Tag: Christian

For Believers Only

John 13:31-John 17

On an entry door located in the back or the side of a business, there is often a sign marked, “For Employees Only.” Immediately inside this door there are workrooms, storage rooms and offices not meant for the general public. The employees know where to go and what to do in order to get the store open or the business day started.

An avid golfer knows that if he wants access to all the privileges of the golf club, he needs to be a member of that club. He can then go through all the doors and gates marked, “For Members Only.”

Christianity is not a business, nor is it a club. Christians are part of a family. Christianity is open to all who will believe. It is after you trust Christ as Savior and Lord, though, that His word makes the most sense. Ask any believer who read the Bible before and after His conversion experience. He will tell you how his eyes were opened to the truths of God’s word once he became a true believer.

The gospels record many times when Jesus taught His disciples. The settings for these teachings were varied but many were in public places – such as the temple and the mountaintop – where He was not only teaching His disciples, but those who were not believers were in attendance as well. As a result of what they heard, many then became believers. There is one special passage in the gospel of John where there was no one else within earshot except for true believers. John 13:31 through John 17 was for believers only.

The setting for this passage began in the upper room where Jesus had the last supper with His disciples. Jesus entered this room with a troubled spirit. Jesus was truly human. He needed strength to endure what would follow – His betrayal, arrest, trial, scourging and crucifixion. His betrayer entered the room with Him and several times, He made mention of this fact. In spite of that, Jesus washed the feet of all twelve men – including Judas Iscariot. However, after Judas left, the tension He was feeling also left the room. He turned His attention to the eleven men who truly loved Him. His beloved disciple John recorded these precious hours.

When you read this passage as a whole, imagine yourself in this very private setting. If you are a believer, you can do that because Jesus prayed not only for those within His hearing, but also for all those who would believe in Him because of their testimony (John 17:20). That includes everyone who is part of the family of God. These special words “for believers only” are meant for us.

Jesus shared sweet words of comfort, important words of instruction and numerous promises. These men loved Him, but were still confused. Even so, Jesus knew that when the Holy Spirit came upon them after His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, what He had said would then make sense.

Jesus knows we will have times of confusion – not fully understanding what He is doing in our lives or what is in our immediate future. His Holy Spirit enables us to face the uncertainties of life because He is certain. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. He is with us. He has a plan and it is good. He wants our lives to glorify Him.

After Judas left, Jesus told His disciples “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in Him” (John 13:31). Until John 14:31, they remained in the upper room. Then they left, possibly going for a walk through the vineyards (John 15 and 16). He concluded with His beautiful prayer in John 17.

The promises Jesus made in this passage are for believers. We are part of His family. A heavenly inheritance is ours.

  • “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
  • “Where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).
  • You know the way (“the way you know”) (John 14:4).
  • “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
  • …”he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12).
  • “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).
  • “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16).
  • “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).
  • …”Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19).
  • …”And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).
  • “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).
  • “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26).
  • “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
  • “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
  • “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).
  • “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
  • “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:16).
  • “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble” (John 16:1).
  • “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  • “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
  • “And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be One as We are” (John 17:10-11).
  • “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

Even in times of confusion, Jesus said we know the way – follow Him. We shall never be out of His presence, or away from the leadership or resources of His Spirit. Believers are promised an eternal home with Him, bought and paid for by His blood. As the Father sent Him into the world, He sends us (John 17:18) so that others may also know the truth of His words and become part of His family. Even now, in our troubled world, He assures us of His peace, His love, protection from the evil one, His revelation of spiritual things, His joy, and a certainty that when we follow Him, we shall be one with Him and bring glory to the Father. These things we know because Jesus said so.

“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one” (John 17:22).

What a treasure this special passage is for believers.

© Stephanie B. Blake

October 2016

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The World’s View of Christianity

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you…. but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (John 15:18-19).

A 2008 poll* of unchurched in America revealed that

  • 72% thought the Christian church was full of hypocrites
  • 79% thought Christianity is more about organized religion than loving God and loving people
  • 86% believed they could have a good relationship with God outside of the church
  • 44% said Christians “get on their nerves”

The only encouraging finding was that 78% said they were willing to listen to some one about their Christian beliefs.

I can’t imagine this has gotten better in the intervening years. In the spring of 2014, there was an American Bible Society study conducted by the Barna group conducted on peoples’ (churched and unchurched) views about the Bible as God’s word**. The ABS had conducted a similar study in 2011.

  • “Engaged” Bible readers (those who read it almost daily and see it as sacred) are now matched by skeptics who just see it as a book of stories and advice with both groups at 19%. In 2011, the engaged were 19% but the skeptics were 9% – an increase of 10% in 3 years.
  • “Bible friendly” people (those who read it occasionally and see it as God inspired) went from 45% in 2011 to 37% in 2014.
  • In 2011, 86% viewed the Bible as sacred compared to 79% in 2014.

The percentages get even worse when you look at the 18-29 age category indicating that percentages on the positive side were among older adults.

In 2012, other statistics and surveys were addressed in an article on the decline of Christianity in America***. The author quotes from a book written by David Kinnaman, the president of the Barna group. Kinnaman states that the 18-29 age group (frequently referred to as millenials) have fallen down a “‘black hole’ of church attendance” with a 43% drop in church attendance.

Michael Snyder, the author of the article, says,

But it is not just young adults that are rejecting the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Even large numbers of “evangelical Christians” are rejecting the fundamental principles of the Christian faith. For example, one survey found that 52 percent of all American Christians believe that at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life. Another survey found that 29 percent of all American Christians claim to have been in contact with the dead, 23 percent believe in astrology and 22 percent believe in reincarnation. Without a doubt, the religious landscape of America is changing.

These surveys were conducted among Americans. Since I travel internationally, I also know that the general perception among unbelievers of Christians is mostly a negative one.

I believe the findings of these surveys are valid. I have experienced this attitude – in America and abroad.

I have encountered people who think that Christians are comprised of a bunch of negative people – those that “don’t drink, don’t smoke and don’t go with girls who do”. They believe that church is going to be loaded with people who are going to judge their appearance, their speech and ask for their money. Who would ever want to be a part of a group like that?

That’s exactly what the Pharisees in Jesus’ day did. They were so full of rules and regulations that they couldn’t recognize Love and Freedom when He stared them in the face.

What is clear is that Christians (or those claiming to be Christian) can get in the way of people seeing Christ for who He is. It is easy to have the wrong perspective if your focus is on a faulty church and non-committed Christians.

The apostle Paul addressed this issue in the Corinthian church. The contentions in the church were damaging their Christian testimony. Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment… For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe… but we preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:10, 18, 21, 23).

We must introduce people to Christ Himself. God asked His children to represent Christ, but we are obviously not doing a good job. The old saying, “You are the only Bible some people are ever going to read” should make each Christian stop short before speaking or acting.

The trend toward antagonism toward Christians, the church and the Bible is depressing, but what people believe about Christ is a matter of life and death. Even with a general negative perception about Christianity, the fact that most people are willing to hear what someone else has to say about their Christian beliefs is promising. It gives room for a personal Christian testimony. It provides an opportunity for someone to talk about Christ and the difference between a personal relationship with Him and the perceived “Christian religion.”

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter (1 Peter 4:16).

* http://www.christianpost.com/news/how-do-unchurched-americans-view-christianity-30793/

** http://www.religionnews.com/2014/04/09/bible-study-people-say-good-book-isnt-god-book/

*** http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/how-will-the-shocking-decline-of-christianity-in-america-affect-the-future-of-this-nation

© Stephanie B. Blake

September 2014

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Prayer Powers the Life of a Christian

Is there a correlation between lack of prayer and the lack of productivity in a believer’s life? What about the lack of positive witness for the Christian church?

Have you ever run out of gas on a trip? It doesn’t matter how big your engine is, how well decked out the interior of the car is, or what a beautiful paint job it has. If there is no fuel, there is no power. A car cannot go anywhere without fuel.

In January 2010, an inaugural Interior Design Show symposium held in Toronto, Canada featured “Conversations in Design, A World without Oil.” Designers from around the world were encouraged to introduce design ideas that would work in a world no longer dependent upon oil. This has been a concern for years.  In the 1950s, Dr. M. King Hubbert developed a theory that oil, as a finite resource, would someday reach its peak.  Building on that theory, Dr. C. J. Campbell conducted a study using data from Petroconsultants of Geneva. The Petroconsultants database is the largest database on oil outside the continental U.S. and is used by all international oil companies. As a result of his study, a graph was developed indicating that oil production did peak in 1999 and as of 2011, we are on the downhill side of oil production.

Snowstorms, thunderstorms and heavy rain can create massage power outages resulting in life-threatening problems. Utility companies often race to restore power to homes totally dependent upon their services. The upheaval in the Middle East has sparked debate about oil prices and availability. Countries with limited power sources already have mandatory blackouts which is becoming more common even in the U.S.

What does all this have to do with prayer? The power behind a believer’s life comes from God. Prayer fuels the Christian’s life. A person can be a true Christian, but be spiritually ineffective. Unless he fuels up, he has no power. He “just runs out of gas.”

The source of a believer’s power is God. His power will never run out. It is a resource we can count on for eternity. To live a productive life, however, believers need to stay close to the source of His power.

In order to have fuel in your vehicle, you must first go to a supply source, typically a gas station. You must use the nozzle and fill the car with fuel. It is a similar process to use the power in your home. The electricity may be installed throughout the house, but if the switch is not turned on, the power source is not tapped. I don’t have to know all there is to know about fuel production to be able to put gas in my car. Neither do I have to be an electrician to turn on the lights in my house or run my washing machine. In a sense, I just have to do what is required to ask for it.

It is like that with prayer. Jesus said, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full (John 16:24). What honors Him is to ask Him for power to do His will. Stephen was said to be full of faith and power (Acts 6:8). Stephen had power because of his faith. His faith was in the God of power. Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). Power is a gift from God. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). It is all of God. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us (2 Corinthians 4:7).Quotations are from the New King James Version.

This brings us to the relationship between power and prayer. James 5:16 is a familiar verse and many can quote from the KJV, The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. However, in over half of twenty translations of the Bible, the word “power” or “powerful” is used. For example:

The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful (HCSB).

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (NIV).

The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with (The Message).

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results (NLT).

Although it does not use the word “power,” I also love how the New Century Version puts this verse:

When a believing person prays, great things happen.

Great things do happen in the life of the praying person and the lives of others when prayer taps into God’s power.

© Stephanie B. Blake

March 2011

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The Christian Common Denominator

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. . . There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26, 28 NKJV).

A well known definition for common denominator deals with mathematics:

  • A quantity into which all the denominators of a set of fractions may be divided without a remainder (American Heritage Dictionary)
  • An integer exactly divisible by each denominator of a group of fractions: 1/3, 1/4, and 1/6 have a common denominator of 12 (Collins English Dictionary)
  • An integer that is a common multiple of the denominators of two or more fractions (WordNet)

A lesser known definition refers to people:

  • A commonly shared theme or trait (American Heritage Dictionary)
  • A belief, attribute, etc., held in common by members of a class or group (Collins English Dictionary)
  • An attribute that is common to all members of a category (WordNet)

My husband and I are privileged to be involved in an international ministry where we encounter Christians all over the world.  For Christians, there is a symbolic correlation between the primary and secondary definition of common denominator. The common denominator in mathematics is always the bottom number in the fraction: the base.  The foundation of all believers is Jesus Christ. As we mature in our faith, we become more and more like Him, sharing His characteristics. The traits (the common denominator) that make us alike are those attributes that we have obtained by virtue of the fact that we are all in His family and are being conformed to His image (Romans 8:29).

Each person must come to faith in Jesus alone. Once a believer, however, he is then part of a whole. The Bible refers to this “whole” in many ways: a family i.e. children of God and brothers (John 1:12, 1 John 3:1-2, Romans 12:1, Galatians 4:28), a flock (John 10:16), God’s elect (Romans 8:33), the church (Matthew 16:18, Acts 5:11, Acts 8:1, Ephesians 3:10), the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:17, Ephesians 4:12), building or temple (Ephesians 2:19-22) and the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7, 22:17). Our commonality is based “in Him” (Ephesians 1:4, 7, 10, 11, 13).

These are some common traits among true believers everywhere:

  • Love for others – compassion (Galatians 6:10). I have observed incredible sacrificial love on the part of Christians throughout the world.  They believe that God has given them a purpose for being and that involves loving and serving others. They are involved in taking care of the needs of the Body of Christ and ministering to those who do not yet know Him through humanitarian service.
  • Joy in the Lord (John 16:24, John 17:13, 1 John 1:4). Our travels have taken us to prosperous countries and poverty stricken nations as well as those who are in a time of transition. The cultural norm in some countries is to be very serious with only a rare smile while other nationalities are naturally gregarious and outgoing. Regardless of the circumstances in which these dear brothers and sisters in the Lord live, there is a distinct difference between believers and non-believers. The joy of the Lord is always evident among His family members.
  • Sense of family.  No matter where I worship, I feel at home.  I know that I am with family.  The sense of belonging is immediate and does not leave when I travel to another destination.  If God does not allow me to return to serve in a particular location again, I am aware that I will see them again. We will live forever with the Lord.
  • Sacrificial spirit (2 Timothy 2:3). Many of my brothers and sisters truly endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ. The hardships take many forms: persecution, deprivation, misunderstanding, physical ailments, family trials and many more. The common thread of sacrificial love among believers is that the hardship is understood in the context of God’s plan to use them for His glory. Even in the midst of hardship, believers are “others oriented.”
  • Teachable. There is a constant delight in encountering believers who are eager to learn more about Christ and apply what they have learned.  I feel a tremendous blessing in teaching many who are hungry for solid food (1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:12).
  • Exercise their spiritual gifts.  The common denominator of us all is Christ, but He has equipped each of us with unique qualities and gifts to be able to serve Him.  Together, we make a whole (Ephesians 4:4-7) and His Spirit uses us to cause growth in the body (Ephesians 4:15-16). It is a delight to observe members of His family use their gifts.
  • Desire to please and glorify God (2 Timothy 2:19).  With Christ as our solid foundation, believers work at removing sin in their lives so that their lives will glorify Him. Bringing glory to God is a uniform goal among true believers.

Without Christ, we can do nothing. With Him, anything is possible (Matthew 17:20, 19:26). Collectively, as one in Christ, we are the answer to His prayer (John 17). When we obey His command to love Him and others, the world can see Him in us.

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common . . . and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:44,47b NKJV).

© Stephanie B. Blake

September 2010

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