Archive for the Theology Category

Sharing Jesus for the sake of Jesus

Posted in A New Beginning In Christ, Apologetics, Christian Life, Eyob B Kassa, Eyob's blog, God, Religion, Theology, Thought of the day on 07/27/2012 by Eyob B Kassa

Most evangelism sucks!

Ok, that may be sound a little bit harsh generalization, but I believe it’s true! Most evangelism sucks because they are therapeutically good but theologically not sound. They are man-centered not God-centered. They are so superficial not incarnational. Evangelism day is a kick-off event for so many than a life style. William Temple the late Archbishop of Canterbury wrote: ‘To evangelize is so to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through him, to accept him as their Savior, and serve him as their king in the fellowship of his Church’. We have to face it; the message of the gospel is more than “God is doing something huge” kind of sermon. I don’t think the New Testament God is vague on this. He sent His Son to die.  R. C. Sproul said, “The Gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or the righteousness of another. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.” The message of the gospel is serious!

Evangelism is not an option. In fact, it’s a mandate. It is not a system that we adopt but it’s a truth that we should live out. The motive should not be winning people for the sake of church membership but for a God-honoring and purpose driven life. And the purpose is not to enjoy the darkness but to reveal God’s glory as the light of the world. Evangelism will never get easier because we adopt, change or focus on various techniques. Evangelism is a grace-based passion and caring for people. Passion and caring has nothing to do with technique but a heart. God doesn’t concern about our “evangelism techniques” but our availability and passion. I think we have gotten far away from what evangelism is all about. Personal opinion but I believe it’s true!

Why most evangelism sucks?

I will tell you why. We know what people want to hear, so customize the gospel according to the interest and characteristics of the people we want to address. We assume what works and what not. As the result we have a gospel-plus-something evangelism and our “techniques” make sense to us than the gospel. However, Paul and many others did evangelism in a very straight kind of preaching. They just go out and proclaim. They were concerned much about bringing the glory of God through their preaching than methodology. But, the way we do evangelism often times is superficial not radical. Our evangelism is not properly planned and it’s poorly delivered. We urge “unbelievers” to love Jesus, to follow Jesus, to accept Jesus, and to worship Jesus but we don’t even live out these truths in our lives. There is no power in our messages because there is less truth in our lives.

Evangelism is how to share Jesus with Passion and Compassion!

I know there are so many kinds of evangelism ideas in the modern Christianity. Not all of them are bad but most of them are sucks. Our evangelism is more about how to entertain people through popular music, drama, so-called spiritual dancing and various arts, self-help and non-confrontational preaching, and very superficial not scriptural teaching. The concern is more about the people’s felt needs than what God wants from people. The concern is not whether God will be glorified but will people be satisfied. Let’s forget about our customized innovations and be concerned about the gospel. The gospel is not for sale, it doesn’t need our advertisement.

Evangelism is about sharing Jesus with passion and compassion. What you share is a person not a product. The gospel is about a person. Evangelism begins and ends with this person, Jesus Christ. And, He is the content and object of the gospel.  Disciples, not converts, are the goal of evangelism. We need to be operating with passion and motivated by compassion. This is not to doubt the effect of our approach in evangelism. But, we should not be focused on our mechanisms but His grace. Our words, and actions will take us half-step in the process but it is totally the work of the Holy Spirit. The goal in evangelism is to bring a person closer to the person of Jesus Christ who is already drawing by the work of the Holy Spirit.  “Evangelism is the discipleship of the pre-converted man” as some one said. God doesn’t reach the Jews through signs and wonders and the Greeks through wisdom. “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24 ESV)

God doesn’t give us what we want in order to save us. He doesn’t give us “toys” to save us through the gospel. That is the modern day church gospel; the gospel of ME! The gospel of ME is basically man-centered and it is about how YOU can be the best person you can be, it’s about your bolster self-esteem, it’s about your dynamic relationships, it’s about solving your financial crisis, it’s about you and your needs.

However, God is passionate about His glory and He is taking the gospel seriously. The true gospel is about our total helplessness and need. We are sinners. We are God’s enemies. And we are need of a savior. God gives us what we need and what we need is the gospel. The gospel is about the person and the gospel is a person. We need this person, Jesus Christ, above all for satisfaction and justification. And evangelism is nothing but sharing this Jesus for the sake of Jesus. Don’t try to find ways to succeed in evangelism just share the person of Jesus Christ. Praise be His name!

