Sunday, November 29, 2015

He Has Set Eternity in the Hearts of Men -- Part I

We are all going to die. It is interesting, though, that when people are asked where they think they will go after they die that most people will say “Heaven.” Most people will also tell you that they think they have basically been “good” during their life, so they don’t think they will go to Hell. Isn’t it interesting that even if people have never thought about Jesus Christ or the way to get to Heaven, that they still believe that there is a Heaven? We shouldn’t be surprised, though, because the Bible tells us that:

“He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. He (God) has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end.” 
-- (Ecclesiastes 5: 17. NIV).
God has given everyone an internal knowledge or a deep seated awareness of a place called Heaven. In fact, Heaven isn’t something that seems strange to us, nor is Heaven something that feels false, imaginary or made up; rather it feels natural to think about Heaven and to have a place like Heaven to go when we die. But is Heaven the only eternal place of which we have an internal knowledge and deep seated awareness?

I believe that we also have an internal knowledge of the place called Hell, because people are always weighing the goodness of their life against a life that is bad or evil. When asked about where they think that that will go after they die, most people will say Heaven, because they think they have been good. Moreover, people instinctively know when they have not been living a good life, and they know when they have done bad things. Unfortunately most people think of Hell, though, as a place that murderers and serial killers or habitually mean people will go to, and since they are not like those other bad people it cannot be a place that they will go.

As Christians, we know that even though God has “set eternity in the hearts of men” that there is only one way to get to Heaven. That one way is through Jesus Christ. Therefore, as Active Relational Christian Mentors we should want to make sure that all our mentees do not just know about Heaven, but that they know how to get there. We need to tell them that goodness is great and wonderful but that goodness and good deeds alone will not get them into Heaven. We have to tell people the Truth about how a person will either go to Heaven or Hell.

Whether we are teaching a skill, sponsoring a mentee for a better job, mentoring on some specific knowledge that we have to share, or simply encouraging or supporting a woman through friendship or counseling, we can also share our knowledge of Heaven. It is a topic that is easily talked about, because everyone has a view of what Heaven is or what it will be like. Actually, it might be easier to start a conversation about Heaven than to start with the topic of Salvation when we want to speak to someone about their eternal life. Then we can tell them how to get to Heaven; a person must truly believe on Jesus Christ as the living Son of God.

God is Eternal
As mortal humans our vision of the future is limited. We cannot see where we will be tomorrow let alone next year. Oh, we can make plans and tell our friends that we are going on a vacation next week, but our lives can change in the blink of the eye. No matter how intricate our plans are, we need to rely on God for our future. God is not limited in His vision. In fact, God can see the past, the present and the future all at the same time. He has plans that extend throughout eternity and God has a schedule for when things will happen. Furthermore, God’s plans for you are not limited to the daily things that you do or don’t do in life. Yes, God cares about our ups and downs, but He has even bigger things on His mind, like our eternal lives and our relationship to His Son.

God is eternal. He has always existed and will always exist. To the prophet Isaiah, God said: “From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can oppose what I do. No one can reverse My actions.” – (Isaiah 43: 13. NLT). Then David in a Psalm that tells us of God’s mercy and God’s support in difficult times ends his Psalm with these words: “Bless the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives forever from eternal ages past. Amen and amen!” -- (Psalm 41: 13). This means that God has always existed and will always exist.

But one of the most important Scriptures for me, which relates to God being eternal and forever, are the Words that God gave to Moses before Moses went back to Egypt to rescue God’s people from the Pharaoh and slavery. God had called to Moses from a bush that would not be consumed by fire. God then told Moses that He was the God of his ancestors – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. After telling Moses what He wanted him to do, Moses said that the people would not believe him. How could God expect the people to believe that “God” was actually telling Moses to lead the people out of Egypt? Remember, the Israelites lived among people who had worshiped many different gods. So, Moses wanted to know what god’s name he was to use when telling the Israelites that “god” had sent him. Then, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’: and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM’ has sent me to you. … ‘This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.’”.   – (Exodus 3: 13-14. NASV). WOW! God’s name is “I AM” and it is an eternal name, for God is eternal.

It is often hard to translate exactly from one language to another, but when it is the old Hebrew language that was written without vowels it makes it even more difficult. However, whether you use the above NASV translation, the NLT translation that says “I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS” or another of the other Bible translations of the above verse, the meaning of God’s Name in our language is: “I Will Always Be Who I Have Always Been.” – (p. 69 of Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible). But whatever Bible Translation is used, the name “I AM” shows not only God’s existence forever but His unchangeable nature. For, God today is the same God that appeared to Moses all those years ago, and He will be the same God tomorrow and in the future. In fact, Hebrews 13: 8 says God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.”

