Witness Well

Witness Well

The road to heaven: Take No Detours

Many promises about heaven are given by Christ in the New Testament.  While on the cross, a criminal being crucified next to him receives the promise from Jesus, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”  With his disciples, Jesus promises, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).  This is the victory won for us on the cross by Christ when He conquered death.  And in His victory, Christians can place their confidence that we too may conquer death and receive eternal life in heaven.

The challenge for us today is to bypass the many detours on the road to heaven which the devil places in front of us.

A believer’s security is what the devil hates the most.  Anxiety and worry are well-placed arrows that zing at the heart of a believer’s confidence — causing doubt in our status of being guaranteed citizens of heaven.  On the well-lighted but narrow road to heaven, the devil will plant convincing detour signs with tantalizing messages of personal achievement.  The message is “Heaven is not received by grace, you must earn it by being good!”

A popular method by the devil is “second chance” theology.  The teaching of purgatory is a great example where a person has a second chance to earn heaven if they were not good enough on earth.  Another attractive and unscriptural message along the same lines can be found in the popular Christian fiction series called “Left Behind”.  After the rapture, people are given a “second chance” to become a Christian during the time of tribulation.  These are all detour signs that point us away from the gospel’s sure promises of heaven.  Perhaps we ought to take a brief look at several detours that are popular beliefs among many Christians today.

What about millennialism?

Millennialism derives its name from the Latin and Greek words for one thousand.  Revelation 20:3 is cited as the proof passage for the final thousand years.  It reads, “He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.  After that, he must be set free for a short time.”  Although every picture in the context of this passage is symbolic, millennialists teach that the thousand years is literal and will occur at the end of the New Testament age when Christians will gain a miraculous military victory over their enemies at Armageddon.  This “second chance” detour certainly appeals to our sinful laziness or to exact revenge over our enemies, but doesn’t coincide with the rest of Scripture.

What about the rapture?

Popular teaching about the rapture is also another detour.  People think there will be a silent disappearance of Christians around the world with driverless cars going out of control and planes crashing into the ground below.  However, when you read Scripture, the rapture will be anything but silent.  It speaks of the loud and very public return of Jesus at the last judgment (“with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God”).  Everybody will certainly know on that last day of Christ’s return.

Time after time, God gives us many chances while on earth to receive Him as Lord or to return to Him.  He is a patient and loving God who always accepts and receives back fully those who have been taking wrong detours in life.  The signs of the times are very clear.  There are certainly signs that Jesus may come very quickly.  But what is even more important are the gospel signs that point us to the conviction that when Jesus came the first time he did everything necessary to put us on the straight path to glory.  So, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, take no detours.

Post is excerpts and thoughts taken from the magazine article “Take No Detours” by Wayne Mueller.  To see the complete article, go to www.forwardinchrist.net.

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.

“Disappointment — His Appointment”

I came across this poem the other day from Annie Johnson Flint.  For those who may be struggling with a recent disappointment, I think you may find this very meaningful.

“Disappointment–His appointment,”
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.
His appointment must be blessing,
Though it may come in disguise,
For the end from the beginning
Open to His wisdom lies.

“Disappointment — His appointment,”
Whose?  The Lord’s, Who loves me best
Understands and knows me fully,
Who my faith and love would test:
For, like loving earthly parent,
He rejoices when He knows
That His child accepts, unquestioned,
All that from His wisdom flows.

“Disappointment — His appointment,”
“No good thing will He withhold,”
From denials oft we gather
Treasures of His love untold.
Well He knows each broken purpose
Leads to fuller, deeper trust,
And the end of all His dealings
Proves our God is wise and just.

Tremendous thoughts for today as we hold on to Jesus and receive His breath of the Holy Spirit to sustain us till the end.

 

Footnote: Please read comments below and discover how the phrase “Disappointment – His appointment” was acquired.  (2/28/17)

Father forgive us when we despise our salvation

The Israelites were resting on the promise of a Messiah, and when presented with the true Savior, they not only rejected the Son of God, but despised him – sending Jesus to die a grisly death on the cross. And it was there on the cross, where Jesus says, “Father, forgive them”.

