Category Archives: Bible

Reflections and thoughts on the Scriptures

Sermon Diary: How to Hear God’s Voice

Sheep

“My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27)

Reading the Scriptures, we understand that man’s life is dependent on his communication with God. The Creator of the universe created us to communicate both with Him and with each other. To fulfil this purpose of His, He has given us a voice and the ability to read, write, and listen. Without the use of the senses, which are the entrance to our consciousness and souls, without our much-needed communication, life is practically impossible.

God wants us to hear His voice much more than we want to because He is not ignorant of our need to be saved, as we are often. We seem to be deluded about His role and will in our lives. For this reason, we often turn away from God as He reaches out His hand to us to give us eternal love, the perfect expression of which we see in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

It is good to know that the Bible gives us many practical instructions on how to hear God‘s voice. In many cases, when we read and study the Scriptures, when we receive dreams from Him, when we converse with and receive advice from mature Christians, when we observe natural phenomena or study historical events, we can hear with our spiritual senses the words of the Lord of all things visible and invisible.

At the same time, we can rarely define God’s voice as audible – in the sense we put when we talk about human relationships. Because of our separation from God through sin, He speaks in a fallen world more covertly—often enigmatically. For this reason, it is necessary to be active in listening in order to be able to hear Him.

There are certain spiritual principles to apply when seeking to hear God’s voice, but three of them are especially effective if we apply them with faith:

1. “My sheep hear my voice”
Jesus said this: “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27). These words make it clear to us that in order to understand the words of the Lord Jesus, we must be His, to be obedient as sheep, to be active in listening, for Him to know us and for us to follow Him.

2. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear…”
In many places in the New Testament, and especially in the parables that Jesus told His followers, we can read these words: “He who has ears to hear, let him listen…”. Of course, we know very well that there are no people without ears. Jesus’ call is about those who are interested in His teaching paying attention to His words and being open to receiving and reflecting on them. Only the listeners will understand the true content of what He is saying.

3. “The Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth”
The Lord declares: “And when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak of himself, but whatever he hears, that will he speak, and he will declare to you the things to come” (John 16:13). From these words we understand that even without having the intellectual capacity to perceive all truth, we will be guided into all truth by the Spirit of God. We also realize that through the words of the Spirit we will receive prophetic vision and knowledge by which we will be informed of things to come.

Short Bible Study: John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should
not perish but have eternal life. 

We are so used to the verse in John 3:16 and, unfortunately, to its out of context interpretation. This interpretation seems to focus on a “positive message” where just the first half of the verse is the focus of attention: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” (I am keeping the punctuation of the ESV). This emphasis points to God’s great love which moved Him to sacrifice His Son as a propitiation for the sins of rebellious mankind is very important. The lack of love, kindness, and real acceptance is ruining people’s families, friendships, and lives. Man needs the message of true love. However, it is the omission of the rest of the verse and the context of this teaching that exacerbate the problem of misunderstanding God’s love and replacing it with human wants.

The unconditional love of God actually has a condition: eternal life is given to those who believe in Him, the Son. For the full context we must read the passage including verses 17 to 21:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of our sins, and God’s graceful acceptance for anyone into this truth is unconditional. There are no preferences, anyone, even the gravest sinner, the evilest man is welcome.

The passage however explains the fate of those who reject the Way of God to reconciliation with Him: without belief one is already condemned because they did not believe in the name of the only Son of God. But the Word of God does not stop here. In His teaching Jesus gives an explanation exactly what the judgment is: man’s choice of evil and thus rejection of the true light of God. It is the works of man in rebellion to God that are evil and are made such just because of that rebellion. Thus verses 19-21 give the precise rationale why man loves darkness and evil, resulting in his desire to stay away from God and His Son, who is light.

With this fuller perspective we understand the love of God better:

1. God loved the world even if it was evil;

2. His love for the world moved Him to a point to offer His only Son as a sacrifice for man’s sins;

3. The love of God results in an offer of eternal life;

4. Man is evil, loves darkness, not God;

5. To enter into eternal life one must believe in the name of His only Son.

(Which means to acknowledge Jesus’ origins and essence in God, and his descent to this world in the flesh to become a man and Savior). The love of God is unconditional at the entry point but it does not condone remaining in once former state of being. True faith changes us. If one continues in darkness, he does not believe in the Son.

God’s love does not spare the painful truth. The reason for people rejecting His Son and salvation is their love for their works which are evil and done in darkness. For one to enter into peace with God he has to turn his back to darkness and move to the light. There is no love that leads to eternal life outside of the Son of God. Without faith in Christ what awaits one is judgment.

