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?