Tuesday, September 11, 2018

PERSPECTIVE: BE A RIVER OF LIFE

Most people’s point of reference begins from the day they were born and then become aware of their immediate surroundings.  For the majority of mankind, who are not even aware of historical events and key milestones, all that matters is the here and now. Sadly very few even consider their future, on earth and beyond.

So is it with matters of the soul.  One thing the world’s systems have succeeded in is not just removing the Bible and moral teaching from daily life, but they have removed critical thinking from the last three generations of young people, and counting.  However it is more than the inability to think of anything at all, it is the corruption which culture and poor-on-purpose education has wrought on entire people groups, over the last 55 plus years.

Those who are wise, already know that the leaders of entertainment hate the one true God, substitute Him with ungodly idolatry and have slowly boiled the frog to convince the majority of youth to believe either in nothing or a combination of nothing. This combined with a horrible liberal education system, which indoctrinates rather than educates or grows minds to fruitful, happy thinkers, has given us an increasing number of people called "nones". Nones are the fastest growing demographic in America, in that, they represent a rapid growth of people who believe in absolutely nothing at all. Faith brings hope. Lack of hope therefore, results in the opposite.

If you are looking for the root cause of the rampant hopelessness among the majority of the population under the age of fifty, these are the main ingredients: culture and indoctrination rather than STEM education (STEM being: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). But church leaders are not guiltless in any of this. Almost every western church – from Europe to North America and Australia – has failed the Great Commission. The first part of this Final Instruction from the Risen Lord as He ascended back to Heaven was “Go make Disciples”. (A disciple is defined as a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher).

There is no shortage of study, facts and evidence of what has gone wrong.  One thing is apparent, however, and it is that the vast majority of the lost (the wider population) and even weak professing Christians, do not know God, His Word or His Ways.

It is so wonderful to watch the eyes of a baby, toddler or child under the age of 10, who discovers the wonders of Creation all around them. Whether it is a caterpillar changing to a butterfly; or a loving pet snuggling up to a four year old playing with building blocks; or an 11 year old catching his first fish at the lake, Life is new exciting, and full of so much potential. It truly is beautiful thing. Here is where Life begins and all the child and young person can see, is what they have right before them.

It is incumbent upon those of us who are charged with shepharding the young, and those who will come after us,  to pass on the Knowledge of the Ages, which we were taught growing up.  God expects parents and those of us who know better, to share the Truth about Him- Truthfully. This includes the Truth about the meaning, purpose and ways of God, as much as we are capable.

The Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri
One thing which a child could notice, who has been properly educated at both home, school and/or home-school are the wonders of rivers. Ecclesiastes 1:7  tells us that “all the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, they flow again”. This is a perfect observation. For example, when the snow melts at the top of the Mississippi River in the great winter wonderland of northern Minnesota, and flows into the 1.7 square mile Lake Itasca, most people never connect it to being the very start of the Great and Fabled Mississippi River.

This River then picks up steam, width, depth and more and gets bigger as it
The Biblical Rivers Tigris & Euphrates still exist
begins its 2320 mile journey down to the Gulf of Mexico. Then, all that water, pours into the Gulf. Yet, it never overflows. It is the same with every other river, worldwide. The Tigris and Euphrates are the two Rivers from Creation and the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 2:10-14). They bob and weave, even now, all over the land of the Bible, growing in massive water volume, yet when they empty into the Persian Gulf as one – the Euphrates – that Gulf never overflows. 


Or how about the winds? Where do they originate and to where are they going? Even the best meteorologists are unable to answer these questions.  These items plus the futility of trying to change things we have absolutely no control over. This includes so-called “climate change”, which is a prideful heresy, against the Power and Control of the Lord.

The complete and unquestionable Sovereignty of God remains in place, in this timeless, seamless story where only the personnel changes. Human beings during the time of King Solomon, who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes over 2900 years ago, are the same as those being born in 2018.  Environment conditions and circumstances are obviously different, but the Plans and Ways of the Lord remain constant.

What was always will be. The entire book of Ecclesiastes describes the human condition from birth to death and all the turns, times and turbulence of life. However one thing remains true, and it is that God sees all. He will bring all to justice one day. Each generation will stand in the bright lights with our peers of our generation to account for our time here on earth.

While there is still time, we should be diligent to be aware of our Creator and His Law planted in the hearts of all who have ever lived.  The time to learn from History is now. The time to observe His ways in His creation is now. The time for our redemption is also now. Do not waver, hesitate or procrastinate. Tomorrow is never promised. In the meantime, roll on like the Mighty Mississippi and let your life be a testimony flowing into the Gulf of humanity, in all our immediate communities. Finally, may our lives be a River, through which the very life of Jesus Christ flows through us, to bless and improve the lives of others in our own families and communities.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

FAVOR BESTOWED THROUGH PRAYER

There is a very intriguing phrase which underscores a fantastic Bible verse, which is more than just poetic in meter and rhyme. Somehow, these words were just so outstanding, beautiful AND meaningful : “….favor bestowed on us, through the prayers of many”.

In the fullness of the text, the verse flowing from 2 Corinthians 1:10-11 reads like this: ….He on Whom we have set our Hope and yet He will deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many”.

Two key words pop out and up here which should, well, give us encouragement. The words “Hope and “Favor”. These two nouns carry huge significance as they are both predicated on two fantastic verbs: “deliver” and “bestow”.

