Meditate on the Word

Have you ever read or heard something that did not immediately register with you?  You needed to get more concrete information and ponder what the message was saying or teaching you.  People normally like to mull things over before they decide or apply a concept to their lives.  Our scripture through a daily reading of the word or a devotional allows us the room to absorb the information and to see different angles to discern what our Lord is teaching or showing us.  I compare this to a meal placed in front of me.  Here are the items on the menu and I start small with maybe an appetizer, but then I start to progress and move on to the bigger items of the meal.  However, keep in mind as you take that first step, that first bite, you need to let it linger a moment or two to see if you like it or if you are willing to step further outside of yourself and try more.  It takes a bit to digest and absorb.  Once your appetite is satiated, you either move forward to the main meal or you walk away. Keep in mind that you make the choice – decision and not someone else.

Scripture is meant to be taken in small bites and then as you continue to grow, you can move on from the milk and onto the solid food.  I want to focus on what meditate on the word means, how it is applied, and some tools to help you on this spiritual journey.

So, what is biblical meditation?  It is the use of every faculty of your heart and mind, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit; thus, allowing you to discern or reason the word, seek whatever God wants to show us, understand the verse by knowing the context, allowing us to be open to the discipline and wisdom of the lesson and then leads to transformation.  Repetition of a word, phrase or theme stresses the importance of this to God.  For example, we are told over 365 times not to worry or be fearful.  There is a reason for that; thus, stressing that message again and again. 

Meditation is another theme that is stressed multiple times in The Bible: as we see in Psalms 119:15, Joshua 1:8, 1 Timothy 4:15, Philippians 4:8, Mark 4:24 and Matthew 4:4.

            I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.”

            “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”

            Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.”

            Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

            “And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.”

            “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

God is always speaking to us, but we must make the time to listen.  It is in the intimacy of the silence that we learn to wait and hear from Him.  We need to keep our eyes fixed on Him alone.  We are more open to the word during this time.  Humble yourself, be patient and let Him speak.  As you are waiting, ponder the scripture repeating it over again as you begin to memorize it and let it seep in and see with the eyes of the heart.

Keep a journal handy as you do this because He may respond with thoughts, verses, or pictures.  God knows what you are the most responsive to and that is how He will answer you.  For example, I have had certain verses pop into my mind as I ponder, or I have seen pictures from old movie formats because that is something I connected with in my childhood.  The message is shown in a language spoken, written or visual that I can identify with.  It is a tool He uses.  What works for me may not be something you experience.  Take keen notes.  Was there an emotion attached to the message or anything you felt a connection to?  Record this in your journal and see if a pattern develops or if there are anomalies that occur.  Inquire on that for clarification as to what that may mean.  I also like to have reference material with me such as a commentary, study bible, books that I can refer to about the culture at that time, and several dictionaries in Greek, as well, as Hebrew.  Keep in mind that everything must be tested to line up with the scripture and with God’s character.   Seek your pastor to confirm if this is indeed coming from God.  Then take the message and apply it to your life. 

Next, pray fervently and continuously.  This is a work in progress (as are you!) and should not be looked at as a habit, but rather a desire to remain faithful to our Lord.  He does hear us, and He does answer us.  Note your prayers in the journal and mark when they are answered and what come from it.  His word is not void and neither will be His responses.  It will always bring a harvest.

Finally, we must apply whatever He teaches us.  Our lives cannot be fruitful if we fail to do this step.  Continue to pray on this if you are unsure how to apply or do what He asks of you.  God always speaks to us, but we must be willing to listen, learn and then obey whatever He tells us.  When we start out in little pieces by listening to the word, we can progress from milk and then tackle the meat through devotionals and works and become more dedicated. We are armed and ready to serve Him.  Remember we are His servants, chosen to do His work for His glory.  Find a quiet place, schedule time, and connect with our Lord.  He would love to hear from all His children.  Use these tools wisely and reap the joy of a fulfilling relationship with our Lord.  God bless.

Grounds for War

I previously talked about the spiritual war that we are currently in and now I would like to address the grounds for that war.  In a spiritual war the bone of contention is that there are two sides fighting for different outcomes.  One side is fighting for darkness to reign and the other side is fighting for light to stand, shine on and defeat the darkness.  Imagine being attacked just because of your beliefs.  Every day arrows are flung at you.  Taunts thrown about and violence incurs from all of this.  You, my Christian friend, are currently in a war whether you like it or not and persecution is coming our way. Sacrifice will be a choice to make or to run from and death will be the casualty of this war.  I am not trying to alarm you, but rather to prepare you for what lies ahead.  As we turn to The Bible, we see many times that persecution occurs and that even Jesus himself was persecuted. 

First, let us get a clearer definition of what persecution is and what it means to be persecuted.  Persecution means to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict specifically: to cause to suffer because of said belief (Merriam-Webster).  In most countries the Christian believer has been persecuted and often, dies from this persecution.  The US has not seen much the full depth of persecution, but it is on the way and it will cost every believer.  You may lose your livelihood, your friends, and yes, even your life.  We are all called to stand up during these trials for God and the greater good and sacrifice must be surrendered to God alone.

We need to get into the right frame of mind.  Jesus gave his life for us and we must now make a choice.  Do we continue to follow Him and stand up or do we bail and seeks to satisfy our own needs and risk spending eternity in Hell?  I chose to stand even when it is hard.  I chose to stand for those who cannot stand for themselves.  When I asked Jesus into my life, I made my choice.  I said I will follow you and I stand behind that statement no matter the cost.

He taught me to love my neighbor so why would I leave them at their lowest point?  I have been commissioned to spread the gospel and I want to see a great awakening that brings many more to our Lord.  I refuse to give up on that. 

We know the reason for war, but who are the opponents and where is this war being waged?  The opponents are good versus evil as we learn in Ephesians 6:11-12, the devil is behind this along with his minions.

            Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Once you know who the opponent is, only then can you truly begin to strategize – put a plan into motion.  As Christians we know Jesus won the war and God, when He predestined us, gave us every spiritual blessing, and equipped us for this fight.  We have it because of Him, and we eventually won it because of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Ephesians 6:14-18 continues to explain what the soldier for Christ must wear to prepare for this war.

            “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness. And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”

Though this war is waged in a different realm, we feel the after-effects on our physical earth.  Throughout life we have had our ups and downs.  The valleys were barren at times and the harvest was full at other times, but we took everything for granted and we forgot how truly blessed we have been.  As each year passes, the rift grows wider – the lines that once were solid and well defined, are now blurred and harder to identify.  I am not sure what this fight will fully entail, but keep in mind that we brought ourselves here due to complacency and ungratefulness, and by not keeping God first in our life.  We may get a respite with time to grow and repent or this may be the end of our nation.  Time will tell one way or another, but with either scenario, I choose to stand up.

During this current political climate, I believe that we need to ask God for strength to endure the fight and courage to make a stand.   Jesus is and will always be with us.  He has personally experienced persecution and tells us that we, too, will experience it.  Matthew 16:24-26 calls us to turn from (deny) our sin and follow him.  By doing this we trust Jesus to break the power of sin in our lives.  We now live for Christ and we identify with His rejection, shame, suffering and death.

