Archive

Endurance

Be Patient Until the Lord Comes

“Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and late rain.  You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble, brethren, against one another, that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the doors.  As an example of suffering and patience, brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast.  You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5: 7-11

We live in a very impatient society.  We learn from an early age that time is money so if we are not rushing than we are wasting time and losing money.  And yet it seems that we spend so much of our time waiting.  We wait for the light to turn green, for the progress bar to finish, for the water to boil, for vacation time to come, for retirement, and for many other events, big and small, to either arrive or to complete.

As we allow more and more pressure to be put on us to perform faster and faster, it generates more and more stress in us.   The stress causes us to become less and less patient, possibly resulting in outbursts or anger and impatience.  When riding with one of my friends, he would start yelling, “You can go! You can go! You can go!” when the light turned green and the car in front wouldn’t move immediately.  If you have been to a big city like New York, you learn quickly that people are very impatient and seem to function in that mode, and are even proud of it.  They are quick to beep their horn or shout out obscenities, and consider it part of the city culture.  All of us are faced with the pressure to move quickly and get things done, and to produce as quickly as possible.  We also expect the same of others and become impatient if they don’t.  This attitude of impatience infiltrates all areas of our lives as it is a part of our western culture (at least here in the USA).

On the flip side, I find it amazing that the things that we look forward to with so much anticipation are usually anticlimactic, that is, they usually don’t deliver what we expect.  It’s like we are motivated by the expectation, but then disappointed when we reach the desired goal, so we quickly shift our attention to the next anticipated future event to again motivate us.  Ultimately, this approach leads to frustration and even despair, and this could also contribute to an increase in our impatience.

There are two problems that I’m pointing out here: first is our tendency towards being impatient as we are trained to do so in this society by being pressured to move and work at a fast pace, as well as the desire for immediate results, and second is our misplaced anticipations, when we place them on the things of this world and allow our expectations to be set very high as a means of motivation or whatever the case.

As Christians we must deal with both of these problems.  In fact, I would say that there is a high importance on getting this right in our lives.  The Lord has placed a very high value on patience.  Have you considered why?  Consider this verse:

“Love is patient…..”  1 Corinthians 13: 4

And this:

“For the fruit of the Spirit is……patience…..” Galatians 5:22

When we think about being patient we don’t always equate this to love.  Nor do we always recognize patience as a fruit of the spirit or as being spiritual.  But patience is a part of the very nature of God.  Jesus displayed patience, and patience in suffering, as He lived His life here on the earth and suffered for us as He was beaten and crucified as an innocent man.

There are many scripture verses that emphasize the importance of patience or patient endurance towards the hope that we have in the return of Jesus, but I chose to look closer at the above quoted verses in James.  James begins this letter with an exhortation to be patient:

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (endurance or perseverance). But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect (or mature) and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1: 2-4

In these initial verses from James also lies a key to our ability to be patient, that is, that we must change our attitude towards the difficult circumstances that we face, recognizing that they have been allowed by God for the testing of our faith.  When our faith is tested and we endure, it produces in us an increase in our godly character, and more specifically, it produces patience in us.

Allow me to spell this out:  When we find ourselves in difficult circumstances that require us to wait and endure patiently, there is nothing wrong, but this is exactly what God wants for us.  We need to submit to it, rather than attempting to circumvent or side step around the circumstances, and recognize that this is the testing of our faith and that God has ordained the trial for us to endure.  In His time, He will open a door for us to move on or to be removed from our situation.  It will be clear to us that it is time to move on, otherwise, If we don’t submit to the Lord’s will by continuing in the circumstances, these circumstances (or something similar or perhaps even more difficult) will only come back upon later.

I like what it says in verse 8 of James 5:

“You also be patient.  Establish you hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”  James 5:8

In the Amplified Bible, after “Establish your hearts”, it adds in brackets, “Strengthen and confirm them (i.e. your hearts) in final certainty.”  Here lies the second key related to the second problem that we have mentioned.  Rather than placing our hope and expectations upon something in this world that will only disappoint us, we need to establish our hearts upon the hope that we have in heaven and make up our minds to be steadfast in our focused anticipation of the glory that we will share with Jesus Christ at the end.  There is tremendous power in this hope, as the scriptures attest to:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8: 18

“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because 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: 17-18

As Christians, we therefore have the perfect solution to the problems of impatience and stress.  I don’t say this lightly because this solution was brought to us by the Lord Jesus Christ and was paid for by His life and death, to establish our hope of glory that is incorruptible and assured beyond all doubt.  As we patiently endure through this life, we have the example of the endurance of the past prophets and saints, and the endurance of the Lord Jesus.  Armed with this knowledge we know that whatever the situation that we face, we can get through it by the grace of God as they have done in the past.  We also are confident that God is on our side and is even using our trials to work into us a more Christ-like nature of love that will only make us stronger and give us more reward in the end.

As Christians we should be known for our patience and our ability to endure hardships.  Let us establish our hearts in strength and set our faces like flint towards the future hope that we have in Christ not allowing any circumstances to undermine our character or cause us to become impatient.  We now know the source of our strength: a changed attitude towards the trials that we face and a steadfast hope set on the promise of future glory in heaven.  My prayer is that everyone who reads this will find this source of strength, and even more so, so that they will persevere until the end, when Jesus returns.  Amen.

Advertisements

Don’t Worry about the Wicked

“The Lord is righteous; He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked.” Psalm 129: 4

No matter which news outlet you choose to listen to, whether the main stream media or the alternative online media, all news seems to be bad news.  The media’s role appears to be to expose the evil in our society, and so we are constantly seeing evil.

I would agree that there is an important role of the free press to keep other powers in check and this sometimes requires exposing the evil of powerful groups or governments, but the volume of negative news is constant and overwhelming.

Currently, there is also a battle going on to determine what media outlet represents the true view of reality and which represents “fake news” or propaganda. The battle lines are drawn.  On one side there is the accusation that the main stream media is owned and controlled by the evil elites who want to control the opinion of the masses, promoting their agenda and world view, with most of the “talking heads” having this same world view, allowing it to influence and bias their presentation.  On the other side there is the accusation that the alternative media consists of amateurs who create stories based on rumors and don’t verify their sources, or even worse, that some are at least sympathetic to, or possibly controlled by, Russian or communist propagandists.

Personally, I think that both sides are biased by their world view/philosophy and by what they think is the best thing for the future of our society or the world.  As Christians though, we must take all news with a grain of salt, recognizing that absolute truth only comes from God, via His Word, and all other information must be subject to being overridden by the Scriptural truths.  We need the Holy Spirit’s help to discern what is true and what we need to take to heart or what we should dismiss.

