Ready to Defend the Faith

“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” – 1 PETER 2:17 NASB

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing …..” – MATTHEW 6:1‭-‬3 NASB

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts (v. 13-14 are from Isaiah 8:12-13, with ‘Christ’ substituted for ‘Yahweh’), always being ready to make a defense (apologetics: a rational and reasonable answer or account for the HOPE that is in us, or why we believe what we believe) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” – 1 PETER 3:13‭-‬16 NASB

What is this Living Hope, that we would want to honor all people, or care for those less fortunate, or even be willing to submit to suffering for it? If you go back to 1 Peter 1, especially verses 3-5, we see it clearly stated:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who according to His great Mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” –
1 PETER 1:3‭-‬5 NAS

Apologetics in a nutshell. John Piper said (“Make a Case for Your Hope”, October 19, 1980) about verse 15, “….. literally Peter said, “Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts ready always to make a case . . . for your hope. This suggests that there is a very close connection between reverencing the Lord Christ in your hearts and always being ready to make a case for your hope. ……. How shall you always be ready to make a case for your hope? Answer: Reverence the Lord Christ in your heart, and you will always have a reason to give for why you are hopeful.

Charles Ryrie’s book “Basic Theology” looks like a good resource for really digging onto what you believe, and for understanding how and why you come to your conclusions. I’m convinced that not only does GOD exist (Genesis 1:1), but He is the Creator of everything. He is Triune, equally GOD the Father, GOD the Son, and GOD the Holy Spirit. The Bible is His Word, communicated through humans to put it into written form, and not to be disputed or changed by us. GOD the Son, Jesus, left heaven to live an unimpeachable life as a human; born of a virgin, 100% GOD and 100% human. He was brutally tortured and killed by us, only to conquer death and the grave, rising up out of that tomb in a glorious, resurrected body three days later. His return was witnessed first-hand by hundreds of people, and His transformation and ascent into heaven occured in front of witnesses. God wants to communicate with His creatures (that’s us!), and He does it through His Book, the Bible, and through prayer. In the Book, we can read the 500 prophecies that have already been 100% fulfilled; and the 500 prophecies still to come. He is GOD and He has come for me; He is my Hope – the ONLY Hope of life and eternity. Enthroned in our hearts, He is the Living Hope – the only Hope in a seriously depraved world. I have experienced – and embraced – that Hope and Mercy in my life.

Have you embraced the Living Hope of Jesus Christ? Are you ready to defend your faith?

We, You and Me, All of Us

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, ” The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil. ” Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify CHRIST as LORD in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the Hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” – 1 PETER 3:8‭-‬17 NASB

As fellow followers of Christ, are we all thinking the same? Are we feeling the same outrage at the way the world treats each other? Do we have each others hurts in our hearts? ROMANS 6:12,15 tells us

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts ….. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!”

No, we are charged to be courteous, friendly, and brotherly to each other, having a deep sense of compassion. When we are humble and not egocentric, we think of ourselves less and are more capable of the right actions we need to do in order to follow in the will of God. The hardest thing for me to do is to bless the ones who have hurt me, or as Peter worded it, to continually bless those I want to retaliate against! He says to retaliate with blessings, to return good for evil.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ” “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the LORD, but if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. ” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – ROMANS 12:18‭-‬21 NASB

We have choices in how we can react to evil, hurts, and outrageous behavior against us and those we love. The satanic choice is to give evil for good, and the human way is to return evil for evil. Our way, the Christian way, should always be to give good for evil. That’s hard to do in our humanness; in fact, it’s impossible to do on our own. We can only do it by giving over our hurt and resentment to the LORD, knowing the He will make it right in the end. By doing this, we no longer have to go through life just enduring it, we can be enjoying life – a life in rich relationship with GOD, and with all people…. those people we like and those people we don’t like.

In R.C. Sproul’s commentary on I Peter, he says “We should enjoy a multitude of good days because we are in touch with the Author of good days.” I think he’s right on the mark with that statement! When we are in touch with our LORD, shouldn’t all of our days be good, regardless of what is happening around us? After all,

“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God.” – JOHN 3:18 NASB

That’s us! You and me, because we have believed in JESUS! We are blessed; now it’s on us to bless others – and especially to bless those people we really don’t want to bless. I have some work ahead of me!

To Sum It Up:

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” (“Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit.” – PSALMS 34:13‭) – 1 PETER 3:8-‬10 NASB

Peter uses these verses (including v. 11-12) to summarize chapters 1 and 2, and the first few verses of chapter 3. He was writing to a group of exiled Jews who were living far outside of their homeland (“foreigners, aliens, and exiles,” 1 Peter 1:1, depending on the translation), who were under pressure because of their status (1 Peter 1:6). He wants us to see that there is a good life for us here on earth, regardless of the problems we are facing. When we follow these suggestions, our hearts are able to enjoy the good in our lives rather than being focused on whatever is happening externally. The psalm Peter quotes, Psalm 34, was written by King David after he had to pretend madness in order to escape from those who were prepared to kill him (1 Samuel 21). We don’t have it so bad when we look at things in context!

We always have a choice as to how we react and resond to the events in our lives. We can choose to see the good and love life; to enjoy what we have, or we can endure it, or we can attempt to escape it. I’ve tried enduring, and it is just that – enduring. No joy. Escaping doesn’t work, either. I promise you, no matter how you try to escape, distance or mind-altering substances or food or sex or shopping or work, it is all right there, still the same! Choose joy, because it is a choice! I was recently having a conversation with a pastor about my current situation (it isn’t all that pretty….) and I ended it by saying that I am very blessed. He expressed some surprise, saying that few people say that. I choose joy, because I have lived the alternatives, and I don’t like them. I’m not a saint! I admit to being depressed and feeling sorry for myself at times, but then I look around and see others who have it so much worse than me. If you are struggling, stop looking at what you don’t have, and see what you do have. It can be eye-opening. Don’t miss the good life GOD has given you!

Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – JOHN 10:10 NASB

Choose JESUS and choose Life Abundant!

Disclaimer: I often use my notes from our pastor’s sermons (with his permission). Dr. Hitchcock brings the gospel alive for me, answering questions I have and bringing more questions to my mind. The thoughts I carry away cause me to read and research the scripture and Bible commentaries, and I always come away with something new! If you would like to hear the original sermons (without any mistakes I might bring!), go to Sermon Archives at http://faithbibleok.com/ The Good Life – we are currently in the Still Standing series by Dr. Mark Hitchcock. We are truly blessed with all of the Bible teachers and books and commentaries that are available for us.

Dumbed Down …..

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” – PROVERBS 3:7 NASB

I used to be so smart. I knew what everybody needed to do – what they should do, the right way to do it, and when it should be done. If people would’ve just listened to me, the whole world would have been so much better! That was me, perfect in every way. Do you know someone like that? Maybe, if you are honest with yourself, it’s you? If so, you are in for a rude awakening. I certainly was.

It hurts to realize you are a know-it-all. Maybe that seems like an oxymoron, but I believe that for many peoplem it’s a true statement. When I was in my ‘perfect’ life, it wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision to be that way. Instead, it was a subconscious push to be in charge of something, anything, in my life. Both men and women who feel trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship often search for an outlet. Since they aren’t in control of the emotions, they look for other things. “Knowing” how to do a thing is an easy way to exert some type of control. Excessive behavior is another, like being busy all the time. For many years, it was extremely difficult for me to sit and just enjoy company. I was too busy serving and fixing; my attempt at controlling a tiny aspect of my life. It can still be a struggle for me not to try to “fix” people and situations……

Sometimes it takes a drastic event for GOD to get our attention because our focus is so concentrated on ourselves…. or rather, on “fixing” everything and everybody around us, because there is nothing wrong with “me”. When I realized that it wasn’t possible to fix anyone else, and that I had to focus on me, it was truly an eye-opener. We are so used to focusing on others, we just can’t see anything else. Remember what Jesus said?

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:3‭-‬5 ESV

It is so easy to judge someone else’s life. I have judged, and I have been judged (“I’m that sister”). It isn’t pretty when we have to confront our very human failings, and we all have them. No one, with the exception of Jesus Christ, can claim perfection. Being “dumbed down” can be a blessing if it means we finally realize we don’t have to know everything! Maybe, today, we can just be grateful for where we are in our life journey, without trying to make ourselves feel better about our own life by trying to control someone else’s life. If the GOD of the Universe can forgive me**, then I know He can – and will – forgive anyone who asks Him! **And I am Forgiven!! Hallelujah!!

Listen to the song “Scars” by I Am They.

Have You Prayed About It?

“Have you prayed about it?”

Whenever we have a question or concern, or we are worried about something, that phrase should be the first thing that pops into our mind.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the LORD will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” – JAMES 5:13‭-‬18 NASB

Billy Graham wrote: “Faith pleases God more than anything else. The Christian life is dependent upon faith. We stand on faith; we live on faith. Faith is loved and honored by God more than any other single thing.

The Bible teaches that faith is the only approach that we have to God. No man has sins forgiven, no man goes to heaven, no man has assurance of peace and happiness, until he has faith in Jesus Christ.

You may be saying, “God, I believe you are a great person, but I do not believe your Word; I do not believe what you say.” In order to please God, you must believe Him. Perhaps your faith is small and weak.

It does not matter how big your faith is, but rather, where your faith is. Is it in Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for your sins?”

