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You Can’t Change the World

39009419_sSometimes it seems that for all of our good intentions, we can get off track in our thinking. Consequently we think we are supposed to be doing something that we really are not.

Take, for instance, the idea of changing the world. That sounds like a really swell idea. How noble. How ambitious. But is it even right? Does God intend for us to change this world? Don’t get me wrong, yes—absolutely yes—we are supposed to have a very positive effect on this world as salt and light. But change it?

Jesus came into this dark world as light (Jn. 3:19). The world is still in darkness (Php. 2:15). The whole world still remains under “the power of the evil one” (1 Jn. 5:19).

Does this mean Jesus failed? Not at all. He didn’t come to change the world, He came to seek and save the lost in it (Luke 19:10). He came to provide a way of escape from it. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:3-4).

Our purpose as God’s people is not to change this world but to be salt and light in it; that others can see the glory of God through us and know that there is hope beyond this world and this life.

Yes, lives are changed in the process, but the world continues on its path to the end to which its “god” leads it (2 Cor. 4:4).

Be salt and light? Be an influence for good and righteousness? Help lead as many others as we possibly can to all spiritual blessings in Christ?

Yes, yes, and yes!

But, change the world? No.

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I Don’t Look Like Jesus

5839424_sWhat makes one “like” Jesus? How does one know what to do in answering the question, “What would Jesus do?” What does it look like when Jesus is “formed in” us (Gal. 4:19)?  What does it mean to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29)?

I wish to be like Jesus, I really do. I want my life to look like Him. I pray that I am more like Him today than I have ever been. But I also know there are so many ways in which I am not like Him. I don’t look like Jesus when…

  • my response to humankind is anger or resentment or disgust instead of compassion (Lk. 7:13).
  • I cannot feel comfortable in the company of the irreligious (Mk. 2:15).
  • my only associations are other church people (Lk. 15:2).
  • people with wrecked and ruined lives do not feel comfortable around me (Matt. 9:36).
  • my own preferences and ideas carry more weight in the practice of my faith than does God’s own word (Jn. 4:34).
  • I do not possess an overwhelming sense of utter and complete dependence on God always (Jn. 5:30).
  • in helping serve people in need I fail to also point them to spiritual food and clothing and shelter (Jn. 6:27).
  • I isolate myself from the world (Lk. 13:22).
  • I think everyone will love me (Jn. 15:18).
  • protecting personal comforts prevent me from engaging the world (Lk. 9:58).
  • my family ties prevail over spiritual ties (Matt. 12:48-50).
  • I only preach to people and fail to serve them (Matt. 9:35).
  • prayer is only of marginal importance and infrequently practiced (Mk. 1:35).
  • tradition takes priority in my actions and practices over God’s own word (Mk. 7:8-9).
  • temptation cannot be met and defeated through the use of Scripture (Matt. 4:4,7).
  • I expect people to come to me and I am unwilling to go to them (Lk. 13:22).
  • if concern for the condition of lost souls is not the highest concern in my life (Lk. 19:10).

It appears that I don’t look much like Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong, it is NOT that our being accepted and received by God is based on our ability to emulate Christ. It isn’t as if He’ll love me more the better job I do of being Christ-like. That would put my standing with God on the basis of human merit and that is actually “contrary” to the gospel (Gal. 1:8).

Neither is this about heaping up guilt for our shortcomings. If it were, that wouldn’t be like Jesus either.

Instead, I need to know that growing up “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” is the objective (Eph. 4:13). And, no matter how far I’ve made it, I still have a long way to go. There is no place to stop, no time to look around and compare my progress with others, no reason to despair and give up. He is there every step of the way to help, to encourage, to restore, to heal, to forgive, and to guide.

The fact that I’m not like Jesus in so many ways motivates me. It’s like Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Php. 3:12).

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027: Ordinary People Extraordinary Faith Interview with Dema Grischuk, Ukraine Preacher

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Ukraine-Map_(Renovated)Tensions remain high in eastern Ukraine.  In certain areas, like the Dontesk/Donbass region and the city of Donetsk itself, it’s particularly tense.  The new Ukrainian president has initiated an “anti-terrorist” military campaign intended to oust the pro-Russian insurgents in various locations.  The result has been much fighting and the disruption of daily life.  The city of Donetsk waits for these efforts to be brought there.

Dema Grischuk is a preacher, teacher, and ministry director who has taken a leading role in trying to minister to the suffering and hurting citizens of Ukraine.  His efforts extend beyond the local congregation. The Let’s Love ministry which he directs has long been reaching out to orphans, children at risk, and the poor and needy throughout the Donetsk region.  With many of their efforts suspended due to the unrest, much attention has now been directed to refugees; those leaving eastern Ukraine to escape the violence and danger.

In this “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Faith” interview, Dema shares his thoughts and experiences of trying to share the peace and comfort of God with his countrymen in a nation torn by aggression, violence, and turmoil.  Not only is Dema involved in addressing physical needs, but also the often-overlooked spiritual dimension of these troubled times through an active, public prayer grouped that has assembled every day since the first difficulties arose, over 100 days ago.

