Am I Living A Transformed Life?

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     Last week my husband and I attended one of the most interesting and thought-provoking meetings that I believe will change my Christian life.  The speaker was Dr. Jim Wilder, a doctor of clinical psychology and theology who has taught at Fuller Theological Seminary and various conferences around the world.
      He calls himself a “neuro-theologian”, which means that he teaches his students to consider that what God tells us about His creation (including us) should affect how we think, act, and live.  In other words, reality as I know it, should be different if I’m going to call myself a Christian.  I should be living a new life, in God’s presence, instead of in a body with a brain that hasn’t caught up to the new spirit within me.
     But as 21st Century Christians, we are a product of our Church’s belief systems, and sadly, churches in the West have stopped expecting anything new in our knowledge of God, and we have just become a thing (or product, or whatever you want to call us) of what we know.  For instance, it is a mantra within the Church (and it is true) that God is love.  But what does that mean to you? And how does it affect how you live your life?  Is that statement just a concept, or an idea — or is it a force?  Has it transformed your life?

     And how much does the culture in which we live play a part in how we live out our faith? Dr. Wilder stated that it is okay if we use our culture to express our Christian views — for instance, writing this blog, in which I am not afraid to state my theology — but we should guard against letting the culture shape those views — for instance, adopting a culture-friendly acceptance of all sexual lifestyles because we don’t want to offend anyone, or we want to “fit in”.  If we are guilty of that, then we have made God smaller than we are. But the reality is that He is smarter and bigger than we are, and He can teach us everything we need to know to live this Christian life.  However, the idea of “growing up” to be something — like a mature Christian, for example — has dropped out of our culture.  The Church in the West has decided that salvation is the ultimate goal, and there’s no need to know or explore God any further.  Now, it’s simply about being in the building every Sunday, and enjoying the other 6 days to the fullest, until we die and go to Heaven.  Shouldn’t our salvation experience transform us more than that?  And how do we train these brains that are lagging behind our “born again” spirits to think and see ourselves as a new kind of people living a new kind of way?
     What is it going to take to raise up leaders in the Church, (and for those of us who are practicing our faith outside the building), to raise up people who live differently — both in our churches, and in our families and communities? Well, Dr. Wilder says there are four habits that exceptional leaders and transformed people have developed, and they are centered around identity and belonging.  Who we are determines what we will do. And when we know who we are, and how people like us (human beings transformed by the Spirit of God in us) are to act, we are able to train our brains to develop these habits and therefore to traverse this life as God’s representatives.  And what are these important habits?
     1. Remain relational.  God created us, first and foremost, to be relational.  He’s a God that loves relationship with those He’s created, and He desires that we relate both to Him, and to others.  The importance of this habit is that as Christians, whether you are a church leader, or an individual practicing your faith, you are going to run into problems — either within your church or within the culture.  In the face of problems, we must remain relational to each other — avoiding isolation, blame, and anger — keeping our relationships bigger than our problems.
     As we live our lives here on earth, behind enemy lines, so to speak, it is important that we make our relationship with God a priority, and live our lives so that our relationships with people reflect Him; showing that relationships are more important than being right or getting results.
     2. Act Like Yourself.  Once you’re a born again Christian, doing whatever you did in the past should not be an option.  You need to ask yourself, Who is the real me, now? What I’ve always been, or what God’s creating in me?  Ephesians 2:10 expresses God’s mindset perfectly (and should reflect ours):  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”.  We are “a new work” [spiritually transformed, renewed, and ready to be used], created by God, with Jesus as our model, and designed by God to walk out the path He has set before us.  It’s a whole new way to think of ourselves, but sadly, I don’t think we, as Christians, have really discovered who we are.
     3. Return to Joy.  This is not an emotional concept, as you might expect, but rather a relational one.  This is not joy in the sense of euphoria, but the recognition that “I am not alone in this; Someone is with me in this difficulty”.  It doesn’t mean you are going to be happy in your difficulty, but you can train your brain to understand that God is there with you.  “I am not alone in this evil world”.  And this is perhaps the hardest of the habits to form, because it means that our brains have to learn to overcome anger, sadness, and fear in order to maintain that joy in the midst of our difficulties.  But Jesus was able to do it while living out His life on this earth as a man.
     4.  Endure Hardships After A Return to Joy.  This is all about remaining relational through the hardships in life.  Keeping our relationships bigger than our problems is what it means to live your life as a Christian.  When you think about it, none of us will ever face the burdens and problems that Jesus faced in dying for the world’s sins.  Yet, His relationships with the Father, His Disciples, and the  broken people He healed were His primary focus.  He continued to endure each hardship that confronted Him, knowing that He was not in it alone.  If we can do that, we will live a transformed life.
     In summary, I want to say that Dr. Wilder’s book, Rare Leadership, provides a much more comprehensive look at how Church leaders can transform the lives of their flocks, and how parents can use these concepts to train up their children to live transformed lives in their real identities as children of God.  Whether in our churches or our families, we need to be building communities in which God is an active participant, and so are we.  Remember, the devil is The Accuser, and he is constantly whispering in our ears that what we did wrong (our sin) yesterday is the real us.  We need to know who we are, and see ourselves as the image of what God is creating in us — and see others as what He is creating in them.
     If we believe that God is Love, and we say that we love God, and that love is a force — not just an idea or concept — then we need to be asking ourselves, How is my love for God doing today?  How is my love for others doing today?  Really knowing God, as well as being in relationship with others so that we see what He is creating in them, will truly transform our lives.  We will be in genuine relationship with Him and others.  And perhaps the greatest benefit of being this new kind of people who live a new kind of way is that we will see the transformation in others — from people who need love, into people who give it.  When our relationship with God is experienced with thankfulness and appreciation, we want to share it with others, and the relationship cycle starts all over again.  It’s time we begin to see real transformation in our lives, as we come to know who we really are.

2 Corinthians 3:18     “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit”.

   
   

Is Christianity Essentially A Jail?

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Is Christianity Essentially A Jail?

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For many, living under the auspice of the Bible is not only seemingly impossible, but, perhaps, a ridiculous idea.

You know the story, don’t you? A young Christian at college gets invited to a party and says, “I just can’t go.” The organizer says, “Why not?” The Christian responds, “It’s not what I believe or follow.” It’s enough to make some believe that Christianity is too restrictive, rules-minded, and life-altering.

They may say, “Why should I follow something that will limit me?” Of course, the catch for our culture is that freedom is defined as having no restrictions — to shed all authority and discover what works best for you.

Ironically, that is exactly what biblical Christianity is all about – allowing you to discover what’s best for you. Following the risen Christ allows you to really thrive in the purpose God created you for (to glorify His name).

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In John 8:31-38, Jesus unpacks two truths that help answer the question, “Is Christianity a jail?”

First, Jesus—God in the flesh—teaches that true, authentic freedom is found only in serving the living God.Serving” seemingly reeks with the chains of non-freedom. But freedom isn’t just throwing off any man-made restraints. It also comes from within:

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.’” (John 8:34)

In other words, we all work hard for something – success, romance, acceptance, achievement, materialism — that we think will fulfill us. And, instead, of us controlling whatever that is, that thing ends up controlling us.

But notice what Jesus says in John 8:35-36:

“The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Is Christianity Essentially A Jail?

Image source: Pixabay.com

The son has real freedom. But why is that? Because the son knows he is in union with the Father. No matter what we may chase in this life, nothing can replace the fact that we are created for God and His purposes. Moreover, the son also knows that the Father best recognizes the way he should live. The world claims that true freedom is experienced by whatever we want. Yet, Jesus Christ says that His freedom is doing what you were created to do—following Him.

Real freedom is found only in serving the living God. Freedom isn’t just living independently. We all long and cling to something—known or unspoken. That thing becomes our master and lord. The world says freedom isn’t having a boss or master. Jesus says that true freedom comes with acknowledging and having the right Master.

Secondly, the biblical Gospel alone sets you free. Let’s be honest—when you don’t live in the Father’s house mentioned above, then yes, the Father’s house is going to be like and feel like slavery. We become resentful of being in such a home and look for “greener pastures” and a chance to get away.

Notice Jesus’ words in John 8:37-38:

“I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

Jesus wants to give us back the heart of the son in this passage. A son who trusts, loves and follows his Father. One that is like the Father in all respects and loves what his Father loves. You need the Holy Spirit of God to change your heart, not more resolutions or plans to “do better.” You need to be absolutely overcome by Jesus’ love for you and what He did for you in the Gospel.

For many who are reading this, going to church and trying to live the Christian life does feel like drag. They reason many believe that Christianity is restrictive is because they’ve never accepted Jesus’ free offer of forgiveness by repenting and believing the Gospel.

Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Life isn’t a “cake walk” with Jesus. But He will sustain you and satisfy you under any burden.

So, make a choice today: Would you rather have a burden or the right master? I don’t know about you, but the biblical Jesus is my desire, not a burden. Only is Him can true, non-restrictive freedom found.

What is your choice today?

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Facing Darkness: A Story For The Ages

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Like my review on the new movie, Hacksaw Ridge, I feel compelled to point you to another inspiring true story… this one more recent.  And again, it is being portrayed on film, and is worthy of our attention; especially considering the largely perverted and exploitative entertainment industry. I will continue to praise and encourage the efforts of film-makers who accurately, and appropriately, promote our faith.    

      Even though Americans are now focused on the upcoming holidays, the news around the world reminds us that we are still in a physical and spiritual battle.  Fires rage in Israel; the Middle East is still in turmoil; mass graves are uncovered in Mexico; earthquakes in Japan and Central America remind us that the earth “trembles”; and our nation remains divided, as tens of thousands take to the street in protest. But even in the midst of these disheartening headlines, there is a story that will lift you up and inspire you.  While it is another story ripped from the headlines, it speaks to all of mankind through history.

     I’m sure none of you have forgotten the fear that struck the world in late summer of 2014 when the Ebola virus broke out in West Africa.  And I’m sure you still recall the image of Dr. Kent Brantley — the first person infected with the deadly virus on U.S. soil — being walked into Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, after being flown from Africa in a desperate move to save his life.
     His story, and that of his wife Amber, is a moving tribute to their faith in God while in the heart of darkness.  And now, there is a gripping documentary, titled Facing Darkness, from Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse.  The film has not only won the Accolade Global Film Competition’s Award of Excellence, but has also received the Best Feature Documentary Premiere Award at the 2016 Heartland Film Festival.  The film festival celebrated its 25th anniversary this year and featured more than 130 independent films out of 250 entrants. It is not affiliated with Christian nor conservative organizations, and is an independent nonprofit arts organization, with a mission to “inspire filmmakers and audiences through the transformative power of film.” Heartland selects films that “inspire and uplift, educate and inform, or have the ability to shift audience’s perspectives on the world.”
     And with its powerful message of faith, we can only hope that Facing Darkness will have such an impact upon the world audience.  In a statement to the press, the festival’s director of programming and marketing said the film was “a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of conviction and hope in the face of despair.”  Isn’t that the real story of the human race?  Aren’t we all in a battle to find hope in a world that is doomed to judgment and destruction unless we surrender to the power that is faith in Jesus? And isn’t our mission here on earth to serve others in the likeness of our Savior; even to the point of death, if that’s where it leads?
     That is the story of Dr. Kent Brantley and hygienist, Nancy Writebol, both missionaries working for Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization that provides aid to people in physical need as a key part of Christian missionary work.  The organization is run by Dr. Franklin Graham, who serves as President and CEO.
     The film was shot in Liberia and the U.S. where the events took place. The story highlights the lives of heroes who risked their own health and life in an effort to stop one of the deadliest epidemics this century. Ebola infected more than 28,000 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and 11,000 lives succumbed to the disease. Think how easy it would have been for Dr. Brantley, and the others who worked with him, to simply ask to be evacuated, leaving the problem of Ebola to the people and authorities in Africa.  But that’s not who they were. They put others before themselves, in a true example of Christian concern for the sufferings of others.  “Samaritan’s Purse workers were holding the last line of defense in a crisis the world was largely ignoring,” said Graham. “Hundreds were dying and it was only growing worse. When the disease struck Kent and Nancy, we knew we had to get them home for treatment. It was their only chance, yet it was something no one had ever done.”

     But the film is about more than the advances in science and medicine that made their eventual cure possible.  It is about facing the fear and the darkness of despair and the absence of hope.  “Faith is not something that makes you safe,” Dr. Brantly is quoted as saying when describing his decision to stay in the country and fight the disease. “You had to face death in the eye and decide, ‘Who am I going to be today?'” And when you think about it, that is a decision we each have to make — every minute of every day. But do we make that decision consciously and deliberately, or do we go about our day only responding to those things that affect us? Are we aware of who or what image we are displaying to the world? Do we act like Christ lives in us, or do we react from our own fleshly desires?  Those may sound like pointless and existential questions, but isn’t that precisely what God asks of us?
     Dr. Kent Brantley took those questions seriously.  And his testimony is a reminder to us, that if we proclaim to be a Christian, we have a responsibility to the One who saved us: “Even when I was facing death, I remained full of faith. I did not want to be faithful to God all the way up to serving in Liberia for ten months, only to give up at the end because I was sick… We have to choose compassion over fear. We cannot let fear be the motivating force for the decisions we make in life, for the way we treat other people,” he said. “There are a lot of big things going on in our world right now and in our country. I think this story can help us navigate those other experiences as well, as we wrestle with the challenge of choosing compassion over fear, and treating other people out of a sense of respect and love, and not out of a sense of fear and self-preservation”. Sounds a lot like how Christ lived His life, doesn’t it?
     To further emphasize this point, Franklin Graham says, “I think when there’s a crisis, God wants us to be there. He doesn’t want us to run away. God put us there [in Liberia] for a reason, and He expected us to do something about it.” This is the same story of Jesus’s three years as God in the flesh. The existence of God’s chosen people, the Jews, had come to a crisis. And God wanted to be there, in the flesh, to convict them and to cause a change in how they viewed Him. God chose to do something about the state of those He had chosen, and ultimately, all whom He has created. So He came in the flesh, as His Son, Jesus; fully man.  And as that man, He did not run away.  He did not ask to be “evacuated”, even though, like Dr. Brantley, He could have asked to be rescued from His impending death. Instead, He stayed and served.

     There are other similarities between Kent Brantley’s story and our commission to serve as Jesus did.  Brantly’s decision to stay was particularly heroic, especially considering the fact that escalating native opposition added to his perils. “Complicating the situation – after years of civil war – the people of Liberia deeply distrusted any authority and went so far as to blame the aid workers for spreading the disease,” the documentary’s release explained. “Hospitals and people were attacked. Yet the Samaritan’s Purse team continued to serve.” In His day, Jesus’s message was controversial, too, and eventually, those He came to serve began to blame Him for the increasing pressure from their own Jewish officials and the Roman authorities.  Yet He continued to offer hope and to attend to those He came to serve.
     So this inspirational story brings me to this conclusion:  What is the crisis in your life — whether large or small — the crossroads where you get to choose how you are going to act towards another person? Do you automatically weigh how your decision will affect you — or do you selflessly consider only how you can make another person’s life better? Dr. Brantley faced true darkness … despair in the face of an agonizing death.  Like our Savior, He was willing to sacrifice himself, in the desire to show compassion to another human being, while offering the possibility to save a life.  While Kent Brantley only offered life in this world, Jesus offers it for eternity.  And all He asks is that we love our God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourself … whether that neighbor is next door, or a world away. And no matter how big or small our neighbor’s crisis may be… that we simply answer the call and choose compassion over fear in service to others. In doing so, we will be facing our own darkness, and triumphing in the spirit of Christ!

Facing Darkness will be released on March 30, 2017 in select theaters around the country.  You can watch the trailer here.  Thanks to The Christian Post and One News Now websites for their reporting on this inspirational story.  

Isaiah 41:10   ‘Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].’


   

   

Is It Time To Remove The Bell?

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     One of the many blessings of writing this blog is that I have joined a community of normal, everyday people who feel called to use their talent for writing to honor our Lord.  And every once in awhile, I hear directly from them, commenting on something I’ve written, and asking if they can share it with their readers.  Today, I want to return the compliment.  
     Dennis Rowan is the heart and soul behind a blog called “Homestead Shepherd”, and his blog is just what it sounds like… relating the practical experience of shepherding sheep to our spiritual Christian walk with Christ, who is our Shepherd.  
     Dennis contacted me a few days ago, and told me he was going to write an article about an unusual experience he had with a bellwether in his flock.  In case you don’t know (and I didn’t), a bellwether is a male sheep that leads the flock, usually wearing a bell.  It can also mean a person or thing that assumes the leadership or forefront, as of a profession or industry.  Dennis thought of my pen name, Belle Ringer, and the posts I have written about my church experiences, and hinted that I might find his article interesting.  
     Not only did I find it interesting, but of primary importance when regarding the state of the modern Church and its leaders.  Let me emphatically state that this is not a blanket assertion about all church shepherds, but an expression of profound concern.  So, with his kind permission, I would like to share Dennis’s perspective and concern about the Church’s “lead sheep”.

   

     Last week I removed the bell from a lead sheep.  It was a bit sobering as I thought about it;  I removed the bell because the sheep was no longer qualified to be a lead sheep… he was no longer useful.
     As I removed the bell from the sheep, my thoughts went to Christian leaders… perhaps it is time to remove the bell.  What do I mean by that?  First, I am primarily referring to most pastors who supposedly lead local congregations.  If they are not leading correctly, then it is time to remove the bell.

Burnout, PKs, and High Expectations of Pastors
     For most of my 75 years I have listened to people talk about how so many pastors tend to feel lonely because of the demands made on [their lives].  Some of this is self-inflicted, and some are demands by the very people who pay their salary.  Pastor burnout is something I have heard many times.  Then there are the PKs, or preacher’s kids, who seem to be in a class by themselves; as people who have special behavioral problems.  Personally, I have not seen this in excess among PKs, but I had an unusual encounter with one of my students, a PK, about 40 years ago at the college where I taught.  A young lady in my class was a PK, and she told me in private that her pastor dad kept so busy that she and her brother had to make appointments with him if they wanted to visit him at work.
     Sometime during the past 25 years, I came to the conclusion that the high stress on pastors, the super busy schedules, and subsequent burnout (by some) occurs because the position as pastor, as we know it in America, is NOT biblical.  In my mind, God would not put that responsibility on one man.

     Church Government
     I once asked a pastor to define church government, because I really wanted to know.  This was a relaxed informal setting, so he was under no pressure.  He talked for 10-15 minutes, and said NOTHING, or at the very least, I learned nothing.  That was a big red flag for me, and I began a relatively long journey of searching the Scriptures to learn for myself some things about church government… after many years I concluded that traditional church, as most Americans know it, is NOT biblical… there I said it!

The Lead Sheep

     I mentioned my relatively long journey of searching the Scriptures.  Here is a link to something I wrote 23 years ago called The Lead Sheep.  There is much in that article, written more than two decades ago, that complements what you are reading here, but my criticism of the system, and subsequent conclusions are much more harsh now, as you will see at the end of this piece.  I beg the Christian reader to beware of the, “But we’ve always done it this way” syndrome. ”  (BWADITW).   We need to understand that BWADITW is not a synonym for “truth.”
     Below is a quote from a book about biblical church by Terry Stanley:  We cannot be adequately fed from only one man, for only one hour, on only one day of the week. No matter how good of a man he may be. The church of Jesus does not need money to run. Nor does it need a denomination (division) to be affiliated with. We do not need a building, a board of directors, an agenda, or a marketing plan in order to survive. But rather the Spirit of God, the power of the gospel, the love of the brethren and the authority of the scriptures are to drive our very existence.

     Amen, and Amen!  I encourage the interested reader to check the free online book at the link above. For any who wish to study and exercise a bit of discernment, they should realize that church congregations in America have some serious problems, and the lack of proper Christian training of our young children is at the top of my list of those serious problems.  I don’t particularly like to put in these words (shown in bold), but I will because that is the first thing that came to my mind; pastors should be ashamed to show their face in public knowing that most of the children in their congregation attend a government run school where Jesus Christ is not welcome.

The Choice for Christians – Comfort or Correct
     

     Yes, I think it is time to remove the bell from those who lead non-biblical organizations that are supposed to be Christ-centered, but instead, have been instituted, shaped and corrupted by men.  I don’t doubt the salvation and sincerity of all who participate in institutional churches, but the system, on average, needs an overhaul.  Do a search and learn where in the world Christianity has the fastest rate of growth (hint: they are underground house churches).  Most of the traditional church institutions and their leaders in America should gradually step out of the way, and let the home churches and home-schooled people begin to turn things around with a true focus on the Chief Shepherd, absent of all the frivolous baggage man has attached to what he calls “church.”  It will be a very difficult and slow process to change from such an established system, but we also should decide which we prefer, comfort with the old, or accept the challenge of being correct.  Focus on this Scripture:  But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. ( Matthew 19:26)


     The question of whether we, as Christians, should remove “the bell from the lead sheep” is a difficult and controversial one.  I am sure that Dennis Rowan’s commentary will offend some; those who think that their church does not fit this harsh criticism.  But let me ask you this question … If the Church (Body of Christ) is doing the job Jesus left us to do, and doing it Biblically, according to God’s purpose, would our society and culture be in the mess it’s in?  Isn’t it the Church’s job to influence society in the ways of God?  And would so many Christians be oppressed by demonic spirits, and/or leading secret and sinful lives?  
     Granted, the responsibilities of a Shepherd of God’s flock are monumental.  But are we holding the Shepherds accountable?  Are they fulfilling their duties as expressed in the Bible … handling accurately the Word of Truth; ready to preach the Word in and out of season; exhorting, reproving, rebuking, with great patience and instruction; are they constantly studying the Word in order to gain greater knowledge of God, and as an example for their flock; are they able to teach the Word; would he be willing to lay down his life for his flock?
     All these are attributes of a Pastor, or Shepherd of God’s flock, as described in the Bible.  Do we take them seriously, and are they being fulfilled?  Shepherd is an important role, one of the most important in the Bible … that’s why God sent His Son, so our pastors could imitate Him.  Neither I nor Dennis Rowan wish to cast aspersions upon any man who takes his position as Shepherd solemnly and earnestly.  But, by the condition of our country and our world, I think it’s time we face the truth … perhaps some of those who fill the role of Lead Sheep are no longer suitable to wear their bell.
Jeremiah 50:6    “My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside [to the seductive places of idolatry] on the mountains.  They have gone along [from one sin to another] from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their [own] resting place.”

What Are We So Afraid Of?

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     Fear is a crippling emotion.  It can kill our hopes, our dreams; even to the point of diminishing the person God made us to be.  I will admit that there are many things in this world that are fearful.  Those feelings of fear regarding our health, our family’s safety, our financial stability, the future of our nation — they are very real emotions about very real circumstances that affect us all.  It seems as if all human beings, at one time or another, experience this unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  And in these days, the prince of this world is showing us lots of areas in which he would like us to feel fear.
     Yet, if we call ourselves Christians, we know that we are made in the image of God, and there is no part of Him that includes fear.  In fact, His Word very plainly tells us “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control] (2 Timothy 1:7).  So what do Christians have to fear?  Just what do we think that spirit of power refers to?  It is the power of Christ in us, right?!?
     So, if we have Christi’s spirit in us when we come to faith in Him, and that spirit includes His power, His love, His sound judgment, and His obedience to our Father — then why do we still see so much evil in the world?  Why aren’t Christians using that power — which is above all other power — to defeat the wickedness that threatens our families, our communities, and our churches?  I mean, the Bible makes it pretty darn clear.  Ephesians 1:21 says Jesus is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else–not only in this world but also in the world to come.  So why do we act as if we don’t have access to that power?  Why do we stop short of confronting wickedness and evil; why do we let them have their way?  Is it because we don’t really believe what God is telling us?  Because we don’t really trust His promises?
     I want you to consider this.  The Bible tells us that immediately after His baptism, Jesus was taken to the wilderness, where He was put to the test for 40 relentless days, opposing the evil that the devil brought against Him.  It is my opinion that during those 40 days, Jesus, the man, was being trained to stand in opposition to evil; He was strengthening Himself for all the trials to come.  And I believe that the Holy Spirit wants us to do the same!  I think we are called to stand up for God, and to speak up for Jesus.  But the thought of standing up to evil scares too many Christians.  And I understand the reticence.. we don’t want to step into territory that we haven’t been instructed to; nor do we want to falsely accuse.  But we also must be careful not to accommodate wickedness, when we know it exists.  There is no diplomatic way to manage evil.  And if there is a question if wickedness exists, shouldn’t we get the answer?  To do otherwise, leaves the door open for evil to strengthen and grow.  And I have deliberately not named any specific evil, because I do not want to place a limitation on which evil or wickedness we confront.  God hates all wickedness, and so should we!

     But anytime that we do not speak out against the sin or evil we see, then we are defeated by the powers of hell who want us to keep our mouths shut.  Why do we do that, when we have the “power above all powers” within us?  We have been given the authority to use that power in the Name of Jesus, yet somehow the Enemy is able to send his spirit of fear into our hearts and minds.
     Let’s go back to that time that Jesus spent in the wilderness.  He was driven there to be tempted by the devil, which really means to confront evil.  Matthew 10:25 tells us,  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher.  Jesus was called to obedience to confront evil.  Our calling is no less.  And that means confronting the evil in ourselves, in our homes, in our friendships, in our businesses, in our communities, in our churches, and in our world.  But have we done that — or have we merely accommodated it, out of concern (fear) that it might somehow harm our relationships or bonds with those we are in relationship with in the world?
     I absolutely understand the desire to make sure that what we see as evil is identified in truth; that it is truly displeasing to the Lord.  But, if we are honest with ourselves, do we trust the Holy Spirit to reveal that — or do we seek validation from men?  Are we worried about answering to a higher authority?  But isn’t Jesus our ultimate Authority?
     It greatly concerns me that Christians are unwilling to expose or confront evil.  I know it is hard when it exists in yourself, or your family, and especially when it is in our churches.  But we cannot become so comfortable in our accommodation that we leave evil alone, and allow the devil to keep his territory. It should make us mad!
     If we call ourselves Bible-believing Christians, then how are we ever going to confront that demonic evil coming out of the pit of hell, if we can’t stand up to the evil practices of people around us?  Shouldn’t we be strengthening ourselves in the power of Jesus for those evil days?  Are we Christians ever going to train ourselves to confront the evil that exists in this world?
     What is our silence costing us?  For one thing, it is costing saved lives!  That loved one, or that admired leader will not escape the judgment of God if they are allowed to continue in their sin and evil ways — no matter how much they pretend at righteousness.  And I know we don’t go into any battle on our own.  In fact, the battle against evil is the Lord’s battle and He will go before us every time.  He could smite the evildoers at any moment without our help; but He wants to work with us, within our realm, to glorify Himself and reveal His power within us.  He just wants someone to step out in obedience and to be in agreement with Him!
     In the end, each person must search his or her spirit and soul to determine the way in which they will walk.  And we must ask ourselves if our decision is based on obedience to God, or on fear.  It can be a lonely decision, and I do not doubt that earnest Christians are truly seeking to serve the Lord. But I wish to remind all of us that the only fear that should ever concern a Christian is the fear of the Lord; a reverence for His power and glory; a proper respect for His anger and wrath, and hatred of evil.  Seek Him and acknowledge His authority over you and the way in which you should go.  The fear of the Lord is opposite of the fear that comes from the world; in Him we have security and a place of safety.  Nothing and no one can harm us.  Exposing evil is nothing to fear.  Ephesians 5:11-12 tells us, Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret.  
     I pray that we Christians can come together in a spirit of boldness and confidence, knowing that our God is waiting for us to work with Him, and in the same spirit that the early disciples confronted evil.  We don’t need to allow evil to go on, protected and safe from denunciation.  We need to recognize it for what it is and expose it.  We need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Psalm 94:16    “Who will stand up for me against the evildoers?
Who will take a stand for me against those who do wickedness?” 

Can God Heal Our Land?

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     The first and obvious answer is, Yes, He is able to.  He is God.  But what I’m really asking is, what are the requirements for Him to do so?  What is our part?  I know that my God is full of Mercy, but He is also a God of Judgment and Righteousness.  Are we justified in reciting 2 Chronicles 7:14, if my people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land?  Do we even stop to realize that we are quoting Scripture in the middle of a sentence; or that we should take the whole context of this passage into account?
     As Christians, we know that the Bible is a living document, written to speak to all generations.  But we have to be very careful to not cherry-pick portions to soothe our sinful souls.  Is our nation in extreme need of healing?  The answer is obvious as my heart aches over the growing racial divide in our cities; the sins of our past (slavery and the Civil War); the murder of millions upon millions of God’s babies; and the moral corruption in every facet of our nation.
     But can our restoration be as simple as every Christian praying that the United States “return” to God and pray, and then He will be glad to forgive all of our national sins and “heal” the land?  Shouldn’t we first recognize that the bigger context within which this one small verse is pulled out?  We should be mindful that the “My people, who are called by My Name” is not specifying American Christians., or the United States.  God is talking to the nation of Israel, and is responding to a prayer that Solomon had spoken at the dedication of the recently completed Temple.  In that prayer, Solomon reminded God that He had promised his father, David, that He would not fail to have a man sit on the throne of Israel, provided the nation was careful to walk in His law as David had walked before Him.

     Solomon then continued his prayer, asking God to hear the prayers of the people, as they prayed towards the Temple, and forgive them their sins.  He mentions the ramifications of their sins:  being required to take an oath before the altar for sinning against a neighbor; being defeated in battle because they have sinned against the Lord; drought, famine, and pestilence because of their sins.  Time and time again, throughout the lengthy prayer, Solomon asks God to hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, their prayer and requests, and maintain their cause and do justice and forgive Your people who have sinned against You.
     God’s response?  It is within the context of Solomon’s Dedication Prayer, and the complete sentence He delivers is this:   If I shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or if I command locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence and plague among My people, and My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.
     So, the first thing we need to realize is that this is a specific response to a specific prayer, and it pertains to the nation of Israel.  NOW, does this mean that God, in His Sovereignty and His Mercy will not extend the same offer to us, those who have accepted the invitation of His Son?  One of the greatest truths of Scripture is that God loves us.  We are His creation and His people — those whom He will take with Himself into eternal glory!
     But God is also a Righteous God, and He requires repentance for forgiveness.  We are to pray to the Spirit so that Jesus will be worshipped and known throughout the world. We obey the Spirit so that we can have intimacy and communion with God. But we don’t pray because we believe that doing so will fix our country or provide us with some sort of special national blessing, and return us to a land of prosperity and power.
     And it’s not enough to ask for forgiveness of our sins if we don’t change our sinful ways.  God will not hear us praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 if we continue to hate, based on the color of our skin.  He will not hear our prayers if we continue to take advantage of the downtrodden to secure a political vote.  He will not hear our prayers if we continue to worship pluralism and relativism.  There is only one Authority and one Absolute God, and that is YHWH.  He will not hear our prayers if we numb our hearts and minds to the needs of others in our desperate need to fulfill ourselves.  And, it is not enough to deplore and pray against the abhorrent practice of abortion if we allow it to continue to exist.

     I do not doubt that millions of Christians are praying across this land, and asking God to heal our nation.  But until we truly repent and change our lives — seek His face and turn from our wicked ways — then I do not believe He will answer.  We cannot expect God to change our circumstances as long as our government rules in darkness; crime and violence dominate our cities; we wage war across the globe; and we violate His moral statues.
     Furthermore, we tend to assume the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 refer to Christian believers, to the elect.  But if all true believers were to do all that the verse requires, God would hear from heaven, forgive our sin, but still not heal our land.  Why?  Because if God healed the land today, it would be defiled tomorrow by the blood of the innocents flowing seven days a week from the abortion mills.
     Yet, we know that by Jesus’s stripes we are healed.  He died for our sins and transgressions.  But it requires effort on our part.  It requires national repentance; that turning in a new direction.  And it requires genuine humility; a fasting of the heart and calling on God in thanksgiving, supplication and intercession; knowing we can only be healed by Him.  Until we do the necessary work of changing our sinful ways, fall on our face in humility, and putting ourselves under His Authority, I’m afraid that God cannot and will not heal our land.  He cannot act in opposition to His own Character and Righteousness.  So, Can God heal our land? Yes!  Will He?  That depends on how we respond to Him.  I believe that He wants nothing more than to heal this nation, but it’s up to us to show Him we are the people He desires us to be.  Right now, we’re not even close…

Hosea 10:12      Sow with a view to righteousness [that righteousness, like seed, may germinate]; Reap in accordance with mercy and lovingkindness. Break up your uncultivated ground, For it is time to seek and search diligently for the Lord [and to long for His blessing] Until He comes to rain righteousness and His gift of salvation on you.

Taking Another Look At “The Veils” Of Our Existence

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     Nearly three-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a post titled The Veils Of Our Existence.  It was based on a theory proposed by the late Don Harkin, former Editor of The Idaho Observer.  Mr. Harkin suggested the existence of a world system of Power-Elites that the masses don’t comprehend because these Power-Elites have cleverly developed a virtual pasture so green that few people seldom, if ever, bother to look up from where they are grazing to notice that they are being led over the cliff.
     Three-and-a-half years ago, my level of understanding of these “veils” did not include the spiritual battle that was being waged at each stage.  I still think each of these stages exists and is valid, and in order to progress to a higher understanding of just how we are to maneuver through this existence called life, we must be able to pierce each successive veil and move to the next level.  It is part of our human journey on this earth… only now, I see this journey with the added benefit of spiritual eyes. So I would like to revisit this interesting speculation, and add a new spiritual perspective to Mr. Harkins’ conjecture.  I’m interested to know how many of you have grown in your understanding, as well.
       The First Veil = Politics. There are over 7 billion+ people on the planet.  Most of them will live and die without seriously thinking about anything other than what it takes to live and breathe for one more day.  That means that 90% of all humanity will live behind this first veil and never pierce it.  That leaves 10% of us who will vote, be active in our societies and have an opinion.  Our opinions are often shaped by government officials, MSM or other “experts” who claim to be voices of authority.  But of those with an opinion, 90% will never really think for themselves and will adopt the opinion of others, while 10% will pierce the second veil and move forward in their thinking.
     My New Perspective:  All this remains true, but now I see that there are spiritual forces behind those involved in the government, Mainstream Media, and “experts”, or voices of authority.  Of those of us within the 10% who form their own opinion, how many understand that politics is not the answer — that our power will not come from our affiliation with whomever wins elections, but from Jesus Christ?  And what small percentage of that 10% realizes that our time on this earth should not be spent supporting man-made power structures, but using our power from Christ to “do the things He has done, only greater”? (John 14:12).
     The Second Veil = History.  There will be 10% of us who will explore the world of history, the relationship between man and government, which will lead to the meaning of self-government through constitutional and common law.  Ninety percent of this group will live and die without going on to pierce the third veil.
     My New Perspective:  The Constitution is no longer my route to real freedom.  Man’s laws and self-government will only get me so far.  My true freedom lies in letting Jesus heal my spiritual wounds, and recognizing that I don’t have to suffer the “fiery darts” of the Enemy.  The history that consumes me now are the experiences of those — both from the ancient world, and the modern — who have learned what it means to transcend the tyranny and oppression from the spiritual realm to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.  That is true freedom.
     The Third Veil = Resources of the World.  Of the group that pierces this veil, 10% of us will come to realize that the masses are controlled by extremely wealthy and powerful families whose old world assets have been manipulated to become the foundation upon which the world’s economy is currently indebted.  (Think Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, the Royal Monarchs).  But sadly, 90% of this group will never pierce the fourth veil.
     My New Perspective:  Yes, the masses are controlled by these extremely wealthy and powerful families; and behind them are the spiritual forces of wickedness and evil.  I believe that they have sold their souls for earthly wealth and power that will prove false when the Day of Judgment comes.

 The Fourth Veil = The Illuminati, Freemasonry and other secret societies.  There are 10% of us that recognize these societies use symbols and perform ceremonies that transfer mysterious knowledge that is used to keep us ordinary people in political, economic and spiritual bondage to the oldest bloodlines on earth.  This has been seen frequently at Super Bowl halftime shows (Beyonce flashing “the Rockefeller” sign; Madonna sporting symbols of the occult) and during the Grammy’s (Nikki Minaj’s ode to “Roman”, the demon whom she says possesses her).  Just check out the Youtube videos for each of these demonstrations!  But once again, 90% of those who have reached this level of understanding will never pierce the fifth veil.
     My New Perspective:  Boy, has my understanding of this grown in the last few years!  The Lord has shown me just how much devastation has been sown on families steeped in these secret societies.  The oaths and curses taken during secret ritual ceremonies have resulted in great oppression among many Christians, who don’t even know these secret societies have permeated their families or their Churches!  And the evidence that these societies have infiltrated our entertainment industry is overwhelming.  I am literally seeing the signs and symbols everywhere I look throughout our culture.  Sadly, I believe that our country is steeped in the occult mysticism associated with these groups, and they are influencing every area of our lives.
     The Fifth Veil = Technological advances by these Secret Societies. I may lose some of you at this point, but I urge you to do your own research and study the Bible in depth.  There are hints of the knowledge behind this fifth veil, but you have to be willing to connect the dots.  There are 10% who make it this far in their understanding who learn that the secret societies are so far advanced technologically that they are able to do things that were considered science fiction just decades ago.  The inventions of Ray Kurzweil and his prediction of “man’s singularity with computers” is an example of such advanced technology.  But what’s interesting is that this technology is actually ancient, and compares to what Nimrod was trying to accomplish at the Tower of Babel; namely to become like God.    Are we getting dangerously close to that concept again?  Nearly 90% will never get beyond this understanding to the sixth veil.
     My New Perspective:  To say that technology has surpassed science fiction is putting it mildly.  Human-animal hybrids are being created in Great Britain, and a surgeon plans to reanimate human corpses.  Books are being written that tell us immortality is accessible to everyone, outside of any religious worldview.  Inventors and artists openly admit that they are “channeling” spiritual sources of knowledge.  All this is being downloaded from entities in the spiritual realm to control and deceive the human race.  We better understand who we’re dealing with.
       The Sixth Veil = Aliens and Monsters may be real.  It is going to take a huge leap for the 10% who get to this level of understanding.  But if you study your Bible closely, you will see mention of fallen angels mating with earthly women to give birth to Nephalim (Giants) (Genesis 6:4 and 2 Samuel 21:20, for example).  There are many modern-day Biblical scholars who are prepared to say that the minotaurs of old and the UFO and alien sightings of today are evidence of these fallen angels.
     My New Perspective:  My how far we’ve come in these last three-and-a-half years!  The growth of the remnant of the Church who understands the truth of Genesis 6 has been astounding!  I know that there are “spiritual monsters” and they are called demons.  I have encountered them in deliverance sessions, and seen them stare out of the eyes of people who had no idea they were being oppressed by them.  Savage and brutal and bizarre attacks upon people are increasing and are evidence that the Enemy is bringing the spiritual battle to our physical world.  Although, yes, these demons are real, we should have no fear because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.
     If you have made it this far and can conceive of the concepts behind the sixth veil, then perhaps you can see that what waits for us behind The Seventh Veil = Peace of the Lord.  It’s hard to imagine, but I can foresee a small group of people whose soul is so evolved that they can exist on this earth, yet be unafraid of the evil that abounds in this realm.  The only way I can describe it is to have such peace from God that you are unafraid of death.
     My New Perspective:  Actually, my perspective has moved in a new direction on this veil.  It’s not such a small group that sees the evil ascending on the earth from the second heaven, or spiritual realm.  These last few years has seen an amazing growth in this knowledge within the Body of Christ.  It’s as if the Holy Spirit has done a massive data dump upon Christians!  We not only know that and discern this spiritual warfare, but we also have been given the knowledge that we have the Authority of Jesus to fight [in this war] through the Power of the Holy Spirit.  And that’s where our Peace comes from… knowing that we can rebuke the devil and he will flee; knowing that the Lord is our banner in this fight and goes before us; and we know that Jesus will not only never leave us nor forsake us, but He who began a good work in us will complete it.  That is called Peace!
     That brings us to Harkins’ Eighth veil, which can only be the pure energy, authority and life force that is God.  We can only hope to tap into that Power, and I think the closest we can come to that is to seek a personal, intimate relationship with the One True God, the Ruler of the Universe and abide in Him.
     My New Perspective:  Yes, a personal, intimate relationship is necessary to tap into that Power, but it is incumbent upon each of us to know that it is available to us.  We are not to be mindless robots, sitting idly by waiting for God to win this war all by Himself.  We are created in His image, exhorted to imitate Christ, and called to an inheritance in Christ.  He dwells in us!  That energy, authority and life force are not to be squandered, but used to gain ground in defeating the Enemy in our lives!
     So, as you can see, with each veil of understanding that is pierced, the number of people “who see” gets exponentially smaller.  When I first wrote this blog post over three years ago, I saw mainly through “worldly” eyes.  I was focused on “the low information voter”, and the gullible citizens who I saw as useful idiots and tools of the state.  I actually thought my vote really mattered and changing the politics of the nation would solve the world’s problems.  I didn’t see the spiritual component.
     I can honestly say that I believe I am at that Eighth veil, and I so grateful to my Lord and the Holy Spirit for helping me to see through the murkiness of the veils and how they obscured my vision of God’s Truth.  I see that my existence here on earth is more than just this physical realm, and my victory in this life depends on my readiness to work with Jesus and the Holy Spirit to do battle with the spiritual realm.  I now truly know that I do not battle against flesh and blood, but have the Authority and Power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to free myself of spiritual bondage.
     I will admit that it’s a long road to progress through these veils, and if you are just beginning to awaken to their reality, then I hope you can see that living, breathing and thinking are just the beginning to greater understanding.  And there is nothing to fear… we know that victory is ours in the next life.  Until then, it an honor to stand for our Lord and represent Him to all we come in contact with, and to help others to push through the veils.  As we teach them the meaning of each obstruction, and show them how to move to the next stage, it will be one less obstacle between them and God.  That is a goal worthy of effort by every Christian.

2 Corinthians 3:16-17      “Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

Connecting More Dots

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     Chaotic events in the world are beginning to happen at breakneck speed; like contractions during a birth.  Dallas … Nice, France … Turkey … Baton Rouge … all in less than two weeks.  And we are facing the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week; God help us!  I fear that the New Living Translation of Matthew 24:8 is playing out: “But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.”  

     Saturday evening into Sunday morning I wrote the following post and think it is important enough to still run it this morning.  But I wanted all to know that I am not impervious to the tragedy that happened in Baton Rouge yesterday.  Sadly, it is a continuation of the rage that I believe is being orchestrated against all of us in the country, regardless of our race.  It is spiritual in nature, and regrettably, there are far too many people with hearts of stone who are only willing to listen to the devil’s lies, and those of his collaborators.  If you know nothing else to do, just get on your knees and pray.  (Click here for my suggestion, if you’re not sure how to pray). Ask the Creator of all men to change the hearts of wicked men.   Recognize Him as Jehovah Nissi, our banner or battle standard.  He is our forward Guard and our rear Guard.  As long as we are under his banner, our victory is always assured.  If we ever depart from it, our defeat is a certainty.  
     We need to face it — this Christian life is a picture of warfare.  Just as in ancient battles, we are to obey every command of our King, and run to His banner, which is the Cross, when the fight becomes too much for our flesh.  But we also need to realize that the battle is won in the spiritual realm, and we are to put on our full armor of God and get to the battlefront!  No matter what the news says today, or tomorrow, next week, or next year … trust in our Lord and Savior!  These birth pangs will soon give way to His justice and righteousness.  We are in the heat of the battle at the moment, and we need to keep drinking the Living Water that is Christ!

     Over the weekend, as I followed the events in Turkey, I couldn’t help but discern that God gave me a huge download of knowledge that connected more dots in the evolution of His cosmic chess match with the devil.  I’m still trying to fit all the pieces together, so I hope you’ll be patient with me, as I try to write this down as fast as I’m receiving it.  Hopefully, it will make some sense to you, or one of you can expand on what I’m presenting.
     My journey over the last few days began with receiving a book that my Spiritual Warfare mentor suggested I read, called Rulers of Evil, by F. Tupper Saussy.  At the expense of offending faithful Catholics, I must recommend this book as a fascinating book of the history of the Catholic Church and its influence on the world empires, as well as the founding of America.  Moreover, the author gives an intriguing account of the history of Biblical knowledge and how it interacts with the Roman Catholic papacy.  PLEASE, I am not recommending this book under the pretense of Catholic-bashing!  I am a lover of history and the author is able take a vast amount of historical information and present it in a chronological and coherent manner.  I had barely begun reading (page 24 to be exact) when I saw a link between what happened in history to what is unfolding in Turkey and here in the United States.  Let me start with the historical impetus for my “aha” moment….

     As a student of history, I have been aware that the reading of the Bible was largely limited to Kings and Church leaders until the invention of the Guttenberg Press made it accessible to the masses.  The control and domination by these rulers could be undermined if the general population ever learned that they had direct access to the Bible and God’s Word.  (That’s an over-simplification of all the intrigue that surrounds the maintaining of power among history’s ruling class, but it gives you a general view of how things work).
     As I was reading this fascinating book, it was inevitable that the conflict between Martin Luther and the Catholic Church would surface.  In case you’re unfamiliar with the background of this story, Luther was a Catholic monk who defied the edict of the Archbishop of Mainz against unauthorized Bible reading, and began reading the first edition of the Greek New Testament, printed by Renaissance theologian Desiderius Erasmus.  That led to Luther’s explosive document, Ninety-five Theses Upon Indulgences, which he promptly nailed to the door of the castle church of Wittenburg. (The historic idea of Indulgences was centered upon a grant by the pope of the remission of punishment in purgatory that was still due for sins, even after absolution. The unrestricted sale of indulgences by pardoners was a widespread abuse during the later Middle Ages … as an example, for the payment of four ducats, one could be forgiven for murdering one’s father; or Sorcery was pardoned for six ducats — you get the picture).  You can see how the ability for the common man to begin reading and understanding the Truth within the pages of the Bible could seriously erode the authority of those who claimed divine power.
     But it was more than these familiar historical facts that I was seeing; I suddenly saw the collusion between Pope Clement VII, Niccolo Machiavelli, the inventor of modern political science, and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Chancellor of England. These men determined that the printing press could now be used to their advantage — they, themselves, could produce literature that would ultimately confuse, diminish, and marginalize the influence of the Bible. Cardinal Wolsey characterized this project as putting “learning against learning”.  (Remember that phrase, because it is going to come back into focus as I connect the dots to what happened this weekend).  The result of this vast amount of printed material was the famed Medici Library– which opposed the Bible’s teaching that man could have eternal life simply by believing in Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf, in favor of Gnostic teachings that man could achieve eternal life by doing good works (Christ-centered learning versus man-centered learning).  So extensive was this Library’s philosophical influence, that many scholars today consider it the cradle of Western civilization.
     Martin Luther, discerning that this learning against learning philosophy was the future of Christianity, prophetically wrote in 1520, “Though our children live in the midst of a Christian world, they faint and perish in misery because they lack the Gospel in which we should be training and exercising them all the time.  I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount [my emphasis].  Schools will become wide-open gates of hell if they do not diligently engrave the Holy Scriptures on young hearts.  Every institution where men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt”.  (While I also have huge problems with Luther’s later opinions regarding the Jewish people, he hit a home run with this school of thought).

     So, now let me make a huge leap, by connecting this dot with one from this weekend.  As I awoke Saturday morning, I was curious to see what had happened in Turkey overnight.  As I often do, I took a look at what foreign news outlets were reporting; often finding them less restrained in their communication of facts.  The UK’s Daily Mail was showing astonishing pictures of the citizens who backed President Erdogan confronting and attacking the members of the Turkish military who had dared to try to overthrow the President.  One particular sentence jumped out at me:  “Erdogan has blamed his old scapegoat, Fethullah Gulen for orchestrating the uprising. Muslim cleric Gulen, the president’s rival who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, as the head of a billion dollar religious movement, has often been blamed for political unrest in Turkey.”
     If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you might recognize the name of Fethullah Gulen.  I wrote posts here (2013) and here (earlier in 2016), regarding this imam’s influence in our American educational system.  Yes, you read that correctly … Trained as an imam, Fethullah Gulen gained notice in Turkey some 50 years ago, promoting a philosophy that blended a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue.  Erdogan has long accused Gulen of plotting to overthrow the “officially secular government” from a gated 26-acre compound in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, which has a population of about 1,100. The President of Turkey is now asking for Gulen’s extradition, but Secretary of State John Kerry says our government is unlikely to comply.
     Why should the internal politics and history of political rivalry in Turkey be of particular interest to us here in the United States?  Because, as I have made mention in past blog posts, Fethullah Gulen and his Gulen Movement (his liberal Islamic transnational religious and social movement) runs the largest charter school network in our nation – the list is at 146 to be exact, with sad to say, 45 schools in my state of Texas!  How could this be, you ask?  Well, he is very clever … the name of these influential schools go by different names in each of the states.  In Texas, they are the Harmony Science Academy; in Ohio, the Horizon Science Academy; in California, the Magnolia Science Academy … you see what he’s doing, right?  Appealing to the ever-competitive nature of the American psyche, he promotes his schools as academies of higher learning to help Americans excel in math and science; so that students will get a higher level of education than they do at public schools.  And it is a multi-billion dollar business!
     And students get a higher “level” of learning alright!  While the schools are not overtly teaching Islamic philosophy and religion, I contend that Fethullah Gulen’s influence is predicated on eliminating and destroying Christianity’s influence among our nation’s youth.  That’s where the dots are connected!  Remember Luther’s concern over learning against learning?  Well, we are seeing it in action before our very eyes, and we are blinded.  I say that because Gulen’s influence has not only infiltrated our education system, but his tentacles reach into banks, newspapers, universities, charities, research institutes, and the halls of Congress, where according to an article by Ariel Cohen, and a USA TODAY investigation, over 200 trips for congressmen and congressional staff have been sponsored by Gülenist entities.
     All this being said, I have to admit that I sometimes feel like I’m shouting in the wilderness.  I have written several posts now on this man, and pointed to others who have done extensive research on him, and now the name of Fethullah Gulen pops up once again in the attempted coup in Turkey.  If you’re tired of me harping on this subject, I apologize, but the chance that I would receive this fascinating book, and read of the anti-Bible reference to learning against learning, at the exact moment that an influential Islamic businessman (deeply ensconced in our educational system) is suggested as influencing the attempted downfall of a sovereign nation … well, I could not ignore it.
     I will leave you by reporting the words of Martin Luther …  I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount.  Schools will become wide-open gates of hell if they do not diligently engrave the Holy Scriptures on young hearts.  Do you think that the mega-success of the Gulen Schools shows us that man-centered learning is surpassing Christ-centered learning in our culture?  And what happens when the Word of God is eliminated entirely, in favor of Islamic-flavored curriculum?  The fingerprints of satan have been on the knowledge of man from the beginning, and this is just another of his strategies.  We must be diligent in our discernment, and continue to connect the dots!

Colossians 2:8    “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

The Power of God: A Personal Testimony

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This post represents the reflections of a very good friend of mine, who just recently returned from a mission trip to Europe and the refugee camps.  She is a young Millennial and has such a heart for Jesus, vowing to go wherever He sends her in order to share Him with the world.  She began her journey in Brussels, went on to Moscow, and as God would have it, received an opportunity, at the last minute, to alter her itinerary before heading back home to the U.S.  It was here, the last five days that she spent in the refugee camps in northern Greece, that she says changed her life.  Considering my post from yesterday … if you want to know how we Christians can be the salt of the earth, just read what she has to say:

     While standing barefoot on the gravel in between tents in a refugee camp in northern Greece, two little girls, Afghani sisters, walked up to me, gave me hugs, and eventually I had to say goodbye to them. Thinking about that moment [now], I am in tears because it is so hard to leave a place where so many people are living in devastation and so little is being done to help them.
     After spending six weeks overseas, five of those days in Greece, my perspective on life has shifted. Millions of people just like you and me are having to flee their homes (which likely have been leveled). These people are engineers, business men, and students who may never finish school; hardworking people who used to live normal lives, and now live in tents, lucky to have a bed.

     It’s almost 100 degrees there, no air conditioning in the camps, the toilets and showers are filthy (for many the conditions are worse in the camps than they were in their home countries), they have limited clothes, and most are in the middle of Ramadan, fasting all day.  The borders are closed now, so these people are beginning to have to accept that they may never leave Greece. The thought of landing back in the States while these people are stuck in a situation that is not only uncomfortable, but deadly for many, is heartbreaking.
     I wish the world could understand that there are many people suffering on earth right now while the rest of us go on with normal everyday life without even a thought of those people. The refugee crisis is being called the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II, but somehow it still surprised people when I would tell them why I was in Europe. It’s my prayer that our eyes be opened and see people the way Jesus sees people.
     (One major takeaway from my time in Greece is that God is moving in the refugee camps. This shouldn’t be a surprise since God shows us over and over again in the Bible that He is present and near to comfort those who mourn, and provide for those in need.)
      I had the privilege of being invited into the tent of a sweet Syrian family on my first day in the camps. The cultures that the refugees come from are some of the most hospitable I’ve ever seen. This family offered us coffee, water, tea, and fruit, when really they were the ones who needed it! One of the daughters, Zeinah, interpreted for us so we got to ask them questions about their lives, pray healing over her because she was sick, and then share with them a little bit about Jesus as we know Him.
     Near [the time] when we had to leave, with their blessing, we prayed for them all to encounter God (their hands in an open position to receive).  It was so cool that they let us do that because they knew we were Christians! As we were leaving, I asked Zeinah if she could ask the family if any of them had had a dream of a man in white before.  One of the other daughters, Rima, who is 22 years old responded that she had. She described the man as dressed in a white robe to his feet, standing on green grass, and handing her water. She could not see his face because it was too bright.
     I opened my Bible to Revelation, Chapter 1, and read to Zeinah the description of Jesus there (“like a son of man”, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.)  Zeinah translated it for Rima, and then looked at me with a smile and said, yes, that is who was in her dream! I excitedly told her that the man in her dream was Jesus, and that she must tell Rima that in the Bible Jesus calls himself the Living Water …  and just how we need water to live, we need Jesus all the more. I had to leave then, but Zeinah assured me that she would tell Rima that her dream was about Jesus. My prayer is that Rima and her family would continue to have dreams of Jesus and come to know the Man who is pursuing them in their dreams.

     This is not only happening to this family, but Muslims everywhere are reporting having dreams of this “man in white”.  Jesus is pursuing the Muslim people in their sleep, and entire families are getting saved across Europe because of it. The power of God is the only way that someone will have [such] an encounter with God, but He is using His people to convey the message of the Gospel … the Good News of Jesus.
      I also got the chance to sit in a tent with seven Muslim-background men, six of which were Afghani, and one was a Syrian Kurdish man. One of the men was interpreting for us and we were just chatting with them. We found out that the Syrian man in the room had been baptized in the name of Jesus the week before, along with four other men and has been reading his Bible ever since! Another man in the room was holding a Farsi New Testament that he was going to start reading later that day. These people who have never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus as their Savior are hearing about Him for the first time.  And because there is nothing else for them to do with their time, they love listening to our stories about Jesus and are happy to read the Bible!
      As I’ve been reflecting on my time in Greece, and what God is doing there, and in all of Europe with the refugees, what I feel like God is calling me to do now is to pray for the refugees and the workers who are there, and to educate people here about the crisis through my direct experience.

     This is the testimony of my faithful young friend, who is able to set aside her differences with people of different faiths and nationalities to see people as Jesus sees them … people that He created; people who desperately need to know Him as the world deteriorates into chaos and lawlessness.  
     She approached her calling from Jesus with no fear; only excitement, and as she wrote me, “an expectancy for what God is going to do in us and through us as we interact with the refugees.”  Note that she didn’t say she was “hoping” that God would work in her and through her, but she was “expecting” it!  That is more than youthful optimism.  That is faith in the power of God, and comes from a trust and confidence rooted in her spirit; a spirit that is supernaturally connected to her Creator.
     So, now we have to come to terms with the spiritual aspects of this world.  Can you see that the Enemy wants us to concentrate on the very real danger of Muslim extremists, who are used as instruments of wickedness and perhaps, judgment?  But at the same time, can you see that Jesus is still moving and ministering in the world; even in the midst of refugee camps that very likely contain men intent on carrying out more evil? The recent attacks on a restaurant in Bangladesh remind us that Evil is ever present. 
     And the Bible tells us that, along with this wickedness, mankind will not escape the humanitarian crises that my young friend witnessed.  Earth has become the battleground for the war in the spiritual realm.  And my friend is absolutely correct … we must pray for the innocent refugees, and the workers who are ministering to them.  We must tell the world about the very real human suffering that is going on.  And, most importantly, we must praise God, who draws people unto Himself through the teaching of the gospel. Thank you, Lord, that people like my young friend answer your call.   It is exciting to hear, first-hand, of the drawing power of your Word to save! And we ask for continuous strength and revelation to do what You need us to do, in the Name of Jesus.  Amen!

Colossians 1:6    “In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.”
       

Closing The Gaps: Our Spiritual Hypocrisy

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     Everyday I receive an email with an inspirational message from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a Christian sports ministry to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.  Frankly, although I am not an athlete, I still enjoy the sports analogies that accompany the emails, and I also enjoy receiving a message each day about how to honor God.
     One particular email really spoke to me, and I think it pertains to the Christian community’s difficulty in embracing the spiritual realm and spiritual warfare.  Dan Britton, who played professional indoor lacrosse for four years for the Baltimore Thunder wrote that day’s message.  Dan serves as FCA’s Executive Vice President of International Ministry.  He chose to speak about spiritual integrity.  Here is his testimony:  “As a lacrosse player, I knew some of my teammates to be big partiers. Despite their lifestyle, I learned that they had nothing to hide. Actually, I came to find out that they lived with more integrity than me! As a Christian who had a “testimony” to protect, I tried to hide my gaps. What they said and did, however, were the same things. No gaps. Just the basic “what you see is what you get” lifestyle. They were partiers, but not hypocrites. It all lined up with them. Unfortunately, we as Christians often will say one thing and do another.”
     What Dan refers to as his “gaps”, I prefer to think of as our deviation from our true self, or our imbalance.  The true identity of our spirit often doesn’t match what we project to the world.  Our Inside doesn’t match up with our Outside.  Integrity is the state of being whole and undivided; the condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction.  That means we are consistent in our character, conformed in both body and spirit, just like Jesus was … we are the same, whether it is according to the spirit inside of us, or the physical image that the world sees.
     In the aspect of spiritual warfare, can you see how the Enemy can take advantage of us when there’s an imbalance between our inside and outside?  Too many Western Christians care more about the image they project to each other than who they project to the world.  At the same time, they are desperate to keep the spiritual side under wraps because it is so dissimilar to the physical side they promote.  And the Enemy swoops in and begins to whisper his destroying lies:  you’re a fraud … you profess trust and confidence in your Savior, but inside you are full of doubt and unbelief … if they knew the dark things in your past, your fellow Christians would denounce and reject you … keep it hidden; hide your fear/anger/bitterness/unforgiveness, and keep on pretending … The lies go on and on and on.  And millions of Christians live their lives in defeat and ineffectiveness.  Oh, they put on a good show, but as Dan Britton’s message says, when they look in the mirror, there are gaps between the spiritual and the physical that don’t line up.  They see the holes where satan has taken up residence in order to oppress them.
     And they’re too afraid to look at spiritual warfare as a way to transform their lives, get free from satan’s bondage, and to become the whole person — inside and out — that God desires them to be.  They can’t get beyond their suspicions that working in the spirit realm with Jesus and the Holy Spirit is somehow … I don’t know … maybe too mystical, or speaks of unnatural and unbiblical practices.  But why are Christians unable to understand the truth that Jesus Christ is living in us, through the presence of the Holy Spirit?!?  Why would we choose to ignore His presence and His help when satan begins to attack us with his lies?  Why would we choose to remain powerless, impotent, and unfruitful?
     An image was just given to me by the Holy Spirit … in the context of Dan Britton’s “gaps”, when we do not allow Jesus to transform us to wholeness — when we do not call on His presence that is right there, within us! — those gaps become spaces and holes through which the Living Water seeps out of our lives, and it’s impossible for us to be nourished.  We do not bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.  It is not enough to live a moral, ethical life on the outside. We are called to produce fruit for the kingdom, and we can’t do it through the activities of our Outside self; we can only do that through partnering our spirits with the power of the Holy Spirit.
     Once Christians experience the power of Jesus working with them and through them to deliver themselves or another out of the crippling bondage of satan’s lies, they will close those gaps and become their true, authentic self — everything in alignment with God and His purpose … to glorify and exalt Jesus as our Savior.
     If you haven’t experienced a spiritual attack, you will.  If you are growing spiritually; if you are exposing the Enemy; if you are invading his territory; if you are trying to break away from the world and its temptations and distractions; if God is preparing you for a great work for His kingdom … get ready, you will be spiritually attacked.  But there is no need to be fearful!  We have Jesus living in us, and at our invitation, He and the Holy Spirit will be your armor as you go into battle.  Remember, He’s as close as the mention of His Name.  Just call, and He will come.

Proverbs 18:10    “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”

How Do We Love Our Enemies?

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     Today I need to get a little personal … in the sense that I need to discuss an issue that I know is troubling many of my fellow Christians.  I know this because I have received a heartfelt email from a reader whom I know is sincere in her faith.  And I know that I need to try to write about this because it is something each of us needs to come to terms with in our own spirits and hearts — and that includes me!

     I believe I can write about this without betraying her confidence because it was an email that millions of Christians across America could have written.  In short, this reader wrote to ask me for suggestions on how she can walk out her faith and learn to love the unsaved Muslims in our country.  Now, I want each of you to be honest … haven’t you at one time or another struggled with what you know are unChrist-like emotions?  We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t battle feelings of anger towards the radical Muslims who are filled with so much hate for our nation and way of life that their goal is to take innocent lives in some perverted sense of obedience to what we know is a false god and evil ideology.
     And I believe we would be unwise if we didn’t acknowledge the Islamic doctrine of Taqiyya (taqiya, taqiyah, taqiyyah), which is a form of Islamic deception. The Quran (16:106 and 3:28) allows Muslims to lie in order to protect themselves or to protect the Muslim community.   And I think we would be foolish to not feel disappointment in our government’s lackluster efforts to defend us, and their denial that there is anything to worry about.  Furthermore, I suspect that many of us are confused over how — as law-abiding citizens concerned about our rights — we have become a threat (in our own country) to the liberty of refugees and foreigners!  Finally, if you are like me, you are perhaps worried over how easily our youth are tempted to adopt the false religions of the world.  My husband and I encountered a young employee at Home Depot, and as he often does, my husband asked the young man about his tattoos (he is always interested to know why they have chosen the symbols they have).  This young man had a tattoo which he said “symbolizes the moon god because that culture interests me”.  All I could think was, “Father, forgive him for he knows not what he does”.
     So all that addresses our human emotions and thoughts.  But what about our spiritual struggle with these issues?  If we are to be honest and faithful Christians, then we know that we are to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us”.  Jesus made that very clear in Matthew 5:44.  I will be the first one to admit that this seems like an impossible commandment … and one that our ultimate Enemy, satan, will use against us in order to convict us of a powerless and faithless life.  Loving an enemy that hates my faith and wants to kill and destroy me and my family is a difficult thing to do, but anything less does not follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  Remember that He willingly laid down his life and asked His Father to forgive those who killed Him.  And He did not hate them.
     I can hear the disagreements now … Jesus would not want us to bow to political correctness, or not defend our families or faith.  The Bible tells us that we “must hold firm to the trustworthy Word as taught, so that we may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”  But loving our enemies?  What does that look like in the wake of events like Orlando?
     Perhaps we can start by determining what it does not look like.  Yes, Jesus tells us to love them unconditionally — no matter what they do to us — but it doesn’t mean that we agree with what they do, or make excuses for it.  My reader commented on how difficult it was becoming to see Muslims begin to dominate in our culture, and to see unvetted refugees streaming into the country in the wake of atrocities that have been committed in their home nations.  She knows it is God’s desire that none should perish, but in the face of what appears to be unreconcilable differences, and blatant and obvious hatred towards us, she is finding it difficult to imitate Christ.
     I’m afraid that I have no quick fix or easy solution.  For myself, I have decided to try to discern what God has told us throughout the Bible when it comes to living among people who are enemies.  God never changes, and what He commanded His people to do in the Old and New Testaments, remains the standard by which we should live our lives.
     First of all, as I told the reader, God did not ask His people to accommodate new religions or politically correct viewpoints.  In fact, He commanded them to resist compromising with corrupt nations; to never adopt false religions or gods; and to keep His statues forever.  Of course, one of those statues is to pray for, and to love our enemies.  As evidenced by the growing number of jihadist murders in our country, the enemy is no longer at the gate, but firmly embedded within our culture, with more likely inserted among the thousands of refugees admitted to our shores.  So how do we live our faith and be imitators of Jesus?
     I can tell you that I can’t do it through my human will.  I have to pray in my spirit, bowing down before the throne of God in heaven, and asking Him to protect our nation from this enemy — that the scales be removed from their eyes, and that they meet Jesus.  That is what I do in the spiritual realm.  In this physical realm, we do everything we can to stop the invasion against our laws and our culture. And when given the opportunity, you meet their hate with the love of Jesus.  Like Jesus, we do not return their hate with malice.  Jesus held no grudges; He never added insult or injury to those who injured Him; He was kind in the face of vitriol, criticism and anger; He was forgiving of those who hated Him; and He never counseled revenge.

     I know that this attitude and these reactions seem contrary to everything our minds and emotions tell us.  But remember, we are not to act according to our flesh, but in agreement with our spirit, which is seated in the heavenly realm with Christ.  Hence, through our gift of salvation, we are to show the unsaved what it is like to be in relationship with Jesus Christ … as difficult as that might be in the face of murderous hatred.  And each time we show love to our enemies, it is one more strike of the Sword of the Spirit in the spiritual realm.
     I am in no way intending for this to sound as if it is simple and everyone should be able to do it easily.  We are no longer viewing a long-distance enemy, but one who is literally in our backyard.  But we need to see this as the spiritual battle it is.  Fighting the enemy with human effort will never completely banish him.  The physical battle we see today is an extension of centuries of the same physical war.  In order to defeat the enemy, we must do it spiritually, and with Divine help.
     Jesus never asks us to do something He did not do as a man, Himself.  As simple as it appears, He gave us a good example of how to follow Him.  It is expressed in Luke 6:27:  Do good to those who hate you.  Doing good to those who hate us displays [to them] the love of God. And maybe, maybe, if we show them the love of God, they will experience something they have never experienced before, and will want more of it. That is what I am hearing from a young friend who is part of a missionary team of college-aged Americans who are on a summer trip to the heart of Europe and the refugee camps to share the good news of Jesus Christ and His love.
     She has shared such amazing testimonies among the people she has met; people from Germany, Romania, Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Syria, India, UK, France, Algeria, Bulgaria, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Cameroon, Rwanda, New Zealand, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Indonesia, Tunisia, Afghanistan, and the Congo.  She believes that God is touching the lives of Muslim refugees, the rest of Europe, and in turn the rest of the world.
     Keep in mind that Europe has suffered horrific jihadist attacks in the last year.  Yet she tells of one of her teammates who was sharing the gospel with a Muslim refugee, and the man kept saying “don’t stop, please keep going, I need to hear this.”  And there are many more stories like this one among the Muslim populations of the world.  And to quote a sermon I read on the website, Redeeming God, “[In order to stop] the cycle of hate and the cycle of revenge, the cycle of retaliation [must] stop with us. You can be angry at a person for what they do, and yet still love them. Jesus was upset at the people of Jerusalem for how they abused and murdered the prophets, and yet He still shed loving tears over the city. Jesus, as always, is our best example for how to live out such principles.”
     If you still find yourself unable to do this, and the devil has gripped your heart in a vise of bitterness, hostile thoughts, and hateful emotions, then speak into the spiritual realm and declare the Word of God.  Find all the verses in Scripture where Jesus tells us that love conquers hate and proclaim to spirits [who actually hear you] that you belong to Him and you will not give in to satan’s temptation to hate.
     There will be those who will be unable to go beyond their human capabilities.  And working in the spiritual realm with the Holy Spirit is a learned skill.  But you have to try in order to be able to do it; and you have to do it to become confident in your power and authority [in Jesus and the Holy Spirit] in order to conquer the spirit of hate that comes from the Evil One.  As I’ve said repeatedly … it’s not easy.  That is evident by the history of war through the ages.  But it should also be evident that humans cannot replace hate with love by their own volition.  We must appeal to Jesus and fight this battle in the spiritual realm as well as the physical.  After all, that is exactly how Jesus did it!

Luke 6:27-28       “But I say to you who hear [Me and pay attention to My words]: Love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies, [make it a practice to] do good to those who hate you, bless and show kindness to those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
   

Slow Down by Nichole Nordeman

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Another beautiful Sunday and a gorgeous song in Slow Down by Nichole Nordeman. Listening to the lyrics your first thought is that it is written for a little child. I can certainly appreciate that thought as my children are growing up so fast.

If you look at the lyrics from God’s point of view you can see that it applies to anyone of any age. That is God’s wish for all of us. We need to slow down and focus on our relationship with him. Jesus should be the center of our lives and focus.

I certainly hope Slow Down by Nichole Nordeman causes you to slow down this blessed day!

Here’s to you
You were pink or blue
And everything I wanted
Here’s to you
Never sleeping through
From midnight till the morning
Had to crawl before you walked
Before you ran
Before I knew it
You were trying to free your fingers from my hand
‘Cause you could it on your own now
Somehow

Slow down
Won’t you stay here a minute more
I know you want to walk through the door
But it’s all too fast
Let’s make it last a little while
I pointed to the sky and now you wanna fly
I am your biggest fan
I hope you know I am
But do you think you can somehow
Slow down

Here’s to you
Every missing tooth
Every bedtime story
Here’s to Barbie cars, light saber wars
Sleeping in on Sunday
Had to crawl
Before you walked
Before you ran
Before I knew it
You were teaching me
The only thing love can
Hold hands through it
When it’s scary, you’ve got me

Please don’t roll your eyes at me
I know I’m embarrassing
But someday you’ll understand
You’ll hold a little hand
Ask them if they can …

I am your biggest fan
I hope you know I am
But do you think you can
Somehow
Slow down

Chick-fil-A, Bill De Blasio, And The Drive To Eliminate Christianity

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Chick-fil-A, Bill De Blasio, And The Drive To Eliminate Christianity

Who would have thought that a chicken restaurant could cause such a firestorm of strife?

Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio made headlines when he called for a controversial boycott of a Chick-fil-A that opened in the Queens Center Mall. De Blasio, a politician with very liberal-leaning policies, went as far as to say that the fast food restaurant’s leadership is “wrong” in regards to their beliefs and stance regarding traditional marriage.

Chick-fil-A has long been a standard-bearer in business when it comes to integrity, values and Christian beliefs. In fact, CEO Dan Cathy of Georgia hasn’t exactly been one to shy away from his Christian faith, professing a strict view of the biblical definition of marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman. De Blasio, though, is a strong supporter of same-sex marriage.

The problem, though, isn’t the differences between Cathy and De Blasio over a significant issue. The problem is that De Blasio, a portrait of the liberal movement, epitomizes the supreme hypocrisy of the far-left wing in society. De Blasio’s blasting of Chick-fil-A comes due to his argument that the chicken restaurant is “intolerant” of other beliefs.

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“What the owner of Chick-fil-A has said is wrong,” De Blasio said “I’m certainly not going to patronize them and I wouldn’t urge any other New Yorker to patronize them.”

De Blasio’s subtle call for a boycott fell on seemingly deaf ears, as customers soon lined up for over an hour to eat. Meanwhile, multiple supporters spoke out against the New York City bully, voicing their frustration. One restaurant supporter even said: “If anyone is spreading a message of hate and intolerance, it’s De Blasio.”

What Is Right and Wrong?

Chick-fil-A, Bill De Blasio, And The Drive To Eliminate ChristianityNow, there’s two distinct issues with De Blasio’s call for a boycott. First, he called Cathy’s public stance on traditional marriage “wrong.” This means, of course, that he holds a standard of “right” and “wrong.” We all hold a moral standard of sorts, but without any grounding or unwavering basis, we have no reason to profess a strong belief in right and wrong. For instance, Christians have the Bible, which blatantly articulates the difference between what is right and what is wrong. It is clear from the Bible that gay marriage is wrong, and that traditional marriage is right. But in liberal land, where anything goes, there can’t possibly be any such thing as right and wrong, because right and wrong are made up by the culture and conform to our feelings. This is why gay marriage isn’t simply the end, but an open door to transgender bathrooms and anything else the Left decides to embrace.

For De Blasio to classify Cathy’s beliefs as “wrong” would entail that he is right, but it also brings into question the grounding of his moral judgment, if it’s not the law of God. Why is Cathy wrong? And why is De Blasio right? If there is no absolute moral standard, how do we know?

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The second issue with De Blasio boycott call is that it sends a very bold, intolerant message to our culture: We should tolerate everyone, so long as they’re not Christians. De Blasio’s call to boycott possibly the most classy, respectful, integrity-laced fast food chain in the world isn’t a reflection only on his character and poor judgment, but on the narrative of the nation in modern times. In today’s America, we accept everyone, so long as they agree with us. De Blasio’s message is tolerance and acceptance. Shouldn’t the standard bearer of cultural “tolerance” tolerate and accept the diversity of opinion that Chick-fil-A celebrates?

Sadly, the camp that preaches tolerance and acceptance of all things LGBT is also lining up to crucify and destroy anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideals. What De Blasio essentially said is that it’s wrong to be a Christian — or at least a serious, Bible-believing one.

Our Founding Fathers never imagined the day when governors would demand conformance to secularist principles, shunning any open practice of Christian beliefs. This fits the story well. We’ve seen Christian cake-bakers face $250,000 fines for peacefully refusing their services for a homosexual couple’s wedding. We’ve seen county clerks fired for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and now we’re seeing the mayor of one of the largest cities in the history of the world forcefully call a ceasing of patronization for one of the most successful companies in America. All because, in his mind, what they believe is “wrong.”

Wrong comes in all shapes and sizes these days. But one thing you can be sure of: Wrong will come in the shape and size that liberal leaders prefer at a moment’s notice.

 

Freemasonry Part 3: How It Has Infiltrated the Church

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     This is perhaps the most difficult segment of my three-part exposition on Freemasonry.  It is in this post that we must examine the existence of Freemasonry in our Church bodies and how it effects not only the salvation of those involved, but the work of the saved Christian for the Kingdom of God.
     I am writing from the supposition that Freemasons are members of our Churches, and I assure you, they are.  I know that there are many who will argue that they (or  their beloved fathers or grandfathers) do not share the same understanding of Masons that I have alleged; that for them, their membership in the Masonic Order has been for business contacts, or social purposes, or because it is a family heritage.  And they may even be ignorant of the underlying religious teachings of Freemasonry.  As I have stated in the previous posts, they may think that the oaths they took to the Creator, the Eternal God, or the Everlasting God referred to YHWH and Jesus.
     But do they know of the spirit of deception that controlled Albert Pike, the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Masonic Order, and the founder of much of modern Freemasonry’s rituals?  Do they know that he wrote in his Morals and Dogma (p. 333), “The Book of the Law shall be an indispensable article of the lodge furniture. This book, however, need not necessarily be the Holy Bible; but according to the religious faith of the members of the lodge. It may be the Koran, the Zend Avesta, or the Vedas or Shasters.”  The Koran, we know, but what of the others?  The Zend Avesta is the sacred book of Zoroastrianism containing its cosmogony, law, and liturgy, the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster.  The Vedas is the most ancient Hindu scriptures, written in early Sanskrit and containing hymns, philosophy, and guidance on ritual for the priests of Vedic religion.  Shasters, in Hindu, is any book of instructions, particularly containing Divine ordinances.  Wouldn’t this present a problem for a Masonic Christian who professes his belief in Jehovah, the One True God?
     Furthermore, do these Christians who are members of a Masonic lodge know that on page 524 of his Morals and Dogma that Pike proclaims, “We do not undervalue the importance of any Truth. We utter no word that can be deemed irreverent by anyone of any faith … And as little do we tell the sincere Christian that Jesus of Nazareth was but a man like us, or His history but the unreal revival of an older legend.”  I can certainly see how Christians could be ignorant of the foundation of Freemasonry.  It is quite apparent that deceiving them into believing they are honoring their God is an acceptable practice … and make darn sure you don’t tell them that YHWH isn’t the only god being worshipped!  In fact, multiple deities are being worshipped at the altar of Freemasonry!  And do you think that is acceptable to our God?!?  Is He agreeable to being lumped in with all the other foreign gods?  Does that sound like the same God of the Bible, who said, You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God?
     I admit that all I am saying would be very confusing and contradictory to a Christian who is also a Mason.  And all Christian Masons cannot be judged by the same standards.  In his fine article, Freemasonry and the Christian Church, Russ Wise points out that there are different categories of Christian Masons.  First, there are some who do not have a clear knowledge of Christianity. They believe that religion and Christianity are the same and that if someone uses the Scriptures, that person must be a Christian. Such people are sincere but untaught. Because they do not know what Christianity teaches, they see nothing wrong with Freemasonry.   A second category would be those who do not know what Masonry is and what it teaches. They are not only uninformed about Christianity but are equally uninformed about the teachings of Freemasonry. These individuals are without any theological foundation on which to discern truth from error. Likewise, they are often ignorant of the occult direction the Lodge has taken over the past few decades.
     A third group is made up of individuals who profess Christ, yet continue as Masons regardless of how much they know about Christianity and Freemasonry. They are indeed in a state of rebellion and have chosen not to follow the truth of Christ.  The final group are those who profess Christ and yet have abandoned the Christian faith. Those who have embraced this position are essentially Unitarian in their belief. They no longer hold to the absolute deity of Christ or His blood atonement.
     In any of these cases, and independent of the degree of ignorance of Freemasonry’s foundations, I am reminded of the words of the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 18:21.  In his confrontation with the occultic wickedness of Kind Ahab and Jezebel, Scriptures says Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.  And so today, The Great Architect of the Universe in Freemasonry has become the modern Baal.  And the Bible is clear … you cannot serve two masters! But the people said nothing…

     And here is where Satan is winning the battle.  You see, Masons are encouraged to be an active member in their local church, and therefore, you often find that the most influential members of a particular church are Masons.  They can be found on various Church boards, are deacons or elders, and often control the finances of a church.  And, of course, many are pastors.  While not advocating that Masons be denied membership in churches, I would be very careful about the positions they hold within your church body.
     It is also interesting to note the varied stances that different denominations have taken on this subject.  Dr. David R. Reagan of Lamb and Lion Ministries has written a concise blog on church denominations and their acceptance or rejection of Freemasonry.  It is his contention that a Christian who is a Mason can never grow to his full potential in Christ.  And isn’t that what we all aspire to?
     There is another issue that I feel cannot be ignored when considering the infiltration of Freemasonry in the Church.  How does the presence of Masons in the congregation affect what is said from the pulpit?  That is where the inspiration of the Holy Spirit comes into play.  True Christians would recognize the false religion of Freemasonry if expressed in its fullness and truth.  But remember … it is an organization based on SECRECY.
     And the Church must recognize the foundation of Freemasonry, as spoken by Albert Pike, once again in his Morals and Dogma:  “Religion … must needs be alloyed [mixed] with an amount of error [lying] … the religion of the many must necessarily be more incorrect than that of the refined and reflective few” (page 224).  And again on page 102 in his Teaching for the 3rd Degree:  “A spirit … that loves wisdom and contemplates the Truth close at hand, is forced to disguise it, to induce the multitudes to accept it … Fictions are necessary to the people …”.  There you have it!  Lying is not only encouraged, it is necessary to protect the false truth of “the refined and reflective few”.
     So, I come to you, pleading in all earnestness — Do your research on Freemasonry!  Can you really turn a blind eye to the implications of false religious doctrine, even if it means conflict within your Church?  Don’t you want your Church to stand for God’s unadulterated and pure Truth?  Or are you willing to compromise with the world to keep the peace and maintain unity within your Body?  Will you be able to stand before God and profess that you did all you could to remove false doctrine and influences from His Church?  Will Jesus remove your lampstand?
     But I warn you… it will cost you.   To stand against Satan and his false religious systems is not for the fainthearted.  I urge you to read the testimonies of Southern Baptist pastors Stewart Bedillion, Pierce Dodson and Stoney Shaw, as they provide classic examples of the response to any rejection of Freemasonry in the Church.  Funny thing is, I can identify with each of these scenarios… it is a lonely road.  But one that I cannot shy away from because my Lord has shown me the truth through the Holy Spirit.  And that is my prayer for you.  That you will search the Scriptures for God’s Truth, and not blindly follow any human leader or organization.  Pray for your pastor that he will have the strength to stand for True Doctrine, and that he will be like Elijah, unwilling to compromise for the sake of glorifying The One True God.  Do not be tempted to fall for the lies, deception, and delusion that Satan so enticingly offers.  And most of all, put on your full armor of God to withstand the slings and arrows that will come from exposing the Enemy’s false and blasphemous promises.  May the Lord bless you and keep you.  May He make His face shine upon you, and be gracious towards you. And may He lift up His countenance towards you, and give you peace.

When doing your research on Freemasonry, there are many knowledgeable articles from which to choose, and you will find many that speak the truth from a Biblical perspective.  Here are just a few:  Christians and Freemasonry; Freemasonry and the Christian Church; The Impact of Freemasonry Within The Church; and What Are the Ramifications of Freemasonry in Your Church?

Galatians 1:6-9     “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
   
   

Freemasonry Part 2: Blending Christianity and Freemasonry

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     If you are reading my blog today, then at least I know you have kept an open mind to what I have to say.  And I pray that you will take what I present and continue in your own diligent research… because I think it is that important!  So, today, I want to present the opinions of Freemasons, in their own words, as to the origin of Freemasonry and how it correlates to Christianity.
     First, a little history …. I would venture that few subjects are as enveloped in mystery and misunderstanding as Freemasonry.  For sure, no one can explain with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. A widely accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from the stonemasons’ guilds during the Middle Ages. The language and symbols used in the fraternity’s rituals come from this era.  Known under a variety of names (the Craft, the Brotherhood, the Order, the Fraternal Order, the Lodge, etc.), Masonry has been aligned with both the Christian church and the occult.  It can’t be both, so which is it?
     If you go to the website for the Masonic Service Association of North America’s website, you will note that the emphasis is put on “service to the community”, and because of all the controversy, they even post a statement on Freemasonry and Religion.  And they actually do a pretty good job of explaining away all the criticisms and condemnations that have been lodged against the secret society.  If, as a Christian, one is willing to water down God’s commandments as to how He wishes to be worshipped, I suppose you could rationalize becoming a Mason.
     That being said, there was a period in time in America where the Christian influence in Masonic lodges held sway.  In his book titled, The History of Freemasonry; It’s Legendary Origins, Albert Mackey writes that in the 18th and 19th centuries, such leaders as Rev. James Anderson, William J. Hughan, William Hutchinson, Rev. George Oliver, and others had a Christian view of their Craft. Hutchinson, in particular, noted that Jesus Christ was the example for the Master Mason. He stated, “The Master Mason represents a man under the Christian doctrine saved from the grave of iniquity and raised to the faith of salvation. As the great testimonial that we are risen from the state of corruption, we bear the emblem of the Holy Trinity as the insignia of our vows and of the origin of the Master’s order.”
      But in the early 19th century, there were a series of incidents that cast a negative light on “the Brotherhood”, most notably what would become known as “the Morgan affair”.  This resulted in a mass exodus of Christians from Masonic lodges across the nation.  And is it really surprising that when Christian influence vacates a situation, that Satan is waiting in the wings to fill that void?  That’s exactly what happened.  During this time Albert Pike seized the opportunity to spread and entrench his pagan interpretation of the Craft, and along with others, Pike began to reinterpret the symbols of the Craft.
     What I find interesting is that while Pike is paganizing Freemasonry in the mid-19th century, there is simultaneously a new influx of Christians into the Fraternal Order.  Can you see the cosmic chess match between YHWH and the devil?  However, the Christian influence wasn’t enough to fight off the pagan domination.  Manly P. Hall, a 33rd degree Mason, was one of the early authors who claimed a pagan origin for Freemasonry. In his book entitled The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, he says that Freemasonry is not a material thing: it is a universal expression of the Divine Wisdom. “The Masonic order is not a mere social organization, but is composed of all those who have banded themselves together to learn and apply the principles of mysticism and the occult rites.”  With book titles such as The Secret Teachings of all Ages, The Secret Destiny of America, and Freemasonry of the Ancient Egyptians, you should be getting a clearer picture of the occultic mysticism that surrounds this organization.
     The religious cornerstone for the Brotherhood became “universalism”.  The primary standard for membership was, and continues to be, that the candidate believe in “God.” This god could be Krishna, Buddha, Allah, or any other god, but Jesus Christ is not to be considered anything more than their equal.  This universalist, or inclusive, idea about God has opened the door for every false deity to have a place within the Lodge. Hall makes his universalist orientation unmistakable by stating, “The true disciple of Masonry has given up forever the worship of personalities. With his greater insight, he realizes that all forms . . . are of no importance to him compared to the life which is evolving within.” (My emphasis).

     That statement alone tells me that the worship of the One True God and the reverence for His character (or “personality” to put it in Masonic lingo) is replaced by the worship of self, or becoming your own god.  Sounds like the same message that was delivered in the Garden, doesn’t it?
     Hall adds to his belief in universalism by stating that “the true Mason is not creed-bound. He realizes with the divine illumination of his lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha, or Mohammed, the name means little, for he recognizes only the light and not the bearer.” So, for the Mason, God is not a personal being, but an impersonal force, an energy that has no substance.  And if one only recognizes the light, and not the bearer, that bearer could be any false god or demonic spirit posing as the light.  So, I simply must ask the question that should be on everyone’s mind …. how can a Christian remain a Mason?
     But believe me, the tradition and the subterfuge within Freemasonry is strong enough to delude many a Christian.  Here are a couple of testimonies from a website called Ex-Masons for Jesus.  I urge you to visit the site and read poignant declarations of men and women who came out of the darkness and into the real light, Jesus Christ.  Here are some snippets from their testimonies:
•  “The Grand Master informed me that one of my duties as a Worshipful Master of my Lodge was not to offend any brethren who were not Christians, even if this meant I had to refrain from using the name of Jesus Christ in my prayers. He advised me that as Grand Master he had the authority to disband my Lodge and remove its Charter as a Lodge, if I persisted in using the name of Jesus with members present who objected … In the center of every Blue Lodge is an altar. Resting on top of the altar is what many Masons refer to as the Great Light of Masonry, the Bible. I later discovered that Freemasonry declares the sacred book of any and all religions in the world equivalent to the Bible. Any “sacred book” may rest on the altar in a Masonic Lodge, to oblige a Mason who does not accept the Bible as God’s word … After reading and studying various Masonic authors, I realized that Freemasonry considers Jesus Christ as no greater than Moses, Elijah, Mohammed, or Buddha”  (Jack Harris).
•  “I didn’t know anything about the Masons at that time. I knew I had been intrigued at one time, in younger years, by things of the supernatural and New Age, and had renounced that. I didn’t really know anything about the Masons except what I was hearing from my husband, which was very little. He took his oaths to the Lodge very seriously, and didn’t disclose any secrets. To him, that oath, I believe, was more sacred than the vows we had made.  He wanted me to join the Eastern Star. I still didn’t know anything about it; I didn’t feel right about it. I felt a check in my spirit. But, he felt that this would help us as a family, and help in our relationship, so I agreed to go … As I entered that place, there was such a feeling of oppression. I felt that I could hardly breathe. The spirit of fear came over me so strongly, it was such a place of darkness, and I just prayed, “God, if You get me out of here, I promise You I’ll never be back.” After we left, I told Tom that I could not go back there.” (Kay Hilton).
•  “I started each of the three degrees of Masonry with my eyes blindfolded. I discovered some time later that I had been spiritually blindfolded as well … Every prayer offered in lodge, and even in open funeral services, is closed with the invocation, “So Mote It Be.”. I had never heard any such thing when prayers were offered in any other organization or setting. With the advantage now of Internet searches, it is easy to learn that beyond Masonic references, one can find the phrase in common usage in witchcraft and other similar secret bodies.”  (Now you know the origin of that phrase that I used in yesterday’s post) … “A new Mason has to acknowledge before entering the lodge room – that he is “in darkness” and is seeking true light in Masonry.”  What was that again?  “The true light” in Masonry?  Seems to me if you are a Christian, the True Light is Jesus!  So, once again, I ask… how can a true Christian remain a Mason? 
     I could continue with testimonies and evidence, but I hope by now I have provided enough to encourage you to become knowledgeable about Freemasonry; to pray about it and seek guidance and counsel from the Holy Spirit.  Sadly, it is not enough to seek counsel from your Church leaders, many of whom have not done their own due diligence.  Take for example this 1993 Report on Freemasonry, from the Southern Baptist Convention:

“In light of the fact that many tenets and teachings of Freemasonry are not compatible with Christianity and Southern Baptist doctrine, while others are compatible with Christianity and Southern Baptist doctrine, we therefore recommend that consistent with our denomination’s deep convictions regarding the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church, membership in a Masonic Order be a matter of personal conscience. Therefore, we exhort Southern Baptists to prayerfully and carefully evaluate Freemasonry in the light of the Lordship of Christ, the teachings of the Scripture, and the findings of this report, as led by the Holy Spirit of God.” 

     Think that fits the description of the “lukewarm” Church of Laodicea?  I do!  If any tenants and teachings are incompatible with Christ, why would you not denounce Freemasonry for Christians?  Once again compromise wins out, and Jesus is devalued.  But that’s the way the devil works, isn’t it?  He weasels his way into being accepted as “almost” like God and offers us the tempting titles of leadership and good standing in our community.  So, prideful Christians look the other way, and remain loyal to the Lodge.  In the next post, I will show you how Freemasonry has left the Lodge and entered the Church.  Stay tuned!

2 Corinthians 6:14   “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers [do not make mismated alliances with them or come under a different yoke with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?”
   

Worship or Self-Glorification?

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     I was intrigued when I ran across two opposing articles on the subject of Worship in the Church.  One article called for a boycott of the “Worship Industry”, while the other was concerned about those who made their living from leading worship; even noting that “the singers in Nehemiah made their living from worshipping God.”  Actually, they received a portion of the tithes of grain, new wine, and oil that were brought to the storerooms of the Temple.
     But back to the controversy over contemporary worship … There are definitely two sides to this argument.  The boycott subscribers point out that the focus of singing our reverence for God has turned from honoring Him with Biblically-based songs and hymns to satisfying our own cravings for entertainment.  Worship services have become a marketing tool to attract potential congregants.  A mega-church that I used to attend in a major Texas city actually advertises on its website’s home page that the 2015 Grammy winner for Best Roots Gospel Album will be appearing soon.
     In addition, they announce that they have three varieties of worship services:  the “Contemporary, Choir & Professional Orchestra-led” version in their main auditorium; followed by the “Participatory, Modern, Band-led style of worship (also in the big sanctuary); and the “Traditional, Intimate, Hymn-based” version of worship service, which is relegated to the small chapel on the church campus.  It is quite clear, as my husband says, who their “customer” is.

     And then there is the question, “Are we creating idols of these worship leaders and performers?”  Are people coming to church to hear the Word of God and to revere and pay homage to Him?  Or are we more enamored with the celebrity and entertainment value of the worship portion of the service?  What has happened to the sacred atmosphere of being in the House of the Lord?  At times, it feels and looks like a Hollywood production!
     Then there is the fact that more emphasis is given to the “performance” of an individual or group, than the voices of the entire congregation lifted as one to praise the Holiness and Sovereignty of our God.  Does God really want us to sit there passively watching a talented personality, or does He want us engaged in celebrating Him?  Do we leave the service with our hearts full of God’s instruction, or do we leave humming the words to the stellar performance of the day?
     Those who are speaking out against the Entertainment industry invading the church service simply want music to return to its proper place in corporate worship.  Their position can be summed up in the following statements:  “It’s time to stop mimicking pop culture.  It’s time for us to learn how to sing and make music again, instead of allowing others to do it for us.”
    Now, the other side will protest and say that a God-gifted and talented singer or group should be compensated if they decide to use their talent to honor God.  After all, “we will pay top dollar for a doctor or an accountant, but we don’t want to recognize or reward a gifted singer or musician who loves God.”  They suggest that the Body of Christ should celebrate the Christian music industry; celebrate that there is an alternative to the secular and unholy music industry that is represented in the pop culture.  They suggest that rather than get angry about the music and worship leadership in churches today, people should “get upset about the lack of God’s presence in your church, or the fact that the widows and orphans aren’t being taken care of in your back yard. Get upset about the person with a disability who is being ignored or overlooked. Instead of wondering if light shows are from God, channel your anger by praying for an outpouring of the Spirit in the church.”
     They also say that emotion derived from spectacular performances in church are a good thing; that God desires His people to express their passion for Him, much like David did when he danced before the Lord.  Here is their argument:  “Kansas City Chief fans paint their faces, spend hundreds of dollars, get off work to sit in a parking lot for hours, jump up and down and scream in their own form of worship and adoration. We cry at secular concerts. We raise our hands when our favorite team wins the game. Why would we divorce the very gift of emotions given by God to express ourselves to Him in an act of worship?”  They go on to say that “the fact worship has emerged as a commercially viable genre is a sign that people want God.”  They cite the thousands of kids that are drawn to stadiums to hear superstar Christian groups and to worship with kids their own age.  That, they say, is a reason we should all celebrate and support the worship industry.
     But here is my two cents, for what it is worth… and remember, this is just my opinion, and reflects my personal preferences.  The latest trend of “contemplative” and repetitive verses, sung over and over is almost mind-numbing.  I find myself waiting for the 20-minute portion of “worship” to be over with, so that I can garner what the Holy Spirit wants me to get during the 20-minute portion of hearing the Word.  And, frankly, it bothers me a bit that hearing God’s Word is treated, time-wise, as an equal to hearing/watching/singing contemporary “praise music”.
     Secondly, did you notice that the arguments for celebrating the worship industry all compared them to what we do “in the world”?  Church performers should be compensated like a doctor or an attorney … expressing emotions in church is no different than “worshipping or adoring” our favorite sports team.  But here’s my question … can you not see that they are comparing the Church to the world?  Doesn’t it say in Romans 12:2, Do not conform to the patterns of this world?  And does it not say in 1 John 2:15, Do not love the world nor the things in the world? Why would we want to model the Church’s standards after those of the world?
     And finally, I agree with this position’s argument that we should be more concerned about the lack of assistance to the Church’s widows, orphans, and disabled.  And we should be lamenting that the presence of the Holy Spirit is absent in many of our churches.  Yes, all that should be our priority!  But why isn’t it?  And if all these things are missing, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves, where is our attention being placed?  What are our priorities?
     In the end, shouldn’t how God desires us to worship Him be our criterion?  He says in Amos 5, “I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.  Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.  Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.”  
     It is not the artificial means of our worship that pleases God.  It is the state of the heart that worships Him.  And our church services should be focused on helping to create worshipful hearts, rather than on entertaining the masses to fill seats.  In our Church worship, our emphasis should not be on the building, the rituals and the value of the performance, but on God’s Glory and the importance of encouraging His people to live righteous lives.  That does not mean that song and celebration has no place in His House.  I simply think that we must be careful to avoid following the world’s model, and make sure that God is always the center of our worship.  Remember, as Jesus traveled among the churches in Revelation, Chapter 2, He made it quite clear that He is judging the fruit produced by each church and their commitment to Him.  How would He be evaluate your church?

John 4:23   “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.”

Part 2 – Defying ISIS: Knowing The History of Our Faith in the Middle East

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   There is a statement in Johnnie Moore’s enlightening book, Defying ISIS: Preserving Christianity In  The Place of Its Birth and in Your Own Backyard, that struck me to my core.  He states, “It has always been a mystery to me why so many Christians in the West struggle to live for what so many Christians in persecuted countries are willing to die for.”  Please don’t skip over that statement… think about it deliberately.

Christian Children Murdered
for Refusing Islamic Conversion: ‘We Love Jesus’

     Why do so many people who call themselves Christian in this country have such a difficult time living their lives for Christ; living in obedience to God’s commands and willing to sacrifice everything (home, family, material wealth) for a relationship with His Son?  And how is it that Christians who most likely live without the comfort and ease that we have; who are struggling to survive in this world, have a much easier time dedicating their lives to Him and following Him, even unto death?  After all, we are not beaten, imprisoned, and murdered for our faith… yet.  And still, we cannot find it within ourselves to make Him first in our lives!
      As Moore writes, “Sacrifice and martyrdom are deeply rooted in Christian identity and Christian theology.  They have been in place since the first century, and they are every bit as relevant today as they were back then.  Remember, all but one of Jesus’s disciples was martyred, and the story of the early church is as triumphant as it is blood-laden.”  I’m afraid that we Christians in the West assume that this kind of sacrifice is all a part of Christian history and we will get to heaven after a comfortable or natural death; while our brothers and sisters dying in the Middle East today know that they are no different than those who, centuries ago, were willing to affirm their love for Jesus in the midst of a horrifying death.
     Christians are giving their lives, affirming their love for Jesus… TODAY!  Once again they are being forced to pay for their faith with their lives, and once again — as in so many times in history — they are willing to do what is required of them in order to demonstrate to the world that hate is no match for the love of Jesus.  If we were willing to throw off our discomfort about this fact, we would see that Middle Eastern Christians are showing us that the brutality of ISIS (and Satan, himself) is only measured against the defiance of the faithful; the defiance which is exhibited in the very love of Jesus, Himself.
     Remember, Zena, from my post on Saturday?  She was the bright, educated, chemical engineering student who was forced to flee Mosul, and who expressed the devastation of losing the security of her church and Christian community.  Johnnie Moore asked her a difficult question:  “How has that experience affected your faith in Jesus Christ”?  He was surprised at the response he received, and describes it like this:  “The depression and hurt that had monopolized our conversation to this point went away almost entirely… A tender defiance filled her voice as she revealed to me her unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ.  She didn’t say that she doubted God, or wondered why God allowed her and her fellow Christians to suffer so much, so often.  Instead she said, “We thank Jesus one thousand times for life… Our Lord Jesus saved us from death; maybe this is the beginning of our story.”
     Is that how you or I would answer that question, if we suddenly lost our homes and possessions and were forced to flee from the onslaught of evil?  If we witnessed death and barbarity all around us because we professed faith in Jesus?  These Christians are actually living out the description that the Apostle Paul gives us in Romans, Chapter 8 of the persecuted church in Rome:  For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.  No, in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For [we] are convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
     Here we are 2,000 years later, and evil men are still beheading Christians, and the love of Christ continues to  prevail over their hatred.  These Christians have a very real and full understanding of the historic significance of the persecution they are enduring.  Moore says he heard numerous times, “Now, Jesus is requiring us to carry our own crosses.”  They know that they are just the latest in a long line of Christians who are willing to show their defiance and commitment to Jesus.  Like Ignatius of Antioch (which is in Syria), they are willing to become martyrs in order to attain Jesus.  And like Tertullian, the Christian author who lived in North Africa in the third century, they believe that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” and that “the Christian, even when he is condemned, gives thanks.”
     I know that all of this seems so foreign to our Christian experience in the West.  It is hard for us to understand that such bastions of the Christian faith exist in the heart of what we perceive as Muslim strongholds.  But we do not understand the history of our own faith; that our faith has deep roots in ancient Assyria, which was one of the Great Mesopotamian powers along with the Babylonians and the nearby Persians. The areas they occupied are roughly close to the borders of modern day Syria (Assyria), Iraq (Babylon) and Iran (Persia).   It was in this region that Adam and Eve were created.  It was from here that Abraham was sent, and it was here where prophets like Jonah and Nahum preached.  The northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians (modern day Syria), and then 166 years later, the southern kingdom of Judah was marched into exile to Babylon (modern day Iraq).  

Monastery of Mar Mattai/Saint Matthew
on Mount Alfaf, northern Iraq

     As you can see God has always had a place for Iraq in His plan.  And tradition teaches that the Disciple, Thomas, was responsible for the church in Syria.  In fact, Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, gives us some important information on the history of Christianity in this region and why the stories of our Christian brethren in the Middle East should affect us to our core:  “The Nineveh area (near modern-day Mosul, Iraq) is profoundly significant to Iraq’s Christians.  From antiquity, it has been the homeland of the Assyrians, who accepted Christianity, according to tradition, from St. Thomas, the Apostle, himself.  It is studded with historic churches and monasteries, some dating from the 4th century (such as the monastery of Mar Mattai/Saint Matthew).  Christianity spread from this region by Syriac missionaries across Asia to Tibet, China, and Mongolia … Western Christians owe an immense spiritual, theological, and cultural debt to this Church.  Iraq’s Christians still pray in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.”
     Moore’s book also makes the following assertion, which I firmly believe, that one of the reasons we Western Christians fail to have the heart we should for our Eastern brethren is that we mistakenly think that Christianity was birthed in Jerusalem, grew westward to Greece, then Rome, and into the countries of Spain, France, England, and eventually, “the New World”.  We have also been taught that by the Middle Ages, Christianity was mainly European, until it hopped the Atlantic and became American.  We have been taught that the heart of Christianity has always been westward.  What we fail to realize is that Christianity also moved east, as it moved west.
     If we were honest in our retelling of history, we would easily understand that Christianity originated in the Near East, and during the first few centuries, it had its greatest centers, monasteries, and churches in what was known as Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia.  In fact, Eastern Christians were at the heart of Christianity from the days of the apostles until at least the 1300s — the first two-thirds of Christian history!  Furthermore, most of the modern Muslim world was once the Christian world, and so much of ancient history is built upon a Christian foundation.  And although Christianity has declined in prominence since the Arab conquests of the Middle East, in every one of these countries, until our modern era, there were Christian communities who could trace their lineage for a thousand years.
     And now ISIS is threatening to decimate every vestige of Christianity, and we in the West fail to both realize the threat, and to react to the historic significance.  Are we able to acknowledge that Christian genocide is a reality and that we are allowing the destruction of Christianity in the place of its birth?
     At the beginning of his book, Johnnie Moore makes the declarative statement, “The threat of ISIS is a threat to the livelihood of every sensible person on the planet, and in its crosshairs is the faith of the world’s two billion Christians and nearly all of its Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists.  If they have their way, you won’t live another day.  There’s nothing in the world truer than that.  That’s why you should read this book.”  Note that it is not only Christians who will suffer genocide, but all those who oppose Satan’s will in using ISIS for his purposes.
     At the end of the book, Moore quotes the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerhl, who spoke out on the issue of Christian genocide:  “Where are the voices?  Why a silence?  I think each one of us has at least the power to raise our voice.  In solidarity with these people distant from us, unknown to us … atrocities happen because there are those who commit them, and those who simply remain silent.”   Moore then concludes:  “As for me … I am done being silent.  I will not have it on my conscience that I stood by while 2,000 years of Christianity was eliminated from the Middle East.  What about you?”
     But, perhaps it is more important for us to hear from representatives of the Church inside the Middle East; those who have first-hand knowledge of the persecution and oppression.  The Reverend Canon Andrew White is the Anglican Vicar of Baghdad, and he’s become famous for being one of the few sources of news about Christians from inside ISIS-influenced areas.  His stories are difficult to hear, but leave us with no doubt that we must stand with our fellow Christians, storm the throne room of God with our prayers — and do it now! 
     Finally, I conclude with these thoughts … Will we stand by and watch the march of Evil across the globe?  Not only should we be raising our voices in support of Christianity in the Middle East, but we should be lending our financial support to those organizations that can make a real difference in their lives.  I am sorry to say that I no longer put my trust in elected officials to do anything meaningful, or to follow through on empty promises.
     Johnnie Moore suggests supporting refugees from this genocidal crisis through an organization called World Help, by visiting www.worldhelp.net/Iraq.  He is also the founder of The Cradle Fund, which provides immediate humanitarian assistance, and is focused on developing a stable future for the entire region.  You can visit his website at www.cradlefund.org.
     It think it is important for us to see that, as Christians, it is our duty to show the love of Christ to not only those who share our faith in the Middle East, but to all peoples, of all faiths.  That is what Christ commissioned us to do.  It is the way the pagan world was transformed in antiquity, and it is the surest way to see dramatic change in the chaos we are witnessing today.  Those dying, this minute, for Jesus in the Middle East are leading the way … love must be the answer to hate; and it is time we intercede on their behalf, take our stand, declare our commitment to our Lord, and prepare to bear our cross.  How will history tell our story?

 Ephesians 6:18     Pray at all times (on every occasion, in every season) in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty. To that end keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding in behalf of all the saints (God’s consecrated people).

Part 1 – Defying ISIS: The War On Christianity

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    I recently read an important little book by Johnnie Moore, titled Defying ISIS.  Moore is a humanitarian who has written about his work with genocide victims in the Middle East, Bosnia and Rwanda and visited the world’s largest refugee camps.  Currently, he is sounding the alarm about Christian martyrs in Iraq and Syria who are faced with the barbarism of ISIS and the one option they have: convert or die.
     This little book impacted me like none other I’ve read in a long time.  In his own words, Moore says he “relates the stories of men, women, and children who have given everything for their faith, even their lives, and stories of those who, when facing inevitable death, lifted their eyes to their God in hope that good will eventually triumph over this evil.”  He tells their stories “so that the world will have the opportunity to remember those who stared down the hell of ISIS with the love of Jesus.”  Moore tells the stories of the deliberate eradication of Christians in the land where Christianity once dominated.
     There is the story of Mazen, a middle-aged man who lived in what was known as “Iraq’s Christian capital”, the city of Qaraqosh.  Moore relates that his once strong posture is now reduced to a humbled crouch as he recounts the horror of the morning ISIS arrived:  [It was] nine in the morning when a mortar landed on our house.  My son died.  My nephew was hit in the head.  My other son remains wounded, and our neighbor next door died… We fled, all of us … My other son, Milad, died on the way.  I have another son who needs an operation; it costs $15,000.  Where would I get that?  We don’t have a house or property or anything [anymore].
     Then there is the tragic story of Aida, a young mother of a beautiful three-year-old daughter, Christina.  They also lived in Quaraqosh, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.  It was four in the morning when ISIS arrived in their town, shooting their guns in the air, and shouting, “God is great!”  Then they began shouting something else … “CHRISTIANS! Leave before we behead you!”  Aida tells us what happened next:  The situation deteriorated  day-by-day, and after ten days they told us to convert to Islam, or leave.  We were under house arrest.  They took our gold and money and even our extra clothing.  
     ISIS piled them on a bus and dropped them outside of town, to flee or die.  But before they did, they yanked Christina out of her mother’s arms, and threatened to kill the hysterical mother on the spot.  Aida said, We don’t know why they took our daughter; she was the only child left in Quaraqosh.  We don’t know what happened to her.  I’m always thinking about her.  I can’t eat or sleep… I keep seeing her in my dreams.  Can you imagine?  Why isn’t the world screaming about this inhuman barbarity?  Why aren’t we Christians in the West more aware this is happening and interceding on behalf of our Christian brothers and sisters?
     There are the stories of the kidnapping, selling, and trading of children.  As if that is not enough, there are the excruciating stories of the execution of children!  Moore says that “the most conservative estimates put the number of executed children in Syria alone at more than 10,000… [ISIS] revels in the chance to inflict a particular type of horror into the hearts of those they hate.  They sincerely believe they are doing a justice by ridding the world of another generation of Christians, and so they massacre them with pure joy.”  What if this was a European child?  An American child?  Why is the world silent?
     It is also the goal of those who promote the Islamic Caliphate to enslave Christian wives and abuse Christian daughters.  I think you know what that means.  We, in the West, are aware of human and sex trafficking (although we are loathe to admit it or confront it openly).  But a smuggled price list from a slave market was recently published by Iraqi News.  The document states that Christian and Yazidi girls are particularly targeted and priced according to age:  ages 1-9 cost $172; ages 10-20 cost $130; ages 20-30 cost $86; ages 30-40 cost $75; and ages 40-50 are sold for $43.  Below the prices on the document, bearing the official seal of the Islamic State of Iraq, it reads, “Customers are allowed to purchase only three items [slaves] with the exception of customers from Turkey, Syria, and Gulf countries.  Obey and follow the rules and laws of the Islamic State or be killed.”
     The website, Breaking Israel News, reports that theologians of the Islamic State (ISIS) have issued what can only be described as exceptionally detailed rulings on when “owners” can have sex with female slaves captured by the jihadist group.  The report also added that rather than hiding their practice of slavery, ISIS takes great pride and has even established a department of “war spoils” to manage their slavery trade.
     It is hard enough to read of this horrific abuse against women when it is written in general terms and statistics.  It is another to hear the personal story of Mayat, a 17-year-old Yazidi girl who had been kidnapped and told of “rooms of horror” where “women are raped, often by different men and throughout the day… Often I wish they would beat me so hard I will die.  But they are cowards even in this.  None of them have the courage to end our suffering… even if I survive, I don’t think I’ll be able to remove this horror from my mind.  They have already killed my body.  They are now killing my soul.”
     Then there is the story of Zena, a 20-year-old chemical engineering student in Mosul.  When ISIS came to town she had three strikes against her:  First, she was a Christian; Second, she was a woman; and Third, she was a woman with ambition.  When Johnnie Moore met her, she was wearing the same pajamas she was wearing the night ISIS arrived.  Zena told him that her sense of hope was destroyed when ISIS decimated their church and Christian community; it was an assault “on their security in a deep and personal way.”
    But Zena was one of the lucky ones.  In the Syrian city of Al-Mayadin, a female dentist was captured and beheaded because she dared to treat both men and women.  Many others have been stoned to death and buried in shallow graves, or kidnapped and forcibly married to ISIS fighters.  Needless to say, all women are being forced to comply with a strict dress code, and are threatened with death if they refuse.
     One elderly man, when questioned by Moore about why he fled his hometown, replied, “I will tell you why I left my district.  I left it because they stormed our house barbarically at 2 a.m., harassing us, pointing their flashlights toward our women.  We didn’t come from another country.  We are from an eastern society.  We are Iraqis and we are jealous of our honor.  So we left to avoid them because they already threatened to arrest our women.  They told my mother that they would arrest her if they couldn’t find us.”  So, he left to protect his mother, his wife, and his daughters.
     There are more stories than these… thousands of stories, and many of them much more savage and cruel.  And I wanted to let the voices of Johnnie Moore (who has seen these atrocities first-hand) and the victims speak for themselves.  I wanted to shake us western Christians out of our comfort zones to face the existence of this very real war on Christianity.  It is a war that will not be confined to the Middle East, and is designed to be waged worldwide.  We must wake up and determine that we will  not only intercede in prayer on behalf of our fellow Christians, but turn our attention, time, and resources to supporting them in their hour of need.
     I want to leave you at this part of the story, if you will, with the words of Sister Rose, a young nun from Mosul, Iraq, who has poured her life into the lives of Christian refugees as they have fled from city to city, and she among them.  Sister Rose told Johnnie Moore, “I lived in America.  Americans are wonderful people.  It’s shocking to me that they are so silent in the face of our genocide.  Please help us.  Raise your voice for us.  Our children are dying.  In America you care for your pets so well, can you care for your Christians brothers and sisters who are suffering?”
     Can we?  On Monday’s post, I will finish my report on the work of Johnnie Moore and why he thinks these stories should matter to you; how he thinks we defeat ISIS; and his unique perspective on Christianity in the heart of a Muslim Middle East.  It’s time that the world awakes from its slumber, and it is especially time for us Christians.  The very existence of our faith in its birthplace in the Middle East, and our lives, here in the West, depend on it.

1 John 5:19   “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

Gelassenheit

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Living Plain In A Fancy World is an ongoing series exploring what it means to be a Plain Christian.  We are starting with gelassenheit, a concept that is absolutely central to Plain thinking.

Gelassenheit is simple – deceptively so. If you choose to embrace the challenge, this concept will affect all other challenges.  For non-Christians, and many Christians, gelassenheit may be unfamiliar or even offensive.

Read more »

Supreme Surrender

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The following, by Jeff King (President of International Christian Concern), originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of ICC’s newsletter, “Persecution.” It is presented here with permission under the terms of their copyright, which appears at the bottom of this post.

Supreme Surrender

By Jeff King
President, International Christian Concern

If ye were not strangers here, the dogs of the  world would not bark at you.” – Samuel Rutherford Scottish minister, theologian, author (1600-1661)

In June, the Supreme Court handed down a decision on gay marriage that was of great concern to many Christians. It wasn’t the first troubling decision and it certainly won’t be the last as our culture continues eroding and the masses become more and more enamored with sin and death.

CHRISTIAN RESPONSE

The response of the Christian community comes at two extremes: either indignant ranting or submissive silence. As I survey our Christian response to this decision and others, it seems to me that there is a longing for the days past of cultural Christianity when we were safe and comfortable in our culture and there was a general (largely feigned) respect for God and things religious. Yet, the ramparts have been breached and the enemy is behind our lines and shooting freely. Predictably, panic has set in.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

The most recent decision is one among many revealing a court and culture growing increasingly hostile towards religious free- dom. The radicals in Hollywood have for the past three decades sent up Christian char- acters that are despicable and evil while the press and media use Westboro Baptist (“God hates faggots”) as a straw man to define Christianity. This propaganda has hardened the populace against us. So it is no surprise that “the dogs” are barking!

The Church largely does not evangelize, disciple or educate its people biblically. It is largely without holiness and zeal and the “seeker-service” church model has created a church that is “a mile wide and an inch deep.” I’m an evangelical, but for decades, evangelicals did not value service to the lost. We focused only on their souls [the Gospel] obeying “go into all the world,” but seemed to forget that Jesus also fed the hungry and healed the sick. Therefore, our culture only hears us “barking” at them and rarely sees us touching and loving them. All that to say that we have played a part in our own demise!

WE MUST FIGHT, BUT…

We are backed into a corner and we need to fight politically and culturally but we have been conditioned to be quiet and not cause trouble. . Much of the teaching and messaging of Christianity today is that we should, in the end, just be nice. That culture doesn’t exactly lend itself to activism.

Christians are a large part of the culture (you can debate percentages and what defines a Christian, but still, our numbers are large). We have been attacked and bullied (“bigot, hateful, homophobe, narrow-minded,” etc). We have been told to simply be nice, sit in a metaphorical cultural corner and keep quiet. Most of all, we have been told, “don’t speak up in the public square.” Sadly, we have duti- fully obeyed! We bend over backwards to get along with the world while we are supposed to be at odds with the world. We can’t “get along” with the world. We must love and serve individuals but we cannot make peace with the World. The world stands condemned and we are seen as the condemner pointing a finger, though it is the law and their own conscience that are convicting them.

In the end, we are supposed to be revolutionaries and are called to upset the cultural applecart (see Luke 12:49, Matt. 10:34, Matt. 12:30). We are here to save and rescue a dying people one soul at a time via grace and truth.

TRAJECTORY

If you are the type of person that can see over the cultural horizon, you can see the picture that is forming is disturbing. What’s coming into view is a culture that will be increasingly hostile towards Christians in its laws and regulations. Our religious freedoms are eroding as laws are passed and precedents are set to increasingly trap us in legal situations that will have unfavorable outcomes. The prescient ones of the Church see this and rightfully tremble.

I look on our predicament with mixed feelings though. If this cultural hostility leads to persecution, it will be a curse. But, it just may be a blessing in disguise as well. Our influence and numbers will fall but this is not all bad. In fact, this is probably a necessary step to get us to where we need to be as the body of Christ. After all, persecution is a great cleanser of the Church.

When Jehoshaphat was told that a vast enemy had breached Israel’s lines (2nd Chron. 20 NIV), he called for a fast. He instructed the people to cry out to God and fall completely on His grace, power, and protection.

“For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chron. 20:12)

This is our greatest need!

© Copyright 2015 ICC, Washington, D.C., USA. all rights reserved. Permission to reproduce all or part of this publication is granted provided attribution is given to ICC as the source.

The Greatest Survival Tip I Ever Discovered

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amber-fields-mountainWe all know it, don’t we? Something is terribly wrong with our world, and things could go downhill fast!  But there IS hope! Allow me to share the greatest survival tip I’ve ever discovered – with you.
Let’s get started…

What is THE Ultimate Survival Tip?

Over the years, I have passed on survival tips, tricks and training to help you and the others we serve. But I’ll be honest, I think I learn more from you guys than I share…

So I was curious what you, our fans, followers and friends, thought was the MOST important survival tip –  The “Ultimate” Survival Tip, if you will.

Here are a few of my favorites from the hundreds of responses we received:

– Stay Positive and Believe You Can Survive
– STOP = Stop, Think, Observe, Plan
– Never Give Up
– Become Friends with Bear Grylls
– Control Your Core Body Temperature… in Other Words… Stay Alive
– Always Have Toilet Paper
– Be Prepared – Because You Never Know…
– Avoid Situations Where Survival Tips May Come in Handy
– Pray. Then Act
– Don’t Die
– Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best

Which is your favorite?
Mine is, “Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best.”

You Are Part of the Ultimate Statistic?

Some of these tips are good advice. Some are just funny.  But NONE are THE greatest survival tip I’ve ever learned. So stand by, I’ll get to that in a minute…

The plain and simple fact is, that regardless of how many cool survival tips we know, no matter how much we train, how far underground we build our survival bunker or how many years of food we have stored up to prepare and position ourselves to outlast a WCS (Worst Case Scenario) we are still only delaying our participation in the Ultimate Statistic…

What is Ultimate Survival Statistic?

Doctors agree, 10 out of 10 people will one day die.

Whether it’s tomorrow, next week or in 80 years from now, every one of us will die. Regardless of our training, stockpiles, connections, wealth, health, wisdom or position.
And for some, maybe even you, death may come knocking at your door long before you’ll use a single #10 can of beans or bag of rice stored in your basement for survival.

After all, 154,000 people will die in the next 24 hours. And most will die unexpectedly.

Now, I’m not saying you are going to die today, but what I AM saying is that we are all taking great effort to prepare to survive a bit longer on this earth IF a disaster strikes – but we all KNOW for certain that one day death WILL come our way. We just don’t want to think about it. I know I don’t!

So, if you are preparing to survive a disaster that may or may not come – shouldn’t you have a plan to deal with death, since you KNOW that death WILL certainly come?

No, I’m not talking about a putting together a will and making sure you have enough life insurance for those you leave behind (although these are good things).

So I Feel Like I Need to Ask You This…

“Do you know where you are going, when your heart beats for the last time on this planet we call home?”

Why Do We Die?

Okay, now that we have established that death is inevitable for all of us, AND the fact that surviving a WCS is not… let me ask you,  
”Why do we die?”

There’s probably a million opinions as to why we die. I don’t know about you, but for me opinions don’t cut it with such serious and eternal matters.

So I went back to the book that I have grown to trust as my manual for life, the “Good Book,” the Bible, to search for some answers to share with you.

The biblical explanation as to why each of us will die is really quite fascinating.

It essentially says that we die because we have sinned and rebelled against God and His laws (Romans 5:12 and Genesis 2:17). And it boils down to “the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23).

In short, we get paid our just wages for sinning against God. And those wages are death.

If that doesn’t slap you upside the head, I don’t know what will.

IS there Life after Death?

It’s one big question, “Is there life after death – and what does that look like?”

The answer to this question is fundamental in not only how you and I die but also how we live the rest of the days we have on the earth.

Exactly What Happens After We Die?

Do we simply cease to exist? Is life a revolving door of departing and returning to earth in order to eventually achieve personal greatness (which is reincarnation)?

Does everyone go to the same place, or do we go to different places?

Is there Really a Heaven and a Hell?

The Bible tells us that there is not only life after we die but two places we can go.

One place is called heaven (or paradise). It’s a perfect place that has NO sin, no suffering, no war, no disease, no death and no bad people.

It’s the place where those who have faith in Jesus get to live an eternal life so glorious that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

The bad news is that those who are bad people and don’t love God (or place their faith in Jesus) will live in a terrible place forever. This place is called hell. “Their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur…”  (Revelation 21:8)

Are You Serious… Heaven and Hell? Come on David…

Now, just in case you are laughing, skeptical or even mad right now, and don’t believe there is a heaven and hell… let me ask you, “Where do YOU say that we go when we die?

Okay, got your answer?

Now, let me follow up with this question, “What if you are wrong?”

If I am Wrong, I have NO Regrets… How About You?

I have followed a path I believed was true. Along the way I have lived my life for others, been made a better person, lived according to good and right biblical principles that brought much love and fulfillment to my life.

I have a WONDERFUL wife of 26 years and 2 grown and married children, and two cool grandchildren. They all love Jesus and get to live the awesome legacy that my wife and I have enjoyed.

This life has not been perfect. We have suffered much, grown a ton and gone through hard times. But it’s been a good and blessed life. And through all of life’s joys and sorrows – we have had a keen sense of the Lord being right there with us – along the way.

So if I am right about heaven and hell, I am looking forward to hanging out with Jesus in a place beyond my wildest dreams – forever!!!

Either way, whether I am right (which I have pretty strong evidence that I am)… or wrong, I believe I’m the better man for it.

But if you don’t believe in a heaven or hell and are wrong, and you are not good enough to get to heaven – there IS hell to pay… and from what I have read, hell sucks!!! Big time!

Are You Good Enough to Go to Heaven?

So let me ask, “Are you good enough to go to heaven? Or asked a different way, “Do you think you are a good person?”  You probably do.

The most a common reaction to this question is, “Hey, I’m a pretty good person, and I’m certainly no Hitler or Osama Bin Laden… and I’m better than most.”

But the problem, according the the Bible is that being “good enough” is NOT “good enough” to get you into heaven (Romans 3:23, Romans 3:10-18)

You see, Heaven is a perfect place, and if you’ve sinned even one time in your whole life, you are disqualified.

Don’t get mad at me, I didn’t make the rules.

Here’s the problem.

The Fatal Mistake

In today’s culture we often make a HUGE mistake thinking that God’s standards are the same as ours. This is like saying that we should have no laws, and every person should just do whatever they please, according to what they believe is right.

The last time I checked…this is called anarchy. But this is often how we deal with God’s clear standards as recorded in the 10 Commandments.

Have You Sinned Against God?  

As we talked about earlier, each of us WILL die because we have sinned against God.

Let’s see if that’s true for you:

1) Have you ever lied (even once -this includes, white lies and half truths)?

2) Have you ever stolen (anything – no matter how small)?

3) Have you ever committed adultery? No!?

Jesus said, “Whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery already with her in his heart.” That’s a tough one… and one that nailed me.

If you have said, “Yes” to any or all of these you are a liar, thief and an adulterer at heart.

And we’ve only take a look at 3 out of God’s 10 Commandments.

So, How Will You Do on Judgement Day?

Will you be innocent or guilty? Now tell the truth.

If you are honest with yourself, you know you will be found guilty. And when you are found guilty, you deserve hell not heaven!!!

…Long Silent Pause…

BUT, that’s not God’s will for you!

He provided a way for you to be forgiven.

He sent His Son, Jesus, to die in your place and take your punishment by being nailed to a cross for YOU!

“God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”  (Romans 5:8).

THE Greatest Survival Tip I Ever Discovered!!!

Okay, here it is… If I ever give you a survival tip that you should seriously consider… this is THE one!

Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to the earth to give us a gift of eternal life. “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Essentially, this means, Jesus was killed in your place.

Jesus took on the punishment that each and every one of us deserve because of our sins (Romans 3:23, Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 6:23) and sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for our sins.

ONLY Jesus could take the punishment for your sin, and my sin, and every sin past present and future, because He was totally without sin himself and was the perfect sacrifice (the only sacrifice God the Father would accept) for us (1 Peter 2:22, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 1:19).

Three days later, He (Jesus) proved Himself victorious over death by rising from the grave. Something NO one else has ever done – ever!

He remained on the earth for forty days and was seen by more than 500 people before ascending to heaven (1 Corinthians 15:6).

Romans 4:25 says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” This means that he paid for our sins in full and was raised from the dead to prove that it was true. His bodily, visible, documented resurrection was the proof!

The resurrection of the Christ is a well-documented event and has never been disproved. We celebrate this every Easter.

This also means that Jesus is NOT in the grave. Every other religious leader is in the ground to this day. But NOT Jesus. Jesus is alive!

The apostle Paul challenged people to question eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection for its validity, and no one was able to contest its truth. The resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

Because Christ was raised from the dead, we can have faith that we, too, will be resurrected and live with Him in Heaven. And that’s pretty cool.

The Ultimate Proof of Life After Death

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the ultimate proof of life after death.

Christ was only the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again. Physical death came through one man, Adam (of Adam and Eve fame), to whom we are all related. But all who have been adopted into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ will be given new life (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). Just as God raised up Jesus’ body, so will our bodies be resurrected upon Jesus’ return (1 Corinthians 6:14).

The Choice is Yours

Although we will all be eventually resurrected, not everyone will go to heaven. You must make a choice, and this choice will determine your eternal destination.

The Bible says that it is appointed for us to die only once, and after that will come judgment (Hebrews 9:27). We will all be judged according to our works… and even one sin disqualifies us from heaven.

This means that without a ticket from Jesus, there’s NO way to work, earn or reincarnate your way to heaven (John 14:6).

Those who have been made righteous by and through faith in Christ will enjoy eternal life in heaven, but those who reject Christ as Savior will be sent to eternal punishment in hell (Matthew 25:46).

Hell, like heaven, is not simply a state of existence, but a literal place. It is a place where the unrighteous will experience never-ending, eternal wrath from God. Hell is described as a bottomless pit (Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1) and a lake of fire, burning with sulfur, where the inhabitants will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).

In hell, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, indicating intense grief and anger (Matthew 13:42).

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but desires them to turn from their wicked ways so that they can live (Ezekiel 33:11). Remember we are ALL in the “wicked” category without faith in Jesus Christ.

But God gives us the DIGNITY of Choice and will not force us into submission; if we choose to reject Him, He accepts our decision to live eternally apart from Him, cursed and in eternal fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41, Revelation 21:8).

Life on earth is a test, a preparation for what is to come, if you will.

For believers in Jesus Christ, life after death is eternal life in heaven with God (Revelation 21:1-27, Luke 23:43).

For unbelievers, life after death is eternity in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41). Ouch!

How to Receive Eternal Life – And Live Forever!

So, how can you receive eternal life after death and avoid an eternity in the lake of fire?

I’m glad you asked!!!

There is only one way— by acknowledging your sin, turning from it, asking forgiveness and having faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only ticket to heaven.

He’s the only parachute, He’s the only life raft. There is NO other way.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die…” (John 11:25-26).

The Free Gift of Eternal Life Is Available To All

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).

Just in case you are thinking you might just hold off on all this “Jesus stuff,” I hate to tell you that (according to the Bible) YOU will NOT be given the opportunity to accept God’s gift of salvation after death.

And so, you are at risk every day of your life… It’s a bad gamble (at best) to put off Jesus.

Your eternal destination is determined in your earthly lifetime by your reception or rejection of Jesus Christ. “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

When you trust the death of Jesus Christ as the full payment for the sin that you have committed against God, you are guaranteed not only a meaningful life on earth, but also eternal life after death, in the glorious presence of Jesus Christ.

I personally am looking forward to hanging out with Him! And I’d love to hang out with Him, with you!!!

Jesus is the BEST I have to Give You!  

There is NO other survival tip, no gold or gear that I can give you of greater value than  this loving recommendation:

“Turn from your sin, ask God for forgiveness, and trust Jesus for the rest of your life.”

I have been a believer in Jesus now since 1986. He has never let me down… although I have failed him many times.

Yet He remains faithful. And He has changed -and is changing- me, for the better. He has somehow changed my hard, selfish and rebellious heart. And He is making me more caring, and selfless, a better man, a better husband, a better father, and friend.

So THE Ultimate Survival Tip is… “Trust Jesus!”

If you want a pardon for all your sin, and a NEW start, you can talk to Jesus right now:

Lord Jesus, I believe You died on the cross for me and that You were penalized for my sins so I could be set free. I now turn away from evil and ask You to be my personal Savior and Lord. Please forgive me for my sins and make me a part of Your family forever. Thank you, Jesus!

Have you made a decision to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior?

If so, please let me know. It would be my pleasure to pray with and for you and help point you in the right direction as you live out the rest of your life as a follower of Jesus.

NOW What?

If You Are Wondering What to Do NEXT in Your Journey with Jesus… Click Here to Save Yourself Some Pain – and Learn How to Grow as a Christian (from my friend Ray Comfort – at Living Waters)

Have a really blessed day!

~David

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