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Saturday, December 22, 2018

A Precious Gift is Waiting for You

 A Precious Gift is Waiting for You
Jesus promises His followers a precious gift – the gift of peace.  “My peace I give you, my peace I leave for you, not as the world gives, give I unto you….” (John 14:27)   The gift of peace is also one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that is promised to believers.  And all through the Bible God promises peace to those who love Him.  But when darkness moves in to surround our souls and pain and trouble threaten to harm our lives, can we still hold on to the peace that has been given to us?
So how do we hold on to this promised peace anyway?  There are such scary things going on in our world that it is no wonder we often become worried and anxious.  But God tells us not to worry but to change our thought patterns.  Change our thought patterns?  God cares about our thoughts? Scripture says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2) New thoughts come from new perspectives.  We don’t have to live by the world’s fearful perspectives since we have been born again into the kingdom of heaven and have been given new perspectives.  
So how do we break old thought habits and start living into our new perspectives of hope and trust in God?  First of all, we need to know Gods’ Word.  Isaiah 55:10-11 says that when Gods’ Word is sent out it does not return empty.  In other words, it is powerful and does a job – makes a difference wherever it goes.  So we need to let Gods’ Word do a job in our thought lives - think over life situations and problems with Scripture to guide our thought process. And stand on (believe) the promises in the Bible that are there for us.  Allow God’s Word to be a light to guide our thoughts.  
In His Word God promises to take care of us, forgive our sins, answer our prayers, and gives us victory in the end.  He promises to make every situation work out (eventually) to the good for us if we love Him. (Rom 8:28) When we look at our problems with God in the picture, we get a new perspective. We are to exchange the old ways of worrying for the new ways of trusting in Christ.  We are to look at life through Gods’ truths.  Our thought patterns are all important. Scripture says: “As a person thinks in his heart, so is he.”  (Proverbs 23:7)
Scripture teaches that with Gods’ help we can accept or refuse thoughts – choose constructive or destructive thoughts. Instead of being held hostage by old hopeless thought patterns, we can learn new hopeful ones.  To have peace in our lives we will need to try to refuse sinful thoughts and meditate on Biblical truths.  Scripture says: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  (2 Cor. 10:5)
Isn’t this scripture asking us to take every thought we have and make it be obedient to Christ?  How do we do that?   This Biblical request is an invitation for us to try to follow –however imperfectly.  As we try to obey, we may take two steps forward and one step backward.  We may fail as many times as we succeed at this.  But we are to keep on trying  – keep on working to make our thought life obedient to Him. Let’s see how it might work out in real life.
We once knew a Christian man – let’s call him Paul – who tried (imperfectly) to respond to his troubles by looking at them with the new perspective – the perspective of seeing things through the truths in Scripture.  Paul was a pastor and his small church was not able to pay him very much.  He and his wife Sue and their family lived in a small apartment and he drove an old car.  Paul’s wealthy parents were disappointed that Paul had become a pastor.  They had wanted him to become a successful businessman and make money. The parents were embarrassed that their son drove an old car.  Year after year Paul’s mother criticized him for being a “failure”, causing Paul to criticize his mother back for being so critical of him in the first place.  These hurtful exchanges stole the peace from Paul’s life and kept him irritated.
When Paul and Sue’s children grew up, Paul’s mother announced that she and Paul’s father were changing their will and leaving their wealth to the grandchildren only.  They would skip over Paul and Sue since they were losers anyway. Several of the children began to agree with Paul’s mother.  Since Paul and Sue did not have a big bank account, they were not important. Again, Paul was hurt and angry. He tried harder to impress his mother and please his children –but to no avail.  Anger and frustration left Paul with no peace. 
 Time passed by and one of the grown children stopped speaking to Paul and Sue.  Paul parents seemed to encourage the son in his decision to cut off his parents.  Desperation set in for Paul and Sue as they tried again and again but failed to regain contact with their grown son.  Up to this point Paul still viewed these family problems through the eyes of this world.   Anger and bitterness took over his thoughts concerning his parents and son and he had no peace.
