First, Last ….. I AM

This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies: “I AM the First and the Last; there is no other God. Who is like Me? Let him step forward and prove to you his power. Let him do as I have done since ancient times when I established a people and explained its future. Do not tremble; do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim My purposes for you long ago? You are My witnesses—is there any other God? No! There is no other Rock—not one!” Isaiah 44:6‭-‬8 NLT

This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer and Creator: “I AM the LORD , who made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. Who was with Me when I made the earth?” Isaiah 44:24 NLT

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Let Us Make Man in Our Image

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26‭-‬28 NASB

We are made in GOD’s image. Look in the mirror. What do you see? From whitest white to blackest black, and every shade of skin between, we are made in God’s image. Man or woman, we are made in God’s image. African, Asian, Pacific Islander, European, American (North or South), whatever continent or landmass you are from, we are all made in God’s image. It makes me crazy when people insist on separating us by color! I have sisters and brothers that don’t match my skin tone, but that doesn’t make our relationship any less. I saw a post online about two little girls who insist they are twins. They are not biologically related, and their skin color is quite the opposite, and that doesn’t matter at all to them. As far as they are concerned, they are twins.

Of course we are different culturally. That’s a given. I celebrate cultural diversity, and love getting to know different customs and culinary styles. It’s fascinating to see how different our customs can be even when we are in the same nation. From deep in Cajun country to the Navajo farmer to the California surfer there is probably as much or more cultural difference as between a Midwesterner to a Moscovite. But color? That’s a man-made distinction that doesn’t – shouldn’t – exist in God’s universe. We are all people of color, excepting albinos, who lack pigmentation in their skin. Even then, we could consider them the basis for all of the rest of us!

So what then, you ask?

As Christ followers, Christians, it is imperative that we lead the movement of taking “race” out of our vocabularies. My sisters Deborah and Brenda, who just happen to have different parents and darker skin colors than me, are still my sisters. They aren’t a different race. We are all part of, and full members of, the human race. Celebrate the diversity of skin colors and body shapes and unique faces that our Glorious God saw fit to populate our world with!

Can I get an AMEN, people!!

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Pay Attention!

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” – 1 PETER 5:8‭-‬9 NASB

The devil, the adversary. The word Satan means adversary. He is also called the god of this age, god of this world, deceiver, camouflager, Father of lies ….. he goes by many names. The words used here, seeking to devour, mean to gulp down. He wants to DESTROY us. Where is he? Is he real?

“Now there was a day when the sons of God [angelic hosts] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” ” – JOB 1:6‭-‬7 NASB

It amazes me to hear that people don’t believe he exists. I read an article online by Phil Zuckerman, Ph.D., professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, on the existence of the devil from his book, The Secular Life. Some excerpts:

How can people seriously believe in the devil? The year is 2015, not 1315. And yet, the fact remains that tens of millions of Americans continue to believe that there is a magical, wicked, evil — oh, and smart — being out there doing magical, wicked, evil deeds and presiding over a fiery realm, where demons crawl and witches cackle. Oh, wait. No cackling witches. Just demons, right?

According to a 2013 YouGov survey, 57% of Americans believe in the devil. And yes, that is 57% of American adults — not kindergarteners.

But there is no such thing as the devil, just as there is no such thing as fairies, imps, or goblins. The two largest religions in the world — Christianity and Islam — teach that there is a devil. And they are wrong. There is no evidence for such a thing. Not a shred. It is simply something that germinated from the unscientific, irrational minds of early humans who tried their best to explain why bad things happen to good people, why good people sometimes do bad things, and why there is so much needless suffering in the world.

He also included this:

In October, 2013, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia declared that, yes, he most certainly believes in the existence of Satan. But why don’t we see him? Well, “you know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and what not. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore…It’s because he’s smart….What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.” (Emphasis mine)

I belong on the side with Justice Scalia. Why? Because, like Dwight L. Moody, “The Bible says so, and I have done business with him.” May I add, it is not a pleasant experience. Does this mean I have dealt with Satan, the adversary, himself? Probably not. He has many fallen angels and demons who work beside him. Paul said:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” – EPHESIANS 6:12 NASB

He is sneaky; he is a liar and a thief. He incites persecution against followers of Christ, and he hinders the work of Christians. He sows doubt and distrust anywhere he can. How can one created being do all this and create such havoc in the world, when he is NOT omnipresent? He relies on his demons, his followers and all of the other fallen angels (back to Ephesians 6), but he is also a spirit and can travel quickly. The ultimate power behind persecution is Satan.

