Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Witnessing to the Power of God

“The next generation will either see the power of God working in their lives in real, tangible ways, or they’ll have no use for our message and no interest in following our Savior.” Nicky Cruz. You may not be familiar with the name, Nicky Cruz, but perhaps you remember the book and movie entitled, The Sword and the Switchblade.  Back in the late 1950’s a young pastor named Dave Wilkerson felt God calling him from his small Pennsylvania home to the gritty streets of New York City. In that foreign environment, he came into contact with the spiritually hardened, socially maladjusted and just plain dangerous gang members of whom Nicky Cruz was the worst. “Cruz was born in Las Piedras, Puerto Rico where he was raised by his parents. His parents practiced brujeria (witchcraft) and were followers of spiritism ("espiritismo"). They mentally abused him; his own mother would call him "Son of Satan". The neighborhood in which he lived was one of the worst in Puerto Rico and Cruz was always getting into trouble. According to his book Run Baby Run, his parents sent him to live with his brother in New York City when he was 15, and Cruz soon ran away and started living on the streets of the city. He became a member of the Mau-Mau street gang, and about six months later Cruz was elected Warlord of the gang. He quickly rose to be their leader.” Wikipedia.

It certainly didn’t happen overnight, but Nicky became a Christian, and to this day, at age 74, remains a powerful influence for Christ.  I’ll let you read the short book, or watch the film to find out the rest of the details, but for today, let’s analyze this quote.  We live in a power obsessed culture.  From our cell phones, cars, and even home appliances, we demand the utmost in power. If it’s too slow, we upgrade. If there aren’t enough cool features, we feel left out, and inadequate.  My 9 year old grandson has a cell phone, and is an expert texter.  He also is familiar with the operation of video game devices and any kind of remote control known to man.  Most kids I know exhibit this same expertise, and when asked where the greatest power in the universe lies, my bet is many will answer technology or the internet.  And why not, it’s awesome, tangibly present and makes a big difference in their everyday lives.  Now, ask a member of the next generation how much power they think God has.  Sure, there will be those who answer that he is omnipotent, because that’s what they have been told, but how many of them, and we as adults included, have witnessed that power?

 The point Nicky is trying to make is, that if this next generation continues to put all it’s stock in the power of technology, and never sees the supernatural power of God in action, they will become hardened, disinterested and will see no purpose in a relationship with our Savior.  Cell phones, the internet and games will be on the throne instead of God. We may very well be the last generation of believers, and that is frightening. How can we turn this ship around?  It begins with showing enthusiasm for the things of God.  Think about it, when’s the last time you couldn’t wait to tell your kids, or anyone, about something you learned in church, or in Bible study?  Have you witnessed a miracle, or been involved in a power-filled incident?  If you have, share it, talk about God in a natural way all the time, like we do with sports teams or hobbies…we are certainly enthusiastic about those things.  So why not be hyped up about the Lord? Perhaps you don’t have the enthusiasm it takes, then I suggest you ask God to give it to you, and do it fast.  Impressionable minds and lives won’t be teachable forever.  They must personally witness His power now, and then choose it for themselves, or reject it for eternity.
“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.” Ephesians 1:19.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Where's the Beef?

“Where’s the Beef?”  OK, who remembers Clara Peller, the little old lady who, in 1984, turned this statement into advertising gold for Wendy’s? If you recall the commercial, she orders a hamburger, but what she receives is a giant bun with only a tiny amount of meat. Feeling gypped, she blurts out this now famous  response.  It was hilarious, and people where using the phrase in all sorts of situations back then.  I think 2013 would be a great time to revive that old line, but this time, instead of skimpy burgers, I’d apply it to skimpy Biblical teaching found in many churches.

 In this “enlightened” age, so much of our focus has shifted from bible study, which is essential for equipping believers, to politically correct, good deed doing, social gatherings. When it’s hard to tell the church from the Rotary club, we have a problem. The primary function of the church, as the physical representative of Christ on Earth, is to continue the work he began. “So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.” Colossians 1:28  Even more than that, Jesus told us, before he ascended, that we would not only be doing what he had done, but far more! "I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” John 14:12.

When I study the scriptures, I see an excitement in the church about learning and serving God.  And why wouldn’t there be, exciting stuff was happening…healings, casting out of demons, and ordinary lives becoming extraordinary.  What made the difference?  They knew that God-authorized power was a promise, and they claimed it for themselves, it was the BEEF, and they hungered for more of it! Read the book of Acts, if you don’t believe me. That’s the kind of empowerment/beef we need! I think that we have become too accustomed to filler, we don’t even know what real beef tastes like anymore, and it’s all topped off with an enormous bun.  Today I stand with Clara Peller and yell “Where’s the Beef?”  Who’s with me?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Blessed Assurance

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. Frances J. Crosby 1873

You don’t hear this old song very much anymore, but oh what a valuable lesson it teaches us.  Once we accept Christ, as our Lord and Savior, there is nothing else we need to do, in terms of attaining salvation.  Neither charitable works, nor obligatory church attendance can gain for us what Jesus did, grace.  And yet, every once in a while, I’ll hear somebody say, “How do we know if we’ve been good enough to get into heaven?” The answer is, we can never be good enough.  “No one does good, not a single one.” Romans 3:12.

 It breaks my heart to think that there are folks out there, who belong to Christian churches, and still don’t have this blessed assurance.  They are  constantly fretting over their good deed lists, and beating themselves up if they miss church, as if God is going to rescind his promise.  Why?  The very basis of our faith should be the assurance that we have through Christ’s sacrifice, that our sins are forgiven and salvation is secured; FOREVER! We can not buy or earn it with works. “When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.” Romans 4:4-5.

In my own life, the day I made the choice to accept Jesus, was a day that is forever emblazoned on my heart, and in my memory.  At that point of acceptance and belief,  I knew that my future was secured, and in almost 40 years I have never had any doubts. I became an Heir of Salvation, my future was assured.  Even when I mess up, I don’t worry about losing my place, I’m an heir, purchased by God and I have the receipt written in His blood to prove it.  

back to the reason for the doubt that some folks experience.  It is my opinion, that there must be a recallable time,  when you, not your parents, or anyone else, made a personal commitment to Christ. Unless you have experienced it, you can’t truly take ownership of his gift.  It’s impossible to claim the promise for yourself if your faith is merely a hand-me-down. It must be decided by you, and only after careful study, prayer and inquiry. It is, after all, a choice.  The promise, to all who choose him, is life eternal…there are no strings or doubts attached, check it out for yourselves! “This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God--who does not lie--promised them before the world began. Titus 1:2

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Angel Q & A

Before I head in another direction, I want to address a couple of common questions many of us may have regarding angels.
1.  Are we to pray to angels?  NO, not to angels, dead relatives or any other person, no matter how great they were on earth.  “…“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.  Direct your requests to the one who alone has the power to respond…GOD!
2. When someone dies, do they become an angel? NO.  Angels are God-created beings, who, as we have seen, have specific duties. We are humans, created in the image of God, and endowed with earthly attributes. When we die, our souls go to heaven, and in later, at the rapture, they will be reunited with our perfected earthly bodies.  “…what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet…” Psalm 8:4-6.
3. Do we have guardian angels?  I believe that we have,  “For the Scriptures say, 'He will order his angels to protect and guard you.” Luke 4:10.  “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:14.  It appears that these protecting forces are reserved for believers only, and how they operate precisely is not fully disclosed.  But they are available to all who will inherit salvation.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “Satan is Not an Atheist”.  The fact is, once upon a time, Satan was Lucifer, God’s favorite angel, until he wanted to be God and was cast down to earth along with his entourage of disobedient angels. “You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God,
and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.” Ezekiel 28:14-16.
If, the enemy of our souls, fully believes in angels, how foolish it would be of us not to acknowledge their existence, and the roles they play in our lives.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spiritual Battles

Have you ever wondered why certain prayers take so long to be answered?  Well duh, of course you have, who hasn’t?  God has his  reasons, and they are not always understood by us.  As one wise woman once told me, he responds in one of three ways; Yes, No and Not Now.  That is true, but there are other, celestial impediments.

