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 God We Should Worship

What separates Islam from Christianity is the core belief that Jesus is God and that salvation can only come through Him.

How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust,
And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.                 –Psalm 40:4

There has been much discussion about whether Muslims worship the same God as Christians. The most peculiar part of the discussion has been the lack of scripture used by those in support of the claim that Muslims do in deed worship the same God. Most have even failed to support the very basic tenants of Christianity. These prideful, well-meaning individuals have lapsed into falsehood. So let us begin with the very core of Christian doctrine, Jesus. For the Christian everything  begins and ends with Jesus. Jesus said this in the the Gospel of John, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40) 

Jesus was stating that eternal  life comes through him. He later claimed in John 10 that He and God are one. (John 10:30) Muslims do not believe this, they believe that Jesus was a prophet and therefore could not grant the forgiveness of sins. It is this unbelief in the incarnate Christ that separates Muslims from Christians. Jesus argued against this unbelief when he said, “He who rejects me rejects the One who sent me.”(Luke 10:16) This means that if you reject that Jesus is God then you are rejecting God and his love for you and you are rejecting the purpose of why Jesus came.

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

The Muslim rejects Christ as the Savior of the world and is repulsed by what the cross represents. They do not even believe that Jesus died on the cross. (Surah 4:157-158 Qur’an) They “worship” a God made in their own image, this is what God refers to as an idol. Muslims deny the Holy Trinity of  God and they deny the Deity of Jesus. The scripture says,

And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. (Luke 12:8-9)

The follower of Christ is drawn to the cross of Jesus with tear filled repentance and worships God for what he has done. (John 3:16) We recognize that it is nothing we could do but it is all about what Jesus did on the cross. This is why Paul said in 1Corinthians that we are to preach Christ crucified. In the end it is all about love, the love God has for us and the love Christ showed for us on the cross. It is about a love that we can’t repay, it is a love that binds the broken hearted and saves the lost. It is the love for what Jesus did on the cross that causes us to surrender to God and with a deep gratitude we worship Him, as our God. It is this love that heals our soul. Let me leave you with these words from the mouth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world…

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.” 
Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 
and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 
and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:44-47
Read vs 52 and ask yourself, who did they worship?)

The Spread of Lawlessness (Part 2)

Today we can alter our DNA and bodies through chips, A.I. and DNA genetic mutations. Is humanity dooming its future by playing God?

“Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭6:1-4‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The fires have dispersed and your prayers have been a blessing to my family and the city that we live in. Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers.  In a previous blog post, we asked the question, “Why is there sin in the world?” Please read, The Spread of Lawlessness (Part 1),to catch up. Most pastors and teachers are afraid to even cover this passage out of fear of sounding like a lunatic. Augustine of Hippo dismissed this passage as well as many others; to be interpreted as allegoric. So lets be clear, I believe the Bible is true and it is inspired by God. The Gnostic influences of a mostly heretical Augustine must be dismissed and scripture must be used to interpret scripture. One must also take into account historical reference to also bring clarity to the passage. In part one, we stated that the first reason for why there is sin in the world is because of the rebellion of Adam and Eve.

The second reason for why there is sin in the world is because of the sins that the “sons of God” (the Watchers) committed against humanity.

This is a real story that must be taken literally, so let us take a deep breath and begin. Scripture states that the sons of God (angels) took  wives of their choosing. This both went against the design and will of God. These angels were granted the ability to think for themselves. The book of Daniel mentions them three times in the fourth chapter (4:13,17,23). He referred to them as the watchers. There are good ones and bad ones. In Daniel 4:17, these watchers made a decision and passed a sentence (a ruling or judgement) against Nebuchadnezzar. From this passage the watchers were empowered and given authority from heaven. Angels who lived in obedience to God did not marry. Jesus made this clear in the following passage:

Matthew 22:30 (NKJV) 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.

Jesus did not say they can’t, He is saying that they don’t. There is a difference. The ones that don’t; are loyal and obedient to God in heaven. Jesus is also making it clear that eternal beings have no need to procreate. Procreation is for the purpose of extending a race that can die off.

