Are You Astonished By His Grace?

“O Lord, I am astonished at the difference between my receivings and my deservings, between the state I am now in and my past gracelessness, between the heaven I am bound for and the hell I merit,” prays on of the Puritans. [1]  Who prays like this anymore? What a time we live in, that despite our selfishness and love for sin (one loves lust, another greed, another pride, another idolatry, but each is rebellion against God), persons like to think humanity is “basically good.”  Many act as though God owes us something, as if salvation is a given. 

I am not so much talking about the non-religious, but I am talking about many church goers who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. People declaring they are such and such, condoning whatever behaviors suit them, then acting as though God is obliged to look upon them with favor.

Is any of us really like sweet Georgia peaches, just a little bruised? But what do the Scriptures say?

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” … For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ~ Romans 3:10-18, 22-23

Elsewhere, in an epistle written to Christians, the apostle writes,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. ~ Ephesians 2:1-3

Apart from Jesus Christ, none of us is deserving of God’s affection. Each of us was walking dead men, followers of the devil, walking in the passions of our own lusts, and children of wrath. No, we are not sweet peaches but poisonous mushrooms. What presumptuous arrogance that is so predominant in many American churches, as persons live however they want to live, disregarding the authority of the Scriptures, the teachings of Christ and His apostles, and thinking God is pleased just because persons gather “in His name.” This is no different than the rebellious and idolatrous Israelites, false prophets, and the corrupt priests God rejected in the Old Testament.

Where is humility? What has happened to mourning over one’s sins? What has happened to persons acknowledging God’s perception as being correct and that it is the individual’s perception which is wrong?

My friend, if there is no evident change in your life and no conformity to the likeness of Christ (including His love, humility, purity, holiness, and the like), then it is highly unlikely that you are genuinely a Christian. 

The apostle writes concerning the grace of God,

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation [i.e., making it available] for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. ~ Titus 2:11-12

Again, he writes,

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant. ~ Philippians 2:3-7

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. ~ Galatians 5:13

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

If you are saved—born again—it is only by grace. The Scriptures tell us that even our righteousness—our supposed good deeds—are but “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6, KJV). Look up the Hebrew term for “filthy rags,” it’s quite disgusting—which is the point.

Each of us should be astonished at the mercies God grants us. We shouldn’t ever lose the wonder of His undeserving grace. If you do not at all see glimpses of the wretch and scoundrel you really are (as am I), then how do you understand your need for a Savior? And if such glimpses of your depravity don’t  cause you to realize your desperate need for repentance and forgiveness, it is highly doubtful you really understand anything about grace, let alone experienced it.

That God would bother to look upon us with pity and snatch us from the flames, which was our destination, should create such unending humble gratitude. But how much of this do we truly see within American churches?

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[1] Arthur Bennet, ed., “The Mover,” in The Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1975), 12.

The Foolishness of God

Dear friends, I hope this finds you well. 

Not long ago I posted an article entitled, “Unbelief Will Always Make A Reason.” I don’t mind an honest discussion and dialogue, but I don’t enjoy debating for the sake of debate (Note: if you post a comment simply to be nasty, belligerent, and combative, I will ignore it). Unfortunately, I took the bait and replied to an individual’s posted comment(s) in which blasted me as completely ignorant, a liar who deliberately seeks to spread lies, and in a later comment accused me of being a “bigot.” The last one I actually found kind of funny, because aside from the fact the label is thrown around so often in our society the accusation is filled with irony. According to a dictionary, a bigot is “a person who is obstinately or unreasonably attached to a belief, opinion, or faction, especially one who is prejudiced against or antagonistic toward a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group.” This person somehow came across my blog, which is not all that well known, attacked my Christian beliefs both vehemently and specifically, and spoke very condescendingly and antagonistically. Do you see the irony? One who displayed the very essence of bigotry, in the guise of “science” (which not everything she said was accurate, although she adamantly thinks she is completely accurate), was accusing me of being a bigot. But again, labeling is all too common in today’s society.