            “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

Do not worry or be anxious, but accept that this is the cost a Christian must pay to follow Him as we see in several verses:  Matthew 5:10-11 tells us that we are blessed when we are persecuted by this world, Paul suggests that we find contentment in 2 Corinthians12:10, 2 Timothy 3:12 guarantees that all Christians suffer persecution, albeit on different levels, Romans 8:35 shows us that it brings us closer to God when we suffer persecution, Matthew 5:44 tells us to pray for those who cause harm to us and Mark 10:29-30 tells us of the future promises of things to come.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.”

Yet there is more.  1 Peter 5:8 warns us about the enemy, whereas Psalms 23:4 assures and comforts us throughout this battle.

                        Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

I do notice that a lot of people are pinning their hopes on one another or on our President, but that does not cut it.  Mankind cannot save us.  We all are weak and fall short of His glory. Our hope only lies at His feet and with Him.  We serve the one in control and we surrender all that we are and endure whatever comes out of that surrender or choice.  Bow before Jesus alone and walk as a soldier off to war knowing that His presence is there and is felt.  You are an ambassador for the Lord.  It is our privilege and honor to serve Him and to follow His example.  Carry on, hold on to your faith, and let Him lead you.  You will not go astray wherever He tells you to go.  Be obedient and faithful and one day when you meet, you will hear “thank you my good and faithful servant.”

Our objective is to serve our Lord.  We cling to the above verses to strengthen us and guide us as we go into this deep valley.  Our strategy is to continue to pray for wisdom and the right words to soothe the tension that looms over us.  Ask God to use us as the needed conduit to bring others into the light and stave off the risk of many lives ending way too soon.  Only He can bring us through this and only we can decide if we are more than a mere profession of words claiming to be someone or something that we may not be.  Our action speaks the louder volume and as painful as it is to experience, let alone imagine, we must walk down this path.  We have others to lift and encourage, we have others who do not have a voice and need someone to defend them.  Do not fear this war, but rather fight it with all that you have.  You are a soldier with a cause for Christ.  Let the fiery arrows flung at you fly by or hit you.  His strength is all you need.  Endure and run the race and in the end your reward will be an eternity with Jesus.  The fight, the persecution is all worth it to spend an eternity with God.  March on with hope in your heart and your head held high.  He already has the victory!  God bless.

Being Prepared

On election night I will be frank, I was expecting to hear different results regarding the election.  The evening was ripe with possibility for both candidates to throw the people for a loop with a surprise or two.  However, it became clear as the evening wore on that our president was in the lead despite what our mainstream media was reporting or failing to report.  States were being called as going to one candidate when only a portion of the vote results was counted.  How possibly could a winner be determined when this is the case?  Something was not sitting right with me, and I could not believe my eyes.  The opposition seemed to declare victory too soon.  Many of these states that went to the opposition were clearly leading towards our incumbent.  Suddenly out of the blue, they paused the election results and made time for the opposition to speak to the people and basically acknowledged that it looked like he was going to win, but was he?  Were we being “mind-washed” into thinking the wrong side was winning?  Oh, but things kept getting worse the very next day when ominous signs began to appear.  So many machines failed in one state, multiple states gave the voters a “sharpie” to fill out the ballet knowing that it would not register with the computer, poll watchers could not verify if the ballot was properly signed, some areas experienced more votes than the amount of registered voters for their area, and mysterious bags of votes all tending to face the losing candidate appeared in the middle of the night.  Fraught with problems to say the least.  Fraud was happening right before our very eyes and we are supposed to believe that our vote counted and was noted.  I began to wonder where this would all lead and will justice ever be served, will the guilty ever be punished, among other issues.  Evil has indeed taken root and is misidentified as good.  I could not help but cry and pour my heart out to Jesus.

It can be so disheartening.  “Pray unceasingly” flashed throughout my mind during this whole season.  I faithfully prayed for our nation to repent and turn back to God.  I prayed that He would heal our land and that He would protect us, and our President, from these evil vicious attacks.  I prayed for a second chance to again repent and for Christians everywhere to stand up and be prepared for this war.  However, I hoped for that second chance that now looks bleak.  Like Habakkuk in my previous blog, I had expected different results.  I was not expecting what happened election night.

I refuse to give up.  I still believe in my soul that He is moving, and I know He is in control no matter who wins.  I continue to pray for a revival and for answers to all of this.  Maybe, even though we do not understand, He is making known to everyone the deception(s) involved here, or maybe He has had enough and decided to send judgment instead.  Christians know how the story ends.  We know Jesus died on the cross for our sins and He conquered death.  I know where I am going, but I still have this strong urge that my work here is not yet done and that there is still so much more to do.

In this blog I will outline what we are to do while we wait, and I will also point out what gifts we have been given to strengthen us during this very trying time.  Hope is needed, but we need to focus on Jesus regardless of the difficulty of the walk ahead.  The book of Ephesians will help us do just that.  In the book of Ephesians, we see that Christ was sent to reconcile all of creation to God for we have been chosen by God to serve His will.  Jesus was the vessel needed to accomplish this goal and that is why He was born into humanity.  He does this by uniting the church (elect) with himself.  The body (hands and feet) comes together with the head (Christ).

First, we learn in Ephesians 1:11-14 that we are chosen by God to do His will.  Chosen by Him but be fully aware that none of us deserve this or earned this.  It is a gift from God alone.  We are instructed in Ephesians 4:1-6 to live according to the calling of our Lord.  Each of us receives a calling from the Lord, a spiritual gift to be used to honor His will.

            “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

            “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory.  And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – – to the praise of His glory.”

God has gifted us well.  Before we were born, we were presented with all the gifts that we needed to be equipped to do good works for Him.  In Ephesians 2:4-10 we learn that God is rich in mercy, something that we are not worthy of.  When we accept Christ as our Savior, this transforms us, and the Spirit indwells.  In 5:1 this empowers us to be imitators of God as His adopted children.  Ephesians 2:13 brings us nearer to Christ because we were bought by the blood and 2:19-20 tell us that we are no longer estranged from God, but we are now fellow citizens. We learn in 5:21 that mercy is to be extended to one another – to love as we have been loved. Out of reverence to Christ.  It is a joy to be an instrument of God’s mercy and peace.  We are to love those across various paths God brings to us.  We must walk in the manner to which we were called.

            “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

            “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved childrenand walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

            “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

            “consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”

            “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

In Ephesians 4:15-16 it is explained that the body must submit and in 4:22-24 further expounds this concept by stating that we must work together to achieve this.

            “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows, and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

            “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Out of this knowledge a list of “do’s and don’ts/must do and must avoid” warnings show us how the church is to be the instruments of God’s mercy and peace.  Ponder over these points listed below.  It matters how we live, how we act and how we must think as a Christian if we want to impact this world by sharing the gospel with others.  Now, more than ever, we need to reach as many people as we can.

 First, we need to be careful as to how we are to live (Think first).

Make the most of every opportunity to know God’s will (Seek out knowledge by reading The Bible).

Be filled with the Spirit (Lean into and trust His Word).

