Insulted, Gossiped About, Lied To

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:11‭-‬12 NIV (Red Letters of JESUS!)

I want people to like me. My feelings are hurt when people gossip about me and spread lies about me. Sometimes the hurtful things said are true and many more times they are lies. Either way, words hurt. Does that mean it’s okay for others, and especially people who claim Christianity, to use the gossip for their own entertainment? When I am insulted, persecuted, and lied about, I’m just supposed to turn the other cheek? I’m supposed to Rejoice??? This is what JESUS says to us about it:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and Glorify your FATHER in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14‭-‬16 NIV

Once we choose JESUS, we are no longer of this sinful, corrupt world. Why then do we continue to live as though we are still part of this world? As Christians we shouldn’t want to be a part of the gossiping and lying and back-biting, yet the people who have professed the CHRIST are often the worst about doing them. What’s up with that? Perhaps we need to pick up our Bibles and do some searching …..

There’s a song by David Crowder called Red Letters and it ends like this:
Thank You, God, for red letters
When the ground began to shake
The grace of God started falling
And I became a free man that day
The prison walls started falling
And I am a free man today

Have you read the Red Letters? Has your ground been shaken; have your prison walls fallen, have you received the Grace of the ALMIGHTY GOD and embraced your new freedom? It is an incomparable experience. It is truly the Peace that passes all understanding.

“He [King David] said: “The LORD is my Rock, my Fortress and my Deliverer; my GOD is my Rock, in whom I take refuge, my Shield and the Horn of my Salvation. He is my Stronghold, my Refuge and my Savior— from violent people You save me. “I called to the LORD, Who is Worthy of Praise, and have been saved from my enemies.” ” – 2 Samuel 22:2‭-‬4 NIV

Prince Charming

“He loves me, he loves me not…..”

There was a country song by a country singer named Johnny Lee that was popular in the 1980’s, called “Lookin’ For Love In All The Wrong Places.” I called it my “theme song.” Failed marriages, failed relationships; I was determined that the ‘next‘ guy would be ‘the’ guy…. but it was me doing the choosing rather than GOD. I was in control! ( …..segue into uncontrollable laughter….. )

How was that working out for me? Not well! The fairy tales we grow up with, the dreams of being Cinderella or Snow White or Rapunzel; being rescued by the Prince and living “happily ever after…..” Where was that ‘reality’? The dream life I was determined to achieve was certainly having a difficult time coexisting in my brain with real life!

Well, Princess, let me assure you of this fact: Prince Charming doesn’t exist outside of fairy tales.

I was pretty bitter for years that all of my ‘prince’ choices were really frogs….. or snakes. None of my choices were working out for me, and I was mad about that. Why wouldn’t this Almighty GOD give me my Prince? It wasn’t fair. (Sound like a temper tantrum? That’s probably because it was, and I kept it up for a long time!) I thought that God should take my (bad) choices and reform them into the Prince I figured I deserved, but He doesn’t work that way. I won’t say He would never take a bad choice we make and turn it for His good, because He does, in fact, do just that over and over in our lives – when it fits His Will. In my case, He did give me a number of years with a perfectly imperfect “prince.” We were far from being a perfect couple, but we did put GOD first in our lives for a time, and those years were good. When he fell into illness and turned to the escape offered by pain meds, our life together fell apart. We both turned away from the God Who allowed it to happen. I began my search again, thinking that I could do better…..

That attitude doesn’t get us real, true love!

It took several years before GOD got my attention, and I could see Him working in my life. Every single person, no matter what your earthly relationship status, can know without a doubt that The Prince of their life is waiting patiently for us to take His Hand. Single, married, divorced, widowed, mired in an abusive relationship, whatever your situation; there’s no question of whether He loves you or not, because it always ends with “He Loves me!” Knowing that, holding on to that fact, is the one thing every person alive needs to hold on to. Regardless of anything else around you, know this:

“This is how we know what Love is: JESUS CHRIST laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. And this is His command: to believe in the Name of His Son, JESUS CHRIST, and to love one another as He commanded us.” – 1 John 3:16‭, ‬18‭-‬18‭, ‬23 NIV

The real Prince has a name; the Name above all names, the Name is JESUS CHRIST, SON of the MOST HIGH, the LIVING GOD, MESSIAH, HOPE if the world! Is He your Prince?

