Your Christian Identity

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Three men worked together in the same office, their desks a few feet apart from each other. They had worked this way for years and through the course of business, they often spoke to one another about work-related matters. Of course, as will happen when people are together over time, they would also discuss other matters of interest from current events, their families, favorite sports teams and plans for their futures.

In the ten or so years they had all worked together, the men, Ben, Dave, and Mike had enjoyed time with each other’s families at the annual company cookout and Christmas Party, but had for the most part developed circles of friends outside of work. One thing was known about Mike, however, not only by Ben and Dave, but by everyone in the office. Mike was a devout Christian. It wasn’t that he bragged about it, but subtle things told everyone that he was. He didn’t have to wave a flag or announce it with a loud voice, you just had to watch.

He wore a Christian lapel pin on his suit jacket every day. On his desk, next to a picture of his wife, was his Bible. In fact, sometimes at lunch people would see him reading it after he had finished eating. Everyone was aware that he never ate his lunch without first taking a moment to bow his head and thank God for the meal provided, even if it was nothing more than a sandwich from home. Several years ago, he had unsuccessfully tried to start an office Bible study after work. Lastly, in a very tasteful way so as not to offend anyone or violate company policy, Mike had been known to invite people to come to church with him and from time to time even asked people about their own relationship with God.

Ben’s Encounter

One day, things seemed to begin as any other, but Ben arrived at work looking particularly distressed. He even arrived fifteen minutes late, which was very out of character for him. Several people noticed but said nothing. Not Mike. He went to Ben after he had a chance to get settled in and inquired, “Hi Ben, I noticed you seem a bit stressed today. It may be none of my business, but if you want to talk about it, please know that I’m here”. Ben went on to tell Mike that he had received a notice from his doctor about some test results showing that he had inoperable cancer and he was very scared.

Mike, concerned about his friend, also saw this as an opportunity to talk to him about Jesus. “Ben, I can’t even begin to imagine what you are going through. The shock, horror, and wonder of what is going to happen next must be overwhelming”, Mike explained. “You have no idea”, said Ben, as he tried to find the words to go further, “I’m not even fifty and I don’t know what happens from here!”

Mike seizes the opportunity (He thinks)

Mike saw this as an opportunity to assure Ben that while he, (Mike), had no way to help explain why this had happened, he did have an answer, found in the Bible on his desk, that could give hope for Ben’s future and give him peace of mind now, while he endured the uncertain times. Ben was quite skeptical of this, having never been one to rely on anything religious. He had grown up going to church because his mother made him go and was glad for the day he went away to college so that he no longer had to go. Ben replied as politely as he could, “Thanks, Mike, but I’m not sure I’m interested in that. Besides, you know Dave? Do you remember a few years ago when his wife was in that serious accident and they didn’t think she would ever walk again? Well, look at her now! Not only is she walking again, but she is back to teaching dance lessons at the studio!”

Mike was caught a little off guard. You see, one thing that was unknown to Ben, as well as everyone else in the office, was that Dave also attended church with Mike. In fact, he and his wife led a Bible study at their home on a weekly basis and had provided lodging for missionaries when they were in town. He gave financially to the church and was, in the eyes of anyone who ever asked, a “good, moral person”. Nobody could complain about Dave’s life personally, professionally or otherwise. The only problem was, as a Christian, he wasn’t letting people know that the reason he lived this way was because he was first serving Christ his King instead of himself! By not letting people know this, he was not being a witness for Jesus Christ.

Where does this leave us?

There is a lot of scripture devoted to how we are to present ourselves as Christians, and if we are not careful, we can read too much or too little into it and go too far in any of a number of directions. For example, Jesus, aware that many of the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders were very fond of being noticed when they prayed publicly, warned about this. We read this in Matthew 6:5-7, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.  But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” The context here was that the religious leaders were saying, in essence, “Look at me, see how holy I am!” In fact, they wore tefillin, or prayer boxes, with a special prayer or scripture on it often times on their foreheads. It seemed that the larger the box, or larger the prayer in it, the holier the person was implying he was!

