Do Christians Need to Speak in Tongues?

by Christianity.net.au | Don’t get me wrong, tongues are still a gift from God and still good, but the exact problem the Christians in Corinth had was that they played a game of one-up-manship based on who had the better gift, and who followed the ‘better’ Apostle – and that’s why Paul hammers them in I Cor 3:1 as “mere infants in Christ”.  Don’t let whether you speak in tongues or not shake your confidence in Christ! (image, Pixabay)

 

I am wondering about ‘speaking in tongues’. A friend of mine has just given me a book called ‘Heaven is so Real’ by a woman called Choo Nam. In this book, she claims Jesus has taken her to heaven many times and she tells the reader that Jesus tells her she must pray in tongues. Are we Christians who don’t speak in tongues missing something or are we not good enough Christians for God to give us tongues to use? I have found many mentions of speaking in tongues in the Bible and just am quite confused about the whole thing. – Anonymous

Regarding speaking in tongues, the Bible never tells us that we must speak in tongues.  A good passage is 1 Cor 12:27-31:

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[a]? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly desire the greater gifts”.

The obvious answer to his rhetorical question (in bold) “No, of course they don’t!”.  This idea is picked up earlier in 1 Cor 12:7-11, where different gifts are given to different people as the Spirit determines.  This is a really clear answer from the Bible (yay!), the Bible doesn’t tell us that we must speak in tongues.

Which brings us to the second part of your question about whether Christians who speak in tongues are some how superior to those who don’t, or whether we’re missing something.  Back in the first passage the last verse says that we are to “eagerly desire the greater gifts” (V31).  But V28 tells us that they are more like the gifts of apostleship (which you and I aren’t!), prophecy, teaching etc…  In fact, tongues are last on the list!  The gift of administration is even above tongues in this ordered list.  Sometimes it’s easy to over-emphasise tongues because they look impressive, when really God values other things more highly.

Don’t get me wrong, tongues are still a gift from God and still good, but the exact problem the Christians in Corinth had was that they played a game of one-up-manship based on who had the better gift, and who followed the ‘better’ Apostle – and that’s why Paul hammers them in 3:1 as “mere infants in Christ”.  Don’t let whether you speak in tongues or not shake your confidence in Christ!

Finally, I think it’d be really good to be encouraged by what Christianity is all about.  Have a read of this:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in CHRIST”.  (Eph 1:3)

If you have Christ, you have it all!!  That’s worth remembering I think.

Christianity.net.au is an Anglican Media Sydney production, started in 2005. Sydneyanglicans.net is the official website of the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church and a division of Anglican Media Sydney. Click here to learn more about Anglican Media Sydney.



Can Christians Benefit from Yoga?

by Rhonda Jones | Many Christians practice Christian yoga not only for its physical benefits but as a way to connect with God on a deeper level.

There is a lot of controversy about Christian yoga theses days and Christians are truly divided. Some believe that Christian yoga invites in evil spirits and demonic influence, while others see it as a means of physical activity that promote and even encourages a deeper relationship with God. I would agree that if a Christian practices yoga with all of it’s tenets it would be a sin. For in that respect they would be practicing an ancient religion and not a form of exercise. Yet for the majority of Christians who participate in Christian yoga, it is a way to strengthen their bodies as unto the Lord. I think it is wonderful that Christian Yoga training programs are springing up all over the country giving believer the opportunity to get the benefits of yoga while being submerged in the gospel and scriptures. If you have never practiced Christ-centered yoga, you are in for a real treat. It is like doing a sacred dance before the Lord.

Many Christians practice Christian yoga not only for its physical benefits but as a way to connect with God on a deeper level. The slow movements and deep breathing associated with Christian yoga allows believers to calm down, release stress and other pent up negative emotions as well as meditate on scripture and worship God. Just as David danced with all his heart before the Lord, Christian Yoga, allows us to worship God with a flow of gentle and strength-building exercise or movement. These movements can also promotes qualities such as patience, sensitivity, gentleness and gratefulness, etc. Being able to quiet our minds and subdue our negative thoughts, allows us to remain in positive state of mind for longer periods and reduces incidents of being overly judgmental, living in the present moment, and improves mental well being. As we become quiet before the Lord, we create an environment within our hearts to hear the yearnings of the Spirit and God’s still, small, voice.

Christian yoga is also known for its improvement to physical health. Practicing Christian yoga regularly allows an individual to benefit from a variety of physical fitness routines. Different positions used during yoga increases strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, deep breathing and balance. All these add to the overall well being of the body.

A combination of Christian yoga and meditation can then be seen as beneficial to a Christian when the meditation technique is taken to improve the body, mind and spirit. Meditative prayer can then be seen to focus attention on God and improve the spiritual relationship.

There is another benefit associated with yoga and Christianity. The technique is known to be therapeutic in a sense that it is a science of self awareness that allows an individual to realize the unity of humans and divinity. Jesus said that we are all of one body and that He and the Father were one. It is God desire for us to see Jesus in all people and all of creation. When we judge our brother, we are passing judgement upon ourselves. Focusing deeply on this fact can bring about health and wholeness.

Yoga has been used to alleviate pain, reduce symptoms of menopause, reduce stress, and soothe aching muscles. It is also beneficial in stimulating vitality, relieving stress and reducing the effect of aging properties on the body.

Christian yoga can give us he best of both worlds, an opportunity to strengthen and improve our bodies while at the same time transforming our hearts and minds towards God.

Rhonda Jonesby Rhonda Jones

It was God-inspired meditation integrated with the scriptures that helped me to overcome years of depression. By learning to quiet my mind and observe by thoughts, I was able to renew my mind and gain control over negative and destructive thinking. Read More

 


5 Reasons Why Many Christians Are Broke

by Kyle T. Miller | Many Christians who are lazy, disobedient and unforgiving are broke. (Flickr)

The Bible has a lot to say about money and prosperity. Although in the last 20 years there have arguably been wrong motives of some teachings on money, prosperity is biblically supported.

Some preachers and teachers have taught on money in order to manipulate people to give. These ministers have used Scriptures—sometimes out of context—as a means of twisting people's arms into raising big offerings. Because of these abuses, honest Bible teachers have shied away from teaching on prosperity, in fear of being accused of being a "money preacher." Yet we cannot throw away the baby with the bathwater. Just because there have been abuses by some preachers and teachers concerning prosperity does not mean we should stop preaching and teaching on biblical prosperity.