Luke 20:34-36 (NASB) 34 Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

The sin of the watchers was sexual corruption. They did force their ways upon the daughters of humanity and bore them children. This evil act corrupted the DNA of man as a defiant act against God. This act was to distort what God had made in His image. Peter makes mention that this was a sin and emphasizes it with a comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah. In Part 1, we learned that sin mutated the world, man and all of creation. It separated us from God. The lawless act of the watchers was to alter our image into their own twisted image. This eventually would destroy man, the planet and all of God’s creation.

2 Peter 2:4 (NKJV) For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast themdown to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;

These two cities were known for their delight in raping unsuspecting strangers and visitors. Now Genesis does use the word,”marry,” this does imply some consent on the part of some. The transgressions led to a world of darkness, that God had to deal with. Jude also confirms the sin as sexual in verses 6-7.

Jude 6-7 (NKJV) And the angels who did not keep their a]”>[a]proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

So why does this matter?

We are made in the image of God. The fallen angels were polluting our DNA with an image that is not of God. A hybrid of man and fallen angel. These hybrids were called Nephilim. How was God supposed to send a Messiah into a world full of hybrids? These hybrids were not His creation, but an abomination. Read this phrase again, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” This implies that if God did not react to this abomination, salvation for humanity would not come. It also implies that the Holy Spirit could not reside in us. Jesus came to die for man, to reconcile man back to God. Our souls, when we die, go to be with God.

2 Corinthians 5:8 (NKJV) We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

This is why God told Noah that He was going to destroy the world by a flood. He had to remove the Nephilim from humanities blood line. Humanity needed to remainin the image of God, so that when Christ died, His blood would purify us from the virus of sin. cleansing us from all unrighteousness that separates us from God. This is why we need Gods forgiveness.

According to Jude the watchers were put in everlasting chains for the Day of judgement. The humans who do evil go to the lake of fire. So what happened to the Nephilim? Many second temple era Jews and followers of Christ believed that these Nephilim are now the demons who torment us on the earth. This view comes from the historical book of Enoch, but does have some basis in the Bible. According to the Book of Enoch, when the Nephilim died in the flood they were cursed to roam the earth and torment man kind until the day of Judgement. (Enoch 15:8-11) We do have to give some credibility to the Book of Enoch since both Peter and Jude both reference it and Jude even quotes from it. There are also some early church fathers who thought Enoch should have been part of the cannon of scripture.

There are also hints to the credibility of Enoch’s claim in the Bible. In Mathew 8:28-34 there is an interesting account of Jesus dealing with demons. These demons recognized Jesus as the Son of the Most High God, and they reminded Him that it was not their time to be sent to hell. Many people falsely think that the angels, who rebelled against God and that left with Lucifer, are demons. This is not the case, as Paul points out in Ephesians.

Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV) 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Paul separates them into two groups the ones who rule this dark world (Principalities could mean nations and powers could mean rulers of nations.) and the spiritual hosts (The word hosts often refers to angels.) of wickedness in the heavenly places. Angels have their  proper domain (Jude verse 6) and demons have theirs on the earth. Could the legend of Hercules be true? Could Hercules who was half man and half “god” actually have been a Nephilim? Many Scholars such as Dr. Michael S Heiser argue this point in his books, The Unseen realm and Reversing Hermon. Many of the “gods” were fallen angles or Nephilim. Genesis six actually refers to them as “mighty men” and as “men of renown”. Many people worshiped them as gods. This is why so many early church Christians and the disciples gave legitimacy to the book of Enoch. Which then makes sense when you read:

1 Corinthians 10:20-21  (NKJV) 20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.

Later, Paul warns Timothy in the last days some will even follow these demons and be taught by them.

