Armed …… and Dangerous?

“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.” – 1 PETER 4:1‭-‬6 NASB

This is our Christian ‘Call to Arms’, because our battle cannot be won with a ‘peacetime’ mentality. We are at war. The enemy is constantly assaulting us and tearing us down, often through other people – especially people we are close to. Peter is talking about our attitudes and thoughts. If our attitude is one of promoting Christ, we are likely to suffer for it. It is up to us as followers of the Christ, Who has suffered for us, to have the right attitude about it. We freely suffer in love, for the sake of His Righteousness. Like Jesus, we choose a life of suffering.

“No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” – JOHN 10:18 NASB

When we have a desire for the Will of God, our choice is suffering in and with our LORD Jesus, or sin. We are not living sinless perfection but we do need a clean break from sin; a decision to live for human passion (sin) or live for the Will of God. Resolve that past sins are enough. Don’t keep doing them!

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” – PHILIPPIANS 1:9‭-‬11 NASB

The reality is that there is a coming of Justice. We have the knowledge that all people, both the living and dead will be judged justly when Jesus returns. Our assurance lies in the Hope of the Gospel. All of us will physically die, but we have the hope of afterlife, in an Eternity that is sure and real.

“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” – HEBREWS 9:27‭-‬28 NASB

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.

“And When You Are Praying …..”

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way:

‘OUR FATHER Who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come. Your Will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [ For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever. Amen.’ ]

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” – MATTHEW 6:7‭-‬15 NASB

Um, what? I have to forgive those jerks, those disgusting, bigotted, evil, unscrupulous, narrow-minded, stupid ……. (need I go on???) ……

Yep. That’s correct. I have to forgive them. They may be at fault, but the Father insists that I / we forgive them. That stinks. It falls upon us, dear brothers and sisters, to forgive not only those who have hurt us specifically and individually, but also to forgive those who hurt us collectively. It occurs to me that if I sue someone in a court of law, then I become the guilty party because of my unforgiveness. If I am spiteful to someone because they have treated me badly, then I become the guilty party. When I refuse to forgive, I become the sinner.

I am not saying we have to forget the wrong. Whenever I hear someone advise to “forgive and forget,” I have to (respectfully) disagree. In many, if not most, instances of wrong, I think we need to remember what happened in order to prevent the situation from repeating itself. Punishment is different from judgement, just as remembering is separate from forgiving. I don’t have to like the person to forgive them, and it isn’t necessary to become their friend – although it is possible.

When it becomes necessary to forgive, remember that our Father doesn’t expect us to do it on our own or in our own human strength. He has provided us with a Helper, One Who can take the weight of forgiving the unforgivable off our human shoulders and shifting it onto His infinitely stronger, supernatural shoulders. There are times when the only words we can say are “Oh GOD” or “Jesus, help me.” In fact, we are told in Paul’s letter to the Roman church, “….. for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words …..” – ROMANS 8:26 NASB

Thank GOD. Amen!

Living With Expectation

There’s a lot of expectation today. We expect to be financially successful, with a big fancy house and car before we hit 30. We expect to marry Mr. or Mrs. ‘Right’, and we expect that person to be with us for our entire life. We expect to have the perfect child – and we expect to have the right number of children. We expect others to like us as we are, and we expect our friends to never disappoint us or betray us …… and we expect that God will make sure all these things happen.

Those are some massive expectations!

I say this. We have skewed expectations. The only thing we can expect in this world; the only thing that we can be assured of happening is that we will be disappointed, betrayed, and hurt. Look at recorded history. Read the Bible. GOD warns us over and over that we will have trouble in this world. Doesn’t that seem to counter that this same GOD Loves us and wants us to be with Him?

Have you ever had a friend that you would do anything for? Best friends. Bosom buddies. Someone you’d go the extra mile for. One day, you find out they have another ‘best friend’! That hurts ….. and yet, that’s exactly what we do to GOD. We choose of our own free will that we would rather hang out with the world. We choose sin over perfection. (Sounds rather brutal like that …..)

Okay, so this is a little depressing so far. I’ve had plenty of expectations, and I have experienced heartache and heartbreak, disappointment and betrayal by people I care about deeply. What’s the point? Our focus has to be above all of these earthly things; otherwise, we become bitter and angry. Our Great Expectation, our one expectation that is Truth, is this:

“All Praise to GOD, the Father of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. It is by His Great Mercy that we have been born again, because GOD raised JESUS CHRIST from the dead. Now we live with Great Expectation, and we have a priceless Inheritance—an Inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, Pure and Undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And remember that the heavenly FATHER to Whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of Him during your time here as “temporary residents.” ” – 1 Peter 1:3‭-‬4‭, ‬17 NLT

Listen to Shane and Shane’s new song “Is He Worthy?” from the 2019 album Hymns Live. (Authors Ben Shive and Andrew Peterson)

HE is Worthy!

Image from The First Fruits of Zion

Fear of the World?

