Saturday, December 8, 2012

Joy in the midst of suffering

Turning on the TV today, can make one down right upset. There is the unrest in the Middle East and other places. People protesting, hating and killing one another. The economy is in shambles, many are without a job and can't find one. The government is making promises it can't keep and wants the people to rely and depend on the government to fix everything in due time. Many people have lost their hope.
The world seems to have become a dark place and is getting darker every day, as many are suffering in this time of uncertainty from a variety of circumstances. Is there a way out? Will this world ever get better? How much longer can it go on like this?
The world is struck with perplexity, just as the Bible tells us. Everyday, there is something reported in the news media that confirms that. The world has changed and is changing by the minute. The world as we know it is dissipating right before our own eyes.
Many people around the world are suffering and the joy that once existed or what is left of it seem to go down in flames. We are finding ourselves in a downward spiral. There seem to be more questions than answers. There are more and more politicians with their rhetoric proclaiming that they have the answers. Not!
Many Christian's today find themselves in the same dilemma as those who are of this world. They have lost their joy in life. They seem to be hopeless and are suffering because of it. Of course I realize that Christians face many of the same problems as others do. Unemployment, financial problems, health issues and many other things that come with living in the 21st Century.
Here is my question in all of this, are we as believer in Jesus Christ exempt from all the problems that are in the world? Are we somehow shielded from all things? I think not, but are we to lose our joy in the midst of all the suffering?
First of all, let me say this, believers in Christ and His word should not be surprised at all when looking at this world. Jesus was very clear about how things will be in the last days. We as believers should be very aware, seeing the signs of the time, that the end is near.
"Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." Luke 21:28.
We do see many of these things starting to happen, the birth pangs are more frequent every day. The world is struck with perplexity. We are getting closer. Look up!
"And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; "men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken." Luke 21:25, 26.
In the meantime, we as believers should not lose our joy. This world and it's pleasures and problems will fade. We as believers have already eternal life, because we believe in Him Who laid down His life for us. That is something we should and need to rejoice in. This world is passing away, so why worry about these temporal things, we need to see the eternal picture. We need to see the world from God's perspective.
Of course we will have trials and tribulations, our Lord told us so. But in the midst of all this suffering, we should not lose our joy. Paul suffered a lot as did many of the others that went before us, but they never lost their joy or purpose. They had eternity in view.
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith; the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:6-9.
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God." Romans 8:18, 19.
"The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8.
There are so many passages in the Bible, that speak of the joy within the believer. We need to rejoice, even in these dark days with all its suffering, both personal and in general. The joy of the Lord needs to be in us on our journey to the promised land, the path that leads to eternal life.
Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10.
The book of Philippians is also called the book of joy. Read it and see how Paul rejoiced in the midst of suffering.

Love your Enemies

The News outlets featured a story today about that Jesus may have had a wife. There is nothing to support that claim, the text is only partial and the sentence that starts with "Jesus said, "my wife..." ends there.  This ancient text is probably part of the gnostic writings and thus irrelevant.
But, to my point, I don't see Catholics or Christians protesting in the streets, rioting and killing people, burning the American Flag and storming the University which examined the text and came out with the statement. What a starch contrast to the as Hillary Clinton put it the other day, "great religion" of Islam. Great Religion? One stupid YT video can bring forth death, hate and destruction to a whole region. One little remark about Muhammad or a cartoon of him leads to suicide bombers, and the killings innocent people.
One remark leads to hate, the killing of four Americans and the threat of the radicals to kill more Americans. That is anything but a peaceful religion. Where are those who normally come out and speak out against Christianity, the Hollywood elite and Atheist like Bill Maher?
What if we as followers of Jesus Christ, would go out into the streets killing and rioting every-time someone says anything against Jesus, Who is used a swear word everyday, Who gets spit on by liberals and Atheist everyday? How come that Christians don't react like radical Muslims to a depiction of Jesus  in the series of South Park? Or what about the paintings about Jesus? One that was very offensive, named "Piss Jesus" was displayed in an art gallery in the 90's. Yet there was no retaliation towards the artist. I could list many more offensive remarks and insults that are made against Jesus and Christians everyday, but I think you know them already.
Christians are not called to hate and kill people who may offend them. Jesus and His teachings, Who in my opinion is the total opposite to Muhammad and the teachings of the Koran, told us to love your neighbor as yourself. We are to love, even those who hate us or offend us. That is what makes Christianity different from Islam. We do not by force convert people or kill them if they do not want to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. We turn the other cheek.
We do not repay evil with evil. Love will always triumph over evil. It was Jesus, who Muslims regard as a prophet (obviously not heeding any of His teachings) that taught us:
"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:44, 45.
As Christians we do not follow a doctrine of Jihad or Sharia law, we follow Christ and His teachings of love and forgiveness. As we see these unrest in Africa, the Middle East and beyond, let us as followers of Jesus not turn to hate. Let us pray for the Muslim world and for the radicals that one day the would have their eyes opened and that they will see that Jesus is the Messiah.
"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
That is what Jesus and His Apostles taught past generations and us today,  love your enemy and do not hate. Be wise, but not foolish. Do not seek revenge. Vengeance is mine says the LORD, I will repay.
I'm sure that many of the radical Islamist have never even read the Koran. Many have not even seen that dumb YT movie, yet they go out and riot. They listen to radical clerics and Imams that use the Koran and Muhammad to further their agenda and ideologies. They are blinded by this religion of antichrist. Let us pray that they will see the light one day. God is doing a mighty work in the Middle East and surrounding areas. We may not understand everything, but His purpose will be fulfilled. God loves the Muslim world and He wants them to return to Him. the true and living God.
And in closing, just for those who teach that the God of the OT is different from the God of the NT, here is what Jesus was quoting: "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: "I am the LORD." Leviticus 19:18.