It is the same forgiveness we receive when there are times when we are tempted to despise or question our salvation when facing great disappointments, rejection or betrayal in our lives.

Circumstances can change in a hurry. Historically, it is a matter of days when freedom is taken away by approaching troops, or freedom gained when a wall comes tumbling down. Economically, when our savings accounts and retirement plans evaporates with the fall of the stock market. Personally, when illness, injury or the loss of a job — it takes only days and our life isn’t the same as it was. Our response is one of great disappointment. We question God, asking God Why? How can He allow this to happen?

In Jerusalem, we see an example of circumstances changing rapidly.

Only days ago, the promise of the Messiah had come. There was great triumph among the people. Was this not the same Jesus who was doing miracles of healing? Was this not the same Jesus who miraculously provided bread and fish to feed thousands? Is this not the Jesus who was born in Bethlehem like our prophets foretold and will come riding on a donkey? Could it be? Could be this time where the Lord Jehovah was finally going to deliver them from oppression – to grant them freedom.

Circumstances begin to change. The Sanhedrin arrest Jesus, interrogate him, and send him to Pontus Pilate to be punished. His followers have disappeared; his closest disciples have left him. He is left alone to defend himself.

Jesus comes before Pilate, and Pilate begins to question him. Are you the king of the Jews? “Yes, it is as you say” – Jesus replies. “Don’t you hear the testimony of the Sanhedrin and all their charges? But Jesus doesn’t say anything. He wasn’t defensive – when these false charges came against. He didn’t get frustrated to protest His father’s will. Jesus didn’t say anything — which brought great amazement to Pilate

In Matthew 27:15-26, we read:

“Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him. While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd.“ I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”

Pilate was in dilemma. This was during the time of the Passover with thousands of Jews coming to the city of Jerusalem. He didn’t want any trouble. All their lives, they had been waiting for the Messiah. They had the desire for salvation, but not the same salvation that was promised in the words of the prophets. They wanted a Savior from Rome! And that was the essence of the Passover – to proclaim to the Romans indirectly to “let my people go”.

Even Pilate’s wife knew Jesus to be innocent and encourages her husband to make the right decision and let him go. So, he attempts to place justice in the hands of a mob. Little did he know that the Sanhedrin has strategically placed people within the crowd to help influence a decision he didn’t want to make. Instead of making the right decision to save an innocent man, he gives the mob a choice — The choice was Jesus Barabbus – Jesus the Murderer vs. Jesus the Savior.

Beaten and defeated, and with an air of arrogance, Pilate is basically proclaiming to the crowd, “This is your Savior? Look at him! This is your Messiah who was going to conquer Rome! Well Rome has conquered your Messiah!” And with anger, intermittent with disappointment and fury, they yell out to crucify Him – the cruelest torture imaginable only reserved for the Jews. He promised to us he was the Messiah and He let us down. We trusted him, and look at him now. He betrayed us! He let our hopes up! He deserves to be punished for failing me! Once you place decisions on an angry mob, there is no turning back. Seeing that he was going nowhere – he washed his hands in a feeble attempt to wash away the guilty of this man’s blood and places it upon the crowd who eagerly responds, “Let his blood be on us and on our children”.

Salvation that was freely offered was utterly despised by the people. Only a few hours later, it is Jesus nailed on the cross who says, “Father, forgive them.”

It’s easy to condemn the Israelites —how can you reject salvation when its’ staring you right in the face. They should know better. Now if I were there, I would of …….What would we say? What would we do? When things go bad, are we tempted to follow the crowd? When we are disappointed, betrayed and rejected – are we not tempted to turn away from God – losing our trust, confidence and assurance that He’s in control. That He has our best interest at heart. Do we question, “Why God” or “If you are God, why are you allowing my life, my circumstances to be so bad. In a sense, are we not tempted to join the mob and tempted to question or even despise our salvation.

The Israelites were looking for Savior to save them from Roman oppressions — to bring back the glory days of wealth and power during the time of Solomon and King David. The Israelites were looking for a Savior, but they missed the point. What is more important our body or our soul? We all have a tendency to look at our present and not the future.

Think of Jonah. Remember him? Swallowed by a large fish – He ran away from God, because God wanted him to do something he didn’t want to do. So he fled the other direction. Until God allowed a storm to come upon his life and he was literally tossed overboard and swallowed by a fish. He did go to the great city of Nineveh to preach a message of repentance and the city responded. Now we see Jonah upon a hill, pouting over God’s grace on undeserving, unbelieving people. Then, God allows a vine to grow up and provide him with shade. And that was nice. Then, God allowed the vine to shrivel, and Jonah is beside himself that he wanted to die.“God, how can you do this to me? How can you take away your blessings?”But God said, “Do you really have a right to be angry about the vine? You have been so concerned about the blessings of this vine, even though you did not tend it or make it grow.” God allows things to happen – that are according to His will. He showers upon us the blessings of good health, good family, a job – but he can also take it away.

When difficult circumstances come into our lives, don’t we tend to react the same way as Jonah?

God isn’t fair! He’s our Savior – shouldn’t He save us from pain and discomfort. He’s not keeping His promises! But, are they promises that He never actually made? Sometimes, we are tempted to think that as being God’s children, we deserve better lives. Doesn’t our God have the power to do so? Shouldn’t our pathways be smooth? Why does He let me be sick? Why have all these money troubles? Why do we have trouble making good friends? Why can’t God make things a little bit easier on us.

This can be a poison that attacks our faith and we perhaps begin to despise or question our salvation. What He came to bring us through His death suddenly doesn’t seem as important as the list of things we wish he would do for us in the here and now. And we begin to feel a little betrayed. We begin to draw a little closer to that angry mob in Jerusalem with their cries of anger and rejection. The same mob that desired freedom and blessings right now, but Jesus was not going to deliver them. Out of anger, they rejected Him. God never promised them a hero to save them from Rome, He had promised and had sent his Son to save them from the devil.

But doesn’t the Lord promise that he will provide? Doesn’t He promise that he will take care of our needs? Yes! He provides all that we need. He also promises life isn’t going to be easy. However, when we fix our eyes on the earth – when we look for comfort and security on what the earth provides which is so fleeting — it is never enough, is it? Our Lord is far more interested in what we need the most – that is Jesus – eternal life with Him. And since He is a God – our Heavenly Father – he uses circumstances as opportunities to be disciplined as any loving Father would discipline a child – so that we may get our attention. Discipline gives us the opportunity to repent and change our focus, our direction, and recognize the need to fix our eyes upon Jesus. We learn what the Bible teaches and that is to trust and wait patiently for the Lord.

When our eyes our fixed on Jesus, we recall what God tell us in Romans 12:2;

“Do not conform any long to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”Don’t follow the crowd – be transformed by the renewing of our trust. A trust not based on our own comfort and security, but on God’s perfect wisdom and will.

For God’s people, how are we going to respond?

I believe this is going to be the Year of Opportunity — A time of preparation for some challenging days ahead. These times provide unique opportunities to deepen our trust in Christ – to be salt and light — to be open for opportunities to convey our trust. No matter what happens, we fix our eyes upon the cross. The same Jesus who substituted Himself for us. The same Christ who declared Father forgive them and won our freedom from sin, death, and the devil so we may dwell eternally with our Father in heaven.

PRAYER:

“Father, as we come to you in prayer, depending on your mercy and grace, let us never demand blessings you have not promised and let us never fell mistreated when, in your wisdom, you say no to our prayers, reserving for us greater blessings elsewhere. Fix our eyes upon Jesus Christ, our Savior from sin, death and the devil. May we honor his love and his sacrifice by gratefully claiming him as our Lord and our God. Amen.”

Reflections on being a radio host

At the end of March, I was given notice that my journey as host of a daily, live Christian radio program called Treasure Valley Spotlight was coming to an end .And what a ride it was! Through twists and turns, a few spills and surprises, it was a remarkable journey– a gracious gift from God to which I will not soon forget.

Though I had no prior radio experience, the owner of Inspirational Family Radio (KBXL 94.1fm) Lee Schafer, approached me with an amazing opportunity. He sat me down, and with his deep, baritone voice, asked me to organize, launch and host a live and local radio program on his station. For over twenty-five years, Lee had been the owner of this Christian station and had always dreamed of launching a locally produced live program. He felt this was the time and I was to be that person.

On the afternoon of August 25th, after several months of preparation and fervent prayer, Treasure Valley Spotlight was launched on air. My first guest, of course, had to be my ministry partner and friend, Mark Cares. Though nervous as can be on that opening show, I was thrilled and excited to begin this new journey. Little did I know what would happen in the weeks and months ahead.

Over the course of the next seven months, and 153 shows, I met many people, shared some good stories, had a few laughs and perhaps shed a few tears with the hope of inspiring, encouraging and educating people about an amazing God we have who works miracles through His Word and through His people.

Only two weeks after the launching of Treasure Valley Spotlight, the Lord in his wisdom decided to take Lee Schafer home to heaven after suffering a fatal heart attack. This would have a profound impact on the future of the program. Without his guiding hand, experience and development skills, his death could not come at a worse time for a fledgling radio program like Spotlight to prosper and grow.

The program did wonders for myself. I never tackled anything as difficult and diverse — yet enjoyed more thoroughly than being a host of a live radio program. I was stretched to the limit and grew as a result. From the very beginning until the end, I was made very much aware of my limitations and my full dependence on God. This was to be God’s show and not my own.

Before every show, it was my habit to take a brief walk to pray to the Lord for wisdom and strength, plus remind me of Who the host really was. This was His show and His blessing to me. And like every blessing – whether good health or a good job — the Lord can give and the Lord can take away. It is up to us to respond by faith and fully trust that the Lord knows best. Though saddened my tenure has come to an end, I cannot help but be thankful for this blessing God gave me.

Four Observations

On Palm Sunday, I had the opportunity to lead the Bible Class at Messiah Lutheran Church.Towards the end of the class, I shared with everybody four clear observations from my experience of being host of Treasure Valley Spotlight.They are:

1.“The Harvest is Ready and the Workers are Few”
There are many people right now who are giving great thought to who Jesus is and their relationship with God. Though unlikely to admit this with anyone, they are ready and waiting to be asked, “Have you been giving thought about your relationship with God?”

2.Be thankful for the Truth and nothing but the Truth
I am amazed at the lack of biblical knowledge existing today not only in Christian congregations, but in the lack of biblical training by pastors in the Treasure Valley who are the head of sizable churches. We ought to be very thankful for the training and the knowledge our pastors have in conveying the truth of God’s Word.

3.There are some good Christians doing some great work
God is using good Christian people here in the Treasure Valley in significant ways. They are committed, compassionate, and amazingly humble in the task the Lord has set before them. We should all be inspired.

4.Be Ready
I believe the Lord is going to provide us in the near future an amazing opportunity to exercise our faith by allowing us to experience some very challenging times. Let’s be ready physically, financially, and spiritually!

A Letter of Recommendation from God

You are looking for a job and you need an outstanding letter of recommendation to give you an edge over the other applicants. Waiting for the letter, what type of words and phrases would you like see in that letter? Punctual. Hard-working. Disciplined. Takes directions well. These would all be fine traits to have, however what would really make you stand out is the person who is writing the letter for you.

What if the person is well-known and highly respected in the community? What if perhaps the person was a well-known celebrity across the nation? That certainly would give extra notice to the person reading the letter of recommendation. If you were the person doing the hiring, that would certainly grab your attention. So, not only would you be looking for the right words in a letter of recommendation, but you would also give careful thought to who would write the letter.

What if you asked God to write you a letter of recommendation? What would He write?

Great singer in church, but gossips too much.

Really tries hard, but lacks discipline.

Knows the rules, but is challenged to obey consistently.

Would any of these sound familiar? Would they be correct?

According to God’s Word, we find sample phrases of what would be contained in your letter. Words and phrases like “perfect,” “forgiven completely,” “justified, ” “redeemed,” “a child of God.”

These words and phrases are much different than the words and phrases you were looking before in a letter of recommendation. This would also be different even if you received a letter from the president of the United States.

The question is, “Which letter would you rather have?” Would you rather have a letter of recommendation from the president of the United States or from God?