There is so much violence. Every time I watch the news or open a social media app, war, violence against persons, terrorism – these grab the headlines. As Christians, followers of JESUS CHRIST, should we be afraid of this ugliness? I am concerned for the spiritual safety of our children as socialism and radicalism take center stage, because we have strayed so far from our moral, our Christ-centered base. I know where I will be when the LORD returns with His army to destroy the Enemy and the world as we know it. Do you? Are you certain, without a shadow of a doubt? What we are seeing now, this destruction of our society, is nothing – NOTHING – compared to what is coming. Are you experiencing fear for the present?

Read the Bible. Compared to the return of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, now is tame. Don’t be afraid of today, and look to JESUS so that you have no fear for the future. He is the only way to avoid what’s coming.

“Before them the earth shakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The LORD thunders at the head of His army; His forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys His command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” ” – Joel 2:10‭-‬12 NIV

-Rubens-

The Fear of GOD: Praise Be!

“The fear of God” is a phrase used numerous times in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelations. One of the first times it was used was to illustrate how much God wants us to love Him. In Genesis 22, Abraham is prepared to offer his son, Issac, as a sacrifice to the LORD – his miracle son, born to him and Sarah in their old age. Abraham trusts with his whole heart that the LORD will provide an alternative, and He does. Abraham answered [Issac], “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” He [GOD] said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear GOD because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.” – Genesis 22:8‭, ‬12‭-‬13 NIV

Do I love the LORD, the GOD Who created me, enough to sacrifice my child? I’m pretty sure I don’t have it in me to do so. I would gladly offer myself, my own life, to save my family and loved ones – but to willingly lay one of them on an altar and prepare to offer their life? Could you? Do I “fear” GOD enough? Thank GOD that He made that decision for us by sending HIS Only Son as our sacrifice!

“Praise be to the GOD and FATHER of our LORD JESUS CHRIST! In His Great Mercy He has given us New Birth into a Living Hope through the resurrection of JESUS CHRIST from the dead, and into an Inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This Inheritance is kept in heaven for you….. Concerning this Salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the Grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care….. Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your Hope on the Grace to be brought to you when JESUS CHRIST is revealed at His coming.” – 1 Peter 1:3‭-‬4‭,10‭,13 NIV

“But just as He Who called you is Holy, so be Holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be Holy, because I Am Holy.” “Since you call on a FATHER who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in Reverent Fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed …… with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in GOD, who raised Him from the dead and Glorified Him, and so your Faith and Hope are in GOD.” – 1 Peter 1:17‭-‬19 NIV

To “Fear GOD” means to be awestruck, astonished, conscious, reverential; to live a God-centered life. In Genesis 31:53 NIV, Laban said to Jacob “May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” “So Jacob took an oath in the Name of the Fear of his father Isaac.” (“the Fear” = GOD)

Since we call Him Father and reflect Him as our Father, shouldn’t we want to avoid offending Him or disappointing Him? If I do a thing, will it hurt God? From Romans 14:12, we learn that God judges our work, but He doesn’t judge whether we will be in heaven. Belief in the LORD JESUS CHRIST determines where we will be – heaven – and our service & works determines how we will be there. Our ‘graduation’ is the works we do while still on earth. Our Foundation is Jesus and as such is rock-solid, but the rest of our building will reflect our works. When GOD tests our works, our “building,” will His Holy Fire destroy my building?

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the One already laid, which is JESUS CHRIST. If anyone builds on this Foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames.” – 1 Corinthians 3:11‭-‬15 NIV (Also read 1 Corinthians 4:5 and 2 Corinthians 5:10-11)

Teachers and preachers are held to an even higher standard because they are the leaders and guides for everyone else. (James 3:1-2) Our life, our deeds will be judged; not our salvation. On earth, money talks; in heaven, only the Blood of JESUS is accepted as payment for our sins because His is the Blood of the Unblemished, Innocent Lamb (Exodus 12, Rev 5). The Blood of the Lamb is the scarlet thread that runs through the Bible from start to finish – there is no hope in a bloodless gospel. We are ransomed with a precious, priceless, infinite price, the price of JESUS as the Lamb. Listen to John’s Revelation:

“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, Who was slain, to receive Power and Wealth and Wisdom and Strength and Honor and Glory and Praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To Him Who sits on the Throne and to the Lamb be Praise and Honor and Glory and Power, for ever and ever!” – Revelation 5:6‭, ‬12‭-‬13 NIV

Jesus is our Sacrifice, our Pardon, and all we have to do is to accept the Pardon as offered – Free, clear, no strings attached. If you don’t accept a pardon, then it’s no good. From the great evangelist Billy Graham, “We all have a hunger in our hearts for God – an empty place in our souls that only He can fill.” (Read Psalm 42:2).

We have our past redemption by The CHRIST, and the future prospect of judgement:

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear GOD and keep His Commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For GOD will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13‭-‬14 NIV

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