Monday, August 8, 2016

"Mommy, I'm Scared"

What do you tell children who are afraid of what is happening in the News?

When children hear about a gunman shooting police officers or a bomb blowing up people in the mall on the news report, their mind and heart are overwhelmed. The fear that gets into their psyche produces anxiety which may come out in nightmares, abnormal timidity, or negative behavior.

What can a mother say?  Number one, don’t put the child down with some quick remark like “that’s foolish” or “you shouldn’t think that way.”  How much better to listen, ask questions, and give the child a chance to express what is in their heart.

Can you be honest enough to say that sometimes you get scared too when you hear these things?  Let the child know that it isn’t uncommon for even big people to have these feelings.  When someone understands, it opens the door to hope that maybe things will be okay.

Love is greater than fear, so take the opportunity to hug the child and let the young person know that you love him (her) so much.  And how much more is  God’s love for each one of us?  What a powerful time to pray together asking Jesus to get rid of those bad fears with His perfect love, and to protect our family from all the evil in the world.  Encourage the child to say his own prayer asking Jesus to help him.

If the child is old enough to understand, this may be an open door to explain about sin, which leads to evil, and that is why Jesus died on the cross, to pay the price for all evil.  Sometimes when things go wrong, people realize they need Jesus’ help.  God wants every person to come to Him.  Besides what Jesus did 2000 years ago when He became man, someday, Jesus is going to come again and make everything right.  Then there will be no more evil, or crying, or death.

Often the evening news only tells us about the bad things that are happening, but God is doing a lot of good things too.  For example, the news reports all the trouble in Syria, Iraq, and in the Middle East where there are a lot of Muslim terrorists.  But on the other hand, consider how God is opening hearts to turn to Jesus.  “From 1960 to 2010, the number of Muslims that have converted to faith in Jesus Christ has grown from fewer than 200,000 to some 10 million people”1(Joel Rosenberg)  Ten million people brought into the kingdom of God forever is so much greater than the trouble.

The child who is afraid needs our comfort and help to restore hope that his world is not falling apart.  The truth is that it does look that way many times, but we also know God is greater and He has a plan to put an end to all evil.  Jesus rose from the dead and overcame all sin.  He will come again and make all things new.  Come, Lord Jesus!   

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Put an End to all Evil

"I'm so afraid of the coming events described in Revelation that I don't even want to think about the end times."   These and similar reactions are typical of Christians interviewed about their reaction when someone mentions the last days.  How do you approach conversation or even your own thoughts about the days that Jesus described, "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved?" Clearly there are some extremely hard times ahead, but how should the mature Christian think and feel about what is coming?

As the daily morning news seems to highlight one more act of violence and murder, racial hatred, and ISIS inspired terrorist act, we have all become only too familiar with the fallen nature of man and how the enemy is able to "steal, kill, and destroy."  A growing spirit of depression and frustration gets stirred up in the human heart each time we hear of one more act of injustice.  No wonder the Bible states that "because lawlessness is increased, the love of most people will grow cold." Matthew 24:12

On the other hand, God is not mocked and is moving mightily on the earth. We just don't always see it.  Just as the coming of the baby Jesus seemed like a completely helpless and futile attempt by God to change the world and mankind. Today God is raising up millions of prayer intercessors around the world that may seem insignificant to the average person, but this mighty force is powerful in shaking the heavens and the earth. 

“From 1960 to 2010, the number of Muslims that have converted to faith in Jesus Christ has grown from fewer than 200,000 to some 10 million people”  Joel Rosenberg recently said, citing a 19-page peer-reviewed study.  See   Likewise reports continue to come in about an unprecedented move of God's Spirit in Latin America and millions are responding to the Gospel in Africa.  As Christians unite in prayer, and 24/7 prayer/worship groups continue to rise up, the prophecy of Isaiah 60 will surely come to pass: "For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen..."  God is not mocked by evil men or the devil. He raises a Standard against it. We know and believe God's plan will bring in the most possible souls into the kingdom, for He desires that all be saved.

There is one main warning Jesus gives in His comments about end time, found in all the Gospel accounts.  "Be not deceived."   Paul reiterates this in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first."  Why or how could those who have come to know Jesus and believe in Him fall away?  Verses 9 and 10 of the same chapter point out, "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved."  The key to having peace and not being shaken is to receive the "love of the truth," namely, God's Word.  May you and I call on the Holy Spirit right now to give us a love for the truth that never wavers, even in the light of public opinion, peer pressure, and false signs and wonders.

Yes, evil days are coming and the tribulation that Jesus and Revelation describe will occur.  It will only stop when Jesus comes again and instantly changes every kingdom to "become the kingdom of our Lord."  What is He waiting for?  Could He be waiting for the Spirit and the bride to say, "Come."  When Christians see how evil the enemy is, and how fallen man in his pride and fleshly lusts, and how he arrogantly thinks he can do whatever he wants without consequence, then we will long for and cry out with all our being, "Come!" 

So I have come to love and desire to know more about God's perfect plan and triumph in Revelation (God promises a blessing on all who read and/or hear the words of the book), and to see things going on in a new light.  Each enemy attack and victory for those who defy God's law opens my eyes to need for Jesus to intervene.  The more I  understand God's plan for the end, the more my heart longs for Him to come and to put an end to all evil.  Come, Lord Jesus!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Too Late

"Get out of the car."  The teenage boy continued to play with his iPhone and simply ignored the request of his father.  "Son, you need to get out of the car and come right now!" demanded the father.  Still no response.  "Robert, that's enough playing around, put the iPhone away and come with us into the school." pleaded the dad.  Slowly the young man got out of the car and walked with his father and grandfather to the school building, although his attention was clearly still focused on the game he was playing on his device.

Inside the school the boy plopped himself down on the stairs while the dad spoke to the school receptionist.   When greeted warmly by the school secretary, the boy did not even look up from his game.  Trying to engage the young man, she asked "What is your name?"  No response.   She then turned the inquirers over to the principal.

The dad explained that he was having trouble with the boy and wanted to put him into the Christian school.  "He needs help."  The principal listened to the father share the situation and greeted the young man seated on the third step.  The boy did not even look up.  He wouldn't answer or acknowledge the principal either.  Finally, the school official had to inform the parent, "It is too late.  If he refuses to listen or obey you, we are not able to work with that attitude or to help him here."  Sadly, the father looked at the grandfather and realized the truth of that statement.  It was too late.   

Let's look at the big picture.  God obviously calls parents to "bring up children in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).  Parents really only have two choices concerning the education of their children: either do it themselves or have someone teach them who will instill the same truth and values that the Christian parents know.  Yet public education is free.   Often we are willing to compromise our convictions when money is involved. 

But we all know that "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10).  And in this case the money saved opens the door to the child being brought up in the ways of the world. Two studies conducted by both the Barna Group and USA Today found that nearly 75 percent of Christian young people fall away from the faith and leave the church after high school.  Consider the facts. Statistics show that children today spend an average of 30 hours per week in school where they are often taught ideas that are diametrically opposed to biblical truths, e.g., evolution, the acceptance of homosexuality, living for self, etc. Then they come home to another 30 hours per week spent in front of a television set bombarded by commercials and sitcoms, playing video games, or connecting on social media. This is in contrast to the time spent weekly in the church classroom or in family Biblical instruction: 45 minutes.

It is time to wake up.  Obviously God knew the challenge before He declared this truth, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6)  Parents, who do everything in their power to build God's love and truth in their young children, need to make sure that when they reach school age, Christian truth and environment continues to be the heart of their learning.  Churches need to encourage and to be willing to count the cost and make sure that Christian education is available for every child.  The time to put children in Christian school is when their heart attitudes and thought patterns are being formed.  Unfortunately, many parents are only awakened to the need when the young boy or girl exhibits negative attitudes and behavior from years of being exposed to and trained by worldly ways.  That is too late.

Another older parent, who now supports Christian education, weeps as he tells me how his son has left the faith and is showing very destructive behavior to himself and the family.  He now greatly regrets not having put him in Christian school when he was young.  Obviously, God never gives up on anyone.  However, it is not always necessary to go through all the grief and misery, and there is never any guarantee that the child will repent and come back to the Lord.

Consider the lesson of Esau.  "lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.  For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. (Hebrews 12:16-17)  Sometimes it is too late.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Be of Good Cheer

Something bad happens.

You feel it is unfair and not right.  You want to complain.  You want to feel sorry for yourself.  You want to blame someone for the way you were mistreated.  You are upset and frustrated.  You feel, just like Jonah after a worm killed his shade tree outside of Nineveh, that you have a right to be angry.  You want to find someone to pour out all your pent-up emotions and frustrations upon, so you can have some sympathy.  You may even feel depressed and just want to quit. 

Do you know what is wrong about all these responses?  They don't work.  They only increase the negative results. 

The question is what do you do?  or maybe, what can you do?

