Category: Encouragement

Witness Well

A Prayer for Adversity

A young nation has experienced major battles in the past and by God’s divine intervention has been able to overcome and be victorious.  With the crumbling of the family and its repercussions, our nation may be in the midst of the most threatening battle to date.  A whole generation became victim to an extraordinary cultural coup and is now reeling in its consequences.  A new voice forged, celebrated and worshipped an idol representing anti-establishment, alternative lifestyles and all other things contrary to God.  In what was trumpeted and widely proclaimed as a victory, became a stunning defeat.  Like a sweeping tidal wave, the counter-cultural movement toppled a solid foundation built by God-fearing people and flooded the plains with the promotion and eventual public acceptance of new ideas and beliefs.  The one true God was effectively replaced by the worship of self.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”  (Psalm 127:1)

Today’s popular culture has been carefully molded and shaped by a revolutionary force.  Its philosophy has permeated itself into our government, the judicial system, the media, public education, Hollywood and other places of great influence.  Time has elapsed.  The cracks of a man-made foundation are becoming more exposed and pronounced.  The Great Society has turned out to be not so great.  Orchestrated sound-bites of shallow solutions are becoming more muddled each day while social engineers behind the scenes frantically patch the cracks with more of the same ingredients.  The debate in public policy intensified between those concerned about individual choice rather than community autonomy; more government mandates versus personal responsibility; activist judging against those who just want to be left alone.  The level of confidence, trust and respect normally granted to government leaders is dangerously deteriorating to new levels.   People are asking, “How much longer can we be misled?”  “We need a strong leader!”  And in their angst of expecting way too much from our head of state in a system of checks and balances, the balance of power can swiftly change to a single voice inviting catastrophe and loss of personal freedom.

“But mark this: There will be terrible time in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, …”  (2 Timothy 3:1-2)

I am not prophesying the end is near nor ruin your day with more bad news.  My hope is to point out that our nation is following a path that has been the downfall of other great nations throughout history, plus provide a solution.  History shows that a nation can destroy itself in immorality and societies seem to never learn this cycle.  Yet, this never-ending conflict of good and evil is nothing new to individuals.  The consequences of bad decisions wreck personal lives and in the same way dismantle great nations.

God can bring hope to our nation just as He freely gives hope to us as individuals.  When our choices create an empty void prompting us to re-consider our values, our life and our purpose, a window of opportunity is presented to reveal God’s love and his purpose for us.  Forgiveness and restoration becomes available.  Repentance is a painful realization brought on by the crumbling of stubborn pride.  Only through a broken and contrite spirit can God reveal himself.  By surrendering to his will and his sovereignty, we receive our deepest longing for love, hope and peace.

God may choose to bless our nation with a quick and sweeping wave of repentance, but the signs are pointing a different direction.  The Christian church is too distracted and too busy.  Either they are too absorbed in their own lives, or choosing political reform over changing hearts, or not allowing themselves to spiritually mature in God’s Word.  My prayer is that God will do something and stop the trend, but it can’t be in the form of material prosperity.

My prayer is that God will allow a time of great adversity to come upon our land.  I know this is a risky prayer and my family could be greatly affected.  Social chaos and anarchy could easily reign in our streets threatening the great experiment we have called democracy.  However, it is in adversity that we grow as people.  It is through times of great struggle that can lead multitudes of men and women to their knees in prayer.  A sense of community is established in times of need and I believe that people today will respond positively to a crisis.  More importantly, difficult circumstances cause people to reach out to God for healing.  When the multitudes lift up their hands to God, a new foundation can be built.

Today’s Christian Worldview: False Optimism or Fatalism

The new year is upon us and we can only wonder what 2010 will bring.  Last year at this time, the nation welcomed a new president.  There was optimism and hope that a new man with new ideas will finally be an answer.  It’s a year later, and people are already questioning his ideas and his leadership.  Was the general public too optimistic?  We’re they expecting too much?  More importantly, based on what we read from the Bible, how should a Christian respond?

