To Be A Witness

I do not know anything that would wake up Chicago better than for every man and woman here who loves Him to begin to talk about Him to their friends, and just to tell them what He has done for you.- Dwight L.

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them?”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:13-14‬ ‭NET‬‬

There is a lie that exists among people who claim to be Christians…

“I will let my actions demonstrate that I am a Christian, that will be my witness.”

That is not only a lie, but it is arrogant and cowardly. Was not Jesus perfect in all His ways? Did he not preach, share and testify?

“Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:17‬ ‭NET‬‬

Are any of us more perfect than Jesus? No, none of us are. Jesus is God. He is without sin. Since we are all sinners, then shouldn’t we all bear witness of what Jesus has done to free us from sin?

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – and not with clever speech, so that the cross of Christ would not become useless. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1:17-18‬ ‭NET‬‬

Silence is the cowardly act of allowing evil to prevail. Silence allows the lies of misinformation to pervert the truth and change the narrative. Silence is the act of good people doing nothing, it grieves the Holy Spirit and prevents the changing of lives. Silence disengages you from relationships and enslaves you to a life of unfulfilling uselessness.

But to those who are witnesses, their lives are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Boldness embodies them. With boldness comes hope, the hope of God’s promises.

“because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel”
‭Colossians‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Happy are those who share the good news. The Gospel is only about Jesus Christ. It is the story of God’s redemption of mankind from sin and the freedom Jesus provides from guilt, shame and condemnation. (Destroying the Message of Guilt and Shame) It is God’s love story for humanity.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NASB‬‬

So if you love Jesus, share the good news of Jesus. If you really love your neighbor, share Jesus, because love is the proof of your faith.

When Prayer Becomes Authentic.

Do you speak to God with the clarity of speaking with a friend. Authentic prayer is empowered by the knowledge of scripture and guided by the understanding and wisdom of a loving Father.

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. “Give us this day our daily bread.”

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew‬ ‭6:7-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

My earliest memories of my parents faith is their prayer life. Prayer was always at the top of their list of things to do. They would pray about everything and anything. It was such a normal activity, that even the family dog would act as if she were praying. She would sprawl close to my mom, with paws crossed during her prayer times.

My siblings and I were raised  on the numerous stories of answered prayer. These life changing accounts filled our minds with the belief that God answers prayer. It was not until I turned 12 that I saw with my own eyes the first of many miracles; my mother completely healed of the crippling disease, Myasthenia gravis. This forever doomed me to the knowledge that Christianity was real, Jesus was real and God answered prayers of righteous people. I could never deny that God was real, so I was left with no excuses. Although I rebelled often as a youth and young adult, I could not ignore where my selfish behavior was leading me. Sin can seem fun. It can also lead to destruction. We still have the free will to choose our path. I know that the tearful prayers of my parents worked.

Thank God, I finally straitened out.  Thankfully it was His goodness that allowed me to see sin as He does and bring me to repentance through Jesus Christ my Lord.

Now that I am older and wiser I return to those memories of my parents prayer life and the lessons I learned. Prayer should always be the first thing you do when facing a crisis or before making a decision. I wrote about this in a previous post: The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life… It also needs to be persistent and enduring, which you can read in: Enduring and Persistent Communication…

Lately I have been asked, “How can my life change, so that I am really walking with Jesus?” “Why do I keep struggling with my faith?” These questions reflect a need in the church body to understand authentic prayer and Biblical based meditation on The scripture. Real changes come when people read the Bible consistently, meditate on what it says and add its understanding to their prayer life.

Isn’t it interesting that the Christian who prays every day, reads the Bible every day, memorizes scripture and shares his faith; never shows or expresses any doubts about his salvation. The knowledge of knowing the Father has given that Christian an assurance of salvation in Christ alone.

Do you want an authentic relationship with God?

So lets take a look at the example Jesus gave us on how to pray with authenticity.

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them;”

It is not the amount of words we use or the vocabulary, but the genuine heartfelt utterances that we speak to God. These are the words that matter to our Father. We do not pray mantras but sincerity from our heart and soul. We speak the languages of brokenness, honor, humility and we speak them with tears, thankfulness and praise.

“for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”

We are to pray with the anticipation of knowing that God is paying attention to our lives, He knows every detail. We pray with the expectation that His will, will be done; because we know that He loves us. He is our Father, who is in Heaven.

“Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

We surrender to His will, and offer thanksgiving and service to our Father’s Kingdom. We honor Him as our King, supreme in all authority, wisdom, knowledge and power. His understanding surpassing any situation we will face. We recognize that we are not alone, we belong to the Kingdom of God and are supported by the righteous right hand of God which is Jesus Christ our Lord.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

God wants us to express our needs, concerns and fears. He want open and honest communication from us. He is never busy, always ready to listen. We remind him of the promises of Jesus.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

We seek forgiveness for ourselves and for the grace to forgive and love others. Granted to us through the blood of Jesus.

