Murder, Church and Jesus

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,

Stephan@proofofyourfaith.com

The Warning Bell is Sounding.

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.”

Wright, Christopher J. H. The Message of Jeremiah: against Wind and Tide. IVP Academic, 2014.

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.

Stephan

The Lake Elsinore Fire, The Aftermath

The recovery from the fire is more of relief and thankfulness. Our community changed for the better. The fire gave us a new hope for the people of Lake Elsinore.

I must apologies to those who were eagerly awaiting Part 2 of “The Spread of Lawlessness (Part 1)“. Due to the events of the Lake Elsinore fire, I felt it was more important to support my neighbors and friends with my writing, The Lake Elsinore Fire, Fear and Faith. The second part will come soon.

The events of the fire that ravaged the surrounding hills of Lake Elsinore, left many of us with anxiety and doubt. Many evacuated their homes, wondering if they would ever return. My wife and children were among those who left voluntarily, due to the smoke and toxins in the air. Our home was at risk to the fire, but our main concern was the health of our young children. The joy of seeing them return the next morning filled my heart with thanksgiving and praise. My wife was relieved that our home was in one piece; but I could see her eyes worn with exhaustion and stress.

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

As neighbors and friends returned to their homes, the impact of the fire could still be felt emotionally and by the senses of the body. Ash can be found in every crevice and crack and the smell of smoke still hangs in the air. Those who stayed, felt the lingering affects of sore throats and headaches, but no one complains.

As the ash begins to clear and the skies turn to blue, one thing is evidently clear; our firefighters did a job that was legendary. They held the line against our ravaging foe.

It is a story of miracles, with all the acres that were scorched and burned, no one lost their home. Deprived of sleep and exhausted from the heat; our beloved firefighters did their job, valiantly.

The tears that flow from Lake Elsinore are those of joy and relief. Other blazes around the state have not been as blessed. So to all the brave men and women that saved our homes,”Thank you”!

With every fire there comes new growth and something to learn. Something amazing happened to the people of Lake Elsinore. We put aside our anger and poisonous speech to help each other in our time of need.

“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)

I saw neighbors talking to one another; building relationships on their streets. When one needed help another was near to provide aid. We put down our tablets and phones long enough to come out of our homes and talk. We worked together and organized a city. The enemy was not each other, but the fire that burned. Prayers were made and friendships developed, all thanks to a fire that raged.

People put aside their anger over race and politics to reflect upon their neighbors well-being. Some talked of organizing neighborhood watch’s, some of block parties and celebrations. Names were exchanged, handshakes were made. Some drank coffee together and others had a beer.

This was exciting to see, what may have turned ugly, united us all. Lake Elsinore has changed. It has united with a love of community. The fire may have purified us all. We put aside all the negative attitudes to love and help each other.

The lessons we learned, needs to be shared. Our politicians and those in the media need to stop their negative rhetoric. Both sides of the political aisle are guilty. The media is just as complicit. All forms of media must stop fanning the insidious flames of hatred. Nobody wants to see a civil war divide us all. Violence leaves us all with heartbreak and loss. So to those of influence, who dance in the realm of politics, please change your speech and find a way to common ground. If we do not change our ways, soon the smoke we see; will come from war.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

 

Keep Your Life Calm With Love

Let’s be honest with each other; the world today needs love and needs to know God’s love.

13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14

Everyday I hear the comments from liberals and conservatives wondering why we can’t get along. Interesting enough each group blames the other. Each side claims the other group is rude, angry, intolerant and full of hatred. I realized some years ago, what ails America is a lack of love. This is why we are a sick nation. I am not talking about tolerance, I am speaking about genuine selfless, patient, love. All sides of the hostile American political system are missing this. In the above passage, the word flesh is to be understood as your selfish desires. Paul, who wrote Galatians, was stating that all of God’s laws were directing us towards love. Those who love God, let His love fill their lives through Jesus. It is through His love for us that we are able to love one another. Christ demonstrated that love by willingly sacrificing His life on the cross for us. Those who really follow Jesus as their savior understand this and live by it. Yes, I am making a clear distinction between those who follow Jesus and those who claim to be Christians. Jesus also made the distinction.

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

What does the love of a true Christian look like?

Paul makes that clear as well; we are to serve one another. It does not require a rocket scientist to figure this out, but love that serves does so without a self motivated agenda. It is compassionate, patient, forgiving, and gentle. True love never speaks a harsh word, it never responds out of anger or hurt. The one who serves others encourages and builds up. This was demonstrated to us by Jesus. This is how we, who claim to be Christians, should act. Study the death of Jesus. Show me the harsh words He uses. You will not find them, because Jesus came to serve. Jesus came to love.

45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

Paul does give a warning in the passage from Galatians. It is the warning that every American needs to hear. It is a message to every person who claims they are good. It is a warning to the prideful and the arrogant. Read it carefully.

15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:15

There seems to be a push by many Americans for violence. Violence will not solve anything. It will result in the death of millions. Innocent people will suffer, especially children. Violence, anger, hate will consume and destroy us all. This is why we need to love. Love never fails. Love always wins. So love deeply and love often.
P.S. To the people of Singapore I love you and am praying everyday for you. May the love of Christ fill your hearts with joy and peace. May you endure to the end. Run the race with everything you have until you fall into the arms of Jesus.