Spiritual Warfare Prep

Spiritual Warfare Prep
We Are In The Lord's Army

Saturday, April 26, 2014

We Are Living In A War Zone

   I think a lot of Christians know that they are in a battle, at least they have heard the Scriptures that talk about being in a battle, but did you know we really are IN a battle. Whether we like it or not, we are involved in this battle. Sadly, most of us are just sitting around trying to make the most out of life, when we should be doing spiritual warfare.
  What has triggered my thinking about this has been something I have seen more and more of since I am getting older. I see men and women of God, who really do or did love God, no longer walk with Him or act like they know Him. Before you come to your conclusion about what I am saying, please listen here. I know there really are those who profess to know the Lord, and don't have a clue. There are those who profess to know the Lord, and do appear to have a clue, but it is short lived. These people really might not know the Lord. In fact, most of them probably don't. But what do you do with someone who does know the Lord and then falls into sin?
   "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load." Galatians 6:1-5 ESV
 This passage is talking about a 'brother' who has fallen. How can a brother (or sister) fall though? I thought that when people come to Christ and are new creatures in Christ, that they won't sin anymore. Here's the deal; when a person comes to Christ, the devil is furious. We might not think anything of that, but in reality, the devil is going to try to trip the Christian up. The devil wants him or her to fall. He wants the Christian to be a casualty, or better yet, a 'castaway'. 
   The devil is vicious. There are no words to describe his anger. He tried to dethrone God, and it didn't work. Now he is getting people to be deceived. The worst part about deception is that you don't know you are deceived. Even a secular man or woman can make a decision to never commit adultery, and live up to that decision. When they see someone else commit adultery, they can't understand why anyone would do that. But, the devil will tempt people in areas they will not see. If the person isn't grounded well in the word of God, and if the person is not Spirit filled, he or she could fall. 
   It is like living on a spiritual land mine. Unless you know where the traps are, you could easily fall into one. Why do you think there are stupid arguments and divisions over the Bible? It is because the devil knows that the word of God is a weapon that we can use against him. He doesn't want us to trust in it because he wants to win over us and trip us up. 
   Any of us can fall into a trap, and we probably will at sometime in our lives. If we are trusting in the Lord, He promises to pick us up. "A just man falls seven times, and rises up again, but the wicked will fall into mischief." Proverbs 24:16
   The next time you hear of a Christian brother or sister who has fallen, instead of tearing the person apart, why not pray for him or her? Sure, some of them may not be Christians, and we can take the opportunity to pray for God's mercy on their lives. If they do know the Lord, pray for God's mercy to be on them as well. After all, what if you are the fallen brother or sister? Would you want people to be praying for you?
    "Wherefore let him who thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall." 1 Corinthians 10:12
There are spiritual landmines everywhere.

Friday, April 25, 2014

When Hopelessness is a Good Thing

  Hopelessness, well, it's not very hopeful, is it? Hopelessness reminds me of desperation. There is no way out and there is no answer to our dilemma. How should one respond to hopelessness?
  One way to look at hopelessness is to see it as helplessness. Hope and help seem to go together. Have you ever been in a hopeless or helpless situation? Most people have, at one time or another.
  Here's the situation I am thinking of in particular; We hear the 10 Commandments, and we realize that we can't keep them. When we understand that we are in trouble before God, we can become hopeless. But that can be a good thing, if it is understood correctly.
   God never intended us to be able to keep the 10 Commandments. It is not possible for us to obey them 100%. So, we either conclude that God will grade us on the curve, or, that there is some other way for us to be able to pass the test. Another option is for us to think that we actually can keep them perfectly.
   Does God grade on the curve? No, He doesn't have to. Every sin will be accounted for. Every sin will be dealt with and punished.
   Is it possible for us to keep the commandments perfectly? No, that is impossible as well. We would have to be more perfect than the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day.
   Is there another way then, for us to pass the test? Yes, there is, and it is the only way possible for us to not have to be charged with sin. It is the way of the Cross. Jesus lived a perfect life and died in our place to pay for our sins. We get in on His score, not on ours. But we have to turn to Him, trust in Him, and let go of sin in our lives. Then His righteousness will be credited to our account.
  Why is this a problem for some people though? It is simply because they either don't understand about Jesus' death on the Cross to pay for our sins, or, and more probably, they want to get in on their own score. Many will fight to the end to defend their self righteousness. They don't want to trust in another. They want to stand before God and show God how good they have been. These are the people who are hopeless. They will rather do it their way or end their own lives.
  We see people in other situations who are hopeless too. Whatever it is that they trusted in has let them down. Many of these people will also consider ending their lives. But they don't have to. They can put their hope in God. It is when we don't put our hope in God that we become totally hopeless and without hope.
   Some would think that having a high standard would make people discouraged and ultimately hopeless because it would be too high for people to reach, but that is exactly the way it should be. The high standard is not to discourage us, but to help us see that we need God. We are to trust in Him, not in ourselves. To trust in ourselves instead of trusting in God is the fruit of arrogance. God will give grace only to the humble. The proud He will resist.
   Hopeless people are all around us. That is why we need to share the Gospel with them God is their only Hope and Jesus is the only One who can save them. Many will turn from their sins, and trust in Him, and will receive the hope they need. The only alternative is for people to trust in something else, and at some point, their object of trust will fail them. Will they turn to the One who gives true hope, or will they remain eternally hopeless?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Is God Really All Loving and All Forgiving?