Two strong suggestions:  1) Shut up.  Don't shoot your mouth off and make comments that later show your immaturity and for which you may be sorry.  2) Open your eyes to see beyond the immediate circumstances.

First, be quiet.  Proverbs 18:21 instructs us that death and life are in the tongue, so watch what you say.  Secondly note the wise response: Proverbs 29:11 declares, "A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back." and Proverbs 10:19 states that "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise."

Secondly, see the big picture.  You have been created in the image of God, you have been given life and love and a unique personality that God designed to enjoy His glory forever.  Jesus has paid the ultimate price for you showing your infinite worth and His everlasting love for you.  He is faithful and will be with you in the greatest or least trial.  You will make it.  Jesus said it this way (in John 16:33) "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."  Later, in first John, He tells us that everyone who is born of God overcomes the world.

How do you get there when you feel overwhelmed in a negative situation?  Ask God for help.  He tells us in Ephesians 4:26  “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath" and in Romans 8:13 "but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." Since He has called us to make these choices He also is here to do it inside us. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).  Ask Him to do it as you surrender your fleshly "rights."

Last but not least, be filled with the Spirit.  The Word of God is spirit and life, so in other words, it feeds and gives life to the spirit.  As you read the Word and choose to obey it, the Spirit of God causes that seed to grow inside us.  Since it is God's will that we rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), we release the Spirit's power to dominate our flesh when we begin to give thanks, choose to rejoice, and deliberately trust God to work the situation for good.  His strength will enable us to make it through the current situation.

Are you in trouble?  Jesus answers it best, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"Do You Need Me Now?"

"Do you need me now?" may sound similar to the Verizon commercial depicting the man who is wondering if someone can hear him now.  Yet Jesus is clearly asking, "Do you need Me?'  Do you need His saving power, His help, and His direction?

One of the absolute signs of the fallen nature of man is that we think we don't need God.  In general, man is so proud.  We even seem to act like we are "God" when we contend our way is best, our thoughts are correct, and deep down we feel that we can always work our way out of trouble.  Yet, pride was the cause of Satan's fall and the motivation of Eve's eating the forbidden fruit to become "like God."   

Have you reached the place where all your ways and efforts cannot possibly get you out of a situation and you really need God?  What about being cleansed from the foolish or wrong choices you have made?  What about having a genuine peace and joy about your life?  How are your relationships going?  Maybe the barrier is that we don't trust that God can really help and we are still looking for other ways to make it.  

Perhaps all of life is a long-term incremental course to teach us that all the plans of man are like a barren desert.  Sometimes there seems no easy way out, and all we can do is be like Peter, who when asked if he was going to leave Jesus, said "to whom shall we go, You have the words of eternal life."  Yet Jeremiah 17 states that trusting God in difficult circumstances is like fresh streams of water to your soul. In His light we become light, resulting in a progressive growth into Christ until He literally becomes all in all. 

Certainly, there is no situation so totally out of our hands as what happens the moment we die.  All our exalted ideas and philosophies are powerless to change things.  Everything that follows is completely up to God.  Is He faithful to do what He promised for those who put faith in Him?  Man is completely helpless to control his eternal destiny.

God created man to know Him and be with Him forever.  The entirety of life has many significant activities and milestones, but when it is all said and done, we stand before God accountable for what we have done with His Son.  "Behold the man" may have been Pilate's words to the crowd, but the reality is that everything depends on how you behold Him.  Unless life is an opportunity to respond to Him and all He did for man by dying on the cross, than the only other option is that all life is a period of struggle to survive until you die.  What a completely wasted existence to fail to find the purpose for which we were made!

Christmas isn't just about a baby in a manger and all the periphery around it.  Rather, it is a divine statement that God sent Jesus to meet our need and save man.  A valid question is "From what?" From sin and eternal death, from the consequences of his own fleshly nature that leads to death, from the human pride that refuses to make room for God is his life.  Maybe the Christmas bells will ring out for you this year, "Do you need Me now?"  Eternity and your being complete depends on your answer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Purpose of your Life?

  Recently, at the passing of a dear friend who seemingly died before her time, the comment was made that a full life isn't how many years you live, but rather whether you accomplished your mission, your purpose.  Someone joked that he was so far behind in completing his mission that he would have to live past 90 just to get everything done. 

Yet finding one's purpose and fulfilling our calling is not a laughing matter or something that always seems well-defined.  Most of us just go through life simply doing the necessary practical things, making a living, handling the demands of family and work, while our emotional needs may be satisfied with common pleasures of body appetites and whatever the sports and entertainment venues can provide. However, there is little serious consideration of the real meaning or purpose of our lives.  Once in a awhile, on various occasions such as a death or birth, we may stop and reflect on what life really is and why we are here.  Usually these passing thoughts only cause temporary change of direction, much like the New Year's resolutions that are so easy to make and break. 

  May I ask "What will be said about you at your funeral?"  What would you like to have said and for what would you like to be remembered?  Clearly more important, what does God see and what will He say to you.  Before we can answer this, we may need to consider God's perspective. 

  From the beginning God wanted to walk with man and be his close friend.  He has given each of us certain unique qualities and specific abilities to accomplish the "good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)  God knows our calling and purpose and is more than able to accomplish in us and through us what He desires to do.  Life is designed to be a partnership, a walking together, and depending on Him until He is "all in all" to accomplish this assignment.  Have you imagined what it would be like if today Jesus simply walked with you, in your basic relationships, in your time at work, in the basic decisions you make with your time and energy, and in the thoughts of your heart?

  It is never too late to open up more to Jesus, or to let His shed blood clean you up and make you "new."  God's love supersedes everything that you have ever done or that has ever happened to you.  Isaiah declares He is waiting to show mercy to you.  The big things such as life calling and purpose only unfold when the small steps of inviting the Lord to permeate your mind and heart in the little things happens. Then the light will dawn and get brighter and brighter.

  You can't change what you have done or what has occurred, but you can be with the Lord Jesus right now.  He is "I Am."  You can obey the next thing that you perceive His Spirit is impressing on you to do.  You can sense that He is not only with you but also that He is pleased with you.  You can pour out your heart and concerns to Him and let Him be the motivation and strength to do the difficult thing.  The primary purpose of your life is to be with Him and to let Him "own or rule" you.  From this relationship the overall mission or purpose will be clear and unfold easily.

Then when the time comes to go home, you will have accomplished your mission.  Your mind and heart will rest as Paul did, declaring "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Pretty Please God?"

"Pretty please, God, would you make this go away?" or "I promise to change or do some generous deed if you do this for me"  Have you ever begged God or tried to manipulate God for something? Did it work?  What is wrong with this whole picture?

Let's start with the beginning.  God loves us and is pleased to give us the kingdom.  He delights in mercy and meeting the needs of his children.  He has promised to not give a stone to the child who asks for bread.  Hasn't He already given us the most precious treasure He has, in His own Son?  So how can we doubt His heart toward us in wanting to give to us all we need to have abundant life.

Secondly, there is an eternal principle in which God is not mocked, namely what a man sows is what he shall reap.  All through history God has always weighed men's hearts and responded strongly to help and defend those who honor Him.  God gives grace to the humble.  2 Chronicles 16:9 further declares that God is looking for an opportunity to show His power in behalf of the person whose heart is right toward Him.  In simple words, our attitude and actions always make a difference to God, leading to positive or negative consequences.

Thirdly, faith is not something you drum up just when you need it.  Faith is an eternal quality that starts with admitting we have sinned and accepting that Jesus paid it all for you through His death on the cross.  In response to this honest transaction, the life of God, Jesus Christ Himself, takes up permanent residence in our hearts and being. Then each time we read and allow the truth of God's Word to soak into our thinking and hearts, it grows.  Faith is defined as a "conviction" or "assurance" so it requires time of reflection and acceptance to become established in the "knower" part of our inner man.  And every time we choose a right attitude in a difficult situation we likewise grow according to James 1:2-5.  This invisible but clearly tangible quality, faith, is meant to be "ever increasing" and to grow as a plant that proceeds from seed to germination to blade to flower to fruit according to the parable Jesus explained.  Faith is a real spiritual quality and quantity that silently permeates all we think and do, and is not just how we feel at the moment of trial.

The point is that God has a plan for each of us to grow into the image of Jesus Christ, and He has sent His Spirit to make sure we have every opportunity to do that.  He not only wants us to be whole in spirit, soul, and body, but also "He who calls you is faithful and He will do it." (1 Thess 5:24)  So God, who is in us and on our side, is ready to help to change us.  All we have to do is be faithful in the little things such as starting the day with Jesus, reading the Word, asking forgiveness when we fail, and obeying the Spirit as He leads us.  Without even realizing it, our faith will be increasing and getting stronger through every trial and victory we experience.  Then in the day of trial, to our great amazement, our faith will be sufficient to overcome and bring us to a place where thanksgivings will overflow to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:7-15).  You never need to beg or manipulate God again.