As I stated earlier, no matter what source of news we choose, we are being bombarded with continual exposure of wicked devices and criminal rackets.  We are also faced with the choice of which evil is the source of blame for our problems.  Is it the government and politicians, or the wealthy one percent elites, or is it the big corporations, or is it the banks and financial system, or is it the racists, or is it the lazy welfare entitlement seekers, or is it the illegal immigrants, or is it the dead church and religious fanatics, or is it the Islamic terrorists?  (I could go on)  I would say that there is enough blame to go around to all of them.

It stands to reason that this onslaught of news about the evils and the wickedness of our current situation would cause us to be distressed and worried.  For many the solution is to block it out or ignore it; pretend it’s not there; put on the glasses that make everything look rosy.  I would suggest that ignoring reality is never good and potentially could result in serious problems.  For example, prudence requires that we assess our situation and, if need be, make the proper preparations for the future.

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 22:3 & 27:12

A much better approach is to establish in our hearts the reality that God is in control and will deal appropriately with the wicked people of the world.  As biblical Christians we learn from the Scriptures that although Satan has been given some authority in this current age, the Lord is still in control and will assure that in the end the wicked will be punished and the righteous will be blessed.  Let’s look closer at what the Bible says.

The opening verse from Psalm 129 in the Amplified Bible says this:

“The Lord is righteous; He has cut in two the [thick] cords of the wicked [which enslaved the people of Israel].”  Psalm 129:4

You might ask the question, “Why does God allow the wicked to enslave His people in the first place?”  We must recognize that both Satan and the wicked men in this world are tools that God uses for His purpose.  And what is His purpose and why does He allow evil to touch His children?  The answer is: It’s not our place to question God’s ways.  This verse in Romans 9 applies to this situation also (although not the exact use in the context of Romans 9):

“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay….” Romans 9:20-21

We do know from the Scriptures that God uses the trials in our life to produce in us a deeper character, making us stronger, more loving, and more like Him.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,…”1 Peter 1:6-7

The fact that God allows His people to suffer affliction at the hands of the wicked is confirmed in the first three verses of Psalm 129, just before the verse quoted above:

“Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth – Let Israel now say – many a time they have afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.  The plowers plowed on my back; they made their furrows long.” Psalm 129:1-3

The metaphor used in these verses of someone plowing on your back suggests that these afflictions were not insignificant.  The key words in this verse are “they have not prevailed.”  God knows what we need and how long we need it.  The wicked always lose in the end.

We, therefore, as God’s beloved children, do not need to worry or fret, or fear what the wicked may do to us.  We can rest assured that God will protect us and will only allow us to be exposed to the evil of the wicked when in accordance with His purposes for our lives.

Here’s my testimony of recent events in my life:  Back in 2007 it started with hearing that I had health issues with my cholesterol being too high and need to change my diet, so I embarked on a serious  and challenging change to my eating habits.  Next I heard from my wife of 28 years that she didn’t want to be married to me any longer; (we split up then and later divorced in 2012).  A month after my wife’s leaving I was laid off from my job where I had been employed for almost 10 years.  Not much later the crash of 2008 came when I was laid off again from my next job and I lost half of my 401k retirement savings and was forced to cash it out with no place to roll it over.  I also was under water on my mortgage since I recently refinanced, couldn’t sell my house in the current market to pay off the mortgage, and was forced into foreclosure on the house.  The low point came when I was given a 2 week notice to leave my house and I had no place to go.  The Lord provided for me then (a friend allowed me to stay in a 1 room apartment attached to his business and hired me as a laborer) and the Lord has continued to provide for me, and has now turned my situation around completely.

I look back and see this time as being a very valuable time of spiritual growth for me.  I can look back and connect the dots to see how God has brought me though many situations for my good and the good of my friends and loved ones. It would have been a mistake to look to the evil forces of the world as the reason for my predicament. God was allowing these things to occur and He was in control.  He had me right where I needed to be.

I’m sure that many of you have faced much more difficult trials than what I went through.  My purpose in mentioning my past is to encourage all of us to remember that God is in control.  I must remind myself often that God has sustained me before and will do it again.  He may have more challenging trials ahead for me, but I trust that He is able to bring me through them and that they will be for my perfection and for His glory.

We have no need to worry or fret about the wickedness that surrounds us.  God is the source of our needs and He is greater than the powers of this world or this age.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into bans; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit (18 inches) to his stature?  So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. And yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not worry, saying what shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or what shall we wear?  For after all these things the Gentiles seek.  For your heavenly father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matt. 6:25-34

Most importantly, seek first the kingdom of God.  Turn from sin and seek His righteousness. This should be our focus, and not the barrage of information that slams us daily from the various news sources.  Turn the news stations off and close your computer if they are causing you to worry and fear.  Look to God’s Holy Scriptures to build you up in your faith and strengthen you for the days ahead.

The final victory comes when the end of this age comes and the righteous Judge sets all of this straight:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10

“For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’  So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14: 9-12

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened, and another book was opened which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” Revelations 20: 11-12

“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelations 20:15

Having this Scriptural view of the evils of this world, in the light of God’s control of our lives and his ultimate judgment of the wicked men of this age, we can be free of all worry and fear, and then be free to make sound judgment about what we need to do, if anything, to prepare ourselves and our families for the future.  We can then be open to the leading of the Spirit, and able to move forward with the necessary plans with confidence.

There is really nothing new under the sun, as King Solomon said many years ago in the book of Ecclesiastes.  Today I see man’s greed as the root of many problems, which he manifests in the government and financial systems of the world, causing great inequality of wealth, which in turn is causing rebellion by many who feel they have been abused.  These wicked, greedy men are bound for judgment, either in this life, or when the Lord returns as Judge.

I leave you all with this interesting prophecy from Habakkuk from the 7th century B.C. with words that could apply to today’s wicked, greedy men (from the Amplified Bible):

“Look at the proud; his soul is not straight or right within him, but the just and the righteous man shall live by his faith and in his faithfulness. Moreover, wine and wealth are treacherous; the proud man is restless and cannot stay at home.  His appetite is large like that of Sheol and [his greed] is like death and cannot be satisfied; he gathers to himself all nations and collects all people as if he owned them. Shall not all these [victims of his greed] take up a taunt against him and in scoffing derision of him say, Woe to him who piles up that which is not his! [How long will he possess it?] And [woe to him] who loads himself with promissory notes for usury! Shall [your debtors] not rise up suddenly who shall bite you, exacting usury of you, and those awake who will vex you [toss you to and fro and make you tremble violently]? Then you will be booty for them.  Because you have plundered many nations, all who are left of the people shall plunder you – because of men’s blood and for the violence done to the earth, to the city and all the people who live in each city.  Woe to him who obtains wicked gain for his house, [who thinks by so doing] to set his nest on high that he may be preserved from calamity and delivered from the power of evil!  You have devised shame to your house by cutting off and putting an end to many people, and you have sinned against and forfeited your own life.  For the stone shall cry out of the wall [built in sin, to accuse you], and the beam out of the woodwork will answer it [agreeing with its charge against you]. Woe to him who builds a town with blood and establishes a city by iniquity! Behold, is it not by appointment of the Lord of hosts that the nations toil only to satisfy the fire [that will consume their work], and the peoples weary themselves only for emptiness, falsity, and futility? But [the time is coming when] the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2: 4-14

Amen.