Most People Are Not Against Biblical Prosperity

Thanks to many pioneers in the faith who suffered resistance, ridicule and opposition from religious scoffers as they made gallant efforts to teach biblical prosperity, many people in the body of Christ do not have a problem with Christians being financially comfortable (or dare I say, rich). Many would agree that when God trusts someone with prosperity, that person is in a fantastic position to help others.

Why would God not want us to be able to comfortably provide for our families, live in nice houses, drive nice cars and enjoy ourselves? However, many saved, born-again believers are living by barley getting by. But why? If God has promised us that we will "eat the good of the land" (Is. 1:19) why are so many Christians broke? Although this is not an exhaustive list, I will share with you five reasons why some Christians are broke and how we can shift from poverty to prosperity.

1. Christians who do not tithe are broke. The Bible is pretty clear; if you do not tithe, you will suffer financial setbacks. "You are cursed with a curse, your whole nation, for you are robbing Me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this" (Mal. 3:9-10). I can already hear some of you saying, "Tithing was under the Old Testament law. We are no longer under the law."

There are two problems with this argument: 1) Tithing was established before the law. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek around 2,000 years before Moses enacted the law (Gen. 14:20). 2) Tithing is mentioned in the New Testament also. Jesus said "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, but you bypass justice and the love of God. You ought to have done these (tithe) and not to have left the other undone (Matt. 23:22, emphasis mine). In this passage, Jesus was reprimanding the scribes and Pharisees because they were using tithes as a method for getting around taking care of the widows and orphans.

Interestingly though, Jesus didn't say stop tithing. He actually said that when you tithe, you must not neglect your other responsibilities. People will give you lots of excuses for why we are not required to tithe today. Tithing is really a heart issue, though. The Scriptures state that where a man's or woman's heart is, that is where there money is (Matt. 6:21). You can tell a lot about whom and what people love by looking at their checkbook and their debit card statement.

There are a lot of writings out now asking (and attempting to answer) the question of whether we are required to tithe today or not. I would argue that the question should not be "Do we have to tithe?" but rather "Where should we tithe"? Our hearts should be in a place where we want to tithe. And if you feel as though you are obligated to tithe out of force, you probably should not tithe until you can give with a heart of gratitude. Giving out of a heart of gratitude is the only way you will experience increase from your giving.

2. Christians who have participated in the occult are broke. People who consult psychics receive a curse of poverty. Isaiah 8:19-21 says: "When they say to you, 'Seek after the mediums and the wizards, who whisper and mutter,' should not a people seek after their God? Should they consult the dead for the living? To the law and to the testimony; if they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. They shall pass through the land hard-pressed and hungry; when they are hungry, they shall be furious and curse their king and their God as they look upward."

This Scripture clearly states that people who consult psychics and mediums (consulting the dead) suffer poverty and lack. If you have ever been to a psychic or consulted mediums, palm and/or tarot card readers, or played with Ouija boards, you are under a curse that includes poverty. You should have someone who is skilled in deliverance to lead you through cleansing prayers so that you can be set free.

3. Christians who are lazy are broke. The Scriptures admonish us as believers to be diligent in everything that we do. The Scriptures also promise us that if we are lazy, we will suffer poverty. Here are some Scriptures from Proverbs that warn us about being lazy:

  • "The sluggard will not plow because of the cold; therefore he will beg during harvest and have nothing" (Prov. 20:4).
  • "He becomes poor who deals with a slack hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich" (Prov. 10:4).
  • "The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent will be made fat" (Prov. 13:4).
  • "How long will you sleep, O sluggard? When will you arise out of your sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep—so will your poverty come upon you like a stalker, and your need as an armed man" (Prov. 6:9-11).
  • "He also who is slothful in his work is brother to him who is a great waster" (Prov. 18:9).

And in the New Testament it says this: "For when we were with you, we commanded you that if any will not work, neither shall he eat" (2 Thess. 3:10).

Remember this as well, procrastination is a first cousin to laziness because it puts off today what should be done today until tomorrow. When God gives us directions to do something, we should be immediately obedient to what He says.

4. Many Christians who are disobedient are broke. In Deuteronomy 28, God gives us a promise of wealth and prosperity when we do what He asks us to do. But when we disobey His commands, the Scriptures promise use that we will be cursed and live a life of poverty. "Now it will be, if you will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I am commanding you today, then the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth" (Deut. 28:1).

Isaiah 1:19 states, "If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land." God has promised us blessings and prosperity when we are faithful to do what He has told us. However, we can expect poverty, lack, and insufficiency when we disobey Him.

5. Many Christians who walk in unforgiveness are broke. Unforgiveness is probably the most common transgression that people commit. This is primarily because not forgiving someone feels good to our flesh. When we do not forgive people in our flesh, we feel vindicated because that (those) person(s) hurt us. Not forgiving makes us feel that we are getting back at that person.

What's so deceptive about unforgiveness is this: Not forgiving somebody does not hurt the other person. Usually the person who hurt you has no knowledge that they hurt you. And if they do, most of the time, they do not care. Holding on to unforgiveness only hurts you because God says if you do not forgive the person who offended you, He is going to judge you—not the other person.

When Jesus asked His disciples, "How many times should you forgive somebody?" Peter replied "Seven times!" Peter thought he had really said something profound. However Jesus corrected him and said, "No. You forgive 70 times seven" (paraphrase of Matt. 18:22). In essence, Jesus was saying that we need to forgive people unto infinity. Jesus then gave a warning about people who refused to forgive others. He said that those who refuse to forgive will be delivered to the tormentors (Matt. 18:24).

This word "tormentors" may also include demonization. In 15 years of facilitating deliverances, I have seen many, many cases of people who were tormented by demons because they refused to forgive someone. In this Scripture, Jesus is very clear on this issue: People who walk in unforgiveness will not be forgiven their debts. "His master was angry and delivered him to the jailers until he should pay all his debt" (Matt. 18:34).God is saying here that He will allow us to remain in debt until we forgive. Have you been praying for supernatural debt cancellation? According to the Scriptures, it won't happen until you remove all unforgiveness.

