TERROR!!

Terror is alive and well in our society. For the most part it is against the true church and that which the true church stands for. It comes I believe in 3 packages with the first being those who are fearful of what the true church stands for. Lukewarm or non-Christians who support directly or indirectly groups like the ACLU, atheists and others who want freedom from religion are in this group. They want to remove crosses and all semblance of Christianity from daily life and a politically correct society is not resisting. These individuals are somewhat like the Israelites in Exodus 34:29-30. They know where the one true God is (seen through His Word, etc.) and they are afraid to look honestly into His face.

The second group who for various reasons are dealing with the truth of God’s Word in a different fashion. They are revisionists who want to redefine the simplicity of God’s Word in its truth in order to justify their sinful behaviors.  Here Christians need to be careful as to how we respond to this form of fear that is attacking us. As Romans 11:20 shares our thoughts, words and deeds should be humble and loving and not haughty. True Christians should condemn with an equally loud voice any ‘Christian’ who acts or speaks violently against someone. As I have said many times, we should speak truth but in love. This second group terrorizes true Christians by demanding acceptance and agreement with their sinful lifestyle which we cannot do.

The third group who terrorize Christians are those who actually kill whether they believe their religion demands it of them or their government or some other entity. Today all 3 of these types of terrorist treatment are attacking we who remain true to our faith and I do not believe it will get better but rather worse. I believe we are rapidly drawing to a close when one day every one of our life’s actions will be held accountable (Ecclesiastes 12:14). A day when those not saved will stand before God in judgment (Revelations 20:11-15) and then they will understand true TERROR.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Terror touches all living without the safeguard of God’s promise.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Psalm 91:4-5 “Protection from terror”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord thank you for shielding me.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What is the ‘true’ church?
  2. How should we deal with those who ‘terrorize’ us no matter to what degree?
  3. How are those living sinful lifestyles terrorists?
  4. Are you ready to be held accountable for every action?

 

REMAIN OBEDIENT

Occasionally I wonder why mankind feels God should not be a God who tests us but simply a God of grace giving everyone a passing grade for this life. It certainly falls in line with public schools not wanting a child to receive a potentially emotional devastating letter grade as many are now doing.

The first children of God having everything failed in their obedience test and now it seems natural to me God would want to test us to see how we respond to His life lessons.

The tests God has shown in Scripture to put before man to make evident the character of each of us come in different forms. First is the physical test, which comes in many forms, to see if we remain obedient. God’s Word tells us what is wicked and if we seek “health to all (our) flesh” we must pay attention to His words (Proverbs 4:20-22).

Next are spiritual tests such as we read about in the life of Daniel (Daniel 4). “Because an excellent spirit was in him” (vs. 3) we see he passed this test of life with flying colors. Part of that excellence of spirit came through his faithful prayer life as explained in vs. 10.

There also may be tests as a nation. Israel found this out when they willfully broke God’s covenant (Exodus 32). Their suffering was long and intense but after a time they passed and were released from Egypt through the Exodus event. These tests continue for Israel and all nations who seem to show moments of true commitment, or as I believe we are now falling into, where our actions individually and as governmental units want to separate ourselves from God.

Finally, there are supernatural tests. The Exodus story (chapter 7-11) shares a few examples. As Creator all God’s creation is available to test our faith and abilities. Needless to say whatever the test may be it is important we REMAIN OBEDIENT.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Tests try our faithfulness to see if we remain true to God.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Daniel 6:3 “a spiritual kind of test”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord strengthen me in preparation to take your tests.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How does a school student compare to we as children of God?
  2. What is God’s lesson plan for mankind?
  3. What physical and spiritual tests are noted in the Bible?
  4. How as a nation are we removing ourselves from a commitment to God?

SALVATION CAN ONLY BE FOUND IN JESUS!

Recently a US Senator attacked an applicant for a government position for having traditional Christian beliefs. Thankfully the individual replied to this Senator in a polite and compassionate way despite the Senators loud and angry questions. It made me ask myself the question that we should all ask which is: How much do we really believe what we say we believe? In addition we might also ask ourselves: How much are we willing to suffer for those beliefs? Growing up in the Lutheran tradition I have always appreciated the words of Martin Luther when quizzed about his positions by the Roman Catholic church. He once made the statement (and I paraphrase) “that unless you can convince me on the basis of Scripture I cannot recant (take back) what I have written (or spoken). Furthermore here I stand and can do no other”.

Sadly in our now politically correct world the viewpoint that there is only one way to Heaven which is through Jesus (John 14:6) has now nearly become a hate crime for which Christians must be punished. That experience was one that John the Baptist had and as a result of standing firm on his view of ‘one way’ through Jesus he would loose his head literally. This was told of in Matthew 14:1-12 and is rich with spiritual lessons for each of us.

I believe one lesson which men such as John the Baptist and Martin Luther show us is that when we are truly convicted then the Word of God cannot be silenced. In fact with each such persecution event the message grows ever faster. These times are upon us again as the Senator showed and as so many of the ‘elite’ media and comedians on late night television do as well. In fact the more evil a society becomes the more likely its members will attack and even kill Christians.

The good news is that God is still in control and as is so often seen in the Bible and in our lives those who attack us are in some measure now or later going to receive punishment. In addition we have the good news that no matter what the voice of evil might shout it is still true that SALVATION CAN ONLY BE FOUND IN JESUS.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: The one and only way is our Savior Jesus Christ.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Matthew 14:1-12 “standing firm in the faith”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord may I always stay strong in my expression of faith in You.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How much do you really believe what you say you believe?
  2. How much are you willing to suffer for your belief in Christ?
  3. Do you stand on the truth of Scripture alone?
  4. How do you respond to someone who attacks your faith?

THE GREATEST…

Cassius Clay (M. Ali) once referred to himself as the greatest. We have a reference book called ‘The Guinness Book of World Records’ of the greatest of one sort or another . We travel often at great expense to places or events that epitomize the greatest degree of one thing or another. Extremes seem to appeal to mankind and the Bible speaks to that issue as well.

One example is that of extreme or great faith. In Genesis 22:1-3 we read of Abraham’s faith in God shown through his willing obedience to sacrifice his son. A foretaste of what God carried on during what we now celebrate as Resurrection week.Today we honor that strength of principle. In fact we honor and rightfully so anyone who sacrifices life for what is right.

With great faith often comes great grief and pain. That is only natural. Jesus prior to His death on the cross while yet understanding the importance of His sacrifice cried out what may well be the 7 most pain filled words ever spoken: “My God why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Many if not most of us for one reason or another have said that as well. Sadly,unlike Christ Who trusted in His Father through the pain and grief, many of us on earth do not see God’s love and tears in our pain and not doing so we remove ourselves from a relationship with our Savior.

This is what happened with lucifer which is recalled in Isaiah 14:12-15. His pride, as it is with ours, separated himself from God until one day he and all who separate themselves from God due to extreme personal pride will be cast into Sheol. A place of eternal torment. A place described by Christ in Luke 16:23-24. The greatest example of extreme torment mankind will ever know.

In this life there are a great many extremes. Through the good and bad it is important to endure in one thing only. Our faith in God Who will one day bring us to salvation. That of all extremes as we will see is bar none THE GREATEST.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Extremes when exercised in the examples of Christ are everlasting.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Genesis 22:1-3 “Extreme human faith”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I desire strength to build an extreme faith within me.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What examples of extreme faith has our world shown?
  2. What in life has been most painful for you?
  3. Have you ever felt forsaken by God?
  4. Do you have an extreme faith?

CHAMPIONS FOR CHRIST!

As I write this it is near the end of the Rio Olympics. As in past events there were athletic success’s and failures. Stories that uplifted us and some that caused consternation. One of those stories for me is always how athletes of faith are encouraged to not mention God or often by-passed for post victory comment unless their popularity demands it. Those athletes who are exceptional and faith filled the media often seems uncertain as to how to handle and in some cases they even mock them.

Christ wants us to be champions for Him and unafraid to proclaim His name even when ridiculed or taunted as Jeremiah expressed in Lamentations 3:14. In fact in Scripture the Lord I believe encourages us to be a sort of faithful irritant. Samson one of the strongest men ever, mocked Delilah who pretended to love him yet had sold her soul to the dark side. In Samson’s case (Judges 16) it ended up in his death but a great many of evil heart died as well.

Elijah mocked the false gods not unlike the world’s fascination with secularism today. He was blunt in his words saying: “how long will you falter between two or more opinions? If the Lord is God follow Him…(1 Kings 18:21)”. As a champion for Christ each of us athlete or otherwise, need to decide if we are going to be true followers of our Lord.

It may seem out of character for a Christian to have such an “in your face” character but wisdom seems to encourage this “I told you so” mind set (Proverbs 1:26). Most especially so when an effort is made to diminish our faith. Important though here is we let God carry out the revenge and not our swords and guns as some faiths do when believing they have been ridiculed.

The Lord will not let His champions be alone. For now they may choose to minimize, diminish or ignore any expressions of faith but one day they will have to deal with the Lord Who we are told in Psalm 2:4 will laugh and hold them in derision. Until then each of us need to remain CHAMPIONS FOR CHRIST.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Mocking may mean making miserable mankind who diminish the Messiah.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Lamentations 3:14 “ridicule and taunting may some day face us”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord may I express my faith without fear.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. Have you ever been mocked for your faith?
  2. How do you visibly express your faith?
  3. Have you joined faith based groups of others with similar interests (ex. athletics, campus ministry, etc.)?
  4. How do you feel about making secularists uncomfortable?

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LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY!

The world does not know or at best is uncertain about Christ. I say this observing how the world around me responds to criticism or being taken advantage of. Instead of following Christ’s admonition found in Matthew 5:44 to love our enemies or those who do us ill we express resentment, anger and even hatred. Those negative responses are the ‘default’ emotions human nature has us express if we do not make an intentional effort to share Christ’s love.

Some time back it was shown to me that Matthew 5:44 and Christ’s call for love of enemy is what distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. The reason being that we believe rightfully so that Christ died for all souls. Unfortunately not all souls accept the free gift of salvation.

Abraham Lincoln once said: “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends with them”. That is a truth that is underscored by Scripture in Romans 12:20. We are told in that verse that by caring for our enemy it “heaps coals of fire on (their) head”. The Bible is clear that we are not only to care for but forgive and pray for those who in some form come against us. The judgment of others is not ours to give but will one day be meted out by God. Until then our instructions are to LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Love lifts lives and spiritually liberates all.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Matthew 5:44 “Christians attitude toward enemies”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord help me to always be an example of Your love.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. Are you able to love unconditionally?
  2. Why are we so quick to respond in kind when treated negatively?
  3. What makes the Christian faith unique?
  4. Is there ever a time anger is justified?

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IT’S JUST NOT FAIR!

Going through each day it is not uncommon to think or speak the words that something is not fair. It seems that most especially if we are Christian believers we should not be tested. At least not to the extent that we often are. Yet when I consider all that is unfair there is one shadow that covers it all. The shadow of the cross upon which Christ hung. Our Savior who toke upon Himself the sin of the entire world. That in the mind of man was not fair yet necessary.

With that in mind it is important to look at the purpose of testing. It is to discover what the real character of a person is. In Genesis 3:1-8 we see testing was done to see how obedient mankind would be through the example of Adam and Eve. They as we each day have to make a choice. Each test is a way for us to assure God that we will be obedient to Him and can be trusted.

Scripture is also filled with numerous examples where testing was used to learn God’s Will. Gideon was an example of this in Judges 6:36-40. Another example was Saul’s conversion or Martin Luther’s life change. A test may very well lead to a change God desires for our lives.

Tests may also occur to refute satan’s claim of control over lives on earth (see Job 1:6-20). There certainly are those who when tested have lost their souls to satan but if we have the character of Job all the evil of satan will not weaken our faith. Indeed we need to stay strong in the Lord always.

What it all comes down to is summarized in James 1:2-3. As strange as it may sound we should count it joy when we face trials. Out of those trials God will see the strength of our faith and our real character. Not only that but when we think IT’S JUST NOT FAIR that might be the best time to learn patience and show God we truly are His.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Our being tested tells others we truly are the Lord’s.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: James 1:2-3 “trials produce patience”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord help me stay strong when tested by satan.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. Make a list of things that do not seem fair?
  2. In what ways do the ‘tests’ of a day offer you opportunity to show God you are obedient and trustworthy to Him?
  3. What is the difference between a test by satan and a trial by God?
  4. Are you a patient person?

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TIME TO ACT LIKE A BUNCH OF SHEEP!

In my ancestral background are sheep raisers and some of that DNA has rubbed off on me in my appreciation for sheep. Though never having raised them personally their personalities and instincts intrigue me. Never more so than after reading Ezekiel 34:31. It is in this verse our Lord refers to us as His flock. So what exactly is a ‘Biblical’ flock.

In Genesis 27:9 we see the flock provided nourishment. Indeed if we fulfill our role as Christian believers I believe we nourish in a sense and enrich our Lord. This is evident throughout Scripture.  So also just as sheep run together in unity especially when under attack so also should we unite as Christians across this world. One with our Father in Heaven. Nourishing and enriching the most important relationship we will ever build.

In truth Christians were meant to be citizens across many nations as Jeremiah 51:23. In that brokenness we find Christ returning to us and through His blood and the aide of the Holy Spirit the true church will arise (Acts 20:28). A church that will be cared for by the Father in contrast to those who decide to live outside the fellowship.

All will not always go well for we who want to be sheep in God’s flock. When, for whatever reason, it doesn’t I believe the heart of God weeps for we are being held captive by that which is contrary to His will and nature (Jeremiah 13:17).

Times seem to be growing more difficult for the Christian who stands true to God’s Word and Jeremiah 25:34-35 attests to that. We will be persecuted and even killed for our faith as is happening in many countries. In these times the Christian Nation must grow closer by whatever means available.

As one person once said “Christians may not see eye to eye, but we can walk arm in arm”. I believe it is once again TIME TO ACT LIKE A BUNCH OF SHEEP.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Flocks fight for God best when first we find unity among the faithful.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Ezekiel 34:31 “We are God’s flock”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord help the faithful unite.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. When can the flock (followers) of God speak with one voice?
  2. In what additional ways can a flock personality describe Christian believers?
  3. How should Christians look to national leadership?
  4. How can we help the persecuted church?

THE PURPOSE OF EVIL!

Before going any further it is important to understand that God is light and there is no darkness (evil) in Him (1 John 1:5). All evil is from sin and satan and in order to show the righteousness of God, good must then come out of evil. It is why I believe God can use any evil circumstance to show His power and purpose.

A good example of this was the hardened heart of the pharoah from which God delivered His chosen people Israel (Romans 9:16). The key here was that Moses did as should we today continue to cry out against evil.

Evil is part of mankind’s curse since original sin (Genesis 3:17-19). Those who want to live without guilt in a sinful fashion need to remove Genesis from the Bible and so macro-evolutionary theories have to be presented as absolute truth. Without Genesis there is no Creator, orderly creation or an explanation for evil much less the need for God.

We also must be careful that we don’t misinterpret evil as explained by Christ in Luke 13:1-3. The degree of suffering some face has absolutely no tie to the depth of sin in their lives. We are all equal sinners.  You break one law you have broken them all as the Scripture tells us.

Evil will always be with us and increasing in nature (Matthew 24:6-8). For we as Christians must understand it (Proverbs 22:3) and we must continue to preach the Gospel to all nations until Christ’s return (Matthew 24:14) against all that which is evil.

All believers will share in evil (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). The key is to bear it patiently as Job showed us (Job 2:7-10). The reason is the assurance we have through the Spirit of future glory and final victory so wonderfully show in the words of Romans 8:18-39.

Today what is critical is that we continue in faith where we find our relief (Hebrews 3:17-19) knowing that one day in Heaven evil in all its ugly forms will be no more (Revelations 7:14-17). THE PURPOSE OF EVIL is to bring us closer to our Lord and Savior Who conquered it on the cross.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: The example of evil is to provide evidence for a more powerful and purposeful God.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Romans 9:16 “cry out against evil”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord strengthen me in adversity to grow evermore faithful.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How do you handle evil?
  2. Have you ever blamed God for some seeming injustice?
  3. How do you understand the book of Genesis?
  4. Do you have an ‘end game’ focus?

IT’S NOT EASY BEING CHRISTIAN!

As faithful followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ it seems we are constantly under attack. If not physically then certainly against our emotional well being. Devout Christians are labeled as: phobic, narrow minded, prejudiced, out of touch, hypocritical (with some truth) and so much more. Yet despite our standing on the truth of God’s Word speaking it in love we can still use some divine protection.

Scripture tells us this will be provided first of all against satan the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3). Carrying the power of the Holy Spirit within us and dressed in God’s armor we will not fall. This is not to say we wont be tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13) but with the temptation will come an opportunity for escape.

Testing of this world is a guarantee but divine protection is ours as Revelations 3:10 tells us. Many believe that this verse speaks to a Christian rapture before the final tribulation. Others look to Revelations 9:4 that during end times believers will be kept from harm and others believe Revelations 3:10 is more in line with Revelations 18:4  which is to say we will be given adequate warning to flee before chaos begins especially against the community of faith.

I believe our enemies will turn back if we cry out to God for help (Psalm 56:8). The manner in which that protection against our enemies comes is a discussion for another time. Simply know that dangers await us but we are told in Psalm 91:3-7 to “not be afraid”  for the calamities will pass us by (Psalm 57:1). IT’S NOT EASY BEING CHRISTIAN but know we have divine protection and Heaven awaits us.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Divine protection is ours through the power of the Holy Spirit so that we might serve the purposes of God.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Revelations 3:10 “Divine protection provided against persecution”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I seek daily Your protection.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. Have you ever been attacked in some fashion for being a Christian?
  2. How is their divine protection for those who have or will die for their faith?
  3. What is behind all the attacks against Christians?
  4. Are you seeking divine protection?

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