Where’s My Sword?

Oh, pilgrim!

If you think God is nothing but love, love, love…you are sadly mistaken.

God is love, but he is also a God of wrath against the wicked! And lest Christ as Lord, you are wicked!

So flee!

Flee from the wrath to come!

Flee!

Into the arms of the Savior!

-Rich

I cannot count the number of times, over my many years, that I have wandered through life with my mind solely focused in the world, completely unaware of God’s presence. I lived like I am the one who controls all that I say and do. I don’t give a moments concern to the Heavenly realm or my future home. I think, therefore I am.

As such, I can do what I want, when I want, however I want! I can indulge myself to the satisfactions of the flesh. And if even a tinge of guilt or concern should wash over me, I can dismiss it quickly; never worrying about the consequences my activities might reap. After all, I’m not hurting others. Nor does a little here, a little there, really do any damage to me at all! It’s just a little thing, nothing really that bad after all! Like a little white lie. Sometimes it is necessary to spare people of a grievous hurt! It’s just a minor infraction when measured against all the bigger, badder things people do! If anything, it makes everyone feel good at the moment and there really is no reason to make a fuss. God understands!

“Those little things are harmless,” we think. When you look at the bad in this world, these little things are small. They can be compared to, say, a brick. You pick it up, enjoy it, set it down in front of you. No big deal! Then the you pick up the next one. Use it, enjoy it and set it down next to the other. Again, no issues! Then another. Then more. And before you know it, you have made yourself a nice little wall of “my ways”. But, since you started to run out of room in front of you, you’ll have to keep adding all the upcoming ones all around the sides until…You are completely walled in by your own desires, deceits, and doings!

The wants and ways you’ve been enjoying until now have surrounded you, entrapped you, and are causing misery and anguish because all those little things have now become a huge mess that is consuming your life! Amazing how those little things you thought were harmless have added up so quickly! You find yourself overwhelmed and drowning, all as a result of your dabbling with those little sins. Sins? Yes, sins! And, there are no degrees or sizes of sin to a Holy God. Sin is sin! And it only takes one sin to keep a person out of Heaven!

“But, God loves us and understands and he won’t condemn us for a couple of minor infractions!”

Because God is Holy, and sin is the breaking of His laws (see the 10 Commandments), and God cannot permit any type or degree of sin to go unpunished, he will condemn. The Bible clearly says that the “…wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). And Biblical death refers to the eternal lake of fire or hell! Not the place you want to spend forever!

“But, Jesus died for our sins so we can all go to Heaven!”

Absolutely he did! Romans 3:22-24 says we can have “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. Which is to say that he paid the price for our sins on the cross and rose again to make intercession for us to the Father in Heaven! But there are conditions!

Unfortunately, many of the worldly “churches” leave out parts of the Bible. Specially important ones that say things like “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). To continue to build up our wall of sins, brick by brick, means that we have not repented, forsaken the world, and turned our lives to God through Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul continues on in chapter 6 of his letter to Romans saying “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you over its passions.” (Verse 12). There is a choice to be made and there is NO middle ground!

This is a daily choice as well. We need to be reminded that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” daily. God tells us that his mercies are “new every morning”. So what we have here is a battle between the our fleshly desires and God’s ways. We are either building our wall of sins and living entrapped in them, or we are walking in the freedoms of God’s grace and forgiveness! Now don’t get me wrong, we will sin…often. But when we do, we must repent (which means to turn away from those sinful ways) and strive harder to follow God and his ways, leaning on the Holy Spirit for strength to do this. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Ok, so we have made a decision to walk in righteousness with Jesus as our Lord! Great! But, the battle is harsh and I fail quite a bit. The world is ever before me and I easily revert to my old ways. This is the struggle that many poor pilgrims have during their journey! And, unfortunately with a weak faith, the sojourner can at times fall and not get back up! Many souls lost are littered along the very road we travel on toward eternity with God. But know this; that God does provide us with the means and way to faithfully arrive at his calling!

First, he provides a helper to guide and strengthen us. God is faithful to be with us! Even for the Israelites that he brought out of Egypt, God, in his “great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness” (Nehemiah 9:19). Jesus promised that the “Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things”. The Holy Spirit resides within us, guiding us, encouraging us, and showing us the darkened areas of our lives by illuminating the truth of God and his word to us.

Which leads me to the Word of God, the Bible (or Scriptures).

In our daily battles, like any good soldier, we need to be equipped to stand against the enemy of our souls, and even defeat them. Sin is our enemy. It is the very cause of destruction in so many lives. The enemy of God, the devil, wants us to sin against God. God wants us to defeat sin in our lives. So, God provided his word! The Bible refers to the word of God as the “sword of the Spirit” and “the sword of truth”.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:4-5‬

In Ephesians 6, God gives us a list of spiritual armor to wear as we battle the forces of evil in this world. The weapon in our hand is the “sword of the Spirit”, which is the word of God. In order to use any weapon, the first thing we have to do is physically pick it up in our hands! It would be shocking to how many “professing Christians” have Bibles sitting in their homes, yet have rarely (if ever) picked them up to read. Based on conversations with people over the years (many of whom own several Bibles), there are very few people who have even the slightest clue as to what is really inside the pages. The sword is worthless if it is sitting on a book shelf or in a closet or tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

The other issue is knowing how to use it. Once it is in your hands, you have to know what to do with it! As with anything, taking time to get acquainted with it is paramount. Anyone can pick up a Bible, but to know what it contains and where to look for truths to help in your daily walk is not something you know instantly. There are 66 books contained within the covers of the Bible. Knowing what each book says and teaches takes time and effort. You don’t have to become a Bible scholar or take deep theology courses to understand it, but you do need to open the pages and read them for yourself! The Holy Spirit is there to illuminate those words to you!

Another thing is that you should not rely solely on others for how to use the sword as well! What I mean by that is in today’s technology-driven culture, people seem to resort to videos and Google to shortcut everything. Someone might go to a church once in a while and listen to a pastor teach, then watch some videos or read something online and get a brief overview and think they are ready for war. But that doesn’t replace knowing for yourself how to read and interpret the Word of God and apply it to your personal walk! Just as watching someone wield a sword in a video doesn’t make you proficient to use one in an actual battle, the same goes with watching a 10 minute video of someone else’s interpretation of Scripture, how that doesn’t equip you for the battlefront in your spiritual walk.

That is NOT to say that listening and learning from others is wrong. On the contrary, just as in Acts chapter 8, the Ethiopian eunuch needed Philip’s help in understanding the Scripture he was struggling with, we all need helps understanding various parts of the Bible! But we have to read the Bible for ourselves so that the Holy Spirit can open our eyes and heart to receive the words and store them up inside! Psalm 119:9-12 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!”

There are many great teachers and teaching aids out there to help us with our study of the Bible. But personally knowing the Scriptures helps us identify what is right and what is wrong teaching. The devil uses many false teachers and preachers, heretical churches, and twisting of Scripture to knock pilgrims off the course and even bring them to ruin. Having a good personal study of the Bible strengthens us to stand firm to God’s truth and avoid the lies of the enemy. The Jews in Berea studied the word of God and would daily search the Scriptures and compare what they read to what was being taught or presented around them. Like them, we must take the time to search the Scriptures…daily!

