Wednesday, March 3, 2021

NEW BOOK - "WHEN IS IT TIME TO QUIT?"

 My new book is now available on Amazon as a kindle book or paperback. Here is little information about it.


INTRODUCTION

 

QUIT

release hold of something that was in grasp;

stop, cease or discontinue;

depart from;

give up


One day Jesus gave a strong teaching that caused many of the people to stop following Him. When he asked His disciples if they were going to leave Him, too, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” It seems Peter had thought about the consequences of leaving Jesus. If he asked himself “what then?” that would probably be when he found his answer.

Life can be very difficult. Who hasn’t felt such despair that they wanted to quit? Yet a glimmer of hope in some souls refuses to die. They know that when they are with Jesus, they are in the best situation possible, even with the trials and persecution. When we are tempted to quit, it’s time to fan our flame of hope. We can do that by examining the lives of those who had every earthly reason to give up, but every heavenly reason to keep going. Their secret? Their relationship with Jesus.

Of course, When Is It Time to Quit? is a rhetorical question. We all know it is never time to quit serving God or to give up our faith in Him. But we have probably also felt the temptation to quit many times during the heat of the battle. This book will share some of our common battles as Christians and our common solution. 

The difference in whether we stand or fall lies in one thing that is so simple few will actually do it. It is to increase our faith and spiritual stamina by maintaining a close relationship with God and His Word. It may sound too simplistic, but that is how each of the examples used in the book prevailed in dire circumstances. Their relationship with God was carefully and consistently maintained, giving them the wisdom, courage and faith to come through the toughest of times. They knew God intimately and trusted Him against all odds. To know Him is to trust Him. To trust Him is to share the fellowship of His suffering and the power of His resurrection. Just as plants with the deepest roots are the hardest to blow over or pull up, so people who have an intimate, active relationship with Jesus are those who “withstand in the evil day”.

The Bible explains the stories of the people in the Old Testament and the New Testament were written for “our admonition” and as examples for us. He knew that sometimes we need a pattern we can hold up against our circumstances to show us the way. The Bible is full of examples that were recorded specifically for that reason, and in When Is It Time to Quit? We will explore ten of those biblical examples. They dared to put their trust in God…and won!  



Monday, March 1, 2021

GRACE AND TRUTH

 

“And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) Jesus is Truth. He is the Way and the Life.

             Can you separate God’s grace from His truth? Don’t worry, I’m not going to delve into a theological debate bringing up all kinds of proof for one side or another, but I have seen that they go hand-in-hand. They work together to bring us wholeness and peace with God. Together they teach us to understand sin and all of its destructive power. And together they lead us to repentance and a change of heart that sets us free as never before. By grace and truth, we can enjoy the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, changing us into the image of Christ.

            Once we have become a new creation in Christ and have understanding of His grace and truth, how are we to live in this world? It is a world that is ungrateful, angry, full of rage, bitterness, unforgiveness, slander, violence - and the list could go on. The fact is we live in perilous times. And if we are not careful, we can very easily get pulled into this world’s rage, bitterness and unforgiveness.

But is the answer to our dilemma to return evil for evil? Scripture tells us it is not the answer. That would only add to the chaos around us. The Word of God tells us vengeance belongs to God. He will repay, and we don’t have to defend ourselves.

So, how are God’s people supposed to act and respond to a world in chaos? The answer to that question is two-fold – Grace and Truth. We are to remember to walk in grace and truth and extend it to others. Christ’s followers are to have no part in any ungodly behavior, regardless of what others do. We are to be people of peace, not confusion or evil.

Ephesians 4:31-32 teaches us to do this. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” Let’s break it down and see what that means to us individually.

·         We are to be kind, treating others the way we want to be treated. I think most people want to be treated fairly and with respect and understanding.

·         Then we are to be tender-hearted, not cold and callous to the needs of others, but looking beneath the surface of the anger and seeing the real problem. If we were in their position, we might be angry too. We need to refrain from jumping to conclusions about a person until we know the whole truth.

·         Forgiving one another - We all need forgiveness from time to time. It’s easier to see what we have done wrong as a mistake that needs to be forgiven than it is to see it that way when someone’s “mistake” was against us. Even if they do something willfully against us, we need to pray for them and forgive them. The Scripture tells us to even pray for those who despitefully use us. That may seem hard, but it is God’s way, and He will help us to do it.

·         So, why are we to be loving and forgiving? That’s simple. Because God has forgiven us. We don’t deserve it, but He loves us enough to forgive us. And He made a way for our redemption through Jesus’ sacrifice. Even when we were completely in sin, Christ loved us enough to die for us. We forgive because we are forgiven. Remember grace and truth.

So, in the middle of all this love, forgiveness, kindness and compassion, does that mean we just accept sin, cover it and say it’s okay? It’s no big deal? Absolutely not!

Jesus never backed down when it came to telling the truth about sin, yet He always extended grace to the sinner. Then it was up to them whether or not they received His grace. Jesus did not condemn people, but He spoke words that would convict them and turn them in the right direction.

Condemnation is a sentence passed on us that leaves us with no recourse – no way out. It’s a ‘done deal’. Conviction is a warning of the sentence that will be passed on us if we do not change our course. Jesus offers us a way out of the trap of sin that enslaves us. We are to offer that same grace to others. That is love.

Thank God for His amazing grace, but we need to remember the grace of God comes hand in hand with His truth. If we don’t share the truth about sin with others, and we just let them stay in their sin without knowing they can be free, we do not truly love them. Love balances grace and truth just like Jesus always does. So, what does that look like for us? How can we balance grace and truth in our relationships?

I think Max Lucado gave some wonderful examples in his book “How Happiness Happens”.

I want to use some of his examples from Scripture along with my own commentary. Each instance is an interaction between Jesus and a person who was living in sin or was still learning about who Jesus really is. They desperately needed grace, but they also needed to know the truth about sin so they could turn from it. Until they clearly saw their sin, they could not receive grace to remove it and walk with Jesus. Max used these examples from Scripture in his book.

In extending His grace to the woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus said, “neither do I condemn you”. He did not pass sentence on her. Yet when He told her to go and sin no more, He acknowledged she had sinned and needed to change her course. That was the truth she needed to hear along with the grace that was offered to her. If she stayed in her sin, His offer of grace would not be effective in her life.

Jesus offered grace to Zacchaeus (who was a cheating tax collector) when He invited Himself to his house. Zacchaeus had climbed a tree so he could see Jesus go by, but Jesus stopped, looked up and told him to come down because He was going to his house that very day. That extension of grace met with truth during Jesus’ visit and prompted Zacchaeus to give half of his belongings to the poor. By hearing the truth, he was convicted to restore what he had taken wrongfully.

It was by grace that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. He took on the duties of a servant. Then He spoke truth to them. He told them to do as He had done to them. He called them to be servants and to drop all pride. They had actually been arguing about who was greatest in the kingdom. Jesus showed them that the greatest was the one who served others.

Jesus extended grace to the woman at the well when He offered her a drink of the everlasting water. He offered her hope from her hopeless life. But she knew that He was aware of the truth about her situation when He told her she had gone through five different husbands and was now living with a man who wasn’t her husband at all. She was overjoyed by the truth that set her free to reach out for grace. She immediately became a bearer of the news that she had found the Messiah.

Jesus never sugar-coated sin and never treated it as acceptable. Because the truth is, sin brings eternal destruction and that is what Jesus came to deliver us from. That is grace. But we also need to know the Truth before we can fully receive grace.

Jesus offers grace to those who will receive - grace to forgive their sins, and grace to help them walk in a new life, free from sin. If you don’t have that grace, you can have it right now. It requires acknowledging your sin. The fact that we are born sinners is the truth. Then ask Jesus to forgive you and cleanse you from your sin. He will do it if you really mean it. Then surrender your life to walk His way. You can receive His grace. You can be free!

There will come a day when final judgment will be passed on every soul. Those who have not received Jesus will be condemned for eternity. Those who have received Him will be with Him in His kingdom for eternity. But now we are in the day of His great grace. Jesus said He did not come to condemn, but to make a way for every person to come to Him and be saved. Learn the truth and receive His grace so that you can be free to enter the kingdom of God forever. Read the Word of God and ask Him to show you the Truth. He is extending His Grace and Truth to you right now.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

ENCOUNTERS

 


            Have you ever had an encounter with God? If you are a born-again follower of Jesus Christ you have. No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them to Him. But there are other types of encounters with the Lord, too. Encounters that call us for service, direct us in God’s ways, cleanse us from sins, or fortify our confidence in Jesus.

            Abraham lived with his family of idol worshipers in Ur when he had his first encounter with the Lord God.  The Lord spoke to him and called him away from his home, the idols and his family to follow the true God to a place He would show him. We are not told how God spoke to Abraham, simply that He did. It was a tremendous step of faith for Abraham to believe God and follow Him. But he did it by faith and God counted it to him as righteousness. Abraham’s faith in God was the beginning of the generations that would produce the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. And now those who believe in Jesus receive the power to become the sons of God. It is by faith. Our belief leads us to follow Jesus and leave this world behind, living in the kingdom of God even though we are still physically residents of this earth. Through Abraham all nations are blessed with the opportunity to be born again.

