Right Before Our Eyes

eyes 5  In chapter 3 in the book of The Acts of the Apostles (or “Acts” for short) a story is told of a man who was crippled from birth, who was brought daily to the temple, where he would beg for money to support himself. The man was incapacitated in his ankles and feet and could not stand or walk on his own. So he would be brought to the temple gate known as The Beautiful Gate, where he would ask for money from those entering the temple. One day, the apostles Peter and John approached.

The impaired man asks them for money as he would any other person. The book of Acts records the exchange that follows this way: Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them. (Acts 3:4-8)

Luke (the author of Acts) continues his description of this miraculous healing event by describing how amazed the people standing nearby were at this miracle. Before their very eyes this man, who they recognized as the man lame from birth, and now approximately 40 years old, was healed and was now walking and leaping for joy. Peter recognizes the opportunity before him and begins to preach a sermon to the people, using the healing of this man as the launching point for his Gospel message. As Peter is preaching he is confronted by the temple leaders and arrested, but not before many of the people listening to Peter believe and are saved.

The next day, Peter and John are brought before the high council and questioned about the healing and the message they were delivering. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, responds to the questioning with a Gospel message that includes this line from Psalm 118:22: “The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” Peter is unabashed in his claim that there is no other name on earth or in heaven by which men must be saved, the name of Jesus Christ. I find what happened next to be remarkable, if not a bit flabbergasting:

Acts 4:13-22:  The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber and conferred among themselves.

“What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.

But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years.

Take a moment and read that again and contrast the two different reactions to the healing of this man. We see that the man who was healed and the crowds who had witnessed his healing are praising God for what they have seen and experienced. They believe what they saw and many of them accepted Peter’s Gospel message as a result and now have new life in Christ. The high priest and Jewish leaders, on the other hand, though they cannot deny the miracle because the healed man is standing right there in front of their eyes, remain stubborn in their attempt to cover it up, to stop Peter and John from preaching of the Gospel. Yes – you are reading that correctly – the man who was lame from birth, who was well-known to everyone in the area, who the Jewish leaders also knew was lame, is standing right there in front of them completely healed, and the council knows and admits they cannot deny it. But all they are concerned about is stopping the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Just as we see throughout the four Gospels, the high priest and the temple leaders are interested in but one thing; maintaining their power structure and status. So instead of the natural reaction of awe and wonder at this miracle, they engage in what can only be described as willful disregard for the facts. You’d think that, in the face of the evidence – the healed man standing right there in front of their eyes – that they would recognize the error of their ways, repent, and believe, but they do not. And this reaction is not unlike what we see around us to this very day –  people who continue their willful refusal to accept the Gospel message despite the fact that no honest historian denies that Jesus Christ was a real historical figure, that the evidence supporting the authenticity of the Bible is simply overwhelming, and that many millions of lives continue to be dramatically changed to this very day. These people continue to practice willful disregard of the facts, and nothing I write here is likely to convince them to change their mind.

The now-healed lame man stands right before their very eyes. They cannot deny it because to do so is irrational and illogical (though some still try). They are, as the Bible says in Romans, without excuse and one day they will stand before the living God and they will be judged. God’s judgment is always perfect, always fair, always just. But the Bible tells us “it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

So which camp do you fall into? Chances are, if you’ve read this far, you either believe or are ready to believe. It is in God’s great mercy and love for us that he provided a way by which we may be saved and we may experience the fullness of life that He intended for us. That way is through Jesus Christ. Jesus came to this world though the virgin birth, lived among us, experienced life just as we experience it, and then willingly laid down his life as a sacrifice for us. But on the third day he rose again, thereby defeating death once and for all.  In Romans 10:8-13, the Apostle Paul writes: And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

If you haven’t already, won’t you make today the day you believe the Gospel message and call on the name of the Lord?

Learn more at KnowGod.org

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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That’s One Big Book!

Big Book 1  A manuscript that is essentially the founding document of Alcoholics Anonymous, which members of the recovery group call, ”The Big Book,” sold at auction recently for $2.4 million to Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts football team. It is the third time the 161-page typed document has been sold. It had previously sold in 2007 for $992,000 and for approximately $1.5 million in 2004. The manuscript includes notes and scribbles from one of AA’s founders, William Wilson, more commonly known as ”Bill W.” With more than 30 million copies sold, translations in 67 languages, and the world wide success of Alcoholics Anonymous, the “Big Book” is certainly a big deal!

There is little doubt that Alcoholics’ Anonymous has helped many people and it is pretty easy to see why the original manuscript of the Big Book would have such a high monetary value; but there is a book that has helped even more people, that has been translated into even more languages, and that is far more infamous. That, of course, is the Bible. It was hard to find exact numbers everyone agreed on, but as near as I can determine, as of 2017, the full Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament alone into 1,521 languages and smaller portions of Scripture into 1,121 other languages. And while the Big Book has sold approximately 30 million copies since it was first published, the Bible sells about 100 million copies per year.

AA’s Big Book was first published in 1939, nearly 80 years ago. To this date, as the original manuscript sells at auction, no one questions its authenticity. And why would they? Eighty years ago is what we would call “very recent history”. It is easy to compare the Big Book in circulation today with the original manuscript and conclude they are the same. With the Bible, we have approximately 5800 Greek manuscripts and about 24,000 complete or fragments of manuscripts in other languages such as Latin, Aramaic, Coptic, and so on. Some of these manuscripts date to within decades of the original writing. For example, the Gospel of John is believed to have been written between 70 AD and 90 AD. The earliest manuscript evidence is a portion of John’s Gospel known as Papyrus 52, which is dated to approximately 125 AD, or within about 50 years of the original. That’s less time than has elapsed since the original manuscript of the Big Book was written!

The amount of evidence supporting the authenticity of the Bible we read today is staggering. Consider this comparison: Homer’s Illiad is generally thought to have been written in approximately 750 BC. To date, 647 manuscripts of this book have been found. Only 190 contain a complete copy. The oldest manuscript is dated around 400 BC, or 350 years after the original was written. Despite this rather large time gap, no one questions the authenticity of the version of The Iliad we have today. Yet, as we mentioned, the Bible is supported by far more manuscript evidence dating far closer to the originals. And the documentation for the Bible doesn’t stop with the manuscript evidence; I do not have space here to go into all the details, but ancient, non-Christian sources also confirm many New Testament events as being historical. Some of these sources are: Flavius Josephus (A.D. 93), the Babylonian Talmud (A.D. 70-200), Pliny the Younger’s letter to the Emperor Trajan (A.D. 100), and the Annals of Tacitus (A.D. 115-117).

So when we read the Bible today, we can be confident we are reading an authentic document. Psalm 19 describes the Bible as perfect, trustworthy, sweeter the honey, and more desirable than pure gold. Psalm 119 declares that the way of purity is found “by obeying your Word” (Psalm 119:9). The writer of Hebrews teaches that “the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12) And the Apostle Paul tells us that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16).

In today’s world, it seems western culture has moved towards individuality and decision making based on felt needs. Children and young adults are told to be aware of their feelings and that what is right for them may not be right for everyone. This is, of course, very bad thinking – though it is nothing new. We read in the book of Judges, more than once, the words: “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (see Judges 17:6 and 21:25) History throughout the ages has shown that this never turns out good. Never. People, and society, need a moral guide to be successful. Of course, God knew this and so He gave us the Bible. The Bible is absolutely reliable for teaching us everything for Godliness and living. It is our moral compass and owner’s manual for life. By studying the Bible, you will be prepared to interpret events in the daily news, understand the behavior of your children, correctly discern the social issues affecting our world, and more. It is absolutely rich with truth from our Creator God, who’s greatest desire is that we should live long and full lives.

And the Bible is also 100% reliable for bringing each of us to eternal life through the grace of Jesus Christ. In the words of AA’s founder, Bill Wilson, “no one is too discredited or has sunk too low to be welcomed cordially.” We all inherently know that we have made mistakes, that we have done things we regret. Not one of you reading this would dare claim to be perfect, nor would I. And the Bible agrees, saying: “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23) The unfortunate reality is that those mistakes we’ve all made are called sin and sin separates us from God; but God made a way for us to be reconciled to Himself through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. In the book of Acts, we are assured that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21) And so we find “we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 15:11) Won’t you avail yourself of this grace today, if you haven’t already?

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10) And those are words you can count on, for we know the Bible is 100% reliable!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Reviving The Soul

Reviving the Soul3   Those of you who have are regular readers of this blog probably already know that at one point in my life I had a bit of a problem with drugs and alcohol. For anyone new here, suffice it to say that when it came to following the rules, I didn’t. I won’t dig into the details on that, I’m sure most of you reading this have experienced your own rebellious streaks at one point or another. If I have learned anything, it’s that I’m not nearly as unique as I might have once thought myself.