Conclusion

These five reasons for why Christians are broke are by no means exhaustive. If you have been an offender of one, some or all of these reasons, repent. Repentance is not just saying you are sorry, but making a conscientious decision to do better. So if you were moving down and you are supposed to be going up, you move in the opposite direction. Or if God has told you to go east, and you are moving west, you turn around and go east.

God says in His Word that He wants to prosper you: "But you must remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to get wealth, so that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is today" (Deut. 8:18).

When we are prosperous, we demonstrate to the world that God is real. When we are wealthy, we establish God's covenant (promise) in the Earth. God has promised us that He wants to bless us to produce wealth. So be it!

Kyle T. Miller has been called to the marketplace as a musician, play producer, and educator. Kyle has been prophesying and interpreting dreams for almost 15 years. Kyle is also a scholar, obtaining a Masters of Arts in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and a PhD in Higher Education Administration from The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). Kyle's theatre production company, Positive Images in Christ, has directed and produced over a dozen shows since it was founded in 2004. Please visit his website at prophetkyle.com.

 



Jack Hayford: America Is Suffering From a Spiritual Drought

I am writing in earnest and crying out for the igniting of an awakening to prayer

America is suffering from an extended spiritual drought. While the social and moral decay of this hour may grieve us, discernment of the larger reason for this blight lies at the door of an all-but-prayerless church.

We share a part of that responsibility because—had we been more conscientious earlier—we would not have allowed the progressive dismantling of weekly, united, extended corporate prayer gatherings.

I am not writing to assign guilt, for I have been too slow a learner myself. But I am writing with an invitation, one spoken from heaven and beginning to resonate in many hearts.

Although the enemy of humankind is rising viciously, knowing he has only a short time, the Holy Spirit of God is present. He is not here to condemn, but to convene the hearts of believers with His promise, wisdom and expectancy.

Above all, I feel a hope, born of prayer rising from my heart and one of love and brotherly commitment to Foursquare pastors, leaders and members. With that hope, I am writing in earnest and crying out for the igniting of an awakening to prayer.

Pray with me that we would unite to lead our congregations from our knees. Let us lead people into a lifestyle of intercession as God's Word directs (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

Unless we are biblically renewed to this first of all calling of the body of Christ, our first calling as believers will be sacrificed on the altar of sloth, and the spirit of the age will run even more rampant.

Let us affirm that there is nothing old school about the New Testament's order of the church's prayer-life. It is an ever-contemporary pattern of biblical spirituality, and nothing—not even the finest programming, productions or tactical strategies—can substitute for it.

Our Spiritual Foundation

Prayer is the foundation and fountainhead of spiritual power, breakthrough and revival; prevailing prayer, both at the local and national level, is what we and America need.

Given this situation, my hope is that The Foursquare Church may "rise to this hour" and make it a "restoring the ancient landmarks" of former victories. That, as a united-and-agreed fellowship, a vast majority of pastors and congregations would unapologetically welcome the Holy Spirit into their midst.

Pray with me that we would unite to lead our congregations from our knees. Let us lead people into a lifestyle of intercession as God's Word directs (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

Such well-ordered prayer gatherings will overthrow strongholds of darkness and release rivers of "living water" and revival blessings. Sound-minded, bold and believing prayer is prayer with a "cutting edge," namely, a lifestyle that penetrates the darkness of spiritual blindness and brings God's mercy and deliverance.

It is this kind of prayer that shatters the darkness and drives back the kind of spiritual challenge we face with the plague of evil and rebellion in our nation.

Jesus' Concern for the Last-Days Church

Someone recently asked me: "Some people think of the 1950s and 1960s as a golden age for the church in America, but were there drawbacks to the church being socially respectable?"

I answered: "I don't think of the church being 'respected' as a drawback. However, a socially comfortable church has not historically produced a spiritually passionate church."

Jesus' letters to the church in Revelation contain a similar opening, where Christ spells out His awareness and notice to each congregation and its leaders. His love for them all is never in question, but His concerns wave red-flag warnings to all of us who lead today:

You who have ears to hear, listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying!

Jesus points out that many of these churches are distracted or have neglected their central call, values and mission. The distractions are the same today; congregations are either:

  •     resting on their laurels
  •     impressed with their own perceived status
  •     blinded to their loss of focus on the Word and the Spirit, or
  •     by indulging their own carnality, losing clarity and integrity of heart.

The issue is clear: The Holy Spirit is seeking to find—and speak to—those with ears to hear!

Whether you are a Foursquare pastor, leader or church member, I am a bond servant with you. I invite you to join a multitude of those who are unabashedly attuned to hear, obey and respond as Holy Spirit-filled servants of Christ. This is vital for two crucial reasons:

  •     There is nothing more disabling than to become tone deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
  •     There is nothing more numbing to the soul than to be unresponsive to His call.

In this critical hour, we dare not hedge on the implications of "hearing" the Holy Spirit. We dare not compromise His intentions for our fellowship as Spirit-filled and Spirit-led people.

The Key Question

The question of this hour in history resounds from the lips of the Lord: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8, NIV). Namely, the faith that answers the call to rise up in prayer!

As with any nation, the battle for America's soul will only be won with the weapons of spiritual warfare. These weapons—wielded by people systematically meeting in prayer gatherings to marshal sound-minded, biblically ordered intercession—have yet to be restored in The Foursquare Church in America.

Yet if God's people don't assemble in agreement, on their knees, who else will "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5, ESV)?

The church is the one agency on Earth with access to this promise. Heaven is waiting. God has indicated His sovereign choice: He is ready to answer with His open hand of unlimited blessing if, under His authoritative directive, we will take our stand and advance in prayer.

Today, we must remember the promise God made to Solomon long ago: "If my people … humble themselves, and pray … then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chr. 7:14, ESV).

However, we must ask ourselves, "Where can God find a people who will align themselves with God's conditions?" This cannot be a halfway proposition. His Word of promise is only spoken into action where people welcome His Holy Spirit, and on His terms.

Aligning With the Spirit

I want to honor the wisdom, sought and applied, by which our leaders have brought administrative adjustments that we as a movement have pragmatically applied in recent years.

However, whatever else we have wisely and worthily realigned structurally, our definition of local intercessory alignment has yet to "hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches."

In this critical hour, we dare not hedge on the implications of "hearing" the Holy Spirit. We dare not compromise His intentions for our fellowship as Spirit-filled and Spirit-led people.