Eyob B Kassa

July 26, 2012

Developing The Spiritual Gift of Discernment

Posted in A New Beginning In Christ, Christian Life, Eyob B Kassa, Eyob's blog, Religion, Theology, Thought of the day on 04/12/2012 by Eyob B Kassa

There are lots of things in life that needs clarity. Just because it looks “right” in any of your “measurement”, doesn’t mean every thing is just right. I am not minimizing the ability to reason or think through. But there are things that are way beyond our ability to look or think through, especially when we come to spiritual things. How do we know we are on the right path? How do we know it is the will of God? How do we know we are doing the will of God? How do we know? Where do we get the confirmation? from our senses? People? Or what else? These are not just easy questions. In order to approve all things and hold fast, that which is good or right, we need to develop the ability to discern.

Often times, making a right choice is more than doing something smart. The ability to discern is more than having a good skill. Discernment is a spiritual gift, according to the scripture, and that is  to be able to distinguish whether a saying, teaching, doctrine, written word, or event is right or wrong, or it is from the good or the evil one. But the question also is, how do we know that? How do we know whether the saying, teaching, doctrine or any word or experience is from God or the devil? Here are few hints for you.

1.     You need to know your Bible. Sounds simple, right! It sounds simple but unless you know the scripture, not the head the knowledge, but having intimate relationship with the word, there is no way that you discern what is from God and what is from the devil. It is through the scripture that you discern the source. Not knowing the scripture leads to error and destruction. “If I were the devil,” writes J. I. Packer, “one of my first aims would be to stop folks from digging into the Bible…I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorns, hedges and mantraps…” why? Because it is through the word that you come to the knowledge and understanding of what God’s will is.

2.     Don not accepts anything that you read or listens on face value. “The fool believes everything,” says the scripture in Proverbs 14: 15 but, “the prudent takes heed to his step.” The greatest mistake that we can make is when we receive and believe everything that we heard and ignore to discern. No matter what you heard, or whom you listen to, you need to carefully test and examine it in the light of the Bible. We are instructed to test, prove, examine everything in I Thessalonians 5:21. Remember, everything means everything!

3.     Listen to God’s voice and seek His precence diligently. Most people want to hear from God what they want to hear and when they want to hear,  but not what He wants to tell them. Because our lives filled with a bunch of hyper-stimulated and meaningless activities, we don’t have the patience to listen to His voice and seek His precence diligently. But seeking God must be our diligent work, because those who seek will find Him. When you have the gift of discernment it motivates you to seek God’s will and purpose and apply that with understanding. The bible says in Prov 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Just your way looks right, feels right, sounds right doesn’t mean it is right. Not all the way is God’s way. There are “things”, “voices” or “ways” sounds or looks identical to God’s will, but how do you discern if you don’t develop the spirit of discernment? Don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. Don’t pray just for the sake of prayer, but develop a hunger to be in His presence. God doesn’t want your list, but your heart. The greatness of prayer is not on the length, or the quality of your words but the humbleness of your heart the ultimate desire to be in His presence more than anything else.

4.      Ask God for the gift of discernment. God gives gifts. The gift of discernment is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gift of Discernment is the ability to perceive whether such things as people, events, or beliefs are from God or the devil. People with the gift of discernment know that Satan and his demons disguise themselves as holy (1 Cor. 11:14-15), empowers counterfeit miracles (Ex. 7:11-22; 8:7; Matt. 7:21-23; 2 Tim. 3:8) deceive people (2 Thess. 2:9), and empowers false teachers (2 Pet. 2:1), false prophets (Matt. 7:15), false apostles (2 Cor. 11:13), and false doctrines (1 Tim. 1:3; 6:3).

5.     It is one thing to desire the gift of discernment – and it is quite another to use it properly in a right way. We should not act like children concerning spiritual gifts as Corinthians did in 1 Corinthians. Spiritual gifts are not given for entertainment or any kind of personal gain. They should not also be treated as any kind of natural talents.  There is a distinction between a natural talent and a supernatural or spiritual gift. Both comes from God, but spiritual gifts are supernatural. And the Holy Spirit or God gives gifts for three general purposes:

1.     To glorify God (1 Pt 4:11) and Christ (John 16:14).

2.     To edify the body of Christ (Ep 4:12-13; 1 Cr 14:26).

3.     To lead souls to Christ (1 Cr 14:16; Ep 4:11).

The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to serve others, to bless others and to benefit others. So that the whole church, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14, may be edified or  the whole church may be built up. You are using the gift that you receive from the Holy Spirit for your benefit but it is NOT given to make you “special,” “glorify” or cute in any way in the church. It is one thing to desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit but it is quite another to submit to the giver, and use it to edify ourselves and others in a biblical manner.

