Monday, September 25, 2017

It's Happening For A Reason

We are mortal and limited in our understanding of life. For this reason, we tend to react and think only in real time. What I mean by that is, if something happens to us in the present, we respond accordingly. God, however, thinks very differently.

If a tragedy befalls us, it almost always comes unexpectedly; that is because we cannot see the future. On the other hand, our Lord and Protector is not subject to our limitations. The bible says, God knew us before we were even born. If this is true, He also knows every mistake we will make and every hardship we will endure, before they even happen. 

When we are in a very painful situation, we pray for strength and deliverance. While we wait for an answer to our prayers, oftentimes it can seem like God will never respond. In fact, it may seem like He can't even hear us. The truth is, God made a solution before our problem even existed.

So then, if God created our solution before we were even born, then He also knew about our painful ordeals in advance. Why does He still let them happen? That varies for each individual. We are all unique creatures with unique problems. Sometimes God will use our suffering to tell us we need to change. Other times, He uses adversity to bring us to another place in life where He needs us most. Whatever the reason is, we can rest assured God is using our suffering to make us stronger.

Nothing is by accident in our lives; everything is according to His plan. We can trust in Him because, not only does He know what truly is best for us, He sees everything in advance. All of life's variables are before Him, and He arranges them in an equation that equals eternal life, for those who believe. 

Whatever struggles we have, let us always remember that God loves us. He knew exactly the mistakes we would make before the creation of the world. He knew every storm that would come our way before we were given life. Our deliverance and path to victory was also prepared for us in advance. Everything is happening for a reason and all according to this plan, which is eternal life and salvation for those who love Him.

(Scripture References: Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 1:5)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Good People Are Being Deceived

The truth in this world can be hard to find; that's because there is a devil who works very hard to hide it. Just as there are good people who look to share and expose the truth, there are also bad people who look to hide others from it. 

I'd like to share a bible passage:

"At this they (the crowd) exclaimed, 'Now we know that you (Jesus) are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?'”

"Jesus replied, 'If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.'”

“'You are not yet fifty years old,' they said to him, 'and you have seen Abraham!''Very truly I tell you,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!' At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds."
(John 8:52-58) NIV

What is happening here? Clearly these people were offended at Jesus' words. But it wasn't until Jesus told them He was God (by saying, "...I am!") that they became enraged and tried to kill Him. Rather than focus on the intolerance and hatred in their hearts for wanting to kill a man, simply because He said something that offended them, I'd would like to focus on their ignorance.

First, I'd like to share another bible passage that describes the Jewish Messiah:

"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:6-7) NIV

Please notice the words I have highlighted. In the very Scripture these Jews believed to be God's word, it clearly says the Messiah will be a son and God. So why did many of the Jewish religious leaders and citizens consider it "blasphemy" when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God? The Jewish religious leaders had no excuse for this behavior. They had access to the Holy Scripture and knew the truth, but refused to acknowledge it because they valued their power and authority in this world over God's truth. However, most of the common, everyday Jews did not have as easy of an access to the truth found in Scripture.

Those days were not like today, where it is easy for people who live in a free society to obtain God's word. Because the Jews were unwilling or unable to find the truth in God's word on their own, many were deceived and believed the religious lies from religious leaders of that day, who claimed it was blasphemous for Jesus to say He was the Son of God.

This type of deception is happening today. Many in power right now are evil and deceitful, just like the Jewish religious leaders of the past. They look to hide others from the truth by telling lies that fit their agenda, which is to accumulate power and wealth.

Why do the common people believe? Some are deceived by their evil heart and are all too glad to persecute others who have been deemed as "intolerant or hateful" by the so-called gate keepers of our society. But sadly, there are many others who are decent people and have good intentions that are also being deceived. Why? Because they are not digging deeper to find the true meaning of things and the real intentions of those in power. It is easier to accept what is being spoon fed to us, rather than go against popular culture and dare to question the status quo.

