A Champion to the Weak – An Enemy to the Proud

dead-death-cemetery-372586-o“Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety- that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”  “God in the Manger” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer ~

In this paragraph Bonhoeffer touches on a great and beautiful mystery of God that only those who truly know Him will ever comprehend. It is the truth that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:1-12 when he said it is the hurting, it is the lonely, it is the weak, it is the helpless that He runs to; not the exalted. This sweet truth of the gospel baffles the  wisdom of this world. The wisdom of the world trusts in piety, reason and power and in all these precepts it finds a cold and lonely road; a trail gone cold. Yet, even there the proud cannot know the upside-down logic of strength in weakness. It is not until we fall from our loftiness that we can learn the blessedness of brokenness.

It is there, in the debris of our shattered illusions of self-confidence, we find Him, waiting patiently for us. The God who opposes the vain and defies the self righteousness is the same God who heals the wounded, strengthens the weak and befriends the lonely.

It is alone in our despair that He meets us and fills us with the warmth and assurance of His love and we cry out to Him in thankfulness.

The Lord is waiting to be kind to you.
He rises to have compassion on you.
The Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all those who wait for him.
Isaiah 30:18
 
 
 
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Nicodemus: the “Jesus Follower”

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” ~ John 3:1-15 ~

In his book Tortured for Christ – Richard Wurmbrand tells the following story: “When the Russians occupied Romania, two armed Russian soldiers entered a church with their guns in their hands. They said, “We don’t believe in your faith. Those who do not abandon it immediately will be shot at once! Those who abandon your faith move to the right!” Some moved to the right, who were then ordered to leave the church & go home. They fled for their lives. When the Russians were alone with the remaining Christians, they embraced them & confessed, “We, too, are Christians, but we wished to have fellowship only with those who consider the truth worth dying for.”

The true story Wurmbrand was relating is a sad tale of deception. Those who were deceived were the people in that church who moments before the soldiers burst in, had thought in their hearts  that they were truly “right” with God. They thought, because they attended church and they gave mental assent to the things of God or fed the hungry or said their daily prayers, that they were bound for heaven. You see, the devil had deceived them, just as the devil had deceived Nicodemus.

By all accounts Nicodemus would have been a very religious person. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council called the Sanhedrin. Pharisees held to a belief that the Torah (the old testament) could not be interpreted or applied to contemporary problems without rational human reasoning. This philosophy is still foundational to modern day Jewish theology. In an effort to be spiritual, the leaders of that day followed a very strict code of oral and written Jewish traditions. Over the centuries they had devised numerous laws that had to be obeyed and followed to the letter in an effort to get right with God. In other words, they tried very hard to be “religious”. Nicodemus was one of these people. And, according to biblical accounts, he was probably a likeable person who stood up for Jesus in the Sanhedrin and who had also helped Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus after the crucifixion. In other words he tried very hard to live a moral life and would have been regarded in this age as a true “Jesus Follower”.

But our Lord Jesus went right to the core of Nicodemus’s problem and right to the core of the problem with millions upon millions of “Jesus followers” over the centuries. The problem with Nicodemus was he needed to be born again.

You see, it is not enough to be a Jesus follower. It is not enough to give mental assent to His teachings or even to try to live by His commands. It is not enough, my friends, to faithfully attend church, to teach Sunday school, or even give your life to feeding  the poor.

You must be born again. God must reach down and supernaturally transform you into a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: …. “

We can give our lives to following Jesus and feeding the poor but unless we are born again by the Holy Spirit it will all amount to nothing. Now some might say how can this be? Didn’t  the apostle Paul write in Romans 10:9 that: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”? He did indeed. But passages like these must be read in context. In Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Henry writes: “The scope of the apostle in this part of the chapter is to show the vast difference between the righteousness of the law (that the Jews were practicing) and the righteousness of faith (that the believers were practicing), and the great pre-eminence of the righteousness of faith above that of the law; that he might induce and persuade the Jews to believe in Christ, aggravate the folly and sin of those that refused, and justify God in the rejection of such refusers.” Indeed, this same apostle Paul exhorted the believers at Corinth to examine themselves to prove that the Holy Spirit lived in them (if indeed He did that is). In essence what Paul was saying is that there is a possibility that the Holy spirit DID NOT live in them  in which case they believed in vain. So the confession of faith from Romans 10 coupled with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit leads to salvation. In fact I would go so far as to say one will not to “truly” believe until they ARE born again.

Jonathan Edwards 1703-1758, one of America’s greatest theologians once wrote: “They who are truly converted are new men, new creatures; new, not only within, but without; they are sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul and body; old things are passed away, all things are become new; they have new hearts, new eyes, new ears, new tongue, new hands, new feet; i.e. a new conversation and practice; they walk in newness of life, and continue to do so to the end of life.”

How many times have we heard of the foulest of sinner who has been supernaturally changed into a born again believer? They are  freed from a life of slavery to sin and  transformed into a radiant believer. That is the miraculous story of each one of us who has gone from death unto life.

Just as the lowly caterpillar is marvelously transformed into a beautiful butterfly, so the Holy Spirit transforms us into Children of God.

In closing, let’s take a moment to explore one final thought. Have you ever asked yourself why some people who call themselves Christians don’t act like it? Take the crusades, for example, how could so called “Christians” justify murdering and pillaging whole societies in the name of Christ? Or, closer to home, what about the person who faithfully goes to church on Sunday but who lies and cheats the other six days of the week? Are they Christian?  I will let bible answer that question:

“The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” ~ 1 John 3:8-9 ~

So I ask you dear reader, are you born again? Have you called upon Christ to save you from those sins that have made you an enemy of God? Has He indwelt you with His Holy Spirit and changed you into a new person? If not, I beg you to consider doing it today. The bible says today is the day of the Lord’s favor.

Tomorrow might be too late.

 

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“The Stranger”

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on. As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young
mind, he had a special niche.

My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger… he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies. If I wanted to know anything
about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future!

He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind. Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he
had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)

Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions,but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home – not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our long time visitor, however, got away with four-letter
words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. My Dad didn’t permit the liberal use of alcohol but the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis.  He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.. I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger.

Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked … And NEVER asked to leave. More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
His name?…. We just call him ‘TV’.

(author unknown)

My thoughts: The average Canadian watches almost 9 continuous YEARS television in his or her lifetime. Yes – 9 YEARS. Have we considered how TV has influenced the morals of our generation and the morals of our children? A deeper question is: why did this happen?

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Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

Lately I have been thinking about all the entertaining church services I have suffered though.  I have not always been a Christian. But in the short time I have been “churching” as my family likes to call it, it seems as though I have seen the church go from faithfully telling the truth of the gospel (for the most part) to the whole worship experience fad of the late 80s and 90s, to now an era of bringing in the clowns, drums and electric guitars to draw crowds and keep people coming back on Sunday mornings. Typical Sunday mornings see the “sanctuary” so dark when the service is going on that you cannot see your hand in front of your face let alone the person next to you. The room quivers with thundering music and colored lights. Smoke machines give an eerie atmosphere while the band rocks and rolls out the name of Jesus. Entertaining and humorous videos keep everyone in high spirits while still managing to throw in a little dose of spirituality that helps make people feel good about giving up their Sunday mornings to come to church.

Then, to top off the icing on the hype, the pastor delivers his “talk”. He expounds upon the love of Jesus  and how all God wants is for people is to be happy and to have true fulfillment. He tells them that if they have faith and really believe that God only wants the very, very, best for them, that they will experience all the blessings God has for them right here and now. There is no mention of  persecution for the sake of Christ or any of that stuff (too inconvenient).  – End of service – Forget evening services, they don’t happen anymore (too inconvenient).

People leave the morning service feeling mighty lifted up I must say. After all, wasn’t that a “great message”? And the worship band!! My! They DO know how to lead worship and praise the Lord!! (you get the disdain here right?)

THEN these poor souls, still in the grip of their sin, still unregenerate and bound by their carnal nature, go out into the real world to face the devil. They have never repented. No, nor have they been told they should. They feel no sorrow for their sins. Yet 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us: “But Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” They go back into the world to face the devil without the armor of God that is given to us when we repent. You see, repentance brings forgivness of sins (John 3:3) and forgiveness of sins brings salvation and salvation brings a new creation.

Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:1-21 that a person MUST be born again. When we are born again we become a new creation and are FREED from the bondage of our sins. Entertainment or flattery does not does our neighbour not good; it just keeps them in bondage. Speaking the truth in love to our neighbour and letting the Holy spirit do His transforming work is what saves our them.

If we just entertain people with the assumption this will keep them coming back but never tell them they are sinful, that we were all born sinful, and are destined for hell because we are afraid of offending them then are we practicing the golden rule? Do we really care about their eternal salvation? The scenario I have described above is not a new one my Christian friend. The great preacher of the nineteenth century Charles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon battled this same foolishness. In fact this is a deception of the enemy as old as the gospel itself. I will end my ramblings with Spurgeon’s short sermon on this  topic:

“An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most short-sighted can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’ That is clear enough. So it would have been if he had added, ‘and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.’ No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him. Then again, ‘He gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors and teachers, for the work of the ministry.’ Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles. What was the attitude of the Church to the world? ‘Ye are the salt,’ not the sugar candy—something the world will spit out, not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, ‘Let the dead bury their dead.’ He was in awful earnestness!

Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into his mission, he would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of his teaching. I do not hear him say, ‘Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!’ Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them. In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of the gospel of amusement. Their message is, ‘Come out, keep out, keep clean out!’ Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon. After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, ‘Lord, grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are.’ If they ceased not for preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. ‘They turned the world upside down’. That is the only difference! Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her and bring us back to apostolic methods.

Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the Church met them half-way, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God’s link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today’s ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.” – C.H. Spurgeon

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The Treasure Seeker

Curtis Merworth left Salt Lake City on July 6, 2011 and set out with two companions in search of the famous lode of gold apparently hidden in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona. Curtis was obsessed with finding the gold that had been originally discovered around 1868 by a German born miner named Jacob Waltz.  Jacob Waltz had once told someone that the mine held enough gold to make “20 people millionaires”. This was Curtis’ third attempt to find the gold and the time before he had to be rescued from the mountains.

His daughter 27 year old Roseanne, told the press her father had always been a treasure seeker even from the time she was a child. His mother, Carol, described her 48 year old son as “gold crazy”.  “He was certain he was going to find this mine”

Curtis never did find the treasure he so desperately sought. In fact, he never returned. His vehicle was found on July 11, but an exhaustive search had turned up empty. The man that was certain he could find his treasure found nothing but death. How sad.

You know, Jesus spoke of  treasure also. The treasure He spoke of was the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 13:44-46 we read:  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Can you believe that this treasure Jesus speaks of is worth far more than the mine at Superstition Mountain? In fact, Jesus said to find the kingdom of heaven is to find joy and happiness here on this earth and eternal life in the age to come.

Let me ask you a question. If you lost a $1000.00 dollar bill one day while walking in the park, how long would you look to find that lost bill? Would you spend an hour? A day? A week? I suspect that you, like all of us, would search until we were exhausted.  Now, how long are we willing to look for the treasure that Jesus speaks of?

In Luke 11:9-11 the Lord tells us: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?

So many of us, my friends, are so willing to be like Curtis and devote our entire lives to seeking worldly treasures such as careers, wealth, sports or expensive toys in a futile attempt to find happiness. We seek the fleeting wealth this  life has to offer. But He calls us to seek Him, to search for Him and when we do, He promises that He will be found. The Lord stands at the door and calls us to open it. He calls us to take our eyes off what this world has to offer, to turn from our sins and to seek the real wealth that Jesus offers. That is not to say we must become monks. He simply wants our hearts. Make Him your treasure.

Are you willing to do that? Otherwise, whether we realize it or not, we will all end up like Curtis. We will be fooled by the dust this world has to offer. I pray that does not happen to you my friend. Don’t look in the wilderness of this world for your treasure, spend time on your knees seeking Him. Turn from your sins and cry out to Him. If He does not answer immediately then KEEP crying out to Him. Call out to Him until you know He has answered you, and you will know it, believe me, you will know it.

I guarantee you, that He will answer you in His good time. And when He does, you will receive treasure unspeakable from the God of all creation.

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The God Who Saves Us

I was involved in a deep discussion with someone close to me recently and they asked me some valid questions. Their questions were twofold:

  1. Is Jesus really the only way to God? Why would He be the only way? Isn’t that presumptuous? What about all those religions in the world that are not Christian? Do they not ultimately lead people to God also except by a different path?
  2. So if Jesus is the only way… what about all those people who have never heard about Jesus? How could God justify sending people to hell who had never had a chance to believe in Jesus?

To my embarrassment I had no answer at the time. My only pat answer to question 1 was Jesus is the only way to God because He “said” He was. My answer is small consolation to a person who does not believe that Jesus is who He said He was. So I decided to give this very important question some prayerful thought. Indeed, it is a question all Christians should be prepared to answer.

