What Drives You?

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Proverbs 30:5 (ESV)

Imagine, something is coming at you, something you know you are not going to like. You know you will be disturbed, upset, or even angered after you are forced to encounter it. How do you prepare for it? What is it that drives your reaction?  

Fear? 

Worry?

Faith?

Trust?

This is tough. We all want to avoid the battle and the pain that comes with it but we all know that we cannot escape from all of it. Sometimes in our lives we simply have to endure unpleasant encounters and the resulting consequences. Those are the times in our words and professions prove themselves; it is when the “rubber truly hits the road” and our faith is tested.

You have to believe that this is really difficult for me to even write about because I wrestle with it a great deal. It is what I am coming to call my own personal thorn in the flesh. I fear and I worry far too much about things that I have no control over. But I do have control over what I choose to believe and I do have control over what I say to myself and I do have control over what I ultimately put my trust in.  

I fear and worry about what is happening in our country and in the world. But that fear and worry have no effect on changing that – it only tears me down.  There is what seems to be an overwhelming shift toward evil – even among those who, in my opinion should know better. What once was commonly held as unacceptable – things to avoid and not accept or believe because they are just not right.  These things are being embraced because of the utter lack of reason and thoughtful consideration. Leaders and want-to-be leaders are embracing this change because of the uproar from those advocating the change for their own selfish and sinful passions and greed.

Everyday, there is more and more evidence and examples of Christ haters, God haters speaking out. Whole programs on television are dedicated to pronouncing the the hate of the program host.  It is no longer a matter of stepping aside and letting those who are corrupt in their thinking to pass by in the “live and let live” attitude.  Letting them have their opinion and freedom of speech is not enough any more.  No, that is not far enough anymore. Now, what is demanded that all people actually accept as good and proper what is fundamentally contrary to Christ’s teaching. In fact Christ’s teachings must now be changed so that they show acceptance and not offend those who hate Him.  

If this is not afforded by you or by me, then we must pay the consequences. Those consequences currently are mostly ridicule and scorn and hateful messaging but they will become more. It will become required by law not only to allow but to adopt. It already has been in some cases and standing on the Word of Christ as we believe it will be come unlawful. Those who expose evil and unlawful practices will be silenced by the very courts and legal system that should be holding the lawbreakers accountable. Lawbreakers are using the courts to protect and shield their activities.

But wait.

There is a reason the Word of God is crammed packed with promises and encouragement to not be afraid, to not fear those who can hurt the body but can do nothing to the soul. There is good cause to trust in what God says and be deaf to the accusation and temptations from the devil.

You see, in the final analysis, when the dust has cleared, the last man standing will be the Son of Man who gave his life for all who will believe. He will reconcile His word and His every word has been tested. It has never failed – it always proves to be true.  God is a shield to those who take refuge in Him – His word, His promise, we can count on it no matter what happens. 

Facing Down Sudden Fear

“Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes;” Proverbs 3:25 (NASB)

This blog is not about various bible translations. However, there are times when one version can cause confusion and another or several others can help us understand. 

I hear many who fear what lies ahead for us. Most hope for a revival and a restoration of our society based on Christian principles. I don’t think that going to happen. I think the clock is nearing the Day of Christ. 

What is sudden fear that we are not to be afraid of? – I think it is just what is happening. Suddenly we have things to be afraid of that we have not though of until the last 2-4 years. Things are happening that were unthinkable a very short time ago. 

What is the onslaught of the wicked? – The word “onslaught” carries the idea of an attack and so I think that the verse predicts an attack of or by the wicked. Actually is reverse is more to the point.  

A quick comparison give these two alternate readings and, at least for me, a clearer understanding. 

“Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,” Proverbs 3:25 (ESV)

“Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,” Proverbs 3:25 (NIV)

I have been fighting the effort to go down the path of pointing out where our sudden fear seems to be coming from. But I resist it because what we face now is no different than what others have faced in the past and Christ has made the provision for all of his own to live for ever even if they die.   