Just like in Jesus' day, we are surrounded by people in power that do not have our best interests at heart. On the outside they seem to care: They speak eloquently and follow all the "politically correct" social guidelines. But inwardly they are selfish and evil, caring only about power, wealth and their own pleasure. 

Now more than ever, we must cling to the Holy Spirit in our hearts for guidance. We must grow closer to Jesus and turn away from the lies and deceitful pleasures of this world, which only help to blind us from God's truth. Starting today, may we all have a renewed sense of commitment to God, so that we will not be deceived when the coming tidal wave of evil engulfs this world.










Monday, September 18, 2017

Keep Fighting

All of us have failed in our relationship with God. When this happens, it can be difficult to right the ship and not sink deeper into failure. The good news is, no matter how many times we fail, a clean slate and success is just around the corner.

In the midst of our struggle, God can seem very far away. Sometimes this struggle is self-inflicted. Other times it comes from seemingly nowhere, unrelated to anything we may have done or not done. Both situations have the same effect: Our sinful lifestyle blinds and separates us from God. Also, while in the heart of a storm that is not self-inflicted, God's love for us can seem non-existent.

If our pain is self-inflicted due to sin, guilt is our greatest enemy. It tries to make us feel unworthy of forgiveness; it tells us we are too weak and will never dig out of the hole we have created. If our painful situation is due to circumstances out of our control, doubt is our greatest enemy. We are tempted with thoughts questioning whether God still loves us; we question whether He is still in control, and wonder if He has left us all alone in our suffering.

The good news is, no amount of lies the enemy fills our mind with can change the truth: God loves us and will never leave us. We have an intercessor on our behalf, who knows exactly what we are going through. I'd like to share this bible passage which tells what Jesus said while suffering on the cross:

"From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Matthew 27:45-46) NIV

Why did Jesus say this? How could God forsake Jesus, when Jesus Himself was the Son of God? The answer is, Jesus became sin for us on the cross. As the Scripture says, He who knew no sin became sin for us. Just like sin separates us from God, it also separated Jesus from the Father. When He became sin, He temporarily lost the feeling of fellowship with God's love. 

What does this mean for us? Our Lord can relate to every pain we feel, even the consequences for our sin. He knows what it feels like to have separation from God. Just like He persevered through this darkness and overcame, He knows how to lead us through our darkness so that we can overcome. 

Also, if we are in the midst of a terrible and painful ordeal in our lives, one so bad that it seems we cannot even feel God's presence in our lives, Jesus knows exactly how that feels. No amount of suffering we feel will ever compare to the pain He endured. It must have been hard for Jesus to know the Father was still there with Him as He suffered on the cross, yet by faith He persevered and won the fight. He can and will give us victory as well, if we trust in Him through our painful ordeal.

I believe Jesus, as His body was tortured, torn to pieces and left bleeding on a cross, thought of you and I to help Him overcome. He knew if He could just keep going until the fight was won, we would have eternal life and know freedom from the shackles of sin. Just as His love for us helped Him win the fight, His love for us now will help us win our fight. 

(Scripture references: Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 13:5-6, 2 Corinthians 5:21)





Friday, September 15, 2017

Spirtual Exercise

In some ways, our physical bodies mirror our spiritual bodies. A key to a healthy, physical body is getting plenty of exercise. This will help us build strength and enable us to better overcome physical obstacles in our daily lives. Likewise, when we exercise our invisible spiritual body, we gain strength to overcome the invisible pressures and emotional struggles we encounter in this life.

In the gym, we lift weights and push ourselves physically in order to build endurance. In regards to our spiritual bodies, we build endurance by facing our fears and doing what is right. There is an invisible bully who looks to intimidate, denigrate and deceive us in our minds. When we stop hiding and finally gain the courage to look him in the eye and fight back, our spiritual bodies grow stronger. The bad news is, the bully is way too strong for us to overcome. The good news is, we have a Champion; one who never backed down to the bully and always overcame his attacks. Our champion's name is Jesus Christ.