Isaiah encountered God in a spectacular way when King Uzziah died. Uzziah had been a godly influence for most of his reign and was king of Israel for about 50 years. Isaiah entered the temple after Uzziah’s death and he saw the Lord on His throne. It was a magnificent sight. The earthly king had succumbed to death, but the King of kings was and is still alive and in control. Isaiah witnessed the glory of God, His might, power, wisdom and splendor. The sight he tried to describe was beyond human description. He recognized that God is pure holiness and is in control of every throne and every nation. Isaiah fell down before the Lord and cried out to Him because he fully sensed his own sin. Any time we encounter God, we see ourselves as we really are, not as we perceive ourselves to be. We may think we are pretty good, but we see how unholy we are in the light of His holiness. Acknowledging our sin is the first step to cleansing. Isaiah’s sins were cleansed and then God asked this question. “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” [speaking of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit]. Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord brought cleansing from sin, and a new level of his ministry as God’s prophet. The earthly king was dead and powerless. God was not! If we want a ministry that brings powerful results, it has nothing to do with our charisma, wisdom or our earthly connections. It has everything to do with the glory of God being seen in us. The more we come into God’s presence, the more of His holiness will shine through us, and the more of the earthly things will fall away.  In His presence we learn His desires and purposes, then we stop pushing our way through life with our own agenda and pursuits. Instead, we say, “Here I am, send me, use me, I will obey”. Then we are on the right track. We are working with God.

            Joshua had an encounter with God as he stood near Jericho. It would be their first city to conquer in taking the land God had promised them. God had already told Joshua to be strong and of good courage, that He would never forsake him. He would be with him. And He was. God had parted the Jordan River just as He did the Red Sea, and all the people went over the Jordan safely just like when Moses was leading them. Why? Because God hadn’t changed. Now it was time for their first battle – Jericho! “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.” If the Lord had said nothing else, Joshua’s strength and courage for battle would have still been fortified, because he had the Lord’s assurance that He was with him. But after that, Joshua received God’s battle plan to conquer Jericho. And the Lord was with them. When we find ourselves in the presence of God, we are voluntarily humbled. His presence brings reverential fear and awe to us. In humbling ourselves before the Lord, trusting Him and obeying what He says rather than taking matters into our own hands, we can have victory even in the middle of our trials because He will never leave us or forsake us. We need to always remember as long as we are following God’s orders, we have with us the Commander of the Lord’s army.

Gideon lived during a trying time for Israel. The children of Israel repeatedly disobeyed the Lord’s commandments, so the Lord allowed Midian to prevail over them for seven years. “Because of the Midianites, the children of Israel made for themselves the dens, the caves, and the strongholds which are in the mountains.” When the Israelites had a crop in the field, the Midianites and the Amalekites would come and destroy all their produce and take all their livestock. They left them with little or no sustenance. “So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord.” God brings judgment on those He loves who know to do right and yet choose evil instead. It really should be no surprise, because He lays out the commandments clearly and also the results of obeying or disobeying. His judgment is not always complete destruction, but is often a time of punishment to turn hearts back to the Lord Who loves them. Israel was in dire straits because of their disobedience to God. After seven years, they finally cried out to Him. In answer to their cries, God sent a deliverer. But this deliverer was not who we would have chosen. When Gideon encountered the Lord, he was hiding in a winepress threshing the little bit of wheat he had gleaned from somewhere. He knew if the Midianites saw him the wheat would be lost. Gideon was disillusioned with the talk of God working miracles for His people in the past. He hadn’t seen a miracle, and they had needed one for seven years. His conclusion from this faulty reasoning was that God had forsaken them. While he continued to thresh the wheat, “the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Clearly Gideon missed that it was the Lord Himself who had just said, “The Lord is with you.” Gideon’s faith seemed to be totally depleted. But here God was, right there beside him, drawing him into the middle of the miracle he didn’t believe in. “Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” So Gideon said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Gideon replies about how weak he is. After all, he was a man hiding from the enemy just to keep from starving. But God said, “Go in this might of yours.” What might? The might of the Lord God. “And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” After patiently giving Gideon several signs and whittling down the army from 32,000 to 300 men, God used Gideon to free Israel from the Midianites. The reason God used so few men was because He didn’t want them claiming they were the victors when it was God Who did it. If God calls you to a task, know that He will enable you and give you His might to accomplish it. You may feel weak and the least likely candidate for His mission, but “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” Believe Him and go in His might to do great things.

            When I was about eleven or twelve, I had an encounter with God on several occasions while sitting in church services. A collage of faces that were not distinguishable would appear toward the front of the church and come closer and closer until they passed through me. Then a collage of buildings in a city would do the same. Neither was distinguishable, but looked like film negatives that you can see but not really see. I told my mother about the visions, but she didn’t have an answer. I thought I must be called to be a missionary. I listened intently to every missionary who came to visit the church, but never felt the call to join them. Step by step I was drawn into other ministries. Singing at church, recording an album, then being asked to do a radio program on the local station. During this time I felt called to begin writing articles and sending them out to those I met during ministry in churches and other venues. I talked to my mother and she asked, “how can you do that? You don’t have the resources.” I began by using the office copier where I worked (with permission) and after just a few of the newsletters had been sent, a machine was donated by a complete stranger, and it was a machine that I was already familiar with. God provided. My parents were with me at a coffee house in another state when Mom heard a man try to give the machine to the coffee house owner, but he didn’t need it. So Mom told him I needed it. We picked it up at his house that same evening with the supplies. I began writing songs, made several albums and went on to work on-air and in production work for a radio network. The Lord spoke to me about producing radio spots that eventually went around the world on several radio stations, shortwave and internet. Later, I was at the flagship station of the network, taking a break with one of the engineers. He knew about the visions and asked if I had discovered what they meant. I told him I had not. He explained that in almost everything about the ministry, it was to people whose faces I did not see, yet they received the ministry. The albums, the newsletter, the radio, the internet, and later television, writing books and a newspaper column. I had been walking out the vision in my life step by step without realizing it was being fulfilled. Although I had not known what the visions were about, I knew God was speaking to me and I was called out for His purposes. So, I had simply followed. Then the vision was made clear. God doesn’t always give us answers right away. Sometimes we just need to know He has called us so we will be available and listening when He gives us directions.

            What about you? Have you had an encounter with God? Has He spoken to you through His Word, by His Spirit or through someone else? How have you responded to your encounter with the Lord God? Do you hear Him calling you now? If so answer His call.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD

 

Every year when I set up my manger scene, I put baby Jesus in the center of the display and all the other figures around Him. I try to make sure they are all facing Him with their attention directly on Jesus. In human terms, He is the smallest and frailest of the group. But in reality, He is the most powerful and the One Who is necessary for our existence, both physically and spiritually. Considering His greatness and love, shouldn’t we always live our lives constantly facing Jesus, giving Him our full attention and recognizing his deity and glory?

            One scripture describes Jesus like this: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” (Isaiah 9:5-7) 

This prophecy was given by Isaiah hundreds of years before Jesus was born. But the message is for us even today. “Unto us a child is born”. That “us” includes you and me. Jesus came into this world as a baby, wrapped in human flesh, yet He was God.

The first chapter of John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Jesus was there at creation speaking the stars into existence and every living thing as He brought order to this earth. He has always existed. Yet He limited Himself to time and space when He took on human flesh to be Emmanuel, God with us. His presence among us and the words He spoke brought life, light and order just as when He spoke everything into being at the Creation. And He can bring wonderful things and order into our lives, too. That is why He came.

Jesus is called the Word because He is the expression of the Father to us. He showed us the Father, and this is how He did it. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

Jesus, the child that was born, was also the Son that was given. There is a song that says “He left the splendor of heaven, knowing His destiny. Was the lonely hill of Golgotha, there He laid down His life for me.” That is love. The greatest love! He bore in His own body the wrath of God against our sins so we can go free.

We are also told that the government is on His shoulders. He is in complete control. There are people on this earth who have great power, and they think they are controlling things, but they just don’t realize they can do nothing unless God allows it. Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

He is Wonderful. The word wonderful means “a miracle, marvelous”. Jesus’ ways and thoughts are much higher than ours. He is far above human comprehension in every way.

            He is also the Counselor. He is all wise, all knowing, and will lead us in paths of righteousness and peace if we will follow Him. He will counsel us with His limitless wisdom.

He is the Mighty God. In being the expression of God, He showed His power and authority clearly through His words, His deeds and all the miracles He performed while He was in human flesh.

He is the Everlasting Father. He will never leave us and His love and care are always with us.

He is the Prince of Peace. Jesus came to bring peace between us and the Father, to close the gap that was caused by sin. He did that by taking our punishment for us. To those who receive Him, He gives the power to become the sons of God, to as many as believe on His name.

As children of God, we can have peace with God. We can become one with Him and start living in His kingdom now by the Holy Spirit within us and continue our new life uninhibited by the pull of this world after these bodies have died. We can do that because it is a spiritual kingdom. It is the kingdom that Jesus lived in even while here on this earth. He lived in spiritual power, principles, knowledge, holiness and connection to the Father. We can do the same, but we can have this life only through Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

The government of this Prince of Peace will never end! This is the good news of great joy for all people!

 

Jesus is the Child that was born – the Son that was given!

If you haven’t already received Him, do it right now!

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

 

 

Monday, November 23, 2020

“LITTLE BOY BLUE, COME BLOW YOUR HORN”

 

            I knew a doctor who recommended to a mother that her baby have a meningitis vaccine. The vaccine was new at the time. When she asked if there were any side effects, the doctor flippantly said, “none that I know of!” as he walked out the door to prepare the vaccine. It was administered, and the next day the baby was critically ill with all the symptoms of meningitis. He was taken to the doctor’s office and sent immediately to the hospital. The truth was that there were known side effects. The doctor was not a negligent man, nor was he arrogant. He was a good doctor and a caring man. He certainly didn’t mean to bring harm to the baby. He was simply careless in answering the question. The baby completely recovered and didn’t have meningitis although he had all the symptoms. According to the mother’s and doctor’s orders, he never received another vaccine. If the doctor had disclosed all the side effects, the mother may or may not have made the same decision. But she would have made the decision with full knowledge, and the doctor would not have been responsible for the outcome.

There is an interesting passage of Scripture in Ezekiel 3. God says to His prophet Ezekiel, “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

Again, in Ezekiel 33 we read a passage with the same general idea except it refers to a watchman on a wall who stands guard and blows the trumpet when he sees danger approaching from any direction. He has the same responsibility to warn the people, or their blood will be on his hands.

Although the threat comes from an enemy that shows their intention to steal, kill or destroy, the warning comes from a friend, the watchman. It is given to thwart the plans of the enemy by making known to the people the danger that is impending. Then they can be prepared and make necessary arrangements to secure themselves.

It seems many people mistake the one who warns of impending danger for the enemy instead of recognizing him as their friend. The “watchman” is the one who sounds the alarm so they can prepare and take cover from the real enemy. But once the alarm is sounded, each person makes their own choice whether to prepare or allow the enemy to overrun them. The watchman is not responsible for their decision. He is only responsible for giving them the truth and a forewarning.

We don’t blame the weather man or woman for the tornado that comes or the hurricane that is headed our way. We recognize they are not the enemy. We are glad they care enough about us to warn us in advance so we can make wise decisions and save ourselves and our families. Of course, there are those who don’t take that warning seriously and lose their lives. But everyone has the same warning and the same choice to make. They could heed the warning or go on with their regular routine. Once the warning has been given, it is out of the hands of the “watchman”.

Jesus gave some teachings that people thought were hard, and they took them as a threat against them. He wasn’t threatening. Jesus made it clear He had not come into this world to condemn us. He came to save us, but He was telling us what we have to do to have that salvation personally. He was sounding the alarm, blowing the trumpet, giving the warning message about the day when we will all be brought into account. He suffered at the hands of evil men so we could have a choice. We can hear and heed the warnings in the Scripture, or we can go on with our regular routine. Jesus never forces anyone to follow Him or His teachings. But He loves us too much to let us go into eternal hell without giving us the truth that we have a choice. He tells us so we can prepare ahead of time. He is the only way to heaven.

Jesus is not our enemy. Nor are His true followers who proclaim His teachings. We are sounding the alarm. We don’t speak of the dangers and pitfalls of sin or the fires of hell out of a mean spirit that is just waiting for people to fall over the precipice. We speak the truth because we care about eternal souls. Telling people the truth about sin gives them a chance to prepare their hearts in repentance and change their destination. As Christians, we are the “watchmen” commissioned by Jesus to convey His truth and give everyone the choice of acting on the warning or ignoring it.

Are we sounding the alarm, or are we remiss in making the facts about salvation known? Maybe we are like the doctor. We may not be negligent or arrogant. We may truly care about the souls of the lost, but are we actively sharing the teachings of Jesus with them? Are we intimidated by those who consider us an enemy who is trying to condemn them? Do we love them enough to make sure they know there is a choice? That they can be free? Are our lifestyles showing Christ to them?

            As the people of God who are filled with His Spirit, we are called to uphold the standard and principles taught by Jesus Christ. If we lower those standards, we are endangering our spiritual lives. If we lower those standards and yet proclaim we are followers of Christ, we are endangering the lives of ourselves, other Christians who may follow us and those who are unsaved. It is imperative that we hold forth the Word of Life, not an opinion or what is accepted by our culture. We need to be sure we are following Jesus and His Word and not the watered down version of those who want to miss hell but don’t want to pay the price of following Christ.

Many people do not want to hear the truth. But until we know the truth, we don’t know to repent of sin. Until we repent of sin, we cannot receive the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. Until we know about Jesus, we cannot choose to surrender our will to His and follow Him exclusively. The truth is that He took all our sins on Himself and the wrath of God that was meant for us so we could be free. Our salvation cost a lot.

            As Christians, we are examples to others. If we give the wrong example and withhold the warnings, their blood is on our hands. If we live by the Word of God, follow the teachings of Jesus and are led by His Spirit, we will be examples that will draw others to Christ.

            We have the responsibility of telling this generation about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us. If they receive it, they can be saved from eternal damnation. The choice is theirs, but they need to know the truth before they make their choice. Many choose to reject Him, but let’s make sure they know there is an alternative. Be bold enough to ask Jesus how He wants you to carry out your responsibility. We would be quick to offer a life-line to someone drowning in the ocean, but we seem reticent to offer an eternal life-line to them. Believing in Jesus to the point of forsaking all to follow Him is the wisest and safest and most blessed decision anyone can every make.

 

There is a nursery rhyme that goes something like this:

“Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn.

The sheep’s in the meadow and the cow’s in the corn.

Where is the little boy minding the sheep?

He’s under the haystack fast asleep.

 

            Several years back, I wrote a song using that verse, and then added this verse.

Children of God, lift up your eyes.

The harvest is white. It’s time to arise.

Where are the laborers minding God’s sheep?

They’re under the haystack fast asleep.

 

            It’s time to wake up. It’s time to blow the horn and sound the alarm that Jesus will return one day and we all need to be ready. If we don’t go in the rapture, we will go through the death of this body. We will all live somewhere in eternity. Whether it is hell or heaven is the decision of each individual. Dare to be a watchman, even when you are mistaken for the enemy.

 

“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.

Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

(1 Timothy 4:16)

 

Monday, October 26, 2020

THE TESTIMONY OF DISTRESS

 

 Have you ever been in distress? Maybe you are there now. Most of us have had numerous times of distress in our lives. Distress can be anxiety, physical or mental suffering, a state of danger or just plain being over our heads in trouble.

Psalm 118 gives us this testimony. “I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” (vs. 5-6,8-9)

Notice the psalmist said he “called on the Lord”. That sounds so calm and confident, but the word ‘called’ means to cry out with a loud voice! It is an outburst of emotion that comes from deep within. And this time it was coming from distress.

I remember one of the times when I was in trouble, turmoil, suffering and anxiety. I could see no way out. I considered it from every angle I could think of, but there was nothing I could do to change the situation. When I called on the Lord, it was loud and went something like this: “Where is God and what is He doing?” I didn’t even direct that question to Him personally. But He heard me, anyway. And He answered me.

I knew He was right there and that He was working on my behalf, but I was in distress! I wanted to see victory right then. And victory did come. But it came in God’s timing and it came God’s way. He knows the right way and the right time.

In times of distress, the comfort and support we receive from others is a tremendous blessing. To know someone is on our side can be quite a comfort. But our real help comes from the Lord.

There is not a single person who can keep us safe or deliver us from every trouble that arises. There are no earthly princes, kings or presidents who can make everything right. Only God can do that. We need to learn to put our trust and confidence in Him alone. And we learn to trust God by going through those times of distress, calling on Him, and watching as He brings us through.

Just recently, God gave me a lesson that began with small requests. The picture I had planned to use for my upcoming book was lost in the shuffle and I needed to get another one at the same church where that one had been taken. The pastor was gracious to let us come and make the picture. I still felt some apprehension about getting it just right, so I prayed that God would let everything go smoothly. It couldn’t have been any easier. The next day, I was to go in the downtown area of a nearby city to cast my vote. My mother was with me. I wasn’t sure where the building was, but I knew the traffic could cause a problem with me finding the right building and a place to park. I had seen pictures of the chaos someone had posted. I prayed that God would help us find it without a problem. As I was driving toward the area, we saw the number on a building beside us. We were almost right at the address we needed. Immediately a car started to back out of a parking space. I waited for them to come out and pulled into the space. Another prayer answered. Later, as I was shopping, I asked for favor in buying dolls for my Samaritan’s Purse shoe boxes. I found the dolls for the exact price I had asked.

Now, let me explain something here. God doesn’t always open up parking spaces and let me find dolls immediately after I pray. Sometimes I have to walk in the rain or pay more than I expected for the merchandise I need. However, He was building my faith to believe for a much bigger mountain. When we returned home, one of my sisters called to let me know of an “impossible” situation, an emergency, involving a close family member. We all went to prayer. And over the next day or two we saw God work miraculously. He not only provided safety, but He provided safety with an upgrade. God goes above and beyond because He can!

I praise God for preparing me for what was coming. I was confident that if He cared about pictures, parking spaces and dolls, He certainly cared more about the crisis our loved one was facing.

God doesn’t work in our way or in our timing. His is always superior to ours. I will quote a friend of ours who says, “God has ways we don’t know anything about.” And she is right! I have shared her words many times, but we need to be reminded of them constantly. Because sometimes, if we can’t figure it out, we give up and come to the conclusion that God can’t do it.

We should never discount the fact that God does the impossible. We read of how He opened the Red Sea, brought down the walls of Jericho, and miraculously saved king Hezekiah and his people from a hostile army. We may not understand why He hasn’t intervened the way we thought He would. But we can be assured that He is in control and He will come through for us at just the right time…His time.

            The very first words in Psalm 118 are these: “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness endures forever.” I guess the psalmist wanted to make sure to praise God first because he was about to give a personal testimony of just how God had delivered him from his distress.

Psalm 57 gives God glory on a similar line. It says, “I will praise and give thanks to You, O Lord, among the people; I will sing praises to You among the nations. David had certainly praised God for His mighty works on his behalf, but he wanted to let everyone else know, too. He purposed that he would praise God among the people, even the nations. And as king, I’m sure he had that opportunity. He gave God glory.

Psalm 57 has been one of my life scriptures. I go back to it often. It reminds me to give testimony of all the goodness of God in my life. And, although I praise Him privately, I want to praise Him publicly, too, “among the people”.

Let’s share our testimonies of the greatness of God to us. People need to see what God is doing right now in the lives of His people. We can let them know that God is still active and still working miracles today. Testimonies are not just from thousands of years ago or hundreds of years ago. They are still in progress. Because the work of God is still in progress!

The testimonies of people who really know God and have seen His miracles and deliverance in their lives can be powerful. Be assured, God is still in the business of bringing His people out of distress and setting them in a “large place”. He didn’t stop caring for us once the first members of the early Church passed away. He is at work in us now if we will trust Him. If we will call upon Him. I have heard many people give their testimony of how God has worked in their lives recently. He has worked in my life, too!

A testimony is a statement made to establish a fact. When we let other people know what God has done, we are stating facts of true life happenings that glorify God.

            I recently heard the testimony of one who heard the voice of God about a certain dream they had to reach children. In God’s time and in His way, He brought it to pass. I know of two testimonies where God has walked with people through cancer and both received good reports, regardless of the odds against them.

            What is your testimony? What has God done for you? Don’t keep it to yourself. Make your statement to establish the facts of His glorious working on your behalf. Let His glory be seen in your life, and give testimony “among the people”! When you let people see God at work in you now, you are introducing them to the God Who was, Who is, and Who is to come. When we fail to show Him to others, they consider Him to be archaic and no longer active. That is far from the truth! Let your distress be used to prove the goodness, majesty and love of God.

            The worst distress any human can have is distress of soul because they are held captive in the bondage of sin. The greatest need of the human soul is to find freedom that will disentangle them from the snare of Satan. Satan’s path leads to destruction. Only Jesus can set us free from that distress. And the good news is that He is not only able, but is willing to do just that. Jesus will break the snare of bondage and set us in a “large place”, our own place in His kingdom where there is true freedom forever. Repent of your sins, surrender your will to His will and follow Jesus. There is freedom in surrendering to Him. I can give testimony to that!

Friday, September 25, 2020

MOVING AHEAD WITHOUT FEAR

 

           When things change quickly and drastically in our lives, it is common for fear to rise up inside of us. That especially holds true when it is a nationwide or worldwide phenomenon that brings it on. Fear can cause us to withdraw into survival mode if we are not careful. 

According to Wikipedia, “Fear is an emotion induced by perceived danger or threat, which causes physiological changes and ultimately behavioral changes, such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events.” Some of the fears we have may be imagined. They may come from worrying about what might happen. But many of them come from a very real perception of a very real threat that is not only possible, but is staring us in the face. We can be faced with some terrible circumstances at times. Will we take the option of “fleeing, hiding or freezing” in our circumstances?

Our best option is to withdraw into the presence of Jesus so we can find out what He wants us to do, how to handle the threats and bring good out of evil. Times of trials and turmoil can be used to drive us out of complacency and a form of religion. They can be used to invite us into the fresh flow of God’s Spirit if we will refuse to get caught up in fear and unbelief. As humans, we need something stronger than we are to help us continue in the faith. Only the Spirit of God can do that.

In reading accounts of the great revivals of past years, the fuel for the flame of the Spirit of God was the deep, selfless desire of the people to know Him, hear from Him, and stay on their faces before Him until He poured out His Spirit on them. In so doing, ‘self’ was consumed by the Spirit of God and He was able to do His work and carry out His will, not bound by men’s standards, time restrictions and schedules.

How we do ministry as churches or even as a ministry like ours has been pressed to change. That in itself can be frightening because the known seems so much more secure than the unknown. However, security only comes when we seek and find the will of God for our times. Ministry does not have to end. It can be made better by our dependence on the Spirit of God rather than our own ideas and strategies. These times can prove to be a catalyst to get us back on track doing what God intends His people to accomplish in the way He wants it done.

Over the course of time, churches and ministries can become settled in a rut and less apt to depend on God to reach people that are beyond their pre-set borders. We can get so wrapped up in the organization of ministry that we leave out God and the very people the ministry should embrace. And until we are forced to break our self-imposed boundaries, we don’t. We have a “good thing” going, and we don’t want to rock the boat.

Think about your church, your ministry or your personal walk with Jesus. Is there insight in the teaching and preaching of the Word of God? Probably so. Is there a thrust to talk to people about their salvation? Even that may be securely intact. Is there good music? Possibly so. But is there a deep longing and searching for more and more of the Spirit of God personally in the lives of the believers? Is there a conviction in those who come among us – both saved and unsaved? Are they challenged to surrender all to Jesus? Are lives being changed radically to follow Jesus without restrictions? We need to be cautious that we don’t carry on the ministry Jesus entrusted into our hands on auto-pilot.

Every once in a while God allows circumstances to jolt us out of complacency to a greater and deeper relationship with Him. That in itself will deepen our ministries. It is up to us to see our circumstances the way God wants us to see them and to respond the way He leads us. To be open to the changes He speaks to us to make and to broaden our interest in His Word and lessen our interest in the world.

If a teacher told his students that he wanted them to write a paper on a certain subject, what would happen if the students stopped listening before they heard what the subject was? They may write prize-winning papers with great passion and flair. But if it didn’t fit the criteria given by the teacher, they would fail. I have found it to be difficult on occasions to be still and quiet enough to hear the whole message God wants to give me. If I run off with the “good idea” He planted in my head and take it in a wrong direction, I have failed Him.

Our hearts need to be surrendered completely to Jesus and His directions. There is a lot we can learn from the experiences of Paul and Silas. They planned to go to the province of Asia but the Holy Spirit forbade them to go. They tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. They went to Troas. “[There] a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man from Macedonia stood pleading with him and saying, Come over to Macedonia and help us! And when he had seen the vision, we [including Luke] at once endeavored to go on into Macedonia, confidently inferring that God had called us to proclaim the glad tidings (Gospel) to them. (Acts 16:9-10)  Certainly it was good to carry the gospel to those other places, but God knows the best time and the best person to do each work. That is why we need to be close enough to Him to hear His direction for us.

In planning ministry events and even articles and teaching programs, I am slowly learning that when something doesn’t seem right or it doesn’t work out the way I had planned, it could just possibly be God changing those plans. When I ask of Him, He redirects me in the right track. I am grateful for His corrections. Paul and Silas were careful to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. We should be, too. (Note: There are also times when the devil tries to distract us from doing certain things. We need to know the voice of God.)

Every believer is called to win the world, at least the part of the world in which they have influence. We all do that in different ways, but the call to make disciples is the same across the board. We cannot afford to allow fear to keep us from following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we don’t want to be caught in the grip of fear and immobility, we need to seek God fervently and put aside our own agenda and plans.

Let’s not retreat in fear and cease to carry on the work that Jesus commands every believer to do. Instead let’s go deeper into the presence of God and not miss the calling He has for us today, tomorrow or any other day. Some directions may seem insignificant, but the Spirit of God in us makes everything significant. We can go out without fear when we know we are following Jesus’ leadership.

When the angel told Joseph to take Mary as his wife, he started that conversation with, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not”.  When the angel told Mary she would be the mother of the Messiah, he said, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.” The Lord spoke these words to Joshua after Moses died, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  There are numerous other verses telling us not to fear but to go out in the power of the Lord God. He knows our name and tells us to “fear not” when we listen to His voice and are following Him.

In Psalm 56, the psalmist says, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Believe me when I tell you that fear will offer itself to your mind, your emotions and your spirit. But you can turn fear away by trusting in the faithfulness of God.

When we are faced with fearful times, God will be faithful to us as we are faithful to Him. Just as He was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den, and even with Stephen as he was stoned; He will be with us in our times of trial.

Here are a couple more scripture verses that speak to any fear that may come to us.

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4 NKJV)

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18 NKJV)

 

Listen for the voice of God to you and move ahead without fear.