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A Place Where It’s Normal to Be a Christian

Posted by on Sep 9, 2016 in Encouragement | 0 comments

_dsc0072Philly Christian Students is a place where it’s normal to be a Christian…

…where it’s normal to love the Lord Jesus and to read the Bible. Every believer should have such a place; in fact, every believer NEEDS such a place. Here’s why.

Two Ways of Living

Many passages in the New Testament make it clear that believers in Christ Jesus should have a living that is distinct from that of unbelievers. The apostle Peter writes, “According to the Holy One who called you, you yourselves also be holy in all your manner of life” (1 Pet. 1:15). To be holy implies being set apart from everything to God. Being holy, or set apart, applies not only to our conduct outwardly but also to the inward source of our living—a living according to God’s holy nature.

A few verses later, Peter mentions redemption, but not in the familiar way. When we as Christians hear the word redemption, we immediately think of Jesus dying for us as the Lamb of God to take away our sins (see John 1:29 or Ephesians 1:7). Of course, this is absolutely true and we praise God for this aspect of our redemption on a daily basis. But we may not realize that the New Testament applies the concept of redemption not only to the forgiveness of sins but also to our way of living.

First Peter 1:18-19 says: “You were redeemed from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers…with precious blood, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ.” Instead of “vain manner of life,” some translations say, “useless way of life” or “empty lifestyle.” Peter doesn’t say here that we were redeemed from sin—he says that Jesus shed His precious blood to redeem us from our old living as unbelievers to a new way of living.

The Challenge of College Life

If you’re a Christian in college and you agree that your faith should be expressed in your living, you’re in for a challenge. You don’t need to spend a long time on campus to find out that universities foster an environment quite contrary to the Christian life. Actually, the apostle Peter addresses such environments later on in his epistle: “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry” (1 Pet. 4:3). In other words, we who have believed have lived as the unbelievers live for long enough.

The unbelievers, Peter continues to say, look at Christians with incredulity: “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you” (v. 4). Please take note of three things in this verse:

First, instead of “they are surprised,” many translations say, “they think it strange.” As you may well know, if you’re open about being a Christian on campus, you should be prepared to be viewed as if you’re a creature from another planet:

“Why aren’t you coming with us? You’re going to miss all the fun.”
“You’re wasting your time at that weekend retreat. You’re going to be behind in our classes.”
“You believe all that stuff in the Bible? It’s just myths, old-fashioned rules, and bigotry.”

Second, several translations refer to the “reckless, wild living” as a “flood of debauchery.” We shouldn’t think that we as believers can step into the flood and not be swept away.

Third, even more than being thought strange, we may be verbally abused or slandered. Facing this, how much the believers need a refuge, a safe haven, a community where it’s normal to love Jesus and to seek and pursue Him!

A Refuge

We can and ought to testify of our faith in many ways, many venues, and to all kinds of people. But we need a place where we can be refreshed, encouraged, and emboldened to maintain our Christian walk. All of our Philly Christian Students activities—from our individual pursuit of the Lord through personal prayer and Bible reading to informal meet ups, Bible studies, and large corporate gatherings—serve the purpose of building up this kind of place.

Come and talk freely about the verse that ministered to you in your quiet time this morning without having to defend the validity of the New Testament.

Share a struggle that you’re having in one of your classes and you’ll find ready prayer partners.

Find like-minded friends—friends that despite all their struggles, still have a heart to seek first the kingdom of God.

An Open Door

A note to those who aren’t yet Christians:
Are you wondering if God is real and wanting to find out more? Philly Christian students is a place where sincere non-Christians can learn what being a Christian is all about without being pressured to convert. We are happy to answer your questions and hope that you can find the same deep peace and joy that we have found in Jesus.

A Proclamation of Peace

Posted by on Apr 1, 2016 in Encouragement | 1 comment

peaceful scene_2The whole world aches for peace.

War is rampant on the earth, and where there is no war, societies are filled with civil and political strife. Yet the believers in Christ may echo the Lord’s own proclamation of peace to a world in conflict—a peace that anyone can experience, a peace that can descend upon any situation, a peace that is beyond human understanding.

This peace does not come from victory in war; it does not come from new legislation or judicial action; and it will not arise from demonstrations, protests, or from the ascendancy of any political ideology.

This peace is Christ Himself.