It is important to note, before working out in a gym, a wise person consults a trainer to help get started. If you don't exercise properly, you can do serious damage to your body. The same is true when exercising our spiritual body: We need someone to guide us through the process so we do not hurt ourselves. Thankfully, God has given us the Holy Spirit to live inside us and help. Who better to fix the spiritual body we cannot see than the one living along side it? Plus, we can trust in His instruction, knowing that He loves us and created our spiritual bodies. He knows exactly what is wrong and how to fix it.

When we work with a physical trainer, often times we resent his constant motivational instructions. During our painful struggle, we hate to hear that voice pushing us harder and farther. But afterwards, once we have overcome our physical obstacle and reap the rewards, we are thankful for our trainer. The same is true in the spirit- Oftentimes we will be angry and resent God as we go through our emotional struggles and obstacles in this life. But when we stay obedient to His commands and make it through the storm, we look back and are thankful for His strength and guidance. Also, the spiritual strength and wisdom we gain from this process is priceless. 

There is a tendency in our society to look at every adversity in life as a bad thing. Some people believe we must shield ourselves and hide from everything that might upset us. If something is challenging us emotionally, some would encourage us to find a safe place to hide, rather than face it head on. It is for each individual to judge what to do in these situations, but I will say this-We cannot grow and gain maturity in this life unless we accept responsibility for our actions and face adversity. 

There comes a time when all of us must face the fears and pressures of life. To do this, we must be stronger than the obstacles in our way. We are not born with this strength; rather, we must exercise our spiritual body until it becomes strong enough to overcome adversity. For those who have rebirth in Christ and are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, we have a guide who can help us gain this strength. May we all submit our lives and will to His guidance, so that none of us will live in fear or submission to the evil one who rules this world.

(Scripture references: Timothy 4:8-10, Jude 1:20-21)



Thursday, September 7, 2017

Something More

For many of us, life is very busy. It can be difficult to maintain everyday affairs, much less our spiritual relationship with Jesus. Having said that, it is imperative we take time to listen for God's voice inside our heart each day. 

I'd like to share these bible passages:

"That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: 'A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.'” (Matthew 13:1-9) NIV

And...

Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:18-23) NIV

Please notice the words that I have highlighted. I believe all of us fall into this category of people that Jesus described. In this deceitful world we live in, it is nearly impossible not to be negatively impacted by the "worries of this life." As a result, many Christians have had the power and love of God living inside them muffled or hidden entirely. This has lead to an unfruitful life, in regards to the fruits of the Spirit of God.

I believe with 100% conviction that God wants to be closer to each and everyone of us. The benefits of this are twofold:

1) The closer we get to God, the further we get away from sin and the negative impact it has in our lives. We will start to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit and less of the selfish characteristics of the flesh. The peace and love of God, which passes all understanding, will begin to spring up and come alive inside our hearts.

2) The closer we get to God, the more His light will shine inside of us. We will begin to see life and this world in a whole new way. Many of the hidden deceptions all around us will begin to be exposed; those who pretend to be good will be exposed as liars. The devil and his accomplices are extremely clever and deceptive. However, there is no deception that can fool God. As we get closer to God, the Holy Spirit can begin to open our eyes to many things we were once deceived by.

This is extremely important because of the days in which we live. As our country and world descends deeper into darkness, those who seek to deceive others for selfish gains are on the rise. There are some who are so good at their deception that it cannot be seen as a lie. Indeed, the very things they say seem to be good and wholesome; their character appears impeccable. But if we watch them long enough, they will eventually give themselves away and bear fruit that is evil. However, unless we have the Holy Spirit to open our spiritual eyes, we will never see this evil fruit and will remain deceived.

