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Luke 22:31-34 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. 33And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. 34And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
A shipwrecked man managed to reach an uninhabited island. There, to protect himself against the elements and to safeguard the few possessions he had salvaged, he painstakingly built a little hut from which he constantly and prayerfully scanned the horizon for the approach of a ship. Returning one evening after a search for food, he was terrified to find the hut completely enveloped in flames. Yet by divine mercy this hard affliction was changed into a mighty advantage. Early the following morning he awoke to find a ship anchored off the island. When the captain stepped ashore, he explained, “We saw your smoke signal and came.” Everything the marooned man owned had to be destroyed before he could be rescued.
The trials and adversities of life are never pleasant, but in them we learn the secrets of His presence. None of us wishes for trials or adversity, but it is through them that God refines the metal of our lives and molds us into His image. Just as metal is placed in a furnace and heated to a white hot state so the dross can be removed, God allows us to enter the furnace of affliction so that He might refine and purify our lives.
In our text, Simon Peter is made to understand the fact that he is about to be tested. He is encouraged in this revelation by the fact that the Lord Himself will take an active part in his trial. I know people who are going through adversity. I know they face battles and trials that cannot be imagined. However, I also know there is hope! This passage lets us know that we do not have to fail in the attacks of life. We do not have to crawl away in defeat, never to be heard from again. Anyone can endure the trials, tests and adversities of life. Even if you have failed, you can still rise from the ashes and salvage what Satan has attempted to destroy. There is Help For Sifted Saints.
“Satan Is Determined To Destroy Your Life with trials!”
Jesus tells Peter that Satan has made a request to have “all” the disciples to test the reality of their faith. The word “desired” means “to demand, to ask for oneself.” The word “you” is plural in nature. It is a request for all the disciples. His demand is that he might “sift” them. This is an agricultural term that refers to the savage process of separating the husk of the wheat from the grain. The wheat was crushed under foot, then it was agitated, or thrown into the air. The chaff, or husk, was blown away by the wind and all that was left behind was the good grain. Satan wanted to tear at the heart of God by proving that there was no reality to the faith of the disciples. Satan believed that he could crush them, sift them and that nothing would be left but a lost heart. He had already done this with Judas! He believed that he could do it to the rest.
We battle a determined enemy. He wants nothing more than to cut the heart of God by sifting our lives. He wants to prove that we are phonies. He wants to show God and the world that there is nothing to our professions of faith. He wants to destroy everything of value in your life. The Bible tells us in 1 Pet. 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” He wants to ruin your testimony. He wants to destroy your home. He wants to wreck your influence. He wants to take away everything of value in your life and leave you with nothing but a devastated shell of what you had!
If he can get you to believe a false profession, he will. If he can get your eyes off Jesus, he will. If he can drive a wedge between you and the members of your family, he will. If he can drive a wedge between you and the members of your church, he will. He will do everything he can to cut the heart of God and ruin your life! He will use whatever tactic he deems necessary to get you to fall, just like he did to Adam and Eve in Gen. 3:1-6. He will never stop until you fall, or you die!
If the devil gets his way in your life and you succumb to his attacks, remember this: Your sin doesn’t just affect you, it affects everyone around you! It is the absolute height of selfishness to live just to please yourself, while having no regard to what your sin is doing to your family, your church and to others in your sphere of influence! Surely you will agree with the Bible where it says in Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”! David’s sin with Bathsheba, (2 Sam. 11), affected him, Bathsheba, their baby, Bathsheba’s husband, and the house of David for years to come! You never walk away clean when you choose to walk away in sin!
“The Saints Have A Powerful Ally In Their Corner during trials!”
While all the disciples were in Satan’s sights, Peter received the promise of intercession. Jesus was praying for them all, but He spoke especially to Peter, because He knew that Peter was about to take the biggest fall, v. 34. Sin isn’t a maybe in our lives, it is a given! The Bible tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10). All the disciples failed the Lord that night, Mark 14:50 “…they all forsook him, and fled.” But Peter went beyond simple failure into the realm of outright denial of any relationship to Jesus when he said in Luke 22:57, “…Woman, I know him not.”
The times of testing and failure will come in our lives, but in the midst of them, let us take courage in the fact that we have Someone pleading our case, taking our part, praying for us in Heaven:
- Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
- Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
- 1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
Satan may have his devices and his schemes to tempt us and try us, but he doesn’t have the last word! In the midst of his scheming and planning, Jesus “butts” in to stand by our side until the trial has passed! He will never leave us, regardless of the task or trial. He says, “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”, (Heb. 13:5.)
Just because a temptation is offered to you, that does not mean that you have to fall into sin. Jesus has equipped us with all the resources we will ever need to be able to withstand anything the devil throws at us:
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
- Hebrews 2:18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
- James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
“No Failure from trials Should Ever Be Considered Final!”
Jesus makes it clear that Peter will fall, “when thou art converted”, means “when you have repented, or come back to me”, but that his fall will not be the final statement of his life. He was going to be restored and he was going to be used of the Lord in a great way. His preaching at Pentecost, and the great acts of faith of his life are some of those ways.
People may come under this kind of attack someday and fall into sin. Some have fallen and have already come back. Others have fallen and are still in that fallen state. It is comforting to know that your fall does not have to define your life!
God has made provision for the cleansing and the restoration of those who fall into sin. Those provisions include Confession, Repentance and Forgiveness. When we come clean about our sins and turn from them, the Lord will forgive and restore the fallen one to a place of service and blessing. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This truth is illustrated in the life of the Prodigal Son and what happened when he returned to his father, Luke 15:11-24.
When a person walks away from the things of the Lord and goes into sin and stays there, it means that one of two things is true:
They were never really saved. 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would not doubt have continued with us: bur they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
They are in open rebellion and are subject to the wrath and chastisement of the Lord. Rev. 3:19 says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
Genuine faith will falter, but it will never utterly fail! Peter came back because he was saved. When he was sifted, it was proven that his profession was genuine. There was some chaff, but there was a grain of real faith too!
When a believer falls into sin, those who genuinely love them will seek to restore them, Gal. 6:1-2. They will not condone or support their sinful actions, but they will not abandon them completely either!
“Never Say Never during trials!”
When Peter hears this prediction he, in typical Peter style, boasts of his love and devotion to the Lord. He vows to go to prison or even to death to prove his allegiance to Jesus. Peter forgot a very important principle of life, “Never Say Never!” No one is above falling into the snare of the enemy. Only when you are in his sifter can you know exactly what you will do! It is a dangerous thing to rely upon yourself and your ability to withstand temptation and testing. The Bible says, “…let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12). We’ve all seen someone act in certain ways and we have said, “I would never do that!” Be careful!
You are weakest in the area of your greatest strength! That may sound like a contradiction or a paradox, but it is true nonetheless! When you begin to think you have an area of your life absolutely conquered and that sin cannot possibly occur there, you will tend to let your guard down. When that happens you can be sure that the enemy will target you for sifting! Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 28:26 says, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” If you have the feeling that “It can’t happen to me!”, you are in danger of falling today!
The way an Eskimo kills a wolf is grizzly, yet it offers fresh insight into the consuming, self-destructive nature of sin. First the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. Then he adds another layer of blood, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood. Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now, harder and harder, the wolf licks the blade in the Arctic night. So great becomes the craving for blood that the wolf does not notice the razor sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue nor does he recognize the instant at which his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood. His carnivorous appetite just craves more–until the dawn finds him dead in the snow!
Such is the power sin has to destroy our lives. Thankfully, it does not have to be that way. Jesus has done everything necessary to provide a plan of salvation that will work for all people. He has promised to pray for us and to see us through the times of temptation and sifting. He has promised to receive, forgive and restore us when we do fail. There is no need for anyone to allow sin to devastate their life. If you want help as you face the times of sifting in life, you will find it in Jesus, and in Him alone!
Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
The Lord Jesus clearly warns that doing good works is not enough to allow a person to go to heaven. Yes they are good things to do, but they will not “earn” passage through heaven’s gates. The first and utmost requirement is to do the will of the Father which is in heaven. If that is not accomplished, everything else has no meaning at all.
What is the will of the Father? It is that we come to him based on the merit of Jesus Christ. That means to understand we are sinners who cannot pay for our sin; to understand that the Father accepted the Lord Jesus Christ’s payment for our sin; and that if we accept that payment for us, then based on Jesus’ faith, God will forgive us and allow us in.
Too many people put emphasis on doing good works to go to heaven. They like to keep control of their destiny. But, my friend, you must put your destiny into the hands of Jesus Christ. He is the Saviour.
In a small Texas town, (Mt.Vernon) Drummond’s Bar began construction on a new building to increase their business. Across the street, the local Baptist church started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayers. Work progressed right up till the week before opening when lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground.
The church folks were rather smug in their outlook after that, until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means. The church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise in its reply to the court.
As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork. At the hearing he commented, ” I don’t know how I’m going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that does not.
Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house, not a creature was praying, no one in the house. Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care, in hopes that Jesus would not come there. The children were dressing to crawl into bed, not once ever kneeling or bowing a head. And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap was watching the Late Show while I took a nap. When out the East there arose such a clatter, I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash! When what to my wandering eyes should appear but angels proclaiming that Jesus was here. With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray I knew in a moment this must be The Day! The light of His face made me cover my head; it was Jesus returning just like He had said. And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth, I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself. In the Book of Life which He held in His hand was written the name of every saved man. He spoke not a word as He searched for my name; when He said “It’s not here” my head hung in shame. The people whose names had been written with love he gathered to take to His Father above. With those who were ready he rose without a sound while all the rest were left standing around. I fell to my knees, but it was too late; I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate. I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight Oh, if only I had been ready for tonight. In the words of this poem the meaning is clear; The coming of Jesus is drawing near. There’s only one life and when comes the last call, we’ll find that the Bible was true after all.
An old gentleman lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:
I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.
A few days later he received a letter from his son:
Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried.
At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.. That same day the old man received another letter from his son.
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.
Vincent was able to help his aging father even though his circumstances were not so good. Because he loved his father, he was able to do something for him that he could not physically do himself. He was able to do so because he didn’t allow himself to be discouraged by his circumstance. He looked for a way to help. He looked for something he COULD DO instead of focusing on what he COULD NOT DO.
Life is full of such similar circumstances. Oh, we are not always going to plant a tomato garden, but there are things that are going to cross out path of life that we are just not able to do; there are times when we want to help someone, but we see that we cannot do what we would like to. These are the times for innovation and application. Oh, I am not saying that we should be devious and get others to do our work for us. Vincent was that way. He lied to get the FBI to dig up his dad’s yard for him. That is wrong of course, because lying is always wrong. But, if we think positively, pray and give God enough time to show us a way, we can do amazing things.
Paul wanted to get Christ preached to the world. He had much opposition to that noble goal. There were people going around preaching Christ in a mocking manner, trying to put a stop to Paul’s ministry (Phil. 1:14-18). Instead of getting discouraged by this big problem, Paul saw something positive. He saw it as Christ being preached. He rejoiced that Christ was being preached. He didn’t get upset, angry; of even try to get even. He rejoiced.
Too often, Christians are leading a discouraged life because their sights are set upon their circumstances. All they see is the evil, bad things. They choose not to see how God is working in their life. The classic Biblical illustration of this is Peter. The disciples were in a boat in the middle of a raging storm when Jesus came walking to them on the water. The Lord beckoned Peter to come to Him, which he did. He was walking on the water just fine until he took His eyes off Jesus and began focusing on his negative circumstances. When he did, he began to sink.
You can identify Christians who are consumed with their circumstances because:
- They always say “can’t.” They talk about what they “can’t” do rather than what then can do. When presented with a challenge, they immediately begin analyzing why they won’t be able to accomplish it instead of putting their energy into thinking how they can do it. In fact, it is amazing how quickly they discard any challenging idea. In fact, they are thinking of themselves: what it will cost them, how difficult it will be for them to do it. The Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13).
- They always make excuses. This goes back to not really wanting to do something in the first place. If a person really wants to do something, and they are interested in it, they will not need any excuses because they will find a way to do it. People do what they are interest in. If they are not interested in something, they look for excuses why they can’t do it. Excuses are different from reasons. Excuses are what we fabricate when we can find no good reason for getting out of doing something we don’t want to do. The Bible says, “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea: and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.” (Jas. 5:12).
- They are undependable. They say they are going to do something, then they don’t come through. If they really cared, they would be dependable, but they are not. Unlike a reason or excuse, undependability is when we flat out lie; saying we will do something when we have no intention of doing it at all. They just tell them what they want to hear so we can get them off of our back and have no guilt. They make a commitment, but they begin looking at the circumstance and back out, leaving the one to whom a commitment was made, hanging out in the wind. The Bible says, “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” (Ecc. 5:5).
- They are “money minded.” They are constantly talking about money; of their lack thereof. They think that without money, they can do nothing, but Jesus said, “…without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5). The problem is a misplaced faith. Their faith is not in the Lord God, but in the “almighty dollar,” but as we know, the dollar can fail. It has done it before, it will do it again. People are constantly bombarded with the idea that wealth is money, but there are more important things than money: happiness, contentment, joy, relationships and love for a few.
- They are gamblers. They depend on luck. People who place their faith on luck, are the most unlucky people in the world. Any true Christian knows that “luck” does not exist. Everything is a design. There is a designer and He has a plan. When you begin looking at what you cannot do because of your circumstances, you are tempted to return to the vomit of “luck” (Pro. 26:11; Job 20:15). The Bible says, “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; not he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” (Ecc. 5:10). You tend to hear them talk about what they will do if they win “the big one.”
- They talk about their past. People who focus on their circumstance and look at the negative will often bring up memories of their past; memories of how they used to be able to do things. But, now, with their circumstance changed, they can’t do anything. The Bible says, “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.” (Isa. 43:18). It does no good to dwell in the past. Old accomplishments were for old times. New times demand, and require, new accomplishments. The Bible says, “…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:18). Because you are a new creature, and old things are passed away, any new thing you do, becomes old right after you do it. Seconds after you accomplish it, it becomes an old thing and is part of your past. When you come across people who live in the past (there is a difference between living in the past and reflecting on old memories), it is because the person is of an negative mind set. They are looking at what they cannot do, instead of what they can do. Yes, they cannot do the things that they once could do, but there is a whole set of new things that they can now do that they couldn’t do before.
- They are easily discouraged. When people convince themselves that they cannot do something, they become discouraged. This discouragement is out of frustration only because they feel that they can’t do what they want to do. Instead of looking for a way to accomplish something, they do nothing and get discouraged about it. It is more healthy for the mind to focus on what you can do instead of what you cannot do.
- They live a false Christian life. In other words, they give up on Christ, but instead of going completely back into the world, they put on aires of being a Christian so that they can hide their embarrassment. The Bible calls this: backsliding and has much to say about it. Proverbs 14:14 says, “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.” The implication is that they begin craving and living the life that they used to live, even though they are a Christian and can never change that. They act like they are spiritual when they are only concerned with themselves.
All of these reasons focus on self. Self is extremely negative because that is the way it feels when it is being deprived. It comes up with the message: “What happened to me? No one cares about me!” We commonly call these: “pity parties.” Contrariwise, the positive outlook pleases others. A positive focus does whatever it can to help others. In short, this is called: LOVE. So, do you seek to do that which you can do? Or do you complain about what you can’t do?
Ephesians 6:11-17 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For 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. 13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
God has a specific manner in which He would have the Christian dress to successfully navigate his earthly pilgrimage. It is not a set of lounging pajamas, nor is it a “dress for success” in the world outfit. It is not a set of rugged work clothes or rain gear. It is called the whole armour of God, and many Christians forget that it is available to them.
Every Christian is to grow up to be a warrior for Christ. As warrior, we must be prepared to defend against the many assaults of the world. Likewise, we should be prepared to attack the influences of evil wherever it reveals itself. When God tells us to “STAND”, He means that we are to “defend the faith once delivered to the saints.” From the very beginning, Christianity has been attacked. False teachers have “crept in unawares” for the purpose of “modernizing” (changing) the way Christ wanted the church to be. There has been a constant bombardment to make the church something appealing to man, taking it farther and farther from the truth. This we must not allow. WE MUST STAND FAST!
Not only are we to stand, but wherever we see one of our enemies: the world, the flesh or the devil, we are to go on the offensive. We must not let them destroy our lives, families, churches, communities or the Bible. We are to do what we can to fight the enemy away. Our Captain, as well as other Christians are in the fight. We too must get prepared and get into it as well. David fought Goliath, Samson with the Philistines, Gideon with the Midianites, and Nehemiah with Sanballat and Tobiah. They didn’t just defend their ground, they took up the offensive against the enemy.
We must be on the watch constantly; watching and praying that we enter not into temptation (Matt. 26:41). Our nature is that we are very willing in mind to do something for the Lord, but our old flesh is not. Self agrees to allow the tongue to say, “I’ll do it” when the brain sends that thought on. But when it comes time, Self always betrays us, turning us into a hypocrite. Then we feel defeated and hesitate to “show our face” again. This is one tactic for getting us out of the battle. To deal with this we must ask the Lord to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We can ask Him to guide our steps to avoid the pitfalls of temptations that we would have come into contact with unless He does. And if we do not follow His guidance, and come in contact with a temptation anyway, we can ask Him to warn us and give wisdom so we can run from it as quick as we can (note: When you run from something, you are running to something as well–Run to the Bible).
Now there are special times when many Christians are destroyed by temptations because they let down their guard. Some of these times are: summer vacation, holidays, times of sickness and times of success. During these times Christians are most vulnerable to attack. When we are out of schedule or not feeling well, we tend to let our guard down. I have many times seen Christians in church and at the altar during times of trial or tribulation in their life. But, when the Lord allows them a successful outcome, they start to slip in attendance, tithing and involvement. They become prideful and comfortable and it seems like the don’t need God anymore because they can now handle things on their own. I often wonder if the Lord allows for trouble in our lives because He knows that is what we need to drive us to church to hear His word.
The Lord Jesus Christ was our example. His life was not a life of ease and comfort. He had spiritual battles, too. In fact, He was tempted in all points such as we are and even some that we are not. He was tempted by the Devil in ways that we will never be tempted. When He was on the cross, some of His own people tempted Him to come down and prove Himself, but He continued His fight to pay for the sin of the world. We too need to recognize there is a battle which rages around us and we must fight; defend our ground as well as attack where needed.
Spiritual warfare often surprises many Christians because they are not looking for it. Like the American fleet at Pearl Harbor that fateful day, they know they are in a war, but are relaxed because they don’t think the battle can come to them. We need to be armed, trained and ready for the imminent attack of the enemy. He is a hardened veteran with many years of battle experience. He never relaxes, never takes a day off, never regroups. He is deadly and dangerous to the life of a Christian. So, we must always be prepared to fight him on any ground. We must always be vigilant and the first step is to recognize there is a war, and that we are in it.
Some people try to equip themselves with “enlightenment,” or the “power of positive thinking” or “love.” Whether it is meditation, yoga, or even putting your head in the sand, none of these are God’s appointed formula for equipping yourself for the battle. There is no other armour sufficient to take the place of God’s armour. His armour provides the protection that is needed and we must use every piece of it. No part of our life can be exposed else the armour would not have its designed effect. We must put on the “whole armour of God.” If one part is missing, then we are exposed. If we use all of God’s armour, but decide to exchange one piece of it for something else, then we are exposed and the whole suit is useless. His armour is properly designed to work together as an entire suit for dealing with the battle the Christian is in.
This girdle or belt ties all the other armour together. It keeps the robe from tangling. The meaning of “truth” in this passage is sincerity, transparency, or realness. The Scripture mentions the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Realness, sincerity, or transparency sets us free from being a fake. It frees us from the “fear of man” or peer pressure. God hates hypocrisy. The word hypocrite means “actor” or “one who wears a mask.” The first piece of armour is sincerity, realness or transparency. Being real keeps us from many of the attacks of the enemy.
The root word of righteousness is “right,” as in being right with someone. The breastplate guards the most vital organ–the heart. Right living guards our heart from wrong emotions and temptations. The habit of right living is a defense against wrong. We are to be militant—“zealous of good works.” Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
A wise general looks after his soldiers’ shoes. If they wear out, the troops cannot travel. The roads are rough! Footprints of peace are to be left by Christian soldiers everywhere they go. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9). Romans 10:15, “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” We are to leave peace wherever we go and bring peace between God and man as we witness. Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Prayer keeps our mind at peace. Prayer keeps our footing firm. God gave us feet so we could spread the gospel. Let’s use them for Him!
The Roman shield was about as big as a door. It protected the entire body. They could even be hooked to other shields to form a wall. Some even poured water on their shields to quench fiery darts. In the Old Testament, God told Abraham that He would be his shield and strength. Our shield of faith comes from Bible reading. Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Faith makes us grow. Faith protects us from heresy. Faith entices us to claim God’s promises. Faith is believing God’s word to the point of putting it to the test.
The helmet is the most elaborately designed piece of armour, and it is beautiful. It is a picture of ASSURANCE OF SALVATION. A Christian who has doubts about whether he is saved or not will not win many battles for God. The helmet also guards the mind. We are to guard what thoughts we allow to enter our mind. Philippians 4:8, “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.”
The word of God is the Holy Spirit weapon in our hand. It is the same weapon Jesus used against the devil in Matthew 4:1-8 where he constantly said, “It is written…” Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” The sword is for close confrontation after arrows had been shot and spears thrown. The sword was double edged. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Carry it wherever you go! Don’t be caught without your weapon!
Just as a soldier dresses before battle, so should a Christian put on his armour each morning. As you put your belt on in the morning, ask God to make you sincere. Determine in your heart to be truthful with yourself and with others. As you put on your shirt or blouse for the day, determine to live right. Ask God to help you in areas of weakness. Guard your heart for the day. Watch your emotions. Love the Lord with all your heart. Tell Him so! As you put your shoes on, ask God to make you a peacemaker. Ask Him to give you power as you look for opportunities to witness for Christ. Put your Bible in your clothing or purse to have it with you all day. Find Scripture to meditate on all day! As you comb your hair, reminisce about the day you were saved. Praise God for it. Guard your thoughts. Begin your day with a song to keep depression away.
Before you leave the house for the day, remember you are a soldier. There is a warfare to face. Do not be surprised or discouraged over problems during the day! Put on the whole armour of God and be prepared.
Many churches love their pastors and show it by taking good care of him. They stand by him and what he is trying to do for the Lord because they know what he is facing. They understand his situation because they think about him, know he is a man and value him as a gift provided to them by God. But if I am to believe some of the survey statistics published on pastors and their view towards the ministry, the vast majority of fellow pastors do not receive such care. Consider these figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute:
Hours and Pay
- 90% of the pastors work between 55 to 75 hours per week, even though their congregations don’t see it.
- feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
- 70% of pastors are grossly underpaid and with what they do receive, they are usually the biggest giver to their church.
Training and Preparedness
- 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
- 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered it.
Health and Well-Being
- 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
- 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a sufficient living.
Marriage and Family
- 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
- 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
- 80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
- 70% do not have someone they consider as a close friend.
- 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
- #1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change and become critical of him.
- 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
- 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
- 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
- Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
- Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month, many without cause.
- Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.
That’s a sad and alarming picture, isn’t it? Work long hours in a job with too many demands for too little pay. Many have the wrong skills and the wrong expectations. Families being pressured and battered. Pastors are discouraged and depressed. No friends, serious conflict once a month, and people who will not follow. Is it no wonder so many quit so soon?
According to one survey, only 23% of pastors report being happy and content in their identity in Christ, in their church, and in their home.
I suspect, however, that men in these situations might be crippled all the more were they to faithfully preach a text like 1 Tim. 5:17-20. They would be seen as self-serving and courting with more hostility and dissatisfaction from a people already running afoul of God’s call to churches to honor faithful servants.
So, I’m hopeful at least some of God’s people would consider these statistics, reflect upon their church’s treatment of their pastors, and perhaps lead a conspiracy to make sure faithful elders receive “double honor” from those they teach and lead. Let’s face it: we can’t get survey statistics like these unless it has become an unchecked commonplace among congregations to gossip and gripe rather than to breathe grace toward church leaders. These statistics indicate a pandemic culture of disregard and dishonor aimed at pastors. That’s to the church’s shame.
I’m praying that Hebrews 13:17–rather than rejected as giving too much authority to leaders–might be embraced by individual members and congregations as one means to growth in Christ and deeper joy as the family of God. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
It was a hot morning in July when I was asked to attend a Child Evangelism Fellowship camp. I must admit, I was not too keen on the idea of having to go there, mostly because I would be surrounded by people whom I did not know. I was even more set against going when I realized it would be in a den of charismatic teaching, so I would have to walk lightly. The teenagers were delightful though. That seems to make the aversions fade some.
Dee and I were assigned two teenagers to work with. They were very knowledgeable in the Bible, but had trouble with being embarrassed giving out the gospel. They relied on me to teach them and at that time in my Christian life, I had very little experience myself. When they would undergo the training, I too would pay close attention. We learned to tell a story while using flashcards. Dee was the best at it and I was the worst. I have a difficult time with memorizing anything and we needed to memorize the story.
Then came the time to go out and use what we had learned. A wonderful lady had signed up to host a five day club in her home. She had invited about 12 children from her neighborhood to come to the club. We had games and snacks and then told them the first story from the flashcards we had. All of the kids were so mesmerized by the story. They were taking it in like a tall cup of water on a drought cursed land. I was not too amazed when a couple of them got saved that first day and there were four more to follow. Eventually all twelve of them got saved. The story doesn’t end here.
The effect this five day club had on me was profound. I was so excited to see that it was not that difficult to lead someone to the Lord. These teenagers did it just by using these flashcards. I decided that I could do the same. I tried it one afternoon back home. I went out to the park where I saw a group of kids playing in the playground. I walked up to them and asked if anyone wanted to hear a story. Not all at first, but most of them came to hear about God. Using the same flashcards those teenagers used, I was able to lead seven people to the Lord that very day. I admit I was excited. I had never felt this way before. It was very satisfying. Next weekend, I went to an apartment complex where there were always kids playing outside. I did the same thing, “Would any of you kids like to hear a story?” Almost all did. Some even went and got their mothers who came out and listened as well. Right there in the playground, I led several others to the Lord. Like a bear who got his first taste of flesh, I wanted more. This is how I began winning souls to the Lord. It seems so very long ago, yet it is still a near memory which always puts a smile on my fact.
I thank the Lord for teaching me to lead souls to Christ. I learned how to do it. It is not a natural attribute; it is a skill that can be learned. Once learning how to do it, you want to do it more. It is like going fishing and catching your first fish. All of the hours sitting quietly in the boat seem to be worth it just to catch another.
1 Thess. 5:11-23 11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. 15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. 16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The SOLE business of the church is SOULS. The church is souls looking upward in praise; inward in penitence; outward in practice; and forward in promise. The church at Thessalonica was church born out of the storms of persecution (1:6; 2:14; 3:3-7). Paul gives this church a check-list for encouraging one another (5:11). How does he do this? By telling them to “Comfort” (vs. 11, 14) and “exhort” (vs. 14).
- Building up one another (5:11).
- Value and Love church leadership (5:12-13).
- Avoid Quarreling (5:13)
- Warn the undisciplined (5:14)
- Comfort the fearful (5:14; cf. Isa. 35:3-4)
- Care for the weak (5:14)
- Practice Patience (5:14)
- Do good to someone who treats you wrongly (5:15)
- Rejoice in everything (5:16; cf. Hab. 3:17-19)
- Stay in an attitude of prayer (5:17)
- Maintain an attitude of thanksgiving (5:18)
- Don’t smother the spirit’s working (5:19)
- Beware of a bad attitude towards preaching (5:20)
- Stay clear of compromising situations (5:22)
All too often I am amazed at the so called “Christian Community” for their lack of understanding God. In fact, it has been perplexing. When I think of what God did in my life; how He saved me from the grip of death, cleansed me and set me in a noble place with Him, I feel like I owe Him my life. I am sure that others feel the same, but their sacrifice to Him seems to be so misguided.
When it came birthday time or Christmas, a time when I would be receiving gifts, I hoped I would get something I liked. In fact, I went a little beyond hoping and dropped hints to Mom and Dad in order to give them good ideas. I always loved it when they asked me, “What do you want for your birthday?” or “What do you want for Christmas?” Sometimes I got it, and sometimes I didn’t. But, I can tell you, when I got the thing that I wanted–the thing I asked for–I was happier than when I got something I didn’t ask for. Now that I am older and can look back on that, I wonder why that is? I think the answer lies in my present relationship with God. You see, as a born again child of God, I know that He has asked me for certain things–there are certain things that He would like from me. When He gets them, He is much happier than when He gets something He didn’t ask for. God greatest request of me; The thing that is on the top of His list of things He would like, is that I love Him more than anything else and that I love others as I love myself (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).
