Evangelical Church in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Worship Service:   Sunday 10:00 a.m. 

Agape Christian Fellowship

Loving God & Loving People

Ponder A Little (Blog)

Pondering the questions of Christianity, Christ and God's love for mankind.

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HOW TO SOAR (A POEM)

Posted on July 21, 2018 at 8:45 PM

 

SOARING

My soul was created to soar.

A longing within that needs to be stirred.

Fears ground me, seeking safety and security.

But I long to soar.


I climb mountains to reach the heavens.

I watch the eagle in majestic flight and dream.

Freedom. Strength. Serenity.

How I long to soar.


The earth below is full of Turmoil. Strife. Pain.

The load is heavy. The journey seems long.

Hope fades, if I let it.

But God calls me.


I will soar. On wings like eagles.

Because my hope is in the Lord.

God will renew my strength.

Soaring.

                        

                                              (Isaiah 40:31)


AREN'T PEOPLE BASICALLY GOOD INSIDE?

Posted on July 12, 2018 at 1:10 PM


I’ve heard people say that they believe everybody is basically good inside.  And for those who are evil, they are a product of their environments.  Yet the Bible does not seem to support this opinion.   Ecclesiastes 3:16-18 says that people are like animals.  They are inhumane.

I wonder what the victims of the sex trade industry, or the people of a nation run by an oppressive dictator, or those raised in abusive homes would say?   Do they think that generally all people have an innate goodness inside of them?  Not likely!

Think of a young child, who instinctively and selfishly wants to be the center of attention and needs to be taught right from wrong.   Yes, they are as cute and adorable as can be.  But is their human nature good?   Or do we have to teach them what good is and teach them to share and teach them to not be selfish?   Of course, we do.

If we were all good by nature, we would not have needed Jesus to come and die for our sins!

My parents can tell you that as a child, I did not want to be good and that I seemed to enjoy being bad.  Even as an adult now, I try to be good and fair and loving but often sadly fail.  I need God every day to help me overcome my human nature of sin.

The Bible makes it clear, that we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23) and we all need a Saviour (Rom. 5:8).  Someday, God will judge every person for the injustices committed against others (Rom. 14:10b).

Without God in the world, injustice prevails and goodness is obsolete.  Only God is good by nature!



THE LAST 5 SIGNS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH

Posted on July 3, 2018 at 11:00 AM



So, we covered the first 5 characteristics in the last blog and the intro to this topic in the blog before that.  Scroll back and find those blogs if you missed them.  Here are the final 5 characteristics of a healthy church according to today’s experts.

1. A healthy church preaches salvation from sin.  Fire and brimstone does not need to be heard from the pulpit every week but certainly preaching the wrath of God over our sin should not be avoided.  Sometimes we need to squirm in our seats, feeling convicted by the Holy Spirit.  The entire Scriptures need to be preached, not just the parts that make us feel good.  We will love the grace of God all the more, when we see the depth of our sin and how much our sin hurts our Heavenly Father.

2. A healthy church is not poisoned by gossip and division.  Gossip can divide and severely harm a church very quickly.  Healthy members don’t allow gossip to exist in the church.  It is dealt with swiftly and biblically to protect the health of the church.  Unity is crucial in the body of Christ and gossip leads to division.  Instead of talking about people we need to talk to them, and resolve the differences and miscommunication.

3. A healthy church deals with conflict biblically.  Conflict is inevitable in the world and in the church.  We are all human so the church like anywhere else, will have people getting offended, sinning and having disagreements.  Sometimes sinful actions require loving discipline as outlined in Scripture. If these conflicts are not dealt with biblically they become deep rooted and infect the church.

4. A healthy church recognizes that, sometimes, spiritually unhealthy individuals cannot stay.  This is a sad and very difficult situation.  But if unhealthy people persist in their spiritually unhealthy choices they will infect the church, causing overall poor church health to multiply.  The unhealthy individuals must want to become healthy.  Unfortunately, they sometimes become blind to their poor health and refuse any correction or discipline. Once again, the Bible gives us clear actions to take at this point, which involves the individuals being asked to leave the church.

5. A healthy church has fellowship.  Church should never end with the closing prayer.  Healthy members stay after church to fellowship.  If we don’t talk to each other and learn of each other’s needs and activities, how can we pray for each other and deepen our relationships in the family of God? Fellowship outside of church in small groups is also needed so that we can bear each other’s burdens and pray for each other.

There you have it.  The 10 primary characteristics of a healthy church according to the experts.  How does your church measure up?   And more importantly, how do you?


FIRST 5 SIGNS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH

Posted on June 26, 2018 at 6:40 PM




In my last blog, I introduced this topic and I told you more was to come.  So here it is.  We have already established that the goal of a healthy church needs to be spiritual vitality instead of numbers and programs and so on.   Now let’s look at some of the specific characteristics of a healthy church that should be evident.  Experts have agreed on 10 and there could be more.  I will start with the 5 more obvious ones this time and in the next blog, the less obvious ones.

Here they are:

1. A healthy church has members that enjoy coming to worship God and hear from God.  They want to be there each Sunday and hate to miss church.   For them it is not just a social gathering and it is not a sense of duty.  Healthy members love God passionately and sense God’s presence in the Sunday service.

2. A healthy church knows the importance of prayer.  It is very sad when our church services are full of worshipful music, engaging preaching of the Word, yet lack time spent in prayer.  How do we get half way through our service without a word of prayer uttered to God?  We need the power of His presence in our church service and He longs for us to communicate with Him in prayer.

3. A healthy church has leaders that keep God and His Word first in all decision making; and live lives of humility and love.  God has high expectations of church leaders that are clearly stated in Scripture.  Why?  Because how can a church be healthy if the leaders are not?    Leaders should desire to be held accountable and challenged when necessary.  They should also be knowledgeable in the Scriptures and its application.

4. A healthy church does not have financial problems.  Why?   Because money is never the priority.  Instead, seeking God and His will is paramount.   With God as the focus, members will give generously and give cheerfully; and only programs that God wants to bless will be initiated.  God provides for our needs so if He is the focus, finances will not run dry.

5. A healthy church is where members are involved in service.  These members don’t come to church with the motive of “What’s in it for me?”   They come with the humble attitude of service that Jesus displayed.  They come eager to volunteer where help is needed.  By serving we are each blessed.   We also build relationships and lasting friendships by getting involved.  We all have gifts and abilities that are needed in the church.  Look for a church that wants you to be involved and where many others already are.  If church has only been a place of Sunday attendance for you, ask God how He wants you to serve.  A healthy church has leaders ready to find a place for you to use your special talents.

Well there are the first 5 characteristics.  Straight forward enough.  The last 5 will be in the next blog and they are just as important but not so easy.   Stay tuned!


WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH

Posted on June 20, 2018 at 3:25 PM



I suppose many people would conclude that the signs of a healthy church are the number of people attending, the quality of the music, the engaging style of the sermons, the number of programs and the motivating personalities of the leaders.  I certainly like all of these characteristics.  But these are not at the top of God’s list.

So, where do I look to determine the spiritual health of a church?  Or should I even care?  If a church is meeting my needs, does it even matter if the church is unhealthy?  Of course, it does!  A healthy church can meet my needs too.  In fact, it will do a better job.

We all know there is no perfect church because there are no perfect people.  And every church has its own level of spiritual health reflected by the varied spiritual levels of its members.  We all start as babes in Christ but with time and nurturing become mature.  In a healthy church, people display a humble hunger for more of God in their lives.  

Spiritual vitality is what God cares about most.  My greatest individual need is spiritual health, so I should clearly care if my church is making this their priority.  I need to be careful of any church that is only striving to make me happy.  God cares more about my character than my comfort!

So, if spiritual vitality is the goal of a healthy church, then what are the signs of a healthy church?   What do I need to actually see, to know my church is spiritually healthy?  Experts have come up with 10 characteristics.  Some might surprise you.  Perhaps you can think of some while you wait for the next blog with the answers.


WHAT ARE 4 THINGS ONLY CHRISTIANS UNDERSTAND

Posted on May 26, 2018 at 7:00 PM



Let’s face it… there are plenty of unbelievers that think Christians are crazy.  We all know it.   It’s a simple fact.  They roll their eyes and snicker concluding that only imbeciles would believe in a God, waste time in church, study a book that is 2000 years old and follow a bunch of rules for living that don’t line up with modern day society.

