Friday, January 29, 2016

How Shall We Then Live?

We are living in fast moving and very frightening times where unpleasantries can overwhelm us without a moment’s notice. There was a time not long ago when Christians found the concept of being beheaded for one’s faith as something that happened in past centuries unconscionable in modern twentieth century civilization. And yet with the dawn of Arab Spring, the political destabilization of the Middle-East and North African countries, it has become an all too common occurrence, Christians are being slaughtered for their faith. Several years ago I had a conversation with an older Christian man concerning the “Great Tribulation.” He was clinging to the popular view that nothing bad will happen to Christians in the latter times in which we live and that the church will be taken up and spared any tribulation. Unfortunately he was laboring under a popular heretical delusion, because the Great Tribulation is all about horrible events and testing that true believers will endure in the latter times including martyrdom before the return of Christ. It is arrogant to believe that modern day Christians will somehow escape the persecutions endured by all the saints from the first century church and down through the ages when one asks, did God love them any less? Consider the following excerpts from the Book of Revelation in context with the persecution and martyrdom currently going on in the Middle-East and North African nations.

(Revelation 6: 7 - 11) When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I saw, and behold, a pale horse, and its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him; and they were given power over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

(Revelation 7: 9 - 14) After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

So then considering all this, then how shall we then live? The answer is found in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
(Ephesians 6: 10 - 13) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you will be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.(Ephesians 6: 14 - 18) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 
Meaning to be knowledgeable memorizing scripture, living in the spirit of Christ, understanding that persecution and death come at the hands of those indwelled and moved by evil spirits. Keep in mind always that death holds no eternal sway over those who believe in and trust Jesus Christ and who are themselves eternal like Christ.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 
Stand therefore is a command given to soldiers about to face the onslaught of a formidable enemy, stand means to not cower or back down or turn and run, stand! Having heard the gospel, understanding the truth about sinful mankind and the righteousness of God that He imparts to those who have taken on Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you have thus girded yourself with the truth and wear the breastplate of God’s righteousness that He has imparted through Christ. Next shod your feet with the Gospel of peace by learning to effectively proclaim the gospel and your faith in Christ to those who persecute you. The shield of faith is an unshakeable trust in God, and like our Lord who gave us His example during the temptation by Satan in the desert, respond to the evil one using scripture, the word of God. (Matthew 4: 3 - 4) And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” 
The word of God is an all powerful weapon when used against the evil one.

(Hebrews 4: 12 - 13)  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Is That All There Is?

The final lines of a very melancholy song sung by Peggy Lee in the 1960’s concluded with the following as she exudes a total sense of hopelessness and finality to life. “I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you, when that final moment comes and I'm breathing my last breath, I'll be saying to myself Is that all there is, is that all there is, If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing let's break out the booze and have a ball If that's all there is.”

Unfortunately it is the sad song of all those dying of despair and who are perishing, doomed to an eternity in the “outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth” because they refuse to acknowledge God and His Christ. Depressing as it is this need not be the case for those who wish to turn their life around and discover the alternative which begins when we seek God’s face. 

Suppose for an instant that you were to die tonight and find yourself standing before the Creator of the Universe and He asked you, “Why should I let you have a new life and enter my perfect heavenly new world?” It’s an astounding thought isn’t it? So consider for a moment, what would your answer be? There are many who might say that they have lived a good and decent life on this earth and have followed the laws of the land and did what they always thought was right. That is commendable but unfortunately it is not even close to meeting the criteria that God has established to become a part of His kingdom. I want to share what that is, but first there are a few things to consider.

The bible says concerning God: (Habakuk 1:13) Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity.
Concerning man in contrast to God: (Matthew 5: 48) You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

God had said according to (Ezekiel 18: 20 - 21) “The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. “But if a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.”

Consider this: You suddenly find that you are facing a meeting with a very important person, one who holds your entire future in his hands. So on short notice you decide to make him your favorite when he comes to dinner, a nice stew with lots of choice meat, vegetables and seasoning. You assemble all the ingredients but find that you have come up short on the necessary amount of meat, so you take leftover meat from last weeks dinner that has been aging in the refrigerator. Unfortunately the meat is soured and slightly spoiled, the ingredients in the stew doesn’t sufficiently cover it and the guest finds it unacceptable and offensive. It turns out that you have done to this man the same thing that you have been doing to God by serving up your life with some good elements along with that which is spoiled and polluted, then expecting God to find your life acceptable. The following verses show how pathetic and lost all of mankind is naturally:
(Ezekiel 18:4) Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins shall die.
(James 2:10) For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all of it.
(Romans 3: 23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:10)  as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one.

Obviously God has set a standard that has put himself as well as all of mankind in a quandary. Man is constitutionally incapable of keeping just ten simple commandments perfectly which means that man is incapable of saving himself from the due penalty of sin which is eternal death, a separation for eternity from God and from all those whom He has saved. So God has taken the initiative upon himself to save His creation from it’s own miserable shortcomings. Immediately following the fall of man in the Garden of Eden God slew an animal for the skins making coverings for Adam and Eve’s nakedness. With this act He made it clear that henceforth He would require a blood sacrifice as a cover for man’s sin. This was later confirmed when Adam’s son Able sacrificed a lamb and it was found pleasing to God as He looked ahead in time and saw His own Son, a Lamb without spot or blemish nailed to the cross, the final sacrifice for all time for the sins of all of mankind. With this God has established His criteria that the only thing from man that He will find acceptable, is a contrite heart and an acknowledgment that nothing we can ever do on our own is sufficient, and that the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, is sufficient coverage for our sin as He becomes our Lord and Savior.

(John 3:16 - 17) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
(1 Thessalonians 5: 9 - 10) For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

There are times when it’s natural to think that there are things we need to do to get in good stead with God, this isn’t the case at all as it is so typical in all the false religions of the world whereby their adherents believe that they can do good works to achieve a place in the next life. None of their false gods have ever died for the sake of their adherents and then come back to life again.
(Proverbs 14:12) There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
(John 14:6) Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
(Ephesians 2: 8 - 9) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

So here are the promises to those who take this to heart and not just simply believe it as a historical fact but act on it and ask Jesus into their life right now. Today is the day of salvation!

(Romans 10: 9 -13) if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
(John 1: 12) But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Do not be dismayed when the old nature occasionally resurfaces, we are all still human and live imperfect lives in an imperfect world and God knows this and has provided once again for man's shortcomings.
(1 John 2: 1 - 2) I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Western Civilization Under Seige

                                           (2 Chronicles 7: 13 - 15)

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.

Europeans and Americans for the most part have long ago turned away from God and assumed a mantle of Secular Humanism including many nominal Christians who no longer put their trust in God, murdering infants by the millions, lying, cheating, stealing, engaged in every kind of abomination. Having no understanding, astounded by what is happening to Western Civilization the nations having all turned away from the Lord are experiencing just the beginnings of God’s judgment. The answer is in 2 Chronicles but alas no one understands, no one considers or is interested in believing that without a turning and change of hearts even Donald Trump will be ineffectual at making America great again and the forces of hell will bring certain destruction, suffering and death. Even now the EU as it formerly was no longer exists!

(2 Corinthians 4: 3 - 4) But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

(1 Corinthians 2:14) But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

(Isaiah 53:6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way…….

Monday, January 18, 2016

Swimming In The Cesspool

The first time I ever really listened to the parable of the prodigal son and heard with my ears and understood with my heart, I saw myself for the first time as I actually appeared to God, it was ugly. Realizing this story is about how we conclude that there are shameful parts of our lives that no one knows about, things that would upset and disappoint our parents while never considering that God sees all, even into the shadows and darkest corners of our lives. This story is applicable in some way to every human being as we all have an innate propensity to make poor choices rather than do what we intrinsically know is right.

(Luke 15: 11 - 24) “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry. 

The parable is a perfect picture of God's patient endurance and there are other insights to be gleaned from this story as it becomes evident that the son had been raised by parents who revered the word of God. 
(Proverbs 22: 5 - 6) Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; he who guards himself will keep far from them. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. 

They do depart though, the temptations of the world are at times overwhelmingly alluring, but those grounded at an early age in biblical truths will always have a solid foundation to fall back on when they eventually realize their ways have become woefully errant and painful and is eating a hole in their soul.
It also becomes obvious as we read the story that the father, though disappointed continued to love that son in spite of his behavior, and although he allowed him to go far off to misbehave, he never gave up on him and most likely continued to pray fervently for that child. It is evident in the father’s joy as he realized that the child had turned the corner and had experienced a change of heart and had repented in tears and in misery. The prophet Isaiah speaks to the truth of this parable knowing full well about the fallen nature of man and having foreseen Christ the coming Messiah as the only antidote that can eradicate the poison eating at mankind’s soul when he said, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” 

Isaiah provides us with one of the most astounding prophecies of the bible when this prophet from the 8th century BC foresaw the coming of Christ from afar and envisioned His suffering and death as retribution and payment for the sins of all of God’s prodigal children past, present and future who would repent and receive Him through faith as Savior and Lord. This is how we leave the hog swill and pods of our lives behind and return to the open arms of our Father.

(Isaiah 53: 1 - 12) Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

For those of us that have decided to turn the corner, forsaking the cesspool of this life, the pods and hog swill that this world has to offer, we have a new hope for a brighter future knowing that we have Jesus the risen Messiah standing as our advocate before the Father.

(John 1:12) To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. 

(1John 2: 1 -2) My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

(Titus 2: 11 - 14) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

In These Final Times

(2 Timothy 3: 3 - 5) But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people.

It certainly seems that those days are here, the world has become a cesspool of humanity exhibiting all of those noxious characteristics. We are told that they “hold the form of religion but deny the power of it,” meaning that for the most part they follow the laws of the land, most of which are based on the commandments of God, but that they deny the existence of the Creator and worship the created and the works of their own hands rather than the Creator. Their righteousness, such as it is, comes not from God but from themselves. We are admonished to avoid such people because they are in diametric opposition to us and can only continue to inflict emotional and even physical harm on true believers.  

(2 Peter 3: 3 - 4) First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.”

Scoffers fail to recognize that we are all finite beings, our lives having a beginning and an end and so it seems to them that the recorded crucifixion and resurrection of Christ which occurred some two thousand years ago and the promise of His return has been long forgotten by the powers of heaven. The wheels of time and man’s progress just keeps on turning as always and that man’s religious beliefs must therefore all be just a wishful myth.

(2Peter 3: 8 - 9) But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God's kingdom is not of this world and therefore is not governed by time. God lives in the forever present, not the past or the future, just the continual now. Only humans have a limited past and a limited future because we are governed by time.

Micah 7: 2 - 7) The godly man has perished from the earth, and there is none upright among men; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts his brother with a net. Their hands are upon what is evil, to do it diligently; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge. The day of their punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand. Put no trust in a neighbor, have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your bosom; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house. But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

The governments of nations are all corrupt from the top on down, there is no-one who is trustworthy anymore, and sadly this extends to the smallest unit of government which is the family. However there is hope, and I cannot have put this any better than the Apostle Paul did in the following excerpts from his letter to the Romans because it speaks to us of this very day and hour as we suffer the indignities heaped on us by every human agency even including our own family members. However we are admonished by Christ himself to pray for them, it is a required exercise of faith.

(Mark 11: 24 - 25) Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 

(Romans 8: 3 - 7)  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; 
(Romans 8: 31 - 35) What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

(Romans 8: 38 - 39) I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Reader Comments Welcome

As we start into the New Year I want to encourage reader comments and dialog. However any trolling, advertising of one's own website, smut and comments of a sexual nature will be marked [Spam] and [Deleted]. Your submissions should be based on that which is spiritually and biblically edifying in keeping with spirit of the following scripture verses.

(2 Timothy 3:16) All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

(Hebrews 4:12) For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and is discerning of the thoughts and intentions of the heart.