Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

Evil at the Gate

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on May 3, 2016

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“Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand. While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. …They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other” (Daniel 5:1–6).

While Belshazzar the king stood there in fear, Daniel gave him the word of the Lord: “O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor…But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him. Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses. But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this” (Daniel 5:18–22).

We see here that this was not the first time God had dealt with pride in this nation. Before Belshazzar, a king named Nebuchadnezzar ruled in Babylon, and this was the word that was given to him: “This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men. They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses. And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules” (Daniel 4:17, 25–26). In other words,“Nebuchadnezzar, you have exalted yourself above the knowledge of God, engaging in practices that God has clearly forbidden. Because of the pride of your heart, your kingdom is going to be cut down. However, there will be a stump left, and it will grow again after you are humbled.”

And now Daniel was standing before the one whom he called Nebuchadnezzar’s son, saying, “Belshazzar, you are well aware of how God deals with pride! You know that you cannot deal treacherously with God and escape the consequences. Yet even knowing this, you have not humbled yourself.”

■ AMERICA’S OFTEN-FORGOTTEN HISTORY

In the formative years of the United States of America, we, too, set our hand to shameful practices which ultimately brought about the judgment of God, just as in Belshazzar’s day.

In the years when slavery became an acceptable practice, 12.5 million Africans were stolen from their homeland—mostly the young and the strong. Approximately 10.5 million survived while 2 million died en route to their various destinations due to the cruelty imposed on them. According to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 6 percent of those who survived were delivered to North America, making the numbers somewhere in the vicinity of 630,000 slaves that we attained. Most people today have no idea that even Wall Street in Manhattan was once a slave-trading post.

Tragically, thousands of slaves died because of the conditions they were forced to live in, even after arriving on the shores of America. Amputations were a common punishment for slaves trying to gain their freedom, which was actually the irony of ironies—a nation that was priding itself on freedom from tyranny became in itself tyrannical to a whole race of people that were brought to its shores. Many of the African slaves were buried without any record of who they were.

Although there were other circumstances, in great measure, slavery was the predominant issue that led to the onset of the Civil War in this country. In the war, 625,000 young people in America died—not only men but women. That was 2 percent of the American population!

In President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, which took place when both slavery and the Civil War were nearing an end, he suggested that the death and destruction brought on by the war was divine retribution to America for possessing slaves. He even believed that it might be the will of God for the war to continue “until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.”

As the Bible says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, whatever a man sows that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). I do not believe it is a coincidence that 630,000 slaves were dropped off in America, and later 625,000 American sons and daughters died in the Civil War. Just as thousands of the slaves died because of their cruel living conditions, 56,000 people died from starvation and disease in prison camps during the war. Many slaves were buried without dignity or any record of who they were. In the war, 40 percent of the dead were never identified; they had been left to rot in piles on the battlefield.

■ CONTINUING IN PRIDE

And so we must ask ourselves: What are we doing with the history that we know? There is no excuse for the ignorance of what we once did and how God responded in this nation. As we saw in our opening text, Belshazzar, too, was without excuse. “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this” (Daniel 5:22). Belshazzar continued in his pride and rebellion, even though he should have known that God will not be mocked.

The indictment continued: “And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold (the gods of prosperity), bronze and iron (the gods of human strength and ingenuity), wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified” (Daniel 5:23). Similarly, in America, we have praised the gods of silver and of gold. We allowed preachers to be raised up, unchallenged. Absolute charlatans came in and taught the people that somehow godliness is a means to financial gain.

“Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written. And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain.” (Daniel 5:24–30).

The writing was on the wall, yet what did Belshazzar do? He got up from the table and proclaimed Daniel to be the third ruler in his kingdom! He should have turned to prayer. He should have fallen on his knees and cried out for mercy. He should have barricaded the gates. Instead, he simply decorated Daniel!

Historians tell us that the Medes and Persians were already at the gate, and they ended up entering the city without any resistance from the people within. That very night, Belshazzar was slain.

In the same way, in this hour, evil is at the gate in America! Can’t you see that the handwriting is already on the wall? We are on the verge of being given over to the godless. In fact, the godless with their value system have already largely infiltrated our society. However, we are on the verge of something much deeper and darker than anything we could have imagined.

■  IT’S TIME TO PRAY

This leaves us with one question: What will we do as the Church of Jesus Christ? We are the only ones left with the power to push back the darkness. We do not have to open the gate and allow this nation to be flooded with evil. That is, unless we become like Belshazzar and his entourage, who agreed with the word of God yet could do nothing about it. All they could do was decorate the prophet, saying, “Yes, this is a man of God. Yes, this is a word from God!” Similarly, you can read this newsletter and call me an anointed man of God; you can agree that this message is from the Lord, yet still do nothing.

However, I remind you that God said to His own people, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). We must admit that our ways have not been God’s ways—that we have pursued pleasure more than God. We must acknowledge that we have failed to be a light to this generation and turn from our wicked ways!

According to His Word, we must also humble ourselves and pray. Oh, if ever there was a time to pray, it is now! If your church does not have a prayer meeting, start one in your home! If we do not pray, what kind of country are we going to be leaving for our children and grandchildren? What kind of evil is going to invade the classroom? What kinds of laws are going to be passed obligating the Church of Jesus Christ to become partakers of this nation’s sin?

I would like you to seriously consider these things, for we are living in a moment when evil is at the gate of our nation. However, the good news is that it can still be averted in measure, for God is good and His mercy endures forever. I believe God can still touch our children; He can still touch our churches and our neighborhoods. I believe that America can still experience a third great awakening before that final day of judgment comes upon this whole world.

But I also know that there has never been a great awakening anywhere at any time in history without somebody, somewhere, praying and laying hold of God. It all begins with prayer. In the book of Ezekiel, the Lord said, “I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30). I can picture the Spirit of God going through the streets of a nation that was known for its religion. There was a deep pleading in the heart of God, for He did not want to have to judge that nation. Yet the people were probably busy, just as we are today. “I have children to tend to. I have groceries to buy. I work long hours on my job.” Everyone had an excuse, and so they remained unaware of the critical moment in history they were living in.

■ ANSWERING THE CALL

However, as the writer of Hebrews said, “I have a vision of better things in your case” (see Hebrews 6:9). I believe with all my heart that some of you reading this newsletter will take this call seriously and will not simply put away this plea from the Holy Spirit. You understand that we are living in a crisis moment, and are willing to get up and say, “I will go to the gate. I will intercede, and I will trust God for the strength to push back the plans of darkness to destroy our society!”

It is encouraging to remember that even though the Medes and Persians did take over Babylon, Daniel, because he was a righteous man, was technically transported into the next society and given much favor. He became one of the vessels God used to influence the king to sign a decree allowing God’s people to return to the Promised Land to rebuild the testimony of the Lord.

And so I challenge you now to pray as you have never prayed before. You and I have no excuse for remaining in spiritual poverty. After all, everything was accomplished for us on the cross, and the Lord has left us here on this earth as His co-laborers to win a harvest of souls. He has given us the assurance that whatever we ask, believing, we shall receive. That means we are not powerless; we do not have to merely sit as spectators, watching this godless parade flood our nation. No! We have power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy (see Luke 10:19). We have the power to stand at the gates and resist evil. We have the power to believe God for a spiritual awakening. We have the power to call down heaven in order that His Name might be exalted in this generation—and by God’s grace, that is what we will do!

Carter Conlon
©2016 Times Square Church

Courtesy of:

https://www.tscnyc.org/sermon_newsletter/2016/May/2016-05_Carter_Conlon_Evil_is_at_the_Gate.html

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Is the Tragic Mistake of Noah’s Generation Happening Again?

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 22, 2016

days_of_noahAre we living in another generation like Noah’s, where toxic thinking is destroying our entire culture?

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. (Genesis 6:5–6, NLT)

It is sobering to see what happened to the human heart because of a reckless thought life. It did not take long after sin had poured into the human race in the Garden of Eden for men’s and women’s thinking to go down the tubes. Almost immediately Adam and Eve let fear dominate their thinking when they hid from the presence of God. God was no longer the focal image of their thoughts. Corrupt thinking only worsened, as Cain murdered Abel when thoughts of jealousy and anger shaped his heart into a murderer. Sin was crouching at the door of Cain’s thought life, and he failed to master it. Each succeeding generation continued to allow sin to crowd God out of their thinking.

The Days of Noah: The Point of No Return

In Genesis 6, people’s thought life had so corrupted their hearts that it reached a point of no return. Every thought, imagination, and intention of their human thinking was consistently and totally evil.. The Bible does not say some of the imaginations and thoughts of the human race were continually evil, but all of their images, desires, intentions, and inclinations, in every single thought, were evil.

This was not just some weekend fling. It was their thinking from the time they got up in the morning until the time they went to bed at night. There was not a moment in the day when this evil thought process was not actively controlling their minds and shaping their hearts. They wanted absolutely nothing to do with God in their thinking and ultimately in their hearts.

The psalmist affirms this destructive habit of wrong thinking to the human heart:

In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. (NIV)

This wicked and rebellious people in the time of Noah did not seek God in their thinking. God was not in one single thought. God is the most awesome thing we can ever think about, but these people were so deceived that they did not believe they needed God. They simply had no room for God in their thinking.

This is the tragic height of selfishness. This is the ultimate ego trip. This is the most dangerous thinking pattern on the planet. Without God in our thoughts, we have written the death sentence to the magnificent purpose God has prepared for our lives. To never know Him is the greatest catastrophe of the ages. He deserves the honor to be first in our thinking.

The catastrophe of the flood in the days of Noah was caused by wrong thinking. The fountain of their thought life became corrupt, and as its waters flowed into the heart, it poisoned every purpose, desire, and action.

James Allen, in As a Man Thinketh, says:

A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts. As the plant springs from and could not be without the seed, so every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them … Cause and effect is as absolute and undeviating in the hidden realm of thought as in the world of visible and material things. A noble and Godlike character is not a thing of chance, but is the result of continued effort in right thinking, the effect of long-cherished association with Godlike thoughts. An ignoble and bestial character, by the same process, is the result of the continued harboring of groveling thoughts … In the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself.[i]

Our Thought Life: A Weapon for Good or Evil

Our thoughts are a mighty weapon that can forge our hearts into a steel fortress for our God, or they can be a stealth bomber that penetrates our inner life and destroys our hearts. Thoughts are a much more powerful weapon than any nuclear bomb. They are the critical component to our spiritual growth. We must have a disciplined thought life that is focused like a laser on God and His Word, or our hearts will become a mush of spiritual apathy and worldly lusts.

The Devil is a master general at attacking the thought life of a Christian. His war strategy involves tactics of deception, pressure, and enticement to turn our thinking away from God and toward his kingdom. The Devil knows that every action that flows out of the human heart originates from our thoughts. He knows that our moral character is an exact image of our thinking. Our thoughts determine whether our character drifts toward good or evil.

The Devil knows that in order for a person to do evil, he must first think evil.

Within ten generations, the Devil was so successful that only one person on the entire earth had godly thoughts. The population of the earth at the time of the flood was between 235 million and 7 billion people. In approximately 1,656 years after the fall in the Garden, sin had spread like wildfire and contaminated every single thought of what was probably billions of people. To imagine that only one person out of this massive population had his thought life together is mind-boggling. Nothing in their thoughts reflected the image of God and not one thought brought glory to God. They were wise, rich, sophisticated, and cultured for their time, but the defining characteristic of their age was wickedness because of their thinking.

A civilization that is centered on an ungodly thought life is built on sinking sand. This civilization in the days of Noah received the fruit of their thoughts, which was wickedness and corruption that multiplied on the face of the earth.

Only Noah was thinking rightly and found favor with God. No one else held the image of God and His words as the standard for their thoughts. No one else was guarding their thoughts. No one else cared that their thought life had nothing good in it, but was a breeding ground for evil. Only Noah had righteous thoughts that built his faith and fueled his obedience to God. Noah’s thought life was pure and free from evil because he walked with God.

Is Your Thinking Breaking God’s Heart?

Genesis 6:6 reveals how the toxic thinking of the human race affected God’s heart. These verses contain the first usage of the word heart in the Bible, and they describe a heart that is in deep sorrow.

And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:6, NKJV)

The toxic thought life of His precious creation broke God’s heart. God’s heart was in horrible agony and pain as He groaned in sorrow over the condition of the heart of every member of the human race. He cried in agony that His people refused to honor Him with even one thought.

Is our thought life any better? Does our thinking bring great agony to the heart of God? How God must grieve today over the thought life of so many Christians and the toxic thinking of this generation.

God is sounding out a clarion call to all who would listen that what we think is critically important to the heart of God. He knows He cannot have your heart if He does not first have your thoughts.

I don’t want to break the heart of God because of my toxic thinking. I want to bring glory to God with my thinking. I want to honor Him with every thought. I do not want any virus to infect my thinking and take out the operating system of my heart. A reckless thought life led to the annihilation of an entire civilization. Is it happening again?

[i] James Allen, As a Man Thinketh (New York: Tribeca Books, 1910), 10.

Read more in Tim Rowe’s new book “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life” http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life-ebook/dp/B01DK0QZYG/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1460632838&sr=8-1

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The Plan, the Vision, The Purpose of God for Your Life

Posted by faithandthelaw on February 23, 2016

gods-planGod is the master builder, the perfect planner, the passionate artist, the original designer, the patient sculptor and the Creator. Look at the breathtaking beauty of His creation from the beauty of a simple flower to snow-capped mountains to the sun, moon and billions of stars in the universe. Why do we think his plan and design for our live is any less spectacular? God has called every single Christian to do something special, something mighty, something unique and something that makes a difference. He has given us a special assignment to advance His kingdom. This is part of God’s calling over our lives. Ephesians says we are to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. This calling is so big and magnificent that God dreamed about it before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

Do you know of the seven billion people on the planet earth not one has the same fingerprint? God is not a duplicator, a copycat, and a counterfeiter, but God is a Creator; God is an originator: God is a visionary. God only designed one you. He only has one blueprint that he masterfully used to make a masterpiece called you. God has designed you wonderfully unique and awesomely made as a true original. God has the most spectacular design for your life that is absolutely breathtaking and specific down to the littlest detail. The gift of holy spirit, the Christ in you, that carries the flame of God in your soul is uniquely and specially designed for your body, your soul and your heart. No one has the same flame of God. No one exactly the same gift of holy spirit for God has tailored made this wonderful gift for your life and your purposes. Are you ready for a God original life? Are you ready to surrender to His purposes? Are you ready to give everything to Him?

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We were made for God. We were made to know God, to serve God, to love God, and to live forever with God. As Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” In enjoying God, we will enjoy (in the truest and deepest sense) the life he has given us.

So where does the spiritual life begin? It all starts with this fundamental truth: He’s God and we’re not. Nothing is more basic than that. All spiritual reality begins with this truth, and if we skip this or ignore it or downplay it, life will never work. “But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases” (Job 23:13). Life began for the human race in this intimate moment described in Genesis. Can you imagine this beginning of life, God and man face to face, eye to eye and breath to breath as God breathed in Adam’s nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7) and created Him in his image.

The vision, purpose and plan God has for you is beyond anything you have ever imagined; it is big; it is colossal; it is world shaking. It is never too late to walk in His vision, follow His plan and fulfill His purpose.

I Corinthians 2:9.10a: But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit:

God has an extraordinary plan, purpose and vision for each one of our lives. The opposite of extraordinary is normal. We were created to live extraordinary lives and God has equipped with the power to do so. Jesus Christ came that we might have life and have it more abundantly and through Him we can reign in life (John 10:10, Romans 5:17). Do you know that God has goals for your life? Do you know has a detailed architectural plan for your life, a vision like no other? Jesus Christ is the door to this plan and purpose. Without Him, we can never fulfil the God-given purpose for our life. John 10:9,10:  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

The Vision

Proverbs 29:18: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

“Vision” in Hebrew means a divine vision from God respecting future events.

Jeremiah 23:16: Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.

Not a vision of our own heart, but out of the mouth of the Lord. He must have spoken it to you sometime or some place if you are listening. Maybe He is speaking His vision for your life to you right now. He sees the vision for your life, do you? He is Yahweh Jireh, the Lord who sees and provides.

We become vain with the wrong vision, a vision out of our own hearts. The Hebrew word for “vain” means to be vain in action, word or expectation; to lead astray. It comes from the word to breathe or exhale. It is like a puff of air. It is to act emptily and to have an empty hope. A vain vision is an empty, fleeting vision that leads you astray far from the Lord. Jeremiah 2:5: Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

Not a vision, purpose or plan conformed to this world. It is a heavenly vision. It comes from the Word of the Lord. I Samuel 3:1: Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

The vision is built on the Word of God. It is rooted in the Word of God and it cannot contradict the Word of God. It is a revelation from the heart of God. It is a seeing of God’s heart and vision for our lives. We must first open the eyes of our heart to see. The wrong vision of Eve in the garden that was after her own heart caused the great fall of mankind into sin. Genesis 3:4ff:  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. The world has had the wrong vision ever since. Satan has vision for your life too as he did for Eve’s. He wants to steal, kill and destroy the vision God has for your life. (John 10:10a). He is a thief, a liar, a deceiver, a destroyer, an accuser and an opposer and utilizes all of his devises to still the vision of God for your life and replace it with his vision. The gospel delivers us from the power of Satan to God and replaces Satan’s vision with God’s vision.

Without this vision we perish. “Perish” in the Hebrew means to go at it alone, to be unrestrained from God’s Word, to let the reins loose and go unbridled. It is to let go of God and try to do it alone without Him. To dismiss God’s vision and God’s instructions and to go lawless. It is the vision of rebellion. It causes us to wander aimlessly.

Habakkuk 2:2,3: Then the Lord answered me and said, “Write the vision
And engrave it plainly on [clay] tablets So that the one who reads it will run
.3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed [future] time. It hurries toward the goal [of fulfillment]; it will not fail. Even though it delays, wait [patiently] for it, because it will certainly come; it will not delay.

“Write” in the Hebrew means: to engrave, to write down and describe in writing. We record and write it down so we do not forget. “Make it plain” in Hebrew means to dig out the sense and make it distinct and clear as we declare it with our lives. “Run”: We move quickly and decisively with speed and diligence and never look back. It’s the Lord’s vision for our lives. What are we running to daily? We must run toward and with God’s vision for our lives and never forget it. It is what we live and breathe and move in. Take time daily to be still in prayer and the Word and listen to God speaking to your heart. Write down His thoughts until His vision becomes crystal clear.

Jeremiah 1:4:  Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”11 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond] branch.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

Isaiah 49:1b: The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.

Psalm 139:13-18: For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth! Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery]. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them. How precious and weighty also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I could count them, they would be more in number than the sand. When I awoke, [could I count to the end] I would still be with You.

God embroidered everything about you like a beautiful tapestry when he formed you in the womb. He knit you together with magnificent detail and in all the vibrant colors of His glory. He formed your heart, your eyes, your abilities, your personality, your hands, your DNA and every minute detail about you. Your book, your story of all the days of your life, was written by God before you ever took shape. God’s thoughts about you are so immense, so numerous, so vast that they cannot even be numbered. They are more than all the grains of sand on every beach on earth. Oh how special you are to God!!! How wonderful must your purpose be!! How much you mean to God!! Oh how we have missed this truth.

What is the most tragic thing that could ever happen in the history of the world? What is the greatest catastrophe throughout the ages? The greatest tragedy in life is when we turn our backs on God’s design and purpose for our lives. This tragedy hurts the heart of God for He knows what could have been. The story that never came to pass; the beautiful masterpiece that was left in the box. The awesome calling that faded away. He has written a beautiful story for our life, but when we pick up the pen and try to write the book ourselves, everything falls apart and crumbles before our eyes. Pray to God. Talk to God. Ask God to show you day by day His design and function and purpose for you on this earth. Pray to God that you fulfill every jot and tittle of it. It is glorious. It is immense. It is adventurous. It is the best. This purpose always has at its fabric that you have a heart of service to God and others. It begins with salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ and the new birth. No one can accomplish their destiny without the Lord Jesus Christ. God is with you every step of the way and He will help you, strengthen you and guide you into fulfilling His purpose that He has for you in your generation. Don’t ever waste your potential, your purpose and your design on things, paths, ways that God never intended for you. Be all that you can be for God. Every cell in your body was designed for you to fulfill your purpose that God knew about before time began. Let God make your life count and ring as a gem of God’s glory throughout the halls of eternity forever. Every moment counts; every day counts; every week counts; every year counts, but we live with God one day at a time.

The Purpose

Acts 13:36: For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, 

It is no mistake you were born in this generation, in this time. You have a purpose to fulfill for your generation. David completed it. He served this purpose of God for his life and fulfilled it.

Most of us have no idea why we were born. We spend our lives in search of purpose. We are on the race track of life; the course of the world and all we do is spin our wheels going around in a circle having the same fears, doing the same routine things, having the same worries and living in a rut of existence. God wants us to enter each day with anticipation which can only be done when you begin to know the heart of God. Each day is a gift from God and contains a moment God has been planning to express his purpose for creating you; a moment that he has planned since before time began to express his grace and mercy through you. Entering your day with the same trusting anticipation as a child asking a parent, “Where are we going today and what are we going to do?” will let God be the Lord of your day and your work.

What is your mission statement for life? What is your purpose for life? What were born to do in God’s kingdom? God wants us to be perfect (telios) which does not mean without flaw or defect, but means to reach the goal of God’s intended purpose for your life and be all that God wants you to be; to be just like Him as I fulfill my mission in life given by my commander-in-chief, the Lord of Hosts. God wants me to become the destiny that He purposes for me to be. 2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight, I have stayed on course and finished the race, and through it all, I have kept believing. Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. This is not done by doing nothing; living like everyone else, wasting your life away with trivialities that matter little in His kingdom. God wants me to be everything he designed me to be. Only with God is this possible. It cannot be done by human grit, human achievement, human effort and human knowledge because YOU WILL ALWAYS FALL SHORT. God is the designer, the architect, the master-builder, the sculptor, and the artist and without Him the true design for your life falls flat and fails miserably. Such a waste of God’s potential; such a waste of God’s impact in the world through your life. Grow up and become His destiny for you. Be completely what He wants you to be. To do so you must surrender to His will, His purposes, His design. You must serve Him above all else. “No man can serve two masters” Matthew 6:24.

The Plan

Jeremiah 29:11: 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

God knows: Hebrew word for “know” is yada. The Bible uses this word to proclaim God’s complete knowledge of creation.  Nothing can be hidden from His understanding.  God’s perception and recognition extend to every act and circumstance.  God’s knowledge extends to our relationships, tendencies, behavior, talents and emotions.  God talks about knowing us before we are even born.  Someone with that kind of knowledge would certainly know what is best for us and exactly how we should fit into His world.

“Plan” in the Hebrew means: that which one meditates, purposes or plots; a project. It is used in other verses as a skilled plan of artistic design to produce a breathtaking work.

“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Psalm 33:8-13: Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. The plans of His heart stand forever, The plans of man are but a mere breath (Psalm 94:11) Nothing can compare with God’s plan. Psalm 40:4,5a: Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts (plans-same word in Hebrew) toward us; none can compare with you!” Anything that is not God’s plan is built upon a lie. God has multiplied his plans toward us.

Isaiah 55:8,9: For my thoughts (same Hebrew word translated “plans”) are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Plans for welfare. “Welfare” in the Hebrew is shalom and means: wholeness, completeness and soundness; it’s a harmony and unity of heart and soul because of a restored relationship with God, our Father; it is an inward and outward tranquility, a quiet assurance and a complete well-being where nothing is lacking or broken. It’s the freedom from being disturbed, agitated, stressed and troubled. It is the absence of discord, strife, and anxiety. It is to be at ease and calmly unaffected by circumstance. Peace is the highest measure of contentment, joyfulness, happiness, and satisfaction in life. There is absolute security, safety, and victory at the center of peace. It is the absence of inward conflict, condemnation, and torment, but rather a state of rest, calmness, and quiet confidence.

Not plans for calamity (ra). It is translated “evil” in the Hebrew. The root behind ra is a noun that means “rotten, spoiled or good for nothing”. His determination about what is evil is the last word on the subject.  If God says that some act or event is evil, there is no negotiation on the matter.  The essence of evil is disobedience to God’s will.  It is progressive.  Evil begins with a lack of acknowledgement – we do not recognize God as God, we refuse to give Him honor as the Creator.  From this lack of acknowledgement, we proceed to an attitude of ingratitude.  We are not thankful for what God has done.  Refusal and ingratitude become ingrained as habit, then compulsion.  The result is that we do injury to others and to ourselves. In this verse, God tells us not only that He has no plans to harm us, but His plans and purposes will keep us from self-inflicted harm.  God’s plan is for harmony, unity, peace and life.  Ignoring His plans for us will lead to strife, hostility, injury and death, Evil is destroying or injuring by scattering or breaking into pieces; to destroy, circumvent or hinder the good purpose or design God has intended for someone or something. Think of a beautiful flower vase that has the design or function of holding flowers and water, and all are blessed to observe the breathtaking display of beauty in the flowers. But if you take that vase and smash it on the floor, the action of destroying its purpose, design, and function is a vivid illustration of what this Hebrew word for “evil” means. Evil is the active opposition of God’s good purpose or design for a person with the intent of destroying, limiting, suffocating, and hindering it in any way possible.

Plans to Give us a Future. Future-The word is aharit.   Skip Moen: What is unusual about this word is that it literally means “afterward, backwards or after part”.  So, how can it be about the future?  H. W. Wolff says that the Hebrew concept of time is like a man rowing a boat.  He sees where he has been, but the future is toward his back.  He backs into the future.  It is entirely unknown to him because it is behind him! This picture is very powerful.  God must set our course since only He can see “behind” us.  There is a great connection with the idea that we must trust God’s direction and not fear.  If we are “backing” into the future, we must trust the guide.  We cannot see where we are going, but He can. There is a tremendous example of this word in a story from Genesis.  When Lot and his wife ran from the destruction of Sodom, they were told not to look back.  Lot’s wife did look back and she saw her future.  She died there.  Looking back was a choice not to obey the guide who was taking her out of harm’s way.

Plans to give us Hope-confident expectation of His faithfulness to His promises for all eternity. God is the God of hope.

Who knows better the sculptor or the sculpture, the potter or the pot, the Creator or the created?

Isaiah 45:9-12: “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? 10Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?'” 11Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him:) “Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands? 12 I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.