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

We ask for deliverance from temptation and endurance to overcome the trials and tribulations of living in a sinful world. We pray for healing and for strength.

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

We finish our prayer with praise, worship, and thankfulness, because God always wins. He is faithful and true, His love reigns supremely.

May your prayers be authentic and transforming. May people see Christ revealed in your life. May the proof of your faith be the Christ in you, the Hope of Glory.

God Bless,

Stephan

When God Grows Love…

The moment we respond in anger or hurt, we have dismissed love from our life. True love looks beyond the disagreement and builds a bridge that demonstrates the Christ with you.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:28-33)

Two years ago I had the privilege of preaching through the Gospel of Mark in tandem with the senior pastor at the church where I was volunteering. It was a great experience for me. I was always a huge believer in expository preaching; but to actually explain the text verse by verse, was one of the most transforming experiences of my life.  My walk with Christ radically changed during this period. You may find this humorous, but most of the sermons I preached, affected me. It seemed that every sermon preached was at myself. I began to wonder if the passages assigned to me were done out of an intentional purpose. Did the senior pastor see something in my life that needed to be changed? I found out later that it was all the work of the Holy Spirit and the pastor was oblivious to what was happening to me. One of the passages that was life changing for me was Mark 12:28-33.

It has been over three years and that sermon still stirs within me. It convicts, encourages and transforms. This passage teaches us how to love. It gives us understanding of how to accept the love of God and where true love comes from. This may take a few posts to explain, so I plan on keeping each post easy to read. (Yes I am A.D.D. and feel your pain.) The subject of love is important for a number of reasons. Our society has forgotten how to really love one another and how to love God. It has forgotten that God loves us and what that love truly looks like.

Jesus breaks this passage down in two ways, surrendering to God and loving God. In this passage we learn that Jesus is making an absolute statement, that the greatest commandment is to live in total love and to live a completely surrendered life to God.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”

For many, Christianity is a list of rules that no one one can live up to. Most people view us as hypocrites. They despise our hypocrisy because they view our moral code as changing in order to meet our own selfishness. This is not supposed to be the case. Some people try to live by a moral code. But even the best moral code fails when there is no love. The scribe was seeking righteousness through moral living. God wants us to seek righteousness through surrendered living.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (Mark 8:34)

So what does this mean?

Simply put, Jesus is asking us to deny selfishness in any form or behavior, lay your life down for others and follow His example of unconditional love. Think about how contradictory that is to what the world is telling us through social media and Television. Is it loving to be on your phone texting, when you are with someone else? Of course not! We have become so self absorbed as a society that we cannot even see when others are hurting. Self love is being promoted in the absence of genuine compassionate love for others. This is denying otherness. Jesus is calling us to deny oneness, selfishness, pridefulness and our egos. Our world has become so self centered, that anyone who breathes, must conform to the collective mindset or be destroyed. Selflessness allows others to foster opinions different from our selves; yet embrace those individuals with unconditional love. Jesus demonstrated that love to us, by dying for us even though our sins were contradictory to the nature of God.

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:8-10‬ ‭NASB)

Recently, after an online Bible study, a young man asked the question, “Am I really saved?” After spending some time asking questions, it became clear that he was living with guilt and shame over his personal struggles with sin. The more we love God with our total being; heart, mind, soul and strength, the more God’s love, grace and forgiveness strengthens our resolve to follow Him in righteousness. We don’t have to worry about if we are saved, if we live in committed love towards God. We do not need to worry about our salvation, if others see the light and love of Christ in us. If our mind is dedicated to His word, and our soul to worshiping God, then our strength is in Jesus. When our heart belongs to Him, then our love will be pure and faultless. This is not earning salvation. This is living in the works of our faith out of gratitude for what Jesus did on the cross. Our salvation was earned by Jesus, as a free gift for us, but we must have the free will to receive it. The choice we make either brings us life or it leads to death.

“There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief. The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied with his.” Proverbs‬ ‭14:12-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In the last eight years, the life I desire is to be a disciple of Jesus. I desire to be known by my love and not my anger, selfishness or tone. It is in my love for others that I demonstrate the reality of a fulfilled relationship with Jesus. My love is the proof of my faith.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ‭‭John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Enduring Suffering, Grieving In Tragedy.

Grief, depression and sadness are natural human responses to tragedy, trauma and suffering. We can not endure this on our own, God provides hope.

“Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.” John‬ ‭11:32-35‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

It is never easy to lose a loved one, but for Mary this past December; she lost a daughter in a car accident and a husband to a heart attack. Her twenty year love affair with her husband, gone in a second. Her only child, cruelly ripped from her life. How do you even begin to console someone in this situation? The grief is overwhelming, nothing you say will comfort the pain. Mary was a good Christian woman, why should she suffer?

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Psalms‬ ‭34:18-19‬ ‭NASB‬‬

My Aunt and Uncle, are two of the most compassionate individuals I’ve ever known. They have always demonstrated what it means to have a servant’s heart. Whomever  needed help they were there. Their help always came with joy, love and without condemnation. A few years ago my uncle was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Lately their lives have been devastated with sleepless nights, injuries and despair. My once strong Aunt, has become frail from the stress they face as a couple. Why would God allow this? Doesn’t God look out for Christians?

“Incline Your ear, O LORD, and answer me; For I am afflicted and needy. Preserve my soul, for I am a godly man; O You my God, save Your servant who trusts in You. Be gracious to me, O Lord, For to You I cry all day long. Make glad the soul of Your servant, For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; And give heed to the voice of my supplications! In the day of my trouble I shall call upon You, For You will answer me.” Psalms‬ ‭86:1-7‬ ‭NASB‬‬

One of the greatest lies told, is that if you become a Christian your life becomes easier and you will be happy. Trust me this is a lie.

Christians suffer. In some countries we are raped, tortured, burned alive and killed. The positivity preaching is a destructive lie. It deludes people into a false hope. Jesus said this, “”If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” John‬ ‭15:18-19‬ ‭NASB‬‬

What happens to the new Christian when their life is thrown into tragic turmoil and they realize that being a Christian is hard and difficult? The happiness sermons and positivity preaching become cancer to a hurting soul. This is why the truth of God’s word is better than false teachings. God’s word deals with the truth! Peter warned Christians, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;” 1 Peter‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NASB‬‬

So is God playing games with us? Why does this happen?

Most people blame God. They become bitter and even denounce their faith. The problem is that we forget about our real enemy. We blame God for what Satan does. Satan hates us. Let’s get real for a moment, we all know there is evil in the world. We see cruelty, greed, hate and horrific acts done on our tv every day. So evil exists. So why do we blame God for what Satan is doing? Shouldn’t our anger be directed at him? Peter  warns us again,

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:8-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬

God’s word comforts us in knowing that other Christians are enduring the same trials. We are not alone, as Christians, we recognize that we are part of the body of Christ. We have each other and we have Jesus. This is why it is important for Christians to go to church, to share their burdens, to pray together and to pray for each other. United in Christ we can endure and stand against the schemings of Satan.

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:10-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Christians suffer; but God is our shield. He provides us with endurance and strength to cope through the grief, depression and the loss. Christ suffered on the cross and that becomes more meaningful, when we understand that we are sharing in His sufferings. Christ endured and persevered in His suffering for us, so that we can persevere and endure under trials of our own. We become mature as Christians complete in our faith, knowing that Christ is our shield, strength and salvation.

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness, To deliver their soul from death And to keep them alive in famine.” Psalms‬ ‭33:18-19‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The attitude in which we suffer is what separates us from a world without hope. We know that this life is short in comparison to the eternal life, promised by God. This is not our kingdom, but our King is coming, we then must be prepared. God always comes through in the end.

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Don’t give up! Pray, read the Bible and pray some more. Be vigilant, be strong and love deeply. Encourage one another in love. Our time is short. Jesus is coming back!

God Bless,
Stephan

A special announcement: Next week’s blog will be special. I will have the privilege of interviewing Carl Teichrib the author of Game of Gods. Here is a link to his book and his site: gameofgods.ca 

Maintaining Your New Year Before It Breaks Down.

Wise people set goals for themselves in the New Year, areas they want to improve or even change. Some people sabotage their goals before they even begin. How will you maintain your growth? Setting positive habits builds a foundation of repeatable success.

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭3:13-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

A new year is upon us. The old year is past. This is the time to put away bad habits and start better ones. A dear friend, Jim Hogan, once challenged the sales team that worked for him, “Don’t be afraid to form good habits, everyone has habits, the best of us work from the good habits we already formed. Good habits create repeatable success.” — Crevier Sales Meeting 2008

Jim has always lived by example, he taught me the important value of doing things right from the beginning and repeating your good habits until they become one with everything you do. The highest compliment to Jim’s success is the fierce loyalty that his sales people had for him. Past employees often speak of his integrity, his character and the way he changed their lives for the better.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

For the Christian, one who is committed to following Jesus, good habits are critical to your relationship with God and to your spiritual growth. In the passage above, Paul tells us that we can change our behavior through the renewing of our minds and that we can also know the will of God. So then how do we do this?

