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

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

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.

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

Jesus, The Personal Savior.

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 Ephesians:

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.

Letting God Interfere with your Depression and Faith.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭

In the past few months, Southern California has been hit with the news of tragic suicides of several local pastors. Some were well known while others from small churches were not. The pain that their deaths left is unimaginable. As someone who suffers from depression, I had to ask, was I next?  Could my depression bring me to the point of taking my own life? There are times when depression has paralyzed me. It is in those times that I have clung to scripture and Jesus to help me. I have done some serious soul searching and praying. There are steps that you can take to aid in your battle with depression. The first step is to recognize your depression. I outlined this in a previous blog: Depression and The Christian Faith. The next step is to prioritize your life and eliminate the distractions. I wrote about this in my second post: Depression and the Christian Faith (Pt. 2).

My family and my amazing wife have really supported me with my depression battle. They have reminded me to take my medication, focus on the pleasant moments, and helped me to change my routine when drowning in depression. The biggest area of support that they have provided is to ensure that I have significant amount of time to spend with Jesus. It is during my devotions that I became friends with David. He has quickly become one of my best friends. David understands me, he also suffered from depression. Yes I am talking about David the Psalmist. His Psalms clearly outlines the personality of one who battles depression. David clearly understands depression. He also gives us a spiritual method in which we can battle depression.

The first battle: Be honest.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:1-3‬ ‭NASB
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?””

David is honest with God, he tells God that he wants to die, that he has done nothing but cry. His tears asked the question, “Where is God?” David loved God which is evident by his many psalms. He admits that in his darkest hour, he questioned if God was near.

In the midst of despair, we often question God. This does not anger God. It actually causes God to react to your prayers and pain. God wants us to communicate with Him. He desires intimacy. Admitting that you may harm yourself is not a weakness, it is a sign of strength. Tell someone how you are feeling. God puts people in our lives to help us in our struggles. Do not bottle things up! Expose them to the light

The second battle: Remember your Joy.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:4‬ ‭NASB
“These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.”

‭‭David reminds himself of the days when he had joy in his heart, when he was thankful and loved God with his whole soul. It is important to keep reminders of what brings you joy. Is it your children? Is it love of family? You need to know what brings you real joy, it needs to be something of substance and long lasting. When you figure this out, start being thankful for them. It is impossible to be thankful and depressed at the same moment. I keep a list and read them to God daily and thank Him. Ironically my list has grown quite large.

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The third battle: Seek God’s help in righting your wrongs.

Psalms‬ ‭42:5‬ ‭NASB
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.”

David questions what has caused this disturbance in his soul. Is there unforgiveness that is eating you up? Do you feel shame for something that was not even your fault. Are you carrying guilt around as a baggage that weighs you down. Talk to someone, seek help. David thanked God for the help of His presence. His hope in God was restored because he knew God was there. David praised God for bringing him full circle to a place of restoration. We need to learn forgiveness. Each of us makes mistakes in life. Nothing is ever to big that God cannot forgive. He loves us. Allow Gods love to shine on you.

The forth battle: Allow God’s love to surpass your depression.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:7-8‬ ‭NASB‬‬
“Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. The LORD will command His loving kindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.”

Depression often comes in waves. David reminds us that as deep as our depression gets; God gets deeper. God calls out the deepest sorrows in our life. David encourages us, that with every wave and cycle that we experience, God’s love will be more powerful. Our Father in heaven commands His love to be poured over us in the daytime and He gives us a song for the night. David prayed to God for help and he trusted God with his life.

Do you pray? How often? Have you surrendered your life to Jesus? Give God your burdens. Let his love pour over you.

David was a great king. He had his lows and his highs. He referred often to God, as his rock. David often spoke of God’s loving kindness. He saw God as a father, a good shepherd and a friend.

But more important…

God called David, “A man after His own heart.”

In our weaknesses God sees our strengths. Isn’t it time that you see yourself the way God does? God’s love for us is greater than our faith.

Please leave a comment and if this post helped you, hit the like button below.
God Bless you,

Stephan

‭‭‬‬

The Lake Elsinore Fire, Fear and Faith

The Lake Elsinore Fire, Fear and Faith. The fire is raging. Fear and anxiety are growing, but God is in control. With thankful hearts, we pray.

The fires have been raging for 3 days here in Lake Elsinore. Dark smoke and ash are everywhere. Sore throats and massive headaches are a constant. We were told a little while ago, that voluntary evacuations were underway. The stress of fire and evacuation are difficult to endure, emotions are high. After all, who really wants to lose a home. Fear, dread, and anxiety are common among us and our neighbors. Many have started evacuating. This fire is not easy for anyone, especially for a family of Eleven. As planes above dropped fire repellent, I kissed my wife and said, “It is time for you to go”. With tears in our eyes, I hugged my wife and nine children good bye. I gave a few words of wisdom and encouragement, before giving each one a kiss. I reminded everyone how much I loved them. With smoke all around,  I gave a tearful wave and then saw our ash covered, family, van drive away. They mean the world to me. The breaths are weak when they are not around. I promised them I would leave the moment it was mandatory. Our dog, Sasha, stayed as my sole companion to help me watch and pray. In these moments of fear and anxiety I find peace.

