Friday, December 30, 2016

Message For The Lost

I was not raised in an environment where Christ was the focal point. My upbringing was secular in nature, with a little religion mixed in. In time, I began to resent that religion; I thought all believers were judgmental and hypocritical. I started to avoid God because it reminded me of my mistakes and misdeeds. I found it was easier to turn my back on faith and stop believing altogether.

Well, as you know from reading this blog, I have been completely transformed by the power of Jesus in my heart. It has taken many, many years to become who I am now, from the lost and hopeless young man I used to be. The exciting part is, as happy as I am now inside my heart, I know there is much more room for growth.

If you are reading this and you do not know if Jesus Christ is real, please allow me to share these thoughts with you, as someone who once was in your position. I can go on about how Christ died for our sins so we could be saved. While this is very true, to somebody who has not received Jesus into their hearts, these words seem like nonsense. Instead, let me invite you to simply ask God Himself if what I'm saying is true. If you are buried under the weight of guilt because of the things you've done (with no relief in sight), what have you got to lose?

Maybe
you've been hurt before. In the past, you may have given your heart to someone else, only to be trampled on and taken advantage of. Perhaps there was a person in your life who was supposed to love you unconditionally, yet they abused your trust and caused great pain.

For this reason, many of us have hardened our hearts. We've become callous, while trying to suppress our feelings and emotions so we would never feel that pain again. We shut everything out because of our vow to never let another person hurt us again.

What if there was a way to find relief from the pain deep inside our heart, that we've kept buried for so long? And what about the hurt we've caused others because of our inner pain? Could we really find forgiveness for the terrible things we've done? Is it possible true love really exists; the kind that loves you without seeking anything in return; a love that is genuine and pure, not phony or deceitful? As someone who has walked in your shoes, believe me when I say true love is real; it is alive in God and He longs to share it with us.

We are all born sinners; all of us have done shameful things. The good news is, there is nothing you have done, no matter how bad, that will disqualify you from receiving forgiveness. I know it seems hard to believe but it is true. If you want to be forgiven, ask Jesus; it doesn't cost a thing. You don't have to commit anything to anyone. In fact, there doesn't have to be anybody else involved; it can be strictly between you and the Lord.

Do you want to feel loved? Ask Jesus. The bible says God is love. He is our Father and we are His children. He knows we make mistakes. The truth is, there is nothing we can do to make Him stop loving us. How can God possibly love us that much? It doesn't seem possible, especially after all the bad things we've done. But I'm telling you right now, not only is it possible, God is waiting for us to receive His love. All we need to do is ask.

Once God comes into your heart, everything changes. You gain a strength that wasn't there before. Your heart will be filled with a peace that passes all intellectual understanding. Things that were confusing before will start to make sense.

Listen, I know this stuff sounds crazy...but if you're sick of the way your life is, or if you're looking for something more meaningful, why not try Jesus? Just you and Him, man to man (or woman), alone and away from the rest of the world. Ask Him if all the things I've mentioned are possible. If you are sincere, I believe He will prove Himself and change your life forever, in a way that is unique to you. It will be your first step on a wonderful journey with the living God, the One who loves you more than words can describe. I guarantee that if you make this choice, it will be the happiest decision of your life.

FTS

(Scripture references: Isaiah 53, Romans 10:11-13, Psalms 103:8-18, Philippians 4:7)








Thursday, December 22, 2016

Is Jesus Christ A Real Person?

Recently in the news I've read where some people are questioning historical accounts about Jesus. They claim there is not enough evidence to support His existence. I don't believe in arguing about faith; everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But with all due respect to certain non-believers, I think they are missing the point about our faith in Christ.

A long time ago, for a short period of my life I was an atheist. Because of this, in many ways I can relate to the thought process behind their doubt. But now that I'm on the other side of faith in God, I have a greater understanding of belief and unbelief.

For me personally, I did not believe in Jesus Christ because He was mentioned in the bible. I didn't believe He existed because of ancient historians mentioning Him in their writings. My faith has nothing to do with anybody else or "physical proof." I believe because when I cried out to Him for help, He answered. The proof of His existence is in my heart and in the person I've become.

Many non-believers view life only in terms of physical proof, what they can see. Therefore, it is not surprising they cannot grasp the concept of faith in something invisible. In the bible, it tells us faith in the cross of Jesus Christ is salvation to those who believe, but it also says it is foolishness to those who do not believe. The reason is, faith in Christ is a matter of the heart, not intellectual understanding.

It is important that we as believers do not argue or engage in angry dialogue with non-believers. There are some, like myself, who will one day open their hearts to God. We must show them the love of Jesus in it's truest form; this will attract future believers destined to receive Him. Arguing with non-believers only pushes them further away from faith in God.

Was Jesus Christ a real person? To find the answer to this question, my advice would be not to rely solely on the testimony of others. If we are unsure of His existence, why not just ask Him ourselves?

FTS

(Scripture references: 1Corinthians 1:18, Romans 10:13, Proverbs 2:1-8)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Test The Spirits

I believe healthy skepticism is a good thing; it is not the same as unbelief. It is a way to question things we do not completely understand. Believing something just because somebody else said it was true, without seeing it clearly ourselves can be very destructive.