Be thankful and sing songs of praise (continuously worship).

Be obedient and seek to please the Lord (inquire of His Will).

Be wise (open to learn more to gain wisdom).

There should be no hint of sexual immorality or greed (your character matters).

No obscenity or foolish talk nor coarse joking (control the tongue) 

Do not be easily led astray by evildoers (make sure not to walk down the wrong path).

Do not associate with darkness but expose it (seek justice).

Remember that we are born spiritually dead and we are made alive in Christ who saved us for good works.  We have been bought by the blood of Christ.  This is for everyone as noted when the mystery of God was revealed and offered to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

We are in a spiritual war and we must be armed to fight that war.  We are instructed to stay away from darkness but expose it instead.  As we continue with the election results and the challenges that will follow, I want to ask you to let it play out.  God has not left us nor will He.  He needs to expose the lies to everyone so that it cannot be refuted.  I will go on the record stating this was a fraudulent election, however, it needs to be exposed in a manner of respect and for justice to be served.  This must be done first through the law and not through war.  Our President deserves due process and so do we the people.  We must avoid a civil war until it becomes necessary or it is God’s will.

What do warriors do?  They suit up.  They put on that helmet of salvation (which was secured through our faith).  Add the breastplate of righteousness, cover that with the shield of faith and tighten it together with the belt of truth.  Put on the gospel shoes and do not forget the sword of the Spirit.  We are fully covered when we wear this suit of armor.

We must face the battle head on, be firm and be prepared.  This is a war against princes and principalities, not against the flesh.  It is fought in the spiritual realm.  We fight this war for the love of God, love of Christ and for Christian love.  Do not fear and do not turn back.  My God can do anything, but no one can stand against Him.  Have faith, pray unceasingly for Christ is our future hope, and remember God’s inheritance is promised to all believers of Christ.  Never forget that there is power in Christ.  This centers around His promises and His covenant.   When Christ died for us this ended the dividing wall.  Do not give up and remember from my last blog to “Prepare to be amazed.”  I cannot speak for anyone else, but I am confident on how this will play out.  I trust God and I am willing to wait and then I am prepared to move wherever He calls me.  Take care and God bless.

A Time to Listen and Learn

Part One

Right now, as I sit to write this blog, my heart is deeply saddened by the state of our current climate.  Division is ruling and it seems that everyone is taking a side and giving their two cents worth.  The future forecast is gloomy, but it does not need to be this way.  I believe now is the time for all Christians to take a moment and assess where they are in their faith, put on the armor of God, and stand up.  Yes, we are in a crisis, but hope is still vital and needed more than ever.

Everyone feels that this is just a political issue and that it will be resolved once the elections are over.  Sorry to disappoint anyone, but the election is a distraction and not the real issue.  We are at war and we, the Christian, needs to see beyond the distraction and prepare ourselves for this war.  It is a spiritual war as the book of Ephesians points out.

I want to first examine the book of Habakkuk in this blog and then, in my next blog of this series, I would like to provide some words of advice from the book of Ephesians.  Habakkuk is full of many lessons, but the most precious jewel to be uncovered is that God is in control and even when we do not understand what is happening around us, He is still in charge and working.  We need to exhibit patience and obedience as the story will entail.

I want to review Israel’s history and then draw correlations from and compare it to what we, as a nation, are currently going through.  However, first we must look at the context of the time in which all of this is based upon.  Habakkuk’s burden is around 650 to 586 BC.  Under the rule of David, Israel the kingdom was united, but during the end of Solomon’s reign the kingdom becomes divided.  The Northern kingdom was Israel, and the Southern kingdom was Judah (which was the lineage that Jesus would be born into).  As we learned due to this time frame and Israel’s unfaithfulness, many prophets were sent to warn them to repent and turn back to God.

Habakkuk was a prophet during King Josiah’s thirty-one-year reign in Jerusalem.  Josiah was a righteous king who walked in the ways of David, unlike his father and grandfather.  He purged Judah and Jerusalem of idolatry and places of worship to false gods.  At the age of eighteen Josiah started the repair of the House of the Lord.  During this time, the Book of the Law was found and brought to Josiah, as noted in 2 Kings 22:8.

            “Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.”

This broke Josiah’s heart, he tore his clothes, repented, and wept.  He took the book to a prophetess who told him that the curses would happen due to the broken covenant with God as noted in 2 Chronicles 34:21-28.

            “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that is poured out on us because those who have gone before us have not kept the word of the Lord; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book.”  Hilkiah and those the king had sent with him[b] went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath,[c] the son of Hasrah,[d] keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter. 

She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people—all the curses written in the book that has been read in the presence of the king of Judah. Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all that their hands have made,[e] my anger will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.’ Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. Now I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place and on those who live here.’”

During Josiah’s reign, King Nabopolassar reigned in Babylon for nineteen years and then was succeeded by his son Prince Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC.  Previously in 722 BC the Assyrians had captured the nation of Israel.  Both the kings from Assyria and Babylon worshipped and served idols.  This influenced both Israel and Judah.  During a fierce battle at Carchemish (Megiddo) King Josiah died from his battle wounds from Pharaoh Necho II (Pharaoh of Egypt who had helped The Assyrians fight Babylon).  Around 586 BC the Chaldeans carried away the people in Judah into captivity.  Both the major prophet Jeremiah and the minor prophet Habakkuk were taken into captivity as well.  So, who is Habakkuk? He is believed to be a minor prophet that lived during a revival, but then saw the chaos that arose when the succession of kings did not follow the Lord.  He wrote this book during the 25-year timespan when Babylonia conquered Nineveh and the Assyrian empire – around 612 BC and through the fall of Judah when Babylon captured Jerusalem around 586 BC.

After stating a brief synopsis of the Israelite history, we can understand that through their failure to repent of past difficulties, judgment will come.  God gives us so many opportunities to turn ourselves around and to repent, but our incessant refusal does eventually bring final judgment.  We get complacent and take God out of everything, our schools, our justice system, limiting or restricting our individual rights, and even go as far as having The Bible in some areas, banned, or removed.  His anger is justified.

However, for Habakkuk to better understand this righteous anger, he poses a few questions to God and expects an answer immediately.  First, he asks how long must he keep asking for help before the Lord hears and responds; thus, questioning if indeed the Lord hears him.  Upon doing this he points out the violence and destruction all around him, but justice has not been served because those in charge have failed to act.  The problem is that the people were no longer affected by the Word of God and were apathetic as noted in Psalms 119:126.

                “It is time for You to act, O Lord, for they have regarded Your law as void.”

Today we are paralyzed when we take God out of everything such as: prayer in schools, not able to study the Word, yet those in power are now proposing that Islam being taught in the schools, bibles are removed from hotels and some libraries and it is threatening to take a more drastic turn and prevent Christians from worshipping as we currently are seeing during this pandemic.

He does not feel that God is moving during this time of chaos.  Haven’t we all been there?  A trial enters our life, and we feel out of control and unable to find answers, let alone closure.  We can hear and relate to the frustration in Habakkuk’s words.  We fill our cups full of fear and let anger mingle with it and then question why it is overflowing?  Could it be that God was tired of pleading for us to learn whatever discipline he was teaching us or tired of us living without a care in the world?  Maybe action had to be taken so that we could get back on the right path again.