Media 4 Life Photography - Sunsets in San Diego

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Love story

Many of us I’m sure, are familiar with the story of Ruth in the Bible. This story I believe as many others do, is a message to the Church today. There is an application in the story that God wants us to hear and understand. Before I come to the application, I will summarize the story.
There was a man named Elimelech who had a wife named Naomi and two sons. They left the promised land because a famine had come upon it. They did not seek the Lord, as many did in the times of the Judges, but they went out of the land and settled in Moab. As time passed by, Elimilech died and Naomi was left with her two sons Mahlon and Chilion.
These two sons married Moabite women, named Orpah and Ruth. After some time both of their husbands died. Naomi was heartbroken about the loss of her sons. She lost her faith and joy and decided to return to the promised land.
So the three went out towards Israel, the promised land. But when they came to a bend in the road, Naomi told her two daughters in law to stay in the land of Moab and their gods. She said, I have no more sons to give you, return to your homes. Orpah turned around and went back to her land and her gods, but Ruth clung to Naomi.
She was not going home and she was determined to go with her Mother in law into the land of Israel, to the hometown of Naomi which was Bethlehem, Ephrathah in Judea. So she petitioned Naomi and said some of the most beautiful words written in the Bible.
“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.” When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.” Ruth 1:16-18.
Ruth had fallen in love with Naomi and the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Both of them set their eyes towards the promised land and went on their way to Bethlehem.
One day Ruth was gleaning the fields and she met Boaz who was very kind to her because he had already learned about her and how she was a good daughter in law to Naomi who was a relative of Boaz. As Ruth was coming home, Naomi was amazed at how much Ruth had gleaned. She asked her which field she was gleaning in and she told her that it was the field of Boaz.Naomi was beside herself and thanked the God of Israel who had shown favor on her.
Long story, short, Naomi became the match maker and Boaz married Ruth. They had a child together who’s name was Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of the future King of Israel, David.
What can we as the church learn from this story? How is it relevant for us as believers who believe in the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob? What is the application for us today?
In the ancient Jewish culture the names of people had meanings. The name Elimilech means “God is King” and Naomi means “pleasant.” Ruth means “friend or friendly” in the Hebrew and Orpah means “to turn the back of the neck.”
That is what Orpah did, she turned her back of the neck towards Naomi and went back to Moab and her gods. Not so with Ruth, she embraced the Jewish people and the true and living God of Israel and God blessed her beyond her wildest imagination. She became the great-grandmother of King David. From the line of King David came Jesus the promised Messiah i.e Yashuah which means “salvation.”
Just as Orpah turned her back on Israel, so today many of the churches have turned their backs on Israel. They teach a replacement theology and that all the blessings and promises that God gave to Israel are now belonging to the church. At a time that Israel needs us most, many have turned their backs.
But there are some within the body of Christ that want to bless and support Israel. The Land of Israel is God’s land. It belongs to Him and no one else. It is the Land where He gave His only begotten Son and it is the Land where Jesus will return to rule as King from Jerusalem. It is the Land where God will reveal His Son to the Jewish people.
Just as Ruth loved the Jewish people, so we as the church need to love and support them. We need to pray for them and help them to return to the land given to them so long ago by God through a promise to Abraham.
God is fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant today and all the unconditional blessings that come with this covenant. He wants to bring back His people to the covenant of faith, not of the law. The law was given to Israel 430 years after Abraham because they had left the faith and went after other gods and everybody did what was right in their own eyes.
The law was a Tudor, showing people that they can never live up to the righteousness and Holiness of God. Now that God has brought them back into the land, in unbelief as prophesied in Ezekiel 36 and 37, He will one day open their eyes and they will see Yashua. The will believe, just as Abraham believed and it was accounted to him as righteousness.
We as true biblical believers are not sons of Moses and the law, we are the sons and daughters of Abraham by the grace of God through faith.
We need to bless Israel and the people of Israel and worship the LORD in spirit and truth. Israel is not out of the picture and God has not cast them aside. Israel is the apple of His eye. We as the church have a role to play in these last days. If we want to be blessed by God, we need to stand with His chosen people.
Ruth chose to go with Naomi to the land and she loved the God of Israel and He blessed her there. This is what God wanted all along, the Jew and the Gentiles coming together as one, which was and is part of the unconditional covenant with Abraham in Genesis chapter 15.
“I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”Genesis 12:3.
“…just as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” Galatians 3:6-9.