The Scripture

“For He Himself [Christ] is our peace, who has made us both [the Jews and the Gentiles] one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” (Ephesians 2:14-17)

The Division

In Old Testament times, God’s chosen people, the Jews, lived separately from all other races (which they referred to as Gentiles). This separation was effected by “the law of commandments expressed in ordinances,” that is, the Jewish ceremonial law. The separation created by the law was so strong that a Gentile might express surprise at being spoken to by a Jew (John 4:9) or, as Peter phrased it in Acts 10:28, “You understand that it is unlawful for a man who is a Jew to join himself to or come near one of another race.” This was the case, but Peter continues—“…yet God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”

The Solution

At the dawn of the New Testament age, through the shedding of the blood of Jesus on the cross, the wall—the separation between Jews and Gentiles—came down; Jesus abolished the separating ordinances on the cross.

Now, He Himself is our peace, and as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45; 2 Cor. 3:17) the Lord has come to all mankind to proclaim this peace!

The Proclamation

Translating more literally, one version of Ephesians 2:17 says, “And coming, He announced peace as the gospel to you who were far off [the Gentiles] and peace to those who were near [the Jews].” May all the believers realize and treasure the fact that we have what the world seeks—Christ proclaimed peace as the gospel!

The New Man

Ephesians 2:15 tells us that Christ created “one new man,” joining together the Jew and the Gentiles.

In Colossians 3:10-11, the apostle Paul expands our understanding of this new man. In the new man, that is, in Christ, “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).

What is implied here is more than just oneness in Christ—what is implied is that the separating ordinances abolished by Christ on the cross include the myriad differences that divide people from one another: things like race [“Greek and Jew”], religion [“circumcised and uncircumcised”], culture [“barbarian, Scythian”], and social status [“slave, free”]. Jesus Christ has abolished all the differences!

The Arbitrator

When the believers allow the peace of Christ to rule—to arbitrate, preside, or referee—in their hearts (Col. 3:15), they are kept in sweet oneness with one another. No earthly accord can compare to this peace. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psa. 133:1).

According to Ephesians 6:15, this gospel of peace is a firm foundation for the believers to wear as shoes on their feet, that they may stand in this evil day (v. 13). Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us echo the Lord’s proclamation by preaching Him as peace to all mankind!

A Prayer

If you are not yet a Christian, it is not hard to receive Christ as peace. Simply pray aloud: “Lord Jesus, I confess to you that I am a sinner. I believe that You died on the cross that I might be forgiven and cleansed, that You have been raised from the dead, and have come to proclaim peace. I’m weary of all the conflict in the world and within myself. I open right now to receive You as my Peace. Come in and fill me with the peace that surpasses understanding. Amen.”

In First Place

Posted by on Jan 25, 2016 in Encouragement | 0 comments

first placeAt the beginning of a new year, many people reevaluate their priorities, recalibrate their goals, and make resolutions for self-improvement. Setting priorities means deciding what comes first, and we naturally make this determination according to what is most important to us.

Suppose it’s Sunday morning and you’re debating whether to show up at church. There’s a football game to watch in the afternoon, or maybe there’s dinner with friends in the evening. But there’s also a paper due on Monday and you need to reserve some time to work on it. What do you do?

Many times in our experience, “first” doesn’t mean that Sunday morning services, morning quiet time with the Lord, and Bible studies are scheduled before anything else and are untouchable. Rather, “first” often means that our time for the Lord is the first thing we carve out of our schedule to make room for our studies, work, social life, sleep, time at the gym…and so on.

The Bible makes some striking statements about our priorities as believers—about what comes first for a Christian—and it’s worthwhile to take some time early in the new year to prayerfully consider them.

God wants Jesus Christ to have the first place in everything.

Christ is “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15); that is, He is supreme among all God’s creatures. Christ is also “the firstborn from the dead” (1:18); that is, He is first in resurrection, the first among God’s new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

Why? “That in everything He might be preeminent” (Col. 1:18).

Another translation says, “That in everything He might have the supremacy”, and yet another says, “That He might have the first place in all things.”

This point applies not only to believers—it applies to everything and everyone. Christ is preeminent now; eventually, He will be acknowledged as preeminent by all men (Phil. 2:9-11).

One of the titles of Jesus Christ in the New Testament is “the First and the Last.”

