More Like Jesus – Not Prosperity Teachers

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As Christians, we are supposed to be becoming more like Jesus. When people see us, they should be seeing the good example of what a Christian should be. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Our lives should be a constant transformation into the type of person that Jesus was. And what kind of person was Jesus? There are several aspects of what He was. For this discussion, let me narrow that down to a few: kind; gentle; He gave His life as a ransom for many; He never had much money, instead He trusted someone else to carry what little He and the disciples had.

There are prosperity teachers within the church that say we should be prosperous because we are to be kings in this world. They think that we should be more like King David, whom God made a king over Israel and had a lot of riches. These teachers themselves collect a lot of money from the faithful and live prosperous lives. I have read the entire Bible and the only person whom I see in the Bible who was called to be like David was David himself. From what I have read in the Bible we don’t get to pick and choose which Biblical person we get to be like; God has a different plan for each person. We are to be more like Jesus. So as followers of Christ, are we being like Him when we are seeking financial prosperity? Or are we instead supposed to be giving more money to others so they also can do the work that God calls them to? Jesus never kept a lot of money for himself in His lifetime. He never lived in a nice house. He once told someone who wanted to follow Him “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Mt. 8:20). Evidently, Jesus didn’t have much money with Him. Jesus was generous, although He didn’t have much. At one time He told the disciples “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” (Mt 14:16), but the disciples responded ““We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.” (Mt. 14:17). So, Jesus and the disciples didn’t have much money on them, they didn’t even have enough to feed themselves at this point. So, we see that Jesus wasn’t rich. We know that people gave him money to sustain himself, but it looks like they were barely making a living.

I am not saying that Christians cannot be successful business people. There are several who are. But what are they doing with their money? Are they keeping most of it for themselves, or are they being generous with their extra money? After all, if God didn’t bless some people with prosperity who gave, there wouldn’t be as much money being given to ministries. This article is not about being successful business people, it is about prosperity teachers.

At least two prosperity teachers, Kenneth Copeland and Jesse Duplantis, have bought private planes so they can travel. Duplantis has said “I really believe that if the Lord Jesus Christ was physically on the Earth today, he wouldn’t be riding a donkey,” Duplantis says in the video. “He’d be in an airplane flying all over the world.” Would Jesus really do that? I believe that he is partially right, Jesus wouldn’t ride a donkey. After all, Jesus didn’t even own a donkey. The donkey that the Bible says that Jesus did ride was borrowed by His disciples. Jesus got around by foot. I know that itinerant preachers have to travel; but are private planes really the best use of God’s money? Or would it be more practical for these preachers to fly in commercial aircraft instead?

I have not seen in the Bible where we are to be selfish, but we are to be selfless. Ephesians 4:22-24 22 says “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” It seems to me that by wanting to fly around in their private planes these preachers are being selfish, wanting to use money that people have entrusted to them for their own pleasure and benefit.

Philippians 2:4 teaches “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” It seems to me that if these preachers really were looking out for the interests of others that they would be investing more of the money that comes into their ministries into other ministries so that more people can benefit from it. For them not to look to their own interests in having their own planes, but instead to give themselves into the work of the Kingdom of God and give any extra money that comes into their ministries to other ministers so that the Kingdom of God can be advanced, not the kingdom of the prosperity teachers.

It seems to me that these preachers are into building their treasures here on the earth. They are not looking to the eternal Kingdom of God, but they are looking at this short-term time upon the earth. Do they think that God will give them abundant riches after they die and meet the Lord? Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus tells us “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It sure looks like these people are building their treasures upon the earth. Even though they are going around preaching Jesus, it looks like they sure do treasure money. And the Bible says that you cannot serve God and money.

We need to be giving our tithes and offerings to Christian ministries and building our treasures in Heaven. We should not be giving our tithes and offerings to help Christian ministers who are building their treasures on earth.

1. https://www.nola.com/religion/index.ssf/2018/05/jesse_duplantis_private_jet.html

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Woe to those Christian teachers who live richly off of others money

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Mk. 12:38-40 (NIV) As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.

Recently  I read this article on how a televangelist, Jessie Duplantis, is seeking donations so his ministry can buy a private jet worth about $54 million.  Is this the best use of God’s money to buy a prosperity teacher an expensive private plane so he can go to more places to collect more donations to support his, his family, and I am sure many on his staff’s, luxurious lifestyle?

http://www.nola.com/religion/index.ssf/2018/05/jesse_duplantis_private_jet.html

The New King James version states this even more succinctly.  Mt. 23:14 (NKJV) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

This I say as a Christian, someone who desires to follow the precepts of the Bible and give God the glory.  One who believes that we should give 10% of our income, and even more, to the work of God.  So, I am not saying that teachers of the Bible should not make a living off of people’s freewill offerings, they should.  We should give so that our Pastors and Missionaries can focus on doing God’s work.  But these people should not live exorbitant lifestyles while keeping on asking people to give money to their work.

When I read this article, I thought of these verses where Jesus warns of teachers of the law taking from taking from those who don’t have much to apparently support the prosperity of the teachers.  Jesus doesn’t give the teachers credit for being able to collect a lot of money for the Kingdom of God.  He didn’t say “Good job, you collected more money so the Gospel can be spread to more people”.  No, instead he warns that these people will be punished more severely.  Sure, they might live a more luxurious life here on earth; but when they have to stand before God all that will be taken away and they will apparently be punished.  Why will they be punished you ask?  Haven’t they been wise to support themselves and their own families?  Didn’t they do good to collect more money for the church?  The answer lays in the next section of scripture.

Mk. 12:41-44.  Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.

You see, widows don’t have much money to live on.  So, when they give their little bit into God’s work, they are having to do without something that they need to live.  They are giving until it hurts.  Whereas people who have much really are not giving very much.  They don’t give until it hurts.  They can still live comfortably when they give their abundant amount.  Sure, it looks good to those on the outside.  But to God, it doesn’t mean as much.

These prosperity teachers do not need the riches that they have.  Whereas the widows, and others who do not have much, are giving in good faith to God’s work and are doing without things they need and suffering.

There are other prosperity teachers like this; for example, Mike Murdoch.  He will send nice letters and even do mass recorded phone calls to individuals using their personal names.  To those who are more prone to loneliness, they will take this as he personally cares for them.  He will even fly into different cities to have seminars for them.  Again, he makes them feel like they are loved and appreciated; he is quite the charmer.  I know an elderly lady who has fell into this trap.  She doesn’t have much money and she does give until it hurts. I am sure Mr. Murdoch is living comfortably off of the giving of her and other individuals like her.  I easily found this article, http://www.dallasobserver.com/music/auction-shows-how-well-prosperity-gospel-treated-mike-murdock-7993000, showing just how comfortable Mr. Murdoch lives.  Sure, he says that he is doing everything for Jesus and the Kingdom of God. And sure, I am sure that he does give to some in need, (per this article Mr. Murdoch gives about 1%,) but just to put on a show.  I question how much they keep for themselves to live a comfortable lifestyle.  Only God knows their true motivation, but it sure looks suspicious from the outside that they are not doing this work for the glory of God.

There are several other prosperity teachers whom I could name as well.  Those who live a comfortable lifestyle at the expense of those who give to them.  I just think of Missionaries who leave their comfortable homes and country to serve the Lord in faraway countries.  They have left the comforts of the United States.  If the extra money that came in to these prosperity teachers would be given to those Missionaries, how many more people could be truly reached for the Kingdom of God.  How much are these prosperity teachers taking away from the true work of God for their own selfish purposes?

Beware of those Christian teachers who put on a good show for Jesus but are actually sheep in wolves clothing, taking money away from the widows and those in need for their own prosperity.  The Bible warns us that they will be punished most severely when they have to stand before God.

Leadership Worth Following

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Whether it is politics, business, family, friendships or other relationships, we all have some kind of leaders that we trust and or are following.  I realize that some people are Type A kind of personality, the take charge and I know what I am doing kind of people.  But even they have people at different levels of life from whom they somewhat trust and will follow.

Last year we had a major political election when we voted for President and other major elected leaders of our country.  While many people are satisfied with the choices of the country, many other people are very dissatisfied and are expressing their anger.  So let’s take a look at a few different kinds of leadership styles through the eyes of this layman.

The man who won the election, Donald Trump, is unlike any other President that we have had.  He made His way to the Oval Office not through politics, but through his business savvy and his knowledge of how to use the media.  Being a real estate mogul, he took millions and turned it into billions.  He has been able to come up with successful business concepts, talk other people into helping to finance them, and turn a tidy profit.  Whereas we do not know his exact worth, we can see from the properties where he lives at that he has a lot of personal wealth.  He is not been perfect in all of his investments, like in Atlantic City, where he and other investors lost a lot of money.  Whereas he is interested in helping investors, he once dismissed being hurt by their losses because they knew what they were getting into and that they knew that they could lose money.  Mr. Trump kind of sounded rather nonchalant about it.

Mr. Trump knows how to work the media.  Most real estate tycoons are not widely known, but Donald Trump has been a well-known name for a few decades.  He has found a way to keep his name in the media.  Then he had his own television show, ‘The Apprentice’, in which his well-known line is ‘You’re Fired!’.  This is not the kind and compassionate way of terminating an employee.

During last year’s Presidential Primary he again used his expertise in using the media and got a lot of free press.  He is known to work in order to keep himself in the spotlight. But then, maybe this free press was because the press wanted to keep Donald Trump in the spotlight because he is a celebrity.  Nonetheless, Mr. Trump found something in the immigration issue that took interest to a lot of people.  The progressives probably gave him a lot of free press because they thought that it would hurt him.  But Donald Trump rode that issue to help him win the Republican Primary.

Mr. Trump’s personality can be abrasive.  He is not afraid to speak his mind, even though it is not politically correct.  This has gotten him into quite a bit of trouble being the President because of the way he does this.  This is something that arms his enemies so that they have things to say against him; this problem can also spark problems within his own political party.

Whereas he does seem to be trying to do some good, he does have a way of keeping himself in the spotlight and seems to be trying to get himself ahead.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic rival whom he beat to become the President, came up a different way.  She more rose up through a more traditional means.  In college she was a major in Political Science and went on to become a successful lawyer.  Because of her early activity in politics she has long been seen by someone who could become the first female President of the United States.  Whereas some might say that she rode the coattails of her husband, who was governor in Arkansas and later became the 42nd U.S. President, she had always been quite active in politics and rose to become the first female partner of the Rose Law Firm.  Early on in her career she was a member of the impeachment inquiry staff for the Watergate scandal.  The work she helped to do culminated in President Richard Nixon resigning from office.