1 Timothy 4:1 (NASB) But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

So to sum this up, the second reason why there is sin in the world is because of the sexual sin of the angels and the blending of their seed, causing further corruption of all creation. The Nephilim could then be the demons that torment and tempt us into doing sin. To this day, the goal of the demonic realm is to corrupt the image of God. They are still trying to convince humanity to alter our image away from God’s. This is what God meant in Genisis when he told them that He would put enmity between his seed (Satan) and her Seed (Jesus Christ). The Nephilim are the seed of the fallen watchers and Christ is the promised Seed of God, the Restoration. Jesus made an interesting observation and prophecy about the last days, when He said:

Matthew 24:37-39 (NKJV) 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Did Jesus provide a warning us, that in the last days we would try to alter our image away from God, just as in the days of Noah? Would we try to bring back the Nephilim? Was he referring to the marriage of the fallen angles and the daughters of man? Today scientists want to alter our DNA, modify us into our image (or the watchers), removing God from the equation. Could this be a mechanism in regard to the mark of the beast? Could man be made into a new image one in which God could not reside in? Could we be removing the temple of our bodies that Christ dwells within? Read this quote below, as a christian it disturbed me greatly.

Evolving Ourselves—Redesigning the Future of Humanity byJuan Enriquez—Managing Director, Excel Venture Management “In just 150 years, the human species has changed. We have redesigned our world and our bodies while at the same time becoming an ever more domesticated and smarter species, one that lives far longer. Alongside nature, we are now the fundamental driver of what lives and dies. Darwin’s natural selection no longer holds true in a world where little remains natural and free of the hand of man. There is now a second, parallel, large-scale determinant of evolution, one driven by two new rules: unnatural selection and nonrandom mutation. The future of humanity depends on the geographic choices we make to design our places and the genetic choices to design ourselves and how these two sciences intersect.”

NOTE: I’m learning that increased access to peered review studies of the ancient texts… especially those found in Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) are further insightful of the thoughts, concerns and understandings of the Second Temple Jews, and the emerging followers of Christ. I would love your feedback, so please leave a comment.

Christian Behavior in a Muslim World

For the follower of Christ, violence in never an option no matter the justification.

 

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. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.(1Peter 4:12-14)

When millions of Christians are suffering at the hands of Muslims one has to wonder how the follower of Jesus is to behave and react to this horrific persecution and genocide. For the follower of Christ, violence in never an option no matter the justification. Vengeance belongs to God so let us leave it with Him. How then, do we put aside our anger and indignation? How do we continue the ministry of the Gospel of  Christ with love and compassion to a world that hates this message of hope? I, like many of you, have been struggling  with anger and frustration over the atrocities that some Muslims are perpetuating against Christians throughout the world. I have had to pray often to God that He would deliver me from the anger I have  felt towards the Muslim community. This has been difficult and conflicting for me, I have cried before God and pleaded for Justice. (Ok, sometimes I have even demanded it.) I have struggled in the endeavor to deny my sinful nature and trust God with His greater plan. So I thought it would be a good time to share what God has been teaching me.

First Christ reminded me to, “Love your Enemies”.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is much easier to say than to do. Paul wrote in Romans, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14) For the follower of Christ we are not only to love those who want to inflict harm on us, but we must also bless and pray for them. Notice that Paul says not to curse. This love can only come from knowing Christ as your savior, because it comes from Him. Jesus not only fulfilled this on the cross, He demonstrated it. Jesus showed love to the thief on the cross by granting him salvation even after he mocked the Lord. Jesus prayed for those crucifying him and even offered the blessing of forgiveness. Christ showed His compassion when he prayed for them.

But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”(Luke 12:34a)

It is impossible show the love of Christ and demonstrate compassion when you hate. They cannot coexist. The disciple John fully understood this when he wrote: “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”(1John4:8)

Second, God reminded me to Pray

The Scriptures are full of examples of what to pray for. The fact is that we are to pray about everything and we are to pray without ceasing. When it comes to persecution here are the prayers I am learning.

1)Pray for those who are committing genocide.  Plead for God’s mercy and grace.                2)Pray for the endurance and peace of those being persecuted.                                      3)Pray that God overwhelms you with His enduring love and compassion for the Muslim community.

Third, God showed me that we are not to be in solidarity with the world.

You cannot serve to masters, or ideologies. Either you stand with Jesus, the cross, the Bible and the beleaguered Church; or you stand with the world.