Anyway, I do not share this as a means of putting this individual down. I have come across other individuals through the years who sought debate, caring nothing about what I had to say, even in regard to answering questions. Admittedly, some questions I cannot answer, but this goes both ways. When all is said and done, while I am to give reason as to why I believe, it is not my job to convince others. That is a work only the Holy Spirit can do. When a person adamantly declares there is no evidence of the existence of God or of Jesus Christ whatsoever, no argument on earth is going to change his or her mind. 

This individual is correct about me not being a debater or scientist. Although I did very well in undergraduate and postgraduate studies, there will always be people far smarter than me. This is alright, as I am reminded of the brilliance of the foolishness of God.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:18, 25

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. ~ Matthew 11:25-26

It is credited to Jerome for writing, “The Scriptures are shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for theologians to swim in without ever touching the bottom.” 

The Gospel has such depths that leaves scholars scratching their heads, yet such simplicity that even children can comprehend. I do not exaggerate when I say one of the godliest persons I’ve ever known, who had an incredibly deep prayer life and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit was a man who had Down’s syndrome. People can boast in their prestige, intelligence, and might; however, these are the very things that often hinder and blind persons to the knowledge of God.

In retrospect, I am ignorant about a lot of things. If knowing God depended on me being greatly intelligent, wise, shrewd, comely, and influential, I would never come to have known Him. Still, were it not for the great mercy and grace of God who had pity, not only on my blindness and stupidity, but also on my very deadness, I wouldn’t have come to know Him at all.

Let the godless say what they will and revel in their own contradictions and perils, but their words do not nullify the Creator in the least, nor the evidence as displayed throughout creation or the historicity of the Cross. Let the “wise of this world” boast in their wisdom, but it remains that only those who are willing to bow their hearts and knees will begin to see and understand the knowledge of God, and only through the Cross of Jesus Christ is there redemption. Men can continue to believe in the mythological man-made “Utopian” dream, but he will always prove himself to be the sinner he is, with a “Midas” touch to tarnish everything he touches. Still, for those who are willing to receive it, the foolishness of God remains wiser than the wisdom of men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Reflections on the Ugliness of My Heart

Friends, as I was tying the title, I accidentally typed Uglimess. This is more fitting than I care to admit. 

Before I continue, I owe a person an apology, if by chance she reads this. In one of my recent posts, I snidely remarked this person might be a she/it. She believes we are products of evolution. As a Christian, I believe she is created in the image of God, yet how inconsistent I am to speak in such a dishonorable way. To this person, regardless of what you might think of me, I am sorry for my disrespectful words. I’ve deleted a couple of my posts simply because I know they were not written from a spirit of love.

The Bible says,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I have not love, I am nothing

For a couple of weeks I have not felt like myself. I love writing, but I have not had joy in writing. Recently my wife pointed out the ugliness of the post I had mentioned. This irritated me initially, but I knew she was right. As I thought about her words, some words that were shared in a message at church recently, and the way I’ve been feeling lately I began thinking about other things too. When was the last time a person said, “There’s something different about you,” “I see Jesus in you,” or any thing suggesting any evidence of God’s working in my life? It’s been a while. Instead, I’m left looking at the uglimess of my own heart, not liking what I see. Without love, I am nothing.

When You Don’t Know What to Pray

My friends, there are many joys and blessings that are given to followers of Christ, but there are also many frustrations and heartaches experienced by individuals yielding to Him. Many know what it is like to lose friends—even within church settings—when they are serious about the Bible and their walk with Christ. Sometimes God permits dreams to be dashed into pieces or desires unfulfilled. Sometimes God allows things to happen which breaks one’s heart to the core. 

When these happen, one can find himself in a place of not knowing what to pray. After all, he has prayed many times, and he has confessed of any known sin. Why bother praying? What good is it? 

We are far more stubborn, idolatrous, and autonomous than we care to think or admit. While I am not saying every hurt which comes is a result of these, but we must take these into consideration. Jesus desires for us to desire Him above all else, but if we are honest there are often plenty of other desires and loves surpassing our desire and love for Him. It is easy to sing a song saying that He is all we want or need, but when one had persons, things, plans, hopes, and dreams taken from him, his sincerity of passionate singing is put to the test. What is one’s honest reply when God speaks to him, “Child, you still have Me”? It’s okay for the heart to break and for a person to experience grief. This comes with being human. God is not angry with a person feeling disappointed. sad, or even angry necessarily. However, will a person continue to trust God, and even love Him, despite the inner ache? Every true saint must experience this to some degree. But what does one do when they are so broken and wearied that they just don’t know what to pray?