The Bible is right when it says that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. I get it. It’s a struggle some days just to get out of bed! We struggle not only with daily duties, but we get flooded with the chaos of the world and eventually doubts and fears start to take hold of us! I pray almost continuously to God saying “I believe, help my unbelief!” But the deeper God brings us through sanctification, (our walk with him), the more we see our faults and weaknesses before him. This helps us know where we need to focus and grow so we can draw closer to God! And it is through his word that he opens up those areas! One of God’s commands to us that many overlook is written in various places within the Bible (Leviticus, Joel, Ephesians, 1Peter, to name a few): “sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy”.

He humbles me greatly, daily to see my sins.

He lifts me up by showing me his grace.

Oh, that I may know him more, follow him more, glorify him more!

We flee from sin. We flee to Christ!

Each day is a battle that we need to take seriously and diligently. We first need to put down the bricks of sin, even the “little” ones. Life already gives us plenty of extra weight to carry every day, we don’t need to add extra! Hebrews 12:1 says to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” God sets a fountain to cleanse us from all sin and impurity. But if we continually return and wallow in the filth over and over, all we are essentially doing is deny Christ and rejecting his work on the cross.

“…shall we continue in sin…?”

We also need to take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word…daily. Don’t neglect it. How can anyone fight the good fight when they don’t know where their weapon is or how to even use it! The great Puritan leader, Richard Baxter, said “study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.” There is so much to learn in our walk with God! And reading Scripture with a glancing blow hardly ripples the surface of the truth within. As with gold, you must dig deep for the best deposits. You will never become rich with just pebbles.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33

God’s wrath is being stayed by his love. Yes, for God so loved the world that he did give us a way from the wrath to come; his Son Jesus. That whosoever shall believe in him will be saved. We commit our lives to God through his son Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit by repenting of sins and being baptized into new life!

Prepare! The battle is here!

Amen

Sons Of Belial?

Some pretty deep and prolific words are found within the covers of the Holy Bible. There is no doubt about that. Even pagan religions have a level of reverence when it comes to the Christian Bible. It is filled with historical truths, poetic visualizations, proverbial guidances, and revelations of the very nature of God Himself. To read the pages is to get introduced to the God of the universe, to understand His will and ways, and to hold a roadmap for our life.

Yet as powerful and impacting as the Words are, it is amazing how people still live like the Scriptures have an insignificant influence. Even people who claim to be followers of Christ Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, still live daily under the control of worldly ways instead of God’s ways. Obviously we reside in this world and, as such, we have to contend with it no matter how holy and pious we try to be. But you can tell a lot about what has the strongest inclinations or sway in someone’s life by how that person lives.

Taking into consideration that all will stand before the judgement of God at the end, which will determine where we spend eternity, one would think that a decision to follow God’s way would be an easy choice. Now, for some, that decision is easy. Yet, many others don’t want to give up the creature comforts of the secular life. They may find that walking in the ways of God is not easy or too burdensome . Plus, we need to note that there is another side to things working in our lives that also has great influence: sin. Sin’s influence goes against God’s ways, yet is very strong and many have fallen by its trappings. 

“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord” 1 Samuel 2:12

While reading through some Old Testament scripture, I came across an interesting verse that caused me to stop and think. What caught my attention in 1st Samuel chapter 2 were the words “They did not know the Lord”. Looking at the context of that statement, it shows a sad and harsh reality that I think can apply to many within the very walls of today’s church. Let me explain.

Eli was a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses and the great high priest. Eli was a high priest in the temple at Shiloh. He was a godly man who was one of the judges over Israel. He had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, both of whom were raised to be in the service of God. But for Scripture to describe them as ‘Sons of Belial’, (which means worthless, and is also used in the New Testament to describe Satan!), it really shows the true nature of those boys.

To earn such an evil moniker from the writer of First Samuel, we need to understand what they were doing. First of all, as workers in the temple or sanctuary, their job was to gather and prepare the sacrifices prescribed by the Law and follow the exact instructions. The problem is that they were selfish, greedy, and very much living in the flesh for themselves. Instead of sacrificing the best cuts of the meat, they would take the best cuts of meat from the sacrifices for themselves. Adding to their debauchery, these married men would commit adultery with the various women who served at the sanctuary gates. (And we all know how clergy adultery turns out, even in our modern day and age!)

Of course these activities garnered the anger of God. Eli was admonished to scold his sons for their behavior, but he did it so lightly that they didn’t listen to him. Long story short; subsequently both of the sons would end up dying on the same day that the Philistines defeated Israel in a battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant. Their father, Eli, would subsequently fall over and die of a broken neck upon hearing of the loss of his two sons and the Ark. Shortly after all this, Phinehas’ wife gave birth to a son when she heard of her husband and father-in-law’s deaths and the loss of the Ark, thus causing her to name the child Ichabod (which means the Glory Has Departed). Afterward she would also die. All this came about because God cursed the lineage of Eli and his sons for their behaviors.

So, what does all this mean?

This serves to show that even people who stand in the most reverential of duties, who interact in the most religious of environments, and who have the appearance of walking with God outwardly, might not truly know God!

That is a very scary prospect to think about! Jesus said in Matthew 6 to “beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Psalm 139 says that the Lord has searched us and knows us! Verse 4 says “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” These are truths that should have us reflecting not only on our outward life, but on our hearts as well!

You can be the most pious, religious, and reverential person on the entire planet in front of the people around you and still not know God. There are countless religious leaders that go through the motions, and yet don’t have a clue who God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit of the Bible truly are. Hophni and Phinehas went through the motions daily with their father, a high priest, yet they did not know God. Just because you say and do the right things or have great knowledge about the Bible, doesn’t make you right before the Lord.

So why is this? How can someone be exposed to the truth every day and still not know?

God’s way or sin’s way? Let me point out here that there are two motivations people face when entering into any type of religion or ministry; God or self. The Apostle Paul was a good example of a Godly motivation. He declared in 2 Corinthians 5 “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” Paul did everything for God through Christ Jesus and his love for God’s people was beyond a heartfelt passion. He did nothing in selfishness that can be shown in any of the Bible! He wrote to the Church in Rome Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)

But there are many examples of people in a ministry platform strictly motivated by self. We see a prime example in Acts Chapter 8. In Samaria there was a magician named Simon who many claimed that “this man is the power of God that is called Great.” When the Gospel of Christ was preached in the area, many became converts and were baptized, including Simon. He became very zealous, working with the evangelist in the area, and saw the miracles performed. When the Apostles Peter and John came to the area, they laid hands on the people to receive the Holy Spirit. Simon saw this and offered to pay them money for “this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” He wanted to keep his great reputation before the people. But he was admonished by Peter saying “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.” (Acts 8:20-21). Peter demanded he repent from his wickedness and intentions as he was in the bond of iniquity.

Another prime example, (that I won’t go into great depth right now), are the Pharisee and Sadducees. They enjoyed the praises of the people, walked in the highest honors in the cities, and enjoyed their power. They were also used by Jesus as examples of holy and pious men whose hearts were far from God. Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs, filled with dead men’s bones”. Sepulchres that look great on the outside, but inside were vile and filth. Their motivations were known to God; greed and selfishness. Essentially, hearts filled with sin.

The question we need to ask ourselves is; are we like Hophni and Phinehas? Are we claiming the Christian walk in appearance like the Pharisees, yet without Christ as our motivation? Are we talking a big game of being right with God, yet wanting the accolades from people? You might be able to deceive your family and friends with an illusion of Christianity by going to church. You might be able to talk all the Christian jargon online and post Scripture verses to strangers. You may even have Bible verses and stories memorized. But if your heart’s motivation in all these things is for self adulation, then not of your relationship with God is true. If you going through the motions to impress or puff yourself up, then you are only lying to yourself and those around you, which will only lead you to the lake of fire.

