Category Archives: Christian Living

Blessing and Cursing

Why is it so hard for us Christians to accept both?  We freely reach out our hands to God to accept the many blessings He bestows upon us, but let the first storm hit and we’re always quick to cry out, “Why me God!” or “How could God let this happen to me?”  How is it that we can receive the good and not the bad?  Well that’s the exact question Job asked his wife during his many trials in response to her comment of “Curse God and die”.  Job 2:10, “He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”  Picture it, this is Job, the man after whom we all look to as an example when facing various trials and tribulations.  In the midst of his great storm, perhaps the most fierce of all time, he responds with how can we accept blessings and not adversity.  What power and truth in that passage.  Actually what a wake-up call to us Christians who have become spoiled expecting only good, when truthfully what we need is adversity.  Because the adversities in our lives mold us and help strengthen us, faith-builders if you will.  Are you most likely to trust God when things are going great, when you may not feel like you need Him as much?  Or are you more likely to trust Him when the waves are crashing all around and you feel like hope is lost, then you refocus your eyes on Him.

The apostle Paul speaks on this very point in his second epistle to the church at Corinth.  He begins our passage with a sarcastic tone directed toward those false apostles of the church, but leads into a description of adversity and trials that is nearly breathtaking.  We begin in II Corinthians 11:23 NKJV, “Are they ministers of Christ?-I speak as a fool-I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.”  Here Paul is just beginning his description of what he’s faced all for his passion of sharing Jesus Christ with people.  He labors more, been beaten more, imprisoned more, faced death more.  But he continues:

From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness- 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? 30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.  II Corinthians 11:24-30

If I will boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.  All that he faced and he was still willing to boast that he had faced each and every trial because it glorified the Lord.  It magnified the power of God in his life and in his ministry.  With each trial, each brutal beating (even stoning), each shipwreck he became stronger, increased his faith in God.  But with all this God still sent him a “thorn” in his flesh that he might not boast of the things which God had allowed him to see.  After pleading with God three times to remove it God told him, “”My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  II Corinthians 12:9 NKJV God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness, because it shows just how much we need him.  It shows how little we can do on our own and how reliant we must be on the strength of God.  Paul continues on in verse 9 leading to one of my favorite verses, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  For when we are weak, then we are strong in Christ Jesus.

Too often we think of adversity, trials, or tragedy’s as curses when in fact if we change our perspective from one of selfishness to one of focus on God as our center, then we can see that these too our blessings because of how they strengthen us.  Just as I alluded to in TRIAL BY FIRE, in nature fire is capable of bringing growth, so too is it capable of bringing growth in our life through the strength of Jesus Christ.

Prayer:  Whatever you’re facing in life Christian, God knows what you’re going through.  He knows your pains, your fears, your trials and tribulations.  But He also uses those to bring our focus back to Him, I’m testament to that.  It’s not within us to rejoice and welcome actual pain, but we can rejoice in the power of Christ that is revealed through us during these times and know that through it all God’s grace is sufficient.

Choose you this day: The Impacts of John 8:11 – Part II

In Part I of this study we looked at the amazing impacts of the Grace & Truth presented by Jesus to the adulteress brought before Him by the scribes and Pharisees.  As we learned, this passage can be applied to each of our lives if we will only fall before Jesus seeking mercy, receiving grace and going forward to live in truth.  In Part II, let’s dig deeper and examine the decision Jesus made when presented with the “trick” by the “religious” leaders.  Just as we previously discussed the men came to Jesus to set Him up and present a “catch-22” scenario hoping He would either decry the Law of Moses or the Roman law.  Interesting situation isn’t it?  Choose to follow the laws of God or follow the laws of man.  Now we know Jesus’ response provided a new path, one that only He can present, that laid the foundation for all who would follow Him.  But let’s look closely at a group of friends from the Old Testament, who were also presented with choices to follow God or the laws of man.

The examples I’d like to look at all occurred in the Book of Daniel.  With Daniel we get multiple examples of how the Law of God supersedes the laws of man.  First we have Daniel and his friends refusing to eat the prepared delicacies of the king in order to maintain their convictions and religious beliefs.  Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”  If you’re familiar with the story, you know that Daniel presented a challenge of “fitness” to those who partook of the kings foods verses Daniel and his friends who maintained their covenant.  Daniel and his friends placed their faith in God, but were prepared for the consequences. The second example is a familiar one, those same friends of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s image.  They held fast to their faith in God and were prepared for the consequences of the fiery furnace.  Daniel 3:17-18, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  As a result of their courage and conviction the men were thrown into the furnace, but through their faith God protected them and they exited unharmed.  Daniel 3:24-30 The final example of choosing to follow God rather than the law of man occurred again with Daniel.  This time working under a different king, King Darius, legislation was passed prohibiting anyone from praying to any other god or man for 30 days except the king.  “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Daniel 6:10 Daniel was subsequently thrown into the lion’s den, but just like his friends in the furnace, God brought him out unharmed.  We see here in our third example that the Law of God once again superseded the law of man, but it’s important to note that in all three examples none of the men rallied supporters, protested against their governing body, or in any way tried to usurp the authority of government by their own doing.  In each instance they relied on God through their faith to deliver them from the circumstances in which they were placed.

In examples such as these, a choice had to be made, either follow the law as God presents it or follow that of the governing body, but be prepared to face the consequences.  It’s a pattern we find throughout the Bible and one we should be keenly aware of as we begin to observe those changes taking place in our own government.  I want to mention briefly one of these changes that will soon present a choice for us as Christians.  Will we follow God or the laws of man?  The law of man NEVER supersedes the law of God.

In a story covered by the Christian Post  a couple of weeks ago, entitled Government-Run Churches, we begin to get a glimpse of the choices we may soon be forced to make, to follow God or the laws of man.  The author, Chuck Colson, points out that Christians in China are forced to join a constantly monitored, government-run church or join an underground church.  In Britain, Colson points out, British government will soon “begin forcing churches and other religious institutions to hire open, practicing homosexuals” under the provision of the “Equity Bill”.  Mr. Colson continues by asking, “What’s next-regulating the content of sermons?” and offers the conjecture of if America were to follow this legislature, “what will happen to the Church? Will we put our congregations under the authority of Caesar? Or will we resist and, if need be, abandon our elegant buildings and, like our faithful brethren in China, form underground churches?”

If you were to read that article when it was printed on June 24, 2009, you might’ve thought this would never happen in America.  We’ve been given freedom and rights that allow us to worship God how we please.  Really Christian?  Are we to be so arrogant that we think our “Christian” standing in the U.S. is higher in order than those who are persecuted in China, Great Britain, or other countries?  Here is your wakeup call: Last week details were released from testimony given by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to Senate Judiciary Committee.  According to an article by WND, “U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says a homosexual activist who is attacked following a Christian minister’s sermon about homosexuality would be protected by a proposed new federal law, but a minister attacked by a homosexual wouldn’t be.”  Mr. Holder took questions regarding definitions of “hate crimes” one of which came from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) where he presented the hypothetical scenario of a minister giving a sermon, quoting the Bible about homosexuality and is subsequently attacked by a gay activist.  Mr. Sessions asks would that minister be protected by the “hate crimes” law.  Secretary Holder offered this response, “”Well, the statute would not – would not necessarily cover that. We’re talking about crimes that have a historic basis. Groups who have been targeted for violence as a result of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, that is what this statute tends – is designed to cover. We don’t have the indication that the attack was motivated by a person’s desire to strike at somebody who was in one of these protected groups. That would not be covered by the statute.”