The need for spiritual discernment among God’s people is greater today than it ever has been! And I think we all need to ask God, the giver of all gifts, through prayer, according to His will, in a manner that glorify Him and for the benefit of His church.

Eyob B Kassa

April, 12, 2012

Seeking God

Posted in A New Begining, A New Beginning In Christ, Christian Life, Eyob B Kassa, Religion, Theology, Thought of the day on 04/04/2012 by Eyob B Kassa

If you examine your heart today, what do you think you will find? A lot of things right? I know!  When David examined himself by the word of God you know what he found once? A hunger, a strong desire for God. Read what he says in Psalm 42: 1-2 “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God When shall I come and appear before God?” What about you my friends? What do you long for today? For many it was God! How about you? God is never found accidentally. He said in Jeremiah 29 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” If you seek God and if that is your only desire in your heart God will satisfy you by His presence as He promised in Psalm 107: “He satisfy the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” What about those who don’t seek Him? The answer is simple, they will not find Him. Because seeking God is honoring Him, magnifying Him and satisfying in Him and He  will give honor to those by whom He is  honored, and those who have no respect for Him will be of small value in His eyes according to 1 Samuel 2: 30.

However, seeking God is not about making our possession. It is not about making Him something that needs to be added on as any kind of property. Seeking God is a diligent pursuit, a passionate hunger for Him and without Him everything is meaningless and empty.

God is looking for seekers! He is seeking those who have such intense passion or a deeper hunger for His presence, and who want to know him more, desiring Him more, glorifying Him more, and  satisfied in Him more. “The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.”  (Psalm 14: 2).

What do you long for today? you know God is never found accidentally, but He will be found to those who seek Him passionately, earnestly, and consistently. Those who seek him will live (1 Chronicles 16:11) and the search should be done with all your heart, mind and soul (Deuteronomy 4: 29).

We need to seek God all the time not just when we are in trouble. Seeking God is more than a joyful admiration or praise, but it is about being satisfied in Him, acknowledging Him, and glorifying Him in everything and above any other things.

Seeking God or desiring God has a cost. But the question is how much of God do you want today?

Eyob B Kassa

4/4/2012

The Gospel is Not for Sale

Posted in Christian Life, Eyob B Kassa, Eyob's blog, God, Religion, religon, Theology, Thought of the day on 03/12/2012 by Eyob B Kassa

Salvation: God’s free and undeserving bounty!

The scripture clearly says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” in Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV). If we don’t understand this basic foundation of the gospel message, then we lose everything. There are no “two paths or more” to be saved, and we cannot be accepted for our “works” because God is the only one who can save Isaiah 63:1. When the scripture says, salvation is free that means it has nothing to do with our works. And if it is free we have no claim; it is just a mere favor. We have absolutely no reason to say that we deserve it because it is God’s favor. And this God’s free gift, salvation is full available through God’s Son Jesus Christ (read Acts 4: 12; John 14: 6; John 10: 9 and so on).

Salvation is not something that any church or a minister can offer; it is God’s offering to anyone who believes in His Son Jesus Christ. Why? Because He (God) is not willing that anyone should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Everyone is invited; nobody is excluded (Rev. 22:17).

Why is it free? Because if we want to buy our salvation we have nothing to pay, we are bankrupt spiritually (Romans 3: 23 says…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.) and Isaiah 64:6 also says “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” We cannot save ourselves in any way so we needed a savior. But what was the problem? Why we need a savior any way? Because we all have sinned! Sin is something that we are all guilty of. It is in our nature. It is who we are. As the scripture says in Romans 5: 12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” By the way, 5:12 The Greek word anthropoi in 5: 12 refers to both men and women; see also verse 18. But you may say, “I am not that bad” or “I haven’t done anything like so and so.” Well, it is neither about the degree nor type of sin that matter, because God doesn’t put degrees on our sin. There is no big or small or there is no this or that type of sin. It is about the fact that we all have sinners and violates God’s law.

Salvation: Free, but not cheap!

Yes, salvation is free and it costs us nothing. But our salvation cost God His only Son, Jesus Christ. Don’t think your salvation is cheap because you received it for free. God as a giver has to pay a price (His Son) to set us free because we are bankrupted (spiritually, morally, etc), with no ability to pay for our salvation. No good deeds of ours CANNOT merit us salvation. As the scripture clearly says, we are spiritually dead in sin and inclined by nature only toward evil all the time,” but God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.”

