Spiritual Warfare Prep

Spiritual Warfare Prep
We Are In The Lord's Army

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Why Christmas Makes Me Cry

   Christmas is a time of joy for us. When we are little children, the excitement of finding presents under the tree can be almost unbearable. As we grow up, we treasure moments with family and loved ones, some which we may have only recently met or became reacquainted with.

   As we grow up and our families develop, we create many memories. Some memories are very good. Some are not so good, and we might wish to not remember them anymore.

   Every family has had a Christmas or two where it just wasn't Christmas. We had two of those in a row. In 1984, we found out that my father had terminal cancer the day before Thanksgiving. By the time Christmas rolled around, Dad was very ill, and suffering greatly. Of course, all our attention was on that and it was very sad. None of us were thinking, 'I can't wait to open the presents!' or ' What a delicious meal we had that night'. In spite of the sadness, there was one bright spot that was though. My little one and a half year old daughter got a little riding toy, and my Dad was just thrilled watching her playing with that riding toy! That made his last Christmas a little brighter.

   I tend to reminisce the Christmases we had when I was little. We went to my grandparent's house and opened presents. Of course, I had to eat my farina dumplings before there was any present opening in the house. I was the only one left in the kitchen while everyone else was making preparations. Then we would go home and hopefully go to sleep and wake up early the next morning.

    The Christmas I really remember was the one where I looked out the window onto the front porch (the front porch was just another room in our little tiny house). It looked like there were toys from one end of the room to the other end of the room!).

   We never went to our other grandparent's house for Christmas, but they always came over Christmas day. But one night, on our way home from the other grandparent's home, we stopped in front of Grandma and Grandpa's house. Only my dad went in. We stayed in the car. Then my dad got back into the car and we went home.

   I think about those Christmases and the family I had then. Both sets of grandparents were alive, and even some great grandparents visited us. But, as what usually happens in families happened to ours as well. We moved away from the family. I grew up and got married. I had babies to contend with. Grandparents died. Dad died. Christmas is still here, but it is all different now.

    There is no Nanny and Poppop, Oma, Grandma and Grandpa, or even my Dad. My Father in law passed away, and recently my Mother in law passed away. Now we are the grandparents, and my mom is the great grandparent.

   Christmas took on a new meaning once I got married. Christmas was one of those things I would never let go of. I just didn't realize how everything else that I related with Christmas would change. Now the Christmas season was mine to make whatever I wanted to make of it. I could just forget it, and pretend it doesn't exist, or, I could keep it going with a fervor.

    When I came to Christ around age 17, Christmas now began to take on the true meaning. There was something more to this holiday and it was very special. It wasn't just a day to goof off and take an excuse to be lazy. Now there was a valid reason for celebrating, and I knew what that reason was.

     But Christmas continued to become more special. I began to relate it with being pregnant. Children are God's gift to us, and it seemed like every time I got pregnant, it was around Christmas time. It was kind of like God's Christmas present to me. Even some of the Christmas songs remind me of the days when I was carrying one of my children. I still hear them on the radio every day now, since the Christian station is playing Christmas music throughout the day. It is like a bittersweet experience. The impossibility of going back to the days when I was pregnant, and now realizing that my last child is in college, not inside my womb anymore.

   Christmas has been so joyful because of the opportunities to share the Gospel during this time of year. It truly is my favorite time of year. But I have to admit that this is bittersweet as well, for, my last child, which was a long desired boy, is an adult now, and I am constantly reminded that he won't be in our home forever.

   As I listen to Christmas songs that come on, I am reminded of this continually. The memories are somewhat fresh of bringing my son to Christmas parties at his special school. This school was tailor made for us because the man who ran the school is an evangelist. I could have gone to the school and had fellowship with the teachers because we all had that one thing in common. But it wasn't only the school. My son took initiative with evangelism events that were going on, and we had some that we did at Christmas time together. We used to go to the parades and give out tracts with others who had the same vision. We used to go caroling as an evangelistic outreach. I would take him to his little Christmas concerts that the school band (a Christian band) would do. Every year, for many years, I brought him to different places where his band performed at Christmas time. All of that is over now. No more band concerts. No more bringing him to a school where the teachers were evangelists or theologians. Now that he is in college, he doesn't have the time for extra activities, although we participated together in the parade this year. It is sad to think that he could move away in a couple of years and he would not be part of our evangelistic events anymore, unless he comes home.

   We still have a daughter who lives around here and she participates in the Christmas events we have going on. Now she has four children and we need to make Christmas special and meaningful for them. We are building traditions together and trusting that our little grandchildren will one day incorporate them into their lives, or at least remember the Christmases that we have now with them.

   So, Christmas is becoming more and more meaningful, as we go deeper in the Gospel. Christmas provides a great opportunity to do evangelism. That seems to me to be the main reason for Christmas anymore. I guess that's the way it should be though.

   There's no more grandparents to celebrate Christmas with. No more Dad. No more Mom and Dad in law. Everyone, except for my mom, has either died or moved away. Maybe I've made Christmas more than what it was intended to be? It is sure a lot different than what it used to be, but, in some ways it isn't.

    Most of the people are gone who used to be there. But there are a lot of new people to celebrate with. As we grow in the Lord, Christmas becomes more precious. But did you know that Christmas is really a sad holiday? It's not sad for us, necessarily, but for God, it cost Him dearly.

    When God sent His Son to earth, to live as a human being, there was a specific reason He came to live on our planet. It was not to set an example of how we should follow, although He did do that. He came for a very important reason that was necessary for us. He came to die.

   I have to wonder what Mary thought when she heard the words of Simeon who told her that a sword would pierce her own heart. Did Mary have any idea of what was to come?

   Yes, Jesus came to be the sacrifice for our sins. All the evil we commit every day, was dealt with when God sent His Son to earth, to be born as a baby, and live a holy life and then to die a horrible death in order to pay for our sins. This didn't take God by surprise though. It was planned at the beginning of time, and was foretold by many prophets in the Old Testament.

  So, when you think of Christmas, take the whole story into account. Jesus came and was born of a virgin, the only Son of the true and living God. He lived a perfect life and never sinned, yet was treated as a criminal and died the death of a criminal, as if He did some horrible crime. It was possible for Him to escape this, but, if He did, we would have no way to be reconciled back to God. Jesus provided for that when He died on the Cross. Now we can be forgiven of our sins, and we can also live free from sin. All because Jesus died for us. He also rose from the dead on the third day after He was crucified. It was a very sad time in History, but it was also the most important event that ever took place.

   So Christmas is sad for many reasons. But we can rejoice in what God has done for us. We can also be grateful to God for giving us His Son. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life."

   Families grow up and people pass away. Babies are born and families continue. Life is happy. Life is sad. We need to be grateful when we are happy, and we need to be grateful when we are sad, as well. Celebrating Christmas can be bittersweet simply because we lose precious things in life, and they also are retained in our memories, but they only last as memories. We can never go back. But one thing is for sure: God will never leave us, if we know Him. Heaven will be like an eternal Christmas, focusing on the true meaning at every moment. God will never be just a nice memory. He promises to be with us forever. And we can enjoy Him right now.

  Wishing all of you a joyous Christmas with the presence of God with you always.