I decided to tackle this by first providing some background that is essential to helping my readers understand my answers. To do this we have to go all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

In Genesis 2: 15-17 we read: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

So did Adam die when they ate of the fruit? No, he did not die physically, but he did die spiritually. In my post titled “Why Would a Loving God Allow Death and Suffering” I talk about how this one act of disobedience toward God led to the downfall of all mankind. Because of this we are spiritually dead in our sins and our relationship with God is cut off.  Mankind is guilty as charged when it comes to sin. Each and every one of us  have violated the laws of God our day of reckoning is approaching.

Isaiah confirms this in 64:6-7 when he says: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.”

Romans 3: 10-12 speaks of the natural state of man: “……there is no one who does good, not even one.”

The first part of the sentence in Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death….”. It is, in effect saying that mankind has, and will, receive the wages for our sin and those wages are death. This will come on judgement day. So to sum up:

  • We have all broken the laws of God.
  • We are all spiritually dead in our sins.
  • All our good works are like filthy rags to God.
  • No one is justified before God for the good things they have done.
  • There will come a day of judgement when God will find us guilty of having broken His commandments.
  • The punishment for having broken the commandments of God is death

You might say well that is a poor description of me, I am a pretty good person. What if I could take your secret most thoughts and put them up on a video screen for the entire world to see? What would we all see? I am sure that you would run away in disgrace. But you are not alone my friend; we are all alike. So, we know that we are all guilty as charged.

But remember back a couple of paragraphs ago we talked about Romans 6:23? The latter part of that sentence says: “….but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Yes! Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”!!  The God came to earth, took on the form of man and lived and walked among us. John wrote “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” In verse 14 he writes: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”. Later on in 1 John 1:1-2  he writes “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us”. Jesus came and lived a sinless life on this earth. He died on a cross as a sacrifice to satisfy the eternal justice that was our debt to pay. He did this so that our debt may be blotted out and in our standing before God we may be clothed  with the righteousness of Christ.

Romans 3:24-26 says “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus”.

That, my friends is why Jesus is the only way to God. No one else, not Mohammed of Islam, not Buddha of Buddhism, not Krishna of Hinduism, no one, no one, has or can provide the atonement for our sins and open the door to God. He is the only way to God. He alone paid the price for the sins of all mankind. All other religions follow a creed of salvation by good works, enlightenment, or some other means. But the bible says in Ephesians 2:8-10 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”. It is only in Christ Jesus that our good works mean anything.

He, God Himself, was the only one who could provide the solution to humanity’s problem. The problem of humanity is not that there are not people in the world who do good, or love others, or fail to care for their families, the problem with all of humanity, is that we have all failed to keep God’s laws.

On to question 2: So if Jesus is the only way… what about all those people who have never heard about Jesus? How could God justify sending people to hell who had never had a chance to believe in Jesus?

Although, from what I see,  the bible does not give a clear answer as to what will happen to the multitudes of people who have never heard the name of Jesus, it does give a clear and definite statement on the condition of the state of humanity in general. Remember back when we read that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God? What was the outcome of this? Again Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Romans 1:18-20 says “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”. They cannot use the excuse that they never heard of Jesus or what He had done for them. They did not need to hear about Him, all they had to do was repent and surrender to the God who did it all for them on the cross. But the sad thing is they did not. You see, the problem is not that God will send people to hell. The problem is that we, of our own free will, that was was a gift to us by our loving heavenly Father, choose to sin to our own destruction. He did all He could do by coming to earth and dying on a cross to save us from ourselves. Now he calls us to Himself.

So my friends, what are we going to do? Jesus said in Luke 4:18-20: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Central to His message is: who He said He is and what He came to do. We must either dismiss Him as a liar or fall at His feet and worship Him.

Today is the day of the Lord’s favour, tomorrow may not be. There is no middle ground, nor did He intend for there to be.

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The God Who Indwells Us

~ For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” ~ Romans 8:14-15 ~

I Dared to Call Him Father is the title of a book and the fascinating true story of Bilquis Sheikh, a prominent Muslim woman. Her unusual journey to a personal relationship with God turned her world upside down-and put her life in danger.  You see, Bilquis Sheikh was a Muslim until she came face to face with Jesus Christ and experienced what Christians throughout history have come to experience; the indwelling of the God’s  Holy Spirit. Those people, who from all walks of life, from all around the world, those who have come in contact with the risen savior Jesus Christ and who have turned from their sins and have truly surrendered their lives to Him, have received the gift of the Holy Spirit of God. When this happens we become His children, He becomes our God and it becomes as natural as can be for us to call Him father.

To Muslims this is blasphemy and to other religions it is incomprehensible. Indeed, Christianity is alone in the claim that the spirit of the living God comes to dwell within His creation. But the consider what the bible says:

“…..He (Jesus) came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” ~ Ephesians 2:17-22 ~

You see, the bible says that the whole world is under a curse because of our sin.  Because of our sins we are enemies of God in our natural state. We have transgressed the holy laws of God and He has turned us over to our wickedness. In essence, he is giving us what we want, and that is to live our lives the way we want to apart from Him.

But when we turn to Christ we turn to the Living God. He has paid the price for our sins on the cross and He  adopts us as His children and sets us free from the bondage of those sins.  He becomes our father and we become His children.

1 John 3:1-3 says: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

I remember when He filled me with His Holy Spirit and I finally knew that I was His and He was mine!! It felt so natural to call Him father! To talk to Him and pour out my heart to Him. Sin was no longer my master; He was. What a wonderful feeling to know that the God of all creation heard and answered little old Michael Buckley’s prayer and blessed me with His spirit and eternal life!

Friends, if He will do it for me then He will do it for you also. He stands at the door and knocks and waits for you to turn to Him so that He may come and indwell you. He waits as an adoptive loving parent to be your father and for you to be His child. Turn to Christ dear ones, You will never regret it!

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba”, Father.” ~ Galatians 4:6 ~

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The God Who Heals Us

“and by His Stripes We are healed” – Isaiah 53

Jeremiah 6:6-7
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Cut down the trees and build siege ramps against Jerusalem. This city must be punished; it is filled with oppression. As a well pours out its water, so she pours out her wickedness. Violence and destruction resound in her; her sickness and wounds are ever before me.”

Jeremiah 6:13-14
“From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace.”

He hated what he did, but he continued to do it anyway. Though he was known and admired by many, he had a sickness that even his fame could not make up for. He was an All-American quarterback at Ohio State more than 30 years ago. He was picked fourth in the 1982 NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts. He was a young man with a lot of talent and a big future. But he had a problem that was bigger than his future; he had a gambling “addiction”.  By the time Art Schlichter was a mere 23 years old he had lost almost $400,000.00 through gambling. His personal life was in shambles. Between 1994 and 2006, Schlichter spent 10 of those years in prisons and jails due to his compulsive gambling. Even in jail he continued to find ways to gamble. To this day Schlichter says “staying clean is a fight every day”.

Have you ever wondered why such things as gambling, pornography addiction or excessive eating seem to be a disease with some people? Try as they might the behavior they despise drives them to destruction. They know it is wrong, they know it will lead to misery, but they continue to do it. Indeed, most people today consider to this behavior to be just that, a “disease”.

In the book of Genesis, after our ancestors Adam and Eve willfully disobeyed God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we read the following amazing passage:
“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” ~Genesis 3:17-19

Because of sin the earth and everything in it including humanity is under a curse. 1 John 5:19 tells us: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one”. The world and everything in it has been given over to the control of the devil. The apostle Paul laments in Romans 7:24-25: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

You see friends, the wretchedness of mankind, manifesting itself in such things as disease, war, pride, greed and, yes, even compulsive behavior, is the fruit of sin and the very thing that will kill us all in the end. It is this sickness and these wounds that the Lord speaks of in Jeremiah 6:6-7 above when He refers to the state of the Israelites. He then accuses the spiritual leaders of the day of dressing the wounds of His people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they proclaim when there was no peace. Instead of confronting the sins of the people and exhorting them to repent, they proclaimed that God was satisfied and peace was theirs to be had. What terrible leaders they were! And God will hold them accountable!

Unfortunately, in many churches today this is still the case. Many of today’s spiritual leaders continue to proclaim peace, peace in a time when they should be warning people to repent of their sins and telling the wonderful message that Jesus Christ came and died to pay the price on the cross for you and me. He came that you and I would not only have eternal life but freedom from the control of sin right here, right now. Jesus paid the price so that people such as Art Schlichter could be set free from gambling addictions. He paid the price for us to set free from the bondage of such sin as hatred, greed and pride that festers in our hearts. He came to be our Lord and our Saviour. Not just our Saviour but also our Lord.

Yes, to be our Lord also. It will cost you my friend, it will cost you your life to follow Jesus. It might cost you your reputation, people might regard you as some kind of nut (as I am sure they do me) or it might cost you your job when you refuse to heed a boss’s order because you would have to disobey your Savior’s commands. But He promises much, much more than anything this sinful world can offer. He is the divine healer; the great physician. He promises freedom from the bondage of our sins, peace, joy and hope in this life and eternal life in the hereafter. And I for one can attest to the fact that He keeps His promises to the fullest!

His promises are promises you can bet on.

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What is Christmas all About?

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” ~ Matthew 1:20-21

Well, it is that time of the year again when we celebrate Christmas! The holiday lights go up, Santas make their annual pilgrimage to set up court in shopping malls around the country,  store speakers ring out incessant refrains of “Jingle Bells”, thousands of turkeys meet their fate on the dinner table and friends and family gather together for fun, food and memories.

But why? Most of us know it has something to do with celebrating the birth of a man named Jesus. But who exactly was this man named Jesus? Why all the fuss and what do Santa Clauses and elves have to do with Jesus?

The real story is that a loving and holy God looked down and saw the sinfulness of man on earth.  He saw that we, in our present state, are sinful and wicked and unable to ever have fellowship with a holy God.  Sinfulness is our lot and destruction our destiny. But God, in His love sent His son to earth take on the form of a man. He came as a babe in a manger, fully human yet fully God, to live and die on a cross to pay the price for our sin. As Charles Price writes:

“We live in a world dominated by corruption, greed and prejudice so it is easy to blame things on the state of the world. But the problem is that the world is made up of people like ourselves. Unless we understand that Jesus came into the world to save us from our sin, Christmas will not be much more than a sentimental occasion for celebration. To understand His birth, we need to leave Bethlehem behind and go about ten kilometers up the road to Jerusalem. It is there, at the cross of Jesus, the penalty for our sin was paid and the only means by which the life of God may be restored to human experience.” ~ Charles Price, Our Journey, Dec 2010 ~

It is this that we celebrate, the fact that Jesus the Christ, God incarnate, came into the world to save His people from their sins. He came to save us not just from the penalty of our sins but also from the power of sin in our life here on earth. To those who are willing to receive it, His gift it is the most wonderful gift of all; the gift of a new heart and eternal life.

Christmas, you see, is just the beginning of the story; the story ends at Calvary.

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The God Who Made Us

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” – Genesis 1:1

Albert Einstein once said: “The foundation of morality should not be made dependent on myth nor tied to any authority lest doubt about the myth or about the legitimacy of the authority imperil the foundation of sound judgment and action.”* In other words we cannot use myths or illegitimate authorities as a benchmark upon which to base sound judgment or actions. Of course he was attempting to refute man’s reasoning for belief in God. Well, you know, I must agree with him, but for different reasons. Einstein was using the reasoning that belief in a “mythical” God is unsound judgment and if that is so the authority of this mythical God would be in question and therefore not to be trusted. I concur that belief in a mythical god is unsound judgment. Never, never, never put your faith in a “god” who has not proven his existence nor base your judgments on such a god. However, the God of the bible is NOT such a God.

No, my friends, the God of the bible has given us amble prove that He exists and that He is the only true God. Consider these points with me:

1. The bible tells us that we are made in the image of God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”  ~ Genesis 1:27

Being created in the image of God gives man inherent Godly characteristics that no other creature on earth has. One characteristic is the sense of right and wrong, good and evil if you will. Charles Colson uses the example of an elderly lady waiting to cross the street. Which is the good thing to do: To help her across the street or to push her into oncoming traffic and watch her perish? Of course we would say to help her across the street. How do we know this? Why, we inherently understand this truth don’t we?  Let me ask you this: do you think evolution gave us that standard of conduct? Certainly not! Do animals have it? Certainly for the most part animals take care of their young but in many instances they are just as likely to abandon or eat them. That sense of right and wrong comes from God. We all have in us a sense that quickens us deep down to do good, not to lie, not to kill, to be kind to each other, and so on. I acknowledge that as the bible predicted, as world culture is forming in these last evil days, this inherent sense of right and wrong is growing dimmer. But, in each of us, deep down, even in the conscience of the most depraved individual, we all KNOW what is right and what is wrong. He has proven to us that we, His creation, have been indwelt with a conscience, that is, a God given innate sense of right and wrong; something that mere evolution could never have produced.

2. Maria Von Trapp in the movie The Sound of Music sings a little refrain that has more meaning that first realized. When she and the Captain are singing their love to each other in the gazebo, she croons, “Nothing comes from nothing, and nothing ever could.” Maria was absolutely correct. Nothing ever could come from nothing. Science itself has proven that. The whole concept of the Big Bang is totally ludicrous without a foundational understanding that there was a force behind it, that force was God Himself. Nothing comes from nothing….

3.  I was listening to an interview that the Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) was conducting with a well know international botanist a while ago and the gentleman, who was obviously an unbeliever, was describing the intricate complexities of plant life. “You know” he mused, “it is so complex and all fits together so well you would almost think it was designed that way”. Then, awaking out of his apparent daydream, he continued “of course we all know this is not the case”. I wanted to reach through the radio and shake the man and say “Pardon me! … but do we know this is not the case? Have we proven it?” I would argue the evidence suggests otherwise.

4. Creation itself cries out about His eternal power and divine nature. Does mankind want to know if there is a God? Look around my friend; this didn’t happen by accident as those without answers are prone to tell you. Creation itself is the universal “language” of God to all mankind. Psalm 19:1-3 tells us:

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.”

But they tell the tale, don’t they?

Romans 1:20 declares: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”

In closing beloved, I beg you, I plead with you, on that day when we stand before almighty God our maker, DON’T BE WITHOUT EXCUSE.

* Albert Einstein, letter to a minister November 20, 1950; from Albert Einstein the Human Side, Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, eds., Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 95.
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Bearers of Truth in an Age of Deception

Great debate often arises within the church as to what Christ has called us to in this world. Has He called us to shine His light in this world by feeding the poor? Or has He called us to shed a positive light on Christianity by being loving and caring in every thought and deed while on this earth? Or should we make the pilgrimage to far away lands to be His hands and feet to those less fortunate in other countries? The answer to all of  this is yes. He has commanded us to be all of this as an outflow, or the fruit if you will, of  our life in Christ. But that is not our primary calling as Christians. If we feed a drowning man but still let him drown we have done nothing. That man will curse us in the afterlife. Ours is not to sit down and work out the mechanics of getting people in the door so they can hear the gospel nor is it to rationalize that we just need to convince people that we are really good people or that “Jesus is really a very nice guy” who did wonderful things here on earth.

Our calling as Christians is the Great Commission. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:19-20 ~

He has called us to proclaim Christ’s sacrifice and redemption to a fallen and sinful world. He has called us to proclaim to those who repent and put their trust in Christ that they may receive forgiveness for their sins. He has called us to proclaim the promise of peace and freedom from sin in this world and eternal life with God in the hereafter.

Trust in Christ church. Get right with God and He will show you how to feed the poor.

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What About the Cross?

In Luke 14:26-27 Jesus said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

Now THERE’S a passage you don’t hear from the pulpit too often. So what on earth did He mean? Did He mean we have to make enemies with our friends and family if we come to Christ? But what about loving others? It sounds like this gospel of Jesus is really mixed up right? Well, no.  You see, to really understand Christianity, we must understand the natural state of man AND the holiness of God. It is crucial that we get a grip on these theologies otherwise our view of Christianity will be skewed and passages like these will not make any sense to us or the clergy who are afraid to read them.

The bible says that in our natural state we are spiritually dead. Romans 8:6-7 reminds us that “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so”.

However, when we come to Christ, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are transformed by His power into new creations. That is, we become born again (spiritually that is). No, the bible does not speak of being born again in an earthy way as Nicodemus thought (John 3:4). When we receive the Holy Spirit we look and smell the same. From all outward appearances we are exactly the same. Physically, we have not changed a bit. This can be a stumbling block to our friends and family. They continue to see the same person they have always known. But INSIDE!! Wow! Inside we are changed from top to bottom. We are changed from the inside out. Our thoughts are not the same. We think continually about spiritual things. A born again believer cannot get his mind off the things of God nor does he want to. He is in love with the creator of the universe. Romans 8:5 “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds SET on what the Spirit desires.”

Indeed, we are not the same person we used to be. We now have the spirit of the living God abiding in us and WHAT a difference! When a person is transformed in Christ they not only are freed from their sinful bondages but they no longer desire to sin. A true believer wants to serve God with all their heart, they want to feed the hungry and clothe the poor, they want to tell others what Christ has done for them. It is not that they cannot sin, indeed at times even the most devoted Christian might stumble and fall prey to the devil and his temptations. The difference is, if a born again Christian sins it by their own choice; if an unbeliever sins it is because they have no choice. In Galatians 3:22 we read “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin…”.

So now, the new true believer (and I make the distinction between true and false) who has repented of their sins and has turned to Christ, has been set free from their bondage to sin. They now have a choice, to sin or not to sin. What will it be? THIS is where the cross comes in for believers. To take up one’s cross and follow Jesus is to surrender to Christ’s lordship in his/her life regardless of the consequences. That is not as easy as it sounds since Jesus Himself said we will be persecuted and hated because of who we are in Him. But for those that surrender we know that He has freed us from the power of Satan and He will give us the power to carry on with Him. The Lord Jesus has some harsh words for the believer who rejects His lordship in their lives and does not take up their cross. To the lukewarm church in Laodicea He said: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-17. In Matthew 5:13 He says: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

Brothers and sisters, our call is to turn our back on this sinful world and take up our cross. Our call is to go out and warn others of God’s pending judgement and tell them of the glorious freedom and salvation that can be found in Jesus Christ. He is a holy God who will not be mocked. Let us take up our cross and follow Him.

To rise to the call and lordship of Christ on our lives and take the gospel to a fallen world is to take our cross and follow Him. My friend, I don’t know about you, but He is the one in whom I will trust. He has not failed me yet.

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The God Who Calls Us

A few weeks ago I went for a walk on a country road with my daughter. While on our walk, my daughter’s cell phone rang. Expecting an important call she felt obliged to answer it.  To give her some privacy, I walked on ahead while she stood at the side of the road and talked. After about 10 minutes I decided to let her catch up so I climbed up a slight bank at the side of the road and sat down in the shade of the trees to get out of the hot summer sun.

As I sat there, enjoying the coolness of the shade and watching the cars whiz by, I began to think about the people in those cars. The people in those cars who were oblivious to me. They had no idea that I was there watching them. They were immersed in their own thoughts and their own world as they drove past my vantage point. Indeed, if they had turned their heads to the side as they drove by they could have  easily seen me sitting there, but they did not. I might as well have been invisible, for no one thought to look into the bushes the see if I was there. Then the thought struck me… isn’t that so much like us and God?

We race through life getting to where we want to go as fast as we can. We rush down the road of life on our selfish journeys oblivious to the fact that the God who came to earth to redeem us from our dangerous destiny of damnation, stands at the side of the road waiting for us to stop and let Him take the wheel. The sad thing is, we neither seek Him nor do we even do we understand Him. Romans 3:11 says: “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” . What a sad story of the human race. The God of this universe, the One who made us to know and love Him sits at the side and watches mankind as we drive right by Him.

But that is not the end of the story. If it were, all would be hopeless. Just when my daughter caught up and walked by without knowing I was there, I called to her, and she turned her head and found me there. The Lord of Creation calls to each one of us. For those who hear His voice, obey and turn to Him, He gives the right to become children of God.

Have you heard His voice today? Have you heard Him speaking to you just now? As you scurry down life’s road, take time to turn to Him my friends. Call back to Him with all of your heart and He will answer you for He is a God that is slow to anger abounding in love.

If you do, I promise you, you will never be the same again.

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Religion – Man’s Mortal Enemy

Religion – Man’s Mortal Enemy

This might seem a strange statement coming from a “religious” person (as some some people might call me). But please allow me to differentiate between religion as most people understand it and a true, living  relationship with the God of the universe.

Richard Dawkins, the renowned atheist, has an article on his web site titled “The Curse of Religion” in which the author blasts the “religious organizations” that exist in this world and states that they exist solely to “”protect and promote their own interests”. Although I disagree with Richard Dawkins on many things, I must say to some extent on this matter he is correct.

I sat in a restaurant recently and listened to my friend express his dismay and sorrow at the scandals that have been rolling through the Roman Catholic church. As I sat there and listened to my friend who had put so much faith in his “church” and was now disillusioned with it, I felt a sense of sympathy for the millions upon millions of people in this world that place their hope in man made religion. Then I think back on one Sunday morning at our fellowship a couple of weeks ago where we had just had the General Director of Missions for our denomination come and speak . What struck me so, was that his stories were all about what the denomination was doing around the world and he referred to little or nothing of what God is doing around the world. He was all about the organization.

You see, we can become so immersed in “doing church” that we loose contact with the Lord Himself. Our lives can be spent propping up a man made organization that we think is meant to reflect God’s work on this earth. That was the problem with my Roman Catholic friend. He regarded the pope and the Catholic organization as if they were the manifestation of God Himself and His work on this earth. Now, lest we protestants get too smug here, our General Director of Missions was doing the same thing.

Friends, if we are not continually seeking Him in our daily walk, if we do not cling to His cloak with all our might as he leads us through this dark and sinful world, if we do not cleave to Him and love Him and Him alone with all our hearts as we walk through this life, we will find ourselves doing religious things and believing that is all there is. We will find ourselves going through the motions of daily religious rituals that were somehow “designed” to lead us to God and be an expression of God to others.

The Lord Jesus told us in Luke 11:9-11:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?”

Our loving heavenly father stands there and waits for US to seek Him. He is a gentleman. He does not force us to follow Him nor is He willing to take away our will and turn us into zombies. He woos us with His spirit and calls us to follow Him. But He loves us so much that He waits for us to decide that we want Him and Him alone. The sad thing is, we let religion take the place of His affections and religion is a cruel taskmaster indeed.

Jesus was talking not about religion. In fact some of His harshest words were reserved for “religionists”. He was talking about a personal relationship with God Almightly. A loving, living, breathing relationship with the King of Kings. The Lord Jesus seeks a relationship with us in which He frees us from our pain and sorrow and replaces it with joy and hope.

Now, isn’t that much better than empty religion??

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The Gift of a Transformed Life

Serge LeClerc feared neither man nor God. His heart was cold and it was hard. Serge was a very important person and he knew it. But Serge didn’t feel important, in fact, he felt a bit like dirt.

Serge was born in an abandoned farm house in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, a product of rape. As a runaway street kid, he spent his youth in the inner city of Toronto. As the leader of Toronto’s largest gang, he excelled in the art of fighting, extortion, robbery, and drug running. Beginning in juvenile custody at the age of 8, he spent much of his youth in and out of jail. He has served a total of 21 years in some of Canada’s toughest prisons. He ruled over drug rings that generated more than 130 million dollars a year for himself and his counterparts. Yes, Serge was a feared and respected drug lord with ties to some of the most notorious criminals in North America. He was a barracuda and he took what he wanted, when he wanted it.

You see, Serge was not just an an important person, he was also an important prisoner. Classified as one of the most violent men in the Canadian penitentiary system, Serge was in a super maximum security prison again doing hard time for a $40 million drug bust. After a Christian chaplain told him that he had to make a choice, either he was basically an animal that walked on two legs or he was a person made in the image of God and that he was designed to be a child of God and not an animal, Serge began to think about the mess he had made of his life. When he witnessed a 19 year boy commit suicide in the cell beside him and who had put himself in that prison cell for buying drugs that came from Serge’s laboratories it all struck home. That started a search within his heart for God that led to him getting a bible and studying it. At 2 AM one night in a cold and lonely cell, Serge knelt on that concrete floor and cried out to God to forgive him and change him. And change him God did!

Serge has since graduated from the University of Waterloo with double honors degrees in sociology and social work, achieving marks in the top three percent of 6000 students. He became one of the top speakers for Crime Stoppers International and worked closely with police chiefs across North America. He has spoken to over three million young people in schools alone about the terrible evils of drugs and alcohol. He has founded ministries that work with battered women and street children and began the first chapter of Prison Fellowship Canada working with juveniles. In the year 2000 Serge LeClerc, a former national organized crime figure, received a precedent setting national pardon that required an act of legislation from the federal government. It was police chiefs and RCMP officials across Canada who petitioned the federal government and told them truly that Serge LeClerc was a changed man. Serge now serves as an elected member of the Saskatchewan provincial legislature and has gone from a law breaker to a law maker! Hallelujah!

You can visit his web site here.

Friends, what happened to Serge LeClerc? What caused this transformation in a man caught up in a prison system and lifestyle that more often than not destroys men rather than change them, let alone take them to where Serge is today?

The bible tells us in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”. Serge was in bondage to sin and could not escape whether he wanted to or not. But in repentance and surrender, he called out to a God who is mightier than all of Serge’s tormentors. The Lord changed Serge from the tips of his toes to the top of his head.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Salvation is the gift of God through repentance and surrender. A new life awaits those who believe and trust in Christ Jesus. Serge can attest to that…

The deepest need of men is not food and clothing and shelter, important as they are. It is God. We have mistaken the nature of poverty, and thought it was economic poverty. No, it is poverty of soul, deprivation of God’s recreating, loving peace. Peer into poverty and see if we are really getting down to the deepest needs, in our economic salvation schemes. These are important. But they lie farther along the road, secondary steps toward world reconstruction. The primary step is a holy life, transformed and radiant in the glory of God.  ~~ Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion ~~

Photo courtesy of SergeTalks.com

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Who’s Family History?