This full contextual view of John 3:16 gives us a better glimpse of the love of God for us. We are made aware not only of His nature, and His sacrifice, but even more so, as we understand our own sorry and fallen state. The love of God releases us from the grip of our own chains and addiction to darkness. Yet our darkness and corruption will condemn us to judgment if we reject the sacrifice of God, through the work, death, and resurrection of His only Son.

God is a loving Father, but He is also a righteous Judge. His true love is seen in the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins, evil, and damnation. If we believe in His Son we will clearly see who God is, but we will also fully know who we are. We will understand that due to our rebellion and following corruption we do not deserve eternal life yet He gave it to us, if we believe in the Name.

John 3:16, the love of God and eternal life are inseparable from the second part of verse 16, and the clear teachings of verses 17 to 21. Only if we consider the context, we will fully understand the meaning of “God so loved the world” and John 3:16. Do you want eternal life? Believe in the name of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

Short Bible Study: Proverbs 16:3

Man praying with his hands on the Bible

Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

To commit one’s works to the Lord does not mean to relinquish all responsibility and to “let the Lord take care of it.” One’s works are his own works. Committing them to the Lord would mean that such works are given over to God as He is the Maker and Master of man and his life.

The establishment of plans, as a result of committing one’s works to the Lord, also means that there is an exchange, prayer, communication between man and God. It is a process of “committing” and then the plans are the “feedback” from God. But these plans are now established.

Often, we don’t fully commit our works to the Lord because we want to keep control. Then things do not go so well. In our human pride we feel that it is us who know best how our works should be performed. However, if we humbly say to God: “Lord, these are my works. Do what you have to with them!” then His intervention, in response to our humility, will make our plans stand. Our work will have a direction, shaped in heaven.

It is a relationship in which we must acknowledge that without God we would be able to do nothing of value, even if activities abound.

Is the defense of religious freedom a legitimate Christian ministry?

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith,” says Robin David, the ADF International allied lawyer defending the pastors in court. “In India, many citizens face fierce harassment because they belong to a religious minority.”

These Christian pastors in India are being persecuted not because they are a minority but because they are Christians.  While “nobody should be persecuted for their religious belief” may be a nice sentiment, the reality is that persecution occurs on a daily basis. In fact, anti-Christian irrational hatred and the resulting persecution is amply talked about and predicted in the Lord’s teachings and throughout the New Testament.

It is right and proper for us to support each other as believers and stand up against persecution and the injustice it represents. The NT teaching that Christians must be ready to embrace suffering for the name of the Lord does not constitute a surrender to the claims of evil without opposition on our side. Jesus suffered ultimately but He never stopped to assert His divine right to be recognized as the Son of God, the Son of Man, and the Savior of the world. We see the same example through the lives of the apostles and the martyrs of the faith.

Being subject to persecution should never be seen as a reason for Christians to approve of persecution, even if they gladly embrace it as a sign of their loyalty to Christ.

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Northwestern Bulgarian Initiative to Secede: A Cry of Despair and a Call to Mission?

map of Northwestern Bulgaria

The Northwestern corner of Bulgaria, from west to east: Vidin, Montana, and Vratza.

We have been serving with the Gospel and mission work in Northwestern Bulgaria since 2001, and by moving to serve in the local church in 2009.

Recently people in the region called for the autonomy of the three Northwestern districts in the country — Vratza, Montana, and Vidin. However, the initiative was withdrawn as its leader, a factory worker from Montana, acknowledged that his idea was to point to the devastating economic situation in the region and feeling of despair people who live there feel. Northwestern Bulgaria is the poorest statistically region of the European Union.

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Answers to Questions in a Worldly, Post-Christian Culture

Holy Bible

Bible

Who shapes our outlook on this life and the life to come? God and His Word, or the words of the culture around us, dominated by the prince of the air?

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” When we don’t want to listen to the truth of Scripture we have ways of reasoning faith away by simply ignoring the Biblical teaching or by twisting it to mean something different from what it actually means. Christians have an obligation to teach those who accept the Gospel of Christ to obey all that He has commanded (Matt. 28:16-18). The Great Commission mandate is not just to listen to and marvel at the Lord’s teachings, but to instruct the nations to obey these teachings.

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Who is Your President?

One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor, states Proverbs 29:23.

With political passions engulfing the globe one must ask if believers should stay away from politics? The answer is negative. Simply our “politics” is different. It is of the Kingdom of God, and not of the kingdoms of this world. When Christ declared to Pilate in John 18 that His kingdom is not of this world He did not mean that He is an escapist. Neither did He want that for His disciples. He  meant that the way He and His followers engage in this world defies its principles of corruption and rebellion. Just the opposite, Jesus’s own mission and the one He gave to the church is one of full engagement with the Gospel with all peoples and worldly powers (Matt 28:16-18).

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