Pharisee with tefillin

Jesus warned at the same time He spoke about praying openly for shows about fasting just for the sake of letting people know that you were doing something for God, or making a bigger deal of it than was necessary. As we continue reading in Matthew’s account of the Gospel, we read in chapter 6:16-18, “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

Notice that Jesus begins this by saying “when ye fast…” indicating that fasting was to be practiced, just as was the praying He spoke about earlier. However, it was the way in which it was perpetrated.

After all, one only needs to open a Bible to find that there are 650 different recorded prayers we can read about that were sent to God by men or women of faith from Adam through the end of John’s writing of Revelation. There are twenty-five recorded prayers of Jesus, Himself in His short thirty-three year life, and when we consider that most of what we have recorded is during an even shorter three-year ministry, the significance is even greater.

Fasting is seen throughout the Bible beginning in Deuteronomy 9:9-18 when Moses fasted for 40 days prior to receiving the Ten Commandments. Other times of fasting throughout the Bible, (we will not explore all of them), were to give thanks, ask for forgiveness, give praise or to ask blessing on others.

Regarding the posture of the person fasting, we have already read above that Jesus tells us to keep ourselves appearing clean and proper, not letting others even know that we are doing it. This is between you and God.

So what does all this mean? Are we, as Christians, supposed to worship God in silence? I have actually met and spoken to way too many Christians who believe this is true. Either that or they feel that speaking out for Christ is the “job” of those called specifically to Christian vocations such as the clergy who serve as ministers in churches, evangelists, missionaries in the field and Christian writers and musicians. However, for the average church-going Christian who works in the secular world and has hobbies and interests that do not always include being inside the church walls 5-7 days a week, it is fine to just have some prayer time with God when it feels right and leaving the ministry duties to the “paid professionals”, let’s see what the Bible tells us.

When Jesus started His ministry, He easily could have recruited only the most highly educated men of religious backgrounds to do the work He had planned. He could have called to be His apostles any number of scribes and Pharisees who had the education to take up the task. However, He instead saw that a willing and humble heart that was capable of opening up to what the Holy Spirit could and would do was far more valuable to furthering His Kingdom.

 

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Jesus approached the fishermen in their element and called them.

 

 

After a three year ministry, Jesus comforted His followers, letting them know that the Holy Spirit would be with them. We read about this in John 14. Obviously, they were concerned about being left alone. However, He also gave very concrete instructions later, after His resurrection, just before He ascended back into Heaven when He said in Matthew 28: 18-20, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen’.” (Emphasis added by author)

Jesus, while speaking specifically to the men He had called, was giving instruction to all who would follow Him from that day forward. The instruction to tell others about the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us as Christians is not reserved for those who hold positions in churches. While the pastor of a church has a designation of addressing his congregation on Sundays and overseeing the flock in general, it is the duty of every Christian to go into the world and share the gospel.

 

We read in Acts that instruction was given right before Jesus ascended, telling them to not only spread the word locally but to every corner of the globe Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Obviously, if this message is being given to only eleven men, and the scope of the delivery is the entire world, when we consider the limits of first-century technology and travel, there would have been no way they could get the message to the whole world themselves. Furthermore, with more people being born every day, it would be an ongoing job until the end of the ages. It is quite obvious that every Christian had then and has now, the duty to share the gospel with others.

Looking back at the Office

When we look back at the men in the office in our story earlier, in all likelihood there is really nothing “bad” about Dave. After all, we even found out that he is a leader in his church and a good friend. However, is he doing all he can to further the Kingdom of God in his daily walk with unbelievers? Is he truly representing God and letting people know that he walks uprightly because his relationship with Jesus is a strong and personal one that they, too can have? To ask Ben, it looks as if he isn’t.

