Witnesses

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:12‭-‬13 NASB

I’m tempted every day, and many times I think that I can handle it instead of looking for the way God wants me to deal with it. My biggest? Not talking about Jesus.

What is it that makes it so difficult to speak about my Saviour? I believe in Him. I know He is the Son of the Most High God, and that He is alive. When I say He is alive, I mean He is alive. He died, yes, a horrible death on a cross, one of the cruelest ways known to kill a person. His body was annointed with the normal spices for burial, and then wrapped in strips of cloth, as was the custom in His day. His body was in the tomb, with door sealed shut, for three days. After all that, Jesus walked out of that tomb and was with His friends, His disciples, and was seen by over 500 people. Eyewitness accounts.

And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Luke 24:38‭-‬39 NASB

Easter Sunday is approaching. Now is the perfect time to talk about Jesus. Let’s be part of the ”

“Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12 NASB

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also 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, ….” Hebrews 12:1 NASB

Courageous

I wrote this on March 26, 2014, and it popped up in my ‘memories’ on Facebook, and it is completely appropriate for the crisis we are facing today!

From Billy Graham:

Courage to Stand

“A great problem in America is that we have an anemic and watered-down Christianity that has produced an anemic, watered-down, and spineless Christian who is not willing to stand up and be counted on every issue. We must have a virile, dynamic, aggressive Christian who lives Christ seven days a week, who is ready to die, if necessary, for his faith. We need Christians who are ethical, honest, gracious, bold, strong, and devoted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I realize how spineless and pampered my Christian walk is. Give me Your courage, Lord Jesus, to follow You more devotedly.”

“But suppose you suffer for being a Christian. Then don’t be ashamed. Instead, PRAISE GOD because you are known by that name!” 1 Peter 4:16

Vengeance…..

Today, as the nation bows in prayer, I think the following scriptures speak more than anything I could possibly say.

O LORD, God of Vengeance, God of Vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth, Render recompense to the proud. How long shall the wicked, O LORD, How long shall the wicked exult? They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly; All who do wickedness vaunt themselves. They crush Your people, O LORD, And afflict Your heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger And murder the orphans. …..Can a throne of destruction be allied with You, one which devises mischief by decree? They band themselves together against the life of the righteous And condemn the innocent to death. But the LORD has been my Stronghold, And my GOD the Rock of my Refuge. He has brought back their wickedness upon them And will destroy them in their evil; The LORD our GOD will destroy them.” Psalms 94:1‭-‬6‭, ‬20‭-‬23 NASB

Vengeance is Mine, and Retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’ For the LORD will vindicate His people, And will have Compassion on His servants, When He sees that their strength is gone, And there is none remaining, bond or free.” Deuteronomy 32:35‭-‬36 NASB

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:14‭-‬16‭, ‬21 NASB

Finally, even with all the fear and chaos:

“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 12:10‭-‬13 NASB

We are the Called.

An Ordinary Man

Do you ever wonder what Jesus looks like? Kings and queens of Jesus’ day had likenesses carved and etched on different surfaces, and there are other descriptions of “ordinary” people from that time period. For instance, we’ve been told that David was “beautiful”. Why do you suppose there isn’t even a hint of what Jesus looks like? In the artwork depicting Jesus, it inevitably shows Him as a handome man, but fairly generic, as if all of the artists were afraid to depict a Jew. I’ve read in the scriptures that He was an ordinary man, and I’ve wondered about that. I have a beautiful picture of Him, but I really doubt it’s Jesus.

This “ordinary” man was anything BUT ordinary! Not only did He heal the blind and the deaf, He cast out demons, turned water into wine; He healed cripples and a multitude of illnesses, and He raised up people from death back to life. He Himself came out of the tomb, and there were hundreds of people who witnessed to seeing Him after His resurrection. He said to His disciples, “I have been given ALL Authority in heaven and on earth.” – Matthew 28:18 NLT

He has authority over me, and over you. Have you submitted to that authority yet? Remember, it’s better to live this life as if there were a God, than to spend eternity wishing you had…

Scriptural Authority

Is everybody is embraced in the church, regardless of their gender, or sexual orientation, or social status? Many people say that gay people would not be welcome, or that Christians are homophobic and too focused on a person’s outward appearance. Unfortunately, in many churches these statements are true. For a church that is trying to follow the example of Jesus Christ, these should not be true. As in any gathering of humans, we find prejudices and pretensions, but does that make the entire group that way?

I appreciate and agree with Pastor T.D. Jakes on this subject. While on the Oprah Winfrey show, he made this statement:”The perception in our society today is that if you don’t say you’re for same-sex marriage or if you say homosexuality is a sin that you’re homophobic and you’re against gay people. And that’s not true.” The pastor continued, “I’m not called to give my opinion. I’m called as a pastor to give the scriptural position on it,” the pastor added. “Doesn’t mean that I have to agree with you to love you. I don’t dislike anybody. I love everybody.”

Winfrey went on to ask if Jakes thinks being gay is a sin. He responded “I think that sex between two people of the same sex is condemned in the Scriptures, and as long as it is condemned in the Scriptures, I don’t get to say what I think. I get to say what the Bible says,” Jakes said. “I’m not anti-gay, I’m not anti-anything. I don’t want to even be known by what I’m against.”

My opinions don’t really matter. What does matter is what the Bible – God’s Word – says. Christians are to love every person. Not what they do or how they live. Do your opinions take over your actions?

40 Fails

The number 40 appears around 146 times in scripture, and is used to indicate a time of testing or trial. For 40 days and 40 nights it rained and the waters came up out of the ground to cover all of the earth, while Noah and his family took shelter in the ark. (Genesis 7:12)

Moses spent 40 years living in Egypt before moving to the land of Midian, where he spent another 40 years (Exodus 2) before he returned to Egypt and led the Israelites away from captivity. He spent another 40 years with them, wandering in the wilderness. During that time, Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, on two separate occasions (Exodus 24:18, 34:1 – 28), receiving God’s laws. He also sent spies, for forty days, to investigate the land God promised the Israelites as an inheritance. (Numbers 13:25, 14:34).

The prophet Jonah powerfully warned ancient Nineveh, for forty days, that its destruction would come because of its many sins. The prophet Ezekiel laid on His right side for 40 days to symbolize Judah’s sins (Ezekiel 4:6). 40 days in the wilderness. That’s how long Jesus was there.

For me, I wandered in and out of my own personal wilderness for 40 years. I walked away from a home of spiritual safety, into the sinful ways of the world. There is another story from the Bible that I want to share as an example that God can overcome if we allow it.

From the devotional “Epic Fails” by Brittany Rust: “Samson’s epic fail was a thirst for the things of this world, fulfilling lust, and not learning from his past mistakes. His story shows us that pursuing these things will only bring us down and hurt us. That refusing to learn from our past will be our fall. Take cues from your pitfalls and draw boundaries that will protect you from repeating the past. I’m thankful to see that Samson finished strong; he connected with God and went out victoriously. Even though he didn’t steward his gift well, God still graciously blessed him for His purposes and, in the end, used him greater than ever before.”

“Then Samson called to the LORD and said, “O LORD GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O GOD, ……”
Judges 16:28a NASB

I failed as a follower of Jesus for 40 years. I still stumble and fall, and fail, constantly; I’m sure at least 40 times a day. My saving grace is that Jesus is my Saviour. His Mercy covers me. Have you received His Grace and His Mercy and Forgiveness? Ask Him today, right now. He’s waiting patiently.

Moral Excellence, Take 2

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” 2 Peter 1:5‭-‬7 NASB

We start in verses 1-4 with “We have received a Faith….” and follow with the attributes we want to model as followers of Jesus Christ. Our Justification and our Glorification are all God, but our Sanctification is for us and God. It requires diligence on our part. God does His work but ours MUST follow, and we should be working on them simultaneously, not separately.

Moral excellence isn’t an attitude, and it doesn’t mean Christians are any better than anyone else. We sin just like non-Christians. The difference should be that we are consciously working towards a “cleaner” life; getting rid of the “rocks” and “weeds”, the trash and detritus, the people and things that separate us from our LORD.

We search out knowledge. It is how we grow, and is essential to a healthy spiritual life, learning and knowing God. Our knowledge must be applied and lived out in our lives. We gain it through Bible studies, by meeting together in small groups, and in our personal reading and study of God’s Word in a daily quiet time. Knowledge of His Word helps us by intensifying our worship, and it sustains us in time of crisis.

Self Control – this is a trait that is laughed at by many who are out in the world. Get hold of yourself? Reining in passion and desire? What happened to “If it feels good, do it”? In controlling our desires rather than being controlled, we exhibit one of the fruits of the Spirit: “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13 (also verses 19-21) NO ONE and NO THING should control me other than the Master. (Proverbs 16:32, 24:16)

As Christians, our perseverance can be evident in a “Never give up” attitude. Perseverance produces maturity. Perseverance prevails. “….. knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:3 NASB We live one day at a time; just for today – doing the next thing; refusing to quit or to give up what God has called us to do with our life. When we surround ourselves with encouragers, it is much easier to persevere. (Recommended reading: “Suffering is Never for Nothing” by Elizabeth Elliot)

Godliness means literally “God likeness, becoming like God/ Christ.” We are to emulate Christ, and to do that, we must spend time with Him. The Rev. Adoniram Judson said “Don’t compare me to other men, compare me to Jesus.” Will people say that of me – or of you?

How do we show brotherly kindness? The word Philadelphia means literally to “love your brother.” It’s our attitude towards people. Brotherly kindness isn’t just about our physical, familial brother or sister, but it’s about all of our human “siblings,” regardless of color, nationality, or proximity. True brotherly kindness prays for each other, forgives, and is generous to others. This naturally leads to the last of the fruits of the Spirit, love.

Love for others is the capstone, crowning glory; the willingness to sacrifice ourselves for the higher good. All we have to do is look at the example set by Jesus; His sacrifice starting with leaving Heaven’s throne and coming to spend a lifetime on the earth. His sacrifice lead to the offering of His life on the cross, and culminated in His victory over death with His resurrection. I’m thankful that He doesn’t require that of us! As we bask in and revel in God’s love, we can love others. There are many Scriptures on loving others: John 13:36, 1 Corinthians 13, Galatians 5 for just an example.

“We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one 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, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” 1 John 4:19‭-‬21 NASB