 

The Bible even confirms this fact when it says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18).   And “the devil has blinded the minds of those who do not believe” (2Cor. 4:4).  Until non-Christians take the time to seriously consider the validity of the Bible and the Christian faith, they simply will not understand.


Primarily, there are 4 things only a Christian can understand…


1. God is real. God is alive. God is awesome.

- Only Christians who have a personal relationship with Jesus can understand how real and awesome God is.  Until we choose to believe, we cannot know God.


2. God answers prayers. He has limitless power.

- It is pretty incredible to experience amazing answered prayers.   When God answers a prayer in a miraculous way, we are full of celebration and praise.


3. God’s very words are found in the Bible.

- It’s not just a book.  It is God communicating with man.  We cherish every word and hear God speak directly to our individual hearts.


4. God is full of grace.   His love and mercy are never deserved but always bountiful.

- The grace, the love and the mercy of God leave us speechless.  God’s grace is always bigger than our sin.


Sadly, there will always be snickering unbelievers missing out on the best gift ever offered to mankind.  Nonetheless, Christians will continue to press on, sharing the Good News of Jesus and praying that more will come to understand.



AM I SUPPOSED TO BE THANKFUL IN HARD TIMES?

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!


HOW TO TEST OUR 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.



IS CHRISTIANITY A RELIGION?

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).


ARE YOU A SAFE CHRISTIAN?

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!


ARE YOU STUCK?

Posted on April 4, 2018 at 9:25 AM



A pastor once had one of his church members come into his office saying, “I’m a Christian but I don’t feel like I’m growing spiritually. I seem to be stuck in neutral.” The pastor asked him, “What do you think the problem is?”. He replied, “I think I just don’t love God enough”. The pastor replied, “That’s not the problem. The problem is you don’t understand how much God loves you!”.

The Bible tells us that “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). So, to love God, to have a passion for God, we must first fully understand how enormous God’s love is for us. God’s entire nature is love. Love sums up everything that He is. God created us so that He could love us. He loved us before the world began (Eph. 1:4-5).

You won’t have a passionate love for God until you first allow God to richly love you. You don’t have to clean up your act first to receive His love. His love for you is eternal. It has always existed and always will. He saw your life and your mistakes before He created you; and He still loved you and even died for you. God’s love is unconditional, perfect and limitless.

Meditate on that kind of love. Let it really sink in. Once it does, it will bring you to tears. From there you will gain a passionate love for God that will allow you to walk closer with Him each day.  And you will no longer be stuck!


ARE YOU A BYSTANDER?

Posted on March 28, 2018 at 11:50 AM

On the Christian calendar, Easter rates #1 for celebration! But the 20th century finds many of us getting caught up with chocolate bunny rabbits, Easter egg hunts and family reunions. So, plenty of people are only bystanders during the Easter season. They are present at the event but miss the true celebration.


The first bystander of Easter was Simon of Cyrene. Simon was visiting Jerusalem during the crucifixion and had travelled a great distance to celebrate the Jewish Passover. He was the man that the Roman soldiers forced to carry the cross when Jesus became too weak. He was expecting crowds for the Passover but never expected a crucifixion and certainly did not expect to be in the middle of it. You could say that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.


Simon did not want to carry the cross of Jesus. He was merely a bystander in the crowd until he was ordered to walk behind Jesus carrying the cross (Luke 23:26). Simon was put on display for all to see and all to scoff at, as was Jesus.


Picture Simon reluctantly taking the heavy, blood-stained cross from Jesus who is overcome with weakness and pain. Simon now has the blood of Jesus on him. Imagine the moment their eyes first met. Looking into the eyes of Jesus, one can only find a look of immense love that would have melted the heart of Simon in a life-changing way.


Simon was no longer at the wrong place at the wrong time. Simon was no longer a bystander. Simon was no longer reluctant. Simon was the first to do what Jesus has commanded all of us to do: “Take up your cross each day and follow me” (Luke 9:23).


But Easter celebrations do not end at the cross. It only took 3 days for Jesus to walk out of the tomb defeating death. The real celebration is the resurrected Jesus, proving He was in fact God as He had claimed. And He is a living and all-powerful God! The real celebration is that God’s amazing love allowed His Son to pay the debt for our sins so that we could know peace and have hope of life eternal in His arms of love. Now that’s worth celebrating!!


