From the Setting of the Sun – It Will Always Rise Again

The setting begins about AD 44-45 and you have just entered adulthood; you are married and have started a family. Someone comes to your city and tells you the Good News and you believe. You become a follower of The Way which teaches that Jesus Christ is God and that he came to earth to live a perfect life, to suffer and be executed for no sin except the sins of the world and to rise again to a new life; and that believing in this Jesus Christ will bring to the believer a new life, an eternal life. You believed and became a child of God. People have begun to call believers such as you, Christians.

Imagine as a believer in Jesus Christ you are living in a nation that has a strange kind of religious freedom. The ruler is considered divine and you can worship your god(s) as long as you also worshiped and offered sacrifices to the official gods of the nation you lived it. The nation coveres a huge amount of land and rules over thousands and thousands of people from diverse origins and groups. Some religions are more tolerated than others but your faith and the religion that grew out of it has been pronounced by your government to be an “illegal superstition,” a crime under the law.

Some accuse people of your faith of practicing cannibalism because you observe the sacrament of Holy Communion. Symbolically eating the flesh and blood of Christ is misunderstood and condemned. This is just one of the fears that the people who do not believe and the government uses these fears to attempt to wipe out all who believe as you believe. Blamed for many things, you have become an enemy of the state just because you believe in Jesus Christ.  There is no public church you can run to for safety. There are no mega churches where you can go and be told that God loves you and will take care of you, and if you support them God will make you rich and all you need to do is just do good for yourself because God wants you to be happy.

In fact, anything that you say to anyone about your faith is likely to be reported to authorities or your neighbors themselves will take up the cause of persecuting you – it is not pretty and it is not easy and it costs a great deal to be a Christian. You and all who believe as you do are challenged each day because not only do you not have a public church, you have to meet in secret. You have no bible to carry with you and no iPhone or tablet with you favorite version of the Bible. In fact the whole Bible does not exist. Imagine how many without the Authorized King James would manage their study. “Biblical scholars” are very few and very far between. Your faith is outlawed and has no standing and no influence on the government. But you are okay and you are at peace. You do not allow anxiety to disrupt your heart and mind because you know in your heart what you believe and you know that God is with you, you’ve been taught his promises. You have decided that living for Jesus and, if necessary, to suffer and die for Him is better than the pagan and godless world around you. The society around you which you left behind when you believed is so perverse – immorality is more common than morality with women abused and used and babies are killed at will when born sometimes left out on the side of the road to die exposed to the elements – especially baby girls.

There is no Moral Majority no Council of Evangelicals, no Focus on the Family around to push an evangelical conservative and religious agenda with the government of  your nation. In fact if you were even to be presented with such a concept it would seem totally absurd and contrary to what you are learning from the small body of believer in your town. They are teaching with help of the Holy Spirit from the Holy Scriptures available, and from the letters and other writings that are circulating around the country among the churches. The disciples of Jesus Christ, now apostles of his message are teaching you how to live in a hostile and violent culture. It is not a safe vocation because some of the government officials see it as illegal activity.  Some of them eventually are arrested, put in prison, tried and put to death for their practice of teaching.  Others are persecuted because the wave upon wave of persecution from the government which is sent throughout the nation. None of these teachers are teaching how to influence the government unless it is through the effort of preaching the Gospel to all including the soldiers. God works through them to save even some of those government employees.

Actually for the next 300 years, those who are followers of The Way, the body of Christian believers which call themselves the Church, experience times of respite and then times of persecution. Depending on who the head of state is, Christians are either hunted or left alone but always, no matter what the circumstances, the message continues to be preached and the body of believers grows in spiritual maturity and strength. Some of the writings that have been circulating become accepted as part of a new portion of scripture. Sometime in the mid 3rd century, around AD 250, what comprised the  Holy Scriptures had been agreed upon by most of the leaders of the Church built on faith in Jesus Christ.

The First Promise and Covenant and now a Second – a Fulfilled Promise and Covenant come together or The Old Testament and a New Testament as we have come to know the complete Bible. By late 4th century – AD 397 – what is the bible we have today is settled by the leaders of the Church. Yet, the ordinary person still does not have a personal copy.  There still is only one version and it is not the KJV.

