You Must Stay Strong…

These words, “You have to stay strong”, can easily be uttered by outsiders, when the affected person is clearly suffering under certain circumstances.

One might try to strengthen the other person with these words, but whether that alone will help is debatable. And sometimes, I come across people who simply ask, “How are you?” as they walk by, and without paying any attention to my response, they either do not reply at all or just say, “…then take care”.

The world has become very short-lived in its actions, and nobody seems to have any honest care for their neighbor. Society in my neighborhood has changed a lot for the worse, and I would even say that this applies to the whole world.

Not only have people become very superficial and almost everyone thinks only of themselves, but also antisemitism has returned in the most brutal way all over the world. I would argue that antisemitism never went away, it just, for a brief period, didn’t manifest itself to the outside world, and sadly, this condition only lasted for a generation. The words, “We must never forget,” are of no special value.

For true Christians, it is not difficult to recognize that this world is ruled by none other than Satan, who is also called the Devil, the dragon, and the old serpent.

Personally, I have never heard so many war reports in my entire life as these days, and I have to admit that it makes me, as well as certainly others, sad, angry and worried, when I think about it or see or hear about it in the media – but then again, I am also at the same time hopeful in anticipation of the coming of Christ, that it will happen soon after all. It’s all like a merry-go-round of emotions.

And then I ask myself: “Am I even ready for the coming of Christ? And how will I then stand before Him? Will I even be worthy before Him? Will I fail miserably by then or will I remain strong in this last dramatic time?”

We could very well face terrible wars, persecution, betrayal of our own brothers and sisters, and even persecution from our own family. And we must constantly remind ourselves that Jesus Christ pointed out the following to us in the Bible:

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8).

These are precisely the times we are currently experiencing; nevertheless, it is not yet the end, but the beginning of sorrows. And then, Christ said:

“‘Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:9-13).

This message from Christ does not seem to point to a rosy future. One factor or another can cause somebody to lose their balance completely, so they may run out of inner strength and fail miserably. Many will have to go through a terrible and merciless tribulation after falling away from the Truth. Some will be able to come out of this tribulation, as Christ tells us; but others may indeed fail and even end up fighting a hateful and murderous battle against God until their ultimate bitter destruction.

We read in Revelation 7:4-9 that of all the tribes of Israel, 144,000 will come out of this tribulation and will be sealed, as well as a great multitude which no one could number. But then we also read in Revelation 16:9-11 about people filled with hate who blaspheme God despite great plagues and pain.

It must be absolutely clear to us: “But he who endures [and stays strong] to the end shall be saved.”

But we cannot do this by our own strength, as we have already learned from the Word of God. We need God’s power, His help and strength. This can only be achieved through prayer, Bible study and thinking about what we have read, occasional fasting and strong faith without any doubts. And we must be there with and for each other, for we all have one faith, one hope, one confidence, one love, one Lord, one God and one Spirit of power in us.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote the following words, which also have great significance for us today:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit [which] dwells in us” (2 Timothy 1:7-14).

All in all, this means for each and every one of us: “You must stay strong!”

Initial translation: Daniel Blasinger

Arbitrary Ethics

I took an introductory course in Philosophy when I was in my first semester of college. While I don’t remember a lot of what I learned at that time, I do recall our discussions about various theories of morality. Utilitarianism is one such theory that measures whether an action is right or wrong on a continuum of how much happiness it would produce. According to this theory, the most virtuous actions are the ones that produce the most happiness and least unhappiness. In a purely carnal sense, it sounds appealing. But it is troublesome to consider that there is no standard by which an action could be viewed as being right in an absolute sense. Morality is judged purely based on the arbitrary whim of humanly defined happiness produced in the individuals affected. This bothered me then, and it bothers me now. I never cared to take any additional courses in the field of ethics because to me it seemed that it was all baseless rhetoric.

Today we see the dominant ethics in our society disturbingly driven by what man judges is right, without any regard to an authoritative standard. Modern society wants to do what it wants, and condemns anyone who says that an action is wrong. As such, abortion, stealing, lying, and perversions of all sorts are confoundingly celebrated by so many. The ethics of mankind today seem to be based only upon hedonistic, self-serving desire. I find this quite disturbing.