There are many things we can learn from one another. The Lord has spread His spiritual gifts amongst us all. Together we form the complete body of Christ. There is not one Christian who is perfect by himself, who can see everything clearly. It is not possible for one person to know everything about everything.

Fellowship is an important way for us to grow and enjoy each other's company. However, we should never seek to replace our spiritual relationship in God with human relationships. Only He knows what is wrong with us and how to fix it. Only He can truly fill the emptiness in our hearts. He wants us to rely on Him, and to seek Him first for understanding.

There are many teachers who have good intentions. Sadly, there are also teachers with bad intentions. We must grow closer to Christ so we can accurately discern between the two.

It is also important to remember there is only one man who is perfect- Jesus Christ. We should never place any other person on a pedestal or look at them as "infallible." Regardless of a person's talents or position in society, all of those things have been given by God. We should be careful not to worship the creation over the Creator. Remembering this will help us to avoid being fooled by others. Jesus said we have one spiritual Father in heaven (God) and one Master/Teacher (Christ). The rest of us are equals. Wisdom is not exclusive to a select group of elites. It is available to everyone who will seek it with all of their hearts.

Before we can accurately discern the motivations of others, we first must learn to discern between the thoughts inside our own minds. This happens when we are willing to open ourselves completely to the Holy Spirit. Not only will He show us what thoughts are wrong, He'll give us the strength to resist them. If we allow Him, God will eventually transform our lives until it fits perfectly within His will.

The more we open our hearts to His correction, the more we will be freed from the chains of sin that bind us. Our eyes will begin to open; things that were confusing before will begin to clarify. The truth will indeed set us free, but will only do so if we allow it.

Having a skeptical attitude is not a sin. In fact, the bible instructs us to "test the spirits" and see if they are from God or not. This should begin first in our own hearts and minds. Once He does His perfect work inside us, then we'll be able to accurately discern the true nature of others.

In a world filled with confusion, it is imperative we draw closer to God, so we do not fall victim to the blindness that engulfs our planet. With this in mind, let us all be inspired to question everything we see and hear, while remembering this world system is an enemy to God and His truth.

FTS

(Scripture references: 1John 4:1-2, Matthew 7:15, 2Peter 2:1-2, Matthew 7:3-5)


 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Reminder For The Devil

Today was a rough day for me. Sometimes I do not react to adversity the way I should. In my weakness, I allowed our enemy to get the best of me.

Eventually I get sick of being his punching bag. I get tired of the negative thoughts flooding my mind. It may seem crazy but sometimes, when I'm by myself, a fire rises up in me and I verbally attack the enemy. This is my way of picking myself off the floor and counter punching out of trouble. With that in mind, I'd like to share this:

Dear Defeated One,

Your attacks were successful today. You were able to land a few punches and knock me down. We both know I am weak, and that you are too strong for me.We also know that the One living inside my heart is stronger than you. By His death on the cross, I have been redeemed. I belong to Him. I live in Him and He in me; we are one.

Though you won the battle today, the war is already over. My Champion defeated you and already declared your punishment. You will burn in the Lake of Fire for eternity. God has removed your cloak of deception. The thoughts of unworthiness and depression that flood my mind are not mine; they come from you. I am a child of the living God. You will not steal what He has called me to be.

You are a liar and will not defeat the church of Jesus Christ. We will do the will of God on this earth and become everything He wants us to be, in Jesus' name. God does not allow us to be tempted with more than we can handle. Don't you know your attacks will only make us stronger? Our Lord will use them to refine our hearts, like a precious metal in fire.

You are fighting a losing battle. Nothing can snatch us away from the One who loves us. I give thanks to Him, our Lord Jesus Christ, whose strength makes it possible for us to overcome all of your attacks.

FTS

(Scripture references: 1Peter 1:7-8, 1Peter 4:12-13, James 1:2-4, Romans 8:31-39)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Baseball And Faith

I really enjoy baseball. I played as a kid and was blessed to play organized ball into middle age. Not only has it been a passion of mine, it has also taught me many life lessons that I can apply today.

One thing I love about the sport is that it keeps you humble. No matter how good you are, there will be days where you look foolish. If you ever start to feel cocky, all it takes is one bone headed error in the field or embarrassing strike out while batting to bring you back to earth. In those moments it can feel like the whole world is watching you.

The good news is, no matter how many times baseball players fail, eventually they'll have another chance at redemption. All previous failures can be forgotten by one successful moment in the clutch to help win a game.

Baseball is a game of ups and downs, ebbs and flows. When you're on a personal hot streak, it feels like you're on top of the world. But when you're struggling, it feels like you're useless.

Thank goodness baseball is a team game. The good teams have players that pick each other up. A hitter who is on a hot streak often picks up his teammate who is struggling. Having a team filled with unselfish players who pick each other up us is a key to success.

To maximize personal production and success, one must fine tune his craft during practice. A player must have his mind right and be confident in his preparation before the game starts. Any feelings of doubt or a lack of confidence during the real games will be detrimental to personal success.

All of these examples relate to our walk with Christ. Like baseball, life can be a humbling experience. This is a good thing, because it helps us to build character and to recognize our rightful place. Jesus is King; He is perfect and knows everything. We are imperfect and always in need of His counsel.

No matter how many times we lose our fight with sin, there will always be another opportunity to succeed; the key is that we never give up. If we refrain from making excuses and accept responsibility for our weakness, God will eventually build us up spiritually to a place where we can gain victory over sin. Patience, humility and faith in Christ is the path to this victory.

It is important that we spend time with Jesus when we are alone and in private. These are the times when He can help us to grow spiritually. We then take this new strength (gained during private time with God) to the battlefield of life. If we do not spend time with God, oftentimes we are overwhelmed during "game time." Waiting until the moment of truth to seek the Lord is too late. We must prepare ourselves in advance to successfully overcome the unforeseen challenges of the future.

God has shown me that a baseball team is very much like the church, or the body of Christ. When we are feeling down, it is the responsibility of other Christians to help lift our spirits. This is extremely important because all of us will struggle at some points in life.

Our individual success or failure is very important personally. However, there are times when we must put aside our individual ambitions for the sake of the team, which is the church. The team goal is to do the work of Christ in this world: To shine His light, to love others and to help those in need. The church of Jesus Christ is at its best when we set aside our differences and unite under this common goal. When this happens, not even the gates of hell can stop us.

On the surface, baseball is just a kid's game. But for many who have played and enjoy watching, it is much more than that. It is yet another example of how God can sometimes teach us by using unlikely methods.

FTS

(Scripture references: 1Thessalonians 5:14, Matthew 16:18, 1Corinthians 12:12-27)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What Faith In Christ Means To Me

It's crazy to believe in an invisible God. Even some of our own thoughts and feelings fight against this belief. Many things in the bible seem very foolish. Those who regard it as truth sometimes receive ridicule from others. Honestly, I think what is written in the bible sounds crazy. I never would have believed it was the Word of God if He hadn't revealed Himself to me inside my heart. 

I believe in being skeptical of everything; that also applies to my faith in God. I do not accept anything I cannot see for myself. Just because I was raised or encouraged to believe something, I will not accept it if I cannot see it as truth for myself, no matter whose feelings I hurt. It's my life and I alone will bear responsibility for my choices. If I fail or succeed, I want it to be according to what I perceive to be truth. I will never believe something just because someone else told me it was true.

I don't believe the bible because I was raised that way. Who is to say they aren't just words in a book created by men to make people feel better? Before I gave my life to Christ, the words of Scripture seemed foolish to me; I did not regard them as truth. I did not care if that offended my family or anybody else.

I believe the bible to be true because of my experiences in life. As I grew older, I began to analyze my thoughts and feelings. I tried to determine why I felt the way I did, why I made certain choices. I attempted to find the truth behind my actions. This honest evaluation led me to believe that deep down I was a sinner. I sometimes enjoyed doing things I knew were wrong. The disgust and shame I felt eventually led me to ask God if He truly existed. If He was real I wanted Him to help me change, because I could not do it by myself.

The bible says we are all born sinners. It says those dead in sin are a slave to it. It says we must become a new creature in Christ to gain eternal life and eventual victory over sin. When I say I believe this, I'm not just taking somebody's word for it. I don't believe so I can seem religious, or like a "good" person to others. I believe those words in the bible because I experienced what it talks about. I believe it to be true because it is true inside of me. Based on where I came from, it is a miracle I am writing this now. My life serves as proof that I am a new creature in Christ; I have become born again in my heart.

After I received the Holy Spirit, the Word of God began to make sense to me in ways it didn't before. The Spirit of Truth living inside me began to shine His light, illuminating the truth hidden in Scripture. This gift is greater than anything to me, more valuable than all the money in the world.

My faith in Christ is simply this- It is life, it is truth and it is love. It saved me from my own guilt and shame. It has transformed me into somebody I can feel good about. I am far from perfect and never will be, but it is exciting to know that each day I abide in Christ, my faith, wisdom and love will continue to grow. 

FTS

(Scripture references: 1Corinthians 1:18, 1Corinthians 2:14-16)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Stand Up To The Bully

I believe that everyone is bullied by somebody at one point or another in their life. This experience can be very intimidating and demoralizing.

You may not know it but we fight against a bully everyday; he exists in our mind. This bully might tell us we're not good enough, we're ugly, worthless, alone or stupid. At times he can seem relentless; it can become very overwhelming.

All of us have days where the bully gets the better of us. He knows our weaknesses and delights in exploiting them. His energy is devoted to stealing our joy and making us feel miserable. Even the strongest of souls will sometimes crack under this pressure. The good news is we have somebody who is stronger than the bully. Not only did Jesus embarrass the bully by His victory on the cross, our Lord continues to humiliate Him through us. When we cast all our cares on Him, God fights and wins our battles for us. In fact, it is in our weakness that Jesus is at His strongest.

If we have a thought saying we are not good enough, remind it that God said we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. When we get beat up over our past mistakes, remind the devil we have been redeemed, made spotless by the blood of the Lamb. God has removed our sin and will no longer hold it against us.

How do we combat feelings of fear and stand up to the bully? The bible says perfect love casts out all fear; Jesus is that perfect love. When we abide in Him, there is no evil we cannot overcome. As the love of God grows inside our heart, it overflows and breaks every chain from the devil. Eventually this love will grow so large that our fear will suffocate under it's weight, losing any effect it once had over us.

With this in mind, I pray that everyone be inspired to stand up to the bully and his lies. We have someone stronger on our side, living inside us. The next time we feel pressure to succumb to the devil, may we all be filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit and of Christ. My hope is that we stand on the Rock, look our deepest fears in the eye and tell them their power over us is finished. May the power of Jesus Christ break every chain that binds us, so that we can walk in the authority that God gave us as sons and daughters of His heavenly kingdom! Amen.

FTS

(Scripture references: Philippians 4:13, Psalms 103:11-12, 1John 4:18, John 16:33, 2Corinthians 12:10)



Monday, December 12, 2016

He Who Loses His Life Shall Find It

Everyone who sincerely comes to Christ acknowledges they need help. They admit that something in their life is wrong. They want to know the love of God and receive help to change into a better person. This was true in my case. Right before I gave my life to Jesus, there was one struggle I was having in particular. I knew it was wrong and that I couldn't change without help. What I didn't know was, over the course of my relationship with God, the Holy Spirit would reveal numerous things wrong in my heart. It wasn't until He shined a light upon them that I was able to see.

In the bible, Jesus said we are not worthy of Him unless we carry our cross and follow Him. This means all of us will have to endure a struggle in order to walk with God. Jesus also said that whoever loses his life for God's sake would find it. For me, this meant obeying the Holy Spirit inside of my heart. One by one, He began to address the areas in my life that needed change.

Each time it was a struggle to turn away from the thing He commanded me to give up. Every challenge was a double whammy: First I needed to humble myself and accept I was wrong, which is not easy to do. Next, I had to remove something I had grown accustomed to over a long period of time in my life.

This experience can be quite a culture shock to your system; it isn't easy to change old habits. Also, it can be difficult dealing with negativity from those close to you, in response to your lifestyle changes. But Jesus promised if we allow this "losing life" transformation to completely take effect, we would actually find life later on.

My life is a testament to this promise. From experience I can say, each time I obeyed God and overcame something in my lifestyle that was sinful, afterwards I was better for it. By giving up my sinful activity, I essentially was closing a spiritual door that Satan was using to influence my life in a negative way. And by doing this, not only was my spirit gaining strength, I was growing closer to Jesus. 

Indeed, if all of us will allow the Holy Spirit to lead us away from sin, we will gain wisdom, strength, insight, love, patience and many other gifts from heaven. Our lives will change in ways we never thought possible. Our spiritual eyes will gradually open, allowing us to see things that were hidden to us before.

It's funny and ironic because, looking back I now can see all of the things I was reluctant to give up were actually useless and detrimental. Once God had removed the cloak of deception (or the seductive spell that was associated with these worldly pleasures), their true identities were now exposed: They were nothing more than vain, empty and poisonous lies, meant to distract and separate me from the truth of God.

Let us all be inspired to follow Jesus, and to listen to what the Spirit is telling us. Let's turn away from anything that spiritually blinds, intoxicates, or causes us to stumble. We should lose our lives in this world so that we may truly know what it's like to live. The empty, sinful pleasures of this life are just a cheap counterfeit for true happiness, the likes of which can only be found in Jesus Christ.

FTS

(Scripture references: Matthew 10:38-39)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Music

Music is one of the most powerful forces in existence. When consumed properly, it is a very useful weapon against the forces of darkness. I would like to list some of the characteristics of music:

SPIRITUAL FOOD- In the hands of a skillful artist, music can be used to amplify the spiritual effect a message can have. A musician is essentially a musical prophet; their words can have a powerful and life changing effect on those who hear them.

When we hear a sermon by a preacher, the words enter into us and our spirit digests the content.  Words accompanied by music are essentially a mini-sermon with an increased potency. When words are attached to a melody, they travel on a fast track into our hearts, in a way that is much more powerful than simply hearing a sermon. 

An analogy of this phenomenon would be, when we eat physical food it takes time for our body to digest what we need. However, if necessary doctors can bypass our digestive system and feed nutrients directly into our body intravenously, so that it can receive them more quickly and effectively. I believe this method mirrors the effect that music has on our spirit. The spiritual food attached to words in a song impacts us in a unique way. It bypasses the normal process and accelerates directly toward our soul.

TIME MACHINE- Oftentimes when we hear a favorite old tune, it takes us back to a time in our past. Music has the power to invoke memories that are buried deep within our consciousness.

HEALING- Music has the power to lift our spirits when we are down. It can also help us persevere through tough times. It acts as a sword, cutting through our sickness and reaching that place of need, deep inside us.

WORSHIP- When we sing to God, it opens up our hearts to Him in a unique way. Not only is this pleasing to Him, it helps bring us closer to each other. This connection is powerful and builds faith, helping us to resist future attacks of doubt by the enemy.

I believe music is perhaps the most powerful and direct connection we can have with God. It can nourish our souls in so many different and unique ways. But music can also be very unhealthy and destructive to our souls, if it is inspired by evil. For that reason it should be consumed wisely.

Those who have been given the gift to wield it's power (musicians) have a great responsibility to feed the Lord's flock in a righteous manner. God bless those who cherish this responsibility and faithfully fulfill their calling.