So, how do I accomplish this one request which contains two aspects? He told me how I could do that. He told me that I should win souls. This one activity encompasses loving God (Doing what He told me to do.) and loving others (showing them the way of life). It is by no accident that I use the phrase “showing them the way of life” because if I used the phrase “preaching the gospel” people might get confused. The phrase “preaching the gospel” has become so diluted that no one can really interpret it anymore. This is where my perplexity begins.
The gospel that we are to preach; the gospel that pleases God; the one that is at the top of His “wish list,” is the one that results in another soul being saved. If you have any merit as a Christian at all, then you know what I am speaking is true. You know it because you were once unsaved and someone told you how to accept Christ as the atonement for your sins. You know it! You might have been saved for so long that you have forgotten it; or, you might have backslid from it, but you know it. You know it because the Holy Spirit is in you and He is constantly urging you to tell someone about God’s substitute for their sins. You know it! You are either ignoring it or you are evading it, but you know it!
Some people think that “preaching the gospel” is:
- Having a nice social where they all get together and have tea and cookies and bring a guest.
- Sell Amway or other self-marketing items
- Help people with their chores (i.e. wash their car; cut their grass; do their shopping; etc….).
- Joining ecumenical “Christian” activities.
- Letting their kids go to church while they stay home.
- Singing in the choir.
- Talking with the preacher.
- Reading their Bible.
- Supporting para-church groups.
- Helping others in their churches.
- Being friendly to people of other churches.
- Not offending anyone.
- Living a good life.
- Supporting the Red Cross.
- Feeding the poor.
The list is practically endless. If you think about it, many of these things are really good things to do. In fact most of them are good things to do. But, the gospel is not good things–It is good news of a certain kind. It is the good news that Christ came and died and shed His blood so that you can be free from your punishment if you so choose to accept THAT THING HE DID FOR YOU!
There is another grossly misused phrase amongst the so called “Christian community”. It is the phrase “accepted Christ” or “accepted Jesus.” To be saved, a person does not need to accept Christ or Jesus as much as they need to accept what He did for them, and that He alone could do it because HE IS GOD! To be saved, you must accept what He did, and who He is. It is a little incomplete to ask someone, “Have you accepted Jesus?” You must accept who He is, what He did and how He did it.
So, we have an army of so called “Christians” who have taken salvation freely, but after that, they could care less for the rest of the world. They are saved. They are living out their Christian life, getting along with others, being good church members, helping the elderly, etc… but they are not giving to God what He asked for. At the top of His wish list is: souls to be saved. That is what He wants. But what He gets is a bunch of “good stuff”, but it is not what He asked for. Just like I would feel a little rejected by getting clothes, a new lunch pail, shoes, toothpaste, or patches for my old jeans, the Lord God gets from us–GOOD WORKS, and feels a little unloved.
Can you imagine how God would feel if you brought to Him some souls that you worked hard to get saved. Have you ever opened the gift and said, “WOW! Just what I asked for! Thank you so much!”? Wouldn’t that be great if God could say the same thing over your life? Or, do we keep giving to Him a bunch of good junk? He wants us to love Him and love others. How does Christian involvement in ecumenical groups do that? Think about it! You know! You know what He wants First! You know because He told you. If you are not on track with that, then you are either ignoring Him or you don’t care.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 “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.”
Listen! What do you hear? I mean, what do you hear about Jesus? Is it something YOU don’t agree with? Or, is it something from the Bible that you just don’t like? This is the case with most people. They don’t like the way a preacher preaches or they don’t like the message God has given him. Perhaps it “steps on their toes” a little bit and they think, “He’s preaching at me.” These kind of people do not love truth, and they are greatly mistaken on the power of God. Like Lucifer, they lift themselves up with pride and deny the presence of God by pawning it off on a man. Huh? They think the preacher is preaching instead of God preaching through him. In other words, they have lost faith in the power of God.
So, because they don’t want to humble themselves, they start shopping for another teacher to tell them what they want to hear. They would rather turn their ears away from the truth than search their hearts to see if God is speaking to them? They are so “right with God” they never have a reason to go to the prayer bench.
Listen! What do you hear? Do you hear God, or do you hear your own self?
Rev. Ron Coale, Pastor
How do I know if someone is a Christian or not?
Christians are not strange people. They are not radical fundamentalist, as some would have you believe. Christians are not someone who needs a crutch to stand on. Nor are they mentally insecure. Christians are just like any other people trying to navigate the pitfalls of this world. They are like anyone else, trying to love their families and do right by their friends and neighbors.
The government and their manipulation by “radical lobbyist” have tried to place any Bible believing Christian in the closet of society. To do so, they must show the evils of being a Christian and get the public to agree with them. It doesn’t matter if it is true or not, as long as people believe it.
They do this so they can make themselves look good in the eyes of others. To elevate yourself in the eyes of the world, you can either ascribe to greatness yourself or you can put down all others around you. That way, when you are the last man standing, you can be the king of the mountain.
Adolph Hitler understood this when he victimized the Jews, Gypsies, Communist, Homosexuals and unfit. In putting them down in society, he gave the perception that the individual common German was greater than the others. He effectively changed their class by changing their perceived position in regards to the classes and races he victimized. This is how the world is making themselves great in their own eyes today. They victimize the common Christian, putting him in an imaginary lower class of people so that others wake up one day and imagine that they have risen a few rungs on the ladder of success.
Despite their best efforts to change the class system, people are still people. We all have the same desires, goals and characteristics because we were all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Yet, there are some very big differences between a Christian and a person of the world. These differences are “big” because they are matters of life and death (Deut. 30:15). Yes, I know that everyone dies, but just keep reading for once. You can learn something.
Christians are saved. I know that this phrase has been tossed around in so many ways, with so many negative connotations that you think you know all about it; But do you really? From the Bible’s point of view, being “saved” means that true Christians are saved from going to hell. Not because they have earned it, but because it is a gift given to them that they don’t deserve. Someone stood in and paid for them so they don’t have to go to hell. That person is Jesus Christ. He paid for everyone so they don’t have to go to hell, but not everyone will be saved from that destiny. Everyone who does not accept what Jesus did for them will go to hell and remain there forever. This is what true Christians mean when they say they are saved.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Christians are sinners. They do not claim to be sinless. They know that everyone has sinned and comes short of God’s glory.[/pullquote]
Christians are sinners. Somehow the world has conditioned its lemming like followers that Christians claim to be sinless. Even Christians are mixed up on this very point. From time to time they will refer to the unsaved person of the world as “sinners”, while at the same time implying that they claim to be sinless. Real Bible believing Christians know that everyone has sinned and come short of God’s glory, including themselves. Christians are sinners.
Christians are the children of God. Yes! Everyone was created in the image of God, but when sin entered the human race, God’s image in man was removed. People get all hung up on this point. They say, “Do you mean that people like Charles Manson was created in the image of God?” Or they go to the other extreme and say, “I can’t believe that God would send that young angel to hell. What kind of God would do that?” I have spent most of my ministry explaining this over and over again to people. It truly must be a pressure point that the Devil can use to get people all tripped up. Here we go again: Man was originally created in the image of God: Body, Spirit and Soul. When man sinned, his spirit lost Gods image. Man retained his body and soul, but his spirit no longer reflected God’s spirit. When you get saved, God returns His spirit to you. You then become complete. You do this by getting born again. Your body and soul doesn’t get born again. You get spiritually born. Anyone who gets born again becomes saved. Anyone! Why? Because of God’s forgiveness. He doesn’t care what you think about it. He is only interested what He thinks about it. Because it is a spiritual thing, you can not determine a person’s sincerity. Only God can do that. Therefore, the greatest and most beautiful do gooder can go straight to hell if they are not spiritually born again. Likewise, the most wicked vile person you have ever seen can go to heaven if they get spiritually born again. God can do this because He is the creator and He has determined that salvation will be contingent upon being born again or not. He can freely forgive anyone who gets born again. Likewise, He can condemn anyone who does not. Regarding how He makes this decision, He only cares about one thing, “Did you get born again or not?”
Anyone who gets born again, He calls them his children. They refer to Him as Father. He rejects all others and He is completely fair in doing so.
Christians go to church. Although many people go to church for many reasons, Christians do so because they desire fellowship with God and His children. Even though God walks with them everywhere they go because of His omnipresence, they like to go to church because He likes to go to church. To a Christian, church is a small taste of what heaven will be like; even with all of it’s flaws, it is the closest thing they have to heaven down here on the earth. Other people go to church to see what they can get out of it. Christians go to church to see what they can put into it. It gives them an opportunity to love others in a loving and safe environment. Christians don’t have to go to church, they get to go to church.
Christians tell people about Jesus. Face it. If it were not for Christians, nobody in the world today would know about Jesus at all. If it weren’t for Christians there would be nothing for Atheist to worry about. Oh, God would still be here, but nobody would know about Him at all. But, is that the reason Christians tell people about Jesus; to make Him famous? No! Christians tell people about Jesus because they are excited about Him. They appreciate what He has done for them; and the love that they have experienced through Him. They want to share that wonderfully liberating experience with their friends, family and others. They so appreciate Him that they can hardly contain themselves from telling others. Look at it like this: If you were to win the lottery, wouldn’t you want to share that news with those closest and dearest to you? Be true to yourself now. Of course you would. Well, Christians have something far better than the lottery. They have eternal life based upon the promise of God.
Christians read the Bible. The rest of the world doesn’t read the Bible, but Christians do. Real Christians want to get their nose into that book and learn what it says. They are curious about God and what He has done. They want to know more about this love that they now have, and the person with whom it originates.
Christians are just common people with all of the same problems and struggles as everyone else. They are not perfect, nor are they sinless. But they do have hope. It is a hope that allows them to take the journey of life with a much different attitude from the rest of the world. The next time you encounter a Christian, don’t be so quick to judge them and label them as hate mongers, for in so doing, you become guilty of that which you accuse them as being.
Learn about Jesus. You just might realize you were missing something you didn’t even know existed.