She has had political ambition from the beginning.  Even though they lived together outside of marriage for a few years, she was hesitant to marry Mr. Clinton because she wasn’t sure if she wanted to tie his future to his.  But they have had a long and successful marriage, something that Mr. Trump, who has been divorced a couple of times, has not had.  Not a perfect marriage, as Mr. Clinton was found to be unfaithful to her.  She blamed a “vast right-wing conspiracy” for the allegation.  After the truth was proven, it is said that she was furious at her husband and questioned if she wanted to stay in the marriage.  But she stayed by her man.  She was accused of being an enabler and staying in the marriage to help her own political influence.  Nonetheless, she did stay popular with the public.  As First Lady, she kept her involvement in progressive politics.  She kept trying to push her progressive political agenda on the American public.  She is known for being one of the most politically active First Wives in our nation’s history. One thing was she was pushing for was a different health care system.

Mrs. Clinton carried on her Presidential ambition after her husband left the Presidential office.  In her desire to become President she knew that she needed more credibility, so the next step she took was to move from Arkansas to New York where she became the U.S. Senator.  She stayed in the media spotlight and this gave her greater ability to push her political agenda.  Her agenda has always been different than the usual American ways.

In 2008 she ran for President, but lost the Democratic Primary to Barack Obama.  But President Obama asked her to be the Secretary of State.  Through this she was able to keep her political ambition alive.  One thing that she did during this period that a lot of people questioned was that she did get her own server for her email, instead of using the more secure government servers, apparently putting herself above her fellow government employees.

After President Obama’s two terms, she again ran for President in 2016.  This time she did win the Democratic Presidential primary, and was considered the front runner to become President during most of the general election period.  But whereas she was not criminally indicted for using her own e-mail, it was probably this incident that lost her the 2016 Presidential election as one week before the election the FBI announced that they were re-opening up that case.  She was selfish in wanting her own server.  When she was questioned about her e-mails, thousands of them vanished, as she said they were personal.  The public has no way of knowing if they were personal or if she had classified information destroyed so she wouldn’t be caught with classified information on a personal server.

When she lost the election she mostly blamed other people.  Even when she did admit she made some mistakes, she was quick to point out that other people caused more publicity about them.

Let’s look at one other political figure that was part of the last Presidential elections, Bernie Sanders.  Here is an avowed Socialist who knew that he couldn’t run under the Socialist Party.  So he chose to deceive some and ran for President as a Democrat.  He actually gave Mrs. Clinton a run for her money.  He is still popular in some circles, although his age would probably prevent him for running for President again.

As a Socialist he believes that government should take care of the people.  I thought that Socialists would believe in equality among people.  Mr. Sanders would say that he doesn’t own any property: however his wife owns 3 homes[i]. A mere technicality as he gets to enjoy the benefits of having them.  The same article by Newsweek notes that he probably cleared $1 million in earnings in 2016.  So while he was complaining about the top 1 percent people, he himself was one.

His wife was the President of Burlington College, a small college in New Hampshire.  She is under Federal investigation for her part in purchasing some land along the waterfront of Burlington’s Lake Champlain.  This was financed with $10 million in bonds and loans.  It was a small college that they were hoping to grow.  But the college didn’t grow as she hoped it would and Mrs. Sanders ended having to step down in 2011 as the President of the college.  In 2016 the college had to close, citing this land deal as the reason.[ii]

So for people who say they are interested in equality, they don’t seem to put their financial beliefs into personal practice.  They seem to want more material wealth and live above most other people themselves.  This reminds me of Communist nations, in which the leaders live well above the means of the people under them.

As the fourth example, let me give to you Jesus.  True, Jesus is not a modern political figure, so He doesn’t exactly fit the mold of the people whom I mentioned.  We don’t see him ever getting involved in politics in the Bible.  He never wrote a book.  He didn’t write one word of the Bible, as everything attributed to Him is quoted.  We don’t know of anything that He wrote Himself.  But He had a strong following while He was alive, with 12 disciples and an uncounted number who followed Him.  Then after His death a greater movement to follow Him was started, which is now called the Church.  This movement has been around for about 2,000 years with many people around the world following Him.  Most do it through their church, but Jesus is the one we are to be following, not the Pastor or the church.

Let’s look at Jesus Himself.  Jesus was co-creator of all of creation, yet He left His glory with God the Father to be born an innocent, helpless baby who had to have his diapers changed like all others.  While He was on the earth, Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice to benefit other people, not Himself.  Jesus didn’t enjoy any riches while He was on the earth; He once told someone who wanted to follow Him “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Mt. 8:20).  Jesus didn’t have a business or enter into politics.  He spent His life as an itinerant preacher; He didn’t even have a home church that He led, but He spent His life traveling throughout Israel.  This was a time when people either walked or rode burros, so His traveling was not in first class accommodations.   Jesus didn’t take care of the money Himself, instead He entrusted the income to someone who later betrayed Him.  Jesus gave the most productive years of His life to preaching, healing, and helping those around Him.  He was focused on serving the people around Him.  Jesus often referred to Himself as the Son of Man.  Once He said “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  He showed in many ways while He lived on the earth that His purpose in life was to serve, not to be living a life of ease and comfort.

Jesus was patient with His disciples, dealing kindly with them even when they were unwise.  Jesus never got angry even when people were trying to kill Him; the only incidence of His anger was because people were using the Temple of God to sell and trade to take advantage of other people who were just coming to make their offerings unto the Lord, (in those days offerings were an animal sacrifice).

And what was His reward for all this giving Himself to help other people?  The Jewish people turned against Jesus and had Him crucified, which was the cruelest means of death in those days.  Nowadays not too many people actually die on death row because the way they are killed is considered inhumane.  Not so with Jesus, the Romans killed him in a slow and agonizing way.  Yet while He was hanging on that cross he said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Lu 23:34.  He was pleading for God’s mercy for those who were killing Him.

You see, Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He said “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me —  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:11-15.  But He didn’t just say this, He lived it out.  He protected those in His care; He laid down His life for them, not demanding anything in return.  Not only did He take do this for those He was with at that time, but His death pays the sin for everyone who trusts in Him.  Jesus knew that the only way our sins can be forgiven is for Him to die on that cross, so He did it.  He made the ultimate sacrifice, enduring the pain and agony of the cross.  All we have to do is accept Him into our lives, confess Him as our Lord and Savior and turn away from our sins.

So when I look at our modern leaders and compare them to Jesus, I know who I am going to follow.  The three modern leaders I mentioned are doing good things for the government as they see fit, but under it all they seem to be doing things to benefit themselves.  I am going to follow Jesus.  I am going to follow then One whom I know loves me and lived consistently what He believed.  For He did not come to do His own will, but to follow the will of God the Father.  He proved that He loved me and was willing to put my needs first.

This is not a call to disobey our leaders of government, because like them or not, God has given them that authority.  As long as they do not call us to disobey the laws of God we are to obey them.

But whom I am living my life for is the Lord Jesus Christ.  He set the pattern of unselfishness, love and kindness.  I hope that you will follow Him also.

 
[i] http://www.newsweek.com/bernie-sanders-made-1-million-2016-while-slamming-rich-people-campaign-trail-621131
[ii] http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/heres-why-the-feds-are-investigating-bernie-sanders-wife-jane/article/2627530

 

Wikipedia is a source for much information.

Where Are the Peacemakers?

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The United States is becoming a more divided country. The haves and the have nots – the illegal immigrants trying to stay here – the racial problems that we are experiencing – the confederate memorials that are being taken down – the pro-abortionists and the anti-abortionists – the homosexuals who are going to court to make their lifestyle accepted by everyone.  Everyone is battling for their own rights, expecting the other side to cave in to their agenda.  It is no wonder that I have heard some sources say that we could be heading toward another civil war.  This is called the United States, but we are becoming the Divided States.

 

Yes this country has problems that need to be resolved, but when you try to force your position on someone else it causes them to be defensive.  Sometimes people don’t have logical reasoning they can give for their belief, but they will hold even more strongly to their side when they are verbally or physically confronted.  When someone tries to force their beliefs on someone else it will not work, unless they have the power to enforce it.  And that is what happens; people try to forcefully push their beliefs upon someone else.

 

That kind of violence is what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia on Sunday, August 13, 2017.  This event has helped to shape people’s minds so now many more are more at the boiling point, not trusting or liking the other side.  This started with white supremacists protesting to try to keep a confederate monument up when several oppositionists showed up to protest their protest.  This ignited the fires of anger and as a result, violence broke out.  The worst of the violence happened when a white supremacist drove his car into protesters, killing a white protester.   There are too many people who are stoking the fires of anger and unrighteousness for their own cause and in so doing, they cause more problems.  This is, after all, how wars and fightings get started.

 

Where are the peacemakers?  Where are those people who are looking to find the middle ground and calm the storm before it rises even further?  Where are the mediators who work to keep their side calm and peaceful so that no one does rash things that hurt their cause and rile up the other side?  I am sure that there are people doing this, but it is the people who are causing the violence and stoking the fires of contempt who are winning the day.

Jesus talked about the virtue of being a peacemaker when He said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  This is for the people who are working for a true peace, not a false peace or just trying to force the other side to do what they want to be done.  This person will be blessed when they do the work of being a peacemaker, trying to work to bridge the gap in the difference between two sides.

 

Mind you, I know that it is not easy being the peacemaker.  Oftentimes the peacemaker is the target of hostilities from people on both sides.  It can be a thankless job being a peacemaker.  But the rewards are worth it; this is where the blessing comes from.  When there is peace, your reward is that you can be satisfied seeing and knowing that harm is not being done by anyone, nothing is being broken, and lives can go on as normal.  You have made a difference in the lives of people.  You will be blessed of God for doing this work of being a peacemaker.

 

References:

 

Scripture: www.biblegateway.com

 

R.C. Sproul article, Blessed Are the Peacemakers: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/blessed-are-peacemakers/

 

Will the United States Fall Apart From the Inside?

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Looking at the current political landscape, I have to wonder if the United States is about to fall apart from the inside.  People on the political right and on the political left are getting louder in their complaining and not wanting to work with each other about the way the other side is doing things.  I have read articles how some people in this nation are concerned about another civil war happening.  It won’t be a civil war like this country had in the 1880’s, but a civil war of much incivility and unrest.  Several rich people are already building bunkers to protect themselves and their families from the civil unrest they see coming.  Looking at what the Bible says about the End Times, the time before Jesus comes back, there is no mention of the United States.  This means either the United States doesn’t exist, or would be a minor country in those days.  Could we be heading in that direction?

World history is has several examples of countries who fell from the inside.  Rome, a nation that stayed a world class empire for centuries, finally collapsed.  It wasn’t so much of the barbarian nations around them that kept attacking them, but that nation fell because of complacency and inner turmoil.  Looking at the more recent past, the Soviet Union was a world power for decades.  Many Westerners were worried about them because of their iron grip on their people, the influence they had on other nations and their apparent desire to expand the communist manifesto in other countries.  But the Soviet Union collapsed from the inside.  Several nations split off from the Soviet Union.  We are now more familiar with the main country of the Soviet Union; Russia, which is still causing problems.

The United States used to be a country in which people were tolerant of each other’s beliefs.  Tolerance meaning that we don’t have to accept what someone else believes, but we agree to disagree.  We find the middle ground and work with each other.  Nowadays some groups say that tolerance means that everybody has to accept what they believe, even though they do not give the same acceptance as to what other people believe.

This country has always had divisions; that is one reason why we have so many political parties.  But this problem seems to have escalated since Barack Obama became our President.  Having everyone in the United States have Medical Insurance was a big priority for President Obama.  During his first term in office there was a majority of Democrats in the Senate and the House of Representatives.  Therefore President Obama was able to push forward the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare.  Many is the U.S. did not like the way Obamacare came together and had many concerns about it.  Whereas the Democrats did have a majority in the Senate, they lacked the 60 percent needed to override a filibuster by the Republicans and make it the law of the land.  So instead they went with what is considered the nuclear option; they changed the rules and were able to pass the Affordable Care Act with a simple majority.

Many conservatives were upset with the way the progressives were leading the country and the way that Republicans were acting in Congress and the Senate.  They wanted changes but knew it was unwise to form a new political party.  Instead they formed a group within the Republican Party, the Tea Party, which would appeal to the Conservative base.  Many small Tea Party groups were formed throughout the nation.  Thus they were able to form a voting block to get the word out and support more right wing, conservative principles to come against the more progressive leadership in the country as well as the Centrists within the Republican Party.

In 2016 the leadership in the United States took a turn that no one was expecting.  Hillary Clinton was ahead in the polls and was expected to be the next President of the United States; someone who would continue the policies of President Obama.  Instead, Donald Trump won the Electoral College and became the next President.  This riled many progressives because they thought Mrs. Clinton should be President.  The polls had all indicated this and she won the majority of votes.  This is not the first time a candidate won the majority of votes but not the Electoral College.

The progressive voices are coming out louder now.  They are out more against President Trump and his conservative leanings.  The progressives are going to Congressmen’s Town Hall meetings, disrupting them as well as doing more protesting.

Even looking at the way our Senators have been behaving is discouraging as to being able to work in unity.  As I mentioned earlier, the Democrat Senators did away with the filibuster to be able to pass the Affordable Care Act.  Then in 2013, when the Democrat Senators couldn’t get approval for Appellate Justices because the Republicans kept blocking them with a filibuster, they changed the rules again so that Appellate Justices only have to get a simple majority of votes to be confirmed for their position.  Then just in the past few weeks, the Republican led Senate changed the rules to they could get a conservative to fill the vacant Supreme Court spot.  The Democrats did not do that last year so that President Obama could put his choice in that chair.  The Senators do not seem to be able to get a few colleagues from the other party over to get certain things passed.  They are playing hardball with each other.  This is causing rule changes that were put in place to help the American people to be put aside so they can appeal to their bases.

Political division is running strife in this nation.  It is theorized that the reason the Presidential election polls were not correct is because several people did not want to admit they would be voting for Mr. Trump.  They felt they needed to be politically correct with those they are around and say that they were going to vote for Mrs. Clinton.  I know in personal dealings with people from both sides of the political spectrum, there is more animosity toward the other side.

But it is not just politically that this nation is splitting, it is also racially.  There have been several incidents in the last few years where it looks like policemen are being overly aggressive in dealing with some people, mostly those who are black.  This is causing more distrust in the African American community toward policemen.  Because of this distrust, there was an incident last year when an African American indiscriminately shot twelve policemen and two civilians in Dallas.  Five of the policemen died.

I recently read an article in which the author noted the instability in this nation.  He theorized that all it would take to turn the anger into violence is another economic downturn.  I do not know if that is all it will take, but seeing the way American’s are losing ability to communicate civilly does cause concern in me and several other people.

We need to be a country who can civilly discuss differences, to work with each other to make the compromises need to remain a viable country.  If we do not, even though the United States is considered a world power now, might we be another world power that shrinks into irrelevance through our own inner turmoil?

Bible End Times Events Unfolding? Dallas Shooting of Police

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When I started this blog my intention was to discuss how End Time events of the Bible could be unfolding today.  I did post my 7 part study on the subject.

With this article I want to get back to the topic of the Biblical End Times.  We could be seeing several things going on in the world that could be indicating that we are quickly approaching the End Times that are prophesied in the Bible.  I do not mean to say that we definitely are; I just want to get people to think about it.  If we are near the End Times, we need to be ready for the coming judgment.  My goal is to write at least one article a week.

On July 7, 2016, there was a tragic shooting of several Police officers in Dallas, Texas.  Five Police officers were killed, while seven other police officers and two civilians were also shot.  They were at a peaceful rally where several people were protesting some recent police killings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana.  The rally was because it looks like those killings could have been done due to prejudice.  It appears that white Police officers were killing black men.

These are not the first incidences where black men have been killed by the Police in this country.  We are seeing more instances of these pop up on social media so the press is covering these events.  Black Lives Matter has grown because they see racial profiling happening.  This is why these people in Dallas were protesting; they are getting tired of seeing black people getting killed by the police.

Whereas most of the people in this protest were peaceful, one person took the law into his own hands.  He was an Army veteran who had served in the Army Reserves.  He stated his purpose was to kill white people, especially white officers.  He succeeded at this until the police killed him.

Does this event have anything to do with the End Times that the Bible predicts?  Not in itself; but maybe it is a part of the signs of the beginning of the End Times.  This could be a small part of the birth pangs that Jesus mentions.

The Bible warns about internal conflict before the Last Days.  In Matthew chapter 24, Jesus is informing his Disciples about the end of the age.  One thing He says in verse 7a, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (NIV)  In our current thought, we think of these two as the same thing.  But why would Jesus make a difference between nation and kingdom?  Did Jesus see a difference?  Could the difference be between nations that had kings and those that didn’t?  It couldn’t, because back in Jesus’ time there were no Presidents, every nation had a king, or another autocrat, as their leader.

But Jesus does make this differentiation.  The nation looks like it is what we think of, a country.  But the kingdom He mentioned could be factions within a nation or groups of people in different nations working for the same principle.  This killing in Dallas could be a part of this ‘kingdom against kingdom’.  Even though it only speaks about the reaction of one man, he clearly spoke that his motivation was to kill white people, because he saw white people killing blacks.

I suggest that this is a small part of the picture of what Jesus meant when He said “kingdom against kingdom”.  We see other instances in the world.  Take the way that some radical Muslims kill innocent people.  For examples: in San Bernardino where a gunman and his wife killed several co-workers or in Orlando where one gunman killed several people in a bar.  Again, Muslims as a whole are not doing this, but there is a faction who is.

There are ongoing protests which disrupt life going on in France.  The unions are angry because of governmental reforms that give large companies more freedom in dealing with their employees, instead of letting unions have more say.

In several places in the northern part of Mexico, gangs are terrorizing and killing people so they can keep their trade routes open.

Fighting has broken out in Sudan, forcing people to flee their homes.

These types of things have been happening for a long time; so in themselves they are not a sign.  We don’t think that much about them.  But when we put them together, there seems to be more of these types of events happening around the world.  These events make many people tense and cause governments to build up security to try to thwart similar events from happening again. After all, the reason we have strict security in airports is because a small handful of people have hijacked airplanes.

I am not saying that this event in Dallas is an End Time event.  But as we see more factions of people going against each other it could be another birth pang that Jesus mentioned.  Birth pangs grow in frequency as the time of birth draws near.  It could be a birth pang that shows that the Great Tribulation is getting nearer.  This event will last 7 years and will be the most terrible time that people on the earth have ever experienced.  We could be seeing more of these types of events happening throughout the world.  Like on 7/14/16 when someone driving a truck killed over 70 people in Nice, France, or 7/15/16 with a coup in Turkey.

We need to be trusting in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  He has forewarned us about many things that will happen in the End Days so we can be ready for whatever happens.  Jesus has not promised to keep us safe from all harm, but He has promised to give us eternal life and the peace we need to make it through all of life’s difficulties when we trust in Him.

Consider it Pure Joy

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Paul Jennings was born a slave on the Montpelier plantation of James Madison. He was sometimes a playmate for Madison’s stepson, Payne Todd. Madison’s wife, Dolly, had been widowed with a small child. Eventually, Paul became the body servant to James Madison himself. He accompanied the family to the White House when Madison became president. It is said that as the British army approached the White House in the War of 1812 to burn it, he helped Dolly save many White House treasures, including the portrait of George Washington.

Jennings returned to Montpelier to assist the president in his retirement and was present as the former president took his last breath. Jennings also took care of Dolly in her widowhood. While she had hoped to free him, Dolly was destitute and had to sell Jennings. Daniel Webster purchased him and set him free.

As a free man, Jennings found noble employment in Washington, D.C., assisted African-Americans coming north and wrote a book about his experiences. Jennings helped Dolly Madison in her destitute old age out of his own pocket. Why was Dolly destitute? It was because of Jennings’s old playmate, Dolly’s son, Payne Todd. Todd had lived in privilege but never found a real job, served jail time for assaults, amassed huge gambling debts, drank to excess, mismanaged the family business, lost the ancestral home and stole from his mother. It is an example that some have limited opportunities and make the most of them while others have great opportunities and squander them.