In 1 Corinthians 6:20, the scripture says, “for you were bought with a price.” For you were bought has an implication. It implies a price.  What price? The price of God’s own Son Jesus Christ. The price of His blood shed on the cross. If you want to know how much your salvation cost God, look at the cross of Jesus and you will understand. “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold, from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,” says the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1: 18-21 “but with precious blood as of a lamb unblemished and without spot, the blood of Christ.”

As the Israelites were slaves for Pharaoh in Egypt and the LORD brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand, so were we. We all were enslaved to sin and needed a savior. No ‘hasty evacuation’ this time, but God send His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to save us through His death. Jesus Christ, who is sovereign, glories, and everlasting deity taking upon Himself the form of a servant and willingly suffer the horrible and agonizing death on the cross. His death makes us precious because He bought us with His precious blood.

However, this salvation yet it is free it is not cheap either. The scripture clearly teaches us Jesus is our savior and also The Lord! Jesus died for our sins. He (Jesus) died for all, “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for HIM” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. This is not a “secondary effect” of God’s saving grace as many thinks but it is a supreme expression of divine grace. Salvation is God’s ultimate offering through His Son in which we live rightly from the beginning. Salvation is a loving act by nature. Without this loving act, which is salvation, through Jesus Christ, there is no other way that I can live for this loving act in the first place. To be saved means to live for Him.

Salvation: It is free, not cheap; and it is not for sale!

We are coming to the times where the gospel is put on a market like a commodity. The so-called “gospel,” marketing the “new-brand Jesus” to targeted consumers who treating Jesus as some kind of spiritual guru whose teaching is not different from any self-help franchise sold primarily as something to make our life much easier and simpler.  That is a pagan gospel not the gospel of Jesus Christ. Read Hebrews 1:1-2, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” When Jesus taught or spoke, His words were not ordinary human words, but His words were divine, powerful, graceful and full of authority. In other words, God has made Himself known to us by becoming a man.

The Apostle Paul said, “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4,5). Unfortunately, our evangelical methods are focusing on entreating the truth to a lesser degree that doesn’t offend the sinner as possible as can. But, the message of the gospel is not an invitation to a relaxing life. But doesn’t Christianity offer peace, joy, and abundant life? You bet it does! But whenever we put the message of the gospel to a lower level where it has no effect other than a “self-help message” it leaves multitudes in the “lukewarm” Christianity. They believe but not committed, they become followers but not disciples.

But we are saved by grace to fully commit to Jesus. Possessing saving grace and professing or living out grace goes together. Take one and ignore the other, you will end up like the modern cheap, misguided and ridiculous Christianity that has no power and grace but profess a “user friendly gospel”. Salvation is a gift from God, to live for God, and to walk with God. If salvation is not something we can do, it is not also something we do for God; but it is about what Jesus does.

The message of the gospel, which is Jesus, which is eternal life, is not something that is given to us to sell but to share. And it is not about our effective strategy or invitation, but it is about knowing Him, trusting Him, worshiping Him, loving Him, obeying Him, following Him and proclaiming Him. I am neither against our ambition nor using various mechanisms to spread the gospel. My problem is when we advertising the true message in a way that satisfying the desperate desire of the world, that makes the gospel irrelevant and powerless. I don’t think we have a message problem; our problem is delivering the message in its integrity.

So what are we to do about this? I don’t think I have the answer, but I do know we have the true gospel. The gospel that is powerful to save. The gospel that is powerful to save us from the bondage of sin. But, when the gospel becomes man-centered, when we are more concerned about our needs and wants than God’s glory, we don’t have the gospel of Jesus Christ but a perverted gospel that is miss-directed, miss- focused, and miss-presented.

Look! The gospel may be for us but it is not about us. The Gospel is about JESUS!  Now we do need to be careful here. Yes, God gave us something wonderful, powerful and precious, which is His gospel even though we don’t deserve it. But, because the gospel is free doesn’t mean either it is cheap or for sale. The gospel is the power of God.