  Is God really all loving and all forgiving? You might be surprised at the answers to this question. But first, there are two different groups of people who will see this question entirely different.
   One of the groups uses this belief system to keep them from having to respond to the Gospel. For example, I have started talking to people about the Gospel, and as soon as I talk about breaking the 10 Commandments, the other person will ask, 'Well, isn't God all loving and all forgiving?' Or, they may ask the same question using different language. What most of them are basically saying is that they believe in a god who will allow them to stay in their sins, yet will allow them into heaven after they die.  What they have essentially done is broken the second commandment. They have created in their minds, a god who will allow them to stay in their sins. In their minds, God is like a big, cosmic Santa Claus, or maybe even like a Genie in a bottle. I think, sadly, that many, if not most professing Christians see God like this. They try to get to the punchline before the person sharing the Gospel does, because they know they are accountable to God for everything that goes on in their lives. Their hearts really do not want to know God or to truly be forgiven of their sins. They just want a pass into heaven. I'm sure many of them do not want to pay the price of being a disciple, and perhaps they don't want to be identified as a Christian, yet, they still believe that their god will allow them into heaven (which really, in essence means, 'not going to hell').
   The other group is made up of people who truly have some understanding of God's holiness and greatness. When we understand that God is the Creator, then we understand that He calls the shots and we don't. The only 'pass' we get to go to heaven is the pass that was provided for us by God's Son, when He died on the Cross to pay for our sins. Our sins are not beautiful to God, despite what some modern Christian songs say. God will punish our sins. He must punish sin. God did punish sin, when He sent Jesus to earth, 2,000 years ago. Jesus never sinned, yet He willingly took the punishment we deserve for our sins. We don't know the horror of what happened that day, when Jesus died for us. We know from the Bible that God put all of our sins on His Son, and during that time, it became dark outside. Even a historian named Thallus wrote about an unusual eclipse around that time period, and he lived in another country! Is it any wonder that the sky turned black when God was pouring out His wrath on His Son, for us?
   Sin, or at least the penalty for it, is not something we can take lightly. God cannot just 'forgive' people for their sins because they ask for forgiveness. The nature of God requires God to punish sin. Sin will always be punished, whether it is through the death of His Son, or whether it happens when people are in hell. Every sin will be accounted for, one way or another.
   Those in this second group are usually sorry for their sins. I have met men who were in the military, and whatever it was that they were required or told to do, has haunted them. If they had a choice of being able to do whatever it was that they did, or, if they could go back and undo what it was, they would go back and undo whatever it was that they did. One man told me that he used his gun to kill women and children who were citizens. He felt terrible about it and nothing could be done to bring the dead people back to life. But, he also felt like God would not forgive him for what he did. He thought of his sin as too great for God to forgive.
   So, we have the first group who think that sin is trivial, and God will just forgive anyone who believes that it will happen, and we have the second group who see the seriousness of their sins (not just the consequences) and also who would like to not sin anymore. Which group do you think God will forgive?
   When a person is truly sorry for their sins and repents and turns to God, God promises to forgive them. God is love and He loves those who fear His name. But for those who do not fear His name, but are only using Him to get a pass into heaven, they are under God's judgment. They do not understand God's character, nor do they understand their need for a Savior from sin.
    Is God all loving and all forgiving? Yes, to those who do not want to continue in sin, and turn to Christ. But no, He is not all loving and all forgiving to the unrepentant. Those who want to stay selfish and claim that God is all loving and all forgiving will experience God's judgment. They will not be forgiven, nor will they experience God's love.
   If any of my readers think they have sinned to greatly for God to forgive, think again. Think about the horrific event Jesus went through on the Cross. He died to pay for the worst of sinners. If you are a person who is thinking that heaven will be yours because God is all loving and all forgiving, then ask God to help you see the ugliness of your sin. Pray that God will give you the desire to turn away from your selfishness. Pray that God will give you eyes to behold Him and a heart that will want to know Him. When a person comes to Christ in repentance and faith, God gives that person a new heart that has new desires. "If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creature. Old things are passed away and everything becomes new.." 2 Corinthians 5:17
God not only has to punish sins, but sin will keep us from
being able to know Him.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Going From One Idol To Another

   Years ago, I saw a commercial which was made with the goal of getting kids off drugs. It was providing an opportunity for kids in the area to get involved with a baseball league. Pretty clever idea. Maybe the kids will have something constructive to do with their lives now, and something much safer. Taking drugs is dangerous, no matter how you slice it.
   The subject of idolatry is interesting. It has to do with what we worship. God created us to be worshipers, which means that each one of us will have something we trust in, something we are attached to, and something we are devoted to. There are many idols, but there is only one true and living God.
  The great commandment says to 'love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength'. The commandment that goes with it says to 'love our neighbor as we love ourselves'. When it boils down to the basics of life, we either love God, or we love something else. Our love for God is reflected in the way we love and treat others.
  The 10 Commandments are based on the great commandment. If we love God, we would easily obey the commandments. If we love others we will easily obey the commandments.
   In Jeremiah 2, verse 13, we read about the Israelites turning away from the living water, and creating their own cisterns (water holders). They were also looking for something else to fill the cisterns with. They didn't want them to be filled with living water.
 We are like that today. Everyone looks for meaning somewhere. We create ways that we think will provide meaning and security for ourselves. We devise things that we think will make us happy. We resist God because we think He want us miserable (another lie of the Enemy of our souls).
  I hope you noticed something in the first paragraph. All of us would agree that drugs are dangerous and we would do anything to get our kids away from drugs. If it takes joining a baseball league, we would do that. But here's the problem; we are replacing one idol with another. We are taking the idol of drugs and replacing it with baseball. There is nothing wrong with baseball. Baseball is a fine game for people to play. But in this case, it is taking those on drugs and giving them something else to love. It is giving kids on drugs something else to live for. It might be good if it provides protection from the dangers of drugs, but it is ultimately not solving the problem.
   What we should do, is turn from drugs to God. That is why God created the drug user in the first place. God is the true living water that can fill the heart and soul. If we look to baseball to fill our souls, we are going to be disappointed later on.
   There are so many varieties of idols and we are tempted every day to employ them. God wants us to 'taste and see that the Lord is good'. He wants us to drink of the living waters. He wants us to know Him deeply. When we come to that place in our hearts, no idol will ever match, no matter how good the idol is.
  What is it that you and I love? What are we devoted to? What do we live for? If it is not God, why not turn to Him and take time to listen to Him. We can let go of our idols, the good ones as well as the bad ones, and we can be true worshipers of God.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why We Shouldn't Judge Others