I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of Your hand: for you have filled me with indignation.(Jeremiah 15:17)

The world is constantly trying to marginalize the message that Christianity brings. Some people have a big tent theory to their faith. They do not want to ruffle the feathers of other religions, they want to appease the world by sacrificing the message. In the process of diluting the Gospel they lose their very soul to religious conformity. Paul addressed this several times in the New Testament.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)   (Belial is a Hebrew word used in Jewish texts for the devil.)                                                                                                      

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:17)          

 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)

We should not mix the idea of religious solidarity with love. They are separate.  Jesus showed love and compassion, but His message often offended those around Him. He even informed His followers not to lose their salt. Our love needs to be bold and unconditional; but our support should always be with the followers of Jesus and the Gospel. We need to stand and Intercede with them. We should speak out against violence and do all that we can to help and minister to the needs of the oppressed and persecuted. We need to stand firm in our faith, not compromising. Love and compassion do not equate to compromising the message of the Bible or our commitment to Jesus. We are the salt of the earth!

When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7)

4th, The Body of Christ needs to be Active.

In the 1980’s Steve Camp wrote a song called, “What would the Devil Say About Your Life?” It begs the question every Christian should ask of themselves. Would satan see you as an ally or an enemy? Is he threatened by your relationship with God? For most people their is no action behind their faith. They hardly participate in the ministry of Christ. The life of a follower of Christ is meant to be active and full of struggles. The more trials, the more we experience the reality of God in our lives. We need to be active in prayer and in our knowledge of the Bible. We need to be active in our ministry to the poor and  to the oppressed. We need to be active in love and sharing the good news of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. We need to be active in sharing our faith and encouraging one another. We need to be active in promoting a unified body of Christ. How can we learn to love our enemies if we fail to love one another?

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23-25)

I encourage you to be bold in your faith. Let Jesus shine through to everyone. Let His love fill your life. May you grow  in Him as you travel the hard road ahead. Be the salt, long lasting in flavor. Your behavior towards others is a #proofofyourfaith

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.

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.

Are You Being Guided by Truth?

Reading the Bible needs to be at the forefront of what we do in life.

“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (‭‭John‬ ‭8:31-32‬ ‭NASB)‬‬

A while back, I posted The God We Should Worship . The purpose was to bring some clarity to the incorrect understanding that Muslims worship the same God as Christians. The central argument is that Christians worship Jesus because He is God, the Triune God. This is the core of Christian belief. We get this theology from the Bible. Jesus made this claim several times. Muslims view Jesus as a mere prophet whose teachings they regularly ignore. The differences between Islam and Christianity are apparent. One only needs to read the Bible to know that there is no grace of God in Islam. Grace is a character of God that he reveals in the Bible.  Through the scriptures, God reveals Himself to us. I have found myself in awe of God as a result of seeking Him. One gets to know God by studying the Bible, memorizing scripture and praying. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the more I desire to be in His presence. I love him because he first loved me. For God is love. It is in His love for me that God reveals His Divine character of truth through His word.

Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him”.(John 18:37-38)

The whole world claims we want truth, honesty, integrity, and transparency. The fact is that most people don’t even seek it. They personally don’t want truth to interfere in their daily lives. They don’t want truth to destroy their misguided conceptions of life. Most people would rather believe lies about themselves. They live in the guilt and shame of their failures. They can’t comprehend that God could love them. The truth of God’s word, tells us that He loves us. Those who truly seek truth become doers of truth. The person who does not apply the word of God to their lives is failing to live a Christ centered life. If you are not reading God’s word, you can’t apply it. If you are not reading and applying the Bible to your life; your Christianity is worthless.

“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (‭‭James‬ ‭1:21-22‬ ‭NASB)‬‬

Are you of the truth? Do you hear the voice of Jesus? Jesus told Pilate, that everyone who is of the truth hears His voice. If you don’t read God’s love letter to you, how will you distinguish the truth from a lie? Are you listening to the stranger’s voice? Examine your life for a moment. Is your Christianity weak? Do you struggle with your walk with God? Are you focused on loving Jesus or are you living in doubt? There are things that you can do to draw closer to God.

  1. Ask God for help. Seek His wisdom.
  2. Read the Bible everyday. This is critical. It’s good to have a plan. Write down what you learn. I journal through my Bible Everyday
  3. Memorize scripture. Take time while you are standing around and memorize scripture. (I use an app called fighter verses.)
  4. Pray. Write down your prayers and your answers .  If you have a hard time praying, pray through the scriptures. (Try the Psalms)

God loves you! Let God’s grace shine on you. Seek His truth.

I Need to Know the Cost

The cross shows us our value to God. It demonstrates God’s love for us and how precious we are to Him.

We despised him and rejected him;
he endured suffering and pain.
No one would even look at him—
we ignored him as if he were nothing.
“But he endured the suffering that should have been ours,
the pain that we should have borne.
All the while we thought that his suffering
was punishment sent by God.
But because of our sins he was wounded,
beaten because of the evil we did.
We are healed by the punishment he suffered,
made whole by the blows he received.
(Isaiah 53:3-5)

I do not consider myself a poet, that word belongs to those who dedicate themselves to that art. This past year, I have had some amazing times with God and have been  inspired to write some of my thoughts down. I am confounded by God’s love for me. It overwhelms me at times and leaves me drenched with love, understanding and awe. On one such occasion, I wrote the following poem:

I Need to Know the Cost.

I need to know the painful cost,
of the blood He shed upon His cross.

So gruesome a price Christ did pay, His life, our sins He did slay.
Unworthy of Him who bore my sin.
All for love my soul to win.
His body so broken, His flesh torn to shred.
My life to be saved, with his blood that was shed,
I need to know the epic cost, of the life Christ gave upon His cross.

Lead me to the everlasting way; that my heart will never stray.
Fix my eyes on the eternal one, so Christ can finish this race I run.
So precious is your love for me, in Jesus name I am free.
Grow your love in me; still more, so others will see the cross you bore.

Oh Holy Communion remind me still,
of the precious blood that was spilled.

Repentance I need for my sorrowful sin.
His body so broken for my soul to win.

How precious is the life Christ gave, by grace and love, my life to save.
I need to know the painful cost, of the life we hung upon that cross.

Lead me to the everlasting way; that my heart will never stray.
Fix my eyes on the eternal one, so Christ can finish this race I run.
So precious  is your love for me, in Jesus name I am free.
Grow your love in me; still more, so others will see the cross you bore.

© 2018 Stephan Caraway. All Rights Reserved

Final Thoughts: Since we are approaching Palm Sunday, ask yourself the following: Is your love for Jesus real, is your praise genuine or are you just a fan?

A big Happy Birthday today to my hero, friend and the best sister in the world. You  inspire me with the way you live a conquering life for Jesus. Happy Birthday Rebecca!

Depression and The Christian Faith

2016 was one of the most difficult years for me. It was a year in which I faced incredible stress and heartbreak. It was also the year that I faced my depression.

I have not been able to blog for quite a while. A few of you have contacted me to find out why. This last year I have had to deal with my depression. I ignored it to long, and I believe that God finally made me face it. I actually believed that my relationship with God was at its best point in my life. I was enjoying daily devotion time and really learning so much. But God wants us to face the truth about who we are. I wanted to deny my depression, after all how can a Christian be depressed? For me this is what I struggled with for the past few years. I wondered if I was failing God. I would agonize, “Where was the Joy that was supposed to come with being a follower of Jesus?” Instead of dealing with the depression, I would make excuses, blame others, or just live in denial. This year my depression took an ugly turn. It came in so hard and deep that I could hardly function. It suffocated me. All the things I enjoyed in life were gone, I could not see any optimism or hope. I would find my self weeping for no apparent reason. These struggles would often lead to emotional out burst of anger, fear, anxiety and deep sadness.

My wife finally had enough and let me know that she was no longer going to tolerate me if I was not going to get help. She began to detach herself from me and our marriage. Over the last few years I had failed to realize what a toll my depression had placed on my wife. I had ignored the pain she had to endure.

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 NLT)

Depression is not a sin

The first thing that I had to realize was that depression was not a sign that I was failing God or that God did not love me. There are many examples in the scripture of people who fervently loved God, but suffered from depression. Elijah and David as well as the Apostle Paul all endured periods of great depression. Philippians seems to be a letter written specifically for those enduring depression. The word Joy is one of the most underlining themes. It is full of encouragement and reminders of God’ faithfulness. One of the Psalm’s that has helped me the most is Psalm 143. This passage has become a rock for me durring the last year. I find myself praying this Psalm to God at least once a day.

Once I realized that my depression was not a sin, I did have to come to grips with the fact that the results of depression can lead one to sin, in the way they treat others. Some of the sins that I struggled the most with were fear, anger, selfishness, pride and intolerance. As I look at this list I am filled with great shame. I never realized the pain I was causing others. A person who is dealing with depression often fails to see the sins that are doing the most harm in their lives. This is why it is important to get help.

Stop blaming others and circumstances and just get help!

My life is extremely stressful, so it was alway easy to blame my behavior on stress, or on someone else. When I finally agreed to get help it opened my eyes to a lot of things that I had been ignoring. It also helped me to understand what was contributing to my depression. It turns out that my liver is a major contributor to my depression. So along with medication, I have had to change my diet. This is not easy for me because I love to cook. I have gone to a gluten free, dairy free and night shade free diet. In other words a twig and tree bark diet.(It is really not that bad; but there are so many foods that I had to give up.) I have had to give up tomatoes and potatoes and all peppers as well as bread and dairy. The diet has been brutally tough; the food I am willing to sacrifice, but my marriage and devotion to Christ, I am not. I have had to learn to cook in a whole new way. It has actually helped both with my depression and relationships with my family. My children have become quite excited about trying the different dishes that I prepare. My wife and I have become much closer and have really developed much better communication skills.

God wants us to grow in Him. My counselor reminds me every session of Psalm 139:23-24. It is a verse that every follower of Christ should pray and meditate on each day:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

You may not realize how your behavior is effecting others, so please seek help, repentance, forgiveness and  most of all, trust in God’s plan for your life.

 

Do You Repeat The Same Mistakes?

Christ took our sins and the sins of the whole world as well as the Father’s wrath on his shoulders, and he has drowned them both in himself so that we are thereby reconciled to God and become completely righteous.–Martin Luther

IMG_2093
Skyline Hiking Trail Photographed by Stephan Caraway

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 6:11-14)

My life has been a series of struggles. I have always wanted to follow Jesus but for many years I just lived in failure. Then through a series of encounters with God I began to understand. A few years ago this passage revealed the hope of having victory over my failures to consistently follow Jesus. My hope was not found in my actions, but in the holiness of God and what Jesus did on the cross. It is all about God’s love for us.

The people of Ephesus struggled, like most people today, with doing right by God’s standard. The fact is that Christians are not perfect. We sin just like everyone else. The difference for Christians is Jesus. When we choose to have a relationship with Him and acknowledge our wrong doings, He wipes our sins away. Through Christ, God forgives us. It is all about Jesus, His love, the price He paid, His Righteousness and His Kingship. Paul understood that his disciple Timothy was not perfect. He knew that Timothy would struggle with his faith. The struggle is actually good. It is when we are not bothered by our sin that darkness prevails. God knows that we are flawed by sin. That is why Jesus came. God loves us and wanted us to have hope, the hope of being saved from our failures that separate us from God. That Hope is in Jesus Christ.

So why do Christians seem to struggle with repeating the same sins over and over again? It is in this passage that Paul gives Timothy some very important keys to overcoming the sins that abuse us and drag us away from God.

