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The Withered Will Blossom Again

I have had a tough time sleeping the past few days. My heart has been full, and I have something I need to say. I have this deep concern that we are heading down an extremely dangerous path. One, that if we fail to turn ourselves around, will bring us more than just a state of devastation. There will irreversible destruction. I am not trying to be overly dramatic and paint a dark picture. I just want to portray a very real possibility. We have led ourselves here, but maybe if we now can see and learn from our past, we may have a short window open to change.

This is a spiritual issue my fellow brothers and sisters-in-Christ and not a world issue. That, in and of itself, is already steamrolling on its own volution. My concern today is the state of the church. What chaffs my behind, is that if we stop and think, we can turn this around quickly. However, we are not thinking and with a heavy dose of pride, we fail to stand together. We misunderstand what the true meaning of fellowship is about.

I am not addressing someone having their feelings hurt, for this wound is much deeper. I am not stating it is anyone’s specific church, but rather “The Church” which makes up the body of Christ. We have left several doors open for the enemy to intrude, steal, and conquer. Will someone please close the doors! Nail them shut!

I do not know when the change came about. In fact, I suspect it has been this way from the very beginning. In the beginning when it was new the apostles grasped the importance of it. Our Lord Jesus gave His life for it. Why are we so determined to profess our quest for unity and stop right there? Is this a profession of faith or is this considered a trend? Were people using the church for their own personal agenda? When did we stop working together and praying unceasingly? How did we let ourselves drift apart and decide to settle matters all on our own?

As I type this my local church has a weekly prayer drive and we drive throughout the community and pray for the people and the local establishments. Prayer is supposed to be our most important and effective tool, yet we cannot seem to agree to meet and do this. A car or two – a person here and there – but no real obligation except for a few faithful ones. Why? Isn’t it most important to put Jesus first? Did Jesus walk away? I can assure all throughout the bible we have plenty of examples of how Jesus makes time to pray and do the will of the Father. Is this angering you as it is me? It should!

It is as if we are playing at church when it suits us and then the rest of the time we live for the world. Meditate on this last statement. We were put on this earth for a reason. We have work to do for the Lord. The church needs to be unified and that is why we need to participate in fellowship to achieve this.

So, what is fellowship? Good question. Throughout the bible fellowship is mentioned over twenty times alone in the New Testament. God repeats themes and words that are meant to be interpreted as having a strong reference/importance. This is not a typo on the part of the author, but a statement or theme of purpose that we are to examine and follow as we proceed to do the will of God. A body works together to maintain balance and for a smooth existence. Fellowship is the glue that holds all the parts together. It is essential! The hand needs the fingers and the wrist to fully support it. Without the leg for support our derriere cannot hold us up on its own.

The church needs every cog to move effectively and with one goal in mind:  Serving God. When a fellow brother or sister is down, we gather to lift him or her up. When someone is facing a battle, we arm ourselves with the word and stand with that person.

In the Greek language fellowship is the word Koinonia. It means to hold something in common. The church is supposed to be the body of Christ. We are to be united and to stand with one another during trials. We are to comfort and encourage during the storm. All pieces must work together or otherwise the body cannot stand. We are called to be faithful and obedient to serve the will of our Father. He tells us to do so joyously, and together much can be achieved if we do so. We pray fervently and unceasingly. However, this falls apart when we decide to choose which parts are to work together and which parts are okay to neglect. We let divisiveness take over and as a result, we fail to observe our Father’s commandments and laws.

Meditate on these verses and let the concept of fellowship seep into your soul. Keep in mind it is just as important and powerful as praise and worship. It is built alongside with obedience on the foundation of our Savior Jesus. It runs on pure love; thus, providing more than enough motivation.

1 Corinthians 1:9 

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

1 John 1:3; 1:7

            “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed, our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

            “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

          “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Proverbs 27:17

            “Iron sharpens iron,  and one man sharpens another.[

Matthew 18:20

            “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Acts 2:42

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Romans 1:12

            “That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”

John 17:21-23

            “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

1 Corinthians 12:12

            “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”

2 Corinthians 6:14; 13:14

            “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

            “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Psalms 55:14

            “We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.”