   I'm sure you have heard this verse quoted by unchurched people, 'Judge not lest ye be judged.' It's amazing that they even have this short verse memorized! Yet, we need to look at why this is a complaint. Is there a valid reason for people commanding us to not judge them?
   There are different types of judging done in the Scriptures. Judging basically means to make an evaluation about something or someone. We do it all the time. The world does it all the time. When a person applies for a job, the potential employer has to evaluate or 'judge' the person applying to see if he or she is qualified enough for the job. Whenever we make a decision or evaluation, we are 'judging', although we don't call it that today.
  But in the Bible, there is a section in the first verses in Matthew 7. Jesus starts out by saying (in KJV) 'Judge not lest ye be judged". The passage goes on to explain hypocrisy when judging because the person doing the judging does the same things as the person they are judging. Then it goes on to say for us to take the logs out of our eyes so we can see clearly when taking the specks out of the other person's eyes. Then the passage finishes by saying that once the log is out of the eyes of the person who is judging, then he or she can see clearly when taking splinters out of the eyes of others. The key to all of this is 'taking the logs out of our own eyes'. This simply means dealing with our sins first before we deal with other people's sins. If we have logs in our eyes, and try to take splinters out of other's eyes, we will not do a good job at it.
  The passage has to do with being critical of others and using their sins against them. Sadly, it happens in many churches today, as it has in the past. I know I have my head in the sand, but I talk to enough people who will tell of church experiences where they were 'judged' by someone in a critical and unhelpful way.
  I like Casting Crown's songs about church and living Christianity. One of their songs explains this dilemma very well. Here is an excerpt from the song, "If We Are The Body".

It's crowded in a worship today
As she slips in
Trying to fade into the faces
The girls' teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?

And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them
There is a way? There is a way?

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat
And quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances tell him that his chances
Are better out on the road

But Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/casting-crowns/if-we-are-the-body-lyrics/#Rx0Qjrf36msI1AtV.99
Today was a day for some to be baptized at church. It was interesting listening to their testimonies. A couple of them talked about their experience coming into the church and it was very positive. They felt like no one was judging them. This made it comfortable for them to continue coming. Four people from one family were baptized. They stayed long enough to not only hear the Gospel but to work it out in their hearts. When their hearts were ready, they responded to God. But what if they did feel judgment when they came into the church? Where would they be today? Would all four of them have been baptized? Would any of them even be there?
  I know I have my head in the sand, but I can't imagine why anyone would 'judge' a person when they come through the doors (by judging I mean being critical). If we left sinners outside of the church building, who would be qualified to go in?
  Do some Christians really think they have such a handle in overcoming their sin that they have to cut off other people from their lives and presence? Jesus died for sinful people. It's too bad so many of us don't see how ugly our sins really are. Maybe if we did, we would welcome those who are in obvious sin and we would be patient with them through their walking around the kingdom of God while they are deciding whether they really want to go in or not.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Really Is Sin?

   When I was little, my mom taught me the 10 Commandments. A lot of them I didn't understand, but there were at least two of them that I did. I also knew that I had broken them, but didn't know how to fix that problem. I knew I had lied, even though I was just three. I also understood that I was covetous. I loved wanting things, especially toys and books.
   Now, the lying thing I could take care of. I made a decision to not lie anymore. I actually did pretty good at it too. Only once in a great while I told a lie. But being covetous was a little more difficult for me to overcome.
   When I was around eleven years old, there was a girl who lived around the block who was mean to me. She stole money out of my piggy bank and she also lied to me. So, one day while I was thinking about the 10 Commandments, I compared myself with her. I, of course, came out so much better than she. I was the winner on keeping the Commandments, at least in that contest in my unsanctified imagination!
   As I got older, and God began dealing with my heart, I justified my sinfulness by thinking that certain things were taboo from God, like taking drugs or having sex outside of marriage, so again, I deemed myself ok. But God was still at work and I would get it one day.
   The Bible talks a lot about sin. We typically use the 10 Commandments as the standard of what sin is, but many passages expound upon sin and give better explanations than the 10 Commandments do.
   For example, in the book of Proverbs, chapter 6, there is a list of things that God hates. Some things are abominations to Him. "There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies and one who sows discord among brothers."*1
     In the New Testament, we also see some more details given on sin. In Matthew 15, we can read some more as Jesus explains about sin to the disciples. "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. "*2
   All these things are not just a new list of sins. They are the roots of the sins that are brought out in the 10 Commandments. The sins in many of the Commandments are shown in a person's behavior, but sin doesn't start in the behavior. It starts in the heart. It is what the heart desires. It is what a heart that is without God desires. And everyone's heart is like this because we all have a fallen nature that wants to be independent of God.
   Here is another list of sins that begin in the heart: "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."*3
   There are other passages with lists of sins as well. Why I am posting these passages? The reason is, because we tend to measure whether we are a sinner or not by external measures. For example, we know the commandment that tells us that we shouldn't lie. But instead of looking at our hearts to find any areas of deception, we look at external behavior and see how well we are doing. In the case of lying, people can make a decision to not lie. But deception can still be in the heart and it will be missed if we don't get to the heart first. 
   Back in the olden days, many people stayed married, simply because they knew divorce was wrong. They were careful to not 'commit adultery' by having an affair, and the amazing thing is, that many of these people were not Christians! They were able to make their behavior conform to the Scriptures, at least outwardly, and by doing so, they were able to give themselves a pat on the back for staying married. But if we want to probe deeper, we could have asked these people if they have ever lusted after another person in a sexual way, whom they were not married to.*4 We could also ask single people the same question. It's not the sexual drive that gets us into trouble, but the lusting and fantasizing of having sex with someone we are not married to.
   The same is with murder. So many of us think we are ok because we have not murdered someone. Did you know that in the New Testament, it talks about hating someone as murder? It's not the act of murdering a person that qualifies for murder alone. Even just hating someone is equal to murder in God's eyes *5
   Do you see that its what's in the heart, not necessarily the behavior, although the behavior is a fruit of sin and will be counted against us. But even if the behavior is outwardly good, yet the heart is devoid of God, the heart is in darkness and will have sinful desires. This is the problem throughout every generation, that affects every person. 
   I could grow up and live a decent life. I could make straight As in school, go to college, get a good career, marry and have children, give to the poor, have some maturity in being kind to others, take care of my elderly parents, provide well for my children, and still miss the boat. I could do all these things and more, and still miss God. It would look like I would be doing well at keeping the commandments and helping others, but if God is not in the life, there is no life at all. 
  The biggest and oldest sin we are all guilty of is idolatry. You might think of idolatry as something people did thousands of years ago. And it is, but it is just as active today, as it was 6,000 years ago. Idolatry is simply being attached to, or loving something other than God, or in the place of God. In the Old Testament, we see the Israelites continually going after idols. Sometimes, they were terrible idols, like Molech, but other times, they were just idols that took the place of God, where God should have been. God's rightful place is in the center of everything, but instead, we are in the center of everything. We run our own lives, outside of God. We want to be our own boss. We want to call the shots. We want to run the show. Especially when we don't like something God says. 
   The Great Commandment is to 'love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths.'*6 The commandment that ties in with it is to 'love our neighbors as we love ourselves'*7. We love ourselves. Do we love our neighbors in the same way? 
   What are we attached to? Who do we live for? How do we live out our lives? Is God there or is He kind of like a 'good luck charm' or 'Grandfather in the sky' to us, whom we use when we need something or want something?
   God is not a means to getting something. He is the Something we should go after and want. Is your marriage in trouble? God can help. But He helps by changing you or me first. We have goals of healing our marriages, and wanting a healed marriage is good, but it is not the ultimate goal of our lives. God is. 
   Only God can help us let go of our idols. We might have good things we like and want, and it is not wrong to want something good. It is when our desire for that particular thing is too much. Then it becomes an 'inordinate affection' and is replacing God in our hearts. 
   Everyone struggles with idolatry. Idolatry leads to other sins of the heart. If the heart is right with God, then good things will come out of it. Our hearts cannot be right with God, until we repent of our sin, turn to God, and trust in Jesus as our Savior from sin. Jesus died to take our punishment for our sins, but also He can give us the power to live a Godly life. The Bible says that when we come to Christ, we are born again, and we become new creatures in Christ. The Holy Spirit lives in us then, and gives us the power to say 'no' to sin, and 'yes' to righteousness. 
   Alright this is long, I know. I will probably write out the lists of sins on another page somewhere. We have to go back to the heart to find our sins, rather than looking at external behavior, many times. Otherwise we will be captive to sin the rest of our lives, and never have any idea of that happening.
  For more information on the Gospel, go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com

1. Proverbs 6: 16-19 ESV
2. Matthew 15:18-20 ESV
3. Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
4. Matthew 5:28
5. 1 John 3: 10,15
6. Deuteronomy 6:5
7. Leviticus 19:18


Monday, April 14, 2014


       Hell. Where is it? What is it like to be there? Who goes there? Why? There are lots of questions about hell that we all have. We do have some answers from the Bible.
   In the Old Testament, we don't have much information on the after life, but, Jesus expounded upon this subject and gives us more description and reasons for it.
  In today's culture, many nominal Christians believe that you can believe in whatever you want and that is what constitutes truth. Many do not believe hell exists simply because they don't want to. Others misunderstand the Bible and say that Jesus never really talked about hell, and that God is all loving and doesn't send people there. But we always need to go back to the Bible to find out what is real and true.
   Jesus describes hell as a place of eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus explains that those who were selfish will go there. In Luke 16, The Rich Man ended up there. He was very selfish and after he died, he was surprised to find himself in this fire. He was able to see Abraham and asked him some questions. Abraham told the Rich Man that there would be no way to cross the great gulf that separated hell from the place where Abraham was. Conversely, no one was able to cross over from Abraham's side into hell.
   So, once someone is in hell, he or she will never get out of it. Also, hell will never end. But even with all this information, most people will still end up there. Why?
  The Rich Man, in his conversation with Abraham, pointed out that he had 5 brothers, and asked Abraham to send someone to warn them. He felt compassion for his brothers. He didn't want them to end up where he was. Abraham replied to the Rich Man that the brothers had Moses and the Prophets. The brothers could listen to Moses and the Prophets. The problem is, as is today, that no one seeks after God. We seek after God only because we want things, or we don't want certain things to happen to us. We use God like a magic wand thinking He will be happy with us if we believe in Him (not necessarily trusting in Him, but more of believing that He exists). The devil believes God exists, yet he doesn't know Him and will end up in hell one day.
   Who ends up in hell, and why? The Bible says that the devil and his angels will be there. God did not provide a way for the fallen angels to be redeemed, but He did provide a way for fallen human beings to be redeemed. What is it that we will be redeemed from though?
   Every being that God created, was created for the sole purpose of worshiping God. People were made to have a relationship with God. God made Adam and Eve, and they had a relationship with God for a while, until Eve listened to the voice of the devil and was tricked into disobeying God. But, even worse, Adam knew better and he also participated in rebellion against God by taking the forbidden fruit. When God came to visit Adam and Eve, He knew they had disobeyed. God placed a curse on the earth, a curse on the serpent (the devil) and mankind was now under the curse. God also promised to send a redeemer to save mankind. Throughout the Old Testament, God gave clues about this Redeemer who was to come, one day. In the New Testament, the Redeemer came and fulfilled all of the promises about Him that were given throughout the Old Testament.
   Since Genesis 3, human beings have been suffering and sinning. The human race needed help. The problem is, people, who were made to have relationship with God, and with one another, were now very selfish. Instead of being 'God-centered', people were now 'me-centered'.
   The Bible says that 'no one seeks after God'. Also, our hearts are deceitfully wicked. The great commandment is to 'love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.' Also, we are to 'love our neighbor as we love ourselves'. If we were able to do those two commandments, we would be doing all the commandments God gives us. But, since we are born in sin, we can't, and God must punish us.
   Hell is a place people go to, in order to pay for their sins. Because of who God is, He must punish sin. Every big sin will be punished. Every little sin will be punished. Sin is not just the external things we do. It is the heart motive behind why we do these things. For example, the Bible says, 'You shall not kill'. Most of us have never literally killed someone, so we think we are off the hook, but in 1 John 3, anyone who is angry with his brother is a murderer, and the verse continues, 'and no murderer has eternal life abiding in him'.
   So, let's recap.
1. Hell is one of two places people go to after they die.
2. There is a gulf separating hell from heaven that cannot be crossed.
3. Hell is eternal. There is no end to it ever.
4. God created hell to punish the devil and his angels, and also for people to pay for their sins by being there.
5. Those who do not respond to God's provision for salvation, will go to hell.

   You might think this is unfair. The Rich Man did. Many are going to be surprised when they end up there. But the answer is the same for us and for the Rich Man. We have the Law, the Prophets, and Moses. We are responsible for what we do with that. You might think it is unfair that you were born in sin. You are not responsible for being born in sin. What we are responsible for, it responding to God and receiving His grace so we can be reconciled back to Him. You can't take your sins away, but God provided Someone who could cleanse you from sin. You are responsible to turn away from sin, turn to God, and trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior from sin and from God's wrath. The Rich Man never made it that far. He may have known about God's laws, but it was never in his heart to obey and love God. It's not in our hearts either. That's why we need a new heart.
  We were created to worship God, and live our lives for Him and His glory. When we come to Christ in repentance and faith, He gives us a new heart. We are also placed in God's family and are now one of God's adopted children.
   The choice is ours. The issue isn't one about escaping hell, as much as it is an issue of being reconciled back to God. When we come to Him in repentance and trust, He promises to never leave us. Life has many choices. Eternity has only 2.
Those who do not know God, and do
not receive the salvation He provides
will spend eternity in hell.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Indelible Marks

       Years ago, when I was in dental assisting school, was the first time I had ever heard of the word, 'indelible'. Personally, I did not like it. If your skin came in contact with indelible ink, it would never come off. It sounded like something permanent. I'm not even sure what the indelible item was in dental assisting school. Perhaps the amalgam we worked with?
   When I was preschool age, we lived in the Garden State. In our yard were all kinds of flowers and I like to pick them and study them. But one of them I was told not to touch because the color in the petals could come off and permanently stay on my skin. That would be like a natural tattoo, but without a pretty design!
   As a Christian, I see two meanings to the word 'indelible'. One of them is scary, and the other is great beyond measure. The first one is like sin. We sin because we are sinners. When a person robs a bank, it is because there is the sin of greed in his heart. When a woman shares her body with a man whom she is not married to, most of the time, it is for fear of not being able to keep her man. It is easy for us to give in to other's wishes upon us when we don't want them to leave us or reject us.
   When we sin, it is like an indelible mark on our souls. We can't see it, but God can. One day, when we stand before God, all of the sins we have committed will be like indelible marks on our souls. Even if we just had one indelible mark, that would be enough to send us to hell. We can't clean off the indelible marks, for they are permanent.
   There is one thing that can remove the indelible marks of sin, and that is the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son. Two thousand years ago, God came to earth as a baby, and grew up into a man. He did this so that He could take our place/punishment for our sins. He never sinned and obviously would have no indelible marks in His soul. But His blood is powerful enough to cleanse every indelible mark in all of our souls, should we repent and trust in Him as our Savior. He gives us robes that are completely spotless.
   The other meaning of the indelible mark is one which happens when we come to Christ and respond to the Gospel. When we come to Jesus Christ and receive forgiveness of our sins, all our marks of sin are gone, but, not only that, we are engraved in the palms of His hands. We are permanently engraved in His hands and nothing can undo that. When Jesus was nailed on the Cross, He took our punishment and now is able to save anyone who comes to Him. The nail holes are still there in His hands and will remain that way throughout eternity. Our names are written in the Book of Life and will never be deleted.
   So, every person either has indelible marks of sin in their souls, or, their names are written in the palms of God's hands. It is either one or the other. In eternity, it will be permanent. If we still have the marks of sin in our lives, we can repent, and turn to Jesus Christ and ask for cleansing of our souls. As long as we are on earth, it's not too late. Once we are in eternity, we cannot go back and change it.
This permanent ink will be used
on your permanent record
The indelible marks of sin can be completely wiped away by only one thing; The blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from sin.
The indelible marks in the hands of Jesus will always be there to show us what He did for us on the Cross.
To those who know God and have a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, they are engraved in the palms of God's hands.
* Isaiah 43:25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins."
* Isaiah 49:15, 16 "Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me."
* Revelation 3:5 "The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life."
* Revelation 20:12 "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done."
* 1 John 1:7 "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."
All above verses are from the ESV.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The 'New' Gospel, or Rather, The 'Old' Lie Brought Back

  I know I have my head in the sand, yet, I hear so much from other people that in some ways, I feel like I have been informed on the latest happenings.
  I know this really isn't a new Gospel, but there is a false one going around that many embrace, perhaps without even realizing it. It is the Gospel which says that God wants us to be 'happy'. Think about it for a moment. God created every human being to be a worshiper, correct? Everyone is a worshiper, whether he or she realizes it or not. It is just a matter of what we worship. In our fallen state, we worship whatever it is that we think will make us happy. Isaiah describes our 'idols' as lies. "Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Isaiah 44:19b-20 ESV

   Yes, our idols deceive us and keep us from worshiping (or even seeing) the True and Living God. Can we open our hands and let God take the idols from us? Will we receive the new heart He wants to give us? In the Garden of Eden, the devil wanted Eve to believe the lie that the fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil would make her wise. The devil went on to tell her that she could become like God if she ate it. Basically, the devil was successful in getting Eve to doubt God. She stopped trusting Him, and started trusting herself instead. We do the same thing though. We think God wants us miserable, so we don't turn to Him. We turn to things that we think will make us happy. Essentially, we are listening to the same lie, recycled and custom made for us, that the devil gave Eve. 

   We are not going to be happy, ultimately, if we live selfishly. But, unless God opens our eyes, we will not believe that. We will continue on with our rebellion and happily be on our way to hell. 

   Does God want us happy? That is the wrong question, because what God wants for us cannot be compared to anything we experience in the flesh. Being happy is the ultimate success of the flesh, but living in the spirit is much different. When we live in the Spirit, we are in a different league than we are when living in the flesh. We don't have to feed our flesh anymore. The Bible speaks about the 'joy of the Lord' which is so much higher and purer than being 'happy'. Any promise of the flesh being happy is just an illusion. A person can be 'happy' for a time, but, in a way similar to drugs, the happiness will wear off. The person will have to look again for something or someone to make them happy. It's a continuous cycle that will ultimately end in death.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Deep Dark Well We All Live In

   My main reason for writing this is to help clarify my basis for writing these blogs. I really want to be helpful, but I know, unless I write really, really long blogs, that people can misunderstand what I am writing, and why I am writing what I write.

   I have found this while sharing the Gospel too. One lady was so angry with me because I offered her a tract. She then told me that she hopes God judges me for what I am doing. I didn't think I said anything that was that disturbing.

   I look at it like this; we are all in a deep well together. It is not like I am outside of the well trying to get people to come up to my level. It would be more like all of us are in this deep, dark well. Some of us think we are happy here and are making the best of where we are and what we have. We really don't want to get out.

  It would be like seeing a rope dangling while in the well. Can the rope be trusted? Talk to people who have taken hold of it. They were rescued. Once they were rescued, they could see more clearly what it was that they were inside of. They know the rope is there and that it is trustworthy. Now they are telling others about the rope. They have chosen to stay inside the well to help others find the rope.

 If a person wants to take hold of the rope, he or she cannot take anything with him/her. He must let go of everything else because those things will keep him inside the well. The rope was only there for people to grab onto, not for things to be taken up.

   Many don't want to take hold of the rope. They want to keep their things, even though those things are keeping them in bondage. They don't see the beauty of being outside of the well, so they think what they have is the best of the best, when it is really only an illusion.

  There are counterfeit ropes as well. They look sturdy and strong, but when you take hold of the end, it begins to unravel or it breaks. God helps people to know when they see the real thing. They will put their trust in the true rope, the only one that doesn't unravel or break, and that is strong enough to pull us out of the well. It is true that a person can tell which rope is the right one to pick, but the person would rather choose one of the other ropes.

   God offers the true rope for all of us. Some of us have grabbed it and been pulled out of the dark well. It is time for us to go back, and help other people find the rope.

   I personally think, after listening to many people talk, that perhaps without realizing it, we still have this mindset that we have to be good to please God, or we have to do certain good works to appease Him. Sometimes, people mistakenly think that fruit bearing Christians are those who have done so many good works that they are close to God. But keep in mind that Jesus died for sinners, not for righteous people. Jesus died for murderers, liars, thieves, adulterers, haters, homosexuals, lesbians, those addicted to porn, the immoral, cheaters, selfish people and bullies. Jesus didn't die so that we could stay in the well and look at the rope. He didn't die so we could take our sins with us when He pulls us out. He died so we can be freed from the snares of sin that hold all of us, in one way or another. No person can be good enough to please God or to make up for the bad things he or she has done. Only Jesus blood can cleanse us from sin and set us free.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

God Disciplines Those Who Are His But He Doesn't Discipline Those Who Are Not His