Eyob B Kassa

March 12, 2012

Soli Deo Gloria! For the Glory of God Alone

Posted in Christian Life, God, Religion, Theology, Thought of the day on 12/25/2011 by Eyob B Kassa

One of central issues during reformation was the self-aggrandized and improper exultation of worship that was focused on men (saints) rather than the true God. In order to reclaimed the scriptural truth of the sovereignty of God, the reformers, Martin Luther particularly, were viciously engaged with a theological debate and battle with a corrupt, intertwined political and religious system of the time. However, the reformation was not primarily an “overreaction” to the religious system that twisted the understanding of salvation. The primary concern was truth! Truths about God, His saving plan, the gospel and God’s glory.

Truth matters!

As the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Soli Deo Gloria, the Latin term for Glory to God alone clearly shows that God alone is worthy of our worship. God own the supreme power and authority and there is no one greater or important than He. Therefore, He alone is worthy of glory and honor, and praise.

If God is greater, supreme, and important than anyone or anything, He must get ALL the glory! In Isaiah 42:8, the scripture says, “I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images..”  And Isaiah in 48:11 also says “…And I will not give My glory to another.” If our main purpose in this life is not about God’s glory, then God is not for us. God is jealous and stealing His glory or sharing His glory costs!

Why we give Him all the glory? The answer is simple, we were created by Him, and we were created for Him. The apostle Paul in Romans 11: 36 says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” As humans make cars for the purpose of transportation, God created us to for His glory. And this is why the New Testament again and again calls us to do all to the glory of God. “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). But what does it mean we are created for His glory? Does God created us (imperfect beings) to increase His perfect glory? Not at all! One of my favorites Pastor, Pastor John Piper answer this question in this way, “Now when God says that He created us for His glory, it cannot mean that He created us so that He would become more glorious, that His beauty and perfection would be somehow increased by us. It is unthinkable that God should become more perfectly God by making something that is not God. It is a staggering but necessary thought that God has always existed, that He never came into being, and that everything which exists which is not God is from His fullness and can never add anything to Him which did not come from Him. That is what it means to be God; and it should humble us, O, how it should humble us, when we ponder His reality!” 1

Living for the glory of God: A concept that is easy to grasp yet difficult to put into practice

Why it is difficult? As human beings, we have this desire to put ourselves in the center before others. Often times our focus centers around ourselves. We strongly believe we deserve everything. However, living for the glory of God means it is not about you anymore. God’s priority in your life is to receive all the honor, all the praise, and all the glory. This doesn’t mean that God has an ego issue. Not at all! But we do!

Remember what John the Baptist said about Jesus?  Read John 3:30 – “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Why?  Because … it’s all about HIM … NOT about you or me. To live for His glory you must fully surrender to God.

“God is MOST glorified in us when we are MOST satisfied in Him” said Pastor John Piper. When our highest desire is for His glory, we surely satisfied. The end of every man’s living should be to know God and to glorify Him alone. When your ultimate purpose in life is to please Him, to glorify Him, and to enjoy Him (1 Cor. 10: 31) life make sense and there is no greater joy and privilege than to glorify God.

Eyob B Kassa

December 25, 2011

1 John Piper, Pastor, July 27, 1980 (Morning) Bethlehem Baptist Church GOD CREATED US FOR HIS GLORY(Isaiah 43:1-7) www.soundofgrace.com/piper80/072780m.htm Cached – Similar

Be Encouraged in the Lord

Posted in A New Begining, A New Beginning In Christ, Christian Life, God, Relationships, Religion, Theology, Thought of the day on 10/05/2011 by Eyob B Kassa

“David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” 1st Samuel 30:6

Sometimes in life, God doesn’t give you people; instead He gives you a challenge. You go through what you are going through, but you will grow. 

When things go wrong, when everything doesn’t make sense, when the unexpected hits and blows you like a tornado, when your situation gets worse and worse, when you are going through challenge after challenge, …etc what are you going to do at that moment? What do you hold on to? What keeps you sane? Positive? Determined? Peaceful? Joyful?  Etc etc.,

Life is not about surviving, but finding your path and most importantly yourself and your purpose.

A human heart is prone to trouble and the mind is easily discouraged, depressed, and stressed when confronted by a difficult and uncomfortable situation. At that moment our mindset got usually into a negative state, hope start breaking down, peace shuttered, and life start losing its balance, purpose and meaning.

Unless you redirect your focus and reframe your perception about yourself and your situation you will be discouraged and frustrated. At that moment what you are focusing on makes a huge difference. Where your focus is, so are you.

Consider the scenario!