God and Eternity

God gave humans opportunities for growth, which includes opportunities for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth, while we live on this home of earth. But earth is just a temporary home. Moreover, we all are born knowing that earth is just our temporary home. But we also instinctively know that we are nothing apart from God even if we won’t admit it to ourselves. In fact, David wrote a Psalm about his realization of the brevity of our lives on this earth and his awareness that we are to live for God. David wrote, “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away. My life is no longer than the width of my hand. An entire lifetime is just a moment to you; human existence is but a breath. We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth for someone else. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.”  -- (Psalm 39: 4 -7. NLT). So, whether we live only moments or live to be way over a hundred years old, we innately know that this earth that God gave us to live on is but a temporary home. We are simply aliens in a strange land.

But if our home is temporary, what are we do while we are living here? Is there something specific that we are to do with our lives while here on earth? Also, how do we get to that eternity that God has placed in our hearts? Finally, are we to share our knowledge of eternity with others? Can’t they find out on their own? These are all good questions, and at some point in my blogs I will try to answer them for you using the Word of God.

Jesus Confirms Heavenly Eternity

Most people have no idea of what eternity will be like. Even Christians have a hard time understanding eternity, even though we know that we will someday be there giving everlasting love and admiration to God and His Son, Jesus Christ. So, why is it so hard for us imagine or understand our future in eternity? Well, obviously, we are mortal, and as such we have all known those who died and are no longer with us. We don’t know where their souls have gone, but we know their bodies are turning back into the dust of the earth. Christians know, though, that Jesus and the Scriptures have told us that we will indeed get to spend eternity with God.

Even the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day who were supposed to study God’s Word daily, could not understand eternity.  At one point in trying to trip Jesus up, the Sadducees asked Jesus about marriage in Heaven. They wanted to know who a person would be married to if they had been married to more than one person here on earth. Jesus told them: “Your problem is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise, they won’t be married. They will be like the angels in Heaven. … haven’t you ever read about this in the Scriptures? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died, God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’. So He is the God of the living, and not the dead.”  -- (Matthew 22: 29-32. NLT).

In the above verse, Jesus told the Sadducees to remember the Scriptures and specifically the one where God said I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God would not have said, “I am the God of …” if those three were dead forever. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will live eternally with God. To make sure the Sadducees understood what God had meant when He said, “I am the God of …”, Jesus explained further by saying, “So He is the God of the living, and not the dead”.  Confirmation of Heaven was given through Jesus’ use of the present tense that there indeed will be a resurrection for those who are dead and an eternal life that all believers will receive.

From the Sadducees’ questions to Jesus we can see that all of us have our own idea of eternity. The Sadducees were concerned about marriage in Heaven and who they would be married to. But, Jesus in His answer to them was telling the Sadducees and us that we cannot make up our own ideas of Heaven based upon our culture, what we have done in life, or what we want out of life. Unfortunately, most people’s idea of eternal life is based upon their present life experiences and their images of what a perfect life would be like here on earth. For example, have you not heard of golfers who talk about playing perfect golf games with his/her friends in Heaven? Perhaps you have a favorite sport or activity, and you would love to be able to enjoy that sport or activity whenever you wished?  So, Heaven to you would be a place where you were able to do your sport or activity whenever you wished. Another example: I love living by a lake with plenty of surrounding hills, trees, sunshine and moments of solitude. So sometimes I catch myself saying something like, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a beautiful home next to a lake in eternity.” But we must not make up or think that our own ideas of eternity will be what Heaven is like. Heaven will be beautiful, but it is there that we will focus on glorifying God, and our focus will not be on ourselves.

We cannot think of Heaven or God in human terms. Instead, we must think more about our relationship with God, our obedience to Him, living for Christ and sharing the Good News with others than to think about what Heaven will be like. We are to have a relationship with God that will transcend our earthly bounds; one that will grow ever more dynamic and beautiful the more that we know and live for God and His Son.

How do We Receive God’s Eternal Life?

"All mankind is sitting on Death Row.
How we die or when is not the main issue,
but where [we] go after death."
-- (p. 29 Billy Graham in Quotes).

Everyone instinctively knows that there will be an eternal life waiting for them; even those who claim to be atheists. But not everyone knows how to have a Heavenly eternal life with God. Many think that their Heavenly eternal life is dependent upon being good and doing good things. Many people even work at doing “good” for other people. But, they also instinctively know that being bad and doing bad things will get them a totally different kind of eternal life that is not someplace they want to go.

The Apostle Paul told the Philippines: “For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. Their future is eternal destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and all they think about is life here on earth.” – (Philippians 3: 17-19. NLT).  The Apostle John also tells us that we are not to live for ourselves and love this world. John said, “Do not love the world nor the things in this world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. … The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”  -- (I John 2: 15,17. NASV). Certainly, living for ourselves and not developing a relationship with the Father and Christ will give us a totally different eternity than the one that God wants for each of us.