The first Apostles and evangelists and teachers teach others to be teachers. By the time the last of the first apostles passes from earth to heaven around AD 100, the church has become exactly what Jesus said it would, a force that even the gates of hell could not prevail against. And the gates of hell have been trying to prevail against the Church ever since. The force behind the gates of hell is Satan and his minions of demons – fallen angels with their commitment to destruction of Christ’s followers which is strong but not stronger than faith in Jesus Christ. There have been multiple times and ways that the enemy has successfully damaged the Church leading many off its original mission of going to all nations and making disciples of all people. If there is one tactic that is used more than any other it is to undermine the belief, the faith of the believer. Plant doubt and erode a believers faith and they become easier prey than those who stand firm in the faith and use their belief to counter the lies that come at them from the enemy, Satan. This remains true. The same faith that enabled and empowered believers in AD 45 or 60 or 90 is ours and just as able to empower us

Over the next 2000 years, the process of spreading the Good News and adding new people who become Followers of the Way into the Church continues and grows and it spreads across the earth. The true Church is always a threat to those in power and so it encounters many times of severe persecution throughout the world. The faithful are given a break from time to time as it was recorded in Acts 9:31, “So the church throughout … enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.” But as long as the true Church spread the message and fulfilled its mission, it posed a threat to the unbelieving world even when the unbelievers are falsely and deceitfully cloaked as the church.

A key element to a continued increase was the times of not always enjoying peace. In fact persecutions have been a part of the process and necessary for the church to grow. When the church enjoys periods of no persecution for too long, it becomes lazy and it loses its way.  It gets involved in becoming part of the power structure and the government and forgets The Way that it is to follow. The season of peace and then tribulation is followed by growth and then again peace and more tribulation and more growth have been happening all over the world in different places at different time. Once in the jungle in Ecuador five followers of The Way lost their lives trying to bring the message of Christ’s love and forgiveness to a people who had never heard the message before. They were speared to death on the beach that served as a landing strip right next to their small airplane. The people they were trying to reach and who killed them ended up accepting the effort came to know the salvation of Jesus Christ as well as many more. The blood of these believers was used by God to reach an unreached people and bring many into the Church.

It is evident that the season of peace and freedom for those who are followers of The Way, or claim to be Christians in America is coming to an end. Religious freedom has been ours for nearly 200 years, for the most part. Over the past 20 years and even more because it began probably 50 years ago, the focus of the organized churches in America has shifted. This has been in response to the shift in our culture as we have disposed of pleasing God as a primary influence and we have turned to pleasing ourselves. We are doing what is right in our own eyes just as the reprobate Children of Israel did over and over again after settling in the Promised Land. And, guess what? We are about to reap in fistfuls the same judgements God sent to his chosen people.

As the church in America, or the American evangelical church has diluted its mission it has effectively and essentially turned away from following Christ’s commandment. In place of what it has turned away from is the effort to save America and the American Way of Life. We hold our freedom given by the Constitution so dear that we overlook what our primary mission is. And we have come to believe that we can’t be followers of  The Way unless we have those freedoms secure and intact.

Not every person or every church by any means but as a corporate organization across America, the church has become mostly apostate, and in some cases cold and dead. Going through the motions and pretending to know the steps, our churches are now more involved in entertainment and helping their congregation feel comfortable than they are in rooting out sin and teaching righteousness and calling sinners to repentance.  Oh and lest we forget singing God Bless America instead of preaching Americans believe and repent and be a Blessing to God.

When our churches should be preparing their congregations for the storm that is coming and in some places already here, they are being negligent. Massive “ministries” are built to reach the world for Christ, or so they say.  Evangelical Christianity is now big business. Radio, TV, Internet, and Email are all employed and books, resource of the month, DVD sets of sermons and lessons are peddled. There is a massive amount of money that must be raised they say. Stand “shoulder to shoulder” in their effort to spread the message – what message?  The honest efforts that have integrity and are accountable to God and are supported by the gifts and offerings of God’s people are lost amid the charlatans and the peddlers.  Money is siphoned off for grandiose demonstration and productions and programs, huge assemblies in key major cities across the nations and ostentatious buildings. What would be the result of honest independent audits of these ministries.  Some are good and do it with a pure heart but many are shills for making the ministers rich.