While David and his men had been away from their camp, Amalekites, a longtime enemies of Israel, had swept in, burned everything, and taken the women, children and everything captive. When David and his men came back all that remained was heap of smoking ruins. Everything was gone! Everything was destroyed! It was a terrible loss. As we read in verse four, “David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep.” Some of the men also spoke of stoning him out of their distress over their families. And at that point, as the scripture says “David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (verse 6b).

It is always easy to blame someone when tragedy took place. As someone said, “misrey loves company.” When we are on the edge of despair, we tend to blame on someone or something, and that was what these men did. David not only had to deal with his own personal loss (I Samuel 30:5,6a), but he also had to deal with six hundred angry, grief-stricken men.

Everything he had was taken and the rest was burning down. What a loss! But, how did he respond to his situation? Think about that for a moment. As he stood before his burning house what was going on through his mind? How did he handle it? Was there a choice for him at that moment? Of course! 

Friends, life’s circumstances can either make you bitter or better, it’s your choice. Your choice determines the outcome. In the midst of discouragement, David encouraged himself in the Lord. He chose not to be bitter, discouraged, and hopeless. Rather, he took courage and strengthened himself in the Lord His God. When you start looking your situation from a different perspective, when you start encouraging yourself in the Lord, and when you say “NO” to fear, tragedy, loss, disappointment, etc., you see the same situation more precisely and clearly.

Be realistic but keep your focus beyond your situation

Nothing has changed. David’s situation was terrible. Everything he had was gone. His situation looked beyond repair, beyond hope and beyond his strength. His situation was discouraging. He was also surrounded by angry warriors. David had more than a bad that day. The Amalekites had taken everything. But, there was one thing that the Amalekites could not destroy and could not take. There was one thing that they couldn’t stole: his faith in God. The scripture says, “he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” He didn’t turn to no one but God. His focus was on the Lord.

No matter what you are going through, no one can take your faith from you unless you surrender it. You have an option not to convinced otherwise. But does this mean we deny the reality? Faith is not denial. To deny circumstantial reality in order to maintain a positive faith confession is always has a bad result. But, faith acknowledges and recognizes. True faith courageously faces the reality of any circumstances, situations, problems, giants, mountains, etc., but chooses to see them contrasted to the power and greatness of God.

You cannot deny the reality and say I have faith. Biblical faith isn’t denying the reality, it is the ability to see beyond the reality. Faith is knowledge in action. It is an active trust and confidence NOT on anything but the Lord himself. The scripture commanded us to be strong only in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10). As the matter of fact, “He is the One who gives power and strength to his people.” (Psalm 68:35).

Focus on God’s Promise, Not Your Problems!

Whenever obstacles appear in your life, redirect your focus on God and His promises. When you focus on your problems you will be discouraged but when you focus on God you will be encouraged. In Hebrews 12:1-3 we are encouraged to keep our eyes on Jesus. Then we will not become weary and faint. Ephesians 6:10 urges us “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power”.  One of the best ways you can encourage yourself during a difficult time is remembering who your God is. If you keep on focusing on the situation you will be discouraged, intimidated, fearful, and finally defeated, but when you switch your perspective to God and His ability you will become strong, determined, powerful, and focused. When God is the only source of hope you have, you got all you need. It is not what you see matter but how you see. In a time of adversity, keep your focus on God not your problem because God will bring light out of darkness, peace out of trouble, and all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).

Ziklag is not your final destination but it’s a place of transition

Discouragement is inevitable. Every now and then we collide with a difficult situation that test our strength and faith. Yes, Ziklag may be a place of desperation, tears, and pain but it is also a place of restoration, transition and preparation to get your victory. It is a place where you repositioning yourself to jump into another level. All the disappointments, failures, pain, and struggles you’ve experienced right now will equip you to fulfill your destiny. Ziklag is not a place of rejection but it is a place of transition. Your situation is not your destination. Ziklag is not your final place where you give up all your hope and dream. It must be a place of preparation. It should be a place where you reorganize yourself, your energy, and your thoughts and prepare yourself to go to the next level.

Discouragement doesn’t come from Lord but from the devil. And discouragement can also be a sign that we are walking by sight not by faith. But this doesn’t mean when you walk in faith you will not experience discouraging situations and conditions. There are seasons you experience discouragement, there are times you are facing countless obstacles, and there are levels of challenges that you will experience in this life. But as long as you fix your eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of your faith…” Hebrews 12:2a no matter how much trouble you face, no matter how much you lost, no matter how bad your situation looks, God will restore you and He surely renew your strength.

No matter what you are going through you will never be placed in a situation God cannot handle. God isn’t at work producing the circumstances I want. God is at work in bad circumstances to produce the me he wants. John Ortberg

 Eyob B Kassa

September 30, 2011

 

Lord, teach us to pray

Posted in A New Beginning In Christ, Christian Life, God, Religion, religon, Theology, Thought of the day on 07/18/2011 by Eyob B Kassa

Ever since our first son was born, my wife and I have always talking about having a family devotion each evening. We just knew the importance of teaching our child the Word of God and keep that tradition as much as we could consistently. Thank God we can keep that commitment till this day. However, keeping that “togetherness” before the Lord, and preparing simple, clear and exciting materials was my responsibility. But I tell you this; that was not easy. Teaching the word of God to little kids requires a different creative approach so that they understand the truth on their level of understanding.

I remember this incident one night for example…

“Settle down boys,” I said,

“We are going to talk to God.”

“Talking to God?” asked my youngest son, his little hazel eyes wide open.

“We are talking to God?” asked the oldest one.

“Yes we do.”

They were surprised, with a good reason of course! I know what was in their mind at that moment, “How can we talk to God, we don’t even know if he can hear us.” That was a long time ago when we started our “family devotion,” which become a habit since then.

Prayer is a great privilege not an obligation

I am not sure how many of us do realize that prayer is actually means having intimate, personal, and passionate relationship with God. Mark; in his gospel tell us that Jesus went off by Himself, early in the morning to spend time in prayer with His heavenly father (Mk. 1:35). Luke 22:39 suggest that a place called the “Mount of Olives” was a favorite quiet time spot for Jesus. Do you have a quiet time with God? Do you have a special place that you want to be with God? Prayer is not about location or time. It is about having intimate and personal relationship with God. And intimacy cannot be hurried and cannot be confined with time and place. Yes sometimes we need a specific location and time to have fellowship with God, but the purpose of prayer is not about location but interaction with the living God. Some people think that as long as they go to church once a week, sing a few songs, and pay their tithe, that they are “in relationship” with God. But God doesn’t want your one-day in a week church attendance, your money, and your Bible study time, none of your religious list. What He wants is you! Walter A. Mueller said, “Prayer is not merely an occasional impulse to which we respond when we are in trouble: prayer is a life attitude.” This doesn’t mean we will pray without a pause all day every day. Don’t relegate the idea of prayer to just when you are on your knees. Make prayer a habit. Develop a constant communion with God.

We need to be taught to pray, because we are chronically prone to pray wrong, said Edward H. SchroederLord in his article, Teach us to Pray, printed in Nexus, Vol. 2:1 (Nov. 1961)1. When the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him “…‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1) His answer was very clear “when you pray, say: …” in (Luke 11:2-4) or in the gospel of Matthew He states, “In this manner, therefore, pray.” (Matthew 6:9). Now let’s pause here for a while and look what Jesus was trying to show them.

Prayer is about relationship

Prayer [Gk: “proseuche”] is “communion with God”. It means “intently engaged in; attend constantly to; persist in adherence to; constantly devoted to.” True prayer is not a mantra. Prayer is having intimate conversation with God. Through prayer we actually experience a relationship with God. The quality of our prayer life then determines the quality of our relationship with God. Prayer is talking with God. So, don’t make prayer a lecture. Prayer is neither to inform nor to impress. Prayer is having conversation with God. Remember: conversation is talking “with” not just “to”.

So, why the disciples came and asked Jesus? Even though there is no clear indication, they must have seen the way Jesus was praying every day in front of their own eyes, because He had been praying at certain times and places. Or “they had been struck with the Excellency and fervor of his prayers, and, recollecting that “John” had taught his disciples to pray, they asked him also to teach “them.”2 Whatever their reason was, Jesus’ response was direct and revolutionary. Surely the disciples of Jesus being Jews they recite the Shema, pray the psalms, offer spontaneous petitions to God and had some “idea” of prayer like their pious leaders and rabbis of their time. But now things about to change radically and there will be no more bigotry, prejudice, social elitism or religious arrogance about prayer or God.3 As Philip Yancey mentions in his book, Prayer, does it make any difference? “No one in the Old Testament addressed God as Father. But Jesus did it 170 times”4. In the patriarchal period, when people began to call upon the name of the Lord’ (Gen 4:26; compare Gen 12:8; Gen 21:33), prayer is naive, familiar and direct (Gen 15:2 ff; Gen 17:18; Gen 18:23 ff; Gen 24:12). It is evidently associated with sacrifice (Gen 12:8; Gen 13:4; Gen 26:25). As Joachim Jeremias has noted “this represents a radical departure from Jewish custom and tradition. Though Jewish people were given a lengthy number of appropriate titles for God in personal prayer, significantly absent from the approved list was the title “Father.””5