After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said: “Let me see if I’ve got this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning?”
“You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self esteem and personal pride?”
“You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job?”
“You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, and make sure that they all pass the final exams?”
“You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Spanish or any other language, by letter, telephone, newsletter, and report card?”
“You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile and a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps?”
“You want me to do all this, and then you tell me……
I CAN’T PRAY?”
Christians killed for faith nearly doubled in 2013, group finds
By Joshua Rhett MillerPublished January 10, 2014FoxNews.com
Rev. Faye Pama Musa, 52, was one of 2,123 Christians killed last year due to their faith, compared to 1,201 in 2012. More than half of those reported killings (1,213) occurred in Syria, followed by Nigeria (612) and Pakistan (88). (Courtesy: Open Doors)
Rev. Faye Pama Musa knew immediately why suspected Boko Haram militants burst into his home last year as his wife prepared dinner in the family’s northeastern Nigeria home. His stance against Christian persecution in the divided African nation had long made him a target.
Musa, who served as the general overseer of the Rhema Assembly International Church and secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Borno, saw the intruders near the front door of his home in Maiduguri as his wife, Mercy, prepped food. One of the couple’s daughters, Zion, had spotted the armed men just seconds earlier jumping a fence.
“Today you are a dead man,” one of the gunmen reported said on May 14 as he dragged Musa to the porch. “Call your Jesus to help you, Mr. CAN man!”
Zion Musa then begged the attackers to spare her father, a request met with a misfired bullet that caused her to faint. She survived but her 52-year-old father – a man who worked closely with Open Doors, a nondenominational group tracking persecuted Christians worldwide – did not.
Musa, according to the group, was one of 2,123 Christians killed last year due to their faith, compared to 1,201 in 2012. More than half of those reported killings (1,213) occurred in Syria, followed by Nigeria (612) and Pakistan (88).
But North Korea — a country of more than 24 million, with an estimated 300,000 Christians — remained the most dangerous country worldwide for Christians for the 12th consecutive year, followed by Somalia, Syria and Iraq.
“Like others in that country, Christians have to survive under one of the most oppressive regimes in contemporary times,” according to a release on the report issued Wednesday. “They have to deal with corrupt officials, bad policies, natural disasters, diseases and hunger. On top of that, they must hide their decision to follow Christ. Being caught with a Bible is grounds for execution or a life-long political prison sentence. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians live in concentration camps, prisons and prison-like circumstances under the regime of leader Kim Jong-Un.”
A sub-Saharan African country — Somalia — was ranked second on the organization’s list for the first time. Islamic extremism is the primary source of Christian persecution in the country of more than 10 million and while the capital of Mogadishu is under more moderate Muslim control recently, converts from Islam are threatened with execution, sometimes by the al-Shabaab militant rebels.
“In Somalia, a Christian cannot trust anyone,” one Christian reportedly told an Open Doors researcher. “One false confidence and you literally lose your head.”
Syria, meanwhile, which had not previously cracked the group’s list of top ten most oppressive places for Christians, ranked third last year. Like in Somalia, Islamic extremism powered the prosecution, according to Open Door officials, and many towns that previously had large populations of Christians have become ghost towns.
“The face of persecution in Syria has changed,” the group’s World Watch List reads, adding that nearly half of rebels in Syria have a jihadist background. “The influence of these groups that are linked to Al Qaeda and other extremist factions has risen considerably in the past year.”
More than 80 percent of people worldwide identify with a religious group, according to 2011 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Of those, 2.2 billion, or 32 percent, identified themselves as Christians, followed by 1.6 billion Muslims (23 percent) and 1 billion Hindus (15 percent).
The survey also found that roughly 1.1 billion people, or 16 percent worldwide, have no religious affiliation, making that segment the third-largest religious group globally and roughly equal in size to the world’s Catholic population.
What creates church growth? Are members responsible for growth of the body of Christ? Jesus used an analogy from farming to explain the manner in which the kingdom of God grows (Mark 4:26-29). Once the farmer plants the seed, it grows by itself. Although fruit comes through the miracle created within the seed, the farmer has to work hard to prepare the ground for productivity.
So it is with church growth. The apostle Paul explained that he had planted churches, Apollos had watered, but it was God who gave the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). So how do Christians plant and water so God’s church can grow?
Empowering members to grow.
I more prefer to call this, “Allowing members to have ownership in their church.” Every member of a local church needs to feel that it is his/her church. This is a vital area in which a member can use their talents for the Lord; an area in which they can serve God, and thereby be an active part in the Body of Christ. Otherwise they become like a cancerous or foreign object. If they a member has no ownership in their church, then they will not consider it to be “their church.” These are those who fall away because they are not really connected to anything. Find something to do in your church and be a part of the body.
Using your God-given gifts to serve God and your neighbor.
God has given each member in the church certain talents that no one else has. When He leads you to a particular church it’s that He has a purpose for those talents to be used for that church’s growth. Most obviously, it would be impossible to have piano in the song service if there were no piano players willing to use the talent that God gave them. Other talents are more subtle; like fixing things, electrical work, greeting, or cleaning, just to name a few. Find out what you can do and do it in the church.
Use your passion, fire, and enthusiasm for the church.
Everyone is passionate about something. When Jesus gave sight to the young man who had never seen, He told him to tell no one. But the bible says he, “…went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter…” (Mark 1:45). He was passionate about telling others what happened to him. Some things which people are passionate about are such things as: sports, music, babies, family, health, cars, work, etc. You can tell what people are passionate about by listening to what they are continually talking about, especially after the service is ended.
Support the structure and function of the church.
When you support the structure of the church, you are building the church. Supporting the structure of the church shows respect, honor and love for it. Many churches die simply because they are filled with members who say they love the church but, do not support it. It is not supportive to tell people you love your church when you talk bad about its members behind their back. Taking an unsaved, potential member aside and warning them off about some member you don’t like is actually tearing down the church. It doesn’t matter how much you say you love the church, your actions are destructive. Paul faced this exact situation among some of the churches he planted (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
It is not necessary to agree with all of the structure of the church, but it is necessary to support it. And where you disagree, use prudence in not voicing it inappropriately.
Pray for and acknowledge inspiration in the worship services.
Prayer is necessary on all fronts. It improves the Believer’s relationship with God. However, it is vital to pray for God to inspire all aspects of the worship service. We did not come to church to hear a man give a speech or lesson. We came to hear what God has to tell us. It is vital to ask God to talk to us and give us exactly what we need in our life. Unfortunately, it hurts to get our “toes stepped on” by the message being preached. And we often blame the preacher for “preaching at me” and forget that God can use the preacher to deliver HIS message. We need preaching from God to shake us deep down in our souls so we can grow as believers. When the members of the church grow, so does the church. Pray that God will not only inspire the message, but the music, giving, specials, fellowship and our own hearts as well.
Form friendships with other members and do things together outside the church.
Everyone knows that a family cannot grow when each member of it only comes together for one or two hours a week. It is impossible! Likewise, the church cannot grow when its members only interact with each other one hour a week. It is crucial for church growth that the members develop friendships with each other and have fellowship outside the church. I know the main complaint about this is: “I don’t have anything in common with anyone else.” Unfortunately, you neglect to see the folly in such a statement—you have church in common. If you are a family with children, your kids may be friends. Why not get together and do something. How about invite someone over to eat? This is a basic and common thing for people to do so they can get to know each other.
When members have their friendships outside the church (with non church members), their hearts are slowly and subtly drawn away from the church. Therefore, the church not only doesn’t grow, it begins to shrink. It is important that Believers hold each other up. This principle is illustrated when the Israelites were battling Amalek. They prevailed over Amalek when Moses’ hands are raised up, and they lost when he gets tired and lowers his hands. So, Aaron and Hur helped him hold up his hands until the battle was over, and Israel won (Exo. 17:10-13). So must we support members when they are in time of need. This is easier when we become friends and we know what each other is going through.
Sharing your Christian life by example and story.
For the church to grow, it is essential that Believers share their faith with others. They must do everything they can to compel people to come in and hear the message of the Bible. Everyone knows the old saying: “talk is cheap.” This is very true and it indicates that talk is worthless. If then it is worthless, what then is of such value that it can make a life change in someone else? Of course, it is the life story of the Christian. The example of a believer living for God is the most powerful way to witness. When people see the life of a truly dedicated believer, and how it is lived, they are affected to their core. Your life story always supersedes what you say. Even children know this at a very young age. They will listen to mommy tell them to not get started in some bad habit, but if their mommy does it, they will eventually do it as well.
The best way to grow the church through witnessing is to tell the proper life story.
Possess sincere love for the other members.
Love accomplishes much good in growing the church. When members have loved one for another, they tend to be more tolerant and willing to accept anyone. Not only that, everyone wants to be loved; they want to experience true sincere love. The world is severely lacking in sincere love. It exists in many families, but in few other places. Since God is love and you cannot truly say you know God if you don’t have sincere love (1 John 4:8, 16), a church can never grow because you cannot grow a church without God. People know that you truly love God when you have love for each other.
It takes effort to love. You have to work at repressing your ugly thoughts about those whom you don’t like too much. But then you have to go the extra mile and set yourself aside and love the person in spite of what your feel. Love, among many other things, is the giving of self.
When a church is first formed, it is little more than a fledgling. It takes time and effort on the part of everyone for it to become established and for a root to go down into the fertile ground. Without the patient diligence of adhering to these outlined principles, it will never take hold and be able to support itself; it will always need a support to be tied to. It cannot be done by just the pastor alone. It cannot be done by just the faithful few. Everyone has to chip in and help. All hands must be involved. So, we must each ask ourselves, “which of the eight characteristics is my weakest?” Ask God for strength and allow Jesus to lead you to grow.
Which are your strengths? Use them to serve Jesus and his church.
~PastorDate Created: 11/8/11
Text: Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
There are stories upon stories about people who were addicts, got victory over their addiction and then returned to it once again. Usually, each time when they return to their addiction, they fall deeper and deeper into it, until they feel so hopesly lost, that it is no longer an addiction, but life for them.
Christians too are such addicts, but they are addicted to something else. They can have victory over it, if they learn one simple principle: TO BE CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST. They must crucify the root cause of these addictions. They are…
1. The Crucifixion of Death to Self.
Each Christian must come to the point of giving in. Not just for salvation, but to defeat self and allow Him to lead us through this journey of life. We must realize the cross is continually calling. As it took the death of the Lord Jesus Christ to allow us eternal life, so it takes dying to self for us to come alive. Being alive to Christ can only come by death to the world, self and sin.
A) Self wants to Control.
Self is continually struggling to dominate control of our life. When you get control of one area, self dominates another. It is like the elephant trying to stomp out the hordes of bothersome ants.
B) Self wants to Conceal.
The evil works of man are done under the cover of darkness. Self wants to dominate your night. It wants to bring you into the dark areas of your life and if it can’t bring you there, it will create them. The way to combat self is to put on the armour of light–the word of God. Then to stay away from them, therefore getting a bigger picture and being able to identify what is wrong with them. Stay in the light.
Self wants to condemn a person so they will live a defeated life; always feeling like they are good for nothing. People convince themselves that there is really nothing wrong with them. But, the greatest condemnation in the world is to not accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your saviour. The good news is—all you have to do is just DO IT!. Self can be ignored for a little while. Once you have the Lord in you, you will begin the long series of battles for domination of self, not self domination.
The saviour calls for daily dying because we live in the world day by day. If we do not surrender our hands to the piercing nails which hold us to the cross, then we cannot be set free from the world. We must ignore the world and abide in the suffering eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is possible to live in this world yet abide in the power of his resurrection. Instead of living in a hopeless death, we do have the power to come alive.
The world wants us to befriend it. A little compromise here, a little there, then later a little more; and more and more, until it has completely influenced us to live as an enemy of God. It’s influence is so subtle, that we don’t even realize it is happening to us.
The more the world can infiltrate our life, the more control it has upon us. Practically speaking, this can be seen in worldly peer pressure: hair cuts, clothes, make up, music, talk, etc. Why is it that Christians are not as submissive to Christianly peer pressure as they are to worldly pressure? Because the world is infiltrating our lives in a much greater way. We can turn that around by seeking more time with Christians and less time with the world.
When the Christian finally allows the world to “set up camp” in their lives (to inhabit), there is no desire at all for Christian influence. THere may be token attempts to go to church once in awhile when times are bad, but their zeal and love seem to be gone. When the world inhabits the life of a Christian, it is hard to begin living for the Lord again.
3. The Crucifixion of Death to Sin.
Sin’s influence on a Christian is not nearly the same as the world’s or that of self. Sin is worst of all, yet for the Christian who has read his Bible, is the easiest to identify. Simply put, sin is the bad things we do that we know God does not like; it is the things we do that make God angry. We do not need sin in our life. We must nail our sinful nature to the cross. This is where it belongs.
God can abide much, but He cannot abide sin. Sin is too much for a perfect God to accept. It is beyond His principles to accept it. It must all be dealt with harshly. Because of its corrupting nature, sin must all be separated from Him; every single bit of it. Thank God for the Lord Jesus Christ who paid for our sin.
Sin ties us down so we cannot run the race for God that we ought. It holds us back as we drag it around like so many spiritual anchors, trying to hold us in one place. We must crucify it to the cross. We must die to it to unshackel its weighty influence.
The greatest shame that sin causes in the life of the christian is in not telling others how to be saved. If the blasphmy of the Holy Ghost is not accepting Christ and getting saved, how much are Christians adding to this sin by not telling others how to be saved?
I Live By God’s Faith
I Live By God’s Love
I Live By God’s Sacrafice.
Living a crucified life allows you to see things like you never did before. His wisdom shines through the muck and mire of the world, sin and self. there are new discoveries and revelations of old things known. all things become new by the light given from a crucified life.
We will be called the sons of God. We are likened to Him by our crucifixion of Sin, self and the world.
Life is eternal and you can have it. A defeated Christian can have it right now. An unsaved person can have it right now. all you have to do is to accept it.
There is no greater sacrifice, than to be crucified with Christ. Yet it brings life.
Dearest Brethren, The end of all things is at hand. It has been for some time now. Each generation of Christians have thought the same as we do today: “How can things get much worse?” Each generation has had to deal with a turbulent and spiteful world system, while at the same time loving the souls that are captured by it. How did they do it in the past? How can we deal with this awkward and evil situation ourselves?
Well, it is safe to assume that they took comfort and instruction from the Word of God. In 1 Peter 4:7-10 we are instructed to be “…sober and watch unto prayer.” Most importantly, to “…have fervent charity among…” ourselves because charity covers a “…multitude of sins.” Furthermore, to be hospitable “…one to another without grudging…” and to take care of each other as we “minister “…as good stewards of …” “grace”.
To not get duped by this world system, we need to be sober. This deals directly with the intoxicating influence of alcohol, liquor or spirits. But too, it addresses the influence of any passion of worldly influence. In other words, it addresses keeping one’s “right mind.” You have heard it said that in any stressful situation you should not panic, to keep your wits about you? This admonition speaks to keeping a sober mind. If we do so, then we will be attentive to the sneakiness of the Devil. He is more deceptive than one can ever imagine. How can we combat this deception? How can we keep sober? We must pray. But not just any old praying.
Dealing with the deception of the Devil is like suddenly realizing we are in the middle of a field of land mines. We find ourselves in such precarious situations because we do not pay attention to where we walk. By ourselves, we can never detect the mines; they are so well hidden. So we need a mine detector to sweep the area in front of us so we can find the mines. Only then we can traverse the field safely. Our prayer to God needs to be for a mine detector of spiritual deception of the Devil. We need to ask God to show us were the mines are that can so easily trip us up.
“God please show me where the Devil is working on my life. He wants me to fall, and I cannot see His deception. Please identify them and help me to go around them so I can walk through this day for you without being a casualty.”
Charity (i.e. Love) is our combative weapon for dealing with a love stripped world system.
Love does not beat people down for their problems of failures. Love either exalts someone else or says nothing at all that would be derogatory about them.
People of the world system love too! There is no doubt about that. They were created in the image of God as well, so they too have the attributes and emotions that God has. It is just that they use them for things they are not meant to be used for. Have you ever needed a screwdriver for some household chore and couldn’t find one? I’ll bet you headed for the utensil drawer of the kitchen and picked out a butter knife to use it as a screwdriver. What happened? Did you bend the tip because the screw was too tight? Probably.
The world uses love to love self and not others. They use something God gave them for helping others for themselves. They bent the tip and ruined it.
Christians need not “bend the tip.” Loving one another is the only combative weapon that Christians have to fight back against this world system.
How is it so effective in fighting the world system? It covers the multitude of sins. It looks beyond peoples faults. You say, “But he/she does things wrong.” Yes, you will notice the faults of others. We all do that. But love is when we know someone’s faults, but we choose to ignore it. We choose to not bring it up. We choose to not make a big deal about it. That is love. That is how Christians treat each other, especially during these last days. We have enough enemies. There are enough people in the world telling us to love self, pointing out our faults and directing/establishing blame. With love, we don’t need any of that.
This is where “grudging” or begrudging comes in. There are enough people in our lives that hold grudges. “Grudging” is: being uneasy at another’s possession of something which we have a desire to possess. Somebody else has something and we want it. That is holding a grudge. This can be with a physical object (new car, tv, dress, etc.) as well as prestige, honor or focus. When someone gets special favor and you don’t, that is grudging. Why does he/she get attention and I don’t? Usually, we won’t say it out loud to someone because we are afraid of sounding petty or immature. But we should not even think it for even one second, and if we do, we should shake that thought out of our head immediately. That is called love. That is thinking better of our brother or sister and rejoicing in their blessing. This is how we minister to one another—LOVE.
With this type of living, all of our Christian ancestors have survived under difficult circumstances. In fact, the trials for some was death, torture and degradation. Yet they still loved. Why? They did so to cope with the difficulties they experienced. After all, what kind of life would you have if all you ever did was begrudging and hating your entire life?
So, let us be sober and watch unto prayer. Lets look for ways to love each other and the community in which we live. What can we do in the life of another person that can make their journey along the pathway of this life a little easier? Then, let us turn it into a fervent love so we can cover sin. Sin does not need to be exposed and exalted. It needs to be disdained and covered over with the blood of the Lamb. Lets have a little grace. With grace we can minister to each other. The primary ones to “hold up” are those of our own church first. It is no good to help other Christians while overlooking those of our own family. In this we are “…stewards of the manifold grace of God.” ~Pastor
SPANKING IS A PART OF PARENTING
Researchers say there is never a good reason for spanking your child. This is because social scientists decided many years ago to stamp out the evil of spanking. Unfortunately, their zealousness to remove God from society and the family will continue until spanking is outlawed or until it completely goes out of style. For them, truth does not matter when you have an agenda.
Man has been convinced of things that simply are not true. He has serious misconceptions about spanking children for disobedience. Unfortunately, most Christian parents today do not get their understanding of discipline from the Bible. They get it from the world. Here, we will show the scriptures that correct these parenting misconceptions.
Nothing God says in His Word and nothing said in this article makes allowance for true child abuse. Jesus was a protector of little children and we should be as well. Anyone who truly abuses a child deserves everything the law can throw at them. To permanently injure a child for any reason is a wicked act and it deserves swift and exact punishment.
Spanking can be misused in many ways. Love must still be the primary factor in parenting any child. Spanking can be too harsh, too inconsistent, too late, too hasty and too much. The fact that you spank your children does not make you a godly or righteous parent. You must use God’s wisdom and always deal with the child for his own good. There will be no lawsuits where the pastor or GBC will be used as an excuse for abusing or mistreating your children.
The only absolute authority for how to raise children is to be found in God’s word—the Bible. Preachers and teachers may make mistakes and teach things incorrectly. They are not the final authority. However, God’s word is always true. Raise your children according to the Bible and God will honor His word.
What are the misconceptions people have about spanking. You may be surprised to see them, one by one, dealt with in the book of Proverbs. We must all be ready to obey the Lord in these matters of parenting.
Spanking is an Act of Hatred:
There are parents who would not spank their children until they were so mad that they felt like spanking them. This is wrong and dangerous. You do not spank your children because you are mad at them. Spanking is not an act of hatred. God says that it is an act of love.
Proverbs 3:11 – “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”
Notice that God corrects (spanks) those He loves. His chastening hand is proof that He loves us. If he hated us, He would let us go our own way and head for destruction.
In fact, the Bible teaches that you show hatred toward your children by not correcting them. Proverbs 13:24 – “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” To withhold the rod of correction is to demonstrate hatred for your child. In a sense, if you do not correct your children, you are saying, “Go on; head for ruin and destruction; I don’t care.”
Of course you really love your children. That is why you must show it by correcting them when they disobey. Correct them by spanking them. Show them how much you love them.
In love, there will probably be times when you actually cry with your children before you spank them. This is where it is said, “this will hurt me more than it will hurt you.” Then you explain that statement by telling them that you must punish them because you love them too much to let them go the way they were going.
When you spank your children for the right reasons, it is an act of love. Do you see it as an act of love? Do you express your love in your time of correction?
Matthew 9:13 …for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
The Lord Jesus Christ makes it very clear that He did not come to the earth to call the righteous to repent. The righteous have no need to repent; they are already “right” with God. Their problems with sin are already taken care of. However, God’s opinion is that there are none who are righteous except the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
The person, who feels they are “right” with God, will never come to the Lord. They will make excuse after excuse to avoid a confrontation with God. They justify keeping control of their life by convincing themselves that they are “right” with God.
On the other hand, the person who feels there is something that is not “right” between them and God will come to Jesus. Because the Lord is perfect and they are not, there is a repentant attitude that accompanies them. These are the people that the Lord Jesus came to the world to call.
Do you have a need for Christ? Are you righteous or a sinner? You can be right by agreeing with God and coming to Him as a sinner. Only then can your sin problem be solved and you can be “right” with God.
In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 we are told, “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” A then steward is somebody that is given something valuable to take care of, and he is supposed to take care of it for his master. Not only that, a steward is to be “faithful” because he has goods delivered to him that don’t belong to him. Such is every one of us who is given stewardship of God’s money. We understand about God giving us money and us using it as the Lord would have to do. But here we are talking about a different kind of stewardship. We are talking about the “mysteries of God.” We are talking about stewardship over something that has been given for the purpose of teaching to others.
What are these mysteries? There are seven of them in the Bible and they are committed to preachers to teach to others. I will briefly describe them as follows:
1. The Mystery of Godliness.
1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
This verse is the greatest verse in the Bible on the Deity of Jesus Christ. If you don’t have a King James Bible you won’t be able to find this mystery defined. All other bibles change this verse in order to take away the deity of Christ. They change the phrase “…God was manifest in the flesh…” to something else. God being “manifest in the flesh” means that God showed up as a baby and later grew up to be a man. It cannot be explained how He did this. Why? Because it is a mystery how it happened. He came down to this earth as a baby, and a woman took care of Him, just like every other baby. He experienced every facet of growing up as a human male.
2. The Mystery of the Indwelling Christ
Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Paul says, “This mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This means the “mystery” is that Jesus Christ is inside the saved man. It can’t be explained how: “Christ” is “in you, the hope of glory”. It can’t be explained how a sinless, perfect Saviour would stoop down to come in and dwell inside a wicked, sinful vessel. Not only that, it can’t be explained how Jesus could be in a vast multitude of saved people all at the same time. There isn’t many individual Jesus’. There is one Jesus and he dwells within each believer. This is a mystery and can’t be explained how it happens. It is the mystery of the indwelling Christ.
3. The Mystery of the Body of Christ
Ephesians 5:30-32 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
The Bride of Christ in this age is espoused to one husband so it can be presented a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). This means that every one who is a Believer is all espoused to the same person: Christ. All men and women wind up married to Christ as one unit. How can you explain it? It can’t be explained. It’s a mystery. As far as the spirit is concerned, we are joined to Him right now (1 Cor. 6:17). The marriage has already taken place, but as far as the body is concerned the marriage hasn’t taken place. Our physical bodies are down here and His is up there (2 Cor. 5:6-8). It can’t be explained. We are supposed to believe it. Paul said, “This is a great mystery” (Eph. 5:32).
4. The Restoration of Israel
Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
This mystery deals with the restoration of Israel. The mystery is that God is not through with Israel. And even though God may look like He’s through with Israel, He’s not! Someday God is going to take the Jews and bring them back to Palestine (He did that in 1948), and after the Jews have been reduced down to about four or five hundred people, God is going to get them saved in the Tribulation and convert them to Jesus Christ. That’s the mystery of the believing remnant of Israel which is going to turn to God. Romans 11:28-29 says that “as concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” This means that we should love the Jews. Yes, some Jews out in the world are unlovable characters. It doesn’t matter what you think of them, you’ve got to love Israel and take care of it. If you don’t, the Lord will fix you. In Christ “There is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28). When a Jew gets converted, he’s no longer a “Jew.” He’s a Christian.
5. The Mystery of Babylon the Great
Revelation 17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Revelation 17:18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
She is a woman out in the wilderness seated on a beast. The beast has seven heads and ten horns. This is a “mystery.” It is something you’re supposed to believe, but you can’t explain.
The woman is a city that reigns over the kings of the earth. She has a golden cup in her hand full of abominations (Rev. 17:4). And, she is arrayed in purple and scarlet. There is only one city that is built on seven mountains (v. 9), that reigns over the kings of the earth, whose symbol is a golden cup: ROME. The Lord said that that city was a whore (v. 1). She’s a prostitute who sells herself for money. She has such influence that she runs the kings of this earth. She will sell out what she believes and what she professes in order to get along with the world. She’ll let her own priests get killed in Africa if she can get control of Africa. She might even get in a black pope.
6. Mystery of Iniquity
2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
The mystery of iniquity is the mystery of the Antichrist. His number is 666. He has a sign: it’s a kiss. He has a salute: its two fingers. He has a letter: it’s an X. And he has a name, a religion , a face, and a mark. There’s more information in the Bible on him than there is on any other man in the Bible outside of Jesus Christ Himself. He’s the Antichrist.
7. The Rapture
1 Corinthians 15:51-55 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The final mystery is the Rapture. It is the disappearance of the Body of Christ in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. There are two kinds of people. Those who are alive when the Lord comes are to be caught up without dying. Those that are dead will be pulled up out of the ground. If you’re mortal, you’ll be caught up without dying and put on immortality. If you’re dead and buried when the Lord comes back, then you’re down in the ground rotting and you’re corruptible, and you come out of the grave and put on incorruption. The ones that are buried can’t stay in the ground. The live man goes up without dying; and the dead man goes up, and the grave can’t keep him down.
People get offended for the silliest reasons.
Psalm 119:165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
A young lady could not visit her father anymore. Years had gone by and this unsightly situation prevailed. Finally, one day it came out why she was unwilling to visit. It seems as if she was offended that her father made her wear dresses when she was young.
People get offended at the silliest things. Of course, it doesn’t seem silly at the time, but that is because they are not looking at the situation clearly. They are looking at the situation from a tainted viewpoint. They are offended because they are thinking about themselves; how it affects them, or how they are embarrassed… There is no need to get offended. In fact, the only way you get offended is because you choose to be offended.
The Bible says that if you love God, His laws and are at peace with others, nothing will get you offended. You can endure much more when you are “right” with God. Very little will offend you if you are “right” with God. When you love the law of God’s teachings, you will put them first in your life. To put God’s law first is to put the giver of God’s law first–God. When you are “right” with God, there is very little that the world can do to you because you will be in control of what you allow to affect you and what you will not allow to affect you.
You can take it to the bank–the person that is easily offended is struggling with their love for God’s teachings, rules or laws. They have either broken them or are having trouble letting them into their life so they can control their actions. In a finer sense I can say, they are having trouble giving up their “rights” to God. These type of people think that they are the standard by which things should be done, or even become vocal about the way others live their life for Christ. Somewhere in Christianity, people have lost sight of God being in control. Oh, they say that He’s in control, believe that He is, proclaim that He is, yet they still live like He is not. They fret and fear and worry and try to arrange things to their own benefit, while all the time they have abandoned the peace they can have by living like God is truly their creator and they are the created.
Christians would do well for themselves if they could just visualize they are nothing more than an “object”; created by God; for God (Rev 4:11), and not get offended about that. Then all of the struggle, worry, fear and fretting will amount to nothing, neither here or in eternity. If you could just close your eyes for a minute and visualize yourself giving your entire life to God, indiscriminately, with nothing held back, and no conditions placed upon the situation, you would be better off. If you could allow that vision to slowly fade into a scenario of total obedience to God, even unto the death, you would live a much more peaceful life. Why? Because total obedience, total commitment, total dedication describes love; a love for God.