Don’t be a bystander! Partake of the gift of salvation that Easter is all about. Then in gratitude for the gift and in obedience, take up your cross and follow Him! Carrying a cross involves pain. Following Jesus, instead of the world, involves sacrifice. But sharing in His path of suffering reaps many rewards! One of which is an eternal crown (1 Cor. 9:25).



WHY ARE CHRISTIANS SO JUDGEMENTAL?

Posted on March 21, 2018 at 10:00 AM



Judgemental words from Christians are commonly seen as a problem both inside and outside of the church. Studies show that many people will not come to church and many leave the church primarily due to personal experiences with Christians who pass judgement.

So, what’s going on? Why is this such a huge problem? Why are so many people (even Christians) hurt and wounded in conversations with so-called Christians?

There are three fundamentals we need to first recognize as we try to understand this problem:

1. Our society is built on judgements and laws to keep it functioning in a moral manner. So obviously not all judgement is bad. In fact, some is necessary.

2. We live in a society of media-infused judgement that many people thrive on via tabloids, reality television and talk shows. So, we are all brain-washed to believe it is OK to pass judgement. Plus, we are desensitized to the recognition of judgement.

3. None of us are perfect so at times we will all act and speak with ungodly judgement. In fact, calling people judgemental is a judgement in itself.

Do these facts make harsh, judgemental words acceptable?... Of course not!

But if you read your Bible well, you might be shocked to learn that Jesus both condemned and practiced judgement. Jesus condemned self-righteous, hypocritical judgement but endorsed a holy judgement that clearly defined right and wrong in God’s eyes. As, Christians we too are expected to discern (or judge) good versus evil and make spiritual evaluations of the words and behaviours of others. But this judgement is not to point fingers but rather primarily to guard ourselves from sinning. Jesus teaches us to always judge ourselves first before judging others.

Here’s the important part… Many of the interactions Jesus had with immoral, selfish and sinful people were bathed in an enormous amount of love – not judgement. Jesus came to save the lost, not judge them. We are to follow His example. You see, Jesus knows how easily condemning words can bruise our soul. People are leaving churches or refusing to come to church because of wounded and bruised souls. Without a doubt, this grieves our heavenly Father.

Practically speaking, as godly Christians we need a more gentle and humble approach in our conversations with others. We need to listen more before we speak. We need to ask questions to obtain clearer understanding. We need to respect different opinions. And when we do speak, love and compassion need to be boldly evident.

Currently church is not seen as a desired destination for many, simply because of too much judgement and not enough love. We need to change our image to the beauty of Jesus! Easier said than done for sure. So, let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to help us!



WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE?

Posted on March 14, 2018 at 6:05 PM



Most people believe that discovering their purpose in life starts with themselves. But for the Christian, everything starts with God. If we want to learn our true purpose in this life we need to determine it from God’s perspective, not our own.


According to God, real life is only what’s built on eternity. We were created for an eternal purpose. A purpose that lasts forever, not just for the here and now. When we have the correct perspective of our life’s purpose everything makes sense and falls into place. As Christians, our purpose in life has four parts:


1. Glorifying God – We were created for God’s pleasure and He is pleased when we worship Him, trust Him, obey Him, praise Him, love Him and serve Him.


2. Becoming more like Jesus – This is an ongoing process that is cultivated through trials and temptations, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Since God is love, it is love that we need to master most of all.


3. Serving God - We each have unique, God given talents and abilities which God wants us to use serving others with humility and generosity. Serving others is an expression of our love for God.


4. Evangelism – Each of us are to share the gospel with unbelievers in a loving manner and with the help of the Holy Spirit. Every day, whether we know it or not, our lives are either a positive or negative testimony to those who don’t know Jesus. It is our job to enthusiastically share the best gift we have ever received.


Our lives on earth are richer and better when we fulfill the purpose God has for us. But life on earth is only a fraction of what is to come in eternity. Heaven is the hope of the Christian faith. The Bible describes it as an everlasting place of perfect peace, joy and love in the presence of God! We were created by God for the eternal purpose of someday living in heaven with Him.



WHAT ABOUT HYPOCRITES IN THE CHURCH?

Posted on March 9, 2018 at 9:25 AM


It has been heard time and time again that people are not interested in church because there are too many hypocrites.


