Christian Life

Examining your ways and testing them

April 15, 2014
Michael Okyere Asante
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What the Bible Says About Kissing

Among Christian youth, kissing has been considered one of the debatable topics when it comes to appropriate premarital sexual behaviour. Questions like “When is it appropriate to kiss your fiancé?” “Is kissing before marriage really sin?” and “Does it matter when I kiss my beloved?” are often asked by the youth. What does the Bible say and how must we as Christians approach the subject?

A kiss is to touch or caress with the lips or mouth as a sign of affection, greeting, respect, appreciation or parting (cf. Acts 20:36-38). In my search through Scripture, I have found two major types of kisses; almost every other type of kiss our contemporary world defines falls under one of these categories.

Kiss of the Lips

The Bible talks about a kiss of the lips. As the name suggests, it is done with the lips. This is the type of kiss Paul spoke of in Rom. 16:16 when he told believers to greet one another with a holy kiss (cf. 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26; 1 Pet. 5:14). The adjective ‘holy’ suggests that the motive for kissing shouldn’t fall out of place of what pleases God.

 The sinful woman kissed Jesus’ feet with her lips (Lk. 7:38), her motive being the showing of appreciation, affection and respect. There are several examples of this type of kissing in the Old Testament (cf. Gen. 29:13, 33:4, 45:15; Ex. 18:7; Prov. 24:26).

 But just as kissing with the lips can be holy, it can also be unholy. In other words, it is possible to kiss with your lips and sin depending on your motive or the place you are kissing.

 Judas’ kiss was a kiss of betrayal; his motive was not to please God but to give up Jesus Christ. Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Lk. 22:48 NIV).

 Concerning how the place you kiss may displease God, consider this: imagine you are kissing the breasts of a lady you are not married to; do you think God will be pleased? There are certain places you cannot kiss unless the person you are kissing is your spouse. You cannot kiss the navel of someone who isn’t your spouse and call it a greeting. The breasts and other parts of the female body are for the satisfaction only of the woman’s husband and nobody else:

 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bossom of a wayward woman? (Prov. 5:18-20 NIV, my emphasis)

 The Bible calls us brothers and sisters. Would you be able to kiss your siblings in areas that are private to them? We are advised not to “take advantage of or defraud [our] brother in this matter [sexual immorality, cf. v. 3]… For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” (1 Thess. 4:6-7 NKJV, my emphasis) Judge for yourself and apply same to any other brother or sister you relate with.

 Kiss of the Mouth

The Bible also talks about a kiss of the mouth. In Songs 1:2 the bride says of her lover, “let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.” The purpose of this type of kiss is to express physical or sexual intimacy, for the lover brings his bride into his chambers [inner chambers; bedroom] (v. 4). This then is no-go area for unmarried couples; the marriage bed is not to be defiled, “for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Heb. 13:4 NIV)

 The mouth consists of your tongue, teeth and every other member of your buccal cavity. Thus to kiss with the mouth will mean going beyond the use of the lips. It will involve a higher degree of caressing and savouring, and exchange of saliva.

 An example of a kiss of the mouth is French kissing or deep kissing. Imagine someone you are not married to savouring your feet with his or her mouth; do you think this will please God? What will be the person’s motive? Will you use your tongue to caress the earlobes of your friend? What will be your motive for doing this? Why put yourself in situations that will compromise your purity or chastity?

 Think carefully about these words, but in all let the Holy Spirit guide you. Never ignore that voice that tells you to do right. In everything, know that God judges the intents of our hearts (1 Sam. 16:7; cf. Ps. 139:23-24; Acts 1:24; Matt. 5:28). So if your motive for doing something is wrong, you are not doing right.

 Your motives may be right and you may be kissing the right way, but for brethren who are in relationships I would encourage you not to even practise kiss of the lips considering how easy it can lead to sexual temptation and lustful thoughts. One pastor advised a group of teens, “the more you take off, the harder it is to put back on.”

