Evangelical Church in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
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Agape Christian Fellowship

Loving God & Loving People

Ponder A Little (Blog)

A blog that ponders the questions of Christianity, Christ and God's love for mankind.

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ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

Posted on May 17, 2018 at 8:05 AM

How can Christians be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18)?   Is it possible?   Does this even make sense?  Are we supposed to be grateful for bad news?  The death of a relative, the loss of a job, a terminal diagnosis.   Surely God does not expect us to smile and boast gratitude for these events in our lives?


No, He doesn’t.  God is not morbid.   Jesus wept when his good friend Lazarus died (John 11:35).   God does not expect us to be thankful FOR all our circumstances.   He only expects us to be thankful IN all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18).


Our lives are supposed to be rooted in a heart of gratitude.  Job after suffering enormous loss declared, “God gives and takes away.   Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).  We can weep and experience the pain of loss while still having a mindset that recognizes God is in control, He is good and He knows what is best.


Having a heart of gratitude moves our thoughts off of ourselves and the pain of our circumstances.   An attitude of gratitude is healthy and beneficial for us.  It keeps us focused on God’s sovereignty and the bigger picture of life from God’s perspective.   Because for Christians, all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).


So how do we create an attitude of gratitude?   First, we need to make it a habit.  Gratitude is an action, not an emotion!  Giving thanks to God is something we have to condition ourselves to do regularly.  Second, it is achieved through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).  By feeding on the Word of God every day, the Holy Spirit will inevitably renew our minds in many different ways.  One way is to develop a permanent mindset of gratitude in all aspects of life – the good and the bad.  The result is a personal, greater sense of well-being and the peace of God.


Nurture the attitude of gratitude in your life today!


TEST OF SPIRITUAL INTEGRITY

Posted on May 11, 2018 at 10:45 AM


It’s been said that the surest test of our spiritual integrity is the personal intimacy with God we experience in our prayer life.   We can possess immense theoretical knowledge of God that is never transformed into a personal intimacy of communication with God.  This would be like living as a Pharisee.   All head knowledge and no heart knowledge.


The great men and women of the Bible not only knew God, they conversed intimately with Him.  Even Jesus spent hours alone with His Father in prayer.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, he passionately prayed.  How much more do we need to be intimate with God in prayer.  Knowledge of God is never enough.


We should each have a burning desire to know God but not from solely the goal of attaining more knowledge.  Our primary goal should be intimacy with God.  An intimacy that is based on knowledge and proven in prayer.  An intimacy that experiences God’s powerful presence in our lives as believers, each and every day.



RELIGION OR RELATIONSHIP?

Posted on May 1, 2018 at 1:30 PM


God cares about us living morally good lives.  But if this is all we are doing, then we are simply being religious.   Even our church attendance, being baptized, spending time with other Christians is important, but in the end they are all only religious activities.  Moral living with some religious activities will never make us a Christian or earn our salvation.

Our salvation is only possible because of the death of Jesus in our place for our sin.  A relationship with God is only possible with the death of our old self and our old ways, allowing the Holy Spirit, living within us, to have complete control of our lives.   Otherwise we will continue to strive, manipulate and worry about every detail of our life.   This kind of living does not achieve the abundant life we are promised or a personal relationship with God.

What God really cares about, is each of His children having a burning desire to know Him!!  This entails daily Bible study and prayer; and results in the relationship between God and man that Christianity is truly all about.  A surrendered and seeking heart is what God desires.  When we long to be in His presence, pouring our hearts out to Him and waiting silently for His answer, God is pleased.

Jesus explained that someday many who had performed great miracles will come before Him at the gate to heaven and call Him “Lord”.   Yet Jesus will say to them, “Depart from Me, I never KNEW you!”  This is an eerie thought.  It means that many who think they are Christians and going to heaven, are not!  So, yes God wants us to be good, moral, kind people but even unbelievers can achieve this.  That’s why the Christian faith is really all about a relationship with Jesus and knowing Him intimately and passionately.  

The Bible describes our relationship with God to be one of continual yearning to know and have more of Him.  It’s not about religious do’s and don’ts. Christianity is about each of us having an eternal thirst for God in our lives!!   

Many Christians get converted, baptized and begin the expected life of a believer with church attendance, bible study, prayer, worship and moral living.   These are all important but we must be careful to never believe that they are enough.  Otherwise, we can fall into a trap of religion and miss out on relationship, the true essence of the Christian faith.


WHY DOES GOD ALLOW PAIN AND SUFFERING?

Posted on April 22, 2018 at 9:10 AM


Christians have offered many explanations for suffering but make no mistake… there is no pat answer!  And if we have not suffered much, we need only live a little longer because eventually we all reach a breaking point and call out to God, “WHY?”

Our world is full of suffering!

There are biblical explanations for pain and suffering but how do we know which one applies?  And in reality, often none of them apply.  Sometimes life is excruciatingly hard just because it is.

So how do we respond to those who are suffering?  Sadly, too often Christians add salt to the wounds of others by suggesting what the source of their pain is?  This should never happen!  It is a time for only compassion, not advice.

Life is often hard.  But God never wanted a world of sin, and with it pain and suffering.  He created perfection in the Garden of Eden.  God wanted heaven to be on earth but Adam and Eve chose to sin, and evil and pain has been with us ever since.

Inevitably, when in the depth of despair, we will question if God really is good.

The goodness of God is fundamental to our Christian faith. We believe God is just and fair and good and loving.   Even though God is fair, He never promised life would be fair.  For sure, life was never fair for Jesus.  He died on a cross, a sinless man.

Jesus told us that we would have pain and sadness in this life.  And strange as it may seem, the Bible teaches that suffering is good. Why?

Our faith grows with our ability to see the beauty and goodness of God, even when we are breaking with pain.

So how do we see that goodness?  Look to Jesus.  Look at His life and how He endured so much suffering in our place… and find comfort.  Then look to heaven.  Look at what is waiting for us in eternity and measure how short-lived our suffering really is… and find hope.

But don’t suffer alone!  Hurting people need the support of family.  As believers, we are the family of God.  Burdens are lighter when shared, so reach out to family.  And reach out to God, who promises to be near the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18).


Don't Play It Safe!

Posted on April 11, 2018 at 6:50 PM


Pastor Ray Johnson from Bayside Church in Sacramento, California says there is a new idol in the church today and it is called ‘Safety’. He says society today teaches Christians to be afraid of so many things. And the fears we have, limit God’s ability to use us.


Many Christians don’t serve, don’t give, don’t witness, don’t take a stand, don’t take a risk and why? Because it isn’t safe! Our fears result in playing it safe, which then shrinks our lives, shrinks our impact on the world and even shrinks our God.


The early church described in the New Testament never played it safe. They were bold in everything they did and God blessed them for it. Even being arrested did not stop them from speaking God’s truth and sharing the Good News.


Boldness is the cure for the new idol of Safety that dominates the lives of many Christians today. Non-Christians are standing up boldly for many things they believe in, that are in complete contrast to the Word of God. The church feels overwhelmed and outnumbered so in fear they draw back for safety.


Instead we should be letting our voice be heard regardless of the consequences. We should be resting in the confidence of the Holy Spirit’s power within us and then do the right thing that God wants us to do.


There are many opposites to Boldness. Such as fear, cynicism, negativity, discouragement and pessimism. Some are subtle. But they are all negative traits that create a negative attitude that is spreading through our churches.  And all these traits cause us to run for safety.


The idol of ‘safety’ is diminishing our impact on a lost world. It is limiting the power of God within us to make the difference we are called to make. Choose Boldness! God is Mighty!



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