 

As we look at this there is a question we must ask ourselves. When you read this account, who are you most like in the story? Are you Mike, the Christian who everyone sees doing God’s work, not because it brings you special favor but because you find joy in serving your Lord? Are you Dave, the Christian who lives a good Christian life around other Christians but keeps things quiet otherwise, to the point that a non-believer wouldn’t even know you had any kind of relationship with God at all? Lastly, are you possibly even Ben, the non-believer who doesn’t know Jesus at all and now, after understanding the need, wants to reach out to Him as your only hope for salvation?

 

We all have a Choice

One thing is for sure. God has given us free will in our lives. Examine where you are in yours. If you are not sure where it is or if you are sure that it is not where it needs to be, there is no magic formula for getting right with God. Just humbly bow before Him and ask Him to guide you through it. He has been waiting.

 

 

Serving Him through Serving Others,

 

James M. Dakis, D.Min

 

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Latest News from Alliance Vision Education Centre-Nairobi, Kenya

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Situated outside Nairobi, Kenya, amongst the poorest sections of the capital city, sits the compound of Alliance Vision Education Centre. First initiated in 2007 and opened in 2008, AVEC houses and educates over 200 children who are in their care and in need of sponsorship to help cover the cost of their care.

What many people in the western world do not realize is that there are so many more orphans in East Africa than we could ever imagine. We have not seen such numbers in any Western society for centuries. According to Light of Hope’s website, at https://lightuphope.org/the-plight-of-orphans-in-kenya/, there are an estimated 2 million orphaned or vulnerable children in Kenya alone! Keep in mind that the government does not run any of the orphanages, nor does it have any kind of government programs to help subsidize the financial burdens of the homes that are privately run.

Living Sacrifice Ministries has partnered with Alliance Vision Education Centre in our work for half a decade now and in that time, miraculous things have happened as God has opened doors for these saints who have prayerfully served. In no small part due to the diligence of Mr. George Otieno Sera, a centre which once had schooling for primary students only, has been able to offer high school education as well in recent years!

The needs of the children, the staff, and the upkeep of the grounds are an ongoing challenge. As is the case for most people in Kenya, property is not owned but rented and rented at a premium price. With over 200 mouths of growing children to feed and bodies to clothe, not to mention school supplies and building maintenance, financial support is a need that goes hand in hand with the need for more prayer partners.

At this time I would like to ask if you would prayerfully consider sponsoring a child or even giving a one-time financial gift to this wonderful ministry. To learn more about them, please visit their website at http://avec.webs.com/.

May God Bless you,

James M. Dakis, D.Min.

 

Conference in Kenya

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In Suna-Migori ,Kenya, Living Sacrifice Ministries long-time Ministry Partner, and friend, the Congregation of God, under the leadership of Pastors Jared and Charles Siso, were blessed with an opportunity to bring Christian leaders and future leaders from the community together for a conference that blessed all and further glorified the Lord!

The church itself has had many struggles as we have reported them here and elsewhere, as death has hit the family twice in less than a year with their father going home to be with the Lord most recently. In a time when Kenya and the rest of East Africa are struggling with drought and famine, please lift these saints of God up in prayer.

If you feel led to partner with the Congregation of God in their efforts, you can contact Pastor Charles at charlesotieno1010@yahoo.co.uk, or Pastor Jared at jaredosiso@gmail.com.

Serving Him through Serving Others,

Reverend James M. Dakis, D. Min

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Christian Charity in Southern India

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At Holy Grace Tabernacle in Vijayavada, Andhra Pradesh, India, Pastor Nehemiah Sanjay’s works night and day with the people of an impoverished village to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. His tireless work includes teaching and preaching God’s Word, as well as feeding the many poor and disadvantaged of the community. Please join us in praying for this ministry. You can also learn more about how to support them by contacting Paster Nehemiah at +91 81870 07006 or +91 98495 07732.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passing of a Great Leader

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Located in Suna-Migo, Kenya, The Congregation of God Church has proven a strong and faithful gathering of saints over the past few years. When Pastor George Siso passed away last year, leaving his brothers Jared and Charles at the helm, little did he know that within a year’s time, more loss and heartbreak would come to this small, rural church family.