As I read this, I see we are called to fellowship and sweet counsel. This action should stir us up and lead to our loving one another and doing good works for God. We need to mutually encourage one another and keep the others sharp and focused. It is the backbone that needs to be paid more attention to remain healthy. When we fail to observe fellowship, we fail to work together. Right now, the days are long and uncertain. This issue needs to be addressed and followed now more than ever, Jesus is with us, and we have work to do for the kingdom. Let us stand together and spread the good news. Let us not be afraid to continue to meet no matter how dark this world gets. It will get worse, but our light still needs to shine and point towards Jesus. Do not put this on a back burner only to ignore until a future date. Time is short and the church has much work to do. Reach out for your brother or sister’s hand and stand united for the right cause. Jesus is the glue that will bind us. He said He would never leave us and that is in His word. Trust it. Practice it. Follow it and rejoice that many will respond and become a part of the family. Take care and God bless.

Patience My Friend is Golden

We are so blessed in this life to receive the lessons that God brings our way.  At times, being unaware or naïve, we tend to overlook these gems, but the more that you delve into His word you begin to see the blessing that only His wisdom can bring.

The greatest lesson that I have gleaned from the book of Job is the use of patience during trials and I believe that we all can relate to that.  Many of us have been in trials in which we must wait to see what the storm is bringing and revealing.  The main problem for man, however, is that we are not accustomed to waiting.  We always want to know why, and we demand answers now. Yes, we are stubborn indeed.

We have forgotten where we came from and whose we are!  We are born into this world with nothing and what we receive, or sow is the gift of God as Job 1:21 points out.

            “And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

God had blessed Job with a wife and children, land to manage and so much more and he prospered greatly.  Satan came to God with a proposition.  He wanted to prove man’s frailty and susceptibility to being tempted.  He further argued that man would not only fall into temptation, but that he would also curse God.

It was God who suggested Job.  Job was a faithful man who followed the Lord.  He was tempted, but because he had been so richly blessed by God, he could resist temptation.  Job knew he started with nothing, yet he was blessed greatly for his righteousness.  We often presume that God owes us something.  Again, go back to Job 1:21 and it stresses that we came with nothing and we leave with nothing.  Anything we receive during this lifetime is indeed a blessing and should be acknowledged as such.

Satan accepted the offer of testing Job.  He was certain that Job would not only fall into temptation, but he would denounce God.  God gave His authorization to tempt Job, but Satan could not kill Job.  After a parting of ways, Satan began to put his plan into motion.  He was going to tempt Job and make him suffer throughout this test.

Naively, many of us assume that once we come to Christ, nothing bad would befall us.  On the contrary, I found that when I gave my life to Christ, I endured more heartache.  My soul was not the world’s, but it now belonged to God.  We are still tempted, we still sin despite our desire not to, and we will suffer consequences for our actions.  I am not pointing fingers, but rather I would like us to take the storms that come our way and navigate through them.  How do we do this?  We put our trust in God and let Him lead.  We grow impatient and want answers now, but what are we willing to give in return?  Are we willing to take a deep look at ourselves and admit when we make mistakes and fall?  Do we take it to God, or do we just assume that all is okay?  Wake up!  We must acknowledge our actions and accept the consequences that may result from this.  We cannot sit in the corner and ask why me?  People, we are sinners, and we do things that we are not supposed to do, yet God wants to refine us and remove the dross from our lives.  I used to have a “wicked” temper and I was too quick with the comeback.  My sarcasm was spot on, but I was doing wrong and harming someone with my words.  God taught me several lessons to point this out and now I try to think before I speak.  I do not want to cause anyone harm by my words and I do feel bad if I slip.  However, I take it to God and confess and try not to go back to my old nature.  This is just one of the lessons I have been taught and it usually came during a hardship or low point.  God wanted my attention, and this was a productive way to get it.

I am not saying Job was doing anything wrong, but nevertheless an important lesson was being taught.  So, let us explore this further, shall we?

After Job lost everything:  family, cattle, and his health to mention a few, his “friends” came to console him.  Careful who you let in the door during your weakest hours.  They may be a familiar face or seem concerned, but they keep their real reason concealed from you – at least at first.

Everyone has a few fair-weathered friends and as usual they show up at the lowest point of your life and seem to have all the answers.  They talk, assume, continue talking, and then tell you what you either did wrong or advise you as how to correct the matter at hand.  Job’s so-called friends are no different than those we know today.  He listened to what they had to say, but like so many of these types of friends, they did not hear how Job responded.  They were determined to keep him under their thumbs by pointing out what he lost and why he lost it.  In their minds he committed a grievous sin against God, and he was being punished for this.  They jumped to conclusions people.  I know several people who always assume and place blame without having the whole story.  They were pompous and acted very condescending to Job.  He let God down, but they failed to apply that to their own life.  I liken this to going to court and having the prosecutor presenting the case and then the jury feels they heard enough and found the defendant guilty.  No opposing counsel to present his side.  Their minds were made up and everyone was ready for the sentencing to begin.

However, let us take a quick look at what these friends did do right.  They traveled to come and see him and mourned with him and sat with him for seven days.  On the seventh day they began to speak.  They empathized and administered to Job during these first few days.   Whenever we go through a dark valley it is humbling when we see those faces that we have become accustomed to.  A person who is willing to travel, hold your hand during a crisis, bend an ear to listen to your pain and administer care is a treasured jewel.  They were indeed on point for all of this.  But then they spoke!

It is hard enough going through a hardship and tried to get re-acclimated to new situations and settings.  Having those around you who have not experienced what you are going through but advising you nonetheless on what they perceive you did wrong, can shake you to the core or limit of tolerance.

These friends started off with good intentions, but then they had to get their point across.  The first mistake is that they try to speak for God.  They point their fingers at Job and accuse him of the mess that he is in due to disobedience.  No one should ever speak for God.  God was not punishing Job.  At the beginning of all this Satan approached God and arrogantly stated he could get someone to curse God through the difficulties of life.  God suggested Job someone who was faithful and obedient.  That does not sound like punishment to me!  God was making a point that a true follower will stand on the truth and not curse God during the rough patches of life.  Job was an example set, not a punishment.  God allowed this to happen and that makes the difference.  Sometimes when we suffer it can be a test to strengthen our faith, or some other purpose is coming out of that trial that God wants to direct you to.  The friends assumed the worst yet failed to seek God for answers.  They should have taken note to the earlier conversations they had with Job when they empathized with him.  They should have encouraged Job to continue and endure the hardship.  They should have said they would stand by him no matter what.  Advising him to wait to hear from God.  We all tend to jump the gun and assume first, and only after the trial is over, we see the real reason for the trial breaking through.

I went through many painful times and some of those times the trial seemed to be impossible, and I wanted to just stop going on.  However, during some of these times it was the trial that propelled me to something different and more rewarding.  We need to pray on this, and we need to wait for the answer or revelation.  Trust him!

The final part of this blog that I want to focus on is the lessons we should have recognized about our God.  First, God not only knows all, but He sees all – right down to the most minute detail.  In Hebrews 4:15-16 we learn to draw strength from Jesus who has been tempted.

            “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Job revered God, but he failed to see all that God encompasses.  He questioned God, but where he went wrong is that he expected to be told why or receive justification for this trial.  I do not believe God minds when we earnestly and respectfully ask Him questions.  However, we have no authority to demand answers or justification.  It is out of His nature that we get answers from time to time.  Keep in mind we have just a glimpse of what is, and we lack the knowledge and comprehension of seeing the whole picture.

In Job 2:10, Job gives us an important piece of wisdom.  His wife basically tells him to curse God for his misery and he responds as follows:

            “But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’  In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

As I mentioned before, nowhere in The Bible is it mentioned that everything will be sunshine and roses once you come to Christ.  We will suffer trials and hardships.  However, as Paul points out, we need to be content no matter the circumstance.  We are all just a breath away from death.

My next point is that God establishes the time and limits of our trials.  Everything is on His timing.  We just need to focus on Him and continue despite the trial.  Some trials that I have gone through seemed to last forever.  As I continue to grow, I see that whenever I was being moved elsewhere or beginning a new chapter, the trial seemed unbearably long.  Again, we must reason that since we have just a glimpse, we cannot see what details must be met before the trial ends.  Waiting is hard – ask Job.

During trials do not focus on why, but how I can grow from this lesson.  Most of us, myself included back in the day, used comebacks to justify our need for vindication of the trial.  For example, I demanded payback if I was wronged, or I am going to show you how fast I will heal mentality.  I was young and arrogant; thus, I needed this trial to learn how to accept the hardship, pray on it and grow.  His patience was graciously extended to me during these times and for that I am grateful.  God’s reasons are beyond our understanding as Elihu pointed out to Job in 33:12-22.  He states that God is greater than man and who can contend against him. Man has charges against God (as Job pleads his innocence) and because of our limitations, we are unable to justify those charges.  Arrogantly, man still is determined to defend himself before God.  We need to listen for God to speak to us whether it be through His word or in a dream or vision as He spoke to the people in the Old Testament.  As we go through a trial, do not focus on our justification of our actions, but rather we should seek God and ask for His wisdom and guidance through this.

Seek the lesson being taught and do not look at your situation in which you ask why you are going through this.  Why will never be answered unless God wants us to know.  Place your trust in the Lord in the face of anguish.  Once the lesson is taught you will receive your reward in whatever form it may come.  For some it will be a wiser perspective, for some it may involve a new chapter to write and explore.  Our God is faithful, good, and true.

We must learn to wait, listen, and then act.  In my next blog of this series, I am going to take a closer look at Joseph and his time in prison.  There is a nugget of insight on what we learn when we persevere.  Until then take care and God bless.

Hope Never Hurts

Whenever things start to get a little out of hand and you doubt your ability to muster enough energy to get through it, do you ever wonder if it is worth all the hassle?  The crisis of the day seems to be too much to absorb, let alone, face.  It is here that you need to gather your thoughts and concerns and take it directly to God.

You may be asking why or why me?  Am I ever going to catch a break?  Calm down and then get down on your knees and pray.  God promises throughout The Bible that He is always there and will never leave us.  He tells us to ask Him for help or answers and yes, even assures our future contentment and peace of mind when we choose to surrender it all to Him.

Prayer is underrated and often discarded.  We know how to cry out for help, but do we remember to praise Him throughout the good and the bad?  As we make that private time between ourselves, the Lord lets us revel in the intimacy of it.  We have the honor of talking with God.  He genuinely wants to hear from us and asks that we lean on Him during the good and the bad.  However, this should not be used only as an admission of our sins, we truly need to confess and repent for those, but we need to be fortified as well.  I call it a refueling of our souls.  As we kneel in prayer let us remember all that He has done, is doing and will do for us.  We have so much to be grateful for!

We are entering holy ground when we go to our prayer room and talk with Him.  Thank Him for the blessings, praise all that He has done, talk and then wait for Him to respond.  Sometimes as I pray a verse will pop into my head.  I know what the Bible says, but I do not (especially as I get older) remember all the verses word by word or I can mention the book, but not remember the chapter or verse.   He knows what you are referencing.  I have my bible with me as I pray, and I have a journal to take notes.  The tools I mentioned are also a great way to look back and see how far you have come on this journey, what knowledge you have gained and the clarity that now replaces the once foggy picture that is your life.  As I begin to speak, I concentrate on what I have learned today or what has He reminded or convicted me of.  Listen and enjoy the beauty of the silence.  His voice will speak to you.  Do not be afraid to let your emotions out.  Cry when you feel like crying and rejoice when joy comes over you.  Take each moment as just that – a moment.  Absorb it and let His mere presence lift you up.  So, raise those hands, shed those tears, bang your chest if needed, but always show Him reverence and respect.  Praise Him always and when finished, then leave the room and meditate on what you have experienced and learned.  Let the joy seep in and then focus on the hope that was borne out of this time with our Lord.

Take away this bit of advice:  not all is always revealed at once.  It is His timing, and we must learn how to be patient and learn how to endure the trials life brings us.