Fig Leaf Religion

Once again I had someone argue with me on my Facebook page about salvation after reading my blog “Faith or Works?”  This person believes as does his church that works are required in order to be saved. He cited of course the passage in James chapter 2, which some believe contradicts Paul’s writing in Ephesians chapter 2.
Paul and James do not contradict one another. Paul writes about salvation from God’s perspective and James from a human perspective.
Saving faith in a person should be evident in their lives by the fruit they bear. As Jesus said, by their fruit shall you know them. A genuine believer that is saved by faith should bear good fruit for the kingdom.
It amazes me that there are so many people that cannot and will not receive the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  They think that there must be something that they have to do to be saved. I guess some of of it is our human nature, but I have witnessed and seen numerous people spending years to argue that works need to be included. They argue that faith in God alone is not enough and that we have to do something more than just believe.
I don’t see how anyone can come up with a works based salvation message. I cannot find that anywhere in the pages of scripture.  It is all God’s work and nothing that we have done. God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He send His only begotten Son.  (John 3:16)
We are all declared sinners before God, not one is righteous on their own. “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.” Rom 3:10, 11.
God has declared that ALL of mankind has fallen short of His perfect Holiness.  “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23.
It started in garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and they ate from the forbidden tree. That one act of disobedience caused sin to enter the world and the result was a spiritual separation from God. Adam and Eve who once were in perfect harmony with God found themselves separated and soon after witnessed what their disobedience had brought forth, the first recorded murder when Cain slew Abel.
I can only imagine what Adam and Eve must have felt on that day when they saw the outcome of their sin. The result of sin is death. They did not die physically, but they died spiritually. There was nothing that Adam and Eve could do to atone for their sin. They tried to cover up their disobedience with fig leafs, thinking that God would be ok with that. But it was not ok, God clothed them in animal skins, signifying that blood was required to atone for their sins. The blood of an innocent animal could only cover their sins but not take them away. Later when we come to the time of Moses, God instituted blood sacrifices as part of the law.
Just as Adam and Eve covered themselves in fig leafs, so are many people today have a fig leaf religion. They think that they can appease God on their own merit. They think that by their “good works” God will look at them as righteous before Him. That is a false hope, there is absolutely nothing that any of us can do to please God with our works. God provided one way and one way alone and we must receive that way.
The only way provided is through the precious blood of Christ. The shed blood of Christ on the cross was sufficient and acceptable for the Father. Jesus is our propitiation, the passover lamb. He that knew no sin became sin for us and died for us, so that we may live eternally with Him.
To all those who think and teach that faith in Jesus alone is not enough and that certain works are required to earn salvation are gravely mistaken. The law could not justify anyone and no one was or is able to keep the law perfectly. If any of us were able to keep the law, than Christ died in vain. People that want to live a life of bondage to the law are destined to fail. The law is perfect and breaking one of them means breaking all of God’s law.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Rom 3:20.
Paul wrote to the Galatians: “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:22-26.
Yet there are those who insist that works are required, the write books about it, they preach from the pulpit and keep their congregation under legalism and bondage. Christ came to set us free from all of that. We are no longer under the law but under grace. The gospel i.e. the good news is so simple, but people have to make it complicated and the put heavy burden on others. This is not what Christ came for and it is not what God wants.
Jesus came to die on the cross for us. He left His place in Heaven to become one of us and to take our sins upon Him. He didn’t have to do that, but God so loves us that He send His Son Who willingly gave His life. That is something to rejoice in and to be thankful for. But what do so many denominations and churches do? They overlook or don’t understand the true meaning of God’s grace and teach others that the have to live by certain rules and regulation in order to be saved.
They have teachings that are not biblical and not be backed up by the scriptures. They twist and turn verses or built their whole theology around a couple of verses, failing to compare scriptures with scriptures. It is no wonder that non-believers sometimes mock Christianity. There are so many denominations and branches of churches out there, teaching different viewpoints and are convinced that the are the only “true church.” There is a lot of confusion out there among the various denominations.
No wonder that Christians look divided, rather than being of one mind. They follow the teachings of men rather than what the word of God teaches.
The only way someone can be saved in by believing in Jesus by faith. It is not Jesus plus, it is Him alone and only through Him and Hid finished work can we be justified before God. It is not our righteousness that God looks at but His righteousness that was imputed onto every true believer. Thank you God for Your mercy and for Your grace. Thank you Father for giving Your only begotten Son.
Thank you Jesus for setting us free from the bondage of law and that you have broken the wall of separation so that we may come boldly before the throne of God.Thank you for giving us Your perfect peace.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Rom 5:1, 2. 
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Rom 3:21-28.

Faith or Works?

There are some that firmly believe that the Bible is full of contradictions. Are they right, does the Bible contradict itself? The most common one that people use to proof their case the Bible contains contradictions are the writings of Paul and James. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians writes:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Eph 2:8, 9.
Paul clearly states that believers are saved through faith in Christ Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Saving faith is a gift and it was given by God to the believers. They cannot earn it by works or any other means. Salvation is truly by God’s grace and through faith in Christ alone.
Wait a minute some argue, what about James, he seemed to think that works are required in order to be saved. Is that what James is saying and people use it to point out a contradiction to what Paul wrote?  Paul wrote “not of works.” James mentions works. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:17, 18.
An obvious contradiction some would say. But is it really a contradiction? Let me first say that there are no contradictions in the Bible, there might be some words that got lost in translation from the Hebrew or the Greek into English where the  translators could have used a different word, but there are no contradictions.
Are these passages in conflict with each other? Did James contradict Paul when he wrote that faith without works is dead? I don’t think so at all. The most simplest way of looking at these two passages is that Paul wrote from God’s perspective or the divine level and James wrote from the human perspective, the human level.
Paul makes it very clear that man cannot save himself. No matter how hard someone might try to reach God by works or religious rituals. Salvation is a free gift of God by His mercy and grace. It is His divine action that saves the believers, not the other way around. God did what we could not do for ourselves. He made the way to be reconciled with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, our propitiation. Many times in the Bible we read “I will.” It is God that saves.
James is saying that someone can say that they have faith which cannot be seen. Anyone can say, I have faith and I believe in God, but they do not show or bear any fruit at all. They may go to church, read their Bibles, look spiritual and act holy but in reality they are unfruitful. They go through the motions and that’s what James is saying, true saving faith should be evident in the believer by how they live and how their faith in Christ produces fruit, some thirty, some sixty and some a hundred fold.
What did Jesus say about faith and bearing fruit? There are many passages of course, I will use the gospel of John to show what Jesus said.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.: John 15:1-8.
Abiding in Christ is the key, faith in Him and Him alone saves a person, not works. Good works or bearing fruit is the evidence of faith. There are many within the Christian faith that teach that works are required and in order to be saved you have to do this or that. Those are either cults or legalistic people who do not know or understand the grace of God. They are in bondage to themselves. If anyone ever comes to you with that kind of doctrine, point them to the thief on the cross. He had no works to show for that would save him, yet Jesus told him that he would be in Paradise with Him. The thief on the cross believed Jesus and had a change of mind (repentance).
“Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4. 
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Romans 4:3.  James 2:23.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16.