Progressivism vs. Biblical Christianity

Let me start by saying that this message is intended as a warning to Biblical Christians to not get sucked into the mindset and philosophical world view that is pervasive in our world today.  Don’t be deceived and don’t let your Christian mindset be diluted by the current discussions.  The remedy, of course, is to remain diligent in your reading and studying of God’s word, the Bible, and your prayer/communion with Him.

Please don’t consider this a partisan discussion, as you will see that my view of progressivism is not restricted to the views of any current political party, but in fact, I think it encompasses both the left and the right, liberal and conservative alike.  I have noticed that the liberal Democratic party seems to want to be identified with some type of new progressive reform movement and many liberals have been calling themselves progressives. We’ll get into this.

First, let’s define the word progressivism.  According to Wikipedia, progressivism is “a philosophy based on the idea of progress, which asserts that advancement in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to improve the human condition.”  The key word in the definition is “vital”, suggesting that there will be little or no improvements without these advancements.  Wikipedia goes on to say that “progressivism became highly significant during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe”.  It was during the Age of Enlightenment that men elevated reason and intellect as a means of determining truth, above the use of faith in the revelation of truth via the Scriptures.  Thus scientific observation and the use of reason as a means of determining truth led to the elevation in importance of the above mentioned items especially science and technology, along with education.

It is also mentioned that the early application of this philosophy of progressivism was to support the advancement of western culture or “civilization” to transform the world from “barbarianism” by “strengthening the basis of empirical knowledge as the foundation of society”.  By empirical knowledge, they mean knowledge that is determined by the use of scientific observation and reason.  For example, during the 1800’s in America as people were moving west, the push to move the Native Americans from “barbaric conditions” to civility was driven by this idea of progressivism.

As a side note, I would like to mention here that it is not unreasonable to question the extent of the “progress” that has been made by the contributions from the scientific, technological, economic, and organizational changes to our western “civilized” culture.  Has all of our material items and technological advances really made us happy?  Have they contributed to our overall well-being and satisfaction? Have they lessened our stress levels?  Most would agree that our “progress” has made us more stressful.  In some ways we are much better off, but in other ways we are worse off.  We must also realize that all advancements have a price to pay.  For example, most would consider the automobile to be an amazing technological advancement and symbol of progress, but we must also consider that 1.3 million people are killed each year in car accidents and many others injured.  Many so-called advancements are motivated by monetary gains and offer conveniences that we often would be better off without or that place us in a dangerous position of dependency that has the potential to cause great harm to us if the “convenient technology” fails.  My point is that the argument is based on a faulty premise that all technological and scientific based “progress” is good and will contribute to the human condition.  This is not true in all cases and requires a deeper analysis to get the real picture.

We also need to understand that at the foundation of the progressive thinking is the belief in evolution as the source and continuance of life, with man being the most “evolved” part of this process and now responsible for its success and progress.  Progressivism aligns with the idea that we are on an upwards evolutionary trajectory, and that mankind’s use of the “tools” of progressivism are crucial to the proper and speedy evolutionary advancement.  Additionally, the improper use of these would possibly result in the end of our race.

Be aware also that the teachings of Marx, Engle, Lenin and Stalin had a similar concept of evolutionary progress.  They called it “Dialectical and Historical Materialism” and its explanation in text books became compulsory education within the Soviet Union and China during the communist rule.  At its core was the idea that the conflict of social events, and there solutions, would bring about evolutionary progress.

Historically, in the United States, according to an article from George Washington University, the “Progressive Era” was from 1890 to 1920.  It started as a social movement and then became political. The movement was a response to the social problems that were believed to be the result of the industrial revolution:  poverty, violence, greed, racism, class warfare.  According to the article, these problems “could be best addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace.  Progressives lived mainly in the cities, were college educated, and believed that government could be a tool for change.”

Apparently, both the Republican and Democratic parties of the time had groups of progressives in their ranks.  As for their activities, the article says this: “They concentrated on exposing the evils of corporate greed, combating fear of immigrants, and urging Americans to think hard about what democracy meant.”

Fast forward to today and we see a similar thing happening.  It has become obvious to most people in our country that something is wrong, that our government system is failing and that the disparity between the rich and poor is growing much larger than in recent history and much more noticeable.  We see the exact same problems emerging as were present in the Progressive Era and the same solutions being suggested.

Think about it though, back in the time period of 1890 to 1920 there was no television or radio (let alone the internet), only newspapers and magazines.  Also, the percentage of college educated people was quite low; in fact college graduates were a rarity and most didn’t even have a high school diploma.

Today we have a large percentage of the population with some amount of college education, and most having graduated from high school.  We also have information streaming into our lives via the television, radio, and internet.  If you have a question about any topic whatsoever, all you need to do is “Google it” to get the answer.  What a contrast this is to the way it must have been in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Although there is some value in this massive increase in available information, we must realize that there is an increased potential for people to be indoctrinated with the popular philosophies, as well as the potential for the use of propaganda to induce fear and stir up emotions.  Realize too that the underlying ideas that support this progressive philosophy have penetrated all areas of western society and are aggressively promoted by the media and education system.  As a result of the current availability of information in our western society, the progressive philosophy, including the supporting ideas of the theory of evolution and secular humanism, is widely accepted, strongly influencing all voters and political parties.

It would appear that the liberal side of the political world has most closely resembled the traditional progressives from the Progressive Era, but have upped the ante by adding the “emergencies” of global warming, the environment, and a need for alternate energy.  Added to this list of vital needs is the need for a global system for these solutions to work.  Globalization was a major factor in this last election with the platform of Donald Trump opposing it with his nationalization stance reflected in his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”, which really meant put the United States first before other countries.

This is where I think that confusion can enter in for the Biblical Christian.  We must be aware that the underlying philosophy of Donald Trump’s solution is still progressive; He is still suggesting the use of government as a tool for changing social organizations and economic development, and for advancing science and technology.  You might say the Trump view and the liberal view are “in the same church, but in different pews”, as the analogy goes.  The extreme emotion and distress that was displayed by the Hillary Clinton supporters after her loss of the election was not because Donald Trump was opposed to progressivism, but rather it was because they disagreed with his means of attaining this progressivism.  Their underlying progressive philosophy are the same, but their methods of implementation are different.