Sadly, there are some hypocrites in the church! Even in Jesus’ day there were hypocrites and he rebuked them numerous times (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16; 7:5; 15:7; 22:18; 23:13, 15; 23:23, 25, 27, 29; 24:51; Mark 7:6; Luke 6:42; 12:56; and 13:15).


Unbelievers today ask, “Why would I want to be a Christian when I see Christians setting such bad examples?” The truth hurts. We often do fail to live godly lives.


But Christianity is not based on the behaviour of Christians in the past or present. It is based on Jesus Christ himself who was without sin. Jesus was not a hypocrite. He consistently lived what He taught. And He challenged those close to Him to find hypocrisy in Him but they couldn’t. The Christian faith is built only on Jesus so it cannot be invalidated by the behaviour of its followers. This by no means excuses the unchristian behaviour seen in professing Christians. Of course, Christians should be modeling their lives after Christ but none of us are perfect. Only Christ is perfect and without sin. Hypocrites abound everywhere in society because we are all sinful by nature. There is no escaping it (Rom. 3:23).


Fortunately, not all Christians are hypocrites. History gives many fine examples of good things done over the centuries in the name of Christianity. But the Church and Christians will always be a work in progress. The Holy Spirit always has more work to do in each of our hearts, to conform us more and more to the beauty of Jesus. And that is the humble desire of the true Christian.


If you are objecting Christianity because of Christians, please consider Christianity because of Jesus. He won’t let you down!



WHAT DOES GOD REALLY SAY ABOUT MONEY?

Posted on March 1, 2018 at 10:15 AM



I’ve heard non-Christians mistakenly quote the Bible saying, “Money is the root of all evil” and they assume that God thinks wealth is a bad thing. But the Scripture verse actually says that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). So, what God doesn’t like is greed and pride.


God has blessed many people with wealth but He recognizes that not everybody can handle wealth. In fact, for some wealth can be dangerous. Wealth can lead some to a sense of self sufficiency and no need for God. God loves us and does not want to see money destroy our lives by leading us to sin and perhaps eternal separation from Him. Jesus himself said it is hard for a rich man to get into heaven (Matt. 19:23).


God knows us each intimately. He knows who will honour God with their money by blessing others with it. Jesus taught us that to give is better than to receive (Acts. 20:35). Money is for sharing, not hoarding. Jesus taught us to have compassion for the poor. Even Jesus did not have wealth. He taught that whatever we do to help the poor, we are doing for Him (Matt. 25:40).


God wants the blessing of money to be a source of gratitude in our hearts. When we have less money, we value and recognize God’s blessings more. It is when we are in need and that need is met, that we celebrate and give God thanks. A surplus of money means we are seldom in need, which for many results in no need for God and no gratitude to God.


Wealth needs to be viewed as a gift from God. The Bible says that whoever can be trusted with a little, can be trusted with a lot (Luke 16:10). So, if we are wise and generous with our money, God blesses us with more. God wants us to love to give. He does not honour a tight fist. In God’s eyes, money is to be used for blessing others and honouring Him.



ARE YOU A PASSIONATE FOLLOWER OF JESUS?

Posted on February 21, 2018 at 7:15 PM



What does it mean to be a passionate follower of Jesus? What does it look like? How do we achieve it?


Passion is defined as “a strong and barely controllable emotion”. Passion is intense! There is no half-hearted, wish-y-wash-y-ness about it.


A passionate follower of Jesus is first of all, passionate about Jesus. So, he plans his life and each day around Jesus. For him, nothing on this earth is more important than Jesus and living for Him.


There are 3 key ingredients to being a passionate follower of Jesus and each involves personal action being taken…


1. Connect to God. This goes beyond the initial stage of becoming a Christian, accepting the plan of salvation and making the decision to be a follower. Unfortunately, too many Christians stay at this stage for their entire lives. They get saved and then carry on living pretty much the same way they always have, only now they go to church, read their Bibles and pray. But there is nothing passionate about it. There is no hunger for more. There is no desire for a deeper, more personal, more intimate relationship with God (Psalm 63:1). No desire to please God above all else. No desire to put God first (Matt. 6:33, John 3:30). There is no passion!