Hell is the other eternity awaiting those who reject the gift of Salvation through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Sinners who do not want help or God’s forgiveness will receive Christ’s judgment of Hell. We are all sinners from the moment of birth and we must repent and overcome the lusts of this fallen world in order to go to Heaven. Indeed, the Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – (Romans 3: 23. NASV). But, even though we are born sinners, we can still go to Heaven if we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ as the risen Son of God. No one has to go to Hell! It is our choice.

If you reject God’s offer of fellowship through His Son Jesus Christ, and if you reject His Son’s offer of eternal life then you will indeed go to Hell. We know this because the Bible says, “For the wages of (i.e. the payment for) sin is death (i.e. eternal forever death in everlasting fire), but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – (Romans 6: 23. NASV).  But what happens if you reject Christ as the Son of God and as your Savior? Well, everyone should know that Hell is a place of eternal separation from God and His love. Actually, it is a place of total separation from all love. Hell is a painful, loveless, agonizing eternal existence. But there is only one a way to avoid Hell. It is a free will choice that everyone needs to make before they take their last breath. For if you have not chosen Christ by the time you take your last breath, you will have made your choice; you have chosen to live in eternal Hell.

The way to eternal life is to believe on the Jesus Christ as the resurrected Son of God who died and arose for your sins. Romans 5: 8 tells us that God demonstrated “His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – (NASV). Then the Apostle Paul wrote that Christ “… died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again on their behalf.” – (II Corinthians 5: 15. NASV). So, to receive eternal life with Christ, all you have to do is repent of your sins and ask His forgiveness while believing that Christ died and arose for your sins. Even your life here on earth can be so much better spiritually and emotionally once you have repented and believed on Christ.

Receiving Salvation, though, does not mean that you will never have any troubles again while here on earth. For there will be many who persecute Christians. We will also have trials from this fallen world. However, God will help us through our trials if we rely on Him. But, we know that those who reject Christ and who persecute those who have given their lives to Christ will go to Hell.

We know that those who persecute Christians will go to Hell, because in speaking to the Thessalonians about God's love, the Apostle Paul also spoke about God’s rejection of those who persecute His children. When the Thessalonians were being persecuted for being a Christian or follower of Christ, Paul said “… God will use this persecution to show His justice. For He will make you worthy of His Kingdom, for which you are suffering, and in His justice He will punish those who persecute you. And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted when the Lord Jesus appears from Heaven. He will come with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from His glorious power when He comes to receive glory and praise from His holy people. And you will be among those praising Him on that day, for you believed what we testified about Him (i.e. that you believed in Jesus Christ as the resurrected Son of the living God who is now back in Heaven preparing a place for you, for when He comes again to receive you unto Himself.)”. – (II Thessalonians 1: 5-10. NLT).

True “born-again” Christians, i.e. those who have truly given their lives to Christ, know that Christ is preparing a place for them in eternal Heaven. In the meantime Christians have been given a commission or directive (See Matthew 28: 18-20 for the Great Commission) to share the wonderful knowledge that we have about eternal life with God and Christ. This knowledge is not something that we should keep to ourselves, nor is eternal Heaven a selective club that only a few special people can join. Our innate knowledge of eternity and Heaven is just one of God’s ways of showing us how much He truly loves all of us. However, because we are born sinners and God is holy, God cannot allow sinners in His Kingdom.  But, at the same time, God wants all sinners to repent and believe on His Son, Jesus Christ, so that everyone can be a part of His Kingdom. So, as Christians we have to tell others, i.e. our mentees, friends, relatives and even strangers of the marvelous eternal life that they, too, can have if they ask Christ to be their Lord and Savior.

Jesus is the Way to Eternal Life

One of the reasons that many people say that they do not believe in eternal life is because their lives are so miserable or terrible. They do not understand that eternity is not an extension of our lives here on earth. Rather our place in eternity is based on a single choice that we will each make. If we choose Christ, our eternal life will be a more beautiful than we can imagine, and we will have a much better life than the one we have here on earth.

A Christian’s life should be the embodiment of Christ’s life, i.e. we are to show others His goodness, His beauty, His truthfulness, His giving, and His kindness, etc. as seen through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who guarantees that we will live forever with God. In eternal life with God there is no sickness, no unkindness, no enemies, no evil, and no lies. If we look and pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s insights we can actually see the reality of the goodness of eternal life as seen through the eyes of Christ. Sure, once we accept Christ as our Savior, we still have earthly everyday choices to make. But with Christ in our hearts we can get a glimpse of eternity with God. We can see what our good choices can show others about eternity with God. When we receive and open the gift of the Salvation we can also start to make better choices with love in our hearts and with faith and trust in God. We can begin to view our earthly life from an eternal perspective.