Two of the major differences were as follows:

First, the liberals wanted a global system of free, unrestricted trade that allowed for uncontrolled or unrestricted immigration with a vision of a one world type of economy and also having the US as a leader in this system, maintaining their military control, whereas Trump wants a nationalistic approach with new trade laws that favor the US, possibly with tariffs and a controlled immigration to favor US workers, rejecting the idea of a global system and calling for a reduction in military influence overseas (to save money for spending on the US needs at home).  This was similar to the issue that was at the core of the Brexit decision that occurred earlier in the UK.  We must be clear though that whether trade and immigration are restricted or not, or whether the system of trade is globally based or nationalistic does not change the underlying progressive philosophy that calls for advances in science, technology, economic development and social organization.

Second, the liberals wanted more government with controls and regulations to manage large corporations, Wall Street, and entitlements (like healthcare), with more taxes on the “rich” whereas Trump was pushing to reduce taxes and the role of government, pushing for fewer regulations on businesses and looking at focusing spending on infrastructure improvements to stimulate economic growth, possibly making changes to the financial system.  Again, the underlying progressive philosophy is not changed in either of these approaches, rather, there is just a difference in opinion as to the method of social organization and economic development.

In summary, I believe that we are in a similar situation as was faced by the US back at the turn of the 19th century during the Progressive Era.  Today we have the same social issues of poverty, violence, racism, and class warfare.  People are upset and looking for answers; many looking to the government and political leaders.  The recent election brought this situation to a head, with people looking to either the liberal solutions as represented by the Democrats and Hillary Clinton or the ideas and solutions as proposed by Donald Trump and his supporters, who became the candidate for the Republicans (and eventually President Elect).

My main point is that although there were strong emotional feelings associated with each side of these differences as represented by the political parties, both sides were in alignment with the progressive philosophy with its foundation of evolutionary thinking and a humanistic focus.

As Biblical Christians don’t we see the problems of greed, violence, racism, poverty, and class inequality as being either directly or indirectly related to moral issues, and don’t we see the solution of these moral issues as being a spiritual solution that is offered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, allowing for people to be restored in their relationship with their Creator and transformed into new creations causing these problems to disappear?  But this solution is so ridiculous to the current discussion that it is not even given the smallest bit of attention.  It is diametrically opposed to the progressive, evolutionary viewpoint and philosophy, and is therefore seen as at best ridiculous, and at worst evil.

We must be firm and clear in our understanding that the Biblical Christian philosophy and approach is the truth and the progressive philosophy is a lie and an error.  Remember that we have died to this world system and live now with our hope totally on the fact that this world will NEVER progress to a utopia, but will only really improve at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ!

We should also step back and consider the fact that both of these candidates have a questionable moral character, and their lives are far from upholding the standards of the Judeo-Christian ethics. It says something when these two were the best that our society could offer.  It is likely that they were the most disliked candidates in the history of US elections (at least in recent history from my experience).  It was even a joke going around to ask “Who did you vote against?” rather than “Who did you vote for?”.

As Biblical Christians we must be wise and acknowledge that Donald Trump’s approach, although it may possibly be better than Hillary Clinton’s approach, is still based on a flawed, progressive type of philosophy.  It therefore is doomed to fail.

Biblical prophecy and warning of the future clearly paint a picture of a future that will get worse and worse and not better and better.  As the world pressures us into “being optimistic” or “thinking positively”, we need to accept the reality of what we have come to understand by our faith, that this world needs to be completely transformed by an act of God, that is, the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” 1 Timothy 4: 1-3

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3: 10-13

Many Americans who have voted for Donald Trump as president have placed their hope in him to resolve the issues that we face as a society today.  I believe their hope will end in disappointment.  I would even go as far as saying that there is a high probability that a major economic collapse, civil unrest, global war, or some other failure of our government will occur during the Trump presidency and he will be blamed for it, although he has inherited the problems from the past few decades of poor decisions by those in power, and he is therefore not responsible. At best, even if he does some good things, he will be presented as a failure by the main stream media and many will most likely agree and look for the next great political hope.

As Biblical Christians we must also recognize fully the current state of spiritual and moral affairs in our country.  Clearly, they are on a decline both in the secular and religious realms.  The reality is that the judgment of God is inevitable and we need to be prepared by removing any and all ungodliness from our  own lives, separating ourselves from any ungodly associations, as well as planning for a means of escape from the inevitable results of this judgment.

It is possible that we are entering the end times with the approach of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ very near.  The Bible predicts a time of tribulation preceding His return.  We must also not lose sight of this potential future situation.

Here are the Biblical truths that we must not lose sight of:

  • Our country is in moral decline and has moved away from the laws and standards of God. This condition has consequences.  God’s judgment is inevitable.  The progressive philosophy ignores this truth
  • The Bible prophecies that in the last days there will be a one world government with a single monetary system (controlled by the mark of the beast), and a single global religion. Globalism and the move towards a global system will happen eventually.  A one world religion will also come about.
  • This world has been cursed and will continue to devolve to a corrupt state or dystopia, not evolve to a utopia as suggested by the progressive philosophy, and eventually will be destroyed and replaced by the kingdom of God at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
  • The source of mankind’s social problems is a moral and spiritual issue that can only be resolved by the embracing of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation and redemption that He has offered.  Social problems have dramatically increased as a result of our disregard of God’s directives regarding the sanctity of marriage and sexual relations and its impact on the family, our disregard for truth and honesty in our dealings, turning to massive lying and fraud in our financial dealing, and our arrogance in our view of ourselves, elevating our own importance and the importance of the creation and creatures above the Creator God who should hold a place of honor and respect in our lives (for the most part, I don’t think that our society is honoring God either individually or as a group).
  • This entire world will be destroyed by fire when the Lord Jesus returns.  He will establish a new heaven and earth based on His government of righteousness.  We should look forward to this day, without putting our  hope in the false promises of today’s leaders.

Regarding progressivism, it is helpful for me to create categories to make these things clearer.  Allow me to give you my brief view of the current situation pertaining to the progressive philosophy.  I see people falling into 3 groups: Progressive Realists, Progressive Idealists, and Progressive Spiritualists.  Here’s the explanation of each:

  • Progressive Realists are those who  are more practical in their approach to a solution to our social problems, you might say using more “common sense” to determine a means of progressing. These solutions will appeal more to the average blue collar workers.  They would promote less government with less regulation, strengthening of local industries and communities, strengthening of local apprenticeship and training, less focus on world wide organizations and controls.
  • Progressive Idealists would be those who support the idealistic solutions for our social ailments, much like those from the earlier progressive era.  Their solutions are more theoretical and idealistic, and will be held and promoted by intellectuals and educators. They would most likely have been college educated where they were indoctrinated with these idealistic viewpoints.  They support advancements in education, science and technology, more global organization and controls, with more use of government as a tool to accomplish this.
  • I did not mention the Progressive Spiritualists previously since they were not a strong group represented in the recent election discussions, but I believe they will be more pronounced in the near future. This group aligns with the evolutionary, progressive thinking, but they include the metaphysical realm as either a source of information or enlightenment, or as a new evolutionary plateau to be realized.  These would include the “New Age” religion, eastern mysticism, and other occult related practitioners who would use occult practices to examine the metaphysical realm.  It should be noted that these practices are forbidden by the Lord (see Deuteronomy 18: 9-22) and they have many times opened the practitioner to demonic spirits and even demonic possession.  This group will most likely play a role in the future one world religion as they merge with the Progressive Idealists and globalism.

All three of these above mentioned Progressive categories have some limited merit or value in the solutions being proposed, but cannot be considered a hope for the future of mankind.  These philosophies are flawed since they are rooted in the humanistic world view that has overtaken our world that is based on the lie of evolutionary theory as opposed to the truth of an all powerful Creator God as apparent in the beautiful design of His creation.  This progressive philosophy also places the full burden and responsibility for the future existence of the human race upon mankind (creation) without any input from the Creator who brought it into existence in the first place.

As Biblical Christians our hope is solely anchored on the promises of God as delivered to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Please keep your heart pure with this focus and remain steadfast in your journey through these days as I believe the last days are upon us.

My prayer for my Biblical Christian brethren is the same as what Paul prayed for the Ephesians:

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come, and He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1: 17-23

I need to mention also that in the future, there will most likely be more and more animosity towards the Biblical Christian philosophy since it is so contrary to the popular progressive philosophy and people are so passionate about the elevated importance of this approach as a solution for our social issues and problems, for their future and the future of their offspring. This equates to an increase in persecution, as has been prophesied for the end time.  Be strong in the days ahead!

Remember: Faith, Hope, Love – these Three

“But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” 1 Thes. 5:8

The history behind the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church of the Thessalonians is as follows: Paul had preached the Gospel in Thessalonica a few years prior to this letter and spent some time there to establish a group of believers.  He had become concerned about the well being of this congregation since he was not able to revisit them after his initial visit, so he sent Timothy to check on them.  Upon the return of Timothy, Paul wrote this letter to commend them on their steadfastness and progress, as well as to encourage and exhort them in their Christian walk.

We can learn from this letter if we look at Paul’s approach to encouraging the Thessalonians and his view of their spiritual strengths.

At the beginning of the letter, after his salutation, Paul immediately commends them on three core items: faith, hope and love:

“We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thess. 1:3

It is interesting that Paul gives a similar commendation at the start of his letter to the Colossians:

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” Col. 1:3-5

…and also at the start of the 2nd letter to the Thessalonians:

“We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, as is fitting, because you faith is growing in abundance, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.  Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring.” 2 Thess. 1:3-4

…followed by this:

“And to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,” 2 Thess. 1:7 (relating their steadfastness in affliction to their hope)

Obviously, when Paul examined a group of Christians for spiritual maturity he did so in the perspective of these three Christian attributes: faith, hope and love.  Therefore, it is also important for us to examine ourselves in a similar matter, understanding the true meaning of faith, hope and love, and how they should be manifested in our lives.

Notice that in 1 Thessalonians Paul uses the phrase “work of faith and labor of love” when he commended them.  The Greek word in the original passage that is translated as “work” is “ergon”  and is defined in Strong’s concordance as follows: from a primary (but obsolete) érgō (to work); toil (as an effort or occupation); by implication, an act:—deed, doing, labour, work.  The original Greek word for “labor” is “kopos” and is defined thus in Strong’s: toil (as reducing the strength), literally or figuratively; by implication, pains:—labor, + trouble, weariness.  There also is an implication of “intense labor with trouble and toil.”

Paul’s interest was in the fruit that they showed in their lives, and Timothy must have reported that they were producing “good works” that confirmed their spiritual maturity.  Timothy must have seen sacrifices being made to help the poor and needy, orphans and widows being cared for, and general activity that supported the fact that they loved one another.

The Holy Spirit has taught us though the Scriptures that faith without works is dead, but that our works confirm our faith:

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” James 2:17

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’; and he was called the friend of God.” James 2: 21-23

True Christian faith will result in good works and will produce true love in the believer.  Remember that love fulfills the law and does no harm to a neighbor.  Our spiritual maturity should show forth these spiritual fruits of good works and love for others.

Like Abraham, we all will face situations in our lives that will require us to exercise our faith to “complete” it.  Abraham believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead, and was willing to obey God’s command to put him to death.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your posterity be named.’  He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Heb. 11:17-19

Let’s encourage one another to respond with the same faith that Abraham had when we are faced with similar situations and challenges in our lives, knowing that God is able to do whatever is required.

Paul reminded the Thessalonians that when he was with them, he had encouraged each one of them to exercise their faith with their actions.  I like how his encouragement was not just words but he had told them to imitate his actions, and he reminded them of his behavior among them:

“For you remember our labor and toil, brethren; we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you, while we preached to you the gospel of God.  You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our behavior to you believers; for you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” 1 Thess. 2:9-12

Paul also commended them for enduring afflictions and persecution from their own countrymen, similar to what Paul had suffered from the Jews.  We too should be prepared in our hearts, should persecution arise, to endure patiently whatever afflictions come our way.

It is very clear that Paul’s expectation for believers was to walk in love and holiness, and to endure in this way until the Lord returns. Paul first sent Timothy to make sure that they were living appropriately, producing the fruit of spiritual maturity. He then reminded them of how he had trained them in this appropriate behavior and also exemplified this behavior in his life.  He then encouraged them to continue in and even increase the quality of their behavior.  I point this out to emphasize the fact that our behavior and spiritual maturity is extremely important.  Our faith and hope should be producing love as reflected in our good works and holy living.

“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your consecration: that you abstain from immorality;” 1 Thess. 3:12- 4:3

The original Greek word that is translated as “consecration” in the above verse is hagiasmos, and is defined in Strong’s concordance as: properly, purification, i.e. (the state) purity; concretely (by Hebraism) a purifier:—holiness, sanctification.  Again, Paul makes it very clear that it is God’s will for us to walk in holiness.

Paul also knows that the key to our spiritual maturity and our ability to walk in holiness and love is to have our faith focused on the hope we have in Christ Jesus and our future with Him in His Kingdom that He will establish upon His return.  Therefore, after exhorting and encouraging them to walk in holiness, Paul reminds them of the soon coming of the Lord, and our part as believers in this event:

“But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep (dead), that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore, comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thess. 4:13-18

Paul knew that this hope that we have will comfort us in our afflictions and help us to endure, continuing in holy living.  This is our source of strength that will get us through difficult times and empower us to walk in love and holiness, as we make this assured hope a reality in our lives.

A living faith in our blessed hope we have in what God has promised to us in Christ Jesus, namely a place in heaven for eternity with Him, will produce in us the ability to walk in holiness and love, with the strength to endure until the end.  It is critical that we continue in this way so that we too can be found blameless in holiness when Jesus returns.

