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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Ichabod: Where did the Glory go?

The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.    -C. S. Lewis

conceptual sign post with, danger slippery slope

As many permit themselves comfort from the woes of this world, there exists a jagged edge that they drift dangerously close to, careless to the reality of the fall that awaits them.  As gloomy as this sounds, I must persist in casting some reality toward you in the hopes of jarring your slumber!

In ancient biblical times, wars existed between the factions of believers in God and believers of everything else. Though the spiritual realm has its casualties, there was also an effect to the physical as well.  Death tolls in these wars, per the accounts of history and Bible, were in the 10’s of thousands! The followers of God, the Israelites, had won a fair share of battles, but also suffered great defeats as well.  In most cases, the stories relayed the importance of God and his following his commandments.

In one particular situation, Israel was facing one of their great foes, the Philistines. In 1 Samuel chapter 4, the Israelites had taken a beating and decided to bring up the Ark of the Covenant to the battle front. This represented God’s presence more than anything.  The wild cheers of elation rallied the troops and even the Philistines feared God showing up.  But…to no avail.  Israel got their butt kicked and the enemy ran off with the Ark.

The high priest and judge of Israel, Eli, lost two of his sons in the battle. That information, along with the Ark being taken, literally killed the poor guy.  His daughter-in-law was so despondent about the losses that she gave birth and died.  The midwife names the boy Ichabod, meaning ‘the glory of the Lord has departed’.  Great start to life! (Sarcasm intended!)

It seems historically that when a people decide on their own volition of self first, it isn’t too long afterward that their demise hits. The United States of America was essentially founded on a basis of the Bible as the core moral and spiritual compass. The founding fathers forged our first governing documents on the whole of scripture, keeping that, with God, all things are possible. But, as with any great nation, corruption seeps in…slowly, assuredly, and with a purpose of demise. Even the learned institutions, such as Harvard and Yale, started out as seminary schools teaching the Bible! Yet, now, you would be fortunate to find scripture anywhere within the walls of the university. We are on the safest road to hell!

So, how did this happen?  How did we get to this drowning point? The primary place to point out the failing is our own ‘churches’.  Now, I am not going to get all denominational or call out particular names.  That is not the intent of this.  But, I will shake a fist to any and all who claim Christianity as their faith, yet deny the Bible as the word of God.  Without the Bible, we do not have the compass of direction. Without the Bible, we do not have instructions. Without the Bible, we do not have a reference point to keep ourselves on the correct path!

All that said, when we cast aside His Words to us, we begin to wander aimlessly.  We become “I Chabod”….without the Glory. When we are travelling and feel uncertain about our direction, we consult a map. Now days, we are constantly looking to our smart phones for information and direction. Well, the Bible is our map. The Bible is our smart phone that has all the answers we need.  And without it…well, we rely on our own understanding. Our own views. Our own mess!

The father of lies, the great deceiver, has crept into the fabric of God-fearing churches and cast doubts, dissensions, and destruction from within.  And since pushing aside the Bible as the beacon of truth, these churches have turned into social clubs and feel-good parties…with no truth being taught! Whitewashed Tombs! Pretty on the outside, empty and dead on the inside!

Mark 7:9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!”

The churches today (not all) have essentially rejected the Bible as the Word and have, instead, decided that soft, gentle talks regarding social issues are more important than knowing God and His Word!  And with the disregard of God’s Word as authoritative and commanding, man has put himself in God’s place and now determines what is and what isn’t sin! What was once revered as Gospel has since become edited so as not to offend anyone! Sins are acceptable and they just avoid talking about His Words and commands!

The Glory has departed! And with His departing, so has His hand which has held back the enemies of God’s people!

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One of the greatest preachers of all time, Jonathan Edwards, in 1741 preached a sermon that shook the very core of believers and unbelievers alike. That sermon, titled “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God” was filled with fire and brimstone that convicted people to remedy, or assure, that their relationship with God was of utmost importance!  We have fallen so far from that reverence, passion, and belief in the God of the Bible, creator of all things, through his Son, by which we have forgiveness and restored fellowship.

There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.  – Edwards

So, I ask: Why?  Why has the Word of God been rejected by the very people who claim to believe in God? Why have we allowed His Glory to depart from us? Are we so delusional as to think that God would never cast anyone into hell? Because, if we are sitting at such a comfort level, in disbelief of God’s wrath, as to think that…I really suggest you reconsider what His Words really do say!  There is no free rides to Heaven! The Bible is very clear on that! His own people, the Israelites, were destroyed in a battle because of their own complacency and denial of His Supremacy!  YOU are no different. The church is no different.

God has never promised to save us from Hell, except for those contained in Christ through the covenant of Grace.  – Edwards

The churches have rejected God’s Word.  The Glory has departed.  Man stands alone on a wayward path leading toward destruction of soul:  hell.

I guess I challenge anyone to look at their ‘churches’ and ask the question:  Do they fully accept God’s words as complete revelation from God, or are they picking and choosing what they want to keep and what they don’t?  It literally is an “all or nothing” situation.  You either believe in the Bible or you don’t. And, as Edwards based his sermon from in scripture, ‘their foot shall slip in due time’ (Deut 32:35), there isn’t a middle ground with God.  You (and the church) are either hot or cold. Lukewarm is the path that leads to destruction.

 

 

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