I Hate Her / Him

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” Matthew 5:22‭-‬24 NASB

“The life we live today will determine the life we will live for eternity.” Mark Hitchcock (Pastor, Faith Bible Church, Edmond OK)

Think about that for a minute. If I spend my time, my life, on earth holding a grudge against someone, hating them, how will that affect my eternal life? I know it can’t hurt my salvation, because that comes solely through God’s Mercy and Grace in Jesus Christ. It can, however, affect my eternal life.

Every person who has accepted Christ as their Saviour enters into an undeniable, unbreakage relationship with the Creator Father. We are saved from damnation with the enemy for all of the ages. That is indisputable. The question of all time is what will it be like, and how will we be when we get to that glorious place called heaven? Does how we live on earth affect our lives in heaven? The Apostle Paul thinks it will:

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 9:24‭-‬25 NASB

“….. for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8 NASB

We are striving for an imperishable wreath, or crown, in our lives. One that will be rewarded to us at the Bema Seat when we first see Jesus, and that will stay with us throughout eternity. Those people I want to hate because of their actions – is it worth it to lose out in my relationship with Jesus Christ? Is it worth losing out on the rewards He wants to give me? Turn them over to Jesus. Lay them at His Feet. Let Him deal with their lies, betrayals, ugliness. I don’t need that trash cluttering up either this life, or the next!

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Trust and Obey

I remember standing in church as a child and a youth, singing Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, than to Trust and Obey. I believed it; I knew, deep in my heart, the profound Truth in the words. I knew Solomon was right when he wrote this proverb:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5‭-‬6 NASB

Even then, knowing what I knew, I didn’t let myself completely trust God, especially once I hit the teen years. I began to believe the enemy’s lies. I viewed myself as unlovable – not pretty enough, or popular enough. My body didn’t look good enough. I wasn’t as smart as my older sister or good enough to be part of my brother’s life. My voice wasn’t as clear as I thought it should be, and my range was too limited. I wasn’t one of the ‘popular’ girls. I hated that I was so painfully, excruciatingly shy, and that I wasn’t strong enough to overcome it.

The enemy was winning that battle, and I gave up; surrendered to him for years. As in Ezekiel’s time, I became like the dry bones:

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry.” – Ezekiel 37:1-2 NASB

My God is stronger than our enemy!

“Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord .'” – Ezekiel 37:5‭-‬6 NASB

“And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” – Isaiah 58:11 NASB

I learned over the years that Isaiah was right, too! The world we live in is like the velley Ezekiel was in, full of the dry bones of people who don’t know the goodness of the LORD; who haven’t received His Mercy and His Grace. Testify of the Goodness of the Lord! Expose the enemy for what he is: deceiver, manipulator, the Father of Lies. We may lose a skirmish, but the war has been won. The battle belongs to the LORD…… and the enemy knows it!

“….. for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.” – 1 Samuel 17:47 NASB

AMEN!

Pay Attention!

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” – 1 PETER 5:8‭-‬9 NASB

The devil, the adversary. The word Satan means adversary. He is also called the god of this age, god of this world, deceiver, camouflager, Father of lies ….. he goes by many names. The words used here, seeking to devour, mean to gulp down. He wants to DESTROY us. Where is he? Is he real?

“Now there was a day when the sons of God [angelic hosts] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” ” – JOB 1:6‭-‬7 NASB

It amazes me to hear that people don’t believe he exists. I read an article online by Phil Zuckerman, Ph.D., professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, on the existence of the devil from his book, The Secular Life. Some excerpts:

How can people seriously believe in the devil? The year is 2015, not 1315. And yet, the fact remains that tens of millions of Americans continue to believe that there is a magical, wicked, evil — oh, and smart — being out there doing magical, wicked, evil deeds and presiding over a fiery realm, where demons crawl and witches cackle. Oh, wait. No cackling witches. Just demons, right?

According to a 2013 YouGov survey, 57% of Americans believe in the devil. And yes, that is 57% of American adults — not kindergarteners.

But there is no such thing as the devil, just as there is no such thing as fairies, imps, or goblins. The two largest religions in the world — Christianity and Islam — teach that there is a devil. And they are wrong. There is no evidence for such a thing. Not a shred. It is simply something that germinated from the unscientific, irrational minds of early humans who tried their best to explain why bad things happen to good people, why good people sometimes do bad things, and why there is so much needless suffering in the world.