Wherever we are in our spiritual relationship with God, He wants something more. He wants us to give our whole heart to Him and turn away from worldly pleasures that are harmful. In doing so, not only will our hearts become filled with His peace and love, we also become more aware to those things around us which seem to be good, but in reality are very dangerous. The latter is extremely important as we live through these troublesome times. The closer we get to God, the more our doubt of His existence disappears. When this doubt has been completely erased, even the most clever of deceptions cannot pull us away from the truth found in Jesus Christ.




Thursday, August 31, 2017

Division

It seems America has never been so divided as it is today. Why is that? Some people believe certain politicians are responsible for this problem; but the truth is, this country (and our world) has always been divided. That is because those who love evil will always fight against those who love what is holy and pure.

The English settlers who originally arrived here from Europe were Christians searching for freedom from religious persecution. While it is true that not everyone who formed our government after winning their independence was a Christian, many if not all were greatly influenced by Christianity and the bible.

Regardless of their religious background, all of our founding fathers believed in free speech and freedom from tyrannical rule; our Constitution reflects this truth. They instituted a government that was subject to the people, not the other way around.

These principles are clearly inspired by the Christian faith. In the bible, we are taught to respect authority, but that God is above all of us; no person is better than another, regardless of their wealth or social status. It teaches us to have patience toward others and not physically harm someone in a vengeful way, simply because we disagree with what they say or believe. It teaches that mankind is blinded by sin and we should look to Christ for wisdom and deliverance. Mankind should worship God, not those in power or each other.

Because of this rich history, Americans have been blessed and fortunate to escape much of the evil found in other nations. But what would happen if Americans were to stray from our values and align ourselves with the world? We are seeing the answer to this question right now all around us. This is the main reason why there is so much division in our country today.

I'd like to share this bible passage:

"You, (Christians) dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (1 John 4:4-12) NIV

And...

"You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4) NIV

God is very clear that we are to be separate from the world. How do we know who is of this world? Quite simply, people who love this world reject God's word and those who speak it. For example, if you are harassed, persecuted or accused of preaching "hate speech," simply for quoting what the bible says, whoever does this is of this world, even if they claim to be Christians.

For many of us in America, the truth about our separation from the world has been watered down. We have created a false sense of reality; our blessings have blinded us from what is really happening around us. In essence, we are enjoying the fruits of our ancestors, even though we have strayed from the formula that enabled us to enjoy these fruits of prosperity.

What has this done? It has empowered those who hate God into thinking their way is better. Life is all about reaping and sowing. When you do bad things, inevitably you reap suffering and turmoil. But what happens if this spiritual law is temporarily rescinded? Evil that results from mankind's sinful nature is able to flourish.

Though we do not like to admit it, suffering has a way of bringing us to a place of truth. What happens when we are coddled and kept from experiencing the penalties for our bad choices? We grow up with a selfish and distorted view of life. Each generation is producing more and more of these types of individuals. The result is a society that is more susceptible to be deceived by Satan and those who advance his agenda on this earth.

We are seeing the horrible results of this process today. Those Americans who love this world instead of God are growing in number. Once their numbers are large enough, they will be able to completely remove the freedoms we enjoy. They will be able to change the laws and install a government that reflects their ideology. 

How long will it be before these people succeed? Can it be stopped? If it can't, our lives will be much different than what we experience today. Free speech will totally evaporate; those who speak or believe something contrary to a totalitarian government will be punished. Those who worship God and believe in traditional, biblical values will be persecuted, ostracized and even physically assaulted. When you really think about it, aren't we witnessing the birth of this future right now in America?

Those who love evil are attacking and blaming those who love the truth for the problems all around us. They claim to be loving and tolerant, yet they hatefully abuse and shun those who disagree with them. Those who truly love others respect those around them and desire to live in peace, even with those who hate them. On the other hand, those who are filled with hate cannot coexist with those they oppose. When those who have God's love in their heart outnumber those who love hatred, there is peace in the land. What happens when those who hate outnumber those who love God? Violence, civil unrest, anarchy and war.