I especially appreciate the last 2 sentences, because for years my faith was small… tiny, almost nonexistent. Because my faith was so small, my constant search for peace & happiness did not yield anything. Oh, I could sense them! I knew they were within reach ….. but I couldn’t quite get there. I knew, because of my parents teaching us while we were children, that true peace only comes thru JESUS. Scripture is quite clear on that:

“Without faith it isn’t possible to please GOD. Those who come to God must believe that He exists. And they must believe that He rewards those who look to Him.” – Hebrews 11:6

Without faith, it is difficult to pray, and without prayer, it is difficult – maybe even impossible – to have faith. The thing I most hope to get across is this: No matter what is going on in your life, whether mental or physical, there is HOPE. There can be PEACE. Regardless of what anyone else says or does to us, JESUS is the answer. Claim it – claim HIM. Pray about it. Hold a conversation with God!

See that tiny flicker of faith that is hiding deep in your soul? Fan the flames. Let GOD supply the fuel!

Have you prayed about it?

And Justice For All

Watch the Pledge of Allegiance, a word-by-word meaning explained by Red Skelton, on YouTube, recorded 14 January 1969….. and watch it all the way to the end. It’s only 4 minutes out of your day and totally worth it!

“For justice may be slow and invisible, but it always renders its true verdict in the end.” – Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad

I am so blessed to live in this country where our Pledge of Allegience includes these words: “under GOD” and “with liberty and justice for all.” Is it true? Is there liberty and justice for all? Nope, not even close. But – why? Whose fault is it that we are so lacking in those two tenets? It’s very simple, really. This is a nation made up of human beings. We are not just, individually or collectively, thanks to our inherent sinful natures, but as a nation, we try. There is no other place in the world that has the freedoms that we have, and it is because of the strong Christian faith of the founders of our country. That said, it is also a country of severe injustice and prejudice. Those attitudes won’t ever be completely overcome as long as humans are in charge, and that is why it is so critical for us – the followers of the LORD JESUS CHRIST – to tell others of the Gospel. There will be JUSTICE FOR ALL in the end!

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.” – JAMES 5:7‭-‬12 NASB

Are you prepared for Justice to be meted out in your life? If I were to be judged on my own merit, I would be sent straight to hell. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, go straight to jail. I thank Jesus that He is my Advocate, and that He has covered my sins with His Blood. The scales of Justice will show every human to have ever lived as severely lacking….. It is only through the Grace, Love, and Mercy of our God, and through the Blood of Jesus that was shed for us that we won’t be consigned to hell. We may not see justice in our lifetime, or it may seem to be slow, but there will be Justice for all in the end. GOD will see to it.

Are you ready to face Him? Have you pledged allegiance to Him?

Is He Worthy?

Is He worthy of our praise? He is!!

“While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” ” – MARK 14:3‭-‬9 NASB

This woman, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, took an outrageously extravagant, ridiculously expensive bottle of perfume, and broke the bottle, and poured the perfume onto Jesus’ head. When I say expensive, I mean expensive like a whole year’s wages. A whole year. How much do you make – gross – in a year? On the low end, in the U.S., it could be $12,000. On the other end of the scale, you could be a CEO making $4.5 million (I made that number up. I can’t really comprehend it). I imagine most (more?) people could relate to $40,000. Whatever the number, that’s about what this bottle was worth. Let’s go low-end, and we’ll say it was a $30,000 bottle of perfume.

A $30,000 bottle of perfume. The bottle, the container, was carved from alabaster, a stone used for decorative carvings and statuary. For this expensive perfume, I can imagine that it was beautifully carved and decorated, made for a wealthy woman’s dressing table. Something beautiful for her to look at. I’m not really a frou-frou type, but I would treat something like that especially carefully and treasure it. It could easily have been a gift from a suitor, and it was definitely something very special to Mary. She said, Jesus is worthy. He was worthy of the sacrifice of this tremendous treasure, and He is worth so much more!

If Mary’s perfume was a sacrifice, a treasure, poured out to cover Jesus’ head, how much more of a treasure is the blood He shed to cover us? Her treasure wasn’t wasted at all. It was an annointing to prepare His body for the ordeal He was about to go through. Mary had been listening when Jesus told His followers that He would be killed for them; that He would be a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Jesus says “What worth? You should say what VALUE. She did what she could, she did a beautiful thing for Me; she anointed My Body for burial. She seized a fleeting opportunity …..” we are to love people, but our Priority is to Love God. Jesus tells His disciples He is going to die but they don’t really listen or understand.

“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” – MATTHEW 16:21

“And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.” – MATTHEW 17:22‭-‬23

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” – MATTHEW 20:18‭-‬19

Mary listened, and she took action. She was extravagant, but she knew that her treasure of perfume was nothing when compared to the Treasure of the Presence of Jesus. Other religions have scales of good v. evil to compare our lives on. Weighing the good in me, the good I’ve done in my life, compared to the bad in me? I lose! We all lose there, if we are honest! Christianity has the Cross, no scales, because we are all found wanting in the end – that’s the beauty of the Gospel!

Is He Worthy?

How do you answer that question?

Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “Is He Worthy” and prepare to worship!