*For more information on how to become reconciled back to God, please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com  

Later update: After I posted this blog I realized that I missed something very important. As I go through the Christmas season with tears in my eyes, I realize that much of my crying is really not so much sadness, as much as it is thankfulness. There are so many things I am thankful for, and I am in awe of how merciful God has been to me. There are things that have happened in my life that I can't believe God has allowed them to happen. I would have to take another blog to write all about them, but I will just mention two of them here.
1. I am in awe of God and still can't believe that I have a son. Not only did a get a son, but I got one who has a heart after God. I just stand amazed at being able to have a child that I could pour my life into and actually see the results. In the natural, it was unlikely that we would ever have a baby boy. My father in law was the youngest of 7 children and the only boy in the family. My husband was the third in his family, and the only boy as well. We followed suit for awhile and had three beautiful daughters. The we got our son.
2. We recently were able to do a parade that somehow, with God's wisdom and help, everything came together. I got to do evangelism and be in a parade at the same time. Or should I say, I got to be in a parade for the sole purpose of being able to use the event as a means of evangelism. How cool is that?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Two Kinds of Homosexuals

   I don't think there is anything currently more divisive today than the subject of homosexuality. This is a very hot, sensitive subject to talk about, yet, I think there are some things that need to be clarified whenever the subject comes up.

   We need clarification simply because there are a lot of presuppositions that people have about homosexuality. Some of them are correct, yet some are exaggerated or even outright wrong. Let's try to sort out a couple of things here, so we can talk more clearly in the future about this issue and all it's complications.

   The nature of homosexuality is that of a strong pull or hold on the person. Some struggle with same sex attraction and feel guilt and shame. They don't know where they can get help, and many just resolved themselves to the fact that this strong desire is part of them, and they cannot be free no matter how much they desire to be free. Once a person has embraced homosexuality, it is woven into the fabric of his or her life. We have to keep this in mind, when we are conversing with a Gay person.

   All people know deep down in their hearts that homosexuality is wrong and unnatural. It is unnatural in the sense that God didn't create people to be homosexuals. He created man and woman to be attracted to each other sexually. Man and woman were to marry and procreate, and to live in this union as long as both are alive.

   Homosexuality is natural though, because we all are sinners and we all have our share of sins which take hold of us, and seem natural to us. Sinning is natural for human beings. Pornography is natural to those who practice it. Pedophiles find it quite natural to want to have sexual activity with children. Stealing is natural to those who don't have, or, to those who need money to buy drugs with. The more we do something, even if it is wrong, the easier it becomes for us to engage in that activity. When that happens, our consciences are not as sharp as they were. Then we start reasoning with ourselves about our sinful activities, and because we have reasons why we do something, we think those reasons justify what we are doing, even if our activity is evil.

  Much of our tendency toward sin is due to the fall of mankind (see Genesis 3). Ever since that time, the world has been in chaos. The world has been out of order. People's consciences become dull. People become more animal like than human. People's love for themselves blossoms. The more a person loves himself or herself, the less the person will love others. The desire people have for power becomes strong, and puts others at a disadvantage. The more power a person gains, the less control other people will have. All this began at the fall, yet, every person is responsible for his or her own sin.

   There are two types of homosexuals, and we need to understand the difference if we want to help those who are asking for help. Many Christians mistakenly think all homosexuals are in the same category, but this can be devastating for the ones who want to be free from homosexuality. Jesus is the Great Physician, and He came to heal the broken hearted and those who are spiritually sick. We are all spiritually sick, but most of us don't see the effects of our sin and don't realize the seriousness of our condition. We want to bring Jesus to those who want help and deliverance.

   I made reference to one group of homosexuals already, but will expound upon them. There are people in almost every church who struggle with same sex attraction, yet, many will not ask for help because the fear rejection or they fear being ostracized by others in the church. Sadly, many Christians do not understand the subtle nature of sin. They think of sin as only the outward things we do such as lying, murdering, or committing adultery. But the 10 Commandments point to deeper heart issues. You cannot take those sins at face value and assume you are safe because you don't break them on a regular basis. For example, one of the commandments says, 'You shall not murder'. We think we are safe because we literally have not murdered anyone, but, in the New Testament it is clear that there is the sin of murder of the heart. The Bible says that if we hate our brother, that we are murderers. The verse continues and says that 'no murderer has eternal life abiding in him'. Committing adultery is like that as well. The Commandment says, 'You shall not commit adultery', but Jesus explains further that whoever looks upon another person and lusts after them in a sexual way has committed adultery in his or her heart. Friends, please be aware that we might think no one knows about the secret things in our hearts, but know for sure that God does know. In fact, on That Day, everything in our hearts will be revealed. Every secret we hold dear will be made known. God is all-knowing, and He knows everything you are thinking as well as every action you take. All this is written down in a book which will be opened on 'That Day'.

   I think of a story I read in a Dear Abby column one time. A woman had been recently widowed. She thought she had a good relationship with her husband. When they cleaned out his desk, they found love letters that had been written between this now deceases man, and a woman whom he had a relationship with. Imagine the pain of this widow. Not only is her husband dead, but now she discovers that he had another woman whom he loved all along. Another story I read one time was about a woman who was divorced from her husband, found another lover, went back with her husband, got pregnant by her lover and didn't know what to do. Now she was reconciled with her husband, and he thought things were going well, but how is she going to tell him of the baby she is carrying that belongs to another man?

    Our sins are sins of the heart. They are expressed by our actions. People who are homosexuals are living out a lifestyle prohibited by God. Yet many would say that they can't change. Many feel it is too hard for even God to fix their problem. But is there hope, and if so, who can receive this hope?

   The second group of homosexuals are the ones who have suppressed God in their hearts. What that means simply is, when God would soften their hearts and give them eyes to see Him with, they basically shut their eyes and harden their hearts. They do not see God anymore, and they justify their sinful lifestyles. The scariest part of all this, is, that if they continue to harden their hearts and shut their ears and eyes to God, God will actually turn them over to their delusion. As a result of this, they will become unnatural and have desires that are not natural. Mothers will lose their maternal instinct. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world. Romans 1:19-20 ESV.

  It is this group of homosexuals that we are struggling with at present. I used to think they were just getting back at us because of what Westboro had done to their cause. But, even without Westboro, I think these people would march on into the White House and capital in order to get their way (which I am still unclear about exactly what that is). Homosexuals basically have the same rights as everyone else. They are building a case for themselves that makes them a group that will suppress others who do not agree with them. They are not content to agree to disagree. If someone disagrees with them, then that person is automatically considered a 'Bully'. If someone shares with them what the Bible says concerning homosexuality, then that person will be accused of committing the crime of 'hate speech'. These are the homosexuals who are irrational and are gaining power in society because the church is not interested in dirtying her hands with the issues of life going on around her. 

   This issue is really deeper than homosexuality. In some ways, it is not even an issue about homosexuality. It is an issue about power. Here is a group of people going to the White House with an agenda, which, if not challenged, will bring about many problems in the future concerning our freedom. 

  If you are a gay man or lesbian in this category, please realize first of all, that most people don't even care that you are gay. It is not a big issue to the majority of people in this country. You talk about people being 'homophobic', yet you are the ones that seem to have the most fear. If you could stop looking at people who love and value a marriage that consists of one man and one woman, and not take personally their values personally against you, as if they are out to destroy you, then all this uproar in our country would stop. There is no need for it. But you are making up cases that are not true and bringing them to court. This is total nonsense. Christians are not bullying you around, and when pastors and preachers teach what God says about this subject, it is because of the love of Christ and holiness of God that they are doing so. This is not hate speech. I do not feel sorry for you when you act in such a way. 

  The ones I have pity for are the homosexuals in the first group. If you struggle with same sex attractions, and you wish with all your heart that you didn't have this struggle, then you are in for some good news. God only helps those who want help. Being gay is not easy. The pull for same sex attraction is powerful. God can break that hold. Jesus died to disarm the powers of darkness, and He gives us the power and authority over the demonic realm. But it is  a process as well. For some, they might be delivered in a day. Others may struggle for months and years before they see victory. Whatever we do, we must not give up. We need to call others in for prayer and ministry (other people who we know and trust). 

  One more thought on the second homosexual group: Marriage was instituted by God. Nowhere in the Bible does it ever talk about a man being married to another man, or a woman being married to another woman. Laws can be passed in our country that will allow Gay people to marry. Guess what? In God's eyes, you are not married. God will never unite a man with another man, or a woman with another woman. You can pretend you are married all you want, but in God's eyes, it is not a valid marriage relationship. 

  So, in closing, church friends, please be discerning to those who are homosexuals. We do not initially know if the Gay person is a homosexual because he has turned his back on God and suppressed the truth of God in his heart, or, if he is a person who is struggling with same sex attraction due to the fallen nature of mankind. We can so easily destroy a person when we don't know all the facts. Also, we should not make provision for homosexuality. Homosexuality is forbidden in the Bible, as well as lying, manipulating, manifesting pride, hating, swearing, anger, control, etc. We cannot take our sins away, nor can we get rid of the nature of sin. But, we can turn to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. He never sinned, and His life qualified Him to pay for our sins, which are many. Not only can we have our sins forgiven, but we can also be set free. Once we experience God's presence, we are changed. The Bible, when activated by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, changes us and gives us hope. God is the God of the impossible. With God all things are possible, even being set free from homosexuality. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Will The Devil Take Over The World?

   There are a lot of modern day thoughts on how much evil is going to prevail on earth. Some Christian groups think the world will become so evil and that will usher in the Second Coming of Christ. Others believe that Jesus will come back any moment regardless of the degree of wickedness. Some are hopeless, while others just give into the belief that, since the world is so evil, it must mean that we are living in the Last Days and there is nothing we can do to stop the evil, so we just have to wait for Jesus to return, which will be any day now, while they stop living productive lives on earth.

   How should we look at evil? What part does the church play? What are some of the erroneous thinking that is going on today? Here are two things to keep in mind:

   1. The church will prevail, simply because God is all-powerful, and the church is His plan.
   2. Evil will triumph when good men do nothing. (Edmund Burke).

   Part of our problem is that we have bought into a doctrinal thinking called, 'Dispensationalism' which divides History into Seven different dispensations. One of the last ones takes the book of Revelation literally and takes some of the images and wording and places it into today's events. The difference between the thinking of the Reformers and the thinking of the Dispensationalists would be that the Reformers believe that the 'Last Days' began when the church began. It would also be known as the 'Church Age'. Dispensationalists believe that everything will get very bad, then Jesus will come and rescue His people. Then for seven years, the earth will be under the 'Great Tribulation' then Jesus will come back again (not sure why Jesus comes twice).

    Some evil is definitely inevitable. But some evil can be stopped. We should not just sit back while horrible crimes are taking place in our land and say to ourselves, 'that just means that Jesus is coming back really soon'. If someone kidnapped your child, would you just be content with believing that Jesus is coming back soon? Jesus told us to occupy until He comes. That means we should be busy and active doing the Father's will.

   I believe a lot of the evil going on in our country is due to the fact that the church is not healthy today. Many pastors, sadly, are more concerned with 'growing' their church (not that the church is their's anyway). They want large groups of people in their congregations, so, they keep the hard truths of the word of God away from the people, lest the people leave and the number of those in their congregations shrink. Then they would get in trouble with their headquarters and those over them.

   We have such a church in our area. There was a church in which the pastor was a nice guy. He knew the Lord, and was pastoring at an Episcopal church. He had a burden for his people and started preaching the hard message of the Gospel. The people had him removed from the pulpit, sadly.

   Another church called, The Crystal Cathedral, had an interesting beginning. When the building was either being constructed or was just built, Robert Schuller went to the neighboring houses and interviewed the people. He found out what they liked to hear or didn't want to hear. They actually told him that they didn't want to hear about sin. I find this amazing, but it correlates with other things that Robert Schuller taught, such as  "I don't think anything has been done in the name of Christ that and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition." (Time, March 18, 1985)

   Basically, there are two main factors involved in our problem. One is apathy and the other is that we do not fear God anymore. We live in a society where many professing Christians actually believe the words of the culture are more valid that what the Scriptures say. Many think that God did not know what He was doing when He gave all His 'rules' and that people today suffer in ways that God did not think about or have a remedy for, so they write God off and look for the wisdom of society.

   The church will win because Jesus said that the powers of darkness will not prevail against the church. What does that mean for us today, living in America or even in a Third World country where we do see evil prevailing?

   Here is what I believe it means: We are to be faithful in living for God, loving and holding onto His truths and providing grace for those who want it and are asking for it. God does not want us to just sit back and wait for the rapture. That is actually what the Jehovah's Witnesses are doing. Many of them choose not to have children because the world is so evil and Jesus is coming back immediately.

   Could Jesus come back immediately? Yes!! But that doesn't mean we should do nothing and let evil triumph. When Cain sinned by killing his brother Abel, God informed Cain that evil would be crouching at his door, but he must master it. It's like evil is always going to be pressing in on us, but we can stop it by embracing the truths of God and standing up for them when these truths are challenged.

    Looking back through church History, the church fathers rose up against a heretic. The church father stood up for the truth against the heretic. What if Augustine just sat back when Pelagius was doing his thing and said to himself, 'I guess with all this evil, Jesus is coming back right away, so I guess I should just wait for Him to return'? Pelagius would have been successful in promoting his lie that says that man is not born with a sinful nature, but chooses to sin. Once a person comes to Christ, if he sins, he will be treated by God as the worst of sinners without a chance to repent. So, if you came to Christ, and if you sinned after that point, you would go to hell without any chance to turn back to God. Or we could take Arius' belief which said that Jesus was not truly God. What if Athanasius just sat back waiting for the rapture, while Arius spread his lie? We wouldn't have a church today if this teaching wasn't stopped.

   What about us today though? The devil would love nothing more than to have people believe that the world will become totally evil and nothing can stop it (remember, because the rapture is around the corner, so we don't have to worry about how evil things get?) or, we have people who are hopeless because of the evil of the world. We have people who are not understanding the truth of who God is because we are allowing evil to prevail. We have perverted people (like Romans 1 describes) leading our country, simply because we have not stood up for the truth of who God is when it is being challenged. We voted them in by our apathy and wishful thinking that Jesus' coming is right around the corner, so it doesn't matter who we voted for.

   Instead of sitting back waiting for the rapture to come, why don't we spend time listening to God and allowing Him to change us, and in turn, go out into the world, in the power of God, and change the world? Jesus will definitely come back at the appointed time, but people need to hear the Gospel in the mean time. People need to see a church that is healthy, active, and real. People need to see the love of God and Christians serving each other. The church needs to be a light to the world, not a hidden place where people are sitting back waiting for the excitement of the book of Revelation to take place in their midst.