This rebelliousness that most of us have gone through, or perhaps continue to struggle with, is nothing new. Give a thorough reading to the Old Testament and you’ll see example after example of individuals and groups who rebel against God. The words “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (ie: Judges 17:6) have regular occurrence. It seems by our very nature we are a pugnacious lot.

While there are all kinds of rules we are expected (and sometimes reluctant) to follow, such as income taxes, speed limits, and the like; let us be concerned with the laws that God has set before us. In the Bible, from beginning to end, we find God has lots of rules for us. I won’t take the time to dive into a detailed analysis of all God’s rules, for such an analysis is beyond the scope of this blog, so let’s just focus on a few examples, taken from the Ten Commandments.

“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15) So let’s get honest with each other. Who has not stolen something at least once in their lives? Maybe it was just a little something, like a few office supplies from work. It didn’t have to be something big, it was still stealing if we appropriated for ourselves that which belonged to someone else. And someone who steals is called…a thief, right?

And then there’s the rule that, perhaps, I struggle with more than any other: “You must not covet your neighbor’s house…..or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17) I suspect I am not alone in my covetousness. For me, it’s usually gazing upon that beautiful new truck that my neighbor just bought, or some other shiny object in my neighbor’s garage for which I feel such avarice. Have you not found yourself desiring that which belongs to someone else? Go ahead and admit it!

We are always tempted to wonder why God has such rules for us. Perhaps the answer to that question actually lies, in part, within one of those rules. In Exodus 20:12 we find this truth: “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Ah, there we have something “then you will live a long, full life….” Yes! Our understanding of why God has rules for us is revealed in that statement.

Now, almost from the first moments of our lives we are already failing to honor our parents. “Be home before dark.” “Eat your vegetables.” “Do your homework.” “Don’t play in the street.” I think we all know why our parents had those rules in place for us. In all likelihood, we have (or had) similar rules for our own children. Because we love them dearly and we want them to survive in this world and to be all they can be. And now we see, in the fifth commandment, that God wants the same for us: to survive in this world and to be all we can be!

In today’s world, a lot of people think God’s rules are archaic and irrelevant; but many of us have the same rules for our children as our parents’ had for us because, as adults, we have come to realize those rules were sensible in every way. And so it is with God’s rules, they made sense then and they make sense now – for it is only when we follow God’s rules that we experience all that life has to offer. It is only when we follow God’s rules that reach our highest potential and experience true freedom. And it is when we disregard those rules that we experience the most pain.

The psalmist wrote: “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.” (Psalm 19:7-8) So we see here that following God’s instructions will revive us, make us wise, bring joy to our hearts, and give us insight for living because God’s rules are perfect, trustworthy, right, and clear. And just as applicable for us today as our parents’ rules are for our own children or granchildren!

When I rebelled against my parents’ rules I was first and foremost rebelling against God and my life was a constant uphill struggle. Sure there were some happy times, but deep inside was constant unrest and deep dissatisfaction with life. But I have found the more I follow God’s instructions, like the psalmist says, the more peace and serenity I enjoy. I want you to know that peace and serenity, too, so I invite you to try life God’s way. What have you got to lose?

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

And Justice For All

courtroom-898931_960_720   She was walking home from work one evening. She had made this walk dozens of times since she took the dinner shift at the restaurant where she worked. Almost always between 10:00pm and 11:00pm; her route took her down the street, through the park, and just over the bridge near her apartment. Once across the bridge it was a quick stroll across the back parking lot and she was home. Very routine. She never imagined she would one day join the list of #metoo victims but this night there was a man waiting for her.

She had served him a few times at the restaurant, and he had taken a fancy to her. So much so that, hiding along her route, he had watched her walk home night after night for a couple weeks. He knew her route and he knew her routine. She always walked with her headphones on, her waitress outfit was dark red, the restaurant’s color, so passersby rarely noticed her, but there was little traffic anyway and rarely was anyone around at that time of night. He formed a plan. He was a very troubled man, and this was not the first time he’d done this.

One night, he hid between the cars in her apartment parking lot and waited. When she crossed the bridge and started through the parking lot, he stood up behind her, followed her quietly to the door. Coming up behind her, acting as if he was just going to see friend, he struck up a brief conversation, as two people heading to the same destination might, and she easily let him follow her inside and up to her floor, where he had stated his friend lived also. But as she unlocked her apartment door, he suddenly turned around and violently pushed her inside. And there, in her own apartment, he brutally attacked & raped her.