We know that it is through Christ that we receive eternal life, because the Scriptures tell us that “… God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” – (John 3: 16. NLT). So, the first step to everlasting life is to believe that God sent Christ to die for our sins so that we can have everlasting life. This is more than just an intellectual belief in the Scriptures. This is believing in your heart that Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and died on the cross taking your sins upon his shoulders. We also must believe that Christ arose from the dead. For, Romans 10:9 says “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be Saved.”  -- (NASV).

Christ is eternal life. The Apostle John started his first book, entitled The Gospel According to John, with these words about Jesus Christ: “In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and He was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that He didn’t make. Life itself was in Him, and this life gives light to everyone. The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” – (John 1: 1-5. NLT). The Apostle John also wrote three other books in the Bible. Again, the Apostle John starts his book, I John, with words about the eternal existence of Christ. John says, “The One who existed from the beginning is the One we have heard and seen. We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. This One who is life from God was shown to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and announce to you that He is the One who is eternal life. …” – (I John 1: 1-2. NLT).

After temporarily giving up His Home in Heaven and by being faced with many of the temptations and many of the problems in this world, Jesus was able to understand why people were so slow to recognize what is right in front of them. Although some people would immediately see the Lordship of Jesus, others would succumb to the lies of Satan and the opinions of others rather than thinking for themselves. So, Jesus knew that many people would need a little help in recognizing that God had given them a choice to make.

Christ sent the Holy Spirit to speak into the hearts of people, because we are so stubborn. For example, one day Jesus said to a group of followers and His disciples: “It is the Spirit who gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But some of you don’t believe me.” – (John 6: 63-64. NLT). Because many people could not see that they needed a new life and a relationship with God, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to show us about our need for spiritual renewal, a relationship with Christ and about our need for eternal life. After He went back to Heaven, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to earth. The Holy Spirit reveals the Truth of our need for Christ. Of course we can reject that Truth and fail to ask Christ into our heart or fail to recognize that we need a spiritual relationship with God and Christ. But none of us can say that we weren’t given a chance through the Holy Spirit to ask Christ into our heart.

If we ask Christ into our heart, then the Holy Spirit indwells us and helps us make good choices in life, if we are willing to listen to Him. He reveals the ultimate Truth and He enables us to respond to what we have learned. Through the Holy Spirit Christ has given us a helper to show us how to live here on earth until it is time to go home to eternity with God. The Holy Spirit is also a comforter. He helps us get through trials and problems that we are afraid to face. He constantly reassures us that we have a home in Heaven ready when the time comes to go home to the Lord.

I hope that you can share your knowledge of eternity with someone who doesn’t yet know Christ as their Savior. It is important that every Christian have as much truthful information as they can in order to clearly and truthfully speak into the lives of others. There isn’t a person on earth who doesn’t know that there is an eternity somewhere awaiting them. Some refuse to accept that they will spend time one place or the other. Others through the brainwashing of liberal ideas and the lies of Satan have chosen to think that they have come from some primordial mud. However, if they would ever look into their hearts, they could see eternity there. As Christians it is sometimes easier to open a conversation about eternity than about whether or not someone is “Saved”. But even if you start with eternity, the subject of Salvation is there, because eternity requires a decision about the gift of Salvation.

Prepare yourselves with knowledge. Try to think of questions that others may ask you and then be prepared with a truthful answer. It is when we are unprepared that fear keeps us from talking about Salvation and eternity. So, don’t let the devil trip you up with by being unprepared. 
You can do it!
You can share Jesus with others!

You can become an active relational Christian mentor!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Active Relational Christian Mentoring Grounded in Love and Truth

True “born-again” Christians understand that “Love” is the foundation of our belief in Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world. We know that God created us in love. We understand that God wants a relationship with us based on our love of Him. But, He will not force us into a relationship with Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.

God loves us (humans) so much, though, that He does not want any of us to go to Hell. Yes, there is a Hell. It is not hell on earth as some would like you to believe, but it is an eternal hell where there is no “Love” of any kind. Besides the eternal agony of the constant pain and the terrible heat that will be experienced by all who reject Christ, there will be no comfort of any kind in Hell, i.e. no love. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to experience pain, agony, loneliness, and a loveless eternity. There is already so much loneliness, pain, and hopelessness endured here on earth, i.e. until we ask Christ into our hearts. Then, we are never alone again. Furthermore, Christ gives us the strength to handle this fallen world’s pain in all its forms. So, it is incomprehensible to me that anyone who knows or is who is given the Truth of the Gospel would reject it. But, it happens every day. Satan convinces people that there isn’t any reason to trust in and believe on Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Satan convinces people that the Truth of the Gospel is not for them. Or, with his lies, Satan convinces people that there is no Truth in the Gospel. Remember, though, that Satan is a liar and the Father of lies. (See John 8: 44).