A little girl asked her mother: “How did the human race appear?”

The mother answered: “God made Adam and Eve; they had children; and so was all mankind made.”

Two days later the girl asked her father the same question. The father answered: “Many years ago there were monkeys from which the human race evolved.”

The confused girl returned to her mother and said: “Mum, how is it possible that you told me the human race was created by God, and Dad said they developed from monkeys?”

The mother answered: “Well, Dear, it is very simple. I told you about my side of the family, and your father told you about his.”

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Preach the Real Word – The Road to Freedom

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:2-4 ~

Have you ever had a friend whom you knew was on a collision course with tragedy in their life because of the lifestyle they had chosen? Perhaps they had become deeply involved in drugs or alcohol? You knew that they were persisting in an activity that was sure to lead them to sorrow and misery. Having resolved in your mind to go and talk to them and try to explain that what they are doing will surely lead them to disaster, you meet with them. After having poured out your heart that perhaps you had been down that same road and you know where it leads, you find that they are basically ignoring you. The words you are speaking to them are bouncing like water off a rock. They just don’t want to hear it. What they DO want to hear is that you approve of what they are doing or that at the least you consider it a harmless pastime. They might even want to know that you are willing to go down that same road with them.

You see there are, and always have been, many so called Christians who are in love with their sin. They have fooled themselves into thinking that God loves them “just the way they are”. Have you ever heard that expression before? They think that what they are doing it is alright and they also think that others should not be so self righteous as to think that they have the right to tell them what they should or should not do. The truth of the matter is, the difference between true believers and mere church goers are those that have repented of their sins and those that have not. In this day of post modernism this is indeed the notion in much of Christianity. Let’s face it, in our society the notion is “live and let live” is it not? After all, who am I to tell you what to do or how to behave?

This was the problem in the early church that Timothy had to deal with. The church in Ephesus was adrift in a sea of misconception and error. Paul instructed Timothy to “correct, rebuke and encourage” the congregation; both in season and out of season. He was told to do it when it was fashionable and when it was not. Why did Paul use the terms “Preach the Word” and “correct, rebuke and encourage” in the same breath? Because preaching the Word means just that! The Lord Jesus in the great commission said: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28: 19-20 ~

So what did the Lord Jesus command us to do?  “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” ~ Matt 4:17 ~

My friends, preaching the gospel MEANS preaching repentance. It means preaching the truth of God that all men have sinned, are spiritually dead in their sins and on judgment day will die in their sins at the hands of an angry God. But God in His love, sent His son to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to come and atone for the sins of you and I so that all who REPENT (repentance means turning from our sins and surrendering to the lordship of Jesus Christ) should recieve the gift of the Holy Spirit and be born again into the kingdom of God.

Sadly, the bubble gum gospel that is spewed from pulpits all over North America these days is far removed from the real healing truth of God’s Word. People go to church on Sundays and care little about God on Mondays and we think that is real Christianity. Preachers tell us that we just gotta take the money and run and God will take care of the rest. Friends, the Lord paid the fine on the cross, but He does not expect us to go back out and do it all over again. If we do, we have neither repented of our sins nor have we truly been born again.

Samuel Chadwick, the great English preacher and author once said: “The soul’s safety is in its heat. Truth without enthusiasm, morality without emotion, ritual without soul, are things Christ unsparingly condemned. Destitute of fire, they are nothing more than a godless philosophy, an ethical system, and a superstition.”

The way of the cross for true believers is the way of holiness and surrender to His lordship. He deserves and expects nothing less.

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From Islam to Calvary

Evangelist Asif Hassan

The true story of his salvation experience!

For me it was the end of the world. A little jail cell was all I had to show for my life. By the time I was fifteen I was at the bottom of the barrel looking up. I destroyed everything of value in my life; my mother’s hopes, my family’s confidence in me, and a chance at a respectable future. I made one bad choice after another; alcohol, crude behavior, bad associations, crime, gangs, all of which caused me to break down every surrounding wall of love and affection from those closest to me. I destroyed my reputation, lost my chance to complete my education, and many times felt I had no reason to live.

I was born in a Muslim home. My innocent childhood was affected by two major disappointments. When I was five ears old my parents separated. I was raised by my mother and her family. During my visits to my father’s home, an uncle befriended me and then sexually abused me.

When I was nine years old, I moved to Toronto, Canada. Soon after the relocation, I started school. That is when it all began – the racism! The ridicule! The insults!…..

The cruelty of my peers developed a strong resentment inside of me, which led to retaliation. I got involved in gang warfare, and soon found myself in and out of jail over the next five years. Everything I tried in those dark years, in an effort to find peace and happiness, left me empty and lonely. Criminal activity became a normal part of my life; Breaking and Entering, Assault, Attempted murder, and Possession of Guns and Knives. While serving the sentence for Attempted Murder, which was then reduced to Aggravated Assault, I found myself desperate, abandoned, and lonely in a jail cell. My friends had vanished; my family was tired of me; and I was now alone with no one to turn to … miserable and hopeless!

One day, an uncle who was a Pastor in the USA visited me while I was in jail. He obtained a Gideon Bible from the warden and offered it to me. He told me about Jesus, and left the Gideon Bible for me to read in my cell. I took the Bible from him, and for the first time in my life, began to read it.

I stumbled upon the verse that said “For He looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from heaven the LORD viewed the earth: to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to release those appointed to death.“ (Psalm 102:19-20)

I began to weep. I thought – “God, you can hear me! How could you know me?“ I began to question in my mind; why didn’t God show up earlier in my life? Why didn’t He come to my rescue when I was being abused? Why didn’t He show up before I made a fool of myself and ruined my life? I took the Bible and threw it against the wall. I became very angry at God.

Some time later, I was released on probation, but soon found myself in trouble again with the law. I fled to the United States and stayed with my uncle, the pastor. He constantly told me about Jesus. Many times he asked if I wanted to accept Jesus Christ as my Saviour. My reply was always, “ No, I am a Muslim, Jesus is just a prophet.“

After a short visit, I decided to return to Canada because I could not take anymore of the Christian love, peace, and joy in his home. My uncle drove me to meet my ride back to Toronto. Before I left his vehicle, he asked me again if I wanted to accept Jesus Christ as my Saviour. “ No way!“ was my reply. “I have a life to live“. At that point, it did not matter how hopeless I was – I did not want anything to do with Jesus. To me, He was just a prophet. My uncle asked if he could pray with me before I left for Toronto. I agreed, held his hand and bowed my head.

During his short prayer, a vision appeared to me as clear as day, and almost touchable. In the vision, I saw myself in a downward spiral, moving from prison to prison. At the bottom of the spiral was a dark pit with bars. In the pit it was damp and cold, and there was only enough room for me to stand upright on my knees. I heard myself crying out, “ If someone is out there, please help me!“ At that moment, a hand flowing with brilliance suddenly appeared and reached through the bars, grabbed me and pulled me out of the pit.

The instant the hand touched me; I somehow knew it was Jesus Christ! I had never felt such a touch of mercy and love before in my life. At that moment, my uncle asked again if I wanted to receive Jesus Christ as my Saviour. With tears streaming down my face, I cried out, “Yes! Yes!“

The Sinner’s Prayer

Dear Jesus, if you saved Asif and changed his life, you can change me. I confess my sins to you and I ask for your forgiveness. Please come into my heart and be my Saviour. I believe you died on the cross and rose again for me, and that you are the Son of God. I will turn away from my sins and serve you the rest of my life. Amen.

His testimony can be viewed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bdi_LYM02vQ

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The Happy Slave

“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

~ Exodus 21:2-6 ~

 

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You know, as I reflect back on my past life before I came to know the Lord, I must say though I was (and still am) blessed with a loving family, the inner turmoil I faced on a daily basis ate me alive. I was hurting person who fought an inner daily battle with his demons about almost everything. I was lonely and hated the feeling, I was vengeful and hated the vengeful feelings, when I failed at things I thought I was inept and on and on it went. People would make me mad, life would constantly grind at me and I wondered when this ride would end. Would it be death or would death not bring relief? You know, now that I look back on those times not that long ago, I know I was not unlike everyone else. Deep down, way down in the inner feelings of our hearts and minds where we seldom if ever let people peer, we are all like that. Worry and stress are the biggest killers in society today. We are slaves to the demons of hatred, stress, lust and worry that torture us daily.

The bible knows all about this human trait and speaks of it in Romans 7: 14-25:

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

I came to understand friends, that we in the human race were born into the slavery that arises out of our natural sinful state. It is the normal state of being for the human race.

But we have a redeemer! And that person’s name is Jesus! The Lord God himself came to earth and took on the form of a human as Jesus the Christ and died on a cross to pay the price and redeem us from our torturers.  To set us FREE not only for eternity but even this life on earth!! In the opening scripture we read that the ancient Israelites had a practice given by God. After seven years a slave/servant must be set free. But if the slave decides that they love the master they serve, they can say so and as a sign, the master will pierce the ear of the slave and the slave will be bonded to the master for life.

I am happy to say, friends, that this is the story of yours truly. Jesus has set me free from my war within and has given me a new life. No longer do I battle the demons that once tormented me. I used to hear the scripture “the peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:6-8) and wondered what it was about; now I know.

I have cried out to the Lord to take me as His own and in His mercy He has heard my cry and has pierced my ear. He has changed me into a new creation. It is no longer Michael who lives but Christ that lives within me Galatians 2:19-21. He has set me free and the bible tells us that whomever the Son of God sets free will be free indeed!  John 8:35-37

Do I fuss or fret any more? Very seldom. The storm of my soul has abated to a beautiful breeze on a lazy pond.  I am a happy slave to His peace and righteousness. Every day the Spirit of God reveals to me that I am in His hands and I have NOTHING to worry about.

Praise God! He is the God of my life and the master of my soul!

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All the Fuss Around the “The Shack”

If any of you have not heard of the book titled “The Shack” then good, stop reading, because you are not missing anything.

For those who have, and I would assume that is about 99% of my readers, you have either read it and liked it (a surprising number) or have gotten half way through it and could not take it any more (myself included). I even know of some who are using it as a bible study guide in their small group. The book is one of those wildfire novels that the Christian community wholeheartedly embraces. Indeed, the book had been ranked best seller for ages now. It seems that people are looking for a new version of God instead of the one found in the bible. Hmmm……. where did that come from?

Everyone acknowledges that the book is fiction, but strangely, how many times have I heard a phrase similar to “it broadens our understanding of what God may be like”. Friends, our only understanding of God is found in the Living Word of God which is the bible and only the bible.

 

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The Dangers of a Relevant Church

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food  and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

 

churchOk, I admit it, I do not get this relevancy thing. I am at a loss to understand how those that call themselves Christian, can with all sincerity, tell others that the church must be like the world in order to win the world. What??! Do church leaders honestly think the world is looking for the world in the church? Were we not called OUT of our old way of life? We are called to to live out the gospel wherever we are in the culture we currently live in, not make the gospel relevant to the culture we live in. Let me throw this at you, the only thing relevant at all, IS the gospel. The only truth in this world at all can only be found in Jesus Christ as revealed in the gospels. How is that for relevancy? This is what the world is looking for. Don’t give them straw to eat when there is a banquet there for everyone…

Jesus said we are to be a light to a dying and lost world. If we become like the world where is the light?

Do you want to know what makes the church truly relevant to a dying world that is desperate to know the truth? It is the power of the living Gospel (Hebrews 4:12) and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in your life that makes you truly relevant.

The unfortunate side effect of trying to make the gospel “relevant” and acceptable to modern society is the tendency to water down the gospel to eliminate the words “sin” and “hell” (whoops ! I mean the S and H words).  This notion, that is so thick in evangelicalism today, that somehow we must never offend anyone and if we do we have failed as Christians and the world will turn a deaf ear, goes totally against the words of Jesus himself.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-36: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” Friends, it is the power of the living gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit that speaks to people’s hearts. If we are living a holy transformed life in the midst of the total corruption around us, we WILL offend. Our light WILL be a stumbling block to those who take exception to a holy life. Do not disdain “Holier than Thou”, it IS a commandment in scripture! 1 Peter 1:15 – “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Yes! We must reach the lost (those that are going to hell by the way) No! They will not be inclined to listen to us but that does not negate our duty as ambassadors of the Most High God. And like ambassadors we do NOT have the right to change the message or become like the culture we live in so that we can win that culture. As ambassadors our duty is to deliver a message from the King and that is it. Let’s take a lesson from the failings of the ancient Israelites.

