Agree to Disagree…

My oh my… doesn’t it seem as though our government is in the midst of a civil war? Red vs. Blue… Dem vs. GOP… Conservative vs. Liberal… President vs. Congress. It’s crazy, there is no civil discourse taking place. Only seeds or hate and anger seem to be planted. Very sad.

So, how is a Christian to conduct themselves in these days of division? Well, back in the first century, we see a couple of prominent brothers in the faith… Paul and Barnabas, in a heated dispute.

You see, these brothers were getting ready to set out on their second missionary trip. They had taken John Mark along with them on their first… and Barny wanted to bring him along for the second. But John Mark, he had struggled on the first trip… and had left in the midst of the journey to go back home (baby Christians can do that from time to time- bite off more than they can chew). And now, Paul… focusing on the journey ahead, didn’t want to have that happen again and didn’t want John Mark to come along… let’s read the details in Acts15:36-40…

After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. 38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.

Sharp disagreement. Who was right, who was wrong? The answer: neither.

They were just focused on different things that the Lord had put on their hearts. Paul was focused on follow-up ministry to churches that had been planted. Barnabas was concerned with restoring John Mark and having him grow in discipleship. Neither was right, neither was wrong. They just had different callings from the Lord.

The end result? The Holy Spirit created two different , very successful ministries from this disagreement. Also, we see the healing hand of the Lord in the relationship… when at the end of Paul’s days… as he sits in a Roman prison, awaiting his execution… he writes Timothy, his son in the faith… and he tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:11… Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. 

You see there was no lasting resentment… no “my way or the highway” mentality between the three of them… no, just a recognititon that the Lord was doing different things in each of their lives.

That should be our approach in life as well, I think. We don’t want to build walls and alienate people. We want the Lord to use us in sharing the gospel- in a loving, Christ like manner. As Paul tells us in Romans 12:18… If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men…

Amen.

The Good with the Bad…

In many churches today, I am of the opinion that it is being taught that once a person becomes a Christian… that with enough faith… enough name it and claim it… that a follower of Jesus will not experience difficulties in life. That life will be good, with no bad.

But my friend, that is not sound biblical theology. In fact the Apostle Paul teaches us in 2 Timothy 3:12… Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. So, the life of a Christian is going to experience some hardships and difficulties.

Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us… The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. The secret things which are the LORD’s, refers to the specific way in which God  carries out His will in our lives. Good things and bad things happen- but in a believer’s life, they are all being used for God’s purposes.

A wonderful example of that is our brother Job. He was a great man of faith, faithfully and diligently serving God. Job seemingly had it all family, wealth, a good name. Then in the period of one afternoon, he lost it all. And on top of that, Satan was allowed to personally inflict sores and boils upon the man. Physically, he was in a terrible shape.

The only family left to him was his wife. And in Job 2:9 we are told…Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!”

But our brother’s faith was a bit deeper than that… for we read in Job 2:10… But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

You see dear Christian, Job lived out his life… through words and deeds, his confidence that God was in control and had a plan and a purpose in every aspect of his life… and he leaned heavily upon that trust in the crisis time of his life.

I know that some who are reading this are at this very moment are struggling with difficulties in their lives. Stay strong in the LORD. There is a reason for it, it has not taken God by surprise. Lean on your faith. If you do not, it will get ugly… depression, stress, anxiety will set in and stay… and that is the place where Satan dwells.

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us… Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

You want peace? Pray, take it to the Lord Jesus!

 

Knowing our Enemy…

In my twenty years in the U.S. Navy, working in the Combat Information Center of four naval warships… one of the keys to victory, either in real world operations or naval exercises was the need to know our opposition or enemy. It is critical to success.

For the Christian, there seems to be temptation and challenge for us at every turn… whether it is love of money… power and prestige… lusts of the flesh such as sex, drugs, alcohol… there seems to be challenge to our desire to walk holy and Christlike before the LORD.

But all these things are not our true enemy- they are weapons of our true enemy, who is Satan… for the Apostle Paul declare to us in Ephesians 6:12… For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Our real enemy dwells in the heavenlies… he is, we are told the prince of the air in Ephesians 2:2. He is our enemy. He hates you and he hates me. So we need to understand his strategy to attack us.

Satan’s target is our minds. We are told in 2 Corinthians 11:3… But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

Satan’s weapon is lies. It was how Eve was deceived in the Garden. The devil asked her in Genesis 3:1… Indeed, has God said… Then he goes on to twist and pervert what God had indeed said. And he does not appraoch us as some demonic evil that seeks to destroy your life and soul… Not at all. He comes masquerading as an angel of light… yet again, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:14… No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

Satan’s Purpose. The devil wants to make you ignorant of God’s will for you. So that you are of not heavenly use to God’s kingdom. That is why he lies and pervert’s God’s word. Because God’s word reveals God’s will for the Church and for you and I directly. We know this from Acts 22:14 where we read… And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth.

