August 7, 2012

  • Charity

    Jesus Walks on the Water

    Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

    Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

    But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

    “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

    “Come,” he said.

    Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

    Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

    And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

    When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret.  And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed. (Matt 14:22-36)

    When I was young, I always thought that if we had enough faith, we would not sink into the water like Peter did.  After all, Jesus did say, "You of little faith, why did you doubt."  I always wondered why Peter who saw Jesus right there lost faith.  Jesus was right in front of Peter's eyes.  As I grew up, my understanding of this passage really changed.  Instead of looking at Peter, I started to stare to my Savior.  And, having stared at Him, I realized that Jesus was asking Peter to come to Him just as He asks His sheep to come to Him.  When we come to Jesus and accept His invitation to be His disciples, He'll ask us to walk on water, mainly doing wonderful things in His name.  And, one of the wonderful things that we do in His name is to love as love is greater than faith.  Here, it is Peter's love for Jesus, His willingness to jump into the water despite all logic and odds that pleases the Lord.  And, as Peter comes to realize what He is doing, he starts to sink, starts to sink as he realizes that what he was doing was physically impossible, doubting for one brief moment that nothing is impossible with God.  After we accept Jesus' invitation to be His disciples, He is still there for us to pick us up when we falter. He will remain in us and we in Him.  And, when we meet circumstances and situations such as Peter's and may experience some doubts, Jesus will be there to comfort us, to rescue us, and to reveal His love to us further as we continue seeking Him.  He does not abandon us as we moves towards Him.  He continues to draw us to Him, closer and closer and closer just as He drew Peter to Him.

    It is comforting to know that it is our faith that initially draws us to Jesus, but is His love for us and our love for Him, exhibited through charity that continues to draw us into His heart.  And, when we try to cooperate with following Him, even when we sink along the way, He will come to us and pick us up.  Living the Christian life is actively seeking Him and meeting Him when He meets us. Like Jesus, we should meet others when they attempt to meet us.  We should welcome them if they come towards us.  This the "Come, follow me" mindset that we should exhibit in our walk with Jesus as He exhibits it to us.

    When others tell us, "tell me to come to you."  Our reply should be, "Come!"  This is the example that Jesus gives to us. With open arms we should always embrace the prodigal son.

    Copyright 2012 by Christenstein

August 5, 2012

  • Another Encounter

    While watching history unfold at ground zero on Thursday at Chick-Fil-A, a homeless man came up to me and asked me for $0.50.  It is my policy not to give money to the homeless, but to feed them and give them drink just as the Bible says.  So, I looked at him and asked him if he was hungry.  He told me that he was.  I asked him how a chicken sandwich sounded.  He told me that it sounded great.  I asked him to wait for me while I get it for him.  When I came out and gave him the sandwich, he started to talk to me about his problems.  I did not want to be rude to him, so I asked him to sit down with me and eat.  I asked him what his name is and offered my hand to him.  He was hesitant to shake my hand.  I looked at him and told him that I do not bite (considering how ironic that may have sounded because he was the one who had dirty clothes and smelled).  He put his hand out and shook mine hand.

    Then, for a brief moment, he forgot all about his problems and started to tell me how appreciative he is of what I did.  I found this really interesting because he asked me for $0.50 and got a sandwich.  Most of the time, most people just walk away from me because they want the money more than the food.  What got me was that when he took a bite of the sandwich, he did not express appreciation.  It only after I offered to sit down with him and shook his hand that he expressed it. And, perhaps, I am reading too much into the situation, but he did mention to me how we are all human beings regardless of race, gender, and money.  I affirmed him saying, "yes, we all need to eat to survive."  He was laughing and smiling, smiling so wide.

    Suddenly, he stopped smiling and his eyes became wide-shot.  He started to swear at me and swearing at Jesus.  He told me, "I do not want your love.  Go away."  I had had many experience with demons and usually they are turned off by God's word and prayer, but this was a first experience where they are turned off by love.  Then, the smile came back and the wide-shot eyes disappeared.  He then told me how great Jesus and other religious leaders were.  Then, he switched again and then started to tell me bad Jesus is and how Jesus hated the homosexuals.  Then, he became him again and said that Jesus loves the homeless, the crippled, the poor, etc.  This was going on for about thirty minutes.