If this isn’t a clear indication of what place Jesus Christ should have in our lives, then nothing is: the Word of God calls Him “the First.”

In Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (The title “the First and the Last” is also used in Revelation 1:17 and 2:8.)

If a plumber says his services are “from A to Z,” it doesn’t mean that he does “A” and “Z”—it means that he takes care of “A,” “Z,” and everything in between. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet; omega is the last. Christ desires to be, quite literally, everything to us!

Jesus said that we should “seek first the kingdom of God.”

Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

In context, “these things” are food and clothing—necessities of the human life. The Lord acknowledges our necessities as legitimate concerns, but makes it clear what should come first. In this age and economy it is nearly a necessity to seek a college degree. But what is our heart set on?

We should love the Lord with “the first love.”

In Revelation chapter 2, the Lord had one thing against the church in Ephesus: “You have left your first love” (v. 4).

Many translations of this verse say something like, “…the love which you had at first.” This is not incorrect, but it does limit the meaning to first in time.

The more literal translations say, “the first love.” In Luke 15:22, the same Greek word for “first” is almost always translated as “best”—the father commands his servants to bring out the best robe for the returning prodigal son.

Thus, we might understand Revelation 2:4 to say, “You have left the best love,” that is, a love that surpasses our love for anything besides the Lord Jesus.

When we have the first love, we will spontaneously have the “first works” (v. 5). Without love our work results in nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3); our work “in love” results in the building up of the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:16). Small wonder, then, that the “great and first commandment” is that we would love the Lord our God with all our heart (Matt. 22:37-38)!

We love the Lord because He first loved us.

The Lord does not expect us to forsake all other things by tomorrow or even to generate the “first love” on our own. Rather, “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We don’t abandon all other loves because of our effort, but because we see something better—some One preeminent.

Watchman Nee writes*, “While believing in God can save us from sin, only loving God will deliver us from the world. Brothers and sisters, we must allow God’s love to enter into us. Once the love of God enters, the world simply slips away.”

Dear Lord, may we freshly experience Your love for us this year! Cause us to love You more and more until we love You with the first love, the best love!

*The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, v. 18, pp. 356-357

How to Be Useful to the Lord

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in Reports | 1 comment

how-to-be-useful-to-the-lordCongratulations to everyone that completed our Winter Break Reading Challenge to read Witness Lee’s book, How to Be Useful to the Lord, in five weeks! In addition to the spiritual benefit received, all the students that completed the challenge earned a $25 discount on registration for the Spring Retreat.

The Lord wants to use all those whom He has redeemed for the fulfillment of His purpose. However, this requires us to be willing to open our being to Him and allow Him to work within us.

Here is a sampling of what we enjoyed from the reading:

Chapter 1
“I enjoyed that when we have a heart that wants to be used by the Lord, that is His work in us. It’s the Lord’s grace that we can have such a heart for Him and we should realize that this is not a small matter. Another part that stood out to me was about ‘paying the price.’ In the reading it says the reason the Lord is not back yet is because the price we are willing to pay is too small. The Lord wants us to give up EVERYTHING and follow Him. When we do that, that is when we will be able to receive a revelation from Him.” (Phoebe T.)

Chapter 2
“The real lessons of pursuing the Lord occur in our daily life. Each day, we can learn to pursue the Lord by paying a price. Paying the price can be as simple as waking up five minutes earlier to spend more time with the Lord or as hard as choosing the Lord over our family, career, or reputation. The result of paying the price is that we gain God.” (Laura M.)

Chapters 3 & 4
“I liked how these chapters talked about the importance of receiving God’s gift by enjoying it and using it in our daily life. I think this is a great reminder of how important it is to be in the word and live out our lives for God. By doing this we are then able to grow and mature in our faith.” (Eva E.)

Chapter 5
“This chapter shows us the economy of God’s grace. He is dispensing His grace to us according to His eternal purpose. I was impressed that according to Romans 8:29, our salvation is for us to be conformed to the image of His Son! This is only possible with God.” (Viktor T.)

Chapter 6
“We have received a serving life. Even for eternity, we will serve the Lord. Daily, we can choose to consecrate ourselves and afterwards receive his coordinated inward and outward dealings. Then, His life will be able to be expressed from within us and our function and usefulness will grow out from within us.” (Matthew M.)

