SECRET TO LIVING A LONG LIFE:

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“‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:3–4). In this passage, the apostle Paul is quoting from the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:12 specifically: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” This represents the only instance of God connecting long life as a reward for something we do. Is this promise of long life for honoring your parents true? And, if so, why is honoring your parents so highly valued to God that He rewards it with long life?

First, yes, the promise is true, but not in a universal sense. There are people who honored their parents but died young. And there are people who did not honor their parents but lived a long life. Therefore, it is a principle that is generally true. If you honor your parents, God will, generally speaking, reward you with a long life. However, this promise does not override other decisions we make that impact how long we live. For example, if a man honors his parents, but then decides to commit suicide, the act of suicide “negates” the reward of long life. The same can be said of those who engage in reckless and dangerous activities. God’s reward of long life for honoring parents does not miraculously make you immune from serious injury or death.

Again, the reward of long life for honoring your parents is a general principle, not a universal truth. God considers the way a child treats his/her parents so important that He usually rewards those who honor their parents with long life. Solomon urged children to respect their parents (Proverbs 1:813:130:17). Jeremiah 35:18–19 describes how God blessed the Rechabites for obeying their father. Disobedience to parents is a trait of those who rebel against God (Romans 1:302 Timothy 3:2). This brings us to the second point. Why is honoring your parents so highly valued to God that He rewards it with long life?

There are at least two reasons for the value God places on honoring your parents. First, God entrusts parents with the responsibility to raise their children in a godly manner. The task of parenting is not easy. It is painful, stressful, expensive, and often unappreciated. For a child to not recognize, and be grateful for, the sacrifices parents make on his/her behalf is an affront to the position of authority and value God has given to parents. It is similar to how we are to respond to the government (Romans 13:1–7). If God has placed us under authority, to rebel against that authority is to rebel against God Himself.

The second reason God desires us to honor our parents is because our relationship with our earthly parents is an illustration of our relationship with our Heavenly Father. For example, Hebrews 12:5–11 compares the discipline a child receives from parents to the discipline believers in Christ receive from God. Just as our parents are our biological progenitors, God is our Creator. We are children of God and children of our parents. To dishonor our parents is to distort the picture of what our relationship with our Heavenly Father is to be.

Do you want to live a long life? Honor your parents. Why? Because God placed you under their authority and guidance, and because your attitude toward your parents is illustrative of your attitude toward God. While this reward is not universal—and while it does not override every other decision you make—it is still generally true. If you want to live a long life, honor those who gave you life in the first place.

Prophet Nathan Emol

HOW SHOULD A CHRISTIAN RELATE TO NON CHRISTIAN FRIENDS?

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A Christian should relate to non-Christian friends the same way Jesus did. Every person Jesus encountered was a non-Christian. So the gospels are filled with examples of how to relate to non-Christians. We can look at a few of the ways Jesus related to people and imitate Him as we relate to our non-Christian friends:

1. Jesus was kind, even when people didn’t understand Him. The people were perpetually confused about who Jesus was and why He was in their midst. Yet Mark 6:34 records that, when He “saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” The arrogant challenged Him; He responded with kindness (Luke 10:25–26). The needy drained Him; He responded with kindness (Luke 8:43–48). Roman soldiers and religious zealots killed Him; He responded with kindness (Luke 23:34).

Jesus was prepared to be misunderstood, so He could have patience and kindness with non-Christians as He explained how to have a relationship with God. We need to remember that as His followers we, too, will be misunderstood. Jesus warned us, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Even when hated or misunderstood, we should always respond with kindness.

2. Jesus always spoke truth. Even when His life was at stake, Jesus always spoke the truth (Matthew 26:63–65). When we are surrounded by non-Christians who do not worship God or hold to our values, it is tempting to remain silent or compromise Scripture in order not to offend. We sometimes see this happening with famous Christians when they are asked about homosexuality or abortion. Rather than stand solidly on the truth of God’s Word, some cave to peer pressure.

The magnetic pull toward pleasing those we are around is a universal human problem. But, as Christians, we are to be “salt and light” in this dark, flavorless world (Matthew 5:13–16). We are not to beat people over the head with our views (see number 1, above), but we are also not to compromise truth. Jesus spoke what was needed in the moment regardless of personal cost. He spoke what people needed to hear. We must do that, too.

3. Jesus never lost His identity. Although surrounded by non-Christians every day, Jesus did not allow culture or its opinions to alter His identity. Even Satan could not shake Him (Matthew 4:1–10). Jesus knew who He was and why He was here. As Christians, we must be secure in our identities in Christ so that even the most vocal opponent cannot shake us. Jesus ate, drank, and journeyed with non-Christians every day, but He never set aside His identity as the Son of God and could, therefore, say truthfully, “I always do what pleases [the Father]” (John 8:29).

4. Jesus knew His purpose (Mark 1:38). A great threat to our own souls in befriending non-Christians is that we can easily lose sight of our purpose. The world does not share our biblical values and is eager to draw us away from devotion to Christ. While we can enjoy friendships with non-Christians, we must do so with the awareness that we are citizens of another kingdom. We are here as ambassadors for the King (Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 5:20). We can participate in activities and relationships with unbelievers, but only to a point. We must be ready to say a polite, “No, thank you,” when asked to step outside our purpose. It may not be outright sin we are encouraged to pursue, but many other things can lure us away from pure devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3). Materialism, secular assessments, temporal values, leisure, entertainment: all can threaten or topple a Christian’s pursuit of purpose. When we keep our eyes on the prize—as Jesus did—our relationships with non-Christians can be enjoyable and fruitful for both them and us (Hebrews 12:1–2).

5. Jesus was selective about His closest companions. Despite the fact that Jesus interacted constantly with non-believers, He reserved His most intimate connection with His hand-picked disciples. Even among the disciples, He chose three—Peter, James, and John—to share the most private times in His life. Only those three witnessed His transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–9). It was those three who accompanied Him to the Garden of Gethsemane the night of His arrest (Mark 14:33–34). The model Jesus gave us is that of selective intimacy in relationships. While we are to be kind to everyone, serving any way we can, we should be careful about those we allow to get close to us. Our closest friends carry great influence and can lead our hearts away from God’s plan for our lives.

If Jesus had to be careful about those He allowed to get close to Him, we must be careful, too. We need to seek out those who share our faith and our love for the Lord, remembering that “we are the temple of the living God” (see 2 Corinthians 6:14–16). We can love and serve our non-Christian friends as a way of honoring God and demonstrating how much God also loves them.

Prophet Nathan Emol

HAVING CLOSER FRIENDSHIP WITH UNBELIEVERS:

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As Christians, we have to constantly face temptations and the attacks of the world around us. Everything we see, read, do, hear, put in our bodies, etc., affects us somehow. That’s why, to maintain a close relationship with God, we have to put aside our old ways of doing things—the things we watch on TV, old bad habits (excessive drinking, smoking, etc.), the activities we participate in, and the people we spend our time with. People are divided into only two categories, those who belong to the world and its ruler, Satan, and those who belong to God (Acts 26:18). These two groups of people are described in terms of opposites all through the Bible; e.g., those in darkness/those in the light; those with eternal life/those with eternal death; those who have peace with God/those who are at war with Him; those who believe the truth/those who believe the lies; those on the narrow path to salvation/those on the broad road to destruction, and many more. Clearly, the message of Scripture is that believers are completely different from nonbelievers, and it is from this perspective that we must discern what kind of friendships we can really have with unbelievers.

The book of Proverbs has a few wise verses on believers befriending non-believers: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26). We should stay away from foolish people (Proverbs 13:20, 14:7), from people who lose their temper easily (Proverbs 22:24), and from the rebellious (Proverbs 24:21). All these things represent those who have not been saved. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). First Corinthians 15:33 tells us that bad company corrupts good character. Unbelievers are slaves to sin (John 8:34), and Christians are slaves to God (1 Corinthians 7:22). If we become deeply involved (either by friendship or a romantic relationship) with non-Christians, we are setting ourselves up for turmoil. It can (and does often) cause the Christian to stumble in his walk, fall back into a sinful life, and also turn others away from God (by misrepresenting God and Christianity). Another detrimental effect of closeness with unbelievers is our tendency to water down the truths of Scripture so as to not offend them. There are difficult truths in the Word of God, truths such as judgment and hell. When we minimize or ignore these doctrines or try to “soft pedal” them, in essence we are calling God a liar for the sake of those already in the grasp of Satan. This is not evangelism.

Although these close relationships are not recommended, it does not mean we turn our noses up and ignore unbelievers, either. Second Timothy 2:24-26 tells us that as servants of the Lord, we are to be kind to and not quarrel with anyone. We should gently teach those who oppose the truth, and be patient with difficult people. Matthew 5:16 tells us, “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly father.” We should serve unbelievers so that they may see God through us and turn to Him in praise. James 5:16 says that there is great power in the prayer of a righteous person, so bring your concerns for unbelievers before God, and He will listen.

Many people have been saved because of the prayers and service of Christians, so don’t turn your back on unbelievers, but having any kind of intimate relationship with an unbeliever can quickly and easily turn into something that is a hindrance to your walk with Christ. We are called to evangelize the lost, not be intimate with them. There is nothing wrong with building quality friendships with unbelievers – but the primary focus of such a relationship should be to win them to Christ by sharing the Gospel with them and demonstrating God’s saving power in our own lives.

Prophet Nathan Emol

HOW DOES BAD COMPANY CORRUPT GOOD MORALS?

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In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote of the false teachers who had come into the church at Corinth teaching that the resurrection of Jesus Christ wasn’t true. These people considered only their physical existence and denied life after death or the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:32). As a result, their moral outlook on life influenced the rest of the Corinthian believers.

Paul is telling us that in associating with false teachers, we will be adversely influenced by them. The truth is that false teachings do not lead to holiness. As such, it is critical that we are careful whom we form relationships with, especially those outside the church because unbelievers can cause even the strongest Christians to waver in their faith and adversely affect their walk with Christ and their witness to the world. This is why Paul tells us, “Do not be misled.”

Actually, this was the second time Paul warned the Corinthians not to be deceived (1 Corinthians 6:9). He cautioned them not to take up the lifestyles of corrupt people—those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. Paul knew how easy it is for people to be influenced by such adverse teachings. If not checked at the very beginning, they could begin to adopt such perverted ideas and behaviors as normal. For this reason, Paul quotes a proverb by the Greek poet Menander: “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). No doubt this proverb was well known among Greeks of this time.

The point Paul makes here is pertinent to all people in all ages. When we associate with or take delight in the company of people with worldly morals, we run the risk of mimicking their behaviors, their language, and their habits. Before long we are no longer of Christ, but of the world with its denial of absolute authority, its rejection of the Bible as the Word of God, and its ideology of relative morality. This is especially pertinent to young people who are generally easily influenced by their peers. Young people are desperate for the approval of others. So motivated are they by the need for acceptance that godly wisdom in decision-making can go out the window in the face of peer pressure. Therefore, it is crucial for parents of young teens especially to be on guard against the influence of bad company.

So, what are we to do? Paul provides us the answer at the very end of chapter 15: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). As parents, we stand firm against ungodly influences that may corrupt our children. As Christians, we stand firm against those who would corrupt our walk with Christ. As church members, we stand firm against false teaching and watered-down gospel presentations that lead others astray. In all things, we are “self-controlled and alert” because our “enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Prophet Nathan Emol

DOES GOD REALLY HEAR MY PRAYERS?

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God hears everything, including prayers. He is God. Nothing gets by Him (Psalm 139:1–4). He is sovereign over everything He created (Isaiah 46:9–11). So the question is not whether God is aware of every prayer (He is), but whether God is tuning in to our prayers with an intent to answer them.

God wants us to pray. He has created prayer as a means by which we can enjoy Him (Revelation 3:20), confess our sin (1 John 1:9), ask Him to meet our needs (Psalm 50:15), and align our wills with His (Jeremiah 29:11–12; Luke 22:42). One kind of prayer is guaranteed to be granted. Luke 18:13–14 describes the prayer of repentance. When we call upon the Lord in humble repentance, He is eager to justify and forgive us.

However, when considering prayer, it is important to remember that most promises of God in Scripture were written to His people. In the Old Testament, those promises were for Israel and all who united with them. In the New Testament, those promises were written to the followers of Jesus. It is a misuse of Scripture to pull out isolated verses and try to apply them to any situation we want, including prayer. Even though the Lord knows and hears all, He has given some circumstances in which He will not listen to our prayers:

1. When we are choosing to hold on to sin, rather than repent and change, God will not hear our prayers. In Isaiah 1:15, the Lord says, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!” Proverbs 28:9 says, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.”
Example: A young couple are living together in sexual sin, yet they pray for God’s blessing on their home.

2. When we ask according to our own selfish desires, God will not hear our prayers. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Example: A man is dissatisfied with his three-year-old Toyota, so he prays for a brand-new Mercedes.

3. When what we ask is not in accordance with His will for us. First John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
Example: We pray fervently for a new job, but God’s plan requires that we stay where we are and be a witness to our coworkers.

4. When we do not ask in faith. In Mark 11:24 Jesus said, “I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” However, faith is not believing for something; it is believing in Someone. Our faith is in the character of God and His desire to bless and comfort us. When we pray, we should have faith that He hears us and will grant every request that is in line with His will for us (1 John 5:14–15).
Example: We ask God to supply a financial need but continue to worry and make faithless comments to our families and coworkers, such as “I’m probably going to go to the poorhouse. I’ll never get that money.”

God is holy and desires us to be holy as He is (Leviticus 22:32; 1 Peter 1:16). When He knows that we are seeking that holiness as well, He is delighted to answer our prayers in ways that continue our spiritual growth. Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). The secret to prayer is abiding in Christ so that whatever we ask is in accordance with His heart (Psalm 37:4). Only then can we have the confidence that God does hear our prayers with an intent to answer them.

Prophet Nathan Emol