    My sense was not to encounter the demon because I sense that he was not ready.  However, I did not notice that love is reaching out to the man.  I did notice that he is breaking through at times and the demon is losing ground.  I did notice that the demon is struggling to hold on.  And, having reflected on the incident for about a few days, I realized that God's love touched the man and reached out to him.  Then, these verses came to mind.

    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:13)

    Copyright 2012 by Christenstein

August 4, 2012

  • Unwelcoming Patron at Chick-Fil-A

    During the national controversy surrounding Chick-Fil-A and marriage, I observed events at ground zero - the Chicago Chick-Fil-A. While I am impressed with the overall respect that each side of the public debate afforded to the other, I am extremely disappointed with one of my sisters for making a mockery of Christ by making assumptions about me and where my faith laid.  On Friday, I went to Chick-Fil-A not to support the "Kiss-In" event, but to show them love and to support them even if I do not agree with their views.  One of them, outside and on behalf of Equality Illinois, asked me to sign a petition for gay marriage.  I kindly answered her that I had very deep convictions and I cannot support with that; however, I supported her efforts and her right to voice her opinions on the subject. She just looked at me.  Perhaps, she was confused or perhaps, she saw something different about me as compared to the more militant ones she may have encountered in her life.  Then, I extended my hand to her and asked for her name. She told me her name and I told her my name. It was really a pleasure to meet another person properly.  Yes, she is a person like you and me and a sinner like you and I are.  Instead of condemning her, we should love the sinner and not the sin as we are sinners and Christ loves us. Hence, I did not endorse the cause though I love the person.

    In contrast, while I was in a line for a Chicken sandwich, this women came up to me and offered me a Bible verse.  It was one of those gospel tracts.  It totally turned me off. I did not come to Chick-Fil-A to hear an old lady preach about Jesus.  I came to Chick-Fil-A to have a chicken sandwich.  I politely replied to her that she should keep those verses for someone who really needed them.  Instead of going on her way, she asked me what I believed.  I did not want to answer her because she already had turned me off.  Not to mention that I was getting frustrated and agitated with her not getting what I communicated with her earlier.  I was ready to yell at her, but I held my tongue.  Then, I answered her, "I believe in the God-man, Jesus Christ."  To which she replied, "we are all Christians here" and left to sit down.

    What a laughable and ignorant comment for her to make. First and foremost, you do not have to be a Christian to come into Chick-Fil-A and eat a chicken sandwich.  Secondly, to say that only Christians go to this place really makes the place feel unwelcoming. However, it is not Chick-Fil-A, just an old lady, who is one their customers.  Nevertheless, if I, a firm believer in Jesus Christ and in marriage being between a man and woman, felt unwelcomed by her comments, imagine those who do not believe. Imagine how they would feel.  Was it appropriate for her to badger others with Bible verses because she thought that homosexuals were coming to Chick-Fil-A on Friday?  Was it appropriate for her to hand out Bible verses when all I wanted was a Chicken sandwich for lunch?  Was it appropriate for her to make gospel tracts a part of the dining experience at the restaurant?

    For myself, I really believe that it is Christians like her that make Christians like me look bad and make it difficult for me to show others charity and love just as the Bible says.  While she made the experience not so great, the lady who was protesting made the experience better.  Before I left, I passed her at the front of the restaurant (she never went inside to collect signatures or to voice her opinion compared to the old lady who did).  I wished her well and said her name. She wished me well and said my name (she remembered me after all those hours protesting).  We are first name basis and that is welcoming indeed.  The old lady never bothered to introduce herself and ask me for my name.  She just left when she realized I was a believer.  All she was interested in was throwing Bible verses at me.  The Bible tells me that God calls us by name and I believe that not asking for a person's name is not reflective of who God is and His love for others.

    The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3

    Copyright 2012 by Christenstein

July 23, 2012

  • Dedicating Plans to the Lord

    To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue.