On Prayer

Posted by on Dec 7, 2015 in Encouragement | 1 comment

In times of extreme distress, many people—even those who might not ordinarily do so—turn to God in prayer. On December 2nd, as a young couple opened fire on an office Christmas party in San Bernardino, killing 14 and wounding many others, several people trapped in the building texted loved ones with a request: “Pray for us.” And “outside the building,” one report said, “evacuated workers bowed their heads and held hands. They prayed.”

It is normal for Christians to pray at such times. On the day of the San Bernardino attack, many people said, tweeted, or wrote that their “thoughts and prayers” were with those affected—voicing their support for them.

Others, however, publicly expressed contempt for Christians who prayed for the victims, their families, and their coworkers. One publication stated that prayer is “an ineffective strategy” and even said that prayer is “useless.” A prominent newspaper ran the headline “God Isn’t Fixing This.” An avowed atheist simply said, “Stop praying.”

As believers, our connection in Christ is outside the realm of politics; the political context of what is mentioned above is therefore irrelevant.

What is relevant is the matter of prayer. Believers should take their cues regarding prayer from the Word of God, not from the trends of our society. With this in mind, consider the following points:

1. Don’t respond to the mocking of God, Christians, and prayer with anger.

In Matthew 5:44, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” In Luke 6:28, He said, “Bless those who curse you; pray for those who revile you.” May those who showed themselves so strongly against prayer be found by and restored to our loving Savior (Luke 15:4-5; Rom. 10:20).

2. We should pray everywhere and all the time.

We should pray everywhere: The apostle Paul says, “I desire therefore that men pray in every place, without wrath and reasoning” (1 Tim. 2:8).

We should pray all the time: The Lord said in Luke 18:1 that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul says that we should “unceasingly pray.”

3. We should pray regardless of our situation.

The apostle James says, “Does anyone among you suffer evil? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13). Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope; endure in tribulation; persevere in prayer.” According to Philippians 4:6-7, our anxieties—the things that stress us out—can be replaced by the peace of God through our “prayer and petition with thanksgiving.”

4. The Lord hears the believers’ prayer; our prayer is effective.

Peter says, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears incline to their petition” (1 Pet. 3:12). James writes in his epistle that “the petition of a righteous man avails much in its working” (5:16).

5. Our prayer can and does minister to others’ needs.

Writing while imprisoned in Rome, the apostle Paul was confident that his situation would turn out to salvation through the Philippian believers’ petition and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:19). In other words, the prayer of the church in Philippi was supporting him in his affliction. Paul writes to the Corinthian believers: “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Cor. 1:11).

6. We should pray for everyone, but especially for those in high positions.

In 1 Timothy 2, Paul says, “I exhort…that petitions, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men; on behalf of kings and all who are in high position” (vv. 1-2). The reason for this is that we “may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all godliness and gravity” (v. 2) and have the liberty to share the gospel and satisfy “our Savior God, who desires all men to be saved” (vv. 3-4). We are quick to criticize our nations leaders; don’t forget that they need our prayer.

7. The believers, as the church, are at war with God’s enemy, Satan.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” That the gates of Hades will not prevail against the church implies that the forces of Hades will attack the church.

8. This battle is not physical; it is spiritual.

Ephesians 6:12 says, “Our wrestling is not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies.” This darkness refers to this dark world, which is under an illegitimate, usurping ruler, the devil (1 John 5:19).

9. Ignorance of this war does not change the fact that it is taking place.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes, “That we may not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2:11). The apostle Peter says, “Be sober; watch. Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

10. The prayer of the church brings God’s will in heaven to the earth.

In Matthew 16:19, Jesus says that whatever the church binds through prayer on the earth “shall have been bound in the heavens.” This is not merely something that the church can do; it is something that God requires of us.

In his classic work, The Prayer Ministry of the Church, Watchman Nee writes:

“The ministry of the church is to bring the will in heaven to earth. How does the church bring the will in heaven to earth? It is by prayer on earth. Prayer is not as small and insignificant as some may think. It is not something that is dispensable.…Prayer is the church saying to God, ‘God, we want Your will.’ Prayer is the church knowing God’s heart and opening its mouth to ask for what is in God’s heart. If the church does not do this, it does not have much use on earth.…If all your prayers are prayers for spiritual edification, fellowship, and supplication, they are too small. A prayer which is in the nature of work or ministry is one in which you stand on God’s side, wanting what God wants. Brothers and sisters, if a prayer is uttered according to God’s will, it is the most powerful thing.…Prayer is not just asking God for something. For the church to pray means that it stands on God’s side to declare that man wants what God wants. If the church declares this, the declaration will be effectual.”

Take Time to Give Thanks

Posted by on Nov 26, 2015 in Encouragement | 0 comments

As Thanksgiving approaches, where are your thoughts? We may be focused on many different things—food, family, football, Friday deals—but what about our Father? As a society, we take the 4th Thursday in November off but seem to forget the cause; as Christians, we ought to lead the way in giving thanks to God!

On November 1st, mysteriously, overnight, the distinctive oranges, yellows, and browns of the “fall” candy on the shelves of the local supermarket have been replaced with the telltale reds and greens, silver, and gold that signal the start of the Christmas shopping season. Santa and his elves, reindeer, sleighs, and snowmen are piping through the store’s sound system even though we’re still in short sleeves and the trees have yet to drop their leaves. Didn’t we skip something?

Perhaps it’s understandable—after all, there’s no money to be made from marketing contentment, from being satisfied with what we already have. But the Bible tells believers—actually, commands us—“Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes. 5:18). The world is trending in a certain direction—the apostle Paul, itemizing the characteristics of men in the last days of this age, includes “ungrateful” in the list (2 Tim. 3:2). As Christians, we are exhorted to stand against this trend: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2).

We don’t have to conform to the pattern of our thankless, griping, dissatisfied modern society. We can receive the biblical injunction to give thanks regardless of our situations. Perhaps our circumstances aren’t ideal, but with a little thought, a little strength of will, we can find something to be grateful for.

*Watchman Nee writes: “You may be sick, but you are still alive. You may be poor, but you are not destitute. You may have coarse clothing, but you still have something to put on. Your house may be small, but you still have a place to lay your head. You should learn to seek for opportunities to thank God.” This Thanksgiving, you don’t have to seek for the opportunity—it’s here. Take it!

Secular studies have linked gratefulness to a plethora of benefits—lower stress levels, better sleep, better mental and physical health, and even improved immune function. As believers, we shouldn’t need the help of modern science to discover what the Bible told us centuries ago: When we give our cares—accompanied by our thanks—to God in prayer, we are delivered from anxiety. Then the peace of God, which is beyond man’s understanding, stands guard over our hearts and thoughts (Phil. 4:6-7). What a blessing!

*(The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, v. 18, p. 261. Watchman Nee spent the last twenty years of his life imprisoned for his faith in communist China. In a letter written about a month before he died, he wrote, “I maintain my joy, so please do not worry.” This indicates that he practiced what he preached, rejoicing in the Lord despite his situation (Phil. 4:4). He did not have the freedom to mention the Lord in his letters. On the day he died, he left a note with the following testimony: “Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ.”)

Overflow from Our Fall Retreat

Posted by on Nov 10, 2015 in Reports | 0 comments

Within God’s people—whether among the Israelites of the Old Testament or among today’s believers—there is an aspiration to be revived. Six centuries before Christ, the prophet Habakkuk wrote, “O Jehovah, revive Your work / In the midst of the years” (Hab. 3:2). The apostle Paul indicates that not only God’s people but even all creation is looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose (Eph. 3:9), writing in Romans 8:19 that “the anxious watching of the creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God.”

At our Fall Retreat at Harvey Cedars, we were encouraged to seek this kind of revival—something that affects not only our personal spiritual life but also meets God’s need for men to cooperate with Him for His purpose and brings the Lord Jesus back!

