We Will Be Persecuted

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.” John 16:1‭-‬4 NKJV

Just a little bit scary, and yet, looking through history, Christians have been persecuted since the beginning. I don’t think I would be very brave in the face of real, physical persecution; I’m afraid I would be like Peter when he denied knowing Jesus. Every day, Christians face persecution from the enemy in the form of illness, job loss, failed relationships, financial hardships, and more, but we know that we share these difficulties with the world. See, I think the enemy wants us and the world think that we are all the same; that we are deluding ourselves and them by thinking we are different. In one very important way, and the only one that makes a difference is the reality that we have accepted Jesus as our LORD and Saviour. That single difference sets us up in the eyes of the enemy as targets. He hates to see people accept Christ! His goal is to fool as many people as possible to him as the superior over Jesus, and in doing so, sets us up for persecution and – he hopes – defeat.

He can’t do it. Defeat belongs to the enemy, not to the LORD.

Are you prepared for persecution? Have you thought about being physically persecuted, like Peter, Paul, or Stephen, or like countless of our contemporaries in other, non Christian nations? Even here, in a country founded on Christian values, we are daily facing attacks, mostly nonphysical (for now), but there are starting to be more and more incidents of physically targeting Christians. What do you think these church shootings are about?

I believe in a strong response whenever possible, but I concede that the time is coming where we will be put into situations of having to choose between defending Christianity, or giving in to the enemy.

“It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” Revelation 13:7‭-‬10 NASB

Where is your name written?

Reflections on Life in 2019

This past year is not how I expected my life to be at this point. My plan was to be contentedly – if not happily – married, retired and living on a small farm, traveling, and living a comfortable life with family and friends close.

God, apparently, has something different in mind!

Single for the past 10 years, widowed since 2001, unemployed for since April 2016 except for a little part time work….. NOT the way I saw my life!

A year ago I moved 35 miles to be closer to my Oklahoma family; Mom, sister, nieces, and their families. We have other family (4 more siblings and their families!) and it’s the most I’ve been involved with my immediate family since my college years. It has been a huge blessing to be this close for the past year. Since moving, I’ve been attending worship services with my Mom, and what a blessing that has been to me, too. Being able to participate regularly in corporate worship is something that we don’t give enough credit to, and hearing the teaching of God’s Word is incomparable. If you haven’t been attending church regularly, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. We need it in order to focus on the important things in life. I want to be like Simeon, for I have, too, seen the LORD’S CHRIST, Who is JESUS:

“Now LORD, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your Word; For my eyes have seen Your Salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the Glory of Your people Israel.” Luke 2:29‭-‬32‭ NASB

There is insanity in our country’s capital, and the liberals and socialists are attempting to overrun this great nation we live in. Every day, the news is full of murder and mayhem. Christians and conservatives have become the ‘whipping boys’ of society, and political correctness is making it difficult to speak without offending someone. At times, I am filled with hopelessness and despair at everything that is going on. In spite of all this, and even though I still don’t know what plan God has for me and my life, I have HOPE.

Happy 2020.

I Am Strong

From God’s Not Done With You, a devotional by Tauren Wells, on http://www.Bible.com:

“When we admit that we are prone to failure, that our strengths aren’t strong enough to save us, we find the power to live righteously through Christ….. When sin affects our opportunities to use our strengths, a perfect situation can become a perfectly wrong situation.”

“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

Did that hit you like it did me? It’s when I stand on my strength, and rely on my abilities, that I fall. It’s that old “I can do it” attitude. When I rely on me, I fail. I’m a “fix-it” person. If there’s a problem, let’s fix it. Don’t wait, don’t take time to pray about it, just get it done. I’ll do it if it kills me.

Sound familiar?

I’ve known so many people with that attitude. Then there’s the opposite: those who sit back and do nothing, expecting God (or man) to step in and take care of the problem with no effort from them.

In my opinion, both attitudes are equally wrong. The Bible doesn’t say that God takes care of those who take care of themselves. It also doesn’t say to be lazy and expect others to take care of you. God gives us our strengths, our talents, to use in conjunction with Him and His Will. Do I do that? Unfortunately, no, not like I should. Sometimes I’m determined to do whatever it is on my own. No help. Other times, I give up, and want someone to to do it for me. I’ve turned many opportunities into disasters with these attitudes. Even Peter, the Rock, loved by Jesus, fell when he tried to stand on his strength over the Lord’s.

“And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26:75 NASB

We need to weep for the many times we have denied Christ by trying to stand on our strengths rather than His. I weep for all those times, past, present, and future that I stand on my own. I’m human, I will continue to fail, but I am also a child of the King, forgiven for my failure.

Lord God, help me get rid of that stinkin’ thinkin’ that I can stand without You; help me to take heed of Your Will so that I will not fall. I know that no temptation has ever overtaken me, or will ever overtake me, but such as is common to man; and I know that You are faithful. You will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able as long as I depend upon You, and with the temptation, You will provide the way of escape also, so that I will be able to endure it. Amen.

All Who Are In High Positions….

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1‭-‬4 ESV

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13‭-‬14 NASB

To be honest, this suggestion, especially the part about giving thanksgivings for all who are in high positions makes me choke just a bit (sometimes quite a lot!). From the people who are in “high positions” in the local schools, the “high positions” in every business, landlords, bankers, and one and on, to city government, up to county, state, and federal. From clerks who think they are in control, judges, peacekeepers of all kinds, politicians….. there’s really no end to the people who consider what they are doing to be a higher position, where they are somehow better than the people they are supposed to serve….. but I digress.

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions…..

We like to imagine that life was simpler when Paul wrote these letters, but I think that those high positions haven’t changed that much in the way those holding them think and act. As much as I would like to have many of the people in those positions removed and replaced, I need to keep this passage in the front of my mind. We don’t really know the minds and hearts of those people. There are many in high positions that are very blatant in their disregard for the people they supposedly care for, but Paul is explicit in asking us to pray for them, and to be thankful.

It’s difficult to be thankful when I perceive that their goals and actions are to bring harm to me and those I care about; when they abuse their power.

My Dad would tell me “If you can’t respect the man, respect the office.”

Easier said than done.

Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

There are too many to count in those high positions that I have absolutely no respect for. There are so many who are only out for their own benefit; who couldn’t care less about the people they represent.

Regardless of my feelings, it’s important to pray for those people. Maybe it’s most important to pray for the ones I despise.

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from GOD, and those that exist have been instituted by GOD. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” Romans 13:1‭, ‬5 ESV

Do you struggle with this? Conservative or liberal, business owner or newest employed, in a mansion or homeless, whatever the situation, do you lift up those you despise? We can work on this together, because this is a tough assignment!

Heavenly Father, Lord of the Universe, you know my heart. When I’m honest with You and with myself, You know I’d rather do almost anything rather than to give thanks for many of our country’s so called leaders. Your Words says that they are set in place by You. I confess that I struggle with that concept! However, since You have said it in Your inspired Word, I must accept it, and thank You for the governments You have put in place, from our city to our nation. Bless those men and women, Lord, and I pray that they will bow their heads, and knees, to You. Bless our country. Bring us, as a nation, back to the Truth. Amen.

We Are Insufficient

“Blessed be the LORD, Who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant. May the LORD our GOD be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His Commandments and His Statutes and His Ordinances, which He commanded our fathers. And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the LORD, be near to the LORD our GOD day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day requires, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is GOD; there is no one else. Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the LORD our GOD, to walk in His Statutes and to keep His Commandments, as at this day.”

In 1 Kings 8 we learn about the temple Solomon builds for the LORD GOD. To build today, it would cost $200 billion dollars, or $60 million dollars per square foot* for Solomon’s temple; just the building itself. For reference, the average square foot price in the Oklahoma City Metro area is $117*, according to Zillow Real Estate Marketplace.

[See 2 Samuel 6:13 for the story of moving the Ark containing the tablets of Moses with the Ten Commandments to Jerusalem. We learn in that passage that Aaron’s rod and the pot of manna are no longer in the ark.]

Consider the scope of this day:

“And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who were assembled to him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen they could not be counted or numbered.” 1 Kings 8:5 NASB

Nothing we can do is sufficient; and these passages highlight just how insufficient we are. 1 Kings 8:1-64 describes the temple Solomon built to house the Ark of the LORD; to glorify the Most High God. In spite of being the most beautiful, expensive building (v27) ever built, it is insufficient for God. The countless sacrificial animals are insufficient. The priests are insufficient. The altars are insufficient. The immense sacrifice of all of the animals was insufficient. God’s PRESENCE was there, but He doesn’t LIVE there. Anything we can do is insufficient, because GOD ALONE is sufficient for us, for every area of life. It took the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus (Hebrews 9:26) to be sufficient to cover our sins.

The significance of this passage is to highlight the insufficiency of man, and the sufficiency of God. It talks of God’s Presence (v.57,59), God’s Power (v58), God’s Passion (v.60), and God’s Pardon (v.62-63). Seven times in the chapter Solomon highlights the listening of God.

Now the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifice before the LORD. Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered to the LORD, 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the sons of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD. On the same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD, because there he offered the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings; for the bronze altar that was before the LORD was too small to hold the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings.” 1 Kings 8:56‭-‬64 NASB

Where is your significance? Does it it lie in Jesus Christ alone, or are you still trying to prove your own sufficiency to the LORD GOD of the Universe?

Paybacks

But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Genesis 50:19‭-‬20 NASB

I’m so tired of living my life in fear of how I’m going to get through it financially; of how I’m going to survive the month. I’m tired of living in fear of growing old alone. I’m tired of being rejected from job after job, because they “decided to go in a different direction.” What does that even mean???

Let me be clear: My choices brought me to this point. God did not do this to me. He didn’t cause me to make poor financial decisions, and He certainly didn’t encourage me to trust men who would lie, steal, and cheat me. He didn’t put those men in my path. No, all of the bad choices are mine, and mine alone, and once again I am faced with payback for [some of?] those bad choices. I don’t know how to pray about all this. I think I am searching for God’s will, but am I really just trying to get Him to accept my wishes?

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the Mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26‭-‬27 NASB

Tauren Wells has a song God’s Not Done With You, and a devotional by the same name on https://bible.com. When you are struggling with the unfairness and the paybacks of this life, lean on these truths. Paybacks happen in life, but it is very reassuring to me that my life is not dependent on them. My GOD is in control; I just have to trust Him. Not an easy thing for someone whose trust has been broken by man, over and over again ….. but it can be done. Remember, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38‭-‬39 NASB

NOTHING. No enemy and no “payback” that he can throw at us can take us away from GOD. God, THE God; Creator, Saviour, Lover and LORD of humanity, is not dead, He is not diminished in any way by the enemy’s devilry and mischief. The LORD is ALIVE, and He is NOT done with me – or you! – yet!

Delight Yourself

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.” Psalms 37:4‭-‬5‭, ‬7‭-‬8 NASB

Delight.

Commit.

Trust.

Rest.

Cease anger, forsake wrath, do not fret.

Words. So easy to write; so difficult to put into action! But go back to the first verse. IF we choose to “delight ….. in the LORD” ……. “He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Wow. Do you believe scripture? Do you know it to be the inspired Word of the Living GOD? I don’t trust easily. (Thank you _____ , you know who are.) It’s not easy for me to “rest” when what I desire is out there, and not with me. I want to do something to make it happen and I often take out my frustration in anger and wrath; I fret about not having my desire.

Delight.

Commit.

Trust.

Rest.

Opening up my Bible and searching the scriptures for God’s promises, His fulfilled promises, helps me to delight in Him. He doesn’t do as man does, and make promises only to break them. As far back as Genesis 3:14-19, we are living God’s promise to Adam and Eve today. The thing that strikes me, though, is that His promises are in His time, not ours. One promise that has always stood out to me was the promise to Abraham. He was to became the father of the nation of Israel, but he didn’t even have a child until he over 100 years old. That’s a long time to wait! Mary and Martha delighted in Jesus, and he restored their brother Lazarus to them – but first they had to trust Him, and rest in Him before the desire of their hearts was fulfilled. He doesn’t make everyone wait until they are 100 years old, or until a loved ones dies, although he might. His timing; His will.

The greatest desire of Jesus’ heart is to have each of us spend eternity with Him. To achieve it, because of our propensity to make wrong choices and spend our lives in sin, He made the ultimate sacrifice. He didn’t want to be tortured and killed in a most gruesome manner; He chose to, because that was what GOD, His Father and ours, required. Read Matthew 26, focusing on verses 39 and 42. “Not My will, but YOURS

“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. [ But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” ]” Mark 11:24‭-‬26 NASB

Delight. Be content in your circumstances. Give thanks for everything.

Commit. It all belongs to the LORD. Decide to follow Him, and stick to the path.

Trust. GOD is in control. He knows what He is doing. Remember, He can see the big picture. All we have is one little snapshot out of eternity.

Rest. Quit fighting Him. Let Him lead you, and carry you, through any difficulties.