We know from the pages of the Bible that behaving without the guidance of God’s immutable standard of law will lead to a disastrous outcome. “For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:6). A sinful practice of life is one that ignores God’s commandments, choosing instead to be directed by personal desire. By way of contrast, living a righteous Way of Life requires learning and practicing obedience to God’s laws. But the carnal nature of people fights against this standard. Carnal desire is at enmity with God (compare Romans 8:7). Therefore, without God to set the standard of ethics, people are doomed to perish!

It’s unfortunate that such a simple Truth is so undesirable to man. Ironically, rates of depression and suicide are so high, yet people don’t consider whether their code of ethics based on maximizing carnal pleasure might be the root cause. The answer for how to make a correction is simple. God makes the path to joy, prosperity and success very clear: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Not only does obedience to God’s law lead to righteousness, it also leads to a truly happy life. Many of us who have decided to try this out have proven it to ourselves. God’s Way works.

We are privileged to know that God establishes the true standard by which we can discern between actions that are right and wrong. We don’t have to worry about figuring it out for ourselves or debating with our peers. We can be satisfied in knowing that the Truth was established long ago, and that it works then, now, and forever. “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth” (Psalm 119:142). The world around us might be lost, but we have a perfect standard to live by.

What Happened to Truth

This is an interesting question that has been answered in Isaiah 59:14-15. “…For truth is fallen in the streets, and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.” From this it seems that truth can be difficult to find.

We note that at this current time, three words that were used very rarely or even unknown previously have come into prominence. They are all concerned in some way with truth or lies, more often with lies and deception.

These words are “misinformation, disinformation and malinformation.” Misinformation has the meaning of false information, but the person using it believes it is true. In this case there is not necessarily any malice. Disinformation has the meaning of false information that the person using it knows it to be false. It is a deliberate lie, usually with malice. The third word, malinformation, is based on truth but can be used to inflict harm on a person, organisation or country. Malinformation can also apply to a truth that an organization or government does not want revealed.

Of these three words, the one that was used in the past was disinformation, especially in the Soviet Union, in order to discredit political opponents with the intended result of their ineffectiveness or destruction.

Of these three words, none are directly used in the Bible, but the actions they engender are used. The most prominent one being disinformation. We first encounter this when Satan deceived Eve by telling her that if she ate the forbidden fruit, she would not surely die (Refer to Genesis 3:4). As we read about Satan in John 8:44, last part, “When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, God gives us warnings of false prophets. In the Old Testament, God’s warnings were so strong that a false prophet who turns people away from God was to be put to death. (Refer Deuteronomy to 13:5). In the New Testament, Christ warns us against false prophets in Matthew 7:15. These false prophets were and are using disinformation as an attempt to deceive God’s people. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 informs us that Satan’s ministers were and are transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness, and that they would receive the appropriate outcome. Their intention again was and is to deceive.

A very pertinent example of disinformation was when a lying spirit was put in the mouths of all of Ahab’s prophets, who encouraged him to go to battle so as to obtain victory. This lie resulted in the death of Ahab, the king of Israel. Refer to 2 Chronicles 18:19-34.

An example of malinformation happened when Satan tempted Christ. In Luke 4:9-11 we read, “Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over You, to keep You,” and, ‘In their hands they shall bear You up, lest You dash your foot against a stone.”’” While the quote was accurate, its purpose was to cause Christ to sin. Hence it was malinformation.

As for misinformation, there are examples of probable misinformation in the epistles. In 1 Corinthians 15:12 we read, “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection from the dead?” This example shows that some members in the Church at Corinth were teaching that there was no resurrection. If they believed that then they were teaching misinformation.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, we are warned, “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.” This would appear to be misinformation. However, if members were claiming that this information was from the true ministers of God, then this would be deliberate disinformation.

So, we have many warnings in the Bible about being deceived, either mistakenly or deliberately. We are also aware that Satan deceives the whole world (Refer to Revelation 12:9). So, we must be well aware of the contents, examples and warnings in the Bible and trust those who have proven to have been faithful in transmitting God’s truth to us over the years. In this way, we will not be deceived by misinformation, disinformation or malinformation. We will understand what truth is, and for us, it will be a part of our lives, remembering that Christ said, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).

So, while truth has fallen in the street for the vast majority of people, it will not be so for us. We will know the truth and the truth shall make us free (John 8:32).

The Christian Attitude

Some people have the right attitude. These individuals are convinced that they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

What kind of attitude do we bring to the table?

Paul wrote about attitude in his letter to the Philippians. Philippians 2:4-5 tells us, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”

I would assume that the people in Philippi had their own problems. They needed to grow in the Holy Spirit just like we do. It is a process.

Paul’s letter was intended to help them to grow in the Holy Spirit. One reason for us to study his letter would be, that we may have the same problems as they had.

We should ask ourselves: What is my attitude towards my brothers and sisters in the Church? Or towards my co-workers? Is it positive or negative? Is the Holy Spirit of God growing and firmly grounded in me? Am I helping others to grow?

Answering such questions can be difficult, but facing the facts and reflecting on them is a valuable exercise.

The motivation for our behavior could be pride. Our actions and views can be driven by personal ambition, greed, revenge, or other motives that are obviously wrong. These ungodly traits creep in slowly, and we need to be on guard against them.

For this reason, Paul admonishes us to engage in a certain amount of self-examination.

How can we know if we are on the narrow path that Christ has shown us? The answer lies in esteeming others higher than ourselves. Philippians 2:3 says: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better [higher] than himself.” The New Jerusalem Bible says: “… everyone should give preference to others…”

Paul does not mean that we should become inactive and disregard our own strengths and abilities. Now let’s read Philippians 2:4 again: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

His point is that we should not be busy exploring how great we are. We should also focus on others, not just on ourselves.

Such is the right attitude of a true Christian. It is not self-evident for us human beings. But it would be worth working on it, and with God’s Holy Spirit, it is achievable.

Our decisions are molded in our minds and hearts. In order to have the mind or attitude of Christ, we need to understand how Christ actually was, and how He sees things.

In the following verses, we find possible clues. Philippians 2:6-8 tells us, “[Christ] who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Do we follow the example and resemble the mindset of Christ? Because that is the kind of attitude we should have.

But as usual, it is easier said than done.

Is the well-being of others generally more important to us than our own?

Every day, we are faced with decisions. We shape our character through the choices we make every day. We can mold a good or a bad character.

We should follow the model of Christ. Through His Holy Spirit, He will help us to become more and more like Him.

Is it worth the effort? Absolutely!

In 1 Peter 3:8-9, we read: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

(Initial Translation: Daniel Blasinger)

When We Feel Like Giving Up

Life is indeed hard sometimes, and every day distractions can be a hindrance to what is most important.  How strongly are we committed to the Truth and God’s Way of Life?  We may sometimes have that feeling of quitting, having doubt or a lack of faith, and that kind of thinking could even bring us to the point of giving up.  We have to be careful that we don’t think that way. 

In the 13th chapter of Matthew, Christ talks about the parable of the sower.  In verse 19, He states, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.”

We must be diligent in understanding the Truth, and we do that by studying God’s Word and asking God for His wisdom and understanding.  Satan the devil is very eager to draw us away from God’s Truth, and he loves it when we stumble. 

Instead, we are to be joyful when we hear God’s Word (verse 20).  The key is that we remain joyful and enthusiastic about God’s Way of Life, lest we drift away, due to various trials in our lives.  Verse 21 states, “… yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while.  For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” 

Christ also describes a category of people who do know the Truth but are still attached to the world in some way:  “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (verse 22).  We cannot serve God and mammon  (Matthew 6:24).  Being caught up in the world is a huge distraction from God’s Way of Life, and therefore, it is impossible to bear fruit.  In verse 23, Christ states: “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” We must also remember the fact that we, as converted Christians, were predestined to be called, and we were chosen for this life, to know God’s Truth and His Law.  God has called us out of this world to a potentially better life that is to come in the near future.  With this understanding that we have, we must act on it, and whenever we may have that feeling of giving up, know that God is always there to help us and that we will be blessed far more than we can ever imagine. Keep going, and we will see what God promises the faithful.