Just the Facts, Ma’am, Just the Facts

Pastor Mark Hitchcock (http://faithbibleok.com) reminded us yesterday of a preacher from England, a Gypsy, who became a Christian evangelist after hearing Dwight Moody preach in the mid to late 1800’s. The last time he visited America, then in his eighties, Gypsy Smith met a man around the same age, who said, “Gypsy, I was blessed by your preaching when you first came to America over fifty years ago.” And he asked the secret of the evangelist’s staying power. “Sir,” Gypsy responded, “I have never lost the wonder of it all.” The hymn “Wonder of it All” as sung by George Beverly Shea begins like this:
There’s the wonder of sunset at evening,
The wonder as sunrise I see;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is the wonder that God loves me.

What a powerful message in just one short sentence! “I have never lost the wonder of it all.” I would love to claim that statement as my own, but in good conscience, I cannot.

“Concerning this Salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the Grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the SPIRIT of CHRIST in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the Glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the HOLY SPIRIT sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.” – 1 Peter 1:10‭-‬12 NIV

Gypsy Smith understood so well what so many of us struggle with when it comes to our salvation. In 1 Peter 1:10-12, the Apostle shows us three things. The Source of our Salvation (the Triune GOD, FATHER, SON, HOLY SPIRIT), the Security of our Salvation (JESUS, SON, Who died on the cross to cover our sins, once and forever), and the Strength of our Salvation (the Ever-present HOLY SPIRIT Who guides and protects us). The Old Testament Prophets predicted it, and the New Testament Apostles proclaimed it: the coming of JESUS CHRIST, our Rock, our Salvation, our Sacrifical Lamb to cover the ugliness of our sins.

Fact: there are at least 130, and by many estimates 300, prophecies in the OT pertaining to the Messiah; the GOD-MAN Whom we now know to be JESUS. We know because of the Apostles who witnessed first-hand the fulfillment of many of those prophecies.

Astronomer and mathematician Peter Stoner, in his bookScience Speaks, offers a mathematical analysis showing that it is impossible that the precise statements about the One to come could be fulfilled in a single person by mere coincidence.

The chance of only eight of these dozens of prophecies being fulfilled in the life of one man has been estimated at 1 in 10 to the 17th power. That would be 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000.

How can we put this in terms we can comprehend? Dr. Stoner illustrates the odds with this scenario: “Take 10 17silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas [with its approximate land area of 262,000 square miles]. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one.

“What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man.”

But that is only eight of the dozens of prophecies of the Messiah. Using the science of probability, the chance of as many as 48 of these prophecies coming to pass in one person is 1 in 10 to the 157th power—a 1 followed by 157 zeros (1963, pp. 100-109).

Fact: The Bible was written by 40 men from different countries and in different languages, over several thousands of years. They wrote these prophecies as they were instructed by the LORD, without knowing how, when, or by whom the prophecies would be fulfulled.

Genesis 3:15 offers the 1st prophecy:

GOD said the the Serpent, Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His Heel.”

Satan struck at JESUS during His life on earth, trying to destroy Him through temptations, His suffering, and His subsequent death on the cross. JESUS was triumphant over death and hell and the enemy of all creation, Satan, by rising up from the grave after three days!

Fact: There is one CHRIST, one Redeemer, one cross as evidenced by the scriptures. He was predicted to come in the Old Testament, He came to suffer for humankind as told in the New Testament, and He will come again in Glory to Reign, as foretold in the Revelations of John.

Final Fact. There is only one way to salvation, and that way is through JESUS CHRIST. Are you on the right way?

(This blog is strictly my take-away, based on Pastor Mark’s message. If you would like the entire message as shared, go to the FBC website.)

Rejoicing in Hope

“….. casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7 NASB

So easy to say, yet how difficult to live! Where would we be without hope?

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” – Romans 12:9‭-‬13 NASB

Today, I find myself yet again anxious and fretting over finances. I desperately need another source of income in order to cover my financial obligations, and although I continue to search, nothing is presenting itself as a solution. This is the type of thing that our Father GOD permits in our lives, to teach us to rely on Him rather than ourselves. Letting go of my “control.” Again, easy to say and difficult to do! I want to fix it, and GOD wants me to let it go so that He can show us (me!) how Powerful He is. He is reminding me that there is a GOD, and I’m not Him.

“….. Rejoicing in Hope, Persevering in Tribulation, Devoted to Prayer …..”

Simple, right? Hah.

Actually, it is simple for those who are confident in their salvation through JESUS CHRIST. With JESUS in my heart, and the HOLY SPIRIT beside me, I am inundated with Hope. Without their presence to lift me up above the muck and mire of everyday life, I could only flounder around and eventually succumb to hopelessness and helplessness, allowing it to overwhelm me. I’ve been there, stuck in those feelings, and it is definitely not a good state of mind. Because JESUS loves me (and you), He waits alongside me until I lift my eyes to Him and ask for help. I almost think that Paul got it backwards. If we are not first praying, how can we possibly perservere in tribulation? Where is our hope, if not in the LORD?

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” – Psalms 121:1‭-‬2 NASB (Read all 8 verses of Psalm 121. Powerful!)

I encourage you – and me – to learn these scriptures, especially Psalm 121; to hold on to the words of the LORD whenever despair and hopelessness raise their ugly heads and try to drag us down. There is nothing more Powerful in the Universe than our GOD: FATHER, SON, and HOLY SPIRIT. Nothing. Remember,

“….. at the Name of JESUS every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth …..” – Philippians 2:10 NASB

REJOICE at our HOPE in the LORD!

AMEN.

Martin Luther

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” Martin Luther at the Imperial Diet of Worms, 1521.

While researching the life and teachings of Martin Luther, I came across some information on Luther that appalled me. We all know that he was the man who broke from the Catholic church, effectively beginning the Reformation and the beginning of Protestantism. He emphasized that Christianity should be about Redemption and Grace rather than Indulgences and the absolution of sin by clerics. I have a solid respect for his early teachings, but I found that as he matured, he became very antisemitic vocally and in his writings. That stance of antisemitism is not one I take lightly. Since JESUS was born into the Jews, GOD’s Chosen People, how can we possibly justify being anti-Jewish? I say with confidence that we (i.e. Christians, followers of CHRIST JESUS) cannot. If our LORD chose to send disciples to the Jews and the Gentiles, how can we do otherwise?

HOWEVER; I choose his comment from the Diet of Worms as one that I can easily agree with. No man shall have dominion over my faith and my salvation save one: JESUS, the CHRIST, MESSIAH, SAVIOUR of the world. The Apostle Peter wrote:

” ….. for you, who are protected by the power of GOD through Faith for a Salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; – 1 Peter 1:4b-‬7 NASB

Today’s world is much like the world of the 1st century A.D. Persecution of Christians was rampant, and like today it was more verbal, mocking and maligning than it was physical torture or persecution – although I believe that that time is coming, soon. In the United States alone, 23% of all Americans, and 34-36% among Milleniums (born after 1980), identify as having no religious affiliation, according to The Scientific American. ( https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-number-of-americans-with-no-religious-affiliation-is-rising )

If you do any research on the number of churches or on church membership in the U.S., let me warn you that there is an abundance of contradictory information available. As CHRIST-followers, should we be concerned? Absolutely! We live in a society that could be labeled “post-Christian”; one that is increasingly resistant and hostile to those of us who stand on the teachings of JESUS. Liberal, socialist, homosexual, transgender, anyone who espouses the view that there many ways to heaven, and every person who rejects JESUS is readily acceptable to our politically correct society. Accept that anything and everything other than the belief that JESUS is the Way, the only way, to heaven, and the world will love you. Stand on the Gospels of JESUS CHRIST and the world will hate you.

There is no room for fundamentalist Christians today.

Many people reject these teachings as too radical, too narrow minded, and too fundamentalist to have any value. The idea that JESUS was simply a teacher like Mohammed or Buddha is easier for most to accept, alongside the assertion that the Creator GOD, the Trinity, the Triune GOD – Father, Son, Holy Spirit, are merely stories made up by human minds. I ask, what human mind could possibly think this up? I think that Christianity, true Christianity as accepting JESUS as LORD, is the only “religion” on earth where we do nothing to gain salvation because GOD does it all for us. In any other religion, we have to work for it, and follow the rules in order to find redemption – and even then it’s not a guarantee. Our pastor, Mark Hitchcock, put it like this: “Our part [in our salvation] is to run away from GOD. His part [GOD] is to run after us until we find Him. A god we can understand is not a god at all. We don’t have to understand, just believe.” For me, the Trinity has secured my Salvation. I don’t understand it and I can’t explain it, but I believe it. I know in my heart and my soul it is true, and I have Peace because I have accepted His Grace and Mercy.

Listen to “Courageous,” sung by Casting Crowns. Powerful.

Image from ( http://www.aheartforgod.org/2013/09/26/a-lion-a-bear-an-uncircumcised-philistine-and-defeating-giants )

I Will Be With You – In Spite of You!

I will be with you (in spite of you). I can hear the King of Heaven whispering this in my ear, especially when I’m being particularly stubborn and insistent that “I can do it!”

“In desperation, I turned to heaven ….. Hallelujah, Praise the One Who set me FREE!” (Words from “Living Hope” by Phil Wickham)

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) says “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” – and speaking to Moses, the LORD said to him, “WHO has made man’s mouth? WHO makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” – Exodus 4:11‭-‬12 ESV

We sure are a hard-headed bunch! From Adam, the first man, to the newest baby in this new year, both verses remain true. We are determined to be in charge (HA!) of our lives, and often the lives of those around us. Let me know how that’s working out for you. Generally, all that it accomplishes is to frustrate (and irritate) all parties involved. When we stop for a minute and listen, we hear that quiet whisper, “I AM WITH YOU – in spite of your thoughts and actions.”

Can you hear it? Do you believe it? Listen! Start fresh this year and determine to listen more and talk less. Remember, two ears, one mouth. Must be some significance there…..

“JESUS CHRIST is the same yesterday and today and forever. ….. Now may the GOD of Peace Who brought again from the dead our LORD JESUS, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, by the Blood of the Eternal Covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His Will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through JESUS CHRIST, to Whom be Glory forever and ever. Amen.” – Hebrews 13:8‭, ‬20‭-‬21 ESV

As the great Martin Luther King Jr. said it so very well: “Free at last, Free at last, Thank GOD ALMIGHTY we are free at last.” (from his speech, I Have A Dream”)


Die Erschaffung des Meschen, von Ephraim Moshe Lilien 1903 (Translated: The Creation of Man) illustration for the book Lieder des Ghetto by Morris Rosenfeld

What Is REAL LOVE?

This is LOVE; the acceptance of the Will of the FATHER of ALL, even at the very real risk of ostracism or even being stoned to death by becoming pregnant before marriage: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His Name JESUS. He will be Great and will be called the SON of the MOST HIGH. And the LORD GOD will give to Him the throne of his father David, and He will Reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His Kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the LORD; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” – Luke 1:31‭-‬33‭, ‬38 ESV

This is LOVE; the Absolute belief that her cousin, Mary, was pregnant with the Son of GOD, the MESSIAH: “….. and [Elizabeth] exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and Blessed is the fruit of your womb! And Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” – Luke 1:42‭, ‬45 ESV

This is LOVE; shown by the man the Almighty GOD chose to serve as father to GOD’s ONLY SON while on earth: “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called His Name JESUS.” – Matthew 1:24‭-‬25 ESV

This is LOVE; as demonstrated by the proclamation and worship of the Baby JESUS at His birth: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising GOD and saying, “GLORY to GOD in the Highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” – Luke 2:13‭-‬14 ESV

This is LOVE; the prophecy of Zechariah, husband of Elizabeth and father of John the Baptizer, who proclaimed JESUS to the world: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the LORD to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender Mercy of our GOD, whereby the Sunrise shall visit us from on High to give Light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” – Luke 1:76‭-‬79 ESV

This is LOVE: the Adoration and acceptance of the Magi that this baby boy, this child, was, indeed, the SAVIOUR and MESSIAH of the world – “And going into the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11 ESV

This is LOVE; the Love of our LORD and Triune GOD in the person of JESUS CHRIST for us, His friends: “This is My Commandment, that you love one another as I have Loved you. Greater Love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my FATHER I have made known to you.” – John 15:12‭-‬15 ESV (also read John 10:11 and 1 John 3:16)

This is LOVE; that JESUS CHRIST, Almighty GOD, would leave His place in Heaven – a place where He is worshipped and adored by the entire heavenly host, something far outside of anything we can humanly imagine – He left all of that in order to come to us, a baby, 100% man and 100% GOD. He came to live on earth with us, as a human, to encounter temptations and trials and tribulations beyond anything any other man has ever, or will ever, endure, including gruesome torture and an inhumane death.

WHY??

Because: this is what LOVE really looks like. This is LOVE; the LOVE of our LORD, CREATOR, and MOST HIGH: “For GOD so Loved the world, that He gave His ONLY SON, that whoever believes in HIM should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 ESV Would you, as a parent, allow your child to be sacrificed? I would willingly step in and become the sacrifice, but I would kill before allowing it to be my child that becomes the sacrificed.

And finally, This is LOVE, as shown by our FATHER: Whoever confesses that JESUS is the SON of GOD, GOD abides in him, and he in GOD. So we have come to know and to believe the Love that GOD has for us. GOD IS LOVE, and whoever abides in Love abides in GOD, and GOD abides in him. If anyone says, “I love GOD,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love GOD whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves GOD must also love his brother.” – 1 John 4:15‭-‬16‭, ‬20‭-‬21 ESV

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE!