I Stand In Awe

Our pastor talked about prophecies in the Bible last Sunday, and how many of them are about JESUS, MESSIAH. Even though the writers didn’t know the who, they knew the when and how, because GOD was directing their pens. It is fascinating to read the prophecies and to see how they have been fulfilled throughout history. Take Habakkuk, for instance. He identifies himself as a prophet, and it is generally acknowledged that he wrote this in the mid-to-late seventh century BC, shortly before the Babylonians captured Jerusalem in 586 BC. He couldn’t know what would happen in the 20th and 21st centuries, yet his words still apply to our world today.

“Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted. Will they therefore empty their net And continually slay nations without sparing?” – Habakkuk 1:3‭-‬4‭, ‬17 NASB

“Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” – Habakkuk 2:2‭-‬3 NIV

Habakkuk saw wickedness, destruction, violence, strife and contention, laws being broken and the courts subverting justice; he saw that wickedness was overcoming his people. Where was his GOD? Why was He allowing all of this to happen? When would the ALMIGHTY GOD redeem them? These are valid questions; questions I have asked myself, and ones I have heard others asking. Why, GOD? Honestly, to really know the answers, I believe we won’t know until we are face-to-face with our LORD. It will all make sense, then. Meanwhile…….

The LORD has seen fit to equip His Prophets with the visions and revelations that He revealed to them to be recorded in His Word, the book we call the BIBLE. I love this anagram of the word:

B – Basic

I – Instructions

B– Before

L – Leaving

E – Earth

We have the complete set of Instructions, written just for us in our time. Let us be like the Prophet Habakkuk, and lean on the foreknowledge that our LORD has seen fit to provide us. Rather than spending our time standing and questioning the things/circumstances we are in, perhaps we would be better known for our thankfulness that we are alive, that we know Him as our LORD, JESUS CHRIST. Thank You, GOD, for Your Forgiveness, Your Mercy, and Your Grace!

“LORD, I have heard of Your Fame; I stand in awe of Your Deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in Wrath remember Mercy.” – Habakkuk 3:2 NIV

Listen to “I’m A Survivor” by Zach Williams. ( https://www.zachwilliamsmusic.com )

(Image from https://www.everydayknow.com )

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.)

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 )

Serenity

Serenity …… seems like an impossible goal.

I think just about everyone knows the first two lines from the “Serenity Prayer,” “A prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. The best-known form is: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” (Source: Wikipedia ) It was originally published in 1951, but it may have been written as early as 1934. First adopted by AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), it has become permanently linked to the recovery movement.

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.

(Read more: https://www.lords-prayer-words.com/famous_prayers/god_grant_me_the_serenity.html#alcoholics#ixzz5cgsk4Dvz )

The words as written are not in the Bible, but it is certainly based on


scriptures, starting with the Psalms and into he New Testament, here are a few of the supporting scriptures:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. The LORD will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life.” – Psalms 121:1‭-‬2‭, ‬7 ESV

” ….. Fear not, for I AM with you; be not dismayed, for I AM your GOD; I Will strengthen you, I Will help you, I Will uphold you with My Righteous Right Hand.” – Isaiah 41:10 ESV

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask GOD, Who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5 ESV

“But the Wisdom from above is first Pure, then Peaceable, Gentle, open to reason, full of Mercy and Good Fruits, Impartial and Sincere.” – James 3:17 ESV

I challenge you to read the complete prayer again. Commit Psalm 121 to memory – it’s only 7 verses. If you have trouble memorizing (as I do!), then take the first two verses of both the Psalm and the prayer and memorize them. Write them on index cards and place them around the house where you will see them frequently. Some suggestions: the bathroom mirror, your dresser, by the coffee pot or teakettle, in your lunch, or in your workout bag. On the dash of your car. Make it fit your lifestyle! As the Apostle John wrote, I add as a benediction to us:

“Peace I leave with you; My Peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27 ESV

( https://www.lords-prayer-words.com/famous_prayers/god_grant_me_the_serenity.html )

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!

Throwing Stones

We are so quick to judge and condemn! Actual stoning might not be practiced or legal anymore – except under Islamic law – but the verbal stones we throw are just as deadly. Most recently, the young artist Lauren Daigle has been harshly criticized for her response to the question “do you feel that homosexuality is a sin?” in a radio interview with Domenick Nati. I have great respect for her answer, and I love that she ends the comment with “I’m learning too.” Here is her full response:

“I can’t honestly answer on that. In a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don’t know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God. So when people ask questions like that…that’s what my go to is. I just say read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know, because I’m learning too.” (Emphasis mine) I identify with her answers. I can’t say that I love that someone is a homosexual, but I can certainly love the person. When you read Lauren’s statement, she is encouraging the questioner(s) to study GOD’s Word and discover the Truth for themselves! Isn’t that what we all should be doing? Why do we start throwing stones, instead of encouraging another Christ-follower in her walk with the SAVIOUR? If she is on going on talk shows and sharing her faith with the non-Christian world, who are we to criticize? Why are we so anxious to negate her testimony?