Our defense. Only God’s word can reveal and defeat Satan’s lies. Truly, our only defense is the inspired word of God and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. It was the defense that Jesus used against Satan when Jesus was in the desert being tempted by this old snake… Jesus said again and again… It is written (Matthew 4:1-11)

So saints… do you feel like you are under attack? Well, you are, the devil is relentless. But defeat his attacks- stay in God’s Word. Once a week on Sundays is not enough… it’s just enough to get you tripped up. Stay in God’s Word daily! Daily!

 

The Frustration of the Flesh…

Walking with Jesus in this life is simply a blessing! Being “in Christ” makes waking up every morning something to look forward to. Yet, because we live in these “earth suits” that we call “the flesh” we often- perhaps more than we care to admit… do those things that we know are not pleasing to the Lord. That is called sin. Anything that is not pleasing to the Lord. The Apostle Paul had the same “frustration in the flesh” to we experience. He spoke of it in Romans 7: 15-24… (Message Translation)

I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

I just love Paul’s brutal honesty. We all struggle with our flesh… each and every one of us. Even you.

And if Paul had ended his letter to the Romans at chapter 7… I think we would all feel a little deflated… but Paul went on… to Romans Chapter 8, and he answers his questions at verse 1, where we read: Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

When we fall short in this journey that we call life… Paul let’s us know that there is no blame placed on us. No judgement assigned to us. No disapproval from the Lord… and that is because we are 1) saved by grace- Ephesians 2:8-9, 2) Jesus knows what we are going through down here- Hebrews 4:15 and 3) Jesus is even now interceding on our behalf- Romans 8:34.

This is good news and it is freeing. We need to live our lives, daily desiring to grow in Christ likeness… but when we do those things that we know we shouldn’t… confess, repent and move on… under no condemnation. Jesus frees us from the “frustration of the flesh.”

 

Can a Christian “lose” their salvation?

One of the most interesting and challenging sections of all scripture is found in Hebrews 6:4-6…

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

A proper interpretation of this section of scripture and in truth the entire epistle requires the understanding that it addresses three distinct groups of Hebrews: 1) believers; 2) unbelievers who were intellectually convinced of the gospel; and 3) unbelievers who were attracted to the gospel and the person of Jesus the Christ, but had not yet reached a decision about Him.

Failure to acknowledge these groups leads to interpretations inconsistent with the entirety of Scripture.

It is the second group that is being addressed in Hebrews 6:4-6. They were intellectually convinced yet spiritually uncommitted. They were enlightened in biblical truth, that was accompanied by intellectual perception… they had even been partakers of the Holy Spirit- probably referring to their participation in the miraculous ministry of Jesus and perhaps the apostles as they were empowered by the Holy Spirit.

But then had fallen awayit is the a Greek term equivalent to Apostasy. They knew the truth… perhaps even believed the truth… but had never actually trusted their eternities to that saving knowledge.

It is impossible to renew them again to repentance… those who sinned against Christ in such a way had no hope of restoration or forgiveness… because they had rejected Him with full knowledge and conscious understanding and experience. They could never have more knowledge than they had when they rejected Him.

There is no possibility of these verses referring to losing salvation.

The entirety of scripture make that unmistakably clear: John 10:27-29, Philippians 1:6, 1 Peter 1:4-5

But perhaps the strongest scripture for that is found in Romans 8:35, 38-39…

35. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 38-39. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Saints… Satan wants you to doubt your eternal security. He wants you to live in fear. Christ Jesus does not, He has made it clear: WHEN YOU ARE BORN AGAIN NOTHING CAN SEPERATE YOU FROM THE LOVE OF GOD!!!

 

Can a Christian “lose” their salvation?

One of the most interesting and challenging sections of all scripture is found in Hebrews 6:4-6…

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

A proper interpretation of this section of scripture and in truth the entire epistle requires the understanding that it addresses three distinct groups of Hebrews: 1) believers; 2) unbelievers who were intellectually convinced of the gospel; and 3) unbelievers who were attracted to the gospel and the person of Jesus the Christ, but had not yet reached a decision about Him.

Failure to acknowledge these groups leads to interpretations inconsistent with the entirety of Scripture.

It is the second group that is being addressed in Hebrews 6:4-6. They were intellectually convinced yet spiritually uncommitted. They were enlightened in biblical truth, that was accompanied by intellectual perception… they had even been partakers of the Holy Spirit- probably referring to their participation in the miraculous ministry of Jesus and perhaps the apostles as they were empowered by the Holy Spirit.

But then had fallen awayit is the a Greek term equivalent to Apostasy. They knew the truth… perhaps even believed the truth… but had never actually trusted their eternities to that saving knowledge.

It is impossible to renew them again to repentance… those who sinned against Christ in such a way had no hope of restoration or forgiveness… because they had rejected Him with full knowledge and conscious understanding and experience. They could never have more knowledge than they had when they rejected Him.

There is no possibility of these verses referring to losing salvation.

The entirety of scripture make that unmistakably clear: John 10:27-29, Philippians 1:6, 1 Peter 1:4-5

But perhaps the strongest scripture for that is found in Romans 8:35, 38-39…

35. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 38-39. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Saints… Satan wants you to doubt your eternal security. He wants you to live in fear. Christ Jesus does not, He has made it clear: WHEN YOU ARE BORN AGAIN NOTHING CAN SEPERATE YOU FROM THE LOVE OF GOD!!!

 

Gain the world, lose your soul…

In the United States, we are blessed with great material and physical wealth. No nation before has ever enjoyed the vast luxuries that this country has and currently enjoys. The average middle class American is very rich compared to much of the rest of the world.

The question for the Christian is this. Do you control your possessions, or do your possessions control you?

There’s an interesting story found in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospel account of a rich young ruler, who asks Jesus… what good thing must I do that I may attain eternal life? After some conversation, Jesus says: “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

The rich young ruler loved his riches so much that they kept him from accepting eternal life from the Son of God.

We pick up the story at Matthew 19: 23-26… And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Jesus uses an illustration of the impossibility of a camel going through the eye of a needle. Some theologians have taught that the needle’s eye referred to a gate in the wall of Jerusalem through which by means of much effort, much pulling and pushing a camel could finally get through the needle gate.

However, the Greek of Matthew 19:24 and Mark 10:25 speaks of a needle that is used with thread, and Dr. Luke used in Luke 18:25 a medical term for a needle that is used in surgical operations.

It is quite evident from studying the language  that the gate is not meant, but rather the tiny eye of a sewing needle.

It is therefore IMPOSSIBLE for anyone whose love for wealth keeps them from trusting Jesus the Christ as Savior, to be saved.

In answer to the disciples’ question, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus says, ” The things that are impossible with men, are possible with God.” The word “with” in the Greek means litterally “beside.”

If we take our stand in this world with the riches that it offers, we run “beside” or along with the world… and it is impossible to be saved.

However, if we take our stand “beside” God on the matter of provision and worldly needs… then the formerly impossilbe becomes possible through faith, trust and a life of discipleship through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Who or what do you stand “beside?”

The Christ, the Savior of the world…

In John 4:1-42, we are given the account of Jesus conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. It is a spiritual conversation. Jesus offers her Living Water. This woman was drawing water in the heat of the day, this is because she had a reputation in town… and because of that… she isn’t accepted at the well in the cool of the day. And Jesus meets her in the heat of the day… and offers her something she could relate to- Living Water. Jesus was speaking spiritually concerning salvation and eternal life… but she was slow to understand this… and then Jesus lovingly, but directly addresses her sin… we are told in John 4:16-18… He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” 

After dealing with the sin issue, in Vs. 25-26 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

And trusting and believing this… she runs into city proclaiming that they need to hear this Jesus… and we are told… in Vs. 39-41 From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.” So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of His word… 

Here is the point of this post. When we are born-again, accepting that Jesus is the Messiah, and being forgiven our sin, we are then called to share our testimony. The Lord wants us to share with the world the change in our lives that the Savior has made. Sharing our testimony is not optional. Then after sharing our testimony, we need to bring that person to the place of getting into His word- the Scriptures, where the Holy Spirit can and will convict and lead to repentance.

But, how many Christians even know where to start biblically to do that? Here is a road that can be used. It is called the Romans Road. You can begin by:

  1. Show the human problem. That we are all sinners, and that is death. We find that in Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23.
  2. Show them Humanities hope in Christ. We find that in Romans 5:8.
  3.  Then we need to show them the sinner’s response to that truth. That is found in Romans 10:9-10, 13
  4.  Then we show them the result of salvation. That is eternal freedom, found in Romans5:1-2 and Romans 8:1

There is Living Water available to everyone on this planet, there needs to be no spiritual thirst in this world. But, like the Samaritan woman at the well… that needs to be shared with them and God has chosen to use you and I to do that. So, share your testimony and lead people to the words of Jesus.

