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Archive for the tag “Hope for the world”

Learning from John

For the last eleven weeks, my small group studied the letters of John (1 John, 2 John and 3 John). If you have read those letters, you probably noticed a theme – God is love. John pointed to the fact that if we know God and are found in Him, then we are to love as well. In John’s words: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

Another point I picked out from reading these letters is that truth and love go together. This point may seem obvious to you, but it did not occur to me these two should always be together. It makes perfect sense because Jesus is Love and He is Truth. When we walk in truth and love, we are the reflection of Jesus. Just speaking truth without love, is harsh. Just giving love without truth is incomplete.

I noted in a summary of one of the weeks: love is the indicator of our relationship with God through Jesus. If we love, it’s because of God’s Spirit in us; if we live in fear, God’s love is not there. Love drives out fear. John stated it this way in 1 John 4:18b: perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

It all makes perfect sense – when we are abiding with Jesus, day in and day out – we live with no fear, we live in complete love and we know the truth. Our joy is complete. However, it’s hard to live like that. It takes a daily grounding in God’s Word to sustain my mind in the truth and in love. I have to provide a shield over my mind and my heart. Because once I step out of my house, the world wants to influence me. Actually, I don’t have to step out of my house. The world creeps in when I turn on the television or I log on to the World Wide Web.

Another point John made that really hit home for me. We need to watch out for false teachers. He called them antichrists. We definitely have a problem today with false messages. John wrote two thousand years ago, we are in the last hour and antichrists are among us. His words in 1 John 4: 2-3: This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

How much more today than when John first penned these words. And the false messages are being broadcast across the globe. We need to watch who we let into our circle of influence – no matter if it’s a friend or a famous speaker (or singer for that matter). John wrote we should not let these who speak falsehoods into our house – check it out in John’s second letter: If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

The teaching he referred to was the teaching that Jesus did not come in the flesh; basically a deceiver who teaches falsely. Anytime we turn on the television or log on to the web, we are letting them into our house. Anytime we listen, we welcome them into our spiritual house unless we are grounded in the Truth and know the Truth and recognize their falsehood. John wrote in his second letter we are to test the spirits. This is how we will know if what we hear is truth or lies; compare it to God’s Word.

Last night, I listened to a show concerning the Hebrew year 5780 that just started a little over a month or two ago and the coming year 2020. The speaker said that “80” represented the mouth; 2020 is for vision. He mentioned this year there will be more speaking and more vision. If this is true, then we need to be grounded in God’s Word – first to understand truth, second to cover our minds with the helmet of salvation to protect us from negative influence.

God’s Word says it this way: Proverbs 4:23

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.

And in Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Be careful who you let influence your thoughts and your decisions. These days will continue to get darker. We are the light and we need to shine the light in this darkness. We are the ones who walk in love and in truth. Let us be the influencers we are called to be. Stay grounded. And stay focused on what’s important for this life and the one to come.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Five Hundred

Are you a numbers person? I am. When I hear numbers, I perk up – so to speak. It happened the other Sunday while I listened to my Pastor speak about getting our act together – well, he didn’t actually call the message that… but that’s the jest of this message series.

The number 500 came to my attention when Pastor Jimmy spoke about the last message Jesus gave to those gathered. The message was to go out and tell the Good News. Pastor Jimmy said the crowd hearing that message was less than the ones sitting in the warehouse that morning hearing Pastor Jimmy’s message.

Five hundred. That’s all it took to get the message to us today. Isn’t that amazing?

Five hundred men and women were called to tell the Good News to the ends of the earth. They heard the proclamation to go and tell in Jerusalem (city), in Judea and Samaria (region) and to the ends of the earth (world). But it took persecution to get the message to go beyond the borders of Jerusalem. When those believers felt the heat, they took off to parts unknown. But as they went, they told the stories of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Five hundred.

The small crowd of followers listened intently to the message that day. These were the ones who stayed when others had left because of Jesus’ hard teaching. Their eyes were focused on the Risen Lord. I can imagine them sitting with their gaze – eyes wide; ears attentive and tuned in to His voice. They would hang on His every word. After all, this One was dead then He was alive. Who wouldn’t believe after that? Well, besides the religious leaders.

