The early church of Ephesus was active in Ephesus. So we must be active in a pagan world. We, the church, must be built upon the foundation Christ …Figtreewatchers Podcast Episode 143: Ephesians (Part 5) – Violence, Paganism and The Gospel
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!
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
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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
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
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In life, the distractions we seek are the very ones that lead us away from Jesus. With our faith diminished by these distractions, we feel empty and angry at God, who in His love, is trying to get our attention. We need to pursue Jesus and leave everything else behind.
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:1-2 NASB
It was a cold and frosty fall Sunday evening in the small town of Big Bear, California. The year was 1967 and parishioners were gathered together in the local Baptist church to hear the pastor, my father, preach. Like most of my father’s sermons; it was scholarly, full of the Gospel and centered around God’s love for humanity. Unbeknownst to the congregation and my dad, a dramatic murder was about to take place.
In the midst of the sermon a lowly church mouse began to stir from its nest in the warm kitchen and venture out into the sanctuary meeting, that was taking place. The mouse quietly scurried its way between the metal folding chairs of those listening to the sermon, until she reached the center aisle of the church. Expert eye witness testimony reveals, that the mouse was mesmerized by the fluid prose of the pastor’s preaching. The mouse moved up the aisle and stopped to the side of the communion table, listening to every word of the sermon.
Having concluded the sermon, my father gave his trademark Gospel invitation for redemption. No one in the church stirred, except for the church mouse, who according to witnesses, moved forward and bowed her lowly head. With no one else coming forward, my dad gave the closing prayer. No sooner had he uttered the word, “Amen,” when a deacon with a callous heart threw his shoe. The shoe flew through the air, slamming the repentant mouse into the hard floor. In a moment of horrific evil, the saintly, praying, church mouse was dead.
Shock and disbelief spread through the church. Questions quickly arose: Why didn’t the deacon have his eyes closed during the prayer? How could this happen in a church service? My grief stricken brother, turned to the hardhearted deacon and hissed with contempt, “Murderer!” Tears flowed from other young children as the bloodied corpse of the saintly church mouse was removed.
This event took place a few years before I was born and before my birth restored peace and joy into my family’s home. (Actually, I came in like a hurricane, according to my older brother and sister.) Although this story is tragic and true, it points out the ease in which we are distracted as Christians. Tragically the focus of that Sunday night service was not supposed to be a mouse, but rather Jesus. This story points to three areas in a Christian’s life that we can lose our focus. We are easily distracted in our relationship with Jesus, in our prayer life, and when we face tragic or life altering events.
“I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” 1 Corinthians 7:35 NLT
OUR RELATIONSHIP: Sadly, no one in my family actually remembers what my dads sermon was about and I am sure neither do any of those parishioners. The great thing about my dad is that every sermon he preached always pointed to Jesus. Everything in our lives, every action we take, should point to Jesus. We should love like Jesus and live for Jesus. Our lives should be saturated with the hope that Jesus brings. We need to draw closer to God to fall more in love with Him.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT
IN TRAGEDIES: In life we will always face tragedies; but those tragedies should never interfere with our relationship with Jesus. Every trial we face builds a play book on God’s faithfulness. We review that play book to build our faith and to remind ourselves of His love and goodness. When Satan throws a “shoe” into our lives, our response will be seen by those searching for hope. How will this response define their view on Christianity?
The true Christian follows Jesus when things are going well, but also when life goes wrong. The followers of Jesus need to always exemplify the characteristics of kindness, compassion, love and selflessness. We need to be a light in the darkness and a hope in a world of tragedies. When others are distracted by fear and anger, we can provide the hope, love, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. It is in this behavior that we emulate what Christ did for us.
