Monday, December 29, 2014

Fearing God

Traditionally, it is regarded as a sign of goodwill to exchange favorable messages on certain days. While we acknowledge the customs of society, we above all strive to uphold the values we are taught in the Holy Scriptures (Romans 13:7). Since this is the last article for the year 2014, as a ministry we would like to take this opportunity to bless each person with a spirit of love, good health, peace, and a strong desire for the fear of God in 2015.

We pray that the will of the Lord God be made clearer to you all, and that you be found perfectly in His will. We pray that you celebrate life through Christ this new year. Have a blessed New Year all around in Jesus' name! Please remember to seek the Lord’s face and Celebrate Christ in Praise and Worship on New Year's Day.

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:18-21 NKJV).

A simple search of the online Bible reveals that the word “fear” is used well over 100 times in reference to God. The Bible admonishes us not only to honor all people (including our leaders) and love our brothers and sisters in Christ,but to fear and honor the Lord as well (1 Peter 2:17 NKJV). Furthermore, the Word of God also teaches us that fearing God is required for one to gain wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Psalm 111:10).

Initially, when we fear God, we spontaneously and submissively yield to His will in humble reverence and awe to His authority. The single best freedom humanity can enjoy for all time is Truth! Why? Because Truth sets us free (John 8:32)—no guilt, worry, fear, possessions, or fleshly desires are attached to truth. That Truth is Jesus Christ, and it is only through Him that we can have true freedom and eternal life (John 8:36; 14:6).

Naturally, when we correct our children (who have been taught in the ways of the Lord) after they have misbehaved, their response to our rebuke is often with reverence and with a sense of fear for God. As our Lord said, children are humble and more responsive to the fear of God than adults (Matthew 18:3-4). The Lord’s promise to us, as parents, is that if we bring up our children in the ways of the Lord, we would reap the benefit of them walking in the fear of God all the days of their lives (1 Samuel 1:21-28; Proverbs 22:6).

How We Lose our Fear of God

From the Bible, we learn that the fear of God is the foundation to attaining wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Psalm 111:10). Alluding to this fact, the Word of God warns us to guard against and avoid “godless chatter” or “profane and idle babblings and contradictions” or “irreverent empty speeches” that the world considers to be “knowledge” or “staying informed”; these types of talks and arguments will surely dilute and deviate our faith (1 Timothy 6:20-21). In my experience, and from what I have observed, we indeed start losing our fear for God when we are drawn to other interests which direct us away from God. Some of these distractions are well explained in the Bible; for example worldliness, love of money, and addictions (1 John 2:15; James 4:4; 2 Corinthians 6:14). In addition to these, I have identified a few other influences that also contribute negatively to our relationship with God.

Desires: To us Christians, the Bible is God’s infallible Word which carries a life-changing and life-giving instruction to mankind. We read in the Bible how several people, who knew God and had a relationship with Him initially, defied His will and chose to walk contrary to His ways (2 Chronicles 24:17-19; 2 Timothy 4:10). Exercising God’s will is a choice, and defying sin brings us two victories: God’s acceptance of our obedience and freedom from guilt. Our weakness as humans is that our choices are often influenced by our desires, which come either through someone or something that our senses capture. For example, Adam and Eve gave into the devil’s temptation when Eve "saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom...."(Genesis 3:1-6). Likewise, David gave in to lust and committed adultery when he saw that “…the woman was very beautiful…” (2 Samuel 11:1-4).

Influence from others: Bad influence from others can also detract our choice for obedience (1 Corinthians 15:33). For example, two arrogant men, Azariah and Johanan, falsely accused the Prophet Jeremiah of lying, and they influenced the people to flee to Egypt, contrary to God’s warning (Jeremiah 43:1-7). Also, in the Garden of Eden, the serpent influenced Eve to sin, and in turn Eve influenced Adam (Genesis 3:6). Rehoboam, who succeeded his father Solomon as king over Israel, was influenced by the young men he had grown up with to impose greater burdens on the people. He rejected the wise counsel of the elders who had urged him to be a servant leader and serve his people with equity and kindness (1 Kings 12:1–15).

Fear of man: Many people often fall into the trap of rejecting Godly counsel in exchange for human counsel and sympathy; this is giving victory to the devil. In the Scriptures, such an attitude is best described by these words from King Saul: “I have sinned. I violated the LORD's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gavein to them” (1 Samuel 15:24)During the time of Exodus, of the twelve men sent by Moses to spy the land of Canaan, only two (Caleb and Joshua) expressed confidence that God would help Israel conquer the land, and they urged the people not to have confidence in God and not rebel against Him, because the Lord was with them (Numbers 13:30; 14:6-9).The remaining ten spies were afraid and scared of “the giants”, so they discouraged the people and influenced them to rebel against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 13:31-33; 14:1-4, 10). The Hebrew midwives (Shiphrah and Puah) stood faithfully; they “… feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live” (Exodus 1:17). The prophet Daniel also, when he learned of the plot against him, was not afraid. Instead of giving in to fear, “he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days”(Daniel 6:10 NKJV)The Bible warns us that “fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe”(Proverbs 29:25). We should not fear man or seek to please others, but God alone (Isaiah 2:22; Isaiah 51:12; Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; Colossians 3:23; 2 Corinthians 5:9; 2 Timothy 1:7).Moreover, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself reiterated that we should“not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Possessions and power: Today’s economic environment is quite enticing to many. The explosion of goods, services, and flashy new technologies in the market makes it very easy for the devil to tempt us. Consequently, material things and thirst for power can separate us from God’s will (Matthew 19:16-23; Luke 8:14). There are some wealthy and influential people in this world whose power is their possessions and they have no fear of God. In their lust and greed for more material things, they reject eternal life—the most precious of all gifts—for worldly gain and the short-lived pleasure of sin (Luke 12:13-21; Hebrews 11:25). Sadly, many people are following them.

As a fact, today’s booming worldly entertainment media, such as television, movies, the Internet, videos and social media, promote the breakdown of family relationships and have become great stumbling blocks to godly living. In personal messages to many of us, the Lord admonished and encouraged us not to fear men. Although we are commanded to respect all men (1 Peter 2:17), we must not be afraid of their opinions of us, nor should we be ashamed of our convictions and our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 5:26-32).


Are You Living for God or for Your Own Pleasures?

Not too long ago, the Lord spoke to us in a vision, saying that we are hated by many Christians because of sharing His strong messages of rebuke against sin and wicked practices in the Church (John 17:14). We love doing the Lord’s work and our fear is for the Lord God alone. The Lord’s message is a strong warning against worldliness among Christians (Matthew 13:18-22; Romans 8:7).

As a ministry, the value we attach to truthful living and holiness far exceeds the luxuries of this life. While some may boast about their [temporary] power and earthly possessions, we know they are also driven by guilt and a strong fear of death. We should not value useless things above God and allow others to sway us from the path of truth; even in caring for others we must seek to please God (Matthew 7:13-14; 13:18-23). In the Book of Acts, we read about how Ananias and his wife Sapphira lost their lives as a result of greed for money and love of worldly possessions (Acts 5:1-11); what they treasured controlled them (Matthew 6:21). Using their example as a warning, we should not exchange the fear of God for anything; be it riches, power, or fame (Matthew 16:26). Instead, we should strive to faithfully and obediently serve God and allow nothing to separate us from Him (Romans 8:38-39). Like Job, we are encouraged to be wise by fearing the Lord and shunning evil (Job 1:1; 2:3; Proverbs 14:16; Ecclesiastes 12:13).

There are many Christian leaders who encourage us to “follow your heart” and “pursue your dreams.” The question we should ask ourselves is this: how do those dreams and plans in our hearts measure up to God’s will? Are those dreams only in pursuit of worldly happiness, comfort, and “success”, without the Cross of Jesus? If so, as the Lord Jesus explained in the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21), your dreams are self-serving and for your own glory, and they will only inspire those who seek praise from man! In contrast, pursuing godly dreams through the cross of Jesus, despite persecution and hatred from the world, will lead to the salvation of others, resulting in glory to Christ. The Bible teaches us that Truth through the cross comes at the cost of insults, hatred and blood (Luke 6:22; John 15:18; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 3:16; 4:12-14; 2 Corinthians 4:8-12). Do you think any of Christ’ followers conquered the world being applauded by the masses, without insults and hatred from the world which hates the truth? (Matthew 5:11; John 15:18).

Are you struggling with sins or temptations, be they thoughts, habits, addictions, or behaviors that drive you from the fear of God? Repent and conquer them in Jesus’ name, for the power is in your possession—choice (Genesis 4:6-7) and the Lord is willing to set you free (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 1 John 1:9; Romans 6:6-7). Is the fear of man and of persecution holding you back from fearing God, serving Him, and doing His will? The Lord Jesus can set you free if you receive Him into your heart and follow Him as your Master, Lord, and Savior (John 8:32; 36). I, therefore, urge you to “...fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods… Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15 NKJV).

If you are not yet born again, please pray this Prayer of Sincere Repentance to get started. For any questions or comments on this article or our ministry, please contact us.

Have a blessed New Year in God’s fear.

Brother Glenn and Preparing for the Kingdom Ministry.

Monday, December 15, 2014

God’s Forgiveness

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Note: Brethren, please don’t take offense when I use some of my own or other people’s experiences when presenting the Lord’s messages. The Lord taught us that the best way of getting the message across is to demonstrate, through our experiences, our wrong conduct and how through our failures we applied His Word and received correction. I honestly don’t seek to promote myself or any other person, but to make our message simple, personal and applicable. Our aim is therefore not to be "theological" in our message, but to identify ourselves as sinners who apply the Word of God by faith to experience His truth, love and forgiveness.

Forgiveness Involves Confessing Our Sins to God

When I was about 10 years old or younger, I heard from my elder sisters and other children that walking in the rain would wash my sins away, and that if I died I would go to Heaven. Being at that tender age, I also heard from elderly people that swearing, stealing, lying and fighting, which are common sins in this age group, were sinful. As a boy, I was always conscious about the wrong things I did and how to overcome feelings of guilt.

Now with respect, I saw how some Catholic people made the "sign of the cross" and I thought this was a way of prayer and asking for God’s protection and favor. After observing that and having gone to some Catholic church services, I started doing the same, hoping that by so doing it might grant me protection and favor with others. You may laugh! But I had my successes in this practice, and I also had my misfortunes. My participating in that religious practice as a boy was based on ignorance and lack of true faith, thinking that I could earn God’s favor and forgiveness simply by making the sign of the cross sign and saying a three-sentence prayer line.

Furthermore, since this was really all I knew about "being right with God", I grew up doing this and believing that was the way of salvation. I honestly and ignorantly thought I was right and that I was not going to share my "secret" with anyone, despite the many challenges I experienced, including a suicide attempt to get my Aunt Lily’s (see Salvation Received on Deathbed article) attention; this resulted in me getting a very good spanking for my egocentric efforts.

As it is, I parted ways with my practice in February 1990, when I started reading the Bible for myself and thereafter made a commitment to Christ. Without repeating my testimony, I read in Romans 10:9-10 on how to make a confession of faith and forgiveness, accepting Christ as Savior (1 John 1:9). This experience was very real as peace from the Lord Jesus Christ filled my conscience, leaving me guilt-free. This is when I really knew I was saved. Like we said previously, the born again experience is by faith and the accompanied joy from the Lord is only known by the person being saved. The unbelieving, doubters, skeptics, agnostics and atheists must first experience by faith this joy before slandering our Christian experiences as illusions and wild imaginations.

How Do We Ensure God’s Eternal Forgiveness?

In the Old Testament, the Lord required animals to be offered for the people’s sins, and once a year God commanded Aaron to take two (2) goats from the people to atone for their sins; one (1) to be killed as a sin offering and the other one (1) for Aaron to lay his hands on and confess all the sins of the people of Israel to God. The goat (or "scapegoat") carried all their sins on itself to a place where there were no people (Leviticus 16:15, 20-22). But under the new covenant, Christ took all our sins upon Himself through His death, resurrection and shedding of blood (Isaiah 53:5-6, 12). As the Bible says: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Since Christ died and rose again for our sins, we are required to humbly confess and repent of our sins. There is no blessing for those who hide sin, but there is mercy for those who confess and renounce their sins (Proverbs 28:13; Psalm 103:12).

After experiencing God’s forgiveness of our sins, we have a duty as Christians to obey and walk in the new life (Colossians 3:5-10; Ephesians 4:17-32). Our acceptance of the Lord was an acknowledgment that we are guilty before Him through the condemnation of our conscience accusing us of sin (Romans 2:15). Therefore having confessed, we promised or vowed to God that we will no longer do the wrongs we did before with an attitude of willful disobedience (Psalm 19:13). If we confess, the Lord does grant us forgiveness; if we ask, He forgives without reservations. I am going to share some experiences some of us had in this ministry as a way of demonstrating that our willful sinning hurts the Lord and arouses His wrath (Isaiah 63:10). The Lord God of Israel has not changed; He has only changed the requirements of receiving salvation (Romans 11:28-32; Hebrews 8:13; 9:11-12).

I therefore share some of my moments of disobedience and the Lord’s reaction. One evening I had an incident involving one of my daughters, and this led me to say things that I was not permitted to, and what I said clearly hurt everybody in the family. This particular incident also hurt the Lord and for my effort I received a stunning rebuke from Him that left me licking my emotional pains for weeks, feeling ashamed of my conduct. As it is, what the Lord told me was embarrassing, and I felt that He was angry with me for what I had done. That night was the most unfortunate in my life as a Christian and I felt the anger of the Lord with great fear and trembling. Even though the Lord had been speaking to us more than 2 years then, I felt that I was all alone and that God was against me. The moment following my outbursts I was conscious-stricken like David when he had the Israelite army counted (2 Samuel 24); I felt ashamed even to the point of not knowing how to ask the Lord for forgiveness. Through a strong conviction by the Holy Spirit I summoned courage and I went to bed that night praying and asking the Lord to forgive me. I knew that He might bring me a message, and He did. Being a gracious and forgiving God (Psalm 86:5), He accepted my repentance prayer and forgave me. This was evident in the subsequent message of rebuke that He gave me. Although the rebuke itself was strong and filled me with fear for God, I could also sense His love for me. He removed the guilt that tormented me (1 Chronicles 21:8) and what remained was just the embarrassment and a great lesson learnt. This was good for me as it served as a warning and humbling experience.

In another incident, we have a very dear sister in this ministry who is in the habit of covering up her children’s mistakes, giving other children the blame and not acknowledging the mistakes of her own children. I can tell you, the Lord is very displeased with parents who "seal up" or "cover up" their children’s wrongs and do not correct them on how to treat and live with others. That is a very dangerous position of parenting, including overlooking our children’s mistakes and siding with them when they’re wrong. This is like saying to them when they are wrong: "what you are doing is right and I am at your side to defend and protect you." The Lord handed this sister a strong rebuke which led her to tears of humility as she confessed her wrongs to the Lord. Although the rebuke came with a promise of punishment, after seeing how she humbled herself the Lord relented His anger and forgave her (1 Kings 21:29) saying that the vision was only a warning.

These above two examples are not they only ones we have experienced in this ministry. Other brethren elsewhere had their moments of sharp rebukes from the Lord.  However, when they would show a humble and obedient attitude, the Lord would graciously wipe the tears of the rebuke away and give some heart-warming encouragement to express His approval and forgiveness.

There are also many instances throughout the Bible where God displays His forgiveness and compassion. For example, God had intended to destroy the city of Nineveh within 40 days. After giving them a warning through Jonah, they believed Him and humbly repented of their sins (Jonah 3:3-9). When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened (Jonah 3:10). God's mercy is indeed great and beyond our understanding. Manasseh was one of the most wicked kings that Israel ever had and the Bible details his many sins:
From  twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the Lord... rebuilt the high places... raised up altars for the Baals, and made wooden images; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them... he caused his sons to pass through the fire...; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. He even set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God. Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel" (2 Chronicles 33:1-9).
Furthermore, the Bible says that "The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen, "therefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon." (2 Chronicles 33:10-11).  In this deplorable and helpless state, deeply afflicted, Manasseh sought God's grace and forgiveness: "... he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty (prayer request), heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God" (2 Chronicles 33:12-13). After Manasseh repented, he (Manasseh) forsook his wicked ways and began reversing all the wicked and detestable things he had done before (2 Chronicles 33:14-17). If the Lord God loved, forgave and restored this king who had committed such gross wickedness, how much more is He willing to forgive you for your sins if you likewise confess and repent? "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). 

In concluding, the Lord is not pleased when we take advantage of His forgiving nature and keep sinning willful. Also, willful sin results in habitual sin, and such behavior becomes addictive and sadly this drives the Lord away from us. As I have come to know Him, when we turn back to Him in submission and obedience, He will forgive us and keep us from falling from His grace (1 John 1:9; Ezekiel 18:21-24). Before closing, I would like to confess and testify that while the Lord is a forgiving and loving God, He cannot be fooled by people who try to manipulate Him into action to deliver a blessing. Instead such provocative behavior earns punishment. We must confess our wrongs and remain faithfully obedient; only then do we secure salvation (Matthew 24:13; 25:1-10). Let us honor the Lord and value His forgiveness.
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases (Psalm 103:1-3).
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy (Micah 7:18).
Are you missing out on God's favor and forgiveness by hardening your heart and failing to humbly confess and repent of your sins (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34; Psalm 51:17)? Are you weighed down and imprisoned with the guilt of unconfessed sin? If you would like to receive in God's forgiveness and be set free from the guilt of sin, please begin by with a Prayer of Sincere Repentance. For any questions or comments on this article or our ministry, please contact us.

Blessed regards in peace in Christ,
Brother Glenn.