The official Oxford English dictionary describes Hope as a matter of ‘trust“.  The hope which comes from the Word of God though is more than just a feeling.  The second part of this Oxford dictionary definition gives us a clue which runs right into confirmation from Hebrews 11:1. Here we learn with Faith is, and what is not. First, it is NOT a pipe dream, such as “I hope my team wins the World Series”….or “I hope I get this promotion at work next month”. Hebrews 11:1 explains that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen”.

There is a catch. Faith is EVIDENCE….but only to the person who is rescued from eternal punishment, by faith in Jesus Christ.  This fleshes out the portion of 2 Corinthians 1:10 which says “we have set our Hope, yet He will deliver us”. The English Language does not do this portion of the Bible accurate justice. In essence what the Lord said through Paul is the following:  Jesus delivered us from the extreme penalty of, well, hell and we have the complete confirmation that He will, on that Judgment Day itself, we will see and experience that Divine Deliverance – from Jesus Himself.

This is the main event. Unless we have that hope which is built on nothing else, but Jesus’ Blood and righteousness, First comes the boarding ticket to that flight that is leaving soon, next comes the wonderful first class seat He has for us. God’s Favor is actually a “gift”. While this gift will enrich our lives and grow us in spiritual maturity, it is a gift which is actually meant to benefit others, individually and in the wider church – the Body of Christ!

The very fact God has “bestowed favor” by giving of the Gifts of the Spirit – is an honor which should humble us, instead of making us full of human pride. At the same time, it should then inspire us to encourage, bless and lead others to a stronger relationship with Christ.

The verses in this portion of Chapter 2 point us to the common denominator – Prayer. Twice in these two verses, the Apostle Paul, writes down the words “your prayers". In Verse 10, he says, in part “…..joining in helping us THROUGH YOUR PRAYERS” and then in the very next verse (11), he emphasizes that favor was “bestowed on us by the PRAYERS OF MANY”.

Here are some noteworthy applicable items, we should glean from this incredible statement by the Apostle Paul:
  • Every perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights, Who is Almighty God. However, every gift is not given to enrich or make us fat and happy. Every gift is for sharing the Love of God with those around us, and for the furthering of the Kingdom of God
  • Salvation is a free gift. We are to pray for the deliverance of others to be rescued from the fires of hell, as much as we can, while there is still breath in our bodies. Most people got saved because someone was praying FOR them, before they themselves prayed for forgiveness and accepting Jesus as Lord.
  • Nothing moves without Prayer. Prayer is both the oil and the gasoline, in the internal combustion super-turbo engine called Christianity. Our Lord welcomes and even expects the prayers of His saints, because this is the only way that we, as humans, can communicate with our Father. Prayer, in the service of the ministry, for such a one who was as dynamic, powerful, bold and thoughtful as the Lord, as the Apostle Paul, is sure to bring more and more grace and favor upon him and his team. This works for your local pastor as well. Or how about your fellow church member who has a real burden for the local homeless mission or for collecting and sending used bibles to Love Packages, so that the latter can forward them to folks who currently have one bible per village or none. Pray for them. Pray for God’s favor on them. I have seen prayer and the Grace of God build some ministries like Love Packages, a local orphan ministry which went worldwide within 10 years and a local crisis pregnancy center, which was so broke for the first few years, they could hardly afford for their director to make a minimum wage. Now they have mobile unit, a paid-off center and more, in order to reach young women and men in crisis. These are all local examples of how the favor of God, can be bestowed....by the prayers of many.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

GODLY DIRECTIVES - COMFORT AND JOY

We are a people under duress these days, in some degree or fashion. It is just the nature of life. Some are in more distress and some even feel as if they are adrift in the ocean, surrounded by sharks. Some just barely have their eyes above water and others walk around in a daze. Some are doing the bare minimum to survive, but are not sure why they do, what they do.

I have encountered two varying degrees of this hopelessness in just the period of thirty minutes while visiting a college campus.  One particular young man, who looked like a freshman, was very unsure of himself, obviously troubled with no father-figure. I wish I could have spent more time speaking hope and encouragement to him.  I was able to give him a copy of the bible and show him how to read the Psalms for comfort and encouragement. Then, a beautiful coed asked if I could pray for her as she sadly swilled down gut-churning Red Bull to stay awake in class. Both young people needed comfort and hope which only God can supply.

The Lord Himself told us in His Word that He is always there available for us. Look at how many times the word “COMFORT” is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 1:4-7 (NASB).  Nine (9) times in four (4) verses, comfort is mentioned. The true Biblical meaning of comfort here is even more incredible. The original word, used by the Holy Spirit (the true Author of Scripture) for COMFORT here…is from the root word of….THE HOLY SPIRIT! Each of the nine times comfort is used, the root of the original – PARAKLETOS (Holy Spirit) – is evidenced.

The Holy Spirit IS God. He is the third member of the Trinity or Triune God. He lives ONLY in truly born-again.  One of the titles, or stated divine attributes of the Holy Spirit is Advocate.  He is the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ and takes our prayers up the the Throne. 
2 Corinthians 1:4-7
4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 
6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

He (Holy Spirit) is the Counselor and guides us into the path of all Truth, as found in the Bible. If it is not in the Bible, it ain’t Truth.  Being the Counselor, He also interprets the Oracles of God, found in the Word of God, so that the people of God (us) can comprehend the Power, Majesties and Mercies of God. The Holy Spirit is also the Comforter. He is the Only One Who can bring comfort, peace, joy and the mercies of the Father to His people (us).  This is the comfort of which our Bible passage is speaks.