God responds and instructs Habakkuk to be prepared to be amazed in Chapter 1:5-11 of this book.  God is not only moving, but He reveals how His plan will be carried out.

                “Look at the nations and watch– and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; they all come bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps and capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on– guilty men, whose own strength is their god.”

Judgment indeed is coming.  Habakkuk was not expecting to hear that and was thrown by this response.  He wanted reassurance of God’s intervention, but God had judgment in mind.  He does not see or understand how this is going to help the Israelites let alone resolve the current situation. Remember that God will use whatever tool He needs to accomplish His will.  Again, we can relate to Habakkuk’s confusion.  How many of us have been in a trial and we got an answer, but not the one we had hoped for?  A lump is found, and it is malignant and must be removed.  A payment is due, but the needed funds to do so is not there and now you are sent to collections.  The perfect job appears, but though qualified, they decide to go with someone else which could lead to the possibility of your home going into foreclosure.

Today, we must look at the underlying current and the foreshadowing we see in Daniel 12:1 and Matthew 24:21.  We have been thrown off kilter this past year with one crisis after another.  Many are speculating if these indeed are the last days.  Personally, I believe that we are in the early birthing stages showing us what the end times will look like when they do finally come, but not as magnified.  I think we are being warned to look out and see what is happening right in front of us.  We also are witnessing God’s hand working throughout all of this.  It will be swift and unexpected. We are forewarned to be alert and ready for when those times do appear.

            “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.”

            “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

Habakkuk’s question moves from his asking for help for the people, but now he questions the plan, which makes Habakkuk nervous.  Judgment was coming and it would be swift, but he is uncertain if the Israelites will die as a result.  Habakkuk basically wants to know how God can approve of this and why is a nation more wicked than Israel being used to carry out the punishment.  Habakkuk reminds God of His God’s promise to their nation that they would not lose their inheritance completely.  However, he concedes that Judah does require judgment and correction, and asks that God will be merciful during this time due to His faithfulness to His promise.

Sometimes when we cannot see the logic of a trial, we naturally tend to write it off, but sometimes we must continue even though we do not understand why it is happening.  We must trust His will.  It is in these moments of silence that we need to bring all our fears or concerns to God and then we need to rely on our faith to sustain us.  Even though the situation is perplexing, we must be patient. 

Our gracious Father does respond again, and His revelation convicts us of the sins of the nation.  He illustrates this with a set of woes to clarify why judgment is coming.  Mankind has seen to their own downfall when they decided to put themselves ahead of others.  We are arrogant and self-serving, but we seek to be in control.  We refuse to depend on and trust in the Lord.  We steal and exhort others for our material gain.  This leads into our desire for power as we are greedy and aim to exploit those below us to meet those needs.  To achieve this, we next seek out violence.  We overthrow countries or devastate portions of our world regardless of the financial and emotional cost to others.  We also give into our lust and corruption by false statements to obtain it or perversion of justice.  However, the main issue is that we refuse to seek out God and be obedient.  We place emphasis on other things/idols and reject Him.

All of this is going on right now in current time.  We reject God by refusing to believe that He exists, we seek to harm others by any means possible, we spread hate and have lost the ability to be merciful, compassionate, and forgiving.  Do we not deserve punishment for this?  We are asking the wrong question and looking for a quick remedy.  We need to draw near to God, repent and serve Him our sovereign king.  We must depend on Him to get us through whatever the trial may be.  Our remedy is to stop fighting and resisting but submit to Him.  Trust Him.  Keep in mind the lessons being taught and learn from them.  Our history is made up of a lack of commitment and respect towards God.  Do not think you have all the answers because my friend, you do not.  Keep in mind that through this storm we the Christian, can see the hope that comes out of the trial because we leaned on God, not the world.  We are His elect and must put Him first in everything. Situations arise and they eventually end, but how we handle it is of the utmost importance.  Assess the situation, take a look at yourself (where you are and what you need to change/learn about yourself), stay connected with God and learn that we must be patient and persevere while He is moving.  He IS moving.  He was then and is now continuing to move.  Watch and do not fear but trust Him. 

My next blog for this series will be focused on the spiritual journey that awaits us.  We must have the necessary armor to defend ourselves against the darkness of this world.  God bless.

It’s Always Time to Share Your Testimony

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been thus far a year rife with disaster; however, it has also been a year of great opportunity.   I know that some of you may be shaking your head thinking where has there been opportunity in all of this?  Let me explain further.

            Because of the disaster or “pandemic” for example, more people have been stepping up and helping their fellow man.  Despite the division some are determined to sow, I see a lot of community unity whenever we stopped where we were and what we were doing and made time to reach out to others in need instead.  People used whatever ingenuity they possessed, to make life easier for those who seemed to be worse off than them. 

            It also matters how we view this situation.  Is it a learning experience or is it a time to throw in the towel and run for the hills?  How do you respond to disaster?  As a Christian we need to realize the purpose of trials.  As Jesus mentioned several times there will be trials and tests for Christians.  Times to be disciplined, times to be refined, to learn and to continuously work on the status of our hearts.  They are meant to be taken seriously and looked at with hope and not despair.  Let us look at a few verses to see what wisdom they offer us.

            Romans 5:3 states that it works patience; 1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches us that though temptation is all around us, with Jesus we can bear the temptation and overcome it; John 16:33 shows us hope when it states that Jesus has overcome the world; Romans 8:18 tells us that though we suffer for a little while, nothing compares to the future glory we will behold; and 2 Corinthians 12:9  shows that God’s grace is sufficient for it is through our weakness that His strength shines through.

             “Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;”

            “ No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

            “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

            “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

            “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

So yes, indeed trials will come as we saw with Jesus and as we experience ourselves when we stand up for Christ and decide to follow Him and share the gospel.  We see in Matthew 28:16-20, that we are commissioned (Great Commission) to share the Word.  As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:20, we are called to be Ambassadors for Christ.  More than that is the importance of sharing our testimony as 1 Peter 3:15; Psalms 107:2; Mark 5:19; 2 Timothy 1:8; Isaiah 55:11; Matthew 10:32 and 1 John 5:11 will attest to this.

            “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

            “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

            “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”

            “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe”

            “Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

            “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.”

            “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

            “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”

            “ And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

So what do we take away from all of this and how do we accomplish this?  God has commanded us and out of obedience we serve Him and do his will.  We do not let the cares of this world sway us from doing what He has called us to do.  Our Lord does not want to see anyone perish as is stated in 2 Peter 3:9.

            “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Therefore, the reasoning is this:  we are commissioned to share the gospel per our Lord’s instructions.  As aforementioned and restated again, Isaiah 55:11 informs us that the word does not come back void.  It is a seed planted, slowly cultivated, and prayerfully comes to fruition and blooms.  We, as Ambassadors, must follow this command and one way to introduce the gospel is our personal experience with Christ.  Your testimony cannot be refuted.  You are a witness to what happened to you and what brought you to Christ.  We open the door with our testimony, start a discussion and then share the gospel.  We must do this for the gift of grace is open to everyone.  God does not force us to believe, he rather gives us the opportunity to hear the word and then decide on our own if we believe it or not.

