Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)
Many people are frustrated about their spiritual lives. They feel they need to grow, but often they are discouraged by their lack of progress. They try so hard to become better Christians, but they end up repeating the same old mistakes that tend to make them lose hope. The key is to focus on vital behaviors that can significantly alter the course and quality of our lives in disproportionate ways. It’s the principle of leverage. You focus on a few crucial behaviors that can place you in a position where you can experience more of God’s grace. Ultimately, of course, it’s all about God’s grace. The key is not to try harder, but to train in such a way that you place yourself in a situation where God’s grace can flow more into your life, to enable you to do what you cannot do by yourself otherwise. It’s all about cooperation, not trying harder.
Now, to begin, you need to focus on the physical aspect of your life. Yes, you heard me. Focus first on the physical aspect. In as much as we want to grow spiritually, we need to understand that we are a unified being. Our body is not an unnecessary shell that we just carry around with us wherever we go. Our body is part of who we are. We are a living soul, and that includes our body. You cannot do anything in this world apart from your body. If you do not focus on your body first, there’s nothing that you can really do about any other aspect of your life. Now, of course, I do not mean to say that there’s nothing you can do if you do not have a complete healthy body. Many people who are in that kind of situation can still do a lot of things. Nothing is impossible if someone is determined and if he or she would trust in God’s grace. But my point is that your body is the means through which you will be able to live your life here on earth. So if you do not train your body to submit to God, nothing else will work. Your spirituality begins with your body. This is why we must offer our bodies first to God as a living sacrifice. Regardless of the condition of our body, whether we are healthy or not, we must offer it. You must surrender your ownership of your body and offer it to the One who truly has the right to own it. In other words, God must own our bodies if we are to succeed in walking or following Jesus Christ. So the key to becoming a faithful and fruitful follower of Christ, and so to experience a better life, is to offer your body to God and let Him be the Lord of your body. Why don’t you do that starting today. Start with your body. That’s where all your spirituality will begin. Shalom! (PB)
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12 NIV
Your heart is the invisible real you. This is where your thoughts, emotions, and will come from. It is formed by your interactions, engagements and experiences, sometimes willingly and at other times unwillingly.
You decide where your heart will go, to what or to whom it will be open to, and this in turn affects what you store in it. However, your heart also directs you, causing you to be open to certain things, people, or experiences. Thus your heart is also the director of your life. You just don’t direct it; it directs you. You go where your heart wants you to go.
At the same time, your heart is always laid bare before God. You can hide your heart from others, and even from yourself, but you cannot hide from God. In truth, your heart has many levels. It has surface levels as well as deeper levels. You’re conscious of the surface levels, that’s for sure, but the deeper levels are always hidden from you. However, they are never hidden from God. What you are not conscious of inevitably controls you, and you are helpless, unless God reveals it to you. His word actually penetrates the deepest part of you, and that’s grace. Through this revelation, and if you’re honest and humble, your heart can be transformed by the power of God. He engages with you at your deepest heart level, through His word, and when He does, you should direct your heart to listen to Him. Shalom! (PB)
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” John 8:31-32 NIV
Often people quote the last part of this verse to emphasize the importance of truth. But in its proper context, this verse is not saying truth is important per se, or that it is important because it will set us free. Instead, Jesus is emphasizing the importance of following Jesus, trusting in His word or teachings. This will actually show that we are indeed His disciples. The result of that kind of trust is knowing truth by actual experience. This means that we can start obeying Jesus by faith, even though we don’t have experience yet. But by doing so, according to Jesus, we will be rewarded. We will know the truth and the truth will set us free. This is the blessing of obedience by faith, we gain experiential knowledge of the truth, and this knowledge will help us to trust God more. Eventually, we will experience more and more freedom. Freedom, of course, is synonymous with salvation.
So, when you hear a teaching from Jesus, and you have no experience whatsoever that it is true, you will be faced with a decision. Will you obey or will you disobey? My suggestion is that you should obey by faith, even though you may have some doubts. Don’t worry about it. God can handle your doubts. Just trust Him even with your little faith. Once you do that, you will see that what Jesus says is actually true. No one who puts their trust in Jesus, no matter how small, will be put to shame. Knowledge of the truth will be your reward. Not just simple head knowledge but actual verifiable experiential knowledge. This is the exciting promise of this verse. Shalom! (PB)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
Rest for our souls is a gift from God. But it is not automatic. First of all, we are commanded not to be anxious about anything. This means anxiety is also a choice. We can choose not to be anxious and the grace of God will start working in our hearts through faith. Our feelings must not rule our hearts. Instead, through faith, we should be able to rule our feelings based on God’s word.
Next, as the Lord commands, we should pray. When? In every and any situation where anxiety might prevail. We could think of so many instances in our lives when anxiety comes up so easily. But God’s word says, pray. Don’t be anxious; just pray. How? With thanksgiving. That’s how we pray by faith. We already assume that God hears us, and yes He does. There’s no doubt about it. That’s why it is commanded.
The result is a promise, not another command. The peace of God, which is not created by us, since it passes all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. It will be a gift of God’s grace through Christ Jesus who dwells in our hearts by faith.
So rest does not come to us automatically. It comes as a gift when we exercise faith in His word. We choose not to be anxious, and we choose to pray. We turn away from self-induced worry and we choose to trust God’s faithfulness in every situation. That’s how Sabbath rest becomes real in our lives. Shalom! (PB)
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” Colossians 2:16 NIV
Sabbath keeping is a spiritual discipline, not a badge of honor that shows that you are more spiritual than others, or that others are not that spiritual compared to you. Sabbath keeping is God’s gift to us, to help us develop healthy souls. When we do not practice Sabbath keeping we damage our souls. We are just creatures. We are not the Creator. So we are in need of regular rest so that our souls can recover from stress. Stress is not wrong per se. But if we are under stress continually, with no adequate time to rest, our souls begin to disintegrate. We lose focus and we lose energy to engage with what’s really important. During crucial moments, our souls will fail to align with God’s will. It takes our entire being to love God, and only a fully rested soul can love God fully. This is the reason why God wants us to practice this rhythm of grace. Now if you are already practicing this by faith, regardless of the day, or however you want to rest your soul in the presence of God, you are doing good to your soul. Go ahead and continue in this path, so that you can be better attuned with God’s purpose for your life. But if you fail, or if your way of practicing it may be different from others, don’t let them judge you. Continue growing in this area without feeling condemned by anyone. Some people misunderstand the Sabbath, and other spiritual disciplines for that matter. Don’t mind those people. Keep your focus on God’s grace. Grow your soul by practicing the Sabbath regularly regardless of the day. Shalom! (PB)
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:24-25 NIV
It’s easy to despair when all you see around you is pain and suffering, injustice and evil, hatred and division, etc. The list can go on and on. There is ample reason why many today feel hopeless. When you’re hopeless, you’re willing to settle for anything that can give you a glimmer of hope, even if that option is not the best option. Something is better than nothing, you reason. In fact, if you really think about it, the problem in our country, the Philippines, is nothing less than hopelessness. Majority have lost hope. Many have given up. There’s nothing to look forward to as far as the future is concerned. Is this how you feel?
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I cannot but have hope because God has made certain promises about the present and also the future. I know it may be hard to believe, but God promises a new and better world someday. But He also promises a better life today. This is what the word of God says. Therefore, I cannot live my life without hope. I cannot make choices based on desperation. I will choose based on hope. I will conduct my present life based on God’s present and future promises. Despair, for me, is not a option. God is and will always be faithful.
If you’re feeling hopeless today, stop focusing on the problems all around you. Focus on God’s precious promises. They are true today and they will be true tomorrow. Look to Him who is faithful and true. Everything else may crumble all around you, but the word of the Lord stands forever! Expect better things from here on and unto eternity. Trust in Jesus! Shalom! (PB)
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:17)
Because of one man’s disobedience, the whole world suffers today. Pain and misery is now the lot of all men and women, young or old. No one escapes the consequences of sin. It produces death in many different ways.
This happens even today, when we choose to disregard His will. It may not appear immediately, but our souls will surely die. We may appear happy and fulfilled on the outside, but soon sin will require its payment. We will inevitably feel the emptiness of being separated from God, because that is the consequence of sin. Nothing in this world can fill this up, because only God can fully satisfy our souls.
But now, through faith in Jesus Christ, our souls can be healed. God’s abundant provision of grace and of the free gift of righteousness will bring life again into our weary souls. We will live again! Instead of misery and pain, righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit will fill our souls. Jesus Christ will enable us to experience a life that is so much better than the best life we can ever imagine! All we have to do is just to turn from a life of sin and surrender our hearts to Jesus. Let Him heal you from the consequences of sin. Let Him give you real life. Stop running your life; you will only ruin it. Instead choose the real life that only God can give you through faith in Jesus Christ. Shalom! (PB)