    All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

    Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:1-3)

    Proverbs 16:3 is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible (often quoted out of context).  It seems that those who quote the verse attempt to justify that no matter what his plans are, the Lord will make those plans succeed.  While we know from divine revelation that success is not based up whether man reaches arbitrary goals set by himself, it is also important to note that success in the Lord's eyes are vastly different from man's.  There are many actions, but the motives for those actions vary, whether the motives be pure or evil, only the Lord knows.  Whatever actions we want to take, it is, thus, important to commit those actions to the Lord, not so that the Lord will magically make the plans successful like a genie granting wishes, but because the Lord examines the motives of our hearts.  His words are sharper than any double-edged sword and pierces into man's conscience and severs the marrow in our bones. Committing our plans to the Lord requires an examination of conscience and an understanding of what is right in the Lord's sight. We know that nothing unholy and impure can be in the presence of the Lord -- the same goes for our plans and its underlying motives.  Committing our plans to the Lord allows the Lord to examine our conscience and from His tongue reply to us, which allows us to revise our plans more in tune with His heart and His holiness.  Success in the Lord's eyes is our cooperation with Him in following His will and plans for our lives starting with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His one and only Son.

June 21, 2012

  • The Lord's Song

    Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21).

    A few weekends ago, my wife and I attended a Charismatic seminar.  During the entire day, everyone sang praise songs and worshiped the Living God. The speaker spoke about the freedom and deliverance that Jesus' death and resurrection gives us.  It was a spirit-filled weekend and many people were delivered from things they struggled with and things that kept them from having a relationship with the Lord.

    When the conference was over, people were praying for another and the worship team was still singing praise songs.  Struck by the Spirit, I sang and danced in joy beyond joy in the Lord, more joy than I had in a long time.  Definitely, the power of the Holy Spirit had descended in the room.

    What happened next was something that I would never forget.  Not only had the power of the Holy Spirit descended into the room, the Lord, the God of our relationships, connected me with someone there.  The person just began to dance and sing praise too!  He began to laugh in the joy of the Almighty God.  The laughter connected my spirit with his.  And, when he kept on laughing, I told him, "You are drunk with the Spirit."  He smiled and kept on laughing.  I laugh too because the presence overtook the two of us.  And, in that joy, we continued to sing praise songs and worship the Lord.  At one point I was singing tongues.  We both praised the Lord.

    Having reflected on the events that happened a few weeks ago, Ephesians 5:18-21 came to my mind and illuminated.  It is only through the Holy Spirit that such a connection can be made with another person on such a deep and profound level.  When we meet people, there are guardrails that we have to protect ourselves, protect ourselves until we know them better.  In this instance, there was nothing really protecting either of us as we were laid ourselves bare before the Lord, bringing everything to His presence and as a result of that openness to the Lord, we somehow opened to each other in the Spirit.

    Have you ever had an experience where the Holy Spirit connected to you to another brother or sister in the spirit?

    Copyright 2012 by Christenstein

June 20, 2012

  • Life in Christ

    Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his for my my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39)

    Last night, my wife and I were reflecting on the scriptures and going through a Bible study.  One of the questions asked us if we found it difficult to believe in God's promises and whether we truly believe that God is compassionate, gracious, and slow to anger.  When we both went through these questions, we just looked at each other in the eyes and at that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to us both, reaffirming to us that God kept His promise of marriage (He told us to marry each other) through each of us and through that promise, during the past about one and a half years, showed us His Son - we both became more compassionate, gracious, and slower to anger.  And, at that moment, we both realized that we see Jesus in each other.

    Imagine that - seeing Jesus in each other and knowing what a living sacrifice and example of Christ we both had become to each other.  We both took a risk in marriage.  We knew each other for only a few months when God told us that are married.  In this world, people would like to believe that a person chooses his or her own spouse and that God does not directly tell us who we should or should not marry.  But God did tell us and also told us the date.  So, we got married (but then, God already knew we were married because He joins us (marriage is His doing), so to God we were married).  