 In talking about the duties of Angels, I mentioned recently that they bring us messages, and answers to our prayers. So why the hold up?  In this uber-technological age, we expect, even demand, that our messages, emails, and texts be sent and replied to immediately.  The words Waiting, Patience and Perseverance are not in most of our vocabularies. Back in the book of Daniel, where the physical description of Angels was detailed, we also read why Daniel’s prayer answer was delayed for 21 days.  As you recall, Daniel had been earnestly seeking God, never faltering, or giving up in frustration, when the angel appeared to him.  When we last saw Daniel he was overcome by the sight of this heavenly being, and had fallen on his face.  Here then is the Angel’s response to this precious man. “Just then a hand touched me and lifted me, still trembling, to my hands and knees. And the man said to me, ‘Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.’ When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling. Then he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.’ Daniel 10:10-14.

 Did you catch what happened here?  The angel not only physically comforted Daniel, but he reassured him that his prayer had been heard by God, and acted upon, from day one!   So why the delay?  Look carefully at the text, the angel’s progress was impeded by a demonic force, the spirit prince of Persia.  Only after the archangel, Michael, was called in to do battle with the spirit, did the angel resume his delivery.  Wow!!  Spiritual battles being fought over our prayer requests!!  In Daniel’s case, the answer was going to effect world events, so of course Satan had to employ his henchmen to keep that from occurring.  The knowledge that each and every one of our prayers reaches the throne of God, as we pray them, should encourage us to persevere.  The answer may very well be held up on the battlefield.  Satan knows that each answered prayer lessens his hold on human souls, while reinforcing the absolute authority and presence of God. So, in addition to your request, pray for the responding angel, that he may be victorious against our enemies, in a timely manner.  How awesome is our God!!  Keep on praying…the enemy hates it!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Yes Virginia, There Are Angels!

Angels, what does the word conjure up in your mind.  The Hallmark version would have us think they are plump babies with flowery halos and gossamer wings; beautiful women smiling shyly as they sit on clouds, playing golden harps; or any of your deceased relatives, who have now joined the leagues of winged harp players? Hollywood seems to think they are either the bumbling sort, like Clarence in A Wonderful Life, who was trying his darndest to the earn his wings, or John Travolta showing us a lusty, dancing  rendition.  Guess what, none of these are correct!  Did you realize that scripture talks about these celestial beings in 273 references. In fact, there are actually 9 orders of angels: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels.

 Today I’d like to talk about the group we are most familiar with, Angels, or are we?  The old testament book of Daniel gives us the most concise description.  “On April 23, as I was standing on the bank of the great Tigris River, I looked up and saw a man dressed in linen clothing, with a belt of pure gold around his waist. His body looked like a precious gem. His face flashed like lightning, and his eyes flamed like torches. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and his voice roared like a vast multitude of people. Only I, Daniel, saw this vision. The men with me saw nothing, but they were suddenly terrified and ran away to hide. So I was left there all alone to see this amazing vision. My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I felt very weak. Then I heard the man speak, and when I heard the sound of his voice, I fainted and lay there with my face to the ground. ‘ Daniel 10:4-9.  Daniel had been praying and fasting for 3 weeks, waiting for God’s answer, when this Heaven-sent being appears to him.  It is well to point out that Angels are not, nor ever have been human, they are God-created creatures who serve as God’s messengers.  Think back to Abraham, Mary and Joseph to name a few.  When we pray, our requests are carried to God’s throne, and presented to Him in golden bowls, “…gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God's people.” Revelation 5:8.  Now let’s turn our attention to the physical appearance of the angel Daniel describes.  #1 He is a grown Man, not a woman or a child.  #2. His whole countenance, not only his clothing, is bright white, flashing like lightning and torches, and around his waist he wears pure gold, befitting one who lives in the presence of the Almighty. #3. He exhibits strength with arms and legs that are like polished bronze.  #4.  Finally he gets your attention with a booming, commanding voice.