Even many Christians don’t believe Satan exists. If we can’t see it, it can’t be real….. but, we can’t see God, either. Does Satan exist? If not, where does the mayhem and evil come from? He is as real as you and I. An interesting note: the devil, Satan, is not currently residing in hell; he is very much alive and living here on earth. During the Tribulation period (still to come) he will be permanently expelled from heaven, although based on scriptures, he currently has at least limited access to heaven, to have conversations with God. He is seeking and stalking his prey, and his prey is anyone aligning themselves with Jesus Christ!

“But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” – 1 PETER 5:9 NASB

The Good News is this: JESUS has already defeated him, on Calvary! Calvary is our Hope, because it is where Satan was defeated. We don’t fight FOR victory, we fight FROM victory, and we apply it in everyday life. Be ready! Don’t focus on Satan, focus on Christ, but don’t underestimate the deceiver. After all, if an actual lion gets loose, do we ignore it, or try to get away from it? Don’t be ignorant of the devil, just be aware and stand firm; submit to the LORD in every aspect of our lives. (Ephesians 6:10-18) We are not alone in this battle. We – all Christians – are all in the same spiritual battle, and we need to be, and should be, watching each others backs.

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – JAMES 4:7 NASB

“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of Lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” – REVELATION 17:14 NASB

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah defeats the lion known as the devil, aka Satan!

Lest We Forget

July 4, 2019. 243 years ago, a group of men gathered, in secret, to forge ahead with actions that would end up costing many of them – literally – their fortunes and their lives. They did it in the name of freedom. Freedom from tyranny, freedom of religion, freedom to decide their own fates. Freedom to escape the rule of ‘class’. Were these men perfect? Far from it! Did they make mistakes? Absolutely! Yet they forged ahead, determined that their children and their children’s children and so on would have a place to live in freedom.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We the People. No country, no nation before us was ever started with a Populous government! With all of the controversy over the Betsy Ross flag and Nike’s decision to pull their shoe that displayed it because it is a “slave” flag, let me refer to Article XIII of the Bill of Rights:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Was there slavery? Yes. It was in the form of both outright ownership of persons and indentured servitude. Was it against the Constitution? Yes, it was. Is it still occurring in the United States? Yes, I am sorry to say, although it is to a much lesser extent than in other countries. Our ancestors fought wars to prevent undue rule and unjust rule. The Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War; WWI and WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afganistan, the Middle East….. We are still fighting over unjust practices and inhumane treatment. The Civil War wasn’t about slavery; it was about States rights!

What’s my point?

There will never be a perfect place to live on this earth, because humanity is flawed to the core. No man or woman is perfect, and we will all do and say offensive and stupid things. Bearing that in mind, and knowing that in these United States we are all responsible for ourselves, we are Blessed! What other country allows such blatant disrespect to it to flourish within it’s borders? Where else on earth can people publicly make fun of and disrespect their leader without experiencing dire consequences?

Since 1776, millions of men and women, United States citizens, have given everything for our freedom. There are currently hundreds, thousands, military personnel putting their lives on the line, every single day, for our freedom. Ditto for the Police officers, Sheriff departments, Border Patrol Agents, every type of Law Enforcement; all First Responders – Fire, EMT’s. Where else in the world do these freedoms and protections exist? Nowhere, to the extent of those in the United States.

It’s a day to be thankful. We can worship how and when we please, we can speak out – and act out – against our government in freedom.

GOD BLESS AMERICA.

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Sadly, this jigsaw puzzle is no longer available.

Open Season

Hunters love it when they know it’s open season on their targets of choice. I’ve enjoyed deer and elk hunting, squirrel hunting; even jack rabbit hunting. It feels like a different kind of open season to me now – open season on Christians. What do you think? In the States, we really have it good compared to much of the world, and for the majority of history, too.

Right now, today, it’s Open Season on Patriots, and especially on Christians…. what do we do; what can we do about it? We have to be realistic. Anticipate the blows of the Enemy. Don’t let him and his hate surprise you. Be aware it WILL happen. We are under attack – and if, like me, you are a Patriot and a follower of Jesus Christ, expect to receive even more insults, reviling, and slander. (1 Peter 4:12, Matthew 5:11, John 15:18-19, 2 Timothy 3:12)

But WHY? God allows all of this to PROVE, purify, and refine our faith. It’s not like we are the first society to be subject to these attacks. Look at history, all the way back to the very beginning in the Garden. The Enemy attacked Adam and Eve, although it was more subtle than the attacks on us today …… or was it? Society can be very subtle in getting us to turn from the Way. Books, television, movies, songs; just a little twist to move our focus, and each little twist is an attack. We should rejoice that we have the privilege to suffer with and for Jesus, and that our God considers us worthy to suffer for the One Who suffered for us! (1 Peter 4:13-14, Philippians 1:29, Acts 5:40, 1 Peter 1:6, Romans 8:18) Keep the goal in mind – Eternity with Him!

We also need to ask ourselves, is the persecution because of ME/something selfish I have done or said, or is it because of my belief in the Gospel? (1 Peter 4:15-18) Our outcome through persecution, our difficulty is nothing compared to what non-believers will deal with in eternity! It’s a sober warning for those people, if they can just see it. For us, as followers of Christ, our reliance is to entrust our selves, our souls, to Amighty God. He is the giver and the governor of life, the Achitect of the Ages….

“Persecution of Christians is the largest human rights violation in the world.” – Philip de Coursey

The persecution and genocide of Christians across the world is worse today “than at any time in history.” The study by Aid to the Church in Need said the treatment of Christians has worsened substantially in the past two years compared with the two years prior, and has grown more violent than any other period in modern times. “Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution,” the report said.

A really good, albeit frightening, read on this subject is “The Dark Agenda” by David Horowitz.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?” – 1 PETER 4:12‭-‬17 NASB

Have you obeyed the Gospel of God?

Justified

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” – ROMANS 3:21‭-‬31 NASB

That’s a long passage. For some of us (ADD’ers, unite!), it’s easy to get lost in the words and not realize the simple message in there. I am not a scholar, by any stretch, and I certainly don’t mean to try to change anything or manipulate any words. My goal is simply to help us/myself understand what is being said. In short, I think this sums it up:

1. Everybody is a sinner. We all need of redemption.

2. Nothing we can do or say will redeem us.

3. Jesus was sent by GOD to redeem us.

4. All we have to do is to accept Him, by Faith.

Faith. Not words, not attitude, not works. God, the Almighty, the Father and Creator, tells us there is one way to spend the rest of eternity with Him. One. Way.

“….. if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation…..” – ROMANS 10:8-‬13 NASB

Growing up in the church, I loved to sing,and this hymn, especially the chorus, is one that you can close your eyes and lift your hands and really allow the Holy Spirit to carry the words as an anthem, an offering of thanksgiving to the Lord.

Living, He loved me; dying he saved me;
Buried, he carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever:
One day He’s coming–O glorious day!

Listen to this hymn as sung by Casting Crowns; GLORIOUS DAY!

Are you justified? Is it a glorious day for you?

Scariest Words

What are the scariest words you have ever heard? You’re fired? You’re hired? Marry me? …… We’re pregnant? Your loved one is dying?

All of those words have definite impact on our lives, but I don’t think they are the scariest you’ll ever hear. Knowing just how flawed and imperfect we are as humans, try these:

“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He Who said, “do not commit adultery,” also said, “do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the Law of Liberty.” – JAMES 2:8‭-‬12 NASB

No matter how good we are, we are guilty of breaking all of God’s laws. ALL of them. Ever told a “white” lie? Took a paperclip that really didn’t belong to you? Shared a bit of “harmless” gossip? “Admired” someone of the opposite sex just a tad too long? Became angry or took offense at some slight? By stumbling on one point of the Law, we become guilty of breaking it all.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary: “According to the covenant of works, one breach of any one command brings a man under condemnation, from which no obedience, past, present, or future, can deliver him. This shows us the happiness of those that are in Christ. We may serve him without slavish fear. God’s restraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions are so. The doom passed upon impenitent sinners at last, will be judgment without mercy. But God deems it his glory and joy, to pardon and bless those who might justly be condemned at his tribunal; and his grace teaches those who partake of his mercy, to copy it in their conduct.” (Emphasis mine)

According to my understanding, the Law of Liberty is the Gospel. Through the Mercy shown to us in and through Jesus Christ, we receive forgiveness…… but we must accept that Mercy, that Gift, in order to receive His forgiveness, and to be freed from the final judgement of the LORD. I don’t want to be seen as a “good” person! I want people to see – and know – that I am forgiven; and how I am forgiven. That’s why we must share the Gospel. “Good” can never be good enough; only forgiveness will suffice in the end.

Are you good, or are you forgiven?