    And, the verse above struck me.  I was not trying to find my life, find my way, or to find my spouse.  I did not rely on my own thoughts and judgments regarding marriage.  I relied on God Himself and what He told me. My wife relied on God Himself and what He told her.  We never proposed to each other.  We just knew by divine revelation who we were to each other.  It was not about my life, my choices, and the way that I wanted it, but His ways, His choices, and the ways that He wants it. We both, by marrying each other, have given up our lives as living sacrifices to the Almighty God for His sake.  After all, all we had relied on for our marriage was God speaking to us - His words and will for our lives.

    And, having said this, given the flaws that we both have, the flaws that we both carried, it was amazing to see how much we both have grown in Christ together.  And, having given up our choices, given up being captain of our own ship, we have come to see more of Christ and grown more in Christ than we would have had if we were choosing our way.  

    By giving up our decisions to Him, we have gained life abundance!

    And, praise the Lord for that!

April 12, 2012

  • More Encounters - Objects Hurtled At Car

    I had encountered demons putting things in my path while I am driving.  While I know that most will read this and conclude that I am crazy, these events and experiences must be put out there.  There are three incidents in the last week with things being hurled at the car.  Twice, my wife and I were surprised that the windshield did not break.  The Father's protection is strong.

    The first incident happened in the highway and it is the most revealing and compelling of them all.  We were on our way home and I suddenly sensed and say a demon in the middle of the highway.  When I saw it, I yelled, "Demon!"  It disappeared and an object, half the size of my fist, came flying straight at our windshield.  My wife believed it was a rock or a wooden chip and from her perspective, it came out of nowhere.  From my perspective, the demon threw the object at our car before disappearing.

    A few days later, a bird, which I sensed was possessed, flew right in front of the car while I was driving.  Before this happened, I told my wife that the demonic beings had been putting obstacles in my path to produce road rage, which they can feed upon.  Shortly after I told her that, a bird flew right in front of the car.  I slowed down immediately because I was expecting these kinds of things to happened.  While an ordinary person would just continue moving and have a bird splattered on their windshield, I slowed down because I knew what was going on.

    Then, just yesterday, my wife was driving and a small rock (like a pebble) was hurtled at our windshield.  I did not see a demon or sense any spiritual activitiy this time, so for the time being, I believe that this incident is natural - that rock was hurled from the pavement because the car front of us was moving too fast.

    So, there you have it.  Two incidents that I am certain were from sources other than the natural.  Both my wife and I pray for protection during travels.  While most people do not pray for protection during travels, I believe that it is the prudent thing to do and that we should indeed do it more often, whether or not we can see and/or sense demons.  We should all rely on the Father's protection for our safety and rely on Him as our provider.  It only builds our faith in Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.

    Copyright 2012 by Christenstein

March 31, 2012

  • Another Encounter

    My wife and I encounter two demon-possessed people today.  We were at a Charismatic service when the two demons asked my wife to tell people worshiping the Lord to sit down because they were blocking the demon's view of the front.  She just ignored them and the lady stood up and told those people to sit down (only to have the Spirit tell everything to stand up).  I went to the side to worship and dance, with my joy for the Lord.  When I went back to sit, one of the demons told me that she needed to charge her cell phone.  I turned around and told her - "You are disrespecting God and people who are worshiping the Lord. People come here to worship God, not to charge their cell phones."  She started to talk to me again and I just told her to shut up.  It was really distracting not only because they were both talking to me in the middle of a praise song, but also talking to me in the middle of my worship of God (that's double trouble).  I felt a really bad presence in the place, from the time that I first stepped into it, so I asked my wife if she thought it was time to leave.  She answered, "Okay."

    On our way out, the other demon confronted us and told us that we did not need to do this.  I told the demon that she was disrespecting God by telling people who are worshiping the Lord to sit down.  My wife looked at her and told her that she should have known better.  We left.  My wife asked me if we should stay and if I felt there was something we should be doing here.  I answered her, "they call themselves Charismatics and they cannot even recognize demons right in their own church - this is extremely sad."

    When we left, I had a conversation with my wife about the demons.  We came to realize that one of the demons did not say anything while the other one still spoke. The demon that did not say anything cannot say anything because I used my authority in Christ Jesus and told it to shut up. In hindsight, I should have told the other one to shut up too, but you know what? At least now, I know that we have the authority to tell them to shut up (like Jesus tells demons to shut up about who he is). It is strange to my wife that they bothered us out of all the people there, but she told me that the enemy recognizes who we are. I was telling her about how I had been laying my head low, not bothering them, not blogging about them, and they still attack me on the street (you wouldn't believe how many times demons influence others to honk their horns just to let me know that they are still around) and attack me at a church I visited.