Thanks to the video surveillance at her apartment, it did not take the police long to identify the attacker and arrest him. And the DNA evidence assured a speedy trial and easy conviction by the jury. The evidence against the man was simply overwhelming. And there he stood at the sentencing before kindly old Judge Thomas. The judge was known as a loving family man and a deeply caring friend, always putting the needs of others before his own. But here, in the courtroom, faced with such convincing evidence and the resulting guilty verdict, there was only one thing the benevolent judge could do – he handed down the maximum allowable sentence.

And would any of us handle it differently than Judge Thomas? Surely not! In fact, knowing the facts of the case, we might feel that no punishment is harsh enough; such cases usually trigger our emotions in ways that are deeply passionate. This is not really all that surprising, though, because we are created in the image of God and we know that, in addition to being a perfect, loving Father, God is also supremely just, and he punishes sin wherever he finds it. Like the judge in our fictitious story, God is loving, caring, and benevolent…but completely just.

And so while we don’t often like to talk about judgment, the Bible tells us judgment is coming and we do well to understand this. The writer of Hebrews notes that it is appointed to a person to die once and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). John the Baptist spoke about God’s coming judgment saying, “Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees.” (Matthew 3:10) and Jesus frequently spoke of coming judgment with statements such as: “But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!” (Matthew 5:22) and: “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.” (Matthew 12:36) and: “Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.” (John 16:11) So the coming judgment might not be a popular topic we see that it is one of vital importance.

At this point many might say, “I’m am not concerned about judgment because I’m not that bad of a person, surely my good deeds will outweigh my bad on judgment day.” But even a statement like that reveals what we all know to be true about ourselves, that despite the good things we have done, we all have done bad things, too. So let’s not be disingenuous by refusing to admit our sins. We all have guilt and we all know it intuitively. And God doesn’t grade on a curve like your high school teacher, he judges sin wherever he finds it.

But God, being the loving, perfect, and just judge, made a way for us to be redeemed by sending his one and only Son to the cross to pay the penalty for us. And here we find the real conundrum; regardless of our sins, we can be forgiven only if we accept God’s free gift of grace through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. But many refuse. And this is where judgment comes. Jesus said, “But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.” (John 12:48) And in John 3:19 he said, “And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” And in John 3:36, “And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”

But in Romans 8:1 we read: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” And in John 3:18 we read that: “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.” So it is really very simple, we all know we have sinned, but we can avoid God’s judgment simply by acknowledging our sin and believing the Gospel message that Jesus died and rose again for us. The Apostle John wrote: “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.” (1 John 4:9) and “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” (1 John 5:12) That is the Gospel message. If you haven’t already, won’t you please believe starting today?

And for those who may be victims, who may have suffered by a crime committed by another, please know that Jesus loves you dearly and he stands with you, arms wide open, able to understand by his own suffering, and that he will one day make all things right. He spoke these words in John 16:33: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” And we are assured in the book of Revelation that one day: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4) So we cry with you, come quickly Lord!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Battle Ready

battle ready 2  We face many challenges in life. Some of these challenges are of a personal nature, involving our work life, marriages, families, neighborhoods, finances, health, or more. Others are cultural, we live in difficult times with many competing worldviews and a never-ending cavalcade of issues to be debated. When do we get involved and when do we accept our differences and move on? We also face world issues such as terror attacks, travel bans, wars and rumors of wars. The challenges can seemingly be endless for those of us living today.

So how do we face these many challenges? Perhaps we’re on a business trip and face a temptation to cheat on our spouse. Or one of our children is struggling with a behavior issue at school? Maybe our boss is being unreasonable and the job we were once so happy to have has become a place we dread going each day. How do we stand up for the Biblical definition of marriage in a culture increasingly hostile to the Christian worldview? Do we live in fear over the possibility of terror attacks or do we go forward with our life and travel plans regardless?

These are the kinds of concerns we all face in one way or another in this day and age but the way in which we face them has not changed! The Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12 that “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”. And that truly is our first task: to remember that there is a spiritual war raging around us. We are in the midst of this spiritual war and Peter warns us: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Since we are on the front lines of a spiritual war, it is good for us to recognize that we are unequipped to win the battle on our own. Just as in any army, a soldier needs the proper gear to be equipped for battle. For today’s soldier they may be equipped with body armor, helmets, machine guns, night vision, GPS, and radio transmitters, and other special equipment. And just as the army soldier has specific equipment with which they are prepared for the fight, those of us engaged in the spiritual battle of life also have equipment that helps us engage the enemy. But unlike the army soldier, whose equipment changes with new battlefields and new technology, our equipment is unchanging and has been battle tested for thousands of years.