2. Grow in faith. The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Faith is similar to trust. When we first become Christians, we put our faith and trust in God to save us. Initially it is a baby faith. But God wants that faith to grow. The best way to stretch our faith is to have it tested. God knows this so He does just that. Difficult times enter our lives and how we respond to them is evidence of the strength of our faith in God (1 Pet.1:7). Nothing happens in our lives by accident. As children of God, each day of our lives is under His sovereign control. Passionate followers of Jesus welcome the trials of life that help our faith grow. Passionate followers of Jesus, fervently study and memorize the Word of God so that they will remain standing in faith through the trials that inevitably come.


3. Serve Others. Jesus himself came to earth to serve (Matt. 20:28). He served with humility and grace. We are called to follow His example (John 13:14-15). The Bible tells us to put what we learn from God into action (James 1:22), and that faith without service is worthless (James 2:14). Humbly serving others is evidence of our passion for God and obedience to God. It is our gift back to God for all He has done for us (Matt. 25:40). We are not saved by our good deeds and service. Only faith saves us. But after faith inevitably comes service if we are passionate followers of Jesus.


David was described by God as, “a man after God’s own heart”. He was completely devoted and full of faith. David was passionate!


Jesus said that there was no man greater than John the Baptist. Why? Because John the Baptist knew his purpose and fulfilled his purpose with passion!


What about you? Do you love God so much that you will do anything to know Him more, be like Him more and serve Him more? Ask God to stir up passion for Him and His ways!




WHAT IS AGAPE?

Posted on February 15, 2018 at 11:00 AM



Agape is one of the many Greek words for love. Agape is love at its very best! It is not a family love, friendship love or romantic love. It is a self-sacrificing love that comes from God.

 

Rarely is a human capable of such a deep love. It is the love God has for each one of us. It is a love that sent Jesus, God’s Son, to the cross to die for our sins.

 

Do you know anyone who would be willing to die for a bad, evil person? Think of a horrible criminal and imagine someone willing to die for that person. Willing to die in the place of that criminal so that the corrupt, immoral individual could be set free.


While dying on the cross, Jesus said to the repentant criminal hanging next to Him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” That is agape love! God offers that same love to each of us, no matter what our misdeeds or failings may be.

 

As believers, we are called to love everyone with an agape love (Rom. 5:5, John 4:8). Without the help of God’s Holy Spirit, we could not possibly achieve this. And even with the power of God within us, we often fail at agape love because of our humanness. But the Bible tells us that if we do not love, we do not know God (1 John 4:8). And Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to Love God and Love Each Other (Luke 10:27).


Agape love is a godly love. It is the love God has for us and the love we are to show to each other. Do you personally know and practice Agape?

 


WHY READ THE BIBLE?

Posted on February 6, 2018 at 9:40 AM


Christians around the world read the Bible.  Why?


Because it is God's very words to us.  In 2 Tim. 3:16 we read that the Bible is "God-breathed" which means the writers were inspired by God.  It is a book filled with historical facts, scientific accuracy, fulfilled prophecy and infinite wisdom.  Only God could write a book of that magnitude.


No other religious book or writing even mildly compares to the grandeur of the Bible's content.  Many scholars who have attempted to discredit the Bible, have failed.  The Bible itself says, "The Word of the Lord stands forever" (1Pet 1:25, Isaiah 40:8).


So, what does the Bible have to offer us Today?


It has the answers to the countless questions each one of us has about life...  What is my purpose?  What happens when I die?  Why is there evil in the world?  The Bible also provides us with wise advice for living...  How to have a happy marriage, How to be a good parent, How to handle stress and How to be a better person.


Some choose to believe that the Bible is just a big book of rules but really it is a big book of wisdom.  Even the "rules" for godly living are purely for our benefit.  God knows we will be happier, healthier and more fulfilled if we follow His guidelines for living.  


But we have to read the Scriptures to get the benefits.  And if we study and even memorize verses of the Bible, the truths will than penetrate our soul and transform our mind.  Then we will experience the joy and peace of living for Jesus.  And we will find our eternal purpose and begin to understand just how big and amazing our loving God is.


Only good things come from studying the Bible!  It is our source of wisdom, peace, joy and power.


If you are new to reading the Bible then let me suggest you start by reading the New Testament, the second half of the Bible, in the New International Version.  If you do not have a Bible, it is available online or at a Christian Book Store.  Contact us if you have any questions at info@agapesancarlos.com.




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