We are like wild stallions who must be broken if we would desire to be used for God’s good purposes, and one of His good purposes is to conform us to the image of His Son—to make us more like Jesus. This is a painful process of squeezing, molding, pruning, chipping, grinding, and purging. Are you and I willing to let Him do what only He can do? Will you and I yield trustingly to Him, knowing He is God and we are not? Still, what if we do not know what to pray? We are told,

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ~ Romans 8:26-27

Go ahead and groan wordlessly. Cry, mourn, and grieve. Yield to the breaking, for it serves Kingdom purposes. If you and I should desire to be like Jesus, can we be so without hurt, disappointment, or suffering? Isaiah says, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” (53:3). And just as we benefit from His suffering (see Isa. 53:4-6), so others are helped by ours. We are told elsewhere,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

When you and I go through difficult situations, bombarded by perplexity, hounded by questions, and frustrated by the agony God gives comfort in mysterious ways. Sometimes all this seems senseless, heartless, and arbitrary. Yet, God brings you and I into the lives of others experiencing these, and we are able to be ministers to them, applying the balms of both grace and empathy.

What does any of this have to do with prayer? Everything! We are utterly dependent on God, but too often we really do not believe this. But when we do, we don’t always know how or what to pray. This is okay. Just groan. The Holy Spirit will intercede through these, and conform us more into the likeness of Christ in the process.

An Appreciation for Sacrifices

Hello my friends, I hope your Memorial Day weekend may be a blessed, and filled with gratitude of the many men and women who gave their all for our benefit.

The summer of 2002 was the first time I had the privilege and opportunity to visit Washington DC. How unfortunate that our nation’s capital is more known for the dirtbags in offices making shady deals and building their bank accounts, rather than the graves and memorials to keep the remembrance of many heroes alive.

I was there for nearly a week. Each day was emotionally charged, as I was on the verge of tears nearly constantly. The Vietnam Memorial Wall is much bigger and longer than photographs can capture. I have two uncles who were in the Vietnam War. They never talk about the war, but I’m fortunate that I got to know them. Sadly, I passed by name after names, literally thousands engraved on the Wall, of uncles, dads, brothers, and sons of families who did not get to see them or know them. To see so many names engraved cannot be described. I still remember the older gentleman, whom I saw from a distance later, taking off his hat and bowing his head as he walked beside the Wall. 

I remember the statues of soldiers standing silently, yet crying out to remember the brave ones in the Korean War. And how can I forget the Arlington Cemetery and the somber Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers? Each of these memorials are reminders of persons, both living and dead, who made great sacrifices of which benefit others. 

During this week I realized everything I enjoy came at the sacrifice of others. My salvation came at the Sacrifice of the Savior who loves me so, and the sacrifices of many saints who continued to share and preserve the gospel and Scriptures. My freedom I’ve enjoyed comes at the expense of multitudes who have fought for it for, and before that sacrifices of some who sought a new land for a new beginning. Without any disrespect for the fallen, but only to honor the sacrifices of many. I think of my mom who worked and worried, sacrificing so much to raise me. I did not die for my salvation, or fight for my freedom, or raise myself by my own hard work and know-how. These came by the sacrifices of so many before me.

How shameful that so many in our society lack gratitude, let alone the showing of honor, for the many who made sacrifices for them. I hope you will not be among them. These persons deserving of our honor experienced sleepless nights, fear, nightmares, and pain many of us will never understand.

Rest In Peace, fallen heroes. You are  honored and not forgotten.

Unbelief Will Always Make a Reason to Not Believe

Hello my friends, I hope you have had a great week.

Have you ever studied Christian apologetics (the defense for the Christian faith)? Perhaps you have read C. S. Lewis’, Mere Christianity, Lee Strobel’s, The Case for Christ, or Josh McDowell’s, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Each of these books are quite beneficial, and I would encourage anyone who is having honest questions to read them. However, over the years I have found that most people do not wrestle so much with honest doubts as they do with stubborn unbelief. Generally the problem is not an intellectual one as much as it is a moral one.

Doubts and “timid faith” alike are accompanied with questions. One can observe these in Nicodemus’ dialogue with Jesus in John 3, or in John the Baptist’s questions for Jesus, as he sat in a cell awaiting execution (see Matt. 11:2-6), or the father who requested his son’s healing (see Mark 9:16-27). Stubborn unbelief is an altogether different beast. Unbelief rejects Christ, no matter the evidence, logic, or consequence. Unbelief holds tightly to its pride, position, power, or whatever else, so long as it does not bow itself to the authority of God. Unbelief will always make an excuse to reject Christ and the need for Him. Jesus rebukes the unbelief of the people of the day:

But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds. ~ Matthew 11:16-19

There are those who view Christians as being absurd for believing in an Almighty Creator, yet have no problem believing the universe mysteriously came into existence by chance. There are those who say they “will follow science where so ever it will lead,” yet ostracize scientists who, observing the amazing structure and order from the cosmos to the molecular, dare mention Intelligent Design (understand, ID is not the same thing as theism or Christianity); yet, those who reject even the notion of ID hold up evolution as fact, even though there isn’t any scientific evidence whatsoever to support it. Perhaps no one admits the reason for their unbelief any better than Aldous Huxley:

“I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. … For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.” [1]

Is this not the real reason for the majority of people’s rejection of God? Oh sure, most people, on the one hand, have asked honest questions about evil and such. The irony is most people also justify their own acts of evil. This is one of the great evils and hypocrisy of Communist regimes, they accuse religion as being the source of wars, all the while Communism is guilty of all kinds of unjust afflictions and killings of millions of people through starvation, sheer brutality, demented experiments, and social engineering. 

Many of Hollywood’s elites like to accuse Christian’s as being “stupid” and “dangerous.” Now, there are religious nut jobs out there, and there are hypocrites in churches. However, for those who have parents, grandparents, or siblings who truly love the Lord Jesus Christ, are these persons really stupid or dangerous? Do they get F’s in everything and are never successful? Are they the ones in the neighborhood everyone is afraid of, for fear of their lives? No, Hollywood‘s resentment towards God and Christianity has nothing to do with an intellectual issue. No, Hollywood’s is completely a moral one. And the same goes for godless politics. 

Unbelief desires autonomy, and will fight tooth and nail to keep it. Honest doubts and timid faith will listen to answers to their questions and consider them, and are willing to change. Unbelief declares along with Woody Allen, “The heart wants what the heart wants,” despite how despicable the affections.

God does not hide from people as much as people close their eyes to Him. We are given this promise:

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:13

Elsewhere we are told,

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. ~ Hebrews 1:1-3

God is not silent, but people just don’t want to hear. To many, the temporary pleasures of sin are not worth the life to be found in Christ. Jesus could stand before them, as He did the people of old, but unbelief will always make a reason to reject Him. There is nothing new under the sun.

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[1] Huxley, A., Ends and Means, 1937, pp. 270 ff. Retrieved from:

https://creation.com/aldous-huxley-admits-motive-for-anti-theistic-bias (accessed May 27, 2021).

Friend of Sinners or Doctor Among the Sick?

My friends, I hope you have been having a blessed week.

It is often said of Jesus that He was a “friend of sinners,” but what is meant by this? Does this mean Jesus had a table in a corner at a local saloon, toking on cigarettes and while guzzling down brews with the boys, and flirting with the “ladies” of the night? Did He have a big tattoo of the temple on His back or a Star of David on His arm? Is this what comes to your mind when you hear that Jesus was a “friend of sinners”? Such thinking is preposterous!

The title wasn’t necessarily a compliment. In fact, from some it was said with disgust. “He’s hanging out with them? How revolting.” Mind you, Jesus did not take this as an insult. The writer of Hebrews says of those who are sanctified by Christ, “he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (2:11).

But how did Jesus see such situations? Did He see Himself as just one of the boys, one of the homies of the gang? To those who saw themselves as morally superior to others and who were critical of the company Jesus kept, He said,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick … For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. ~ Matthew 9:12-13

When one goes to a doctor’s appointment, the doctor is not there to join in on the sicknesses, nor does he treat diseases as no big deal. He recognizes that those in his care are not healthy. Likewise with the Great Physician. Although He was to be seen with the sinners, He was not there joining in on their sins, nor did He treat their sins as of no consequence. Jesus recognized those around Him were extremely sick with sin. The prescription He gives is repentance—to turn from sin and to turn to Him.

My friends, each of us is infected with this virus called sin, and its symptoms are manifested in many ways: selfishness, pride, immorality, covetousness, lying, mean and belittling words, threats, violence, idolatry, laziness, partiality, etc. This disease is lethal. In fact, the Bible tells us that we were born into this world spiritually dead. Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world. ~ Ephesians 2:1-2

But our situation is not totally hopeless. In Jesus Christ we can have life.

He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. ~ John 8:23-25

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~ John 14:6

Some are turned off by Jesus’ exclusive claim. But if you were dying and a doctor said a certain pill or shot is your only chance of living, would you refuse it with such disgust? If, indeed, Jesus is the only way to Heaven (who else is like Him?), then why be offended for speaking truth? My friends, He offers Himself to you. If you do not know Him as your Savior and Lord, why do you continue to reject the One who loves you most?

When All Speak Well of You

Hello, my friends. It’s a beautiful, sunny day here. I hope you have been having a good week.

There is a peculiar thing that has transpired in our world when it comes to communication. Whether it concerns church, education, or politics people will note if a speaker is funny, offensive, tactful, mean, positive, negative, encouraging, depressing, entertaining, or boring. Often the speaker will be judged on these—but not on whether or not what he says is true

A well-known speaker (some call him a preacher, but he’s actually more of a motivational speaker) always gives light, warm fuzzy messages with humor and charm. Admittedly, he has a likable personality. After all, by his own admission, he doesn’t want to be negative. So, for a half hour or so he gives emotional head pats and belly rubs, but he will not give words the Holy Spirit can use to convict people of their sins so they can get right with God. In fact, he does not give clear instructions by which persons can be made right with God. To do so would be offensive to some, and this is negative.

Another falsely so-called “pastor” is a woman who is not quite as well known. With a foul mouth, she has acknowledged that her ambition is to destroy traditional teachings of purity, claiming its “oppressive” to people’s sexuality (she totally dismisses everything in the New Testament calling people toward purity and temperance). So committed to her cause, she encouraged persons to send her their purity rings (in return, they each received a “Certificate of Impurity”), and these rings were melted and then formed into a vagina sculpture to be presented to the pro-abortion feminist Gloria Steinem. Of course this received applause. She teaches you can have salvation and your sins simultaneously. However, the Bible does not teach this whatsoever. 

Someone recently commented on my last post, saying it was “too negative.” History supports what I wrote, but so many do not care about this. They just want words that make them feel good. But I want to caution men and women who profess to be followers of Christ. The Gospel message has nothing to do with giving people what they want but what they need. Just like going to see the doctor, as much as we want to hear that everything is fine, it would be malpractice to say everything is fine (just to be “positive”) if the truth is our bodies are being destroyed by cancer.

Jesus warns us sternly,

Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. ~ Luke 6:26

The majority of the prophets of God were not viewed as heroes of the day. Many of them were despised, persecuted, and sometimes even killed. For just like people today, the people then didn’t like men of God condemning their idolatry, immorality, greed, or injustices. The people didn’t like being taught about God’s holiness or judgment any more than people today. 

We are also warned,

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4

My friends, where do you stand as a speaker or listener. The masses will adore those who can get them to laugh and enjoy their sins and tell them they do not stand guilty before God. What about your listening? Do you dismiss anything that makes you feel uncomfortable? 

Friend, what a tragic thing if all you have in the end is some fleeting laughs and emotional massages, but you reject the Gospel of Christ, the only means of salvation, because you thought it to be too negative. Also tragic is if you gain the approval and applause of people but not of God.

Is Persecution Coming?