  I don't know about you, but the word 'discipline' doesn't sound like a word that brings happy thoughts to my mind. I got 'disciplined' a lot as a child, for many things I deserved, and I certainly did not enjoy the process, nor did I understand the reason for discipline at that time in my life.
  The Bible says that God disciplines those He loves (see Hebrews 12:6-9). Our parents, as faulty as they were, disciplined us as best as they knew how, but God knows what is best for us. His discipline is perfect.
   This passage tells us that if we are God's children, we will received discipline. If we stray, or fall into temptation, God will work in the situation, and we will be disciplined. It is for our good.
   But here is the opposite situation; If we are not God's children, we will not be disciplined by God. I believe that is part of the reason why we see people doing bad things and getting away with them. In Romans 1, people who have turned away from God have been turned over by God to their sinful hearts' desires. They will sin and they will get away with it. God is not going to stop them. What they don't understand though, is that every time they sin, they are piling up more sins for God to make their punishment harder and more severe. They laugh and think they are getting away with it. But in reality, God is not showing them mercy. That is a pretty scary place to be!
   I see people speeding down the road, all the time. No cops are ever around though. But if I went speeding down the road, I can almost guarantee that I would be caught. It would be an act of God's mercy on me.
  If you belong to God, you will experience God's intervention when you sin. It is an act of God's mercy. Do not be angry with God. Be grateful for His mercy on you. If you don't belong to God, you can do whatever you want, but one day, there will be a reckoning. It will not be a pretty sight. It will be terrible. You see, the problem is, some people don't believe God is all-knowing and omni-present. There is no place you can go to escape God's presence. You might get away with murder, at least on earth, but, unless your conscience stops you first, you will find your end on Judgment Day. Everything stops there. There is no escape from that.
   If you sense you don't belong to God, and are concerned, please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com or http://test4gp.wordpress.com

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How Deep Would You Dig, In Order To Get To The Money?

   A friend make a very insightful comment this morning. She had been a Christian for many years, but never got into the habit of reading the Bible until two years ago. She made a challenge and said that if you asked anyone around, they probably would not be reading their Bibles either.
  I thought that was interesting, but really insightful. It would seem like anyone who is a born-again Christian would be reading their Bibles, every day, but that is not what is happening. I can think of only two reasons. One of them I covered in a recent blog, that has to do with our being pragmatic. That simply means that we want instant answers and we live for convenience and comfort. Anything hard or that requires work is out of the question. And since reading the Bible would involve work, we simple don't do it. But another reason might be, because we haven't been born again yet. Unless God is indwelling a person by His Holy Spirit, that person will not see God, nor will he or she understand or even want the things of God.
 Here is a question I throw out to you: If you knew there was a jar of several $100 bills 10 feet under the ground in your back yard, would you dig it up? What if the jar of bills was 6 feet under the ground? Or 2 feet? How much work would be involved on your part, to get to the money? Would it be worth it?
  Reading the Bible is much like eating, but in a spiritual sense. We nourish our spirits with God's word. It is good to memorize Scripture, but unless we digest God's word and it becomes part of us, it doesn't have an affect on our lives. We want to be spiritually healthy, and we need spiritual food to feed ourselves with.
   When we digest the word, the Holy Spirit activates God's word in our hearts. We can read the Bible and the whole story makes sense to us. When we are hungry for God, then we will want to know Him. We can know Him, and learn about Him through the Scriptures, which is worth more than all the gold in the world!

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3 NIV

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What Is The Trade-off? What Is The Price Of Convenience?

  I am just baffled today as I go to the store and see so many products geared toward convenience. As I was walking through the garden department of a store, I saw bug killers, weed killers, and perlite enriched with Miracle Gro. The perlite could have been left alone, for it is somewhat of a natural product on its own. You got a problem with a bug. The store has the answer. But it is not without cost.

  For the past several years, I have enjoyed our newspaper's food section with recipes in it, but for some reason, this year it has lost its appeal to me. I figured out why when I was looking for black and white print newspapers to use for composting. The recipes are, for the most part, the same. You take a can of this and a box of that and mix them together and add another ingredient off the shelf. Why do the recipes look like that today? It is for the same reason the garden section in the store looks like what it does. Everything is made, even recipes, to cater to our love for convenience.

  My chiropractor's office is right by a McDonald's. I go in the later part of the afternoon and notice there already is a line at McDonald's. Amazing. With all the information on the Internet of how to take care of our bodies and to prevent sicknesses, the lines are still long at McDonald's. Why?

  I'm not making a case against McDonald's here, and I won't condemn you if I find out that you frequent that place. Nor will I condemn you for using Miracle Gro or a boxed cake mix. You probably have read many articles on health and healing and know the consequences of eating wrongly or eating things that are toxic. But my point is different here. I am looking at the other side of the issue. I don't want anyone to misunderstand the point I am making or read things into what I am saying. If you want to learn more about health issues, I do have a blog for that at http://healthtipsrecipes.blogspot.com/ . On that blog, I talk about health issues in more detail.

  I have eaten poorly for many, many years, and I justified every bite of it. I am sorry I had eaten that way because I weigh too much and it is very hard to lose weight when you have lived a life style like that for so long. What am I willing to pay in order to eat right and be healthy again? That is the question we all must ask ourselves, and it not only pertains to eating, but to everything else in life.

   The whole issue is centered around our idols. I don't mean to be blunt here, but I am trying to make this as simple to understand as possible. This principle applies to all people not just my readers, yet, we see this principle being worked out way more easily in America than anywhere else, simply because we have so much more right at our fingertips.

   Is convenience wrong in itself? No, and sometimes it is helpful. But when it becomes a way of life, it shapes the way we think and what we expect life to give us. We live in a society where ADD is treated as a disease, as if we are helpless and subject to ADD no matter what we do. Our potential becomes less and less because we believe we are not capable to deliver. So, we work around ADD and we make our lives as simple and comfortable as possible.

  Let me give examples of what this could look like. Let's say, a person makes and sells homemade soaps, using pure ingredients. Many of our minds do not understand this. People will respond by saying, 'you can just go to a store and buy soap. Why go through the trouble of making it?' Yet, the soap from the store has chemicals in it, and people who use store bought soap are more prone to skin difficulties. Another example would be with boxed cereals. Boxed cereals have lost so many nutrients plus, have added sugars to them, so children will eat them. It would be more work, but you could buy oatmeal and make it without adding sugar or preservatives to it. I had to recently make my own cereal recipe, as I don't like boxed cereals but need to have something on hand for when I need to use that type of cereal. Mine probably tastes better than the boxed cereals, plus it has a lot of good, nutritional ingredients in it. Was it cheap to make? No, it was rather pricey. It took time to find the ingredients and put them together. But it is worth it to me, to have something which is better quality, than something boxed up coated with sugar.

  Do you see the struggle here though? There is a tension we all have. Some of us don't have money to pour into making cereal. Most of us can't imagine taking time to learn how to make soap. Whatever is going to be worth it, will take time and money. If we don't put it here, we certainly will put it in medicine or doctor bills. A lot of our sicknesses can be prevented.

   We have lived for convenience. We are pragmatic, as a result. We want what we want, NOW. This flows over to every part of our lives, including the spiritual. When we have a problem, we tell someone in the church and expect it to be cured with some Bible verses. Then we start doubting when problems pile up.

  I guess, we can take one step at a time. I doubt that any of us really sees the effect of pragmatism in our lives. When we see something like chemicals added to perlite, we automatically think of it as a bonus, when really it is a disadvantage. We like our double cheeseburgers, even though they could make us sick. But, one step at a time, and I think we can do it.

   This is a struggle for all of us. It isn't really about Miracle Gro or cheeseburgers. It is about our hearts. What do our hearts crave at the moment? Ease? Comfort? Lack of hard work? What is God calling us to?

  Yes, we can take steps to change our habits, but what we really need is a heart change. We need eyes to behold the wonder of God. We need to have encounters with God like Isaiah did, and also Peter. (See Isaiah 6 and Luke 5). Only God can change the heart. As we grow spiritually, we will change. So, that is the answer to all our idolatries, no matter what they are. We must be willing to let go of them, so that God can live big in us.

I love my hamburger, my bug spray,
my hair spray, my bakery, my nose
spray, and my acne cleanser. Life is
good. My microwave is pretty cool

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

7 Lies People Believe

   There are probably way more than 7, but I will post 7 of them that I am familiar with or hear people say. Sometimes, we can detect lies that other people believe, but we don't catch them when we ourselves, believe them.

    1. I am basically a good person.

    2. God wants to take my fun away.

    3. I can have an abortion, and no one, but me and the doctor will ever find out.

     4. I have sinned too deeply for God to forgive me.

     5. If most people sleep around, it must be ok with God, because He isn't going to condemn all of
         those people to hell.

     6. All religions lead to heaven.

     7. I believe in God, so that is all that I need in order to be right with Him.

Well, let's see here what God says about these things.

      1. "There is none righteous, no not one." "All have sinned and fall short of God's glory" Romans
           3:23 "The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9
      2. Although God's desire is for us to become holy, His desire has nothing to do with taking                          
         anyone's fun away. Life is difficult for those who know Him. Life is difficult for those who
         reject Him. We were created to worship Him, and He will fill those who know Him with joy  
         that is unspeakable. God promises to take care of those who are His (see Matthew 6).

     3. While this might be possible in the short life that you will have on earth, this act will always be
         in your conscience. You will never be able to remove it. Everything we do on earth is seen by
         God.  All our activities, good and bad are being recorded in His books. On That Day, everything   
         we have done in secret will be revealed. Since abortion is murder, that will also be charged to 
         your account of sin, that is, unless you repent of your sin, and trust in the finished work of Jesus 
         Christ on the Cross for cleansing from your sins. "There is nothing done in secret that will not be 
         made known."

      4. There is no sin that God cannot forgive. God will cleanse the heart of anyone who repents and
          trusts in Jesus Christ to save him or her from their sins. "He is able to save, to the uttermost, those 
          who come to God, seeing He lives forever to make intercession for them." David, the psalmist, 
          and Saul of Tarsus, had sinned grievously against God, yet God forgave them and restored them 
          after they repented of their sins and turned to God.

      5. If 100% of the people are sleeping around, God will punish 100% of the people. God does not
          grade on the curve. Anyone who breaks God's laws will be punished, even if it is only one law
          that is broken. If 100% of the people who are sleeping around repent of their sin, God will
          forgive 100% of the people. "Sin is transgression of the law". "But as for the cowardly, the 
          faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, 
          their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” 
          Revelation 21:8 ESV

        6. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me." 

           John 14:6. Also, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven 
           given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 ESV

  7. Did you know that the devil believes in God? "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even 
            the demons believe—and shudder! " James 2:19 ESV. Do you think the demons will go to 
            heaven? They have a place already reserved for them to be punished eternally. There is a 
            difference in believing something and trusting in something or someone. Knowing God exists is 
            important, but that alone is not what will get us into heaven. We must trust in Him. He provided 
            salvation for us to receive. We will not receive it until we see our need for a Savior. Then we 
            will turn from our sins, and turn to God, and trust in Him. 
The word of God is the voice of Truth