The last thing Jesus said would be the thing that would be engraved on their hearts. “Write it down; we need to remember this – it’s important.” The Gospel writers did so we could be there with them to hear the message they heard. The message changed their lives. It could change ours too – if we listened and tuned in to His voice.

Five hundred.

Peter helped increase the number with his first message. The followers numbered three thousand five hundred on Pentecost. Jesus said those assembled would increase with the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come. And they did. The Holy Spirit came like a rushing wind. Tongues of fire lit something within them and they were never the same. Jesus said the assembly – Ecclesia (Greek) or Church (English) – would be built upon the foundation of Jesus’ message – His Truth – He is the Son of the Living God who died for our sins and was raised to life so that we could be in relationship with God the Father as was the Plan from the beginning.

This message was passed down from generation to generation. For centuries, it endured because of the testimony from those who had been changed by its message. Throughout the world and across generations, lives have been changed because of the first five hundred. The five hundred didn’t have an easy road to travel. They endured many hardships. Persecution kept them going. And the message spread because of it.

What would it take today to get us motivated to tell others about this Good News? The message hasn’t changed. The Holy Spirit is still at work today as He was when the Church was first formed. Jesus said the Church would never be destroyed. And it hasn’t been, although it’s not because of the enemy’s lack of trying. One day, the Church will be snatched away and the world will fall into a great darkness.

The only thing keeping the darkness at bay is the power of the Holy Spirit working through His Church. It may not be apparent today in the US as it was in the past, but the Church is still a guiding force by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is still looking for those willing to risk it all, just as the first five hundred did for the message of Christ. The first five hundred experienced persecution for the Church to grow.

Today, the Church is growing in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, they experience great persecution as well. The decline of the church in the US may be caused by our “freedoms” and lack of persecution. What’s it going to take to wake up the church in the US today? Is it going to take persecution in the US to bring about a renewed interest in this old message? Will the church dwindle down to 500 faithful believers who will risk it all for the sake of the Good News? Time will tell… the church is still here – are we awake?

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:8-10 (NLT)

Two Words for Today

This past week, my small group started reading the Gospel of Mark. It’s the shortest of the Gospel accounts of Jesus. It is believed to have been written by the author John Mark while he was in Rome for the Roman Christians between the years 55 and 65 AD. John Mark received the narrative from Peter, a disciple of Jesus and one of Jesus’ closest friends – part of His inner circle.

Unlike the other two synoptic Gospels, Mark’s message begins with the ministry of Jesus. The word that jumps out from the beginning is “immediately.” John Mark used that word throughout his writing. The word I got from the beginning is unhindered. Jesus wanted to begin His ministry unhindered to share the Good News about His Father’s Kingdom. However, the more Jesus did – the miracles – the less He was able to move about freely. The people came far and wide to see Jesus – to see His miracles and to hear His message.

In the beginning, Jesus told the demons not to speak about who Jesus was (is). When the demons saw Jesus, they proclaimed Him as the Son of God. I believe Jesus didn’t want them testifying – He didn’t want people to believe the demons message. Jesus’ message was to believe in Him for who He was (is) not because of what a demon said or the miracles Jesus performed. The miracles were signs and wonders to prove His authority to what Jesus proclaimed.

People were amazed at His authority. They had never heard anything like it. However, the schooled members of society – the Pharisees had a problem with Jesus’ authority. They wanted more proof than the signs and wonders Jesus provided. Jesus said even if He died and rose again, they would not believe – and they didn’t. Their hearts were hardened and had no room for Jesus.

Early in the narrative, John Mark wrote about Jesus’ take on old and new wineskins. I believe this remark was directed to the Pharisees. The message Jesus delivered was a new message – new wine. The new wine would be better served in a new wineskin rather than an old wineskin. The message was brought forth through the disciples rather than the religious elite – the Pharisees. There would be a new vessel for the new message.

The Pharisees thought they were covered because of who they were – sons of Abraham – God’s chosen people. They didn’t believe they needed to be saved from their sins. They believed in the rules of Moses’ Law was going to save them. They had no need for Jesus. They relied on tradition and had no relationship with God. It was all about the Law and nothing more.

Jesus told a group of disciples it was more than just following rules. He expounded on the Law and said it was more than keeping the letter of the Law but even the thoughts could be judged against them. So the Law said murder was wrong, but Jesus said even our thoughts about harming someone was breaking the heart of this commandment. It’s impossible to keep the Law. The Law was given to show us our need for a Savior.