You see, God knows your heart. He knew Hophni and Phinehas. He knew the Pharisees and Sadducees. He knew Simon. He knows all things; and the heart of man is especially known. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10

Eventually, like the two sons of Eli, all things we say and do will catch up to us and the truth will be revealed. As mentioned above, all will stand before the throne of God to give an account. Now is the perfect time to check your heart, check your motivation, your standing with the living God. Saying some words that you believe in Jesus are just that; words. It comes down to your true motivation. God or sin? Don’t let it be said of you “they did not know the Lord”

Amen

To Mask Or Not To Mask: Sin

With the inundation of mask-wearing around the world, people are losing out on seeing full facial expressions during face-to-face conversations.  In a conversation, there are 3 parts that are essential to a complete understanding of what is being said: verbal, non-verbal, and visual. I, for one, am someone that really relies on seeing the facial expressions when I am talking with someone. You can get a lot more information about the deeper intentions of the discussion by watching the person’s eyes, lips, and other facial movements. Sure, we can hear the fluctuations of the words or can see the obvious visual displays such as hand gestures and such, but we miss out on crucial insights when we lose the non-verbal expressions of the face!

Obviously, the mask is to blame. Throughout history, the mask has been used in all sorts of ways to disguise or shield the face and to keep others from knowing the true identity of the wearer. (Think Zoro or the Lone Ranger!)

But, we don’t always need a physical mask to conceal who we really are though. People will either lie about themselves or just not share the whole story at all. We all tend to keep some aspects of our lives guarded and secret. Even in close relationships people might withhold a portion of their true self that they don’t necessarily want to share with the other. Similarities can be applied when we talk about our sin nature. We all have sin in our life, but we don’t necessarily go around announcing them daily to everyone we know or meet! 

As Christians though, we have a conundrum we need to address regarding sin and our desire to mask them. Why do we hide sin? The very thing we do, though we don’t want to, we become convicted over and ashamed. Inside we know that sin is an abomination to God and that sin is what separates us from Him. But doesn’t God know everything? Including our sins? O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. — Psalm 69:5.

The Scriptures say “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” — 1 John 1:9-10. Of course this confession does pertain to talking with God directly; repenting before Him through Jesus Christ and walking anew. But there is another aspect of confessing our sins when it comes to others. Our sinful actions, whether direct or indirect, can, and often does, affect those around us and cause problems or harm. And when it does, it is important to repent and seek forgiveness from those who have been hurt by the sins. 

By confessing to others, you are essentially pulling off the mask and showing your true face. This can be very difficult for many people because we like to keep all our little secrets, well…secret! Our human nature likes to keep us from embarrassing situations, thus we easily hide the dark parts of our lives from others. Just know that all secrets do eventually become exposed though. And if not now, they certainly will before God on the day of judgement.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. — Revelation 20:12

There is no such thing as hidden or secret sin. There is no such thing as a little sin (think: little white lie). Like a disease, sin grows and festers within us, eventually creeping into other parts of our life, until it consumes you with guilt, shame, and pain. Thankfully, God in His infinite wisdom will use the Holy Spirit to shine His light on these dark shadows and bring them into the light. “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” — John 1:5  Whether we see them on our own, or perhaps we are called out by one of our fellow sojourners, the exposure of our sins…though painful and embarrassing as it is…is to be a time of healing, cleansing, rejuvenation, and renewal in the Lord. 

“but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” — 1 John 1:7

There is nothing more freeing than having guilt and sin washed away from us through the grace and mercy of God. As I said before, we all have sins, commit sins, and we will continue to fight that sin nature within us until the Day of the Lord and His return. But in the meantime, we shouldn’t keep it masked up, hidden inside, eating us up with its desires. This is a fight, Christian! A daily fight to kill sin and walk in the righteousness of life! 

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. — Romans 8:13

Confessing, repenting, renewing, refreshing, rewarding! Remember that confessing (whether to God or God and others) and repentance is not a one time, past action in the Christian life; it’s an ongoing project. And confessing our sin isn’t just to make ourselves feel better or rescue us from Hell; the goal of our salvation is holiness to the glory of God. We are working daily to walk upright before God in the full likeness of His Son Jesus Christ. This is called sanctification.  

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 35, defines sanctification as this: Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

And all this starts when we turn our lives to God through Jesus Christ; walking in newness of life. But when we keep hiding behind the masks that conceal our sin nature, that only leads to destruction…of soul and peace with God.

Remove the masks!

Amen

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

Is 2021 The New 2020?

Time for God

So as I write this, today is January 1st of the year 2021. The new year that everyone hopes is a refreshment, a new start, and a definitive change from last year‘s chaos and utter pain. I recognize that this is a bit late coming to publish, but pray you can forgive me…it has taken a bit to shake off last year!

Normally for the new year people will make resolutions. They resolve to do things differently or to just do something, anything. Weight loss, quit smoking, eat better, be nicer, and so much more, the lists go on! I, for one, am not a resolution maker. I don’t need to set myself up for failure! On average, only 8% of Americans who make resolutions keep them. 80 percent fail by February 1st! But if I were to make any resolution, I would think that following in the footsteps of the great preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) would be the best.

In the early 1700’s, he wrote down over 60 resolutions that covered a variety of topics. Areas such as relationships, spirituality, overall life mission, and devotion to God. He categorized things under good works, time management, and character. He resolved to a deeper self examination for sin and keeping a personal check on things like pride and honesty. He had many powerful resolutions for a better spiritual life. And with these many resolutions, he would lay them all at the throne of God declaring; “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake”.

He then noted that he would “remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.” That is one sure way of keeping them!

But what makes his resolutions special is that they were to address his walk with God first and foremost! If there be any resolution for a Christian, it should be made to draw closer to God and be more keenly aware of our spiritual lot before Him.

We all (preaching to myself here!), have a tendency to walk complacent. Because we don’t see/feel/hear God’s presence every moment of every day, we tend to go about our daily lives in the light of what is around us at the moment. We focus our thoughts on things that involve our livelihood, react to the things happening to us, and interact with those people and things we see and remember, but, yet, in the larger scope of things, we often forget God.

Sure, we pause and think of God here and there, maybe toss a prayer now and again, or get a spiritual zip on the Lord’s day once a week. But to energize our desire and passions to follow wholly and completely…that is something that many Christians, specially American Christians, struggle with.

When looking at how our attitude toward God in our lives should be in light of Scripture, I thing many of us can say that we are a far cry from God’s heart. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians “so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). He also said to the Colossians to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord”. And to the Galatians in 5:25 said “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

In the Old Testament, there are numerous examples of God’s people living in a deep reverence and fear of God. Their entire lives were God-centered. Yes, they faltered and would stray. A lot. But have we gotten ourselves to the point where we can say that we are daily even remotely God-centered in the slightest bit? When you look at the lives of the early Puritans, you have to understand that they left home and family to travel across an entire ocean just to live a life that was God-centered, Biblically founded, and completely committed to God in all they say and do. It certainly would be a rare sight in today’s times to find people like that.