I have chosen two amazing individuals from The Bible.  I chose Job for his patience and Joseph (Jacob’s favorite) for his endurance.  When I walked down their paths, I felt their pain and anguish and I learned determination and strength to continue my journey.  Everyone has a story, and everyone has a lesson wrapped inside of that story.  Let us, in this series, look at these two believers and maybe unravel our own story a bit.  My first blog in the series will focus on Job and then the last blog of the series will focus on Joseph.  Take care and God bless. 

Reflecting On Holy Week

Before we celebrate Resurrection Sunday, we must first look back at the beginning of Holy week.  This is the most powerful week of the year.  It contains a wide range of events and emotions are on overload as well. 

            Resurrection Sunday (besides Christmas Day since that would be necessary for Resurrection Day to occur) is the most important day of the year.  This very day is what Christianity hinges upon.  If Christ did not rise from the dead Christianity would not hold up.  However, because He did, it not only holds up, but demonstrates that death was defeated, and Satan lost the fight.

            The beginning of Holy week is Palm Sunday.  This is the day embracing the triumphal arrival of Jesus entering Jerusalem for the Passover.  The day must have been fraught with electricity.  Imagine Jesus is riding on a donkey with coats strewn upon it and people tossing palm leaves on the ground.  The people are excited to see Him and cheer Him on as he passes by shouting Hosanna Hosanna.  Hope is all around and positivity abounds.

            The mood changes however the next day when Jesus enters the temple only to find the moneychangers making a mockery of the holy temple.  In righteous indignation He turns over the tables and says:

            “It is written, my house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

The people forgot where they were and took their wares to a holy place to profit.  Jesus addressed this and put them to shame.

            Tuesday becomes even more ominous.  This day Judas makes an important decision, and he negotiates with the Sanhedrin to capture our Lord.  For thirty pieces of silver Judas sells out the Lord.  Again, His enemies appear as He was teaching in the temple.  They were determined to test him and began by asking questions and demanding to know by whose authority does Jesus speak.  He does not answer them directly, but rather indirectly he speaks to them in the parable of the vineyard, of which they do not get the answer they sought.  They continue to question Him and asked if it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar.  Jesus has them show him a penny and then asked the crowd whose image is on the penny to which they answer, Caesar.   He responds accordingly in Luke 20:25

            “And he said unto them, render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.”

Still not satisfied the Sadducees step in to try to “trip up” Jesus.  They tell a story of woman who is widowed and marries the oldest living brother to carry on the family name.  It continues that as each one dies the woman marries the next brother until they are all deceased, and no child was born.  They ask who she is married to in the afterlife (knowing that they do not believe in heaven). Jesus responds in Luke 20:34-38.

            “And Jesus answering said unto them, the children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.  Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.”

Then to put them (the Sadducees) in their place he poses a question for them to answer in Luke 20:39-47.

            “Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said.  And after that they durst not ask him any question at all.  And he said unto them, how say they that Christ is David’s son?  And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son?  Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples, beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts, which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.”

            Wednesday is more contemplative as Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives and prays.  He reflects on the mission set before him and determined to do the will of the Father, he is now refreshed and ready to proceed.

            Thursday the disciples get the room ready for the evening Passover dinner.  Jesus points out what is going to happen, also teaches them a wonderful lesson on servitude.  It is better to serve than be served.  He demonstrates this by washing the feet of the disciples; thus, giving us an example to live by.  As they all sit down for the Last Supper Jesus tells them that he will not eat or drink until the Kingdom of God appears.  He offers them bread (symbolizing his body which he gave up for them) and wine (symbolizing his blood shed for them and which is the new testament).  He instructs them to eat the bread and drink the wine in remembrance of Him. He then proceeds to tell them that someone at this table is going to betray him and they all look at one another and question who it is.  Jesus also informs Peter that Satan wanted him, but Jesus prayed for strength of faith for Peter and that it would not fail.  Peter said he would go with Jesus wherever He went, but Jesus warned him that before the cock crows Peter would deny Jesus three times.

            Later that night, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him to the garden of Gethsemane to pray.  As Jesus prayed to the Father gaining strength to finish what was started, the men below had fallen asleep.  Jesus came down from the Mount of Olives and saw that they were asleep.  He awakened them and warned them that they must be alert and prepared so that they would not fall into temptation.  