I hope that this message has encouraged you in your walk as a believer.  Recognize that all of the things in this life are trivial compared with the glory that awaits us.  Let’s keep our perspective clear and focused on what is really important: eternal life and our future hope.

“May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls is faithful, and He will do it.” 1 Thess. 5: 23-24

Authentic Christian Conversion

“For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical.  He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God.” Romans 2:28-29

In my last blog post we looked at the importance of hope in the Christian’s life and how our hope is directly related to the focus of our hearts and minds.  We saw how having our hearts and minds set on spiritual things rather than fleshly or worldly things will give us the power to produce spiritual fruit in our lives, rather than having our fruit “choked out” by the cares or worries of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.

In this blog post I want to look closer at this inner change that constitutes a Christian conversion.  This change involves our faith, hope and love, qualities that are critical for our Christian maturity.  I would like to look deeper at what is involved with this inner transformation.  My desire is that we all are correctly aligned with these truths and participating properly so that we can reach full spiritual maturity and produce much spiritual fruit (100 fold).

In the above quoted scripture from the letter of Paul to the Romans, note that when Paul says “a real Jew” he is talking about a real child of God.  The context of the discussion in letter to the Romans was that Paul was dealing with the problem of Jews who were considering themselves true members of God’s family based on them being a biological descendant of Abraham and their physical circumcision.  In other letters from Paul, we see that he had to deal with Jews who were telling the Gentile (or non Jewish) Christians that they needed to be physically circumcised in order to be a true child of God, an idea that Paul vehemently opposed. In other words, Paul’s statement about what makes a “real Jew” in this quote from Romans is directed to all believers who wished to be a part of God’s kingdom and family, not just to the Jews of the time. The term “Christian” most likely had not become a commonly used word at the time of Paul’s writing of Romans, and Paul didn’t use the term much in any of his writings, so we should attempt to understand the meaning of the phrase “real Jew” from Paul’s viewpoint.  A “real Christian” is in fact a “real Jew” in that both are descendants of Abraham, but a Christian is a spiritual descendant rather than physical one, who has the inner circumcision of their heart rather than the external physical circumcision.  My point is that this scripture also applies to Christians. It could also be stated as “he is a real Christian who is one inwardly…..”

Therefore we should not be looking to outward qualities for determining the validity of Christians, but rather to inward qualities.  Yet we seem to look outwardly when we ask, “What church do you go to?” and then maybe say, “Oh, that’s a good church, they must be a good Christian.”  Or we hear them speak thus, “Praise the Lord, Brother….” and conclude that they are Christian.  It seems as if anyone, especially a celebrity or politician, who claims to be born again or a Christian is immediately embraced by the Christian community without looking for the proof of inward conversion.

Today’s Christian’s also seem to focus on the time of the recital of the “sinner’s prayer” as the point of conversion, similar to the act of physical circumcision that the Jews were looking to as the entry point into the family of God. We seem to need something tangible to support our conversion, but in reality it is the inward, intangible change that is the true representation of our conversion.  If anything, we should be looking to the act of baptism as a tangible representation of our internal change.  I’ll explain more about baptism later.

My goal here is to look closer at the inward change that is mentioned in Romans 2:29.  Let’s review what we have learned so far from this verse.  A person is a real Christian as the result of a change that occurred inwardly, not outwardly, and so it is this internal change that we must look deeper at to understand an authentic Christian conversion.  What is this inward change?  We see from this verse that the change is represented by real circumcision, which is also internal.  The verse says that it is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal (or physical).  Therefore, we need to look closer at circumcision to understand this internal change.

The Lord introduced circumcision to Abraham.  Paul explains the significance of Abraham’s circumcision in Roman’s chapter 4:

“He (Abraham) received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness which he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.  The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, and likewise the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but also follow the example of the faith which our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.” Romans 4: 11-12

In the above verse, Paul establishes that the underlying real inner change that circumcision represents is the faith of Abraham by which he was reckoned (or accounted) as righteous.  It is critical that we understand the faith of Abraham, for this is the internal change that is the core representation of our conversion as Christians.

Paul confirms in subsequent verses, also inspired by the Holy Spirit, that those who share this same faith as Abraham will be guaranteed the promises of God.

“The promise to Abraham and his descendants, that they should inherit the world, did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” Romans 4:13

“That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants – not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’ – in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.“ Romans 4: 16-17

In the next few verses we see more of the characteristics of Abraham’s faith (emphasis added by me):

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations; as he had been told, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  That is why his faith was ‘reckoned to him as righteousness.’ “ Romans 4:18-22

In my words, here’s a simplified version of what happened:

  • God made a promise to Abraham.
  • Abraham believed the promise, even though it looked impossible to his natural mind; he believed it based on the character of God and power of God.
  • Abraham did not waiver but remained steady and got even stronger, convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. He steadfastly and patiently endured in his faith.
  • God accepted Abraham as righteous based on this faith.

The last few verses in Romans 4 make it clear that we are expected to have this same faith:

“But the words, ‘it was reckoned to him,’ were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also.  It will be reckoned to us who believe in Him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans 4: 23-25

And here is the simple version for us:

  • God has made a much greater promise to us than He made to Abraham, that is, eternal life based on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He guaranteed us a resurrected, immortal body, and a place in His Kingdom as His children with an inheritance
  • We must believe and accept this promise by faith in God’s power and divine character.
  • We must remain steadfast in our conviction that God will fulfill His promise to us, patiently enduring until He comes for us
  • We will be accepted by God as righteous based on this faith.

Abraham’s faith is further defined in the book of Hebrews chapter 11.  I would like to look at a few verses that I feel are important to this discussion:

“By faith he (Abraham) sojourned (or lived as a temporary resident) in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Heb. 11: 9-10

We see from these verses that the focus of Abraham’s faith was on God’s promise of eternal life in heaven.  The Lord had made it clear to Abraham that the ultimate, eternal “promised land” was heaven and therefore Abraham lived like a temporary resident on earth.  This he accomplished by his faith.

Placing our faith in God’s promise of heaven requires that we shift our hope from the promises of this world to the promise of heaven.  Abraham no longer had his hopes set on the things of this world.  He had left his relatives in the land of Ur, relinquishing any inheritance or benefit that he had from there.  He also lived as a temporary resident in the new land that he journeyed to, awaiting heaven as his final destination.

The writer of Hebrews mentions Abraham’s hope earlier in chapter 6:

“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater by whom to swear, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘Surely I will bless you and multiply you.’ And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise.” Heb. 6:11-15

And a few verses later we hear more of this same hope in the promises of God:

“….we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain….” Heb. 6:18-19

The circumcision of our heart suggests that we cut away the “fleshy” or worldly part of our hearts, just like the physical cutting away of flesh.

“Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, remove the foreskin of your hearts….” Jeremiah 4:4

We can see from the example of Abraham’s faith that this involves shifting our hearts away from the promises and hopes that this world offers to focusing on the promises of God, specifically, His promise of eternal life in Christ.  This results, again like Abraham, in our becoming pilgrim or temporary residents here on earth with our hearts set on the promise of eternal life in heaven.

Consider this verse from the book of Colossians concerning circumcision:

“In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Col. 2:11-12

The Amplified Bible makes a strong connection in this verse between circumcision and baptism based on the tense of the verb used (see the footnote for verse 12).  It translates verse 12 as follows:

“[Thus you were circumcised when] you were buried with Him in [your] baptism, in which you were also raised with Him [to new life] through [your] faith in the working of God [as displayed] when He raised Him up from the dead.” Col. 2: 12 Amplified Bible

In other words, in the same way that the physical removal of the foreskin represents the internal change that occurs within the true child of God as a result of exercising faith in the promise of God, as Abraham did, baptism too is an external representation of the internal change that results from a Christian exercising their faith in the promise of God as presented in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  More specifically, the immersion of baptism represents burial with Christ where we share in His death to this world and consider ourselves having died to this world.  The coming up out of the water represents our new position of being raised with Christ, citizens of heaven, and waiting for His return with our hope set on heaven, and our hearts treasuring the same. This internal mindset of considering ourselves raised with Christ and awaiting His return when we will be literally transformed into immortal beings is what the scriptures refer to as being “in Christ”.

True Christians have died with Christ internally, meaning that we no longer live for the things that this world has to offer them, but we consider ourselves dead to this world. We no longer treasure the things of this world, but instead treasure the spiritual things of heaven.  We recognize that this world is cursed and that mankind apart from God is under God’s judgment and awaiting His punishment at the end of the age.  We as Christians have embraced and accepted God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ that includes His promise of eternal life with a resurrected body, accompanying Him in heaven as a citizen of His kingdom.  We have placed our hope totally in God’s promises.  This is what is required according to the scriptures for a deep, authentic Christian conversion.

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His Death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” Romans 6:3-5

I want to draw your attention to some examples of new conversions that were recorded in the book of Acts.  I find it interesting that baptism is included in these examples, which I believe supports my tenets presented above regarding the importance of new converts understanding the need for the inward transformation that is outwardly represented by baptism.

The first is a record of Philip the evangelist when he traveled to Samaria preaching Christ to the multitudes there:

“But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.  Then Simon (a local sorcerer) himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.”Acts 8: 12-13

Then there was Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch:

“Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture (a verse in Isaiah that the eunuch was reading but didn’t understand), preached Jesus to him.  Now as they went down the road, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water.  What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still.  And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and he baptized him.” Acts 8:35-38

Another example is Paul and Silas with the Philippian jailer:

“And he (the jailer) brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes.  And immediately he and all his family were baptized.” Acts 16:30-33

We can logically conclude that the preaching of the Gospel to these new converts included the information that would lead to them being baptized.  We know that the physical act of baptism is not a ritualistic practice and the outward act of Baptism has no real spiritual value.  On the contrary, Philip, Paul and Silas knew that the spiritual value was from the internal change in thinking and focus that the external action of baptism represented.

Baptism does have value in that it is a public declaration by the believer of the internal step of faith that has occurred. It is a physical, tangible, point in time that the believer can look back to as a statement of being dead to this world and living now in Christ.  All new converts should be encouraged to be baptized, but the act should not be taken lightly.  A full explanation of its meaning should be made clear to the person being baptized.

New Christians need to have this inner change/conversion.  It is the start of their walk of faith, and their walk in the spirit.  Modern, western Christian churches need to place new converts on this path in order for them to reach full spiritual maturity.  I am praying that more and more Christians become aware of this need so that more and more new believers can experience this deep inner conversion.

God Uses Other Christians to Comfort and Encourage Us

“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Paul speaking, in his letter to the Churches in Rome) Romans 1:11-12

It is the simple, obvious things that we sometimes take for granted and don’t recognize the full importance of them.

I mentioned in my last blog how God will comfort us in our afflictions and then leads us to comfort others, having gone through afflictions similar to what they are experiencing.  I also mentioned how this interaction between Christians, encouraging and comforting one another, was important to the building up of the body.  I want to look more closely at this and emphasize the value of this mutual encouragement.

In Paul’s second letter to the churches in Corinth he explicitly mentions how God used the coming of Titus to comfort him during his struggles in Macedonia.

“For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest but were afflicted at every turn – fighting without and fear within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.” 2 Cor. 7: 5-7

Notice that Paul points out that he was comforted directly by Titus and indirectly by the Corinthians, and, of course, that it was orchestrated by God.  So we see that as we communicate and interact with others resulting in their encouragement and comfort, they then, at a later time, can communicate and interact with others, relating their interactions with us, to encourage and comfort them.  It’s like a network of comforting and encouragement that the Holy Spirit can use.

The point is that our words of encouragement to others can be used multiple times to comfort many people!  Only God knows the full extent of the usage.  This emphasizes the importance of being open and willing to be used by the Holy Spirit to comfort others.  This should be our focus and desire, just like Paul said to the churches in Rome, “I long to see you…”, or in other words, I desire to have this interaction of encouragement, to be encouraged and built up by you, and to build you up, and then you can share what I pass on to you to encourage others, as I will pass on your encouragement to my Christian friends.

I would imagine that Satan would want to stop this networking.  He would want us to be oblivious to the value of these interactions.  He would want us to be focused on other things and distracted from this important task of mutual encouragement.

Sadly, many churches, at least in my experience, seem to communicate that the comfort and encouragement comes from the pastor or church leadership.  It seems like everyone runs to the pastor for counseling, seeking comfort.  Weekly services also have changed from a high amount of interactivity between the congregation, to individuals watching the “show”.  It’s more like going to the movies, sitting in the seat and watching for an hour or so, then leaving with little interaction.  In fact, in some churches I’ve heard that they even watch a video piped in of the preacher.  How different this is to a gathering of believers who share encouraging accounts of God’s recent dealings or revelations to them, intermingled with praying for one another.  I know that this happens in some churches, some having smaller groups that meet, but I think that there is a need to emphasize and promote this interaction even more.  I believe that it should be the main focus of the church gatherings.

So God will use other Christians to encourage and comfort us, and this comfort can be spread to many, encouraging many, building up the body of Christ, and creating bonds between Christians as they interact, resulting in love.

I need to mention, though, that we should not expect to find this comfort from unbelievers.  How can they encourage us in the spirit?  They can’t.  They won’t see God’s purpose in our situation, nor will they have the understanding of the ultimate goal and hope we have in heaven.  Our attempting to comfort unbelievers, or especially to receiver comfort from unbelievers, will only cause frustration and/or confusion.

It is interesting that Paul brings up this point of not interacting with unbelievers immediately before his discussion of being comforted by the encouraging news from Titus from Corinth.  He says this:

“Do not be mismatched with unbelievers.  For what partnership have righteousness with iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore, come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.”

Remember that the encouragement and comfort that we are talking about is rooted in true faith and a focus on our true hope.  It is a spiritual comfort that reminds us of the promise we have of eternal life in heaven that far outweighs anything that this world has to offer us.  It is encouragement that urges us to continue on our journey as aliens, or temporary residents on earth, dying to this world and living for the treasures that we store up for the next world.  This comfort and encouragement is aligned with the truth of the Gospel and it goes hand in hand with this truth.  This comfort and encouragement should also result in our cleansing and spiritual maturity.  It should result in our “making holiness perfect in the fear of God” as the above quoted Scripture suggests.

In the context of Paul’s letter, he is attempting to build up his inter-relationship with the churches in Corinth, letting them know that their success and growth encourages and comforts him, and requesting that they continue to be open to his encouragement and comfort that comes from relating his successes to them, and all of this in the light of them mutually encouraging each other in their spiritual walk of faith towards their goal of eternal life in heaven, having been successfully transformed into mature Christians and confident to stand before the Lord in the day of judgment.

Let us continue to focus on encouraging and comforting one another in the spirit, under the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s not look to the world for comfort and encouragement, and recognize that the enemy would want us to be distracted by the false comfort that is offered by the world.  Let’s take Paul’s advice on how to conduct ourselves in this world:

“For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”  2 Cor. 10: 3-6

And remember also that the bonding together that occurs as we encourage one another is a part of our love for one another.  The goal is love.  Jesus also commanded us to love one another.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34-35

Suffering has a Purpose for the Christian

“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. “ 2 Cor. 4: 17

To varying degrees, we all experience some form of hardship during our lives that results in suffering.  It is unavoidable.  There is physical suffering or pain, as well as mental or emotional anguish that can be just as difficult as physical pain, or sometimes even worse.

One of the most asked question regarding the existence of God is “Why would a loving God allow suffering in this world?”  I don’t believe that anyone has the complete answer for this.  When this age is ended and Jesus returns to establish His kingdom, we may get the full picture of our situation and have the complete answer, but not before that time.  We do know that some suffering has resulted from the curse that has been put on this world as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve.  Still, the suffering of innocent people is difficult to understand.  I would recommend that you not dwell on this situation, but rather to leave it as God’s business, knowing that He is perfect and has a reason for His actions.

I want to focus more on our attitude towards our own hardships and trials and God’s purpose in these.  I would like to look to the Scriptures to find wisdom regarding our sufferings.  I have been reading through the 2nd letter of Paul to the Corinthians and have found some guidance on this topic.

After a short greeting, Paul starts the letter with this truth about suffering:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”  2 Cor. 1: 3-5

Unless we experience suffering and find comfort from God, we will not be able to comfort others, nor lead them to find God’s comfort for themselves.  This is part of our maturing as a Christian.  We now can endure suffering by finding God’s comfort!  And once we find that comfort, we can then share this with others who God leads us to, who are experiencing similar trials and suffering.  This is God’s method of building up His people. Not only do we mature personally as we endure our afflictions, but as we reach out to others as they are suffering, we get connected to them and are able to bond in love with them.  It’s like we are building blocks that are being strengthened and also connected to others to form a solid wall to build up God’s house.

It is important that we persevere in our trials and afflictions, for our own sake and for the body.  We also must be open to let others share their experiences with us.  God uses them to comfort us, just as he will use us to comfort others.  We must humble ourselves and be weak because this allows Him to be strong.

Remember also that while in the world, before we came to Jesus and began our walk of faith, many of us did everything possible to avoid suffering and hardships.  We avoided any circumstances that brought about pain or hardship.  We did all we could to escape emotional discomfort.  Whenever possible, we filled our days with the pleasure of music or video games, or the entertainment of television or movies, or laughing with friends, or other distractions.  Any pain that we were forced to encounter, we dulled with drugs or alcohol.  Our goal in life was to steer towards the things that gave us pleasure and away from anything that gave us pain or discomfort.

I am not suggesting that as Christians we should seek out hardships, or put ourselves purposely into positions that cause suffering.  I am talking about our attitude towards the inevitable and unavoidable hardships that will come our way in this life.  I am talking about the wisdom of facing and going through our trials, rather than avoiding or sidestepping them which only postpones their occurrence and worsens their impact.

As Christians, we must understand that God is now in control of our lives.  All things work together for our good. This includes the hardships and trials that we face, no matter how intense and difficult they may be.

In fact, as difficult as it may be for us to understand this when we are in the midst of our trials, they are actually blessings!  The transformation in our character that takes place during our endurance of our trials is of great value.  The Lord uses our suffering to refine us.  He refines us in the furnace like gold, bringing the dross to the top and removing it from our lives.

“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace is for gold, but the Lord test the heart.”  Prov. 17.3

Anyone who had endured severe hardships knows of the transforming work that occurs in their own character.  This is of great value – more precious than gold and silver.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, also shows us the key to obtaining the comfort needed to endure our hardships.  First, he shows us that there must be a foundation of faith, the kind of faith that is focused on the future hope of eternal life.

“Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we too believe, and so we speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence.”  2 Cor. 4: 13-14

Herein lies the source of comfort for us as we go through trials:  the realization of the glory that awaits us in the future.  Paul expounds on this in the next few verses in chapters 4 and 5 of his letter.

“So we do not lose heart, though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because 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.  For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not make with hands, eternal in the heavens.  Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sight with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be walled up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.  We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”  2 Cor. 4: 16 – 5: 8

Clearly Paul’s strength and courage came from the realization of his future home in heaven and clearly he is encouraging all of us to have this same source of strength.

Paul also reveals that God allows us to be afflicted so that we may remain humble and to keep us from glorying in our flesh, but rather to recognize that it is God who is the source of life and truth, not our own abilities and wisdom.  Sometimes the more profound the manifestation of God’s power and enlightenment in an individual, the more hardship they incur.  Consider Paul’s case as an example:

“For it is the God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you.” 2 Cor. 4: 6-12

I don’t know what the future holds for us, but God does.  I am sure that His plan is perfect.  I do think that it is safe to say, though, that as we mature in our walk with Christ, and as we increase in our knowledge of the things of God, and as He uses us more and more in this world, that we will face more trials and affliction for the perfecting of our faith.  This is for our own good and for the glory of God.  Thankfully, we know the source of strength no matter what we encounter: the hope of future glory with the Lord Jesus and the love of God for us.

“If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give us all things with Him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn  Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed interceded for us?  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, ‘for thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8: 31-39

Many Christians have suffered greatly throughout the ages, but I am convinced that not one of them would look back now and want it to be any different.  Let us be strong and of good courage, enduring whatever our life has ahead of us, in the strength and comfort that is allotted to us by our merciful Father, the God of comfort.