This is the kind of angel I want watching my back, and after I pick myself up off my face, I‘ll tell him that!! Which is the same reaction Daniel had, in fact his frightened buddies left him all alone, pale and woozy.  Not all angels appeared in this fashion, some even show up like this, “Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Hebrews 13:2.  The fact is, angels do exist, and hopefully this opens your eyes to what they are like, and what God has created them for.   Stay tuned for more on these amazing beings!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Battle Belongs to God

Some of you may be familiar with this story, in the book of 2 Chronicles, of an impending, one-sided battle. Jehoshaphat, the king of Israel, had been alerted by his spies, that a vast army was approaching.  The terrified monarch, and everyone else, was savvy enough to know that they were out numbered, and defeat was imminent.  Wisely, the king gathered all the people, humbled himself before the Lord, and asked for His guidance as he prayed like he’d never prayed before.  “O LORD, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you!….We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’ At the end of his impassioned plea, as they stood waiting for God, the Spirit of the LORD came upon one of the men standing there. He said, "Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid! Don't be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God's. 2 Chronicles 20:15.

As the story continues, the people kept praying, fasting, worshiping and trusting God, in spite of overwhelming odds.  As they approached the battle field, singing “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever“, God set ambushes for the enemy.  As it turned out, their foes wound up attacking and killing each other, proving that the battle did indeed belong to God. The Spirit of prophecy had come upon a Levite in the midst of the congregation. The Spirit, like the wind, blows where and on whom He chooses. He encouraged them to trust in God. We, as Christian soldiers have been equipped to go out against our spiritual enemies, and the God of peace will make us more than conquerors. “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Romans 8:37. Rest assured, we will all face battles where we are the underdog, but our trials will prove our gain, if we remember that God‘s effort, not

ours will secure the victory 

. The advantage will be all our own, but the whole glory must always be given to God.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Great Conductor

Some time ago, I shared with you a little bit about my grandfather, Sam Heggen.  He was a character, to say the least, but what I want to tell you about today is the awesome position he held, in New York City during the early 1920’s. From this caricature you can see he was a musician, but more than that, an orchestra conductor in a famous Vaudeville  theater.  It was he who coordinated the music to accompany the performers‘ acts, the likes of whom were, Jack Benny, Bob Hope and Eddie Foy. Oh the stories he and my grandmother would tell about those folks, speak easies and opium dens.  It really was the Roaring Twenties.

But, I digress, the point I want to make is the importance of the conductor.  If you've ever attended a musical, or a concert, there is that time, before the show begins, when the musicians warm up.  The cacophony that results assaults the ears, but then the conductor steps forth regally, baton in hand and takes his rightful place in front.  The noise ceases, and all eyes are immediately fixed on him. As he raises his baton, the musicians ready themselves, then with a swift movement of that small stick, the grating sound magically becomes a melodious symphony.

In a very similar way, we, without God, are those screechy musicians.  Everyone tooting, fiddling, plunking keys and strumming to their own sheet music. Not that we don’t have talent, but it’s talent without direction, which is just as bad.  When God offers us a place in his orchestra, as he does for everyone, our lonely squawk joins with all those other squawkers, and turns into a performance  worthy of Carnegie Hall. An orchestra can only have one conductor, two would prove to be chaos.  It is impossible to give our attention to two conductors/masters.  “No one can serve two masters.” Matthew 6:24.

To whom are you looking for direction?  The world, the media, other people or the Creator/Conductor of the Universe?    “Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing.” 1 Kings 18:21. We, like the people that the prophet Elijah spoke to, must speak up and make that decision, or risk living in inharmonious anarchy. Let’s choose to make beautiful music together, as we keep our eyes on the Great Conductor.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Quarterly Review

Not too long ago I was reading an article written by a man who had served as an officer in the military. One of his assignments was to monitor the work and behavior of the young soldiers who were under his command. Quarterly, he prepared progress reports, then met with the individuals to review his findings with them. The purpose was to encourage those who were working up to, and above, the job requirements, and motivate those who were not. Later in his life, this man became a Christian, and was reminded of those progress reports. “Wouldn’t it be great“, he thought, “if God would call us all in for a personal performance review.”