We are in need of reviewing Jesus' confrontation of leaders who busied themselves with religious duties but neglected God's command: "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations" (Is. 56:7, NIV). Let us abandon all self-excusing passivity indulged when we negate our Lord's focus on the priority of prayer.

No society should ever be seen as beyond hope of revival, the recovery of sanity or the rebirth of multitudes—if it is laced with congregations everywhere where the Light of the world still shines.

The divine call of God addressing The Foursquare Church in America is no different than the one trumpeted to the larger believing body of Christ. Too many have traded the timeless for the transient, the costly for the clever, the eternal for the contemporary and the seeker-sensitivity for man-pleasing management.

Our beginning point of reference must be on our knees, in our closets and at altars of repentance. New furniture isn't required, but a ready and renewed passion is!

Jack Hayford is chancellor of The King's University and former president of The Foursquare Church.

 



Can Christians transcend the nihilism of our politics?

Followers of Christ are called to “hope all things.” According to Paul, this is one of the defining features of love. (image source)

I heard a story recently about a fairly well-known evangelical figure who was confronted about public statements he had made in writing and interviews. A fellow believer met and reasoned with him for several hours, explaining that he believed the leader had deceived his audience. When the facts became overwhelming, this influential evangelical conceded that he had been playing fast and loose with facts. However, since his overall message was true and important, he reasoned, it was justifiable to fudge the details in order to motivate voters to make the right decision.

You’re wondering who this evangelical leader is, but in a sense it doesn’t matter, because he could be just about anybody. The belief that American voters must be manipulated rather than reasoned with if we want to institute any meaningful change is endemic. But this belief is essentially nihilist because it makes all political discourse a matter of coercion, a matter of who is doing the coercing and to what ends. I call this nihilist because it makes power, not truth, goodness, or beauty, the foundation of politics.

Followers of Christ are called to “hope all things.” According to Paul, this is one of the defining features of love. If this is true, then for Christians, there is no room for nihilist politics. We are obligated to treat our neighbors as people who deserve honest appeals. This does not mean that all political discourse must be highly rational. There is a place for appeals to emotion, as well as to beauty. Don’t think I am denouncing all political ads that appeal to our emotions. While I do think that our politics could do with a great deal more logic and reason, I reject the idea that only what is rational is relevant to political discourse.

No, my objection is to appeals that are dishonest, and dishonesty can be cloaked in “reason” or “emotion” or “patriotism.” The most common and insidious form that this takes is the example I began with: when we lie about particulars in order to justify a general truth. I call this insidious because it occurs so subtly and is so easy for us to personally justify.

A recent high-profile example of apparent deception for a greater good came from presidential candidate Ted Cruz. According to some accounts, the senator used publically available voting data to shame neighbors into participating in the Iowa caucus. The Cruz campaign sent official-looking letters that urged Iowa residents to vote and gave them and their neighbors a letter grade for past voting. According to the New Yorker, these “grades” were made up and did not reflect residents’ actual voting history. This tactic received significant backlash from voters and Iowa state leaders alike. They felt it was coercive to use shame to get people to vote and deceptive for the Cruz campaign to assign letter grades to voting records, as if the grades were an official part of that record.

Cruz isn’t the first candidate to use this strategy. In 2012, President Obama’s reelection campaign used a similar strategy. The MoveOn campaign mailed out 12 million letters that used “social pressure” to drive voters to the polls. Apparently across the aisle, politicians believe that manipulative, deceptive practices are sometimes necessary to win bigger, more important battles.

But it’s not just political elites who fall into nihilism, where truth is subservient to the power to persuade. Our public conversations about news events and politics often fall into this, too. Let’s say I share a sensational news report about something that Sarah Palin recently said. I add some commentary to the post about how the quotation represents how ignorant Palin is, and several of my friends join in the mockery. Then another friend points out that she never actually made that statement. Embarrassed and anxious to save face, I reply, “Sure, this quotation is fake, but she says stuff like this all the time. The point is, she’s ignorant.”

The problem with this justification, aside from it being an excuse for deception, is that particulars do matter. Maybe Palin has said some outlandish things in her career, but if she hasn’t said those particular words, then by sharing that story you are changing the way people understand her. Put differently, even when a general idea is true, if we misrepresent the particulars, we will necessarily misrepresent the general truth.

As Christians, we should know better than to spread untruths, even when we believe they further a greater, worthy cause. But if you pay attention, you will find people from elite politicians to average citizens accepting and practicing a political nihilism. The fear is that if we don’t exaggerate the facts, if we don’t overstate our argument, if we don’t make a threat sound more serious than it really is, if we don’t make up a few stories that could be true in some sense, then voters won’t be moved to act. And everything will remain the same or get worse.

What this logic assumes is that we cannot trust our neighbors. That we cannot hope all things about them and their ability to reason, understand complex issues, and vote. We treat our neighbors as children who have to be tricked in order to get them to do what we believe is best for them. This kind of hopelessness and disregard for our neighbors is paternalistic and unloving. And this logic denies the sovereignty of God by suggesting that we have cheat to save our country. If God is truly God, then recourse to sin is never necessary to make the world a better place, even in politics.

Hoping all things about our neighbors does not mean that we must be naïve. Not everyone has a college degree, not everyone has time to sort through the rationale between different policies, and not everyone has the resources to fact-check arguments they hear. To be realistic and yet hope all things means that we desire and hope our neighbors will engage thoughtfully with an issue at the level they are capable of given their life situation. The difference is that we should never lose hope in reasoning together such that we resort to coercion and power for the “greater good.”

As this political season rolls on, remember to love your voting neighbors, regardless of who they support and why. Love them, and in that love, hope that they can be reasoned with.

O. Alan Noble, Ph.D., is editor in chief of Christ and Pop Culture and an assistant professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University. He received his Ph.D. from Baylor in 2013. He and his family attend City Presbyterian in OKC. You may not follow him on Twitter.

 



The Prayer of the Lord

Even simple, faith filled recitation of God's living Word is healthy and extremely positive (images, iStock and book by David & Kim Butts)

The concept of offering up requests in the hopes that an invisible, distant God would deliver what we desire is the primary model of prayer for many Christians today. Read the list of prayer requests and hope for the best!