Here is some of our enjoyment and appreciation:

I really appreciated the big picture view presented in the retreat regarding the need for a new revival. We talked about it from both a personal and communal point of view. As believers in Christ, we are all members of His body, and the three central points of the retreat gave a strong focus on how we can become more one with the Triune God. I pray that we can become overcomers in this constantly changing world and that we can really strive to reach the highest peak of the divine revelation, become a God-man, and satisfy the need for shepherding and being shepherded. (Brian, Villanova University)

It was such a blessing to be reminded and refreshed with a vision of the Lord’s need for a new revival today. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind, so I’m glad I could get away for a weekend to receive a fresh word on what it takes to bring about an age-turning revival. Specifically I was touched by the need to learn how to shepherd, cherish, and nourish my fellow believers. We are shepherded when we shepherd others. We need to stop thinking only about receiving care and focus instead on how to take care of others. May the Lord give us His heart for people and teach us how to eat more of Christ so we can feed others with the living bread! (Patrick, Swarthmore College)

I really enjoyed all the messages that were shared by whoever was delivering them. It was a fruitful and joyful weekend like I have never experienced before. Also, during the weekend I got baptized. Oh Lord, I love You so much! (Angel, Temple University)

I saw, as I never had before, God’s intention in giving the law, the Ten Commandments (Exo. 20:1-17). I thought that since God said not to say His name in vain (v. 7), I needed to patrol myself and others in case anyone had a slip of tongue. Now, I realize that the law is like an engagement covenant between us and God (Exo. 34:27-29; Jer. 31:32). He doesn’t want us to say His name as a curse; He wants us to say it in a loving way. Lord, we want to be loving seekers and not letter keepers! (Vivian, University of Pennsylvania)

Although God has many children, He still cares for the one that is lost and rejoices when that one is found (Luke 15:24). We don’t have to feel ashamed or obliged to do work when we come back to the Lord (vv. 19-21). Just let the Lord feed you and clothe you with Himself (vv. 22-23). Just enjoy Him! We have such a wonderful Father! (Laura, Eastern University)

I enjoyed that freshly revealed truths are not God’s new inventions; rather, they are man’s new discoveries. It is very sweet to read the Bible and see a verse in a fresh way or to hear the truth and have it become clear to you. One new discovery I had during the conference was the importance of cherishing and nourishing others (Eph. 5:29). To cherish people is to make them happy and comfortable, helping them to let their guard down and open up to being nourished. Nourishing is the goal of cherishing. To nourish people is to feed them with the Christ we have enjoyed ourselves, to “give them food at the proper time” (Matt. 24:45). This is the way the Lord is carrying out His eternal plan. (Matt, West Chester University)

I was impressed that we need to shepherd people according to the pattern of the Lord Jesus. When we enjoy Christ, we can share Him with others to nourish them. The Lord is burdened for all kinds of people, no matter what their background and upbringing may be. The Lord met with many different people to shepherd them, not to judge them. For example, at the well in Sychar Jesus asked the Samaritan woman to draw water and give Him something to drink (John 4:7). However, He didn’t go to the well to drink water, but to shepherd the Samaritan woman and satisfy her thirst forever. Jesus helped her turn to her spirit to contact God the Spirit to drink of the living water (John 4:14, 24) and through her many more were saved (v. 39). We are able to go on in our Christian life because we were shepherded by others, but we can also shepherd people according to God’s way by cherishing and nourishing them with the all-inclusive Christ. (Viktor, Cumberland County College)

The Lord was a man in whom Satan had NOTHING: no ground, no chance, no hope, no possibility in anything (John 14:30). This wonderful overcoming Christ is now installed forever in our spirit, and He is making us the same as He is. As He increases and becomes everything to us, we decrease and our oldness is purged out (John 3:30). His resurrected and ascended life overcomes in us and becomes in us the faith to praise Him and love Him with our whole being. Then, no matter how harsh or hopeless our outward situation is, we will truly praise Him as the only worthy One. Christ is reigning and ruling over every situation, and our destiny is in and with Him. (Janette, Temple University)

Five More Reasons to Read the Bible

Posted by on Oct 16, 2015 in Encouragement | 0 comments

God is inexhaustibly rich, and His word is an expression of who He is. That’s why, although we posted Five Reasons to Read the Bible earlier this semester, we’re continuing here with five more reasons to read the Bible.

6. For enlivening: Sometimes we may feel full of spiritual life and have no problem loving and seeking the Lord. Other times we find ourselves in spiritual doldrums, adrift and struggling to go on. When we’re in such down situations, we can turn to God’s word for a breath of spiritual life. Psalm 119:50 says, “This is my comfort in my affliction, / That Your word has revived me and given me life.” Second Corinthians 3:6 tells us that there are two ways in which we can take God’s word: “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” We can come to the Bible as a book of precepts—rules and regulations—or we can approach it with an attitude of seeking after God. When we do the latter, we are enlivened: the Spirit gives life!