When Pastor George’s son, Ken first took ill and went home to be with the Lord earlier this year, the only comfort that could be found was that the suffering he had felt was gone and that he was now in the arms of his Savior. Also, he would be reunited with his father in Heaven. However, within months, I was informed by brothers Jared and Charles that their father had now passed away. The patriarch of the family, the man from whom all three brothers had learned so much and had grown, was now being buried.

This is hard enough for any family anywhere in the world. The loss of a family member, particularly a community or church leader. However, in the rural town of Suna-Migo, in drought-stricken Kenya, the financial burden is adding to things in ways that cause stress on the family more than they can sometimes bare.

As a Ministry Partner of Living Sacrifice Ministries, I am asking anyone who feels they can help to stand with my brothers and pray with them. Also, if you feel that the Lord has gifted you with a small amount that you can share with them, please contact Pastor Jared at jaredosiso@gmail.com for details on how you can help.

Serving Him through Serving Others,

Reverend James M. Dakis, D. Min.

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Tattooing-What does the Bible tell Christians?

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We live in an age where tattoos are more popular than they probably ever have been. Once reserved for sailors who got them to mark the ports where their ships docked, or to show the love of a girl left behind by a soldier off to war, perhaps to show loyalty to a gang one had been initiated into, the days of “inking” ones body are now so prevalent that in the city where this writer lives, with a population of roughly 93,000 people, we have at this writing, over twenty advertised tattoo shops.

Before I go any further in this discussion, I must disclose that in 1981, at the age of 19, I, too, got a tattoo on my left bicep. Interestingly, I got it there so that, in the event that I wanted it covered by a shirt sleeve, it would not show. This has been very convenient in my professional life. However, the question still remains, is there truly anything sinful about a Christian getting a tattoo. First, in exploring this question, I am assuming that the tattoo is not an image or wording that is obscene or offensive, or in any way brings disgrace to our Lord. I have seen many Christians, both men, and women, with tattoos, and I am not the first one in ministry positions with one. In fact, at least one Senior Pastor of a local church has multiple tats on both of his arms. Some people would argue that so-called “Tattoo Testimonies” are actually good. These would be tattoos depicting Scripture verses or Biblical scenes.

With all that said, what, if anything, does that Bible actually say about the subject? Do we have any record of tattooing even mentioned in Scripture? After all, we make decisions about what God would have us do regarding the use of technology such as computers, viewing of movies, use of various on-line entertainment options and such when there is obviously no direct Scriptural reference to them, so what do we use as a benchmark in cases like this? Quite simply, we must look to the living Word itself and realize that God spoke the commandments of the Law, the instructions to His people, and the words of the Scripture, both Old and New Testaments in ways that they would not only apply to the saints who lived during the 1500 years it took to write them, but for however many years it would be until the return of Jesus Christ for His people.

Let us now use this method of inspection of God’s Word to examine our question. First, the only mention in the Bible that can even remotely refer to tattoos that this author can find, or that I have ever heard of anyone else finding, is Leviticus 19:28, which reads, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you:I am the Lord.” Several things must be considered at this point, the least of which may be, as I mentioned, that this is the only mention of anything that may be tattooing made in the Bible. Furthermore,  archeologist and other researchers note that the Israelites had been captive in Egypt at a time when it was not uncommon for slaves to sometimes be marked by their masters with cuts or marks to show ownership. These marks were sometimes more like hot iron brandings. In some cases, although it appears it was only with females, tattooing was also used. Cutting was also used by these and other pagans as a way of showing devotion and sacrifice to their gods. It is most likely because of this context that the apostle makes this statement.  Another thing we must remember is a standard for studying the Bible that I not only learned at Salt Lake Bible College but have heard countless other times. That is to never form doctrine based on one verse of Scripture alone. Read the text before and after. Then, look for the first reference to the subject and the last, or at least an earlier and later. I prefer to do all of the above, and when possible, reference both Old and New Testament sources. This falls apart to some extent here because, as I already mentioned, tattooing is not mentioned elsewhere. However, when we look at other similar references about how to care for a person’s body and personal appearance, let’s see what we find. In I Timothy, Paul is writing Timothy, a man much younger than he, with instructions for general behavior and expectations in the churches now in his charge. Here we read, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” I Timothy 2:9-10.  Furthermore, Peter makes a similar statement in I Peter 3:3-4,”Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Some have taken this so literally as to believe that women are to wear no make-up, not braids or dress up their hair with any adornments, and dress plainly almost to the point of being boring. In fact, as is seen when we compare this to Paul’s writings to the church in Corinth, the warning was in order to keep people from putting so much emphasis on physical appearances that Sunday morning worship was more of a fashion show and “Keeping up with the Jones” than it was worshiping God. I point this out because it is the closest thing to an example of a Biblical statement or instruction not to do something which is not, in my opinion, as literal a commandment as some would take it without further examination.