This world is turning colder by the minute and hatred is running rampant.  I, myself, do not want to see anyone perish and I use the tools God gave me to share this message.  I also pray unceasingly for the souls of many.  I know it is His hands that will open the eyes and ears of many, but I need to plant the seed and then pray for it to take root.

We also need to use our time wisely.  The age of grace could end at any time and we need to make sure we answered the call for which reason we are here.  I know many are afraid of sharing this, but would you rather they perish, or would you seek to tell everyone about this gift?  You must decide and then step up.  Lives are at stake and it could very well be a loved one.

Do not let the current tide stop you from doing this, but accept the challenge, put on your armor, and then go out into the world on a mission for the kingdom of God.

When we meet our Lord, one day we may also meet others who came to Christ because of our boldness and determination to share the truth.  And that my friends would be such a blessing to witness.  Do not waste a day but persevere for the honor of witnessing to others for the furtherance of the kingdom.  Take care and God bless.

Remembrance

Today, as I sit down and prepare to write in my blog, my mind is overflowing with many thoughts.  Our world changed for the worse on 9/11 nineteen years ago, but on 9/12 our world experienced a new ray of hope and unity shone in the background.  Oh, that we can look back and see the damage done, but also note some bright spots that shone through the disaster.

            This is our history, but as it normally does, lessons are found during our most tragic times.  9/11 is not an exception, but rather a great example of how we can pull together for the common good of all involved.

            The night before was normal to the human eye.  No one foresaw what possibly laid ahead for us the next day.  Yet there it was a low hanging cloud over our heads and ready to rain down upon us.  People followed their usual routine and went about their day as they normally did.

            That day nineteen Islamic extremists hijacked four planes and set their plans into motion.  Two of the planes flew into the Twin Towers in New York at approximately 8:45 am and the second plane hit the other tower approximately eighteen minutes later.  It was not long after the planes hit their target that both towers collapsed.  The third plane hit the Pentagon at approximately 9:45 am, and the last plane crashed in Pennsylvania after it was hijacked and then overthrown by the passengers happening around 10:15am.  Roughly three thousand people were killed because of these attacks and many others were seriously injured.  This was the deadliest attack on U.S. soil.

            Do you remember where you were when all of this happened?  I had slept in that morning and as I was getting ready for work, I turned on the television.  I could not believe my eyes.  It was unbelievable.  I watched because I wanted to find out what happened, and I could not turn away. I saw the towers fall and my heart was in my throat.  I was thinking of all the lives that tried to get out but could not.  Some even jumped to their death.  Others sacrificed their life to assist those who were incapable of getting out on their own. 

            Officers and the Port Authority were on the scene within minutes and our firefighters all responded as quickly as they could.  The objective was to do a search and rescue to save as many as possible to do a search for remains.  Everyone wanted to get involved, we had bystanders, the Mayor Rudy Giuliani, local service men (some Marines rescued people from Ground Zero) and the first responders aforementioned sifted through the rubble during the search looking for loved ones, answers or identification as to who these victims were.  Many of these first responders would lose their life by doing so.  There was debris (roughly 1.8 billion tons) everywhere.  People were displaced, scattered and unable to easily contact their loved ones to let them know they were alive.  All appeared to either be lost or falling apart, but just beyond this tragedy hope arose.  Our current view blocked our focus, but it was there, nonetheless.

            Later that night our President Bush made the announcement addressing the terrorist attacks.  He declared a war on terror and targeted the Al Qaeda terrorists (specifically the leader Osama Bin Laden).  We had a plan to recover, to capture and to move forward.

            Out of tragedy our best always tends to shine through.  People helped one another.  Police and firefighters from all over the country volunteered to come and search for loved ones.  Blood banks were started, and blood was donated.  We stood by each other, lifting one another up and offering to help any way we could.  Pictures were posted of those missing or lost in hopes that all could be identified.  The Department of Homeland Security was created to prevent future incidents from occurring.  Tributes were made in honor of all those lost.  We knew the towers were ground zero and a memorial was made there to represent those who died that day.  We hold remembrance ceremonies to honor the lost, to process the grief, to cherish those that are still with us, and to show a united front of what our country means to us.  We cannot understand the immeasurable pain and grief of such a great loss of life, and we must not forget the sacrifice many made nor how we rallied together as a country to get through this.  This is embedded in our memories forever.  Prayerfully, this lesson not only impacted us, but will not be repeated.

            Yes, evil was determined to conquer that day, but it was God who gave us the strength to bear the load and to step up and help one another out.  We did not let our greatest tragedy or fear tear us down, but we allowed it to bring us closer together.  These are just a few of the bright spots to focus on during our darkest hour.

In summary, America has always been a very blessed nation.  It has stood strong over time and I pray that it continues to do so no matter the threat.  It is the land of opportunity for all that are here and all that are seeking a better life.  Yes, like all nations we have our flaws, but the good outweighs the bad.

            During a time of crisis, we chose to stick together and to fight whomever or whatever the foe was that was attacking us.  We chose to fight for our country and the people within our country. We must continue to do this whether our foe is domestic or foreign.  These men and women who gave their life for this country shall not have died in vain.  We need to remember who we are, what we stand for and what we stand against.  We must stand united and not let anything or anyone tear us down or break us apart.  Division at any time is never the answer.  Neither side can withstand division.  One will succeed and one will fail. 

            We need to hear one another out, reason and to seek a solution; then act on that solution.  Remember who we are, why the framers of the constitution fought so hard to preserve our unity, our freedoms, our rights, and what the flag represents for our country and our beliefs.  Learn from our history, then raise our flag high and focus on the pledge we all learned as little kids.  Remember what it meant then and what it represents now.  I will end on that note and restate our pledge of allegiance.

             “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

            Instead of focusing on do you remember, meditate instead on why we must never forget.  We did get through this rough patch and we can again if we learned the lesson we were taught. No amount of gratitude can be enough to thank those for their selfless act.  We are forever indebted. Are you willing to take a stand for your country?  God bless our land, our people, and our country!

The Cost for Sacrifice and the Reason We Must Do So

Have you ever encountered a situation in which you felt the stakes were too high?  Did you think it was better to step aside instead of facing it head on?  What if instead you did face it and what if it cost you everything to do so?  Would you be willing to step up?

One can never truly say until that very example comes upon them and even then, legs do wobble and refuse to stand.  However, there are those few that do not hesitate and risk it all for the right cause.  This is what we are asked to do as Christians.

Today’s blog is looking at persecution in the world and on our doorstep.  First, what exactly does persecution mean?  Under the umbrella of hostility, we have many definitions of what qualifies as persecution.  It is the hostile environment or ill-treatment of others based on race, politics or religious beliefs.  It can be veiled as oppression, victimization, abuse, discrimination and mistreatment (Merriam-Webster).  The focus today however, is persecution against the Christian.