As a believer of Jesus Christ we can know that the future, whatever it becomes will never change the promises of our God. What Jesus has promised us will stand forever. Even in the face of death, Christians around the world are finding out that Christ is with them always and if they face death, He is still there as they die for Him. 

Dying for Christ is not shameful and it most certainly is not the end of your life. You may know some who have died as they stood faithful to their Lord and Savior. You may know some who will and it may even get much closer than that to you. Do not be afraid of that sudden fear. Nothing on this earth is more valuable than the life Christ has given to you. At sometime, as in the past, the wicked will face their ruin for their wickedness. At sometime, as in the past, faithful believers will suffer persecution and death because of their faith. The difference is what happens afterward. Stay faithful and true for Christ has promised to welcome all who die in His name. 

The wicked? Not so much. The promise for them wicked is destruction – eternal destruction. 

Stay positive in the Lord. Positive that what you read in His Word is true and focus on it – it brings strength to fight sudden fear. 

What Is With All This Hate?

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:18-19

May I see a show of hands of those who seek to be hated?

No?

None?

I didn’t think so.

None of us want to be hated. We pretty much want to be liked at least, if not loved at most. It’s not going to happen – at least not from this society.  There is a world of people out there and around us and trying to be loved or liked by them just might be one of the most dangerous goals we can set for ourselves.

Do I really have to explain that I am not suggesting we make ourselves unlikable? Do  I really need to say that I am not recommending that we make an effort to be disliked or hated? I hope that is understood.

Oh we can be liked and loved by the world if we want to but the cost is going to be pretty high. You see, all it takes to be hated by the world is to say that we love God and that we believe in Jesus Christ and have received eternal life. If his life is now in us – we are promised that we will be hated once the world finds out. And for a true believer, keeping Christ in us a secret is not our objective.

No wonder we are seeing a dramatic rise of intolerance for Christians and the principles of Christian life in our world today. No longer is persecution happening just “over there” in some country we may never go.  I has moved right here into our own back yard, and front yard and in our living rooms.  Just listen to what is said on the programs and not just a few, many.  Just read comments to posts on websites and on Facebook.  The hate is here because it has been promised.

We are not of this world, we have been chosen out of the world and the world is dead set on hating us because we love Jesus and the world ruler hates Jesus. It is and unacceptable situation to the world that we love Jesus and follow Him.

Where is the comfort in that? What is the remedy?

The comfort comes from the words Jesus spoke just a little earlier than the words he spoke above. “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15:9-10  

And the promise of a Comforter that he had just given and which was fulfilled just a short time later,  “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter), that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17.

Jesus did not pull any punches that last night he had supper and talked with all the disciples – he told them just the way it was going to be and for the past nearly 2000 years the truth of His words has never changed, never been withdrawn and has always been fulfilled.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Then the joy begins because then we began to see the hand of God, keeping his promises.

Trials, tribulation, persecution, hate, scorn, ridicule, even in your face pain and death cannot keep His promises of final redemption and life with Him from being fulfilled.  The challenge for us today here in America as we emerge  from the cocoon of comfortable, acceptable and easy Churchianity is to know the truth and still trust and obey. The world and its message is no place to form your beliefs; it is no place to anchor your soul; it is no place to put your trust.

There  is a very good reason that we are told to not lean on our own understanding – our own understanding comes from the world, a world that hates us. It does not tell us the truth, and it leads us down the wrong path.

It Has Been Granted – Be Thankful and Rejoice.

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake. Philippians 1:29

[This verse stayed on my mind for some time and here is another go at it.] 

Imagine yourself as a merchant in the first century about 50 AD and you live in the city of Philippi. In to your town comes a man who happens to be a Jew but not the kind of Jew you were used to seeing and knowing. This Jew has a message about a person called Jesus the Christ. After listening to him, you come to believe him and began to learn about a new way to live and a new God to worship. Your life changes and you become a part of the Philippian Church – a gathering of those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and God himself.