People today walk a thin line with God. Having a flippant attitude and approach to His holiness is something that I’m sure will draw His wrath. And His wrath is something that many churches refuse to even acknowledge. But unfortunately for many, that doesn’t dismiss the reality that God will exact is wrath on people. Edwards is famous for one of the most powerful sermons ever given that occurred back in July of 1741, called “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”. The text was a simple line from Deuteronomy 32:35 that states “their foot shall slide in due time.” The opening text states “There is nothing the keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”

I personally truly recognize more and more every day that by God’s grace and mercy I still exist on this planet, and that is a true testament to God‘s character and love! He holds back His wrath on us! But that isn’t forever. His patience extends only so long! Though the sermon actually speaks more about the love of God and His lovingkindness toward us than the title would give cause to believe, that doesn’t mean we can be complacent with our relationship to God.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
— 2 Peter 3:9

Though I’ve studied the Word of God more last year than I had previously regarding our relationship with God, I still look inward and recognize that I, too, am complacent in my walk with God often, that I am lacking in my prayers and devotions daily, and that I tend to forget my religious duties. So, for me, I find it very simple to come up with resolutions that need to be addressed. I find there are plenty of things I preach to myself about!

Just as we are to take up our Bibles daily and study, we should also be taking time out of our lives to the devotion of our sanctification as Christians. It is written in scripture that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling and always be striving to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And we can through the power of the Holy Spirit! It says in James 4:8 that we are to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded”.

When it says in Matthew 6 to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you, that isn’t seeking God for benefits and pleasures, but that is seeking God‘s righteousness and holiness into our life, which means walking upright daily, the way God wants us to.

We are to use the Scriptures as a mirror to see the blemishes of our sins and continue to beseech God‘s help by the power of the Holy Spirit to strive daily to mortify the flesh. That is the meaning of taking up our cross DAILY!

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
— Romans 12:1

2020 was a tough year for many. People are looking for answers. It has been reported that Bible sales were at an all-time high. We can reflect Christ to people looking for hope and show them God’s peace and love by our own lives. But we need to make sure our resolutions are set with God, so as to strengthen our righteousness that we can “in the same way let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven“.

So my prayer for us this new year is that we continue to offer ourselves a living sacrifice, examining ourselves daily by diving into the Word fully, and submitting ourselves in prayer and worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We all must continually take His Word that has been given to us and preach to ourselves daily! For 2021, if the Lord wills, I will continue to share with you those things that God impresses on my heart and mind as I look to His word and learn as well!

May God bless you richly this year, may His healing hand be upon you, and may you grow in sanctification daily, drawing closer to the Lord! Amen

Peter’s Principles

Do you struggle with hope? Does your assurance waver? I know that I do in my Christian walk. But what is the source of this?

Did you know that in a military conflict, one of the greatest tactics used by one side is the diversion? Essentially this is a means of causing a disturbance in one place to draw attention away from the another place. Then, the attack would occur when the forces were preoccupied elsewhere. This has been used throughout the ages as a means of tipping the scales in a battle. It is effective and quite simple to engage. The devil uses this tactic quite a bit. I have lost many battles this way.

Initially I intended to discuss just a couple of attributes to the Christian walk that I sometimes struggle with; hope and assurance. But as I was working on that writing, I ran into wall after wall. Distractions would easily pry my attention away and I’d lose track of where I was headed. I couldn’t seem to get my thoughts together. This really frustrated me and caused me a great deal of discouragement as to my ability to share these things. I really hit a dark point.

It also got me thinking about what’s wrong with me. And that’s what turned out to be my problem! I’ll explain.

I tend to overthink, over analyze issues when they come to light. For example; why I couldn’t seem to write about my struggles with hope and assurance when that was on my heart? So my solution was to evaluate the problem. Then I dwell on it, fighting through the matter, even trying to force it. And always asking God what’s wrong with me. I’d pray that He would change my mind and heart.

Often times as I was trying to address the problem, my mind would drift away and attention would be diverted elsewhere and I would forget about the original issue. Sound familiar? Do you have those moments where you get up to do one thing, but quickly lose track and start something else? I do…a lot! What it turns out that I suffer from is what I call the Peter Principle.

This isn’t the Peter Principle you may have heard about decades ago, the one based on the book by the same title that theorized that people are promoted upward until they arrive at a level of incompetence. In other words, you do well, get promoted, do well, get promoted, then next arrive at a level in the hierarchy that you are really not skilled enough to do. This isn’t what I mean when I say that term. (Though that theory could have applications regarding me trying to be something I am not equipped to be…but that’s another story!)

My version of this comes from the Apostle Peter himself. Matthew 14:28-33 tells of the encounter the Apostle had with Jesus who was coming to them walking on water as they were on a boat on the Sea of Galilee.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

We can easily see the application here: the storms, the waves, the uncertainties, the distractions, the annoyances, the feelings…all diversionary tactics that cause us to lose focus, take our eyes off of the goal, the prize, the direction we were headed to: our Savior Jesus!

So, are we glaring too much at our problems and missing what should be our vision? You know the words to the great hymn: Be thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart! What a prayer!

But don’t get me wrong, as I don’t want to give too much credit to the enemy. We have our own flesh nature, our own sin-filled capacity. We are, after all, a fallen being before the Throne of God. So many times we trip ourselves all on our own…without any help from the enemy! It doesn’t take much for me to get distracted in thought and I have to believe that the bulk of those issues is self-inflicted! But, giving the devil his due, he is also at work daily trying to fail our faith.

Peter had a moment of doubt. He was human. Plain and simple. We have to remember that the great Apostles were mere men who were imperfect. All the amazing faith that is ascribed to them and the forefathers of our faith (as mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11) came supernaturally from God! They were ordinary men and women who faced the same worldly issues that we do. Though the times and means have changed, the underlying issue is the same. By doubting and taking our eyes off of God, we start to sink. Then our human nature kicks in more and we panic, we start trying things under our own strength, and before you know it, we are sinking under the waves.

I think that’s my problem when over analyzing…I tend to keep my focus too much on the waves and not where it should be. So I praise God for people like Peter. He shows me that though we doubt, struggle with faith, fall into temptations, mess up, falter and even fail, yet we can be saved by God in a mighty way despite ourselves! Peter had the right answer to his sinking into the sea of doubt and fear: He called upon Jesus to save him!

Verse 30, But seeing the wind (there’s the distraction), he became frightened (there’s the fear), and beginning to sink (there’s the consequences), he cried out (there’s the solution), “Lord, save me!”

There’s the whole of every problem we face in our daily sojourn. Jesus told him why he failed this attempt; it was because of his little faith that then caused him to doubt. I can identify with the Apostle in that my struggle with little faith in my daily battle here has caused me so many sinking moments that have led to near drownings. But, thankfully, He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it! We need to rely on that promise, trust in God’s provision of saving faith. We will struggle in the flesh, just like the greatest men of faith like Peter and Paul! But we don’t need to go under the waves when all we need to do is call out to Jesus! Verse 31: Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him…! What an blessed assurance in our darkness!

The great evangelical bishop J.C. Ryle wrote the perfect summary;

“Go on, and be not cast down because you are troubled by doubts and fears. You are yet in the body—this world is not your rest. The devil hates you because you have escaped from him, and he will do all he can to rob you of peace. The very fact that you have fears is an evidence that you feel you have something to lose. The true Christian may ever be discerned by his warfare—quite as much as by his peace; and by his fears—quite as much as by his hopes. The ships at anchor may swing to and fro with the tide, and pitch heavily in a south-eastern gale; but so long as their anchors hold the ground they ride safely, and have no cause to fear. The hope of the true Christian is the “anchor of his soul, sure and steadfast.” (Hebrews 6:19.) His heart may be tossed to and fro sometimes—but he is safe in Christ. The waves may swell, and lift him up and down—but he will not be wrecked.”