We are all given different opportunities in life, sometimes we are given good things, but sometimes opportunities are disguised as problems. But whatever circumstance we are going through, we can consider it pure joy, because God is at work in our lives. You might have a good job, family, circumstances, etc., but does that really make you blessed of God? People of who have good things can take that for granted and cause more headaches for those around them; whereas the person who has to struggle can find motivation to push themselves to improve themselves despite their circumstances. God does not judge us because of the circumstances or problems that we are in; instead, it is what we do with those opportunities that are dumped in our lap that God will judge us on. That is what we will look at today, we can go through this life with pure joy, even if we are not given the best of health, finances, relationships, etc.

This lesson is from James 1:1-15. The book of James is considered the Proverbs of the New Testament; like Proverbs, it also goes from one subject to another. James aims to provide wisdom to Christians everywhere by giving practical advice on many subjects, especially giving advice to those who feel the pressure about society’s influences. There are a few different James’ in the Bible. The James they believe who wrote this is not the Apostle James, but James the half-brother of Jesus. He started out not believing that Jesus was the Son of God, but he later rose to be the leader of the church of Jerusalem; Paul even reported to him when he came back from one of his missionary journeys. But look at the way James talks about himself in the beginning of verse 1, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. He was a prime minister in Christ’s Kingdom, yet James considered himself only a servant; He knew that he was accountable to his Big Brother; Jesus literally is his big brother. Jesus set a powerful example to follow in leadership. Jesus told his disciples in Luke 22:25-27 “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” Jesus was a servant leader who did not lord it over people, but He served those around Him.

James also found joy in being a servant leader. I have even read where he wore some holes in the floor by his bed because he prayed so regularly on his knees. Servant Leadership is exercising real, godly leadership, as Christ did when He used a towel when he washed the disciple’s feet, and influencing, equipping, and empowering people to accomplish God’s purpose and plan. It is serving others unselfishly while influencing and empowering them to grow in a Christ-directed, purposeful direction. [i] Servant leaders not only cast the vision for the church, but they empower those around them in their spiritual formation and growth by laying the foundation and supply the building materials they need. Servant Leaders build up and encourage those around them, because they realize that all of us are needed to do Christ’s work. We all have different skills, so the servant leader needs to encourage and equip people to use their abilities for God. In this book, James provides many building materials to the people he was writing to.

Verse 1 also states to whom James wrote this to; “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.” Scholars are not sure exactly to whom James is referring. Either it is the believers who fled after the persecution of Stephen or it is the Jews who were dispersed among many nations’ centuries earlier due to their own wars. But one thing we do see for sure is that God looks after His people no matter where they are. These believers lived away from home, so they felt more pressure due to the influence of the societies they were living in. James wanted to give these dispersed believers the wisdom they need to overcome these cultural pressures; to stay true to and honor God.

Verses 2-4 starts out in a way that would seem to defy logic; “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Why would James say that we should consider it pure joy when we have trials of many kinds? That is not what several Christian teachers tell us. This just seems to spit in the face their teaching. After all, we should be happy, we should be champions; God wants to bless us with good health, money and other nice things. Why should we consider it pure joy to endure problems of different kinds when God says that we should be feeling good? Because always being happy and feeling good are teachings of man, not of God. I like what C.S. Lewis said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” Joy is different than happiness. I like Kay Warren, Rick Warren’s wife, definition: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” [ii] Our faith is in Someone, not something. Our faith is in Jesus, not the circumstances we are in or the good things we should receive. Christianity isn’t about putting a soft touch on life, about always being happy; it is about such things as: dying to self, putting others first, repentance of sins, self-control, being gentle, faithful, serving God, and – suffering through trials. These are not things that will make for our personal happiness. But all of these do have their rewards. Yes, even trials have their reward; perseverance. Perseverance, or longsuffering, is one of the seven fruit of the Spirit that Galatians says all Christians should have. Do you want to be mature and complete in Christ? Then James says that we need to let perseverance finish its work; we have to go through hard times. When we can persevere through the trials, then we won’t let anything keep us down, we can just get back up and continue on. Trials and problems are a part of life; if we let them keep us down we will never be able to accomplish anything good for the Lord.

Sometimes when we are going through the darkest times, our fragrance is the best. You know the best European perfumes come from flowers that are grown high up on the Balkan Mountains over in Serbia in the Black Sea area. They say that they harvest these flowers in the darkest part of the night, between twelve midnight and two a.m. it’s a very short time where they’ll cut these flowers, take them back and mix them up for perfume. That’s because, they say, that scientific tests prove that the greatest aroma is during the darkest part of the night. In fact, the report that I read said that forty percent of this aroma will disappear in the light of the day. [iii] When we are going through difficult times with grace and dignity, those around us can see something different about us. That is when we can show in practical terms the wonderful difference that God makes in our lives.

You might say that it is hard to go through the hard times. After all, it’s easy for me to say; I don’t know everything that you have gone through. Maybe you will say that one or both of my parents didn’t treat me nice – I have cancer – I was born with a birth defect – my spouse isn’t saved – I lost my job and can’t make ends meet – a loved one died. Yes, we don’t know everything that you have particularly gone through, but my problem isn’t any less than yours. Our problems are all different, but just as serious and painful to the person who is going through it.

God wants us to be resilient – able to bounce back. Do you remember the kids toy Weebles? They were round and weighted heavier at the bottom; so if they were knocked over they would stand right back up again. Their motto was “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”. That is the way we need to be. We might be knocked down with a problem, but we need to have a low center of gravity and bounce right back up again. We all go through problems; it is the way we go through the problems that tests what kind of a Christian we are. We need to be patient, longsuffering, gentle, etc. Resilience is not something that we are born with; it is something that we have to commit to it. It is not to say that we can get knocked down when we have problem. We can have our little pity party when something bad happens, but we need to decide that we are going to let harm roll right down our backs and get right back on our feet.  Yes, the harm hurts; but we serve a big God who is bigger than the hurts, and He will see us through them.

God gives us various ways to focus on Him to give us a heart of peace and joy through the hard times. We are to get our minds on God. We need to seek out God’s promises in the Bible. Such promises as Psalm 23, which starts out “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing”. Read the Bible, there are books that will list out God’s promises to us. Jesus told us to “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God” (Mt. 6:33). Find what God has to say, trust and obey His word. Another way God gives us is Praise songs. Worship Him through songs; they have a way of getting into us and helping us. I think of a favorite old worship song; – He gave me beauty for ashes – The oil of joy for mourning – The garment of praise – For the spirit of heaviness – That we might be trees of righteousness – The planting of the Lord – That He might be glorified. (By Robert Whitney Manzano) God wants to lift us up out of our difficult situations; we need to get our minds upon Him. Whether with the congregation or by ourselves, we need to focus upon the Lord in worship and praise and to not let our minds drift on other things. It’s like Isaiah 40:31 says; “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Another way is what we are told in Phil 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” We are not to focus upon our problems, but focus on the good things of life. Not only get your mind upon God, but just think about things and people that make you happy. I know a lady who says she likes to put on feel good movies; that is ok, it gets our mind off of the problems of life. God has given us the resources we need to get through life’s difficulties, but if we don’t use the resources God gives us then we only have ourselves to blame for not using them and staying in the pit of our problems.

One person I think about when I think of joy through perseverance is Rhonda Griffin. I knew her about 15-20 years ago. Years before that, Rhonda was in a car accident and broke her neck. She is a now a paraplegic. She is stuck in a wheelchair, has to put up with bedsores and all the inconveniences of depending on someone else. But I know few people who have the kind of joy that she has. She is always smiling and has a good sense of humor that can make you laugh. She is one of my heroes of the faith. One thing that gave Rhonda a sense of freedom for many years was that she had a van that was modified so she could still drive. But last year she realized that she didn’t have the strength to make a quick stop. The Dr. found the problem and was able to operate so it wouldn’t get worse, but he commented that she might not get her strength back enough to be able to drive. She was devastated; her only source of freedom was gone. Now to get around she has to take Access Paratransit. But she quickly realized that now she has more opportunities to witness to people. She took a negative, turned it into a positive and found even more reason to share her joy. Even though she has been like this a good many years, our common friend Ann, who is her close friend, recently told me that Rhonda can still make you laugh at some of the problems that she goes through.

Some of the problems we have seem like they are impossible to go through. But alleged “impossibilities” are opportunities for our capacities to be stretched. [iv] God entrusts us to take the difficulties in life and turn them into something positive. It is about the attitude you have when you go through it. Let God help you through it and you will be able to have that ‘pure joy’ in learning to persevere, making the best out of the situation and glorify God through it.

Verses 5-8; “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” One of the most important things James tells us we can do is to pray to God for wisdom. The wisdom that James talks about here isn’t the smarts to help you be scientist, to be the first to build a fusion reactor that works like the sun or to buy the right stocks so you can get a lot of money. This is the wisdom to know how to correctly use the knowledge that we have. There are a lot of people with high IQ’s and have a lot of terrific information stored up in their heads. They can formulate difficult mathematical formulas, build ships to explore the solar system, build and run successful businesses, but they are all the greater fools because they don’t know how to properly use knowledge to be better people, how to treat others nicely, use common sense and to serve God. Charles Spurgeon has said “There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

We have the encouragement here to ask God for the wisdom we need and the promise that God will generously give us that wisdom so we can make the right decisions. This includes the wisdom we need to not give in to the pressures that we get from our culture to sin. God knows that we cannot make it through this life on our own; our culture bombards us every day. We need God’s strength and help. God is always only a prayer away. When we ask, He will send us His precious Holy Spirit right away to help us through the challenges that we have.

Look at one of the cultural challenges that the church in America has to go through now that gay marriage is the law of the land. Pastors may have pressure put on them to have to marry a homosexual couple since they represent the state to be able to marry people. Christian schools may have to allow homosexuals to teach because a student is getting Federal assistance. Christian adoption agencies may be forced to allow homosexuals to adopt kids. The cultural pressure is on for Christians to change our doctrine and to conform to what the world says is right. We need the wisdom of God to overcome this challenge to our beliefs.

But it’s not just the cultural wars, each of us need God’s wisdom as we go about our daily lives. Last year my wife got diagnosed with cancer. She had surgery to remove it; then had chemotherapy and radiation treatments to reduce her risk of getting it back. She and I depend on God quite a bit with the cancer she had. I am not going to tell you that it has been easy; it was not. There were several tough choices we had to make along the process and chemotherapy is very hard on the body. We are still asking God for His wisdom because we are not through the problems of that yet.

James admonishes us here to pray with a believing, steady mind. This is where faith comes in; we must have faith that God is going to answer our prayer for wisdom. He alone can make the simple wise; God is able to make good His word to those who approach Him. We can’t be like the waves of the sea; driven by the wind and tossing to and fro. We can’t let the wind build up our faith to a high place of trust only to let it drop down by not trusting God. A mind that is wholly trusting God and keeping steady in its purposes for God will grow wiser by problems, it will continue being fervent in being devoted to God and will come through trials and temptations with a closer walk with God. I can testify that through the trials we have had with Kaye’s cancer we have seen God come through and meet several needs. Not our wants, she is not healed yet, but He has met our needs. Our faith in God has grown. Now when a need comes up, it is easier for us to wait to see how God will meet that need. Trials can help your faith and trust in God to grow; it can enable you to persevere and draw closer to God.

But those who doubt that God will answer their prayer for wisdom are like sailing ships that are driven about by the waves and the seas; they might not make it to their destination. They need to trust in God, in the direction that He has for them, then to be steadfast when they feel they have the answer. When they feel they have the answer, they need to set their sails, steer the rudder in the right direction and drive ahead in the direction God has for them. “An indecisive man is unstable in all of his ways”; his indecisiveness affects all of the ways he conducts his life. When we feel we have God’s wisdom, whether for ministry, life’s decisions, cultural pressures or anything else, we need to be people of faith and action; we need to step out and do it.

To show you that people who are going through hard times are not forgotten by God, check out V. 9; “Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.” Listening to some people in the Christian community you would think that these people aren’t blessed of God. James teaches contrary to this belief. Reading this, it sure looks like God actually favors His believers when they are going through hard times; because these are usually the people who are richer in faith. They know how to depend on God for their strength; so it is harder for them to fall away from God.

There are many people in the world who owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficultly. It made them better people. Look at Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the U.S. He had many failures and setbacks in life. He was defeated for State Legislature, failed in a business, had a nervous breakdown, defeated for Congress, twice defeated for U.S. Senate, defeated for nomination as Vice President, before he finally won election and is known as one of the best Presidents the U.S. has had. Trials and difficulties can make us better people, we just have to learn the lessons that they teach us.

The people who need to be more careful are those who have a lot of money or are in high positions; because it is easy for them to think that everything is going well for them. V10-11; “But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.” Their money and success seems to make them satisfied, they don’t think that they have any needs; but everything they have can be quickly and easily taken away from them. Remember the way the stocks took a huge tumble in 2008. God gives many kinds of gifts to His people. God has entrusted the rich with more money and expects them to be good stewards of the financial riches that they have, so they need to be humble and giving to the things of God.

God will give a blessing to those who not just suffer, but endure the trials of life with patience and faithfulness. V. 12; “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Nobody wants to suffer through trials, it is painful. If we do things to bring harm upon ourselves; like if we steal and get put in jail, then we have no one to blame but ourselves. But if trials happen to us that is out of our control, then we are like metal going through the fire and being refined to remove the impurities. So when we are put into the fire of trials and temptations, our integrity and faith are tested, we are to come out purer. Our future reward will come to us not as a debt that we are owed, because God does not owe us anything but Hell for our sinful ways. Instead, our future reward will come to us as a gracious promise. Do you realize that any rewards we get in Heaven will be because of the way we have acted here? This is a time when we can’t see God; we have to depend upon our faith in God. I have heard some teachers compare it to the faith that we have to sit in a chair. We have to have faith that the chair will not collapse. But we can see and touch the chair so it doesn’t take much faith that it will support us. Say someone is blindfolded, they are told about the chair but they can’t see it or touch it. If someone puts the chair behind them and they sit down in it; that takes more faith. That is more like what faith is like. We can’t see God, we can’t touch God, nor can we directly hear His voice, but we can still have faith and trust in Him to guide and direct us, knowing that He is right there with us supporting us.

When we are approved by our Great Judge and our integrity and faith are found to be true and of the highest worth, then we will receive an eternal reward, the Crown of Life. The Christian who is tried and found true shall be a crowned one, and that crown will last forever. We only have to bear the cross for a few years while we are on the earth, but the crown we receive will be for all of eternity. When heaven and earth pass away, the word of God will be fulfilled. Every believer that truly loves God will have our share of trials, but those trials will be fully rewarded in a world where love is made perfect.

Some people actually believe that God will throw temptations their way to test them or try to make them fall. But that is not God’s way. V. 13-15; “13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” It is not in God’s nature to sin. So if God can’t be tempted by evil, why would He tempt someone? It is His desire for everyone to make it to Heaven; He even provided the way by sending His Son Jesus. So why then would God put a stumbling stone before someone? If someone falls into sin, they have no one to blame but themselves. There is a big difference between temptations and the trials that God puts us through. The trials that God sends our way are designed to draw out our graces, to help us to grow in our faith in Him. They are not designed to draw out our corruptions. Sin is an active force in this world; Satan is constantly probing for our weak spots; he is trying to draw as many people away from God as he can. But if we do fall into sin, we can’t blame Satan or any person to excuse ourselves of the sin, because the true origin of the sin is in our own hearts. Every man is drawn away by their own evil desire and chooses to give in to sin by themselves.  The flame might be fanned by an outside source, but the fact is, the combustible matter is in our own hearts.

When you feel the beginning temptations of sin in your lives stop it, so it can’t gain a foothold in your life. Maybe you have given into sin so that it has begun working inside of you. As Christian’s the Holy Spirit is already inside of us, trying to keep us strong in the Lord. He has been warning you about the sinful problem; you should heed the Holy Spirit’s promptings inside of you and stop the sin. Let sinful desires be repented of and rejected before the sinful desire is fulfilled or does more damage. As Christians, sinfulness is no longer to be part our nature, we belong to God. It is now in our nature to want to serve God in holiness and righteousness.

I will close this with a story to help us to understand that the trials and temptations that we go through our meant to be like metal thrown into the fire.

 During the reign of Oliver Cromwell, the British government began to run low on silver for coins. Lord Cromwell sent his men to the local cathedral to see if they could find any precious metal there. After investigating they reported: “The only silver we can find is in the statues of the saints standing in the corners,” to which the radical soldier and statesman of England replied: “Good! We’ll melt down the saints and put them in circulation!” That brief but direct order indicates the essence of the practical goal of authentic Christianity—not rows of silver saints crammed into the corners of cathedrals, but melted saints circulating through the mainstream of humanity, where life transpires in the raw.

 The cost factor of being a saint occurs on Monday, Tuesday and throughout the week. That’s when we’re “melted down and put in circulation.” [v] When we are melted down, and being molded by the Lord, then we can better relate to non-Christians as well as other Christians because we have a good understanding of the difficulties of life. We can consider it pure joy because we know that God can work through us somehow for His glory. Instead of us telling everybody about our problems, we can share with them how the Lord has given us the help that we need through the problems. We can better know what the pure joy of the Lord truly means and become better witnesses for the Lord because we recognize God’s grace in bringing us through our problems.

Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Concise); http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/
Various quotes: Charles Swindoll, C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon http://christianity.about.com/od/newtestamentbooks/a/Book-Of-James.htm
[i] http://www.churchleadership.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=41928&columnid=4540
[ii] http://rickwarren.org/devotional/english/the-definition-of-joy
[iii] Skip Heitzig – Are You a Big Godder or a Little Godder? – 10/20/02
[iv] Charles Swindoll
[v] (Chuck Swindoll – Dallas Seminary Daily Devotional, 5-30-06) – Thru Biblestudytools.com

Being Neighborly and Does God Heal Today?

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Here is the notes from a sermon I gave at my church on 7/12/15.

There is a story about a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister.

He only hesitated for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, ‘Yes I’ll do it if it will save her.’ As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as everyone did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, ‘Will I start to die right away’.

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her but he had chosen to save her anyway.

How much should we go out of our way to help someone in need?  Should we only help people whom we know and love or be able to extend our help to other people also?  Jesus agreed with a lawyer that one of the most important commandments is to love our neighbor.  When confronted with a direct question “who is my neighbor?”; Jesus put this in a context that I don’t think the lawyer was expecting.  Today we are going to go through the Parable of the Good Samaritan, so please open your Bibles to Luke 10:25-37, and we will discover ‘Who is my neighbor?’.

There is another topic I am going to touch briefly; Does God still heal today?  This passage doesn’t deal directly with healing, but it helps to set a pathway by which we can talk about it.  Since the middle of last year it seems like our church has been besieged with medical issues, whether it is cancer, diabetes, blindness or other ailments.  With the surgeries, dialyses, radiation treatments and various other medical treatments our members have had to endure, it seems like God does not heal these days.  Is that true?  Today I would like to try to briefly answer that question.

Shall we pray?

Today’s passage starts out with a smart alek expert in the Hebrew law.  He wanted to see if he could catch Jesus teaching something wrong.  So he asked Jesus a question, V. 25, 25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus wanted to get this expert to think, so he responded “26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?””  In other words, “Hey smart guy, you have the Bible, what does it say about this?”  All we have to do is take the time and read the Bible for ourselves to find out the answers.

But this expert wasn’t going to be shown up by Jesus, he had the perfect answer.  V 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  The expert was probably thinking, “Ha, thought you would get me on that one, huh wise guy.  I am smarter than you think.”

He was probably surprised to hear the response.  28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”  This was before Jesus was crucified, so the answer would be different today.  But notice the last part of Jesus’ answer, “Do this and you will live.”  It is not just enough to say that you are a believer; you must abide in Christ, live like Jesus, love like Jesus and do what is commanded.  You love God by loving others; You serve God by serving others. (David Jeremiah).  James talks about this in James 2:14-16 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”  We can’t just be talking the talk; we need to be living the life.

But the expert in the law didn’t stop there.  V.29 “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?””  He was probably expecting for Jesus to give him a pat on the back for being such a good person in being knowledgeable about the word of God.  He was a lawyer and he thought that he had Jesus on this point, because to the Jewish understanding a neighbor is another Jew, those of their own nation and religion.  The Gentiles are excluded from this rule of being treated nicely: there is no obligation for a Jew to help a Gentile when they are in danger.  But in dealing with people, should we be legalistic or use grace?  I don’t think the lawyer was expecting the answer that Jesus gave.  Like so much of Jesus’ teachings, He explained the answer using a story, which is the meat of our study.  Since this story is stated so matter of factly it might have been something that had recently occurred so that the leader was familiar with it.  Jesus is going to show him that our neighbor is the person who needs our kindness, and we should give it to them, no matter if they are from our own nation or religion.