Like any good relationship, we need to spend time and make it a date. Yes, take the time to have a daily date with God. Read His love letter and talk to Him.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans‬ ‭10:17‬ ‭NASB‬‬

David, the psalmist understood how to change his ways and to draw closer to God. He knew that it would require his whole heart. It requires a 100% commitment to daily listening, studying and communication with God.

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” Psalms‬ ‭119:9-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Recently, I was asked, “What methodology do I incorporate when studying the Bible? What habits have I put in place?” So here is my list of things that I do to have an impacting experience with God.

1.) Get a Bible you want to read. Each year I get a new Bible and I switch translations from the NASB to the NKJV. My wife and kids like the NLT. The important thing is to read God’s word.

2.) Get a quality Bible. Take some pride in picking out your Bible. I prefer goat skin leather and a binding that is called smyth sewn. The binding is critical, a smyth sewn binding will last and hold up over time. (Smyth Sewn Bindings) The paper should be at a 28 gsm or greater. The best Bibles made are by Schuyler, R.L. Allan, and Cambridge. (Evangelical Bibles) This year my wife bought me my first Schuyler Bible. It is such a beautiful masterpiece of craftsmanship.

3.) Develop a system to take notes in your Bible. Don’t just write notes, write with a purpose. One day someone else will read my Bible, I wonder how will my notes inspire their relationship with Jesus. I have developed a color code system over the years that works for me. Below is an example of it.

4.) Pray before you start and after. I always ask God to give me understanding and wisdom in comprehending His word.

5.) Get a book that corresponds to what you are reading. Get some perspective. Share what you learned with a friend.

6.) Get cozy. Find a quiet place, with a comfortable chair. Make this a place that you want to go to.

7.) Make the time you spend with God, consistent. Set a time to read your Bible. Keep your date with Him

8.) Keep a journal of your growth. Write down what you learned. Look back at it and see how you have changed.

God views us as exceptional. He loves us and created us each in a unique way. The one consistent trait, is that anyone can change. God gave us free will, the ability to end mistakes and to create better attitudes and behaviors. The only way this can happen is with God’s help and through having a relationship with Him. This year choose to make your new year exceptional; by maintaining a deeper relationship with God through prayer and the reading of His word.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”‭‭”Romans‬ ‭1:16-17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

God Bless and have a Happy New Year.

Stephan

Year End Review (Part 1)

It has been a great year! There is so much to share and celebrate. As 2018 comes to a close, we have more hope & understanding, that Jesus is returning soon!

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8 NIV

There has been so much to be grateful for this year. The growth of my walk has radically changed more this year than at any time in my life. The biggest factor is how I do my devotion times. I genuinely know that God is with me. I see the results of his handy work. I pray more for others. I also pray for you as well. The way the Lord led me to reconstruct my Bible reading plans, have brought more insight and revelation. Early in the year the Holy Spirit had me read Isaiah five times. Each time something new was revealed. Some of the inspiration from these devotional times have found its way into this Blog.

I am amazed by the number of countries where this blog is read. I find myself praying for my readers in Australia, Nigeria, Poland, Brazil and Albania. God has allowed this I pray for everyone of them. blog to be read in 39 different countries. Even though I don’t know many of the readers, I pray for you often. 

Some of the most amazing emails have come from people who read a post that I thought was not very good, but God chose it, to bring about some amazing healing. Each of us has some pain to deal with. “Clara” (Name Changed) emailed me, asking if God could really forgive her and remove all the guilt and shame she felt. She read the post: Destroying the Message of Guilt and Shame (Click the link to read) I was able to get her connected with a local church in her state. The pastor tells me she is radically changed for God and is helping other women in the church deal with their pain.  

One of the questions I get is why I have not updated my section on the books, that I am reading. The fact is that I keep pushing it off. So I thought I would share the books that have shaped my thoughts this year. I will include the links to Amazon. I hope this inspires you.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Romans 15:4 NIV

  1. A New English Translation of the Septuagint. This has transformed my reading of the Bible more than any other book this year other than a book that I have, The Dead Sea Scrolls.  The Septuagint is the greek translation of the Old Testament and predates Jesus, The Dead Sea Scrolls are mostly in Aramaic and also predate Jesus. What is amazing is how they validate the Old Testament, yet give greater understanding to the passages. If you are serious about knowing God or wanting greater insight. These books will stretch your growth with Jesus.
  2. The End Times by Early Church Fathers. This little gem shocked me, If you ever study end times eschatology, Dr. ken Johnson will provide some amazing insight into your view. He provides compelling arguments using early church fathers. Much of this knowledge is lost on modern seminaries.
  3. Reversing Hermon.  Dr. Michael Heiser is a brainiac, who leads you through a college class, while you read his books. He is an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls. His writings drew me to read them. He also gives you an in-depth background of what the Jews believed about where evil came from. This book inspired me to write the series: The Spread of Lawlessness (Part 1) and The Spread of Lawlessness (Part 2)
  4. The Message of Jeremiah.  Wright and Motyer are brilliant in this easy to read commentary on Jeremiah. It took me 3 months to get through Jeremiah. As I would slowly read through this book, the Septuagint and my Bible. I became alarmed by the relevance and similar warnings that Jeremiah has for America. Those concerns inspired me to write the blog posts: The Warning Bell is Sounding.
  5. Game of Gods. This in my mind is the “Book of the Year. Any pastor worth his salt, should be reading this book. This book addresses world issues from a biblical point of view. It is very personal and easy to read. It will address issues affecting the church, new false teachings, and an understanding of the current political climate. It is quite intellectual, yet will dismantle  beliefs that are contrary to scripture. Conservatives and traditional liberals will enjoy reading this book, both will come away changed by the ramifications. He will give you insight into closed door meetings at the U.N. and will update you to the emerging philosophies that will soon overtake all of our lives.

These are my top five books that I have read this year. I have read many more, but wanted to share these with you. With the coming persecution, books will be harder to get, as internet access will be limited due to censorship, for those who are Christians. One day very soon churches in America will be closed. Churches will go underground and resources will be scarce. Individual libraries will replace seminaries as those seeking knowledge will come to the homes of those who have books. So I encourage you who are faithful to God, start reading again. Read books that are theologically correct and will challenge the substandard mockeries that many seminaries have become. 

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” Matthew‬ ‭11:12‬ ‭NASB‬‬

God Bless,

Stephan

 

 

Gratitude is an Attitude of the Be-atitudes of Christ.

Gratitude and thankfulness are lost on today’s culture. Rarely do you hear “Thank you” or see gratefulness demonstrated. We live in a world cold of love and full of depression.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew‬ ‭5:3-5‬ ‭NASB‬ 

This is the time of year to be thankful, to have a heart of gratitude. Gratitude and thankfulness is the only way that we should live. But it’s not easy because we are often blinded by our circumstances that we fail to see what God has provided.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I have a friend in Kenya, who is always encouraging and positive. She smiles with the contentment of knowing that God supplies her needs. Everyday she lives with gratitude and thankfulness to Jesus, who saved her life. She is a single parent, who lost her job recently due to an economic downturn. As a child she lost both parents. She should have reasons to be upset and angry at God; instead she is grateful. She has only been a Christian for five years, but has more wisdom than most Americans. I have learned much from her.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NASB‬‬

For many who suffer from depression it can be a time of perilous pain. Depression can seem like an overwhelming giant. It often leaves a person with feelings of loneliness and insignificance, but God wants you to know, that you are not alone or insignificant. God loves you and He loves “David vs Goliath” scenarios. Just like He equipped David with a slingshot and rocks to beat his Goliath, so He has also equipped us with the attitudes of gratitude and thankfulness to fight the powerful giant that depression can be.

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:6-7‬ ‭NASB

I have been learning a lot about gratitude and thankfulness. These attitudes go a long way in subduing the thoughts and emotions of depression. This year has been a good year for me in dealing with depression, in spite of the fact it has been one of the most stressful and difficult years to endure. Finding joy came only when I learned to be thankful in the midst of trials and when I was grateful to God for helping me endure the hardships and stresses of living through the trials and difficulties that I faced.

I want everyone to understand, I could not have made it through this year without Jesus. I grew so much this year spiritually. My devotion times were amazing, my prayer times were the best they have ever been. Even my wife and I bonded closer spiritually.

Yes, I endured anxiety and worry, but I knew I was not alone; because of Jesus.

Yes, I endured financial hardships, fires, and stupid irritating things that would just go wrong; but Jesus was there.

It was such a brutal and difficult year to endure, but it was an awesome year to endure it with Jesus. I am so grateful for the lessons I learned on Gods faithfulness, love and grace.

The more I drew closer to God, the more Satan attacked. The more I grew in taking on the attitudes of Christ, the more Satan would attack me in my weaknesses. Jesus helped me to resist and to endure through the most difficult of times. He comforted me, like I have never felt before.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” 1 Peter‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Oh yes, I failed quite a bit this year, in being Christ like. The emotional roller coaster was unrelenting and difficult to bear. It was in those times I would humble myself and live in a repentant manner. It was amazing to see beyond my depression to know with such clarity that God was at work. I saw miracles take place at precisely when they were needed most. This year, through two major pay cuts, fires, medical issues with my kids, cars breaking down, increased bills, and other monumental issues; I saw Gods amazing hand at work. I learned to be grateful to Him, thankful as He helped us over every little hurdle. It was though these moments that joy overcame depression. Often my wife and I were in shock as God put on a spectacular performance of His grace, compassion, faithfulness and never ending love.

“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” 1 Chronicles‬ ‭16:34‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I am in awe that we made it through this year, so I have no other choice but to be grateful and thankful to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians‬ ‭3:15-16‬ ‭NASB‬‬

So I encourage you to be grateful, thankful and to give God the Glory for the great thing He has done in your life. Reflect on the goodness of God, pray with thanksgiving and gratitude in your hearts and you will see beyond your depression.

God Bless,

Stephan

The Bible, A Living Truth

The congruence of scripture, demonstrates the harmony of its writers with God’s plan of redemptive love. It flows throughout, singing of the joy of knowing a relational God full of grace and forgiveness, who has designed you with a purpose. God is love.

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In the past few months, I have been asked, “Do you really believe that the Bible is true?” The answer is simple, “Of course I do.” The two reasons for my knowing that the Bible is true are love and logic. Yes it is an emotional understanding, that is illogical; because, when is love logical? It is also a logical reasoning that causes me to accept the Bible as true, yet moves me into an emotional relationship with God.

When you super impose the Old Testament with the New Testament, you find harmony, agreement, and corresponding prophecy and testimony that all point to the loving redemptive, and unchanging plan of God. So let’s take a look at the truth of the Bible through love and logic.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John‬ ‭4:10-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The truth of the Bible is revealed in love.

There are many times in a marriage that one spouse needs to rekindle the romance by pursuing the other romantically. In my own marriage, my own wife needed to know how much I loved her. I pursued her by knowing her, anticipating her needs, understanding how she wanted to be loved, and being extremely patient. This describes God and his love for us.

The love of God permeates throughout the scriptures, like a sweet fragrance, scenting every verse and chapter with a reckless and illogical desire to be relational. God’s desire to know us is embodied in His loving plan to rescue us from sin and to restore us to eternal life and peace with Him.

It starts with Genesis and how God clothed Adam and Eve, even after they rebelled against Him. It is demonstrated through the love story of Ruth and Boaz. His love is broadcasted by the emotional writings of David in the Psalms. It is prophesied by Isaiah and Zachariah and boasted by the marriage of Hosea. It is fulfilled in the Gospels by Jesus His Son, who on His own, obediently sacrificed His life on a cross for the salvation of humanity. It is bound in the free will given to everyone, so that they can choose to love God or reject Him. God’s love is free.

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 1 John‬ ‭4:15-16‬ ‭NASB‬‬

It is by this example of unconditional love, that in my own life, I have tested it and found it to be true. When I have put aside selfishness and loved others unconditionally, have I seen this Godly love transform lives, create forgiveness and produce healing. God is relational and has designed us with a purpose. (Read: You Have A Purpose!)

The truth of the Bible is revealed in logic.

“Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”” Luke 24:44 NASB

These words were spoken by Jesus after His resurrection and just before His ascension. Jesus wants us to understand, that He is the main Character in God’s love story. He came to be the sacrifice to mend the broken relationship. There are two points that Jesus is making. The first point is that all scripture is relevant, because of the second point; which is that not every prophecy and scripture corresponding to Jesus has been fulfilled, because the full redemptive plan of God is not finished. The Apostle Paul specifically instructed Timothy that all scripture was relevant. He even argued that the sacred writings of the Bible, provide wisdom and lead to salvation through faith. This Salvation is because God wants to rescue us from sin.

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17 NASB

The disciple Peter also reiterated this, when he wrote: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”2 Peter 1:20-21 NASB

It is because of this passage that we know that nothing in God’s word is irrelevant. The person who knows that the Bible is true and views it as an inspired love letter from God is a Biblicist. The Biblicist must examine all scripture as congruent, to be in harmony. The one who follows Jesus, allows God’s word to prove itself. He does not add to it, or take away from it. The real Christian lets scripture stand on its own merit. If done with humility and reverence, the life of the Christian will shine with God’s word, a Holy life, filled with the Holy Spirit, soaked with the blood of Christ and saturated with love. This is what a repentant person, joyfully changed by God’s love, looks like. The Psalmist understood this very well, when he wrote:

“The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.” Psalms 19:7-9 NASB

It is through scriptures, that the Christian, can align their theology with love. It is through this harmonic relationship with God and His love, that one can answer the question, “How do I know the Bible is true?”

Voddie Baucham Jr, a famed author, preacher and theologian, simplified the answer in a Biblical manner.