            Judas appears and kisses Jesus to signal to the guards and Jesus was arrested and taken to the high priest Caiaphas.  Peter was questioned by three different people as to being with Jesus in at the time of the arrest and he denied this three times and then the cock crowed.  Ashamed he left and cried.  Judas who had received his thirty pieces of silver, realized what he had done and then he took his life.  Jesus was accused of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God and stating that he would rebuild the temple in three days.  He was next taken to Pontius Pilate who found no reason for him to die, but to appease the cries of the Jews (who demanded his crucifixion) he gave them the choice between a thief named Barabbas or Jesus to be released as was normally done at the Passover.  The crowd, who were already worked into a frenzy, demanded Barabbas be released and that Jesus be crucified.  Pilate granted them their wish.

            Friday was a day heavy with devastation.  Jesus was beaten, flogged, mocked, and then told to carry his own cross on the way to Calvary.  It was there that he was crucified.  What amazes me about this day is the poignancy, but also how Jesus asked God to forgive us for we know not what we do.  He put us ahead of himself to fulfill the will of the Father.  He became the sacrificial lamb and paid the price so that we, all sinners, may receive the gift of grace and salvation through him alone. His eyes turned to those that deeply loved him standing there and watching this happen, knowing that they were losing their son, friend, and teacher.  His mother, who carried him and birthed him only to now watch him suffer and then die.  His followers that stayed true to him huddled together supporting one another.  There was no compassion from the crowd other than that.  There was vitriol, snide remarks, and hatred. They gave him a bitter gall to wet his lips when he was thirsty.  The crowd baited him asking him to save himself if he was the true Son of God.  Even one of the thieves being crucified with him admitted that he, himself, deserved this death, but that Jesus did not.  Even he could see that Jesus was innocent.  The sky darkened, God could not even look at Jesus because he carried the sins of the world and that isolation haunts me.  He calls out “Why have you forsaken me?”  My heart tears when I hear that phrase.  Jesus states “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said this, he gave up the ghost.” 

            The earth shook, the sun darkened, and the veil/curtain was torn.  It was finished – fully. A soldier realized that Jesus truly was the Son of God.  However, the people needed to be sure that he was dead and pierced his side as the water and blood flowed out.  Jesus was taken down, wrapped in linen, and placed in a new tomb purchased by Joseph of Arimathea.  Night had fallen.

            Saturday was a day of preparation of the body.  Some women came and prepared the spices and ointments and rested since it was the Sabbath.

            But then came Sunday!  The women came and the stone was rolled away.  They looked inside and the body was gone, but two men in shining garments stood by them.  Seeing that they were afraid they told the women that He was gone and asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?”  Luke 24:6-8 explains further:

            “He is not here but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words…”

The women went back and told the disciples and Peter and John raced towards the tomb to see for themselves.  The tomb was empty.  Jesus appeared not just to the women, but to other witnesses such as the two men who walked to Emmaus mourning the loss of Jesus.  When Peter and John met with the disciples, Jesus appeared before them and showed them his hands and feet.  Thomas even put his hand into the side of Jesus and believed it was him.  Jesus stayed with them until they received the Holy Spirit forty days later.

He had told them before his death that he would die and that he would rise again.  At first, they may have not fully understood what was going to happen.  However, now they see that He not only rose from the dead, but he conquered death itself.  He is alive, He does live, and He sits on the throne.  This is our hope.  This is what defines and holds Christianity together.   This is the perfect reason to celebrate and be joyous.  Our Lord lives!  He left us with a Helper (Holy Spirit) until we see Him again.  We are not alone, and this was not done in vain. Get on your feet, celebrate the goodness of our Lord.  Evil was defeated, death lost its sting.  Jesus won.  Yes, the previous days were rough especially on Jesus, but we now have a reason to live.  We have a living God who loves and looks out for us.  We need to repent, be transformed to a new life for Him, and tell the world.  So, share the gospel, share your story.  Serve the Lord with awe/respect and obedience.  Make a difference.  Jesus is that difference and I could not be more thankful, humbled, and happy!  Happy Resurrection Day everyone!

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.


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!

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