Dear God, open a door for my message, so that I may proclaim the mystery of Christ. I pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Colossians 4:3-4

R4C

R4C
Reconciliation and Forgiveness ~ I am Sorry * Please Forgive Me * Thank You * I Love You. ~ Reconciliation and Forgiveness ~ I am Sorry * Please Forgive Me * Thank You * I Love You. ~ Reconciliation and Forgiveness ~ I am Sorry * Please Forgive Me * Thank You * I Love You.
Psalm 19:14, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

If your hand or eye causes you to sin


Who in their right mind would want to lose their reward and then be deprived of joy in the end? We have been given the greatest of rewards - God himself who is perfect love and source of abundant life and unending happiness. Paul the Apostle tells us that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5). God's love purifies our hearts and compels us to express kindness and charity towards our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God. We were created in love for love. The charity we show to our neighbors in their need expresses the gratitude we have for the abundant goodness and kindness of God towards us. Jesus declared that any kindness shown and any help given to the people of Christ will not lose its reward. Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for his help. As his disciples we are called to be kind and generous as he is.

Gregory of Nyssa (330-395 AD), an early church father wrote: 

"God never asks his servants to do what is impossible. The love and goodness of his Godhead is revealed as richly available. It is poured out like water upon all. God furnishes to each person according to his will the ability to do something good. None of those seeking to be saved will be lacking in this ability, given by the one who said: 'whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward'" 
(ON THE CHRISTIAN MODE OF LIFE 8.1) 

Do you allow the love of Christ to transform your heart that you may treat your neighbor with loving-kindness and mercy?

Avoiding evil and the near occasion of sin 
Was Jesus' exaggerating when he urged his followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences (Mark 9:42-47? Jesus set before his disciples the one supreme goal in life that is worth any sacrifice, and that goal is God himself and his will for our lives which leads to everlasting peace and happiness. Just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to sin and which leads to spiritual death. 

Jesus warns his disciples of the terrible responsibility that they must set no stumbling block in the way of another, that is, not give offense or bad example that might lead another to sin. The Greek word for temptation ( scandalon) is exactly the same as the English word scandal. The original meaning of scandal is a trap or a stumbling block which causes one to trip and fall. The Jews held that it was an unforgivable sin to teach another to sin. If we teach another to sin, he or she in turn may teach still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end. The young in faith are especially vulnerable to the bad example of those who should be passing on the faith. Do you set a good example for others to follow, especially the young?

Salt and fire 
What does Jesus mean when he says "have salt in yourselves" (Mark 9:50)? Salt served a very useful purpose in hot climates before the invention of electricity and refrigeration. Salt not only gave food flavor, it also preserved meat from spoiling. Salt was used as a symbol of fellowship and the sharing of a common meal with one's friends. The near-Eastern expression to betray the salt meant to betray one's Lord or Master or one's friends. Leonardo da Vinci in his painting of the Last Supper depicts Judas in the act of tipping over the salt shaker, thus symbolically indentifying himself as the betrayer of his Master the Lord Jesus.

Jesus used the image of salt to describe how his disciples are to live in the world. As salt purifies, preserves, and produces rich flavor for food, so the disciple of Christ must be salt in the world of human society to purify, preserve, and bring the flavor of God's kingdom of righteousness, peace, joy, and mercy. What did Jesus mean by the expression "salted with fire" and "salt losing its saltiness"? Salt in the ancient world was often put in ovens to intensify the heat. When the salt was burned off and no longer useful it was thrown out on the foot path where it would easily get trodden upon (Matthew 5:13) . Perhaps Jesus wanted to contrast useful salt and salt which lost its ability to prevent corruption to encourage his disciples to bring the rich flavor of Christ's love, holiness, and righteousness to a world dominated by greed, selfish ambition, and neglect for the weak, poor, and defenseless.

Paul the Apostle reminds us that we are called to be "the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life" (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 ). The Lord Jesus wants the fragrance of his love and righteousness to permeate our lives, thoughts, speech, and actions. Do you allow the fragrance of Christ's love and truth to permeate your relationships and circle of influence, especially among your family, friends, and neighbors?