Prayer is not about words, but where our hearts should be

We have made prayer a ritual. We tend to think prayer is exercising a religious custom in a public assembly. Even when we pray, we sometimes do it in a way we talk to some “distant relative” who live far, far away. But if we could understand God’s main purpose for us is about fellowship or “koinania” according to 1 Cor. 1:9 and our God is a “relationship oriented,” and God’s desire is to have close and intimate fellowship with His children, then the whole idea of prayer would be clear. That was what Jesus trying to show the disciples in the first place.

Prayer is having intimate communication or relationship between the heavenly father and His children. Prayer is the outgoing of the heart. Beyond the content of discourse, prayer is “an overflow from the encounter between the living God and the living person.” In other words, prayer should come from a humble heart. C. H. Spurgeon said, “How many, too, have found a prayer upon their lips! It is a very common thing with those who pray in prayer-meetings, and those of us who pray in public, for our lips to run much faster than our hearts move, and it is one of the things we need to cry to God to keep us from, lest we should be run away with by our own tongues, as men are, sometimes, run away with by their horses, which they cannot restrain; and you know, the horse never goes faster than when he has very little to carry. And, sometimes, words will come at a very rapid rate when there is very little real prayer conveyed by them. This is not as it ought to be with us, and we must look into our hearts for the desire to pray, and if we do not find it in our hearts to pray a prayer, let us rest assured that we shall not be accepted before the throne of God.”6

Prayer is not a way to manipulate God into doing things OUR way

Often times we confuse “praying earnestly/diligently “ with “persuading God”. But there is a difference between “bringing our requests to God” and “trying to persuading God to do our will.” The New Bible Commentary aptly states, “…prayer is not an attempt to persuade God to do our will; rather it is an activity in which believing children approach their heavenly Father in a sincere endeavor to place themselves in the line of His will.”7When you switch the focus from you to God, you will experience His grace. Because what changes through prayer is not the “mind” of God but what changes through prayer is our mind and heart. Most of the time we get into disappointment and confusion when we don’t want to be change but We want God to change his mind about our situation. There is a prayer quote that I like very much, which says; “Our prayers must mean something to us if they are to mean anything to God” I think that is absolutely true. Prayer is not “God, you have to do this” or “God, you better do this before my life ruined” but it is acknowledging that He is in control and we trusting Him that He knows and do what is best according to His will (Romans 8:26-27, NIV). However, when a believer prays for help, that help will be given. This is absolutely true. But not rely on mystical powers of our words as the Word of Faith Movement teachers think. “Effective prayer is, as John said, asking in God’s will (John 15:7). Prayer is not a means by which we get our will done in heaven. Rather, it is a means by which God gets his will done on earth.”8

Prayer doesn’t require a certain formula

Prayer is exciting and powerful when it comes from within. Don’t make prayer a lecture. Prayer is neither to inform nor to impress. Prayer is having conversation with God. He doesn’t care about the words; He cares about your sincerity and the motive in your heart. God is not into making “things” complicated. He doesn’t lay down a complicated set of criteria before he’ll listen to us. He is eagerly awaited to hear us and to have conversation with us. Through prayer our job is not to impress or persuade God. We are not lawyers in courtrooms. As some one said, “God is bigger than you, so don’t go bossing God around.” Prayer is having an intimate relationship or communication with God who loves you and wants to have fellowship with you. Prayer is simple. Don’t make it complicated.

Eyob B Kassa

July 17, 2011

End Notes:

1 Edward H. SchroederLord. Teach us to Pray, printed in Nexus, Vol. 2:1 (Nov. 1961).

2 Barnes’ Notes on the Bible. Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834]. Luke 11

3 Morries, Derek. Walking with Jesus- part 6. The disciple’s prayer

4 Philip Yancey. Prayer, does it make any difference?

5 R. C. Sproul. Praying to Our Father. Renewing Your Mind

6 C. H. Spurgeon: Prayer Found in the Heart. January 16th, 1876

7 New Bible Commentary. G. J. Wenham, J. A. Motyer, D. A. Carson and R. T. France. 21st century edition. 1994. Inter-Varsity Press

8 Norman L. Geisler, Creating God in the Image of Man? (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1997) 86