Throughout 2009, there were many events in our nation and our world that ought to cause each person some concern and alarm.  The rising influx of terrorism, the economic downturns, and the noticeable rise of secularism within American borders causes concern for most Christians.  History records and is backed up by Old Testament records of the ancient Israelites, that when a nation turns its back on God, God in turn will allow a nation to go its own way.  And what happens?  A dissolution and scattering of a nation.  Europe has turned its back on God and there is a quite invasion of Islam that is a generation away from achieving dominance.  America is starting to turn away from God and is a generation away from being a dominant world power.  How should a Christian respond.

I like what Marvin Olasky of WORLD Magazine wrote in the latest issue.  He alludes to Jeremiah 8 as two wrong ways for a Chrisitan to respond.  False Optimism says “peace, peace” when there is no peace — it keeps us from seeking healing.  On the other hand, it is wrong to say, “We are doomed to perish as punishment from God!”  Fatalism keeps us from asking for mercy and repentance.

A Christian response is that when we turn away from fatalism or false optimism, we are in a sense, turning to God.  And He will deliver.  We don’t place our trust on things of this world.  We don’t place our trust in horses, castles and kings as the Bible states.  But, we place our trust in the Lord Almighty, who delivers and endures forever.  This is not to say that bad things will not happen.  There could be a time of suffering.  And that’s okay.  Because the Bible says that we can still rejoice in our sufferings because of the great benefits that suffering can produce — repentance, endurance, character and hope.  Those are the treasures of heaven that Jesus alludes to, not treasures that earth provides.

A proper, Biblical response for Christians this year is to not worry, and place our full trust in the Lord.  Have a willing and sincere heart to following Him and His way — not matter what.  Take each day at a time, for tomorrow has enough concerns and worries of its own.  And ask the Lord to create a new heart within us — so that the joy of our salvation is renewed.  Then, and only then, can we tackle this world, and all its challenges, with an attitude of praise.

Handel’s Messiah: magnificently written by a broken man

It’s funny how God greatest accomplishments usually come from broken men.

The story behind the composer, George Frideric Handel, in regards to the masterpiece, “Messiah” comes from the hands of a man who at the time was broken financially, physically and emotionally.  This came to the light in a recent article by Marvin Olasky entitled “God’s Hand is in it” in the recent WORLD magazine.  The article is based on an interview with Lauren Green, an accomplished pianist and religion editor for FOX news.

Since reading the article, I did a Google search on the life of Handel and found it be interesting and inspiring.  Handel was a very famous composer in his time.  He attempted to make his mark Italian opera, but struggled both with the music and with his opera company.  On the brink of disaster, Handel applied his genius and creativity in writing oratorios.  During this time of painful transition, Handel composed the “Messiah”.  Upon completion of writing the amazing “Hallelujah” chorus, the article quotes Handel as saying, “I do believe I’ve seen the gates of Heaven.”  Handel went on to find great success while living in London until his death.

Great things are done by broken man.  That seems to be a recurring theme throughout Paul’s epistles.  When we are weak, then we are strong.  It is at man’s depths, that we are exposed for what we really are — sinful, inherited flesh who amounts to nothing and anything we feel that we do accomplish is nothing but dust in the wind.  The hard realities of life leads us one of two courses — abuses and addictions for the purpose of distraction or just pure laziness.  A life given up on.  Or, there is another way.  To truly see our purpose through the words and promises of God.  We are no longer defined by what the world sees us, but renewed by the status given us — a child of God.  An heir of royalty.

As we celebrate Christmas with loved ones, we can reflect on the King who was born in a manger.  A king who would suffer and die for the purpose of taking our place of sin, so we can be receive all glory from above.  That thought alone can bring the Merry back to Christmas.

Being a Spiritual Leader in Today’s World

God is looking for a few good men.

This popular phrase is used by Marine recruiters to reach out to young men who desire to grasp a hold of adventure, a dynamic purpose beyond themselves, a rewarding goal that only a few dare to attempt. Could not the same phrase be used for today’s Christian church? We need a few good men who dare to go against the tide of secular consumerism, the entanglement of competing truths, and amnesia to the great commission.