I wanted to understand the depth of this better, so I searched for the most current watch list of where Christians are being persecuted today.  The top ten countries are North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea (bordered by Sudan), Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Iran.  What most of these countries have in common is that they are under Islamic extremism.

Here are some alarming statistics to keep in mind.  According to Christianity Today (in the article “Where It’s Most Dangerous to Follow Jesus” by Sarah Eekhoff-Zylstra 2018), 215 million Christians experience persecution in which Christianity is outlawed or forbidden; thus, punishable by the government.  Out of the ten countries Pakistan has the most violent history with church attacks, abductions and forced marriages. Per Open Doors who provide the Watch List, this Islamic extremism is the driving force of persecution in 35 out of the 50 countries on the list.  Women are raped, sexually harassed, or forced into marriage under threat of death due to their Christian faith.

It is not just Muslim countries but according to Open Doors, the next forefront of future persecution is within Radical Hinduism and Indian nationalism, which will increase the levels of instability that Christians face.

It is a way of life for many countries and it is coming our way soon enough.  Once again according to Christianity Today (in the article “Does the United States Belong on the Persecution List?” by Sarah Eekhoff-Zylstra 2017) domestically, we face an increase of media attacks and more of a legal challenge regarding our religious rights.  However, keep in mind that snowballs may start small, but they do tend to get larger the faster they roll down the hill.  An avalanche is coming to our country.  Right now, it comes to us in the form of lawsuits (such as the baker charged for not making a wedding cake for a same-sex couple), constant media attacks, and the implementation of new regulations such as referendums for teaching LGBTQ history in our public schools or complying to proposed/suggested bathroom alternatives for transgenders.  It can and will get worse as political parties have hidden agendas thinly disguised to implement programs or laws with the said assumption of being politically correct or maintaining set standards by being innovative and progressive, so we can compete with other countries and keep our status quo as a superpower.

We have already taken God out of the schools and our future is threatened when someone can plot to take God out of the church by having pastors/clergy submit their sermons for review.  Regarding our religious freedom, it is being pushed toward private expression per Jeff King, the President of International Christian Concern (in the article “Does the United States Belong on the Persecution List?” by Sarah Eekhoff-Zylstra 2017).  In short, we are falling apart, and I ask, what are we to do, how are we to stand, and is there a remedy for all of this?

Yes, is the answer I would like to address today.  We have been forewarned by Jesus in John 15:18 and 1 John 3:13, that we as Christians, will suffer persecution because of hate.

“If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you.”

“Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”

The apostles have warned us of this as well.  In 1 Peter 4:12-14 we learn this from Peter, but we also are given the answer as how to deal with this hatred.  We also see this warning in 2 Timothy 3:12.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.  But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s suffering; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.  If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you, on their part he is evil spoken of, but on ye part he is glorified.”

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

How are we to combat hate?  We love instead as Matthew 5:44 and Romans 8:35 teach us.  Not only love but give all the glory to God as 1 Peter 4:16 instructs us to do.  Paul even tells us to rejoice during our fiery trials in 2 Corinthians 12:10 and again Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:17 it is more important to do God’s will then to fight evil with evil.  This gives us hope and strength to continue down the path of righteousness.

“But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

            “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

            “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak, then am I strong.”

            “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil doing.”

Persecution is bound to stir up division, but instead of fighting, we need to seek ways to be unified; thus, cohesive.

We are commanded in 1 Corinthians 1:10 that there be no division between Christians, we are instructed in Colossians 3:13-14 to be forgiving of one another, we have the glue named Jesus Christ within us to strengthen us per John 17:23 and Ephesians 4:13, and only then can we recognize the blessing of unity in Psalm 133:1.

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

            “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man has a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.  And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

            “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”

            “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

            “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

It is however, more than just unity.  We need to also show compassion to all regardless of the injustice done to us.  We are called to be compassionate in Ephesians 4:32, instructed how to be the salt of the earth in Colossians 3:12-13, taught that we must bear one another in Galatians 6:2, be peacemakers to our enemies in Romans 12:20, and as God has been merciful to us, to show mercy to others in Lamentations 3:22-23.

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in doing so thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.”

            “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”

We cannot and should not stop there.  We need to now gather all our courage and stand up for those in need of defense.  This is the hardest part, but it is also the most necessary.  In the Bible we are reminded multiple times of why we are to look after those less fortunate than us.

The Old Testament lends us wisdom in Psalm 82:3, Isaiah 1:17 and Proverbs 31:8-9 to show our purpose, our gifts are identified in order to be used effectively in Galatians 5:22-25, the honor and blessing of following this request is invoked in Psalm 1:1, the importance of working together and standing up is pointed out in Romans 12:16 and Ephesians 4:16, and ultimately that there are consequences when we fail to follow this wisdom in Ecclesiastes 4:10.  Again, in 1 Peter 3:8,  the necessity of compassion being shown to all is stressed.

“Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy.”

“Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”

            “Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.  Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”

            “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.  And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

            “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”

            “Be of the same mind one toward another.  Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.  Be not wise in your own conceits.”

            “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

            “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow, but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.”

Our excuse not to act or stand up for others, may or may not surprise you.  Few like to get involved and more likely are prone to being apathetic.

As I just mentioned there are consequences when we decide not to do anything and let someone else either take the reins or the victim suffer on his or her own.

God wants us to act and as Proverbs 17:5 points out, He will punish us for refusing to do so.

“Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker, and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.”

We are forewarned about our desires to live for ourselves only in Ephesians 4:19, to hear only what we want to hear in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, reminded in James 4:17 our failure to do what we know is right is a sin, our apathy for others can lead to our prayers not being heard in Proverbs 21:13, and in 1 John 3:17-18, our insistence to not address or meet the needs of others by either deed or action, thus, begs the question if God even dwells within us.

“Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”

            “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

            “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

“Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”

            “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and truth.”

We all deserve to have a voice.  We also deserve to know someone is out there who cares for us and is willing to take a risk for us.  We have been called to this by God.  We need to search for avenues to find answers to these injustices.  Most importantly, pray for the persecuted and pray for their adversaries.  Pray for comfort for the persecuted and pray for mercy from those who wish to do harm to them.  We have an open line to call on God anytime and we must do so.

Samaritan’s Purse is one of the many ministries that have outreach programs to other countries of which this problem is extremely high.  They focus on sharing the word and growing the church, by assisting the refugees terrorized by ISIS, by training people to be missionaries and help the church stand.  We too can get involved as volunteers by being advocates who raise awareness of this issue, we also can write letters of encouragement to those being persecuted in the church, we can donate financial resources, food and ministry materials; thus, making a dent in this huge problem.  When we seek to find a solution, opportunities will arise. Other ministries to research and contact are Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, Prison Alert, Barnabas Aid, I Commit to Pray and are good places to start.

Are you up for the challenge?  Do you see a light shining down and encouraging you to step up and take a risk?  I pray so.  We need to look out for one another and love the way Jesus taught us to.  There will never be a better example for us to follow than Him!  Isn’t it worth it?  I believe it is.  God bless.