Ephesians 6:10-11 tell us to: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” So the first tool in our arsenal is God himself! In Deuteronomy we read: “For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!” (Deuteronomy 20:4) and in Jeremiah 1:19 we read: “They will fight you, but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” So we see that God is on our side and when we acknowledge Him, we avail ourselves of his mighty power!

Once we acknowledge God, then we can put on his full armor. The first pieces of armor we put on are found in Ephesians 6:14: “Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.” The belt of truth is God’s unchanging Word, which is found in the Bible. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16) It is by God’s Word that we know right from wrong, that we understand who God is and His glorious plan for the world. When we read and study the Bible we equip ourselves with the knowledge that comes from God and correctly inform our worldview.

The second piece of armor mentioned in Ephesians 6:14 is God’s righteousness. How do we put on God’s righteousness? There is only one way – it is imputed (credited) to us through Jesus Christ. So when we repent of our sins and believe in the atoning sacrifice that Jesus made for the forgiveness of our sins, we are clothed in the righteousness that comes from God (and we no longer have to try to get by on our own good deeds, a method that surely proves itself futile). The Apostle John wrote: “And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:5) So believing in Jesus is how we put on the righteousness of God and without that belief we are destined to lose the battle.

Likewise, our faith in Jesus Christ helps us with the remaining items of our spiritual armor: “For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:15-17) When we come to Christ in repentance and faith and receive the gift of salvation, we are filled with the Holy Spirit and in the Spirit we begin to understand the Word of God more and more. We begin to have understanding and conviction of right and wrong that is in agreement with God’s design and from this we face the spiritual battlefield fully equipped so that we might stand firm.

But there is one last element of preparation for our spiritual battle, however, and this is one we cannot neglect. Just as an army soldier exercises to maintain top physical conditioning, we must pray continuously to maintain our top spiritual conditioning. “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:18) We see by way of example that Jesus prayed regularly throughout the Gospels (while Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. -Hebrews 5:7) and the Apostle Paul instructs us to “never stop praying.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

In James 5:16 we read, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” So let us not neglect prayer but let us seek to pray on every occasion, bringing our requests to God and asking him to prepare us for the battles we face every day. Paul teaches us in Philippians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

In the spiritual realm, for those of us who have put our faith in Christ, victory is ours! As Jesus said: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) If you haven’t yet placed your faith in Jesus, why not make today the day?

If you’ve made the decision to accept God’s free gift, or you just want to say “Hi”, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Am I A Killer?

killer 3  Never before in the history of the United States have we seen the depth of division we have experienced in the last few years. People stand on one side of the political spectrum or the other and hurl shameful insults and accusations at one another. Social media exasperates the situation; making it possible for people to make their thoughts known far and wide, often saying things to each other that they would never say to face to face. Friendships have ended and family relationships have been strained to the limit.

By way of the Internet we learn of news and views at break neck speed, often seeing the political reactions as quickly as the events themselves unfold. Social media allows people to share their views about such things on a worldwide stage once reserved for the political elite. And not all of us stating our views do so with the tact and discretion that those trained in political savvy might use, therefore our comments may seem harsher and less judicious, eliciting strong reactions from one another. We often see the words “hate speech” getting thrown around.

Maybe politics or social issues aren’t your thing; but if you’re honest wouldn’t you have to admit to feeling harsh, judgmental, or angry at someone in your sphere of influence, perhaps a coworker or a neighbor? I would hazard to guess all of us have harbored feelings of ill will toward someone for one reason or another. And whether our judgmental attitudes and/or anger is freely expressed across the world wide web, or via other avenues, or just stored up in our hearts, few of us have actually manifested these strong feelings into actual physical violence such as assault or murder. Most of us have the self-control to restrain our feelings from becoming actions, but does that clear us of wrong doing?

Jesus said, “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22) These are very strong words from our Savior. Clearly, it is not God’s plan that we treat each other poorly, or foster hatred towards each other. God’s desire and his standard are so much higher.

