This gift is direly needed in the church

To a church confused about the use of spiritual gifts, the apostle Paul wrote, “But you should be eager for the greater gifts” 1 Corinthians 12.21. And again: “Pursue love and be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” 1 Corinthians 14.1.

Paul urged them to desire some gifts more than others. He was speaking, of course, of miraculous gifts, such as prophecy. But if saints in the first century could pursue certain gifts, since they were more important than others, it stands to reason that today saints should value certain non-miraculous gifts above others. Continue reading “This gift is direly needed in the church”

Loving the unseen

“For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ” (Colossians 2:1-2, NKJV).

“Out of sight, out of mind” is a secular proverb that describes the attitude of many. Most humans tend to focus their attention and efforts on those people and things which are in close proximity to themselves. We don’t usually spend much energy on those whom we have not met, or on needs that are at a great distance.

Paul was not of that mindset. He wanted the Christians that lived in the cities of Colossae and Laodicea to know that they were important to him. Though they had never yet seen him “up close and personal,” he knew who they were, he knew of their faith, and he had great love for them. He also was willing to invest great energy, both emotional and physical, in their spiritual growth.

Continue reading “Loving the unseen”

Compassion, action, and evangelism

By Johnny O. Trail — Compassion is defined as “sympathy for the suffering of others, often including a desire to help.” It might also be defined as “to have the bowels yearn” for the well-being of another. It means for one to have a deep, inward yearning for the good and welfare of another person—even in cases where they are not deserved of our sympathy. The word for compassion is used several times in the Old and New Testaments.

In the New Testament, the word compassion is combined with an action in connection with the expression of sympathy. Simply stated, we need to act compassionately toward those who deal with various physical, mental, and spiritual afflictions. If we wish to be like the Master, we should have the same type of compassion within ourselves. Continue reading “Compassion, action, and evangelism”

Do this

“The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9 NKJV).

At the elephant breeding center near Chitwan National Park in Nepal, we were fortunate to see and photograph their latest arrival, a three-day-old baby female elephant. Though tiny (and seriously cute) she was already “all elephant” as the picture above demonstrates. Not only was she just like her mother in biological detail, she also mimicked the adult in posture, actions and other behavior. Our party was enthralled with her performance. Continue reading “Do this”

May every soul say, ‘My Lord and my God’

In this world there is little peace for humankind and little hope for it in the future. Jesus offers an eternal peace, of the heart, free from the vicissitudes of life and politics. While Christians pray for governing authorities, they place no hope in them. Confidence, only in Christ. He came from God and returned to God. He knew why he came to earth and fulfilled that purpose. During his time on earth, he loved, and he loved to the end. He was sure of his place before the Father, having received from him all power to bring divine love to its proper conclusion. He exercised this power with wisdom and knowledge.

Jesus calls his people to imitate his example. While his love took turns that were specific to his role in the eternal plan, its serving nature, with no holds barred, must take firm hold in his people. God is not impressed with rituals, done repeatedly for points, in the human mind, or to satisfy some random demand of heaven, as man sees it. He does command some specific actions, and through those he does bring his life and Spirit, but God looks behind the acts to the motivations and yearnings of the heart. He wants to see those and the practice of love — genuine, sincere, honest, profound. Continue reading “May every soul say, ‘My Lord and my God’”

Show, don’t tell

“Show, don’t tell.” This basic principle rules the writing world. It makes life easier, also. To teach a man to fish, he must see you fishing. Personal-development guru Anthony Robbins wrote in his 1991 book, Awaken the Giant Within,

If you’re not sure how to get yourself out of pain and to feel pleasure as a replacement to your smoking, drinking, worrying, or other undesirable emotion or behavior, you can simply find the answers by modeling people who have turned things around for themselves. Find people who have made the lasting changes; I guarantee you’ll find that they had an alternative to replace the old behavior (p. 135).

The Bible both tells and shows. It communicates the message of truth and gives us visual lessons, both positive and negative, on how to be holy. Examples abound from beginning to end. All the great virtues shine in flesh-and-blood people throughout the pages of Scripture. Continue reading “Show, don’t tell”

The gospel is for all

Reading through the New Testament, we find a controversy that seemed to plague the first Christians. It centered around whether a Gentile (someone who was not a Jew) could be a Christian and also how they became a Christian. The Jews took great pride in the covenant they had with God, represented by circumcision – they often referred to everyone else as the “uncircumcised” – and wanted to require Gentiles to be circumcised before being baptized. Although this might be difficult for those of us living 2,000 years later to comprehend, it is important to see how this impacted these first Christians.

Jesus stated quite clearly that the gospel was for everyone. He told his followers: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16 ESV). Continue reading “The gospel is for all”

Taking action so that others will believe in our ‘favorable future’

Researchers think they’ve discovered a strange phenomenon in the area of persuasion. The more a person believes strongly in a future, the more likely he thinks that others will eventually come around to his belief. But there’s more.

“… partisans believe they are so correct that others will eventually come to see the obviousness of their correctness,” says behavioral scientist Todd Rogers of the Harvard Kennedy School, lead author on the research. “Ironically, our findings indicate that this belief in a favorable future may diminish the likelihood that people will take action to ensure that the favorable future becomes reality.

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I’m thankful today

I’m thankful today for the medium of the internet that makes it possible to communicate easily and quickly with you and so many others, seeking as we do to edify and build each other up in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m thankful today for my time yesterday morning with the congregation in the Pimentas neighborhood, in the city of Guarulhos, about an hour from here, as I shared with them the “7 powers of the servant of God.” They’re looking to choose some men next month to serve in some important functions, a sign of good growth for this 10-year-old congregation.

I’m thankful today for the two and a half hours I spent yesterday afternoon, in the Pimentas church building, with a dozen men from several congregations in greater São Paulo area, answering their questions about spiritual service. They are earnest men, dedicated to the work of the Lord, aware of their needs, desirous of doing a better job. Continue reading “I’m thankful today”