 

Photos:

Dema's family

Dema’s family

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Dema leading Donetsk prayer group

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer group meeting daily for prayer in Donetsk for over 100 days.

Prayer group meeting daily for prayer in Donetsk for over 100 days.

Former prisoner of insurgents being given aid

Former prisoner of insurgents being given aid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Burned out public transportation, Kramatorsk

Work with refugee children

Work with refugee children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bible Passages:

These are the Scriptures that Dema shared that he has found most helpful, not only for himself but those to whom he ministers, all coming from Isaiah.

  • Isaiah 40
  • Isaiah 41:14
  • Isaiah 43:1-7
  • Isaiah 54:15-17

Prayer requests:

• For peace in Ukraine
• For the Vacation Bible School program to be conduced for refugees’ children (end of June)
• For the week of Bible camp for refugees’ children (end of July)

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God bless!
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Why Should I Pray?

We immediately recognize prayer as an act of religious devotion.  Many people do pray.  People want to pray.  But often, people don’t pray.   They don’t see the good or value in it.

So, why should I pray?  There are several reasons.

God’ Wants Us to Pray

Prayer is not something man has developed and designed. It’s not just a religious ritual that’s been around a long time and we assume that it works.  Prayer is God’s idea and He’s very interested in our participation in it as a means of developing and maintaining a relationship with Him.  Yes, there’s more to that relationship than just prayer, but it’s an important part of it.

God Hears Our Prayers

Prayer is not a meaningless, powerless exercise.  We know that because God does hear our prayers.  The only time God is not hearing our prayers is when we’re not listening to Him (Proverbs 28:9; Zechariah 7:13).

Jesus Prayed

Jesus prayed often (Mark 1:35).  He obviously saw the great importance and benefit of engaging in prayer, even though He was God’s own Son.  If Jesus needed to pray, we need it even more.

Jesus Taught Us to Pray

After observing Him in prayer, Jesus own disciples asked Him to teach them to pray.  That’s exactly what He did (Luke 11:1).  One of His parables was given “to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).   Following the teaching and example of Jesus means a person will pray.

Prayer is Effective

I know that not because everything I pray for happens just the way I pray it.  Instead, I know it because that is the Bible’s assurance (James 5:16).  Prayer is an act of fact of faith and faith pertains to things “hoped for” and “not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  I won’t always see the impact of my prayers, but visible validation is not necessary to know that prayer is effective.

Prayer is My Pipeline to God

Remember, God is God and I am His creation (Psalm 100:3).  He is the potter and I am the clay (Isaiah 45:9).  He’s provided this marvelous privilege of coming to Him.  It is an amazing blessing to freely and frequently approach God in prayer.  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

I should pray because I can…and because I need to…and because God wants me to.

God bless,

 

 

 

P.S. What are your thoughts about prayer and its value? Please go to the comments below and let us hear from you.


Can I Be Forgiven?

We have all done things of which we are not proud.  We all have “a past.”  Everyone.  We have all made mistakes; and, yes, we can all be forgiven.

“Yea, but you don’t know what I’ve done!”

True, but I do know what God has said and what God has done.  The Bible makes it very clear that God’s forgiveness is available. This is the very reason Jesus came

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).  Or, as Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

As a matter of fact, God has gone to great lengths to make forgiveness possible.  Perhaps the best known verse in all of the Bible, John 3:16, sometimes called “the golden text” of the Bible, affirms that God has made forgiveness available through His Son Jesus because He loves us so much.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Notice, this offer is not restricted.  Anyone can be saved.  It is “whoever believes” that will be saved.  Forgiveness isn’t reserved for a certain group or class or race or whatever.  It is available for everyone.  “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11).

So, availability is not the problem.  Neither is capability.  That is, God has forgiven sins before, and He can forgive mine.

One group of Christians in the Bible was reminded about their forgiveness.  “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  And these were people who had been, or at least some of them had been, sexually immoral, idolaters,  adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers (1 Cor. 6:9-10).  God forgave.

The apostle Paul considered his own case particularly serious.  He even called himself “foremost” of all sinners because he had been “a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” of God and Jesus (1 Tim. 1:13-15).

So, God has, and God can forgive sin; even mine.

Still, our mind wrestles with the very idea of it.  Isn’t that because we know we don’t deserve forgiveness?  That is exactly right; we don’t deserve it.  But this is the great beauty and power of God’s forgiveness.  God doesn’t deal with us in terms of what we deserve.  Instead God extends His mercy and grace.  Paul, again, says that even though he was “foremost” of sinners, “I received mercy…and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me” (1 Tim. 1:13-14).

Mercy and grace are wonderful.  Mercy is our not getting what we do deserve, and grace is getting what we do not deserve.  We need both.

To illustrate the fact of God’s willingness and desire to forgive (even me), Jesus told the well-known parable of the prodigal son.  It’s worth hearing again:

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.  And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.  And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:11-24; ESV)

Yes! A thousand times, yes! I can be forgiven.

God bless,


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