“The Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents. (Verified by Archaeology) It was written down by eyewitnesses, during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. (1 John 5:13, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Deuteronomy 6:6-9) They reported supernatural events that took place, in fulfillment of specific prophecies. They claimed that their writings were Divine and not of human origin.” (Deuteronomy 29:29, Romans 15:4, Revelation 21:5)

The Biblicist accepts the supernatural, because Christianity is supernatural. The true Christian believes in God, who is supernatural and unchanging in His nature. Christianity is supernatural; because through the scripture it changes the heart, renews the mind and transforms the individual.

“So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously” Colossians‬ ‭1:10-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The Christian does not just believe in the Bible, they know it to be true, because of the evidence that God’s word transforming their lives. They live with truth and love, choosing the way of a disciple. This is the proof of their faith.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”” John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Thank you for reading, leave a comment and share the post.

Love,

Stephan

Fatherhood: The Reflections of Wins & Losses.

Fatherhood is a reflection of wins and losses. It reflects the changes you made to become better or worse. How will God view the way you raised your kids.

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭127:3-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In the next few days, my family and I will be celebrating the birthday of my daughter, Rebecca. For my daughter, this is an exciting time. In a year, she will be going off to college, where she will be forging ahead on her big plans and even bigger dreams. For me, I will put on a brave smile, and hide the heartbreak of letting my baby girl go into such a violent and cruel world. With each passing day comes the constant questions tormenting my soul:

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.”             ‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Is she ready? Have I done my best in preparing her? How do I keep her safe? Am I ready to let her go? Did I fail her as a father? Do I kill her college boyfriend before or after I meet him? (Ok, I’m kidding on the last one, it will definitely be the dog who “accidentally” eats him.)

Any father will confess, that fatherhood is a series of successes, failures, and guilt ridden contemplations. The joys come in between the guilt and the perceived failures. The insanity of being responsible for the life of your child is enough to drive anyone to the brink of a mental break down. Being the parent of nine kids, it would be a miracle if I didn’t suffer from depression! (How my wife makes this look easy is beyond any rational understanding.)

When you bring your baby home from the hospital, there is no owners manual, to help you navigate through the pitfalls of being a parent. A good father does not rely on his own instincts, but looks to his Heavenly Father for guidance. Many times I have cried out to God for help, in small things, like how to snap a baby into one of those sleepers. No one thought of a man when they designed that complicated piece of clothing.

I have also gone to Jesus in the big things. When frustration sets in, and you just don’t know how to calmly approach a situation with your kids. Thank God, that He answers prayer and provides wisdom.

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” ‭‭James‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Rebecca

When I first held her in my arms, I wept. It was a particular hard time in my life. Rebecca was a joyful distraction and a healing to my soul. God knew that I needed her. From the moment she was born, she was a great kid, rarely a problem. (There was the one time that she traumatized her classmates in kindergarten by announcing, “Santa does not exist! He is a fat old fraud.” The tears that flowed from that class, could have solved a water shortage.) She sought the truth and questioned the ridiculous. God gave her a built in owners manual on how to deal with us, which surprised us with a few uncomfortable conversations about life, politics and faith.

During the early days of her life, we all endured some hard times. I was clueless or in denial about my depression and it was making everyone miserable. She suffered through the loss of her uncle and grandfather; while dealing with grieving and emotional parents. During that time I was a typical, obnoxious, casual “Christian”. It was a religion that I abused and twisted to my benefit. It is in those early days of her life, that I have my biggest regrets. I was selfish, arrogant, and oblivious to the way I treated people. I was a religious Pharisee. (See my poem: The Hypocrite)

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In spite of that, Rebecca drew very close to God, she became a Christian at a young age. She developed a keen understanding of moral behavior; blooming with compassion, forgiveness and kindness. It was through her devout love of Jesus, that I began to change. I slowly began to move from being a fan of Jesus to a committed follower. I would see this amazing girl beam with Jesus, praying, reading her Bible and influencing her friends to be positive role models. This convicted me, and brought me to truly surrender my life to Jesus.

God does not judge you on your wrong doings, He judges you on the ones that you arrogantly refuse to repent over. Humility before God, opens the hearts of your children to a loving and forgiving God.

In her older years, I have been a much better father. I have let her see what a repentant life looks like. I’ve owned my mistakes, apologized for wrongdoing, and humbled my self before God. I have strengthened her value system, encouraged a closer relationship with Jesus, and taught her the beauty of God’s grace and goodness.

“Corrupt people walk a thorny, treacherous road; whoever values life will avoid it. Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Proverbs‬ ‭22:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As I release Rebecca into God’s hands, she will enter a world, knowing that she is loved and prayed for every day. She confidently knows that any mistakes I made as a parent; are mitigated by her relationship with Jesus Christ. She learned first hand from me to trust in the Lord Jesus and to lean on Him. Trusting in God will give her the peace of mind to know that Gods grace will be with her when she messes up, as long as she is humble and repentant. Living that way will also help me, as I lessen the mistakes I make with her brothers and sisters.

“God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”   1 Corinthians‬ ‭1:30-31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Thank you all for the wonderful emails I have received. Your likes, comments and emails are much appreciated. God Bless you all.

Stop Making Excuses for Your Behavior!

Why do we desire to point out the faults of others, before we clean up ourselves? Hypocrisy is epidemic! Its time for change. Its time to love others more than ourselves.

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” Romans‬ ‭15:5-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It was my dad’s first Sunday as senior pastor of a church in Los Angeles. I was a young five year old boy full of energy. In those days they had a time in the middle of the service called, “The Children’s Moment.” It was a time that the pastor would share something inspirational to the children right before they went to Children’s church. On this particular Sunday all the children gathered in the first three rows of the church so my dad could address them, along with a few volunteer high school girls to help keep the kids calm. Sitting behind me was another five year old boy named Chris, who thought it was a great idea to whisper to the high school girl next to me, “Fat Cathy, Fat Cathy.” I was confounded by these remarks, for Cathy was quite beautiful and definitely not fat. After a third insult, I decided to defend her honor. In front of the whole congregation, I turned around and punched Chris square in the nose. You can only imagine, as horrified gasps echoed through the church followed by glances of disapproval towards the new pastor, my dad. Needless to say it was not a good first impression, on a new church.

“So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I was not the easiest kid to deal with. By the time I was five, I had already earned a degree and was an expert in pushing my dad’s buttons. On the way home, my mother was hysterical in her outrage at my behavior, but my dad was eerily silent. When we arrived home, my dad pulled me aside and explained to me the difference between situational ethics and absolute morality. No matter how hard I tried to justify my behavior, my dad would calmly point out why I was wrong. I was waiting for my dad’s calmness to erupt into frustrated anger, but it never happened. Years later I finally understood the lessons from that day; bad behavior is never justified by the immoral behavior of others. Today we live in a society that blames others for their behavior, but ignores and justifies their own destructive and out of control behavior. We see this in politics,  in America both political parties are guilty of name calling, lying, corruption and abusive bullying. Both point fingers at the other, while justifying their own corrupt and unethical actions. In the end both are wrong. My dad wisely pointed out to me that hitting someone is never right, Christians show love and forgiveness. The 16 year old girl did not need me to defend her honor, she was wise enough to ignore the insane ramblings of an immature five year old kid. My actions brought grief to my father, the church, and to Jesus.

“In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:5-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Just like the excuses of a five year old, who did not see the big picture of his behavior, so are our excuses to God as we justify our sins to Him. We are ignorant, but still accountable for our actions. We blame everyone but ourselves. Some lie to themselves, by denying the existence of God, in order to avoid accountability. This too, is a foolish excuse.

“Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The person who comes to the cross and chooses to follow Jesus, for them, it is no easy task. It is not easy for anyone to face the humiliation of their own wrongdoing.

Isn’t it time that we stop making excuses for bad behavior?

All the excuses do not matter to a just God. In fact nothing we do, can earn His grace or forgiveness. Jesus paid the debt for our selfishness and immorality. What God wants is for us to humble ourselves, examine our own hearts and live in a repentant relationship with Him. Let God shine a light through you to change the world. Let His love drench others around you, so that all they will see is Jesus. Nobody was better at promoting harmony, love and peace in a chaotic and hate filled world, than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blacks, whites, Republicans, Democrats, rich and poor all respect him for what he accomplished peacefully. He believed in civility, love and forgiveness. Ponder this quote.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”–Martin Luther King Jr

Dr. King believed in the power of love to change the hearts and minds of people. He preached the Gospel to anyone willing to listen. Love is the answer! Holding yourself accountable to God for your own actions is the answer. Forgiveness and compassion is the answer. Violence and uncivil behavior will lead to the death of innocent people. Everyone needs to change the rhetoric and the violence; or we will be at war with one another. We must to return to moral, compassionate, behavior! There needs to be a desire to read the Bible and pray, be encouraging and stop promoting negativity. We should learn to love disagreeable people, to find common ground and to be compassionate. Don’t be selfish, stop the name calling and be a light in the darkness.

“The Lord approves of those who are good, but he condemns those who plan wickedness. Wickedness never brings stability, but the godly have deep roots.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭12:2-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Let us bring stability back to a world gone mad. Let us shine the light of God’s love into a dark world. Our behavior, is the proof of our faith in Christ Jesus.