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His Church, His Mission and Us! 

Community is breaking down in society.  What seems to have replaced true communities are loose collections of individuals that have similar interests in sport, career, political or social areas.  Marriage has broken down and so family life has eroded which in turn has weakened communities. The spiritual dimension of life has been all but lost to most.  Many complain about the lack of  meaning in their lives but don’t know what’s missing.

Community is all about life, living and passing what’s good from one generation to the next.  It’s done by moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles and aunts, friends and relatives.   It’s done by all these loving people growing and maturing together at different rates but always in the same direction – towards strengthening their ties to one another and to God.  This is the wisdom of community.family in HIs Hands

Without God none of it works or lasts because God designed and created men and women;  “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26)  God defined marriage and so formed the basis of family; “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)  And we all know that the wreck of the first family; Adam and Eve and their sons Cain and Abel resulted from a breakdown of their relationship with God culminating in horrific domestic violence; “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”  (Genesis 4:7)  Without God things fly apart because no one is accountable to anyone for their actions.

godly community tetrahedronWe have talked about the marriage triangle with Jesus at one point and husband and wife at the other two.  We see that as each spouse draws closer to Jesus, husband and wife draw closer to each other. We have looked at the basic shape of community that church brings basic family into –  Husband, wife and church in a triangle of community relationship.  This relationship can be sacred or worldly depending on the church’s connection to God which isn’t necessarily part of the structure.  Some churches are so social in nature that God and His Word is in second place at best.tetrahedron_community

How do these relationships fit together because a true community – a church community must have God as part of the structure.  We don’t immediately see that in the Church, husband and wife triangle – something is missing.  And that’s because each depiction is a two-dimensional map giving only a partial picture of the reality.  Just as a flat map of our country doesn’t show Canada  in relation to the world we need a three-dimensional figure –  a globe! – And  by adding another dimension in  this case – a spiritual  one we get a figure made of four triangles – like the crystal structure of your diamond rings – the toughest substance known to human science in nature.  We  celebrate the marriage relationship with this remarkable gem.  Notice it is the individuals(the other two triangular relationships – husband/church/Jesus and wife/church/Jesus) – who establish Jesus in the church not the other way around.  After all a church isn’t a building it’s people!

Godless Community and the church:

If we remove Jesus, we just  have a carnal horizontal community not so different from social clubs.  Without a spiritual connection to Jesus Christ the church community flattens to a humanistic religiosity.  This would be a worldly kind of church and so would be either very weak prone to flying apart or very cult-like clenching people in it so tightly, always on the brink of imploding. Scripture tells us such communities do exist.  They can be formed around self-righteous religiosity or cheap-grace permissiveness.

Jesus nailed the scribes and Pharisees for their demanding grasping religion; “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for people to see.”  (Matthew 23:2-5)  Man-made rules and fake religiosity just won’t work because they are Godless.

Hosea confronted the religious establishment of his day for abandoning God and letting everything fly apart; “The more priests there were, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their glorious God for something disgraceful. . . .  And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds. ‘They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not flourish, because they have deserted the Lord’” (Hosea 4:7-10).  Permissiveness and a casual attitude to God and His Word always results in things flying apart no matter how ‘seeker friendly’ we become by trying to compromise on Biblical principles.the dire reality

This bigger picture also shows the reality of our situation.  Scripture tells that in Christ Jesus we are now at odds with the world and it’s ruler  – the devil; “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;  Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:1-2)  There is a war on in the heavenly realms; “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  (Ephesians 6:12) And the church is at the battle front; “His purpose was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms”  (Ephesians 3:10)  We are at war!

The Church cannot make peace with the world any more than the soldiers in an army can make individual peace with the enemy army.  Only our Commander-in-Chief, only Jesus has the authority to heal the earth and bring His Peace to us; “. . . at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (Philippians 2:10-11)

friendsenemiesThose that would have us believe that we can make our world better by being on friendly terms with it ignore Scripture; “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)  It’s not about numbers, attracting members or planting more churches – it’s about God and His people!  Our battle is to bring the Gospel message to the world by being the community of faith that Jesus has called us to be;  “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:15,16)

Challenging times are coming.  Our sense of community under Jesus will be openly challenged by the world. Every denial of Jesus either by diminishing Scripture or His leadership in the church, works to remove His strength in our community, marriages and church.  Our mission is to defend the faith we have in Jesus by proclaiming His Gospel boldly.   We can accept our mission in this battle or not. But it won’t go away.  We must choose; “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve:  . . .  but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”   (Joshua 24:15)

Who will you serve?

But all lives do matter!

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We aren’t supposed to say ‘all lives matter’.  If we do we are racist.  To make matters worse – I’m an old white guy with tons of privilege.  Privilege made me fat and sick.  I lost 30 pounds of privilege and  got  a lot healthier but I’m still an old, white male.   A lot of people say I’m the reason for all these racist problems.

Angelina Chapin of the Huffington Post writes; “It’s no surprise that in North America, white men are the group most vocally against efforts to create a more equitable society. They have spearheaded men’s rights groups to combat feminism. They form the base of Donald Trump’s supporters.”  I am a North American white man but I don’t combat feminism and as a Canadian Donald Trump will never have my vote.   But in this world if your guilty on one count  you’re guilty on all counts.john3 16

Exacerbating my white, male privileged position, I must also plead guilty to being a committed Christian.  To God, all lives matter; “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)  The Holy Bible tells us that God doesn’t want anyone to fall through the cracks; “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9)  If all lives matter to God, all lives matter to me.

To further complicate my life of white privilege my faith demands that I see all people  as equal whatever their background or sex; “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:28)  Jesus makes crazy demands on guys like me; but no wonder – He wasn’t an old white man enjoying a lot of white privilege.

But without Jesus, I’d try to vote for Trump, actively make every effort to stamp out feminism as well as push other people  out of my privileged space.  Now I’m just left agreeing with what the Bible says and trying hard to love God first and my  neighbour as myself.

All lives do matter because God says so in His Word!

 

 

The work of the Cross – what holds us back!

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We are Christians yet, often we don’t live like the work of the Cross is finished.  And it is.  Jesus said; “It is finished!”  Why are there times when we live like we’re finished?

Most everybody has a video library these days with lots of movies that we love.  And we watch our favourite movies over and over again.  My wife and I have a copy of Chevy Chase’s Christmas vacation that we watch every year.  Some movies we watch so many times we can say the dialogue off by heart – ‘Help me Obi Wan Kanobi you’re my only hope!’  We dote on these movies and memorize many  wonderful lines – eagerly reliving the experience by speaking these famous lines; ‘Use the force Luke!

yourwordisalamptomyfeet_bibleWhat about God’s Word?  Do we ‘dote’ on the Bible?  Do we love to read it every season of the year – every day of the year.  How many lines of scripture do you memorize and re-enforce your faith by speaking them daily?  Do you know that Jesus  promised to live with us 24/7 –  if we love Him and keep His Word; “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”  (John 14:23)  If there’s little or no room for God’s Word in our house during the week why would we expect Him to be with us on a daily basis?  And why would we expect to meet up with Him in church on Sunday?  If Jesus is a stranger in our home, He’s a stranger to us here on Sunday! The more you get to know His Word the more you get to know Him.  How do I know that – because He said so!  How do I know that He’s as good as His Word? Because when I keep His Word in my living room Jesus is right there with me! Jesus never holds me back.

Sometimes in the middle of the night I’ll get up because I can’t sleep.  Often worries and anxieties will creep into my mind and disturb my peace.  So I’ll get up.  I try not to disturb my wife’s sleep but quite often I’ll be sneaking around in the dark and stub my toe or trip over something.  Crash! Everybody is awake now!  I’ve learned to keep a little flash light by my bed.  If anxiety or worry keeps me from sleeping or disturbs my sleep, I quietly reach for my little light to keep me from stumbling.  When worry drives me to God’s Word which is the Light of my life I know where my help is and I know the way through it.  The Bible tells us; “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”  (Psalm 119:105)

When life gets dark and things press in on us do we ‘turn on the light of His Word’?  Or do we stumble around in the dark – stubbing our toes and disturbing our loved ones peace and that of our neighbours?  The prayer of the Psalmist should be our prayer; “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments. I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.”  (Psalm 119:106,107)  Walking in the newness of life is walking in faith believing God’s word; “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”  (2 Corinthians 5:7)dl-mood-family

You can live in fear – walk in fear by staying in the dark and not turning on the light of God’s Word  in your life or you can walk in faith and live by faith; “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17)  How wonderful a life of depending on God is if we just take Him at His Word and walk in it; “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.  For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)  God will never walk away from you but you can walk away from God through your own grudges, covetousness and discontent!

Finally, do you hang on to grudges?  Do you hold your resentments closer to your heart than God?  This is the sneakiest and deadliest from of idolatry because when we feel we’ve been wronged, let down or abandoned we are certain that nobody has ever been as badly hurt as we have –  not even Jesus!  Isaiah knew different, he saw Jesus clearly; “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;  Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”  Jesus was wronged by you and by me and by everybody.  Did He nurse a grudge or want to make us pay for what we did?   No! He paid the price for our sins so that we might live.

For many this deadly idolatry of self over God is holds them back from an abundant life now and eternally.  Jesus tells us you must forgive; “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”  (Matthew 6:14,15)  What are you holding on to that is killing you?  If you’re nursing a grudge and have an unforgiving heart there’s no way God will nurse you back to health and life no matter how often you show up on Sunday.  It’s not because God doesn’t want to.  It’s because your pride, anger and resentment blocks His Grace and healing.  God will not force himself upon you.  Nor will He approach unholy pride, hatred and seething resentment – we need repentance and Jesus to overcome our shortcomings.

face_to_face_by_recepgulec-600x395Let us ask God to show us what’s holding us back.  He will honor that prayer; “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit”  (Psalm 51:10-12).

Amen!

How then shall we live?

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A message to Bible believing followers of Jesus Christ

In the days of Ezekiel, God spoke through His prophet; “Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?” (Ezekiel 33:10) God’s straight answer to the world’s crookedness was and is; “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (v. 11)   Yet even before the coming of Jesus and the Gospel – God spoke repentance and salvation to people.  Therefore, how much more must we lift Jesus high and speak His Gospel into an unfaithful world!

Our society and culture has moved so far away from God and His Word that we can scarcely call our country home anymore!  The first step to answer the question ‘How then shall we live? is to take stock of the spiritual reality of the world we find ourselves in.  Then we’ll look at God’s Word on how to live as individuals, families and in community.  We are in the midst of great evil; euthanasia, abortion as birth control, gambling and drugs legalized and made into big government business, aberrant sexual deviance taught in our schools and the list of depravity goes on and on.

We should not be surprised!  The Bible tells us these things will happen; “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Jesus Himself warned us; “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  (Matthew 24:4-14)

We must also realize that  this world, this country, this town isn’t our home.  The apostle Peter said; “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:9-12)  We can’t change what God’s Word tells will happen but we mustn’t let the world change us or our mission!!!

Respect the worldly authorities (Romans 13) but live loyal to Jesus; “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”(1 Peter 2:15-17)  Honor the emperor even if he has no clothes on (as the Hans Christian Andersen tale goes).

What do these instructions look like in our everyday lives – as individuals, in the context of our families – as moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons and daughters, as members of our community?  As an individual, I have to check myself every-time I walk in fear.  Fear gnaws at my guts.  Sometimes I sit alone at night and worry about all the craziness and how my kids will get along – How my wife and I will every make it through these days – to the point my head feels like it’s about to explode.  How do you stop that kind of fear -with the Word of God!  Jesus told us and His Holy Spirit reminds me that; “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33) and with respect to all the things coming against us and the antichrist spirit behind them; “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)  Get a grip! Grab a hold of Jesus and remember who you belong to!!!

As we live out the Gospel Good news in our families, I have found the most central issue is trust.  Who and what do you trust?  As a young man I trusted only myself and my earning power – my great sin as a father was that I didn’t trust God with my family and children.  I didn’t trust God for my daily bread – it was all me!  And it worked out terrible – Jesus rescued my family and me from the shambles I had made.  I trust God now with my kids and my household.  For many years I was a church man and going to church on a regular basis but kids see what you do no matter how you say or pretend otherwise.  If your actions betray a lack of trust in the Lord – this is what you teach your children.  If you or your spouse harbor unfaithfulness to God and His Word you open the door to instability in your home.  A shaky household is no place to raise children.  Jesus tells us; “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”  (Matthew 7:24,25)

What do we teach our children?  God’s Word and a deep abiding reverent fear of the Lord and nothing less; “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:6,7)  Jesus takes this very personally as He precedes His warning with; “And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (v. 5)  Don’t leave the teaching of your child to the school system – public schools aren’t spiritually safe anymore.  Even if you have to send your children to public school pray protection over them, teach and model God’s love and a reverence for His Word in your home.

Teaching your kids about God’s Word and Jesus is a family matter first, foremost and always; “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  (Deuteronomy 6:6,7) And them have faith that the Holy Spirit will mature them; “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6)

And to conclude what about the community?  If you’re thinking about your town or village, Ontario or even this beautiful great country –  Canada – stop.  You don’t belong to this world.  If you believe God’s Word and you’re a follower of Jesus Christ – you don’t even belong to yourself; “. . . know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)  And this is the prayer of the One who paid for your life with His Blood; “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:15-17)

What is your community?  It is the family of God.  Remember what Peter said; “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17)  Forget about making this country better through social change or ‘click activism’.  I’m not saying, don’t take part in civic life, but don’t think that your actions will change the direction the world is going.  Only God’s Word – Jesus –  can change the world – one person at a time.  The only way out of wickedness is to follow Jesus – so preach the Gospel in action and speech – be a true light to the world.  And do it boldly (Acts 4:31)!  That is your whole duty as Christians to a world that desperately needs to hear the Gospel.  Remember what Jesus said; “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Trouble’s coming, all worldly things will end badly and Jesus will make all things new;  “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”  (Revelation 21:5)

Strengthen and be a regular part of your fellowship of believers; “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)  Remember, your community which is the family of God is the most important group you will ever belong to. Jesus tells us: “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”  (Matthew 12:50)

And above all remember the apostle Paul’s great exhortation as the world presses in and threatens; “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak,  knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.  For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:13-18)

Praise the Lord!

Why the terror and mayhem?

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We look aghast at the news of terrorism, mayhem and violence in the world.  It isn’t just in far away strange countries anymore. The violence and killing is here!  It  is on the streets of our nation’s capital.  Killing in the name of terror is in the parking lot of the shopping mall.  Hate and violence is in our neighborhoods and even next door.  Why?  What’s driving it.

Kelly McParland in looking at  the terrorism in Africa and France observes;

 Most Canadians can’t comprehend organizations like ISIS, al-Qaeda or Boko Haram, which ruthlessly employ murder and mayhem to halt any movement towards democracy, tolerance or individual rights, which serve as the very foundations of western culture. While determined to stop the spread of extremism, Western authorities remain uncertain on how to go about it. They hope that in a country like France, with a determined government, professional police force and reliable institutions, some headway can be made. In Nigeria, which has none of these assets, westerners can’t even pretend to know what to do. So they don’t.

It’s that admission of hopelessness that is behind the differing reactions to the atrocities in Paris and Baga. In France we think we can help. In Nigeria we have no idea how.

Why an atrocity in Paris is different from an atrocity in Nigeria, National Post,  Kelly McParland,  January 15, 2015

Rex Murphy ponders why the world reacts differently to the terrorism in France and in Africa.  Is Kelly McParland’s theory correct?  We think we know what to do in France but in Nigeria we don’t.  Common sense tells us that often there is a big difference in thinking you know what to do and actually knowing what to do.

If you know the cause of a problem you have important insight about what to do about it.  There seems to be as many theories of the cause of terrorism as there are terrorist groups.  Amy Zalman in her discussion of what causes terrorism argues;

 In fact, the question, “what causes terrorism?” is not quite the right question to be asking, because we will never be able to answer it. We cannot say that the presence of one factor provokes terrorism in the same way that we can say with scientific certainty that certain toxins cause diseases.

The Causes of Terrorism by Amy Zalman, Ph.D. http://terrorism.about.com/od/causes/a/causes_terror.htm

If we cannot say ‘scientifically’, sociologically or politically with any certainty what the root causes of terrorism are, do these theories really give us any great insight as to what to do about it?   And there is the real problem for all who simply wish to live free and peaceably – you cannot effectively deal with something you don’t understand.

The answer is spiritual.  Terrorism is evil.  Evil wears many faces and belongs to all sorts of religions.  Evil is an atheist, a theist, a pagan and an agnostic.  Evil is an equal opportunity killer and hates all races, creeds and colors.  Evil wears military ‘camo’ and religious vestments.  Evil rides a horse and drives a tank.  Evil sits behind a desk, speaks in corporate board rooms and lectures in universities.  In all ways, in all manifestations, evil has one telling mark – it devours!

The Holy Bible tells us plainly what is happening and gives us the history of it;

 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.. . . Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. (Revelation 12:7-9,12)

Scripture tells us what is happening right now and what we can do about it on a personal level;

 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:7-9)

And who we can follow to victory and safety;

“Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:31-33)

Sadly, many prefer putting up with evil and terrorism.

Why will the poor always be with us?

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Two thousand years ago, Jesus said that the poor will always be with us but we wouldn’t always have Him.  He was right.

Rich people get richer and poor people increase.  The Huffington Post reports;

 The rich keep getting richer, and by next year, just a handful of the upper-class will have accumulated more than half of the world’s wealth.

A new report released on Monday by Oxfam warns that this deepening global inequality is unlike anything seen in recent years.

Using research from Credit Suisse and Forbes’ annual billionaires list, the anti-poverty charity was able to determine that the richest 1 percent of the world’s population currently controls 48 percent of the world’s total wealth.

If trends continue, Oxfam predicts that the most-affluent will possess more wealth than the remaining 99 percent by 2016, The New York Times reported.

 Richest 1 Percent To Own More Than Half Of The World’s Wealth By 2016, The Huffington Post, by Jade Walker, Posted: 01/19/2015

Why?  The world we live in is incompatible with Jesus and His kingdom.  More often than not a  good deed or outreach to the poor is tainted by baser motives of selfishness.  When you’ve got a lot it so easy to feel really good when you give a little to charity.  We even get tax receipts!

The opening of John 12 describes the scene where Jesus is having supper with close friends and disciples  Mary, the sister of His host lavished some expensive perfume on Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.  One of His disciples complained; “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.”  (v. 5) This sounds like a good question. It certainly makes the disciple look good at first glance.  Scripture goes on to reveal the deeper more selfish motive behind the disciples outrage at the ‘waste’; “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”  (v. 6)  Jesus stepped in to defend the woman by revealing her motive; “Leave her alone, . . . It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.  You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (v. 7,8)

 As this was happening this passage describes the storm clouds gathering against Jesus; “. . . a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”  (v. 9-11)  The world is hostile to Jesus and since the beginning has sought by any means to suppress His message and followers.  Organized religion is more often a willing accomplice if not outright instigator of this persecution.

Here in North America we try to kill Jesus by drowning Him in luxuries and blinding Him with the glare and glitter of plasma TV’s and other consumer goods.  We’re not fooling anybody but ourselves.  Jeff Goins calls it like he sees it in his ‘letter to the affluent church’;

Please stop complaining about the economic difficulties in America. Seriously. It’s beginning to bug me. I’m bothered by the tough employment situation as much as the next person, but I just can’t help but be irked by how you’re coping with this so-called crisis. So, if you don’t mind, please stop your whining.

Please stop thinking that the “blessed are the poor” verse in the Beatitudes now applies to you, because you had to stop going out to eat more than once a week. I would appreciate it if you would stop lamenting how you’re strapped for cash and forced to “cut costs” just after you bought your teenager her very own cell phone with text messaging plan. There are real people who are hurting during this time, and it’s apparently not you. Not while your kids play their hand-held video games in the backseat of the Suburban and you and the Mrs. enjoy worship tunes blasting from the iPod. Not while you drink Starbucks coffee after church and spend your Sundays taking naps in a well-heated home.

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/reject-apathy/poverty/features/16122-a-letter-to-the-affluent-church#fHMLExzfriwcy0cU.99

What can you do about it?  Get to know your neighbour.  If he or she is in need – help them!  Share what you have, use less and take some time to talk to old people, sick people, people in trouble, and smelly people.  True charity isn’t rocket science it’s love in action.

The Bible tells us what true religion is; “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  (James 1:27)

How the world would change if even those who call themselves Christians would get completely into religion in ‘pure and faultless’ way?

Jesus told us what  is righteous; “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:37-40)

Until His returns the poor will always be with us.

Trust Me enough not to test Me!

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Belief is beyond lip service and going along with the crowd to ‘look’ good.  Belief means trust.  And trust is demonstrated by your choices.

God made it very clear that His people were to have no other gods before Him; “You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you — for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.” (Deuteronomy 6:14-16)

What happened at Massah?

 The occasion where the Israelites tested God at Massah is found in Exodus 17.  As God was leading Moses and His people toward the Promised Land, they camped at a place where there was no water. The Israelites’ immediate reaction was to grumble against God and quarrel with Moses (Exodus 17:1–3). Their lack of trust in God to take care of them is evident in their accusations toward Moses: “They said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?’” (Exodus 17:3). The Israelites were obviously in a situation where they needed God to intervene. The point at which they tested God, though, is when doubt and fear overtook them and they came to the conclusion that God had abandoned them (see Exodus 17:7). They questioned God’s reliability because He was not meeting their expectations.

Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/test-God.html#ixzz3OYlX1Qv6

Satan tried to lure Jesus into this sin when He was forty days and nights in the wilderness:

 Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 in the wilderness, in response to one of Satan’s temptations. “The devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”’” (Matthew 4:7—10). Essentially, the devil was telling Jesus to “prove” God’s Word was true by forcing God’s hand—if Jesus was in peril, God would have to save Him. Jesus refused to test God in such a way. We are to accept God’s Word by faith, without requiring a sign (see Luke 11:29). God’s promises are there for us when we need them; to manipulate situations in an attempt to coerce God into fulfilling His promises is evil.

Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/test-God.html#ixzz3OYmOSXW9

I know of two instances in the Bible where God invited people to test Him.  The first instance involves King Ahaz:

 “‘Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above. But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!’ And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  (Isaiah 7:11-14)

King Ahaz seems to be very pious and righteous but he didn’t fool God.  God told Isaiah to confront Ahaz; “. . . but will ye weary my God also?”   King Ahaz was really a ‘double dealing’ hypocrite.  King Ahaz had other plans. He was going to ‘take care of business’ himself. He’d made a deal with the King of Assyria to come and help him; “So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, I am your servant and son. Come up and save me out of the hands of the kings of Syria and of Israel, who are attacking me. And Ahaz took the silver and gold in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house and sent a present to the king of Assyria.” (2 Kings 16:7,8)  Not only did King Ahaz trust men more than God he also stole from God to pay for his ‘deliverance’.  Ahaz was so unlike Jesus who had compete and utter trust in God!

King Ahaz was into idolatry. He set up an altar to the god of the King of Assyria; “King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria. When he saw the altar that was in Damascus, King Ahaz sent a model of the altar and complete plans for its construction to Uriah the priest. Uriah built the altar according to all the instructions King Ahaz sent from Damascus. Therefore, by the time King Ahaz came back from Damascus, Uriah the priest had completed it.” (2 Kings 10;10,11) There is always an unfaithful priest willing to pander to idolatry if a ruler of this world asks for it. And both double-dealing ruler and his priest flunky think no one notices!

In this instance, God through his prophet Isaiah was confronting King Ahaz calling him out for his double-dealing idolatry and theft from God!

The second place where God invites people to test him is in the last book of the Old Testament;

Malachi 3:10 says, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’” This is the only situation given in the Bible in which God tells His people to “test” Him. Interestingly, the Hebrew word used for “test” in this verse is bachan, which means “to examine, scrutinize, or prove (as in gold, persons, or the heart).” Just as gold is “tested” with fire to prove its quality, God invites Israel to test Him in tithes and offerings and see that He proves His faithfulness in response.

Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/test-God.html#ixzz3OYpdIGv3

This instance differs from the first because God was confronting Ahaz  as an individual and here, He is encouraging the Israelites as a nation to trust Him.  And yet, this instance is similar because God is confronting the entire Israelite people of stealing from him like King Ahaz did; “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.” (Malachi 3:7,8)

So far the only Person living a flesh and blood existence in the world  that could be completely faithful to God was Jesus.  Times haven’t changed.

Individually and corporately we fail to trust God time and time again.  As a nation we have turned from Him and now chase after other gods.  Some of the false gods we chase after as a nation are ‘political correctness’, tolerance, and science.  These golden calves trump all common sense.  The first to grab the horn of the altar to these false gods wins all.

Individually we stumble in fear and fail to trust God’s promises every day.  Does disease and illness scare you more than being abandoned by God?  Personal gods of success and happiness are empty silent idols when the dark night of troubled times comes upon us.  If God has delivered you from an illness do you ever doubt Him and think; ‘Oh no! it’s coming back!’  I have!  Sometimes in great distress people will even grumble against God as they did at Massah.  If things aren’t going your way and misfortune looms do you get angry at God and blame Him.   I have.   Maybe you have.

Our modern day idolatry and our fears rob God of the offering every person can make – our trust!   God will forgive our fearful stumbling.  Pride full double dealing like King Ahaz’s will destroy us not only individually but corporately as a nation!

Here’s a promise that we can all count on.  Here’s a promise that we all desperately need; “. . . if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Thank you Jesus for repentance and grace!

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