Many in the American Church find their mission in trying to exert political change. They are working to “turn our country around,” or to “restore family values,” or “stop the slide into the slough” of our culture. They ring the alarm of things that are going wrong but they continue to forget the simple purpose God gave just as he departed to heaven, “make disciples of all nations.” Restoring America’s values is more important than reaching the lost and making disciples. So, they compromise with the world and they let sin slide. Again massive amounts of money are solicited and collected to help the right politicians get elected and when they are elected, they fail to do what they were elected for. Of course, because God is not in that movement for that is not the mission of the Church – evangelical or not.

This result is the reason for this blog. We need to get ready for the result.

The Church cannot correct the state when it needs to correct itself first. Shouting about same-sex marriage as the death of traditional marriage while we have allowed the sanctity of marriage to be eroded and destroyed from our very pulpits is simply an example. If we truly want to restore the family, why are we not equally obsessed, as Christians, with the sin of single parenting, absent fathers, abandoned families? When our Church leaders have for years be excusing their marriage failures as “led by God” how can we be so concerned that two people of the same-sex choose to unite? When a professing Christian has an affair, divorces and then marries again and then has another affair, another divorce, and marries again, and then has a third divorce, and is yet the leader of a church – we as a whole are disgraced. This kind of profession of faith is nothing but a sham with no shame.

No, I am not in favor of same-sex relationships and marriages. I am opposed to that because God is opposed to it.  But I certainly do not see that as more dangerous to our society than the permissive heterosexual activity that has been so rampant within our churches for several generations with the result that our youth have no sense of what God wants of them or what sex was designed for. Co-habitation is so common that it is now considered accepted even by many in the church because we do not want to offend and we do not want to lose those members.  Nothing is said about it and nothing is done about it. God gave marriage and the sexual union as a beautiful model of his relationship with us and for the purpose made clear in Scripture which was never rescinded.

No wonder we have evangelical leaders in our nation endorsing a man who while married to his first wife, hand an affair, divorced her and married his mistress and then had an affair and divorced his second wife and married his second mistress. They endorse a man who opened casinos and established strip shows and clubs in them. They not only endorse but they actually perpetrate a lie about him being a Christian or becoming a Christian when by his own confession has never asked God for forgiveness for anything. These evangelical leaders have endorsed a different gospel and a different requirement for salvation. And yet they remain in their pulpits teaching the Word.

No wonder our country is in such turmoil with such division and we Christians are seeing a new swell of persecution. The world is facing the growth of a religion of evil that teaches hate and killing of all who do not convert to them and yet has no clue how to confront it. Split in as many ways as possible they will appease, accommodate and misunderstand while evil is exercised all around them.   But they will unite in their disdain and hate and active persecution and even eventually will get to killing those who stand for Jesus Christ. That is the course of evil and it is on the rise.

It is time to prepare, strengthen your faith, learn what is really important and worthy of dying for. And be prepared if it comes to that. Remember that the Lord God has said, “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”[Isaiah 41:10] What power and what comfort to know just that and yet he has promised so much more. He has promised eternal life and if you believe now, you already possess a life that will never end. “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]

“It is better to know than to not know,” says Jesse Stone, a character created by Robert B. Parker. I agree. I would rather know that difficult days are coming than to proceed in a dreamy fog of hoping somehow things are going to go back to what they were. They never do. Did we ever get back to the Garden of Eden? Did we ever get back to the days of King Solomon? Did we ever get back to…well, think, is there a time in history, near or far, that we really want to go back to?  We can’t go back in any way and if we could it would be to everything that was there, not just the good stuff.

The world that we started with in this blog was, of course the world dominated by Rome. It did experience, a dramatic shift that changed conditions for Christians from horrible to being much better…for a while.

Constantine became emperor after fighting a civil war in which he had marked his soldiers shields with a Cross. His victory after that led him to become a strong supporter of Christianity. In AD 313, he proclaimed that every person was free “to follow the religion which he chooses.” Under Constantine, Christianity rapidly became the dominant religion. It was not long before it became indistinguishable from the power of the state. Boy O’ Boy, the religious leaders had successfully turned their country around. It was a new day dawning. No longer would the Christians be persecuted and killed for their faith. Great, huh? The hand of God has finally rescued the followers of The Way.

Well, not so fast.

Certainly God was in control because He always is in control. Every King, every Emperor, every Prime Minister, every President is in place only because God allows it.

Just 82 years after Emperor Constantine stopped the state backed persecution of Christian, in AD 395, Emperor Theodosius made Christianity Rome’s new state religion. What happened then? Christians, who had so long been on the defensive, out of love and obedience to the example and teaching of Christ, forgave all and lived happily ever after….NOT. Not a chance. Now with a new power and license from the state as the official religion, Christians turned to attacking the pagan religions. They closed temples and banned sacrifices to pagan gods. They even transformed some pagan celebrations into Christian ones. For example, the church changed the birthday of the sun god on the 25th of December into the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Source for historical references: CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS FOUNDATION / Bill of Rights in Action  / Fall 1997 (13:4) 

Just How Great Can We Make it Again?

How big is God?

No, really, this is a seriously good question to ask. We say we have a Big God but do we really believe it? Do we live as if we believe that God is even beyond big? It is my belief that we do not have in our language a word that is adequate to describe the scope of God because we cannot even possibly conceive of a God as big as He really is. God is so big that he is beyond any comprehension we have. God is size-less. God has no limits, no boundaries and cannot be measured by any method or scale that we do understand. This is truth – God is beyond any limitations we try to put on Him or put Him in.

So then, it is useless for us to try to relegate God in our lives to some obscure place where we can, when we need Him, reach out and pull His Grace and Love into our lives. It is an empty though often practiced method of organizing and compartmentalizing our lives so that we can have “the best of both world.” We do this so that we can remain friends with the world and its system and at the same time pretend that we love God and believe in Him and His Word. God cannot be contained in any way and His Word cannot be rewritten to fit what the world wants.

I believe it is time to acknowledge that God is so very big that he actually ordains everything that happens in our lives including the suffering we experience and will experience.  Whatever trials and whatever sufferings we experience are ordained by God. Everything that comes into our lives is part of all things that God works together for good, even the suffering and pain of illness, loss, and persecution.  It has to be so because if it is not so we have a pretty small God who does not control all things and leaves some things to chance. We do not believe or say “God didn’t have anything to do with that which caused our suffering.” That is not so. God is so Big that he knows and ordains even the suffering we endure.

Everything in our lives is ordained by God. All is permitted by God. Nothing happens independently from the knowledge and will of God.

No, that does not mean everything in our lives is approved by God or designed by God or instigated by God.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” James 1:13

It means that God is so far beyond being Big that nothing passes his attention and if something bad, evil or wicked happens, God knows about it and yes, He allows it.  God does not create the bad, evil or wickedness that comes into our world but he has ordained the world to allow it to exist until that day when all things will be reconciled and put right.

[This is an insightful dialogue about what God has to do with with the ordination of suffering in our lives.]

Turn the coin over and the nations of the world, the mighty nations are nothing. Well, they are less than nothing, if that is possible in our mind to comprehend something less than nothing. “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;” Isaiah 40:15  “All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.” Isaiah 40:17

So, God is bigger than big and we are less than nothing when consequence is considered. All the huff and puff of the nations amount to less than nothing when viewed through the eyes of our God.  So why do we fret so much over what is happening? Why do we cry out and cry for our way of life as it has been? Why do we want back what we think we had?  How far back do we want to go? To 1950, or 1960, or 1970, or 1980? Certainly at least that far back, right? We don’t want to just go back the the America of 2008. Where in history do we want to pick up from where we were because that was “Great” America?

What did we have? Was it of any real significant value?

No. It was not. Not when consequence is considered.  So, with the campaign promise, “Make America Great Again.” What kind of “Great” is it that we are trying to make again?   Yes, we really have to face this question of what kind of “Great” is being promised in the campaign slogan. Your idea of “Great” or the candidates idea of “Great”. Because, this is true, that the “Great”, whatever it is for whoever, will not be a blessing to the ones who are in Christ, those who have Christ in them.

The day has come and is coming when it will be the Greatness of God and not the Greatness of America that has significance and consequence for those who believe in the only true God, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, our Savior.

Do not be deceived and do not forget that if  you have come to the point that you believe in  Jesus Christ and put your faith in his redemptive work as he suffered and died on the cross and in his resurrection to a new life, you are under the promise of suffering, trials and tribulation for His sake.  And that suffering comes at us in many ways. And a way that is developing very quickly in this country because of the influence of evil through Satanic manipulation and unrighteousness is the suffering Christians will experience just because they are Christian. This has begun and it is picking up steam. Christians have lived under the delusion that it is the Constitution of the United States that has given them their religious liberty and therefore they expect the protection of the Constitution to be with us always.  This is not so.

Christians have been embracing the philosophies of the world – those that even are contrary to the never changing Word of God – and the result is that their perspective of the world and their understanding of their purpose has morphed into attitudes and beliefs that promote not the Word of God but the attitudes and views perpetuated by anti-God and anti-Christ influences.  The justification for embracing these attitudes are given in high sounding words which sound like something God would agree with except God has already disagreed with them and called them an abomination.

If we were to list the attitudes that embrace wickedness more than righteousness, it would be nearly endless. Each of us can know in our own hearts what they are if we want to. Since suffering for Christ is going to be in our lives we might be wise to be sure we are suffering for what is righteousness and not for what is wickedness. “The righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.” Ezekiel 18:20b.

 

Surely is Most Assuridly

‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10

When facing a serious challenge how confident can you be that God is there with you and that He is ready, willing, and able to help you?  Our challenges come at us at anytime from anywhere and most often without giving us the time we need to prepare for them. They come in a variety of severity. They may be financial, physical, mental, emotional, or a combination of any or all at one time.

The challenges that I face – well let us call them what they are, the trials and testing that I face tend to leave me in a state of disorder and I do just exactly what God has told me not to do, I spend a great amount of time anxiously looking about me trying to find our where it came from. I want to know and understand why – even though I have been instructed to no lean on my own understanding. I want to know what I can do to ease the pain or the confusion or the depression that sets in on me. Isaiah 41:10 is a verse that I look to every day,  every morning. I use it to remind myself of something I should never forget. I never need to fear because God is with me. He is my God and He promises to strengthen me according to His word.

God, however, knows me and the weaknesses and the limitations I have and so he underscores his promise with the word “surely” twice.  He will most assuredly help me after strengthening me. I have no cause, no reason to not believe that all the help I need to walk through this day will be there from God – even if I do not feel it, I know it is there. And, even more he stresses that he will assuredly uphold me with His righteous right hand. Wow! Why then do I doubt that my challenges are surmountable?  Why do I view my self as defeated when the Almighty God will strengthen me?

I know the truth even when I do not feel the truth. This world is in a downward spiral morally and spiritually and people who govern and people who influence policy have turned their back on God even though the still call out His name as if they know Him. Surely, God will help us, surely He will uphold us with His righteous right hand because he has said it. God cannot promise something that He will every fail to accomplish. The very nature of God is pure perfection according to His own will.

Today, I choose to believe that he will surely be all that I need and all that I need will be supplied according to His riches in Christ Jesus. No matter what is happening in the world or in my life or in my body, God is my strength and my song and He has become my salvation.

We Need One Another

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-26 (NASB)

A frequent response to the question about whether attending an assembly of believers on a regular basis is necessary is that one does not need to attend a “church” in order to be a Christian. Yes, that is true. Being a Christian, a Christ believer and follower who is saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and has the life of the risen Christ within them, does not require regular attendance at a gathering of believers. It does not require attendance in any way. Mostly because a true believer cannot not be apart from the church since he or she is a part of the church wherever they are. So, why does the writer of the book of Hebrews say that we should not forsake out own assembling together?

Think about it.

Why was this instruction given to us?

First, let us agree that creating a “new law” or invoking some “old law” we have lived under is not to anyone’s benefit. We do not need to re-energize any legalistic system of equating spiritual life with simply the act of regular church attendance. No – such systems are bondage and we are seeking freedom in Christ and to know why this instruction is given to us because it was not given to become a law over us.

Gathering together around the common belief that we are saved by grace has merit to such a degree that we are instructed to do so no matter how we have rationalized or reconciled our non-attendance. We gather because we need one another for encouragement, for stimulation toward love and good deeds. Can we do that by ourselves? If conditions exist where there is no possibility to gather with like-minded believers, God is faithful and still meets our needs. But where we can come together and support and share with one another, we should because we are humans and humans need this kind of support. We were not created to be solitary.

There is much that can be explored about this but today, the point is really to emphasize the one reason we really do need one another.

You see the day drawing near.

What day is that?

For believers in our day and time, there is a day coming (and it is already here for some believers) when we will be tested – our faith will be tested and we need to be ready to give an account of why we believe. We need to be strong and courageous and not tremble or be afraid. We need to be ready because Jesus promised that in this life there would be tribulation, trials, and testing. That if they persecuted Him, they will persecute us. Some will face the prospect of death because we believe. Some will lose family, some will lose businesses. Most certainly we are in a time when Christians in our country (USA) are losing the rights of religious freedom – to believe, act, speak, and operate our businesses guided by our faith. We need to be about the business of supporting one another.

The enemy of our souls is capturing the attention and affections more and more of those who hate God and despise Jesus Christ. A political movement in the guise of a religion has cloaked itself in lies about it’s mission of peace while flagrantly killing, raping, and destroying the lives innocent people. The leaders of our country in both parties seem more complicit than alarmed. We seem to have learned nothing from history of despots and evil dictators who practiced genocide. Appeasement and accommodation is again the word of the day.

Even good Christians are confused and in an effort to show the love of God they are influenced by the calls for “compassion” and “equality.” Believers are blinded by the world’s reasoning which stands in direct contrast to the Word of God and they try to find common ground which does not exist between our one true God of love and the false god of hate and violence.

These are not imaginations, these are things happening right now and only a few are standing up for what they believe. And they are paying the price.

We truly need one another at this time as we have always needed each other. We need to be in contact with others who love Jesus and follow the one and only God Almighty.

We need to be on our toes and we need to help each other be aware and alert. We need to be salt and light and that takes a covenant community.

We see the day drawing near for us and at it is even here for some – we need to be able to encourage and get encouragement from one another. We need to be spiritually integrated with each other in the love of Jesus Christ.

This is why God gave us this instruction. We need each other. Do not forsake the gathering of ourselves together to worship, teach, learn and encourage each other in the word of the Lord.

Without Wavering – Don’t Be the Chaff

Today the news in the world is once again full of what the wicked are doing in this world. And it seems like so many who say that they believe in God, in Christ Jesus, and call themselves Christian are being swallowed up by the world’s reasoning.  It also reminds us that to truly believe and to stand up for what the pure Word of God says is going to be too difficult to do without God’s understanding and His grace. A difficult time is coming for all who profess to believe the Word of God and commit to live according to its truth.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised if faithful;” Hebrews 10:23 (NASB)

Now, there is a promise that all the other promised of God can be trusted. The promise that God is faithful is enough because with God there will be no exception. “God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Numbers 23:19 (ESV) The lesson is a simple one, God needs to say or promise something only once and he does not need to promise it over and over in order for it to be worthy of trust.  This is true of every promise.  However, the Word of God is full of repeated instances of God making the same promises. Why? If God only needs to say it once, why does he utter some of his promises over and over?

Really the answer is rather simple. The Word of God is a record of God’s activity and interaction with his creation – us.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”  John 1:1-3 (ESV) We are a part of the things that were made by the Word who is God. As God, who is not subject to the restrictions of time, interacted and communicated, instructed and corrected, blessed and disciplined His creation, it was necessary to remind us of the truth. We are the ones who forget. We are the ones who wander off from the truth and seek our own way. We are all like sheep who have gone after our own understanding and desire to conform. The Word instructs and we find it difficult so we modify the instruction to fit our time and our culture. We do not want to be offensive so we adapt our thinking. And the result is we believe what makes it easier to live in our world. It may not be true but we convince ourselves that it is true indeed.

We have each sought to go our own way separate from God and He wants to bring us back and remind us of who He is and what He has promised and what He requires of us to do kindness, to love justice and to walk humbly with Him. He does not want us leaning upon the way we understand but to learn His understanding.  Therefore he tells us again and again the He is here. He is with us. He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. He will never desert us. He will always be here to help, to provide and to guide us in the path. That is why we can trust in Him with all our heart and we do not need to lean on our own understanding of what is happening. If we acknowledge this truth, he makes our path straight and if we watch the path of our feet, our ways will be established by Him.

So when the time of our need (which is actually all the time) presses us into remembering that we must turn to God and to what we know He has promised, we can actually and honestly trust what God has already said. If we have not heard it or learned it yet, that is the reason to study and seek God through His word. That is like going to the gym to keep our physical bodies in shape. We need a spiritual and mental gym where we learn and exercise our faith as we learn His promises. He does not need to promise us but one time but he has promised multiple time about many things and we will find those promises throughout the Word of God.

For the days that are coming when our faith will be tested and when the chaff will be blown away and the dead branches thrown out and gathered and cast into the fire to be burnt, we need to know that God is the one who has promised and He is the one who is faithful.

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?”