Hell is for real

Many have raised the question and discussed the existence of a literal place called Hell. Is Hell for real? I believe that it is, in fact Jesus Himself spoke more about the literal existence of Hell than anybody else in the Bible. Another word for Hell is the lake of fire mentioned four times in the book of Revelation. What is that place and where is it?  
 I don't think that anyone really knows for sure. 
There are some that believe that hell is in the center of the earth, while others believe that it may be far out in the universe i.e. the outer darkness Jesus spoke off. "And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Mat 25:30. This phrase was used by the Lord  three times in the gospel of Matthew. 
The word Hell appears 32 times in all of the Bible. In the Hebrew the word hell is Sheol. According to the concordance the word Sheol can mean:  underworld, grave, hell, pit. The OT designation for the abode of the dead or: 1) place of no return 2) without praise of God.  3) wicked sent there for punishment.  4) righteous not abandoned to it.  5) of the place of exile.  6) of extreme degradation in sin.
In the New Testament which was written in the Greek the word Hell/Sheol is translated as Gehenna. Here is what the concordance list as to what it means: 1) Hell is the place of the future punishment call "Gehenna" or "Gehenna of fire". This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction.
The Apostle Peter in his second epistle uses the word tartaroo to describe Hell. Concordance: 1) the name of the subterranean region, doleful and dark, regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they suffer punishment for their evil deeds; it answers to Gehenna of the Jews. 2) to thrust down to Tartarus, to hold captive in Tartarus.
I believe that Peter used this word because he was writing to a Greek audience and they knew what he meant by the word Tartaroo.
There are many even within Christendom that either flat-out deny the existence of Hell or fail to speak about from the pulpit. Just as many deny the existence of Satan i.e. the Devil. Universalism teaches that there is no Hell and that eventually everybody will be saved. Then there are those that would say, if God is so loving, why does He sent people to Hell? 
First of all, God does not send people to Hell, they send themselves there by rejecting His free gift of salvation which is through His Son Christ Jesus. He did not come into the world to send people to Hell, He came to set people free from sin and the white throne judgment of God that all of those who reject Jesus will have to face one day.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." John 3:16-20.
Many people know John 3:16, but many forget to read the other verses to get the full context of what Jesus was saying.  God loves us and he demonstrated His love by giving His only begotten Son, but many do not want to believe, do not care or simply reject Him. All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Rom 3:23).  All of us have broken God's divine laws and we deserve punishment.
God by His Mercy and Grace has provided a way to avoid that judgment and that is through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Those who believe by faith will be saved and inherit eternal life. Those who reject will have a different destiny; Hell or eternal separation from God.
Some may say that God does not exist, therefore Hell does not exist. Can they really be sure? Can they be sure hat there is nothing after death?  I may not be able to proof the existence of God or Hell to an unbeliever or someone who rejects God completely, but I know that I know that God is for real, heaven is for real and unfortunately Hell is for real.
God does not want anybody to end up in Hell and I believe that He makes every effort to save people from that place. He does this through His word and the witness of others that share the gospel. People have to really harden their hearts before God let's them go, just as Pharaoh did. It is not God that hardens the hearts of people. God gave Pharaoh many chances to listen to Him, but Pharaoh hardened his heart each time and rejected,  until God finally let him go.
I hope that there are many out there that have a soft heart that hear the call and the voice of God. This world as we know it is coming to an end. I don't know the day or the hour, we are on God's prophetic time clock. Looking at the world today, it's a few seconds before midnight.
I'm no expert on Hell either, neither do I want to be, I never wanna see or be at that place wherever it may be. I hope that if you are an unbeliever and read this, not to laugh it off, but to at least think about what Jesus said and what He did. Jesus did for us what we could not do ourselves. He died for you and me, taking our deserved punishment so that we can spend eternity with Him. Eternity is a long time and there are only two destinations; Heaven or Hell. Which one will you choose?
"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14:6.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sinless Christians?

I had several people tell me over the years that they are sinless and sin no more. Their argument is that born again believers are a new creation and thus they cannot sin and they have overcome sin through the power of the Holy Spirit.  They quote 1 John 3 which says that a believer can no longer sin.
"He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God." 1John 3:9. 
Sounds pretty convincing and convicting doesn't it? Is John saying that a believer cannot sin and if he or she does they are of the Devil?
Let's go back a few verses: "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him." 1John 3:3-6. 
They following contains a few exerts  from commentary by John Stott and David Guzik. I 'm gonna put some closing thoughts at the end.
Sin is lawlessness:  John defines sin at its most basic root.  It is a disregard for the law of God, which is inherently a disregard for God Himself.
We often fail in the battle against sin because we won’t call it for what it is: lawlessness, an offense against the Great Law Maker, God. Instead, we say things like “If I’ve done anything wrong . . .” or “Mistakes were made . . .” and so forth. Call it for what it is: sin and lawlessness. “The first step towards holy living is to recognize the true nature and wickedness of sin.” (Stott)
You know that He was manifested to take away our sins: John here defined the mission of Jesus Christ at its most basic root - to take away our sins. The angel Gabriel promised Joseph regarding the ministry of Jesus: "you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sin." Luke 1:21
Jesus takes away our sin in the sense of taking the penalty of our sin. This is immediately accomplished when one comes by faith to Jesus.
Jesus takes away our sin in the sense of taking the power of sin away. This is an ongoing work in the lives of those who walk after Jesus.
Jesus takes away our sin in the sense of taking the presence of sin away. This is a work that will be completed when we pass into eternity and are glorified with Jesus.
He was manifested to take away our sins: This is the work of Jesus in our life. It is a work we must respond to, but it is His work in us.
We cannot take away the penalty of our own sin. It is impossible to cleanse ourselves in this way. We must instead receive the work of Jesus in taking away our sin.
We cannot take away the power of sin in our lives. This is His work in us, and we respond to that work. Someone who comes to Jesus does not have to clean themselves up first, but they must be willing to have Him take away their sin.
 We cannot take away the presence of sin in our lives. This is His work in us, ultimately accomplished when we will be glorified with Him.
In Him there is no sin: Jesus had no sin to take away; therefore He could take away our sin, taking it upon Himself.
Abiding in sin or abiding in God.
Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
Whoever abides in Him does not sin:  Since sin is lawlessness, a disregard for God ( 1 John 3:4) and since Jesus came to take away our sins (1 John 3:5), and since in Jesus there is no sin, then to abide in Him means to not sin.
It is very important to understand what the Bible means - and when it does not mean - when it says does not sin. According to the verb tense John uses, does not sin means does not live a life style of habitual sin. John has already told us in 1 John 1:8. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
In 1 John 1:8, the grammar indicates John is speaking about occasional acts of sin. The grammar of 1 John 1:6  indicates that John is speaking of a settled, continued lifestyle of sin. John is not teaching here the possibility of sinless perfection.
“The present tense in the Greek verb implied habit, continuity, unbroken sequence” (Stott); the NIV has the right idea when it translates these verbs with phrases such as keeps on sinning, continues to sin, and he cannot go on sinning.
Whoever abides in Him does not sin:  John’s message is plain and consistent with the rest of the Scriptures. It tells us that a life style of habitual sin is inconsistent with a life of abiding in Jesus Christ. A true Christian can only be temporarily in a life style of sin.
Paul’s teaching in Romans 6 is a great example of this principle. He shows us that when a person comes to Jesus, when their sins are forgiven and God’s grace is extended to them, they are radically changed - the old man is dead, and the new man lives. So it is utterly incompatible for a new creation in Christ to be comfortable in habitual sin; such a place can only be temporary for the Christian.
In some ways, the question is not “do you sin or not?” We each sin. The question is, “How do you react when you sin? Do you give into the pattern of sin, and let it dominate your lifestyle? Or do you humbly confess your sin, and do battle against it with the power Jesus can give?”
This is why it is so grieving to see Christians make excuses for their sin, and not humbly confess them. Unless the sin is dealt with squarely, it will contribute to a pattern of sin that may soon become their lifestyle - perhaps a secret lifestyle, but a lifestyle nonetheless.
What is important is that we never sign a “peace treaty” with sin. We never wink at its presence or excuse it by saying, “Everybody has their own sinful areas, and this is mine. Jesus understands.” This completely goes against everything we are in Jesus, and the work He has done in our life.
Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him:  To live a lifestyle of habitual sin is to demonstrate that you have not seen Him (in a present sense of the ultimate “seeing Him mentioned in 1 John 3:2), and that you have not known Him. There are some people so great and so wonderful that seeing them or knowing them will change your life forever.  Jesus is that kind of person. (David Guzik)
If some claim that they are sinless i.e perfected, are they  deceiving themselves? I strongly believe so. As long as we live on this earth in our earthly bodies we cannot and will not be perfect. They only sinless and perfect One is our Lord Jesus Christ. If people could be perfect and sinless on their own, than Christ did in vain. Why do we pray the Lord's prayer where it says "forgive us our trespasses?"  Why did Jesus in His letters to the seven churches ask them to repent?  What about this passage in Revelation?
"Then "I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down." Rev 12:10.
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" 1 John 1:8-10.

The Grace of God

One of my favorite books is "Why Grace changes everything" by Chuck Smith, Pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. I highly recommend it. It has brought people to a closer walk with the Lord.  I believe that many believers have never really fully comprehended what grace truly means for the believer.  We hear the word grace many times, we hear about justice and mercy. Let me first say that mercy and justice are very much different from grace. Justice is something that we all deserve for we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23.
Mercy is not receiving what we deserve. We are all guilty before God and because God is a just God, He has to punish the sinners. He cannot compromise His perfect law and justice. If any of us committed  a crime in this world and we had to appear before a judge and the judge would say, "you know what, I feel great today, I let you go." That judge would not be a just judge. Crimes require a penalty, either with a fine or jail time.
The same thing is true with God our heavenly judge, He cannot just say, "don't worry I let you off the hook." A just judge will give a sentence that fit's the crime committed, but he cannot let the person go free without any kind of  penalty. That is justice according to the laws of the land. The judge hands down the punishment, a fine of $50.000 for the crime committed. The person say's "I don't have that kind of money." The judge decides because the person can't pay the fine, to impose a jail sentence instead. Just as the officers begins to handcuff the person someone comes in and pays the fine for the convicted criminal. The man is free to go, someone paid his  fine for him. Not only that, when the men goes to his bank, he finds out that there is a deposit on his account for one million dollars.
That is what God did for us,  Jesus paid the penalty for the sinners. He took all the punishment that we deserved upon Him at the cross. He is our propitiation i.e appeasement.  It is by God's grace that those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are pardoned from their sins. The sinner is justified before God because Jesus paid it all. We were all deserving of the judgment and the punishment is eternal separation from God. But because God in His mercy and Grace gave His only Son so that we may live. Grace is a free gift. We cannot earn it or improve on it.
All believers are declared justified before God and that is just like we never ever sinned. God sees us through the blood of Jesus and He sees His righteousness. It is not by our righteousness or good works, it is the righteousness of Christ that was imputed onto the believers.God has bestowed His grace upon the believer and His grace is sufficient and will never wear out.
Many believers are trying so hard to please God, either by good works or some acts of righteousness. They live a legalistic life with commandments and ordinances and the result is that they have placed themselves into a life of bondage. They live under constant condemnation because they never feel that they are good enough. They are working so hard that they have forgotten the grace of God that they are trying to please God in the flesh which is impossible. No one can please God by the works of the flesh. One of the last words of Jesus on the cross were, Tetelstai or, it is finished.  Relax, Jesus did it all for us. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves.
I believe that we need to remind ourselves sometimes that it is by God's grace that we are saved and that there is nothing we can do to change that. He will never leave us nor forsake us. None of us is perfect and if we could be perfect on our own,  Christ died in vain. We all stumble from time to time or mess up, but God's grace covers it all.
The believer is justified the moment they believe in Jesus, that is unchangeable and irreversible. There is sanctification and that is a life long process. Everyday we are conformed more and more into the image of Christ. As we let go of the things of this world we draw nearer to Christ until the day arrives that we will be glorified with Him.
In the meantime listen to the still small voice and abide in Christ and He will finish our faith. He is the author and finisher of our faith. To me that sounds like that Jesus is writing my book and with every chapter written, I'm one step closer to heaven.
I thank God for His grace and His love and mercy towards me. Without the gift of grace and the sacrifice of Jesus, I would be hopeless and lost. Thank you Lord for revealing Yourself to me when I needed You most. You are the way the truth and the life. Thank you Father for your grace and I pray that many will come to realize that you love them and that they would turn from the world and embrace you and you promise of everlasting life.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast"Eph 2:8,9.
"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Romans 3:21-26.
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  Hebrews 12:1, 2. 

American Christianity

Everyday I hear of Christians getting slaughtered in Sudan or persecuted and killed in the Middle East by radical Islamist. There is a pastor in Iran,  Youcef Nadarkhani that has been sentenced to death because he is a believer in Jesus Christ. The Iranian regime, governed by Sharia law gave him a chance to recant his confession in Christ which he did not. This man is a true believer that even though he was threatened with hanging he will not denounce his faith in Jesus. The Iranian regime has also declared that their goal is to wipe out Israel from the map and Ahmadinejad denies that the Holocaust ever happened. I was watching the O'Reilly factor yesterday and the son of Oliver Stone whose name is Sean Stone converted to Islam and is pretty much a defender of Iran and it's regime. 
Newsweek has a bloody picture of Jesus on its front page with the title "War on Christianity."  There is an all out war against Christians around the world.  This war is real, in Sudan the Arab radical Islamist from the north slaughter the black Christians in the Nuba mountains which is the border between Northern and Southern Sudan. They kill men, women and children with machetes, burning down churches by the churches. These brothers and sisters in Christ endure heavy persecution and many are facing death by the sword. Christians are hated by radical Muslims and there is no tolerance towards people of a different faith.
Everyday I read the articles and reports about what's going on and it saddens me to hear and see these gruesome reports that come out of Africa and the Middle East. The Syrian government is killing its own people, Iran will soon have a nuclear weapon to attack Israel and the war against Christianity is becoming a reality. Can we as believers here in the west, especially here in the US even imagine what these brothers and sister have to endure and face everyday? The White House and the President who supposedly is the most powerful men in the world has been silent for the most part on many of these atrocities. Just yesterday Franklin Graham was on Pierce Morgan's show talking about the crisis in Sudan and how the radical have once again started to bomb the churches in the Nuba mountains.
He also addressed the dire situation the Iranian pastor is facing and that he could be hanged within days. Graham said that the President hasn't called anybody to the White House for a prayer meeting or to put pressure on the Iranian regime to free Youcef Nadarkhani, instead the President apologized to the Afghans because our military accidentally burned some Qur'an"s.  He did that on the same day when two American service men were killed because of the incident. What is wrong with that picture? Mr. President, stop bowing down to the Saudis and stop your political correctness when dealing with countries like Iran. We don't have to apologize to the radical and the radical regimes, they attacked us and they should apologize for killing our brave service men in Afghanistan and Iraq. Christians didn't fly the planes into the World Trade towers, radical Muslims did.
These are the same fanatic radicals that want to wipe Israel off the map, destroy America and the West. If any Muslims says that Islam is a peaceful religion, I doubt that very much and if the so-called peaceful Muslims are silent about what's going on with the radicals, than they have become irrelevant.
So, I'm thinking about all that and more and it made me wonder, what are we as Christians suppose to do about all of this? Let me say first that I am not talking about every believer here in the US, I'm just broadly generalizing and please don't take it personally if you read this. There are many good believers that care and go out of their way to help those in need.  In general most of American Christians go to church on Sunday's and think they have done their duty. They sit in a nice comfortable pew and listen to either a sermon or a Bible study in an air-conditioned facility, coffee and donuts afterwards, a little fellowship and off they go. Is that all or should we be more in tune about what's going around the world to our brothers and sisters in the faith? There are a lot of activities and events, special concerts and many programs throughout the week. That is not a bad thing, but are we that voice in the world for those who have no voice and are desperately crying out for help? Do we genuinely care about people who are persecuted and killed because they believe in Christ?
I hope that many of us are. I have to admit that we do live pretty comfortable lives here in the US and that may change one day. Are we ready for that day? Or will we unlike the Iranian pastor turn away from Jesus because of persecution? We are living in days where prophecies are being fulfilled just about everyday, yet many of the churches or denominations have no clue about Bible prophecy or what some of these current events mean to us as believers. We are living in the very last days and I believe that the Lord will come soon for His bride. Will He find us sleeping as the five foolish virgins or awake and on alert as the five wise once? Israel is God's time piece and we need to look at Israel because everything relating to the end times is the land of Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount i.e the epicenter.
I wish I could go over to Iran and talk to Ahmadinejad and ask him to let  Youcef Nadarkhani go, or to be in Sudan standing with our brothers and sisters. Sometimes I feel like James and John who asked the Lord if they should call for fire to rain from heaven and make an end to all of this. There are many good Christian organization already over there. There is Far Reaching Ministries  led by Wes Bentley that trains chaplains  for any kind of situation that may occur.  Many of them know that they may never come home again. They are risking their lives every single day for the furthering of the kingdom and they are willing to give their lives and reach people with the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Sadly, I don't have all the answers, but there is one thing that we as believers can do and that is praying without ceasing. The prayers of the saints avails much. We can be a voice if we want to and not let the opposition silence us as some would love to do. The Lord Himself said: "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." Mat 5:13.
If we are silent we will lose the good fight and we will be trampled under foot. Political correctness is killing this country and the liberal agenda is anti Christian. Just as the liberals are uniting for their causes, we as believers can unite and speak up and fight the good fight. We can be that voice crying in the wilderness....unless we let the enemy silence us.
Personally, I would like to finish the race as Paul did: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2Ti 4:7.

The Integrity of Job

Many times when I have a conversation with unbelievers and skeptics they will bring up the book of Job.  Their argument is, why did God single out Job and bragged about him to Satan?  Job did all the right things and loved the Lord, yet He allowed Satan to take everything that Job had, his family, servants and possessions.
Why would God do that to someone who loves Him. Isn't He suppose to be a loving God?  At first glance I admit, it might look that way, here is a guy just going on about his day thinking about his sons and daughters when tragedy strikes him out of nowhere.  In one day he looses it all,  his sons and daughters and his livelihood. Everything that he worked and lived for, up in smoke. Job had no clue what was going on and why this came upon him. He did not have the benefit that we have when we read the story in the Bible.
The first two chapters give us a unique look behind the scenes, a look into the spiritual world unseen from the human eye. "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." Job 1:6, 7. Satan was most likely prowling the earth as a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.
"Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?"Job 1:8. Poor Job, he had no idea that God and Satan had a conversation about him. It almost seems like God may have been bragging a little bit about Job. Satan seized the moment:  "Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. "Does Job fear God for nothing? "But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" Job 1:9-11.
It is interesting to hear Satan say that God had a hedge i.e a protection around Job, he was blessed by God in all he did. I believe that believers in Jesus Christ have a hedge around them just as Job did. Satan in his arrogance challenged God by stating, hey if you take everything away that he has, he will not love you and curse You to Your face. Satan thought that Job or for that matter any other believers only love God when He blesses them, but turn from Him when tragedy or tribulations arise. God in His sovereign will gave Satan the permission to hit Job with afflictions.
"And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD." Job 1:12.
That was the moment when Jobs world would be turned upside down. We read that Job lost his seven sons and three daughters in one day as well as all of his livestock. What a terrible day in the life of poor Job. Yet in all this tragedy, he did not curse God. As a matter of fact, he praised God.
"Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD." In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong." Job 1:20-22.
I don't think that was what Satan intended, he was hoping that Job would blame God and turn from God. The opposite happened, although deeply grieved, he did not forsake or denounce the Lord. I can only imagine that Satan was a bit furious.  Some time later Satan appeared before God again and we have the same conversation in chapter two of Job.
"And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause." Job 2:2, 3.
We need to read this verse very carefully, God allowed it because Satan incited Him and God allowed Satan to destroy everything that Job had. I believe what we can glean from this is, that without God's permission, Satan can't do a thing to harm believers. This second time around Satan wanted even more.
"So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. "But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life." Job 2:6.   It was Satan's  desire to physically harm Job in hope that he would curse God.
Again, God only allowed Satan to strike Job, but not to kill him.  "So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head." Job 2:7. Here is Job, covered in painful boils and now even his wife asked him to curse God. "Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!" Job 2:8.
In ancient times, people thought that the person that was punished so severally must have done some kind of sin to deserve something like that.  This time even his wife wanted him to curse God and die. But Job just answered: "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips." Job 2:9.
Even now Job does not curse or blame God for his sufferings. Now I don't know how I would have reacted if I were to be in the shoes of Job. As the story goes on, three of his friends come to comfort him, but as it turns out they were no comfort at all. They either blamed Job for everything that happened to him, because they thought that he must have sin in his life and lost favor with God. In the end however it turns out that these three wise men  weren't all that wise. At the end God intervenes and rebukes his friends. What happened to good old Job? God restored everything to Job and more, He restored everything ten fold.
I think we as believers can learn a lot from the story of Job. We do have a hedge around us that protects us from many things of the world. At the same time, we are not immune from pain and suffering. Many Christians are going through various hardships, from persecutions and tribulations to financial issues to many other tragedies in their life's.  We are not exempt, but ultimately, God is in control of all things and nothing happens without a purpose and His permission. Sometimes God uses sufferings and tribulations for His divine purpose and to work in people's life's. I may not understand why sometimes, but God knows and nothing is done without a reason and a purpose.
Even the Apostle Peter was subject to Satan on more than one occasion.  "And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat." Lk 22:31.
Peter had to go to some trials, He denied the Lord three times and he had hardships and was imprisoned and crucified upside down in Rome, just as the Lord told him when He was still with them. So were many of the other disciples. All of the Apostles except John died a martyrs death. The Apostle Paul experienced many afflictions, beatings, imprisonment and ultimately death by beheading.  This is what Paul thought about sufferings in his lifetime:  "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."Rom 8:18.  
Paul looked at the eternal not the temporal. In this life, Christians who follow the Lord will face opposition, trials and tribulations. The Lord told us so. "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33.
We as Christians have an enemy that is relentless, the world, the flesh and Satan. I believe that most of our afflictions are not caused by Satan but by our own flesh. The flesh is warring against the Spirit. Many people want to blame Satan for everything that is going on in their life's, but I think many times it's just the flesh and the world. Of course we should never underestimate Satan, he is called the prince of this world and if Christians are living in the world as if the world were their home, then they are subject to Satan. The Bible speaks of Satan as the accuser of the brethren, he accuses us day and night before God.  (Rev 12:10)
Sufferings and pains are not easy, but they do strengthen a believers faith and draws them closer to the Lord. That's what happened to Job, Peter and Paul as well as many others throughout history. In the end everything turned out well for Job and Satan was proven wrong.
That's what Satan wishes to happen to the believers today. He wants us to curse God as soon as some kind of trial, sufferings or pain come our way. Most of us may never face the kind of tragedy Job was confronted with, although there are many that have had tragedies of various degrees in their lives. The question becomes , if any one of us who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior gets confronted with tribulations and trials similar to Job's, will we keep the faith and integrity that Job demonstrated?
I hope and pray that none of us will ever face something like Job, but if we do I hope that we will stand tall and firmly rooted in the Lord. There is a spiritual warfare raging. Satan knows that he only but a short time left. We need to fight the good fight and stand against every fiery dart that the enemy may throw at us.
No matter what happen in this life, the destination of the believer is to be with the Lord. God will never leave us nor forsake us as long as we abide in Him, no matter what may come our way.  Satan is already defeated and he will try anything to distract or harass the believers. We need to stand on the promises of God. We as believers are secured in Christ and nothing can take that away.  The book of Ephesians is all about our position in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" Rom 8:38, 39. 
We are secure in Christ and we are not of this world. The world can't touch us, unless we allow the cares of this world to dominate our lives.  As long as we abide in Christ to live after the spirit rather than the flesh and we resist the Devil and his temptations and lies, we can overcome every obstacle and tragedy that we may face. All things here on the earth are temporal and will fade with time, our destination as believers is eternity. We need to set our eyes on the eternal and look up, our redemption draws close. Maranatha Lord Jesus.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Where does God dwell?

I was sitting at home on my patio this morning and enjoyed my first cup of  java.  I love that first cup in the morning.  I looked up at the trees and there were a bunch of birds singing, which made me think about God. His beautiful creation which  is revealed through the animal kingdom, the universe, nature and man. I see how wonderfully and marvelously He created everything.  The birds were singing a song early in the morning and I wondered, are they praising God, thanking Him for life and the provisions He gives them daily? 
I live close to the Pacific Ocean and I can see wonderful sunsets and the waves with surfers riding them just about everyday. It's just so beautiful to look at the blue water and the dolphins showing up from time to time,  pelicans flying by and just enjoying in general what God has blessed me with. We live on this blue planet called earth and considering how big the universe is and how far away the other solar systems are, made me think of the awesomeness of God. He spoke everything into existence, mind blowing in itself. I don't think we even can ever really comprehend how big the universe is and how small we really are.
Contemplating on all of that makes one wonder, where does God dwell or tabernacle? The scriptures tell us that God created all things and that He is outside of His creation. Time as we know it does not exist for God. He is eternal and always was and will be. He can see the end from the beginning, another mind blower. Where does He dwell? He created the space to put the universe in and made this planet we call home for us to dwell on. So, I'm sitting there pondering all those things and do I have an answer? No, I don't. Is the heavenly realm another dimension another unseen parallel world, or maybe God has the whole universe in a glass bowl next to His throne?  What if the universe is so small that God holds it in the palm of His hand? Does the universe end somewhere and where did the space come from for the universe with all it's galaxies to fit in?
I can not buy in to the theory that all we see was by accident about 4.3 billion years ago. Something so organized and beautiful as the universe can not just come out of an explosion. That is like taking a stick of dynamite and throwing it into a printing factory and out of the explosion come the Declaration of Independence.  Everything is just perfect and right for us here on earth to live on. God placed the earth in our solar system in such a way that there are no obstructions to look out into space. I think He did that on purpose: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork." Psalm 19:1.
As I said, I don't know where God dwells and how that might look but I can't wait to be there one day. That He promised us. "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." John 14:2, 3.
Today so many scientist still trying to figure out the universe and come up with all kinds of explanations of how it came into being and how we evolved from some kind of fish. Nothing but theories and no concrete and absolute answers. We made it to the moon and now we are trying to reach Mars. What are we gonna do on Mars? Open up a Walmart? Even if we would have people reaching mars and live on mars, that is nothing compared to how big this universe is and places that we will never reach. Now the scientist at Cern are trying to find the "God particle" at the Hadron collider in Geneva Switzerland. 
Here is a small quote from their website: "The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100m underground. It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionize our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe."
It will revolutionize our understanding? I don't think that we will ever understand the awesomeness of God. "God said let there be light and it was." Finite man with finite minds trying to explain how the universe came into existence. I rather believe God's word, "Light be." 
Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?" Job 38:3-5.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8, 9.
Where do You dwell oh LORD?

Why does God?

Why does God allow so much suffering in the world, is a question I hear many times from believers and unbelievers alike. Unbelievers argue, if God is all knowing and all all powerful, why does He just sit by and does nothing to prevent suffering? People are getting murdered and God does nothing to prevent it. Women get raped and killed, God does nothing. Many people are brutalized around the world and God does nothing to stop it. There are government's that oppresses the people, that kill and jail them or torture people that are in opposition e.g Syria.
We hear and see of these atrocities and suffering everyday in the media. Suicide bombers that kill innocent people for their cause. Heinous crimes committed against humanity and individuals, yet God chooses to do nothing to stop any of it. These are legitimate arguments, if God sees all things, knows all things, why doesn't he do anything about it?
Believe me, I have asked myself that question many times. Why does God? Whenever the question arises why does God, we don't have the answers and we just don't know. In that case we need to go back to what we do know, God is all powerful, all knowing and He is in control. His ways are higher than our ways.
Although it seems for us to be incomprehensible the things that are going on around the world and in our own neighborhood, there is a purpose for everything. First of all I would have to say that it is not God that causes all the sufferings in the world, it is us. It is mankind that has disobeyed God almost from the beginning and we see the consequences thereof. We are living in a fallen world and in this fallen world we will have to suffer these consequences. It is not that God likes to see or enjoys these sufferings, but He does allow them for His divine and ultimate purposes. He has given man a free will and freedom to choose.
Unfortunately, we as mankind have made the wrong choices and exercised our free will. We have followed man's wisdom rather than God's wisdom.  Has God ever intervened in man's affairs? I am certain that He has. The Bible teaches very clearly that He is in control. "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, "if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. "And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, "if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it." Jer 18:7-10. God is the one that establishes kingdoms and rulers for His purpose and He is in absolute control over them.
I am a firm believer that God has established the United States and has blessed the United States. People in the US are truly blessed compared to so many other places in the world. But I also see a dangerous trend of abandoning God in this country which will result in God withdrawing more and more of His blessings. That is a choice that we as a county have to make. There are some that want to remove God from everyday life and I believe that we will reap the consequences as a nation. I think a lot of people are not grateful to God and don't even realize how blessed they are. We have conveniences that many others can only dream about. I do see a moral decline in this country as well as in other countries around the world and I think that it will get worse in the future.
Evil does exist and evil is caused by man. God did not invent evil, neither does He condone it. Lucifer in his rebellion and by deceiving Adam and Eve brought evil into the world. There are evil people, they are dictators such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao and many others in the past to this present day. There are evil people in general, causing murder, rapes etc. Society is not getting any better as some who claim that we can be "good without God."
If morality declines evilness and wickedness will be on the increase. There are many godless countries and I don't see a "perfect society" anywhere. The people that blame God for all the suffering in the world are in my humble opinion wrong. Many state that God does not exist, yet they blame Him.  It is man that causes all the suffering by their choice and free will. They are controlled by the prince of this word i.e Satan. Although we may not see God or the wicked one physically, there is a spiritual battle raging in the heavenly realm.
There will come a day, which I believe is in the very near future that Jesus Christ will return to the earth and defeat the armies of Satan and establishes His millennial reign here upon the earth. Many of those who think that they can do evil things without consequences are gravely mistaken.
The day will come when God will judge all man that have not worshiped or honored Him as the true and living God and they will pay for the suffering they have caused. God is longsuffering and He wants everyone to come to repentance and turn from their wicked ways. We don't know the day or they hour, but be assure that day will come and God will judge people through Jesus Christ who have done evil in His eyes. Until then, we will see sufferings, atrocities and evil rulers and dictators that think that they can get away with murder. Their day in court will come.
"And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." Rev 20: 12-15.
If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, you are written in the book of life, no white throne judgment will face you.  If you an unbeliever and reject God and His ways, your day of judgment will come. Don't get me wrong, I do not delight in anyone facing the white throne judgment. God wants everybody to come to the knowledge of the truth which is in Jesus Christ. He gave Hid only begotten Son, so that those who believe will be saved and have eternal life, not eternal separation from God. It is never too lat to turn to God and ask for forgiveness, no matter what you may have done. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven, except one and that is the rejection of Christ Jesus.
Until the return of Christ, there will be sufferings and pain in the world. Don't blame God for these things, blame us, mankind.