I remember growing up as a young Catholic boy people reciting the Lord's Prayer over and over again as if I was fulfilling some religious duty. Those were not happy days as I lived in unhealthy fear presuming God would reject me unless I fulfilled the quota.

Now, I do agree that even simple, faith filled recitation of God's living Word is healthy and extremely positive. However, too many presume reading the Lord's Prayer or other scriptures is the totality of their assignment in prayer. Read it, agree with it and move on.

This is the error I want to talk about.

Prayer isn't a stale, tedious chore that, once accomplished, we earn favor with God and our desires (or demands) are met as requested. Prayer is the expression of the passion of our heart as we come into fervent, joyful agreement with God. That expression is explosive, and it's actually laughable to presume it can be limited to the mouthing of words! True prayer is comprehensive, and it overwhelms us into radical agreement with God and aggressive response to His directives.

Prayer Isn't Mostly About Us

Prayer is at its most powerful when the focus isn't on us.

"When you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward" (Matt. 6:5, MEV).

While we may not bring focus to us by religiously praying on the street corners, is it possible that the content of our prayer is at times narcissistic? Is it about bringing attention to us and our situation or to God and his?

"But you, when you pray, enter your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Matt. 6:6, MEV).

 

Prayer Isn't About Coercing God

"But when you pray, do not use vain repetitions, as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their much speaking. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him. Therefore pray in this manner: Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name" (Matt. 6:7-9, MEV).

I was repeating the Lord's Prayer over and over again as a young child, convinced that my devoted work of speaking out loud would please God and result in a big thumbs up. If you think about that, it's kind of demented thinking! It reminds me of tribal religions in which people sacrifice chickens and mark their bodies as an offering to their gods in the hopes that they are spared from drought, floods and other natural disasters.

Prayer for the Christian comes from the place of deep, abiding love and a wondrous relationship with Jesus.

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday" (Psalm 37:4-6, MEV).

Again, our prayer is simply an expression of our revelation of Jesus! We are ignited with passion as a result of knowing God intimately. We can't help but declare the wonders of our God!

Imagine what would erupt out of you after having an experience as is described in Revelation 19. That outburst, that response, is prayer!

"I saw heaven opened. And there was a white horse. He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written, that no one knows but He Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood. His name is called The Word of God. The armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Out of His mouth proceeds a sharp sword, with which He may strike the nations. "He shall rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury and wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (Rev. 19:11-16, MEV).

 

The Prayer of the Lord

The Lord's Prayer is just that—the passions of Jesus. It is truly the prayer of the Lord.

We aren't to be limited to a simple recitation of words on paper. There is a fervent passion that should be sizzling in our veins as we declare this potent, culture-rocking prayer.

"Confess your faults to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much" (James 5:16, MEV).

The Lord's Prayer is an intense declaration of lifestyles that are shaking and shocking our culture. It is an expression of agreement with the plan of God for the nations of the earth!

Holy Are You

"Therefore pray in this manner: Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name" (Matt. 6:9, MEV).

This verse shouldn't be easy to be casually read aloud! The call is for us to have a visitation of God and his holiness! A revelation that causes us to collapse to our knees with our faces buried in our hands as we tremble and cry, "Holy!"

Can you imagine what it will be like to gaze upon perfect purity in our beautiful God's countenance second after second forever? Oh, Lord Jesus, come! What an eternity that will be! Day and night never ceasing to declare, "Holy is the Lord God Almighty!"

"Before the throne was a sea of glass like crystal. In the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures had six wings each, and they were covered with eyes all around. All day and night, without ceasing, they were saying: 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,' who was, and is, and is to come." (Rev. 4:6-8, MEV).

 

Your Kingdom Come

"Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10, MEV).

The conflict of flesh vs. spirit should be causing veins to bulge in our necks as we cry out to God, "I despise the limitations of the flesh! I reject my own natural wisdom and I declare with boldness that Your wisdom, Your government, Your kingdom is superior!"

This prayer can't be limited to a one-sentence, three-second read. As we draw closer and closer to Jesus, we develop a never-ending yearning for God and His leadership. Everything else will appear as foolishness in comparison with the government of Jesus.

Our Daily Bread

"Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11, MEV).

Related to the previous point, we are declaring our joyful dependence on God. Instead of our Santa Claus-style requests flying heavenward in hopes of having our desires gift wrapped and delivered by God, we tell Him, "Get me whatever You want."

How powerful is it to move beyond asking God for the obvious and allowing Him to surprise us! Talk about an addicting prayer life! Sometimes the best prayer is not to pray at all. What I mean is, if we have faith that He will supply all of our needs, why would we beg Him for our needs to be met?

We can certainly have honest discussions with God about what we are struggling with, but we should do so without worry or frustration. We simply rejoice as we trust God to give us our bread every single day, and I think it's best if he chooses just what that bread is!

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:4-7, MEV).

"Therefore, take no thought, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' (For the Gentiles seek after all these things.) For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you" (Matt. 6:31-33, MEV).

 

Forgiveness

"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matt. 6:12, MEV).

Again, this cry of our heart should be automatic. The Lord's Prayer is a passionate decree of the reality of our lives in Christ. Sin should cause us to weep and grieve as we again draw near to God with confession on our lips. Unholy decisions should so disrupt our flow in the Holy Spirit that we are nearly crushed under the weight—only to find God Himself running to us to forgive us and give us new life!

The seriousness and destructiveness of sin should also cause us to forgive quickly—instantly—others who have wronged us. That declaration of freedom for others bellows out of us as we unlock prison cell after prison cell, allowing the guilty to go free!

In fact, this point in the prayer is so critical it is revisited again at the end:

"For if you forgive men for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins" (Matt. 6:14-15, MEV).

A lifestyle of setting people free should mark every one of us. It's what God does, and it's what we do!

Deliver Us From Evil

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" (Matt. 6:13, MEV).

As inhabitants of a fallen world, we are keenly aware of the power of evil and the enticement of the enemy. This passionate plea should be forever on our lips or until we enter eternity, at least.

The thought of anything compromising our energizing, fiery, zealous relationship with the Lover of our souls should result in sobriety and a locked-in demeanor. We must understand the power of sin, and we have no option but to be continually aware of its devastating force.

"Whomever you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if I forgave someone anything, for your sakes I forgave it in Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us. For we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor. 2:10-11, MEV).

 

It's All About God

"For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" (Matt. 6:13, MEV).