The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, captured the meaning of Jesus’ words quite well when he wrote, “The law of God is spiritual; it touches the emotions, the thoughts, the desires, as well as the words and actions of men. I have within me what would desire his death, and what is that, after all, but murder in the heart?” You see, it is the internal attitude that the law actually prohibits, so when our attitudes slip into the judgmental, when the words we speak (or type) are harsh or hateful, when we start to call each other names, we become just as guilty as if we had committed murder. That is what God’s law says and that is what Jesus taught.

And with that standard in mind, are we not being disingenuous if we claim we are not guilty of murder? For who among us would claim we have never had hateful, angry, or judgmental feelings towards another? “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” (1 John 1:8) And this, then, is a perfect example of why we need Jesus Christ in our lives. Because if we have harbored a hateful or judgmental attitude towards another, and we must all admit we have, we are guilty of sin. And the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). So we all need a Savior!

However, while our sin leads to death, the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). And that gift is available to all of us, no matter how guilty we are. And it is not hard to obtain, either, we simply must recognize and admit our need, then recognize and accept that Jesus is our solution. For “if you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10) So if you haven’t already, why not make today the day you accept God’s free gift?

If you’ve made the decision to accept God’s free gift, or you just want to say “Hi”, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

We Were There

christmas-2874137_960_720 With Christmas approaching, most people are aware that the holiday exists to celebrate the day our Savior, Jesus Christ, came into the world in human form. But even with such awareness, here in the United States, it seems that many people would rather ignore the religious facet of Christmas in favor of a more generic celebration centered on the commercial aspect. They will happily take the gifts, the paid days off from work, and the meals shared with family, but they would rather not discuss the real reason we celebrate.

This is most unfortunate. When people push away the real reason for the celebration, they experience all the stress of the holiday season without understanding and benefitting from the object of the celebration which, of course, is Jesus Christ. Jesus is God, the third person of the trinity who, for a time, humbled himself by coming to earth in human form and living among us. He experienced growing up, obeying his parents, and working for his father. He resisted temptation, confronted the wrongs of the religious leaders of the day, performed miracles, taught the people, and when the time came, suffered a horrifying death that all of us, no matter where we live, would find appalling in this day and age. It’s not a myth or fairy tale; it is actual history, and few experts would deny that.

So as Christmas approaches, before you get too bogged down in the shopping and decorating, I implore you to consider this one fact when it comes to the life of Jesus Christ: there were eyewitnesses. Lots of them. There were people who saw, heard, and testified to the truth of the Gospel narratives. The apostle Peter recounts that ‘we were there’ in this passage: “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.’ We ourselves heard the voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.” (2Peter 1:16-18)

Notice closely what Peter is saying. First, he says “We have seen…”. He is remembering what is commonly referred to as the transfiguration (read Matthew 17:1-13) and he was there with James and John. So the three were there and were eyewitnesses. And what did they see? The Bible says Jesus’ appearance changed, his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became dazzling white. And then Moses and Elijah, who had long been departed from the earth, were standing next to Jesus talking with him. This is an incredible, otherwordly experience and Peter, James, and John saw this happen with their own eyes. And then God spoke from heaven and they heard his voice. The Bible recounts that Peter, James, and John were terrified by this experience as one might expect they would be.

When Jesus was crucified on the cross, there were eyewitnesses. People who stood there and watched him suffer and die. And people who watched as the Roman guards thrust a sword into his side to be sure he was really dead. And eyewitnesses who saw him buried in the cave that was later sealed and guarded by highly trained military men. And when Jesus rose from that grave and walked the earth again, there were eyewitnesses. People such as Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-17) and Thomas (John 20:24-29), and the seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee, who were there and saw him while they were fishing (John 21:1-14). And the Apostle Paul tells us the risen Jesus was seen by more than 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:5-8), many of whom were still alive at the time he wrote his letter.

That is a lot of eyewitnesses. And it’s only a partial list of the people who saw Jesus, walked with him, listened to him, were healed by him, or otherwise interacted with him right here on earth. In any court of law, this would be overwhelming evidence that could not be denied. And we are all eyewitnesses, too. Not of Jesus Christ in the flesh, but of the existence of God. For the Bible tells us clearly: They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:19-20)

And so I would tell anyone who would ignore the real reason we celebrate Christmas that they are willfully ignoring the facts. Jesus is real, he walked this earth, he died in our place for our sins, and he rose again. Jesus is God. The evidence is simply overwhelming.

How about you? Are you preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, or are you ignoring the evidence and choosing unbelief? The choice is yours. If you would like to know more about the evidence for Jesus Christ, please contact us at ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com. We will be happy to help you and/or recommend resources for further information.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.