He also included this:

In October, 2013, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia declared that, yes, he most certainly believes in the existence of Satan. But why don’t we see him? Well, “you know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and what not. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore…It’s because he’s smart….What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.” (Emphasis mine)

I belong on the side with Justice Scalia. Why? Because, like Dwight L. Moody, “The Bible says so, and I have done business with him.” May I add, it is not a pleasant experience. Does this mean I have dealt with Satan, the adversary, himself? Probably not. He has many fallen angels and demons who work beside him. Paul said:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” – EPHESIANS 6:12 NASB

He is sneaky; he is a liar and a thief. He incites persecution against followers of Christ, and he hinders the work of Christians. He sows doubt and distrust anywhere he can. How can one created being do all this and create such havoc in the world, when he is NOT omnipresent? He relies on his demons, his followers and all of the other fallen angels (back to Ephesians 6), but he is also a spirit and can travel quickly. The ultimate power behind persecution is Satan.

Even many Christians don’t believe Satan exists. If we can’t see it, it can’t be real….. but, we can’t see God, either. Does Satan exist? If not, where does the mayhem and evil come from? He is as real as you and I. An interesting note: the devil, Satan, is not currently residing in hell; he is very much alive and living here on earth. During the Tribulation period (still to come) he will be permanently expelled from heaven, although based on scriptures, he currently has at least limited access to heaven, to have conversations with God. He is seeking and stalking his prey, and his prey is anyone aligning themselves with Jesus Christ!

“But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” – 1 PETER 5:9 NASB

The Good News is this: JESUS has already defeated him, on Calvary! Calvary is our Hope, because it is where Satan was defeated. We don’t fight FOR victory, we fight FROM victory, and we apply it in everyday life. Be ready! Don’t focus on Satan, focus on Christ, but don’t underestimate the deceiver. After all, if an actual lion gets loose, do we ignore it, or try to get away from it? Don’t be ignorant of the devil, just be aware and stand firm; submit to the LORD in every aspect of our lives. (Ephesians 6:10-18) We are not alone in this battle. We – all Christians – are all in the same spiritual battle, and we need to be, and should be, watching each others backs.

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – JAMES 4:7 NASB

“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of Lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” – REVELATION 17:14 NASB

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah defeats the lion known as the devil, aka Satan!

The End Is Coming!

“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 PETER 4:7‭-‬11 NASB

How many times has the end of the world been predicted? Hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands? Over the centuries, many leaders have convinced their followers that Jesus is returning at a certain time and a certain date. The Jehovah Witnesses have predicted at least 5 different dates, and we are still here. Nostradamus predicted 1999 (Still here). Google “end-of-the-world predictions” – it’s interesting to me that so many people seem to want the world to simply go away. Matthew, Luke, and John all recorded Jesus saying that no one would know when He was to return.

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. …. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” – MATTHEW 24:42‭, ‬44 NASB

Peter wrote 1 Peter 4 as a guide of how to live in the end times; to live in the knowledge that our Lord is coming to see us at some point, and to take care of His people as if we expect Him now. In the Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis, as Aslan prepares to leave Lucy he tells her he will return soon. I love her reply, because it is what we all want to ask: “What do you call “soon”?”

Are we living our lives like Jesus will return “soon”? Like there is no tomorrow? It is especially important as Christians to keep sound judgement and a clear head – don’t succumb to the panic of the end times. (Remember Y2K?) One way to avoid the panic is through a dedicated prayer life – sustained and energized, aware of the immenence of Christ. We have the only Love that can be stretched and strained to the max, but will never reach a breaking point, because it is a unique Love that comes only from the Father.

We need to be more fervent in our love of others, and let our love cover their sins…. not condoning the sins, but not broadcasting or highlighting and exposing them. We can be gracious putting up with other’s weaknesses – because we have so many weaknesses ourselves! Less isolation of ourselves, because hospitality is sharing the message that “you matter to me.” Finally, using our spiritual gifts shouldn’t be hard for us, because it will be natural act and will serve other people.

The end is coming. Just don’t get too excited about putting a time or date on it. Only the Father knows when it will be.

Of Money, Swords, and Stuff

Jesus spoke to His disciples as they celebrated the Passover meal together, instructing them and serving them,

“And [JESUS] said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘and He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” “

Later, as He and the disciples were in the Garden, praying, a crowd of people came out to find Him and arrest Him. This is a perfect example of submission to authority. Even though His disciples were armed, the LORD told them to stand down, because He knew this was part of GOD the FATHER’s plan for Him. Verse 53 is telling:

“Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber? While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.” – LUKE 22:35‭-‬37‭, ‬52‭-‬53 NASB

You have probably figured out from past posts, especially if you follow me on FaceBook or Twitter, that I am a stanch supporter of the right to keep and bear arms, whether they be swords or the lastest innovation in firearms. I don’t believe that the LORD intended us to be at the mercy of the evil and the depraved in the world (i.e. the Enemy, Satan). We are, however, subject to the authority of our government …… however wrong we believe it to be.

We – I – am blessed to live in a Republic, where every individual is bestowed with certain rights. We have the right to freely speak out against what we perceive to be bad judgement calls by the authorities with the 1st Amendment. The right to bear arms against a tyrannical government is the 2nd Amendment – which also protects our 1st Amendment rights. I’m not a militant, but I may be considered a radical conservative. In our quest to follow Christ, isn’t it also our duty to protect the innocent and the downtrodden? Not to rebel against our elected leaders (no matter how wrong we believe them to be), and not to bring war and violence onto those who disagree with us, but to aid and protect those who aren’t capable of helping themselves.

Our church is currently studying I Peter 2 and what the reality of Christ-patterned submission looks like today. Oh ugh, there, that dreaded word, maybe the most disliked word in the English language!! Submission. It becomes vital for us claimimg kinship with Jesus to understand when to use the sword and when to stop. Why? Because the Enemy is waiting to use our actions against us whenever we refuse to submit. When we submit to the authority of our elected officials, even when they are wrong, the cause of our LORD is strengthened.

“When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.” ” – LUKE 22:49‭-‬51 NASB

It can very difficult to determine when to fight and when to submit. All I can tell you is to follow the example of our Lord and spend time in earnest prayer. Follow the leading of GOD. He’s never wrong. (And His Angel Army is armed! Amen!!)

Aliens on Earth

There are people who claim that Jesus was an alien being from another planet. You might be surprised to hear me say that they are at least partially correct. Jesus was – and is – an alien in this world, and on top of that, as Christ-followers, we are – we should be – as well. When we follow Him, our lives are supposed to be a reflection of Him so that non-believers can see how beautiful it can be to have that Love and Mercy and Grace. Many times, we really are the only Bible that person might ever see!

Too much pressure for you? As Americans living in the U.S., we aren’t recipients of the physical persecution (although we seem to be headed there) endured by Christians in many countries. In fact, especially in the middle of the so-called “Bible Belt”, many Christians have a hard time imagining physical persecution ever happening here. Friends, we are much closer to it becoming a reality than we want to accept. I believe that Peter was addressing us, Christian Americans in 2019, as much as he was when writing to Christians living outside of Rome in the first century after Christ.

“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles [non-Christians], so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” – 1 PETER 2:11‭-‬12 NASB

In the above letter, Peter refers to the “earthly lusts” we are to avoid, and Paul expounds on them in this letter to the Galations:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” – GALATIANS 5:19‭-‬21 NASB

These are the things, the attitudes and actions, we need to avoid as followers of Christ Jesus. What kind of testimony is it when a professed Christian business acts in a dishonest manner? When a prominent Christian is caught cheating on their spouse, or lying, or drunk? And all those other things like these? Oh, we are fallible, and we are sinners, and we are held to a higher standard because of our profession of faith. I am chief among the sinners and the hypocrites! All I can do is publicly confess* and ask GOD for forgiveness, which I have done – and will continue to do. (*The exception is when your confession will cause harm to another. Then you should confess privately to another Christian whom you trust.) When we choose Jesus, we choose a higher moral ground. That means we have further to fall when we sin, and we make a bigger mess when we fall. I know. I’ve made some big messes!

Thank You, JESUS, for Your Saving Grace, Your Forgiveness and Mercy! Bless us as we make our poor attempts at following You. Amen.

Fear of the World?

There is so much violence. Every time I watch the news or open a social media app, war, violence against persons, terrorism – these grab the headlines. As Christians, followers of JESUS CHRIST, should we be afraid of this ugliness? I am concerned for the spiritual safety of our children as socialism and radicalism take center stage, because we have strayed so far from our moral, our Christ-centered base. I know where I will be when the LORD returns with His army to destroy the Enemy and the world as we know it. Do you? Are you certain, without a shadow of a doubt? What we are seeing now, this destruction of our society, is nothing – NOTHING – compared to what is coming. Are you experiencing fear for the present?

Read the Bible. Compared to the return of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, now is tame. Don’t be afraid of today, and look to JESUS so that you have no fear for the future. He is the only way to avoid what’s coming.

“Before them the earth shakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The LORD thunders at the head of His army; His forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys His command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” ” – Joel 2:10‭-‬12 NIV

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