I could go on but I came across a post titled “The Rush to Relevancy is the Road to Ruin”  by Paul Proctor who expressed this concern far better than I can. Have a read here and let me finish with a quote by A. W. Tozer:

“Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society; it is descending to society’s own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender.” ~~ A. W. Tozer ~~

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Do We Prove Christ is Lord by our Lives?

DO_WE_PROVE

I would like to share with you my thoughts and experiences of late. We had a lively discussion last night at our bible study group on the topic of whether it is “normal” for a Christian to continue to sin after they are saved. The sad thing, is that many Christians sincerely believe that it is normal to go on sinning after the holy spirit has entered us and changed us, if indeed we are truly changed. Now we all know that it is impossible to go a day without the enemy tempting us and the daily battle with the  flesh never stops. But the moment the Lord changed our hearts and made us a new creation (do you remember that day?) is the moment He freed us from the power of sin. Christians  can and do still sin but it is of our own free choice and no longer at the whims of the devil.

The bible clearly states in Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” and again in Romans 6: 17-18 “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

The issue is not “is it normal for a Christian to go on sinning?”. The issue, my friends, is repentance or the lack thereof. The Lord changes us and frees us from the bondage of sin when we repent and believe in Him. Our lives become consecrated to Him and we become slaves of righteousness. A slave of righteousness daily surrenders to the lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives. Without that surrender (aka repentance) there is NO FREEDOM from sin.

In closing, please let me share with you a brief message from Greg Musselman with Voice of the Martyrs Canada as published in their July 2008 newsletter.

“I came across a quote recently from William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. Looking ahead to the 20th century, he said, “I am of the opinion that the chief dangers that confront the coming century will be Religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, Forgiveness without Repentance, Salvation without Regeneration, and Politics without God and Heaven without Hell.”

“Forgiveness without Repentance.” In the twenty-six years that I have been a Christian, I have attended many church services where the closing involved an invitation for those who did not have a relationship with Jesus to do so. Everyone is asked to close their eyes so that no one will be embarrassed for raising their hand as they “ask Jesus into their life.” What is often missing is any significant talk about repentance. If mentioned, it is usually done quickly without any real opportunity given to do so. Why are we embarrassed by repentance?

Both Jesus and John the Baptist began their public ministries with the message, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” One Nigerian church leader I met a few years ago distinguished followers of Jesus from mere churchgoers as those who had repented and those who had not.

If we want to be a part of His Kingdom, we must turn away from the sin that has separated us from God. We must admit that it really is sin for which Jesus shed His blood on the cross.” ~ Greg Musselman, Chief Communications Officer, Voice of the Martyrs Canada ~

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An Open Letter to Ministers

fireLeviticus 10:1-5
The Sin of Nadab and Abihu

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,and before all the people I will be honored.'” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary.” So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.”

In the passage above we find an interesting story from Leviticus that we do not often hear. The Lord had led His chosen people, the Israelites, out of Egypt and into the desert. The Exodus story says that there were “about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children” (Exodus 12:37) , or around one million people. These people were in the desert between Egypt and the promised land. In the book of Exodus He lays out very specific commands about how His Tabernacle is to be constructed, what it is to be made of, what items are to be used in it, how these items are to be constructed and with what materials. He then instructs Moses about whom He wants for priests and exactly what these priests are to wear when they are in the holy place. He further stipulates exactly how and what the priests are to do before, during and after they enter the Tabernacle. It could not be said that He did not give them exact instructions on everything concerning the ministry of these priests unto the Most Holy God. It is here that we find what happens when the two sons of Aaron decide that they are going to give to the Lord an offering of their own choosing. These men were ordained priests of God and chosen by God Himself from among the million Israelites. Think of how God had honored these men! However, He had not ordained this offering and as you can see from the above scripture the two men were instantly consumed and burned up by the wrath of the Lord.

So what does this seldom heard story have to do with us today or the ministries we carry on? First let me say this: I am assuming that the Lord has called you to ministry. This ministry that God himself has called you to, the ministry to which He has ordained you and commissioned you to do for Him and unto Him, how many times a day do you carry out your ministry under your own strength and for your own glory? Now it might seem that it is for Him, after all, what would you even be doing this for otherwise? And initially it WAS all for Him but somehow, somewhere, amid the struggles you took it all back. You began to fear that unless you allow your strength to get involved in this struggle it might not be successful.

My friends, are you carrying out your ministries as He has commanded you to do? Are you proclaiming the message that He has called you to proclaim? Are you proclaiming the message that all of mankind is in the bondage of sin and decay and we are fleshly and carnal by nature? We have all broken the laws of God and those that have not repented and turned from their sins and believed in the Lord Jesus will stand before a just God and answer for their wickedness. They will be cast into a lake of fire for eternal torment. But to those who turn from their sins there will be freedom, peace, glory, and eternal salvation to all who believe in the Lord Jesus.

Or are you proclaiming a watered down, feel good, God is all love, “don’t offend them” message that you have concocted? Are you afraid to tell them the truth? Perhaps telling them the truth will mean loosing half of your congregation. Do you think those who will leave really wanted to hear the truth anyway? God has called you from out of the world to proclaim His message of reconciliation. Be faithful to deliver the message exactly as He has given it to us through His word. Do not change it, do not take from it, do not water it down or make it more appealing. Do not offer strange fire unto the Lord.

Luke 9:23-25: “Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”

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The Problem with Today’s Christianity

Deuteronomy 5:11

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”

In Deuteronomy 5:11 we find the third commandment as quoted above. What does this mean? When I was a child we were told that to take the Lord’s name in vain was to swear or curse. Not nice but not exactly what this scripture means. The Lord is telling His people that if they are going to take on or confess the name of the Lord they had better be sure that they have been truly called and ordained and transformed by God Himself. They had better be sure that their hearts beat only for Him, that their thoughts are only for Him, that their love, their longing, their desires are only for Him.

If you have taken on the name of Jesus Christ, if you call yourself a “Christian”, my friend, you had better be sure that your calling is true and the spirit that lives inside of you is from Him otherwise you have broken the third commandment. There is nothing wrong with questioning your calling. The bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”. We must be sure of our calling. Does He dominate your thoughts day and night? Does your heart beat just for Jesus?

The problem is, in today’s church I believe there are many, many people who have heard the Master’s call and because of this they believe they are truly Christian. However, they have never repented of their sins by turning from those sins and surrendering the lordship of their life and heart to Him. So they have never been transformed by the power of His spirit into a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”.  I ask you, where do you hear this anymore in today’s church? Where do you hear about someone being transformed into a new creation? My friends, people don’t repent of their sins anymore because sin and hell is not preached.  “Hell disappeared and no one noticed” wrote Martin Marty an American church historian. People just go on “playing” church thinking all the time they are saved and they just keep getting told that God loves them “just the way they are” and pastors just go on proclaiming peace and love in the midst of turmoil. The prophet Jeremiah said in 6:13-15

“From the least to the greatest,
all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.

They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.

There is no fear of God before their eyes, no repentance of sins, no surrender of Christ’s lordship in their lives, no devotion to prayer, no reverence for the majesty of the King of Kings. They have not been taught any of this by un-Godly leadership who are more afraid of offending man than God. Christianity is just a lifestyle, a “choice” that one makes that includes a good set of morals.

I recently visited a church web site that was akin to viewing a Hollywood promotional. It was so upbeat it was, well, fake. The youth section of the site contained the following promotional blurb:

This year in ________ Ministry, you’ll experience teaching that applies to real life, killer media, music to rock-out to and atmosphere of outrageous energy. There’s no place that makes learning the truth more fun. Skeptical? Where else will you find:

  • wild and friendly competitions
  • live worship and cool music
  • giveaways galore
  • messages that make sense
  • mini-basketball, ping-pong, foosball, air hockey and more
  • dramas and video clips that will make you laugh – and think
  • group discussions with incredible leaders
  • loads of fun and lots of friends

Hmmm………

According to Christianity Today: “The United States is described in mainstream media as largely Christian (between 70 and 80 percent, depending on the study, identify themselves as “Christian”), and compared to the rest of the world, this is certainly the case”. If 70 to 80 percent of America is “Christian”, then it follows that surveys and studies would reflect a Christian bent when it comes to morals and values.

My friend you and I know that America is NOT 70-80% Christian neither in thought or in deed. The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Does that sound like 70-80% of a population? I’m not just picking on America here either; it just happens to be the the one that has the stats.  America  is a typical “modern” country. The point is, the Lord’s name is taken in vain by many people who are on the broad road to destruction. They have not repented and surrendered their lives to God nor are they sincere in their faith.

Let’s compare that to the effect the gospel of Jesus Christ is having in countries such as India, Pakistan, Iran, China, etc. around the world today. Did you know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is on fire around the world today especially in non-Christian countries? Even so, according to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith? David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, and Peter F. Crossing in their “Missiometrics 2008″ report in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (Vol. 32, No. 1: 30) estimate that approximately 175,000 Christians worldwide will have been martyred from mid-2007 to mid-2008. This represents an increase of 1.2% over last year and compares to 160,000 martyrs in mid-2000 and 34,400 at the beginning of the 20th century. If current trends continue, Barrett, Johnson and Crossing estimate that by 2025, an average of 210,000 Christians will be martyred annually. Regardless of this, the gospel of Jesus Christ is flourishing in these countries! The persecution is happening because people are turning away from the false idols and turning to Jesus Christ in droves and finding the forgiveness of sins and freedom that only He can bring. Friends, these people are literally dying so that they might share the gospel with others, it is that important to them. They see the falseness of other religions and they have, at the risk of losing their lives, surrendered to Jesus. God’s love and forgiveness is everything to them! They suffer terrible persecution at the hands of their countrymen by just taking the risk of telling others of the good news of Jesus Christ. Christ is EVERYTHING to them.

Do you see the difference?

My friend, is Christ everything to you? ….   If He isn’t why not? …..

Matthew 7:22-24

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

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One Solitary Life

I came across this quote the other day and it so impressed me that I wanted to share it with you.

You know, in school we learn about the great men of history and how they have influenced this world and we learn about the impact they have had on our thinking and our civilizations. We know all about great men like Albert Einstein or Michelangelo who’s contributions to science have changed the world or Napoleon and how his military genius has provided the groundwork for up and coming military generals or Christopher Columbus who set the stage for the European exploitation of the new world.  Indeed, these are all great men who’s education and social rank stood them well when they needed it.

But no one on earth has ever, ever, impacted society as much as one man. I am talking about a man who’s very birth and life split history square down the middle. Although he never held public office, was never wealthy, he never commanded an army or held no real power over anyone, he impacted the history of this world more than anyone who ever lived. Read on:

“He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant. He grew
up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he
was 30. Then, for three years, he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family
or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never lived in a big
city. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born.
He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no
credentials but himself.

He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against him.
His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to
his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed
to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners
gambled for his garments, the only property he had on earth. When he
was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave, through the pity of a
friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central
figure of the human race. I am well within the mark when I say that
all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed,
all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned
–put together–have not affected the life of man on this earth as
much as that one, solitary life.”

~ James A. Francis – One Solitary Life ~

That man was Jesus Christ and what He said and did will astound you. Friends, if you already written this man off or if you have come to the conclusion that Christians are a bunch of wacko’s, I implore you, do not jump to any conclusions before you have read the account of what this man said and did. Don’t take my word or anyone elses. Get a bible and read the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and make up your mind for yourself and I trust the Holy Spirit will reveal to you what He has revealed to millions of people down through the ages before you – that Jesus Christ was, and is, the Son of God.

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The Biggest Lie of All

“…….He (Satan)  was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” ~ John 8:44 ~

On the the front page of the Bahá’í Faith web site the following paragraph can be found:

“Throughout history, God has revealed Himself to humanity through a series of divine Messengers, whose teachings guide and educate us and provide the basis for the advancement of human society. These Messengers have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Their religions come from the same Source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.” (http://www.bahai.org)

This statement, however enlightening and heart warming as it sounds, cannot be farther from the truth with respect to the teachings of Jesus. The teachings of Jesus did not “guide and educate us and provide the basis for the advancement of human society” nor can it be said that Christianity is even “morality”.  The teachings of Jesus, according to the Lord Jesus Himself, were far more than enlightening statements. They literally changed the world and the course of humanity itself. In John 7:37-39 we read:

“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Jesus was proclaiming that He was Lord and if we believe in Him we will receive the Holy Spirit through which we will receive “streams of living water”. Now that is a far cry from being “guided and educated”.

And therein my friends, can be found the biggest lie of all. It is a lie straight out of the mouth of the devil and a lie that has fooled humanity for thousand of years and taken countless souls down to the pits of hell. The lie is that there are many ways to God. That, if we live a good life, or if we truly seek God by following whatever religion we think is true, that if we do enough good things in this lifetime, when we get to heaven God will throw all the good things we have done on a scale and weigh them against the bad things we did and hopefully we will come out ahead.