Therefore, because of these verses, we note the following:
  • There is comfort in our afflictions (physical and mental pain), even if it appears to be the opposite at times. The Lord is still moving in His many ways.
  • We can comfort others because God has dealt mercifully with us. Then, we can go even beyond what was given us, as the Grace has been multiplied to, so will be empowered to shower love, compassion and more on the lost and hurting.
  • The comfort we share freely only has power because of the Sufferings and Price Jesus Christ paid with His life on the Cross, where we lay our burdens down and accepted Him as Lord, to begin with. The Main Comforter – the Holy Spirit – has authorized us to be the Hands and Feet of Christ, by His mere presence in our lives
  • Now, comfort may even sound generic, unless we grasp the full measure of the Love of God through the Spirit’s intervention in our lives, to effect this truth. “Comfort” is not sitting on a luxurious couch from Ashley Furniture, watching a 75 inch TV with a pizza. It is a literal Heavenly salve to soothe our souls. It is even physical in its manifestation. This Heavenly Comfort spoken of in 2 Corinthians 1:6 is what we need to persevere in times of sickness, trouble, financial difficulty, relationship problems and more….even religious persecution.

What the Lord is actually teaching us here is that He has already made provision for us to make it through, basically, Life.  The Christian is the only one equipped to persevere, if he or she reads and comprehends the Word of God and His Ways. The reason is we have the Same Power within us Who raised Jesus from the dead, on the Third Day after He was crucified.  This fact carries great weight because, when activated properly, the strong believer in Christ is perfectly positioned to both receive mercy; strength; consolation; refreshing; encouragement and good cheer. All of these are wrapped up in the Biblical meaning of Godly comfort.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

THE 100 YEAR PRAYER MEETING (August 1727-1827) REVISITED

America and western civilization were both founded on Christian principles. This is undisputed no matter what the history revisionists and secular humanists say.  One of these principles has always been prayer.  

Prayer has been with us from Creation and will carry us through the end. (My book on the Prayers of the Bible – ACTIVATE – looks in fast moving detail, into the Origins of Prayer.) It was Prayer, in the 100 Year Prayer Meeting, in particular, which basically spurred the still-vibrant prayer movement, still alive and well in the United States. While church leaders and others can cite good data to dispute that Christians even pray at all, this does not negate the fact that more and more organized prayer movements are now being revealed everywhere across the fruited plain.

It was on August 27, 1727 in the community led by Count Zinzendorf, the once wealthy  launched a prayer meeting. They made a covenant on that day, with twenty-four men and twenty-four women committing to spend one hour each day in scheduled prayer. This happened in Hernnhut, Germany and not only lasted 100 years, but heavily influenced the spiritual direction of America. The Moravians, who were the backbones of the 100 Year Prayer meeting, operated on the Principle of what Pastor, Author and Ministry Leader Chip Ingram calls B.I.O

B.I.O. is not short for biography, but is an acronym for the following:
B  (Before God, as in coming before God is prayer and gratitude each morning  of a new day)
I (In community, as being an on-fire for God “carrier” of God’s truth and love so as to impact lives)
O (On mission…as in always being ready to tell someone else about the Hope of Christ that is in us).

Having this concept in mind, simple as it is, should then inspire us to prayer, as much as possible as close to the Moravians and their 100 Year Prayer meeting. Just as ALL Scripture has been written for our instruction and direction in daily life, the proven impact of 100  years of prayer is out there for the world to see. The Moravians spent 100 years BEFORE God, in submission and prayer and lives were changed. 

They not only managed to send over 300 missionaries to all points of the known world of the early 1700’s but the most famous of them – Leonard Duber and David Nitschmann actually went to the West Indies from Saxony (Germany) and sold themselves into slavery on the Islands, in order to minister to the slaves there, live among them and serve with gladness. Only a heart transformed by Christ would so such a thing.

Just as significant is the influence of the Moravians on the spread of the Gospel and Revival in America. In 1736, John Wesley, then a Church of England minister, was heading towards and soon to be revealed ill-fated mission to Georgian when the ship hit rough waters. The storm was so strong, that the British passengers were screaming for fear of dying. Then, all of a sudden, John Wesley noticed another group of missionaries on the other side of the ship who seemed oblivious to the danger therein! These people were singing hymns of praise and in fervent prayer. They were Moravians.

This scene unnerved John Wesley, who was troubled for over two years when he had returned to Britain. He was troubled by the nagging feeling that things were not right between him and God, even if he was a high church official. After some friends convinced him to go to a Moravian Society meeting in London, Wesley ultimately said he was born-again on that day and the direction of Christianity changed in England, then later on in the United States. 

Wesley’s wonderful evangelism and habit of preaching in open fields, the countryside and unorthodox places outside of the formally sanctioned Church of England cathedrals laid the groundwork for the huge revival and tent meetings in America’s First Great Awakening. Wesley is also the founder of Methodism, which quickly became the largest Protestant movement in America until the 20th Century. The great Evangelist George Whitfield preached the Gospel up and down the US Colonies, aided by Benjamin Franklin and established Biblical Truth as the foundation of the United States.

All of this came out of the influence of prayer. The Moravians spent 100 years straight, 24/7/365 before God, in their community and literally gave their lives and freedom to help a community of the less fortunate who had no hope – slaves. Prayer led them to be ON MISSION.

