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The love of many…

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Of all of the different things that Jesus taught his followers while he was here on earth, one that holds significant interest to most Christians today is his teachings on what we now call the “End Times”.

Literally thousands of books have been written by men and women who claim to have unique insight into these teachings, and little wonder because it seems there is an insatiable appetite for all things related to the ‘end of day’s as we know them. Major Christian publishing companies consider these books to be “cash cows” because they sell so well, hence the market saturation of these books.

There are so many books written that they have to be categorized into sub sections such as:

Prophecy

Armageddon

Revelation                       

Coming of the Lord

Tribulation, and many more.

I must admit that while I have read a few of them, I am not a fan of these books for the simple fact that all of them are largely nothing more than the authors own private interpretation of The BOOK. Far too many of them propose theories and ideas that are completely contrary to what the Bible says, and while I enjoy the learning process I cannot go along with teachings that ultimately place less emphasis on God’s word than the author’s opinions.

With that said, I draw your attention to the book of Matthew, chapter 24. This particular chapter is one that most students of prophecy and all things “End Times” recognize as one of the most important of all.

The first seven verses of this chapter find Jesus revealing several things that will be taking place upon the earth prior to his return. He actually refers to these things as “the beginning of sorrows”. It is what Jesus says next that causes people so much anxiety and fear because this is where it gets personal. Read along with me from Matthew 24: 9-13.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

We must ask ourselves who is this “you” that Jesus said will be delivered up to tribulation and killed? We know that Jesus was speaking specifically to his disciples about these matters, so we can easily make the case that it was the disciples who were to be delivered up and killed. History in fact reveals that all of the disciples except John died a martyrs death, thus fulfilling the words of Jesus.

Yet we must also realize that God’s word is eternal, making it applicable for every generation and period of history. Indeed, history shows us that there have been many attempts to purge the world of Christianity. Wars, Inquisitions, laws, etc have all been used over the past two thousand years to try and eliminate Christianity from the earth.

Today, this trend continues at an alarming rate. According to Open Doors USA ,in just the last year* there have been:

  • Over 245 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution
  • 4,305 Christians killed for their faith
  • 1,847 churches and other Christian buildings attacked.
  • 3,150 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned

So we see that when Jesus said “they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you“,his words are just as applicable today as they were that day when He spoke them to his disciples. What is so problematic about this persecution of the church is that in America we have so far managed to escape the wrath that is being felt by our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, and this has left us disinterested at best.

This, however, is about to change. While it is true that we are not facing the prospect of being beheaded or our churches burned to the ground(YET), persecution of Christians in America is alive and well. For those who believe that persecution will never happen here, or that it is some far off generation that will have to deal with it, consider the following:

There is increasing intolerance of traditional Christian values in this country. Those that hold to traditional Biblical values are now seen as bigots, racists, and close-minded.

Let a conservative Christian politician be nominated for a Federal Court position and watch how the nominee’s Christian values are called into question, as if his or hers values would somehow prevent them from rendering a proper verdict.

If you dare to refuse to bake a cake or issue a marriage license for same-sex marriages, you better be prepared to spend your life’s savings on attorney fees.

In addition to the ridicule and hatred that Christian college students face on campus today, a move is underway to remove a college’s accreditation unless they conform to a more secularist ideology. And let us not forget the schools that have banned the pre-game prayer before a Friday night football game.

Aside from the obvious ‘because Jesus said it would’, why are we as a nation headed in this downward trend?

The answer is found in the text from Matthew 24 that I included above.

“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold”.

The love of many is growing cold. What happens when love grows cold? We see the answer on the news every night. Another mass shooting. An increase in the suicide rate. The rise of injustice. An ever increasing number of innocent children gunned down. Perversion and child pornography at an all time high.

All of these and so many more are a direct result of hearts grown cold. No feeling for their fellow man. Total indifference to the plight of the unfortunate. Hearts so cold that walking past the homeless draws not an ounce of compassion. No concern for the millions who do not have enough to eat.

This is love grown cold.

Ice cold.

And it’s only going to get worse.

Much, much worse.

Jesus said that ‘he that endured to the end would be saved‘. We must be doing what we can to present Jesus to a cold and indifferent world because He is their only hope.

My prayer is that every Christian takes this seriously and act upon it.

Ron

 

 

 

* 2019 World Watch List reporting period, November 1, 2017-October 31, 2018

 

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More than conquerors

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When you think of the word ‘Conqueror’, what do you envision?

  • Overcomer?
  • Warrior?
  • Winner?

While the dictionary definition looks like this, when I think of the word ‘Conqueror’, I think of a battle that has been fought and won.

Battles are fought every day of our lives. Some are won and some are lost. Let’s face it, we do not always feel like a Conqueror, do we? That is just the unfortunate reality of living in a fallen world

From a spiritual perspective, things can appear to be not much different in that we are in a constant state of battle, winning some and coming up short in others.

There is one huge difference however, and that is that when we look at things from an eternal point of view, we win.

Simply stated, we win.

The Apostle Paul knew a few things about conquering. In his amazing letter to the Christians at Rome, Paul talks about things that were a very real threat to those believers.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   Romans 8:35

Those early Christians suffered horribly under Roman authority, especially Nero. Persecution, death, starvation, and torture were things every Christian back then had to come to grips with. On the surface, from a fleshly point of view, one might expect that any of these things could, if possible, separate the believer from his Lord.

Paul, however, answered his own question by declaring that he knew of nothing that could separate a child of God from their Heavenly Father. Nothing!

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:37-39

This matters to us today because the intensity of the battle is increasing at a rapid pace. Christians are facing severe trials of their faith today, many of whom are being put to death daily. Consider that every month, on average:

  • 345 Christians are killed for faith-related reasons
  • 105 Churches and Christian buildings are burned or attacked
  • 219 Christians are detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned

Here in the U.S. Christians are facing a different kind of orchestrated attack. Instead of blatant persecution and killings, we Christians in America are being worn down gradually. Our resistance to sin is being eroded, gradually worn down by the forces of evil and spiritual wickedness that sit in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Make no mistake beloved, the enemy is very, very real. His methods in America, while vastly different (up till now), are no less effective in their efforts to quench the Spirit of God, and to destroy the testimony of Jesus in this nation.

Our hope lies in the truth of God’s word that declares that we are more than conquerors, and that there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God. It is imperative that we grasp this and burn it into our hearts.

May I remind you that this world is not our home. This is merely a dress rehearsal for the life which is to come. As hard as it is not to become attached to our favorite things or causes, simply stated we are just passing through. There’s something far more grand than this earth that will be our eternal home one day.

Much like the Patriarch Abraham who looked for a city whose builder and maker was God(Hebrews 11:10), we have a promise of a home far beyond anything our eyes can imagine. A city reserved for those who are ‘More than Conquerors’.

I don’t know exactly what’s coming next. I cannot state for certain what Christians in America will be called upon to endure for His glory. Paul mentioned “things present or things to come”, so we know that something is coming, yet whatever it is, it cannot pull you from the arms of Jesus.

What I can state with 100% certainty is that God will give us the grace to conquer it all through Him.

That you would take comfort in these words is my prayer,

Ron

Being a ‘Daniel’ in a hostile world

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Being a person who reads a great deal, it is obvious to me that the world has embarked upon the next phase of open rebellion against God. Not only has God’s word been relegated to the status of mere stories and fables by the secular media, but His children are under the most intense mental and physical persecution since the Inquisition.

If scripture is to be believed, and of course I do believe every word of it, what we are witnessing is just the beginning of what will eventually turn into The Great Tribulation that Jesus prophesied about in Matthew 24. [1]

Additionally, Paul told the church of the Thessalonians that before the second coming of Jesus, there would be a great falling away and the man of sin would be revealed. Meaning, the people of God would fall away from the truth, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, and the Anti-Christ would then come on the scene. [2]

What must our reaction be to these current and soon coming events? Well, I believe we should take the approach of the prophet Daniel, who as a young man was taken away captive along with the rest of Israel and remained in a strange land for 70 long years. [3]

Because Daniel had what the Bible refers to as an “excellent spirit”, God exalted him above his contemporaries and placed him in a very high level position within the government of Darius, king of Persia.

Jealous of his favor with the king, his fellow leaders plotted against him, hoping to trip him up in the manner in which he served the Lord. Here is where it gets really interesting. When Daniel knew that the trap had been set, what was his reaction?

He went home, opened his windows, and prayed toward Jerusalem three times a day just as he had done every other day. In other words, Daniel refused to become alarmed at the king’s decree, even though he knew that by not abiding by it, he could be put to death.

Because he possessed a different spirit, or more accurately because he was filled with the Spirit of God, he refused to be conformed to the world around him. He was determined to live his life God’s way, and God blessed him because of it.

As we see spiritual darkness covering our nation, and indeed the entire world, we must be ready to answer the call to obey God rather than man, just as Daniel did. We must purpose in our hearts that we will not bow down to the whims of a society that has forsaken God.

In the near future, there can be no doubt that new laws will be enacted to further quench the work of God. Existing laws will be changed to suit the Anti-Christ agenda that is alive and well upon this planet. All of this will leave God’s people with a decision to make. [4]

Will we conform to a society that is morally bankrupt and spiritually dead, or will we hold fast to God who will see us through these troubled times?

One thing is for certain, and that is that with God’s help, I will cling to the Savior who died for me upon The Old Rugged Cross. With His help, I will be a Daniel in this hostile world that we live in.

My prayer is that you will join with me in standing firm for God.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Matthew 24: 15-22

[2] 2nd Thessalonians 2:3

[3] Daniel: chapter six

[4] “The demise of religious freedom in America” 

 

 

 

 

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.  Daniel 6:10   NKJV

 

The Beatitudes: conclusion

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As I have a very busy week ahead of me filling in for my Pastor, I need to finish up my thoughts concerning the Beatitudes. So even though it makes for a lengthy read, I have included the remaining four in this final blog.

Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

Mercy is the act of forgiveness and compassion from someone who has the authority to punish you, but instead chooses to offer mercy. If you’ve ever been the one in need of mercy, and you know you have, you can surely appreciate knowing that your Father in heaven is merciful.

When we are merciful and forgiving to others, we give them a glimpse of the Father’s heart of mercy and forgiveness that is offered to all. As his representatives on earth, we must always be mindful that we are often the only examples of the hands and feet of Jesus that people will ever see.

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

The Bible talks a lot about the heart, doesn’t it? The condition of our heart as it relates to God is of the utmost importance in our daily walk. Having an impure heart, for example, keeps us from seeing God for who he is because having such a heart is like walking around wearing blinders.

Having a pure heart, however, allows us to see God in all his glory and splendor because our vision is no longer clouded by sin, judgement, or guilt.

When the Psalmist prayed “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me“, he was essentially asking God for a pure heart. [1] May this be our prayer as well.

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

Would you agree with me that the world could use a few more peacemakers? After all, God is a peace-loving and a peace-making God, and we sure could use a respite from the constant bickering and fighting among ourselves today.

Peace is something that God has always desired for us. The whole history of redemption, starting with the fall of Adam in the garden to the death and resurrection of Jesus, is all part of God’s plan to establish a just and lasting peace between man and himself.

Not to be overlooked in this plan of redemption is God’s desire for men to also have lasting peace among themselves. It is never God’s will for men to quarrel and fight against one another.

If this message would somehow be heard by all today, what a different world we would be living in! All of us would do well to remember that if we are truly our Father’s children, we will display his attributes and character. What he loves, we will love. And God loves peace.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Persecuted. Not exactly a word that we associate with being blessed, or as some say today “highly favored”, is it?

Yet Jesus does calls us blessed if we are persecuted for righteousness sake. For certain, there are many types of persecution, and varying degrees of it as well.

Some will say that they are being persecuted because someone said something that hurt their feelings. Perhaps a promotion did not come your way and you determine that because of that, you are being persecuted.

I believe though that the persecution Jesus was referring to here is the type that results in the loss of liberty, freedom, and even one’s very life. So while American Christians have been spared (so far) such persecutions, regular readers will note that I have posted several articles on this blog detailing the severe persecution taking place in other parts of the world today.

Literally tens of thousands of Christians are being persecuted, imprisoned, and murdered for the testimony of Jesus in our day. Yet for all that, Jesus calls those of his servants enduring such persecution “blessed”.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Let’s face it, the world in which we live is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christianity. Today, anyone who aligns themselves with Jesus is mocked, scorned, slandered, and generally treated with disdain.

This isn’t something new however, as Jesus said they did the same things to those who came before us. Our job is simply to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”. [2]

Peter even went so far to say that if we were insulted for the name of Jesus, we are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon us! [3]

I hope that this series on The Beatitudes has been both worthwhile and a source of encouragement to you. I never tire of reading these words of Jesus because they seem to fan the flames when we need a little spark to keep us pressing onward, and my prayer is that you feel the same way.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Psalm 51:10

[2] Philippians 3:14

[3] 1 Peter 4:14

 

Real heroes of the faith are still among us: part 1

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The New Testament book of Hebrews contains a record of what many call “heroes of the faith”. In fact, chapter 11 of Hebrews is commonly referred to as the faith chapter because it lists what some call the “faith hall of fame”.

As you read through this chapter, one is struck by the presence of some very familiar names. Abraham, Moses, David, Samson, and Gideon to name just a few. Readers who are familiar with the Old Testament can no doubt recall some of the events associated with these well known men of God.

Yet there are references to other,unnamed heroes of the faith that are recorded here as well. While the writer of Hebrews doesn’t mention them by name, he does list some of their “qualifications” for enshrinement into the “faith hall of fame”.

Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.  Hebrews 11:35-38

Though lesser known than the Old Testament patriarchs or kings, these “others” were nonetheless uniquely qualified to take their place alongside their more famous predecessors.

These were men and women who refused to bow the knee, but instead held fast to their faith in God and believed that a better day was coming. Put to the severest of tests, these faithful soldiers endured unimaginable persecution because they counted their lives as nothing that they might win the ultimate prize.

Our minds today simply won’t permit us to comprehend the untold sufferings described in the verses noted above. Being stoned to death is itself a terrifying method of execution, but can you imagine what it was like for someone to be sawn in two?

Church history reveals that tens of thousands of Christians were persecuted by some of the most vile,heinous, and satanically inspired means imaginable in an effort to eradicate the true Church. Yet somehow, the sustaining grace of God kept alive a remnant, for which you and I owe an enormous debt of gratitude.

In our present culture however, I am often surprised at the apparent unwillingness of many in the church to “earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude v3). Indeed, there seems to be an attitude of spiritual entitlement among us that would be totally unrecognizable to the early church.

No doubt this is due in part to the prevalence of the gospel of “easy believism” and “health and wealth” that is pandered about today. It should be noted as well that neither of these false gospels would have ever been taught in the early church.

In fact, I’ll go on record and say that such teachings are part of what Paul described as “another gospel”, one that he said anyone preaching it is accursed (Galatians 1:8). That is for another day however.

 

In part 2 of this series, I will introduce you to some modern day heroes of the faith. Their identities may not be well known among believers today, yet their stories are no less inspiring than those found in the book of Hebrews.

Until then!

Ron