In the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus began His ministry in the synagogues. However, the message was rejected in those places. The message was received outside of those walls where Jesus walked among the crowd. He spoke on hillsides, in small villages, and around the Sea of Galilee. The people from far and wide came to hear the message and see all He was doing. But the Pharisees did not see and did not hear. They missed the message of love, hope, peace and joy. Jesus came for them too, but they rejected His message and didn’t believe Him even with all the things He did in their presence. Jesus broke their rules (not God’s) and did things on the Sabbath that their rules forbid.

Eventually, though many decided to turn away from Jesus because the message was too hard to follow. They didn’t understand what Jesus said about His death and how it would change everything. Only after the resurrection do we see thousands committing their lives to the message. The resurrection made the difference in how the message was received. People believed the witnesses of the resurrection. They understood the message after the greatest of the signs and wonders – Jesus’ resurrection. However, the Pharisees still didn’t believe and their fate was determined by their unbelief.

The message is still true today. It’s not about tradition or following rules. It’s about a relationship with Jesus and following Him. It’s more than Jesus saving us from our sins. It’s about turning our lives over to Him as Lord. It’s giving Him everything – all of our hearts. It’s about being outside the building walls and showing others the love of Jesus every day.

Let’s not miss the message Jesus still sends today. It’s still the message that will change everything for someone waiting to hear of a hope that cannot be destroyed by their circumstances. God is bigger. This world is falling apart and time is growing shorter by the day. Let’s be unhindered and immediately share what we know.

But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:16-17 (NLT)

The Seed

Do you know anything about seeds? I don’t know much, but what I do know I find amazing. There are interesting little specimens of life. The seed has a protection against enemies so that it can live. Seeds have a coating that contains some type of poison so that it will not be attractive to a predator. It has an innate ability to survive. Seeds have within them many seeds to come. One little seed has the potential to become a forest. Amazing, right?

This week, I finished the book Adamant by Lisa Bevere. The last chapter was an inspirational charge. I’m not a feminist nor do I claim to be. However, I want to empower women to live up to their potential. Through the ages, women have always worked alongside the men to do Kingdom work. They might not get the recognition, but they work long and hard to do God’s work. Women have not always had the opportunities that we now can claim. We have an equal footing in our society, not like some others that still consider women as second-class citizens. Jesus recognized women in His ministry. We have Jesus to thank to bring women out of obscurity into new roles for Kingdom purpose.

I believe God has jobs in His Kingdom that only women can do. I feel empowered every time I read things like Lisa wrote to encourage women to go out there and do the job they’re called to do. Sometimes I will get discouraged on this walk of faith. When discouragement happens, I will pick up a book like Adamant which encourages me to keep the faith and keep doing what I am called to do.

As I read the last chapter this week, Lisa gave reference to seeds lying dormant in us. Lisa wrote about digging in the catacombs in Rome. Researchers found “frescoes illustrating scenes from the early church days. Some of the frescoes portrayed women ministering alongside the men.” The man who told the story to Lisa spoke a word to her about these frescoes that awoke something in her. As she wrote these things, she asked this question: “What is it the enemy wanted buried in your life?” These seeds are lying there waiting to come to life. These seeds one day could have the potential to build a forest.

We all have that seed within us. It may be forgotten by us but it has not been forgotten by God who put it in us from the beginning. There may be some type of forest fire that is going on in our lives to clear the area for the seed to have room to grow. Fires are a cleansing and purifying tool. Satan may think he has the upper hand when fires are consuming us, but in reality the fires are purifying us and making us ready. It may be a barren place right now, but soon the forest will emerge. God told us that all things hidden will be revealed. What God has placed in us cannot lie dormant. It has to come out. It’s the seed that longs to be birthed and give life to something new.

Many times I’ve written about my struggle to find my purpose. That hasn’t changed. I still struggle with it. But maybe it’s in the struggle that purpose is birthed. In the struggle, character emerges. In the character, conviction is conceived. In the conviction, a new mindset is brought to life. With a new mindset, we build a life that is filled with purpose. Every day we are given more choices and more opportunities to be stretched in a way we’ve never had before. Those exercises strengthen our faith.