Hello, friends. I hope this article finds you well. The subject is an uncomfortable one, but Christians need to stop ignoring it. The threat of persecution is growing, as is hostility towards Christians. Is our faith in, and love for, Christ able to endure?

Jesus says for the final Beatitude,

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. ~ Matthew 5:10-11

It is important to note the distinction Jesus is making. Simply being persecuted does not bring about blessing. Rather, being persecuted for righteousness’ sake and on account of Jesus. It is true, to follow Christ will invite persecution, but so will being a jerk. It is important that we know the difference. If you are disliked at work because you are arrogant and rude, don’t blame such ostracizing on the Christian faith. Such “persecution” has nothing to do with faith. No one likes a jerk.

However, there is a flip side. Several years ago a book was released, entitled, They Like Jesus but Not the Church. This is a catchy title, but it’s simply not true. It is true that many people are turned off by the hypocrisy in churches, but this is merely an excuse for not following Jesus Christ. Jesus never calls people to follow His followers. No, He calls persons to follow after Him.  Using the hypocrisies in the church for an excuse to not follow Christ is an understanding one, just not an honest or acceptable one.

Jesus tells us plainly,

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ~ John 15:18-19

[The world] hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. ~ 7:7

Following and surrendering to Christ has nothing to do with the church, but everything to do with one’s desire for Christ and His love. Many persons are familiar with John 3:16. However, after this Jesus says,

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. ~ John 3:18-19

Many churches and believers have tried to befriend the world at the expense of godly conviction and true biblical teaching. But when push comes to shove, they will be loyal either to Christ or the world. If Christ, they will be persecuted by the very ones they sought to befriend.

We are told, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). An example that comes to mind is Tim Tebow. Here is a man who conducts himself with class and dignity, one who is very consistent in his Christian walk, and one who does not bad mouth others. Yet, the media loves to slam this man. Why? What wrong has he done? 

Yet, I want to move on to even more serious aspects. There is an ever growing acceptance of Marxist ideas (socialism) in America, both in Washington and academia. What is more astonishing to me, however, is how many who profess the name of Christ are supportive of individuals who hold to such ideas. But mark my words, as Marxist ideas become increasingly rooted, Christians will reap the fruit of intense persecution.  Karl Marx (followed by men such as Nietzsche) was an angry individual who held to a hatred of Christianity (and humanity), and this is made evident wherever socialism/communism rises to power.

At this point, some will accuse Christianity of the same, bringing up the Roman Catholic Church and the Crusades. This must not be ignored, but there also must be understanding. Many of the Popes (including the present one, I dare say, who is in league with those holding Marxist ideas and occultic New Agers in quest for the New World Order, which is anti-Christ at its core) were/are godless men who love and abuse power. In fact, many genuine Christians were tortured and killed under their regimes. As for the Crusaders, many of whom were godless, worthless fellows who delighted in cruelty. These men were not Christians in any sense of the word. 

So, is persecution coming? I believe it is not a matter of if, at this point, but when. Part of this, I believe, revolves around God’s judgment, first of society and its immersion in sin, but also the modern church for its own compliance with and complacency. 

In Romans, chapter 1, Paul discusses three levels of judgment that can come to a people. First, God gives people over to their open and accepted immorality. 

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. ~ Romans 1:24-25

Next comes when God gives people over to practice their desire for homosexuality and other unnatural passions.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. ~ Romans 1:26-27

Third, God gives people over to their acceptance and approval of sins of all kinds. 

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. ~ Romans 1:28-32

Are we not seeing this happening in our own society as what is evil is called good, and what is good is mocked and called evil. What will eventually happen, just as it did with the fall of Rome, is Christians will be blamed for the collapse and chaos. We are seeing this even now as some are teaching that Christian ideas, the Bible, and prayer are “dangerous.” Society will use Christians as a scapegoat, denying that it is their own lusts, greed, idolatry, and violence that brought the chaos (Augustine writes about this in his work, The City of God).

I believe the writing is on the wall. If the course we are on does not change, then we are going to face real persecution. Are we ready? Our attendance to cool worship services will not sustain us, but only a genuine faith in Jesus Christ and the filling of His Holy Spirit. As it is, we can continue to play religious games, but if persecution comes then such games are going to stop. Persecution will reveal what we are made of.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~ Matthew 5:12

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Hello, my friends, I hope your week may be off on a good start and finish likewise. In my last post I was talking about the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. I am continuing on the subject.

The Beatitudes of which Jesus teaches are an internal, progressive work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. After all, by nature we are not meek, pure in heart, or merciful. We do not hunger and thirst for righteousness or mourn over sin. The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes, which require the inner working of the Holy Spirit, because only when these are activated within a person can the rest of the teachings begin being applied. Understand, Jesus’ teachings are not a list of do’s and don’ts to try to live by. Jesus is not interested in religious behavior. No, He is interested in redemption and transformation. And these we are completely dependent on Him and His Spirit, for we cannot accomplish these.

In the second Beatitude Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Some translations read, “Happy are those who mourn,” but I think the word favorable is more accurate than happy. In any case, what is Jesus saying, that it’s good for people to be sad? No, not quite. He is building upon the first Beatitude, which is “blessed are the poor in spirit.” The poor in Spirit are those who recognize they are completely incapable of paying their sin debt before God, that no amount of “good deeds” can cancel their guilt before God. Those who mourn are those who recognize the wickedness of their sins and are not only remorseful, but repentant before the Lord. Such persons will be comforted because these are the ones who will find mercy and justification. A prime example of this can be seen in Jesus’ following parable:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. ~ Luke 18:9-14

Three unfortunate, yet all too common, responses to sin—even in modern Evangelicalism—are to get angry when someone exposes our sins, to simply deny the sinfulness and seriousness of sins, or deflect in order to expose others’ sins to get attention off of ours. Sadly, all three of these inappropriate responses are representative of many churches. 

The first response can be seen in those who get upset with the pastor, “Preacher, you went from preaching to meddling! How dare you!” The second response can be seen in statements like, “Everybody is welcomed here! God loves you as you are!” No, God does not love us as we are. He loves us, yes; but He hates our selfishness, meanness, pride, immorality, hatred, etc. Then the third response is all too common in conservative churches, as the sins of society are highlighted and condemned, while all the pride, hypocrisy, partiality, division, anger, and the like are ignored in the lives of the “faithful.”

Is it not strange how easily sin can be detected in others but not ourselves? And when it is our sin, well, we have a justifiable reason (whereas others do not). For example, one’s child comes home from school with a bad attitude. How dare they behave that way! Yet, Dad comes home and slams the door, kicks the dog, and yells at his wife. “Well, I had a bad day,” he says. As if children do not? Young people today face a lot of stress triggers that didn’t exist when I was in school. At a deeper level, persons can judge the various behaviors of society, all the while ignore the arrogance, apathy, greed, lust, and hypocrisy swirling around within their own hearts.

When I was a child, I remember times getting in trouble with friends or family. “What about them?” I would ask. “You are in trouble for what you did,” I’d be told. In Jesus’ parable, notice the Pharisee’s deflection. “God, thank you I’m not like sinners, but I tithe and ….” But elsewhere, Jesus says of the Pharisees,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others…. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. ~ Matthew 23:23, 27-28

But notice the response of the tax collector in Jesus’ parable. He did not observe the Pharisee’s hypocrisies and such, nor did he mention the sins of others. However, he was very aware of his own sins, and was grieving over them. He could not even lift His eyes, but simply looked down while beating his chest, saying, “God, forgive me, a sinner.”

As Christians, we can all too easily decry the sins of society, but what has happened to our mourning over sin—our sins? How can we curse the darkness if we are guilty of blowing out our candles? 

At a personal level, God will deal with others and their sins in His own time. But the Lord asks of me, “Geno, what about your anger, unkind words, and those sinful thoughts entertained in your head? What about your own lack of compassion and laziness when some things could be done?”

Why are we afraid of the Lord’s light exposing us and our sin when He offers forgiveness? Yet, you and I need to take the Lord’s teachings seriously. We are not justified in decrying everyone else’s sins. We find comfort and justification only by turning to Him, and dealing honestly with our own sins. If we would return to genuinely mourning over our own sins, we could maybe see real revival throughout our land.