The Depth of God’s Love

The Truth of the Gospel is that God loves us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die a cruel death on the cross, so that Christ could take upon His shoulders all our sins. Christ also conquered eternal death through His resurrection from the dead so that we, too, experience resurrection from death and live forever in the love of God. So, how does this resurrection work? Well, first our soul will be resurrected, when we die and God calls us home to live forever with Him. Our soul does not stay in the grave. Later, our body will be resurrected when Christ resurrects all the Saints (true believers) to go home to live forever with God and Him. But in order for this to happen and for us to have our sins forgiven, God had to send His Son, Jesus Christ to go through the experience of death and resurrection. Can you imagine the kind of love or depth of love it took for God to send His Son to die for our sins? This is a love that we cannot fathom in our present human form. But the Bible tells us:

 “Your Love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, Your justice like the great deep.

You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.

How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God!

People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.

They feast on the abundance of Your house;

You give them drink from Your river of delights.

For with You is the fountain of life;

In Your light we see light.”
– (Psalm 36: 5-9. NIV).

The Fountain of Life

What is this fountain of life? Well Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that if she knew who it was who was asking her for a drink of water that she would instead have asked Him, i.e. Jesus, for water. Jesus told her that He would have given her “living water”. 
So what is this “living water”? When the Samaritan woman questioned Jesus about “living water” Jesus said, “… whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  
-- (John 4: 14. NIV).

Jesus also told a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was a member of the ruling council of Jews, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” But Nicodemus did not understand how a man could go back into a woman’s womb and be born a second time. So, Jesus explained by saying, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit.” 
– (John 3: 3, 5, 6. NIV).

To help Nicodemus understand better, Jesus told him that no one sees the wind, but we all feel it. So just like the wind, everyone born of the Spirit will know and feel the Spirit. Also everyone who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ will have eternal life. For, Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to later receive.” – (John 7: 37, 38. NIV). 

Indeed, after Jesus was resurrected, glorified, and went back to Heaven to be with His Father, the Holy Spirit was sent to each person who believed in Christ and who with repentance in their hearts asked Christ to come into their heart. This still occurs every time a person asks; believing for personal relationship with Christ.

But God also tells us that He searches the hearts of every one. He is looking for those who will turn to His Son, Jesus Christ. God knows, though, that there will be many people who refuse to acknowledge God’s love and the sacrifice that Christ made for their souls and their life here on earth. In fact, even before Christ was born, Jeremiah, a prophet in the Older Covenant/ Testament (remember, everything in the Older Testament points to and finds its fulfillment in Christ) tells Israel (and all people) what will happen when people refuse to turn to God and Christ:

O LORD, the hope of Israel,
All who forsake You will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from You will be written in the dust,
Because they have forsaken the LORD,
The spring of living water.
– Jeremiah 17: 13. NIV).

The Light of Christ

The last line of the above quoted Psalm also mentions light. “In Your light we see light.” – (Psalm 36:9 NKJV). What is this light that God shines upon us so we will be able to see? Well, it is the light of Christ which is the Love of Christ; illuminating Truth and showing us how to love as Christ loves.

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. … This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the Truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
– (John 3:16,19-21. NIV).

It may seem hard to understand that “born-again” Christians, i.e. those who have a personal relationship with Christ and who listen to the voice of Christ and the Holy Spirit within them, can love and forgive those who do things to hurt them. Jesus Christ is the perfect example for true Christians to live by, for Christ suffered greatly upon the cross, but out of love for even those who were crucifying Him He said,
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
– (Luke 23: 34. NIV).

What great love it took for Christ to ask God to forgive those who were killing Him. Could you do the same? Love is the difference between those who want to help and forgive and those whose worldview includes hate, retribution and vengeance. True Christians do not put down or ridicule other people, but we do search for the Truth in all situations so that we can protect ourselves and our loved ones. Christ’s love and Truth is found in His and His Father’s Commandments which were given to us in order for us to be able to live moral, upright, and loving lives for ourselves and others.

Loving One Another and Shining Christ’s Light on the World

When Jesus Christ was preparing His disciples for His death, resurrection, and return to Heaven, Jesus said:

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

Those things I command you, that you love one another.”
– John 15: 9-13, 17. (NKJV).

It isn’t always easy to love one another. It is often especially hard to love those who are hateful, arrogant, or opinionated. In fact, it is very hard to love those who express evil in all they do. Sometimes it is very hard to love others with different worldviews than we have. Moreover, it is usually hard to love those who seem lazy or refuse to help themselves. I’m sure that you can probably name other traits or characteristics that are hard for you to love or characteristics, attitudes and traits that for some reason just rub you the wrong way. For, we all have certain things that bother us and sometimes cause us to look down upon another person. But, God has told us that we are to look beyond those attitudes, traits, and characteristics to the soul that He sees. We are to see the person that God created and loves. We are to look at others through the light that God and Christ project upon someone through our Christian eyes. It is this light that will illuminate their needs. If we shine Christ’s light and love upon them, we can also often see the beauty that God sees.