7. For washing: If you’re a believer, then you should know that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:7). But Ephesians 5:26 speaks of an additional washing, telling us that Christ is preparing the church as His bride by “cleansing her by the washing of the water in the word.” As we read the Bible, the water of life in the word works within us to cleanse away every defect in our fallen, natural life and transform us to Christ’s glorious image (see v. 27).

8. To discern spirit from soul: We have decisions to make all the time in our daily life, both big and small, and as Christians we have a sincere desire to follow Christ and do what He wants us to do. We may have the habit of bringing our decisions to the Lord in prayer—that’s excellent. But sometimes, even after praying, we’re still not clear whether we’re inclined a certain way out of self-interest or because that’s the direction the Lord is leading us. The word of God can help! Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

9. For equipping: It’s normal after receiving the Lord to have a desire to serve Him. Just as a tradesman wouldn’t head off to work without being properly equipped with the skills and tools of his trade, we shouldn’t think that we can serve God without knowing His word. God’s word prepares and equips us. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (Actually, there are five reasons to read the Bible in these two verses…but maybe that’s a different blog post.)

10. For constitution: When we believe in the Lord Jesus, He comes into our spirit and regenerates it (gives it new birth) immediately (1 Pet. 1:3). And, at the Lord’s return, our body will be transfigured in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:52). But in between these two events, the Lord works within us day by day (2 Cor. 4:16), little by little (Deut. 7:22), to transform us by His life (2 Cor. 3:18). As we contact the Lord through prayer and through His word day by day, we accumulate experiences of Christ, and these become our new makeup, our constitution.

In his book The Experience and Growth in Life, the 20th century expositor Witness Lee said, “We must realize that any time we spend with the Lord is never a waste. The more time we spend with the Lord, the more we learn, and the more a treasure is accumulated within our being. Therefore, we must continue to pursue the Lord according to a good routine….In spite of all our failures, we should still keep such a routine. This kind of exercise before the Lord will never be a waste.”

Be assured that any time you give to seek the Lord in His word is time well spent!

John: A Book of Conversations

Posted by on Sep 24, 2015 in Encouragement | 3 comments

The Gospel of John is a book of conversations.

When we think of Jesus’s earthly ministry, we may immediately think of the signs that He performed. But John’s record is focused more on what Jesus said than on what He did. After all, John begins his Gospel by telling us that the Lord is the Word (1:1).

The eternal God, the creator of the universe, was incarnated to be a man in the flesh (1:14). What would He do as a man? He talked to people!

Some people initiated conversations with Him (4:46-47); others Jesus sought out (5:6; 9:35). He spoke to people one on one (3:1-2; 4:7); He spoke to crowds (6:24-25). Sometimes He conversed privately (3:1-2); other times He taught or cried out in the temple (7:37; 8:2). And if you take a look at His miraculous deeds, you’ll see that nearly all of them were accomplished simply by…speaking (4:50; 5:8; 11:43)!

Why is this important?

These days, we hang on the words of the famous. People follow breathlessly when their favorite singer or athlete tweets their thoughts on the news of the day. Such trivialities pale in comparison to the record John left—a record of the words spoken by God Himself!

Not only so, the Gospel of John shows us that it matters how we respond to God’s word. Some heard Jesus’ words and believed (4:42; 4:50; 6:69; 9:38); others heard His words and sought to kill Him (5:16-18; 8:37; 10:31). Some responded by speaking good news to others (4:28-29), and some shrank from speaking for fear of persecution (12:42-43).

How can we  respond to God’s word?

Let’s look at a few ways we can respond to the Lord’s speaking, as seen in the Gospel of John.

When you come to the Bible, have an attitude of coming to the Lord.

Jesus told the leaders among the Jews—devout men, ones familiar with the Scriptures—that there was a problem with their Bible reading. “You search the scriptures,” He told them, “because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (5:39-40). Our coming to the Word should be our coming to the Lord. He is the Word!

Believe the Lord’s word.

We should mix the Lord’s word with our faith; then it will benefit us (4:41-42; 4:50; Heb. 4:2).

Interact with the Lord Himself, even if what you are reading is hard to receive.