More years passed with the son and his family hardly speaking to Paul and Sue.  The devastated couple began praying and asking God to change their son and restore the relationship they had once had with him. Paul and Sue knew that it is Gods’ will that families have good relationships, so they believed that God would answer their prayers (eventually) and that their son would come back and have a relationship with them someday.  This gave them some peace – even if this prayer wouldn’t be answered until the distant future.  They could count on God to answer this prayer and they clung to this hope for their family.  This gave them some of the peace Jesus promised.
Gradually Paul realized that the people who hurt his feelings– his parents and his son – were not the real ones that were against him.  Ephesians 6:12 reads: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  This was perhaps a trial that he must bear.  This helped Paul have some peace and stop blaming his family and himself.  He acknowledged that the problem was over his head and he kept giving the situation to God whenever it bothered him.  This gave him some peace.
Paul and Sue often cried on each other’s shoulder about their family problems.  Sue would remind Paul about the latest hurtful remark from the mother or Paul would count out the number of years it had been since they had last seen their son.  Dwelling on the negative seemed to keep Paul and Sue feeling hopeless about a solution.  But one day Paul read Philippians 4:8 and he suggested that he and Sue start thinking and talking about the good things about the mother and son.  And they would latch on to the good news that they could trust God to answer their prayers for reconciliation with family.  Playing down their problems and concentrating on Gods’ faithfulness and the good in their lives would help give them peace.  And it did.  
The scripture that Paul quoted was: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, think on these things.”  (Philippians 4:8) As Paul and Sue reminded one another about the good times they had had with the mother in the past and the good qualities that their son had they felt more hopeful.  And they continued to remind one another that God was taking care of everything.    
Paul gave his anger to God and started doing what he could to love his rejecting family.  And God gave him a new view of things – a new perspective.  Paul could see that God would take care of everything.  Paul could let go and have some peace.  He remembered the words of Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” He promised himself and God that he would appreciate the good in his mother and refuse to let her criticisms make him angry.  This resolve gave him peace where before he had allowed the criticisms to keep him upset.   
Eventually Paul’s parents grew old and needed help. Paul and Sue were there loving them and taking care of their needs.  Paul’s mother began to mellow, and she complained because her criticisms didn’t bother Paul anymore. And then finally the son began to reach out to Paul and Sue after thirty years of rejection. 
Surely God will finish the healing of Paul and Sues’ family ties, if not on earth then definitely in heaven.  It took time for Paul and Sue to learn to trust God.  Time to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor.10:5) At first, they would feel helpless when they couldn’t solve their problems themselves.  But finally, they learned to believe that God was working behind the scenes.  And then because they trusted God, they had peace in the midst of their trouble.
Without trust in God, Paul and Sue could not have struggled through this long trial without giving up.  And without trust in God we can not go though our trials without giving up either.  Because we serve a mighty God, we never have to give up on anything that is good in our lives.  Let’s get our thoughts in line with Gods’ promises – His truths.  And we will enjoy the good life – and we will have peace in the midst of our troubles    


Saturday, December 15, 2018

Let's Tear Down our Walls this Christmas

Let’s Tear Down our Walls this Christmas
The Christmas season is a time to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  And the Christmas season is also a time to celebrate family. Scripture says: “Oh how good and pleasant it is when family lives together in harmony.”  (Psalm 133:1) We picture Christmas with family laughing together around the dinner table and opening gifts around the tree. Family members sharing stories and playing games together, singing carols and going to church together. When we think of Christmas we think of family.
But then there are people who don’t have family to be a part of this Christmas.  Death has separated these sad ones from a beloved family member. Every year churches open their doors for “blue” Christmas services for grieving widows and widowers who have lost spouses or for bereaving children whose parents have died. 
But then arguments or even abandonment can separate people from the warmth and belonging that family should bring at Christmas as well as every day. As the smells of Christmas cooking and the noise of love and laughter drift by from other family groups celebrating Christmas together, these ones without family sit alone at Christmas often feeling rejected and bitter. They say that Christmas is the loneliest time of the year for these ones without family- these ones who spend their Christmases alone.     
We celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas because Jesus saves us from our sins. He is God’s gift to us as He brings us eternal life. Ephesians 2:13 says: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
  Scripture says that long ago only the Jewish nation had God’s promises and our Gentile ancestors were far away from God.  Jews and Gentiles could not eat together since Jews were “circumcised” and the Gentiles were “uncircumcised.”  The Jews who were “clean” were prejudiced against the Gentiles who were “unclean.”  And the Gentiles were hostile towards their Jewish neighbors too since they were different. (Ephesians 2) There was a dividing wall that separated them.
But Jesus came to tear down that dividing wall and our personal dividing walls too!  To break down separation.  To put us back together. Scripture says: “for He (Jesus) himself is our peace, who has made the two one, and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility...  His purpose was to make the two into one in Himself.  Thus, making peace and reconciling both the Jew and the Gentile to God through the cross by which He put to death their hostility. Jesus came to preach peace – to you who were far away from God and peace to those who were near to God… In Him you are all being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”  (Ephesians 2: 14, 15b, 16, 17, 22)
We celebrate the good news of Christmas because Jesus came into the world to tear down the wall (of sin) that separates us from God and from one another.  We sing Christmas carols about His wonderful Gift to us – His love and His forgiveness.  We kneel, and we pray, we light candles, and give gifts and offerings. The tinsel, the tree, the baby Jesus, the festive dinner, the Christmas music! It is a holy time.
But Jesus wants us to be more involved at Christmas than to just enjoy ourselves.  Jesus calls us to follow His example and tear down the walls in our lives that separate us from our loved ones! To share their burdens and be patient with the little annoyances they sometimes cause us.  To follow Jesus and forgive them like He forgives us. He promises that if we pray for them, He will answer. We may have to wait a long time, but He promises us victory (through Him) over all our concerns when we reach heaven. We will be re-united with our loved ones there. He calls us to forgive anyone who has wronged us and to operate with love over all our dealings. And He calls us to believe that He can take care of these twisted relationships if we trust Him with them.
We try to follow Jesus, but it is not easy. There are walls in our lives already sturdily in place that divide. If we look, we may see strong walls of resentment we have built around ourselves – constructed for our protection!  And then walls of self-righteousness we set up to keep out those people who don’t measure up to our high standards.  And of course, the walls of indifference that so easily pop up in our minds to separate us from all those people who we think are inferior. Walls of anger against those who have different political views than we do. And there are walls of fear that automatically appear at every turn. What can we do?
We may be comfortable with our walls, but Jesus is not. He keeps calling. Calling us to open up to sharing His love.  He keeps urging us to tear down all these walls in our lives.  To keep the peace as much as we can. He keeps promising that we can do it through Him.  That He will be with us and give us the strength and love to make it happen.
You may have tried to tear down the walls in your life and found that you cannot do it on your own.  But Jesus can do it through you!  Because of His birth we can have “new birth” or be “born again”.  The characteristics of the new birth is that we yield ourselves to God so that Christ’s Spirit is formed in us and His nature begins to work through us.  Just as Our Lord came into human history 2,000 years ago and changed the world, He also wants to come into our lives and change them today. Have we made room for Him?  Scripture says: “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) If we make room for Him to be born in us, He will give us the power to tear down our walls and transform our lives.








Saturday, December 8, 2018

Jesus was Born of a Virgin

Jesus was Born of a Virgin
The prophet Isaiah wrote these words “Behold a virgin shall be with child and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).  These words were written about 750 years before Jesus was born.  And 750 years later, Matthew believed that the old prophecy of Isaiah was finally being fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. 
Inspired by God, Matthew writes: “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’”  (Matthew 22-23) 
One of Jesus’ names was to be “Immanuel”. The name Immanuel here declares the presence of God with His people. Also, the angel told Joseph to name this baby “Jesus” and the name “Jesus” means “Yahweh (God) is Salvation.”  Jesus would be the long-awaited Messiah.  Obviously, the baby Jesus would be different from any other baby ever born. And His conception would be different from any other conception – in that He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would be God and He would be human.  
The gospel of Matthew starts out with the genealogy of Jesus.  This genealogy demonstrates continuity between the Old Testament and Jesus and it also shows Jesus’ royal line in that Jesus was a Son of David.  And it also demonstrated Jesus’ link with Abraham the patriarch or father of the Jewish race in that Jesus was called a “Son of Abraham”. 
We usually read the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth from the gospel of Luke since Luke’s story is so beautifully written, - the shepherds and the wise men – the bright star and the angels singing in the heavens – the stable and the baby Jesus sleeping on the hay in the manger –  and Mary and Joseph standing watch over the Christ child.  And our Christmas carols reflect Luke’s miraculous story.
But when Matthew’s gospel describes Jesus’ birth, his words aren’t so magical, and they do not easily lend themselves to Christmas carols. Matthew jumps right in talking about the problems Jesus’ birth brings.  First, he gives us a glimpse of the problems Mary’s pregnancy causes her with her fiancé Joseph.  Matthew writes: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to divorce her secretly.” (Matthew 1:18-19). 
“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a Son and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  (Matthew 1:20-21) 
Biblical scholars tell us that there were no sexual relations during an ancient Jewish betrothal period, but an engaged couple like Mary and Joseph were considered to be “husband” and “wife” and their engagement could only be broken by divorce.  Matthew uses the terms “husband” and “wife” for Joseph and Mary before they were married.
Joseph obviously did not believe Mary when she told him that she was pregnant and that she had not had sex with another man. A pregnant virgin – impossible!  It had never happened before – or since – so how could Joseph believe that Mary could be the only woman in the world who became pregnant without having sex?  He wasn’t stupid, was he?  
Mary told Joseph about Gabriel, the bright angel that had appeared to her bringing news that she would become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. And she told him about this same angel who had promised that she would give birth to the Son of God, the One who would save His people from their sins!  That yes, she was the only virgin to ever be pregnant with a child, but her Child would be the only Child to save His people from their sins!  A miraculous pregnancy and a miraculous Baby!
 But this was all too much for poor Joseph to take in. All he knew was that the woman he loved - the woman he had trusted – the woman he called his “wife” -this woman had betrayed him and was pregnant with someone else’s baby! And soon the whole village would be whispering about it.  It must have been humiliating and painful – not only for Joseph but also for Mary.
We are not told how Mary felt in all of this. She had wanted God’s Will in her life.  But submitting to God’s will was already causing her to lose her man. She had counted on her Joseph to be there for her and to believe her when she told him about how the angel had given her this wonderful news.  But instead Joseph had become angry with Mary’s news of the Baby. He didn’t believe one word of her story. He thought she was lying. And he didn’t leave room for God in her story either! So Mary was pregnant and watching the man she loved reject her and walk out of her life.  And while he was walking away, he promised that a shameful divorce would soon follow.  At least he was good enough not to have her stoned! 
But then God stepped in and took care of the misunderstanding.  God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream and told Joseph that what Mary had told him really was true!  That Mary was indeed pregnant by the Holy Spirit and that she truly would give birth to a Son who would save His people from their sins!  And they should call His name “Jesus”. 
Matthew continues the Christmas story by telling us that Joseph woke up from his dream and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and he took Mary to be his wife. Joseph and Mary later traveled to Bethlehem where Jesus was born.  And wise men or Magi from the East came to Jerusalem asking where they could find the king of the Jews.  They had seen His star and they had come to worship Him. 
Matthew now describes a second problem that the birth of Jesus brings!  It seems when Jesus came into the world as a baby two thousand years ago, His birth caused problems for some. And when He comes into our lives and world today, it is the same. His Presence with us can also cause problems from a rejecting world. 
Matthew begins by telling of how Herod, the evil king at that time, was troubled by these traveling Magi asking where the new baby king of the Jews could be found. Who was this “new king” they were asking about anyway?  Herod was the only “king” the Jews could have!  How dare they talk of a “new king” being born!  Jealously and rage filled Herod’s heart.  He asked the wise men to return to his palace after they had found this “new king”.  Return and tell him where this baby king was so that he could go and “worship” him also.   (King Herod had no intention of worshipping Jesus!) 
The wise men or Magi followed the star to Bethlehem and Scripture says that these men “rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”  (Matthew 2:10b) It seems that Jesus’ presence brought exceeding great joy back then and His presence in our lives brings us exceeding joy today!  And when the wise men came before the baby Jesus and His mother Mary, they fell down and worshipped Him. And they gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Magi were probably Gentiles.  Matthew shows that people of all nations acknowledge that Jesus is “king of the Jews” and we Gentiles come to worship Him as Lord like the wise men did.  But God warned the wise men in a dream not to return to the wicked Herod and tell him where Jesus was but to travel back to their country another way.