“But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” ” – John 8:7 NASB

When I hear that statement from my LORD, my hands immediately drop the “stones” I’m gripping. I find myself praying for Lauren Daigle in her walk of sharing JESUS with the world. Christian artists are hit by the same temptations that we are – even more than us, because they are such a prominent target for the enemy. Just like any other man, woman, or child, they can slip. It doesnt mean they don’t love the LORD; it just means they are human. If something that we consider inappropriate speech happens, or in our eyes they don’t stand firmly enough, are we, you and I, worthy of passing judgement? Better read John 8:7 again, and consider our own lives before grabbing that stone. In fact, take that pile of stones you have stockpiled and turn it into gravel, then spread it out to make their path a little smoother.

I am not worthy of judging anyone, based on my life. I still do, but lately I find myself dropping more rocks than I throw. I personally have been judged and found guilty by man. The first time I shared my testimony in front of a large recovery group, I was approached by someone who had known my sister for years, and whom I had known for about 6 months. He knew about “that sister,” the one who was fallen and broken ….. but he didn’t know that I was that sister. He had judged – harshly – the person he knew only because of the prayers and his friendship of my family. He was shocked to be introduced to the before sister, and trying to reconcile it with the present sister. When you meet someone new, they only see the now. Would they be shocked at finding out who you were before you surrendered to the LORD?

Sometimes, actually too often, I find myself judging someone without knowing them. We are all flawed, broken, and undeserving of GOD’s Love, yet He still freely offers that unconditional LOVE to us. The only difference – the only difference between me and the rankest, darkest sinner is that I have asked for and received the forgiveness of my LORD JESUS. I still deserve too be stoned to death, but He reached out and washed away all my sins with His Blood sacrifice. How can I judge anyone else? We are not perfect, and instead of condemning the talk or behavior of a missionary to the world, perhaps we should do as Lauren Daigle says and read the Bible. Admit that we aren’t GOD (Thank You, JESUS, for showing me that Truth!) Spend time in prayer for that person. Christians have no need for trash talk!

Go out into the world, Lauren Daigle, and continue to spread the LOVE of our LORD JESUS CHRIST to the world. Praying for you, sister!

Photo credit: https://texasbeyondhistory.net/plateaus/images/ap15.html

Just as I am

I am reasonably intelligent, and I believe I have at least a bit of common sense, yet I still tend towards depending on me and not GOD. I’ve been blogging a lot lately about my frustration and irritation; my fears and doubts arising from the major changes going on in my life. Yesterday, late afternoon, I received a call from my realtor that closing has been postponed for 7 days due to issues with the buyer’s financing. Keep in mind that by that point, in preparation for the movers, everything except a picnic basket, toaster oven, and French press for my coffee (an essential!!) – AND all my clothes, except 2 changes (I was moving today!) was packed and sealed in boxes.

Sad, broken hearted, sorrow; definitely a dark spot on my heart!

“Come out of sadness wherever you are, Come broken hearted let healing begin ….. Earth has no sorrow Heaven can’t heal …. Come as you are ……” by Crowder, on the album Neon Steeple.

Just as I am. Just as you are.

Are you stumbling over presumptions on the way to a better relationship with Jesus? What simple truth in your life have you made so complex that you can’t see God anymore? Are you not good enough? Need to straighten out your life first? Sins too great and too black; too broken for healing? Too much anger? Presumptions, every one – False presumptions that are fostered by the enemy to keep us away from the healing Mercy and Grace of the LORD!

“Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy Blood was shed for me ….. Waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot …… With many a conflict, many a doubt, Fighting and fear within without ….. O Lamb of GOD I come!” (Written by Charlotte Elliott and published in 1849, this is a hymn that has been sung in churches and Christian gatherings ever since.)

My first instinct upon receiving the call was to scream in frustration and cry out WHY!??? I wanted to rant and rave, possibly curse everyone involved, and jump onto someone’s desk – or some one – and physically beat on them. It would be so easy to fall into the anger and despair the enemy was pushing on me and to sin in that anger, separating myself from the LORD. All of that negativity was welling up, and for a minute (okay, more than a minute) I surrendered to it.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 ESV

I was not feelin’ it.

Some would say that by surrendering to the enemy, even for a minute, would cost me my salvation. Au Contraire, my friends! The sacrifice of JESUS on the cross washed away the sins of whoever accepts Him as SAVIOUR, Once and for all, and for all time!

I have His Salvation, the Hope for Eternity with my LORD, and nothing I say or do will change that; however, I can – and do – disappoint Him in my sinning. I have come to the cross on my knees, just as I am, in sadness and with a broken heart. I will always sin, but no worries! He has given me the Living Water and the Bread of Life.

“Jesus said to them, “I Am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst. For this is the will of My FATHER, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have Eternal Life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” ” – John 6:35‭, ‬40 ESV

HALLELUJAH! I will trust in Him, my Rock and my Salvation, and He will carry me through this mess, too. 😊

Photo credit: https://fccdm.org