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Commentary

Commentary (8)

What is an 'Act of Faith'?

When a Christian carpenter living in a certain middle eastern country, knowing that Christian activities are punishable by chopping off a hand, continues to demonstrate he is Christian anyway. It's just not logical, most say. It's just plain stupid, many say.

When a mother of a slain teenaged boy, ravaged with grief, seeking consolation in the Bible, reads Mark 11:25 and decides that despite the feelings in her gut, she will visit the jail in which her son's murderer is locked up, and to forgive him face to face.

When a young girl who has been saving up her allowance for a new ipod, hears that one can find God in Charity, and decides to give half that money to a fundraiser for a country that was recently hit with a Typhoon.

It's not sensible. It's not rational. It could be called 'just stupid'.

Faith puts hope in something greater than personal safety. Greater than revenge. Greater than having the latest electronics. Faith puts hope in God, and in so doing, discovers something, no, someone, that could not have been imagined prior to taking that step.


Parents have a sense of this. Prior to having children, if the adult is not prone to cooing up to babies, and sees kids as being a vacuum cleaner sucking up a person's time, money, and sanity, it might seem not rational to want to give up your personal time and freedom for the sake of a dependent leach (sorry kids, I don't mean you... making a point here). 

But after having children, that very same adult experiences a certain fullness of life that can't be described or appreciated before taking the leap. 

Taking an action of faith in God is similar.  Something very real happens that adds color, fragrance, and life to your time on earth.  You encounter a great friend who gives you comfort and solace that not even the best Swiss dark chocolate can provide.  And you find He's real.  Blows your mind.  

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What happens during a Christian 'Conversion'?

To many people spiritual "conversion" is religious nonsense, while to others its synonymous with going to church or belonging to a particular denomination. Although none of the above is correct, the word conversion implies a simple to understand concept. That is to say, the complete change of one thing into another completely different thing. In the spiritual sense it's the Spirit-induced change that occurs in the life of a person who has of their free will chosen Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the center of their life.

How can this happen? We all have within us an awareness of the divine, because our souls were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). This can be said even of all cultures, tribes and people from the beginning of time. God has given to each man free will. The choice to good or evil, the choice to cause suffering or alleviate or endure suffering, the choice to choose or reject him. When we arrive at that point in our lives where we choose Jesus , we experience "conversion". Protestants might say we are "saved" or born again, whereas Roman Catholics might say we have joined the body of Christ" (which is His church on Earth).

How does one know if they are converted? The Holy Scriptures say "by their fruits you shall know them" (Matthew 7:20) and again "believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31). By believe, we mean belief that leads to a transformed life with Christ as Lord. People can say they believe, but if there is no evidence of that belief in their lives, it is only words, not conversion.

Being converted, are we then perfect? No, we will sin and sin again against the laws of God (beautifully summarized in the Sermon on the Mount). But the difference is that we will know it, sorrow over it and asked forgiveness, which according to the Scriptures is freely given (1John 2:1). Secondly, as we mature as Christians we will sin less and less, moving toward that perfection which is not possible in this human form with its frailties and inherent tendency toward sin; not possible without the constant reliance on Jesus.

So by Conversion" we mean more than altering ourselves; we mean complete spiritual transformation.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."   (2 Corinthians 5:17)

To read true stories about real people and their conversions, go to the Wtness.org site’s category titled “Conversions”.

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What does God's Voice sound like?

The answer is not just a guess. I have ‘heard’ a message in prayer over two dozen times. When it first happened, my first impression was to dismiss it as a thought of my own, because it bears similarities to thoughts. Over time, and with much prayer, Bible study and silent contemplation, I am much more able to discern when these mental messages are from the Holy Spirit. (Yea, you think that's nuts.) In addition, I have for years been collecting stories told by other people who also said they ‘heard’ a message in prayer, and believed it was offered by God (in one of his three forms, including Jesus or the Holy Spirit). When one compares these messages to look for commonalities, one finds common characteristics that can help us discern whether the message might be from God.

1. The voice is heard inside one's self, but not commonly through the ears. But a voice nonetheless.

2. The voice is loving, credible and authoritative. He sounds loving even when providing needed correction.

3. He identifies himself as being a different person than you, and you can tell the voice belongs to a being different than yourself. Sometimes it surprises, because you wouldn’t have such thoughts.

4. His message is in response to what your current need is. Not necessary your current want. Your need. This is another indication you are not generating the words on your own.

5. The message is brief, but full of meaning. It often has at least two layers of meaning, like a good poem, or Bible verse. As such, it is usually not a complete explanation, but just enough to make you contemplate it over and over.

6. The message corresponds to Biblical teaching.

7. The impact on the listener was to both support the listener and to bring them closer to God.

8. If the message is heeded, the listener encounters spiritual growth.

One misconception about God’s involvement on Earth is that He only speaks about world-changing events and prophesies affecting millions of people. Rather, modern reports almost always describe His messages to individual believers as having one of the following purposes: to strengthen the faith of that one believer, to protect the listener from error or harm, or to encourage the listener to assist another person. It’s very small-scale and personal. Intimate, you might say. As from a great personal friend who loves you. To read true stories about real people who have heard the sound of God's voice, go to the Wtness.org site’s category titled “Sound of God’s Voice”.