This is one of the amazing legacies of this 100 Year Prayer Meeting. How about us? Are we this committed to the Cause of Christ to come before Him daily, seeking Him in all truth and surrender so that we can have Kingdom impact? We too, can be on mission from God. This is something worth praying about.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

FIVE WAYS TO SHARPEN OUR FAITH AX - GOD'S WAY

The decline in the percentage of people who call themselves Christians but never read the Bible is increasing at a more rapid pace than even ten years ago, as the number of Biblical illiterates grows by leaps and bounds. As the quantity of the spiritual unwise, unredeemed and face it – spiritually dead in their iniquity- climb, the wisdom of the wise is now being called foolishness, some even inside the assembly.

But what does mean for the Faithful? How does the Remnant respond when we are now in the shrinking minority of those who walk boldly in the Word, all day, each day? This illustration from the hills of Tennessee should give us some sort of direction.

There was once a wood-chopping contest in the Smoky Mountains, similar to the rail-splitting competitions in Central Illinois town of Lincoln, Illinois.  President Abraham Lincoln was the rugged outdoorsman who split huge blocks of wooden rails with his ax, long before he became the great 16th President of the United States. Back to this wood-chopping contest in the Smokies: two men decided to compete against each other in this contest.

One man chopped wood all day long. The other man chopped, then took a break, then chopped some more. The first man who chopped without stopping began to get frustrated as he saw the other guy, apparently taking multiple breaks yet his pile of wood was getting bigger and bigger. Finally, at the end of the day, this frustrated man lost to the other gentleman who has taking many breaks and seemingly not working as hard. 


Exhausted and full of exasperation, he went to his winning competitor and asked him, how in the world he was able to cut so much more wood when he took so many breaks. The reply was "what you did not see was, that when I took all those breaks, I was sharpening my ax!"


This is so illustrative of what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 10:10 when Solomon writes " If the ax is dull, And one does not sharpen the edge, Then he must use more strength, But wisdom brings success". The wisdom spoken of here can only be learned over a period of time. 


Jesus Himself illustrates the ultimate in sharpening your spiritual ax, while in the act of not becoming like the rest of Christianity or the secular world. In Luke 10, verses 38-42 we see Mary and Martha, who were Jesus' closest friends. Mary was seated at the Feet of Good News - Jesus - and soaking in every single word He said. Martha was busy preparing the meal and serving etc. Both were doing a great thing. Both were like the two men chopping wood, but only one will end up with more fruit and rewarding blessings. Here is what Jesus said to Martha after she asked of the Lord for Him to request her sister get off the floor and come to help her with the food prep. Apparently, Mary was ignoring her.

Luke 10:40b-42 "Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;  but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”"

Jesus Himself says that the necessary and important part of this life, is not WHAT we do and how busy we stay doing "good things", but where we place our identity and priority. Martha is given to us as one who knew where her real food came from - hearing Divine Revelation at the Feet of the Master, period.

So many times, we think we have to do this and that for God and then run, hither, thither and yon. We should do all of this only AFTER we have been in the Presence of Jesus, in the appropriate place with Jesus and listening to the Word of Jesus. In other words, contrary to popular thinking in both the lost world and cultural "Christianity" (which are strangely one and the same, it seems), it is all about Jesus!

Therefore, this is the message and the key to keeping our Faith ax sharp - Jesus. We must not just be "people of the Book (the Bible)" but have a mindset like the great ancient Father of the Faith- Athanasius. Athanasius went "Contra Mundum" - against the World and stood for the one true faith - Biblical Christianity when heresy was abounding all over the place.

These are some practical steps which have worked for many of us, who are completely in the Camp of the Messiah:
Be intentional about reading Scripture daily. After giving thanks for another day, read the Bible first before praying. It will focus mind, body, and soul on the Lord so our thoughts do not get sidetracked as soon as we get praying. Anyone who has prayed for many years knows what this means. The world, the flesh and the devil know how to interject a thought, off through the side door, while we are praising Yahweh and praying to His Holy Name. Even reading a short Psalm or five verses in context, will focus us on His Word, His Person, and His Power. This practice, day after day, builds our love not just for Jesus but the Bible! We can't put it down! We want it in our car, our desk at work, our locker at school, next to our bed, on the shelf.....everywhere!

- Be honest with yourself so you can be transparent with God. You and I cannot fool God. Why? His Spirit lives in the believer and He knows what we think, feel and do and when we are about to do something really stupid. We already know what lies to the Holy Spirit did to Ananias and Sapphira when the Church was first formed in the Book of Acts.

- Become friends with the Holy Spirit.  Being full of biblical knowledge and how to apply it will be ineffective if not backed up by a full measure of integrity. When in doubt about ANYTHING, ask the Holy Spirit. He is sent by the Father for a reason - to be our counselor and guide. You would be amazed if this specific discipline is developed. As you grow in complete dependence on speaking to the Holy Spirit, a spirit of divine discernment and revelation will grow in us. We even start seeing with the Eyes of Christ as we develop the Mind of Christ, through Reliance on His Spirit. There is no doubt this equation works.

- Be patient and wait on the Lord. The longer we walk with the Lord and see through His Eyes, because of our permanent Home in the Word and Spirit, we become more disciplined in patience. The more we comprehend that God's Timing is well, God's Timing and not ours, the less stressed out and tense we will be. This does not mean we do not have some measure of anxiety and even fear, but Faith and Hope always conquer fear....which is, as the song says, is a liar. Here is the reward of "waiting on the Lord", even when He appears to have gone silent for long periods of time. Remember - He is still God and has our best interest at heart. Isaiah 40:31 "Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary".