Maybe we don’t see it. Maybe we’re blind and need eyes to see. Maybe we need to ask Jesus to touch our eyes again like the blind man who couldn’t see on the first touch. The man saw people like trees walking around (Mark 8:24). After the second touch, trees were no longer walking. Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly (Mark 8:25).

Maybe we still see people as trees – obstacles in our way of progress. We are not called to fight causes for justice – although it’s a good thing to fight. We are called to the people to give hope and help them to also see that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. When we change the people, we change society. The people around us are opportunities to fertilize and cultivate something deeper in us. They are the purpose we have to a deeper life with Jesus. We grow when we minister to others. The seed within grows.

We sow the seed of hope everyday in our interactions that will one day bring the forest to fruition. What we cannot see, God does and He is faithful to complete the tasks. Our job is to scatter the seed and let the Creator birth something new through our actions. Maybe that’s really our purpose. It pleases God for us to be His seed spreaders. We may not get the recognition here, but we live for the reward we will receive in heaven. We are called to love God and love people. When we do that, a forest is built upon the seed.

“The seed that fell into good, fertile soil represents those lovers of truth who hear it deep within their hearts. They respond by clinging to the word, keeping it dear as they endure all things in faith. This is the seed that will one day bear much fruit in their lives. No one lights a lamp and then hides it, covering it over or putting it where its light won’t be seen. No, the lamp is placed on a lampstand so others are able to benefit from its brightness.” Luke 8:15-16 (TPT)

In the Valley

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the
Lord
forever.
Psalm 23

When King David walked through the valley, he said it all. He knew tragedy. He knew loss. He also knew the strength from His God. We can know the strength that comes from the Lord. It’s available to all.

I have avoided writing about the devastation over the last six weeks (is that as long it has been?). We have seen three major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, fires on the west coast, Mexico has had two large earthquakes, and now the tragedy of the terrorist attack on the music festival (did I miss anything?). What in the world is going on?

Jesus said that the labor pains would get more frequent as time grows closer to His coming back. Evil will continue to have rule of the day until He returns. We are to press through it with our eyes focused on Jesus. His love pursues us. He comforts us when tragedy strikes. But we have to turn to Him. He can pursue us all day long, but until we turn to Him we will never find Him as long as we keep going as we have been going.

The slogan “Make America Great Again” is not possible. It never has been great – I’m not dissin’ America. I love it. This is my home. My family has been here since the 1700/1800’s. I’ve checked. Our greatness came from God for His purpose. However, we have chosen to remove God from about everything that is public. Prayer is a thing of the past when it comes to certain venues. The Ten Commandments are gone from the courtrooms. If people would have it, Scripture would be erased from the governmental buildings throughout this land. The engravings would be removed.

If America wants to remove God, He will let us. And I am not saying all these tragedies are God’s judgment; but we have removed Him from our public lives, so He will remove His hand of protection from us. He will allow tragedies to happen so that we will once again come back to Him. We saw it with 9/11 and the turning back to God that happened for the next couple of weeks (maybe month), but it didn’t last. Things will continue to happen.

Isaiah (55:6) said it best:  Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. One day, He will no longer be found. One day, all hell is literally going to be released, and He will not stop it. Matter of fact, Scripture says in that time, people will curse God. It’s going to happen like we have never experienced it before.

We might not like to hear this, because we believe God is good and loving; and He would never allow it to happen. But we fail to realize that God is a righteous judge, and He will not let sin continue as it does. Read the Scripture. There was always a point when God would send judgment on Israel for her sins. Over and over again. They would sin, time would pass and then judgment would come. Again, I am not saying God is judging us – He could be – but I am not saying this is judgment. But it is His pattern of warnings then judgment to get people to turn to Him. He always warns before the judgment – and He will tell us when its judgment – there will be “writing on the wall” to let us know this is it. It will be obvious.

I know, this isn’t a “feel good” blog posting. I believe we need to examine our hearts. I think the church should examine the Body. We need some movement to get this Body going again. We are in desperate times and the people of the times need a strong Body. The Holy Spirit needs to breathe life into us again. There are things that need to be cleaned up and cleaned out so that the Body will thrive again. The Body of Christ needs fire in the belly. The Holy Spirit has been absent too long. The breath of God has to be in the Body to bring fire back into the church.

Dr. Tony Evans spoke a couple of weeks ago on giving the Holy Spirit free reign to worship. We need the Holy Spirit to be unleashed. We need the “awe” back in our worship, to focus solely on God. When the people in the Book of Acts came together, Jesus was their focus. When the disciples of Jesus focused on Him, it drew the crowds. There was something different about these people. They were committed to following Jesus in such a way that it could not be mistaken. We need that again. This is my prayer for us in this time.

We need the Holy Spirit back in our lives in such a way that it would draw others to Jesus. We have to point others to Jesus. He is our only hope. Pray with me for His Spirit to make a difference in the church; pray for the people who have been affected by these tragedies. Pray for their hope and salvation to be found in Him, and they will be comforted by His loving embrace. Pray that God would return to our public lives before it’s too late and hearts will be turned to Him again like never before. Let His Spirit be poured out!

We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. 1 John 5:19-20

United in Prayer

The other day, I heard a Christian lady say that she was just waiting for the President of our nation to be impeached. It wasn’t the first time that I have heard a Christian talk about the President in a negative way. I hear it quite often. I heard another lady on Christian Talk Radio ask the host why Christians were for Trump. I am saddened by these comments, not because I am a fan of Trump’s. I am saddened because these Christians are not seeing the bigger picture.

I truly believe Trump is in office by the hand of God. How else can we explain it? His rise to the highest office was nothing but a miracle! I believe God put Trump in office for a purpose that will only be explained after the fact. God is in control of all things including who runs this nation. The best thing the President has done at this point is put godly men and women in his cabinet. They will get wise counsel from above and hopefully the President will listen to them. He may never get a wall built or change the health care system; but he was put a conservative on the Supreme Court with the possibility of another one or two during his term. And I also believe that he is in office for a reason that has to do with Israel. In God’s perspective, everything centers on Israel. If this is the reason for the miracle, then all eyes need to be on Israel.

There was a prophecy that came true concerning the Prime Minister of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu was told that he would be removed from office if he did a certain thing (I don’t remember the exact prophecy). He did that thing he was told not to do and sure enough, he lost his position. The same man who gave that prophecy had another one for Netanyahu a few years later. The prophecy was that Netanyahu would be returned to that position, and it was done just as it was foretold. There was a reason that was given with the prophecy, and it had to do with the third temple. Since these prophecies have come true, Netanyahu knows the temple will be on his watch. It will be interesting to see how all this unfolds. God has to do some major work in that area before that foundation can ever be laid.

With all the imperfections of Trump, the one good thing that we can point to as Christians is his friendship with Israel. Since the beginning of Israel’s modern history (since 1948) this is the first president that is totally pro-Israel. There have been other presidents that have taken a stand for Israel, but I don’t think they have stood up quite like Trump has at this point in time. There is definitely something going on here. God has stacked the deck in the first office and the legislative branch for a reason. Let’s keep the faith and believe God is still in control of this mess.

On this national day of prayer, let’s be united in prayer for our nation, for our leaders, for God to do His work through them for His glory. There is a lot at stake for us as a nation and for us as Christians in this nation. We have work to do to bring this divided nation back to unity. The government isn’t going to do it for us. The church has to build the bridge. We have to stand up and fight for our communities. We need to be on our knees before God asking for His healing power to heal this nation. This is our battle that can only be won on our knees together.

On this national day of prayer, let’s lift up Israel. Let’s be united for God’s eternal city – the peace of Jerusalem. Israel has been prospering and thriving in their homeland, but there are many threatening to destroy them. Israel needs our prayers. Benjamin Netanyahu needs our prayers. Let’s stand united under the banner of Christendom; for we are a mighty nation under God, indivisible – not referencing the US, but as God’s people together – the church. We are a force that cannot be defeated because our leader – Jesus Christ – has already won the battle. We are already empowered to do the work that needs to be done in this day and time.

Let’s pray together for the hope of the world to be revealed in these last days. For Jesus Christ to be made known and bring peace to every heart. For the Holy Spirit to be poured out on the land of Israel, and all of the Middle East, to bring about a great awakening in our land as well. Let God hear our cries of desperation and bring salvation to many in this time of uncertainty. And let’s pray for one another to be courageous and bold like the first Christians in the book of Acts. Let’s raise up this offering that it may please God to hear and answer our cries of desperation. Let God’s glory fill the earth! Amen.

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 1 Chronicles 7:14-15 (NLT)

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