This travelling Jew is named Paul and he claims to be an Apostle of Jesus. One day he travels on with his message to other towns but you keep in touch through messages and letters. One day a letter arrives from this person Paul and his side-kick Timothy who you have also come to know. Things are tough in this Roman colony town because the only accepted religion and worship is that of the Roman Emperor. But you don’t worship the Emperor because you worship only God, the only true God the Father.

In this letter, Paul writes that he is in prison – but you knew that. That is why your church has sent one of your own to Rome with a care package for Paul. This member of your church has returned with this letter from Paul and Timothy. And the letter is telling you that the suffering you are experiencing is just what has been granted to you. Being a believer in Christ Jesus means that you are suffering for Christ Jesus and that it was intended, granted.

Perhaps you would rather not be granted suffering but here it is, it has been promised and it will be so. And on top of that, you are not supposed to be alarmed because of it. As a believer in Christ Jesus, I am granted the opportunity and likely the certainty that I will be oppressed and suffer because I am a believer.

This is a teaching – a concept that is not wildly understood or even accepted today. Many who call themselves Christian do anything they can to avoid oppression. After all, we do not want to offend others who do not believe as we do. After all we are supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves. After all, we live in a country that gives us the liberty to worship as we choose and without fear.

I mean to tell you today, that is going away. True believers in Christ Jesus will and are beginning to suffer opposition and hate from non-believers. Even from some who claim to be Christian but actually do not serve the Living Christ. Look again at the verse above in context of the verse before and after. (Remember, the books of the Bible were not written in this verse form – they were added later to help the study and teaching of the Word of God.)

“…in no way alarmed by your opponents – which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you and that too, from God. For to you is has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear to be in me.” Philippians 1:28-30

Philippians is a wonderful letter full of encouragement for believers who are facing trials and conflict. As a believer in the second half of the first century, this letter would have been a strong encouragement for you and can be so even today.

It Has Been Granted, It Will Be So

“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,”  Philippians 1:29

Directly out of the first chapter of the letter to the Philippians by the Apostle Paul – the book in the Bible that often is referred to as the “Book of Joy” or “Book of Rejoicing” because Paul writes so much about joy and rejoicing.  But this does not sound like a reason to rejoice. It is not the most pleasant thought – that we have been granted “also to suffer for His sake.” But it is. It will happen and it will likely be happening in our country more and more in the days ahead than has happened in the days past.
We are facing the reality of the blessings of knowing Christ Jesus and our profession of that knowledge will be tested. Christ Jesus is interested in separating out those who profess but do not believe. Those who claim to believe but actually have not come to Him in truth and in repentance seeking His forgiveness. Knowing that this is what we have been granted, just as the believers in Philippi were granted, we can rejoice. To suffer for His sake is a good thing. To suffer is to share is what Christ experienced, it is to identify with our Savior and we can do it because our future is secure. God has already accomplished what concerns us. The good work that he began in us will be perfected – completed – brought to maturity in Christ Jesus. We suffer now for a little while but we live forever with Christ in heaven. There is no balance between the two. This life compared to our life with God in eternity just has no comparison.  So live today with the confidence that we have been lifted out of the suffering we experience and will experience and we have been set in a much better place. It is just a matter of time. Let’s face it for His sake.

We Are But We are Not

“we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

As we approach the end of this calendar year (2015) and the beginning of the next (2016), are you intimidated by the prospect ahead? I know that I am. I struggled every day with fear and worry because of how drastically our culture is changing. What has been comfortable is going away and what is coming in its place is a culture that despises God and all things that honor God.