Amen!

Remember, we are human, in the flesh. We will be tossed to and fro on this earth. There are many storms inside and out that will cause us grief, doubt, fear, and have uncertainties, but we don’t need to live in the dark, consumed by the waves all around us. We just need to call out to the one who is always there, always ready to reach out and take hold of your hand. No longer do we need to sink in the waves of doubt. Peter’s principles showed us how we simply call on Him, Jesus.

A Word About The Word

In recent posts I’ve come across harsh when talking about certain “churches, or denominations, or various theologies within the sphere of Christianity. Some may have scoffed and labelled me as being self-righteous or exclusive. Some think that God is love and would never reject people because of the way they think, act, or live. To all of you I can only say; read the Scriptures and show me the error of my thinking.

I have been saying many of these things for a long time because it is very clear that people have redefined the God of the Bible and quite honestly, that has frustrated me. Not only have people redefined who God is, His attributes and character, but they have also rewritten the Bible itself, God’s Word, by editing clearly defined words, rewriting stories and narratives, and even challenging the validity and authenticity of the Word completely.

The Word, unchanging!

I find it interesting that for countless centuries and with hundreds of thousands of learned scholars, theologians, teachers, researchers, and preachers that have all had the Book, even the manuscripts in their original languages, and have combed every jot and tittle with every resource available to them, that they come to conclude that the Bible IS complete and true. It doesn’t even contradict itself. Many prophecies of old have come to pass. Historically it is accurate and proven without question.

So, with all that being said…who are we to question God’s Words? 

There are many disputes that come up regarding interpretations of the pages of the divine words. I’ve mentioned a couple of theological differences in the past, but I can assure you that there are more groups and ideologies that exist than there are church denominations! People for centuries have split off from one church or society to form their own because of a difference in opinion over major and minor understandings of the interpretations. Even various topics within the Bible, such as eschatology (the study of end times) or soteriology (the study of the means of salvation, including the law and the gospel, grace, justification, and sanctification), have caused great rifts, even to the extent of wars. 

First, let’s define theology. Theology is simply the study of the nature of God and religious belief. We get to know God through His creation around us, through His laws imbedded within our souls, and through His Word, the Holy Bible. As I have stated numerous times, I am not a theologian. Nor am I a graduate or student of higher learning when it comes to the Bible. Thus, my thoughts and views are just that…my thoughts and views as I believe God has impressed on me through my studies. I believe that the Holy Spirit of God has opened my eyes to an understanding that I didn’t grasp before, just as I also believe that He does this same work with others…giving people what they need to understand who He is and His Word, the Bible and apply it into their life. Still, conflicts arise!

I will go on record to say though that there is a core truth found within the pages of the Bible that is, without doubt or compromise, essential to every believer. It shouldn’t matter your doctrinal stance or theological views. This truth is clear within the pages of the Bible as the overriding message from Genesis through to Revelation, and it is this:

We were created, man and woman, within the creation of the universe to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Since man is not perfect and holy like God, man (starting with Adam and Eve) was tempted by Satan, the enemy of God, and they sinned against God, thus separating us all from God. We try to reach God through our own efforts such as living a good life or going to church, but inevitably we fail. We cannot atone for our sins (which means to pay the price and punishment to cleanse us from guilt). But God in His love and mercy provided the ultimate sacrifice to pay for our sins…through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth and lived the perfect holy life, which lead Him to the cross where He took all our deserved punishment from God by death. But Jesus defeated death by rising from the dead and ascending to Heaven to take His rightful place at God’s right side as King and Lord!

Where does that leave us? We must individually receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love! We are no longer estranged from God, but can have fellowship and worship the God who created all things!

We receive Christ through faith, by turning (repenting) away from our sins and following God’s laws and ways. By our repentance, God forgives us and the blood of Jesus washes us from the blemish of sin, thus we are able to approach God. This renews our hearts and minds, giving us hope for eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven! It is a daily walk, a spiritual battle against our flesh and human desires. The process after being saved is called sanctification. We don’t depend on our feelings, we depend on the promise of God’s Word, the Bible. The Bible, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is the only “how to” manual for the Christian, no matter what anyone else would say.

And this is where the enemy, the devil himself, Satan, gets his power. By causing dissension within the body of Christ believers. Satan trips up mankind by causing doubts and getting humans to question God and His Word. The very first sins committed were in the Garden of Eden where the devil asked “did God say…”, thus creating doubts and unbelief in God and His Word. This is where so many churches and theologians get tripped up as well. They questionthe Word of God.

I’ve found in my many years of studies that everyone has an opinion and everyone feels their way is the only right way. We know just by looking at all the different schools of thought concerning the Bible’s teachings. And with all of these ideologies and structures, it is easy to become overwhelmed and confused. Add to all that the multitude of instant media access we have nowadays and you get an exponential number of opinions and viewpoints immediately! This problem has caused many to fall away from their initial faith and also has created chaos and bitterness within the church body itself. 

So, what is the answer? The answer is to personally go to God in prayer daily, talking with Him about everything! This is the first and foremost step! You’ve claimed Christ as your Savior and Lord, which now gives you access to the Throne Room of God, so why not go directly to the Source Himself? Will you instantly hear His voice and get your answers? Not necessarily, but God is faithful and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will lead you to the answer. And please know that His answer might not meet your expectations. Since He knows best what we need compared to what we think we need, you can be assured it’s for your best to go with God. And because our impatience these days is fueled so much with a demand for instant gratification, we need to take the time, in faith, to wait on God’s answers.  

We also need to take steps ourselves to answering the issues by going to His Word provided: The Bible. You don’t need to be a theologian, pastor, or anything else to read the Word for yourself. Prayerfully reading through the Words He has provided to us for our daily instruction gives you everything you need to know about God, Jesus, and our walk with Him! There is no simple way around this. If you are wanting shortcuts and condensed methods, then you are completely missing the point of the Bible. People now days want short, quick answers to their immediate dilemmas, but that is not how God works. You must delve slowly, methodically, and deliberately into His Word and He will enlighten your spirit with His truth. His ways drive these truths and knowledge deep within and help us when we don’t have it front of us.

Obeying God and trusting Him for every detail of our lives is the key. His Word is deep and rich, filled with more than we can comprehend in this lifetime. But it is also everything we need. I truly believe that many times people look too hard at the words within the covers of the Scriptures, trying to find and formulate things that are quite honestly not really there. Sometimes His Word is plain and true and we need to take it at face value, hide it in our hearts, and meditate on His promises to guide us every day closer to Him and His Kingdom. 

Much of the Bible is historical, some of it is prophetic, parts of it contain beautiful prose and poetry, many parts give instruction for living our lives as Christians, and there are also warnings throughout the pages for us as we sojourn through this fallen world filled with people that do not know the God of the Bible…nor do they want to know Him. No matter what, God’s word is enough for us as it stands. It is without errors. It is sufficient for us as is. 

Many men over the centuries have used the Scriptures in deceitful ways, twisting it’s meanings and causing people a lot of harm. There is no denying that the church period is fraught with charlatans and liars. They have done extensive damage to a countless number of people who relied on the teachers and preachers to share and interpret the Word faithfully and completely. Thus, this is why there have been many diligent scholars and everyday people who have sacrificed everything they have, including their own lives, to get the Word of God into the hands of the people in their own languages, so that every person of every tribe, tongue, and nation can look into the pages of the Word themselves and, like the Bereans, search the Scriptures diligently to see if what they see and hear is true!