The Joy of Christmas

            Usually every Christmas, much to my dismay, I get the “blahs”.  Sadly, I confess this, and I know this should not happen for a Christian.  This is such a vital joyous occasion, so the “blahs” should not be a part of it.  Allow me to expound a bit.  I do feel the joy, but I am so tired of the commercialism attributed to this holiday.  I am no Debbie Downer, but I just want people to see beyond the glitz and glitter of the holiday decorations and past the frivolous bids to draw us in just to increase yearly sales.  This is a gift-giving time of year, but the gift we have been given is what I want to focus on today.

As a kid I always loved singing Christmas carols and “spreading the joy of the message” as opposed to the non-joy of hearing my voice.  It was a celebration and an honor to sing these songs praising God.  They are revealing to the world the message of the birth of Jesus and continue to do so to this day.  Talk about the Word not coming back void or fruitless!

Do you have a favorite song?  Do you make time to praise and honor God and our Lord Jesus by singing these songs?  Are they just mere words or can you feel the weight of each syllable?  We should praise Him at every opportunity we are given.

In Luke 2:8-20 we are told about the story of the birth of Christ.  This chapter and verses are usually read every year faithfully by churches everywhere.

            “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Imagine our Savior, the King of Kings, coming to and arriving with a humble beginning, yet all of creation (mountains, seas, animals, shepherds, townspeople) acknowledges this auspicious beginning in which everything comes together as prophesied.  The perfect birth, the perfect arrival (no need to go over the top or “show off”).  Every detail was humble and full of praise to our Lord.  Now let’s look at the testimony of these wonderfully written songs of praise.  What do you hear when you listen to the lyrics of these songs?  Ask yourselves and examine your heart.

Do you feel the “unspeakable joy” of Joy to the World?  Can you imagine a weary world finding hope in O Holy Night?  Do you see how O Little Town of Bethlehem proclaims the birth?  This is the setting for the story.  Do you feel the awe of the arrival as the Little Drummer Boy felt when he brought gifts for the baby?  Do you hear the angels streaming from afar praising the birth in Silent Night?  Can’t you just see the humble beginning portrayed in Away in the Manager or hear the angels greeting the shepherds and announcing the birth in the First Noel?  Do you see the promise of reconciliation when you hear Hark the Herald Angels Sing?  What about all of creation acknowledging the King in Angels We Have Heard on High?  Did you notice the shepherds keeping guard and the angels greeting Jesus with sweet anthems in What Child is This?  The theme of peace runs through the songs as well.  In God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and one of my favorites, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day to mention a few.  Can you feel the sadness of the singer when he sings about the hate in this world and the failure to recognize the hope that was just ushered in?  God speaks in this song and the singer acknowledges not only His presence, but that “God is Alive and Doth Not Sleep.”  Powerful and to the point!  Can you feel the slight trepidation Mary must have felt when she first found out she was pregnant, but then joy entered, and can you imagine knowing you were carrying the Savior of our world as you listen to Breath of Heaven and Mary Did You Know?  The wonderment of it all:  seeing the miracles He would perform, the message He would feed us and sustain us with, and the sacrifice He would make to redeem and reconcile us with God.  She would give birth to a King and then years down the road watch Him die for our sins.  Can you describe the awe of the birth as well as Do You Hear What I Hear?  Can you hear the King calling us in O Come All Ye Faithful asking us to give our life to Christ?

Christmas is for this very reason, not to give gifts or go to parties and visit Santa.  I am not telling people to avoid gift-giving, but to rethink the gifts to give, celebrate for this purpose and with fellowship, take care of your brothers and sisters in need.  Spread love and joy by telling the world the truth.  A message we are commissioned to share with everyone.  Possibly impact someone by sharing your journey – your testimony.  Show the adoration due the King of Kings and praise Him before, during, and after the storms that come into our lives.    This is such a fruitful opportunity to glorify His name. 

This is the joy that fills my heart and the joy that I ask you to look for in your life.  I have a Savior, a Defender, an Intercessor who watches over me.  I have peace because of the joy and hope for a future.  Play a song, go caroling and share the joy, but never forget the greatest love that was born from this.  When you set priorities in your life to honor and worship God, the blahs may make an occasional appearance, but they never last.  Focus on what lasts – what is eternal.  Take care, God bless, and I wish each one of you a very Merry Christmas!

The Long Journey Back

Have you ever been on a road and you have no idea where it is leading you?  You know that you are going through something, but you have no idea what the lesson being taught is or when it will end.  You are not alone.  God is indeed with you and He is moving in your life whether you can recognize it or not.  Sometimes I see His hand moving by the way things are shaping up or falling into place so fast.  Sometimes I look back at the storm long after it has passed and see that He was moving all through it, but I could not see it at the time it was happening. 

Today I want you the reader, to concentrate on the hope and promise of His word.  This will be the blessed manna you will feed off and it will carry you during the struggle.  I want to center this blog today around one bible verse and it is found in Jeremiah 29:11. It is my favorite verse and I have clung to it so much throughout my Christian life.

            “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

So much is packed into that verse!  It is chock full of hope, but before I go any further, we need to keep in mind that this verse does not mean that storms will never arise.  Jesus himself admitted that there will be trials in this life and that in terms of eternity they will be short, but on this side of heaven, and in our definition of time, they may last a long time.  However, each storm brings a lesson and serves a purpose.  Sometimes it is the storm itself that will carry you into the next phase of God’s plan for you.  Right now, you are at point A (in the midst of the storm), but in order to get to the next phase or point C, you have to get through the storm first and find whatever nugget of wisdom God is revealing to you.  Maybe you need to be refined before you can go any further.  In my case (which I will go into later) I needed to learn endurance, self-control and refine my whole trust system.  If I skipped from point A to point C, I may miss a vital skill that God needs me to learn in order to be equipped to do whatever His will is for me.  We all run the race and want to avoid the potholes or obstacles that arise, but we may need to stumble or fall for a reason, so please do not overlook this.  The race is best run by those who learn to pace themselves, are prepared for whatever comes along, and adapts.  We want to finish the race, not quit or walk away.

We also must shift our focus as well.  Instead of wanting the struggle to end or for us to be released from the struggle, we need to focus on how to get through the struggle despite the challenges that come along with it.  We have a powerful almighty Lord who can do anything.  He is the hope to cling to, not the false promises of instant solutions.

Let us look at Jeremiah for a moment because he is a great example of someone who experienced trials, but he was encouraged and strengthened through them.  Jeremiah knew that God was there throughout it all and he relied on God’s strength to carry him.  He was despised.  He spoke the prophecy God gave him, but the people refused to acknowledge him or listen to what the message was.  They were stubborn and refused to follow another’s plan.  It was their way or no way.  He was abused.  He was beaten by Pashur, the priest, for prophesying and put in the stocks.  He was sentenced to death by the officials.  He was told by God to write down His words on a scroll and King Jehoiakim burned pieces of the scroll until the whole scroll was burned.  He was left to die in a cistern that was filled with mud in the court of the guardhouse.   He was called a liar by Azariah when he prophesied that the Israelites should not go to Egypt to live there. 

This is important for us to observe and learn from.  By his enduring his suffering and continuing his ministry this became a foreshadow of what Jesus would go through.  Jesus went through many trials and he never sinned, so why would we expect not to suffer? 