Lord Jesus, fill me with the fragrance of your love and truth that I may radiate the joy and peace of the Gospel wherever I go and with whomever I meet.

source: From the desk of Don Schwager, 
hosted by Kairos Europe and the Middle East

Monday, 21 May 2018

The Names that point to Jesus (Yahshuah) ~ Genesis 5 through the genealogy of Adam to Noah



HEBREW ROOT OF NAMES IN GENESIS

(Genesis 5:3-5) 
Adam = “Man”

(Genesis 5:3, 6-8) 
Seth = “Appointed”

(Genesis 5:6, 9-11) 
Enosh = “Mortal”

(Genesis 5:9, 12-14) 
Kenan (Cainan) = “Sorrow”

(Genesis 5:12, 15-18) 
Mahalalel = “The Blessed God”

(Genesis 5:15, 18-20) 
Jared = “Shall come down”

(Genesis 5:18, 21-24) 
Enoch = “Teaching”

(Genesis 5:21, 25-27) 
Methuselah = “His death shall bring”

(Genesis 5: 25, 28-31) 
Lamech = “The Despairing”

(Genesis 5:28-29) 
Noah = “Rest, Comfort”

Hidden in Genesis 5, the meaning of the names in the genealogy, is a beautiful presentation of the gospel of saving grace. Godhad already laid out His plan of redemption for the predicament of
mankind.
“Man, is appointed mortal sorrow; The Blessed God shall come down, teaching. His death shall bring the despairing Rest ­and Comfort.”


Sunday, 20 May 2018

The immensity of what Jesus has done for us


Why do we often compare ourselves with others? Do we envy those who seem more fortunate than ourselves? Why did Peter question Jesus about John's future? Jesus had predicted that Peter was to suffer and die as a martyr for his faith. What would John's fate be? Jesus seems to indicate that John would live a long life - in fact he outlived all the other apostles.

Jesus says, "Follow me and you will have life in abundance" 
While Peter and John were both called as disciples of Jesus, each was given a particular task and mission to fulfill. When Peter questions John's role, Jesus responds, "What is that to you? Follow me!" Peter's given task was to "shepherd the sheep of Christ," and in the end to die as a martyr for the Lord Jesus. John's role was preeminently to witness to the risen Lord Jesus and to give his testimony to the Gospel account of Jesus' identity as the divine Son of God who became a man to save us from sin, Satan, and death (John 20:31). John lived to long age and wrote the Gospel as his testimony to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus does not cease to do great works of power and love through his people today 
John ends his Gospel with an astonishing remark: "Human books cannot exhaust the person and work of Jesus Christ." His power is inexhaustible, his grace is limitless, his wisdom unfathomable, his triumphs are innumerable, and his love is unquenchable. We can never say enough of the power, majesty and glory which belongs to Jesus Christ alone. Do you witness to others the joy of the Gospel message that Jesus died for us to bring us new life, freedom, love and power to live as his disciples?

May the power of your love, Lord Christ, fiery and sweet as honey, so absorb our hearts as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven. Grant that we may be ready to die for love of your love, as you died for love of our love.

source: From the desk of Don Schwager, 

hosted by Kairos Europe and the Middle East

Friday, 18 May 2018

Prayer to Infant Jesus of Prague


DEAREST JESUS, little Infant of Prague, 
how tenderly you love us! 
Your greatest joy is to dwell among us 
and to bestow your blessing upon us. 
Though I am not worthy that you should help me, 
I feel drawn to you by love 
because you are kind and merciful. 
So many who turned to you 
with confidence have received blessings 
and had their petitions granted. 
Behold me as I come before you 
to lay open my heart to you 
with its prayers and hopes. 
I present to you especially this request, 
which I enclose in your loving Heart 
(state your request)
Rule over me, dear Infant Jesus, 
and do with me and mine 
according to your holy will, 
for I know that in your divine wisdom and love 
you will arrange everything for the best. 
Do not withdraw your hand from me, 
but protect and bless me forever. 
I pray you, 
all-powerful and gracious Infant Jesus, 
for the sake of your sacred infancy, 
in the name of your blessed Mother Mary 
who cared for you with such tenderness, 
and by the greatest reverence 
with which St. Joseph carried you in his arms, 
help me in my needs. 
Make me truly happy with you, 
dearest Infant, in time and in eternity, 
and I shall thank you forever 
with all my heart. 
AMEN.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Ask in Jesus' name, that your joy may be full


Do you pray with confidence to your heavenly Father? Jesus often taught his disciples by way of illustration or parable. Here he speaks not in "figures" (the same word used for parables), but in plain speech. Jesus revealed to them the hidden treasure of the heavenly kingdom and he taught them how to pray to the Father in his name. Now Jesus opens his heart and speaks in the plainest of language: "The Father himself loves you!" How can the disciples be certain of this?