Many who heard the Jesus’s speaking in John 6 were stumbled, saying “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (v. 60). Many stopped following Him that day (v. 66). When Jesus asked the twelve disciples if they also wanted to go away, Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v. 68). It is doubtful that Peter understood the Lord’s speaking at that time, but he knew he needed to stick with Jesus!

Pass on the good news!

When she realized that Jesus was the Christ, the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4 left her water jar at the well and went into the city to spread the news. Her testimony was, “Come, see a man who told me all that I have done. Is this not the Christ?” (4:29). Initially the townspeople came to Jesus because of the woman’s testimony; after two more days, they told her: “It is no longer because of your speaking that we believe, for we ourselves have heard and know that this One is truly the Savior of the world” (v. 42).

Changing Death into Life

Posted by on Sep 10, 2015 in Encouragement | 1 comment

At the beginning of John chapter 2, Jesus attends a wedding with His mother and His disciples. During the celebration, the wine runs out, and Mary calls on Jesus to do something about it. He instructs the servants to fill six stone jars with water, and when they draw some of the water out, it has miraculously changed into wine.

Perhaps you’re familiar with this story. But have you ever noticed that the only witnesses of this miracle were the servants and the twelve disciples? Neither the master of the feast nor the bridegroom had any idea where the new and better wine had come from. Another curious thing is that none of the other gospels records this incident. Why does John include it in his gospel?

It’s not just a miracle, it’s a sign.

If you read John 2:11 in the King James Version, you’ll see, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee….” In the Greek, however, as you’ll find in many other translations, the word is not miracles, but signs.

That’s not to say that changing water into wine isn’t a miracle; it most certainly is. The point is that a sign has further meaning; it has significance beyond what appears on the surface.

As an illustration, consider an April evening in 1775, when two lanterns appeared in a window of the Old North Church in Boston. They were not merely lights; they were a sign (“One if by land, two if by sea…”) warning colonial militiamen that British troops were heading toward them in boats.

Having spent more than three years with Jesus, John had no shortage of anecdotes to relate. John wrote, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (20:30-31; emphasis added).

According to these verses, not only was John selective in what he wrote, he deliberately chose signs that served his purpose in writing—that we would believe that Jesus is the Christ and consequently receive Him as the eternal life.

It doesn’t matter that only a few people knew about it or that it isn’t recorded in the other gospels. John selected it because it’s a sign that illustrates an important principle.

If it’s a sign, what does it mean?

The changing of the water into wine signifies the changing of death into life. Since this is “the first of his signs” (John 2:11), it sets the principle for everything that follows. Jesus (who as we saw in the previous post, is life) is the One who changes death into life!

Let’s reconsider John 2:1-11 as a sign, an allegory (with thanks to the footnotes in the New Testament Recovery Version):

  • The wedding was on “the third day” (v. 1). The third day is the day of resurrection! (See Matthew 16:21; Acts 10:40; and 1 Corinthians 15:4.)
  • A wedding feast “signifies the pleasure and enjoyment of human life”; wine is a symbol for life. That the wine “gave out” (v. 3) shows that human life runs out.
  • The six stone jars (v. 6) represent man, who was created on the sixth day.
  • The water that filled the jars (v. 7) signifies death (as it also does in Genesis 1:2, Exodus 14:21, and other places).

Thus, when John recorded the sign of turning water (death) into wine (life) as the first of the signs performed by Jesus, he was setting the principle by which we can read the rest of his gospel.

Jesus, who is life, changes death into life.

The case of Lazarus is clear; he was dead, and Jesus made him alive again (John 11:41-43). But death comes in many forms; long before it affects our body, it touches our spirit and soul.

We may conduct ourselves according to a high standard of morality, like Nicodemus, but unless we receive Jesus as life—that is, unless we are “born anew” (John 3:3) in our spirit (v. 6)—we will perish with the unrighteous (see Romans 3:23; 5:18).

The Samaritan woman in John 4 couldn’t have been more different from Nicodemus. She had married five times and was living with a sixth man without bothering to marry him. She was thirsty—seeking satisfaction, but never finding it. She came to the town well to draw water to drink, but when Jesus gave her the “living water” (v. 10), she left her water jar (v. 28) and went to tell the whole city that she had found the Messiah (v. 29)!

This principle—that Jesus, who is life, changes death into life—can obviously be applied to our reading and understand of the gospel of John. But “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” This is not an abstract principle; rather, it’s one that we can apply to our daily life!

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