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What's the point of a Miracle?

The point of a Miracle is to draw your attention to the One who caused it.

When asked why a man was born blind (John 9:1-3), Jesus responded, ”this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Then Jesus made the blind man see.

When we hear the word ‘miracle’, many think of the spectacular kind written about in the Bible. The parting of the Red Sea, the Israelites fed with manna, Jesus walking on the water, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. But a miracle is any event of heavenly origin that breaks the natural laws of science, illustrating the mastery of God over all things, and pointing to His authority to lead us in life.

Miracles are understandably uncommon; if they were commonplace, they would no longer be seen as exceptional, and would not attract as much attention and controversy. And so it is understandable that not everyone will be treated to one. It is not the normal way. The normal way calls for the rest of us to decide for ourselves whether we believe that the miracles we hear about are real, and if so, whether the author of miracles has proven his capability adequately that He can be trusted to guide us in our day to day lives. Think of miracles as an advertisement for God.

To read true stories about real miracles, go to the Wtness.org site’s category titled “Miracles”.

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Ways Jesus Speaks to us

1. Through his Word, the Holy Bible

There is little in life that is not addressed in the Bible, along with God's approval or disapproval. "This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him". (Psalms 18:30 (ESV)) Or " In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:1) All throughout Scriptures Jesus speaks us to us of the love of the Father, His purpose for our lives; about suffering, holiness, charity, compassion, hatred, immorality, conversion and its results as well as God's plan for our lives; His atoning sacrifice and it's meaning to you and to me.

2. Through the voice of friends or other believers

It is not uncommon for Jesus to speak to us through the mouth of other believers. Here we must be discerning because although a person may say they have heard The Lord on your behalf it may not always be the case. But without doubt, with spiritually discerning ears we can hear the voice of the Lord from the mouth of others.

3. Through prayer

When we pray, we communicate with God. Some have said they have heard the audible voice of God, but for most of us, after the words of prayer, in the silence and seeking, we may hear (not audibly) that soft still voice that we know to be God.

4. Through nature and His creation

By spending time outdoors, we can hear Jesus speaking. For myself it’s on a solitary walk on a rainy day with the air alive with his presence.

5. Through Godly coincidences or signs

…that our spirit recognizes as the hand of God encouraging us or warning us about some decision we have struggled with.

6. Through worship

Whether it be sharing communion, singing, playing music, participating in a church service, or serving others in His name, we can sense the presence of Jesus.

7. Through miracles

Miracles still happen, rare as they are.

To read true stories about how Jesus has communicated to real people, go to the Wtness.org site’s category titled “How Jesus Speaks to Us”.

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What Motivates Selfless Acts?

In a world of self-interest, it’s unusual to see someone motivated to help another person without regard to what they’ll get in return. Sure, you can easily find this type of behavior between lovers, between family members, and between friends. But when you find someone who is willing to stop to fix a stranger’s flat tire, or who is willing to give away their gloves to a homeless person standing in the snow, or who donates their bone marrow to a perfect stranger, that gets your interest up.

What motivated that? What’s in it for them?

If these selfless people are Christians, the motivation often can be a thankfulness to Christ. The only way to understand it is to put yourself in their shoes. If the Christian has formed a personal relationship with the still-alive but invisible person named Jesus, then they realize just how much Jesus has done for them. Jesus died on the cross in payment for our sins, and earned us an open door to be welcome to live with Him and His Father, God, in heaven for eternity, if we but accept it. Further, if we continue to mess up, and sin again and again, Jesus will continue to forgive us if we say to Him we are truly sorry and intend to change (Acts 2:38, Matthew 18:22). He gives us more chances than any human would. That’s a pretty big present. How could you receive a bigger one? When you’ve gotten that much, you are grateful, and you want to return the favor.

Jesus told us very clearly how we can return the favor to Him: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

To read true stories about real Christians who have performed selfless acts, go to the Wtness.org site’s category titled “Selfless Acts”.

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Making Sense of Godly Coincidences

First of all, what are we calling a Godly Coincidence? It’s something less dramatic than a miracle. In the commentary article “What’s the Point of a Miracle”, we called a miracle ‘any event of heavenly origin that breaks the natural laws of science, illustrating the mastery of God over all things, and pointing to His authority to lead us in life.’

Godly Coincidences also can serve to illustrate the mastery of God over all things, and pointing to His authority to lead us in life. But instead of breaking the natural laws of science, in this case God stays within the natural laws of science, but causes events to synchronize in a way that introduces a feeling of supernatural supervision. People who report Godly Coincidences commonly report three reactions:

1. The feeling that what just occurred is against the odds.

2. The feeling that what just occurred makes a life-giving connection with something that is very personal to us, and is often unknown to many other people.

3. The recognition that someone with supernatural abilities is willing to use them to love us. It is often correct to guess that God is behind this coincidence.

While we cannot prove that God is the driver behind such events, even when it happens to us directly, we can say that we sensed the possibility that “there is more here than what meets the eye”, and “I felt loved”. This reaction is hard for others to understand who have not benefitted from a Godly Coincidence. But for those who have, these events can solidify our faith and dedication to the God we felt to be real in our lives for even a brief moment.

To read true stories about Godly coincidences, go to the Wtness.org site’s category titled “Godly Coincidences”.

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