      Satan's goal is to take over the world. All that is necessary for that to happen, is for the church to be silent or paralyzed. The devil's lies are rampant today. Are we going to stop them, or are we going to let them rule people while we sit back and wait for the rapture to come? Do we really love God, and do we really love our neighbors? Or do we love ourselves more, and want to protect ourselves and comfort ourselves by saying that Jesus will come back, maybe tonight or tomorrow?

  Note: I am not saying the rapture or Second Coming won't take place. We know it will. It's just that some 'Christians' have stopped living for the Lord and for others because they hold onto the belief that it will happen today, meaning (to them) that they don't need to do anything more. If you knew this was your last day on earth, how would you live your last day?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Humility IS The Key

  "I want to be a great man of God." "I hope to be used greatly by God." What do these phrases mean though?

   Years ago, I used to pray that my husband would become a great man of God. One day, I felt convicted for praying that prayer. I imagined my husband and me having some kind of prayer ministry with long lines of people waiting for us to pray for them. But something seemed off. I heard the question in my mind, "Why do you want your husband to be a great man of God?" I didn't have an answer. But I don't think my motives were completely right either.

    What if you performed miracles like raising dead people back to life, and no one, or maybe just a few people ended up knowing about it? How would you feel about that?

   God is glorious, and one of the faults of mankind is that we want to be glorified as well. We are careful to give the glory to God, but deep down inside we want to share that glory as well. I know I have done that many times.

    Do we ever wonder why we don't see miracles taking place in America like they do in other countries? I believe there is an answer to that question, and it has to do with humility. People in third world countries are just grateful to get a bowl of rice a day, yet many know a powerful, holy God that we here in America do not know. We make sure we have on our suits and ties and that the television cameraman or photographers are aiming their cameras at us. We must look our best because others will be watching and evaluating us by what they see (or don't see).

   What is humility though? Humility is recognizing that we are not God, and that we are not the ones who call the shots or have miraculous powers in us. Humility is serving and loving others, and wanting others to be successful even at our expense. Humility is allowing God to work through us but without any recognition to us. God will actually reward those He uses but it might not happen in this life. We have to be ok with that.

   Humility isn't belittling yourself or rejecting the talents and giftings God has given you. Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, but rather it is thinking more of others. Also, humility is not the same thing as humiliation. Humiliation is a degrading of someone and stripping them of their dignity. Humility doesn't strip people of their dignity. It prefers to regard the dignity of others instead of focusing on ourselves.

   In counseling, we learned that many think of a counselor as a person wearing a counseling cap. It is a recognition for a person who does counseling to a counselee. The problem is, that the counselor is more like the counselee than different. We have more in common with those we counsel with than differences. But there is this mentality that counselors are above counselees. While we respect Biblical counselors, we should not put them on a pedestal. That is not humility.

   Humility involves edifying others and bringing encouragement and hope to lost people. But humility does not flatter people. This can be confusing because we think that people need encouragement and we try to do that in an ungodly way. We have to speak the truth in love with everyone we meet.

   Humility and love tie in together. John Piper had an amazing statement one time which said, "The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is pride." If you look at the love chapter in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, you can see how true this is. Love does not boast. Love does not envy. Read the description for yourselves.

  Finally, if nothing else here is important, the main reason we need humility is because God only responds to humble people. He turns away from the proud. Pride is listed as an abomination in Proverbs 6.

   Here is a link to some verses in Proverbs that pertain to pride:  http://epreacher.org/sermons/b-provpride.pdf

Saturday, November 29, 2014

My Day Of Thankfulness Or Thanklessness Depending Upon How You Look At It

   I don't know if I am overreacting, or if I might be bi-polar, but, the past couple of days have been interesting and revealing to me of my heart.

   There are moments when I think of God's sovereignty in my life, and my mind is blown. I know of God's mercy and I know I don't deserve it. God is not some figment of my imagination either. I have seen miracles, and I have seen God in the spiritual deserts, so to speak.

   Right now, I am going through a time when things seems to be very good. As I was writing the other day on my Facebook event page, I was telling my readers how all the plans for being in the Christmas parade were going very well, and we need to be praying for this event. We are not just going out there to walk down the street and throw candy at kids. We have an intent of making the truths of the Gospel known to people while there is an open door. We are using a Christmas parade to get the word of God out to people. It cost a lot of money on our part to make this possibility available, yet we know we have God's favor and provision for doing this. I also know that the Enemy of our souls is not happy about this event, and there will be obstacles that will come up to discourage us. Not sure what they would be, but we will all face them in some form or another.

    It was about 2 days later, when I realized what it would look like in my life. I don't usually get discouraged anymore, when things don't fall perfectly in place, but I am still vulnerable to stumbling. So, while I am looking out ahead of time for the obstacles that will inevitably come our way, I find myself in a state of despair for reasons I do not understand.

   It started yesterday morning when I woke up. We had to leave early to visit family in another city which is a couple of hours away. I got to bed around 2:30 am as usual lately, and was not really functioning well in the morning. I slept most of the way there (must have been really tired to be able to do that) and just struggled to be happy, or even appear to be happy to be there. Didn't feel good but tried to continue on as if I did.

    The day went on, and it was actually a nice day. We had a good time with the family, but by the time I got into the car, I was distressed about a particular thing. I mulled that over and over again in my tired brain. After about a half an hour, I became angry. Not too long after that, I had thoughts of ending my life. By this time I was so angry, tired, and depressed, and my life seemed to me, to be a waste.

   But, as usual, the thought came to my mind a little bit later of, 'what does God think of this?' Hmm. I forgot about adding God into the equation of my life. Then suddenly, it hit me; I remembered what I wrote on my Facebook event page about the devil bringing obstacles into our lives right now. I see it so often, when God gives someone a vision, yet, the devil will lie to people and discourage them. He will destroy them if he gets his way.

  I write this because I know the holidays are hard for some people to work through. There are many sadnesses and much grieving we face as human beings. We are all vulnerable to the lies of the Enemy. We fall for them simply because they are custom made for us. If they were obvious to us, we wouldn't fall for them.

   You might be in a desperate place and you might believe lies like, 'the world will be better off without you', or, 'you are such a loser. Just give up'. I know I have listened to those lies and am glad God spared me from the results I could have brought about.

  If you are in a place such as that one I mentioned, please, try to find a group of people who love God and are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ - People who have put their trust in Him. There are people who would love to help and be a friend, if you can find them.

   You might be in a good place in your spiritual walk. This is a great time to serve others. Look for others who are in need or who are lonely this Christmas season. Many would just love to tell you their stories. Some are sad and need someone to love them. There are also some who have lost loved ones and will not be celebrating Christmas with them this year or any more years that will come.

   We can be sensitive to people and show the love of God to them. One day, we may need for others to do this for us. Those who show love and kindness to others, will be shown love and kindness from God.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Things That Really Puzzle Me - Things That Probably Puzzle Others Too

  There are just some things I don't understand. Well, maybe I have partial answers for these things. I find it puzzling how someone can be a suicide bomber. It's almost as if they have no conscience. Don't they realize they will be in eternity shortly, if they succeed?

   Well, I am beginning to understand the 'no conscience' thing, to a degree. There are two reasons people do not have a conscience. One of them is due to turning away from God and hardening the heart. After a while, the conscience disappears and the person is described in Romans 1. But the other reason for not having a conscience has to do with being traumatized as a child.

   The older I get, the more I realize that many of the adults today, were at one time, children who were traumatized. Women tell of their rape stories, which either they were never allowed to talk about before, or, which they were taught wrongly, how to work through the issue. Others have been physically marred by a parent or caretaker. Some have had Satanic Ritual Abuse which is beyond horrible. Children cannot process these types of situations, so their conscience goes blank while the traumatic event(s) are happening. But the subconscious part of us takes over when that happens. We can live the rest of our lives with out consciences being dead, while we live through the subconscious part of our minds. That is why I believe so many can commit horrible crimes, and not even seem to be aware of what is going on. 

  But here is something I really can't understand, unless the person has been terribly abused as a child, or if the person has hardened his heart completely against God: I can't understand a man who wants sex from a woman, yet, when she gets pregnant, he leaves. I also can't understand how a man who wants to divorce his wife, is resistant to paying alimony, especially when it comes to supporting the children he has fathered. 

   What is it about wanting out of a marriage, then avoiding the family a man has started, in order to not pay child support? What does the child perceive of this father? Does the child know that his or her father is rejecting them? Doesn't the father care about his children? What is more important to him? A one night stand on the trail? Where is your heart, father? 

   The hardest thing for children to go through is rejection of their parents. Normal people love their children. No parent is perfect, and no parent gets everything right all the time, but, to leave a family in order to find something better is pretty darn selfish. But if that isn't bad enough, does this parent realize what he is doing to the economy? 

   When dads choose to leave their children, voluntarily, this is damaging to the family unit, which is the first human unit established by God. Now mom has to go out to work, and probably will have to leave the children in a daycare center, which will take up a large portion of her paycheck? Mom can't be at home nurturing the children because somebody has to put food on the table, and since this is the man's responsibility, primarily, the man who does this is being irresponsible. le

   The Bible says that if a man does not provide for his own family, he is worse than an infidel. The statistics are alarming. The divorce rate in the church is very high. Could it be that because some are teaching that God wants us happy, that we are missing the boat? Could it be that because Christian counselors sometimes tell people that it is better to get out of a marriage that you are not happy in, that we are experiencing so much selfishness in our lives?

   OK, let's give the guy a little credit though. Perhaps he just doesn't realize all the harm he is causing because of his selfishness. Maybe he doesn't know how to make the connections between our decisions and the following results or repercussions. Maybe he does want help but doesn't know where to find the help he needs?

   Maybe. Maybe not. I know of both men and women who have left their families because they found someone else. I have seen girls becoming suicidal because of their father's leaving. I have seen men being reasoned with from the Scriptures, yet the lights don't even come on. It is more important for them to have that other woman, or to be free to follow the lifestyle of promiscuity. There was not even a dram of repentance in their hearts for what they were doing to their children and wives. 

   This is such a sharp contrast to the life that Jesus has called us to. In Mark 8:34 Jesus is talking the people and here is what He has to say about it: "Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, "If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me."

   So, does Jesus call us to a life of happiness and success, or, are we called to live a life of servanthood, filled with God's love for others? The answer to this and all other situations is that we need to learn to 'fear God' and believe what He says, instead of what other people say. 

  Not only does God say that men need to be responsible, but also, sexual sins as described in the Bible, are very serious before God. God didn't create us so that we could 'shop around' for those we would prefer to have a relationship with. Rather, God gives us our marriage partners, and families. Life doesn't consist of hopping from one bed partner to another, nor does life consist of selling our bodies to get paid. Our bodies are supposed to be treated as holy, and regardless of what society tells us, we do not have a right to do whatever we want with our bodies. 

 Even in marriage, we can do things wrong, sexually. Here is a warning from the Bible: "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.  Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:4 ESV 
    We will all give account of ourselves to God, and we should live our lives as if God is right there with us (because He actually is!). We can live our own lives and do our own thing, but, our short little lives will end soon and we have to ask ourselves, 'Was it worth it?' Was it worth it for me to leave my little daughters because I love this other woman instead of my wife? Was it worth it for me to leave my son when I found this man who is everything I ever dreamed of? Was it worth is when my children ended up on drugs and in prison several times, because, instead of loving them, I deemed it better to have a rich man in my life who would provide me with good things? Was it worth it when I stand before God and He tells me to 'depart, you who are cursed, into the Lake which burns with fire and brimstone?" Will it all be worth it then, because I wanted to be happy and have my life be as easy and carefree as possible instead of taking care of, and being grateful for what God has entrusted to me while I was on earth? 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Good Observation But Wrong Answer

   I am continually seeing posts on Facebook about exposing false teachings and heretics. While I agree, we have to protect the truth and defend it with out lives, somehow I feel like we are missing the boat when we come up with our solutions to problems in the church with false teachers.

   Of course, this problem is not only limited to false teachers and teachings, it is related to other aspects of the Christian life as well. For example, many Christians just give up and fall apart when they see how bad the world is getting. Some of my friends have actually gone into hiding because they want to protect their families from the impending danger that appears to be coming our way in the future not too far away.

   I'm not against protecting our families or recognizing the signs of the times, but, there are those who are taking a defeatist attitude and just giving up, as if God has already designated their fate to be harmed, while they try to run to shelter somewhere. They throw the baby out with the bath water when they say that all politicians are evil. Do you think there is any such thing as a non evil politician? Is that a reason to run away and hide? Perhaps we should revisit this later on.

    Today I am seeing, as usual, the posts containing the exposure or false teachers/heretics. If someone is actually teaching a false doctrine, we have every right and responsibility to pick the teaching apart and bring it into the light. But that isn't what I see people doing. Many are out there complaining because of the heretics or because the church has compromised. We get on this bandwagon and we all go for a heretic hayride. Or we complain because we think the church is not doing enough to expose false teachers and heretics.

   If you are one who loves to expose all the false teachers you can find, please, I ask you to check your own heart on this. Do you love it when people fall? The Bible says not to rejoice when your enemy falls. Do you relish it when a Christian singer comes out of the closet? Do you find it enjoyable to now be able to call that person a heretic and destroy them? Again, I would ask you to look at your own heart. I would ask you to look at the Cross. I would ask you to look realistically at who you are and what you are capable of doing when it comes to sin.

   We think its ok to criticize another person who falls, or who we disagree with, because we think we are right. We might be right. We might not be right. Many who have held a high standard for others to reach, have fallen into sin themselves.

   Anyway, this is not what i intended to write in the first place. I was thinking of this scenario a little while ago: Someone writes about a problem, usually one caused by the irresponsibility by those in the government, or, a problem caused by the apathy of the church. Here's the crux of the matter: There's a lot of complaining or even just bringing up the problem and blaming whomever. Yes, there are people to blame, and people who are being irresponsible. Yes, the church has faltered and is continuing to falter as she either slumbers or engages in activities of the world instead of fighting the good fight of faith. We recognize the problems and the source correctly. But that is NOT going to solve the problem. Blaming the church's apathy for the world's problems around us today is probably a pretty good assessment of why we have the problem, but it is not the means to the solution.

   What I struggle with today, is that we don't go any further than that. We criticize the church and then just resolve our thinking to a defeatist attitude. NO. STOP. This is why we should get on our knees (or whatever position we pray in) and pray. Why in the world do we not think to pray? I read posts all the time that people post who state that this is just an indication of the end of the world. Well, maybe it is, but are you just going to sit there and let the Enemy of our souls run over us? Even if Jesus comes back tomorrow, or World War 3 breaks out today, we are supposed to be responsible citizens of the kingdom of God who are passing through a very dark, broken world that the Enemy wants to keep in darkness. Do you really want your children and loved ones to be left out? Do you not want to become everything God wants you to become so you can minister affectively to them and watch them come into the kingdom of God, or, do you just want to sit there and complain about how bad the world is going, and how much worse it will be 10 years from now?

   Sure, we are not going to convert every single person on earth today. It is just not going to happen, but if you look in the Bible, when the Gospel first spread, people were saying that the first disciples were turning the world upside down. Do you realize that the same Power who lived in them, lives in us today? God's power did not peter out when the Apostles died. God is just as powerful today as He was on the day he created the heavens and the earth. God is just as powerful today as when Jesus rose from the dead. God is just as powerful today, as He will be in the future when He judges the world.

   When we come to Christ, God calls us to become instruments of reconciliation. God reconciles us back to Himself, and now we have this message to give to others. They can be saved. They can be set free and delivered (I know that only people who have had rough backgrounds really get this). Our churches should be discipling others. Everything needs to be done in grace with love.

    Bottom line: Everyone who comes to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord needs discipleship, and in turn needs to be teaching others. Those who know the Lord need to be evangelizing. Churches need to regard the 10 Commandments and God's laws, not to hold them over our heads, but to help us understand that we cannot help ourselves when it comes to our need for salvation. We need to be saved because we have broken the rules and will continue to break them until we are rescued from our sins by a Redeemer.

   The answer is not to dig deeper to find all the false teachers so we can expose them. The answer is to learn the truth, know the truth, and promote the truth wherever we go. Every generation since the beginning of the church has had an opponent and someone to challenge him, such as Augustine and Pelagius. Today, it should be the same, but what I see is something similar to when the Israelites were entering the Promised Land and saw the giants in the land. The giants were too hard for them to deal with, and instead of turning to God for help with their unbelief, they just gave up. We do that too. We see how false teachers are out there doing their thing. Can we challenge them in a mature, God honoring way and by doing so, expose their evil deeds, or, are we going to continue to slander them and destroy them by posting posts on Facebook about how evil they are.

    The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. That is exactly what we in the church are doing. We aren't doing nothing necessarily, but what we are doing amounts to nothing. Talking evil about people is not constructive, nor is it exposing false teachings. In debate circles, you learn certain tactics. One of them is to not attack the person. Even if the person is wrong, you don't attack him or her. You go for what the person is teaching or stating. That is what you are challenging, not the person himself or herself.

   I watched a couple of debates that were very good. One of them was between Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D'Sousa. If you watched closely, you could see Christopher Hitchens attack Dinesh. It wasn't overly obvious but it was there. Hitchens was not following the rules for debating. He was using, at times, ad hominem, which is attacking the person, not what the person is saying. As Christians, we don't have to attack our opponent, but we do have to attack heresy. Yes, there are times to warn people about someone. We had that happen in our church years ago. One time, a guy was 'borrowing' large, expensive items from people and not returning them. We were warned to not lend anything to this man. Another time, many people were drawn to something called, 'Tree of Life' which was a church started in the home of a man who was an attorney. Our leaders listened to this man's teachings and he was obviously into antinomianism. He believed in total grace and that was all. Our church gave out the warning of this man's teachings. It was necessary to do that. No one had to smear this man personally. There was no need for that. But we can pray for God to have mercy on this man so he might be able to repent and come to Christ. That is what we should be doing, unless, of course, we think a person like that is too hard for God to save.

  So, are we going to see these problems and just be in awe of them (Been there. Done that)?. Or, are we going to pick up the spiritual weapons God supplies for us and fight the good fight of faith? Are we going to go to Disney or would we rather go to a prayer meeting? What does our hearts want to do? Would we rather go to a party or the beach, or, would we rather go out evangelizing?

   "But Be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." James 1:22

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The New Standard? But Is It Really New?

   I am always amazed at what some professing Christians actually believe is true and from God. For example, we have some who would allow for men and women to sleep together outside of a marriage relationship, or recommend divorce if a person isn't happy in the marriage. Some are led to believe that God actually creates some people with a sexual orientation having same-sex attractions. Still others believe that if there is a conflict between Scripture and what the culture says, the culture has the final say. And there are also those who believe that a woman has a 'right' to her own body. But what is wrong with this picture?

   This picture ignores the God of the Bible and replaces the Scriptures with a twisted version of the Scriptures, or a rendition of the Scriptures that doesn't even exist. For example, when I was talking with a group of young professing Christians, they told me it was wrong to be doing evangelism. They said evangelism would turn people away from the Gospel. One even said that Jesus wouldn't want people to do evangelism. What? Where is that in the Bible? Oh yeah, this same young woman also said that the Scriptures must bow to the culture when there is a conflict.

   Does a woman have a right to her own body? Where in the world did this idea come up anyway? Biblically speaking, we don't have 'rights' to do whatever we want to do. Our bodies belong to God and we will give account to Him on how we used our bodies. "You are not your own. You have been bought with a price." says the Scriptures.

   Whenever we are selfish, someone else gets hurt. When we think we can have a sexual relationship outside of marriage, then get pregnant and have the baby killed, who do we think we are fooling? God is not mocked and He knows what is going on. Just because He didn't send a lightning bolt to kill the offender doesn't mean that God is weak. He is full of mercy and wants the offending person to repent before it is too late.

   Why do we think we can have a sexual relationship outside of marriage? Who gave us permission to do this? The Bible has a lot to say about this, and the sin is called, 'immorality'. In the end, unless it is repented of, it will be punished most severely.

   There are other ideas out there as well. They contradict Scripture when Scripture clearly says that we should or shouldn't do a particular thing. God's standard will never go away. It will last throughout eternity and it applies to every single person who has been born on this planet.

  So, when you hear someone explaining how so and so should get a divorce because it is better for them to get a divorce than to stay in a marriage that they are not happy in, please go back to the Standard. God has said many, many things to us in His word, yet we think He is just sitting up there like a Genie in a bottle trying to make us happy. No wonder we don't fear Him today. We think of Him as someone we can manipulate and someone whom we can twist His arm if we try hard enough.

   * Hebrews 13:4 - Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

   * Hebrews 4:13 - And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

  * Matthew 5:28 (Jesus speaking) But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

   * 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 - Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

    * Exodus 20:14 - You shall not commit adultery.

    * Exodus 20:13 - You shall not murder.

    * Revelation 21:8 - But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolators, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

    * Leviticus 20:10 - If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

  * Romans 13:13, 14 - Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

  * 1 Corinthians 6:18 - Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

  * Ephesians 5:3 - But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

  * Ephesians 5:5 - For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (an idolator) has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

  * 1 Thessalonians 4:3 - For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.

   * 1 Timothy 1:9-11  -  Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their mothers and fathers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance to the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

   * Revelation 22:15 - Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolators, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

(All Scriptures are from the ESV).

These verses are only some of them which show God's hatred toward sexual immorality as well as other sins such as idolatry, which is basically selfishness and greed.

   Who are you going to believe? Will you believe God and what He says in His word, or will you believe the 99% of the people in the culture who say its ok to sleep around and live in homosexual relationships? Who will you face on Judgment Day: The culture you live in or God Almighty?

   For more information on the Gospel message, how to have a relationship with the True and Living God, and how to be able to escape the Judgment of God over sin, please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Can A Christian Be A Deist?

Is is possible for a person who is a believer in Jesus Christ to also, at the same time, be a deist? Let's look at the definition of the word 'deist' to help us answer our question.

