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Christian Persecution

Christian Persecution

Almost daily we here about Christians around the world being persecuted for their faith in Christ. Unfortunately, we are only hearing about a tiny portion of all of the world wide suffering of the saints. Is this proof that Christians are weak? Absolutely not! Any coward can get in a large group with massive weaponry and terrorize the defenseless. Nor, does it take much courage to cower down and hide. However, the Christian who stands in faith knowing they can be killed, tortured, or victimized in a number of ways for their faith in my opinion is extraordinarily courageous. They are the perfect picture of strength and faith. Their courage doesn’t come from their own strength. Rather, it comes from their love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Are Christians being persecuted because God has forsaken them? Of course not! The Word of God promises that God will never leave us nor forsake us. In fact, the bible tells us that Christians will be persecuted. Jesus told us that the world will hate us because it hates Him. (John 15:18). Paul told Timothy in II Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” At the same time the Word of God gives us assurance that God’s blessings come to those who are persecuted. Jesus said in Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Let us not forget that Jesus Himself suffered greatly at the hands of wicked men as did all of the Apostles. And, we should not forget that Jesus died to ultimately put an end to all of the suffering this world offers. Romans 8:18 gives a comforting promise reminding us that this world is only temporary, but there is an eternal reward to come, stating, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Jesus foretold that persecution and violence would increase just before His return. (Matthew 24:9). He also said many would fall away as a result. (Matthew 24:10). Today, in almost every nation, Christian persecution is greatly increasing; some nations are obviously much worse than others. What can we do about it? 1st if you don’t know Jesus come to know Him for His return is imminent. 2nd, we need to stand firm regardless of what persecution we may face. Jesus is worthy and God can and will use it as a bold witness. 3rd, we need to pray for our fellow brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Lord, Teach us to Pray

“It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1 NASB

Do we know how to pray as we ought? According to the bible we don’t. Since we don’t know how to pray as we should the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. The fact is, no one can teach us to pray but God. Others can give suggestions and advice, but no one can truly teach us to pray; except the one to which we pray.

In this verse, we see one of the disciples first listening to Jesus pray. When Jesus finished praying it was as if the disciple came to Jesus and said, I want to pray like that, just like you did. I have been in the presence of some mighty men of God and stood in awe of their prayer. It was as if they were calling fire down from heaven. D.L. Moody gave testimony of traveling to England to visit with Charles Spurgeon. When Moody attended the Metropolitan Tabernacles service he said it wasn’t the heavenly choir that impressed him, nor was it Spurgeon’s masterful preaching, rather, he was impressed with the prayer.  Could you imaging being with Jesus while He prayed? These Jewish disciples of Jesus had no doubt been taught to pray from childhood. More than likely they prayed daily. However, they never prayed as Jesus prayed, but they wanted to.

Jesus asked the disciples to do many tasks. He asks of us the same. The greatest of tasks is to go and preach the gospel to all creation. Of the many tasks Jesus asked of us we never find in scripture anyone asking Jesus how to do them. The only request of any sort is how to pray. The fact is, the tasks Jesus calls us to do are empowered by prayer. If we don’t pray we shouldn’t expect any power or provision.

Yet, we so often do not know what to pray for. So, where do we start? Lord, teach is to pray. I don’t know how to pray as I should. Will You guide me? I have my own agenda and my own goals. Will you lead me to Yours? I am week and easily distracted. Will You keep me focused and on track. Prayer begins and ends with Jesus. Our level of dependency upon Him will determine the level of power in our prayer. We don’t put faith in our faith, nor do we put faith in prayer in and of itself; we put faith in Christ alone. For this reason, the beginning of all is, Lord, teach us to pray. Make that your daily prayer.

gethsemane

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Not Everyone Who Say’s to Me Lord, Lord.

Let’s be clear, not everyone who calls himself a Christian is truly a Christian. One of the most freighting statements that Jesus ever made is found in Matthew 7:21-23 where He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform manymiracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

First Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord. Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.” These are people who are calling Jesus Lord. Then Jesus said that they are doing works in His name. Why would these people not be saved? Jesus gave us a better understanding of why these people are not truly disciples of Jesus when He quoted the prophet Isaiah in Matthew 15:8, “THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.”

Much like the Pharisees who honored God with their lips they don’t truly know God or follow Him with their heart. They are too consumed in the accomplishment of self to serve God. They are more interested in the rules and rituals of religion than they are with seeking a relationship with the Lord. They are more concerned with the pat on the back than they are with the praise of the Lord. They are more in love with the idea of heaven than they are with the King of Glory and are more interested in building their kingdom than His. Their actions point to self rather than the Savior therefore, they honor Him with their lips but their hearts are far from Him. Jesus said that they “practice lawlessness.” Where is your heart today?

Jesus said that He will say to these people on the day of judgment, “I never knew you.” Not that He once knew them and they slipped away but, He never knew them, therefore, they never truly knew Him. Since their heart was set on serving self rather than the savior they never knew Jesus nor served Him. They never had a genuine relationship with Jesus.

Another frightening statement that Jesus made in this scripture was, “many will say to me Lord, Lord,” Many! Just before Jesus made this statement He said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Mathew 7:13-14.) According to Jesus only a few will be saved while many reject Him and are lost.

It is abundantly clear that the people out in the world who live lives in absolute rebellion against God are not saved. However, Jesus is now telling us that there are many who are serving in ministries that are not saved; teachers, deacons, pastors, and the faithful who sit in the pew week after week; yes, even tithers. They look Christian, they act Christian, they talk Christian, they do Christian acts, but Jesus said their walk is not genuine. There is no doubt that they think their walk is genuine. However, they fall under the category of people who believed in vain. (I Corinthians 15:1.)

Let me give a strong warning here. It is not our job to sit on the judgment seat and try to figure out who these folks are. Remember, they look and act Christian and because they are trying to be saved by their works and religion rather than a genuine relationship with Jesus they may act more Christian than some of the genuine Christians sitting in the pews. If God opened our eyes to the spiritual realm and allowed us to see who was saved and who wasn’t we would more than likely be astounded.

Our job is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember the seed sewer? We are to be like him sewing seed everywhere we go. This is one of the reasons the gospel should regularly be preached in the church. Along with our seed sewing we pray for the power of God to draw people unto salvation. God knows their heart. We don’t. I pray for every service that God would not allow one lost soul to leave without knowing Him. If we do our part, God will be faithful to do His part.

 

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2014 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Beautiful Feet

“HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” Romans 10:15 NASB

           Clearly the church is failing in regards to evangelizing this lost world. Thom Rainer recently wrote in a blog titled, Where Have All the Baptisms Gone? “I recently reported the latest statistics for our denomination. It’s not a pretty picture. Our membership declined again, this time by 105,708. And our baptisms were down to 314,956, the lowest level since 1948. But in 1948, we only had 6 million members. Today we have 16 million members. We are reaching less people for Christ, even though we have 10 million more members than we did in 1948.”

Even the most spiritually blind person among us today can see that this world is becoming morally bankrupt while they slip further from the Lord. Immorality of every sort is socially acceptable toady in almost every facet of society, even in many churches. Bible believing Christians are left asking the question why. Why is this world slipping further and further away from God’s righteous standard?

We are quick to make excuses that it is a sign of the times we are living in. We say the Lord is coming back soon and we are therefore seeing the apostasy. There may be truth in these statements, but this truth should cause us to work even harder for the kingdom and not less. We are even quick to pass the blame on everyone else. We say that the government, the judicial system, the news media, and the entertainment industry for the most part are anti Christian liberals who stand against us. We say things like, “If we can get Washington right we will reclaim this nation for the Lord.” However, there is a major problem with statements such as this. It is not the government’s job nor responsibility to lead this nation to the Lord-it is the churches.

The clear picture that statistics such as this, that Thom Rainer quoted, and many more like it, is that the church is not doing its job. God has given a clear biblical mandate to all Christians to share the gospel message of Jesus. Just prior to His ascension Jesus gave the final instructions to His disciples to go into all of the world and proclaim the gospel. (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:47-49, John 20:21). Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” He said, you shall be, or you will be, My witnesses. Jesus intentions for His church to share the gospel are abundantly clear.

Jesus asked the disciples in Matthew 16:13, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They said in the next verse, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Jesus then asked them in verse fifteen, “But who do you say that I am?” At this time Simon boldly answered in verse sixteen, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In the next verse we see that Jesus was greatly pleased with Simon’s answer and said, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Jesus then renamed Simon Peter saying, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church.”

When Jesus renamed Simon He called him Peter which is Petros in Greek. Petros is a small stone or a rock. A brick can fall under the category of a petros. It is certainly not a foundational stone that someone would build a house on. Rather it would be the small stones, like bricks, that would rest upon the foundational stone.

After Jesus named Simon Petros, He said “upon this rock I will build my church.” The word that Jesus used for rock was a different word than the one He used for Simon Peter. Jesus used the Greek word petra as the rock that the church would be built upon. Petra is a large rock, a foundational stone that is much different than the small stone, petros, Simon was called. Clearly Peter is not the foundational stone that the church is built upon; Jesus is. Jesus is the one who gave His life so He could redemption the church. To say any other is the foundation of the church is not only biblically inaccurate, it is outright blasphemous.

Peter clearly understood what Jesus was talking about. Peter wrote in I Peter 2:4-5, “And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house.” Who is the living stone? Jesus is. He is the one that was rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God. We are the ones who come to Him also as living stones that are being built up as a spiritual house. This is the perfect portrait of the church.

The church is not a physical building, an address, or location. The church is a spiritual house. Jesus is the living stone that is the foundation. We are living stones being built up on that foundation. Just as bricks are laid atop of the foundation of the building we are laid atop of Jesus who is the foundation of the church. We are also laid atop of all of the other believers who came before us such as Peter. Peter was named Petros because he was the first to confess Jesus as the Christ. Upon our confession of Christ we are saved and therefore laid atop of the foundation of Christ as the church.

After Peter gave us this wonderful picture of the structure of God’s spiritual house he then gave us an understanding of its function. He said in I Peter 2:9, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Jesus didn’t save us to give us a get out of hell free card. He saved us out of darkness and into light so we would have a relationship with Him and so we would proclaim to the rest of the world, which remains in darkness, of His excellencies and His marvelous light so they too would be drawn to the light and have a relationship with Him and not stand in darkness separated from God doomed to eternal condemnation. Clearly, this is one of the main functions of the church; the whole church.

Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” If the gospel is truly the power of God for salvation, as the Word of God says that it is, and we refuse to share the gospel we are then guilty of condemning this world to hell. How will they repent of their sins if we don’t tell? How will they walk out of darkness and into the marvelous light if we don’t tell? How will they know their sins will eternally condemn them if we don’t tell? “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Romans 10:14-15).

The feet that carry the good news may become callused, bruised, and bloody; they may become dusty, dirty, and grimy; they may become tired, weary, and worn, but they are beautiful to God. Far, they are bringing the good news of Jesus to a lost world of whom He loves.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Fasting and the Work of the Church Go Hand in Hand

“Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” Acts 13:1-3 NASB

I often hear pastors and minister fuss that they can’t get their congregation to move out of the pews and into the community for the sake of the gospel. I must admit I have grumbled those same complaints more than a time or two myself. However, we often fail to realize the fact that we are in a spiritual battle and not a physical one. We are only effective in winning a spiritual battle if we fight the battle with spiritual weapons of warfare. Fasting and praying is one of the greatest spiritual tools God has given to us.

Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. As we look out into our world it doesn’t take long to understand just how plentifully full the fields are with the lost who need to be harvested with the power of the gospel. Yet, we are often left disappointed when we see so few doing the work of the Lord. God has clearly called all Christians to share the gospel.  Unfortunately most Christians have never shared the gospel with anyone. Jesus said that we are to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would send workers into the field, in other words, Jesus is telling us to fight this battle with spiritual weapon of prayer.

We see in this text of scripture the church at Antioch praying and fasting. While they were praying and fasting the bible says that “the Holy Spirit said.” It isn’t coincidental that the church was seeking God through prayer and fasting and then heard from Him. In fact this should be the norm, just as the church seeking God through prayer and fasting should be the norm.

When the Holy Spirit spoke He told them to, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” They prayed to the Lord of the harvest and God answered by sending out workers into the harvest field. God was calling Barnabas and Saul, (Paul), to go out into the world and preach the gospel to the lost.

Before sending Barnabas and Saul into the mission field the church at Antioch prayed and fasted once again for their newly appointed missionaries. Notice that they didn’t send them out into the fields of spiritual war to fight the battle alone. Although Barnabas and Saul were sent out and the others remained, the church was spiritually in the mission field fighting the spiritual battle as partners in the trenches of spiritual war with them. The church continued to fight the fight with them by praying and fasting. Through the power of prayer and fasting we can stand alongside missionaries, pastors, and evangelists all over the world; even if they are on the opposite side of the world at the time-far it is a spiritual battle.

When Paul went out into the mission field and preached the gospel, many were saved. He formed churches and trained leaders who would help lead the church so he could go into other cities and do the same. The new believers needed a church to help them grow in their walk with the Lord. At the same time there were still many lost people in those cities that needed to hear the gospel. These cities were now the spiritual responsibility of the new churches.