Isaiah 41:10 New King James Version (NKJV) “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Lake Elsinore Evacuation

A year and a half ago, I managed to convince my beautiful wife that we could possibly own a home. It started out as a prayer; asking God to provide for us a home, then it moved to faith. It was a dream and a hope. The wife and kids needed a safe place to live. I also wanted a home that was free of criticism for my oldest son, Jeremiah. Jeremiah has White Matter Syndrome. He likes to scream for no apparent reason and to put holes in the wall, as a way of expressing frustration. He lacks the necessary communication skills and understanding that most of us have. He has a difficult life, filled with love and support. Most Landlords are not to tolerant of their property getting torn up. We live in an era of harsh, judgmental attitudes, so renting was difficult. It was my hope to free my wife and kids from the stress of perfection, a refuge where they could be at ease and call their own. A home where a kid could mess up and it was ok, because it was ours.

God in His goodness, agreed. After a hard search and a miracle loan approval; we moved into our new home in beautiful, Lake Elsinore. Our family loves it hear. The home is not perfect and it needs some work, but it is a place of love, joy and laughter. Lake Elsinore is a wonderful community. We have fantastic neighbors; who put up with our large family. They have shown us such kindness and grace. The church we found is so loving and welcoming. It has been a blessing to live here.

We don’t want to lose our home; but we will trust God. God has given us much, with thankful hearts, we will pray. We will pray for safety, our homes and the firefighters, who are putting their lives on the line for us. God bless those hard working fire fighters. Give them strength and endurance. May the good Lord bring us back to our homes, safe and sound.

Proverbs 3:5-6 New King James Version (NKJV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Surrounding Yourself With Encouragement During Trials

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

1 Peter 4:12-13New King James Version (NKJV)

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

Suffering for God’s Glory

Last week I talked about some of the difficulties that my family was endured.      (Ramblings of Death, Illness and a Baby) It seemed that problems were coming at us faster than we could handle them. It was not just the big ones, (See the link.) but all the small ones that added to our stress and anxiety. The little things are the ones that just put you over the edge. The air conditioner failing, garbage disposal breaking and the dog deciding that the BBQ would make a great chew toy. It is in these moments that one wonders, “God where are you?” It is in these moments that you need encouragement. During trials it is critical to know your Bible and trust what it says. God uses His word to encourage us. Encouragement in trials is key to relieving the stress you are under.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17New International Version (NIV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Surround Yourself with Hope

The world has become so negative. We are surrounded by destructive words, behavior and images that demean our self worth and break us mentally and spiritually. This is why we must combat the enemy who wishes to destroy us. There are 5 ways that we can build our lives with a foundation of hope and encouragement.

PRAY: If you do not regularly communicate with God, you are making a big mistake in your life. God is our Heavenly Father, He loves us and wants to hear from us. He is an awesome and perfect Dad. These two verses say it best. 

 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14)

He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, And shall not despise their prayer.      (Psalm 102:17)

READ YOUR BIBLE: The Bible is God’s love letter to you, it is filled with hope and encouragement. How will you know God if you don’t read it? God has a plan for your life. Reading the Bible gives you clarity and peace.  Memorize verses so that you will remember them in the middle of a desperate moment.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)

GO TO CHURCH: God created us to be relational, Church is a place where we are called to encourage one another, but also a place to be encouraged. Christians are called to care for one another. In the passage below, we are called to assemble together.

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

ENCOURAGING PEOPLE: We need to surround our selves with people who encourage us in our walk with God and in life. Look for people who use encouraging words that build you up and show you grace. Become one of these people, by building others up you will establish hope in your life through difficult times.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

POSITIVE SOCIAL MEDIA: Social media can either depress you or it can be a reminder of spiritual growth. If you look at my social media, I use it to encourage others with a daily reminder of God’s Goodness. I also surround myself with other like minded individuals. In the past month, so many people have inspired and encouraged my wife and I to keep enduring through these difficult moments. We have felt the prayers of thousands and have seen them answered.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

Give Praise to God

Josiah

Although the last month was difficult I had so much to be thankful for. God brought a music album that encouraged me. It is from a friend of mine, Aaron Michael, so check it out. (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/promises/1337486248)
We had a church that prayed for us, and family who supported us. I also had a special friend (Jill) from Instagram; who every day would send encouraging messages and prayers into our lives. I must also give praise to God, who is amazing. God healed my dad, so he and my mother were able to celebrate their 63 wedding anniversary. On that very same day, my son Josiah was born. He was born healthy and my wife is in amazing health and good spirits.

To the follower of Jesus, encouragement is a #proofofyourfaith.