    She told me that she thought about delivering the two women, but it was not yet time because they were not ready.  I think it was better that we left because it is impossible for others to see what we both can see so clearly.  I remember a long time ago when I saw demons causing problems in a church - the people did not believe me and they paid for it.  I do not know if I want to go through this again - telling a church that they are being infiltrated, attacked, and that some are being influenced by demons only to have them all turn against me and pay the price for not discerning spiritual things.  My wife told me that we should tell someone about it because it is important that they know what is going on in a spiritual sense at their church and their movement.

    My wife asks, "Who would have the nerve to tell people to sit down when they are worshiping the Lord with joy?"

    Deja Vu! Here we go again. But I am grateful that this time, God gave me a wife so that we can do through it together.  Praise the Lord for that!

March 21, 2012

  • Station of the Cross 3: Jesus Falls for the First Time

    (Meditation Song)

    Jesus falls for the first time, having carried His own cross to His death.  As humans being in this situation, perhaps, this is the first time for us to give up on the Father - but Christ did not give up on the Father - He continued and picked up His cross and moved forward. And, during times that the truth of our faith is under attack, we, too should pick up our crosses and move forward.  Jesus thought of us and did not intend to lose anyone of us whom the Father has given Him.  Is not about time we thought about Him, give our lives to Him just as He gave His life for us?

    Sometimes, we may feel that our cross is too much for us to bear and we forget that God promises us that He will not give us more than we can ever bear.  At times when we feel like giving up, may we remember that Jesus never gave up on us and went through much to make salvation possible for each and everyone of us.

March 16, 2012

  • Station of the Cross 2: Jesus Takes up His Cross

    "Follow Me" (Click for song for reflection)

    After being accused and convicted falsely with death, Jesus takes up His cross, literally and figuratively, and carried it. I do not know about you, but if I was in His position, most likely, I would protest the false accusations and attempt to clear them up - after all, justice is the heart of God.  However, God Himself accepts the sentence of death and carries the cross that He will be hung on.  There is a deeper heart here and a deeper Justice that can only be accomplished this way through grace and love for us.

    When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:23-25).

    Normally, I would protest the false accusations, but there was one time in my life in which I humbly submitted and did not protest any false accusations because the Father told me about them beforehand in much the same way that He told Jesus about the cross. I entrusted myself to the Father and trusted in His justice and promise to avenge injustice for me as was His to avenge.  It was a very tough place to be in, to carry the cross like that, and having the weight of false accusations against me, but it must be carried. I carried the cross for about a year and my Father answered my prayers for Justice through divine discipline. In much the same way, the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing because it is divine judgment.  It is divine judgment in the sense that those who believe in Christ and follow His example and carry their cross will triumph in the end, enduring to the end.  They will triumph when Christ advocates for them in front of the Father and takes the sentence of death for them. And, those who do not believe, who do not care, who continue to insult the cross will face death.

    One of the facets of Divine Justice is that God is Truth.  And, it is this Truth that Jesus went to the cross to die for.

    Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. (John 18:37-38)

    And, in the end, the truth will surface and silence all the lies.  If it does not surface in this lifetime, it will surface when Christ comes back.  For nothing is hidden from the Light, Christ Himself.

    And, love for Christ is love for truth because He is the Truth.  The Truth that we carry within us is one of the crosses that we bear as this world is at odds with the Truth.

    Dear Heavenly Father,

    I pray that You provide me with grace and humbleness to carry the cross that You have given to me, just as Your Son carried the cross that You have given to Him.  May I carry this cross with patience, entrusting myself to You whom judges justly. I pray that the Holy Spirit provides me with the means to not retaliate or make threats to others because they have done things that they should not have done.  May I put everything in Your trusting and safe hands.  May I continue to carry my cross despite the lies, despite the world telling me to the contrary.