- Be an Evangelist. In other words - tell somebody what Jesus has done for you. Any true Christian has a story. Our story is His story. It is our history with the Lord which, if done according to Biblical principles become our family legacy. Any true Christian has a testimony which must be developed into a lifestyle. We cannot become like cultural Christians who cut corners in business and/or morality. We cannot do things close to the edge of ungodliness and say "it's better to ask forgiveness than permission". This is misusing Grace, which the New Testament specifically warns against. Let us be known not just for our testimony of conversion and a life of Faith, but for a consistent daily life of honor, generosity, service, love, and gratitude. May we be the first line of defense and a refuge where a troubled family member, friend or co-worker would seek solace and prayer, because by our faith and lifestyle, they know we are the real deal. 

These five disciplines are easily accomplished. They can sharpen our Faith. They can cut through the noise. They can show the Love of God in Christ, to a lost and dying world.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL FLOWER EVENT IN THE WORLD - THE CEREUS

There is a unique member of the cactus plant which looks like any other desert cactus. It is so nondescript that no one notices it....and why should they? This cactus is so indicative of the incredible Mind and Hand of God that any definition cannot do it justice.

It is called the Night-Blooming Cereus (seen here). This cactus flower only blooms once a year. It blooms once, on a random night in either June or July and then, at nightfall. It remains until just before dawn, when the cereus wilts and is done. It is such a beautiful, sweet-smelling fragrant flower, it has names which point to majesty and beauty. Some of the other names for this flower are "Christ in the Manger", "Princess of the Night", "Honolulu Queen" or "Dama de Noche" (Queen of the Night). Perfumers have even tried to recreate this in the lab as seen here. The official name of the night-blooming cereus is Selenicereus grandiflorus


The night-blooming cereus is found mainly in the south-western United States deserts of West Texas, Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts of southern Arizona and parts of northern Mexico. Apart from the amazing fact of the one-time annual nightly bloom, is the size the stem can get up to. The stem can run from between four to eight inches in length, in those few night hours, before it goes by dawn the next day.


This is an absolutely amazing natural phenomenon which only the outstanding, unfathomable Mind of Creator God could come up with.  The desert Cereus testifies to the wonder of the Divine Who is always working, but Who is always unique in His design.  He Himself describes the characteristics of some of His masterpieces. Read what He says about the ostrich in Job

Whether is the humorous ostrich; the fearsome leviathan reptile; the dangerous Orak or the stunningly fragrant and temporary bloom on the Cereus, nothing approaches His masterwork –  you and I. He Who made the Heavens and the earth; the stars and galaxies yet unknown, has called us to Himself as a people in the greatest plan of redemption ever known to mankind.

It is this, through the Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom He has achieved this perfect plan, yet still unfolding.  The Ancient of Days allowed His One of a kind (only begotten) Son to step off the Throne of Heaven one time. He did not consider equality with the Father a thing to be held on to, until His knuckles turned white. He poured Himself into a human body and still did not descend from Heaven with trumpets blaring, driving a golden chariot. Man-made Hollywood movie studios and heads of earthy governments would do that, not God Himself. Instead, Yahweh God, the One Who lives forever, lowered Himself to be born in a cave where animals were kept.

He had no fancy baby crib from Macy’s with fresh new clothes from the well-attended baby shower, but he was wrapped in poor strips of cloth and placed in a feed trough. Instead of royal attendants and hundreds of servants, He was visited by men who were branded as outcasts from the all-important Temple in Jerusalem and by the elite of that city. Yet the baby lambs and sheep they raised in their many flocks on Shepherds Field in Bethlehem, were the same animals used for the required sacrificed in pre-Crucifixion Jerusalem Temple worship of Yahweh. These outcast men, some of whom were not of the best character, were chosen by God to have the huge Heavenly hosts of Angels appear to, in order to announce the birth of Jesus in one of their caves!

Like the sweet-smelling Cereus cactus flower which only appears once a year in the middle of the night, the sweet Savior of the World appears to the depressed and deserted on the rocky, hard-scrabble Shepherds Fields where only loneliness and toil prevail.. The sweet Savior only came once, paid for all sin for all time - ONCE. He then died, was buried and was resurrected - ONCE. There is nothing sweeter than this.

Psalm 8 comes to mind, because it contains the Words from the Holy Spirit through King David. David marvels at the God Who would create a mostly unseen unique gem of a flower like the Cereus, yet announce the greatest event in History – to poor, disgruntled, depressed and discarded shepherds. These shepherds – “poimenes” (or pastor) in the Original Language of the New Testament.

As we contemplate the power and wonders of our Great God and Creator, as seen here in Psalm 8, may it challenge us to take the beauty and divine fragrance of the Pure Gospel of Truth and Love to as many as we can in our brief lives. May it not just remain unseen, like the beautiful Cereus, in the desert. But may more than too many, see us, our actions and our words, and want to know Him, Whom the great classic song calls “The Lily of the Valley” – the “Rose of Sharon” – that Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Amen. Jesus is our Lord. He is our Creator. He is God in the flesh. He is our Savior.

Psalm 8 - The Glory of the Lord in Creation

1  O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

2    Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

3    When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained,

4    What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?

5    For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.

6   You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,

7   All sheep and oxen— even the beasts of the field,

8   The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.

9   O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!


Friday, July 27, 2018

DO YOUR PLANS LINE UP WITH THOSE OF THE LORD?