The Lord Jesus unites us with the Father through the love and power of the Holy Spirit 
Paul the Apostle states that "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Romans 8:14). Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus makes it possible for his disciples to have a new relationship as sons and daughters of God the Father (Romans 8:14-17). No one would have dared to call God his or her Father before this! Because of what Jesus has done for us in offering his life for our redemption we now can boldly and confidently pray to God as our Father in heaven. 

The presence and action of the Holy Spirit within us is living proof of this new relationship with the Father. Paul the Apostles says that "when we cry, ‘Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:15-16).

We can boldly approach God as our Father and ask him for the things we need. In love he bids us to draw near to his throne of grace and mercy. Do you approach the Father with confidence in his love and with expectant faith in his promise to hear your prayers?

Heavenly Father, your love knows no bounds and your mercies are new every day. Fill me with gratitude for your countless blessings and draw me near to your throne of grace and mercy. Give me confidence and boldness to pray that your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

source: From the desk of Don Schwager, 
hosted by Kairos Europe and the Middle East

Friday, 4 May 2018

I have called you friends


What is the greatest act of love which one can give for the sake of another? Jesus defines friendship - the mutual bond of trust and affection which people choose to have for one another - as the willingness to give totally of oneself - even to the point of laying down one's life for a friend. How is such love possible or even desirable? God made us in love for love. That is our reason for being, our purpose for living, and our goal in dying.

Scripture tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8) - and everything he does flows from his immense love for us. He loved us so much - far beyond what we could ever expect or deserve - that he was willing to pay any price to redeem us from our slavery to sin and death. That is why the Father sent us his beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. In this great exchange - the Father giving up his Son to death on the cross in order to give us abundant everlasting life and adopt us as his beloved sons and daughters in Christ (Romans 8:14-17).

God has poured his love into our hearts 
It is for this reason that we can take hold of a hope that does not fade and a joy that does not diminish because God has poured his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5). God's love is not limited or subject to changing circumstances. It is an enduring love that has power to change and transform us to be like him - merciful, gracious, kind, forgiving, and steadfast in showing love not only for our friends, but for our enemies as well. God's love is boundless because he is the source of abundant life, perfect peace, and immeasurable joy for all who open their hearts to him. That is why Jesus came to give us abundant life through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment - a new way of loving and serving one another. Jesus' love was wholly directed toward the good of others. He loved them for their sake and for their welfare. That is why he willingly laid down his own life for us to free us from sin, death, fear, and everything that could separate us from the love of God. Our love for God and our willingness to lay down our life for others is a response to the exceeding love God has given us in Christ. Paul the Apostle states,

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?... For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35,38-39).

Friendship with God 
Jesus calls his disciples his personal friends. Jesus not only showed his disciples that he personally cared for them and sought their welfare. He personally enjoyed their company and wanted to be with them in a close and intimate relationship. He ate with them, shared everything he had with them - even his innermost heart and thoughts. And he spent himself in doing as much good for them as he could. To know Jesus personally is to know God and the love and friendship he offers to each one of us.

One of the special marks of favor shown in the Scriptures is to be called the friend of God. Abraham is called the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23). God spoke with Moses as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). Jesus, the Lord and Master, calls the disciples his friends rather than his servants.

What does it mean to be a friend of God? Friendship with God who is our everlasting Father and with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ entails a personal, close, and loving relationship and a union of heart, mind, and spirit with the One who created us in love for love. Such a relationship with our Father, Creator, and Redeemer involves loyalty, respect, and obedience. But it is even more than these because God has chosen to love us in the same way in which the Father and the Son love and serve each other - a total giving of oneself to the other in a bond of affection, esteem, and joy in each others company. 

Jesus' discourse on friendship and brotherly love echoes the words of Proverbs: A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). The distinctive feature of Jesus' relationship with his disciples was his personal, loyal, and sacrificial love for each one of them. He loved his own to the end (John 13:1). His love was unconditional and wholly directed to the good of others. His love was costly and sacrificial. He gave the best he had and all that he had. He gave his very own life for those he loved in order to secure for them an everlasting life of union and love with the Father in heaven.