What changes will take place in 2016 and in one year from now, what changes will be be reflecting upon? The forces of wickedness in this world are building and godly wisdom and reason are being shunted aside. What do we as Christians expect? Remembering again that the disciples of Christ, when he was here on the earth and when he was crucified and died though that it was over. Some actually believed that Christ had failed in His mission and that they had wasted about three years of their lives following Him around. Then, suddenly there is the rumor that Christ has risen from the grave. Some had seen him and others had only heard the story. The followers of Jesus had only the Jewish scriptures, there was no “new” testament available yet to guide them. No wonder they were lost. Even today, we can be confused about the life of Christ and His teaching, His purpose, His call to believe and accept His offer of salvation.

Consider the changes that they faced and were going to face as they are appointed to go into all the world.

What is going to happen in our world? What in your life will change as the evil one gains momentum for the moment? The only one who knows the answer to that question is the one who holds our lives in his hand. I do know that we do not need to fear. God has promised and He will keep His promise. God does not keep His promises because he cannot lie. He does not keep His promises against His will. God keeps His promises because it is His will to do so. And it is His will because that is His character – God loves us. Because of His great love for us, he sacrificed His only begotten Son and sent Him to the cross in our place.

These truths are amazing. They are hard to understand but God gives us the grace and faith so that we can believe them. Believing the truth is not really that hard to understand but it often is that hard to do in the face of trials and testing and persecutions. As a human, it is easier to believe what we think we see than what we know but do not see. I know that I am that way. So I continue to press on and return again and again to the Word of God which is the source of truth revealed. “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Live Even If You Die

The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6

What can man do to me? Good question.

If we think along our normal temporal plane we would say “Man can do a lot to me.” After all, have we not seen the Christians who are beheaded because they would not reject Christ and convert to Islam? Have we not seen the reports of women and children being raped with impunity? Have we not seen those who have be caged and burned alive because they did not agree with the militant Islamists? 

Yes, we have, and it is natural and normal to react to these things with fear.  We fear that this will be us, it will come to our door and sooner rather than later. We fear that our government does not have a plan or strategy to protect us. We fear that we are looking at a future that is in control of the evil one and there is little we can do about it. 

But the Word of God is this; “The Lord is for me; I will not fear;” whatever man can do to me is of little consequence because I am already dead and my life is hidden with Christ in God. This is according to Colossians 3:3.

We either believe that or we do not. 

We either live in the truth of this short verse or we live in fear of what can happen to our physical life. 

Understand this, we can die but we are alive and will yet live even if we die. Dying for those who have found refuge in Christ, for those who have put their trust in God is simply a transition from the temporal to the eternal.  Right now, this very minute every child of God, every one who has received the spirit of adoption as sons and daughters of God possesses a life that cannot end. Nothing can bring it to and end because it is the life of Christ in us – an eternal life. 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

This is truth. “He who believes in Me will live even if he dies…Do your believe this?”

How Far Do You Believe?

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb. Psalm 37:1-2


Do you believe this? 

In view of the increasing violence and acts of terror in our country and the world, is this piece of the Word of God something you can take refuge in? 

I know that it is difficult for me to not fret because of evildoers. First of all I have a black belt of many degrees in fretting.  I don’t find myself being very envious toward wrongdoers – that caution is given for those who wish they could be rich like the wrongdoers are rich. No, that’s not really me. But I do fret the doers of evil, the ones that walk into a concert hall and kill nearly 100 people against whom they have no specific complaint.  

But we know they are coming our way. It is only a matter of time and over that time we will see a progression of evil that will come closer and closer to our safe place. And when it does, no one will care about our hurt feelings and only some will care about the blood shed. 

So now what? What, is that we are not to fret because of evil surrounding us. God’s angels encamps around those who fear Him and rescues them. We can take refuge in God and we can rest in the truth of His promises. Even if we are physically harmed we do not lose what God has given to us. 

Prepare yourself by trusting in the only Word that will not pass away. Prepare yourself by deciding today to believe what God has said. He has said that tribulation and persecution will be part of our lives and he has said that we overwhelmingly conquer through Him. 

Do not look for a life of ease and comfort – not in this world anyway. Look for a safe place within the hands of God and take up the whole armor of God. Be ready to stand firm when the onslaught comes. 

When I am Afraid

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4

November 14, 2015

Where were you on this day? Where were you the day before in the afternoon when the news of the terrorist attacks in Paris came your way? How were you five minutes after you first heard the news compared to before you had heard them?  If you were like many of us, one of the feelings (among many) was probably fear. Fear that that can happen in our country. That has actually happened in our country so you probably did some mental comparisons with 9/11 and a few mass murders in our country.

How about now?  Are you still afraid? Did you do as I did and say something like; “Well, I’m never traveling to Europe, that’s for sure.”?  Maybe you are not afraid, or at least you are not willing to admit it even to yourself. But you realize the when this kind of attack comes closer to home than all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, you may then be afraid.

Fear is a normal reaction. It is expected and even a good thing to a point. It is good to fear evil and it is good to be afraid of danger – to a point.  God allowed us the ability to fear and then he tells us to not be afraid. Over and over again in God’s word we are told to not be afraid. Why? Because He loves us and wants us to love others. His love is perfect and perfect love casts out fear.  So the writer of Psalm 56 says, “when I am afraid this is what I do”.  He puts his trust in God and does not trust his own understanding of things or his own ability to manage the fear.  He praises the word of God. The result is that he understands that whatever man can do to him he will not be afraid but it will not ever, no never result in destruction.  Even if it ends in suffering and death.

If your trust is in God, then the outcome of terrorist attacks when they come will be inconsequential to your eternal state. If you trust God, then the result of persecution for your faith will not result in your perishing. You will live in the care of God because he has promised you that outcome.

Oh Absolutely I Will…or Will Not!

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB)

If anyone was qualified to make this statement based on personal experience, it was certainly Peter. Peter, who had, of his own accord falling down under the attack of the devil and failed to keep his bold promise. Peter had promised in the most explosive terms his unfailing allegiance for Jesus Christ. 

At their last supper together Jesus spoke to Peter about what he (Peter) was going to go through and they had this exchange.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!”  And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” Luke 22:31-34 (NASB) 

Jesus knew. Peter didn’t. Jesus cared. Peter didn’t understand.

The time may come for each of us to be tested just as Peter was and likely we will fail just as Peter did. But we don’t have to.  We will if we try, like Peter to be strong in our own ability. Because, we do not have the ability to stand up to and face the enemy of our soul and the enemy of God on our own effort.

You know, that soft buffer than has kept us comfortable in our country? That soft buffer called “A Christian Nation” which has made us soft. That buffer is gone. It simply is no longer there. Atheists are getting bold and striking out.  Just now we are waking up to the fact that being a Christian, a believer of Jesus Christ actually means some people will hate us and will persecute us and say false and evil things about us because of our faith because we say we believe the words of Jesus Christ.

It is only by the grace and power of God that we will ever be able to respond to the hater of God when we are their mark. It may never get as severe as having to refuse to deny God and risk death but such things are happening and the occurrences will increase. John Piper said in one of his podcasts the following when answering a question of whether one will have the courage to not deny God if threatened with death: Of course this is beyond us. None of us in ourselves will die for Jesus. This is a gift of grace if we are able to trust him and love him in that moment. So pray. That is the main thing here. Pray that you will not be like Peter who boldly said: I will never deny you (Matthew 26:35) and then he fails three times (Matthew 26:75). We need to pray: O God, don’t let me boast as though I could do this. Help me to depend utterly on you. http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/gun-to-your-head-will-you-deny-christ

There is so much in the word of God that can give us the confidence that whatever we may face because of our faith, God is always there. He never leaves us, He never fails us, He never forsakes us or deserts us, He is with us wherever we go and we do not need to be afraid.

Tough assignment but nevertheless absolute truth because it comes from God.