The Voices of the Martyrs of Christ’s Love

I was reading a special issue of a magazine entitled “The Voice of the Martyrs” the other day. This magazine tells us about Christians that are living as persecuted martyrs for the Lord, and it tells about those who have actually been killed, i.e. martyred for their faith in and love of Christ. This magazine also tells us about Christians who serve the Lord through this particular organization, Voice of the Martyrs, i.e. VOM. All of the VOM workers are either actively or passively mentoring Christians in Communistic countries, in Islamic countries and in war torn and terrorist controlled countries. The mission of VOM is to serve “…persecuted Christians through practical and spiritual assistance and leading other members of the Body of Christ into fellowship with them.”  We, too, can help the VOM workers and mentors through our prayer for these people.

Here in America we do not often hear about the numbers of Christians who are persecuted or killed. But according to VOM, since 2010 both ISIS in Syria and Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria have killed an estimated 11,500 Christians. That does not include over 3500 Christians who were injured or the ones that were displaced or became refugees hiding from these terroristic caliphates and haters of Christianity. It also does not include those Christians who have been persecuted or killed by China, North Korea and other countries or groups of people that hate Christians. But, wherever they are, VOM is helping the injured and displaced with medical workers, food, and other necessities. They mentor them and encourage them. VOM also helps them by replacing the lost or confiscated Bibles taken from these fairly new Christians. Their Bibles are so precious to these persecuted Christians. Can you say that your Bible is precious to you?

The love that these displaced and hunted Christians have for those who are persecuting them is truly amazing. Most people cannot imagine continuing to love people who are trying to kill you, but that is exactly what God tells us to do and that is what many of these persecuted individuals are doing. According to the reporting in VOM magazine, one Nigerian Christian, John Yakubu, who had survived several attacks by Boko Haram, escaped with his family to a refugee camp. However, they desperately needed food, and John could get food from the livestock that they had left behind. But, when John went back home to get his livestock, he was captured. The Boko Haram who captured him demanded that he convert to Islam. When he refused, they took large knives and cut him, leaving him for dead. However, God had other plans for this man. John was rescued, taken to a hospital, and he is now being helped by VOM. The amazing part, though, is that John Yakubu told one of the VOM workers that “I have forgiven the Islamic militants because they did not know what they were doing.” – (p. 4. “The Voice of the Martyrs”. Special issue 2015.).

John is not the only Christian, though, who forgives and loves those who have persecuted them. Some of the persecuted will even go back to share the Gospel with the militants when they are able to do so. Of those who go back, some survive and while others are killed. As told in an interview with VOM, one man, named James, lost his wife to two terroristic guerrillas who had come into their area. One day these two men came into his home and asked James’ wife what her name was. When she told them, they shot her in the stomach and then left. It is believed they killed her simply because she had previously told one of the female guerrillas that “life with the Lord is beautiful” and then she gave the female guerrilla a New Testament Bible. Obviously, the men did not like what she had done, so they went to her house and killed her. Their worldview is that no one can have another religion other than Islam. They have a worldview of hate and subjugation instead of love and freedom. What is your worldview?

You would think that James would have wanted retribution or perhaps he would have gone into a deep depression. James, though, took his daughters to a larger village. Although, the guerrillas looked for him, and although for awhile his spiritual life started to slip, James credits his safety, his spiritual strength and his continued good relationship with God to the prayers of his pastors and to the prayers of God’s people. He thanked all the organizations and churches that helped him, because as he said, “to lose someone this way and to see it, it is hard. That step is very difficult to say, when I see [her attackers], ‘I forgive you,’ knowing that these are scars that never get erased. But when one has a heart to serve the Lord, in my case what happened could have made me surrender to the world, but no. Thank God that He is my strength.”  -- (p.6. “The Voice of the Martyrs”. Special Issue 2015)

I was amazed at the depth of love that these persecuted and martyred Christians have or had within their hearts for those who were and still are persecuting them. Where do they get this type of love?  They get it from Jesus Christ who loved us so much that He gave His life for us. These Christians are willing to die for Christ. They know that Christ conquered death so that we, too, can someday live with God and Christ in Heaven. Their love is seen in the Christ-light that emanates from them, as they share the Gospel with others. It is a light that shines upon those whom you choose to actively mentor for the Lord. It is the light that guides us into all knowledge and Truth if we are just willing to look.

Christ has given Christians His light to shine upon the world through our belief in Him as the Savior of the world. Every true “born-again” Christian has that light within them. True Christians should also have Christ's love to share through service and kind, caring actions. But it is a matter of whether or not we will allow our Love-light to shine upon others. Are you willing to step forward to help those who may need your advice, knowledge, skills, experience or information to better their lives? Are you willing to actively mentor other Christians and non-Christians? Presently, if you live in the United States, your life is not in danger if you step forward to help others or if you step forward to share the Gospel message. Will you take advantage of your freedom to actively mentor others for Christ? Are you willing to pray for those who are standing up for Christ in foreign countries? Are you willing to pray for those who have not yet come to know Christ as their Savior?