This is true worship!

I want to exhort you to allow the Prayer of the Lord to become your own. Let it be an expression of your overflowing, all-in lifestyle of worship and surrender to Jesus.

It's not just a good group of words to read before bed. Prayer, especially prayer like this, is a testament to who we really are and what we really believe. It's an expression of our raging passion for God and a decree of our agreement with and position in Him!

Watch the accompanying video here.

John Burton has been developing and leading ministries for over 20 years and is a sought out teacher, prophetic messenger and revivalist. John has authored nine books, has appeared on Christian television and radio and directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. Additionally, he planted two churches, has initiated two city prayer movements and is currently directing a prayer- and revival-focused ministry school in Detroit called theLab University. John's mandate is to call the church in the nations to repentance from casual Christianity and to burn in a manner worthy of the King of kings. He is equipping people to confront the enemies of God (established religion, Jezebel and so on) that hinder an extreme, sold-out level of true worship.

Please visit thefurnace.tv for the original article.

 



Atrocities against Christians in the Central African Republic

Inside PK5 – Extra Scene from 'United in Hate: Central African Republic' (Vice News)

In March 2013, the Seleka, a coalition of predominantly Muslim-armed groups from the northeast, marched on the Central African Republic's capital Bangui and seized power.

They committed mass atrocities against the population, and to the largely Christian population in the southwest, Muslims began to be associated with violence. They took up arms to form a Christian self-defense militia called the anti-balaka, and carried out revenge killings.

By the end of 2013, the Central African Republic had descended into civil war. Under pressure from the international community, the Seleka were forced to give up power and retreated towards the northeast, where they regrouped.

A United Nations peacekeeping mission and a French military operation were able to stem the fighting, but despite their presence, the transitional government has not been able to regain control of the country outside Bangui.

With the anti-balaka controlling the southwest, and the Seleka controlling the northeast, the Central African Republic is de facto partitioned along ethno-religious lines. For those who find themselves on the wrong side of the divide, life has become hell.

In this extra scene, VICE News goes to PK5, a predominantly Muslim enclave of the Central African Republic's capital of Bangui, which has seen some of the most violent and brutal fighting between Muslim and Christian communities since the start of the conflict.

Watch Original video on Vice News. "United in Hate: The Fight for Control in CAR"
VICE News is an international news organization created by and for a connected generation. For inquiries please contact newsinfo@vice.com.

 



Coping with Healing

Why is hard for Christians to receive healing? (Christina Hibbert)?

As a healing evangelist, I am asked many questions concerning healing. One common question asked is: "Why do you think it is hard for Christians to receive healing? It seems most are already resigned to go the medical route because God uses doctors." This is a reasonable question, and there is an answer for it.

It has been difficult for Christians, especially in the Western World, to receive healing because they have not been taught about faith for healing on a consistent basis.

People are willing to wait seven to 10 days for an antibiotic to heal their bodies, because they have been taught for many years that if they take one tablet of this medicine three times a day, they will be healed. They are even willing to overlook physical symptoms of the illness, because they have been taught that the symptoms and the sickness will be healed as long as they take the medicine faithfully. So, their faith has been activated, they follow their doctor's instructions, and they are healed by the medicine.

But God's people are not willing to wait this amount of time for divine healing to manifest, because they have not been consistently taught that if they will be faithful to take God's medicine, His Word concerning healing, three times a day, morning, noon and night, that their bodies will be healed. And because of the lack of faith teaching for healing, if they experience any type of symptom after prayer, they doubt the power in God's medicine and are not healed.

When God's people hear the message of faith for healing on a consistent basis and put faith for healing into action, then they are healed. And not only are they healed, but they walk in divine health and avoid sickness all together.

Our faith to believe God for healing will automatically activate when we are taught the Word for healing on a consistent basis.

This is why it has been difficult for Christians to receive healing in the past, but we can change this and start to teach the healing message to those around us.

Becky Dvorak is a prophetic healing evangelist and the Destiny Image author of DARE to Believe and Greater Than Magic. Visit her at authorbeckydvorak.com.

 



Living the Christian Life

It's all About Following Jesus (ECWA Archive)

What does the Bible say about how to live the Christian life?

How to live the Christian life is a topic that is discussed in many Bible passages. One of the most notable discourses was between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish council, went to Jesus during the night to discover how to live the Christian life. Jesus explains to Nicodemus that he must be born again: "…I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3). Salvation is the beginning step in living a Christian life. In John 14:6, Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Jesus encourages all believers to grow in relationship, commitment, and obedience to Him. This is the essence of how to live a Christian life. Our relationship, commitment, and obedience are done out of love, not constraint. John 14:21 says, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

Living the Christian life is not abiding by an agenda or following a set of strict rules. Instead, the Christian life is characterized by:

  • Understanding that you are a new creation! 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
  • Transforming and renewing your mind. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will."
  • Treating others with love. Philippians 2:3-4 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
  • Living out the teachings of Christ. Jesus taught: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3-10).
  • Sharing your faith. Matthew 5:14-16 says, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Living the Christian life does not mean enjoying a life of ease and never experiencing problems. 1 Peter 5:8 says that there is an enemy who wishes to destroy us: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." But we also read that Jesus has overcome the world!

No matter what opposition you face, living the Christian life is worth it! Enjoying a relationship with God and His Son Jesus, being confident of where you will spend eternity, and living in day-to-day fellowship with Him is far greater than any opposition you may face.

What is your response? For the Original article, visit All About God, PO Box 507, Peyton, Colorado 80831, AllAboutGOD.com
 


Can Christians Redeem Pagan Holidays Such as Halloween?

We don't celebrate Halloween per se; we remember Jesus' victory on the cross and how He overcame evil. Many churches offer Fall Festivals and celebrations for this very reason—to redeem the theme of Halloween.  (theofficefurnitureblog.blogspot.com)

Author's Note: There is always an attempt to de-emphasize the true, spiritual significance of Christian holidays and place emphasis on Santa, toys, bunnies, baskets and candy. That is a sincere cause for concern. This article assumes that is understood. This article is also not a hill to die on for me. I respect those who may disagree, and they may have a valid pause for concern.

During the 2011 Christmas season, I received the following email from an online viewer, "I'm sorry, but every time I tried to watch the sermon the decorated Christmas trees in the background were disturbing to my spirit. I turned it off. I am discouraged and disappointed because of the trees."

