Christianity, current events, God, morality, November 2016 election, politics, religion, Uncategorized

Now That The Election Is Over….

Mr. Trump has been elected to the great relief of many conservatives and Christians, but this is no time to think the battle is over and the work is done. More than ever this is the time the church needs to be in prayer for our President-elect and our nation. Here are some things to keep in prayer:

 

Presidential leadership/appointments

 

President-elect Trump will be at the helm of this nation as it goes through some of the most difficult times it has ever faced. This will require wisdom that is superior to what the world has to offer. Our President-elect will need wisdom from above to do the right thing no matter how much it conflicts with the world’s point of view. Our President-elect will also need strength and perseverance because the forces that will oppose him are strong, they are entrenched, and they aren’t about to just give up and go away. It may be a long and protracted fight, but it’s a fight we cannot afford to lose. We must pray that our President-elect surrounds himself with the right people and has a team that will faithfully stand by him when the battles rage. It’s going to get very hot in the kitchen, and our new President needs people who can handle the heat. I would also urge us to pray that our President-elect will steer a course that God wants us to take. I have heard a lot about “Make America Great Again,” but that will only happen if our priorities align with God’s priorities. I am sorry, but this really isn’t that time to focus on jobs and the economy; it’s time to focus on the repentance and repair the spiritual problems that got us in this mess in the first place. Our President-elect will need godly priorities!

 

Judgment is still coming

 

Judgment may be delayed, but it is still coming; it will begin in the house of God. The church will be shaken like a tree in a strong wind, and what is rotten will fall off. This is the time to get your house in order. Leave the nets behind like Peter did and follow the Lord Yeshua with all your heart. Go in with all your heart without looking back or go home; it’s better to be hot or cold than lukewarm.

 

We must also keep our nation in prayer. The spiritual condition of America is very serious, as evidenced by the election results. Over 60 million voters voted to go in a direction that would make things even worse, so we need to realize we aren’t out of the woods just because this election is over. The reason we have this is because of division. Division has always been a favorite strategy of the enemy, and America is deeply divided. We have deep divisions over God, race, priorities, politics, right and wrong, etc. This isn’t just division in the world, the church has a bad case of division itself. The Adversary loves it when the people of God are fighting each other because it makes it so much easier for him to do his work undisturbed. We get so distracted fighting each other we don’t understand that we have allowed the enemy to set up shop in our midst. Christ is not divided, and so let’s unite against the real enemy of our souls and country and stop fighting among ourselves.

 

We see that in politics Donald Trump’s transition team is already at work in Washington, but the kingdom of God also has a transition team. God has chosen certain vessels who will work to prepare the way for the King of kings! The reign of darkness is coming to an end, and they aren’t about to go away quietly. The darkness knows that its time is short. All of God’s people are supposed to be on this transition team, but for whatever reason, not everyone is making themselves available. Things are also going to heat up spiritually, and this is the time to prepare. That’s what wise people do; they know what’s coming down the road and take appropriate action. If you have choking weeds in your heart, repent and ask God for help so you can be fully focused on His will. Let all other considerations be rescinded so that His will has first place in your heart. The judgment is still coming; will you make yourself available for God’s transition team?

 

This is just a short post and a call to prayer. Judgment begins in the house of God, and America will become great again by humbling herself before God and repenting first. Please pray!

 

Shalom friends!

 

Heshvan 18, 5777

 

 

 

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Apologetics, Christianity, Evangelism, God, Uncategorized

The Defense Is Ready: Taking The Gospel To The People

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks the reason for your hope. Do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

Posted on Twitter by @Skylarblue54

Dear friends,

As Christians, we have all encountered people who have wanted to know more about the hope the lies within us at one time or another, so we must be ready in season or out of season to make a defense of the Gospel. As the initial Scripture portion from Peter’s first letter tells us, there is a right way to do this (use gentleness and respect). I write this by way of reminder for those who want to give a defense of the Gospel and are also involved with evangelism. Apologetics and evangelism work in tandem, so I may use the terms interchangeably in this writing. According to Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, the Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who believe, it is the power of God (1: 18, also Rom 1: 16). God uses the foolishness of the message preached to save souls, but in order for the Gospel to keep its power, it must be handled correctly.

Think of the Gospel as a medicine. Whenever you get a prescription from your doctor, you can’t just take your medicine any way you please. The doctor gives specific instructions about dosage, how often to take medication, and what things to avoid so you won’t have a drug interaction problem and so that you will get the maximum benefit. The message of evangelism and the work of apologetics are like God’s prescription for the people we minister to; it makes the power of God available for salvation. We are like residents learning under the Great Physician, and so in order to effectively minister to our patients, we must not vary from His instructions. There are some things we should keep in mind.

The Gospel message must be kept pure and complete to keep its power

In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus identifies Himself as the Bread of Life; He said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life. This was a hard saying for many of the disciples, and many of them no longer walked with Him after this (v 66). Jesus didn’t customize the Gospel by telling the audience what they wanted to hear. He was concerned that the people get the whole counsel of God, even if it offended them and caused them to turn away.

 
It is an unfortunate fact that today some people customize the Gospel in order to keep the numbers up. They add or subtract from the Gospel to make it more palatable for the masses. One well-known televangelist has customized the Gospel by never mentioning Hell. He justified this by saying there is enough negativity in the world already without adding “Hell” to it. Others have customized the Gospel by exchanging grace for works, denying Jesus as the only way to the Father, claiming Jesus is really Michael the Archangel, denying that Jesus rose from the dead, etc. People who customize the Gospel covet followers who will seek after them (as well as buy their books, attend their conferences, etc.), not the Lord. This has been going on a long time; even as the ink was drying on Paul’s epistles false brethren were altering and customizing the Gospel:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Gal 1: 6-7, NASB)

 
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a messenger or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has already come. (2 Thess 2: 1-2, NASB)

 
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead? (1 Cor 15: 12, NASB)

In order for the Gospel to keep the power God intended it to have, it must be kept pure with no additions or subtractions. Customizing the Gospel creates another gospel, and if God didn’t build it, it won’t save the hearers. Keep the Gospel pure when you defend it and when you evangelize, then the power God intended it to have will flow through it and minister to those in need of a physician; it won’t return void, but will accomplish the will of the Father.

When defending the Gospel, keep it spiritual

As an evangelist/apologist, you will encounter all kinds of people seeking answers about anything under the sun. When unbelievers ask about your faith, it’s very important that you don’t try to persuade them with natural, worldly wisdom. If people don’t believe the testimony of the Scriptures, which has the power to bring salvation, will they be persuaded by a natural argument based on worldly wisdom? If they won’t listen to the spiritual, will the natural persuade them? Of course not. It is written “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside” (1 Cor 1: 19, NASB), so natural means of persuasion have no place here. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; this means we cannot expect spiritual fruit using worldly methods, which Paul called clever speech (1 Cor 1: 17). If we could persuade people with our own powers of persuasion, we could boast before God about our works, but that cannot be because it’s by His doing that we are in Christ (1 Cor 1: 30). Think about this, did Peter know Jesus was the Son of God because of a clever argument, or because he had a spiritual revelation (Matt 16:16-17)?

Apologists must keep their defense rooted in the spiritual and allow the Holy Spirit to persuade the people and open their eyes; only He can do this. Keep the focus on the Gospel, the whole Gospel, and nothing but the Gospel. You may not be able to answer questions that require specialized knowledge (e.g. evolution, philosophy), but you can talk about the One who gave life to us all.

Love

I have seen many Twitter threads in which a person is talking about matters of faith, but their language is just as coarse and brutal as an unbeliever. That should not be. Can salt water and fresh water be drawn from the same well? Of course not! As we were reminded in 1 Peter 3: 15, we must be respectful and gentle when giving an answer for the hope that lies within us. We must not allow ourselves to get drawn into quarrels and foolish arguments about words and useless speculations that just end up ruining the hearers. If the conversation degenerates into name calling and quarreling, do not trade insult for insult. If you do, you are acting from the natural man and the end of that road isn’t eternal life. Keep the following advice in mind:

And the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim 2: 24-26, NASB)

 

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Eph 4: 29, NASB)

 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. (Matt 5: 9, NASB)

 

You have heard it said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matt 5: 43-45)

Show kindness and the way of love in words and deeds. When love is present in the Gospel presentation/defense, it is the ingredient that sets the Gospel apart from all other narratives. Without love, the Gospel sounds like a clanging symbol and a noisy gong. People won’t care about your faith or what you know unless they know how much you care.

The Great Physician is the one who writes the prescription instructions for how the Gospel is to be administered so it doesn’t lose any of its saltiness or saving power. We are His residents, and we are responsible to administer it to those under our care. If His instructions aren’t followed correctly, the patient won’t respond as well, and their condition will even get worse. Do we want to be like the physicians who tried to help the woman with the issue of blood? Keep the Gospel pure, keep your message spiritual, and show them love.

Elul 18, 5776

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Do not be disqualified by foolishness: A wise virgin’s guide Part 2

There is a detail about the ten virgins’ parable that needs to be examined. The second verse tells us that “Five of them were foolish, and five were wise” Matt 25:2 (ESV). This verse reveals that there were two distinct groups; this is important even if it doesn’t get talked about a lot. Groups are important parts of all our lives. The most important group believers can belong to is the body of Christ. We are by nature social beings; it is part of our human nature to want to belong to a group. The desire to be part of a group can be very powerful, and there are two principle reasons for this.

A group creates an atmosphere of acceptance. This acceptance is based on some kind of common ground that the group members share. When we interact with these people, we can exchange thoughts and ideas without sounding out of place. We can open our hearts with someone who knows what it’s like to go through what we are experiencing, and who can say “I have been there.” If the shared experience is especially strong, one might even say “it’s like we have known each other our whole lives.” The saying that “birds of a feather flock together” is true. A group of people who share life’s trials have agreement and harmony; this creates an atmosphere of acceptance (especially if love is involved) that has a very powerful appeal.