Don’t you wonder, or am I the only one, if you are working up to your potential in the Kingdom of God? Imagine, for a moment, that you are sitting in God’s waiting room, the big, heavy door to his office opens, and the last review”ee” emerges. You try to catch a glimpse of their facial expression in an attempt to see how the meeting went. Where there tears, or a beaming smile? Did they turn and casually wave goodbye, or did they depart in silence, head down? Gulp!! God calls you in, and beckons you to sit in the worn leather chair across from his desk. He picks up your file, briefly peruses it, before turning His attention to you. Double gulp!! What is going through your mind, as you sit face to face with your Creator? I’m sure we’d all experience a brief moment of panic, fearing that SLACKER had been stamped in bold red letters on the top sheet. He smiles broadly as he reaches out to shake your hand, putting you immediately at ease. He makes himself comfortable as he returns his attention to your folder. 

So, what makes for an A+ review? Does God grade on the curve, I hope? I think, like any boss, he is looking for willing, enthusiastic workers. “Work willingly at whatever you do, ….” Colossians 3:23. In addition, he checks to see if we are adhering to the guidelines he has set out, or wandering off on our own. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” Proverbs 3:5 Is there a joyfulness in the way we work, or are we just putting in the time? Are we assisting co-workers, and non-co-workers, or do we stay cooped up in our cubicles? “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” Acts 5:42. It is my belief, from what I read in scripture, that God wants to encourage us, not belittle; discipline, but not break our spirits. He has proven himself to be a fair, loving taskmaster who longs only to brings out the best in us…let him.

The good news is, there is no quarterly review; the bad news is, there is no quarterly review! But one day there will, so become intimately acquainted with what’s contained in his work manual, and job descriptions stated there in. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8. Did I mention that working for God has benefits that are “out of this world”. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Representing Jesus, not the "Church"

While driving to an appointment, recently, I was listening to a call-in, religious, radio program.  A pastor was fielding questions, when this query came in.  The caller asked if it was morally acceptable to attend the wedding ,of a close cousin, who was marrying a woman outside of the denomination he was raised in.  You could hear the angst in the questioner’s voice, she really wanted to go, but also wanted the approval of her church before deciding.  I was shocked when the pastor replied that it was not only wrong, but sinful to go to either the ceremony or the reception.  He went on to say that the wayward cousin had to be made aware that what he was doing was out of God’s will, and by not attending he would get the point. Hmmm.  I don’t know about you, but I disagreed…a lot!!!   For me, the action seemed so unlike Jesus, and so much like man trying to act in Jesus‘ stead.

Why do we feel so responsible for judging other peoples lifestyle choices?  Are any of us that perfect?  Now let’s think about the future results of this harsh decision.  When the groom looks out, on his wedding day, at the congregation, his eyes searching for loving family members, he sees no one there to support, and rejoice with him.  How do you think that will make him feel?  And what about afterwards, that first family reunion will be a cool one indeed, if he and his bride attend at all. Additionally, I can’t imagine that he will be returning to his childhood church.  I was reminded of the reaction of some religious people to Jesus when he invited himself to the home of Zacchaeus. “A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” Luke 19:2-7.  All they could see was the sinner, not the man eagerly seeking a savior. And what about the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, the woman caught in adultery, or the Samaritan woman he met at the well?

 Those scenes all caused considerable tongue wagging, as we know, but Jesus held out his hand in love and friendship. That is not to say that he approved or condoned their lifestyles, but when they chose to believe in him, they all changed, of their own accord, without the condemnation of “righteous, churchy folk”. Obviously we shouldn’t partake in ungodly ceremonies or situations, and believe me God will let you know what those are if you inquire!  But please remember, we may be the only Jesus some will ever encounter, so let’s represent him as he really is.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fearless in the Face of Terror

I was alerted, by a FB post yesterday 4/15/13, that there had been an explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  It has since been confirmed that it was intentional, and not an accident.  More details will be coming to the surface, as the hours pass, but one thing is for sure, someone or some organization wanted to make a statement.  How sad.  There are so many ways to deliver a message in these enlightened times.  We can call, text, tweet, email, or Face Book to name a few, none of which involve blowing people and property up. So why then do some feel compelled to grab attention in this heinous way?

 Terrorism is nothing new.  Jeremiah, in 6:25,  had this to say, “Do not go out into the field And do not walk on the road, For the enemy has a sword, Terror is on every side.”  People running that race today had no idea what was awaiting them, and quite honestly, neither do we, as followers of Christ, on a daily basis.  Does that mean we must  hole up in our basements, quivering in fear?  I hope not. However, the enemy would love that.  Being able to instill fear always gives our foe the upper hand. While we as Christians shouldn’t be foolishly entering into spiritual danger zones, we must constantly be aware, and prepared for the possibility of  them manifesting. Every runner, in that elite race, had trained diligently for weeks in an effort to be in the best shape possible.  I‘m sure they had concerns about fatigue, shin splints and blisters, but I‘ll bet fear wasn‘t on their list, and yet many had to stop, failing to cross the finish line!

God is raising us all up to be ready; as fearless champions, always prepared and focusing on the finish line, despite the setbacks, and terrors that will appear.  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7. So, be of good faith, and keep on running the good race! However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace. Acts 20:24.

Monday, April 15, 2013


The apostle Paul called himself God’s ambassador, what did he mean by that? Well, in  dictionary terms it’s a diplomatic official of the highest rank, sent by one sovereign or state to another as its resident representative, or an authorized messenger or representative. I like that.  Though we may never represent the USA, as an official diplomat, every time we set foot on foreign soil we are, in effect, ambassadors.  I know that when we travel, people are always asking us questions about life, politics, the economy etc. in America. We love, and are proud of our country, mostly,  so to share our experiences is a joy and a privilege. So then, as Christians, we, along with Paul, are authorized representatives of our Father’s sovereign state.  Did you realize that?

 Even if you never leave your hometown, it is your awesome job to share with those living on “foreign soil” the wonders and benefits of citizenship in His country.  Paul was often persecuted, and under house arrest, but it didn’t stop him from enthusiastically elaborating on the good news. “And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God's mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God's ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.” Ephesians 6:20.

 So, what’s stopping you?  Chains, fear, lack of wisdom, blah, blah, blah?  Get over it, you are an Ambassador, be proud of your citizenship, and represent it with joy!!!  “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God's holy people. You are members of God's family.” Ephesians 2:19.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

God in a Foxhole

Reverend William T. Cummings, who served at Bataan, is famous for declaring
“ There are no atheists in foxholes.” William Thomas Cummings (1924 - 2006) was a liberal Christian clergyman and long-time peace activist with international stature. A variation on this quote came from Chaplain F.W. Lawson of the 302nd Machine Gun Battalion, who was wounded twice in wartime, and declared "I doubt if there is such a thing as an atheist. At least there isn't in a front line trench." In addition, Henry More wrote: "In agony or danger, no nature is atheist. The mind that knows not what to fly to, flies to God."  On the other hand, the organization Freedom from Religion claimed that there are atheists in foxholes;  leader Anne Nicol Gayler has said “The membership of the Freedom From Religion Foundation includes many veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam." The Military Religious Freedom Foundation represents self-declared atheists in the US military, many of whom have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
In recent years the organization Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers has taken up use of the slogan "Atheists in Foxholes" as a list of those men and women who serve the country while lacking a belief in a god.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons, for dismissing the existence of God, is that most people have life too good.  Few of us will ever find ourselves hunkered down in a foxhole, or fighting in man to man combat, even though some days it feels like we do. Agony and extreme danger usually don’t find their way into our lives, but that doesn’t mean they won’t. As Christians we remember how Jesus himself suffered in the garden, “He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.”  Luke 22:44.  Instead of denying or giving up on God, he drew closer.  Can we say the same?  And what about those unbelievers?   It is human nature to seek out physical and emotional support in times of distress, because that’s how our Creator made us. I love that line about flying to God, when we don’t know where else to go. Staring death in the eye, without the hope of Heaven is a bleak proposition indeed, compared to the joy of flying into eternity.