  1. 30-35 30 In reply Jesus said: ““A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Before I teach on being a good neighbor, let me bounce into a rabbit hole and talk about if God heals.  We live in a fallen world; injuries, sickness, and disease are a normal part of what we have to live with.  God lets it rain on the good and the bad.  Whereas you can find some promises in the Bible that we won’t get sick, that looks like it was directed at a specific people or time.  Just because we get sick or hurt doesn’t mean that we have failed God or that He is punishing us.  I was born with a birth defect, does that mean that God punished me for something I did in my mother’s womb?  In John 9, Jesus healed a man who was born blind, He told the disciples “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  (John 9:3)  Sickness, injury and diseases are a natural part of life in this fallen world.  Since my wife’s cancer, articles about cancer catch my eye.  I have read where experts think that more people will get cancer in the future.  The farther we get away from the purity of creation, the time of Adam and Eve, the longer the time that sin’s corrupting powers are in the world, the more diseases can occur.

But does God heal?  Absolutely!  There are many passages in the Gospels and Acts showing God’s healing hands.  These were given as proof that Jesus is the Son of God and they helped to birth the church.  Does God still heal today?  I have no doubt about it.  I have heard too many testimonies of God’s miraculous healing.

Does it take great faith to be healed?  Kenneth Hagin is considered the Father of the Faith movement, said Every day, as a usual thing, no matter what else I’m reading, I’ll read something along the lines of faith and healing.  I constantly feed along this line. [i]  According to him, we need to think a lot about healing in order to have the great faith that sees God heal.  If we don’t have great faith, we won’t see great healings happen.  Is that true?  I seriously doubt it.  Jesus said “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mt. 17:20)  My faith is in a mighty God, not my own faith.  Think about this, if you went ice fishing, would you rather have little faith in 4’ of ice, or a lot of faith in 2” of ice?  If we step out on that ice with our own faith, we have our faith in the wrong thing, and we can easily fall through.  God is the one who holds us secure; we should a little faith in the 4’, not our own faith, which is only 2” deep.

I touch this subject because we do not see in this particular passage of the Good Samaritan where Jesus rebukes the injured man because he had a lack of faith.  The Good Samaritan took care of the wounds.  In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul does not tell Timothy that he needs more faith or to ‘rebuke Satan’ for your ailment, instead he says “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”  The water back then was not pure; wine was healthier for the body to drink. So Paul told Timothy to take care of himself.  God did not heal him physically from his stomach illnesses.  If God didn’t heal Timothy of stomach illnesses during a time when God was performing mighty miracles, why should we expect Him to always heal us of our cancers and handicaps now?  Timothy took care of himself so he was able to go forward to do God’s mighty work.

This does show that God heals us in different ways.  Sometimes He gives us the strength and help to endure the ailment and still honor Him.  God has promised to never let us go through any trial that we can’t endure.  And what a testimony we can be to non-believers who see the strength and peace we have through our ailments when we can point them to Jesus and let them know that He is the reason we can make it through.

Just because God doesn’t always heal should not stop us from crying out to God and asking for the healings, because there are still promises in scripture that we will be healed.  James 5:14-15a “14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well”.  We can pray to God to heal us and ask others to pray for us, who knows, He just might.  But our trust needs to be in God to bring us through all of our trials and tribulations.  Now, out of the rabbit hole and back to the main message.  Sorry this rabbit hole has not been like Alice in Wonderland, where everything is magical and turns out well.  But we live in a real world, and we can trust that God will help us through all of our infirmities.

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan a good Jewish man was going from the city where the Temple was to another important town.  People couldn’t zip on down the roads like they do these days.  Travel then was slow, either by walking or on a mule.  Travelers were vulnerable to thieves and robbers, especially when they were traveling alone.  So this unfortunate individual was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was attacked by robbers.  But they didn’t just take his money.  Clothes were also more valuable back then, so they stripped him and beat him up.  The unfortunate man was left half dead.  There was no Highway Patrol going by to help him.  He didn’t have a way or the means to get help.

But it was a busy road; maybe someone would walk by and help him.  The first was a priest, a man with the high calling of God on his life.  Someone whose responsibility it is to present the people before God and to make the animal sacrifices for people so their sins will be forgiven.  These men were an important link for people to go through before God Almighty.  This man of God had an opportunity to put feet to his faith, to show the love of God to this man who fell upon a hard time.  The priest saw this Jewish man, who should be considered a neighbor; but instead of helping, the priest went to the other side of the road and kept walking.  Maybe he was in a hurry to make it to the Temple, maybe he didn’t want to touch this man and become ‘unclean’ for a ceremony that he had to perform, maybe he thought it was someone else’s responsibility; who knows.  But this important link between man and God didn’t give this wounded person the time of day; he just kept walking.

Then another man of God walked by who should have been a neighbor to the fallen man; this time it was a Levite.  The Levites are God’s chosen helpers for the priests in their ministry at the altar and tabernacle. [ii]  They were not as important as the priests; but nevertheless they were important people in the work of the Temple; some of them were the musicians.  But again, this man of God completely ignored the injured man; he even went out of his way to cross to the opposite side of the road to avoid him.

Then a third man came by, a non-Jew; he was from Samaria.  Even though Samaria was near Israel and the people there can trace some of their roots to being Jews, the Jews most despised and detested and would have no dealings with [iii] the people of Samaria.

I am sure the Samaritan recognized the injured person as a Jew, and knowing the history of his people and the Jews, could have easily been like the priest and Levite and just kept on walking.  But he didn’t.  Even though the priest and Levite hardened their hearts against one of their own people, the Samaritan didn’t, he softened his heart toward someone of another race.  He had compassion on this Jew.  He did not have an idle compassion like ‘I will pray for you to be healed’, but he had an active compassion and took action, even though it stretched him out of his comfort zone.  He took out of his own possessions to bandage the man’s wounds, took of his own oil and wine to cleanse and sanitize the man’s wounds.  He did all he could to prevent the pain and promote the healing of the man’s wounds.  He then put the man on his own beast and took him to an inn.  I am sure that this was quite inconvenient to the Samaritan; he could have traveled much farther down the road.  The Samaritan even took the time to spend the night to take care of this stranger.  The next day he gave the innkeeper two denarii, enough to provide for the man for a while and he told the innkeeper that he would reimburse him for any additional expenses the man needs when he returns.  What great grace the Good Samaritan showed to the man who was in need.

The last two verses are Luke 10:36-37 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  Jesus told this lawyer that he needs to be doing the same thing.  To go out of his way to help those who are in need.  To do it freely, with concern and compassion, even though he is not of your own nation.  Not to think himself more righteous because of his position, but to be merciful and helpful to those who are in need.  It is the duty of every one of us to assist, help and relieve those that are in distress and necessity, regardless of our position in the church.  We might not have the financial ability to give a few days wages, but there are other ways that we can help out.

We can apply this parable in different ways, because our neighbors take many forms.  Let’s look at a few.  Hard times can hit anyone.  It’s like in those old movies where someone is running from bad guys through the jungle when all of a sudden he gets into quicksand.  Oftentimes a helpful person comes by at the right time to help him out.  Accidents and diseases happen to the best of us.  Look at some of the problems that some of our members have gone through lately; namely, a few are struggling with cancer.  When we went through the worst of it, what a blessing it was for us that some people brought us meals.  Not that anyone has ever complained about my cooking (may God rest their souls), but it was very helpful that I didn’t have to prepare a meal all the time, since my wife was sick and I had to perform more duties around the house.  Not to mention it was also a financial help because of my wife being on disability.  Right now the Gonzales’ are going through a similar time, and what a blessing it was last month when you all stepped up and gave a huge financial blessing.  The continued meals being provided to them is also a huge help.  Even just visiting and praying for the sick is a great encouragement.  Lately we visited someone who is stuck in the hospital.  His wife commented that it is an encouragement to see someone visit her husband.

It is great that we help those whom we know, because this more is in our comfort zone.  But this passage doesn’t tell us to help out only our local neighbors, because that is just like only helping those of our own nation.  God is calling us to use grace to stretch out beyond our comfort zone.  The Good Samaritan used grace when he stretched out of his comfort zone to help a total stranger who was not of his own nation or religion.  That would be like us driving down the road and we see an accident.  It is easy for us to keep driving and not do anything. But this is a person in need; Jesus identified this person as our neighbor. Can we take the time to stop and help?  Even if we don’t know first aid, we can at least stop, give comfort, make sure Emergency is called and maybe even offer to be a witness if we saw it happen.  What a powerful testimony that can be to help a total stranger.

It’s also like several 19th century American Salvation Army women who showed God’s love by going into some dark neighborhoods with the compassion of Christ.  They did house-house visitations, doing what needed to be done; scrubbing, drive out rats, bathe a dead baby and arrange for the funeral, deal with a drunken father.  We shouldn’t shy away from the darker places where God’s love is needed most.  Jesus went everywhere; touched lepers, entered graveyards to reach demoniacs, talked to despised Samaritans.  His grace can reach the darkest places, and He will go with us and use us when we are obedient to follow Him there.

This parable talks about helping someone who was injured, but what about if we see someone caught in a sin?  Should we be legalistic about it and accuse them of being in that sin in the first place so we do not help them because of their guilt; or should try to help them get out?  Many are not open to change, but for those who are and will repent, we should try.

Take one of our recurring announcements, helping women in the sex slave trade.  We think of prostitutes as women who choose to do evil by selling their bodies.  Actually, most of them were coerced into it; they are victims, being trapped and exploited.  Pimps usually get them started around age 12 because when the girls are young they are more easily controlled.  Even though we may not want to have anything to do with a prostitute; could we show grace to one and not condemn them of their sin and give them the help they need to get out of this lifestyle?

There are other sinful lifestyles that people could get caught up in; homosexuality, pornography, drunkenness, drug addiction.  We don’t know the background of the person as to why they got into any of these sins.  It might be because of what someone else did to them that to put them into this place, not that they willingly rebelled into that lifestyle.  Everyone has different reasons as to why they have gotten into the sin.  I read an article earlier this year of a man who had a sex change operation to become a woman, but later wanted to be a man but the surgery couldn’t be reversed.  Come to find out, he had a grandma who wanted a girl.  So when he was with that grandma, she would dress him in a pink dress.  Also when he was a child, he was sexually abused by an adult male.  So he thought that this is what he is.  Could we look beyond the stereotypes and our own preconceptions to take the time and try help our neighbor to get out of a sinful lifestyle like one of these?  I don’t mean just talk to them about it once, but spend time with them to help them out of it, even though it will take some of our precious time, because they might have been in this sinful situation for a long time, it will take time to dig themselves out.  We need to give grace and time to help them to overcome their problem.  Think of being like the first responders in an emergency.  The police are like the legalists, they are there cordoning off the area, finding out what happened and who is at fault.  The paramedics are like those who have grace, they don’t care who is at fault.  They just care to stop the bleeding, check for any broken bones and get the needy into the ambulance so they can get healed up.  We need to use God’s grace to look beyond the sin; we need to look to help the person.  Jesus said (Luke 4:31b-32) “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  I realize that it’s not politically correct to try to help with some of these.  With the recent Supreme Court decision it might even become against the law.  But they need God’s help too.

We shouldn’t judge a person of their sin and our own preconceptions of it; because when we judge somebody it makes us blind to our own evil and to the grace that we should give others because we received God’s grace.  We don’t have their particular sin that we regard as evil, but we lie, we gossip, we are gluttons; it’s all the same in God’s sight.  We should have love and compassion toward other people who are struggling with sin.  One of the Great Commandments is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt. 22:39)  Would you want help if you are struggling?  Jesus also said that as you love me, you should love others.  St. Francis of Assisi once said Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love.  Some things that 1 Cor. 13 teaches us about love: (4) Love is patient, love is kind (7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  When we are helping others in need we need to be patient in helping those who want help, giving kindness along the way, because it can be difficult to change; we need to stretch out in trust, trusting that God will make a permanent change in their lives; we should persevere, because sometimes that change in another person takes a long time and they might slip a few times along the way.

Even Christians can sometimes fall back into sin.  That doesn’t mean that they aren’t saved, just that temptation’s pull has drawn them back in and they need a neighbor to come along beside them to restore them.  Mind you, taking a chance about anybody truly repenting is not without risk; Christian and non-Christian.  Sometimes grace can be extended to some people who time shows are still involved in the sin, and it can come back to bite you.  Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, dealt with some leaders who sinned but he tried to restore them back to their positions.  Come to find out, they were still committing the sins; so this came back to hurt him.  But Pastor Chuck has said about his experiences, “But I will tell you this, if I’m going to err, I want to err on the side of grace rather than on the side of judgement.[iv] That is the way we should all want to be.  If someone has repented of their sin, err on the side of grace and help to try to restore them, not judge them because that could push them away from fellowship and away from God.  After all, Jesus said “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Mt 5:7)

Our neighbors are not only Christians, but they are non-Christians.  We should also have friends who are not Christians.  We are the light of the world; how are we shining that light to a dark world if we are not spending time with non-Christians?  As we are with non-Christians, it can open up another way to love our neighbor; fulfill the Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).  How much more can we love someone than to share with them the life changing Gospel of Jesus, so that they also can enjoy eternity with us?

This is by no means a list of the only ways that we can extend ourselves to others as neighbors.  Let God show you other ways how you can reach out to help people, using your abilities.  Show your good Godly character by extending yourself out to others who are in need.  And whatever you are doing to help someone, be all there, always put in your best effort.  Don’t do anything halfway; those you are ministering to will notice.

I close with this quote by Charles Spurgeon.  A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.

References:

http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/luke/10.html http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/smiths-bible-dictionary/samaria.html\ Notes from Human Trafficking Seminar, 4/18/15, Organized by Open Arms Pregnancy Center
Calvary Chapel Distinctives,
The Foundational Principles of the Calvary Chapel Movement, by Chuck Smith
Quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Charles Spurgeon, Jim Elliot
Bible League Devotional, Sink Free, 3/19/14
Turning Point daily devotional; A Dark and Dirty World; 7/7/15

[i] God’s Medicine, Kenneth E. Hagin, pg. 24
[ii] http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/0418.htm
[iii] http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/luke/10.html
[iv] Calvary Chapel Distinctives, The Foundational Principles of the Calvary Chapel Movement, by Chuck Smith, pg. 25

Hear it at:
http://www.calvarychapelwinnetka.org/Messages.php

The Island

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We feel like we are on an Island
A long distance from the ones who love us
But we are not alone

A storm is hammering us
The lightening scorching its mighty power
The thunder is heckling us
The rain drenching us to the bone
Our aloneness is heightened
But we are not alone

The island is a protection
Shielding us from outside harm
Providing a deterrent from some outside forces
The sea is full of life, if we look, we can see it
We are not alone

God sees us on the island
His love and care never leave us
His tender mercies reach out to us every day
We are not alone

The storm is pounding, but God is inside it
The lightening booms with the power of His glory
The thunder roars His mighty voice so we won’t miss it
The rain saturates us in His tears
The power of His love is all around us
We are not alone

The love and prayers of our loved ones
Prance across the waters to reach us
The waters cannot impede them
Our loved ones are with us in spirit
We are not forgotten
We are not alone

The storm will cease
It won’t go on forever
The sun will shine again
We will feel the warmth of God’s love
We are not alone

God will bring us off that island
Out of our time of feeling away
Because of God’s loving hand and mercy
We can endure the trials we go through
God’s promise is to never leave us or forsake us
We are not, nor ever will be, alone

Three Major Challenges for the Next Generation

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Because of the harm that humans are doing to the earth, the younger generation will have several challenges ahead of them because of this. From massive deforestation, polluting of the air and waterways, trash in the ocean and mankind populating at an ever increasing rate, it is putting a strain on the resources of the earth. This is meant to look at some of these challenges that the younger generation will have to face in the future.

I am not a tree-hugger or an ultra-environmentalist, so I am not coming at this from this perspective. I do see the good these people are trying to do to protect the earth. But even Hollywood has seen what mankind is doing to the environment as they have made several movies showing how the earth will be devastated by mankind. Many of these are based on mankind destroying the earth with nuclear war; but some are based the destructive scenarios that man’s pollution and harm of the earth that have caused it to be unlivable. I live in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles where I have seen a big difference in the 30+ years that I have been living here. When I first moved here in 1981, there were several days in the summer when you could not see the mountains that surround the valley because of the pollution. I worked in Aerospace at that time and was glad that I worked in a clean room so I knew I was breathing some clean air during the day. I appreciate what the environmentalists have been able to do through pollution control. This is also what gives me hope that mankind can reverse the destructive trend that we are on.

The perspective that I am looking at this from is my Christian worldview. I believe that we are in the days before Jesus comes back the second time. There are many other reasons why I believe the Lord will return soon that is based on the Bible. But because of this belief, it causes me to look at this time through an ecological point of view; will Jesus have to come back soon because the world cannot sustain life for much longer if it keeps going the way it is? After all, the New Testament is specific that God will destroy the world and create a new one. 2 Peter 3:10 says “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” God will destroy the world. Yes, I know that the primary reason of this destruction and re-creation of the earth and heavens is because of God’s judgment upon the earth; but maybe part of the reason is because mankind has damaged the earth so much that God needs to rebuild it in order to sustain the new life in eternity. Revelation 21:1, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”

It is because of the way the earth operates that we can have life. This planet is like a spaceship and we are limited to the resources that are on it. The earth gives us all of the necessities that we need to sustain life as we know it. Scientists see several problems on our planet that could harm long term human life; whether it is ozone depletion, global warming, soil erosion, overpopulation, pollution, or one of several other environmental problems. I will just focus on a few of these.

It is said there are three most important things in life that we can’t live without. We can live about 40 days without food, about 3 days without water, but only about 3 minutes without oxygen. These are the three I will focus on.

OXYGEN

We breathe oxygen from the air. About 21% of the air in the atmosphere is oxygen . Oxygen is at the same percentage no matter if you are in the middle of a tropical rain forest, the middle of Antarctica, or at the top of Mt. Everest. The oxygen is there because there are many plants in the world that convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Winds help to equally distribute the oxygen throughout the world.

In the mid 1990’s there was a TV show on that I liked to watch, ‘Seaquest DSV’. It was a drama that had realistic science fiction. The premise of the show was that the world had exhausted almost all of its natural resources except for the ones on the ocean floor . One of the resources that had been nearly exhausted is oxygen because of the destruction of the earth’s forests. To make up for the lack of oxygen, man had to build several plants that could create oxygen around the world so it would be equally distributed on the earth. Of course one episode had someone trying to destroy enough of these plants so life could not be sustained upon the surface of the earth anymore.

Could the earth actually run out of oxygen? That is a thought that no one wants to think about, because it is the most essential substance that is vital to life. But it could theoretically be possible.

Oxygen comes from plants that convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into oxygen. Forests currently cover about 30 percent of the land area in the world, which is a large portion of the surface. But deforestation is a big problem throughout the world. It is estimated that 18 million acres a year is currently being deforested through the world, this is an area roughly the size of Panama . About half of the world’s tropical rain forests have already disappeared. If our forests continue disappearing at the current rate, then in about 100 years there will not be any forests left . If the world’s forests disappear, not only do 70% of the world’s animals that depend on the forests not have a home, but we won’t have the largest means of the production of oxygen for our planet left.

There are many reasons our forests are disappearing. The largest reason is because of agriculture. Farmers will take out forests because they are on fertile land which they need to grow their crops on or to let their livestock graze on. There are many small farmers who do a slash and burn kind of agriculture. This is when they cut down the trees then burn them. As more people are populating the earth, some forests are destroyed to make more land available for housing and urbanization. Wood is used to make commercial items like paper, furniture and homes, so some deforestation occurs for this purpose. This is a smaller reason, as many companies who make these products also grow their own groves so they can self-sustain their industry.
Deforestation has been a constant problem in earth’s history. For instance, in the continental United States, about 90 of its indigenous forests have been removed since 1600. But in the last 50 years the problem of deforestation has increased rapidly in the world, especially in Brazil and Indonesia.

Not all of the earth’s oxygen comes from the forests, which is good. A lot of the oxygen we breathe also comes from algae and other plants, so it is not like we are cutting off the only means of creating oxygen that we have. Many trees are being planted in cities and other non-forest areas. But with the vast destruction of our forests, we are causing other environmental problems to our earth. Per the noted Livescience article, Deforestation is considered to be one of the contributing factors to global climate change, because this also affects the global carbon cycle. More carbon gets into the air through the breathing of people and animals as well as due to industry. Trees act as a buffer, removing the carbon in the air and turning it into oxygen. But they don’t just convert carbon, they also store a lot of carbon. Then when the trees die, they release the carbon that they were holding into the air. If you have ever watched the movie ‘Apollo 13’, too much carbon in the air was one of the challenges the astronauts faced. Whereas they had enough oxygen on board to get them back to earth, the carbon was building up inside the capsule to where it would have been too large of a percentage of the air, so that would have killed them. They had to convert a buffer to fit the capsule they were staying in. If there is too much carbon in the air, it can kill people. So in killing millions of acres of trees, we are also killing a major source that removes carbon from the air in the atmosphere.

WATER

We have an abundance of water here on the earth. About 70% of the earth is covered in water. That is good, because water is very important to life as we know it. Our bodies are made up of 60% water. Our brains are 73% water. In some organisms, up to 90% of their mass is made from water. But of all that abundance of water on the earth, about 97% of it is salt water , which means that only about 3% of the world’s water is usable to help keep us hydrated. But most of that 3% of non-salt water is locked up in ice at both poles.

According to scientists, water is the one thing that makes our planet different than any other. Without water, we would not have life. That is why scientists are looking for water on other planets; thinking that if they find water, they will find other life. Since our bodies consist of so much water, we need to drink plenty of clean water. We also use water to raise our crops so we can eat, water animals, wash and some industries use a lot of water also.

We get much of our water from surface locations like rivers and lakes. But there is also a lot of groundwater in the surface; therefore we dig wells to gain access to it. But water resources have a lot of strain being put upon them. Water resources are being strained by modern agricultural techniques. Here in California, they say about 80-85% of the water is used for agriculture. Some crops, like almonds, take a lot of water to grow.

Water tables are depleting at a disturbing rate in several places of the world, including the US. According to the United State Geological Survey, USGS, ‘Ground-water depletion has been a concern in the Southwest and High Plains for many years, but increased demands on our ground-water resources have overstressed aquifers in many areas of the Nation, not just in arid regions.’ Clean water scarcity is getting to be a major problem throughout the world.

Many areas of the world are in a drought, this causes less water to go around. Just look at us here in Los Angeles, we have to get most of our water from miles away, like the Colorado River or Northern California. A few years ago we were in a long drought, We had to cut back 10% of our normal amount of water usage. We are now in another drought. On April 1, 2015, Governor Brown mandated a 25% statewide cutback in water.

As countries get more industrial, there is a growing problem with water pollution. For example, China, which is the most populous country in the world. It is said that 70% of their lakes and rivers are polluted. That is a major source of water that is unfit for human consumption. Underground water should be safer, as it has been filtered out by the earth. But, according to state media, nearly 60% of their underground water is polluted. Many people there have to drink unhealthy water, causing diseases.
There are also some instances that prevent water to be used for human’s consumption; instead, they are used for conservation purposes. The San Joaquin Valley, here in California, is a major food producer for much of the world. Yet a few years ago, in some areas of the San Joaquin Valley they were denied water so the government could protect the smelt, which is a small fish. Farmers can’t plant crops where they once did, so their land has gone dry and useless. This is because some conservationists think it is more important to keep water to protect a fish species than it is to let farmers use it to irrigate their fields to be able to feed people.

Even though this world has an abundant water supply, we are doing several things to shorten the supply of usable water, a substance that is essential to life. The next generation will need to find a way to produce usable water for their generation. The oceans contain a vast amount of water, but it is mostly unusable for our lives because of its salinity. The next generation may have to build vast de-salinization plants so they will have reliable water sources.

From the End Time Biblical viewpoint, we can see an incidence of a massive water pollution problem. This occurs during the Great Tribulation, after the Antichrist has taken power over the world. Revelation 8:10-11, “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” This is a onetime incident that the Bible mentions, but we see that something happens to much of the water supply which causes an unspeakable amount of people die.

FOOD

The other main essential to life is food. This is the nutrition that our bodies need to build muscles and give us energy. With a growing population in the world, the world also needs to grow more food to keep up with the population. If the food supply does not keep up with the growing population, then there will be major famines around the world.

The earth supplies the food that we need. Right now about half of the world’s land surface is used for food production in one way or another. About 40% of the earth’s surface is used for agriculture, so about 10% of it is for raising livestock. So there is a very large portion of the earth’s surface currently being used to feed the world’s population.

That is good, because we need a large amount of food; the current population of the world is about 7.2 billion people . That is a lot of mouths to feed. The world’s population is only getting larger, so farmers will have to keep producing even more food.

The world has always had problems with famines. Even now, hunger kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. With the world being made a little smaller with the communication and transportation systems we have now, there are more organizations getting needed food to the underdeveloped world. In 1990-2, there were 18.7% of the people in the world who were undernourished. But through the help of these organizations, the number went down to 11.3% in 2012-4. The number has greatly decreased, but there is still so much more to do. In the world today, about 805 million people don’t have enough food to lead a normal, healthy lifestyle. That is about 1 in 9 people in the world. There is still a lot of hunger and famine currently going on.

But there are challenges to be able to feed the growing population in the world. This is partly because of the industrial pollution of the air, water, and soil which threatens the quantity and quality of our food. This causes the food that we eat to not be as nutritious as it was in years past. Another problem is soil exhaustion. That is where the soil loses its nutrients. So in order to grow their crops, farmers need to use an increasing amount of chemical fertilizer to replace the nutrients that the soil has lost.
Even National Geographic sees a problem with food production. Here is a quote from their July 2011 article, “Food Ark”; A crisis is looming: To feed our growing population, we’ll need to double food production. Yet crop yields aren’t increasing fast enough, and climate change and new diseases threaten the limited varieties we’ve come to depend on for food. It says how many food varieties all over the world are becoming extinct. In the US alone, 90% of our historic fruit and vegetable varieties have disappeared. For example, in the 1800’s there where 7,000 apple varieties. Now, fewer than 100 remain. A big reason this has happened is because scientists have worked to create hybrid crops. If disease, or future climate change, decimates the plants that we depend upon, there will be less food in the world. For example, there is a fungus called stem rust. Its current virulent and fast-mutating strain, called Ug99, started in Uganda in 1999. But it has spread to other countries in Africa and even made its way into Iran. It destroys wheat crops; and there is nothing that can be done about it. They said that 90% of the world’s wheat is defenseless against this disease. They have not come up with a cure for it.

To help produce more food, scientists have developed hybrid strains of crops that can produce a higher yield. But these high yield crops are genetically weaker and require expensive chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides. “In short, in our focus on increasing the amount of food we produce today, we have accidentally put ourselves at risk for food shortages in the future.” Scientists have produced crops that produce more food, but they are more susceptible to diseases.

As these hybrid crops need more fertilizer, this brings up another problem; the world is running lower on the phosphate that is used for modern fertilizer. We use 50 million tonnes of phosphate every year. China and the USA are the world’s biggest producers. The USA produces 19 % but 65 % of that amount comes from mines in Florida which may not last more than a few decades. Meanwhile nearly 40 % of global reserves are controlled by Morocco. The concept of ‘peak phosphate’ is real and we will see prices rise steeply. Usage of these kinds of fertilizers cannot go on indefinitely, as they are not renewable. But without them, the industrialized nations of the world will be able to produce less food for the world.

One more problem I will mention about food supply is civil unrest. When there is food shortages there will be civil unrest, as in Egypt, The Philippines, Haiti and elsewhere. Some countries have imposed export bans on some of their important crop products to meet the needs in their own country. For example, Russia has done this to wheat and India for rice. Also, when countries are at war, it makes it harder for them to plant and produce crops, as they focus more on the fighting. Also, farmer’s lives can be endangered when they are working in the fields. Food productivity is threatened whenever there is civil unrest or conflict. Per Wikipedia, there have been over 115 wars since 1990. But if there are more food shortages, then there will be more conflicts because of this; the result being even less food production. xvi
Per the Bible, there will be a great famine during the Great Tribulation. In the start of Revelation Chapter 6, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse are turned loose. The first one goes out as a conqueror bent on conquest. The second one cause’s peace to go away from the earth and many people are killed. The third one causes wheat and barley to be very expensive, meaning they are in short supply. Then the fourth horseman is turned loose, and we read in Revelation 6:8, “I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Famine is one of the killers of one-fourth of the population of the world during this period. This death rate is also caused by war and disease, which can go hand-in-hand with famine.

CONCLUSION

The next generation has a lot of challenges that they will be going through, so they need to be ready for them. In our culture in the United States, we take a lot of things for granted. Clean, easily accessible running water and a ready supply of food in our grocery stores and restaurants are two of these things. There are more modern conveniences that we take for granted as well that I will not get into now. If these conveniences are not convenient for them, how will they react? If they are not prepared adequately, it will be even harder for them than it has for generations in the past.

If we are in the End Times before Jesus comes back the second time, there is nothing that they can do about it. The problems in the world will just continue to get worse, so they need to be prepared for the hard times before the Lord Jesus comes back. They need to have their hearts and lives right before the Lord so hopefully they won’t have to go through those times, but be prepared for the worse they have to.

But if the Lord isn’t coming back yet, they still need to have their hearts and lives right before the Lord. But they also need come up with answers to the many ecological challenges that are upon the earth. To figure out how to get reliable, clean water to drink, for crops, for industry, for the many ways in which we use water; they also to be able to feed the growing population in the world with the limited amounts of fertile land that is available.

Science will only be able to help them so much with the problems they will be facing. They will also need a lot of wisdom, self-control and patience.

Sources:
Water levels in CA: http://www.boatharbors.com/california_lake_level_data.htm
http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-state-drought-relief-package-falls-short-advocates-say-20150326-story.html
Daily News – Los Angeles

http://science.howstuffworks.com/question493.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SeaQuest_DSV
http://www.livescience.com/27692-deforestation.html
http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation-overview/
http://water.usgs.gov/edu/propertyyou.html
http://www.fcwa.org/story_of_water/html/earth.htm
http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs-103-03/
http://www.businessinsider.com/china-water-pollution-photos-2014-7?op=1
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/23/china-half-groundwater-polluted
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/12/1209_051209_crops_map.html
http://www.census.gov/popclock/
http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats