The Baptist Church

“So much confusion exists today because of division that the honest seeker after truth finds himself in the maze of uncertainty.” (Quote from Churches of Today, by L.G. Tomlinson.)

I find myself here, in the maze of uncertainty, as I emerge from researching the beliefs of the Baptist church.  Fortunately for me, I believe Galatians 2:17-21 as it reads “If we are those who desire to be saved from our sins through our union with the Anointed One, does that mean our Messiah promotes our sins if we still acknowledge that we are sinners? How absurd! For if I start over and reconstruct the old religious system that I have torn down with the message of grace, I will appear to be one who turns his back on the truth.  But because the Messiah lives in me, I’ve now died to the law’s dominion over me so that I can live for God.  My old identity has been co-crucified with Messiah and no longer lives; for the nails of his cross crucified me with him. And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for the Anointed One lives his life through me-we live in union as one!  My new life is empowered by the faith of the Son of God who loves me so much that he gave himself for me, and dispenses his life into mine!  So that is why I don’t view God’s grace as something minor or peripheral.  For if keeping the law could release God’s righteousness to us, the Anointed One would have died for nothing.” (TPT)

Baptists allow for every person to have their own interpretation of the Bible, so everyone will have a differing slant to their belief in salvation and grace and what God requires, but typically they will follow a statement of convictions which summarizes their beliefs, known as “The Baptist Faith and Message”.  The differences and similarities are all seen when a general search is done on the Internet.  One example is that some Baptist readings state that The Lord’s Supper should be taken quarterly or yearly, but some Baptists online also argue the case that it should be observed every week.

Looking at the websites of some Baptist churches all around the world, it can be seen that they are very direct in what they believe.  They are all very organized.   They know what they believe, and they list it out for visitors to see.


God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit

Baptists believe that God is the one true God, the creator of the universe, and that he shows himself through the Holy Trinity: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, Jesus, the Son of God, was born of a virgin, he lived a sinless life, he died on a cross and then was resurrected 3 days later, and that His blood washes away the sins of humanity. Now, Jesus sits at the right hand of his Father, God, and acts as a mediator, an intercessor.  We are allowed a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and don’t need the priests of the old law any longer because as believers in Christ, we have received the Holy Spirit who fills us and makes us holy temples of God.

This is true, as you can see in the following scriptures.

God the Father

"...being one body and one spirit, as you were all called into the same glorious hope of divine destiny.  For the Lord God is one, and so are we, for we share in one faith, one baptism, and one Father.  And He is the perfect Father who leads us all, works through us all, and lives in us all!"   Ephesians 4:4-6 (TPT)
"So Jesus said, 'I speak to you timeless truth. The Son is not able to do anything from himself or through my own initiative.  I only do the works that I see the Father doing, for the Son does the same works as his Father.  Because the Father loves his Son so much, he always reveals to me everything that he is about to do. And you will all be amazed when he shows me even greater works than what you've seen so far! For just like the Father has power to raise the dead, the Son will raise the dead and give life to whomever he wants.  The Father now judges no one, for he has given all the authority to judge to the Son... I speak to you an eternal truth: if you embrace my message and believe in the One who sent me, you will never face condemnation, for in me, you have already passed from the realm of death into the realm of eternal life!  ...For the Father has given the Son the power to impart life, even as the Father imparts life.  The Father has transferred to the Son the authority to judge, because he is the Son of Man."  John 5: 19-22, 24, 26-27 (TPT)

Jesus the Son

 "Throughout our history God has spoken to our ancestors by his prophets in many different ways.  The revelation he gave them was only a fragment at a time, building one truth upon another.  But to us living in these last days, God now speaks to us openly in the language of a Son, the appointed Heir of everything, for through him God created the panorama of all things and all time.  The Son is the dazzling radiance of God's splendor, the exact expression of God's true nature - his mirror image!  He holds the universe together and expands it by the mighty power of his spoken word.  He accomplished for us the complete cleansing of sins, and then took his seat on the highest throne at the right hand of the majestic One.  He is infinitely greater than angels, for he inherited a rank and a Name far greater than theirs.  For God has never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: "You are my favored Son, today I have fathered you." And this: "I will be the Father to him, and he will be the Son to me."  Hebrews 1:1-5 (TPT)
"He longs for everyone to embrace his life and return to the full knowledge of the truth.  For God is one, and there is one Mediator between God and the sons of men - the true man, Jesus, the Anointed One.  He gave himself as ransom-payment for everyone.  Now is the proper time for God to give the world this witness." 1 Timothy 2:4-6 (TPT)

Holy Spirit

"But when the Spirit of Christ empowers your life, you are not dominated by the flesh but by the Spirit.  And if you are not joined to the Spirit of the Anointed One, you are not of him.  Now Christ lives his life in you! And even though your body may be dead because of the effects of sin, his life-giving Spirit imparts life to you because you are fully accepted by God.  Yes, God raised Jesus to life! And since God's Spirit of Resurrection lives in you, he will also raise your dying body to life by the same Spirit that breathes life into you!"  Romans 8:9-11 (TPT)
"We carry this confidence in our hearts because of our union with Christ before God. Yet we don't see ourselves as capable enough to do anything in our own strength, for our true competence flows from God's empowering presence.  He alone makes us adequate ministers who are focused on an entirely new covenant.  Our ministry is not based on the letter of the law but through the power of the Spirit.  The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit pours out life." 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (TPT)

God-Inspired Truth

Baptists believe that the Bible is the absolute truth, and it must be obeyed.  They do not rely on creeds or doctrines to tell them how to act, and they believe that any doctrine written by man can – even subconsciously – replace the laws of God.

"Every Scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. It will empower you by its instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness." 2 Timothy 3:16 (TPT)
"For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, and it pierces more sharply than a two-edged sword.  It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet!  It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts.  There is not one person who can hide their thoughts from God, for nothing that we do remains a secret, and nothing created is concealed, but everything is exposed and defenseless before his eyes, to whom we must render an account."  Hebrews 4:12-13 (TPT)

The two ordinances- Believer’s Baptism and The Lord’s Supper

Baptists believe there are 2 things ordained by God: baptism and the Lord’s supper.  To the modern Baptist, it is a sin for a believer in Christ to not be baptized or partake of the Lord’s supper. They are symbols of a believer’s faith: Baptism symbolizes the believer’s death to sin in comparison to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection; The Lord’s Supper is a memorial to Christ’s death, and also symbolizes the believer’s anticipation to His coming again.

Baptism

To a Baptist, baptism is the step into a membership with the church community. To become a member of the church and receive the privileges given to the community of believers, a person must be baptized into the church.

"Peter replied, 'Repent and return to God, and each one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus, the Anointed One, to have your sins removed.  Then you may take hold of the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For God's promise of the Holy Spirit is for you and your families, for those yet to be born and for everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.' ... Those who believed the word that day numbered three thousand.  They were all baptized and added to the church." Acts 2:38-39, 41 (TPT)

Lord’s Supper

Baptists also believe in the importance of memorializing Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross with the Lord’s Supper. You can read in Galatians 3:21-25 the importance of Jesus’s death. “Since that’s true, should we consider the written law to be contrary to the promise of new life?  How absurd!  Truly, if there was a law that we could keep which would give us new life, then our salvation would have come by law-keeping.  But the Scriptures make it clear that since we were all under the power of sin, we needed Jesus!  And he is the Savior who brings the promise to those who believe. So until the revelation of faith for salvation was released, the law was a jailer, holding us as prisoners under lock and key until the “faith,” which was destined to be revealed, would set us free.  The law becomes a gateway to lead us to the Messiah so that we would be saved by faith.  But when faith comes the law is no longer in force, since we have already entered into life.”  (TPT)

"Those who believed the word that day numbered three thousand.  They were all baptized and added to the church.  Every believer was faithfully devoted to following the teachings of the apostles.  Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion and coming together regularly for prayer. " Acts 2:41-42 (TPT)

Stewardship

Baptists believe that because God’s grace is undeserved, believers in Christ should recognize their duty to share the gospel with the world.  They must serve God in the form of living sacrifices, by serving others in brotherly love.

"And as a spiritual father to you, I will gladly spend all that I have and all that I am for you!  If I love you more, will you respond by loving me less?"  2 Corinthians 12:15 (TPT)
"All the believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had.  Out of generosity they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them.  Daily they met together in the temple courts and in one another's homes to celebrate communion.  They shared meals together with joyful hearts and tender humility.  They were continually filled with praises to God, enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord kept adding to their number daily those who were coming to life."  Acts 2:44-47 (TPT)

Separation between the church and civil governments:

Baptists believe that the government which the church is under should offer religious freedom and protection to the believers, but that in return, the members of the church should respect and obey the laws that the government puts into place.  The government should not be in subjection to the church.  With that said, the government should keep in place certain morals in accordance with God’s laws.  (For example, laws against murdering.)  Believers in the nation’s government should always, through prayer, seek peace with other nations.  They should never push their religion off onto the people who they care for but allow freedom in their country. Baptists believe in Hell.  Believers will not fall from God’s grace, but one can see a believer’s true faith through his stewardship.

"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is God's spiritual child and has been fathered by God himself. And everyone who loves Father God loves his children as well. This is how we can be sure that we love the children of God: by having a passionate love for God and by obedience to his commands." 1 John 5:1-2 (TPT)
"'Show me one of the Roman coins.' So they brought him a silver coin used to pay the tax.  'Now, tell me, whose head is on this coin and whose inscription is stamped on it?'


'Ceasar's,' they replied.

Jesus said, 'Precisely, for the coin bears the image of the emperor Caesar. Well, then, you should pay the emperor what is due to the emperor. But because you bear the image of God, give back to God all that belongs to him.'"  Matthew 22:19-21 (TPT)

Pastors and Deacons

Baptists believe that men are placed over the church to advise the members.  These men must match the standards expressed in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.  Once a believer becomes a pastor, he earns the privilege to admonish the church and lead it into God’s grace.  Deacons are civil servants, serving the members of the church with God’s guidance through the Bible.

"For those who serve in this way will obtain an honorable reputation for themselves and a greater right to speak boldly in the faith that comes from the anointing of Jesus!"  1 Timothy 3:13 (TPT)

As a Christian based after the Church of Christ, I don’t agree with everything that I read from the Baptist websites.  Many of them spoke truths; they all have the right intentions: to live under the forgiveness granted to us by our faith and obedience in Jesus Christ, spoken of in the Bible.                                                                                                                                             

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Reality Check

An important topic came up in this weekend’s Sunday morning conversation.  “Your generation needs a reality check.  Kids believe in playing games all day.” The topic was idols and the generation’s dependency on them.

Let me quote Isaiah 44:9-10, 15-17, and 19, an explanation of what God thinks of idols: “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless.  Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit him nothing?…It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill.  He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down and says, ‘Save me; you are my god.’ …No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” (NIV)

Isaiah tells us that the items themselves are worthless.  We needn’t defend them against harsh words.  They aren’t sin. But at the same time, they can lead to sin.   Anything that you love unconditionally which gets in the way of your service for God is considered an idol.  If you love something too much to set aside when God calls, you should check your priorities.  That’s an idol: not the object itself, but your level of respect for it.

Anything can be idolized.  Do you love something that’s important to you? Ask God in humble prayer if its ok to feel your heart’s involvement.  Promise your loyalty to Him.  Check your life.  What’s important to you?  Do you love video/computer games, politically pushed values, or hyped movies? Youtube? Is personal nit-picks, team loyalty, or lucrative money-spending of high caliber in your life? Do you consider PhDs, pledges from trendy celebrities and TV publicity, or searches on the internet as a reliable source of information?  Listen for God’s answer: does any of this get in the way of God’s purpose for you?

2018 Begins with the Flu

It’s the beginning of a new year!  My wishes and prayers are that all of you have a blessed 2018.

The first Sunday of the year should be encouraging and bright with hope, but this year many people are suffering from the flu; some cases are even severe and life threatening.  Hospitals are having to turn people away, or set up tents because there are so many people who have caught the flu.

Let’s pray for all the people who are at home or in the hospital suffering from symptoms, and pray for the serious cases to be healed.

Also pray for Lacy, our father, and our little brother Jake, who’s come down with the flu; and for my health and Mom’s, so that we may stay free from the illness, and also that we stay strong enough to tend to the others as they get better.

I pray that God grant you with wisdom, peace, and love in the new year, and that He shows you His amazing mercy and power as you live each new day.

New Year’s Resolution: To Be Heaven Here On Earth

You are given the option for immortality. Do you take it or do you decline?

Mom eagerly shared with me this thought from the writer’s app called 1000+ Writing Prompts.  “This is the question we face every day.  God has given us the option for immortality, and it’s up to us to take it.”

It’s a good thought to begin the new year with.  You are given the option for immortality.  To choose Jesus Christ is to choose eternal life.  To deny Him is to decline the option for immortality.  Or more accurately, to accept a harsh damnation as your eternal fate.

“But because of your callous stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are [deliberately] storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will pay back to each person according to his deeds [justly, as his deeds deserve]: to those who by persistence in doing good seek [unseen but certain heavenly] glory, honor, and immortality, [He will give the gift of] eternal life. But for those who are selfishly ambitious and self-seeking and disobedient to the truth but responsive to wickedness, [there will be] wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and anguish [torturing confinement] for every human soul who does [or permits] evil, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, but glory and honor and inner peace [will be given] to everyone who habitually does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For God shows no partiality [no arbitrary favoritism; with Him one person is not more important than another]… on that day when, as my gospel proclaims, God will judge the secrets [all the hidden thoughts and concealed sins] of men through Christ Jesus.” Romans 2:5-11, 16 (AMP)

Eternal life is a mystery to a mortal’s mind.  Humans are born, they live, and they die.  It’s common knowledge that people can only dream of defying.  It is impossible to accurately imagine what eternity will be like.

“Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.

“You will notice that the variety of bodies is stunning. Just as there are different kinds of seeds, there are different kinds of bodies—humans, animals, birds, fish—each unprecedented in its form. You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies—sun, moon, stars—all these varieties of beauty and brightness. And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection “seeds”—who can imagine what the resurrection “plants” will be like!

“This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body—but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever! The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural—same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!

“…I need to emphasize, friends, that our natural, earthy lives don’t in themselves lead us by their very nature into the kingdom of God. Their very “nature” is to die, so how could they “naturally” end up in the Life kingdom?” 1 Corinthians 15:35-44, 50 (MSG)

Like a seed planted into the ground, the seed dies and is shed away as the plant begins to grow; that is how Paul describes our mortal bodies.  After we die, our spirit will be given a new heavenly body.  Our new selves will shine with splendor possibly even greater than the sun, moon, and stars.    And definitely much greater than our own weak and sinful earthly bodies.

“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” 2 Corinthians 1-10 (NLT)

In a common belief among many Christians, heaven is explained in the last chapters of the book of Revelation (chapters 21 & 22), but allow me to correct that belief with an awesome thought.  Or maybe I’m not correcting; more just expounding on the idea.  Try to imagine it like this…

WE are the description of heaven. Christ’s church is the Holy City, New Jerusalem.

Let me try to explain it for you:

When the book of Revelation (chapter 21) explains the new heaven and earth, it says “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”  (vs. 2-4, NIV)  The description of the new heaven and new earth that John saw sounds exactly like something that Paul wrote to the letter to the church in Corinth, when he wrote “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.  I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” (2 Corinthians 11:2, NIV)  As Christians we-the church-are the bride of Christ, brought to Him in godly splendor because of the blood that He has shed for us.  And now, because we have the Holy Spirit, God can dwell in us and give us peace and comfort.  We no longer have to fear the destructive nature of death, because Jesus has redeemed us and reconciled us to God.

The explanation of New Jerusalem, found in Revelation 21, also points to our salvation through Jesus Christ.  The city is described with the language of the prophets: 12 gates, which the number 12 symbolizes God’s people, like the 12 tribes of Israel; the walls of the city has 12 foundations, each with the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb, broadening God’s holy people to not only the Israelites, but also the children of the new covenant, which is everyone who accepts Christ as Savior. Each of the four walls of the Holy City has 3 gates on it- 3 is the number of God, the Trinity, and explains that there is no obstacle stopping anyone from entering into God’s presence. An angel measures the city and finds it to be 12,000 stadia in length, width and height- 12,000 is a multiplier of both 12 and 10.  The number 10 is, like the number of fingers and toes you have, the number of completion.   So by putting 12 and 10 together, it means that the city is made up of all of God’s people, not just some of them.  No one is left out.  The wall of the city was also measured and found to be 144 cubits thick, which is another use of the number of God’s people, since 144 squared is 12.  The measurements, the gates, and the brilliantly shining stones of the Holy City explains to us how precious Christ’s church is.  The church is literally heaven on Earth.  All people are welcomed into it, and once a citizen of God’s Holy City, New Jerusalem, we will inherit God’s promise.

In chapter 22 John tells “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down to the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse…” (v.1-3, NIV)  The city’s street leads to the tree of life, which brings healing for the nations and bears fruit all year round.  That’s what we as Christ’s church, the Lamb’s  bride, the Holy City needs to be doing. We need to be healing the nations.  We need to be bearing the fruits of the Spirit.  We need to be examples of God to the people around us so that they can see His glory: wiping the tears of the mournful and ministering to those suffering from pain.  That’s what God does.  It’s also what we should be doing.

We are also told that in the Holy City, “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”  (v.5, NIV) Talk about being the city on a hill!  That’s exactly what Jesus called us when He spoke in the sermon on the mount: “You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (AMP)

The explanation of the new heaven and new earth, the New Jerusalem, and the new Eden that’s explained in the final pages of the Bible is not describing how heaven will look like.  There’s no way we can fathom the greatness of God’s dwelling.  Much like the royal Priesthood spoken of in Hebrews,  we are meant to think of the description as a shadow of what heaven will be like.  In fact, we as Christians are called to be the foreshadow of Heaven.

 “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’  He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.  Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death.” Revelations 21:5-8

Returning to the writing prompt, we are offered a choice of immortality. Will you accept or decline the offer? If  you choose to accept, then you must, in turn, share the offer to others as well.  For 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 says:

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (NLT)

As we begin 2018, let’s consider our role here in the physical life.  Why not make a new year’s resolution to be heaven on earth to all the people around you?  You may even snatch a life from the fiery fate of Hell.

"But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true: Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!" 1 Corinthians 15: 51-57 (MSG)

The Great Eucatastrophe: The Christian Joy

“Jesus draws a circle around all the human family.”
-Jim McGuiggin in Drawing Circles, Part 3

 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  Isaiah 7:14

In an essay JRR Tolkien wrote called “On Fairy Stories” (written for the collaborated book Essays Presented to Charles Williams), he called the birth of Christ the “eucatastrophe” of human history. It’s a great eruption of goodness!  God’s own Son, the one who created the entire earth in just 7 days, the one who is “the Word” talked about in John 1:1, came to Earth as a lowly man, the son of a carpenter!  He gave up the riches and glory of heaven to live among men, to befriend them and to relate to them; to be judged by them, loved by them, reviled  by them, killed by them, and ultimately to save them.  To quote Tolkien, “This story begins and ends in joy.”  The famed author was comparing the Gospel to a beautiful fairytale, the perfect story, even more perfect than any other fantasy stories ever told because unlike all others, which have been created by the “corrupt making-creatures” which Tolkien has named mankind as, Christ’s story is truth, and has “entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation”.

“For to us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV)

As Tolkien wrote in his essay, “To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.  It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be ‘primarily’ true…”

The truth is, the Righteous Judge was lowered to our position as human, so he could give us what we don’t deserve: forgiveness and salvation.  He chose a manger for his throne.  The precious hands that uniquely crafted every creature and plant on earth has entered this world as tiny hands of a baby.  The Son of God was made into the Son of man.

 

“And then the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and his kingdom there shall be no end.”  Luke 1:30-33

Jesus came to earth so that we can go to Heaven.  Heaven: the land of eternity that transcends time and space.  Heaven is our promise, the triumph over death.  It’s the end of all things dark and sinister- the end of evil looming to bring fear to man.  It’s the end of all things alienating: it’s the end of sin.  With Jesus, we no longer have to fear God’s judgment.

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, an idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.  I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.”   Revelation 22:12-21

Jesus Christ was born as a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth and placed in a manger.  He was exalted by the angels and visited by shepherds and kings alike.  But when he comes again, He will be Lord and God.  King of all Kings.  I love the way that Tolkien expressed it in his essay: “God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves.  Legend and History have met and fused.  But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man.”

“Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” James 2:5

“Then Jesus said, “I am the bread that gives life.  He who comes to me will never be hungry. He who believes in me will never be thirsty…The Father gives me the people who are mine. Every one of them will come to me, and I will always accept them.  I came down from heaven to do what God wants me to do. I did not come to do what I want to do.  I must not lose even one of those that God has given me, but I must raise them up on the last day. This is what the One who sent me wants me to do. Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him has eternal life. I will raise him up on the last day. This is what my Father wants…The Father is the One who sent me. No one can come to me unless the Father draws him to me. And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the prophets, ‘God will teach all the people.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the One who is from God. Only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth. He who believes has eternal life. I am the bread that gives life…I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh.  I will give my flesh so that the people in the world may have life.”  John 6: 35, 37-40, 44-48, 51

 

Give Me the Bible

My father was stationed overseas when I was born.  Yakota Air Base was our home for the first 3 years of my life, so my family has had a kindred heart for Christians in Japan.  When I would brag to my friends in school that I was born in Japan, they would always come back with a reasonable question: “Can you speak Japanese?”  The question bothered me at the time, because I was a quiet child and didn’t even speak much English until I was 3 years old.

When I was 13, we moved to Germany.  We lived 2 years on the German-Dutch border, in the small German town of Gangelt.  We had a German neighbor and received advertisements in the mail in a language we didn’t know.  We made some special friends in our small church group which met at a chapel at the Nato base my father was stationed at.  If it weren’t for the gracious people of Germany who would gladly speak English for us, we would probably have been clueless about a lot of things there.

So I have always had a pretty good concept of foreign languages and different cultures.

If I were to pick up the little red Dutch Bible that I have in my library, I wouldn’t be able to read the words because I don’t know the language.  Even if I browse the pages of the Japanese Bible that I have, I may recognize a symbol or two from where Lacy and I are working on learning, but I still wouldn’t be able to read it and understand what it says. I can bet that if I were to know Japanese or German, when I read the Bible I would still have to focus on the words and grammar, because it’s not my first language.  It’s not the language that I hear when I think thoughts in my own head.

 “Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.”  Luke 24:45-48 (WEB)

Aside from Japanese, which I’ve always kinda wanted to learn ever since my friends asked me if I could speak it, another language that I’ve always found attractive is ASL.  My mother has always had a desire to learn sign language (and she passed the desire on to Lacy and me), so when she saw a piece of mail with a man on the envelope signing the words “Please open”, it was no surprise that it stole her attention and made her open and read the enclosed letter.  It was from the Pioneer Bible Translators, an organization that translates Bibles into foreign languages.  Their goal is to translate the Bible into every known language, so no man will be hindered from knowing God due to not having His Word in their own language.

This particular letter from Greg Pruett, the president of Pioneer Bible Translators, was talking about a personal experience when he was trying to decide whether to pursue a version of the Bible for the Deaf.  In it, he says “Brothers and sisters, it’s time for us to repent of how we have ignored the Deaf of the world as if they were not included with us in the message of God’s love. It’s time to take action…”

“Now, why would the Deaf need their own Bible?  They just speak English, or Dutch, or Korean, or Italian, or whatever the language of their environment.”  I’m sure that thought would go through the mind of many people.  But in knowing the differences that can be found in languages, it makes perfect sense to me.  Sign Language, as well as other languages like Japanese, isn’t as complicated as English.  Where we speak what we want to say in complete sentences, “I would like to give you this gift.”  They don’t clutter their thought with the needless extra words.  “Give.”

“It is true some Deaf learn to read by memorizing what each sequence of letters represents.  But this is tedious and unnatural, and those words will never be their heart language.  Most Deaf think in sign. For God’s Word to resonate deeply within their hearts, they need it in sign language.” –Greg Pruett

Also, according to Greg Pruett, people who were born deaf have a disadvantage.  When they read a Bible verse in the language of the country they live in, they only recognize the words as symbols on a page.  They have never heard the sounds that they must read.  While people who speak English see the word “Pizza” and think of how it sounds (like PEETsa), the person who uses ASL as their native language might read that word as a “Z” drawn with the index and middle finger.  Like this…

The truth is, Sign Language is an entire network of languages that haven’t even been considered for a Bible version of its own until recently.  And each region of the world has it’s own version of sign language.  ASL is “American Sign Language”, and is used by Americans.  But Pioneer Bible Translators are working to expand their reach to include the Deaf community all over the world.  They want to make many versions of a sign language bible, made into phone apps, a website, DVD, or memory card for the phone or computer; they want God’s promise to be carried even into the most silent of communities, so that all will have the chance to find God’s truth.

They are trying to raise $100,000 by the start of next year.  Would you be willing to help them out?  You can donate on-line or by check, by visiting http://www.PioneerBible.org/YearEnd2017

 

PioneerBibleTranslators

Below are some amazing videos of songs which have been translated into Sign Language.

“Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven! –were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed.  I said it once; I’ll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed.”   Galatians 1:8-9 (MSG)

Invited to Come

“And Jesus answering spoke to them again in parables, saying, The kingdom of the heavens has become like a king who made a wedding feast for his son,”  Matthew 22:1-2 

Imagine for a minute that you work for a very important company.  You’re a hard worker, and you’re looking for a raise, so you’ve been working hard to be seen by the CEO (your boss!) and have your work noticed.

Now imagine that your boss’s son is becoming the new CEO of the business that you work at.  It’s a happy day for the boss and it’s put him in a good mood.  Such a good mood that he decides to throw a party.  He’s very proud of his son, so he invites all the workers of the business to celebrate his son’s achievements with him.   That includes you!

“and sent his bondmen to call the persons invited to the wedding feast, and they would not come.” (v.3)

The day comes, and you get a message on your phone.  Not just a reminder, but a personal message from the boss:  “I’m celebrating my son today.  I hope you’ll come and help me celebrate him and all that we’ve done together with the business.  Remember, the doors are open in an hour.  Don’t be late for the toast!”

Keeping in mind that you’re looking for that raise, would you miss this chance to celebrate with the boss and his son, and maybe show off your charm and friendly personality and maybe even get a word in about all that you’ve done for the business?  Of course not!  You’d most likely shine your medals, wear your best outfit in the closet, and take a glass of champagne as you proudly join the ranks of all the leaders of the company.   You would want to be noticed by the boss!

But in this parable that Jesus tells the crowds, the people who were invited were not coming to the wedding feast that the king had thrown for his son.  It was a proud day for the king: his son had found a beautiful princess to love and cherish and be wed to, but none of the people that he invited…. “they would not come.”  They didn’t bother to show up at the feast that he was throwing.

Now imagine you decided that you had other things to do, instead of celebrate your boss’s son’s promotion.  He’s not the one who deserves it; you work hard.  You need to be the one up there being praised and honored, not the boss’s son.  So you decide not to come.  And no one else shows up either.

How do you think the boss would respond to no one showing up when his doors are opened.

“Maybe there was a mistake.  No one received the message.  Maybe it didn’t send.”  Cell phones aren’t the most dependable form of sending messages, after all.

“Again he sent other bondmen, saying, Say to the persons invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatted beasts are killed, and all things ready; come to the wedding feast.  But they made light of it, and went, one to his own land, and another to his commerce. And the rest, laying hold of his bondmen, ill-treated and slew [them].” (v.4-6)

The boss decides to send an email to his employees.  “The doors are open!  The food is ready. Come, celebrate my son with me!”

You read the short and simple email, and laugh it off.  Why would you celebrate that egotist?  After all, he’s entitled and privileged.  You notice others on Facebook and Twitter expressing the same thing.  One person even copies the boss’s letter to their Facebook status and speaks negative and disrespectable things about the boss’s son.

“And [when] the king [heard of it he] was wroth, and having sent his forces, destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (v.7)

Of course, when the boss sees what his employees are saying on social media and when he sees that no one cares to come and celebrate his son with him, he becomes very angry with the people who work under him.  How can he hand his business to his son and expect people to respect the new CEO, if they don’t even respect the current CEO (him!) enough to come to a celebration that he throws?

You and all of your co-workers might find yourself with a new message on your phone.  “Don’t come into work tomorrow; you are relieved of all the duties that you are responsible for in my company.”

Wait, that wouldn’t be very smart, since firing everyone would mean that the boss would no longer have any workers at the company, right?  It would surely be a company suicide.

“Then he says to his bondmen, The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy; go therefore into the thoroughfares of the highways, and as many as ye shall find invite to the wedding feast.” (v.8-9)

Instead of canceling the party and closing the business, the boss creates immediate buzz to put on TV.  “Breaking News!  There’s a celebration going on, and everyone is invited!”

“And those bondmen went out into the highways, and brought together all as many as they found both evil and good; and the wedding feast was furnished with guests.” (v.10)

Now imagine you’re a local shop clerk who’s dreamed of working for a large company, but you have never had the chance to be discovered.  You can’t even afford to own the proper evening-ware for a party of this stature.  But now everyone is invited to come celebrate the passing of the baton in this highly esteemed company.

So you decide to drop everything, change into your best clothes and attend the party.  The boss is pleased at the outcome, because many people  have come.

“And the king, having gone in to see the guests,” (v.11)

The boss mingles with the new guests.  He hires people on the spot, eager to replace the disrespectful people who had been working for him before.  He has a vision for his company.  There is no room for hateful people who don’t show respect for anyone but themselves.

“beheld there a man not clothed with a wedding garment.” (v.11)

Imagine, instead of dressing in your very best clothes to impress the boss, you drop everything and come as you are: in casual tank top and shorts.  You’re not here for a job; you just want to gaze on the beauty of the fine silverware and the exquisite foods that will be served there.  You know nothing about the company, the CEO or his son.  Maybe you could even take home a bag of leftover food and save it for later.  Would anyone miss just one crystal champagne glass if it was lost? With so many, surely not! Even if they did, they would have the money to replace it.  Right?

Even if you don’t think about taking away a souvenir, your main purpose is to enjoy viewing the lifestyle of luxury and enjoy the rich (free!) food that you could never afford on your own.  Maybe you’ll wish that you could live in a grand mansion or eat from golden dishes, but you don’t have any plan to shake up your own life with change.  It’s too much work.

“And he says to him, [My] friend, how camest thou in here not having on a wedding garment?  But he was speechless.” (v.12)

What does it mean to be speechless?  Merriam-Webster.com expresses it as this

  1. Unable to speak: Dumb
  2. Not speaking: Silent
  3. Not capable of being expressed in words

So, for just a moment, imagine yourself as the boss.  You’re celebrating you’re son: a bright young man who you have seen from infancy, grow into a mature and responsible leader.  You’re brimming with pride. You want to show him off and honor him for everyone to see what you have had the pleasure of seeing all along. You’re promoting him to the position that you would only give to a person you trust as much as you trust yourself: the head executive of the business that you dreamed, started, and fought for most of your adult life.

With that in mind, when you see a man dressed in slacks coming to your honorary celebration, you don’t want to judge a person based on the clothes that is worn.  He could be living on the streets, and needing help.  Who is he?  Where did he come from?

“Friend,” You say.  “Don’t you know that this is a celebration of the utmost importance to me? My son is taking over the company that I started 40 years ago with my own hands. Why haven’t you come in more formal clothes?”

He is speechless.  Maybe he’s ignoring you?  Or perhaps he doesn’t have anything to say.  You try to reason out in your mind why he doesn’t speak.  You can think of 3 reasons (based on the definitions above) why he could be speechless.

  1. Maybe he is mute. If he were, then surely it wouldn’t stop him from having words to say.  He would still try to express his reasons to you, even without the ability to speak.  He could use gestures and facial expressions to give you an answer.
  2. He does not wish to speak to you, because he has intentions that he wants to keep hidden. Perhaps he is a thief, here to steal your silverware when you’re preoccupied with hosting the party.  Or worse, he’s here to pick pocket your unsuspecting guests and take advantage of the people who have gathered.
  3. He will not speak simply because he has come to gawk at your wealth and gaze at the beauty of your living. You cannot have him disrupting the celebration and intimidating your guests; after all, you didn’t invite people to come and stare at your accomplishments and marvel at your golden platters, they are here to honor your son, who you are very proud of.

“Then said the king to the servants, Bind him feet and hands, and take him away, and cast him out into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. (v.13)

That’s harsh!  But looking at the possibilities, why wouldn’t you want to throw the man out? You have the power to send away anyone you wish to send away, because you are the host of the celebration.  He didn’t respond to you when you spoke to him.  He’s either ignoring you, wanting to steal from you or your guests, or he’s turning all of your guests into spectacles to gawk at and watch as if they were animals in a zoo.  He won’t even talk to you, so if he’s troubled or needing help, you surely don’t know.  You’ll send him out, and if he doesn’t leave, you’ll probably call security.  The harder he fights, the worse it will be for him.

“For many are called ones, but few are chosen ones.” (v.14)

Truth be told, you most likely wouldn’t go to a millionaire CEO’s party in shorts and a tank top.  It would leave you feeling awkward and out of place.  But the issue here isn’t what clothing is or isn’t appropriate.  The issue is the fact that the speechless man didn’t treat the host of the party with the deserved respect.  Don’t you think that a man kind enough to invite everyone to the party would be equally kind enough to help the speechless man out, if he had just asked?

Let’s imagine, instead, that you are a guest that came to honor the host of the party and his son, but you came only as you are because you are poor and cannot afford anything fancier than the second hand clothes that you’re wearing to the party.  What might happen if the CEO comes to you and asks you about your clothes and you choose to give him a respectful answer instead of staying silent.

CEO: “Friend, don’t you know that this is a celebration of the utmost importance to me?  My son is taking over the company that I started 40 years ago with my own hands.  Why haven’t you come in more formal clothes?”

You: “I’m sorry, sir.  I came because I was invited.  I’m simply a sales clerk.  Though hard-working, I have just enough money to pay rent and buy food for my family. I don’t have anything impressive to wear.”

With this response, the boss is impressed with you, and for reasons unknown to you he takes you to his office and helps you clean up your appearance.  You are transformed; when you look in the mirror you see a confident and strong entrepreneur that you’ve never seen before.

The boss brings you to his son, who is the new CEO of the company, and introduces you.  “Look son, I have brought to you our new COO (which is the chief operating officer- the second in command) in the business.  I expect you to teach your new employee everything that I have taught you.”

 Jesus's words to His Father: “I have told these men all about you.  They were in the world, but then you gave them to me. Actually, they were always yours, and you gave them to me; and they have obeyed you.” John 17:6 (TLB)

 

 “Let us rejoice and exult, and give Him glory; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready. And it was given to her that she should be clothed in fine linen, bright [and] pure; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints.  

And the angel says to me, Write, Blessed [are] they who are called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb. And he says to me, These are the true words of God.”  Revelation 19:7-9

Why does God allow persecution?

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  -2 Timothy 3:12

We can see in so many places in the Bible where God’s people were persecuted and even killed!  It causes many to wonder why God would allow persecution to happen.  It doesn’t seem like a very loving thing to do.

The truth behind the persecution of the Christian churches can also be found within the pages of the Bible.  In Genesis 3:15, God’s curse against Satan is this: “From now on you and the woman will be enemies, as will your offspring and hers.  You will strike his heel but he will crush your head.” (TLB)

Satan caused Adam and Eve to bring sin into the world because of the great hatred and animosity that he felt against God.  The truth is, Satan hates God!  And so he also hates humans, because we are loved by God and have His protection.

You can see Satan’s bitterness against God and His beloved creation in the story of Job.

“One day as the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan, the Accuser, came with them. 

“‘Where have you come from?’ the Lord asked Satan. 

“And Satan replied, ‘From earth, where I’ve been watching everything that’s going on.’

“Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth-a good man who fears God and will have nothing to do with evil.’

“‘Why shouldn’t he when you pay him so well?’ Satan scoffed. ‘You have always protected him and his home and his property from all harm. You have prospered everything he does-look how rich he is! No wonder he ‘worships’ you! But just take away his wealth, and you will see him curse you to your face!’

“And the Lord replied to Satan, ‘You may do anything you like with his wealth, but don’t harm him physically.’

So Satan went away and sure enough, not long afterwards when Job’s sons and daughters were dining at the oldest brother’s house, tragedy struck.” Job 1:6-13 (TLB)

Satan comes to God again in chapter 2 of Job and acts the same way. What hatred Satan presents to God!

We are also warned in 1 Peter 5:8 “Be careful-watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart.” (TLB)

There are many stories in the Bible about God’s people being persecuted. Next time you read about them, remember the one who is doing the persecuting; Satan, who is our enemy.

IDOP-StoriesOfPersecution

We can read more about Satan’s animosity in Revelation 12:7-13.

“Then there was war in heaven; Michael and the angels under his command fought the Dragon and his hosts of fallen angels. And the Dragon lost the battle and was forced from heaven. This great Dragon-the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world-was thrown down onto the earth with all his army.  

“Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, ‘It has happened at last! God’s salvation and the power and the rule, and the authority of his Christ are finally here; for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down from heaven onto earth-he accuses them day and night before our God. They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony; for they did not love their lives but laid them down for him. Rejoice, O heavens! You citizens of heaven, rejoice! Be glad! But woe to you people of the world, for the devil has come down to you in great anger knowing that he has little time.’

“And when the Dragon found himself cast down to earth, he persecuted the woman who had given birth to the child…” (TLB)

So Satan resents God for exiling him, and he takes out his resentment by persecuting God’s people on earth.   You could say it’s Satan’s way of getting God back for punishing him.

IDOP-TypesOfPersecution

But that doesn’t explain why God would allow us to be persecuted.  After all, if He’s a loving God, wouldn’t he have the power to stop Satan from persecuting His people that He loves?

But here’s some news that may seem unbelievable…

We are actually blessed by our persecution.

Yes, it’s true.  When we are persecuted, we can count our blessings and feel joy in these truths:

  • We are identified through Christ Jesus.
"At one time you were separate from God. You were God's enemies in your minds because the evil deeds you did were against God. But now Christ has made you God's friends again. He did this by his death while he was in the body, that he might bring you into God's presence. He brings you before God as people who are holy, with no wrong in you, and with nothing that God can judge you guilty of. And Christ will do this if you continue to believe in the Good News you heard. You must continue strong and sure in your faith. You must not be moved away from the hope that Good News gave you. That same Good News has been told to everyone in the world. I, Paul, help in preaching that Good News. I am happy in my sufferings for you.  There are many things that Christ must still suffer through his body, the church. I am accepting my part of these things that must be suffered. I accept these sufferings in my body. I suffer for his body, the church." Colossians 1:21-24 (ICB)
  • The world is paying us tribute because we belong to Christ.
"But you should be happy that you are sharing in Christ's sufferings. You will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory. When people insult you because you follow Christ, then you are blessed. You are blessed because the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is with you." 1 Peter 4:13-14 (ICB)
  • God compliments us over our service to Him.
"Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you noticed  my servant Job? No one else on earth is like him.  He is an honest man, innocent of any wrong. He honors God and stays away from evil. You caused me to ruin him for no good reason. But he continues to be without blame.'" Job 2:3 (ICB)
  • God is weaning us off of our love for the world by letting us see where our trouble actually comes from.
"Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him.  Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.  

"You've already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it's time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don't understand why you don't join in with the old gang anymore. But you don't have to give an account to them. They're the ones who will be called on the carpet-and before God himself." 1 Peter 4:1-5 (MSG)
  • God is perfecting patience through our persecution.
"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. 

"If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open." James 1:2-8 (MSG)
  • We are being identified with great saints of the past.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
  • We are waiting to receive God’s great promise to us.
"That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won't last very long.  Yet this short time of distress will result in God's richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (TLB)

 

IDOP-OvercomingPersecution

We typically think that in Jesus’ resurrection, He destroyed Satan’s power which is death. But that’s not true! Jesus actually destroyed Satan’s power and plans with His death, not rising from the dead.  He was sinless- our passover lamb.  His innocent blood washes us clean.

“Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.” Hebrews 2:14-15 (MSG)

“We have this treasure from God. But we are only like clay jars that hold the treasure.  This shows that this great power is from God, not from us. We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us.  We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. . We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies, so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. We are alive, but for Jesus we are always in danger of death. This is so that the life of Jesus can be seen in our bodies that die. So death is working in us, but life is working in you.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (ICB)

5 Common Misconceptions of What a PEACEMAKER is:

  • a PEACE WISHER is a person who wishes for world peace: they imagine a world where all people are at peace.  Though they can see the image in their own mind’s eye, they do not act on these wishes.  James 4:17 says that “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (NIV)  Also, James 2:16-17 says “If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (NIV)  To make peace, we must act on the deeds that we know is true and right.
  • a PEACE BENDER is a person who believes they are an expert at knowing how to make peace with other people, and so they insist that everyone must gain their understanding and live by the standards that match what they know peace to be. Matthew 7:15-17 tells us how we can recognize a peace bender: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (NIV) If a person does not try to pursue peace and be at peace with all people (1 Peter 3:8-12), then their actions will portray their spirit. They are not an expert on peace, but are actually a peace bender instead; they bend the definition of peace to match their own ideas.
  • a PEACE MARTYR is a person who would willingly sacrifice anything to keep the peace.  They are willing to sacrifice their integrity, their happiness, and even their salvation in order to keep the peace with their friends and relatives around them.  Philippians 4:6-7 reassures us with these words: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
  • a PEACE YIELDER is a person who believes that peace on earth means no more wars will ever be fought.  They are ready to fly the white flag of surrender in order to “keep peace”, and they protest war and speak against people who would attack evil to subdue it. Though that may sound like a peaceful concept to the untrained Christian mind, our own Savior Jesus, the Prince of Peace, reminds us in Matthew 10:34-36 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” 
  • a PEACE HOARDER is a person who is content with life.  He has everything he desires, and lives life only in the comfort of his own circle.  He will not share the peace that he has, whether it’s out of ignorance or out of selfishness. Jesus says in John 16:32-33 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

Life on this earth will not be easy, and there will be many times when it will feel like our life lacks peace.  But blessed is the PEACEMAKER who sees all the hostility and the unfairness in the world and yet works to spread God’s word anyway.  The truth about peace is this: Peacemakers are soul-winners! They are the people who pray for others, who volunteer at food pantries and in relief groups, who invite their friends to church meetings or camps.  They’re the ones who live as Christ-like examples and are unafraid to declare Jesus’ name to the world (and to their friends!).  It’s only through Jesus that we can find peace.

“…since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:1-5 (TLB)
“Peter, an apostle (special messenger, personally chosen representative) of Jesus Christ,

To those [elect—both Jewish and Gentile believers] who live as exiles, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia [Minor], and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by the sanctifying work of the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be yours in increasing abundance [as you walk closely with God].”  1 Peter 1:1,2 (AMP)
“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the  highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.  

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.  

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
“And now there is one more thing to say before I end this letter. Stay away from those who cause divisions and are upsetting people’s faith, teaching things about Christ that are contrary to what you have been taught. Such teachers are not working for our Lord Jesus but only want gain for themselves. They are good speakers, and simple-minded people are often fooled by them. But everyone knows that you stand loyal and true. This makes me very happy. I want you always to remain very clear about what is right and to stay innocent of any wrong. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The blessings from our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you.”  Romans 16:17-20 (TLB)

Hymn of the Day: Blessed Assurance

Blessed assurance!  We are given a promise of redemption and salvation!

Isaiah 43:16-21 says: I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a path right through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses, to lie beneath the waves, dead, their lives snuffed out like candlewicks.

But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert! The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and ostriches too, for giving them water in the wilderness, yes, springs in the desert, so that my people, my chosen ones, can be refreshed. I have made Israel for myself, and these my people will some day honor me before the world.” (TLB)

God will give us new life.  We are His new creation.

Hebrews 6:10-12 says: “For God is not unfair. How can he forget your hard work for him, or forget the way you used to show your love for him—and still do—by helping his children? And we are anxious that you keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, so that you will get your full reward.

Then, knowing what lies ahead for you, you won’t become bored with being a Christian nor become spiritually dull and indifferent, but you will be anxious to follow the example of those who receive all that God has promised them because of their strong faith and patience.” (TLB)

God will not forget all that we do in His name!  We are blessed with the assurance of His promises.

Hebrews 6:13-20 says: “For instance, there was God’s promise to Abraham: God took an oath in his own name, since there was no one greater to swear by, that he would bless Abraham again and again, and give him a son and make him the father of a great nation of people. Then Abraham waited patiently until finally God gave him a son, Isaac, just as he had promised.

When a man takes an oath, he is calling upon someone greater than himself to force him to do what he has promised or to punish him if he later refuses to do it; the oath ends all argument about it. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those he promised to help would be perfectly sure and never need to wonder whether he might change his plans.

He has given us both his promise and his oath, two things we can completely count on, for it is impossible for God to tell a lie. Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.

This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself behind the sacred curtains of heaven, where Christ has gone ahead to plead for us from his position as our High Priest, with the honor and rank of Melchizedek.” (TLB)

Since God is the righteous judge, we can be assured that His promises will be kept. 

Mark 5:35-36 says: ”While he was still talking to her, messengers arrived from Jairus’s home with the news that it was too late—his daughter was dead and there was no point in Jesus’ coming now. But Jesus ignored their comments and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me.” (TLB)

 

2 Samuel 7:22  “How great you are, Lord God! We have never heard of any other God like you. And there is no other God.” (TLB)