Definition of deism (www.dictionary.reference.com)
1. belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation (distinguished from theism ).
2. belief in a God who created the world but has since remained indifferent to it.

The reason this is concerning is that God is a God of power and might. He has many names in the Bible to describe who He is. Some of our current beliefs indicate that we only believe some of those descriptions. Some have trouble trying to make some of God's character traits to harmonize with who He is. So we only present part of the picture when we present the Gospel to people or when we try to minister to those in the body of Christ.

  A couple of years ago, one of our pastors gave a message from the book of Acts on the Holy Spirit. A person who was there became angry at the message and accused the pastor of preaching an idolatrous type of god. From what I could tell from the writings of this person, it looks like he does not believe God shows His power today in any form. 

  There are those I respect as Bible teachers and ministers of the word, but, some of the things I have heard more recently have been somewhat disturbing, and relate to this concern about the possibility of Christians actually being deists. 

   Without trying to make fun of anyone or put anyone down, I will try to give some of the thinking of these Christians, mainly for us to evaluate whether we are leaning toward deism in our belief systems. 

   One person, who takes his expressions of his beliefs by using songs that Christian singers sing today, used this example: a song by Phillips, Craig, and Dean called, 'I am a friend of God'. This person disdained this song for a reason that I still do not understand. Even if PCD were not true believers in Jesus Christ, the song is still valid and has great truth for believers in Jesus. It is an honor to be called, 'friend' by God, and it is Scriptural as well. 

   Being called a 'friend of God' does not mean we can manipulate God or think of Him as some kind of Genie in a bottle. I we love God, we will keep His commands. If we keep His commands, He will call us His 'friend'. (See John 15:13-15) 

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."

   Another example of what this person has said was from a song sung by Big Daddy Weave. Again, I am baffled and trying to understand why someone would have this difficulty with a song with these words and what they mean. 

"Every time I breathe You seem a little bit closer
I never want to leave
I want to stay in Your warm embrace
Oh basking in the glory shining from Your face
And every time I get another glimpse of Your heart
I realize it's true
That You are so marvelous God
And I am so in love with You

Are we to think that we shouldn't be close to God? But there are two aspects to this problem. One is that God is distant, even though we are good at reasoning from the Scriptures about God's existence and His creative attributes. The other is that God is powerless, or appears to be powerless. (I doubt that anyone would actually say that God is powerless, but in the way they express their understanding of God, that is what is revealed). 

   Both problems are probably a reaction to those who embrace the spiritual gifts but do not acknowledge the Giver in an honorable way. Many today are like the Corinthian church. How did Paul respond to the Corinthian church? He corrected them and told them what they were doing wrong, and why they needed to change. He didn't excommunicate the Corinthians, nor did he send a report out that they were false converts. They were genuine Christians who used the spiritual gifts in a selfish way. They were centered on the gifts and at the same time, they were not sensitive to see the sin in their own lives. So, we reason with ourselves that if they were truly Christians, the Holy Spirit would not only work in the gifts, but He would also work in the hearts of these people. Paul stood in faith for these people and treated them as disobedient Christians who needed to repent. Notice that Paul didn't throw away the spiritual gifts in this situation. He never threw the baby out with the bath water. 

   Did God's supernatural power end when the last original Apostle died, or when the words that were canonized were finally canonized? Was God only active during the early church years? 

   Go through the Old Testament, and you will find a supernatural God who is at work in the lives of everyday, average Joe people. We look at supernatural events, such as the Passover, the parting of the Red Sea, the raising up of the widow's son, the use of the prophetic words from the mouths of the prophets, and many other things that happened, and we spiritualize the person through whom God worked. We put them in a 'way out there' category and make them (in our minds) different from us. We put them on a high plane or pedestal and we distance ourselves from them because we categorize them as 'supernatural' and we categorize ourselves as 'natural'. But, they are more like us than they are like God. 

   God worked in miraculous ways all throughout the Old Testament. God worked miraculous ways throughout the New Testament. But then He stopped? Why would God operate in a supernatural way for 4,000  years or so, then stop? Does God change like that?

   Thomas Jefferson and many of the early American founders believed that God was indifferent to His world. Another aspect of this thinking is that God is distant from human beings. God is separated from human beings because of their rebellion and sin, but God sent His Son, to live a perfect life on earth, then die a horrific death, in order to pay for our sins. And not only to pay for our sins, but also for us to be reconciled back to God. God's intention all along was for people to be reconciled back to Himself. This automatically implies that God wants to have a relationship with His people. Relationships are not stoic, nor are they the result of attaining much true knowledge. We have to have some kind of knowledge of who God is before we can really get to know Him, but sometimes, all that knowledge actually gets in the way of our having a relationship with Him. We can have the right knowledge, and lots of knowledge, but we can have a mechanical relationship with God if we are not careful. 

   Some characteristics of God are love, justice, omnipotence (being all powerful), omnipresence (being everywhere at the same time), omniscience (knowing everything that has ever happened and everything that will happen in the future), without sin or flaws, and righteous. A deist cannot understand a God who is like this. Or they want to believe that God is like this, but He does not interact with human beings. 

Many would base their belief system on a faulty premise that believes that God is not good. Many do not understand why God allows war, sickness, famine, death, violence, etc. and blame God for these things. But in reality, this whole episode began in Genesis 3, when the devil, in the form of a serpent, came to Eve and lied to her about who God is, and tempted her to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. Eve believed the devil, but what was worse was that she encouraged Adam, who knew better, to eat the fruit. Adam took the fruit and ate it despite the fact that God came to visit him every day and talked with Adam. When Adam ate the fruit, he made a choice decision to end that relationship with God. He knew there would be consequences, but he didn't know how severe and far reaching the consequences would be. 

   Today, the disease of sin is still rampant and people destroy one another continually. Although Adam was the first to carry out rebellion against God, and there is nothing we can do in ourselves to remedy this, we are responsible, not for stopping our sin, but for turning to Christ, who not only took the punishment for our sins, but also will deliver us out of our sins. 

   It is like a vicious cycle. People see the badness of the world and say they reject God because He should stop people from hurting one another, yet, they refuse to come to Christ so they could be part of the solution of this dilemma. 

  Each person is either a contributor to the problem, or part of the answer to the problem, depending upon whether they have been reconciled back to God or not. 

   The problem is that we live in a bad world. Some interpret that as God not being responsible for His world. The bad world we live in has to do with the disease of sin, which we all have, and which came as a result of the fall. But some, and many professing Christians interpret the badness of the world as a result of a distant, indifferent God. Neither of those belief systems are true, but this is where deism comes from. It comes from a lack of understanding why there is so much bad in the world and unbelief in a supernatural God who still works wonders even to this day. 

   So, in conclusion, deism is simply unbelief in a God who is supernatural, or a God who works today in supernatural ways. It is a belief in a God who does not love His creation and is indifferent to His people. Both thoughts contradict Scripture though. 

   God is a God of love (to His children) and a God of power. He wants a healthy relationship with His children. He will demonstrate His power to us, even today if we turn to Him and trust in what He has done for us through the Cross. God wants us to walk with Him and hear His voice. He wants us to be Spirit filled believers who operate in the spiritual gifts and power of God in our lives. God's power can change us. God can and will work in us when we believe in Him and want to glorify His name. 

   So, can a true Christian be a deist? What do you think?

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Parade Application Rejection And How I Worked Through It

   It has been almost a year now, since a friend was so excited about a float with a group of people in a parade last year. She was so excited and thought maybe we could do that kind of thing too.

   For a couple of years, I had been saying the same thing. We really could be in a parade, if we put our minds to it. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of people to make a parade work, and no one seemed interested when I brought up the subject.

   Actually, I have always wanted to be in a parade. It probably started when I was little, and we would go and watch the Christmas parade in downtown Orange, New Jersey. My aunt was in it, because she was a majorette. Ever since that time, I wanted to be in a parade.

   My dad used to take us to the parades. He was a big fan of parades, as was I. I ended up with my aunt's baton, and I would practice this thing on a regular basis, but never found a place that gave lessons, nor did I find any classes in school that offered baton twirling.

  But one day, the hope of being in a parade came closer. An announcement over the P.A. system indicated that there was going to be baton twirling classes on Saturday mornings at a particular school, with the possibility of being in the parade. So, my friend and I went, and scouted out the school building where these supposed classes were to be held, but we never found the class rooms. Later on, we found out that the classes were for younger girls, not Junior High aged girls. Bummer.

    Many years later, I made sure that any baton twirling classes that came my way, would end up with one of my daughters at least, to be a participant in the class. Of course, it was always with the hope of the daughter ending up in the parade at Christmas time. I found a baton twirling class and my daughter was in. However, there was no opportunity for being in any parade.

   Fast forward many years. Finally, I got to be in the parade (the same one I always tried to be in) and this time, it was not with a baton or twirling students, but it was doing something else I love even more. We were in this parade, and have a really nice float. We are giving out tracts to people. It doesn't get any better than this. This parade opportunity happened two or three times, then it wasn't there anymore.

   Like I said, I have always wanted to do a parade, but last year, when my friend saw what we could do, I jumped on that opportunity and called the Chamber of Commerce that day and found out how we could be in the parade next year. I gathered a group of people who would be in it and we made all the plans. Everything was set.

   I called the Chamber of Commerce again in August to make sure I wouldn't miss getting the application. As soon as they were taking them for the Christmas parade, I sent mine in. We got the banners. We ordered and put together the give-aways. We designed T-Shirts and came up with a float design with all the props. We were on our way and pretty much ready, when November 3rd was quickly approaching. The deadline for the applications to be sent in was October 10th. They told us in an email that if our application was accepted, then we would hear back by November 3rd. For the week leading up to November 3rd, I kept an eye out looking for things in the mail from them, but nothing came. The email they sent out also stated that those applicants who were not accepted would be refunded their money that week.

   On November 1, I realized that my application was probably rejected. It was a very sad weekend. How will I tell my people about the rejection? Was it too late to find another parade? Is there something else we can do in place of the parade? What was God doing in all this?

   Saturday was a very weary day for me. It was a sad day, because the more I thought about the situation, the more I realized that we probably wouldn't be in the parade. Sunday morning rolled around, and on my way to the church meeting, I had thought about some of the things that were written in the email from the Chamber of Commerce. There were 4 requirements or strong desires that they had for each applicant. Three of them I had met, but one I didn't meet. It was the one that indicated that you needed to have been in one of their parades prior to this one. I had not ever applied for one, so now I realized how disadvantaged I was, after all, there were patrons who had been in the parade maybe 40 years or more, and now I come in and want to take their place because they cut the number of applicants down to 75. Either my group and I would be one of those 75 or we wouldn't be in the parade at all. In the morning, I was talking with a friend about it who was familiar with this parade. She said that the parade last year was too long, and the parade committee decided to restrict this one to 75 groups that would be able to participate. All I could think of after hearing that, was, if we did get in, it would be a miracle.

    But Sunday morning, somehow faith began to well up inside of me. I knew that the devil wasn't going to be happy, and I also am familiar in some ways, with the way God works in situations like this. God is sovereign and He does test us out when we are serving Him. That is a good thing. He is not testing us out to frustrate us and make us feel defeated. Many times, another open door swings wide open and God wants us to walk through that door. Sometimes though, the door is closed and there is not a wide open door somewhere else. What is God going to do with this parade situation? But more than that, how is my heart going to respond to whatever God is doing? Would my faith disappear? Would I become confused and angry? Would I wait a couple of weeks doing nothing, then all of the sudden a door opens up for us? What was God going to do with the dream that I had of evangelizing through a parade? Was my dream only a pipe dream, or wishful thinking? Only God knows, but He does have a plan.

    By Sunday night I was pretty much resolved to the fact that we weren't going to be in the parade. I threw it out to the group and asked for suggestions. Maybe we could take the truck and trailer and go caroling somewhere. We could dress up like we were going to be in the parade. What a cool idea. I could still give away my frisbies and Candy Cane Legend cards. The only thing we wouldn't use would be the big banner that we would have used in the parade. We also would have had to put more people on the trailer and we would not want to give the people in the neighborhoods we are caroling in, the impression that we are parade rejects. But we have over 50 people signed up for the parade and how can we fit them all on a trailer?

   Sunday night I got on the Internet and wrote to someone who was in charge of a parade in our town. I explained that even though it was too late for this year, I wanted to be kept in the loop for next year or future parades. The woman wrote back the next morning and said that it was not too late for this year and I could sign up immediately. So, I found the registration form and filled it out, and as soon as I get the rejection notice or phone call from the other parade committee, I was ready to click on the link that would send the form in.

   I left the web page open so I could just click on the link when I was ready. Meanwhile, I had called the Chamber of Commerce and left my name and number for the person to call back to affirm that we were definitely not going to be in the parade. By this time, I am totally fine with not being in that parade, especially since I found a new one we could be in. The group was excited too, but many had to check their schedules to see if they had that day free.

    I waited all morning for the dreaded return phone call, which never came. In the early afternoon, I got an email from the Chamber of Commerce and I knew that it was the rejection letter. But I was ok, because I could just click on the link for the other parade and we were all ok with that. I had decided also that I would never sign up again for this other parade that was so hard to get into. Only if a miracle happened, would we get in anyway. But God does do miracles, so I don't want to write anything off too quickly and jump into making other decisions without knowing all the facts.

   It was a rough 2 days, but God helped me through it all. Some were praying for me. It is easy for me to become discouraged. It is easy for me to lose faith and start doubting God. But since I have had some experiences with difficulties like this one, God's grace was totally there this time. I didn't put God in a box and expect a certain thing to happen a certain way, and when it didn't happen, then get angry about it. (I have done this before, I hate to admit).

   I opened the email, with full knowledge that it was a letter telling me they were sorry that I was not accepted in the parade this year. The only thing I wished from them, was that they would have told me sooner. But it all worked out in my mind anyway. When I opened the email, the words that I read were, 'Congratulations! You have been accepted in the 62nd Annual Winter Park 'Ye Olde Hometown' Christmas Parade'. What? Did I read that correctly?

   Of course, that means now I have to go back to looking for a place to order the T-Shirts from, laminating the Candy Cane Legend card, ordering imprinted balloons and more tote bags, and designing the sticker for the lollipops that I ordered. So, my imaginary weekend nightmare is over, and we are back on track now with making parade plans. If I only knew that the application was accepted, how different my weekend would have been, but how much less would have I experienced a work of God in my heart! We really do walk by faith in humility. May we learn to see God in all of our life experiences and not lose heart, no matter how adverse the situations might look to us!