“But I called on your name, Lord, from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!” Yes, you came when I called; you told me, “Do not fear.” Lord, you have come to my defense; you have redeemed my life.” Lamentations 3:55-58 NLT
IN PRAYER: My sister once asked the question, “How could a deacon of a church, plot a murder of a sweet mouse during a time he was supposed to be praying?” It is not a childish question. Ask yourself, how is your prayer time, could it be better? One of my favorite quotes on prayer is from Abraham Lincoln. In the midst of war, chaos and the stress of a presidency, nothing could distract him from prayer.
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” – Abraham Lincoln
In a previous blog post, The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life…, I mentioned some of my own struggles with making Jesus a priority. Chaos, change and distractions will always come; but so will the grace of God. Focusing on Jesus is the only choice for a Christian.
Let me hear from you,
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
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.
In small towns, bells were a way of gathering people together or of warning people of imminent danger. Today Jeremiah warns America of a danger reminiscent of 2500 years ago. The warning bell is sounding, but are we listening?
“This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’ I posted watchmen over you who said, ‘Listen for the sound of the alarm.’ But you replied, ‘No! We won’t pay attention!’ “Therefore, listen to this, all you nations. Take note of my people’s situation. Listen, all the earth! I will bring disaster on my people. It is the fruit of their own schemes, because they refuse to listen to me. They have rejected my word.” Jeremiah 6:16-19 NLT
America is at a crossroad, we need to look around and pay attention. One of the false teachings commonly preached from the pulpit, is that the Old Testament is irrelevant. Many pastors will not even preach from it. They will tell their congregations that the New Testament did away with the Old Testament, that Jesus replaced it. This is a lie! The apostle Paul contradicts this heresy, when he wrote to Timothy these words:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
This means, that we are to pay attention to the Old Testament and heed its warnings. We need to study, meditate, contemplate, memorize and preach from the Old Testament. Today these passages are more relevant today, because of the warnings and prophecies they provide. One of the most ignored books of the Old Testament is the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was written approximately 2550-2600 years ago, few understand this books relevance and warnings that are current for today’s world. For the past several months I have been in a deep study of this book. It has left my soul distraught and in painful anguish. It has moved me to tears and indignation. Jeremiah was written to warn Judah of God’s coming wrath and judgments; but its prophetic warnings are applicable to America, which sits at the crossroad of God’s impending wrath. Please believe me, I do not like writing words this controversial. These words don’t come easily, my heart aches as I write them down. The warnings of Jeremiah are real and must be paid attention to.
“Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’?” Jeremiah 7:8-10 NKJV
Divorce, adultery and pornography are all to common in America. The entertainment industry loves to propagate filth and obscenities, and we love to soak it up. Why is it, that we think it is okay to watch sex scenes, but scream when a person is a “peeping tom”?There is no difference in the eyes of a just God.
We have become a nation of idol worshipers, putting everything and anything as more important than obedience to God and His word. Even our laws have become corrupted and politicized.
Our nation is in peril, because of our hypocrisy. We sing, “God Bless America” in one breath and without hesitation, we commit ourselves to every and all abominations that would grieve the heart of God.
Does the world we live in today reflect the prophetic message of Jeremiah’s time?
According to the commentary, “The Message of Jeremiah,” the author gives some examples of the similarities that exist in our world today. Here is an abbreviated summery:
- “Collapse of an old world order, fear over new threats to world stability.”
- “Religious confusion among God’s own people.”
- “Social evils abounded: inequality, cheating, injustice and immorality.”
- “Political abuse of power to stifle dissent: Prophets who spoke the truth were silenced; Jeremiah, for opposing the official position of the political and religious establishment.” (Jeremiah was met with hostility, ostracism, false accusations, physical abuse and even death threats.)
- “Abuse of religious power: False prophets and corrupt priests cushioned the government from the voice of God or conscience, and colluded in social evils and immorality.”
Today we speak of a “New World Order”. Globalism and Socialism are now in the mindset of many Americans. Many claim to be Christians, but have now understanding of what that means. Many churches are turning away from the scripture and abandoning the laws of God. Social evils abound everywhere; inequality, cheating, injustice and immorality are collapsing the moral compass of America. Political abuses are horrendous on both sides of the political isle and churches are full of false teachers and greed. The similarities are obvious!
“Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD.” Jeremiah 17:5 NKJV
In the end, God wiped out all of Israel. He had Jerusalem destroyed, The temple burned to the ground and the Jewish people carried off into slavery. God did this because His anger burned against their wickedness and disobedience. God gave His “chosen people” many chances to repent and turn from their ways, but they would not listen. The wrath of a just and loving God is coming to America. This conflicts with many, they have created God in their image by manipulating the Bible. This is called idol worship.
“But any nation who refuses to obey me will be uprooted and destroyed. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Jeremiah 12:17 NLT
I know, many of you are rolling your eyes. You don’t believe in a God of wrath and you also don’t believe that a loving God has limits to His patience. As a parent their are times that I get angry with my kids and discipline them. I take no joy in grounding them or taking away privileges, but it does not change my love for my children. It is the same way for God. Many people say they love God, but few honor God with living obedient lives before Him. Their speech, conduct and lifestyles are in open rebellion to God. So what would a just God do?
The Apostle Paul said this:
“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” Romans 2:5 NASB
This is scary to know that there is a boiling point to God’s anger. We must turn from our ways and cry out to God to change our nation, our states, our cities and homes. Individually, we need to stop pointing fingers at others and look at our own lives and ask God if we are right with Him; for God is not just a God of wrath, but one of love and compassion and forgiveness. He desires that we live justly before Him.
“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 NASB
The greatest attribute of God is His love for us. Yes, God is full of grace. His goodness leads us to humility and repentance. Jesus paid our penalty; for our rebellion, with His blood.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:8-10 NASB
God provided His Son as a ransom for the sins of all humanity.
So why do we think it is acceptable to push the limits of God’s grace?
Shouldn’t our rebellion against Him be punished?
We need to be a Holy people before God. We need to honor God’s love and grace with a lifestyle of Holiness. We need to go from being a fan of Jesus, to a committed follower.
So what can we do?
- Get rid of everything that God would not want in your life. Don’t lie to your self.
- Pray ask God to forgive you and turn away from your old life.
- Get back to reading your Bible. Stop the excuses. Just do it!
- Share this message of Jeremiah with others. Pray for our Nation! Share the Gospel, time is running out.
- Go to a church that preaches the word of God. Not words that make you feel good. Be convicted! The fear of the Lord is a good thing. It keeps you repentant and blameless before God.
- Show more love to others than you receive. Let people see Jesus in you.
- Make your Christianity a lifestyle, not just an affiliation.
Let me know what you think. I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment or email me.
Intimacy is important in relationships & in our prayer life. Do you know Jesus? Is your Christianity defined by the tattoo inked on your body? God wants more. He wants to engage us in a deeper relationship.
Have you ever been asked the question, “Are you a Christian?” This is a common question; that is asked to determine religious affiliation. Many Americans casually call themselves Christians, as if they are fans of the religion. The question that should be asked is, “Do you know Jesus?” or “Are you a follower of Christ?”.
“Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.”
Mark 1:29-31 NKJV
As we look at the beginning of this story we are reminded that there was an intimacy in the relationship between the disciples and Jesus. The disciples knew Jesus, followed Jesus and spent time with Jesus. They had just finished visiting the synagogue and were heading to the home of Simon Peter and Andrew, where they planned to fellowship and eat. Here is where the story begins to develop into an intimate portrait of what having a relationship with Jesus can be like.
According to Luke, a doctor, Simon’s Mother in law was with high fever. (Luke 4:38) In those days a fever was deadly. There was no Tylenol or Advil to help with the reduction of fever. In fact the rituals of the time were quite barbaric in dealing with a high fever. She needed a miracle.
What separates the fans of Christianity from the followers of Jesus Christ, is spiritual intimacy. We should know our Savior beyond “Just Faith”. There are two lessons on intimacy that we can learn from this passage of scripture.
1. The disciples knew Jesus well enough to know that He would hear their petition and that He would respond to their needs.
Do you know Jesus like this?
2. We need to go immediately to Jesus with everything.
Most people go to God only when they need something. The scripture tells us that the disciples immediately went to Jesus and told him about Simon’s mother in law. Notice that they did not go to others and ask them to talk to Jesus, they went to Jesus directly. I am not saying that you shouldn’t ask others to pray for you. What I am saying is that you need to go to Jesus first and immediately. The relationship with Christ is a personal one. One that is not hung on a banner or wrapped around a cross on your neck. It is a daily communication between you and your savior. It is one of intimacy. The Disciples knew Jesus, because they spent time with Him and listened to His teachings. This is why we must spend time in Gods word, the Bible. Everything we need is in the love letter that God has given us. Read His love letter!
Another example of prayer is from Daniel:
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Daniel 6:10
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18
When communication is constant and direct it leaves little room for wondering if that person is real, and what they want. The same is with Jesus. Relationships that fail usually do so because of a lack of communication. When we purposely draw near to God, He draws near to us. A transformation comes when we move from faith to believing and from believing to knowing. When we know God, we will be filled with understanding and peace. We will know His will because we are constantly dwelling in His presence. Do not be afraid to go to God with your pain, your grief, your sins and your needs. Let God know your suffering. King David did this better than anyone, The Psalmist often shocks me, in how he confronts God. It is reverent but very direct; yet David with all of his sins and crimes was called a man after God’s own heart.
Once we go to God in prayer we learn from Mark that Jesus is there to comfort us. Notice in verse 31, it says that Jesus took her hand. The taking of the hand is a sign of comfort. When we go to Jesus immediately with our daily concerns and needs, He comforts us through the Holy Spirit and guides us. Jesus gives us the ability to endure any situation.
When my daughter Hannah was younger, she loved to sit in the front seat of my car and hold my hand. I once asked her, why she did this and she told me it was because it made her feel safe and good. When you pray, ask Jesus to take your hand and walk you through your prayer life.
Jesus is always with us. The Holy Spirit is our comforter. God is the Father that we need. So reach out to Him and pray. A prayer life is a #proofofyourfaith.
What lies do we tell ourselves? Are we judging others, mocking them, do we see our own failures and hate what we have become?
In life, we love to point the finger at others. We love to judge others, but maybe we need to look at ourselves. Jesus spoke against hypocrites, He said:
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
We live in a world full of hypocrites, myself included. God loves us and will forgive us if we seek forgiveness and turn away from judging, name calling and hypocrisy. We must learn to love one another, as Christ loves us.
Oh what a hypocrite that I be,
To live in the sin that pleasures me.
It’s not on the outside that you see,
It’s the hypocrite inside of me.
I go to church and sing the songs,
Knowing that I don’t belong.
You might catch a tear in my eye,
But it’s sin where I choose to lie.
Oh what a hypocrite that I be,
To live in the sin that pleasures me.
Maybe I should, maybe I would,
To live a life that might look good.
Narrow and hard is the way;
But pleasure is the road I stray.
One night I had a frightening dream,
That I stood before our God Supreme.
Oh the hypocrite that I be, in my heart God could see.
The lies that I lived so burdened me.
The God I mocked began to scold,
To hell I would go, for the sins I sow.
Just as the flames began to heat;
Awaken I did, my death to beat.
Oh the hypocrite that I be,
No longer a desire found in me.
I fell to the ground on bended knee
That Jesus would set me free.
My heart He did change inside of me,
No longer the hypocrite for God to see.
Oh the hypocrite I used to be,
Washed in the blood that set me free!
© 2018 Stephan Caraway. All Rights Reserved
Thank you for visiting this blog. I am grateful to all those who provide comments and feedback. Once again I am not a poet; with that said, I was inspired to write this poem. Please provide feed back, I will respond to your comments. Thank you for visiting proofofyourfaith.com