A New Heaven and a New Earth…

In studying the Book of Revelation, it is always wonderful to get near the end of the book… because as we enter chapters 21 and chapters 22… we see that one day sin will be eliminated and the Saints in Christ Jesus will have eternal peace and joy with our Savior… and we see that pictured for us in Revelation 21:1 which reads:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. A new heaven and a new earth… and as you read on, a new Jerusalem… all things made new.

However, prior to getting to those chapters, one needs to progress through the chapters before them to get a true appreciation of how terrible it is going to get and what we have been redeemed from.

For example, it is going to get so bad in the “latter days” in heaven and on earth that we read in Revelation 12:7… And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war… probably at about the middle of the tribulation time… around the time of the “Abomination of Desolations” spoken of by Daniel the prophet and Jesus our Lord… there is going to be an actual war in heaven! Incredible!

But, Satan and his minions are no match for Michael and his angels… and then we read one of my favorite verses in the bible… Revelation 12:9… And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.  Satan will once and for all be cast eternally out from heaven. That is very encouraging to me.

I do not know why God allows Satan access into heaven today… but from Job 1 and we know that he does have access… not unlimited access, but access nonetheless… and he gives reports and accusations to God about us. But, his days are numbered and he is quickly running out of time… and I am so grateful that we have our advocate, the Lord Jesus in our corner to counter Satan’s accusations.

As I stated, I do not know why precisely, God allows that old dragon access into heaven… but this I absolutely do know: wherever that old serpent goes, he makes a mess… he is a mess maker, that’s what he does.

So, I began wondering one day about Revelation 21… I understand why God needs to create a new earth and a new Jerusalem… Satan has made a truly awful mess of things down here… but why does God create a new heaven? And I think the answer is found in Revelation 21:7 which reads, concerning the new Jerusalem, but I believe can and should be applied to the new earth and heaven as well… God says, through John the Revelator:

and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

You see, when all that redeemable on earth have been born-again into eternity with God through the blood sacrifice of Christ on the cross… and God is going to restore things to their Garden of Eden state for eternity… He has to do that with heaven as well… because Satan has been allowed access to heaven… sin entered into heaven and made a mess of things… and that has to be cleaned up just as the earth and Jerusalem needs to be made new. Nothing unclean or abominable will be allowed there.

And that is wonderful news… because at that time… the Lord tells us in Revelation21:4:

and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.

And that is truly something to rejoice about. One day, this worlds sorrow and pain will be eternally replaced! Keep looking up Saints!!

 

Gaslighting and Deepfake or The Time of the Signs…

These are indeed interesting times in which to live. For 35 years, I have been studying God’s word. For 35 years, I’ve been looking for the Lord Jesus to return for His church. During all that time, I’ve studied in great detail the things concerning the “Latter Days.” Watching detail after detail being prophetically aligned for His return… just as we are told it would in God’s word.

One of the things that has always been of interest to me is the words that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, who thought that the rapture of the church had taken place and they were left behind… to them Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:3… Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction… 

So, there will be an apostasy that will occur before the rapture of the church and the revealing of the Antichrist- the man of lawlessness. Apostasy means a falling away from the truth- the church is going to fall away from the truth that it has followed for centuries… and that is concerning to me. I’ve prayed often, “Lord, don’t allow me to be deceived.”

Interestingly, when the disciples of Jesus asked Him concerning the sign of His coming… the first thing He replies to them in Matthew 24:4 is… And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.” (NKJV)

There are a couple of terms that are used today, that weren’t around when I was a boy. The first is: Gaslightingit is a phrase taken from a 1940’s movie and it is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity (that is the plot of the movie).

The second is Deepfake, this is a technique for human image synthesis based on artificial intelligence. It is used to combine and superimpose existing images and videos onto source images or videos using a machine learning technique known as generative adversarial network. The phrase “deepfake” was coined in 2017.

Gaslighting and Deepfake are methods that media, politicians and governments are employing to deceive the public… to get them to believe something that is not true. I believe that it is literally happening all around us… we are being fed lies for truth.

The Apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus warned us not to be deceived. So, how do we avoid being deceived? By trusting and staying in God’s word, that’s how. It is the only way.

Jesus, when praying for the disciples (as well as for you and I) just before His crucifixion prayed in John 17:17… Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.

And we know in Psalm 119:89 that it is said… Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.

And Paul famously told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17… All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Saints! Don’t be Gaslighted or Deepfaked! Jesus is coming! Stay true to His word, it is all we need!