Who knows how many foxhole conversions there have been; quite a few I’d guess, after all what would you have to lose!  If after my last breath there is nothing else, like the atheists say, I won’t regret a moment of my life in Christ. Don’t wait for a horrific event to make your mind up about God, or worse yet, be like Job‘s wife who told her husband to curse God and die.  Rather be like the psalmist when he said, “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10.

Friday, April 12, 2013

No Grace in Stupid

“There is no grace in stupid.” Karli Zerrusen Feldhake.  My daughter came up with this very wise statement, while discussing the use of this word.  To label anyone, or anything stupid, is always harsh and demeaning, but it is especially cruel when it is uttered by Christians of one denomination describing Christians of another.   While disagreements on doctrine, traditions etc. are bound to arise, to call the differences, or the people, stupid is unbefitting behavior for a child of God. Let‘s say that I invited a person to my house for a meal.
 If said guest used the wrong fork for the salad, or made some other etiquette faux pas, it would be rude to point it out, giggle or mock his behavior.  Perhaps that‘s how he was taught at home, and while not up to Emily Post‘s standards, ridicule won‘t change him, it will only make him avoid me.  In a similar way, churches hold different opinions on baptism, communion, worship styles etc., based on how they interpret the Bible. One of the first questions I’ll have for God, when I get to heaven, is why he left the scriptures so open to various interpretations, when unity was his goal.  Personally, I think he loves the creativity we display in our forms of honoring and worshiping him.  Is there any stupid way to worship God?  Is there any stupid picture that your kids or grandkids draw for you?

How we worship, should always be scripturally based, but the “colors” and media we use will vary….how neat is that! Therefore, our words should be encouraging, edifying and enlightening, and filled with grace, especially to brothers and sisters in Christ. If we see another Christian, worshiping in a way we want to label as stupid, hold off on employing that word.  Instead, ask God to show you if it is indeed lacking in Biblical truth, and only then, lovingly approach the subject, allowing his Holy Spirit to guide your conversation. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6.  I hope you will stop and think before you’re ever tempted to use this ugly word, and remember there is no grace in stupid.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


When I was a kid, my sisters and I happened to pass by a store that was giving stuff away, FREE!! Sure, the items weren’t in the best condition, since there had been a fire in the building, but did I mention it was all FREE???  We eagerly filled our damp paper bags with anything that looked salvageable, lugging the smoky-smelling treasures home. My mother disagreed on their value, as I recall.  We couldn’t wait to tell all our friends about the Free Store.  Sadly for all of them, the shop locked its doors soon thereafter.  To this day, my family still reminisces about that wonderful day!  Which leads me to another wonderful, Free day, the day I accepted Christ.  I’d passed by the “Jesus Store” all my life, never really taking the time to actually go in the store, or even notice the sign that said everything was FREE. Luckily for me, someone who had gone in, and had come out with all kinds of amazing things, told me about it.  Yeah, I was skeptical, at first, but when I saw all that great stuff in person, I knew I had to overcome my doubts and venture in.  No one can make you accept the free gift He offers, it is for each of us a very personal choice.  I’m so grateful to that person who told me about Jesus, and that’s why I’m telling all the world that His Free Store is open for business, but it won‘t be forever.  Without his gift of salvation, we are all destined to receive what we deserve; death and separation from God for eternity. If you haven’t acted on that life-changing offer yet, why not?  And if you have, do everything you can to spread the good news!!  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23