Love to the death 
The Lord Jesus gives his followers a new commandment - a new way of love that goes beyond giving only what is required or what we think others might deserve. What is the essence of Jesus' new commandment of love? It is a love to the death - a purifying love that overcomes selfishness, fear, and pride. It is a total giving of oneself for the sake of others - a selfless and self-giving love that is oriented towards putting the welfare of others ahead of myself.

Jesus says that there is no greater proof in love than the sacrifice of one's life for the sake of another. Jesus proved his love by giving his life for us on the cross of Calvary. Through the shedding of his blood for our sake, our sins are not only washed clean, but new life is poured out for us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We prove our love for God and for one another when we embrace the way of the cross. What is the cross in my life? When my will crosses with God's will, then God's will must be done. Do you know the peace and joy of a life fully surrendered to God and consumed with his love?

Love that produces abundant fruit and joy 
The Lord Jesus tells us that he is our personal friend and he loves us wholeheartedly and unconditionally. He wants us to love one another just as he has loved us, wholeheartedly, without reserve, and full of mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. His love fills our hearts and transforms our minds and frees us to give ourselves in loving service to others. If we open our hearts to his love and obey his command to love our neighbor, then we will know his love more fully and we will bear much fruit - especially the fruit of peace, joy, patience, kindness, and goodness - the kind of fruit that lasts for eternity. Do you wish to be fruitful and to abound in the love of God? Trust and obey him and he will fill you with his overflowing love.

Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


source: From the desk of Don Schwager, 
hosted by Kairos Europe and the Middle East


Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Abide in me, and I in you


Why does Jesus speak of himself as the true vine? The image of the vine was a rich one for the Jews since the land of Israel was covered with numerous vineyards. It had religious connotations to it as well. Isaiah spoke of the house of Israel as "the vineyard of the Lord"(Isaiah 5:7). Jeremiah said that God had planted Israel "as his choice vine" (Jeremiah 2:21). While the vine became a symbol of Israel as a nation, it also was used in the Scriptures as a sign of degeneration - a deformed state of spiritual growth and moral decline. Isaiah's prophecy spoke of Israel as a vineyard which "yielded wild grapes" (see Isaiah 5:1-7). Jeremiah said that Israel had become a "degenerate and wild vine" (Jeremiah 2:21). 

One must be firmly rooted in the "Tree of Life" 
When Jesus calls himself the true vine he makes clear that no one can grow in spiritual fruitfulness and moral goodness unless they are rooted in God and in his life-giving word. Religious affiliation or association with spiritually minded people is not sufficient by itself - one must be firmly rooted in the "Tree of Life" (Revelation 22:1-2, Genesis 2:8-9) who is the eternal Father and his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus makes a claim which only God can make - he is the true source of life that sustains us and makes us fruitful in living the abundant life which God has for us. It is only through Jesus Christ that one can be fully grafted into the true "vineyard of the Lord".

Bearing the fruit of righteousness, peace, and joy 
Jesus offers true life - the abundant life which comes from God and which results in great fruitfulness. How does the vine become fruitful? The vine dresser must carefully prune the vine before it can bear good fruit. Vines characteristically have two kinds of branches - those which bear fruit and those which don't. The non-bearing branches must be carefully pruned back in order for the vine to conserve its strength for bearing good fruit. Jesus used this image to describe the kind of life he produces in those who are united with him - the fruit of "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). Jesus says there can be no fruit in our lives apart from him. The fruit he speaks of here is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).

There is a simple truth here: We are either fruit-bearing or non-fruit-bearing. There is no in-between. But the bearing of healthy fruit requires drastic pruning. The Lord promises that we will bear much fruit if we abide in him and allow him to purify us. Do you trust in the Lord's healing and transforming power to give you the abundant life and fruit of his heavenly kingdom?

Lord Jesus, may I be one with you in all that I say and do. Draw me close that I may glorify you and bear fruit for your kingdom. Inflame my heart with your love and remove from it anything that would make me ineffective or unfruitful in loving and serving you as my All. 

source: From the desk of Don Schwager, 
hosted by Kairos Europe and the Middle East