…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22)

The first key is to run from your old life. We need God’s strength to do this. Paul tells Timothy to flee from from wrong doing. He even advises Timothy earlier in the letter to avoid false teachers, people who lead you astray. This can be extremely difficult and even painful. This means that you need to allow the Holy spirit to remove everything that distracts you from having an effective walk with Jesus. Paul wrote in Romans:

Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8)

Think of it like this; while you were at work, if you took personal calls through out the day that kept you from doing your duties, would your work performance be effective? Could it possibly impede your production and lead to termination? Of course it would! It is the same for your Christian life. Confess to God, what you know is wrong. Get rid of relationships, habits and activities that keep you from God. Ask God what distracts you from him. Pray that God will break those habits and activities that drag you back to your old life. Rely on the Holy spirit to guide you.

Early in my marriage I realized that I had a serious problem with video games. They kept me from praying, reading my Bible and they were wrecking my relationship with my wife and kids. My video game friends and I talked more than I did with God or my family. I realized that I had put games before God and my family. I was selfish. Today if you walk in to my home you will not find a video game console. Every once in a while I find myself tempted by the illusion of that old life, but the fulfillment I have in Christ is far more satisfying. Run from your old self and pursue Jesus and what He has for you. Let Him Give you rest.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)

The second key is to pursue the gifts God has for you. Paul gave Timothy the next key in overcoming sin. He says, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness”. Let’s be blunt here, if we could achieve these on our own we would not need Jesus. Humanity is flawed and depraved and we cannot achieve perfection. We are devolving into a crueler, more violent species. Society is imposing less restraints upon us, while encouraging our worst instincts and behavior.

This is why we need God. Throughout the world no matter the country or race people seek God. It is in our genetic code to desire a relationship with him. God wants us to be better than we are. That is why Jesus came and gave his life for us. It is God, through what Jesus did on the cross , who provides our righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. None of this can be achieved by us. It was achieved on a blood stained cross by the perfect Incarnate Christ. So Paul is telling Timothy to pursue Christ’s Righteousness, Godliness, Faith, Love, Perseverance and Gentleness. God gives them to those who follow Him, who pursue Him. They are the perfect gift and they only come from Him. Pray and ask God to help you! These gifts come through sorrowful repentance and prayer.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7-8)

The third key is to take hold of Jesus. This is where things get really exciting. Paul tells Timothy to “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called”. Eternal life comes from one source, Jesus. Jesus is eternal life. Take a look at the passage below:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6)

From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He was calling people to follow him. We are not to follow some ideals, or a political leader or even a pastor. We are to follow Jesus. My dad always told me not to put my faith in him or to place my salvation in his arms. He warned me that one day he would unwillingly let me down. “Follow Jesus,” my father would say. “He will never let you down.” (Note: My father has yet to let me down, but my actions did hurt him quite a few times. I have always seen Jesus in him.)

Jesus is perfect. He is without sin. He experienced the violent, cruel world of humanity. He came into this world willingly, to give us life. If we want an abundant life that is eternal, then we must take hold of Jesus. Jesus is life. He can give life to our weaknesses. Are you following Jesus or are you just a fan? Are you leaving the old life behind like bad garbage? Do you really know Jesus? Ask your self, “Do people see the love of Jesus in me”? Take hold of Jesus grab onto him. Surrender everything to him. He is the one who defeats sin, not us. He is the one who raises us up when we fall. It is when we experience the power of Christ in our lives and his transforming love, that we should share what God has done.

The right hand of the Lord is exalted; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
I will not die, but live, And tell of the works of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely,But He has not given me over to death. (Psalm 118:16-18)

The fourth key is to share publicly what God has done for you and be accountable.

Paul reminded Timothy about the confession he made publicly. There were many witnesses to the declaration that Timothy made, to follow Jesus. Testifying to what Jesus has done builds your faith up. It keeps you accountable. Yes it does put a bullseye right on your back, but that is the whole point. Jesus put your sins on his back and nailed them to a cross so that you could have life. Be bold in testifying to what Jesus has done. Let everything in your life point to Jesus, every word and every action.

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. (1Peter 3:15-16)

** Authors Note: Sorry for this long post. It has been in the works for 4 months. This may sound like a doing and striving post, but it is not. It is all about Jesus and what he has done. It is His work on the cross. You may be exhausted with your life. Let Jesus take your troubles let him give you rest. May God bless you and give you the endurance to run the race! Take hold of Jesus! God Bless.