 “Flee also youthful lusts,” (2 Tim. 2:22, NKJV) the Bible encourages. And concerning temptations and complacency, it says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12, NIV). Think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable (Phil. 4:8).

 Do you kiss? Do you do it with your lips or with your mouth? Whenever you kiss, what is your motive for doing it? And which places do you kiss? Does your kissing please God? “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31-32, NIV, my emphases)

February 18, 2014
Michael Okyere Asante
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Why the Heart Matters

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matt. 22:37, 38; cf. Deut. 6:5, NIV)

Believing with the Heart

In simple terms, conversions have to do with confession and belief: “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Ro. 10:9, NIV)

Confession with our mouth is just a part of the conversion process; the confessor must do it genuinely believing in Christ’s work on the cross and giving his/her heart to the Lord as well. He/she has to continually give his/her heart (life) to the Lord everyday. This is what makes the heart a fundamental component of our growth in Christ.

When you give all your heart to the Lord, it translates into giving all your soul, mind and body to Him. But when you give only a part of your heart to the Lord, it is impossible to give all your soul, mind and body to Him; you will only be practising religion. You cannot place the cart before the horse: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other things shall be added unto you.” (Matt.6:33)

Jesus Christ stresses on the condition of our hearts: our motives, thoughts, desires, the things we feed on—which translate into actions done by the mind and body (Matt. 5:28; 9:3, 4; 15:17-19; 18:35). So that if we love God with all our heart, we will not be corrupt inside and thus we will act in a manner pleasing to God.

The Heart is Mentioned First

There seems to be a hierarchy in the order—heart, soul, mind—but more importantly the three are relational. The heart, mentioned first, is the ‘centre’ of the body, the eye to the soul. It gives both the body and soul light and is the starting point of spiritual growth and upliftment.

Consider this analogy: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matt. 6:22, 23a)

That Jesus mentions the heart first is not surprising; nothing matters more than the condition of our hearts if we have decided to serve the Lord: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) Thus Jesus stresses on the importance of giving our hearts first to the Lord; until we do that we cannot grow in Him.

It is therefore important that we do not leave any part of our hearts to the devil or the world because whoever controls our hearts and whatever we feed our hearts with will determine the kind of life we live. The instructions given in God’s word provide further evidence of the importance of giving our hearts to the Lord if we will be able to live according to His will:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the end. (Ps. 119:9-11, 112, NIV, my emphases)

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. (Deut. 6:6; 11:18, NIV, my emphases)

Once our hearts are given to the Lord, our souls belong to Him. The condition of the heart reflects the strength of our souls since whatever we feed our hearts with affects our souls. Hence, to be able to give all our soul to the Lord, we have to give all our heart to Him first. Though one’s soul may seek for God, it is the heart that grants it its wish: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)

Genuine conversion can never be possible until our hearts are ready to receive Jesus Christ. We can conclude then that the heart is the most fundamental tool of Christian growth.

February 6, 2014
Abigail Okyere
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Why Are You So Far from Me, God?

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8, NKJV)

Ever wondered, “Why is God so far from me?”

Your relationship with God has always depended on you. How close God is to you is only because of how close you are to Him. He gave the condition, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a, NKJV)

Yet, I hear people cry to Him, “God, why are you so far from me?” If you think God is now far away, guess who moved … you! Yes, you! The problem has never been with God.

Today, God is calling us to intimacy with Him. It begins with the desire and yearning for Him. I’m not talking about just being hungry for God; get to the point of starvation–the highest point of hunger. Because you can choose not to eat when you are hungry but at the point of starvation, your eating habit even changes. You no longer care who is watching or about being gentle. That’s the point we have to get with God. If you have that intimacy with God, that’s when He expresses Himself mightily through you.

We can never have enough of God so don’t get satisfied with where you are. The moment you do, that’s the moment you start backsliding. There are higher levels we can get with Christ. Let this prayer be something you pray with genuineness each morning:

Lord, I desire to see you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly day by day. 

God bless you as you seek a closer walk with God today. Good morning and have a Spirit-filled day.

————

This is a guest post by Abigail Okyere. Find her bio below.

February 3, 2014
Michael Okyere Asante
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Forgiving Yourself: A Necessary Step to Overcoming Guilt

Submitted by Michael Okyere Asante

Published in CJ & Shelley Hitz‘s Unschakled & Free: True Stories of Forgiveness (2012)

One day in school, a colleague asked me to accompany her so she could visit a friend who had been admitted at a nearby hospital. When we got there, her friend had been discharged and was being helped to pack his things. In that same room was another patient who looked familiar but was difficult to make out.

The Holy Spirit told me it was a friend I knew and asked me to lay hands on him. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing because I had seen that friend two weeks before. I couldn’t believe it was him lying on the bed so sick, pale and thin. I hesitated and decided to say a word of prayer in my mind for him.

A Missed Opportunity

Two days later, I heard that this patient had died and I also got to know that the friend I had seen two weeks before was the same patient I couldn’t make out at the hospital. I couldn’t take it—I was overwhelmed with grief and I cried throughout the night. Even though I had asked God to forgive me, for weeks I was downhearted and guilt-ridden.

God took away my burden when I was able to finally forgive myself and accept His forgiveness.

Loaded Down With Guilt

Many times, after turning away from God, we become guilt-ridden; we consider ourselves not worthy of God’s grace. Like the Prodigal Son we tell God, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men” (Luke 15:19). But no matter what we have done, God still loves us and is willing to receive us (Isa. 1:18).

In Luke 15 the Prodigal Son came to his senses, but because of his guilt he had already pronounced judgment on himself: his father will not forgive him; the best he will do is to make him as one of the hired men (Luke 15:19). But the Bible says that when the lost son “was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him” (Luke 15:20a). He didn’t end there; “he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20b).

The Love of a Father

It didn’t matter the things his son had wasted in his life; it didn’t matter the filthiness of his garment nor the stench it emitted; he threw his arms around his son and kissed him.

What a loving father! The lost son confessed that he was unworthy to be called his son (Luke 15:19), but that wasn’t important to the father; what mattered was that his son had returned to him. He ordered the servants to clothe him and a royal welcome party was thrown for his return.

What is Your Situation?

Is it just like mine, like that of the Prodigal Son, better than it or even worse? How far have you ran from God? How rebellious have you been? How long have you closed your ears to His calling? It is never too late to return to the Lord. If guilt is preventing you, then you haven’t forgiven yourself. If you do not forgive yourself, it will be difficult to accept another person’s forgiveness, and you will be giving the devil further foothold in your life. One ancient writer said, “The cruel person is fed, not broken, by (another’s) tears.”

God’s Forgiveness

Paul trusted in God’s forgiveness in spite of his blasphemy against God, and persecution and violence against Christians (1 Tim. 1:13). In Philippians 3:13, 14 he says, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Can you also trust God to forgive you? God forgave me. He will also forgive you!

January 30, 2014
Michael Okyere Asante
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“I Have Had Enough, LORD”

“I have had enough, LORD,” he said (1 Kgs. 19:4c, NIV)

Who would have thought that a man like Elijah would make such a statement? Elijah was a prophet of great faith, having been used by God in his generation to wage war against idolatry. In his service, God revealed His mighty power on several occasions. Elijah had experienced great miracles by God’s power.

But here he was at the point of despair: “I have had enough, LORD,” … “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (v. 4) But like all humans, Elijah had his weaknesses; he was “subject to like passions as we are” (James 5:17, KJV).

We do identify with these feelings of depression and frustration in our Christian lives, ministries, families, marriages, careers, etc, sometimes to the extent that we wished we had never been born.