It is easy to say we love others. But it is quite another thing to take action to show that we love. Christ said, “You are the light of the world. A town built 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 others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in Heaven.”   -- (Matthew 5: 14-16. NIV)
If we hide our light under a bowl, then hate and evil will not be illuminated, and they will not be seen for what they are. But if we allow our Christ-light to shine, the contrast between the love of Christ and the evil in this world will be seen clearly.

People in the Middle East and around the world are seeing the "light". God is using Christians everywhere to shine Christ’s light and love upon them. Years ago the prophet Isaiah said, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  
-- (Isaiah 9:2. NIV). 

Today those words have come true. People living and walking in darkness are seeing the light of Christ enter their land. They see it through the actions and mentoring of those who share Christ. They feel it in the love that fellow Christians express to them. They feel it through the warmth of prayers, which are prayed for those who don’t yet know Christ and prayed for those who are being persecuted just because they know Him. These prayers give them the strength to endure.

Yes, there is hate and evil in the world, and we have to be careful to protect ourselves from Satan’s devices and the schemes or people that he may use to hurt us. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. Christ has given each “born-again” Christian the indwelling of His Holy Spirit to guide us and protect us. But, we also have to listen to the Holy Spirit in order to discern what He is telling us.

Sadly, we also need to understand that there are people who just will not turn to Christ no matter how many times that we share the Gospel with them. That is their free will. Every human has the right to choose for themselves what they want to believe in and what they don’t. Remember, too, that it is not up to individuals to “Save” a person. God does all the “Saving” when a person repents and gives their heart to Christ. We are God’s Kingdom workers who should willingly reach out to speak into the lives of others. We are to be God’s hands, feet, and mouth to share the Gospel. Furthermore, sometimes the only way that we can present the Gospel is through the Christ-light and the love that emanates from us. For, some people are unwilling to listen to Christ’s message, or they can be turned off easily if we directly address the issue. This is where we have to show others our heart first. We have to show that we care about them. Then people can see the love that we have in our hearts, and they can observe that there is something different about a true “born-again” Christian, for we are shining Christ’s light and His love upon the world through our actions and deeds.

Whether or not we are mentoring a woman on learning how to play the piano, sponsoring or mentoring her in the workplace, mentoring her on how to handle a strong-willed child, or simply befriending her when she needs emotional support, we all have a responsibility to show our Christian love and the light of Christ’s love in all our endeavors. We are told that,
… as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  
-- (Colossians 3: 12-14. NIV).

Wisdom in Love 

Before I close today, I have one last thought about LOVE. We know that there are different kinds of love. From friendship love to spousal love and the many different kinds in between, there is plenty of love to go around. However, the love that we have been talking about today is Christian love that we have for the souls and needs of another human being. It is the kind of love that is expressed in actions of caring and kindness without expecting anything in return. God wants us to love others as we love ourselves and to help a person when they need help. That may mean loving another by giving that person a lift to work when their car breaks down. Or it could mean loving and caring enough about a sick friend that you fix and take chicken soup to her. It certainly means loving another person enough to share the Gospel message if we get the chance. But, God wants us to use Wisdom with our love as well.

What is “Wisdom within Love”?  It is simply using our mind and the wisdom that God bestows on his righteous children, before we act rashly in our love of others. It is being wise in the way that we give our love and being wise in our actions regarding Christian love.

Here is just one example of using "wisdom within love": Let’s say that you have been told that there is killer on the loose and the news reports have given just a general description of the man, but there is really nothing distinguishing about the description. You live about three miles outside of town down a country road, but on your way to town you see a man walking on the side of the road. Normally, out of Christian love you would stop and see if the person needed a ride. It's a small town and you know most everyone. But this person you do not recognize and he looks a little scary to you. Do you stop and give him a ride, or in the Wisdom within Love” do you take a moment to pray and ask God and the Holy Spirit what you should do?

In your Christian love of caring about others, you do not like to see anyone walking on the side of the road who looks like they need a ride somewhere. But you don’t have a good feeling about the man. What will you do? Here is where "wisdom within love" comes in. Instead of stopping and taking a chance that this is indeed the killer, perhaps it would be wise to use your cell phone and call the police letting them know that there is a man similar to the description of the killer walking on the side of the road. You preface your statements to the police with “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but I also don’t want to get killed if he turns out to be the killer.” You have shown the love and the desire to help this person, but you have also used wisdom to make a good decision and to take a action through Christian love. By using wisdom and by calling the police you may have protected yourself and perhaps others too. However, if this man walking on the road isn’t the killer, you have still helped the man to get a ride back into town with the police. But, if he is the killer, you have helped apprehend him. In everything we do, we have to use the wisdom that God gives us through the Holy Spirit and prayer.

We have a situation in America right now that requires “Wisdom in love”. Our country  is expected to take in over 10,000 Syrian refugees in the very near future. That’s just the first wave of or the first number of refugees expected to be given asylum in our country. However, at the present, we have no way of fully vetting these refugees as well as they need to and should be vetted before we let them into America.

The argument, which the liberals are making about the conservative idea of taking a "pause" until we can thoroughly vet the refugees, is their argument that we presently don’t vet those who come into our country on visas’ as thoroughly as conservatives are expecting and are wanting the refugees to be vetted. So, why should we make the refugees go through a higher vetting process then those seeking visas? Thus we are unloving, fear mongering people. But this is a non-sequitur argument, meaning that the liberal's statement or conclusion made about less vetting on the visas does not follow from the premise that they are stating. For just because we are not vetting those coming in on visas the way they should be vetted, does not mean that the refugees should not be vetted more strongly.  Rather than trying to make people think that we are mistreating the refugees, the logical thought process should be that we need to re-think our vetting process for those trying to gain visas too. Just because we fall down in one area like in the area of administration of the vetting process for visas does not mean that we should then fall down in the administration of the vetting process for the refugees too. To say it another way, we should vet both visas and the refugees with the same strict process. Both should have the same strict vetting process. In the situation that the world finds itself in, with the terrorists who want to kill westerners, visas should have a now have a higher intelligence vetting process than it used to have and both people seeking visas and the refugees should have stricter vetting processes that in ages past.

It also does not follow (another non-sequitur) that we don’t love these refugees simply because we want them to be more thoroughly vetted. We can love them and be wise at the same time. We should be able to use “Wisdom within Love” to make decisions that could affect our national security. We can love people and want to help them, but we need to be able to protect our people as well. We also have the ability to work with other countries to do a better and quicker job of vetting these people. We have the resources, but we have to use wisdom in using them. Rather than just a bunch of red tape that people have to jump through to get their visas and refugee status, let’s develop an agency that does nothing but vet people wanting to enter the United States. (Not a large gargantuan agency like the present one where the left hand does not always know what the right hand is doing). Let’s also make sure that each person in this vetting agency has a specific job or specific part of the vetting process to accomplish, and that only when each part is accomplished that a final review group goes over the data thoroughly before stamping “enter” on the visa or refugee request. It is also a matter of putting a trustworthy person in charge of finding ways to give these people comfort while they are waiting to come into the United States, too.

France just experienced the worst terrorist attacks since WWII. These terrorist attacks were led by some refugees who were able to come into France because of the Christian love the French had for these suffering people. Because, many people have asked our government to take a “pause” and figure out how to thoroughly vet the refugees before a similar situation happens to us, the President has implied that to not immediately let them in means that we are heartless and unloving people (another non-sequitur). He uses His political power to ridicule and make Christians feel like they are hypocritical. But we must apply Wisdom within love to this situation as well. What about working to find a safe haven for the refugees somewhere in the Middle East or India or Pakistan? What about helping the Middle Eastern countries provide comfort for these Syrians. What about working with France and the other countries who have previously gotten taken in by the terrorists coming through as refugees and see what these countries think should happen. Certainly, God wants us to love others as we love ourselves, but He also wants us to be wise. In fact, God tells us to search for wisdom.

The book of Proverbs in the Bible is attributed to King Solomon, probably the wisest man who has ever lived on this earth. If you remember, Solomon asked God for wisdom to rule his people and God gave him wisdom. So, Solomon’s wisdom came directly from God. He knew the difference between godly wisdom and worldly wisdom, and he could use both to make decisions for or about the people. In speaking to perhaps his own son, in the book of Proverbs, Solomon said,

My Son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives Wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright. He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just and fair –every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways…

Thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.  For the upright will live in the land and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land and the unfaithful will be torn from it. …

My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.”
– (Proverbs 2: 1-15,20-22; 3:21-26. NIV).

By using wisdom, “the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” Isn’t that what we want; for God to keep us from being snared by the evil of ISIS and a worldview that is out to kill everyone who doesn’t believe the way they believe? God has given us brains and He expects us to use our wisdom to make good decisions. We can be good Christians and show the light of Christ’s love to others without giving up our godly wisdom. Whether you are mentoring another, working at your job, or helping a neighbor, remember that God gave you a brain to use and Christ gave you a Christian heart. Together, the wisdom you have searched for and now have in your brain and the love that you have received through Salvation can become your greatest advantage in fighting against the evil that wants to take all of us down.

You can do it! You can mentor others for God. Active Relational Christian Mentoring (ARCM) will allow you to invest in the life of another woman, empowering her to become all that she can for God, her family, and herself. Active Relational Christian Mentoring is grounded in love and Truth.

God Bless Each of You!