King Herod waited for the wise men to return and tell him where he could find this “new king” – the baby Jesus.  But when the wise men never returned to Herod with that information, he flew into a rage.
 When the wise men had first asked King Herod where to find this new king, the scribes and religious scholars of the day had come before King Herod and referred to an Old Testament prophecy in Micah as to where the new king would be born.  There are many prophecies in the Old Testament pointing to Jesus’ birth, but this one in Micah says that the Messiah or king will come out of the town of Bethlehem.  This scripture reads: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me, the One to be ruler in Israel.  Whose goings forth are from of old and from everlasting.”  (Micah 5:2) 
The scribes and the religious scholars believed from studying Scripture that their Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. They referred to Micah’s prophecy when the wise men asked where He might be found. Yet none of those ancient theologians bothered to accompany the wise men to Bethlehem (a 7-mile journey) to see if, indeed, the Messiah had been born!
The little town of Bethlehem is now a point of pilgrimage for thousands of Christians yearly.  But let us learn from those scribes and religious leaders in Jesus’ time who knew all the right answers but did not make that first pilgrimage to Bethlehem. They knew where their Savior was to be born from studying prophecy, but they did not love Him enough to go find Him for themselves.
 Today neither our orthodoxy, biblical knowledge, nor church attendance guarantees that we will see what God is doing in our midst. We can know all of the correct answers like the religious leaders of old did and yet miss the Savior! Let’s be willing to love Him enough to follow the leading of God and His Word wherever it may lead.   

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Young Man was Recently Martyred as He Tried to Share Christ

A Young Man was Recently Martyred as He Tried to Share Christ
On November 16,2018, a young American man was shot and killed by remote primitive tribesmen with bows and arrows as he was trying to share his Christian faith. John Allen Chau, an American from the state of Washington, and a graduate from Oral Roberts University was just twenty-six years old. He felt that God was calling him to bring Christianity to a remote primitive tribe that lived on North Sentinel Island, one of the islands near India.
North Sentinel Island is a place so shrouded in mystery that the Indian government says that no outsiders know the language or the customs of the warlike people living there.  It seems that these North Sentinel islanders reject any contact with the civilized world. They are hunter-gatherers who will kill to protect their isolation from all outsiders. And in the past, they have murdered anyone who has ever tried to set foot on their island.  The Indian government has declared the North Sentinel Island “off limits”.
John Chau knew how dangerous it would be for him to go where no one else could go, but he felt that God was calling him.  He loved these people and believed that they would become Christians and that they would be with him in heaven. 
John flew to India in early November 2018 and hired five local fishermen to take him in their boat to the forbidden island, but he told no one.  He didn’t want to put others at risk with the Indian government.  He knew his mission was illegal.  That his helpers would have to maneuver their boat to avoid the Indian authorities who patrolled the waters around North Sentinel Island.  But on November 14th, the fishermen with John set off in their boat by night across the dark waters toward North Sentinel Island to avoid detection by the Indian government.
On November 15,2018 they arrived in the area and the fishermen let John Chau off a half mile from North Sentinel Island.  They feared being shot by arrows from the angry islander’s if they brought their boat any closer.  John paddled in a kayak to the remote island and went ashore smiling and offering gifts of fish, scissors and safety pins to the islanders.  He sang worship songs to them and tried to make friends.  For a while the naked tribesmen surrounded him speaking in high-pitched sounds and gestures.  But then one of the men shot at John and the arrow went through his Bible.  Others raised their spears to attack.
John ran away and swam back to the fishermen’s boat, anchored the half mile out in the harbor. Disappointed and  torn by fear but urged on by faith, he prayed asking God for guidance.  What should he do?  Should he go back and try again to reach these people tomorrow?  “I’m scared,” he wrote the evening of November 15th in his diary.  “Watching the sunset and it’s beautiful – crying a bit…wondering if it will be the last sunset I see. I think I could be more useful alive…but to you, God, I give all the glory of whatever happens,” And then he asked God to forgive “any of the people on this island who try to kill me, and especially if they succeed.”  He left 13 pages written in pen and pencil with the fishermen who had transported him to the island. 
John was galvanized by the feeling that he was God’s instrument to these lost people.  He so wanted them to know Christ. And he believed that the Lord was with him. “Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your Name?” he wrote in his diary that last night. 
And then the next morning, November 16,2018, John made his final trip to the forbidden island.  The fishermen watched from their boat as he disappeared into the forest.  And then they watched anxiously all day and all night.  But there was no sign of John Chau. Then on the morning of the following day, November 17th, the fishermen sadly watched as tribesmen could be seen dragging Chau’s body along the beach and burying his remains.  Chau was apparently shot and killed by arrows, but the cause of his death cannot be confirmed. 
John Chau is a modern- day Christian martyr. He joins the ranks of all the other Christian martyrs. Down through these last two thousand years, millions of Christians have been killed for their faith in Christ.  Steven might have been the first known martyr who was stoned to death because he was leading others to Christ. James, Jesus’ disciple, was killed by the sword. And most of Jesus’ disciples lost their lives because they were spreading the gospel. 
In the book of Revelation in the Bible it says: “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been killed because of the Word of God and for the testimony which they held.” (Revelations 6:9) These martyrs were praying for justice and God gives them white robes (representing righteousness and victory) and tells them to “rest a little longer”. 
Jesus calls all His followers to go into all the world and spread the gospel – the good news that Jesus will give us eternal life.  Christ calls us to go and lead others to Him. Here are Jesus’ words. “Then Jesus came to the disciples and followers and said, ’All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  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.  And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20) This is the “Great Commission”.   
Some people think that John Chau was wrong to visit this remote island tribe.  That the tribe was harmed by John’s visit.  But John’s faith and prayers for this tribes’ salvation may be answered in ways that we cannot understand.  There is a spiritual side that we can only begin to see by faith.  The early Christians were forbidden by Rome and by the Jewish religious leaders to spread their faith.  If the early Christians had obeyed their rulers, Christianity would not have spread and we would probably be heathens today.
 In 1954 or 1955, five young missionary couples from Wycliffe Bible Translators traveled with their children to the jungles of Ecuador in South America and prayed that they might share God’s Word with the Aca Indians, who lived there.  The Aca tribe, like the tribe on North Sentinel Island, were warring primitive people who did not trust their civilized neighbors.  After sending gifts to the Aca’s and praying and preparing, the five missionary men set out through the jungle to meet these people.  Nate Saint, one of the missionaries, promised his wife Marge that he would call her on their two- way radio that evening.  His call never came through.  When the authorities sent troops into the jungle to find the men, they found their five bodies in the jungle, brutally cut to death by the Aca’s swords and spears. 
Elizabeth Elliott was one of the five young missionaries who was left a widow when her husband, Jim Elliott, was martyred along with Nate Saint and the three other missionaries.  Elizabeth loved the Aca Indians and believed that her husband and the other men did not die in vain.  She believed that God wanted the Aca Indians to become Christians.  She cried and prayed and traveled through the Ecuadorian jungle to the Aca Indian village along with Marge Saint.  These two women were taken into the Aca village where they loved on the people who had savagely murdered their husbands.  Over a period of several years these women learned the language of the Aca Indians and shared Christ with them. Soon, the whole Aca Indian tribe accepted Christ and became Christian.   Many photos were sent back home of Elizabeth and Marge along with the Aca Indians all praising God together. 
Elizabeth Elliott wrote the book, “Through Gates of Splendor” telling the amazing story of how the whole Aca tribe miraculously became Christian.  Elizabeth believed that in some way, God used the deaths of her husband and the other missionaries to open the hearts of the Aca Indians to Christ.  We will never know.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Why aren't Christians sometimes not Nicer than Non-Christians?

Why aren’t Christians sometimes not Nicer than Non-Christians?
Jesus said that if you put yourself in His hands, if you believe in Him as Savior and Lord, that He will change you and make you perfect, as He is perfect.  (Matthew 5:48) Jesus promises to cleanse us and makes us fit for heaven. Of course, that will take time. The change will not be completed in this lifetime. Death is an important part of the treatment.
But after death we will be perfect!  We will be changed!  We won’t be just nice people, but we will be new people! Scripture says that “We will be like Him (Jesus) for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2) We will be like Jesus!  Can that be?  Can we even imagine what all this means?
We will be in heaven in God’s presence.  And no sin can exist in God’s presence. (Habakkuk 1:13) Not only will all sin be banished from heaven, but everything bad that happens now because of sin’s grip on this world will finally be gone forever.   
Since Jesus is working on us Christians now toward the goal of making us perfect, why then aren’t we Christians often not nicer than non-Christians?  Even if we are not perfect yet, shouldn’t Christ shine through our lives for others to see? We can see Christ shining through the lives of many Christians, but why not all? 
 When we Christians behave badly, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world.  The non-Christian is right to judge Christianity by its results.  Jesus told us to judge by results.  He told us that a tree is known by its fruit. (Luke 6:44, Matthew 12:33)
But we are also commanded not to judge one another.  That job belongs to God. Only God can see the true picture.  We see through a glass darkly. (1 Corinthians 13:12) What can we know of other people’s souls – their temptations and struggles and their personal demons?  Miss Smith who is a Christian may have an unkinder tongue than Bill Jones, who claims to be an atheist.  Why isn’t Miss Smith, the Christian, nicer than Bill Jones, the non-Christian?    
Bill Jones’ was born with his placid temper and friendly disposition.  He inherited these healthy traits and he was raised in a loving functional family.  So much of his niceness is God’s gift to him. Bill Jones is quite satisfied with his bank account and his sound nerves.  And he’s proud of his intelligence, health, popularity and good upbringing.  Why drag God into his life when he feels he has it all?  He feels that his niceness is all his own doing!  He doesn’t recognize his need for Christ.  Scripture says that it is hard for those who are ‘rich’ in this sense to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  (Matthew 19:23-24)
It’s a very different story for the nasty people – the little, low, warped, timid, thin-blooded, neurotic people.  Or the sensual, unbalanced, mentally ill people - if they make any attempt at living a good life, they quickly learn that they need help.  It is Christ or nothing for them.    
They are the lost sheep that Jesus especially came to find, I believe. The ordinary peasants, without education, the poor, the unwashed – they were mainly the ones who were attracted to Jesus when He walked the hills of Galilee. The ones He blessed and healed when He lived on earth as a man.  The Pharisees criticized Jesus for hanging out with the ‘awful set’ and of course modern Pharisees still judge Him because of that.  ‘If there were anything in Christianity those ‘awful’ people would not be Christians.’   
Our Miss Smith is one of those ‘awful’ people.  Heredity and natural causes working in a world spoiled by centuries of sin have produced in Miss Smith the narrow mind and jangled nerves which account for most of her nastiness.  Also, Miss Smith’s father was never there for her when she was a child, and her mother was addicted to drugs and neglected and abused her.  Miss Smith endured a sad and dysfunctional upbringing.  
But God intends, in His own good time, to set that part of Miss Smith right.  Someday Christ will change us and clothe us in His righteousness.  Scripture promises that Miss Smith and all believers will be victorious through Christ on the other side of this life!  (Revelations 20 and 21)
Scripture says: “Behold, I show you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.  In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible.  And we shall be changed.  For this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality.  Death is swallowed up in victory.  Oh death, where is your sting?  Oh grave, where is your victory?  Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 57)  It doesn’t get any better than that!
Most of the ideas here were taken from C.S. Lewis’s book, “Mere Christianity”




Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Wisdom is Calling

Wisdom is Calling
In the Scriptures Wisdom is personified as a woman inviting all to come and listen to Her!   Proverbs 1:20-33
“Wisdom is standing on the top of the heights and beside the way, where our paths meet.  Also, she stands at the gates of the entrance to the town, and beside the doors of our homes.  She waits and cries out to us. 
 Wisdom is calling loudly in the streets and raising her voice in the public squares: At the head of the noisy streets she begs us to listen, and In the gateways of the cities she stands and makes her speech. 
But how long will you simple ones love your simple ways?  How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?  If you would respond to My rebuke, I would pour out My heart to you.  And make My thoughts known to you.
But you reject Me when I call, and no one gives heed when I stretch out My hand,
In turn I will laugh at your disaster:  I will mock when calamity overtakes you.  When calamity overtakes you like a storm and when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelms you.   
Since they will not accept My advice, and spurn My rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their own ways. And be filled with the fruit of their own schemes.
For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.  But whoever listens to Me will live in safety.  And be at ease, without fear of harm.”
In our Scripture reading today we see Wisdom calling out to everyone, but many are refusing to listen to her.  Refusing to take the gift of life that Wisdom will give. They want to do it their own way.  I see here in Proverbs the idea of Wisdom standing at every crossroad and every place of decision in our lives, calling out to us, “Follow Me.”  But are we listening?   
All through Scripture we find that God is behind the scenes waiting and calling His children to listen for His Voice.  To allow Him to direct them.  To allow the still small Voice of the Holy Spirit to lead them.  God is there and He is not silent.  But are we listening?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Let's Pretend

Let’s Pretend
We are presently going through C.S. Lewis’s famous book, “Mere Christianity” and touching on some of the highlights.  This book is all about describing Christian beliefs.  And today we will touch on the Christian belief of what happens to us when we accept Christ as Savior.
Scripture tells us that when we believe in Christ as our Savior, that we are “righteous”. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 4:5 and 13, Romans 9:30, Romans 3:22, and Romans 1:17) Christ’s righteousness has been wrapped around us!
But even though the Bible says believers are “righteous”, doesn’t it mean we “will become righteous” in heaven?  No Scripture says we “are” righteous right now when we know we are still sinning! When we say we are “righteous” aren’t we just pretending?  We still have ungodly thoughts and we still get angry when we shouldn’t!  What goes here? 
C.S. Lewis suggests that when you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do is to put on a friendly manner and behave (or pretend) as if you are a nicer person than you actually are.  And guess what?  In a few minutes, you really will be  feeling friendlier than you were.  Very often the only way to feel friendly or loving is to start acting friendlier and more loving.  Behaving as if you already felt friendlier and more loving.  And soon pretending becomes reality!  Christ Himself, the Son of God, is actually at your side and is already at that moment turning your pretending into reality!
If you ae seriously trying to be like Christ, there are lots of things that your conscience may not call wrong, but you feel that you cannot go on doing.  You are no longer thinking as much about right and wrong as about doing what pleases God.  The real Son of God is at your side, and He is beginning to turn you into being more like Himself.  He is speaking His kind of life and thought into you. 
You may be thinking that you have never had the sense of being helped by an invisible Christ.  We see the person who helped us without seeing Christ behind him or her.  But if there were no help from Christ there would be no help from other human beings.  Christ works on us in all sorts of ways. He works through His Spirit speaking to our spirit.  He works through nature and through others.  Through books and our own experiences.  And ways that only He knows.  We must go on to recognize the real Giver behind every good gift we receive. (James 1:17)
The Scripture speaks of “being born again” and about “putting on Christ” and “Christ being formed in us”.  This isn’t just a fancy way of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out.  It means so much more. 
The Bible means that a real Person, Christ, here and now, in the room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you.  It is not a question of a good person who died two thousand years ago.  Christ, the Son of God is the Alpha (beginning) and the Omega (ending) of time. (Revelations 22:13)   He is alive today and is coming and interfering with you.  Killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has.  If all goes well, He will turn you permanently into a new little Christ, an eternal being, something we can only imagine!
We cannot by direct moral effort, give ourselves new motives.  After the first few steps in the Christian life we realize that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can only be done by God.  We think we are doing everything to change ourselves, but of course it is God who does everything in us.  But we at most allow it to be done to us.  Jesus became a man for no other purpose but to draw people to Himself.  The whole universe was made for Christ and everything is to be gathered together in Him. 
You might say that it is God who also does the pretending.  God sees before Him a self-centered, greedy, grumbling, rebellious human being.  But He says, ‘Because of her faith in Me I am her Father’.  She is My child- My righteous child!
  God looks at you as if you were righteous.  And Christ stands beside you making you righteous, His righteousness covering you.  Scripture says that we will never sin again after we die and go to heaven. Christ will have finished the job on us by then. God who see the beginning from the end can see us now as we will be in all eternity – a righteous saint.
  The idea of divine make-believe sounds rather strange.  But is it so strange really?  A mother teaches her baby to talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does.  And we treat our dogs as if they were ‘almost human’ and that is why they really become ‘almost human’ in the end. 
The ideas in this blog were taken from C.S. Lewis’s book, “Mere Christianity”.