Several years ago, I came across an excellent article written by a pastor who specialized in Biblical leadership. Through careful study of leaders in the Bible, most notably Nehemiah, he offered some sound instruction and guidance.

“God is serious about the spiritual life of those who lead his people. People with superior skills but no prayer life can’t lead in Christ’s Church. Men who have a wealth of experience in administration but no experience with Scripture don’t get God’s call.”

“Spiritual leaders take the state of the church personally, agonize over it, and pray repeatedly about it. It is not the eloquence of a perfunctory prayer that opens a meeting at the church, but the passion of his private prayers that measures a leader.”

“Spiritual leaders don’t use policies or public relations to fix problems in the church; they use repentance.”

“Leaders serious about God’s work are in continuous consultation with God. Perhaps that would be more apparent if there were more prayers in the middle of meetings at church, not just at the beginning and the end. What we do when we’re stuck, how we deal with disagreement, where we turn for a decision– that is what defines spiritual difference.”

“Spiritual leaders care and dare to get angry at what opposes God, in and outside the church.”

“Spiritual leaders have a bigger agenda than building church walls. Like Nehemiah, they help people rebuild their lives with God.”

“The mark of a spiritual leader is integrity– walking the talk, modeling God’s truth and love. …It meant consistently living out what God’s Word had put into his heart.”

“Christian leaders who understand God’s Word and seek God’s will have God’s direction. It isn’t mystical, and they don’t manipulate people with it. But spiritual leaders know what God wants them to do, and they trust God to show others.”

These excellent points came from the article “Doing God’s Thing, God’s Way: Christian leaders who understand God’s Word and seek God’s will have God’s Direction” by Rev. Paul Kelm.

Reading your Bible: 5 Tips on how to cultivate this critical habit

HOW TO READ YOUR BIBLE:
Tips for cultivating this critical habit in the Christian life

Nothing can really take the place of our own quiet study of God’s Word.  We may measure our growth in grace by the growth of our love for private Bible study; and we may be sure that here is something seriously wrong when we lose our appetite for the Bread of Life.  There are a few ways to help us acquire this holy hunger for God’s Word.

1.             MAKE TIME FOR BIBLE STUDY
His Word must have our freshest and brightest thoughts.  WE must give Him our best and the firstfruits of our days.  So, there is not time for Bible study like the early morning.

2.             LOOK FOR THE TEACHING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
No one can explain the meaning of His words as He who wrote them.  The Holy Spirit speaks to us today as He did when He inspired the words of Holy Scripture written thousands of years ago.

3.             READ THE BIBLE METHODICALLY
On the whole there is probably no better way than to read the Bible through once every year.  His book can become a treasured friend and an inseparable companion.

4.             READ YOUR BIBLE WITH YOUR PEN IN HAND
Enjoy the Bible by marking it neatly; underlining and dating special verses which have cast a light upon their path on special days.

5.             TURN FROM THE PRINTED PAGE TO PRAYER
If a portion of Scripture hangs like a cluster of heavenly fruit, reach and gather it in through prayer.  Place the Bible down and allow your spirit to soar in thanksgiving.

God’s Word strengthens us, renews us and calls us to faith.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can accept the call of obedience and duty through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God will keep nothing back from us and by His Word, He will open to us His deepest and sweetest thoughts.

(Thoughts taken from Rev. F.B. Meyer (1847-1929): The Best From All His Works)

Divine Interruptions

When you walk in the spirit, you never quite know when a person is going to pick your fruit.

In John 15, Christians are called to remain in Christ – to hold on to His promises – to trust in His Word.  As a result, we are given the ability to bear fruit – fruit that will last.  These are fruit that anyone would admire – peace, gentleness, joy, etc…  People notice fruit-filled Christians.  Then, out of nowhere, people will pick that fruit; desiring to have what you received.

A fruit-filled Christan will keep watch for opportunities to share that fruit with others.  The adventure associated with sharing is that you never quite know when and where that might happen.  With a  willing spirit, God provides those unique opportunities that we were originally created for and that match our specific gifts of the spirit.  As a result, witnessing does not become a task not something to be feared, but a pouring out that seems so natural.

We certainly live in a world with people who have desperate, gut-wrenching needs.  It can be quite overwhelming.  With so many distressing situations, we can easily throw up our hands and walk away — becoming immune to the hurts surrounding us.  But then God, through His Word, takes over.  He reminds us of who we are in Christ.  We are then renewed by His Spirit to be sensitive and open to all those divine interupptions that come our way.

Getting through a spiritual desert

When Jesus tells us to pick up the cross and follow me — you never know where that might take you.

For many of us, this journey is rarely filled with spiritual highs and mountaintop experiences.  It is a journey — much like dragging a cross through the cobblestone streets of Jerusalem.  It is bumpy, long and filled with great exertion.    Yet, there is a purpose involved.  There is a peace that goes beyond understanding.  As the Apostle Paul states, we all must be crucified of the world spiritually in order to find freedom and rest.

This means that living the Christian life is not easy and we can expect difficulty.  There are days where we just want to give in and give up.

What does it mean to take up the cross?

It means reading the Bible and getting nothing out of it.  It means going to church and listening carefully but hearing nothing.  It means thirsting both spiritually physically while you seem to be trekking through a desert with nothing in sight.

Yet, we move on on step at a time.

If you are feeling dry.  If you are feeling no sense of communion with God.  Please wait patiently.  Don’t panic.  Keep walking in  faith, one step at a time, until you come to the end of your desert, even if it takes 40 years.

Our sinful nature is very impatient.  We want to seek and find the glory and bypass the way of the cross.  But, when you read the Apostle Paul, he had a much better understanding of the Christian journey.  He says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to a attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:10).

We focus on knowing the power of His resurrection and what the Holy Spirit does provide, but we reject Paul’s warning that in order to fully receive that power it must coincide with His sufferings.  If there is no daily taking up of the cross, there is no daily resurrection and hence no daily power.  There is no other way.  This is what God ordained for Christ and this is what God has ordained for you.  God does not give us the option of enjoying only resurrection power without crucifixion weakness.

“… As Christians, the real victory we seek in this work is not for ourselves, but for the gospel.   Our greatest yearning should be for God’s kingdom to expand and for His will to be done on earth.  Often we must surrender ourselves to what the world views as defeat in order for the gospel to advance.”  (Skip Gray)

“Bitterness destroys more Christian workers than immorality.”                   Lorne Sanny

All Human Life is Valuable

Can you imagine what life would be like of the Allies had the lost World War II? The eugenic movement was alive and well — a movement toward selective breeding of humans. It is a movement that believes that the lives of people who were strong and intelligent are far better than those are not. Medical experiments on those who were weak or less intelligent were sanctioned to further the theory. Later, the eugenic movement was discredited after it was associated with the Nazis. But, what about now? Is the eugenic movement gaining steam in North America?

Since abortion was legalized in the United States more than thirty years ago, has our culture become more desensitized. Is there now a lack of outrage when the suggestion that the lives of the elderly ought to be cut short because there is no longer any value? Is the idea of promoting medical experiments on embryos o.k., even though they are destroyed? I mean, the lives of bigger people are worth much more?

“When one reads the Bible you seem to take away that God values all human life. Jesus came to give us life to the full (John 10:10). He sacrificed his own life so that we can have eternal life (John 3:16). The Spirit gives life when he works in human hearts through the gospel. The words that Jesus spoke are spirit and life (John 6:63). Jesus cared about every human life in all of history. He placed such a value on all human life that it brought him to earth to sacrifice himself for our forgiveness. And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”

The Allies won the victory in World War II. There is also a battle taking place in the political and cultural spectrum over the innocent lives who can’t protect themselves. We ought to continue to pray for those. But, its’ that all-important victory we can point ourselves and others to that took place when Jesus won the war against our biggest enemies — sin, death, and the devil. A transformed life in Christ is one that truly sees and values all life.

Thoughts and quote taken from the article, “All human life is valuable” written by Paul Prange.