We have the Word of God from the mouth of God through men of God inspired by the Holy Spirit of God so that we can know God, know His laws, know his truths, and once again have fellowship with Him. We have this when we hid His Word in our hearts, walk faithfully and fully with Him, and trust His promises until we can see Him high and lifted up on His throne of glory in Heaven. Amen

To Testify Or Not To Testify

When writers share their thoughts on page and screen we can usually get some insight into as to who they are and how they think. But we really never get to know the writer unless there is an biography written about them or they write an autobiography to tell their story. The Christian faith has a type of biography. This is called a testimony. They share this to testify how God has worked in their life. How God brought them from one place and into another. To illustrate this, I will offer some insights into my life for you here.

As a Christian, I am a believer in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and my Savior. And most Christians have a testimony that share similarities. It is usually the story of a life away from God, doing their own thing, then a preacher or witness comes and shares the Gospel message of the saving grace of Jesus. There is usually some type of invitation to receive Christ as personal Savior, and then begins rebirth into newness of life! Always an exciting story and celebrated by countless numbers of people throughout the generations since the New Testament times!

My story doesn’t quite go that way. In fact, as linear as the testimony is to most people, my testimony looks more like a spirograph. Or maybe like the crayon drawing of a two year old. There’s really nothing linear about me and my walk with God through Christ!

But to begin, I must put in a disclaimer: I am not an ordained minister or pastor of any particular church/denomination. I do not hold a degree in any religious studies from a higher institution. Everything and anything that I talk about only comes from my own studies and leadings from the Holy Spirit…of which I have been a most difficult student to Him above. This is why the need to constantly preach to myself all these things that He, God, shows me and lays on my heart, that He reveals through His Word. You may have differing views or opinions regarding topics that I share on here. I make mistakes, misunderstand, and often take a long while to grasp concepts from the Bible. God knows I’m a work in progress.

Testimony appears in various usages and forms in both the old and new testaments. In the Old Testament, Hebrew words such a yaad, ud, and anah are used. They were used by prophets testifying against Israel or by certain visible evidences that point to God. Remember Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the 10 commandments and glowing? That can be considered one of his testimonies.

In the New Testament, the Greek word marturia appears throughout and it can mean testimony, witness or evidence. It’s also referenced as a defense, such as the way the Apostles would give a defense from the accusations made against them. A good example of a testimony, a defense, would be Paul appearing before King Agrippa and making his defense in Acts 26.

To be true, the entire Bible is one complete testimony…not only the testimony of the saints from the old to the New Testament, but a complete testimony of God Himself.

The testimony is a very important thing for the believer, as mentioned in Revelation 12:11: “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” The power of the word of our testimony will come into play in the end times. It is our stance against the devil and the world when it comes against the truth of God. The testimony is a powerful ally along with the Bible and other evidences in Christian apologetics.

Our testimony is essentially our story of the workings and reality of God Himself in our lives. How God has shown His power through us in our lives as a witness to others. Even the fruit of the Spirit can be considered a testimony unto God.

So, what about me, my “testimony”? As I mentioned before, I don’t have a rags to riches linear story of sinner brought to God and saved from hell unto heaven. I alluded to my on again/off again salvation story in episode one in which I prayed the ol’ sinner’s prayer numerous times over many years thinking that the salvation process didn’t work for me since I didn’t have a lightning and thunder total change of heart in an instant moment every time I begged God into my life.

I didn’t have any one particular moment in time that I can say with certainty when I was saved. Some folks I know, and others I have heard, such as the great theologian RC Sproul, can name the date, time and circumstances surrounding the moment they first received salvation and how they changed in an instant. My cousin had a “come-to-Jesus” moment while living on the streets, getting high on drugs. After hearing the Gospel message from some street evangelists, he prayed for salvation and has since then walked with God. Even committing his life to evangelism on the streets and around the world.

My story is a mix of self salvation and going through the motions. One minute on fire for a moment or season but then growing cold and shutting down. It’s been up and down and all around. I can say with certainty though that God has been constantly tugging and pulling at me most of my life, but I never recognized it being of God.

As much as I have tried to venture down the path that leads to destruction, God has always pulled me back from the edge…without my knowing or understanding.

Even though I grew up attending the Lutheran church, going through confirmation classes, I still had no knowledge of God, Jesus, or the Bible. It didn’t matter to me then.

I recall being in the Air Force over in Germany…being filled with drunken debauchery, living for self and self-gratification. As naive as I was to the ways of life, I easily fell under the spells of the world and all it’s lusts and desires. Yet, out of the blue one day at a military store, I had this “need” to buy a bible. Why? Don’t know. I just knew I needed one. Did I read it? No, not then…

Years later, after starting a family and struggling to make ends meet, I remember watching a Billy Graham special. At the end, I participated in the call to “pray to receive salvation”. I remember saying the prayer with the expectation of thunder, lightning, angels singing, and a complementary “well done good and faithful servant” from God himself. Well, that was a let down. The one positive in my approach to the salvation response was that I started to read the Bible. I actually bought a little New Testament and carried it with me, reading it during down times. I didn’t actually know what I was reading, but I read it just the same.

I didn’t have any zeal for sharing the Gospel, possibly because I didn’t know the Gospel.

I did attend and join churches, gathering head knowledge over the years as I struggled with the salvation process. I became active in a church worship team for years, enjoying fellowship and learning more and more. But, with my life still crumbling down around me, I found myself always pushing away from God, church, and the pursuit of holiness.

During these years, I often found myself doubting salvation, praying again the “prayer” to save me, in hopes of changing and becoming like so many people I have seen in the church…pious and happy, filled with the Holy Spirit. Actually, I was jealous and wanted that! But, I didn’t get it.

Instead, despair and hopelessness filled my life.

There were some moments of light that would break through from time to time. Probably the most encouraging time was I went to see a pastor at a local Baptist church and asked him if I wasn’t feeling saved because I committed the unpardonable sin…grieved the Holy Spirit.

His answer would soon spark some revival within me when the shadows of doubt would permeate my heart. He said if I am worried about my salvation and being right with God, that’s the Holy Spirit working within me, convicting me, prompting me, moving me toward a path of righteousness instead of prodigalism. He shared that people who will not, or can not get right with God, those elect by the Spirit, won’t pursue God and His ways. They don’t think or worry about whether or not God is in their life. They don’t want to read the Bible or go to church.

That answer re-ignited hope within me.

Is this to say that my walk afterwards was that of a pious man? A man after God’s own heart? That the Word filled me with a righteousness? Unfortunately no. As hopeful as I was that there was a glimmer of hope, my hope lasted for just a season and I was back to the hot/cold/lukewarm battles.

As you can see up to this point, my testimony is one of wandering comparable to the Israelites in the desert for 40 years!

Even to this day, the battles rage on. What’s different about nowadays versus the many decades ago is that during the years wandering in the desert, I learned a lot about God. More than just that, I learned about theology. The study of God. I learned not only about the history of the church after the Apostolic period, but also about how man managed to interject himself into biblical interpretations and really skew the Word of God to fit certain narratives.

