When your heart is in the right place, your prayer will shift from asking for the guilt and consequences to be taken away towards asking for the courage and strength to endure and overcome said consequences.

No one knows you more than Christ Himself. There is no point denying things from Him. Simply come clean, or pray for courage to do so. Based on personal experience, I can assure you that God will always show up.

Pass me by, YOU never did

Sought my soul, every single time

Unworthy, the worst of all sinners

Yet, you died, to save the wretched like me.