Hope and obedience to God is what got Jeremiah through all of this and Jesus relied on the hope and promises of the Father to endure all that he went through.  The lesson we need to learn here is that when we exhibit the hope that was given to us by knowing Jesus, we shed any fear regarding the struggle, but rather we learn to embrace the struggle instead.  A good reality check is this:  Jesus went through many trials and he never sinned, so why would we, who sin daily, expect not to suffer? 

I found all of this out firsthand.  For the past thirty years I have struggled from one health issue to the other and I was getting worn out.  My problem was not the struggle, but rather it was how I responded to the struggle.  I was opinionated, stubborn, blind, foolish, and determined to do this on my terms.  I sought advice, but if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear then I moved on to someone else.  I had received much wise advice over the years that I now know God was sending to me through others, but I refused to follow it.  I still thought I knew better.  I lost the last few years of my 20’s, all of my 30’s, 40’s and most of my 50’s before wisdom finally sunk in.  I knew I was experiencing a heaping amount of God’s patience throughout all of this.  He graciously gave me more time to finally learn this lesson.  Time I was not owed, nor had I earned, nor was it given to me to appease me, but He with His perfect timing knew how I was going to eventually respond.

I am writing this today because I want others to stop or break this pattern if it applies to you.  We need to humble ourselves and admit we do not have the strength, the wisdom of our own accord to handle this.  His yoke is light, and He has offered to carry the burden for us.  Please accept that offer.

I look back now at all the times I ate what I wanted despite the medical conditions that required me to follow the right guidelines.  I was foolish by taking matters into my own hands.  I cried out for help and when He sent it, I rejected it and went my own way.  I was conditioned to fight.  To be honest, I was fighting doing this rehabilitation even though I knew deep down inside that it was the only answer for me.  I toyed with the idea of leaving the facility within the first few days because I stubbornly felt I either did not need the help or that I could do it on my own.  But that was a lie!  The devil wants to get us away from God.  He wants us to rebel and fail to listen to wisdom.  He could care less whether you might lose your legs or possibly lose your life.  He is only concerned that you stray from God.  He wants to defeat you any way he can, and he will play dirty to achieve just that.  Do not listen to him.

Today take a long hard look at yourself, what your situation is and what the obstacles are.  Stare them in the face and then ask for help.  Cry out to God and pray for His assistance and accept what He sends you.  Drop your pride and leave it at the door and then follow the plan He sends to or gives you.  These are opportunities to build yourself up and to strengthen your relationship with Him.  Opportunities are open doors to walk through; thus, they serve as a great conduit to accomplish His will. Take each day as it comes and remember that in order to learn the lesson properly it may take a few times to grasp it or it may come sooner, but regardless of that, stick with it no matter how long it takes.  I am just beginning, and I know that this road will still get bumpy.  I need to focus on the here and now, continue despite the obstacles and rejoice in all the achievements, milestones or blessings that come out of it.  I began with a small step and now a few days in I have already lost weight and improved my mobility.  I cannot wait to see how this all plays out and where I am going next.  I no longer doubt or fear it, but instead I want to see what is around the corner.  So, hold on to the hope and run with it.  As I have been encouraged, I want to encourage others.  I will be on the sidelines rooting for you during your struggle and I will pray for you throughout the struggle.  It is in His hands – trust that and just walk in the faith.  His promises are true, and He is faithful. God is indeed good all the time! Best wishes and God bless.

The Struggle is Real

Have you ever been in a situation in which you feel that you are just treading water and still finding it hard to survive?  Everything seems to be a struggle – a force to be reckoned with and yet, no matter what you do, it is unavoidable, and you must deal with it at some point.  Everyone goes through this.  Some seem to hide their emotions well and appear as if all is fine, but most are hit hard and cannot thinly veil their response to it.

How are we, as Christians, supposed to act when it happens to us?  Many times, throughout the bible we are told to endure and persevere.  For example, in Romans 12:12 we are told to:

            “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

We see examples of this throughout the bible; such as when Job endured a huge loss, yet never turned against God, Jeremiah faced threats and prison, but still persevered and preached God’s word, and Paul faced many trials once he came to Christ.  Paul zealously killed Christians, was confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus, and faced many trials once he gave his life over to Jesus.  He faced imprisonment, was flogged, pelted with stones and shipwrecked.  He embodies perseverance.  Another example is the persistent widow who goes before the judge to right a wrong done to her.  She kept on persisting until she wore the judge down.  The greatest example of this is Jesus.  He persevered and did the will of God despite the many persecutions he suffered.  He endured the cross so that we may be reconciled with God and become heirs to His kingdom.

Knowing what to do holds no weight unless you are willing to apply it.  When your trial draws near and the storm feels like it will never end, that is when you need to hold on to God’s promises and remember what He taught us.  He is our refuge in times of adversity, as pointed out in Psalm 46:1 and Proverbs 18:10.  His strength brings you much joy as Nehemiah 8:12 states.  In Isaiah 31:13 we are comforted by His promise to be there and help us in our time of need.

            “God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble.”

            “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe.”

            “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

            “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

We are not alone during the struggle as confirmed in James 1:2-4 and Joshua 1:9. We can walk with assurance and without fear as we learn in Psalm 23:4.

            “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

            “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

            “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Storms can ravage us and last a long time, but when we are connected and have a strong personal relationship with God, then we can overcome whatever the storm brings.  We are His as 1 John 4:4 tells us.  The solution is evident when we read 1 Peter 5:7 and joy, as well as, contentment, can be found in Proverbs 12:25 if we are faithful. 

            “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

            “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

            “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”

Lastly, when we have assurance in His promises, and stay connected, we can face the struggle head on.  Only then can peace come, but we must stay on the path and walk with God.  However, we are to walk with hope as John 16:33 shows us.

            “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

We all struggle, but if we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, we can endure the struggle and continue to do His will for us.  As a Christian this is important advice, but also there is much wisdom behind this as well.  It is instruction that can be applied to our own struggle and to someone else who is struggling.  We all have an opportunity and an obligation to be there for one another.  It all boils down to a matter of choice.  Do you want to be swallowed up by the struggle or find a way to get through and come out stronger on the other side?

Currently I am facing a huge struggle and I made mistakes during this time, many of which I have learned greatly from, and I have made some wiser choices.  I cannot do this on my own and with my own understanding.  I need His strength to hold me up.  I need His hand to hold mine and help me walk without fear.  I do not know the outcome of all of this.  I do know that without Him, I would fail and fall again and again.  Trust that He has you in His hand and that He loves you very much.  Do not look for the “why me” scenarios because we all will have our time of struggle.  Rather look for the lesson or the golden nugget He is revealing.  Maybe you need to make a change and be refined.  Maybe this struggle will become the very tool needed to equip you to do His will.  Please stay connected with Him, continue to pray, and surrender it to Him fully.  He is in control and will never lead you astray.  My heart though heavy because of this struggle is lightened by His word and His promises. I ask any of you who do not know our Lord to seek Him.  He will be found and will draw near to you if you draw near to Him.  We all need a Savior.  Today is a good day to start by seeking Him.  Take care and God bless.

           

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