You might have followed that story, or read the synopsis above and thought that it’s a stretch for something like that to happen.  Or what direct application does this have to John 8 above.  The threat is very real and the implications are clear.  Just as those men in Daniel were placed in situations where they needed to choose between serving God or the laws of man and just as Jesus was deliberatly placed in a situation to choose between upholding the law as God presented to Moses or the Roman law, we may soon find ourselves at the same crossroad.   The stage is being set where sermons on homosexual behavior will no longer be lawful.  Where ministers will no longer be allowed to call homosexuality a sin, in fact merely reading those passages from the Bible could soon be declared a hate crime.  Think it can’t happen?  Just monitor the happenings in Great Britain to see the potential “progress” the U.S. could soon make.

Will you be ready to stand for God and accept the consequences?

Joshua 24:15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

Mark 13:3-13 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?” 5 And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 6 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. 7 But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles.  These are the beginnings of sorrows. 9 “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

The Cost of Freedom

I hope as everyone reads this, they are coming off of a great weekend spent with friends and family at a cookout or other function, or even if you were alone, I hope at least you took a few minutes to remember what it cost for us to be free.  Now you might think I’m referring to 4th of July, Independence Day celebrations, and in part I am, but as Christians, our freedom transcends our nationality.  There’s no doubt each American is extremely grateful and blessed to be living in a country where brave men and women have given their lives, and continue to do so, for our freedom.  But let us not forget where our true freedom lies.  It begins and ends with Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Hebrews 12:2 To further illustrate this, let’s think for a minute of our Christian brethren in countries such as China, Iran, Iraq, and other countries where they are not free in the same sense that you and I might think of freedom.  No freedom to worship the One True Living God, no societal freedoms that we experience here, yet those that follow Christ as Lord and Savior are just as free as we are.  Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice in giving His life for our sins. 

Many times we think of this sacrifice as Christ giving up His physical body, His flesh, on the cross, but at the same time we must realize that something much greater took place.  The ultimate sacrifice for us was that Jesus took upon His shoulders the sins of the world, your sin, my sin, past sins and future sins, all of them at once upon Him.  From the smallest little white lie to the sins of the mass murderer should he confess, repent, and trust Christ.  All of these sins are equal in the sight of God and Jesus bore the weight of each.  He is the Son of God, who came into the flesh and knew no sin.  He was perfect, yet in one instant He took upon himself all the disgusting, vile, evil sins of the world.  II Corinthians 5:21 tells us, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

When we as Christians think of the cost of our freedom from sin, we must realize just what took place and what cost it was that Jesus paid for us.  God had to punish our sins; there was no other way around that.  Just as he had once destroyed the entire world via flood, save Noah and his family, because of sin, He also had to punish the world again.  Only this time there was a Savior, Christ Jesus, who became our substitution for death and separation from God.  Yet He endured far greater than physical pain and death.  In Matthew 26:39, Jesus fell on His face and prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”  I think far too often people read this passage and think that Jesus was fearful of death or afraid of what His physical body was about to endure.  Quite the opposite, He knew He would soon have to take on our sins and face the wrath of God, as we later read in Matthew 27:46 where Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  How humbled I am to know that He loved me so much that He died for my sins.  What pain this must have been for our wonderful Savior.  Far greater than the most painful death, yet this was our Cost of Freedom.

Prayer:  Do you realize the cost Jesus paid for our freedom from sin?  Have you thought about the pain He endured, far greater than physical pain, but rather the shame of sin in the sight of His Father?  Do you live in a way that honors and glorifies Him for the ultimate price Jesus paid?  Maybe you’ve never realized what Jesus’ death on the cross meant and have yet to trust Him as Savior.  Now is the perfect time.  Pray to God, repent and ask forgiveness of your sins.  Tell Him that you know the price that Jesus paid on the cross for those sins and that you ask now that Jesus would come into your heart and forgive you too of your sins and that you now surrender your life to Him and accept Him as Lord and Savior.

Additional study: II Corinthians 3:17 Romans 5:15-18 Romans 6:18-22 I Corinthians 7:22