Ofcourse, you would say God. However, what occupies our mind the most? The opinions of others or what God thinks of you? This is especially true when we think about ourselves. How does our view of our own competence compare to what God thinks of us?

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)

What are we?  A letter from Christ.

Written by what? Not by ink, but by the Spirit of the living God.

Written on what? Not tablets of stone, but on human hearts.

When Paul was writing this letter to the Corinthian church, he was addressing Christians who in their past, had lived very sinful lifestyles in a very sinful culture. They are now living examples of what it is to live a transformed life in Christ. Not a life that is based on effort, but a life that has been etched on hearts by the hand of God.

“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”(2 Corinthians 6:11)

A Christian, by faith in Christ, receives the following:

You were washed. What does that mean? Through the water of baptism, you become a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come.

You were sanctified. What does that mean? You have been separated, set apart, made holy. You are different from the rest of the world by being in Christ.

You were justified. What does that mean? You were made right, you were set freed, you have been declared not guilty and perfectly righteous in God’s eyes.

Here are a couple of points to remember.

1.         You are carrying around with you a letter of recommendation from God. What does that letter say about you?

2.         Not only does that letter say that you are perfect and righteous by faith in Christ, but you are a letter. A Christ-letter. Not only has God written that letter of recommendation – but we are that walking, living, breathing letter by the example of our lives. You are a walking example that Jesus Christ lives– a letter that is written by the Spirit of God.

Not by ink. Why? It eventually dissolves away.

Not on tablets of stone? Why? Those were the ten commandments of the law that can only mean death. But, with the Spirit of the Living God written on the tablets of human hearts.

“FORMATION GENERATION” Praying for your Unborn Child

What if we had a new generation of children, that were literally formed in prayer?

This is the question that is posed in a new book that is scheduled to be released in early March by Robert M. Kurz. The book is called “Formation Generation” and it is a week-by-week guide on how to specifically pray for your unborn child with suggested Bible verses along with descriptions of how your child is developing physically in the womb.

This book gives parents the opportunity to get a head start in the spiritual formation of a child, plus the unique opportunity to add nine months of relationship building with your child. As the child is woven together in the mother’s womb, there is a key role a parent can play outside of physically taking care of themselves during this time of pregnancy. This book allows a person to discover what it really means to be “made in God’s image” and a deeper understanding of how “the two shall become one flesh”.

This is an outstanding book for any expectant mother that has an interest in taking advantage of every opportunity God gives for the spiritual formation of their child. You can co to the website, www.Formationgeneration.com or www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore.

The Biblical Concept of Adoption

The use of the term adoption evokes a more personal touch in addition to its strong legal connotation. There is the legal finality in association with belonging to a family — or using the adoption theme — given a new family. The term adoption in the Bible emphasizes a process which we become children of God, but, just as importantly, it also reveals a new relationship we have with God our Father through Jesus Christ.

By faith, through baptism, we are “sons of God”. (Gal. 3:26) The process of adoption made this possible. By nature, we were slaves to the world, but God sent His Son so that we might receive the full rights of sons. (See Gal. 4:3-5 & Romans 8:15-17)

We were taken from our evil “biological parents” (Adam & Eve) and given by adoption to be children of God. We are now God’s children through adoption — loved and protected by our Father.

For those people who have been orphaned, or perhaps suffered some type of physical or emotional abuse that meant they were with a family, but totally isolated and unprotected, they have experienced the feeling of abandonment. For some people who have been adopted, there may be a sense of incompleteness in wondering who your natural birth parents were and the circumstances that caused separation.

Perhaps there is a feeling of being an orphan in a spiritual sense. There is a felling of incompleteness, a lack of inner purpose, not being fully who they are. It is a feeling that comes as a result of not having a right relationship with God. We are “objects of wrath” (Eph. 2:3); we are abused children of an evil and unworthy parent (inherited sin) and are separated from God.

The reality of faith is the full recognition that through faith in Jesus Christ, we have been fully and completely adopted in every sense by our Father in heaven. He has adopted us and unequivocally declares us as His children. We are cherished, wanted, desired and acknowledged by our Father (Gal. 4:3-7).

For all who are weary, come to Christ. He will forgive you. He will set you free.