Not that this is some new means of attack on the Word of God and God’s true church…no…that has been going on since the beginning of time. Questioning God’s Word has been a scheme of the devil since before humanity came onto the seen. As explained in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, Lucifer was an angel of light, most beautiful in the heavens. Since he (and the other angels) are created beings, they are not perfect like God. He became full of himself and thought he should be glorified as God also. Pride. That very nature we all possess without having to be taught!

Lucifer brought a third of the angels with when cast out of heaven for his rebellion toward God. He convinced a third! Smooth talker and smart! He knows God’s words better than any human can. And because of that and his work to thwart God’s will…he manipulates those who study the Word of God, the Bible. So you can see how there are often differing views and opinions when interpreting Scripture. That is a history I don’t have time to get into today, but let’s just say that it is rampant in today’s churches!

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit helps guide people to read, interpret, understand, and use the Word of God correctly. After the reformation, many great men of God came out proclaiming the Word of God instead of man made rules and laws. Thankfully, this proper teaching of the whole Word inspired multitudes to walk away from false-teaching preachers and theologians and truly study the Word themselves. I thank God that I have a questioning spirit sometimes, because I find myself asking questions when listening or reading preachers and teachers. I constantly ask “where in the Bible does it say that?” And “what is the context of those words?” When you cast aside interpretations of men and read for yourselves, prayerfully and thoroughly, you discover God’s Words directly.

This is not to say that many teachers and preachers are bad. On the contrary, I have found great helps from the writings and teachings of good and solid reformers and theologians. But, we must take each with a grain of salt and, like the Bereans in Acts, test everything through the Scriptures! Thus, many of the social, cultural, and prosperity preachers and teachers are being exposed as false and heretical because people are using the Scriptures to examine their ways!

So many other aspects to my testimony, but as impatient as I am, wanting to be walking in the glory and light of God every minute of every hour of every day, I had to learn to be patient. God’s timing for things are not ours to alter. The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness because they were a “stiff-necked” peoples. God has to send each of us through different trials and paths to get us prepared for the Celestial City. Some come to faith easier than others. I have struggled long and hard. But, it has to be God’s timing. And most of all, I have to learn to trust in His timing! That….that is a difficult thing to do! We are a people of instant gratification. And having to wait through the sanctification process is hard…specially when we have an enemy that uses that time to trip us, hinder us, cause us to question God and His Word and His promises. Thus…all the more important to know the Word, the Scriptures!!!! I cannot stress this enough!

Had I taken time early on in my walk with God to study the Scriptures, I know that there would have been a stronger walk. But, God uses our faults and failings despite ourselves! This is why my testimony is all over the board. The prodigal son went out from his father for a season and came back. I’ve made so many trips away from God’s calling that I probably have enough frequent flyer miles to circle the heavens a thousand times!

Look, just saying a prayer and making some verbal commitment at a church service or event doesn’t save you. God saves you by changing your heart where you are…at the right time. God calls you from the depths of our depravities. Jesus paid the penalties for our sins on the cross as an atonement. The Holy Spirit works in you, continually, not just once in a while or at the time of our rebirth. Receiving Christ as our Savior is really us surrendering our ways for His ways. The process may be instant, or it may take decades. Either way, salvation is of God alone through Jesus Christ alone by the power of the Holy Spirit alone and explained in the Scriptures alone. To God be the glory, forever and ever, Amen.

No matter how your path toward Heaven goes, we all need to continually refill ourselves with that first love, that moment we realized we need God in our lives. We revisit that by filling our hearts and minds with his instruction book…the Bible. Without it, we are wandering the desert aimlessly. But during our journey, we need to pay close attention to the wild beasts that seek to devour us and lead us astray from the narrow path God has laid out for us. The only way to defeat the enemies during this journey, the only way to stay focused on the prize is to know where we are going and use the road map given to us…His Words!

Your testimony is your story of God bringing you into His fold, saving you from eternal hell. We all have a story, and the central point is God’s grace toward us, to call us to Himself. We must never lose that story, as it is powerful! To take a sinner, a heathen rebel, such as myself and allow me access to eternal glory and happiness and peace in Heaven…well, that’s a story of salvation! Whether I deserve it or not by man’s standards, that will not have any say…because God thought enough of me to give me the ultimate gift….a testimony!

Take Courage!

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13.

My prayer is for you to stand firm in your faith, strong in your convictions, trusting in God’s mercies, and able to cry out to Him during trials.

When we stumble, even if we fall, we are able to stand back up in His grace, kneel before the throne of grace, and walk in newness of life by His grace.

Even though it feels like you are alone at times, we know that God is with us by His Spirit through Christ. Not only that, but God has provided true believers to come alongside you, hold you up during weakness, encourage you in darkness, and love you unconditionally in the journey.

Look to His Word, trust in His Spirit, lean on His mercies!

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31 paraphrased)

All of this encouragement comes to you from the God of the universe! We tend to get frustrated over our shortcomings and falter in our faith. We don’t daily take up our cross and march forthright into the battles of life. It’s easy to give up, go home, quit the game and take an easier path. I know this personally. I’ve done it many, many times before. Walking away from God when the storms erupt around me.

Why? With all the positive that Jesus has showed us in His ministry on earth and the teachings and examples from the Apostles and Bible heroes within the pages of Scripture, you would think that we can just stand firm in the faith, knowing that our old man (character, leanings, ways) has been crucified and is dead and buried!

Because there is a negative side to the walk of faith. Believing in God doesn’t make the storms vanish. Trusting Christ comes with a cost. When we deny ourselves the way of our former lives, we are going against the grain of the world around us. We have made a decision to cast aside the societal norms and pursue a holiness. We choose to walk in a manner to glorify God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We separate ourselves from the world, yet still live in the world.

This is a daily battle. Daily choices are made to either indulge the flesh or cling to the Spirit. It is not a simple task. Even though we have accepted the gift of Grace extended to us by God through the work of Christ’s atonement on the cross, we are still, by nature, sinful creatures. Our natural leaning is to break the laws of God, selfishly follow our own desires, and flow without ridicule and shame the ways of this world.

Yes, it is easy to lay aside the newness of salvation, walk away from the sanctification process, and return to our old ways. But we are told how this is a race, not a sprint. That the race is long and has, at times, hills…even mountains…to climb. The terrain we travel can be rough. So many snares, pitfalls, false directions, and easier paths to waylay our journey.

The race set before us takes endurance. And to endure to the end takes fuel, energy. With God’s Holy Spirit, His Word, and fellowship of true believers, we can endure and finish this race! The letter to the Hebrews tells us that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, who by example encourage us to continue on, by faith, trusting that “He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it”!

Take courage today, everyday!

Truth Or Emotion

I live in a country that has long declared itself a “Godly nation”, founded on “Biblical principles”. Historically, these are somewhat correct statements. The United States was founded by people that wholly believed in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, that the Bible is to be the guide from which all life should follow. 2nd Timothy, chapter 3, verses 16 and 17 state All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

A couple of things regarding these declarations:

First is that many people, groups, cultures, and countries have all started out under a basic and commonly held belief system. Many churches were started by a group of people who hold an identical theology. Governments have been formed based on a collective of ideologies and goals. And the United States began with people seeking out a place together where they can worship, govern, and commune together under the umbrella of Christianity.

Secondly, starting out with one philosophy doesn’t mean that the intended direction continues uninterrupted. When you look at institutions of learning such as Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and the likes, you might be surprised to know that they all started out as seminaries. Christian religion studies were so important in the early days of first settlers that many schools of Bible were created. Yet, if you look at the formats and leanings of these once great schools, you’ll find that they are almost diametrically opposite from their beginnings.

This type of falling away from initial beliefs has definitely happened within the USA. We have become a nation of godless trappings. Quick to cast aside any foundational roots that once made this a great nation on the earth. Isaiah 5:20 says “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” I think we can look at our history and see how the tides have gone in opposite directions. Perhaps the Glory has departed? Why?

I believe that the church as a whole is at fault for this. Before the apostasy levels that we see nowadays, even differing denominations all held core beliefs that were tantamount to biblical living. People believed, lived, worked, governed, and worshiped scripturally.

Since the church isn’t a building or even a denomination, the true core of fault lies with the individual believer. The church body by definition is a group of believers, dedicated, diligent, and determined to follow the Word of God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That was once the way. That used to be the church. Yes, there were many many conflicts and disagreements…since the beginning…but nothing to the magnitude you see now. In fact, the vast majority of mainstream denominations have completely fallen away from scripture being the complete governing mandate. In Romans chapter 1, Paul points out this type of godlessness, where people have cast aside God and followed after their own thinking and started worshiping themselves instead.

And so it has become that being a true, Bible-believing Christian today is an invite to derision. Since the “church” has fallen to the lures of false teachings, prosperity preachers, new age thinking, social gospel and the likes, scripture is looked at as outdated, archaic, and not keeping with the times…so much so that the leaders of this new “church” mock and scorn those who hold the Bible as the infallible Word of God. Fortunately, there are still a core, though small, group of Biblical adherents in the world today.

Why have so many fallen away? Three key things since the fall of man in the garden of Eden; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Satan easily tempts those who don’t know the Word of God. And though many false teachers and ‘believers’ spend a ridiculous amount of time, effort, and energy blaming the devil for every evil or ignoring evil altogether and focusing only on “feel-good” theology, there is a deeper reality that most Christians forget as the source of problems in the church.

The first and foremost enemy that we face in our spiritual battle is not the devil, but it is our self. The devil has already tripped humanity. Since we have this fallen state within ourselves, most of the shortcomings and failures of our walk are self-inflicted. We spend so much time blaming everything else: the devil, the church, the government, the neighbors, et al. But now is the time to stop and reflect on our own accountability. We are sinful by nature and are a wretched people, in and of, ourselves.

I can’t account to have the fix for this speeding train-wreck that is the current “church” situation. America, as a whole, isn’t about to change it’s course either. Instead of utilizing Common Sense and logic and knowledge of the past, people run everything based on emotions. Every single person has individual emotions regarding every little facet and unfortunately, that is currently what is running every decision and thought process. Emotions are unstable, and so is the driven plight of mankind.

The Bible clearly states that the god of this world has blinded the eyes of many. They won’t see the Scriptures anymore, lest the scales drop from their eyes by the grace of God. The remnant has become smaller over time. This is actually all prophesied in the Word. We must maintain though. Keep fighting the good fight, striving to finish the race that is set before us. Keeping our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He will finish what He started.

So, this is the truth: 1) that we are NOT a Godly nation anymore. The old church has fallen away like so many before us (including the chosen nation of God; Israel). 2) The devil is not the purveyor of all evil we befall. We are fallen in nature and have our own evil momentum going and we must take responsibility for our actions. And 3) that we who do continue to call the Word of God as infallible need to be directing our every step, staying focused and uncompromising in these last days, so that the God of the universe, who is sovereign and supreme and worthy to be glorified, can tell us when we reach the shores of Heaven “well done, good and faithful servant”.     Amen

It’s All About Me Me Me

This is a minor departure from things I preach to myself about. Though this can be a preaching topic, it’s more of something that we all complain about from time to time. We observe this, yet can also find ourselves guilty of the very issue.

As we make our day-to-day travels, whether to the local store or to work, we are out and about sharing the highways and byways with our fellow humans. Because two solid objects cannot share the same place at the same time, we attempt to skillfully whisk by each other…sometimes at a “personal space” distance, sometimes too close for comfort. Either way, we try to respect the other person’s space.

But, as mankind has evolved over the centuries, we have become smarter, wiser, stronger, and more advanced exponentially. I believe this has created a greater egocentric mentality. Though not unique in human history, man seems to have grown even more ‘wise in his own eyes’ and became a chronic narcissistic in personality, even though since the beginning of time, self-exultation has been the norm.

Because of this self-adulation, people put themselves first over those around them. As a king would wave a hand to move commoners away, many have become so self-absorbed that putting others first is almost a chore, if done at all.selfish-leader-power-motive-900x400From as early as the accounts in Genesis through the final period in Revelation, the Bible has recounted stories of man’s arrogance. Not just toward God, as in man’s sin nature, but also toward each other. Many triggers are explained as to what causes men to act the way he does. From self-righteousness, greed, desire, and pride, humankind has an innate desire to ‘pat himself on the back’ and raise himself up as ‘the best’.

 

casting_the_first_stoneAll of this self-driven behavior though has caused more problems than anything else. Cain killed Able because he felt slighted by God. As in the days of Noah, everyone was wiped out except Noah’s family because of the wickedness of men…rambunctious for self-gratification. Many kings and leaders rose to power, grew egotistical, and created wars and atrocities…including their own demise…over people. Even in the end times recorded in the Bible, it’s the pinnacle of selfish pride that brings the final days of man.

Where has all this come from? If we are called to give, love, share, and ‘do unto others’, why, then, is there such a gross level of ‘me, me, me’ going on?

From the highest levels of world leaders and business greed to the simplest of people who think they have to park in three spots or cut off others in traffic because it’s all about ‘them’, humans have steadily become so selfish that even the daily commute or simple shopping trip creates such bitterness, anger, hostility, and anxiety. We all experience it, we all struggle with others and their self attitudes.

So what does all this say? It says that we need to buckle up, put on our patience-pants, learn to keep moving and stay focused! Why? Because this has been going on since time beginning and is going to continue till time ends. Absolutely nothing that you or I can say or do is going to stop the insanity of the inconsiderate egos who try to make life on this planet all about them.

You may vent until your heart’s content, but people are people, blinded by the god of this world, thinking that the more they glorify themselves, the better they will feel. They boast and puff themselves up in the hopes of gaining respect, admiration, and glory. This is exactly what the devil has been doing since the Garden of Eden. “If you…then you will be like God”. Mankind has striven for that since.

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The quickest and clearest example is: Hollywood. If ever there was a cloister of people who try to exalt themselves over everyone, it’s the ego maniacal minions of that entertainment world. They poise themselves above everyone else. They have to be first, have the best, have the most, be the biggest, be the most glamoured, be be be…me me me!

And that very mentality and existence doesn’t end there. The infection is as close as your backyard. Your neighbor, your co-worker, your children, the people we meet each and every day on those highways and byways I mentioned before.

Nothing you can do. Just be patient, love, pray, set examples, be humble, and stay focused the best you can.

Believe it or not, we all have that disease of self. With some, it shows more abundantly. But, we all have it. And until our self is quenched, we battle it inside and out every day. To overcome that problem through God, we’re taught to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (as stated in Ephesians 4:22-24).

But with so many who don’t seek God’s Word of redemption, the world continues to show the rampant display of selfishness, as is stated in 2 Timothy chapter 3;

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (underline of verse 2 mine for emphasis)

We see that in every direction we look these days. Through the help of God, we can put off our old self, and walk in newness with love, peace, joy, humility, and unselfishness. Though we might not be able to fix others, we can certainly start with ourselves! Amen

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