The truth  is that Jesus is the ONE and ONLY way to heaven. There is just NO OTHER WAY.  John 14:5-7 tells us:

“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

How many times have I had a conversation about someone who passed away and the other person has said “well, he is in a better place now”. I want to tell you friend, there will be no “better place” for anyone who has not taken Jesus Christ as lord of their life. The bible refers to the Lamb’s Book of Life. It tells us that all who have been born of God, who have believed on the Lord Jesus have had their names written down in this book. On judgment day this book will be opened and if your name is written down in it you will receive eternal life. If it is not, you will be cast into hell. Not your good deeds, or participation in honorable charities, not your love of family or friends, nor your earnest pursuit of God through other religions will not be taken into account. Only through repentance and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, through the transforming power and work of His holy spirit, will you see eternal life.

Jesus Christ was never a mere “moral” teacher, don’t believe it. He was much much more that that. He was, and is, the great I AM, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. The creator of heaven and earth who came down in bodily flesh and took our place on the cross as a propitiation to a holy God for your sin and mine. CS Lewis once wrote:  “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity)

Friends, don’t believe the lie that there are many roads to heaven. The Lord Jesus did not leave that open to us. There is only one road and that is through the Lord Jesus Himself.

“Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”  1 John 2:22-23

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Who’s Your Master?

Years ago I read a book titled “Papillon”. The book was based on the true story of a French man by the name of Henri Charriere (aka Papillon). Papillon lived a life of a petty criminal. He was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in a French penal colony in French Guiana. The book details the agony of his life in the steaming tropical prison and the exhilaration of his numerous escape attempts. Papillon goes into excruciating and lurid detail about life in prison and the days and nights he spent in solitary confinement as punishment for his escape attempts. Many times he tried to escape and each time he was recaptured and thrown back into solitary confinement.

Thinking back on it now, here is the story of a man that, although he was innocent, suffered much for a crime he did not commit. He lived the life of a prisoner and spent each day at the mercy of the guards who determined the daily quality of his very existence. What a miserable life he led!

You know, the bible tells us that all of mankind is also a prisoner to something and although we would dearly love to escape from it, under our own power we cannot. Galatians 3:22 tells us: “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.”

This sinful nature is something we were all born with (read my post titled “Wonderful News!” for more information on the sinful nature). It is because of this sinful nature that the bible calls us enemies of God. Not only does sin alienate us from God, but because it is a part of our very nature, it also enslaves us in its web. You know the old saying that Flip Wilson used to say: “The devil made me do it” was completely unscriptural. The bible tells us that the devil is the temptor, but it is sin, using the commandments of God that we break every day, that puts us to death both physically and spiritually.

Romans 7: 14-25 says:

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

You see friends, we, like Papillon are prisoners.  The difference between us and Papillon is that HE was innocent; we are not. We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. Every day we sin against the living God. How many times have we read in the newspaper of a murderer or arsonist that has been caught and what does he confess to? That he had wished all along that he could quit doing what he was doing but he could not. Something inside him drove him to do the things he did. That something was sin and it lives in all of us until we surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and He cleanses us and sets us free. Of course those are extreme examples, but how about the last time you got mad at someone and told them off then regretted it. Or how about the sin that festers within you that you are too ashamed to tell anyone about? As much as you wish you could stop doing it you cannot. Evey time you make a vow to quit you find yourself regretting that you once again broke that vow so you continue to live with it. Romans 8:13 tells us that if we live according to the sinful nature, we will die.

Friends, the good news is this, I don’t care if you are the acknowledged worst sinner on earth or a confessing Christian, if you are battling with sin in your lives the only thing that can set you free is the power of the Lord Jesus in your life. Jesus said in John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

The Lord is calling us to repent, turn to God and have faith in the Lord Jesus. He calls us to surrender ourselves to Him 100% and nothing less. Then and only then will His holy spirit come in and cleanse us from our sins and free us from its bondage. I can tell you that I have experienced John 8:36 first hand and it is wonderful. As Paul said in Romans 7:25 “thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

I ask the question, who is YOUR master?

Do it now friend, surrender to Him and pray that He will  grant to you the joy and freedom that only the Lord Jesus can give.

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Proclaim it Sister !!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”  ~2 Corinthians 5:17-18~

“Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” ~ John 3:5-6 ~

Talk about changed hearts, have a listen to this young lady. Listen to what the Lord has done in her life. She is not some Jesus “follower”;  she has been born again by the supreme power of the Living God into a new creation. This is what it is all about folks.

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Happy Holidays?? What’s that about?

santaEverywhere you go at this time of year you hear the merry sounds of Christmas. The car radio blares old songs like  “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee or “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms. Postal flyers advertise holiday sales, Santas and colored lights adorn lawns and the inside of shopping malls. People bustle thorugh malls buying presents for friends and family. Sales people smile and wish you “Happy Holidays”. Everywhere the sights and sounds of Christmas fills the air……….or does it?…………??

The story is told of an explorer who journeyed to a far and mysterious land and while there he became lost. When the natives explained the way back, he set out to return to his homeland.  However, he became so enamored with all the wonderful things in this new land, he became sidetracked all over again and spent the rest of his life lost in a foreign land.

For all of us the road back to God  is strewn with a million sidetracks and detours that take us down wrong roads and off the road home. This, friends,  is a trick of the devil. He will put anything in front of us to deceive us into thinking that the road we are on leads us to where we need to go. He goes to great extent to get our attention off the map. All along the way are sideshows, places of interest, tourist traps and hiking trails that lead to nowhere. Without the map of the Word of God, the wayward traveler is hopelessly lost. His destiny is one of eternal separation in a foreign land from the God who calls him home. How sad. However! The good news is that there IS A WAY HOME and that way is through Jesus Christ, the babe in the manger.

The bible says in Matthew 7:12-14 : “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

That narrow gate is Jesus Christ and the narrow road is the life of surrender to His lordship. Do you see it now? We live in a foreign land, a land that is not our home. The bible tells us just that: 1 Peter 1:16-18 . The way home is through Jesus Christ. The problem is that most people are absolutely blinded by all the detours that Satan throws in our face. We cannot see the path through the forest that leads home. In fact, we cannot even see the forest for the trees.

The bible tells us that this world is ruled (with the permission of God) by the devil. The Lord Jesus was born and came into this world 2000 years ago as a babe in a manger. The Lord of all creation came into a hostile foreign land called planet earth. To the sounds of heavenly hosts singing and praising God, he was born a savior to all mankind. Yet the the bible teaches in John 1:11-13 that: “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

So what does all this have to do with our celebration of Christmas? Do not believe for one minute that the devil takes a break at Christmas time. Remember the wayward explorer who forgot how to get home? We are like him. The devil does everything he can to divert our attention away from the road home. And he does it very effectively. The bible says that the devil masquerades as an angel of light. In 2 Corinthians 11:13 we read “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light”. In other words, he tries to divert our attention with people and things that appear good and wholesome. He parades them in front us so that we will take our eyes off Jesus. Now really, I mean Santa Claus, who can find anything wrong with Santa Claus right? Mrs. Claus, the elves, flying reindeer, sleigh rides, Frosty the Snowman, chestnuts roasting on open fires,  mistletoe, Christmas trees, roast turkey, the list goes on and on.

But did you see Jesus, the Saviour of the World in that list? Do you see Him in the myriad of Christmas  decorations this year? Have you ever noticed how the babe in the manger gets mentioned less and less each Christmas? Even the traditional greeting of Merry Christmas has been replaced by “Happy Holidays”. Can someone who has never heard of Jesus Christ pick Him out of all the Christmas activities? Could they glean the Christmas story from our holiday festivities? Our celebration of Christmas has become a travesty. It has become the detour the devil wanted.

Colossians 2:8 tells us to “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Friends, this Christmas, don’t deceive to your children this year with fables such as Santa Claus and elves. This Christmas don”t let anything or anyone but the Lord Jesus Christ have His rightful place in your heart or the hearts of your children. The Lord Jesus came to earth as a babe in a manger and died on a cross for our redemption. His birth is what this season is all about. Let us encourage each other to turn our backs on the imagery and fables that blur the true story of Christmas.

My dear friends, the Lord Jesus is the gate to the road home. Therefore, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” ~ Heb 12:12 ~

Rejoice in His birth this season and thank Him for what He has done for us.

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Why Would a Loving God Allow Death & Suffering?

sinWell my dear friends. It has been a wonderful summer! I promised some time ago that I would write a piece on: “Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?” So here it finally is.

To answer this question, we need to first look at the question why is there death and suffering in the FIRST place? If God is all loving and just, why did He create a world where death and suffering exists? To answer this, we need to step all the way back to the beginning of creation. Let’s look at Genesis 1:1-30. This scripture is an account of the creation of the world and all the living creatures including man that God made. It tells of God forming the earth, the sky, the plants, the animals, and finally man. Notice all through the first chapter of Genesis it mentions that God saw that everything He created “was good”. Finally, after having created everything, including man and animals, verse 31 says “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good”. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.” God was obviously pleased with His creation up to this point.

Now, after creating all the animals of the earth and after creating and blessing man, notice what God says to both man and the animals in verses 29 & 30 (Genesis 1:29-30). He tells them: “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.”

What?!! Man and animals were originally created to be vegetarians? All the animals were created to eat plants for food ?!! Yes, the bible tells us that is how it was originally meant to be. God did not intend for animals to eat each other. God’s intent for this earth was peace even among the animals. What do you mean you ask? Look at the way animals behave today. Sharks rip their prey apart and eat them alive. Lions break the necks of animals by crushing their necks with their powerful jaws and then disembowel and eat them. Mosquitos drill into our flesh and suck our blood and pass viruses on to us.  The world is full of animals being ripped apart by other animals and people killing and eating animals. Do you think this was the way God intended the earth to be? When He created the animals and the earth and then proclaimed in verse 31 that “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good”. Can we really assume that God intended for animals to rip the insides out of each other? Of course he did not. We saw in verse 30 that He gave green plants for the animals to eat. So what caused the change?

Lets jump ahead to Genesis 2. It is here in verse 16 that God tells Adam and Eve that if they eat of the forbidden fruit they will surely die. Now look at Genesis 3. Here they had eaten of the fruit and what did God say? Look at verse 17,

“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’
Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”

The earth and everything in it is under a curse from God. Friends, this radically changed everything on earth. It also radically changed man. What did He tell Adam would happen if they ate of the forbidden fruit? They would what? They would surely “die”. When man disobeyed and choose his own desires over God’s commands he effectively took God off the throne and put himself there instead. When man disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden sin entered this world and infested it. Because of this, God cursed the world and everything in it. That is why animals behave as they do and that is why man behaves as sinfully as he does. We were created by God to live in a world without violence, death and suffering but sin changed everything. So we see that this world, as Ken Hamm with Answers in Genesis web site so eloquently puts it, is really a “broken” world. We live in a world “broken’ by sin. We tell our children, and even we Christians are guilty of this, that this is a beautiful world that God has made, and indeed, there is a remnant of beauty left, but it is a world badly marred by sin.

That is why the Lord tells us in 1 John 2:15-17 :

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, the love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.”

We are told NOT to love this world. Why would we not love this world if, as everyone says, it is a world God made for us to enjoy? Because even though God made it, the world is contaminated by sin and is under a curse. Did you know that death itself is an enemy of God and on judgment day it will be thrown into the lake of fire also? Check out Revelation 20:13-15 Death also came because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience (Genesis 2:16-17).

So now we know why there is death and suffering in the world. The next qustion is why does God allow it? And, adding to this thought, if God is sovereign and all knowing, why did He not foresee this all happening? A prime example (though not the only one) of the answer to this question can be found in the book of Job.

Let’s look at Job. The bible says in Job 1:1-5: “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.”

Here was a “good” man who loved God. He was a man who was wealthy and prosperous and a man who was truly well respected by everyone even God. In other words, Job was not a person who “deserved” to suffer for any wrongs he had done. However, Job, learned that God’s ways are far above our ways and although we live here on this finite rock of a world there are spiritual worlds that we know nothing of but God does. Consider Job 1:6-12:

6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”

8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

12 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.”

Here is an amazing account of Satan coming before God and for whatever reason, arguing with God about Job. In the end, and here is the key folks, for a reason we are not aware of,  the Lord agreed to allow Satan to test Job. Even though Job was blameless before the Lord (verse 8), Satan was allowed to do what he wanted to Job within the boundaries of the Lord’s permission. Reading through the book you will see that Satan destroyed Job’s family, took away his wealth, and destroyed his health. Job was left in ruins sitting in dust and ashes on the verge of death. His “friends” saw what happened to Job and came and urged him to repent of his sins for they thought that somehow what had happened to him must have been the result of some sin in his life. The bulk of the book details the dialog that goes back and forth between Job and his friends about this issue. Finally God intervenes and  chastizes them all for arguing about things they know nothing about. In Job 38:2 the Lord says to Job:  “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?”. You see, neither Job nor his friends knew why these things had happened at all. In his friend’s minds, there must have been logical reason for it. But God’s ways are far above our ways and we are not privy to what happens in the heavenly realms. We ultimately must acknowledge that the Lord has reasons for allowing bad things to happen to us just as He did to Job. At the end of the book when Job tried to justify himself to God, the Lord answered him by asking him if he was there when the Lord made the heavens and the earth? Or did Job know the Laws of Heaven? Did he mark off the earth’s dimensions? Was it he that created it all? In other words who was Job to question God for doing the things he did? In other words did we create it all or did God? Who is the ruler of heaven and earth? is it us or God? Of course we know it is He. In the end Job responds to God in verses 42:1-6:

Then Job replied to the LORD :

2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.

3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’

5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.

6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

You see friends, just as Job found out, we must also acknowledge that there are reasons for why God allows undesirable things to happen in our lives. Reasons for which we are not always aware of. But we must also acknowledge that He knows what is best for us, not ourselves. He is soveriegn and there are things which happen in the heavenly realms that we are not a part of.

Two thousand years ago the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth and died on a cross to atone for our sins so that if we might repent of our sins and believe on Him we will be saved. Did anyone at that time really understand what was happening? No, not even the disciples understood the full magnitude of what He did until after His death. They could not for the life of them understand why their long awaited Messiah had to die. But God had His reasons didn’t He? It was only later that they finally understood. And it is the same for us today, we do not understand because God’s ways are so much higher then our ways. Someday we will understand, until then, we must be like Job and repent before the Lord for putting ourselves on the throne of our lives and thinking that we should be above the suffering others go through. The Lord has a reason for what He allows and we must trust in Him to see us through.

The bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12:

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I stopped those childish ways.12 It is the same with us. Now we see a dim reflection, as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part, but then I will know fully, as God has known me.”

Someday when we are with the Lord in heaven we will see and understand it all clearly. As Paul Harvey used to say at the end of his broadcasts: “now you know the rest of the story”

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Fruitless Fig Trees

If you would like to read an interesting article which is a bang on exposé of many of today’s North American churches, read Mike Ratliff’s article on Fruitless Fig Trees. Click here.

Brother Mike hit the nail on the head with this one.

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The Healing Balm of Repentance

Much talk is heard these days in North American churches of the love of God. We hear that God loves everyone and wants to have a relationship with everyone. God is portrayed as a kind of “Mister Rogers” up in heaven that stands there with open arms and welcomes everyone into heaven. You often hear it said “God loves you just the way you are”. It is also fashionable to speak of Jesus as a “cool” guy who just “loved” people and did not judge them or tell them they are going to hell if they do not repent. Jesus is put forth as a guy that can “help” you with your everyday problems such as drug addiction, alcoholism, lying, hatred, stealing, pornography addictions, etc. Indeed we hear that any Christian that brings up the very mention of repentance or the topic of hell with a non-believer is being judgmental and is putting on a “holier than thou” attitude. The common notion is that people are hurting enough and the last thing they need to hear is someone condemning them.

I agree wholeheartedly that people are hurting enough and the last thing they need to hear is someone condemning them. There, we agree on that. Now, lets look at what the Word of God has to say about all of this.

The bible tells us that man is born sinful and in our sinful state we are slaves to the DEVIL. Please, please folks understand this key point, the bible tells us that we are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. We were born sinners, every last one of us. We have all transgressed the laws of God.

Listen to what Romans 3:10-18 has to say about THE STATE OF mankind:

“As it is written, “There is no one righteous; no, not one. There is no one who understands. There is no one who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside. They have together become unprofitable. There is no one who does good, no, not, so much as one.”
“Their throat is an open tomb. With their tongues they have used deceit.” “The poison of vipers is under their lips;”
“whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood.
Destruction and misery are in their ways.
The way of peace, they haven’t known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

What is the outcome of the sinful nature? That sinful nature that transgresses the laws of God? The bible says that the outcome of sin is DEATH; that is, we are dead in our sins and face an eternal death on judgment day. Romans 6:22-23. We were born in sin and are slaves to sin. We cannot rid ourselves of the sinful nature by our own accord or works. But the good news is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us:

“For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a righteous person someone would even dare to die. But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God’s wrath through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life. Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” ~ Romans 5:6-11 ~

This was done so that we may die to the sinful self, be set free from the bondage of sin and and live a life of freedom in Him. How do we do this? By REPENTING OR TURNING AWAY FROM OUR SINS AND BELIEVING ON AND SURRENDERING TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Make no mistake about it friends, Jesus DID speak of hell many times. In fact, over one in every ten words he spoke mentioned hell. But Jesus did not come into this world to condemn the world but to save it and neither are we to pass condemnation on the world. The passage we all hear taken out of context so often, John 3:16, is followed by these passages:

“For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him. He who believes in him is not judged. He who doesn’t believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light, lest his works would be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be revealed, that they have been done in God.” ~ John 3:17-21~

So, to sum up, we are all sinful, we are slaves to sin, we are all under condemnation because we have transgressed God’s holy laws. Jesus came to free us from the bondage of sin and give us eternal life if we repent and believe on Him. So what does repentance do for us? When we repent of our sins God extends His mercy and grace and forgives us of our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9 ~. You see, friends, there is HEALING in repentance but repentance does not come until the unbeliever is made aware of the fact that they have transgressed against a holy God.

Psalm 19:7 says “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul” (KJV) . What is it that converts the soul? It is the “LAW of the Lord”. Until the unbeliever is made aware of the laws of God and the fact that they have transgressed these laws, they will never be HEALED of their transgressions nor be set free of them. To preach a gospel devoid of sin and repentance is to preach an empty gospel that offers none of Gods healing and forgiveness. That is a gospel devoid of the cross of Christ and straight from hell. Friends, so often we hear that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. That is another lie from hell. When an unbeliever stands before God on judgment day the Lord is not going to strip the sin from him and cast it into hell but save the sinner. No, God is going to cast the sinner into hell. ~ Matthew 10:28 ~ (Jesus speaking by the way)

To close, I would like to relate to you a sad story told in my church last Sunday. A social worker in Chicago who was counseling a female drug addict found out that she was prostituting her two year old to raise money for her drug addiction. The stunned worker asked if the woman had ever gone to church. She replied “No, they would only make me feel worse about this”. This person knew that she was doing wrong. Her conscience was speaking to her that she had broken God’s laws. She knew that by going to church she would come face to face with God’s laws. To those that understand the scriptures it would come as no surprise that she would feel bad. In fact, true believers are a stench in the nostrils of unbelievers… 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 says: “Now thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and reveals through us the sweet aroma of his knowledge in every place. For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God, in those who are saved, and in those who perish; to the one a stench from death to death; to the other a sweet aroma from life to life And who is adequate for these things?”. We in Christ are the stench of death to unbelievers. We cannot get away from that.

Proponents of todays modern empty “gospel” would have stated here that it would have done no good to tell this person, in love, about the gospel of Jesus Christ. To explain to her that because of her sins, she would face a holy God on judgment day and that by repenting and believing on the Lord Jesus she could have forgiveness and healing from her sins. The bias would be in favor of “loving” this person by counseling her and telling her that God loves her and He will forgive her, all she has to do is believe in, and accept, His forgiveness.  Friends, God was already working on her, she knew that what she had done was wrong and her God given conscience was accusing her. All the worker had to do was lead her in a prayer of repentance and salvation. You see, we are called to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in its entirety and when we do that, God will work His supernatural healing in the lives of those that come to Him. That poor woman could have been forgiven, healed and set free from the bondage of her sin that day if the worker had been true to the Lord. What a shame and what a loss that another tormented soul is still in the grips of the devil.

The fruit of repentance is HEALING and a right relationship with the Lord. God calls us to proclaim this. We must NEVER shirk from telling others about the true gospel of Jesus Christ. To do so is to deny the cross of Christ and its saving grace and healing power. Remember, we (all believers) are ALL saved from our sins. We are simply telling the GOOD NEWS.

(all quotations from the World English Bible unless otherwise noted)

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Today’s Smile

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The Joy of Surrender

In our North American age of taking care of business and looking after # 1 does anyone anywhere ever consider that this life we live on this earth is not all about us? Perhaps we were put on this earth for a very different purpose, a purpose that does not revolve around our happiness or the blessings God wants to bestow upon His most favored people.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it is all about God and what he wants to do in us for His glory?? Perhaps that process he wants to do is sanctification; to make a people for Himself holy and sanctified. All believers who have truly repented, confessed their sins and turned to follow Jesus have been sanctified, because Jesus has forgiven all our sins and given us His Holy Spirit to set us apart for His own holy use. The result is an IMMEDIATE degree of holiness manifested in the life of the new believer. The ongoing process of sanctification in our lives is not something God does APART from us. God will NEVER overrides our free will. It is an ongoing process that is fulfilling His intention to make us perfect as Jesus is perfect. As a believer is sanctified by cooperating with the Holy Spirit, he moves progressively onwards to perfection. BUT…you will never progress if you do not SUBMIT to the Lord Jesus Christ’s authority in your life! If we do not submit to Him in an ongoing daily manner in our lives we are not living for Him and if we are not living for Him we are living for the devil. Jesus said in Mathew 6:24: No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and Mammon.”

The good news is that He give us the ability to overcome sin in our lives by His holy spirit. Romans 6:15-18 says: What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

The way of the cross is a life of abiding in Him in submission and obedience to His purposes in our life. He gives His holy spirit who puts in us the desire to do what is right and then to help us to do it. Apart from Him, though, we will fail miserably. What a beautiful God we serve!!

The way of the cross is not mentioned hardly ever anymore but I will tell you this: our Lord said in Matthew 16:24 “”If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” We cannot live for the world and live for Him too. He will not allow that. Either HE is lord of our life or the enemy is lord of our lives. The proof is in the lives we lead.

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Do you Believe in Vain?

I would like to share some thoughts with you that the Lord has been putting on my heart. I listened to an excellent sermon on repentance by Dr. Charles Stanley on television a few Sunday nights ago that really made me really think about the state of our hearts in relationship to a holy and righteous God. I want to tell you that no amount of Christian fellowship, service in the church, motivational seminars, or attendance at church on Sundays will EVER substitute for the clean heart that the Lord DEMANDS of us. The Lord God is holy and he demands that of us. Holiness comes from a pure and clean heart that is repentant, contrite and obedient before the Lord.

“as children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance, but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy; for I am holy.” ~1 Peter 1:14-16 ~

Friends, in Matthew 22:37 the Lord tells us that first and greatest commandment is to love Him with all our hearts and with all our soul and with all our mind. “Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. Does your God consume your thoughts day and night? Do you go to sleep at night thinking about Him and wake up in the morning thinking about Him? In 119:97 the psalmist writes: “How I love your law! It is my meditation all day.”

If you are not living a life that is devoted to God, a life that is on fire for Him, you need to be seeking the Lord in prayer. You need to be asking Him to change your heart; to bring you into a life that is truly a life of salvation devoted and walking with Him. The word of God tells us to examine ourselves, to ascertain if indeed we are truly saved. “Test your own selves, whether you are in the faith. Test your own selves. Or don’t you know as to your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you are disqualified.” ~ 2 Corinthians 13:5 ~.

So what are the tests we must do to determine if our salvation is true? Jesus told us that we can determine a true disciple of God by their “fruit”. “By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit. A good tree can’t produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.” ~ Matthew 7:16-20 ~. The fruit Jesus was speaking of is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). There are plenty of people out there walking around assuming they are saved because they said the “sinners prayer” but if their life and attitude does not reflect the supernatural transformation that only God can work upon a believer’s heart. They still lie, they still gossip, they still murder people with their hateful thoughts, they still look lustfully, they are still greedy, etc. Know any Christians like that? Are you like that?

If, having taken the name of Jesus, you examine yourself and do not find the fruit of the spirit in your life you need to question if indeed you are truly saved. You see, we have been told that we can “make a decision for Jesus” and we will be saved, however, it is more than a simple prayer. It is repentance and a turning away from our evil nature and doing the will of our Father. When we do this, HE chooses to perform the work to transform our heart. If we do not truly repent and turn from our wicked ways God will not perform His mighty work in our lives. If you do not have the fruit of the spirit abundantly in your life you need to be truly alarmed and you need to spend time upon your knees seeking God and asking Him to save you and perform a supernatural change in your life. Paul Washer the American evangelist writes: “The question we should ask ourselves is not “have I said the sinner’s prayer or invited Jesus into my heart?” but, has God done such a mighty work in my life that the sin I once loved I now hate?” Remember this, YOU CANNOT DO THIS ON YOUR OWN POWER! You cannot make a decision to live a godly life. No matter what all these motivational speakers and preachers tell you, only God can change your heart and make you a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). A thorn bush cannot decide to become an apple tree. It is a thorn bush and always will be a thorn bush unless God makes it otherwise. It is just not possible but God CAN make the change. Ask Him, beg Him, on your knees, today, to change your heart. My friends, I was a thorn bush for 23 years and thought I was an apple tree. It was not until I truly repented and sought Him on my knees day after day that He changed my heart and showed me the true Christian life and it is truly wonderful!