Let us all make sure to spend time alone with God and take advantage of the special access we have to Him through music. It truly is a gift to us from heaven.

FTS

(Scripture references: Psalms 104:33-34)

Friday, December 9, 2016

God Our Father

The bible says man was created in God's image; I believe this. I also believe we can learn a lot about how God loves us by the feelings we have for our own children. If you have been blessed to be a parent, you already know it is one of the greatest joys we could ever experience.

My journey as a parent and the relationship with my children has brought me closer to God. It has given me a deeper understanding of who He is, as well a greater appreciation for how He teaches us.

My kids are getting older now and it amazes me to see the progress they are making. There is nothing like the feeling a proud parent gets when they see their young one growing into an adult. I believe God feels the same way toward us. He sees us now and remembers how far we've come since we were a child. His heart is filled with love and a father's pride for us, His beloved children, as He recognizes the progress we've made in Christ.

As parents, we often have to deal with numerous growing pains and mistakes from our kids. When we show them love and forgiveness, we help our children to build confidence and grow from their shortcomings. With a gentle, unbending discipline, we teach them that working hard and being honest is not an option, but a requirement to succeed in life.

Haven't we learned this from our loving Father in heaven? In this life, nobody hands you anything. You need to work hard and abide by the law, or else there are consequences to face. But through all of the ups and downs, our heavenly Father is there. He lives in our hearts, always helping to pick us up when we stumble and set us back on track.

Any decent parent loves their kids more than life itself. They would sacrifice anything to give them a good life and the opportunity to succeed. If we as sinners can have a great love for our children, it is safe to say we could not even measure the amount of love God has for His children. Perhaps nothing illustrates this more than God's greatest gift to us- His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Think about what happened from God's perspective: He was sitting in heaven, His heart grieving multiple times every day at the sight of our evil deeds on earth. We know the enormous amount of things each of us have done wrong...now multiply that by billions and billions for everyone who has ever lived!

How upset do we get when one person does something wrong to us? Can you imagine what it is like to be God, seeing all of these offenses committed every second of every day, year after year after year? How conflicted His heart must have been, dealing with His immeasurable love for us along side His great hatred for sin.

So what did He do? He sent His beloved Son Jesus to the earth to save us. What did this mean? Jesus, our Creator, had to humble Himself and take on the flesh of His creation. He willingly gave up His royal status and became as a lowly man. Then He subjected Himself to the same, torturous temptations that you and I face on a daily basis. If that wasn't enough, He then took the blame and penalty for something He never did, for a people who rejected and slandered His holy name.

This is the love that God our Father has for us, that He would subject His precious Son Jesus to the horrors of torture and death on the cross, so that we might be saved. It was all for our sake, a people who continually sin in His presence. It really is quite remarkable when you think about it.

For those who know Christ, this love lives inside each one of us; It transcends and defies logic. It cannot be explained, yet we know it is real; the proof of its existence lives inside us. God is our Father and loves us more than we could ever understand. Let us remember this the next time we are filled with love for our own children.

FTS

(Scripture references: Genesis 1:27, Matthew 7:9-12, John 3:16-17, Hebrews 12:4-12)



Thursday, December 8, 2016

Play To Win

When we play a game and compete against somebody, a strong player will give everything he has in order to win. A wise player knows how to exploit the weaknesses of his opponent. He also is well aware of his own weaknesses and how his opponent might try to exploit them.

It is fun to compete against others, knowing that everybody can be friends afterward. It's also a good way to build character, which can help us to better deal with more important issues in life.

Did you know there is a competition going on right now; an invisible battle where everybody plays whether they like it or not? At stake in this battle is the eternal salvation of our souls. Our opponent has assembled a team of combatants, who are looking to destroy everything good we have and to drag us with them into eternal damnation. Unlike those who display sportsmanship, these opponents do not play fair and are more evil than any of us can truly imagine.

The main battleground is found in our own minds. Our adversaries attack us there many times on a daily basis. Their number one mission is to hide the existence of God and His promises found in Scripture. They know our deepest, secret weaknesses and try to use them against us. When they succeed, we become easy prey and vulnerable to devastating attacks upon our soul. Their weapons of choice are: Fear, doubt, low self esteem, pride, an unhealthy desire for the things of this world, laziness, selfishness, hatred and others. 

The world around us is our opponent's arena; it is his home turf.
All of us on earth have experienced loss against this opponent; the good news is, there is somebody who has defeated this nemesis. We have a Champion who came down from heaven, clothed Himself in human flesh and won the victory for our eternal souls. Jesus lived on this earth for approximately 33 years and never sinned once. Not one time did the devil and his army claim victory over our Lord. The amount of discipline and strength that must have taken is staggering.

Not only that, after His ministry was complete, Jesus chose to take the penalty for our sins by tasting death and enduring unspeakable torture on the cross. We cannot even fathom the weight our Savior carried for us. Yet even in his weakest weakness, it was stronger than the devil's greatest strength! Amen.

During the course of any given day, when I start to be attacked in my mind with thoughts of doubt, fear or unworthiness, I like to remind the devil that he already lost. No matter how many times I fail, I have the opportunity to repent and get back on track without fear of punishment. When I start to feel inadequate, I sternly remind my enemy that the One living in me is greater than him. 

The truth is, the game is already over; it ended once our Lord was resurrected from the dead and into eternal glory. His victory is God's gift to us. Those that live in Christ are destined for eternal paradise. On the other hand, our enemy has a one way ticket to the lake of fire; he will burn for eternity and never be heard from again. I like to remind him of that from time to time, in Jesus' name.

As I said before, a good opponent knows his own weaknesses. Our weakness is this- We can do nothing good by ourselves. The devil is much too strong and clever for us to defeat alone. But when we stay in God's grace, living in Christ while separating ourselves from the poison found in this world, victory is right around the corner. Let God's holy people sound the horn of battle and march, proclaiming the victory given to us by our Champion and Savior, Jesus Christ.

FTS

(Scripture references: 1 Peter 5:8-9, 1 John 4:4, Ephesians 6:10-17)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Stormy Weather

Everyone goes through hardship. No matter what our background is, no matter how much money we have or where we live, all people are faced with adversity. It comes in all forms, from the physical to the spiritual.

During these times, many of us try to do everything we can to get out of our predicament. Sadly, there are times that after we've done all we can do, we find ourselves having made little to no progress in overcoming our problem. I've found that when I'm in this place, it becomes very hard not to press the situation. I become very restless and tempted to do something...anything to make the problem go away.

God has shown me that during these times, I become very vulnerable to suggestive thought in my mind, tempting me to do something wrong to take my restlessness away. He has also shown me, after you've done everything you can and the problem still isn't solved, this is the time to be still and rest in the Lord.

I have found it ironic, as someone who loves to deeply analyze all of my actions and recognizes the benefits, that sometimes it is best not to think at all. There are times when there is nothing left to do but to quiet your soul and wait patiently on the Rock until the storm passes.

Jesus is the rock of our salvation, the foundation from which we can endure every storm; He is our shelter from the elements. When our visibility is compromised due to the heavy conditions, He is our light that shines brightly in the storm.

For those who have done all they can to weather the storm, let us remember that we have refuge in the One who loves us and will guide us through every turbulent time in our lives. When times get tough, there is peace for those who rest in God's love. 

FTS

(Scripture references: Matthew 7:24-27, Psalms 62:1-2, Psalms 34:19, )  


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Can Driving A Car Teach Us About Faith?

One thing a person learns as they grow older is, there are many unusual ways in which we can learn something. But driving a car? Really? Isn't that just a way to get from one place to another? Well, that is the primary function and purpose for driving a car. However, if you have an attitude that says, "I want to self-analyze my every thought, action or reaction no matter where you are," you'll find there is much we can learn about ourselves when we drive.

By nature I am a very hyper-active person. As I've gotten older, God has taught and enabled me to keep it in submission...well, most of the time :). And when I was a teenager, you could imagine how it might have been much harder to control my impulses. 

Anyway, this impatience caused by hyperactivity eventually filtered into my driving. Did I also mention that I was very competitive? And sometimes bold? All of these characteristics, together in one package often resulted in an erratic and dangerous driving technique. 

Even before I gave my life to God, I would always self-analyze my own actions. I began to apply this to my driving. Sometimes I would have close calls with other cars when attempting to change lanes. Afterward, I would replay the situation in my mind to try and learn why I did not see those other cars until it was almost too late.

I learned that my impatience was to blame. I would get so worked up about passing other cars in front of me, I sometimes would miss subtle clues and warning signs around me. Even though impatience was a natural feeling that came easy to me, I realized it was really an enemy to my well being.

In time, God gave me the ability to better control my restless energy; I eventually was able to calm myself when driving. Instead of making decisions inspired by impatience, I chose to become motivated by the quiet tranquility found in the Holy Spirit. Before long, I stopped having close calls and almost hitting other cars because of recklessness and impatience. I even gained the ability to avoid or sometimes even predict close calls before they happened.

The Lord has shown me that this principle can be applied to our relationship with Him. When we allow unhealthy emotions (impatience, doubt, cowardice, low self-esteem, etc.) to govern our decision making, they serve as road blocks that hinder our ability to hear from God. 

My impatience while driving created a "tunnel vision" effect. I could only see what was right in front of me. But when I was able to slow myself down when driving, my overall vision of what was happening greatly improved. I gained a greater understanding of the big picture all around me.

The same thing can happen in our spiritual vision of life. The devil will tempt us with unhealthy emotions to try and get our focus off the big picture. For example, if we're too focused on our struggle in the here and now, we may not hear the voice of our Savior telling us it's gonna be fine, and that He will see us through. 

If you're going through something difficult right now, don't lose sight of the big picture. The bible says that God does not allow those who love Him to endure more than they can handle. Rest assured that whatever the reason is for your struggle, the One who loves us will see you through. Not only that, I believe that we become wiser and stronger every time we climb another mountain with Jesus by our side.

Who could have thought so much might be learned from a seemingly mundane task like driving a car? What other hidden ways can we learn from God? If we open our hearts and minds to Him, the possibilities are endless.

FTS


(Scripture references: 1 Corinthians 10:13)

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Flesh Versus The Spirit

Whether a person believes in God or not, I think all of us can agree that everybody struggles in life. Many of us are tormented by thoughts or urges that we simply cannot resist on a consistent basis. Like you, I also go through this struggle.

In the bible, it says we are all born into sin. As a result, it is our nature to enjoy doing things that are wrong. It also says that if we remain spiritually dead in sin, we are in fact slaves to our sinful nature.

I used to think the bible was a bunch of useless information. It wasn't until I accepted my guilt, admitted I was wrong and asked God for help that I began to see the truth hidden in its pages. One of these truths is what I mentioned above: I believe I was born a sinner because deep inside my heart, I enjoyed doing things I knew were wrong. I believe I was a slave to sin because there were some sinful acts I could not stop doing.

Jesus said we must be born again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The bible says, everyone born of Christ becomes a new creature. I believe this, first because of the change I felt in my heart when I cried out for help to God. Secondly, I believe because of who I am now compared to what I was before. The person I was before I gave my life to God could never become who I am today. I truly am a new creature in Christ and no longer a slave to the habitual, sinful lifestyle of my past.

Though I have become a new creature, those old, sinful habits are still ingrained in me. The truth is my sinful nature never completely left; I have simply buried it under the weight of Christ living in me.

The bible refers to our sinful nature as "the flesh." We are instructed to always keep it in submission. As Christ crucified himself for our sin, we must also crucify our sinful nature. How do we do so? Scripture tells us that those who live in the Spirit will not fall victim to or indulge in the desires of their flesh.

Living in the Spirit means to first turn away from everything that God shows you is a sin. This process does not happen overnight. Only through consistent prayer and bible study can we learn to discern His voice in our hearts. If we are persistent and allow Him to, the Holy Spirit will eventually shine a light upon everything in our life that He wants us to avoid.

This process is different for each believer. What God allows one person He considers a sin for another. For example, in many cases people consume alcohol responsibly without doing harm to themselves or others. But to an alcoholic, consuming it can be devastating and even fatal. In the same way, a certain thing can be acceptable by God for some but forbidden to others. It is important that we trust what the Spirit is telling us rather than what other people say or do.

The more we live by the Spirit, the further we distance ourselves from the flesh. While this is happening, we slowly begin to gain victory over the vices and inner demons that had previously plagued us; but they do not give up without a fight. The truth is, they never stop fighting us. Our life on this earth will always be a struggle. The good news is, we all can achieve victory in Christ over any and everything that torments us. The devil will eventually succumb to the power of God in our lives, if we have faith and never give up. 

I myself am a living testimony to the truth of these words. The Lord has allowed me to overcome many obstacles from my past. May we never give up and always give an encouraging word of faith to those in need. If we seek after God and the fruits of the Spirit with all our heart, we will indeed gain victory over the flesh and its sinful desires.

FTS

(Scripture references: Romans 5:12-21, John 3:3-8, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, James 4:7, Galatians 5:16-26)




From Religion To Atheism To Christ (Part Two)

In my previous post, I wrote about how I willingly believed a lie concerning faith in order to justify my lifestyle. Then I began to grow tired and disgusted with this lifestyle. I came to a point where I wanted to change but found that I could not. My lifestyle had become habitual and I was unable to resist indulging in things I knew were wrong.

Many weeks of frustration and sadness led me to a spiritual crossroad. I knew what I was doing was wrong but I was unable to stop. Also, I was not willing to sweep this struggle under the rug of my conscience and pretend it didn't exist. What could I do to end my torment?

Desperate and in tears, I looked upward and cried out to a God I had stopped believing in. Whoever He was- Jesus, Allah, Buddha, a purple cow...it didn't matter to me. I just knew that I needed help. If there was a God of truth I was willing to change, if He could help me.

I'll never forget what happened to me next that night, so many years ago; I didn't see a vision or hear a voice. What I did experience was an unspeakable peace and warmth come into my heart. It was a feeling like someone was hugging me and letting me know I was loved; that everything would be okay.

Soon after my experience with God, I felt an urge to buy a Christian bible and began to read it. In the past I had read Scripture before...but when I read it this time, things were very different. The words of Jesus seemed to jump off the pages; His words came alive inside my heart. It was now clear to me: The One who had answered my prayer was Jesus Christ.

My entire life since has been filled with many ups and downs; I have been stubborn, unfaithful and weak. Yet through it all, the God I met that night has been with me. When I am stubborn, he is patient. When I turn my back on Him, He waits by my side until I return. When I am weak, His strength serves as a rock to see me through my hardship.

Some people say that God is not real, that He doesn't perform miracles anymore; I know better. Now, whenever doubt surfaces, I remind myself of who I was before Christ came into my heart- lost, weak, pathetic, hopeless. Then I take an internal inventory of all the ways I've improved spiritually and in my character, since giving my life to Him. I remember how I came out of my darkness and who is responsible. The truth is, I am a living miracle and the proof He exists lives inside my heart.

In the coming days and weeks ahead, I will share many of the things I have learned from the invisible God who came into my heart, many years ago. It has taken a long time for me to be healed from my previous state. Now that I am getting well, I believe the One who set me free has called me to help others by sharing my testimony. It is with great joy that I have embraced this calling. I sincerely hope and pray that every word I write is inspired by the One who saved me.

FTS

Sunday, December 4, 2016

From Religion To Atheism To Christ (Part One)

As a youth I was raised in religion. It was not a strict experience, just a casual one. Nonetheless, I was strongly influenced by the idea of a God and morality. I would sometimes pray and was aware of right versus wrong.

Once I became older, I began to be influenced by a lifestyle that conflicted with my religious teachings. For a long time I struggled between these two forces. Eventually I decided to embrace this "sinful" lifestyle. I remember making a conscious choice to turn away from the God I thought I knew. It wasn't long after that I stopped believing in God altogether.

What was the motivation behind my lifestyle choice? What inspired me to change my belief system? I stopped believing in God because it conflicted with how I wanted to live my life. I reasoned that if there wasn't a God, who could say what I was doing was wrong?

My new belief system wasn't based upon truth. I decided to entertain the idea that God did not exist because it fit my agenda. In essence, I embraced a life of selfishness. To justify this choice, I decided to believe there wasn't a strict, moral set of rules endorsed by a righteous God. In my mind this gave me a license to do whatever I wanted without having to feel guilt.

I believe many people today are using a similar method to justify or explain their own lifestyle. Unfortunately, those who entertain this way of thinking are living in a false reality. I know from experience, just because we believe something does not make it true. I was deceived because of my dishonest heart and motives.

It is imperative that we look at life and our own actions honestly. If we choose to believe in lies to justify our actions, before long we will become mired in a swamp of spiritual confusion.

In my own life I began to drown in this swamp, descending deeper and deeper into a life of decadence. How was I rescued? Eventually I became disgusted with my sinful lifestyle. I began to long for something more meaningful, more honorable. It wasn't until I was willing to admit fault and accept the blame for my actions that I began to "see the light."

However, I found that acknowledging my guilt and having a willingness to change was only half the battle. Even though I realized and accepted I was doing wrong, I did not have the strength to stop myself. It was as if I had become a slave to my sinful lifestyle.

This realization lead to frustration and depression. It also lead me to a spiritual crossroad. What happened next changed me forever and drastically altered the direction of my life.

(To be continued)

FTS


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Introduction

What does our life mean? What purpose does it serve? Is our existence solely based upon what we can physically see and feel or is there something deeper? Is there hidden wisdom that can be discovered?

It is the acquisition of wisdom that leads to truth. But before we can find real truth we must first embrace humility. Inner truth cannot be found unless we are able to admit our faults. Unless we first acknowledge our blindness, the gift of spiritual sight will evade us.

In order to find truth, one must place it above everything else. The enemies of truth are: Cowardice, dishonesty, greed, lust, love of pleasure, pride, love of power, peer pressure...there are others as well. When we yield to these enemies, they create spiritual roadblocks that help to separate us from truth.

Those who love to do what is right embrace the truth. They are also not afraid to voice their opinions. Free speech, critical thinking, respect for others with different beliefs...all of these lead us to truth. For this reason, those who seek the truth embrace these principles.

 If we analyze our inner thoughts to learn what motivates us, we can begin to gain spiritual discernment. Before we do this, it is important that we use the proper lens for our spiritual eyes. A person looking through the lens of selfishness might have a totally different opinion than an unselfish person. For example:

A thief justifies stealing because he values material possessions over the individual rights of others. A righteous person hates stealing because he values integrity over deceitful material gain.

These are two people who have a different viewpoint about the same action. Who is right? The answer to this question also helps to explain why we have a great divide that exists in our world today.

On one side you have people with a belief system based upon their own personal agenda. The justification for their actions is founded upon their own feelings, with little to no regard for those they effect. On the other side you have people that value and respect others. They choose to deny the pursuit of physical pleasure or material possessions, if they are gained deceitfully or against the will of their fellow citizens.

Which side is right? What motivates us will either justify or condemn our actions. If our actions are motivated by selfishness with no regard for others, this is wrong. If we are motivated by love rather than selfish desires found inside each one of us, then we are in the right.

What is right is also the truth. For that reason, we must judge our inner thoughts and actions with a righteous attitude, if we are to find real truth. Having a selfish attitude will only blind us from the truth. Selfishness values personal gratification over compassion. It doesn't care if the fulfillment of pleasurable desire causes harm to others. Neither will it ever admit guilt, choosing rather to believe lies as justification for it's actions.

I was once a person who embraced lies to justify my dishonest and selfish lifestyle. It wasn't until I was willing to admit my guilt that I began to see truth. I started to realize my own selfish desires were blinding me from reality.

In the coming days ahead, I would like to share with you my life's quest for truth. I will also give a testimony of my encounter with the Spirit of truth. That unforgettable experience has laid the foundation for who I am today.

I am a firm believer that wisdom is impartial; it is not reserved for only a select group. Wisdom and truth can be found by anybody with a strong desire to find them.

I welcome open discussion and debate. In fact, I believe respectful discourse is vital to finding truth. Wisdom can be found in everyone. If we are not at least willing to listen to others, we might miss an opportunity to learn something new. Having said that, it is my sincere hope that this blog may help all of us on our quest for truth.

Respectfully,

FTS