It IS Worth Getting Out of Bed!

Very recently, I read a letter in a national newspaper which was in response to an earlier article that had been published, entitled “Why Do Older People Groan When They Get Up?”   As an “older” person myself, I was somewhat amused by the following printed response:

“As a retiree, I can suggest some reasons.   We have a government with no sense of purpose and a similar Opposition.   Common sense views are dismissed as not ‘woke’ and those who express them risk being ‘cancelled’.   Highly paid (health service) consultants endanger patients by going on strike.  The Government has spent billions on a rail link from Birmingham to the middle of nowhere.

“Electric cars are the future, if you can find a charging point.   The choice of candidates at the next U.S. election is between two old lunatics.

“Its creators have realised that AI is a threat to humanity but have no idea how to stop it.   Shoplifting is increasing and no one can stop that, either.  

“It’s not so much a case of groaning when we get up.   Some of us wonder if it’s worth getting out of bed!”

And, although that letter was probably somewhat tongue in cheek, many may sympathise with the state of the nation and the world at large.  Had we not been given a knowledge of the Truth through the Church of God, we may have felt the same.

Having just returned from the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration, we will have heard messages about what is just ahead of us.   Sermons will have been given about how things will change and the return of Jesus Christ ushering in an entirely different Way of Life for those who survive the horrors of the Great Tribulation.   Things may be bad now, and they will get much worse, before mankind will, at long last, have decisive, honest, sympathetic and righteous rule over all the earth.

As a 12-year-old, Jesus was in Jerusalem for the annual Passover, and His parents were anxiously looking for Him.   After 3 days, He was found in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions (compare Luke 2:46). In verses 48-49 of Luke 2, we read: “So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.’   And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’”

In verse 50, we read that “…they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.”

Nearly 2,000 years later and with all the information contained in God’s Word, we can understand what Jesus was referring to.  It could be that some may wonder today if it really is worth getting out of bed.  But that must not be our approach and our Way of Life, and, like Jesus, we must be about our Father’s business.   Times may be difficult for many, but the recent Feast foreshadowed better times that are ahead of us, and we must get that message out to the world as much as possible.   

And that will be achieved by getting out of bed and doing whatever we can to assist in proclaiming that message at this critical time in the history of man!

R O I (Return on Investment)

Any investor planning an investment, whether in stocks, bonds or precious metals, has to analyze the risks involved. Some risks are high but produce big results; low risks usually produce lesser results as far as returns are concerned, so investors look at the potential Return On Investment or what kind of profit they can expect from their investment and how much risk they are prepared to take, and also, how much they are prepared to lose financially which in some cases may be all of their investment. 

These are factors involved in investing in the markets. If one doesn’t want to incur any potential losses, then one  should stay out of the market and keep their money in what the banks have to offer for term investments, with minimum losses, if any.

When we were called by God, He had to evaluate the risk involved in regard to our remaining faithful to the end. It was not an easy choice in some ways because of the human factor—the sometimes unpredictable reaction to certain events. Christ was frustrated at times, dealing with Israel, and He was prepared to start all over again through Moses, had not Moses talked Him out of it.

That same evaluation had to be done when creating angels since as free moral agents, they could rebel against Him, so in a sense, there was a risk involved in the process, and history shows that indeed thirty percent of the angels did rebel under the influence and leadership of Satan—an unredeemable, corrupt and evil being. 

We were predestined before the creation of the world to be called at this time which is a great privilege since we can become part of the first resurrection, but the success of this calling is in our hands, in that we have to follow through to the end in order to stand before Christ at His coming. The investment by God is a portion of Himself in the form of His Holy Spirit in us and also the Spirit of Christ, so they are invested in us and want the correct outcome at the end of this process.

They are there to help us along the way, but we have to walk the path of this life, following the footsteps and perfect example of Jesus Christ. We are not going to be carried automatically into the Kingdom.

If we fail, we can never blame God but must only blame ourselves.

God has not left us without tools for the success of this task, and that is that we must draw close to God using prayer, bible study, fasting and meditation as the means to achieve our goal of being in God’s Kingdom as God beings and being subject to God the Father, as Christ was and is.

God and Christ are on our side and in a way cheering us on, and the holy angels want us to succeed also, so let’s ensure we do not let God down.

Our golden crown and white garments await us.

Not As I Will…

Christ gave us this powerful promise in John 14:13-14:

“And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

He adds in Matthew 21:22: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Further, we read this in 1 John 3:22: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

So, all of this sounds pretty straightforward. If we ask God the Father to do anything for us, He will do so, if we ask in Christ’s name (with His authority and on His behalf); if we believe that God will do it; and if we keep His commandments and do the things which are pleasing to Him.

And still, even though we might fulfill all these requirements, we still might not receive the desired answer to our prayer. Does this mean, then, that God did not hear us; that He broke His promise; or that He is displeased with us for not being obedient and faithful enough? Does this mean, then, that it makes no difference whether we believe and keep His commandments?

If there was one Man who never disobeyed God; in whom the Father was well pleased; and who had full, total and complete faith, it was Jesus Christ. He even said that He knew that His Father would always hear Him. But at one time, He did not receive the answer from God the Father which He had desired.

Even though He came for the purpose of suffering and dying for mankind, when He was faced with the reality of torture and death, He did not want to go through it. He prayed to the Father to spare Him from this terrible ordeal which was awaiting Him. He told His disciples who were with Him: “‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.’ He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me…’” (Matthew 26:39).

Although hoping that there could be another way to accomplish the purpose of His coming, He knew, deep down inside, that there was really no other way, and so He added: “‘… nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will’” (same verse).

He submitted to God’s Will and made it His own. When Peter was willing to defend Him against the soldiers with the sword, trying thereby, however foolishly, to prevent His arrest, Jesus told him: “‘Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?’’ (John 18:11).

And so, we read in 1 John 5:14-15:

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

But how do we know whether our requests are in accordance with God’s Will? And if we don’t know, doesn’t this mean that doubts come in and diminish our faith? The answer is “No; that does not have to be the case.” When we pray to God, we must have the unconditional and unwavering faith that He will hear and answer us in the way we hope. And that He will make it abundantly clear to us if His Will differs from ours. Sometimes, that answer comes rather soon. After Jesus had finished His prayer, He knew that there was no other way; the soldiers came to arrest Him, and there was no escape. 

But this realization of God’s Will, being contrary to ours, may not be manifested right away. It may take some time.

The Apostle Paul was a man after God’s own heart. He seemed to have suffered from an incurable sickness, and He asked God three times—apparently asking Him three times during the formal procedure of anointing by other ministers—to be healed from this sickness. Only after the third anointing did he know that God would not heal him, as this was not His Will. Paul describes this realization in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9:

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’”

Paul accepted God’s Will. He continued: “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (same verse). 

It took Paul a while to come to this conclusion. In the meantime, he had continued to ask God for healing. When we do not know yet whether God’s Will is contrary to our request, we have to continue to ask in faith. Giving up prematurely is not the answer, when God’s Will contrary to our desires had not been made clear. Christ said in Luke 18:1, 7:

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart… And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?”

God will make His Will abundantly clear to us, either immediately or in time. He may do so, for instance, by circumstances. We should know, however, that it is never God’s Will that we sin by not keeping His commandments. Even if circumstances might “indicate” that we “cannot” keep the Sabbath or the annual Holy Days, to draw the conclusion that we don’t have to would never be in accordance with God’s Will. 

We are faced many times with difficult and uncertain situations. God’s Will might not be what we would like to see, and disappointment in the case of “unanswered” prayers may be the inevitable result. We all go through these emotions, but it is important to realize that God has the best for all of us in mind. And in time, we will clearly see why God’s decisions have always been the right ones.

Other People’s Problems

Within families, there aren’t a lot of secrets. Family members know one another pretty well—both each other’s good points and bad; each one’s strengths and each one’s weaknesses.

Invariably, problems arise. Regardless, families most often stand by and offer great support in times of trial. It is rare to hear of a parent renouncing their child even when he or she commits terrible crimes.

Within our spiritual family, the Church of God, we also get to know one  another quite well—the good, the bad, and, yes, even the ugly.

How do we operate within that spectrum? Regardless of the relationship, the goal should be one emphasizing this foundational approach:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

We probably have all heard someone say about another that they were there for them when they needed them the most. Paul wrote:

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).

But it isn’t just the big problems other people have for which they need our help. Life is made up of many, many little things and that includes problems—challenges which might go easier with another person’s help.

Let’s make it a point to do what we can when the opportunity and the need arises to serve, remembering that we, too, can fall into that category of being the other person—with a problem!

Why You Cannot DIY!

I enjoy watching Do It Yourself (“DIY) videos on YouTube. From an amateur watch maker who restores old mechanical watches, to a farmer in Ohio who is building his backyard pond, the ability to transform and create something of value is impressive. Many of us have experienced the sense of satisfaction that comes along with building something by hand. Perhaps the task is woodworking, metalsmithing, creating a piece of art, writing something with enduring quality, and even gardening. The feeling that we can derive from a job well done is hard to describe but one knows the feeling. People use the word “satisfying” to describe that sensation of accomplishment that comes from completing a task. It is good to use the skills we have been given by God, but not good to believe that we are independent of God’s grace in our lives.

I have a work-colleague who has mentioned a prior life near the beach in Costa Rica. He would fish for the family dinner, pick fruit from a tree for breakfast, and in general live a self-sufficient lifestyle. He makes it sound wonderful and free of the usual stress and hassle that everyday life typically includes. The positives of such a life seem to outweigh the possibility of negatives but they do exist. Perhaps you will wake up ill one day and be unable to fend for yourself. One would quickly come to understand they are not quite so self-sufficient.

In Proverbs 3, and in verses 5-8, we are directed to: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.”

This is antithetical to the DIY philosophy, but to us as true Christians, it is essential that our toolbox be grounded in our faith, obedience, and trust in the Father. It is also true that God wants those He calls to be productive and use the talents and abilities He gives them. This is not a DIY contradiction because we must remember that despite all that we do and may be proficient at, we must rely on God for blessings and deliverance from the challenges we face.

Isaiah 41 outlines the many things that God does and will do for His people. It is a catalogue of His power and majesty and encapsulated in verse 13: “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” Is this not what we all require—God to take our hand and guide us through the difficulties? As we apply our skills and energies to a problem, we must understand that we must rely on Him. The part that many of us struggle with is that if it is not God’s Will to grant a desire, or an outcome He favors, it will not happen, regardless of our skill. As He did with Moses in the Wilderness, God made the impossible occur. He brought forth living water from stone. Later in Isaiah 41,we see His powers clearly, as stated in verses 18 through 20:

“I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”

As humans, we are not capable of miraculous achievement, regardless of our skill. Even musical and technical prodigies must develop and are flawed. Only God is defined by perfection. He has, however, given us a glimpse of His magnificence through His creation of all of us and the universe around us.In 1 Peter 5, and in verses 6 and 7, we are admonished as follows: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”

True Christians must understand this and ensure that they do not fall back on the carnal expectation to rely on oneself, or one’s family, friends, or colleagues for salvation. All good things flow only from God. This includes all blessings, skills, sustenance, and even the challenges we face. In Philippians 4, and in verse 6, we understand that we are to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

In our society today, we are accustomed to receiving immediate updates for packages we are expecting. We have similar expectations for resolutions in our lives. Problems we face, health issues, and challenges involving work, are just a handful of matters we deal with in which our expertise may have little impact on the outcome. Yet, our human existence has trained us to believe that we can fix the situation. We also see the reliance that so many people in the world place on governmental leaders to deliver peace, prosperity, and well-being. Political parties and activists promote their ability to provide the answer. As true Christians, we know that this is not accurate, nor is it possible.

As we conclude, let us consider Christ’s words in John 15:4-5: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” This is what it boils down to: We can do nothing without God’s intervention and influence in our lives. When He calls us, we have a choice to make, and as the builder counts the cost of the project, true Christians must understand the full benefit that comes with trusting and relying on God.

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