King David saw a beautiful woman that he wanted to take for his wife. He took her and she was eventually found to be with child. The trouble was that she was already married to Uriah the Hittite who was off to war. Trying to solve the problem himself, he thought if Uriah would come home, then he would surely sleep with his wife then his sin would be covered. So he wrote orders for the general (Joab) to send Uriah home. He told Uriah to “Go down to thy house…” (2 Sam. 11:8). But, Uriah slept on the floor at the door of the king’s palace and did not go home to his wife. When David discovered this he asked Uriah why he didn’t go home to his wife. Uriah answered, “The ark of the Lord, Israel and Judah all sleep in tents. My fellow soldiers all sleep in open fields. I cannot allow myself these indulgences as long as this situation exists.” To Uriah it was a matter of duty, honor and devotion to God. He loved God. But David gave secret orders for Joab to have Uriah lead the charge at hottest place of battle so Uriah would be killed in battle, and Uriah was killed.
Uriah loved not his life even unto death. His love for God gave him peace. Oh that Christians today could have that kind of dedication and love for God. If they did, they would lead much more peaceful lives because very little would offend them. When you think of God instead of yourself, little there is that you will allow to offend you.
How many Christians today would lead better, lives?
In these times, we need to refocus on our church. One of the primary reasons we’re here is to share and live the Gospel and invite people to join His kingdom. The church that Jesus established is the display of God’s glory on earth, and we believe the church should be central to our lives and faith. So inviting people to our church is part of our core mission. Here’s some great innovative church invitation ideas to help you invite people to your church. You don’t need me to organize it…you and your small group, class or friends can just do it. At every one of these, you can pass out tracts and invite people to church.
- Grill out for the employees of a company or business.
- Set up a party trailer and a grill, at any community events.
- Dress up like a Star Wars character wherever there are people and take pictures with kids and families. Give them a special invite card with the location they can download the picture. You will have a blast and invite a bunch of people to church.
- Tailgate at high school football games. Give away hot dogs and invite people.
- Set up a moonwalk at a local park while events are happening.
- Volunteer at community runs and bike races
- Hand out coffee or hot chocolate at events downtown
- Give out hand warmers at winter events like the Christmas parade
- Provide “full service” at a local gas station – wash windows and leave a car freshener
- Show free family movies on Friday nights
- Help local schools with their fall festivals. Instead of re-creating the wheel, just help a school make their event better.
- Take professional pictures at local school talent shows
- Visit a nursing home
- Take a couple of hours and put out door hangers in your neighborhood or apartment complex.
- Be intentional about coaching a kids sports team.
- You and your kids set up a lemonade stand.
- Have a free garage sale…give away things and invite people to church
- Do a free car wash
- Walk around a neighborhood and collect canned food. Invite people to church while asking for food.
- Hand out helium balloons at special events
- Get a truck, ladder and a bunch of light bulbs and walk around and ask people if they need light bulbs changed.
- Set up a bounce house in front of a store. Managers are often open to anything that draws attention to their store.
- Put out road signs on the weekend (did you know most people who attend our church for the first time do so because they saw a road sign?)
- Put a giant leaf sign in the back of your truck. Politicians do it – our cause is way more important!
- Give away Oak Leaf silly bandz anywhere there are kids.
- Enter a float in one of the parades. Walk along side it and give away candy and invites.
- Take doughnuts to school teachers. Simply email the principal and ask if you can do it, set a day, and make it happen.
- Get a giant backpack sprayer and offer to spray for bugs in people’s homes. It might seem strange, but what a great way to talk to someone and invite them to church.
- Salt driveways when it ices during the winter.
- Help with field days at a local elementary school. What school wouldn’t appreciate volunteers?
- Take food to fire stations. Let them know you appreciate them and that they are always welcome at your church.
- Valet cars when a school has an open house.
- Provide childcare for high school graduations.
- Cook team meals before home games at local sporting events
- Pass out candy and invites at your own house on Halloween, or downtown where hundreds of children come to trick or treat every year.
- Better yet…come up with your own idea, get your friends or group involved, and make it happen. Let us know how we can help.
2 Samuel 11:3-24 Contains the story of how King David conspired to kill Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba. David saw Bathsheba bathing from afar and desired to have her as one of his wives. So, he committed adultery with her while her husband was away with the other men of valor fighting Ammon at Rabbah. David, as well as Bathsheba, was very wrong in their sin. The Bible says that you can be sure your sin will find you out (Num. 32:21), and this is exactly what happened—Bathsheba became pregnant.
To cover his sin, King David planned to bring Uriah home from the battle under the false pretenses of having him carry a report of the battle to the king. His plan was that; Uriah would come home and sleep with his wife. Therefore he would think that the coming baby would be Uriah’s and not someone else’s. What the king did not plan for was the utter dedication of this Hittite to the Lord and to his brothers in arms.
Uriah refused to go home to his wife. He slept on the steps of the palace instead. He reasoned to David, “The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife?” Eventually, the king had him murdered; just to cover up his sin.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]He was a man who put God first and his neighbors second.[/pullquote]
The Lord has dealt with me concerning the selflessness of Uriah. He was truly a righteous man. He would not do for himself what the others in his arena of influence could not do. His service to the Lord was more important to him than the orders of the King or even his own wife. He was truly a man who put God first and his neighbors second. To gain a testimony like Uriah’s takes a degree of dedication that precious few ever reach. For many years, as I read about Uriah, I thought, “didn’t he know that Bathsheba was certainly going to find out he was in town?” And, “What would she think of a husband that came back home for a leave, and didn’t even come to see her?” I was thinking wrong. I had missed the dosage of love that this sinful passage contained. Uriah loved immensely; it is just that he loved God first.
Of course he was wronged. His wife was taken from him; she cheated on him; he was conspired against; and finally he was murdered while fighting in the hottest part of the battle on the very front lines. But, during all of this, Uriah firmly loved God and his comrades even more than his own life. He died alone on the battle field. It would seem that his life was a waste, but it was not. God used the testimony of Uriah to change the King. It was a reminder to him about how to be a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:13-14). Perhaps it was Uriah who showed David how to be truly a “man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22)
Oh that there would be more Uriah’s in the Lord’s work.
An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.
At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.
“I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”
The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”
Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You’ve just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.
So, to all of my crack pot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path!
Contentment is not something you simply obtain.
You do not wake up one day and find that you are suddenly content. Neither do you just get old enough and that makes you content. Contentment is something that is learned.
Paul said, “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Phil. 4:11). Paul admits that he had to learn contentment. It was not one of his personality traits, nor was it a special ability that he had. It was something that he had to learn from the time he was very young until the day that he wrote these words to the Philippians.
As a young man, Paul sought his fortune and fame, as do other young men. He thought he found it in the profession of a Pharisee. As a young Pharisee during the time of the first persecution of Christians, he excelled. He was poised for greatness because he was in on the movement from the “ground floor.” He had been recognized for his zeal and was commissioned to root out and destroy Christians wherever he could. But even though he made a name for himself, he still found no contentment.
He found no contentment when he finally met Jesus face to face on the road to Damascus, but this is where his lessons in contentment began. He was blinded after the encounter and did not know if he would ever get his sight back. He needed to learn to accept his blindness. He could either have felt pity on himself, or make use of his life as he could. But God had another plan. And so the trials, troubles, sufferings and persecutions began until one day, in a letter to his friends, he writes, “…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
Contentment begins with knowing God (Matt. 6:31-34.) A person will never be content living in this world if they do not first learn how to live a Godly life. If you come to the point in your relationship with God that you seek Him first, then you learn how to live Godly. But it doesn’t stop right there. You must learn not only how to seek Him first, but to depend on His love for you; that you will be okay under His leadership, love and care. In short, you must learn not only how to seek God first, but to give Him your problems and stop worrying over them; depend on Him being bigger than any problem you could ever have. These are hard lessons to learn. Oh, it is not so hard to take our troubles to God, but it is difficult for us to leave them with Him. We show this by worrying about our troubles. You can already see how to live a stress free, content life when you have nothing to worry about anymore.
Contentment benefits living in this world (1 Tim. 6:6-9). We must understand that we absolutely own nothing. We must have the higher view of our life; that we brought nothing into this world, and when we go, we will take nothing out. Even our legacy is not in our hands, it is in the hands of those left behind. It is a false understanding to think you have made a difference in the world because any difference you made or not, is in the hands of those you leave it with. It is not under your control. We are on a pilgrimage that is preparing us for heaven. Yes, God can miraculously make us prepared for entrance to heaven when the time comes, but in His infinite wisdom, He has seen fit to teach us about our upcoming life in heaven now. The sooner we see that life does not surround ambitions of the world, the sooner we will live a content life. This way, we can go to our jobs and places of work with joy and not stress. In fact, we can be happy all day long because we realize that the things now trivial, were once big things to us. You can easily see how contentment is learned by just having the proper perspective on life in general.
Contentment comes from seeking first a life with Jesus. (Heb. 13:5-6) It comes by understanding that He means what He says and says what He means. He says, “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” You cannot get any more content in life than to live a life understanding that the one who holds you in His arms is the Lord Jesus Christ, and He won’t drop you or let go. Babies trust their mothers all the way up to the time that mommy makes them do something that they don’t like. They are content in their mothers arms until mommy does something that they don’t like. It may be giving a bath, or changing a diaper, but whatever it is, this is where the trust is lost. When they realize that mommy just did something for their overall good, even though it was uncomfortable for a spell, then the trust is returned. The baby learns how to trust their mommy. Likewise, Christians should learn how to learn contentment by growing up in the Lord; communing with Him and learning how to trust Him. You can easily see that the closer and more often you are with the Lord, the easier it is to be content.
So Paul says that he had to learn contentment. He is no different than any other man. We all must learn how to be content. Is your life troubled? Do you feel so overwhelmed that you think you need to see a counselor to help you get your life back on track? Do you have the tendency to turn to drinking or drugs to give you peace? Then you are seeking an instant, microwave portion of contentment, but it does not exist. You must learn how to be content. God will make sure that, one way or another, you will learn how to be content with Him. The only question is: just how much tribulation, trials or suffering you must go through to learn contentment.