Jonah experienced this too and this resulted in his being indignant towards God’s salvation of Nineveh upon their repentance (Jonah 3-4). Like Jonah we may be disturbed about what is going on around us and may even ask God, “Why doesn’t He just strike them dead?” But God is so merciful, kind and patient that He does not want anyone to perish (2 Pet. 3:9).

Instead of making us want to give up, periods of depression and frustration should rather encourage us to rely on God’s strength by seeing that we are weak in ourselves (2 Cor. 3:5). You will notice that anytime these people asked God to take their lives, He did not do it. Instead, He strengthened and/or gave them attendants. In Elijah’s case he was attended to by an angel (v. 5), and subsequently assisted by Elisha, who succeeded Elijah as prophet of Israel (2 Kgs. 2).

Do you feel you have had enough? Let God know of your frustrations and see how by grace He would respond to your cry. Paul cried to the Lord to take away the “thorn in his flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7, 8 ) but His response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9, NIV) Beloved, you cannot afford to give up.

January 24, 2014
Michael Okyere Asante
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One Choice to Make: Friend or Enemy of God

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NIV)

There is a choice to make: whether we will be friends of God or friends of the world. When we allow the world and the provisions in our lives to take God’s place, we become friends of the world and enemies of God. Everyday, there is a choice to make whether to serve God or the devil. From the Old Testament God has always presented two options to His people, outlining the consequences of the choice they make (Deut. 28). One is either on the Lord’s side or the devil’s (cf. Ex. 32:26-29)–there is no middle path. To this end, Joshua warned the Israelites,

But if serving God the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (Josh. 24:15)

The same applies in the New Testament (Matt. 6:24; Luke 9:62; 14:26; Rev. 3:15), where following Jesus Christ requires that you “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, NIV); and where you can only serve one master (Matt. 6:24). But we can only accomplish this if we commit to being friends of God. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (Jn. 15:14, NIV)

If we consciously choose to be God’s friends everyday, we shall grow daily in our walk with Him and find joy in our daily circumstances, whether good or bad, painful or soothing. We will have the patience to endure hardship, the courage to say no to sin, the strength to overcome temptations, the desire to do good, and be seen really as the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Choose daily to be a friend of God. Every morning as you rise from bed, confess to yourself, “Lord, I choose to be your friend today.” And let that confession walk with you throughout the day. Let God love the world through you.

January 22, 2014
Michael Okyere Asante
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So You Want to Become Like Jesus?

by Michael Okyere Asante 

(Published in LIC Magazine 2012, Edition 1)

If you have given your life to Jesus Christ, it implies you want to be like Jesus. This is why you are called a Christian the moment you give your life to Christ. You don’t publish your new found faith before people get to know of it; the transformation that occurs in your life becomes evident to them (2 Cor. 5:17). The disciples were called Christians because they lived like Christ (Acts 11:26).

You would agree with me, however, that you may not have been told what it really takes to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. You were probably made to understand that by giving your life to Christ, life would run smoothly; no challenges, no problems, and no bankruptcy. Then, when you gave your life to Christ, you began to realise that the journey comes with its own challenges, and then, like the Israelites, you wished you had never left “Egypt”. Your reason for wanting to become like Jesus Christ—maybe in order to become rich—was thus misplaced. The purpose of this article is to help you answer one question: What would I go through to be like Jesus? 

So, what will you go through to become like Jesus?

You will …

… be tempted

Jesus Christ was tempted by the Devil (Matt. 4) and those who listened to Him (Luke 10:25; 11:16; 20:20-23; John 8:3-9). As a follower of Jesus, you’ll be tempted (James 1:14, 15). So, where do temptations come from? Temptations come from the devil (the tempter) and from us:

For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain. (1 Thes. 3:5)

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (Jas. 1:14)

God does not tempt us:

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. (James 1:13)

Temptation is not sin. Giving in to temptation is sin. Jesus was tempted, yet he never sinned. This is what makes Jesus Christ able to help us overcome our temptations.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. (Heb. 4:15, NIV)

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Cor. 10:13)

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb. 2:18, NIV)

Could it be that Jesus was tempted to fornicate, steal, fight, lie, etc.? It’s possible: Jesus was tempted “in every way, just as we are—yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15, my emphasis)

From the above Scriptures we see that the problem is not that we cannot overcome temptations; the problem is that even when God has provided a way of escape, we close the door. This is what prevents us from overcoming temptations—not the devil, not God—but ourselves. Bosch said, “Two forces surge within my breast—the one is foul, the other blest; the “new” I love, the “old” I hate; the one I feed will dominate.” 

Whenever you’re tempted to do wrong, ask yourself, “… How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9)

… be slandered and hated

Jesus Christ experienced some of the harshest forms of slandering. To slander is to make a false statement about someone, normally to damage the person’s reputation or make the person unpopular. The Jews said He was possessed by a demon (Jn. 8:48), and the Pharisees claimed he cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24). Have you ever been slandered at the work place and it cost you or almost cost you your job? Jesus was slandered, and it cost Him the life that He gave for you. How much more can we give to God even if it would cost us to lose our jobs? There are people who lost their jobs because they were not in support of a dubious activity in the workplace. But praise be to God; they are reaping the benefits of their honesty. When you are falsely accused or slandered, know that everything (including the false accusation) is working for your good. (Rom. 8:28)

Hatred also contributed to Jesus’ crucifixion. The teachers of the law so hated Jesus that anything he said was not right. Will you also be hated as a follower of Jesus Christ? Listen to the answer the One you are following gives: 

And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. (Luke 21:17)

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. (John 15:18)

The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? (Matt. 10:24, 25)

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15:19)

… go through trials and tribulation

As a Christian, you will go through trials and tribulations. It is not true that when you give your life to Christ every kind of ‘trouble’ ceases. That is a lie from the enemy’s camp. The One you are following faced trials and tribulations. Peter encourages us to rejoice in our trials so that “the trial of (our) faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:7)

… be betrayed

Where you ever betrayed when you were not born again? Do you still experience betrayal in your life? Don’t be worried. The One you’re following faced the worst forms of betrayal. If it happened to Him, it will happen to you. Why? It is because you want to be like Him. Listen to Him speak:

And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. (Luke 21:16) 

One major cause of betrayal is the love of this world. Judas Iscariot loved the riches of this world, betraying Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver coins.

… be denied, rejected and deserted

Peter denied knowing Jesus Christ on three occasions. (Matt. 26:69-74) What a sad day it was for Peter; he cried when he realised what he had done. (Matt. 26:75) Even the remaining disciples of Jesus Christ “forsook him, and fled.” (Matt. 26:56)

Put yourself in Jesus’ shoes; how would you have felt? Denial, rejection, and desertion are some of the worst things that will ever happen to you as a Christian. If you want to be like Jesus, or if you are becoming like Jesus, expect them.

So why do people deny or reject their friends? Amongst the reasons are envy, jealousy, greed, fear and ignorance. Jesus was rejected by the Jews because they (the Jews) were ignorant of the Scriptures, not in the sense that they didn’t know the Scriptures, but in the sense that they didn’t understand the Scriptures. They were also envious and jealous because of the many miracles Jesus Christ performed and the crowd that followed him.

Paul, a follower of Jesus Christ, was also deserted by his partner in missionary work. Writing to Timothy, Paul said, “Demas deserted me, having loved this present age.” (2 Tim. 4:10)

The good news is that whenever those who walked with God faced challenges, these challenges served as paths to reaching their God-given assignments. Consider this: if Jesus had not been betrayed and falsely accused, do you think He would have been crucified?

When the devil thinks that he is preventing you from moving ahead, he does not realize that God is using his actions to bring His will to pass in your life. Dear friend, every challenge is a key to the door of opportunity.

__________________

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible.