Our interview this time is with the brother Ezra Ma from the Church in Monte Mor – São Paulo. Despite a busy schedule, brother Ezra answered our request promptly, with kindness and sympathy. In a simple conversation on a Sunday afternoon, at the meeting hall of the church in Brasília – DF, he helped us regarding the subject “a Young Leader”. We hope these answers help you to be young person useful to the Lord Jesus, being participants and helpers of a third, active and different generation. Continue reading “Ezra Ma Answers: A Young Leader (The Destiny of God’s People)”
The “I Have Written to You” blog spoke to the brother Ildeu Santos from the local church in São Paulo, Brazil. In an environment of freedom and caring, the brother helped us a lot regarding one of the most important aspects of the christian living: the reading of the Bible. He encouraged us to create and maintain the habit of reading the Bible and spiritual books in order to be spiritually healthy. More than that, he helped us by showing us a principle that, when is applied to our daily living, will make us more adequate and useful to the Lord.
We hope this interview will be of great help to our readers, encouraging you to seek to have more fellowship with the Lord through the Word and to live as spiritual men.
– I Have Written to You:Why do we read the Bible and how do we read it?
– Ildeu: It’s very important to read the Bible because it’s the Word of God. We can find God’s will in the Bible, all the desires of His heart and every divine thought. The question now is, how do we read it? People only learn how to do something by doing it themselves. So, in the same way, we need to read the Bible, and as we read, we take the most out of it. There is no recipe, but we can start little by little, we can read a few verses and in a short period of time. The important thing is to start the reading.
– I Have Written to You: What does it mean to say that the Bible is the “Word of God”?
– Ildeu: We realise the Bible is the God’s breath by reading it. Here’s what the apostle Paul told Timothy: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, all instruction comes from God’s Word. The Bible was inspired by God, like God breathed into it. It came from God through the Spirit and He used specific people in order to record the Word so that it could be at our disposition today. (2 Peter 1:21)
– I Have Written to You: Is the content of the Bible relevant to present-day?
– Ildeu: The content of the Bible is very current! You realize this each time you read it. It’s always a fresh word. It’s current because our God is ever new, He doesn’t grow old and is always a current God (James 1:17). In fact, if there’s a being in the Universe who is always current, one who isn’t limited by time it can only this being is God! Therefore His Words aren’t affected by time which makes it timeless and constantly fresh. To read the Bible is like we are eating something fresh from the oven.
– I Have Written to You: Is it a right or a duty to read the Bible?
– Ildeu: First of all, the reading of the Bible is a right of all God’s children. At the same time, we can also say that is a duty. We must read it as a matter of daily practice and discipline. We need to establish a day’s schedule to read the Bible; we need to organize our time. We need to develop the habit of reading the Bible even if it feels like a duty. People who do so can testify the value and the importance of doing this. If you talk to someone who reads the Bible, he is going to tell you that the scripture reading has been of great help for his daily living because it’s a spiritual nourishment he gets day-by-day. If you cant’ read the Bible in the morning, you can read it anywhere and anytime, on the bus on your way to school or work, for example; at night, before going to sleep etc. Every christian should read the Bible.
– I Have Written to You: What should be my attitude when I read the Bible? How do I know if the way I am reading it is adequate and what are the risks of an inadequate reading?
– Ildeu: The apostle Paul encourages us to read the Bible praying at all times (Eph. 6:17-18). It’s very good to pray before and during the reading of the Bible. It’s pleasing to transform the words of the Bible into our prayer, this is also precious and very healthy. Reading the Bible in this way help us to extract life and Spirit that are in the Word. The Lord Himself said so in John 6:63: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” Many people read the Bible but cannot extract life from it because they read the Bible as a mere history book. We need to read the Bible as the Word of God. God is Spirit, therefore, we need to extract this Spirit and the life there are in the Word. The Lord Himself worried about people who read the scriptures at the time He was on Earth. He said: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40). If He worried about this, it’s because we have this difficulty. We need to extract life, extract the Spirit, touch in God when reading the Bible. This is the most pleasant and healthiest way to read the Bible.
– I Have Written to You: How can apply the previous principle when I read the Old Testament, from which it’s not easy to “dig” nuggets that apply to me now?
– Ildeu: The Bible is God’s Word – both Old and New Testament. The difficulty a person might have when they read the Old Testament is that there are words harder to understand. But apart from that, the books are extremely precious. When we read, i.e., the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible, all written by Moses), we see the divine seeds developed into the framework which makes up the Bible. Which means, the seeds that once were sowed there, they develop, enrich, and we have the harvest at the end, which is the result of the sowing. Therefore, it’s very important to take heed to the Old Testament books, specially the first five. It’s natural to not understand everything we read, but it’s still important to read it, because we will understand the purpose of that being written in the Bible and why God said so. God is economic! Everything He speaks to us has a purpose. So, even though we don’t understand at the time, ahead on the reading we will and will be very helped. Therefore, we cannot not skip even one book of the Bible.
– I Have Written to You: The Bible was written over centuries and by different authors. So isn’t the Bible incoherent on a few aspects? Why was the Bible organized the way it is?
– Ildeu: As we said so, the Bible was inspired by God. Even though it was written by men, these men were full of the Spirit, they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. So, when we say that the Bible is incoherent, this is a sign of a superficial reading or even restrict to some portions. If you read the Bible and seek to interpret it with God’s Word itself, you will end up realizing that there is no incoherence. The Bible is one, it’s the same word because is the word of God from beginning to end.
Regarding the way it’s organized, the books chosen to assemble the Bible and the sequence of the books, were determined by God in order to satisfy His needs and supply man with His life. The gospels, for example. All four gospels are narratives or contain reports regarding Jesus’ life, but each writer approached a different aspect and all of them are true. Each one emphasized on the biggest experience they had. There are books, this is true, that weren’t recognized, are not part of the so called Canon of Sacred Scripture – these books are known as apocryphal. These books weren’t recognized and it’s not up to us to ask why this or that book is not in the Bible. If you read the Bible worried about what’s not in it, you’ll certainly get distracted and won’t receive help or spiritual supply. The Bible has such a wide-ranging content – there are 66 books and each of them is full of riches! Why am I going to worry about what’s not in it? If I take heed to what is registered and seek to extract help and profit out of it, I will be blessed, nourished, and will enjoy of a healthy life in all aspects.
– I Have Written to You: How to discern the Lord’s voice in the Bible from what we want to hear? Do you have any experience to share with us?
– Ildeu: I don’t know how to number the times we open our Bible as if it was a “promise box”. We think: “I’m going to see what God has prepared for me”. Actually, when we open our Bible like this, there is already a wish in our heart, and mos of the times you find a word of encouragement. But many times, what we are looking for regards our own interests, our own things and we always want God to make our will. What I’ve been learning in my life with the Lord is that I shouldn’t seek Him only to fulfill my needs, but I need to know what is the will of God in order to cooperate with Him in the execution of His plan, because if God is only the One that satisfies my needs, I am going to expect that every time I read the Bible and will have many difficulties because I won’t understand God’s sovereignty, God’s governmental arrangement. I won’t believe in God as He is, I won’t believe in His promises, I won’t walk by faith, I will always want something according to my thoughts, my will, and we need to be guided by God’s will. We know this isn’t easy, but as time goes by, little by little, we realise this. I always seek to fulfill people’s needs when we preach the gospel, but we need to remember that God also has a need and we always need to see His need when we speak of Him, of the importance of spiritual books and of the scripture reading. God needs man’s presence. So, when you are reading the Bible, try to offer yourself to God, try to present yourself to Him. The Lord wants to know where you are.
– I Have Written to You: What should I do if I read the Bible but don’t have a clear vision of what is God’s will?
– Ildeu: Even if we don’t understand God’s will during the scripture reading, it’s important to keep reading it. But if we want a more practical help, we need to seek spiritual books and also have fellowship with people who have the habit of reading the Bible, who have more experience than we do and that can help us. In essence, the principle is: if I have a vision, I proceed on my walk according to this perception (Phil. 3:16); if I don’t have a clear vision, I must be near those who have a spiritual vision so I can walk with them (2 Tim. 2:22). This also applies to the matter of knowing God’s will.
– I Have Written to You: Can I replace the Scripture Reading by books?
– Ildeu: People always have doubts concerning this matter. Is a spiritual book a substitute of the Bible? No. The christian book is actually a help, an encourage for us to understand and to read more the Bible. There are many spiritual books, but when a spiritual book is healthy, it leads people to the scripture reading: it doesn’t replace the Bible, but on the contrary, it stimulates people to read the Bible. Many people have the Bible and read it, however, few can understand it. Even if you read and understand the Bible, you still need spiritual books because they were written by men who had many intimate experiences with God and that shared these precious experiences with us in the form of letter. We cannot be proud and think that we don’t need help from others. I would like to encourage you to read more spiritual books which will help you to understand the Bible and you will realise that your appreciation towards the Bible will only increase, instead of decrease, as some may think.
I can mention books from the Tree of Life Publisher. All of our books are based in lectures ministered by, mostly, brother Dong Yu Lan, who is the main author. He seeks to link a portion of the Bible to our experience on every conference he ministers. That’s why his words have helped many people. Brother Dong’s ministry is of Spirit and and life. He tries to help us to extract life from the Word and not to read the Bible just for the sake of doing it, because what will happen if we want to acquire a background knowledge and we read the Bible like this? We will be tempted to discuss about the Bible when we meet people and the Bible is not a book that was given to us in order for us to discuss about it – it’s for our edification, for our spiritual growth. This is the main burden of brother Dong and the focus of the books published by the Tree of Life Publisher. We see books that concern the church and the New Jerusalem on Christian literature, but there aren’t many adequate and clear books about the Kingdom. The Tree of Life Publisher seeks to fulfil this gap with books that show the church as a way to introduce the coming world. The church is not, as some may think, a physical building, but is a spiritual environment for the perfecting of people until all God’s children reach an adequate stature in order to govern the world to come with Christ.
– I Have Written to You: As a christian, should I read only spiritual books?
– Ildeu: I am Christian, and spontaneously, I seek to read books that help me to develop my faith, my spiritual life, but I also am a professional and read books that are related to my area of work which are important to understand and to keep me up to date. Besides from spiritual books and the ones related to your work, I would like to encourage the reading habit. We need to read! To read is a healthy exercise because it enhances our capacity of understanding. When you get to the super market you see a great variety of products choosing what best suits your needs. Reading, in general, follows the same principle as of the super market. You read and always have to discern what is best to keep, you need to know what’s good for your learning – the choice is yours! We are always ahead of our choices and we need to make the best choices; we need to choose what is useful for our growth in all aspects of our life, whether is in our family life, professional life, christian life as a whole. We must discern, learn what’s good, enjoy what is healthy. I leave aside what is not healthy. I can have a certain knowledge about it but I won’t get involved with it. As time goes by, we learn how to better discern things, but we need to always read, to daily be surrounded by books.
I would like to advise parents that are reading this. Parents must be people that read and children need to see what they read. It’s good that your son or grandson sees you reading a book. If they only see you watching television or doing things that are not related to reading, they will do so when they’re adults. But if they realize you are someone dedicated to reading, they will also understand: “look, this is important; if my dad, my mom, my older brother and my granddad read, then this must be cool”.
I think that we need to encourage reading in general because it brings many benefits. A christian needs to create and keep a habit of reading the Bible and spiritual books; the more he reads, the healthier he will be. This doesn’t mean that he should read only christian books, but he needs to try to use the human spirit in every reading, God put the spirit in his inner being. This will help him to enhance his discernment of things. He must use his spirit when reading technical books, scientific articles, news papers etc. We need to read in our spirit every time. Not only spiritual readings – we need to read everything in our spirit! A christian person is a spiritual person, therefore, he is not only a spiritual person only when he is reading the Bible or spiritual books; he is spiritual when is dealing with people on his daily living and when is reading any kind of book.
– I Have Written to You: What final message would you leave to our readers?
– Ildeu: I would like to leave two verses. The first one is in Revelations 1:3 and says: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”, it says “he who reads”, “those who hear” and those who “keep those things which are written in it”. The second verse is Revelations 22:7: “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” On chapter 1 he spoke of those who read, hear and keep; then he spoke of keeping things which are written in the Bible. We need to enjoy every opportunity we have to read and to keep, which is day by day to put the word we read into practice. I’ve heard an interesting phrase once and would like to repeat it: “the person who doesn’t read good books is like a person who doesn’t know how to read, that never learned how to read”. I speak of the reading as whole. We do need to read the Bible and spiritual books. This is my encouragement to you. Start right now!
The blog “I Have Written to You” had the opportunity to interview the brother Cezar Menegucci, also known as Cezinha, from the church in Brasília. In an informal conversation full of joy and willingness our dear brother answered some questions about the subject “Sanctification”. We hope this interview will help you to seek sanctification in your daily living and to express your positioning towards the Lord Jesus.
– I Have Written to You: In a practical way, what is sanctification in the life of a young person?
– Cezinha: “First of all, the young person has to realize that he has been bought by God, and the redemption of Christ through His blood has set him apart from the world for God. The word Sanctification means “to be set apart”. “To be set apart” has two different aspects: the objective aspect – before God, and the subjective aspect – inwardly. For a young person to have a practical experience of sanctification, he must realize that he has been bought by God. Once he belongs to God, he no longer belongs to the world, Satan or sin. This is the first step. After that he has to develop the subjective aspect, which comprise of his inward struggles and impulses. This is something that will happen through the life of God growing in him. If he does not realize that he has been bought, set apart and that now he belongs to God, he may not develop anything else.
– I Have Written to You: Why do we have to sanctify ourselves?
– Cezinha: “The bible shows us many motives. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification (…)” 1 Thessalonians 4:3a. “Pursue peace with all men, and sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord” Hebrews 12:14. On one hand the Lord wants us to be His Holy people. On the other hand we need to want such sanctification in order to see God.”
– I Have Written to You: To which part of our being does Sanctification relate?
– Cezinha: “It includes our whole being: Spirit, soul and body. Our spirit is sanctified the moment we believe in the Lord. Although we are saved, our soul still has many imperfections. That’s why it needs to receive the Holy element from God. It involves our mind, our thoughts, our plans, and our desires, everything that makes up our soul. It is possible for our love to be impure, is it not? Even our love has to be sanctified and purified. Certainly our body must also be sanctified. In his epistle to the Romans¹, the apostle Paul says that in the same way we used to offer our bodies to impurities and sins, we now need to offer them to be sanctified. The way we care for our body also has to be set apart”.
– I Have Written to You: How can we sanctify ourselves from sinful thoughts?
– Cezinha: “The life of God will perform this work of sanctification. In 1 Corinthians 6:11 Paul says: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God”. The way for us to sanctify our thoughts is exercising the spirit and calling upon the name of the Lord every time bad thoughts enter our mind. By doing so, we allow the Spirit to clean and renew our minds. Our minds are bombarded by impurities all day along. That’s why our minds always need to be renewed. How can our minds be renewed? The Lord said: “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). The more contact we have with the word of God, the more our minds can be sanctified from such thoughts. The Word and the Name.”
– I Have Written to You: Does sanctifying myself mean that I will no longer sin?
– Cezinha: No. Why do we sin? Because we have a sinful nature, and this nature will follow us until the very end of our lives. In Philippians Paul says: “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Why does he say that? He puts “have no confidence in the flesh” on the same level as two wonderful things. It is because the flesh remains. Young people have to realize that their flesh cannot be converted. During the process of sanctification they must understand that if they give room to their flesh, they will sin. When there is no longer sin, then the Lord may come and rapture us up! It is a process!
– I Have Written to You: Dating, going to parties and listening worldly songs are sins? And in what way do these things affect our sanctification?
– Cezinha: “This matter of categorizing things, if is or not a sin, we need to always remember the principle that Paul established for us: all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful¹. Let’s analyse each one of them:
Dating: On the eyes of God, the normal is for a young brother to meet a young sister and if there is empathy between them, in a moment that they have conditions to get married, they should get to know each other, pray, have fellowship and, this does not mean they belong to each other. The problem is that today the concept of dating is wrong, and even sinful. Even on the dictionary, the concept of dating involves sexual relations. On the eyes of God, sexual relations outside marriage is a sin. If “dating” to a person means to have fellowship and getting to know someone, talking with the objective of getting married one day, you cannot call this a sin. However, if “dating” to someone means that she can touch the other person’s body and to make use of it as if it was her own, this is a sin! We have no right over someone’s body until we get married. Inside marriage, yes, one belongs to the other.
Going to parties: it is relative. There are many kinds of parties. There are family parties, work parties, and on this matter, the principle that all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. It is not a matter of going or not. Christ himself went to a wedding feast in Cana. The question I always make to young ones is: when you go to parties, are you going to change the water into wine? Or, even, are you going to become an empty vessel? If you do go to a party and you have the opportunity of preaching Christ to someone, what is wrong with it? Now, if you go to a party and your values are corrupted, you conscience is not in peace, you displease God, then what is the point of even going?
Songs: for me, the principle of music is the one on the Old Testament. David was playing songs to Saul in order to expel evil spirits. Does music expel evil spirits, or does it call them? Music can also draw us away from God and, which is worse, attract evil spirits. Because there are songs which contain subliminal messages, some are sensual and awaken the desires of the flesh. These songs, of course, are not helpful. Young ones need to learn to exercise their spirit and to notice: “Is this song drawing me near to God or not? If is only drawing me away from Him, I need to flee from this!”
¹1 Corinthians 6:12
– I Have Written to You: How do we express sanctification outwardly? Is there any way of dressing that is inappropriate?
– Cezinha: This matter is very problematic, right? (Laughs) The principle of the dressing is to cover the nakedness. The dressing must be decent and cover your nakedness. There are some kinds of clothes that expose your body, some are sensual and some stir up other’s lasciviousness. Sometimes you may not have the intention, but you are causing others to sin. The young person, as he dresses himself, must consider: Am I dressing myself in a decent way or not? Will these clothes I am wearing cause others to stumble? I have a responsibility regarding that and I need to consider it before the Lord.
– I Have Written to You: As Christians we have to preach the gospel. To do so, we need to relate to people. How do we reconcile relating to the world, while still being set apart?
– Cezinha: The Lord prayed in John 17:15: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one”. We would like if the Lord had prayed in another way (Laughs). The world is dirty, it is a evil system that belongs to Satan. Inside this evil system there are slaves of this living. These ones need the gospel! That’s why is very important for the young person to know who he is and what his function is here. He will socialize, but he will look at others with the intention of praying for them and taking them to salvation. Our living changes when our target changes. If we walk in the world seeing that there are people created by God and that He has a plan for them, our approach will have the goal of rescuing them. This demands a life of prayer, for to God place in them the “desire to be saved”.
– I Have Written to You: What should we do when the friends who influence us to taste the world are Christians?
– Cezinha: The same principle applies. What happens with saints in this situation is that they do not yet see their positioning before The Lord. Despite being saved, they cannot see the price that the Lord paid for them; the life of God has not grown within them. They are childish people, in some their conscience is even being cauterized. There are many situations that can cause a christian young person to lead others in this way. What can we do? Pray for them, show them that they don’t want to do many things or go to many places because they will not have peace within; the Lord does not allow them to do so. When someone changes inwardly, it does not mean that they will became a boring person. The Lord Jesus was the most pleasant person that has ever existed. You read the bible and you get inspired by Him. He used to relate to sinners and to the disciples who committed many mistakes. The young people have these kind of conflicts. There are ones who are conformed to this world, and ones who don’t want to conform themselves. Those ones who don’t want to be conformed to the world have more of God’s life. To those who have more life: don’t judge, but have mercy on the others. We must not be conformed to the world in order to take others out of it. On the other hand we may not judge them. We must have mercy on them, pray for them and express the Lord in such way that they will be encouraged to come out of their situation.
– I Have Written to You: If a young person do not sanctify himself, what would the consequences be?
– Cezinha: “Spontaneously, he will conform himself to the world. He was set apart to God outwardly, but inwardly he is still from the world. If he does not seek sanctification, more of God’s life, more intimacy with the Lord and to know more His will, he will be vulnerable to sin, to the world and to Satan. May the Lord keep us with a heart seeking sanctification. In the book of Revelations, there is a word of encouragement, but also of caution: “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still”¹. We are holy, aren’t we? What must our attitude be? To continue sanctifying ourselves. For How long? Until the Lord’s return. This must be a continuous process until we are wholly conformed to image of the Lord!”
– Cezinha: “I believe that the young person has to learn that, once saved, reached by the mercy of the Lord, and bought by His precious blood, he needs to have a life of knowing His Lord. He needs to seek drawing near to his Lord, exercise His spirit, call upon His name and seek intimacy with Him. This will strengthen his faith, his sanctification, his relationship with others, his expression and his function of preaching the gospel. If we are united with the Lord, we will release a fragrance that attracts others. The process of sanctification occurs through the Spirit, and the Spirit will sanctify us. We have to be people that seek to be full of the Spirit! This process of sanctification must be daily! Amen?”