A group can also create a sense of security. It is much easier for a person to weather a storm knowing others are there to help, and they are not alone in this. There really is strength in numbers, and Solomon tells us:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Eccl 4:9-12 (ESV)

We can even see this in nature itself. Animals that stay in the herd are safe from attack. It’s the stranglers and loners who are vulnerable to predators. Safety can be a compelling reason to be a part of a group as well; there is a great comfort in knowing that someone is watching your back. Now you may ask, what does all this have to do with the parable of the ten virgins?

Craving the acceptance of the wrong group (or person) can come at the expense of your eternal life. When I said that the desire to be in a group can be powerful, I meant that as a warning because it is powerful.  Wise virgins take note! I believe the strongest example of this can be found with Solomon, who was one of the wisest men ever to live. Solomon knew the Scriptures, and what they said would happen if he married foreign women. Solomon followed God, but he also loved foreign women who followed their own gods. Solomon could not have any common ground with his wives without compromise. Even though Solomon was very wise, he did not listen to wisdom when it came to marriage:

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.

1 Kings 11:1-2 (ESV)

Notice that last line. Solomon craved love and acceptance from the foreign women he married, but people cannot walk together unless they are in agreement. He had a choice to make. Either he should follow God with all his heart, or he must compromise and turn away from God. Here is what happened:

For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.

1 Kings 11:4-8 (ESV)

If a man as wise as Solomon can fall, we should not underestimate the power of love and acceptance to persuade us to turn us away from the Living God. It is always tragic to hear about people who have gotten into abusive relationships, lost money in a romantic scam, or joined cults because they thought these things would give them the love and acceptance they were looking for. We can avoid this trap by remembering the counsel of God: Examine everything under the light of God’s word. For those who will heed this, it will save them from many sorrows.

In this case, the first thing we need to do is define what love really is. If we know what true love is and what its qualities and characteristics are, we can spot the counterfeits. This is what Paul tells us about love:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Cor 13:4-7 (ESV)

Let’s compare this with the deal Solomon got from his foreign wives. The price for their love was accepting their gods and rejecting the one true God. This cannot be true love because it insisted on its own way. Solomon’s wives never wanted to serve the Lord God (Cf. Ruth 1: 16-17); they insisted on having their own way and worshipping their own gods (Strike one). Worshipping other gods was also a direct violation of the first commandment. This is wrongdoing of the highest order, but the love his wives had rejoiced in this. Rejoicing in wrongdoing is not evidence of true love (strike two).  True love is enduring. It doesn’t present a list of conditions that must be met before it is bestowed. Solomon’s wives offered a conditional love; it would only be given in exchange for meeting its requirements (strike three). This cursory examination shows that Solomon was not being offered true love, but a counterfeit. This brings us back to the virgins.

As I mentioned at first, there were two groups. The foolish group was careless, compromising, and negligent, and given the case of Solomon, it follows that some of the foolish virgins were once in the wise camp. There was something about foolishness that persuaded these once wise virgins to embrace it. Foolishness can be very persuasive in areas we are vulnerable in. For example, if we have had a childhood in which the parents withheld love, or only showed love under certain conditions, we will want to find the love and acceptance we didn’t get somewhere else. If we have had a life where we never felt secure, then we will try to find that security somewhere. Foolishness offers deceptive imitations to satisfy our needs, but since these imitations do not originate from God, they do not have the divine power to affect a cure. They will never be the healing balm we need; they can only bring ruin.

Foolishness has a sweet and pleasant taste at first; it can even be like intoxication. This is deceptive because only later does the taste become bitter, but by that time a person has ingested large amounts of foolishness and the weeds that choke out the word have been sown. The heart becomes hard, and this makes a spiritual recovery doubtful. Foolishness truly has a season when it feels pleasant and enjoyable, but it lasts just long enough for the hook to be set. If Solomon perceived the bitterness immediately, would he have continued? Given Solomon’s case, there are two things we should watch out for: We should never underestimate the power of our need for love, acceptance, and security to draw away into foolishness, and we should never overestimate our power to resist. In other words, we should take the warnings of Scripture seriously:

The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

Prov 9:13-18 (ESV)

We should always try to help people recover from the grip of foolishness, but if you are trying to help someone who has been persuaded that “stolen water is sweet,” remember this warning: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” Gal 6:1 (ESV). Watch out that your efforts to help don’t end up snaring you. Don’t become a casualty!

Wise virgins, stay in your group. What kind of people do you associate with? Do they rejoice in the truth? Do they insist on their own way? Are they telling you to stock up on oil while the markets are still open? Or are they saying there is no need to get all radical, there’s plenty of time and the wait for the Bridegroom won’t be that long anyway? The time is getting short, and the Lord will soon return for His people. Do not stop meeting together and encouraging one another while it is still called today. Build each other up and pray for one another. Do not turn away from wisdom:

And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways.  Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.  Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.

Prov 8:32-36 (ESV)

Take care, my beloved.

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