In 1786, the great Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote a poem called "To A Mouse". Now most of us would do never do such a thing. However, this poem gave us one of the greatest quotes in literary history.  When translated from the original Burns wrote, the best line from his poem is "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry". The word "awry" there, means - off the track, amiss or just plain wrong.

The Bible warns us about plans and many of us can attest to the some of our own plans not turning out the way we, well, planned them! Every human being who ever lived has seen his or her plans fall apart, from time to time. We make mistakes. We are human. It is never a good idea for a Christian to go off under our own power, and then make plans to do this or that, especially in ministry. First of all, the ministry we are blessed to be called by the Lord to work in - is His! We do nothing on our own and did not get here in our own strength. We ride on the promise of the Lord to never leave us or forsake us. He has given us His love, blessing and Grace when He saved us and the rest is as the great radio talk show host says "talent on LOAN from God".

Plans to make plans can go awry when we are not right with God. Jesus told the parable in Luke Chapter 12 of the rich man, who apparently made NO plan for his eternal soul. This is a warning for those who think they have all the time in the world to get things right with God, seek His forgiveness and be saved. There is no time. No one knows the time and the hour of our departure from this life, which is loaned to us. Here is the parable:

 “The land of a rich man was very productive.  And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’  But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night [i]your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ (Luke 12:16b-20)

Sadly, too many people live like this "fool" today in our constant pursuit of pleasure, leisure and entertainment. This goes for the millions who pack churches today for their one hour per week of "spiritual vaccination" and then go back to their own plans and notions. 

How then shall we avoid the descent into eternal judgment, even if we think we are saved? The book of James tell us explicitly that we "ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." (James 4:15). This should be the second phrase out of our mouths each time we make a pronouncement, plan or decision.

In the Old Testament, the grandson of the great Abraham - Jacob - was one of the biggest schemers for most of his life. This is, until he wrestled with God and the Lord changed his name to Israel. Jacob robbed his brother Esau of his birthright and had to flee to his future even bigger schemer, father in law Laban, to save his life. After many years, Jacob and his now two wives, were heading out and he heard that Esau wanted to meet him. Jacob immediately began planning on how to save his family and flocks and entire wealth, actually, because he was, a planner.

The great writer C.H. Mackintosh wrote a great commentary on this incident and the lesson we should learn from it, about doing things in our own strength. It is presented here without comment, as it is written. It is just so good, it should be our creed going forward: 
"Jacob's first thought was always a plan, and in this we have a true picture of the poor human heart. True, he turns to God, after he makes his plan, and cries to Him for deliverance; but no sooner does he cease praying than he resumes the planning. Now, praying and planning will never do together. If I plan, I am leaning more or less on my plan; but when I pray, I should lean exclusively upon God. 
Hence, the two things are perfectly incompatible; they virtually destroy each other. When my eye is filled with my own management of things, I am not prepared to see God acting for me; and, in that case, prayer is not the utterance of my need, but the mere superstitious performance of something which I think ought to be done, or it may be, asking God to sanctify my plans. This will never do. It is not asking God to sanctify and bless my means, but it is asking Him to do it all Himself".

Thursday, July 26, 2018

PROMISED LAND MINISTRIES BRINGS OLD TESTAMENT ISRAEL TO LIFE


Pieces of the Actual Wall of Jericho Brought Down by Joshua and the Israelites
Curtis Stanberry, an ordained minister and first class archaeology expert is an expert, both on digs and the Biblical foundation necessary to understand all the priceless finds in the Holy Land of Israel. He and his wife, Tamera, are a traveling team, grandparents and joyful souls who are one of the great hidden treasures of Central Illinois. The wealth of their knowledge of Biblical Archaeology; Dinosaur and other Great Flood fossils here in the western United States and the Scriptures is truly wonderful, especially in the field of Apologetics.
Holding A Piece of
The Wall of Jericho

We had just a brief taste of this when Curtis delivered a 50 minute presentation to the Business Men in Christ Men’s ministry monthly breakfast in Springfield, Illinois. Curtis brought a great sample of his museum pieces to the breakfast and we even got to hold a piece of the Wall of Jericho, which Scripture recorded was brought down by Joshua and the Israelites!! (See some selected photos here).

Stanberry spent most of his presentation in a gripping archaeological and topographical explanation, from Joshua Chapters 7 and 8 of the great battle of Ai and location of the towns mentioned in Scripture. While this holds a great fascination for those who love history and even biblical archaeology, the significance of this should be shouted from the rooftop.

Never have we had so many bible resources, bible translations, bible versions, people giving away free bibles (GideonsAmerican Bible Society etc.) and
Oil Lamp from the Days of Elijah (1 Kings)
Christian ministries proving Scripture true almost day. Never have we had so many bible apps, bible study computer software and free downloadable bibles WORLDWIDE than now.  The YouVersion Bible App, which began when a then-pastor from Decatur, Illinois wished he had a bible while waiting in an airport line, has recorded over 300 million free bible downloads worldwide in less than 11 years! Still, the majority of Christians and especially younger Christians, cannot give an account of their beliefs. Never mind knowing enough of the Bible to even tell another peer about Jesus, His Word and His Creation.

More and more young people and even some young adults do not believe in almost 60% of the Bible which tells the provable Creation story. More and more archaeological evidence proves it. This is harmful to their souls and eternal destinations with more than 50% of young “evangelicals” believing there is more than one way to Heaven than the Jesus Who said, in John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. All of these increasingly  terrible facts about the state of Christianity in America and other countries (where it is worse) cry out with the need for Apologetics.


Here is where Biblical Archaeology comes in. Christianity is the only Faith system and “religion” if you will, where the evidence supporting its main document – the Bible – grows by the day! From the soft tissue found in the dinosaur fossils from Montana in 2005, confirming the Young Earth,(more here) to the layers of silt in the Grand Canyon, to the beach sand I saw in gorges in the Illinois Starved Rock State park and the legions that the original people of the area had, the evidence of God and the wonders of His creation is everywhere.  We just need to look out the door in the morning. This knowledge is being kept from all young people these days, except Christian homeschoolers, by an pagan system of education and evolution which will condemn many to eternal separation from God on Judgement Day.

The best response is Apologetics.  This is the mission of David Rives Ministries; Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis and many other Creation ministries. The popular “Is Genesis History” had tremendous impact when it was shown in 2016, which was produced by The Truth Project.

Curtis and Tamera Stanberry are doing their part wonderfully. They are available for presentations from an hour to 1, 2 or 3 day conferences, with their amazing traveling Bible Museum pieces. Here is their contact information. We highly recommend them to your church, youth ministry or association for a conference of any length. It will strengthen the faith of most around us.

PROMISED LAND MINISTRIES
The Holy Land/Christ Crucified Museum
Rev. Curtis and Tamera Stanberry
(Specializing in Biblical Research & Archaeology)
302 North Pine Street
Nokomis, Illinois 62075

Email: promisedland@gmail.com

Phone: 217-563-7231
Phone: 217-525-9600  

Monday, July 23, 2018

2 CORINTHIANS 3:16 - "TORN"....THE DOOR IS NOW OPEN

"....but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away" (2 Corinthians 3:16)
There is a lot of talk about “veils” in 2 Corinthians 3 and verses 12 through 18.  The background of the account, in the passage, is the incident where Moses had just come off Mt. Sinai after a very long encounter with the Living God.  He had spent a lot of times face to Face with Yahweh, where he (Moses) was given the Law of God. 

Then, In Exodus chapter 25, the Lord gave Moses the Ten Commandments which He himself wrote on the two tablets of stone. Moses came off the mountain only to see his brother Aaron had built a golden calf, for the people, which many were now “worshiping” in drunken perversion. In disgust, Moses, showing the temper which would later cost him his physical life, smashed the two divine tablets containing the Commandment to pieces. Moses, then had to go back up the mountain and cut two more tablets. This time he spent 40 days and nights with God on the mountain, neither eating nor drinking. 

The Glory of God alone was enough to keep him going. When he came off the mountain after those 40 days and nights, his face shone with the Radiance of God so mightily that it scared even his brother Moses. Moses had to put a veil over his face to cover the radiant glory of the Lord (Exodus 34:33-35)After a while, away from the close and personal daily encounter with God over those incredible 40 days, the glory began to fade. This is a perfect illustration of the unbreachable gap between the Old Covenant of God and the New.  This is what the chosen vessel of Christ to the world – the Apostle Paul – is taking about here in the above 2 Corinthians Chapter 3 passage. See here: 
2 Corinthians 3:12-18 
12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 
14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

The glory faded from Moses’ face because the Holy Spirit was not yet sent to indwell all who believed. The glory also faded because Moses was also faced with caring for, instructing and shepherding millions of Israelites through the wilderness and life got in the way of well, ministry.

The same thing happens to Christians today. We can go to the most exciting, spirit-filled and biblically sound two days of a conference or something, and come right back to, what may seem to be, “mundane” lives. A lot of believers choose to either become unhappy with their mountaintop and valley experiences instead of comprehending the ways and wonders of God, in order to flow victoriously with the highs and lows of Life.

Hence, the Lord, through His servant Paul, chooses to give us a lesson from the historical perspective of Moses. Before we get to 2 Corinthians 3:16, the following must be noted:

APPLICATION:
The veil is a covering. Whether it is a bridal veil or the one in the Temple, a veil hides a certain thing or group of things (or a bride’s face just before the wedding vows) for a specific reason.  In the wedding ceremony, it is mean to contain the beauty and mystery of what is about to occur between a man and a woman, as ordained by God. In spiritual terms, it signifies spiritual blindness.

This Spiritual Blindness is pervasive through all of humankind, since the Fall of Man and definitely since Jesus died on the Cross. All we have to do is look no further than the majority of folks around us. There is no sense of urgency. There is no discernment, wisdom or understanding, even among the people of God. There is no outrage at things which any sane human would previously call deadly wrong. 
  There is no recognition of the darkness of people’s souls and entire cities, homes and even churches because the majority’s eyes are focused on their own pleasures, pursuits and prosperity.  Yes, spiritual blindness abounds, while the world parties. This is the teaching from Moses covering His God-induced glow on this face, from the unredeemed masses. But there is more.

* 2 Corinthians 3:15 reminds us that Christ removed the veil the second He died on the Cross, for all humankind, for all kind. HOWEVER, there still remains an obstacle on the human side of the equation. The offer of the full glory of God is still there, for God so loved the world, that He gave. The problem is the human spiritual heart is spiritually corrupt, dead and undelivered from the penalty of sin….which is death.  The heart is the repository of the things we love and prioritize in our lives.  The scripture says to “open the eyes of our heart”.  The Scripture also tells us that the heart is exceedingly wicked (God in Jeremiah 17:9) . 
  Even the nicest and gentlest of people, whom the world may call a “saint” is nothing before God unless this heart, this corrupt core of the unsaved, unregenerated soul, is changed by the Holy Spirit of God Himself.  Until the conviction of personal sin and there is a  realization of the need for a sinless Savior to forgive all that sin, and the acceptance in Faith, of Jesus as Lord and Master- there will not be any conversion and the Veil remains permanently over the heart.

But there is hope, as Verse 3:16 of 2 Corinthians tells us.  This hope can only be found in one place – the Person of God Himself – the Lord Jesus Christ. **When the Temple Veil was ripped to shreds to allow access to the Throne of heaven for all God’s people, its permanent removal was both symbolic and practical. The immediate effect was the signal from Heaven that the old Jewish law of sacrificing animals as a temporary atonement for their annual sin – was DONE for good.    
  The practical “religious” (if you will) meaning was that ancient Judaism was now fulfilled and done with as the Creator of Judaism – the Lord Jesus – had paid the Ultimate Price for the New Covenant, with His Life, His death on the Cross.  This once-and-for-all payment took away all sin for all time and forever dismissed the need for one mortal man to go behind the temple veil, into the Holy of Holies. With Jesus’ Death, burial and Resurrection, all mankind now had an all-access pass, directly to the Throne of Heaven. This access, while available to all alive in the last 2000 years and until the end of the age, remains unclaimed by most.

Another extremely significant thing which we should note in 2 Corinthians 3:16 is that the unsaved, unredeemed and spiritually blind person has not just a veil over his/her heart, soul and destiny but it may as well be a thick layer of concrete.  Only the Perfect Lamb of God – Jesus – can remove that permanent sentence of death and replace it with a heart of love, hope and joy for Eternity. Only Jesus. It starts with God prompting ALL sinners. He tries and tries and tries. God sends people into the lives of mortals who would show them the way to Heaven – John 14:6 (Jesus says I am the Way, the Truth, the Life). 
  God will even reveal Himself to some, as an answer to their questions. Sadly, even a face to Face encounter with the Lord, is not enough for some to cry out to Him for salvation and the removal of the blinders from their eyes. 
  To all who are reading this, do not be like the “disciples” of John chapter 6, who followed Him as long as He was performing miracles, and signs and wonders.  They loved Him when He feed tens of thousands with just a few loaves and fishes or healed the sick. But when He said what His REAL mission was, they turned and walked away from Him, as recorded  in John 6:66. Too many today have fallen prey to the scourge of “easy-believism”.


All of this talk about veils, shrouds or tearing apart is deadly serious. However like everything else concerning the Lord, behind the frowning providence, He hides a smiling Face (as the hymn goes - "God Moves in a Mysterious Way, William Cowper, 1774).  All through Scripture, we see the Lord bring many through trials and tribulations, only to bless them more at the end of it, than He did at the beginning. Job is the perfect example of course. But so much of His Word and Promises speak to the darkness giving way to a bright new dawn.

There is no reason any person on this earth should go to the hell, which was originally created for the devil and his angels. Many could come to know the satisfying calm assurance of not just their eternal destiny, but a life now which, while full of troubles and even persecution, gives us the evidence of things not seen. The removal of the veil of spiritual ignorance and dark nights of the soul absolutely leads to the arrival of God the Spirit into the lives of every true believer.

This arrival signifies our guarantee from the Savior that we are truly His. The Holy Spirit testifies over and over that Jesus is Lord and the Bible is true – if we are listening and tuned in completely to His “frequency”, so to speak.  And when the dark clouds of doubt are lifted off our spirits and the Spirit of Jesus lives in us, there is nothing more liberating and joyful than this.  Galatians 5:1 says that it is for “freedom that He set us free”.  We are the only ones in this entire world – born-again Christians – who possess the Spirit of true Liberty.

We possess the Spirit of true Liberty from the penalty and eternal punishment of our lifetime of sin. We possess the Spirit of true Love in that we are free to love our lost neighbors and those who hate us, because greater Love was shown to us at our conversion to Christ. We  possess the Sound of His Voice calling us to Himself and one day, He will stand before the Father and say “this one’s Mine”, only because we have trusted and believed in Him, as forgiven sons and daughters of the King.

We may not see it now, but we see and feel His Hands in ours, guiding and directing our paths. If we allow Him full access to all compartments of our lives, our lives will be so rich, even in our previous spiritual poverty, that we can only imagine what it would be like when we see Him as He is.

There is a truth in 2 Corinthians 3 verse 18 which should encourage, excite and embolden every true believer as to what lies ahead. The verse says "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit". This implies something truly and overwhelmingly unspeakable, in a tremendously powerful way. We know the Christian life is full of peace, joy, contentment (if we live right) and hope, on this side of Heaven. Our faces are now unveiled by God removed our spiritual blindness. He did that for a reason - that we will reflect His Glory, Love, Compassion and Salvation. 

**FOOTNOTE:
The very minute when Jesus breathed His last breath as a human being, while He died on the Cross, something occurred which opened the doors of Heaven for all humankind to access the Throne of Heaven, directly and in person, if we are called to salvation. We know from both secular history and the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 27 and verse 51, that “behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks split”. The secular historian Josephus said that the veil of the Temple was four inches thick and made of Babylonian curtain (in his Antiquities 3.6.4 126;  3.7.7 183 and 8.3.3.). Only God could have ripped that thing in two, from the top down!