Monday, January 26, 2015

Be Alert

In reading Ephesians 6:10-20 we find Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, describing the armor we must be wearing on the battlefield when under Satan's attacks.  I don't know about you, but there have been times in my life when I haven't been fully dressed, and as a result I've found myself laying on the battlefield, wounded, sometimes severely.


But praise God for His grace, mercy, compassion, longsuffering and patience.  Thank God He continues to uphold us with His righteous right hand.  And thank God He heals us.


What I wanted to focus on in this post is verse 18b in chapter 6, "With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."


What this verse says to me is that on the battlefield we will at times see some of our brothers and sisters in Christ, who themselves haven't been fully dressed in the armor of God, and as a result have been wounded, sometimes severely, and are now laying on the ground.


God is telling us to be alert for this and to pray for them.  What is implied here also is that God will hear and answer those prayers.


I love to go and share the Gospel with those who are on the streets, and it is a joy to see someone make the decision for Jesus.  But what I'm finding is that about 90 percent of the men I'm talking to are those who have at one time given their lives to Christ.  Somewhere along the line they got mixed up in something they shouldn't have (haven't we all), and as a result of not wearing their full armor they have been wounded.  Most times they have been seriously wounded.  They have become addicted to drugs, alchohol and many other things.  Relationships have been wounded and marriages have been broken up.  They are desperate and in despair.  And the worst wound I've seen is the deception that God has walked away from them.  This is a violent wound to the soul that robs someone of their peace.


They need someone to come along side them and reassure them God hasn't walked away.  They need this.  This is what will bring back God's peace to them and heal their soul.


I was talking to a man on the street this weekend from Detroit, Michigan.  He's in his sixties.  He gave His life to Christ in 1971.  But he made the mistake of getting caught up in the partying of the late sixties and early seventies.


His life is full of failures, regrets, broken relationships and a broken marriage.  He's been trying for a long time to get his life back on track, but every time he gets close to accomplishing this, another failure comes along.


We talked for a few minutes and then I told him what I thought the problem was.  Satan was holding him to his past failures and convincing him God was ashamed of him and angry with him.  Although he didn't realize it was Satan doing this to him.


I told him that it was not God accusing him for these things, but that it is Satan who is the accuser of the brothers.  The fact is that God has forgiven him of all of his sins and has credited the righteousness of Christ to his account.  Satan wanted to convince him that God was displeased with him so that in fear he wouldn't go to God's throne of grace to receive help.


We talked about who he is in Christ, how his esteem is in Christ, that God is for him and not against him, that God was with him in his failures as well as in his successes.


He was very encouraged and I'm confident the Lord will use His relationship with him and His Word to help this brother in Christ.


My hope is that you will pray for him.  Undergird him with prayer because as with anyone who has fallen on the battlefield, the wounds are deep and there isn't much strength.  You don't have to pray for him everyday, but just this once or whenever God puts him on your heart.


Pray that God would help him to understand everyday that he is God's child and God will never leave.  That he would know God's joy that will give him strength.  And that God would help him out of this homeless situation he's in.  I believe that any child of God who understands and senses God's grace, peace and joy can come out of the worst of circumstances.


God bless you.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Just Passing Through

I met a man in Colorado today and I would like to pass on his story.


He was born in Frankfurt, Germany about thirty years ago as his dad was in the military.  When he was about six years old his dad and mom divorced.  His mom moved to Colorado and he was raised by her.  He has one older brother who lives in Missouri and has done well for himself.


His mom passed away awhile back and this was very devastating to him.  A good friend of his passed away recently.  They had had a falling out and had not had the chance to reconcile before this happened.  This was also devastating to him.


He likes music and is very involved in the industry.


He is a very honest man, and our conversation was pleasant.  We had the opportunity to talk about God and Jesus and talk about some issues he had with that subject.  He doesn't doubt creation.  He doesn't doubt that he (as well as all of us) are sinners.  What he was not sure of was that Jesus went to the cross to pay the penalty for our sin.  I told him I appreciated his honesty, as did God, and that Stephanie and I, as well as our Christian friends would pray that God would give him clarity on the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.


When I got home I mulled over our conversation.  It struct me that no matter where any of us are or what we're going through, we're all just passing through.  Whether we're going through a loss, some emotions, going from one career to another, one town to another or one day to another, we're just passing through.


It also struck me that for each one of us the day will come when we will arrive at our destination.  There is a stopping point for each one of us.  It's important to understand that there are only two destinations at which we can arrive.  No matter the journey, at some point it will be over.


Jesus said there were two roads, and everyone was on either one or the other:


Matthew 7:13-14,   “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.   But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."


With only two roads, there are only two destinations.  One destination is destruction and one destination is life.


He asked me if I believed in heaven.  I said I did.  He asked if I could tell him what it was like.  In so many words I told him it was where God's throne was.  Where there were peals of thunder and lightnings.  It's where the angels are and where Jesus is preparing homes for those who have been reconciled to God through Him.  It was a place where we would no longer suffer.  A place of peace and love and joy.  A place where no one could take anything away from us and where nothing would deteriorate.


But the other destination, hell, was a place that lacked all these things.  A place where a person is separate from the life of God.  A place for the people who refused to be reconciled to God.  A place of torment.


My hope is that he will make the decision to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.  He was honest and said he didn't understand all of it.  So please pray for him that God would make all this clear to him, and that he would make the decision for Jesus.


Hebrew 11:13-14, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own."


Pray that though passing through, he would be on the right road and that his destination would be heaven, with our Lord.



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Blessings and Curses

Deuteronomy 28:1-2, "If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all His commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.  All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God..."


Deuteronomy 28:15, "However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all His commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you..."


I met a man on the streets of Texas today.  His life has been rough.   His mom bore him and his siblings at an early age...and then left them, though he will not fault her.  His grandparents on one side died when he was young.  The other grandparents raised him, though they were not emotionally there.  He has known a life of abandonment.


He spent some time in prison.  And this is where he met Jesus.  He responded to an alter call and went to several Bible services a week.  He grew a lot in the Lord and was on fire for the Lord.


When he got out of prison, to a certain degree he went back to the old way of life, and this has resulted in his ending up on the streets.


First I addressed the issue of abandonment.  God says He will never leave His children (Hebrews 13:5).  Never means never.  I know some like to say you can walk away from God, but if God never leaves, how is that possible.  Maybe it's possible for us to ignore Him at times, but we can never walk away from a God who never leaves us.


I quoted Ephesians 1:13-14 to him, "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of His glory."


The above verses tell us that the guarantee that a child of God has an inheritance with the Lord is from the moment he first believes until the Lord comes back for him.  We find that the redemption is the time of the resurrection of the saints.  Romans 8:23, "Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."


Not taking away personal responsibility, he said the devil and the powers of darkness had a part in luring him back into the world.  I quoted Romans 8:38-39 to him, "For I am convinced...neither angels nor demons...will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."


Not even the powers of darkness can separate him from God.


Abandonment by God is not something he will ever face.  He has been united with God through Jesus Christ and has the assurance of salvation.


Now there is the issue of the consequences of sin.  He has escaped the coming wrath, but that doesn't mean that God won't punish or discipline us for doing the wrong things...but He will do this for our good.  As a child of God, he will never be under God's curse.  We know the Scriptures above that list in Deuteronomy 27 and 28 the curses due for disobedience to God.  And God is just in announcing and carrying out these curses.  Since all of us have sinned and fallen short of God's glory, we are all justly deserving of these curses.


But as a child of God, when reading these chapters, it's important to read them through the lens of the Gospel.  Galatians 3:13, 'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."'


God was just in decreeing curses for the disobedient (which includes all of us), we are deserving of those curses, but for the child of God, Jesus became a curse for you.  You are no longer under God's curse.


The man I met was very encouraged.  We prayed together.


Pray for him, that he would learn more of God everyday, what it means to belong to Christ, who he is in Christ, and that God would deliver him off of the streets.  In talking to him, I think it's okay to say as much as one can, that he belongs to the Lord, loves the Lord and is sincere in his faith.  He needs you prayers.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bread of Life

John 6:35, "Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."


Three weeks ago I talked to a man on the streets of Texas who was born in an old bread truck at the gate posts of the Biloxi Airbase in Mississippi just when hurricane Camile was hitting the gulf.


He had a good life, raised with one sister.  As a child he had dreams of becoming a space explorer, but early in life, this dream was interrupted.  He got caught up in a serious domestic abuse situation and as a result served 28 years in prison.  I didn't ask him what the charges were, and he didn't volunteer the information.  Evidently, he could have appealed his sentence, but there's a limitation on how much time a person has to do that, and his time had run out.


But during that time in prison, he came to know the Lord, and spent a lot of his time in Bible studies, learning about the Lord and what difference that made in his life.


He is out of prison and on parole.  He has a job, and is working to rebuild his life.  Pray for him that the Lord will help him to stay the course and not give up.  I'm sure the journey for him is not easy.


Today I met a man named A J.   He was born and raised in northern Mississippi as a military brat.  Life was difficult.  There was really no church upbringing, and at the moment I met him, he had been somewhat following the meditations of Buddha and alchohol, trying to forget the phantoms of the past..  With a bad upbringing and having served in the Bosnia war, he had a lot he was trying to forget.


I asked him if he could tell what he knew about Jesus.  He said he tried following Him as well.


I explained that unlike Buddha and others, Jesus came to undo the works of the devil, i.e. the bad upbringing and the horrors of war.  I said that first of all, the most important thing for a person to deal with in their life was to be reconciled to God.  I explained that a lot of people don't understand what death really is.  Death isn't that something ceases to exist, but that something is separated from something.  A husband and wife divorce.  The husband continues to exist and goes his own way.  The wife continues to exist and goes her own way.  But the marriage is dead.  A person dies.  Their body is laid in the ground, yet their soul goes on into eternity.  They are merely separated from their body.  When Adam was in the Garden, he walked in union with the Lord.  When Adam sinned, his sin separated him from the God of Life, and Adam became spiritually dead...separated from the life of God.


I explained that Jesus came to undo the works of the devil and to reconcile him to God.  He did this by taking A J's sin, that which separated him from God, and pay the penalty for it at the cross and taking it out of the way.  Jesus was now offering to credit to his life His own perfection, thus making him acceptable to the Father, and that God would then adopt him, seal him by the Holy Spirit, and give him the gift of eternal life.  But he had to ask for it, "For everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved."  Romans 10:13.  He said he would like to ask.  We prayed together and he received Jesus as his Savior. 


I then explained to him what had just happened.  Ephesians 1:13-14, "And you, A J, were also included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of His glory."


I explained to him that in this life he would continue to have troubles.  But one thing had just been settled in the court of heaven:  he was now a child of God and his inheritance with the Lord was guaranteed.  From the moment he first believed until the redemption of those who are God's possession.  Romans 8:23, "Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."


Pray for A J, that every day he will learn more and more about what it means for him to be included in Christ, and for deliverance from the things that haunt him from his past.


Two men, two different lives.  Both called by God to obey the Gospel.  Both making the decision to take Jesus up on His offer.  Come to Him, the Bread of Life and the Water of Life, and be satisfied.


Praise God for His grace and mercy that He has shown to us through His Son Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Who's doing the work?

Philippians 1:6, "...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."


I met a man from Pennsylvania on the streets of Texas today.  He was a man who had received Jesus as his Savior, but had made some wrong decisions in his life.  He did 5 years in prison as a result of several DWI's.  He has been fighting alchohol addiction for quite some time.  At the time I talked with him he had been dry for 13 days.


After discussing this with him, I found what I thought might be the problem.  He was trying to defeat alchoholism so that he would be accepted by God, not understanding that he was already accepted because he was in Christ.


Paul tells us in Romans chapter 7 about the struggle he had when as a child of God he sought to approach God through obedience to the law.  He found that by doing this that he would do what he didn't want to do, and not do what he wanted to do.  He found only frustration.


I told the brother in Christ that I was talking to that his approach was all wrong.  He was already accepted by God as a result of what Jesus did at the cross.  Jesus took all of his sins and nailed them to the cross and paid the penalty in full for all of them.  When he asked Jesus to save him from judgment, Jesus credited His righteousness to his account and made him acceptable to a just and righteous God.  God then adopted him as His child, sealed him by the Holy Spirit, and gave him a sure hope and future.  It was important for him now to discover what God's unfailing love was all about, and learn to walk as a child of God, not trying to become a child of God.


Paul tells us 3 very important truths in Philippians 1:6.  First, it is God who began a good work in us.  Second, God will complete what He started.  Third, what I had overlooked for a long time: it is God who carries on the work. 


That's what I encouraged this man with.  God had never left him, no matter the mistakes.  God would never leave.  God was with Him now, carrying on the work.


Pray for him, that he would discover more and more what it means to have God's unfailing love, and as a result find victory over the things he doesn't want in his life anymore.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Second Chances

This afternoon my wife and I decided to take a drive and look for someone to share the Gospel with. After cruising for about an hour, we saw a man carrying a back pack and bedroll walking through town. We stopped and asked him if he wanted a ride to the nearest mission. He said he was actually walking to the nearest truck stop (which we later discovered was about 30 miles away).


I said we would take him to the mission and that I was interested in getting his story. He was agreeable to that.

He is from California and has several siblings, a lot of them whom he has not met. He was in the foster care system, moving from home to home, for most of his growing up years. As a result of this he had been introduced to several “faiths.”

His mother died a few years ago, and as a result of the loss and not understanding how God could let this happen, he took to the road and has been there ever since, trying to make sense of life.

We explained to him how sin had entered into the world through Adam and as a result death had entered into the world. We live in a corrupt and dark world where bad things happen. Not to take away from the pain he was going through, we also explained that Jesus was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. He could understand what he was going through.

He wasn’t sure what to believe about Jesus, our condition and the remedy.

We asked him if he agreed with God that he was a sinner. He said he did. We asked him if he believed Jesus paid the penalty for his sin at the cross. He said he did. We asked him if he believed Jesus had risen from the dead. He said he wasn’t sure.

I knew from this that he wasn’t ready to receive Jesus. Only if Jesus has risen from the dead can we be saved.

We prayed with him and asked God to open his eyes to the truth. We shook his hand and told him it was a pleasure to have met him. He got out of the car at the mission and we drove away.

I felt as if this opportunity to share the Gospel had been incomplete. I realized I could have explained to him how it was that Jesus was raised from the dead. I prayed about that and repented to God that I could have said more.

My wife and I stopped at a Burger King to have a bite to eat, about 3 miles from the mission. As I was looking out of the window, I saw the man walk into the gas and shop across the street.

The God of second chances. I realized he had made the decision to leave the mission and walk to the nearest truck stop. My wife and I left Burger King and gave him a ride to the truck stop.

On the way I explained to him how it was that Jesus was able to rise from the dead. Sin entered the world through Adam and as a result we are all sinners. Death entered the world through sin and as a result we all die.

But Jesus is without sin. In Romans chapter 1 we are told that it was by the Spirit of Holiness that Jesus was able to rise from the dead. Since Jesus had no sin, death was not able to hold Him.

He still wasn’t ready to receive Jesus as his Savior.

I told him it had been a pleasure meeting him. If he decides to receive Jesus as his Savior, I know I’ll see him again, even if not here.

But if he chooses to remain separate from God, then we won’t meet again.

Pray for him. Pray that God would open his eyes by the Holy Spirit to the truth and that he would make a decision for Jesus.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Deceived

In my previous post I wrote about Jesus opening up the gates of hell that have kept people imprisoned by deception and releasing the captives. During this past week I have been thinking of those who have been deceived and their reaction to finding that out. So I’m writing this post in the hope that those who are set free will run to God as a result of His mercy to them.


Revelation 12:9, “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”

I know someone who came out of a religious organization very disillusioned and angry at God as the result of discovering that they had lied to him, that he had been deceived.

The reason for my writing this post is a few days ago I was reading that there is an exodus from a religious organization as the result of people realizing they have also been deceived. My concern is the reaction I saw in the person who became angry with God. This caused him to walk completely away from God, and I don’t see that as the appropriate reaction.

We see in the Scripture above that Satan is the deceiver of the whole world. You have been deceived, and I have been deceived. Welcome to the fallen human race that has been under to the control of the evil one.

1 John 5:19, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”

But let what has happened to you be the reason for you to run to God with thanksgiving that He thought of you enough to deliver you from deception and destruction and lead you to a knowledge of the truth. His purpose in that is that He wants you to be forgiven and delivered from judgement and to receive eternal life from Him and an inheritance with Him. And to receive this hope from Him is simple.

Jesus carried your sins to the cross, was crucified and paid the penalty for your sin, taking them out of the way. Colossians 2:13-15, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

Jesus died and was buried, but on the third day He was raised from the dead by the Spirit of Holiness. There is no sin in Jesus, therefore death was not able to hold Him. Romans 1:4, “and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

He wants to credit His righteousness to your account, the righteousness that God demands and only Jesus can provide. Romans 3:21-26, “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified (declared righteous) freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies (declares righteous) those who have faith in Jesus.”

In a simple prayer, if you ask Him to apply this to your life, He will do it. He will adopt you as His child, seal you by His Holy Spirit, and give you the guarantee of eternal life with Him. John 1:12-13, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

It’s that simple.

That’s the good news. You don’t have to work to be in right standing with God. Jesus did everything needed to make the way for you to be saved from judgment. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”