So, what then, is my stance on Christians getting tattoos? To this point, I seem to have done everything but answer that question. In fact, I was asked that very question several years ago when I was teaching a Bible study class at another church. I got a call at home from a student, who had a tattoo himself and knew that I had one, but was concerned because his daughter wanted to get one, and wanted to know what the Bible said about it. Now, without further ado, I will tell you what I told him. One thing we must remember as Christian above anything else is that we are giving testimony in everything we do and say. We are giving it also in the way we look. This is part of what was being addressed in the text we read earlier about women dressing “modestly”. It can also include the places we frequent and what we do when we are there. Paul, realizing that eating meat sacrificed to idols was not sinful, was trying to teach this to the people in the new churches, but many new Christians who had once viewed this sacrificial meat as sacred and powerful had a hard time coming to grips with it. For this reason, he made this statement in I Corinthians 8:13, “13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” The same can be said about other activities we, as Christians may see nothing wrong with, (assuming that they truly are not sinful), but that make other Christians uncomfortable, or harm our testimony to the unsaved who may otherwise be won to Christ. If I think that getting a tattoo will weaken my testimony when I try to talk to others about Christ, particularly that family member who has been a skeptic, or perhaps that person who has been particularly critical of every Christian, is this going to help or hinder my testimony? One more question to ask is does this bring glory to God? After all, this should be the question in the forefront of our minds with everything we do. Paul reminds us of this quite clearly in I Corinthians 10:31, when he says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”. If you can honestly say that the tattoo that has a Bible verse is bringing glory go God and not just getting you compliments, or that the picture of a rose, your wife’s name, or whatever you may feel that it is fine. However, may I suggest to you the same thing I would regarding any decision a Christian brother or sister asks about. Pray about it first. Ask God what His will is for you. Get Godly counsel from someone you trust, ( my counsel here should not be considered sufficient, and by no means, do not leave out praying).

Many decisions we make in life are not as cut and dry as we hope they would be. We don’t live in a black and white world, and even the Bible doesn’t give black and white answers to everything at first glance. This is in part because situations are different for each of us. The answer for everything from career choices, decisions to marry, how and where to spend the money God gives us, are all things that we must go to Him about in prayer. Don’t neglect something like this either, just because you don’t think it is important. You are important in God’s plan, and so are your decisions.

Serving Him Through Serving Others,

Reverend James M. Dakis, D. Min

NEEDS MINISTRIES& CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION, INDIA

11805818_10207626135438558_1474809955_nIn the most needy parts of Southern India, Pastor Rao of Needs Ministries & Charitable Organization takes a staff of loving, Christian disciples into the streets to feed those who would otherwise go hungry.

Funded by faith and the donations of others, these saints serve as Christ commanded and caring for widow, orphans, and the destitute. Contact the ministry at realorphanneeds@yahoo.com or visit their web site at http://matthiasmoeller2005.wix.com/ for more information on how you can partner with them. Needs Ministry feeding in the streets.