Her statement begs the question, "Can we redeem holidays?" Redeem means to recover the ownership of something. Can we, in good faith, redeem Halloween, Christmas and Easter with their roots saturated in paganism, superstitions, and the occult?

Redeem and celebrate are not unfamiliar to Christians. God "redeems" man from a state of darkness and we "celebrate" this transformation of heart. Simply stated, it's about why, whom and how we celebrate.

For example, Halloween, a mixture of Celtic pagan superstition and early traditions is associated with witchcraft and satanic activity. This is not something to be celebrated, nor can it be redeemed, as it stands with themes such as horror, death and fear. We have children and we can't always avoid the gory and grotesque decorations, so we change the theme in order to redeem. We use the opportunity to redefine Halloween to "good overcame evil day."

We don't celebrate Halloween per se; we remember Jesus' victory on the cross and how He overcame evil. Many churches offer Fall Festivals and celebrations for this very reason—to redeem the theme of Halloween.

What about Christmas? Rooted in pagan practices, it is abused and commercialized, but can it be redeemed?

Christmas, unlike Halloween's message of horror and death, celebrates eternal life through the birth of Christ. We don't falsely worship the tree and the decorations referred to in Jeremiah 10:1-10; we worship the Creator of heaven and earth.

Conversely, rich in symbolism, the Christmas tree can point to the cross: Once a dead and barren tree, supporting a lifeless Savior, it now stands evergreen as the symbol of eternal life that darkness cannot overcome (cf. 1 John 1:5).

Gift-giving can also represent peace and goodwill among men (Matt. 2): "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). It can, however, lead to extravagant spending and debt; this should be avoided.

What about Easter, with roots in neo-paganism and ancient Celtic and pagan rituals? Can it be redeemed? Many Christians who celebrate Easter are not swayed or influenced by pagan roots, Celtic rituals or cult-like experiences. They are not worshipping the false goddess Eastre.

Like Christmas, the historical roots and the secularization does not undermine the message in a sincere heart. Easter celebrates the reality of an empty tomb and the power of the cross to cleanse and redeem, to release us from sin and death. It offers hope and peace to a dying world. This is cause for great celebration. Holidays, in many cases, are redeemed when the focus is on Christ.

Let's look at this another way: It is my guess that there are a number of Christians who do not acknowledge holidays because of how they originated, and I respect that. But let's follow that line of thinking in other areas: Should we not acknowledge days of the week whose names originate from false gods: Sunday from the sun god, Monday the moon god and so on?

Again, these issues are heart issues. God does not desire superficial sacrifice and "religiosity"; He desires a broken and contrite heart. Pleasing God is the most important issue of the heart. We can avoid celebrating holidays, yet still be rigid, arrogant and judgmental. The "heart" is the main focus of this article.

Considering that liberty has its limits. If all that we do honors God, He is pleased. Again, the key is to avoid arrogance and judgmentalism, and to avoid worshipping the wrong things. Strive to follow Paul's advice and not "dispute over doubtful things" and "live peaceably with all men" (cf. Rom. 14:1 and 12:18). For example, what the online viewer whom I previously mentioned failed to realize was that I did not place the trees on the stage; the building was not ours. She neglected to err on the side of grace.

Whatever your position, the question to ask is: "Is my stance leading to love, joy, peace, contentment, gentleness and kindness? Or is it leading to rigidity, arrogance, legalism, divisiveness, criticism and anger over non-essentials?" The former is the filling of the Spirit; the later is the slippery slope of judgmentalism.

There are those who derail Christmas and its commercialism, yet purchase a $2,500 Plasma on credit, book expensive vacations each summer and never serve the community or help those in need. Time is spent posting videos exposing the root of holidays, but no time is spent in the prayer closet truly seeking God. Others ridicule the secularization of Christmas and Easter but allow their family to watch ungodly entertainment. Celebrating holidays is often not the issue; the issue is what, or whom, we choose to worship; the attitude of the heart.

This Halloween, don't celebrate it like the world does. Remember that good overcame evil. Don't forget about the power of the cross. "There is no peace until we see the finished work of Jesus Christ—until we can look back and see the cross of Christ between our sins" (D.L. Moody). This offers peace and hope to a dying world—truly a cause for celebration!

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. He recently released his 7th book, Desperate for More of God at shaneidleman.com. Shane's sermons, articles, books, and radio program can all be found at wcfav.org. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/confusedchurch.


When Christians Are Targeted for Death

"On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). "And that rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:4).

Christians have been targeted for death in a school in Oregon. On a beach in Libya. In the villages of northern Syria. In a hospital in Afghanistan. In the bush of Nigeria and the deserts of Sudan.
 
But Tertullian, an early church leader, wrote in A.D. 197 that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Praise God! Glory Hallelujah! His Truth is marching on!
 
For those of us who have been praying for the persecuted church around the world, or praying for those around us who are being persecuted for following Jesus at home or at work, at school or in sports, the following video is thrilling … and encouraging. 

Anne Graham Lotz, founder of AnGeL ministries, has proclaimed God's Word worldwide for more than 30 years. Her newest book, Wounded by God's People, is available at AnneGrahamLotz.com


How Christians Can Move Beyond Failure

THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH WINNING ALL (ECWA)
 5007 SOUTHSIDE DRIVE
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www.ecwalouisville.org, www.ecwausa.org,
ecwaky@gmail.com

TOPIC: HOW CHRISTIANS CAN MOVE BEYOND FAILURE

TEXT: MATTHEW 16: 13-20

Rev. (Dr.) Stephen K. Awoniyi

 

INTRODUCTION

In today’s sermon we will begin from the story of the Apostle Peter also known as Simon Peter, the son of John also known as the son of Jonah.   The Apostle Peter (Simon) was from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee or Gaulanitis.  He was known to be the early Christian leader and one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.  His brother Andrew was also an Apostle.  The Apostle Peter was highly venerated in many churches and also regarded as the first Pope by the Catholic Church, says P. E. Eastering & E. J. Kenney.  He worked so hard to the extent of establishing a church in Antioch where he presidered for seven years as the leader of the city’s Christian community.  He also labored so hard by preaching to other scattered communities of believers, such as the Jews and the Hebrew Christians, the Gentiles in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor and Bithynia.  He then went to Rome where in the second year of Claudius he overthrew Simon Magus and held the Sacerdotal Chair for twenty-five (25) years.  However, the bad or sad news is, he was finally put to death during the reign of Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus, the fifth person of the Roman Emperors.   Nero Claudius reigned for fourteen (14) years from 54 to 68 A.D. and from the Christian point of view; he was one of the most barbaric persecutors of the early church, said P. E. Eastering and E. J. Kenney.  In today’s sermon the following points will be emphasized:  

  1. A Call for Peter’s Involvement

At a specific time the Apostle Simon Peter was called by the Lord Jesus Christ for a specific task.  He thought it would be a difficult task but he finally surrendered and obeyed the Lord for the mission entrusted into his hand.  The Scripture says;

  1. Four Fishermen Called as Disciples

5 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, 2 and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.  3 Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”  6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.  7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.  8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken;  10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”  11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him (Luke 5: 1-11 (NKJV).

  1. Four Fishermen Called as Disciples

18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

Jesus Heals a Great Multitude

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.  24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.  25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan (Matthew 4:18-25 (NKJV).

  1. Philip and Nathanael

43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”  44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”  47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”  51 And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter[a] you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man (John 1:43-51(NKJV).

The above Scriptural passages indicate the multitude of people that gathered together before Jesus Christ to hear the word of God.  Our Lord Jesus Christ stood by the Lake of Gennesaret and saw two boats beside the Lake but the fishermen were not in the boat because they were washing their nets.  Jesus Christ then entered into one of the boats that belong to Simon Peter and used it as a pulpit to teach the crowd.  In those days in the Sea of Galilee, fishing was always done at night for survival or living but not at daytime.  That is, something done at midnight involves a rigorous and hard job.  The Lord finally said to Simon Peter to launch out into the deep and let down his net for a catch.  But Simon Peter responded thus:

  1. Jesus Cleanses a Leper

12 And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”  13 Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him.  14 And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.”

15 However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.  16 So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic

17 Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.[a]  18 Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him.  19 And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.

20 When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts?  23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’?  24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”  25 Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.  26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today!” (Luke 5:12-26 (NKJV).

It seems as if Simon Peter’s statement was a form of an argument because he said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” But, the good news is, he added; “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”  Even though Simon Peter and his team had been unsuccessful before, but they made up their mind to be obedient to the commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In reference to Bill Crowder who said thus:

The story is told that the Duke of Wellington, the great British commander who defeated             Napoleon’s forces at the Battle of Waterloo during the Hundred Days conflict in 1815, once gave a command to one of his generals, who then responded that it was an impossible command to execute.  The Duke told him, “You go ahead and do it, because I don’t give impossible commands.” (Bill Crowder, Lessons from the Life of Peter, pg. 20).

 

  1. The Result of Simon Peter’s Obedience

Simon Peter probably thought the Lord’s order would be utterly impossible.  But what was the outcome?  A huge number of fish were caught at the wrong time that is, during the day time, and in the wrong way, that is when Peter did not believe it would ever be possible.  This means, the Apostle Peter found himself in the presence of the Person who could do the impossible.

Brethren, be assured we have the Lord who is able to turn the impossibilities to possibilities.  No wonder the Scripture says; “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).  This means Jesus doesn’t give impossible command.  This is the truth that Simon Peter discovered when he finally obeyed the instruction of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Beloved, be assured that the longer we live, the more we have to deal with failure.  But the good-news is, when we fail, we need not to give up.  We must understand that the key to overcoming failure is to recognize that it can be beneficial.  God wants us to learn from our failures and also to learn not to make the same mistake again.  We need to face our weaknesses and accept personal responsibility for our actions.  We cannot correct a problem we are not willing to face, but, by the grace of God we can turn our failure into victory.  Sometimes we fail simply because we are humanly incapable of accomplishing a certain task.  Even though we may love to snow ski, we may not have the physical ability to ski in the Winter Olympics.  But that does not mean we are a failure.  God does not call us to do something unless He equips us for it.  Brethren, don’t spend the rest of your life feeling like you are a failure.

Most of us have dreams that we never fully realize or understand, but that does not mean we have failed.  Sometimes we overlook our successes because we focus all our attention on what we cannot do. There are many things we can do to the glory of God, but if we let failure discourage us, we will never accomplish God’s purpose for us.  Accept the reality of failure because sometimes human beings fail.   The Scripture says, “For He knows our frame; and He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). God knows our limitations, and we must accept them as well.  True success is not avoiding failure, but learning what to do with it.  It is better to attempt things and fail, than never to attempt anything because you are afraid to fail.  Brother/Sister, be aware that we can never learn the limits of our ability until we reach the point of total failure.  Beloved, worrying about what might go wrong will prevent you from moving ahead.  Stop being afraid of failure and determine for a great success.  Focus on your goals and not on your fears.  Move ahead with good and great determination for the Bible says, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
 

CONCLUSION

Beloved, how often have you been disobedient to the mission the Lord entrusts into your hand?  Perhaps your main problem is fear and disagreement because you think it is a difficult and a heavy task.  Because of that you abandon it.  When will you come back to the Lord’s mission entrusted into your care and say, Father, with you on my side I will be obedient to the task given to me!  In order words, you need to say; no matter the tactics of the enemies beside you, you will be victorious!   
             I wish you understand the Lord’s word to the Apostle Peter when He said, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will catch men . . . . “ (Luke 5: 10-11).  This means, Jesus Christ is inviting you and I, to an adventure of faith that will radically transform our lives into a New Attitude, therefore, do not be afraid.
(a) A New Day! That is, the failure of the past is replaced with a new future. 
(b) A New Purpose! This means, leading sinners to faith in Christ Jesus just as David and Moses shepherd God’s people.   
(c) And, A New Life! That is, forsaking all and following Him.  This may be expressed as radical commitment.

 

 REFERENCES

Crowder, B. Lessons From The Life of Peter, 2012, pg. 27, Grand Rapids. ISBN: 978-1-57293-724-6.

Eastering, P. E. Kenney, E. J. The Cambridge History of Latin Literature pg. 892.

Cambridge University Press, 1982 ISBN 0-521-21043-7

Dando-Collins, S. 2010.  The Great Fire of Rome pg. 1-4. ISBN 978-0-306-81890