Paul knew what an enormous task the churches had in reaching their community and training new believers. He also knew the power of prayer and fasting. Acts 14:23 says, “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

Are we reaching our communities, cities, counties, states, and nation with the gospel? Are we praying? Are we fasting? Lost people are not simply caught up in a philosophical thought that is contrary to the gospel; they are in spiritual bondage. Before we can change their philosophical view, we need to call upon the Lord of the harvest to transform and change their spiritual condition through the power of the gospel. Once they have accepted the gospel they are spiritually teachable and ready for the church to teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded. It begins with prayer and fasting, it continues with prayer and fasting, and it ends with prayer and fasting.

prayingman

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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A Sweet Aroma

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.” II Corinthians 2:14-16 NASB

This scripture reminds us of the fact that when we follow Jesus, God, “always leads us in triumph in Christ.” Regardless of what we face in this life we will always have victory. This scripture doesn’t teach us that bad things will never happen to those who follow Christ. Rather, it teaches us that God will get us through whatever life throws at us and allow us to have the victory. However, the victory only comes through a whole hearted pursuit of Jesus within our lives. On the other hand, pursuing our own plans, goals, and desires will certainly lead to disaster.

When we live for Christ, not only are we blessed and led to triumph, God manifests the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ through us. This sweet fragrance first becomes a fragrance to God. When we come to know Christ as our Savior and then led into triumph through Christ it manifests a sweet fragrance before the very throne of God and blesses God Himself. Heaven rejoices when a sinner is saved and led to victory in Christ. (Luke 15:7). God our Father, who loves us and has sacrificed for us, certainly rejoices.

Not only are we a pleasing fragrance unto God, we are a sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ to those who are being saved through accepting the gospel message of Christ and therefore give their lives to Him, and to those who are perishing because they have rejected the gospel. We are not responsible for those who reject or those who accept. That is a personal decision on their part. However, we are fully responsible as to whether or not we will live in pursuit of Jesus where the sweet aroma of Christ will then be manifest from within us so that the world can have the opportunity to inhale that sweet aroma and therefore have the opportunity to make the choice. How then do you choose to smell in the stench of this world today? I chose to smell like Christ.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Help Wanted

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Luke 10:2 NASB

 

Just after Jesus sent seventy laborers into the fields to reap a harvest for His kingdom Jesus spoke these words. When we look into our world today, after two thousand years of the churches labor in the fields, we rejoice over all of the progress that has been made. However, this truth still remains today-the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

When we look at the statistics of the America church we see a frightening truth. The harvest is multiplying while the laborers are decreasing. According to Thom Rainer, the CEO of Lifeway, Southern Baptist churches lost a little over one hundred thousand members last year and have had the lowest amount of baptisms since 1948. Unfortunately, in 1948 there were only six million Southern Baptist, today there are more than sixteen million. While this study was made specifically for the Southern Baptist Convention we realized that the statistics are not much different for most other denominations; some are much worse.

Looking at the vastness of the unreached people and the lost condition of our nation can be overwhelming. Truly the harvest is plentiful. When we look at how unreached our nation is for the Lord we shouldn’t be surprised at how wicked it has become. Lost people will act like lost people. However, our nation isn’t lost because we have fewer church members. It is lost because we have fewer church members laboring for the Lord. We cannot blame the world for its lost state, for, it is the church that Jesus commissioned, giving it power and authority, to go out and share the gospel across the globe.

Within the walls of the church most are discouraged with the entitlement society that is rapidly growing in our nation, not realizing they have created an entitlement society within the church itself. We go to church wanting to be blessed, but will not return a blessing. We go to church wanting to receive, yet we have no goal to give. We go to church wanting to be fed, although have no heart to feed. The problem with this is, God doesn’t call us to go to church, He calls us to be the church.

What then is the solution to this devastating and deadly problem? Jesus made it clear; we are to beseech the Lord of the harvest. We are to pray for God to send workers into His fields. We need to stop fussing about the problems and start seeking the solution by praying that God would send out the gospel seed sowers along with the harvesters out into the fields.

Set aside a daily time to pray for God to send workers into the field. Set aside a day or a weekend dedicated to praying for this need. If there are ministries in your church that are shorthanded, beseech the Lord of the harvest. Don’t stop praying until you see God stirring. Once you see God stirring, pray some more.

Yes we need to pray for the sinner that God would draw them unto Himself, yet at the same time, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). Pray! Keep in mind though; when you begin to pray, the first one God will begin to move will more than likely be you.

lwjas0044

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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