There always has been and always will be division in America and on earth. Also, the bible says the earth will one day be ruled by a dictator who is hostile toward those who love God. We must prepare our hearts for this inevitability, since we are not sure when that day will come. The only time this earth will ever truly see peace is when God Himself (Jesus Christ) comes down from heaven and eliminates all liars from power. May this truth comfort us during these violent and turbulent times.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Spirtual Blindness

What is spiritual blindness? It's when the truth (according to God) is hidden from us. The biggest and most important truth is, we must receive Jesus Christ into our hearts and believe in Him to gain eternal life. But there are also numerous truths to be learned in our everyday existence. The devil and his demonic underlings are tirelessly working many deceptions in our lives right now. The only way we can truly recognize and expose the lies that engulf the world around us is with help from the Spirit of Truth, or the Holy Spirit of God. 

We are blinded when we are separated from God. What separates us from God? Sin. Since we are all born having a sinful nature, immediately upon entering this world we inherit spiritual blindness. This sinful nature is ingrained into our mortal flesh, making it weak and vulnerable to sinful urges and thoughts, all of which are inspired by Satan.

If we are aware of this truth, we can also learn this: Not everything that feels or seems good to us is from God. In fact, some things in our lives that feel good are actually sinful and self-destructive in nature. If this is indeed true, how can we ever completely trust ourselves to know what is right or wrong? The answer is, we can't; nor should we try. God tells us we must trust Him with all of our heart and not lean on our own understanding to guide us through life. 

The perfect scenario for us in this life is to only be subjected to God's truth. However, we live in a sinful world; we are surrounded by lies and destructive, sinful pleasures. Quite simply, as long as we are alive on this earth, there is no way to completely avoid being influenced by the evil all around us. For example, even if you don't smoke cigarettes, if you stay in a smoke filled room long enough you'll eventually leave smelling like smoke.

Most if not all of the pleasures found in this world feed our physical needs and desires. In some cases, there is no way to avoid doing this. However, it is important that we become disciplined when indulging or satisfying these needs.

I believe our spiritual diet parallels our physical diet: Those things in this life which cater to our flesh are like junk food. Junk food tastes really good...but when we eat too much, it will often make us sick and give us an upset stomach. Also, if we only eat junk food and never give our bodies the healthy food that it desperately needs, our health will deteriorate over time. The same is true in our spiritual life: If we only feed the desires of our physical body but ignore the desires of our spiritual body, we will become spiritually sick and unhealthy. 

The level by which we eliminate sin from our lives and resist the urges of our flesh, will have a direct effect on our level of spiritual blindness. The more we feed our spiritual body with God's Word and Truth, the more our blindness will give way to spiritual clarity and wisdom. God's truth will become like a light inside our hearts, guiding and leading us down every good path. Once we have received this light inside of us, we will no longer stumble through life in spiritual darkness.

We must learn to discern right from wrong in all matters, and to test the spirits which try to influence us on a daily basis. Think of our spiritual battle like this- The devil sits on one of our shoulders with a megaphone, screaming lies and temptations into our ear. On the other shoulder rests the Holy Spirit, whispering very softly and gently things from God.

Because the devil's voice and influence is much louder in this world, it can seem nearly impossible to hear God's voice. Therefore, we must learn to muzzle the devil's voice. How do we do this? By resisting the empty, sinful pleasures found in this world, and embracing the hidden treasures found only in God. When we sow in the flesh, we reap emptiness, sin and vanity. But when we sow in the spirit, we reap the fruits of the Spirit of God. Doing this will also help remove the spiritual blindness that is present in our lives.

(Scripture references: Proverbs 3:6, Psalm 119:97-105, Isaiah 59:9-10, 1 John 4:1-6, Galatians 6:8, Luke 11:34-36)