Jesus said that unless we repent we will PERISH. We are born sinful by nature and it is this sinful nature that separates us from the Lord. These are not attractive words that people like to hear, they do not make us feel good about ourselves, but that is the truth my friends. Without the salvation of our Lord Jesus we WILL perish in hell. Don’t think for one minute that because you are going to church and trying to live a good life or even because you have said the sinner’s prayer that you will spend eternity in heaven with God and you will not be thrown into hell. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus tells us that we might profess to know God and we might do mighty works, God must know us also. He must know you intimately as a groom knows his bride. We must come before Him in prayer and seek Him and open our hearts to Him daily. Do you see why prayer is SO important?

If the person I have described is you, I have nothing to gain by telling you that you might not be saved and are bound for hell. But a true friend tells you the truth and does not avoid telling you something that you might not want to hear for fear of rejection. Jesus Christ cannot be your Saviour without being your Lord also and if He is your Lord, He is by very definition the King of your life. Is this true for you? NOW is the day of the Lord’s favor; tomorrow may be too late.

“Working together, we entreat also that you not receive the grace of God in vain, for he says, “At an acceptable time I listened to you, in a day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.” ~ 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 ~

May His rich blessings find you on your knees before a Holy God.

(all scripture quotations taken from the World English Bible WEB)

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The Joy of Prayer

The Joy of Prayer

A while ago we did a devotion on prayer and I was thinking about it lately. The apostle Paul tells us the secret of the deeper life that we as Christians should have in Christ. Dig downward first, and become grounded and settled in Christ

(Colossians 1:23). Send the taproot of your Christian faith down deep into Him, as the great oak sends its root into the heart of the earth. Storms may beat against the solid oak, but it stands fast, for it is rooted deep.

Have you ever heard of a bonsai tree? The Japanese have a way of cutting the taproot of trees from the forest and confining them in miniature gardens and flower pots. These little trees are called bonsai trees The tree gains its life from the little surface roots and only grows to a few feet in height. When our Christian life is stunted it is for much the same reason. We do not send our roots down into His soil to draw in the living water that He offers to us. The water is there waiting for us to draw upon but it is we that must seek it. Every Christian life is stunted until it puts its taproot into God and begins to draw on Him. How do we do this? By prayer, my friends…. Isaiah 55:6 says ” Seek Yahweh while he may be found; call you on him while he is near:”

The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men…Men of prayer.” ~~ E. M. Bounds ~~

(scripture taken from World English Bible – WEB)

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Showing the Love of Jesus

Showing the Love of Jesus

We hear it said often that we need to “show the love of Jesus” or we need to “be Jesus to others”. Ok, so how did Jesus love people? How will people see Jesus in us?

Let me give you this example: if we were to see a dilapidated but occupied house on fire, would we perceive this as an opportunity to “show the love of Jesus” by offering to help fix up their dwelling? Or… would we run up, quickly tell them of the danger they are in, and offer to guide them away from certain death? How could we best show love to this person? I am sure you would say we should run in quickly and warn the occupants to flee for their lives!

Too often these days we are so concerned with loving a person by meeting their needs and hoping by some chance they might get a glimpse of Christian love oozing from us that we forget that these same dear souls are bound for hell unless we warn them of the imminent danger they are in. What if that person dies in that house before we could have, but didn’t, tell them to flee?

The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ was meant to be shared, not kept within us for fear that it might offend. My friends THAT is how Jesus loved us. He withstood the wrath of people who did not want to hear that they must repent and believe. He was obedient to the Father even to death. He cared so much that he paid the price to save us from our imminent danger and called us to repentance and holiness. John 3:16-18 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him. He who believes in him is not judged. He who doesn’t believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.”

Sin infested the world in the Garden of Eden and all humanity stands condemned before a Holy God. Jesus did not come into the world to further condemn the world but to save it. He came to save it because it is ALREADY condemned. Jesus has called us to share this good news with a world that does not necessarily want to hear it, indeed, at times is even hostile toward it. Men do not always want to hear that they are sinful and must repent before almighty God. They do not want to hear that Jesus is the only way to the Father. But the good news is that if they repent and believe they will be saved, redeemed and restored to a righteous life with God. The good news is that they can have eternal life. We have been called to bring the good news that Jesus paid the price of our sins for us. If we are unwilling to take up our cross and follow Jesus He has said we are not worthy of Him. (Matt 10:38)

Now, my friends, are we willing to love others as Jesus loved them? Are we willing to imitate Jesus?

Our quote for the day: “Regardless of what the status-quo and lukewarm want YOU to be and do, know this: Your playing ‘small’ doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.” ~~ unknown ~~

(Scripture taken from the World English Bible – WEB)

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The Holiness of God

“For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification

1 Thessalonians 4:7

The biblical terms “sanctify” and “sanctification” are from the same word family as “holy” and “holiness.” The rich tapestry of the biblical language of holiness contains but one single golden strand woven throughout: the absolute sinlessness and transcendent purity of God the Holy Trinity.

This holiness is also expected of His people. What??!!! You might exclaim. How is this possible? Is it not pretentious to assume that we can be holy?? Is it not presuming the impossible that we, who are sinners saved by grace, who live in an imperfect fleshy body, who sin daily, is it not impossible to be holy?? In fact, in the shallowness of today’s modern church, it is almost an offense to mention that we should try to come anywhere near to being holy. Who can remember an instance when someone has been accused of being “holier than thou”.. In fact God tells us many times in His word to be holy. “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior.” – 1 Peter 1:15

A search of the word “holy” reveals 532 times where the Lord mentions it in scripture. So if it is so important to the Christian life, why does it not seem to be a priority in modern evangelical Christianity today? And what does it mean to be holy? Let’s tackle this a question at a time.

So if it is so important to the Christian life, why does it not seem to be a priority in Christianity today?

Simply put, the world (the enemy) has infested the church. In an effort to capture the interest of the world by imitating the world, the world has captured and blinded us. We have become unaware of our sin and have become unholy. “You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” – James 4:4. When we cozy up to the world, we are cozying up to the enemy. He blinds us and we become unaware of our sins. We loose sight of the holiness of God and our commandment to be holy just as He is holy. Let us not be fooled, this can happen to Christians!! Read what our Lord said to the church in Sardis:

“And to the angel of the assembly in Sardis write: “He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars says these things: “I know your works, that you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and keep the things that remain, which you were about to throw away, for I have found no works of yours perfected before my God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If therefore you won’t watch, I will come as a thief, and you won’t know what hour I will come upon you. Nevertheless you have a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will be arrayed in white garments, and I will in no way blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” – Revelation 3:1-5

It is sad to say, but the church in Sardis has satellite congregations all around the world today. These are churches that have a reputation of being alive, but are dead.

What does it mean to be holy?

“Now in a large house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of clay. Some are for honor, and some for dishonor. If anyone therefore purges himself from these, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, and suitable for the master’s use, prepared for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 2:20-21

In earlier times there were no toilets. Buckets with lids were used instead of toilets. Paul is referring to a vessel used for “ignoble” dishonorable or disgraceful purposes. That is us when we are contaminated by sin. We are dishonorable and disgraceful. We are told to “cleanse” ourselves and become an “instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master”. How? By acknowledging that we have sinned against a holy God who cannot tolerate sin, and by repenting and turning from our sin. Let us not be like the world, let us shun the world and all of its trappings. Let us repent and flee evil in all of its forms. When we do, we will be obeying His commands and the world will finally see His light in us. Our light will shine in the darkness all around us and the world will see that we are different; we are “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved”. And the Lord in His grace and forgiveness will make us holy and useful to Himself and His purposes.

“For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who don’t know God; that no one should take advantage of and wrong a brother or sister in this matter; because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified. For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. Therefore he who rejects this doesn’t reject man, but God, who has also given his Holy Spirit to you.”- 1Thessalonians 4:3-8

“Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man will see the Lord” – Hebrews 12:14

(Scripture taken from the World English Bible – WEB)

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What is Truth?

“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

John 8:32

Both Pilate and Johnny Cash have something in common, they popularized the question “What is truth?” In this post modern society the question which is the title of this devotion is more relevant than ever, although many these days say it is more irrelevant than ever. Nowadays we hear more and more people, even Christians and pastors, question the validity of the notion of absolute truth as presented in the bible. This is not a new kind of thinking. We are not on the verge of a new reformation where we are becoming more and more enlightened to begin thinking that we must respect every person’s opinion.

After all, we hear, “who are we to say that this is true and that is not?” When the Lord Jesus confirmed in front of Pilate that He was King and He had come into the world to bear witness to the truth, Pilate turned to him and summarily dismissed Him with the comment “What is truth?” and went out and left Him.

We, as devoted followers of Jesus Christ, MUST, not only understand completely what the truth is, but be ready to stand up for it and defend it in light of subjective moralism. The bible says: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” 1 Timothy 4:1. Take heed brothers, we are in the midst of days when the truth of God is being obscured, watered down, and twisted. This is the work of the enemy. The enemy wants people to question the validity of truth as found in the gospels. More and more, open hostility is the reaction to the true gospel. This should not be received with disbelief or skepticism, for the bible tells us: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are dying, but to us who are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18.

Joel Osteen, senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX, the largest church in America today, openly admitted on Larry King Live in an interview titled “Evangelism’s Rising Star”, that he does not believe that unbelievers are lost and that he does not necessarily believe that only those that accept Jesus as Lord and Savior are going to heaven. Apparently he has not read the bible where Jesus says: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” John 14:6. This man, by his refusal to acknowledge the truth of the gospel, is spreading a false gospel and that is of the devil.

This is not an isolated instance of today’s Christian modernity. This is becoming the norm rather than the exception. John MacArthur in his book “Hard to Believe” wrote: “The power of the crucified Christ is the only power of God by which He saves. Salvation comes only through a belief in that gospel, the gospel of Jesus. No gospel, no salvation. The absolute exclusivity of it has always been a shameful, embarrassing inconvenient message to worldly wise sinners, but the truth is non-negotiable.” Presenting the whole gospel has never been easy nor will it ever be the popular thing to do. Jesus told us that.

But do we want to be a blessing to the world? Do we want to be faithful bond servants of the Most High God? Then we need to stand up boldly for the truth of the gospel and Jesus Christ. Our enemy is the father of lies but our Lord is the Father of Truth. Whom shall we stand up for?

Let us bless our fellow man with the whole truth of the gospel. As Proverbs 27:5-6 tells us: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; although the kisses of an enemy are profuse.”

 

Scripture taken from the World English Bible – WEB)

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Are YOU an enemy of the CROSS?

“For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, as the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who think about earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working by which he is able even to subject all things to himself.” – Philippians 3:18-21

Paul is talking about Christians here. In that day and this day also, there are “Christians” who have said the ‘sinners prayer” but have continued to live more or less the same. Or, they continue to battle the sins in their lives and keep praying to the Lord all the while that he will remove it.

Sound like a defeated life to you? It did to Andrew Murray also. Andrew Murray writes, “Many Christians still walk in Old Covenant bondage. Regarding the law as a Divine ordinance for our direction, they consider themselves prepared and fitted by conversion to take up the fulfillment of the law as a natural duty. They know not that, in the New Covenant, the law written in the heart needs an unceasing faith in a Divine power, to enable us by a Divine power to keep it. They cannot understand that it is not to the law, but to a Living Person, that we are now bound, and that our obedience and holiness are only possible, by the unceasing faith in His power ever working in us.”
Andrew Murray, The Two Covenants, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington,
Penn. 19034, p. 40

Simply put, until we surrender to Christ 100% and live BY FAITH in His guidance in our lives, we will ALWAYS live a defeated life. A defeated life is a life surrendered to the flesh instead of the Lord. Until then brothers, according to the bible, we are ENEMYS OF THE CROSS. The covenant life is a life of repentance, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and full surrender and faith. The Lord does not allow us to only go half way. We cannot have Christianity without surrender. Once fully surrendered to Christ, we must believe that He is fully capable of governing our lives. For indeed He is! To try to live our Christian lives through our own reasoning and under our own methods is impossible. We will always live a defeated life.

“The Christian life isn’t difficult–it is impossible. If we don’t know that, we will try to do things ourselves. Faith is not necessary when we think we can do it ourselves. Faith comes along when we realize that we cannot do it on our own.” – Joseph Garlingen

So how do we change from being enemies of the cross to bearers of the cross?

Listen to what Paul says: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.

But if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him; knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no more has dominion over him! For the death that he died, he died to sin one time; but the life that he lives, he lives to God. Thus consider yourselves also to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Therefore don’t let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. Neither present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace.” – Romans 6:1-14

The last word lies with our Lord Jesus: “One of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together. Knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the greatest of all?” Jesus answered, “The greatest is, ‘Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. The second is like this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12: 28-31

(Scripture taken from World English Bible – WEB)


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