God as the great sculptor and potter knew what He was doing when he formed you and called you to fulfill His purpose. Who has the right to command God concerning His children? Truly Father knows best. Did we have any part in creating the heavens and the earth? Is God’s design of us any less spectacular?

Skip Moen-Have you ever experienced the wonder that occurs when you allow God to give you His perspective about the task you face?

Sin: missing the mark. The word “sin” in the Greek means: to miss or fail to hit the mark, like when someone fails to hit the target with a bow and arrow; to fall short of any goal, purpose, or standard, and a failure or aberration from a prescribed law or duty. Trench, in Synonyms of the New Testament, states that the word means “a falling and missing the true end and scope of our lives which is God.” Wuest, in Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, says it means “missing the divinely appointed goal, a deviation of what is pleasing to God, doing what is opposed to God’s will…a missing of the goal conformable to and fixed by God.” There is great emptiness of soul and meaningless in life without God.  Mankind has lost their true heart, their true destiny, and their true purpose. David Needham, in Birthright, Christian Do You Know Who You Are?, gives a vivid illustration of the emptiness and meaninglessness of the sin nature:

Try to imagine for a moment the entire human

race as though it were an art gallery full of

picture frames. Long, long halls. Billions of

picture frames-without any pictures! Empty

can you visualize it? Some of the frames are

very carefully carved. Some boast very delicate

gold leaf, others are rather gaudily painted. A

few are dirty, chipped. But every frame is

wrapped around-nothing-emptiness. Is it

possible the human race is seen in such a

way by God? An art gallery with no paintings!

Each human being was intended to frame an

inimitable, individual masterpiece of God’s

own reflected glory. But where God should

be, there is only emptiness, a bare patch of wall.

Man and woman were meant for so much more than an enslaved obedience to the sin nature. Humans struggle with a nature that has been crippled by the loss and continued absence of a relationship with God. The sin nature, like a deadly disease, is lethal to life.

Ephesians 2:10 (New Jerusalem Bible): We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.

New Living Translation: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Moffatt Translation: God has made us what we are, creating us in Christ Jesus for the good deeds which are prepared beforehand by God as our sphere of action.  

The word  “workmanship” is the Greek word poiema, which means  “a thing made or produced with effort, object, and design; a work of art especially a poetic product, and a masterpiece.” We are God’s poetic masterpiece. God is the poet, the sculptor, and the artist, and we are the masterpiece. Poetry is masterfully chosen words, that mixed with rhythm and sound, express great depth of meaning and emotion. A poem is an expression of a vision that is rendered in a form that arouses the emotions and touches the heart. Poetry is the chiseled marble of language, it is a paint spattered canvas, but the poet uses words instead of paint, and the canvas is the human heart. Poetry evokes emotion and deep thought, often calling the human heart to action. Poetry inspires, enlightens, defines, and unfolds.

As God’s poetic masterpiece, who is the audience that we are to have such a great impact upon? Who are the listeners who are stirred and deeply affected by the beautiful poetic expression of language and art? The audience is the world. The listeners are our communities, cities, states, and nations. Once we are created in Christ Jesus as a son or daughter of God, God wants our lives to be His poetic masterpiece to the world. God wants our lives to be a beautiful poem of His love and goodness that inspires, touches, and stirs the human heart to return to the loving arms of God Almighty.  The poiema of God is too be seen by the human eye, felt by the human heart, experienced by the human mind, and heard by the human ear. The poeima of God is not to be hid under a bush, concealed in a room, or buried underground. The poeima of God is to be clearly seen and manifested to the world so that all might see a wonderful glimpse of the heart of God. The words “clearly seen” in the Greek mean: to behold fully, to distinctly apprehend, and to discern clearly. The poiema of God is created so that all people can fully behold and distinctly comprehend the amazing characteristics of our loving God.  God wants the beauty of who He is and the wonderful grace of His goodness to be seen and understood by every human being on the face of the earth.  The poiema of God is the artist’s most magnificent masterpiece, and it reveals many details of the awesome power and glory of Our Creator, our Father, our Lord, and our God.

These good works, which come forth from God’s poetic masterpiece of our new creation in Christ, are to inspire, heal, touch, mend, repair, and restore. These good works are rooted and grounded in God’s love. Every Christian believer has been called to a ministry of good works that touch the heart, soul, and needs of people emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

We are always producing works in our daily life. What kind of works are we producing? What types of works are coming forth from our mouths, our hands, and our hearts? Are we wise master builders, building a beautiful poetic masterpiece of good works on the foundation of Jesus Christ? Or are we building works of selfishness, pride, lust, greed, anger, and hatred on a foundation of sinking sand? What are you building? What does your building look like?

I Corinthians 12,18,21: But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” We also have a special purpose in the Body of Christ. This is part of God’s plan for the Christian life.

God gives us the vivid example of Moses who had to decide to either follow the world’s plan, vision or purpose for his life or God’s?

Hebrews 12:24-27: By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

Moses had the best of everything the world had to offer. Josephus said he was a mighty general who one great battles against the Ethiopians. He was royalty and a mighty conqueror in Egypt’s eyes. He chose to be identified with the slaves in the world’s eyes, God’s chosen people. He saw with spiritual eyes God’s vision and purpose for his life.

Mark Batterson: Jesus did not die to keep us safe, He died to make us dangerous. Faithfulness is not holding the fort; it is storming the gates of hell. The will of God is not an insurance plan; it is a daring plan. The complete surrender of your life to the cause of Christ is not radical; it is normal. It is time to quit living like the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Many think they are following Jesus, but the reality is this: they have invited Jesus to follow them. Who is following who? The true adventure of following Jesus does not begin until you go all in.

DL Moody: The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is wholly and fully consecrated to Him. Consecrate means to set yourself apart; it means full devotion. It is a complete divesture of all self-interest. It is a simple recognition that every second of time, every ounce of energy, and every penny of money is a gift from God and for God. Consecration is going all in and all out for the all in all. Why not you? Why not now?

Our fundamental problem is we try to God’s job for Him. We want to do amazing things for God and that seems noble but we have it backwards. God wants to do amazing things for us. That is His job not ours. Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow God will do amazing things among you (Joshua 3:5)

We can be a Christian for our entire lives and never go all in for Jesus Christ. We never sell out to follow Him no matter where, no matter how, and no matter when. Eric Ludy: When the gospel it truly received it costs you everything, your life, your old ways, your old mannerisms, your old self.  You cannot hold on to a scrap of the old you. The problem is us. We have a born disposition that is in rebellion against the Most High God. I want my life on my terms. You can have all that Jesus Christ is, but there is a little caveat: He gets all that you are. Oh the glow, the soul satisfaction, the radiance that comes from giving our all, our entire lives, EVERYTHING to Him. Few want to live Christianity like this. Can you look God square in face and say you made me, you fashioned me for a purpose and a destiny, you gave your Son to set me free, and I now give you my life and will do what you require me to do. I don’t want my way. I want your way. Do you know you have a thousand moments in every day that you need to be rescued and delivered? From what? From YOU, from the problem of you. You have a desire; you have an esteem for that very throne in your life. You want to be in control; you want it to be your way. You are a problem; you are a rebel against the kingdom agenda. But God has a better plan. It starts with this question: Lord what do you want me to do with my life?

The Excuse: Don’t we all have excuses why we don’t follow God’s purpose for our life. He has given us the invitation. He has set a place for us at his extraordinary banquet. But we have more important things to do. We are too busy to fulfill His purpose for us for our generation. We just want to be left alone and live life on our terms. Big mistake. Oh what you are missing out on now and in eternity! We have all become the Marthas of our generation. So busy we do not have time to sit at the feet of Jesus. Our days so packed that God is a distant memory. Busybodies instead of disciples. Anxious wanderers instead of living in His plan. We have lost our vision, our eyes have been blinded and the darkness of our selfishness seems so normal, but in our heart we know something is askew. Something is not right.  Excuses! Rationalizations! Puffed up reasonings! And the extraordinary life slips away. We are living off the scraps of the flesh instead of the bread of life at His banquet.

Luke 14:16ff:  But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant[c] to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said,‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you,[d] none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

God’s intense desire is that we be filled to capacity with a full, perfect, precise, and detailed knowledge of the desires of His heart. God wants us to intimately experience His will, His heart, His purposes, and His plans and know them in the depths of our heart. God wants us to be absolutely full of the rich heart knowledge of His will, to the end it powerfully influences our character and the growth of our spiritual life.  God never wants us to be left empty concerning the purposes, designs, and plans for our lives that come from the very heart of God.  God wants us to have a thrilling, living, and dynamic heart experience of His will and His desires through our personal relationship with Him. (Colossians 1:9,10).

 Awaken to the vision the purpose the plan God has for your lives. Put off the grave clothes of our old life and become alive to the righteousness you are clothed in in Christ. A new creation.  Ephesians 5:14b-17: Awake, you sleeper! Rise from your grave, And the Anointed One will shine on you.15 So be careful how you live; be mindful of your steps. Don’t run around like idiots as the rest of the world does. Instead, walk as the wise! 16 Make the most of every living and breathing moment because these are evil times. 17 So understand and be confident in God’s will, and don’t live thoughtlessly.

I Corinthians 3:5,6,8,10-15 (NIV): What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe-as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. By the grace God has given me, I lay a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, His work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

According to I Corinthians 3, every born-again Christian believer is a builder, which from the Greek means “architect, skilled craftsman, and master worker.” By our works, we are constructing a building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. This building is the sum total of the quality and character of our deeds, words, and actions throughout our Christian life.

At the Judgment Seat of Christ, the quality of our workmanship will be tested and we will be rewarded according to how the building passes the inspection. A wise master builder does not throw together the building haphazardly, but contemplates every detail, and works tirelessly to bring about the best, quality product. God is our co-worker, our fellow-laborer, and our building partner, and He will help us build a beautiful structure of good works that is unmatched in quality if we only let Him. God has magnificent architectural plans and drawings for your beautiful house and is so excited to help you build it. God has all the right contacts, knows all the right people, and knows all the proper building techniques to construct the best home that perfectly suits your life. Whose architectural blueprints are we going to follow? God’s or the world’s? Isn’t God the best suited to help us build a quality Christian life that glorifies Him in word and action? God is the ultimate wise master builder, and without His help our building will not pass the inspection.

Every Christians building will go through a complete and thorough testing process at the bema. The word “test” in I Corinthians 3 in the Greek means “ to put to the test for the purpose of approving.” It is a critical examination of something to determine its genuineness. The word was used in secular Greek literature to describe the action of the examining board putting its stamp of approval on those individuals who passed the examination for the degree of Doctor of Medicine. It was also used of a candidate who passed the test as fit for public office. This Greek word describes a process of approval, not condemnation or punishment. You either passed or failed, as the testing was not done to determine how much good or evil was in the product or person being tested.  The testing was done to determine whether the thing tested passed the examination according to specifications.  It was also used in classic Greek to describe the testing of precious metals, usually by fire, to determine if they were truly authentic and measured up to their stated worth. The word also implies that the testing was done with the expectation and hope that the person or thing being tested would pass the test with flying colors.

God is like the master builder, or the renowned artist, that molds a hunk of clay into a beautiful masterpiece. He shapes, contours, and forms the clay with a delicate and loving touch in great detail, throwing off the excess dirt and molding it into the image that is in his heart. He is not rushed, as time does not matter when you are crafting a magnificent work of art. Not one aspect, not one element, and not one detail escapes the eye of the master. He heats his work in intense flame, and then adds the finishing touches and brushes of color that reflect the beauty of the picture that engulfs his soul. Finally, when the masterpiece is finished, it can be proudly displayed as it forever illustrates the wonderful touch of the master’s hand. God will do the same for your life if you will only let Him. Oh, how we need to let the Lord God, the Master, the most talented artist of all times, work in our lives and shape and mold us into a glorious masterpiece that is a witness to all the world of His love. You can read all the self-help books on the shelves of every library in the world; you can master all the philosophies and psychologies of mankind; you can take every course of self-improvement offered at all the universities throughout the ages and still not reproduce or duplicate one iota of what God can do for you.

I want to end with a beautiful poem which is one of my favorites.

The Touch of the Master’s Hand

Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while to waste much time on the old violin, but held it up with a smile; “What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried, “Who’ll start the bidding for me?” “A dollar, a dollar”; then two!” “Only two? Two dollars, and who’ll make it three? Three dollars, once; three dollars twice; going for three..” But no, from the room, far back, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow; Then, wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loose strings, he played a melody pure and sweet as caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer, with a voice that was quiet and low,
said; “What am I bid for the old violin?” And he held it up with the bow.
A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two? Two thousand! And who’ll make it three? Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice, and going and
gone,” said he. The people cheered, but some of them cried, “We do not
quite understand what changed its worth.” Swift came the reply: “The touch of a master’s hand.”

And many a man with life out of tune, and battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin, A
“mess of pottage,” a glass of wine; a game – and he travels on. “He is
going” once, and “going twice, He’s going and almost gone.” But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand the worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.

Myra ‘Brooks’ Welch

Ecclesiastes 5:7: Many words are meaningless. Stand in awe of God.

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Do Women Deserve the Highest Standards of Care? Not if You Ask Planned Parenthood

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on November 17, 2015

PLANNEDPARENT

“At Planned Parenthood, we work every day to make sure women receive the high quality health care they need in a safe, respectful environment- including abortion care. Ensuring the health and safety of our patients is central to our mission and fundamental to every person who works at Planned Parenthood.”

So said one Planned Parenthood executive in a cut-and-paste comment last year, the kind you’ll see – nearly or perfectly verbatim – from the abortion giant’s various affiliates across the country.

Indeed, another affiliate (after parroting the exact quote above) boasts of its “rigorous medical standards and guidelines” and “rigorous standards and training for staff as well as emergency plans in place, because women’s safety is our first priority.”

Admirable aspirations, signifying a commitment to patient care that transcends all other concerns and animates the very soul of the organization, right?

Hardly. This is Planned Parenthood. And today the mask slips again.

The U.S Supreme Court announced that it would hear Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a case out of Texas which will be the first major abortion case before the high court in nearly a decade.

At issue is a Texas law known as House Bill 2 which requires abortion facilities to meet the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers. For example, hallways at abortion businesses must be wide enough to maneuver a gurney, should a women in medical distress need to be moved through the facility.

The law also includes a provision that protects women against cut-and-run abortionists by requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. As it stands, if a woman is the victim of a botched abortion or needs hospital care as a result of one of numerous potential post-abortion complications, the abortionist without admitting privileges washes his hands of the patient and leaves her to seek care with another medical staff in another medical facility which receives the woman sight unseen and unfamiliar with necessary details of her progress to this urgent state. A knowledge gap like this can be a matter of life and death.

ADF, along with several pro-life allies, filed a brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit explaining that the “focus of the constitutionality [of the law] is on the treatment of women . . . . Texas, as many other States, has clearly recognized the risks associated with both surgical and medication abortions and has taken steps to regulate these abortions to minimize these known and potential risks and to protect women’s health and safety. Texas now is (and should continue to be) permitted to do so.”

In its opinion, the Fifth Circuit agreed, writing that the evidence demonstrates that “the State truly intends that women only receive an abortion in facilities that can provide the highest quality of care and safety—the stated legitimate purpose of H.B. 2.”

You’d think that Planned Parenthood, for all its talk of “women’s safety” and “rigorous medical standards,” would be the sponsors of this law and vigorous advocates of its affirmation in federal court.

Again, this is Planned Parenthood. Instead of celebrating the Texas legislature’s common sense move to make sure that women seeking abortions aren’t entering another Kermit Gosnell house of horrors, Planned Parenthood and its allies pressed play on its favorite talking points mix tape: “Cut off access”…“hurt women”…“#undueburden”…“attack”…“draconian law” (not sure they know what “draconian” means)…“forcing these women to carry their pregnancies to term against their will”… and so on.

Planned Parenthood and the rest of the abortion-industrial complex have insisted, all the way up to the Supreme Court, that abortionists should not be held to the same standards as everyone else . . . and that the women who enter their doors don’t really deserve the highest level of care.

Let’s hope that when the Supreme Court hears the case in the spring and decides it by the beginning of summer it rules that states can protect women, even over the protests of the abortion industry.

Planned Parenthood, for its millions in marketing and meticulous corporate message control, is having a harder time passing itself off as the tender-hearted, indispensable women’s health champion. Its opposition to a common sense law that says all women deserve the highest standard of safety and care (even in an abortion clinic where no one is truly safe and cared-for) and that holds abortion businesses to the same standards as other medical clinics again exposes the irreconcilability of Planned Parenthood’s words and actions.

Courtesy of http://www.adflegal.org/detailspages/blog-details/allianceedge/2015/11/16/do-women-deserve-the-highest-standards-of-care-not-if-you-ask-planned-parenthood

 

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One Nation Under Allah? – Attempts to Hide the Truth Will Not Stand

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on October 10, 2015

islamIslamic indoctrination is happening in public schools all across America.

Over the past few months, we have updated you on some of the Islamic indoctrination happening in Tennessee and Georgia. However, these are not isolated events – it’s a nation-wide epidemic that has been brewing for a while.

For the last several years, parents from across the country have contacted the ACLJ—from California to Maine—concerned about the teaching of Islam in their local schools. It seems that many schools may be going well beyond simply teaching about a religion. From disparate treatment of religions, to distortion of truth, the teaching of Islam seems entrenched with problems.

Students in Tennessee and Georgia were told to recite the Five Pillars of Islam—the Islamic conversion creed—while not learning about Christianity or Judaism. Some schools in Georgia reportedly went as far as to tell students that Allah is the same Godworshipped by Christians. And at least one Tennessee middle school—where Islam was covered for over three weeks—students were told to write “Allah is the only God,” while the lesson on Christianity was skipped in its entirety. This far surpasses education on the history of world religions. This is indoctrination.

Almost 7,000 Tennessee citizens have contacted us expressing their opposition to this egregious practice. It is our goal to make sure that any unconstitutional actions by the school districts, pertaining to Islamic indoctrination, cease. To this end, we sent open record requests to every school district in Tennessee—on behalf of over 160,000 individuals—to uncover the truth about what students are learning.  Although, several school district attorneys have tried to stall compliance based on the “citizenship” of the ACLJ, the State of Tennessee Office of Open Records Counsel has already specifically addressed that matter (in a letter dated September 23, 2015) and has made clear that the requested documents must be made accessible to our requesting attorney, who is a Tennessee citizen, stating:

“Because a corporation does not have the ability to provide a government issued photo identification with an address on it, it is the opinion of this office that for purposes of the Act, the term ‘citizen’ does not include corporations. However, it is also the opinion of this office that when an individual who is making a request on behalf of a corporation is able to produce government issued photo identification that includes a Tennessee address, any record that is responsive to the request and is not confidential is required to be made accessible to the requestor.”(emphasis added)

The opinion from the Tennessee Office of Open Records Counsel only serves to underscore what we have known all along – our open records requests are valid, and the school districts are required to produce all records that are responsive to our requests.  We are following up with any school districts that have erroneously denied our open records request.  In the end, these flawed stonewalling tactics will not stand to hide the truth.

Of course, not all school districts in Tennessee followed the stall tactic, and we are currently receiving and working with many districts pertaining to the requested records.

But it’s not just Tennessee where we are involved.  In April, we reported that at least one high school in Wisconsin was apparently forcing students to “pretend you are a Muslim.” We sent a letter to the school—on behalf of thousands of concerned citizens and parents—explaining that forcing students to adopt a particular religious viewpoint violates the Establishment Clause. Now, we have heard from over 205,000 people across the nation, and are currently looking into curriculum concerns in Georgia where we have heard from almost 6,000 citizens and California where we have heard from over 22,000 citizens.

The ACLJ is continuing to fight to end the unconstitutional teaching of Islam in public schools. We are taking on clients and preparing important demand letters to send to these schools and are weighing our legal options to stop this outrage.

Incredibly, as Islam continues to be taught in schools around the nation, students are being denied the right to establish Bible Clubs on campus, bring their Bibles to school, and speak about Christianity. Simply put, schools may not promote Islam while silencing Christianity.

The ACLJ is working tirelessly to protect students’ right across America. Please stand with us as we fight to bring the Constitution back into public schools.

Courtesy of http://aclj.org/religious-liberty/one-nation-under-allah–attempts-to-hide-the-truth-will-not-stand

Sign ACLJ Petition:

Stop Islamic Indoctrination in School

 

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Is Anything Wrong?

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on October 6, 2015

earth-and-lightening

We live in a generation rife with contradictions in its understanding of moral values. On the one hand, we are witnessing the confused blurring of lines between good and evil, and a desecrating of boundaries that were intended to keep us from harm. On the other, there is widespread dogmatism and an indignant moral outrage at the real or imagined offenses of others.

The prophetic voice of the church is desperately needed in this mix of confusion and contradiction. Questions about the very concept of moral absolutes have never been more important. Do moral absolutes—unchanging moral values that are independent of humankind and are discovered rather than constructed by us—even exist? What is the reference point for the content of our moral values? And how are they to be grounded?

God and Morality

You may have heard Christian voices making this argument, but you might be surprised to learn that an impressive array of atheist academics concur that if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist, because there is no way of ultimately grounding them.

The theist goes on to note that belief in the existence of objective moral values is one of the most deeply ingrained, intuitive beliefs of the human race. As such, it gives us good reason to believe in God:

If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

Objective moral values do exist.

Therefore God exists.

The atheist insists that there is no God, and therefore has to force the issue on morality:

If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

God does not exist.

Therefore objective moral values do not exist. 

This final conclusion is at odds with what appears to be a self-evident moral sense, and thus has warranted further explanation from the atheist camp. The narrative offered goes something like this: human beings—and in fact our whole universe—are the product of matter, time and chance, together with the processes of evolution, which are geared towards the survival of the fittest. We have what appears to be a very deeply ingrained sense of an objective right and wrong, as though it has been hard-wired into our systems.

In a sense it has been hard-wired: it is an illusion (atheists argue) brought about by our genes, because it enhances our chance of survival. So there is no issue or contradiction within atheism with regards to our sense of moral absolutes—the sense of these absolutes is an evolutionary illusion.

There are significant problems with this line of reasoning, and I will raise two. Firstly, the broader systemic problem. The atheist tells us that selfish genes, fighting for survival through the processes of evolution, have brought about what we refer to as human beings. The entirety of the human framework, controlled by our genes, is geared towards the aims of that evolutionary process, namely survival, and not (ultimately) towards understandings of truth and reality.1It, therefore, becomes possible to argue that however much we may think and feel that there is an objective morality, and however much it appears to us to be self-evidently the case that there are some things that are genuinely evil and others that are good, this is just an illusion brought about by genes that ultimately have no regard for truth but only for that which is convenient in the aim of survival.

If this is in fact the case, the atheist has a much bigger problem than the explaining of morality at hand. Our very reasoning (our minds) can no longer be trusted, because we can only assume that our minds, controlled by our genes, are not geared towards truth but towards whatever might aid our survival. In fact, the atheist philosopher John Gray concedes exactly that when he writes, “The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.”2 It is a staggering claim.

Our colleague John Lennox responds to Gray with a serious rebuttal:

But what about Gray’s own mind…one must suppose, according to Gray, that his writing this sentence [“The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth”] serves evolutionary success. Well, it certainly would appear to serve the success of evolutionary theory, if it were true. But then Gray has undermined the very concept of truth, and so has removed all reason for us to take him seriously. Logical incoherence reigns once more.3

Again, there is a significant systemic problem in the atheist explanation of morality being just an illusion of our genes. All rationality becomes undependable in that framework.

Leaving aside this issue, secondly, we hit another, more immediate problem. The claim that morality is an evolutionary construct geared towards the survival of the fittest doesn’t seem to be borne out intuitively by the kinds of things that morality seems to demand of us, in contrast to the kinds of things that would seem to ensure the survival of the fittest. Greg Koukl writes: “Consider two cavemen in neighboring villages. One kills the other in cold blood. We’re being asked to believe he feels guilt, because he realizes such an act ultimately undermines his own survival status…. In the rest of the animal kingdom, killing the opposition seems to secure just the opposite.”4

It’s a little tongue in cheek, but the point remains. It is not necessarily clear how caring for the weak, the vulnerable, the sick, the dying or the elderly helps the survival of the selfish gene. One might expect self-sacrifice in such a system to be considered morally good only if weaker persons sacrifice themselves for stronger individuals. And yet it is a person like Mother Teresa who captures the public imagination in setting for us an incredible standard of moral living. We applaud the courage and the character of those who lay their lives down for the weakest among us. There is a significant gap between what we actually find honorable, valiant, good, kind, righteous, and pure, and what we’re being told is the impetus for that belief.

This kind of forced reasoning—the idea that there is no God, and therefore the need to fudge the lines on objective morality—has raised some important questions and a backlash from within the atheist camp itself. Peter Cave, the humanist philosopher, writes, “Whatever skeptical arguments may be brought against our belief that killing the innocent is wrong, we are more certain that the killing is morally wrong, than that the argument is sound.”5 It is a telling insight.

Religious Atheism

We have, as a result, a growing field of “religious atheism” as it’s been dubbed by some: atheists who have wanted to hold on to an objective morality but deny the need for its grounding in God. Sam Harris has been the most prominent voice in this field at the popular level. In 2010, he published the book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values and in it he says that we do not need God, as the world of science can give us the grounding and the context in which we encounter moral truth. Harris writes, “We simply must stand somewhere. I am arguing that, in the moral sphere, it is safe to begin with the premise that it is good to avoid behaving in such a way as to produce the worst possible misery for everyone.”6

With that statement taken as a given, he goes on, throughout the book, to bring various definitions of what the opposite of that misery (what he calls “human well-being”) would look like, and to suggest ways in which neuroscience might, in the future, provide us with ways of measuring that well-being. If science achieves such a feat, Harris argues, we would be able to say (with objectivity) whether one culture or another—or one set of ideas or another—enhanced or diminished human wellbeing and was therefore “true” or “false” with regard to moral values. In other words, we would encounter moral truth grounded in science, as opposed to God.

Can you see the problem? Harris starts by assuming that moral truths exist, and even outlining that they can be boiled down to the idea of well-being. He hasn’t used science to get him there. It is not science that underpins the foundations of Harris’s theory. These are just his starting assertions, his intuitions. It is only after positing those two assumptions that he then goes on to bring a kind of pseudoscience in to measure his own construction of morality. (I am calling it a “pseudoscience” because, by his own admission, the field of neuroscience is not yet capable of doing what Harris says would need to be done, even within his own construct). This kind of logical leap is representative of the field and it fails to achieve its objective. Moral absolutes remain impossible to ground in a godless universe.

To be clear, it is important to note that we are not arguing that you need a belief in God in order to lead a moral life. It is quite obviously the case that there are many people who do not believe in God but who lead exemplary lives, just as there are, unfortunately, many who profess to believe in God whose lives leave questions unanswered. Similarly, we are not arguing that a belief in God is necessary in order to recognize objective moral values or to know and to formulate a system of ethics. In fact, if the Christian worldview is to be taken, it provides us with reasons for believing that by very nature of being human each of us would have something of the moral law imprinted on us regardless of the status of our relationship with God. The Bible tells us that we are made in “the image of God”—hence we are moral beings—and given consciences that speak to the moral law within (see Romans 2:14-15). Whether we acknowledge its source or don’t acknowledge God, that God-given faculty is not incapacitated. The question at hand is a more foundational one: the question of whether we can coherently ground absolute moral values in a world without God.

I think the vast majority of people in this universe believe it to be the case that torturing babies is not just frowned upon as a societal norm, or a personal preference, but that it is in reality objectively wrong. Or again, that rape and genocide are not just matters of preference or cultural norms but are objectively wrong.That even if, for example, Hitler had won the Second World War, and had succeeded in exterminating all of the Jews, conquering the whole world, and indoctrinating everyone to believe in his ideology, that the Holocaust would still be wrong. You cannot coherently ground that view without reference to God—but this is where it becomes essential to clarify which God we are talking about.

The Person at the Center of the Story

It would be a mistake to think that you can posit any God you like and still account for our understanding of the moral law. Everything hinges on the character of the creator at the center of the story. In the Islamic worldview, you have a God whose nature is not essentially good and who defines morality by his commands. Many philosophers grappling with the theistic answer to the question of an absolute morality have unknowingly assumed an Islamic perspective and raised some important and significant challenges to it.

If good is defined simply by whatever God commands, then morality is arbitrary—God could command us to kill everyone who disagrees with us, and we would have to consider that, by definition, to be good. If we push back and say, “God commands things because they are good,” then there must be some objective standard outside of God by which He measures good and evil, and, if there is such a thing, then we don’t need God in the first place—why not go to the standard directly ourselves?

The Christian reality is profoundly different. God Himself is the plumb line. “HOLY HOLY HOLY is the Lord God Almighty”7 is the wonderful, ringing affirmation of Scripture. The Bible presents to us the God who “is light” and in whom there is “no darkness at all.”8 The God who “does not change like shifting shadows.” The God who keeps his promises. The God who is faithful. The God who does not lie. The God who is truth. The God who hates injustice. The God who judges justly. The God who is righteous. The God who cares for the weak, the destitute, the widow, and the fatherless. The God who is kind. The God who is gentle. The God who is love.

The moral law is not grounded in the commands of God but rather in the character of God. This is why the command of God in Scripture is not simply to “be holy according to my commands.” No; the reality is far more profound: “Be holy as I am holy.”9 It is a unique command. No other God either makes or sustains the claim to absolute holiness.

When Christians make the claim that there is such a thing as an objective moral standard, we are saying that there is a God whose character provides that standard and whose commands flow entirely in keeping with that character. I think David saw this when he was writing in the Psalms, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”10 The moral law is a glimpse into the glory of God himself.

What About the Personal Questions?

There is, of course, much more that could be written as we consider the conceptual questions raised by moral absolutes. What about the personal questions?

A couple of years ago, I found it interesting that while doing a mission at a university in the UK that had few professing Christians on campus, the vast majority of students filling out our surveys said that they struggled with guilt. The truth is that we can think about moral values as abstract concepts for hours, and it has no impact, but it takes one second’s worth of a bad decision to make a lifetime’s worth of regret.

We have gotten so good at convincing ourselves that we are relatively good that we never seem to stop and think: “Well, what about the bad parts then? Does anything happen to them? Do they need to be accounted for?” One of the most famous letters written to a newspaper was by G.K. Chesterton. The Timeshad run an article entitled “What’s wrong with the world?” to which Chesterton had written the following reply:

Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours, G.K. Chesterton.

This is no glib reply. In two little words, Chesterton points us to the profound reality that we are, each and every one of us, broken, and in desperate need of forgiveness. Isaiah writes these solemn words: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”11 We all stand on the same ground before the cross. We all carry guilt. We are in need of forgiveness. And we long for justice.

The atheist tells us that there will be no judgment, no day of reckoning, and that the only justice we can hope for is whatever can be meted out by our law courts in this life. You are left with cases like Jimmy Savile: a legend in his own lifetime, enjoying public praise and adoration, huge wealth, being awarded an OBE and being knighted, and then dying a hero. There is nowhere to go with the horror of the broken lives that we are only now discovering have been left behind in his wake. No justice.

Richard Dawkins writes in his book River out of Eden, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”12

It is hard to believe that he could be serious. The world is still reeling from the shock of the images of decapitated heads of children and adults paraded like trophies. Are we really to believe that this was ultimately neither good nor bad? I couldn’t disagree more with Dawkins.

Immanuel Kant famously wrote in Critique of Practical Reason, “Two things fill the mind with ever increasing wonder and awe…the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” He was right to be awed by it.

There is the persistence of a plumb line—a standard that is independent of us that simply will not go away—and we all know we have transgressed it. No explanation outside of the Judeo-Christian worldview will account for the existence of that standard, the guilt that is very real, the need for forgiveness, and the longing for justice.

Look again at the Cross: the justice of God, the judgment of God, the mercy of God, the love of God, the holiness of God, and the forgiveness of God are all in the person of Christ. God himself embodies the good, overcomes evil, and makes a way for us.

The existence of objective moral values not only gives us a compelling reason to believe in God but points us to some of our most profound needs and draws us to the God who deals with our guilt, offers us forgiveness, and ensures justice.

Courtesy of http://rzim.org/just-thinking/is-anything-wrong

Tanya Walker is a member of the RZIM Zacharias Trust speaking team in the UK.

________________________

1 Although, of course, connecting with truth and reality aids our survival in many instances, this is not necessarily always the case. The considerations of truth and reality remain distinct from the considerations of survival.

2 John Gray, Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: London, 2007), 26.

3 John Lennox, Gunning For God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target (Lion Hudson: Oxford, 2011), 108.

4 See Greg Koukl, “Did Morals Evolve?” online at http://www.bethinking.org/morality/did-morals-evolve.

5 Peter Cave, Humanism (Oneworld Publications: Oxford, 2009), 146.

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What Has Happened to Christianity?

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on August 30, 2015

IMG_4907_A

Times are changing around the world and Christians are being persecuted more now than at any time in history.  Christianity is losing its influence in culture, education and politics. Recently while reading a book my wife bought by Erwin Lutzer The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent made me think on the waning influence of Christianity in the modern world and why this is so. No greater illustration of this than what has happened in Turkey. Turkey (Asia Minor) was at one time the epicenter of the explosion of Christianity with the Apostle Paul and the school of Tyrannus in Acts 19 where in the space of 2 years and three months every person in Asia Minor heard the word of the Lord Jesus and the Word of God grew mightily and prevailed.

Listen to the record of the power and influence of Christianity in which is now modern day Turkey:

Acts 19:8ff: And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

“Prevailed” in the Greek means to exercise force, to wield power and to have the strength to overcome. The Word of God grew to the point it wielded power in the lives of the Christians, those that heard and even the culture. It had the power to overcome all the occult powers, evil spirits, religious arguments and physical ailments of the age. Look at the power of God over the forces of darkness. The Word of God first must grow and prevail in our lives before it can exercise power in our neighborhood, cities and nation. Is the Word of God prevailing today or has it been corrupted and water-downed. 2 Corinthians 2:17: For we are not, like so many, [like hucksters making a trade of] peddling God’s Word [shortchanging and adulterating the divine message]; but like [men] of sincerity and the purest motive, as [commissioned and sent] by God, we speak [His message] in Christ (the Messiah), in the [very] sight and presence of God. The word in the Greek for peddling means to be a retailer that would adulterate or water down their commodities to make a gain; to make money by selling anything and the merchandising of God’s Word for sordid gain. Have you ever turned on Christian television lately? Much of it is peddling the gospel to make a gain. Selling the Word of God to make money for luxurious mansions, cars, jewelry, jets and material gain. We have too many spiritual hucksters trying to sell the blessing of God for seed money. Doesn’t this sound like the indulgences of the Dark Ages when the Roman Catholic Church would sell salvation and other blessings for a price? This is a major reason that the Church is hurting and straying from its calling. We do not sell the Word of God like a commodity on the stock market. You cannot buy God or a blessing. Peter rebuked Simon the sorcerer for this and said “May your silver rot with you! Because you thought you obtain the gift of God by money.” Acts 8:20. The Word of God says such thinking is of those who are “depraved in mind and depraved of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” I Timothy 6:5. These “desires plunge people into ruin and destruction and cause people to wander from the faith.” I Timothy 6:9,10.  Unfortunately many that preach these modern day indulgences are pastors and spiritual leaders in the Church and it is wreaking havoc on the witness of Christianity.

Not to get sidetracked: Paul and Barnabas also taught the gospel for a whole year in Antioch and the believers were first called Christians in Antioch which is in modern Turkey:

Acts 11:19ff: 19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

Yet today Christianity is almost non-existent in Turkey as it is 99.8% Muslim and .2% Christian. What happened that Christianity has little influence in this region? Much of what we call the Islamic world today was once Christian. Islam is spreading rapidly in Western Europe with churches closing and being bought and turned into mosques and a rising anti-Christian sentiment in the public square and all walks of life. This is especially surprising given the violent nature of many in Islam and their increasing brutality and terrorism around the globe. Yet Christianity is becoming the hated “religion.”

Why do we not see the church in Acts in Christianity anymore? Where is the power? Where is the deliverance? Where is the passion? We have more passion for our football or basketball teams than we have for Jesus Christ. Where are the miracles? Where are the healings? This is supposed to be a daily occurrence in Christianity as God backs up His word and confirms it with signs, miracles and wonders. Do we just go through the motions but Christ is not a living reality in our hearts?

Mark 16:15-20  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

When the Lord works, there are signs, miracles and wonders. This type of power manifested did not go out with the Apostles of the First Century. It is available today and should be the norm in Christianity.

Look at the commission of Jesus’s own disciples:

Matthew 10:8: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

Luke 10:17ff:  The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

As Christians we have been given the authority of the name of Jesus Christ. We have full power of attorney rights. Satan is not falling like lightening because we are not walking in that authority. We are instead still in bondage to the Prince of the Power of the Air and the course of this world. We have been given power over the entire kingdom of darkness. Nothing can hurt us when we stand in that authority. Devil spirits will flee, sickness and infirmity will vanish and the power of God will explode on the scene by our faith in our Faithful God.

Do you believe this promise?

John 14:12-14: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

We are to God in the authority and power of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him we are unstoppable, immovable, unconquerable and a force to be reckoned with in this world. God needs laborers to go forth into the harvest in the valley of human need and to be witnesses to Him in the power of the Spirit.

Matthew 28:18,19a: 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,

Immeasurable power is released when we believe. All things are under our feet and we are filled with the fullness of Christ:

Ephesians 1:18ff: Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Acts 5:12ff:  Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

This type of power is absent in the church today. Signs and wonders were the norm. Even Peter’s shadow falling on the sick would heal them. Today many churches do not even believe in healing or claim sickness is the will of God. Even though God’s name is Yahweh Rapha, the Lord who heals. All those afflicted with unclean spirits or sicknesses were healed. Why don’t we this in the church today?

There is no political solution to the problems of America or the world. There is no economic solution for the problems of America or the world. It is much deeper. It is spiritual. Jesus Christ is the solution to every problem and ill and malaise of this world. Anything else is built on sinking sand. It is not a Republic or Democrat solution, a Russian or USA solution, a liberal or conservative solution for if you think so you are being deceived. The Body of Christ is to represent Jesus Christ to the world. Yet most of us have manifested more of what Jesus is not than what he is in our lives. Why is this so?

In thinking about what has gone wrong with modern Christianity I am not an expert or claim to have all the answers. I am not pointing fingers but am humbling thinking about what can be done to reverse this disturbing trend. I am going to bring up a few points that God has laid on my heart, but ultimately it has to be a God solution, not a man solution. It has to be a Bible solution and not a human reasoning or self-focused solution. Here are some genuine things to think about to restore the majesty and impact of Christianity in our times.

  1. We have failed to shine as the lights of the world and failed to be the salt of the earth becoming bland like the world.

Matthew 5:14,15:  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

You (humeis) is emphatic meaning “you yourselves”.

Genuine faith in Christ turns a man from darkness to marvelous light, and transforms him into “light in the Lord”; his aims and objects, his desires, his speech, his actions, become full of divine light, which illuminates all the chambers of his soul, and then pours forth from the windows so as to be seen of men. 

Your light – If you are a believer you are a supernatural “light”. And you are responsible for letting your light shine forth.

Let…shine – Jesus does not make a suggestion but as discussed below issues a command “Since you are light, then shine!” Shining is not optional for believers.

Let…shine (lampo) means to radiate brilliantly or beam forth.  Jesus gives His a command to do this right now and do it effectively (aorist imperative – conveys the idea of urgency). This is a permissive imperative which means to permit your light to shine. Don’t do anything that will cover it, hide it or snuff it out. To shine is not optional! If we fail to obey our Lord’s command we will fail to fulfill His purpose for us in His glorious plan.

What Jesus intends is for believers to live out the Christ life which is in them (Col 1:27), a way and quality of life that is so different from that of the world (including the religious world) and so distinctive that it shines light into the darkness. Let the character of Jesus shine forth. The Puritan writer Thomas Brooks wrote that…A Christian’s life should be nothing but a visible representation of Christ. Has anyone mistaken you for Jesus lately? Am I truly living a life different from unbelievers? Is there anything about my life which one might recognize as supernatural? Am I giving a proper opinion of my Father by the way I live? The logic is clear and direct – just as the function of a household lamp is to give light in the house, so too believers are to provide illumination to all they encounter in this spiritually dark world.

Philippians 2:13-16: For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

The word used for lights is the same as is used in the creation record of the lights (sun and moon) which God set in the dome of the heavens to give light upon the earth. Paul is saying the saints at Philippi and by way of application believers of all ages are to shine out in stark contrast to the darkness of this godless society shining forth as “heavenly bodies of light” (lights powered from heaven) stationed upon the earth enshrouded in the darkness of sin. We are now “light in the Lord” and are to reflect the glory of the Lord in the middle of this present darkness. The darker the night, the brighter the light appears. Christians are lights or light-bearers. They cannot create any light, but they can reflect the glory of the Lord so that others may see Jesus in them.

Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

We are supposed to be the salt of the Earth, as something that gives flavor to make a meal taste good. But when we are not attracting the lost, but rather repelling them, then our salt has lost its savor. What makes it even worse is that we are even repelling the saved.

I Peter 2:9 (NIV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special peoplethat you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

 

Ephesians 5:8-16 (NIV):For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

 15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

  1. We have forgotten about the gift of holy spirit received at the new birth and it lies dormant and ineffectual in our daily living.

Acts 1:8: But you will receive (lambano-into manifestation) power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 2:38: And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

II Timothy 1:6: Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.

I Corinthians 12:7:  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

A born again believer received the gift of holy spirit at the time of the new birth conversion. It is power, a comforter, a teacher, an enlightener and a fruit producer. God has given us none manifestations to operate in I Corinthians 12 and we must begin to walk by the Spirit, fanning into a flame that burns the chaff in our lives and sets our hearts on fire for God.

  1. We have failed to live sanctified from the world:

2 Timothy is Paul’s last book. All Asia had turned away from Him. Principal keys for the Christian, for leaders and for the church how not to fall into apostasy.

2 Timothy 2:20-22: But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

John 17:14-19:  I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

What do you desire for your life as a Christian? Do you long for a heart that is aflame for God or extinguished by the world? Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to the passions of this world. We love Jesus being our Savior but hold back in making Him our Lord in everything. We still want to sit on the throne of our heart and run our own life. We want to get our ticket to heaven and return to living the way we were before. We will make no impact for the gospel of Jesus Christ with this thinking.

Skip Moen in Spiritual Restoration: Sanctification is not about becoming perfect. It is about becoming perfectly His. It is about giving more and more of my life over to God for His possession. When God met Moses at the burning bush, he took off his sandals to show he had no ownership of the ground he stood on. It belonged to God. That’s what we must do-transfer ownership to Him, give up our claims and consecrate ourselves to His purposes. God is not asking for the perfect life. He is asking to set aside the life we have entirely for Him.

  1. Oh Ye of Little Faith:  We have so little faith as Christians today as there is a great need for a revival of faith in the church. Our entire culture is designed to build fear and unbelief in the promises of God and doubt as to God’s true character and His enduring faithfulness. We have more faith in the devil to afflict and oppress us than in the power of God to deliver us, change us, empower us, and demonstrate His mighty nature in and through us.

. We have made God too small; our vision of God is mundane and tiny; we do not see or understand the character of God and just who He is, and thus our faith is miniscule, weak and shipwrecked on the island of doubt, worry and fear. Faith must once again come alive with a holy vibrancy rooted in the unchangeable truth that our God cannot lie and the promises of His Word are awaiting to be ignited in our heart by our audacious faith that God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. True Faith has absolute confidence that our God is able and willing to bring about the impossible, the miraculous, the supernatural and the extraordinary in our lives. How many times did Jesus chide his disciples and followers saying “O ye of little faith!”? We must elevate our faith in Him to the mountaintop where it belongs and, if we are ever to live the audacious, vibrant, bold and world-changing Christian life, we must have faith that moves mountains.

Eric Ludy: Do we know the power and grandeur of God in our day? Does our generation comprehend that the God of the Bible is without “shadow of turning” and that He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” There is a vast shortage of believers who simply believe with childlike faith that God will do what He says He will do and is worthy of our trust and is always faithful to His Word. Romans 4:19-21 (KJV)- 19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 

There’s nothing our world needs more desperately today – in individuals, families, businesses, churches, and communities – than God’s saving, supernatural acts. And he’s ready to act if we will be bold enough to ask, not just for a good day or a better life, but for the impossible. Then step forward to act in audacious faith.

Each of us is called to be a Joshua—each in our own way, in our own circumstances, with our own God-given personality. As you’ll see in the pages ahead, you and I are called not just to have faith, but also to regularly activate our faith by asking God for giant outcomes, taking giant steps. If we have the audacity to ask, God has the ability to perform. That’s how God turns His amazing promises into everyday reality in every generation—for Joshua’s and for ours.You and I may not see the same miracles Joshua did, but we serve the same God. His nature never changes. The same power that stopped the sun and raised Christ from the grave lives in every believer. God still demonstrates His power and supplies His provision in direct proportion to the faith of his children.

Mark 11:22-24 (NIV):

22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

“Have the faith of God” (Young’s Literal Translation)

Do you have the faith of God? Or do you have the doubt of the world? Do you believe that God can move mountains through your faith? Or are you consumed with the avalanche of fear and anxiety and not confident that our God can and will move mountains with this God-inspired faith and child-like trust in Him and Him alone? Would you ask God for the sun to stand still? Or is that just too big and too impossible for your faith? God has not changed. He still loves and passionately desires to do the impossible. He is waiting for one person to energize His faith and move out with audacious faith that there is a God in heaven with unlimited power and ability who loves to move and rule in the affairs of men and women.

  1. We Love the World and the things of the world more than we love God.

Jesus life-changing question to Peter: “Do you love me more than these?”

I John 2:16,17: 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

2 Timothy 2:3,4:  Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

James 4:1ff: (Voice): Where do you think your fighting and endless conflict come from? Don’t you think that they originate in the constant pursuit of gratification that rages inside each of you like an uncontrolled militia? You crave something that you do not possess, so you murder to get it. You desire the things you cannot earn, so you sue others and fight for what you want. You do not have because you have chosen not to ask. And when you do ask, you still do not get what you want because your motives are all wrong—because you continually focus on self-indulgence. You are adulterers. Don’t you know that making friends with this corrupt world order is open aggression toward God? So anyone who aligns with this bogus world system is declaring war against the one true God. Do you think it is empty rhetoric when the Scriptures say, “The spirit that lives in us is addicted to envy and jealousy”? You may think that the situation is hopeless, but God gives us more grace when we turn away from our own interests. That’s why Scripture says, God opposes the proud,  but He pours out grace on the humble.So submit yourselves to the one true God and fight against the devil and his schemes. If you do, he will run away in failure. Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. Wash your hands; you have dirtied them in sin. Cleanse your heart, because your mind is split down the middle, your love for God on one side and selfish pursuits on the other.

Quote from my upcoming book The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life:

The world will never love you like God loves you. He will never leave or forsake you, and He will always lead you in the path of true righteousness. Isn’t He worthy of owning ALL your heart and not just part of it? Why give away even the smallest part of your heart to the world? The world will never satisfy like God satisfies. It will only betray you in the long run like an unfaithful lover and lead you down a path of destruction.

Has your hearing become so dull, our eyes so blind, that you are giving leftovers of your heart to God? Francis Chan, in Crazy Love, says:

God wants our best, deserves our best, and demands our best. . . . [Yet] God gets a scrap or two only because we feel guilty for giving Him nothing. A mumbled three-minute prayer at the end of the day, when we are already half asleep. Two crumbled-up dollar bills thrown as an afterthought into the church’s fund for the poor. . . . We say to the Creator of all this magnitude and majesty, “Well, I’m not sure You are worth it. You see, I really like my car or my little sin habit or my money, and I am really not sure I want to give them up.” . . . How can we think for even a second that anything on this puny little earth compares to the Creator and Sustainer and Savior of it all?

This is the great deception of the kosmos, that God is not worthy of our best love, our first love, our greatest love. We give God only leftover scraps from the table of our hearts and forget His majesty and grandeur and how much how much our hearts need Him. Jesus declares to the church at Ephesus, “I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Does God really satisfy you? Are you consumed with God? Is God your first love? Carter Conlan, in The 180 Degree Christian; Serving Jesus in a Culture of Excess, says:

What I believe grieves God most is we have robbed Him of our hearts. It is as if He would say to us, “You have robbed Me of the full heart of surrender that I was looking for that would have allowed Me to fill you from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. If only you would have turned to Me! I would have caused you to live such a profound life that you would have stood out as a light shining in a darkened world.”

6: We don’t want to give up our idols:

 Kyle Idleman in Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart says:

Idolatry is the number one issue in the Bible…Idolatry comes into every book…What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with, every discouragement you are dealing with, even the lack of purpose you’re living with are because of idolatry?…Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from. So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes His rightful place, you will not have victory. Idolatry isn’t an issue; it is the issue. All roads lead to the dusty, overlooked concept of false gods. Deal with life on the glossy outer layers and you might never see it; scratch a little beneath the surface, and you will begin to see that it is always there, under some coat of paint. There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always  idolatry.

I John 5:21: Little children, keep yourselves from idols. I Corinthians 10:14: Flee from idolatry.

An idol is anything that is more valued, loved, sought after, desired and honored than God. An idol is worshipped in place of God and becomes the obsession, passion and craving of the heart above all else. Timothy Keller in, Counterfeit Gods, says:

What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God. It is anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought. It can be family and children, or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving “face” and social standing. It can be romantic relationship; peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty or your brain, a great political or social cause, your morality or virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry…An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure”…If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2010), 5.

Do you have an idol that has captured your heart?  What are you most devoted to? What occupies almost all your time? What commands your attention? What do you think about constantly? What makes you happy above all other things? What gives your life value and meaning? What absorbs you on a daily basis and controls your life? What consumes you? What can you not live without? What drives you on a daily basis? These questions are a litmus test to determine what idols you may have in your heart. These are mountaintop questions meant to reveal what has climbed to the peak of your heart. Martin Luther said, “Whatever your heart clings to and relies upon is your God; trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and idol.”

At the root of all idolatry is a misplaced trust in some person, object, idea or image above God. We trust the idol to make us whole and give us value. We have faith in the idol to fulfill its promises. We believe the idol more than we believe God. We lean on our idol in times of trouble. The idol has captured the gaze of our eyes. The idol becomes the voice we listen to. The idol energizes us to action.

We must tear down the altars to other idols in our hearts and worship the on true God always.

7: Christians have failed miserably to walk in unity but instead criticize, judge and destroy one another with their words, attitudes and actions.

Can you imagine that there are 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations? Are we missing something? Isn’t this another reason why Christianity has lost its effectiveness? Look at church history and it is not a pretty picture. Wars, inquisitions, bitter strife and schisms, persecutions, killings and hatred. How can the Body of Christ accomplish anything on earth when all of its members are warring against each other and pointing the finger of judgment? Nothing makes a mockery of Christianity more than disunity among believers. The Devil does everything in his power to keep the church divided as disunity has become a major obstacle in reaching the world with a life-changing gospel.

Look at the example of the First Century Church:

Acts 4:32-34a: Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them…

Acts 2:42-47: The community continually committed themselves to learning what the apostles taught them, gathering for fellowship, breaking bread, and praying.43 Everyone felt a sense of awe because the apostles were doing many signs and wonders among them. 44 There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in need. 45 They sold any possessions and goods that did not benefit the community and used the money to help everyone in need. They were unified as they worshiped at the temple day after day. In homes, they broke bread and shared meals with glad and generous hearts. 47 The new disciples praised God, and they enjoyed the goodwill of all the people of the city. Day after day the Lord added to their number everyone who was experiencing liberation.

It takes humility, gentleness, patience and love to walk in unity as Christians. Are you eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace or eager to cause division and strife in the church by your judgmental attitude and critical words?

Ephesians 4:1-7: I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

There are to be NO divisions in the church but we are supposed to be united in the same mind and judgment. But instead we say oh I follow Calvin, oh I follow Luther, oh I follow the Pope, oh I follow the prosperity gospel and on and on and on. We quarrel over everything and bring mockery to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have emptied the cross of Christ of its power in modern day Christianity by our divisive actions.

I Corinthians 1:10ff: I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

We remain infants in Christ, never growing into maturity because there is jealousy, strife and division among us as we walk according to the flesh and not the spirit.

I Corinthians 3:1ff: But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Colossians sets for the standard, the measuring rod for every Christian.

Colossians 3:12ff:  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

There are to be no divisions by race, culture, geography, gender or denomination.

Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

I Corinthians 12:12ff:  For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

We must stop the hatred, the division, the slander and the finger pointing among different Christian groups and denominations. Everyone thinks they are right and the other group is wrong. Remember we are all members of the Body of Christ and are supposed to be one in Christ Jesus. We will never be effective in the gospel until we put aside our petty squabbles and begin to walk in unity and love among each other. Romans 12 says in honor we are to prefer one another above ourselves. It is sad commentary in my over 40 years as a Christian when I have been persecuted, put down, criticized, slander and hated, 99% of the time it is coming from other Christians. Christians trying to destroy other Christians’ lives and ministries is far too common in modern day Christianity. The Devil is called the accuser of God’s brethren (Revelation 12:10) Why should we become his evangelists and spokepersons when we slander and judge our very own Christian brothers and sisters. The Bible says in Ephesians that NO corrupt communication is to come our mouths about anyone or anything but our words are to edify and minister grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29. What a change that would be. The Bible says we are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). Where has the kindness and forgiveness gone in churches today. Why do we backbite and gossip and judge so much? Maybe we have forgotten what we were forgiven for. At every opportunity, we are to do good to everyone especially those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Do you know much impact a kind word has, a tender touch and a helping has? Or are we like the priest and Levite who walk to the other side of the street when they see someone in need? Where is the compassion? Where is the love? Where is the empathy? We are supposed to walk and think Jesus Christ! (Philippians 2:5, I John 2:6, I Peter 2:24). How we have fallen short! We must watch out as Galatians wars that we do not bite and devour and are consumed by one another instead of spreading the gospel in word and deed (Galatians 5:15).

Let us heed Jesus’s prayer: John 17:20-23:  “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

8: Failure to Love: Waxed cold on love and waxed hot on gossiping, tearing down, criticism and judgment.

The Bible speaks eloquently to these issues. Now is the time to hear and obey it.

Matthew 24:12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will wax cold.

John 2:3-11:  And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because[a] the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him[b] there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

John 13:35: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.  

Ephesians 5:2a: And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…

Colossians 3:12ff:  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

  1. Not Rendering Sin Unemployed:

Romans 6:4-6.11-13 (Amplified):

We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, so we too might habitually live and behave in newness of life. For if we have become one with Him by sharing a death like His, we shall also be one with Him in sharing His resurrection by a new life lived for God. We know that our old unrenewed self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that our body which is the instrument of sin might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin. Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God, living in unbroken fellowship with Him, in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore rule as king in your mortal, short-lived, perishable bodies, to make you yield to its cravings and be subject to its lusts and evil passions. Do not continue offering or yielding your bodily members and faculties to sin as instruments tools of wickedness. But offer and yield yourselves to God as though you have been raised from the dead to perpetual life, and your bodily members and faculties to God, presenting them as implements of righteousness. For sin shall not any longer exert dominion over you, since now you are not under Law as slaves, but under grace as subjects of God’s favor and mercy.

Colossians 3:5(a) Amplified:

So kill, deaden, deprive of power the evil desire (lust) lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]…

Galatians 5:24, 25 (KJV):

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Phillips:

Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for.

If our lives are centered in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.

We yield our hands, feet, mouth, eyes, ears and heart as tools of righteousness to our God, and never allow our body to be an instrument of sin.

  1. Silenced as to the gospel. Most Christians are ashamed to speak the gospel of Christ in the public arena. We have become passive in witnessing and sharing of the truths of God’s Word. We fear man more than we fear God. We are fearful of what people may think, fearful of being labeled a religious nut, fearful of rejection and ridicule, fearful of not being accepted and liked by our friends, neighbors and culture that we are silenced. We refuse to open our mouths and witness to the greatest message ever in the history of the world. We forget that Jesus was despised and rejected of men, hated by the religious established, mocked by the winds of culture. Romans 10:8-17: But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

You have been sent to preach this word of faith, the gospel, to every living person. No one can believe unless they hear and no one can hear without a preacher, someone holding it forth to them. We are all commissioned preachers of the gospel. We preach in two ways: By our words and by our lives. We are living epistles known and read of all people. (2 Corinthians 3:2). Our lives are preaching 24 hours a day which may turn many off from our words of sharing the truth of God’s Word. If we preach love, but judge, gossip and hate others our message has lost its power. If we preach Lordship but are sold out to the lusts of our flesh and our own selfishness than our message has little impact. If we preach compassion but refuse to give to meet the needs of others than our message becomes hypocritical. Our love must not be hypocritical or two-faced as Romans 12:9 declares. We cannot play the part when it comes to love. We do not become an actor when it comes to loving others. Putting on a show but really not caring much.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

We have the ministry of reconciling men, women and children back to God and the word of reconciliation to accomplish this as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are an ambassador of Jesus Christ! Are you a silent ambassador with the ministry of reconciliation closing its doors in your life? Are people not hearing the gospel because you have chosen to remain silent?

We should hold forth the Word of life with boldness mixed with tenderness, grace, mercy and love in the power of the Holy Spirit. We should be like Stephen that people could not resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking (Acts 6:10).

Colossians 3:5,6: Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

11. Lack of Devotion to Pray and Study and Meditation of the Word

 O how we have underestimated the power of prayer!!God has provided us a defense and power that will enable us to stand against the schemes and flaming arrows of our enemy-the Prayer of faith. Eric Ludy-Prayer is not some bb gun that God has given us to try to shoo away raccoons in the night. Prayer is nuclear power, world renovating in its epic strength. When used according to the pattern of Scripture, prayer alters history, alters the natural world, and alters the human soul. The Sword of the Spirit is too heavy for a mere man to carry, but prayer enables us to lift it, swing it, and transform the world around us with it. Prayer is the catalyst behind everything Godly taking place in the earth.

A. W. Tozer portrayed a praying Christian as a constant threat to the stability of Satan’s government writing that…

The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Since prayer is detrimental to the evil one’s purposes, Satan and his minions do their utmost to interfere when we pray especially opposing us when we try to take time for prayer because the enemy knows better than most Christian’s the power of persistent prayer! In any posture, in any attire, at any time, in any place, and under any circumstance prayer is appropriate. Prayer is to be a total way of life, an open and constant communion with God.

Bona fide, heaven-inspired prayer-the kind that moves mountains and calms storms-is not something the modern church is use to. Prayer in our modern day has been diminished, and as a direct result, the power of the church of Jesus Christ has seemingly vanished. We are not a triumphant lot anymore, but rather a weak, sin-stained, defeated one. We lost our strength, our confidence, our absolute assurance that God is with us in battle. So many amongst our ranks are literally scared to fight because they honestly don’t know if they are going to win if they do. Lion-hearted prayer warriors are rare these days. Men and women with wild and holy abandon are so few nowadays as to be confused with being non-existent. Could it be you are the stuff of prayer legends and God is saying to you right now, “Its time my son or daughter. Rise up and live this life like you mean it!!” Will you be a part of a legendary generation of prayer heroes? Do you want a greater cause, a greater purpose, a greater destiny to fill your life? Then become a lionhearted prayer warrior for God.

EM Bounds- Our praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied and a courage that never fails.

Colossians 4:2 (NASB)-Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; I Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB)-Pray without ceasing. Phillips-Never stop praying. Romans 12:12 (NIV) Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 

AW Tozer-The man who would know God must spend time with Him. True prayer demands more of our lives than most are willing to give and therefore few ever taste of its power and delights. You need to be radical in your prayer life.

2 Timothy 2:15: Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

John 5:39a; Search the Scriptures

Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
 nor sits in the seat of scoffers;but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.In all that he does, he prospers. 

We should be spending at least an hour a day in prayer and the Scriptures. We must make time for God in our busy lives. He must be number one priority. We must train our minds to think about Scripture during the day and meditate upon God’s promises. There is nothing better to think about. One hour a day can transform you, your family and the church in amazing ways. You will begin to reflect the image of Christ more and think like Jeus instead of like the world.

These 11 points are not a comprehensive list by any means but they will help the Body of Christ get back on track as shine as a bright light in this crooked world.

Tim Rowe

Goodness of God Ministries http://www.thegoodnessofgod.net

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Thomas More Law Center Continues Fight Against Common Core; Files Brief to Uphold Missouri Ruling That Testing is Illegal

Posted by faithandthelaw on July 27, 2015

rotten-to-the-common-core

Continuing its national battle against the federal government’s attempted takeover of public education, the Thomas More Law Center, last week, filed a friend of the court brief in the Missouri Court of Appeals supporting a lower court decision that held the State’s participation and membership in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC”) is illegal and SBAC itself is an “unlawful interstate compact … whose existence and operation violate[s] the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

The lower court ruling which stopped Missouri from paying over $4 million in membership fees to SBAC, is being appealed by Missouri state officials, including Governor Jay Nixon.

The original lawsuit was filed by D. John Sauer of the St. Louis, Missouri, firm Clark & Sauer, LLC in September 2014 on behalf of concerned Missouri residents and taxpayers.

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, joined with Mr. Sauer in filing a similar lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of SBAC in North Dakota. A North Dakota District Judge will hear arguments next week on whether he should stop North Dakota from participating in SBAC.

The TMLC first became involved in the fight to stop Common Core in response to concerns of parents and teachers over the federal government’s control of curriculum nationwide and the standards themselves. As a result, the TMLC previously developed a Test Refusal and Student Privacy Protection Form and aCommon Core Resource Page as a general reference and guide for concerned parents and individuals.

Both SBAC and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (“PARCC”) were created in response to a federal Department of Education grant program designed to create academic assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The assessments leave local schools little choice but to align their curriculum to the standards and assessment, allowing the federal Department of Education to effectively control public education.

SBAC’s state membership agreements, executed by officials in Missouri, North Dakota, and several other states, have raised concerns that state officials are handing over local educational decisions to SBAC, and by extension the federal government which violates federal statutes prohibiting the federal government—and, in particular, the federal Department of Education—from controlling educational policy, including curriculum decisions and educational-assessment programs in elementary and secondary education.

The new wave of testing ushered in by SBAC and PARCC sparked a national opt-out movement as students, teachers and administrators grapple with the heavy burden created by these assessments. The looming threat from the Department of Education of the loss of federal funding helped drive the controversy between parents and school administrators over parental opt-outs and test refusal. As a result of these parental opt outs, students across the country were  formally disciplines and subjected to “sit-and-stare” policies; refused admittance to the classroom; lost honors, class trips, and athletic participation; and were even suspended.

 Click here to read the Law Center’s friend of the Court Brief

Courtesy of https://www.thomasmore.org/

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Planned Parenthood: How Much Longer?

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on July 18, 2015

full_planned-parenthood-how-much-longerIn one sense, there are really just two types of people when it comes to the topic of abortion: those who think it is okay to kill unborn babies, and those who think it’s wrong. If you don’t think you’re in one of these categories, you still are; you’re just confused.

Confusion, though, isn’t the most terrible thing. It means there is still hope, and in fact, this hopeful condition likely characterizes the general public of the United States. Most people don’t have a deep conviction about unborn babies. Most people don’t even think about unborn babies unless it’s an election year or the news runs a story. Even most who support abortion could only repeat the rhetoric they’ve heard from devotees.

And therefore, if confusion is what’s really popular, the question becomes:

What will it take for abortion activists to convince the general public that their position is a psychotic threat to humanity?

When will the rhetoric about women’s health and women’s rights be exposed for what it truly is (since, of course, by women’s “health” and women’s “rights” they must not mean the near 28 million girls aborted since 1973)? What will it take? Where is the tipping point when the truth of Planned Parenthood can no longer be ignored by the popular conscience?

Abortion’s Self-Destruction

Mind-changing momentum is beginning to build, and to our surprise, it’s not so much from the direct work of pro-life advocates, but from the unmasked mishaps of abortion activists themselves. Yes, that’s right. They’ve ironically stumbled into a suicide mission.

What if, counter-conventional as it might seem, the greatest felt gains for unborn humans will come by the abortion industry’s self-destruction?

Last year there was the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains reportedly awarded for exceeding their abortion quota. That is to say, in addition to other reports of such quotas, there was a certain number of abortions that the clinic was prescribed to perform and when they surpassed that number they were honored, all of which backfires against the language of abortions as safe, legal, and rare.

But that is really nothing compared to the recent video that exposes Planned Parenthood for selling the body parts of infant corpses. If the thought of abortionists high-fiving each other over surpassing their abortion quotas doesn’t unsettle you, just watch the video of Deborah Nucatola chomp her food and sip her wine as she talks about selling aborted baby heads. You can watchthe full two hours and forty minutes of conversation.

Apparently, according to Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services, not only is abortion “safe, legal, and rare,” but it’s a pretty big money-maker if you can keep those heads and livers intact as you extract the baby feet first.

How Much Longer, America?

Once again, we’re not supposed to know about this industry. Planned Parenthood doesn’t want us to know, especially since it’s illegal. But we do know. And if we open our eyes, we’ll never think the same way again about their organization and their little tagline, “Care. No matter what.” Care? They receive millions of taxpayer dollars, and our president tells them to keep up “the good work” — to butcher babies and sell their body parts? Care?

Sooner or later, Planned Parenthood, the conviction-less masses are going to start scratching their heads. Please, just keep talking. Just keep doing what you do. The lights are coming on, and you’ve got nowhere to hide.

The question for the rest of us is how long it is before we feel the cumulative effect. How much time will we give the abortion industry before they self-destruct? How much longer, America? How long are we going to let this go on?How many more conversations need to leak? How much more blood must be spilt? How many more body parts must be dismembered, packaged, and sold before we realize this whole thing is a nightmare? God, may it end soon.

Jonathan Parnell

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/planned-parenthood-how-much-longer

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How Wide the Divide: Sexuality at the Forefront, Culture at the Crossroads

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on July 17, 2015

RZIM_ravi_zacharias_apologetics_how_great_the_divide_supreme_court_decision

A century ago these times were imagined and they are now here. How do we live as Christians in such times?

My mother-in-law is ninety-five years old. She has lived through several wars and numerous other cataclysmic events in her life. Nothing has her more perplexed, shocked, and almost emotionally stunned as the culture wars that have been waged and have changed our world. I see her sitting in church when I am visiting her, obviously wondering why all of her past memories have been lost in the present format of worship. She is not at home either in the world or in her church and eagerly awaits the day when she can be in the City of God, her eternal home. ‎ ‎

What has changed? How did we get here? As Nietzsche would say, “Is there any up or down left? Who gave us a sponge to wipe away the horizon? Will lanterns have to be lit in the morning hours? What sacred games will we need to invent?” Yes, a century ago these times were imagined and they are now here. While the secular world has invented its secular games, many churches have invented their own “sacred” games.

The most daunting question for us today is how do we live as Christians in such times? The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States sent tremors around the globe and I have received scores of messages asking whether we, at RZIM, are going to say anything in response. What more is there to say? The spectrum of views that were immediately expressed said all there was to say. When the law passed, the first thought that came to my mind was Chesterton’s prophetic comment more than half a century ago: “For under the smooth legal surface of our society there are already moving very lawless things. We are always near the breaking-point when we care only for what is legal and nothing for what is lawful. Unless we have a moral principle about such delicate matters as marriage and murder, the whole world will become a welter of exceptions with no rules. There will be so many hard cases that everything will go soft.”

That breaking point is here.   ‎

After hours of pondering and praying, I would like to say something to my fellow believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Naturally, some who disagree with my views will probably be reading this as well so I have to expand the justification a bit. I am keenly aware that on this subject winning the approval of all is not only impossible but if done, would be at the risk of substance. I shall try to walk through this minefield.‎

As Christians, we often look outside of ourselves and wonder why the world is so different from us. We seldom pause and ask how the Church of today has become so different from what it was and so indifferent to the world around us. Liberalism is not just a political term. What has happened in our world was foreseen a few decades ago. Changes were underway then and we were taken by a storm from within. Culture at large moved unabashedly towards the mockery of the Christian worldview; Eastern religions were spared that, either because of the cowardice of the Western critic or simply to not be seen as attacking another ethnic group. But the Church is really where the titanic shifts in the culture started. As the liberal church swung to the extreme of religion without absolutes, the evangelical church flirted with emotionalism without intellect, while some of the mass distributors of spirituality peddled a cosmetic version of truth that was hollow and hairstyles became more important than what was going on in the head itself.

Of course, there are exceptions to these generalities. Some of the most thriving churches today are those that have a deep allegiance to the gospel message. I am honored to often be in their midst and I have hope because of them. But for now, let me just talk about how wide is the divide between secular society and the Church, and why it is. ‎ ‎

There are three starting points that separate the historic Christian view from those who called for the legalizing of gay marriage that is now the law of the land, albeit by one vote.

One, we come from two different definitions of what it means to be human. For the Christian, life is in the soul. The body is the temporal home. George MacDonald said it well: “You do not ‘have’ a soul; you ‘are’ a soul, and ‘have’ a body.” For the one living with a secular worldview there is no such thing as the soul. To be sure, that is not true of all in that disposition. I know many who would not deny the essential spirituality of human life and will admit to a deep struggle between their attractions and their cautions. Strangely, there has also arisen a strained view that seeks to justify the marital bond between any two consenting adults as biblically permissible. I shall not wander into an apologetic countering that. But there are those within their own ranks who seriously challenge such distortion. Fine theologians have argued and demonstrated the cracks in their foundations.‎ ‎

For the most part, in secular terms NOW is all we have and NOW is the moment to enjoy whatever one pleases. A soul-less existence makes the body the sole means of fulfillment. When one starts that way, sexuality is a thing to be restricted only by parameters that are materially referenced. As the songwriter said, “In the dark it is easy to pretend that the truth is what it ought to be.” Touch becomes defined by feel and taste, nothing more than that. “I feel I enjoy it so please stay out of my way.”

‎The contrast here between the Christian worldview and the secular is a big one. For the Christian, not only is life in the soul, but the body, in Jesus’s words, is the temple of God. That is the highest locus of communion between a human being and God. For the one who recognizes no such thing as the sacred, the body is the playing field of life and pleasure sets the rules. This is a significant difference as a starting point.

Two, the Christian believes in absolutes. For the secular person, moral relativism is the only absolute. No one ever really says what something is relative to, but the implication here is that there is no boundary for behavior. Even the economic destruction of those with whom they disagree can become the water-boarding and the slow kill of the secular armory. For the relativist, no decision is determined by a transcendent definition of life, and where there are no absolutes, there had dare not be any prohibition by anyone else. The banner of the atheistic society in England during Christmas two years ago said it all: “There probably is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Relativism is the open door to fun, absolutes the closed door that destroys fun. That is the way it is seen.

Three, the defender of sexual freedom sees a parallel between what is seen as anti-gay prejudice today and racial prejudice as it was practiced at its lowest point decades ago. Here, a word game has entered the vocabulary. Relativist convictions are supposedly prejudice-free, while absolute convictions are branded as phobias. Any stigma can lick a good dogma, it is said. With that verbal deconstruction of a worldview, all questioning of sexual freedom is castigated as a phobia. Quite amazing that atheists are not called “theophobes” or that those against Christians are not called “christophobes.” Pejoratively, the counter positions have been appended with phobias till we may have a whole new polyphobic dictionary.

But that is the lesser problem. I contend that equating race with sexuality is actually a false premise and an unfortunate analogy.‎ In the matter of race it simply doesn’t matter how I feel about it; my ethnicity transcends my preferences or inclinations. In the Hindi language there is a mildly mocking expression to describe one who acts different to his or her essence in race: “Desi murghi pardesi chal” … “this is a local bird with a foreign walk.” As was recently established, a person may feel like one race, associate primarily with that race and think like that race, but that doesn’t change who she really is. Why is this analogy unfortunate? Because it moves the debate from what is right to what are one’s rights. Ironically, the political party now most aligned with arguing for rights was once the same party that argued against the emancipation of slaves because of the slave-owners’ “rights.” In that case, those rights were overruled by what was right. Interesting that a new word wasn’t coined then to describe those who made moral arguments against the slave-owners’ rights as “slaveophobes.” Thankfully, essential human worth and moral reason trumped existential and pragmatic preferences and by God’s grace, what was right was deemed to be right and the slave was freed.

There are absolutes. To the Christian, every person is made in the image of God and is loved by God. He sent his Son for the whole world, not just for those of a particular race or sexual proclivity. Sex is a sacred trust with deliberate boundaries. It is at once one of the greatest gifts and one of the greatest struggles. The 5000-year-old struggle in the Middle East has its roots in polygamy when two half-brothers shared a father but not the same mother.

‎The violation of race is a violation of the sacred and for the Christian, the violation of sex is seen the same way. The secularist does not see the latter as a violation where there is consent, but this is simply not so for the Christian. Desacralization is an emptying of essential purpose and meaning and leads to the loss of essential purpose in life itself. This is why it is vacuous to say that if two people love each other they may express it in any way they choose. Love is not defined in a way that is self-referencing. It ultimately hangs on the peg of God’s love and how He defines love.‎ ‎

But here a caution is critical. All violation of the sacred, not just sex, is ultimately in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. That is the Christian view. That is why the good news is that God’s gift of salvation and redemption is offered to all. That is why what is right has to win the day over what we may see as rights. As hard as this may seem to some, it is the only hope to avoid the misuse of reason for other attractions. Can we not, on the same argument presently used—adult consent—someday justify a multitude of proclivities? Even more, what is to keep Sharia Law from being brought into the culture to respect the rights of a particular group only to have it one day used by extremists to overrule our present laws? After all, extremists have ways of dictating for all. Isn’t that what we witness time and again? This is not a slippery slope. This is an irrational, runaway train driven in the name of rights and tendentious reasoning. It can happen. I suspect it will happen. The cultural plausibility can shift. Not everything that is fatal is immediate.‎

With these three chasms, the heart sinks and exclaims, how wide is the divide‎!

This, then, brings me as a follower of Jesus Christ to the three most important bridges between all of us, regardless of our views on this issue. The gay community rightly cries out for identity and intimacy. These are, after all, the longings of the mind and heart of every human being, regardless of our position on this issue. This is where the gospel enters as the only way to bring us together.‎ Indeed, the first bridge of the gospel is that my identity is found in Jesus Christ because of whom I must tame my passions. My identity dictates my behavior. Before I committed my life to Jesus Christ, my identity within my culture was dictated by the status of my family: who my father was, how I did in school, what my grades were, how much money I had access to. All these were and are systemically woven into my culture. I had no choice. This is how I was viewed. Take a look at the matrimonial section in India’s newspaper today. Color, caste, education, wealth, beauty all are repeatedly mentioned as parents seek what they consider the best partners for their children. It’s so clearly discriminatory. When my sister married a Hindu convert to Jesus Christ, the challenge for his parents was huge. But amazingly, their understanding of what Jesus Christ had done for their son changed everything. This is the only bridge I know of that can change the human heart.

It is because of this relationship that we change our behavior from what attracts us to what we act upon. This connection is crucial. If I know what it is to be a man, I know how sexual attraction works. Over time you learn that giving in simply does not bring lasting happiness or purpose. It is only in the keeping of the body as the temple that the sacred is upheld and the grace of God brings conviction and restraint. The Bible says we are not to place our offerings on every altar. One psychologist describes indulgence as “short term fleeting relationships with long term bitter disappointments.” This is true of all behavior and of all sexual expression that runs afoul of God’s design. He has built this law into the human fabric. Deep inside we know this. Temporal allurements are ultimately unfulfilling without a spiritual bonding and binding. It is the eternal that must guide the temporal. ‎ ‎

The second bridge the gospel brings is intimacy. We all long for touch. This is true even in the most senior years of one’s life. I have talked to people working in homes for the aged and they have remarked on how much the elderly miss a physical touch and embrace. This is how we are made. Carrying that concept into sexuality, consummation is the all-embracing act of intimacy. Being as consummate as it is it demands exclusivity, otherwise it is rendered profane and common place. Experience tells us this repeatedly. Cultures that totally desacralize sexuality are non-existent. Even the polygamous guard the numbers. Even the unclad have boundaries. There are laws that govern against rapacious acts.

The biblical description of marriage is for one man and one woman in sacred commitment. So profound is this union that the relationship of God to the Church bears that comparison. He is the bridegroom; the Church is the bride.

Is this so abstract that it doesn’t come down to where we are in our individual yearning for intimacy? Not in the least. According to the gospel, God offers us his indwelling presence where spirit touches spirit and the deepest, truest intimacy results. I am fully aware that to one who has never tasted intimacy with God this seems absurd. But it is here that I think we as Christians need to awaken to the unpleasant reality that we have not taught and proclaimed God’s Word faithfully and demonstrated true holiness.

How can my mind be transformed so that intellectually I understand perspectives and counter-perspectives? How do I so embrace God’s truth that it transforms my heart and my inclinations, or at least gives me the ability to control my inclinations? I have a colleague who confessed to having same sex-attractions. He went on to say that on a given day he thought and thought about the Christian message and finally and wholeheartedly surrendered himself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In his words, he “sensed a presence of being overcome from the top of my head to the soles of my feet…I have tasted a glimpse of heaven; why would I stoop to what is below?” Are there days of struggle for him? Is there a certainty of his new affections in Christ? “Yes,” he says to both questions. I have a huge respect for him and his sacrifice.

For the Christian, the question is this: How do I so walk with God that ALL my affections are brought under Jesus’s Lordship, whether my inclinations be same-sex or opposite sex or any other struggle? How may I love those with whom I disagree on these serious matters? The bridges will always be the identity and intimacy offered in the heart commitment to the Savior, first lived out then lovingly taught. ‎ ‎

Also, for the Christian we must remember that we cannot make this realm the eternal order. Our earthly cities are not what eternity alone will bring. Augustine’s two most memorable masterpieces are his Confessions and his City of God. As he lay dying in his home city, barbarians were already scaling the walls of Rome. Even as many churches were being destroyed, the main ones he had planted withstood the carnage. Incredibly, even though his mortal frame was breaking down, people continued coming to him so that he could pray for them. That is a glorious picture. His body was meeting its end. But his soul was not. He had confessed his need for his Savior and he looked to a city whose builder and maker was God. All earthly cities will at some time crumble and fall, as will our mortal bodies. Our eternal place of abiding is in God’s presence, no longer merely in a counter culture but in a place prepared for us. Augustine’s life enfleshed all those truths.‎ ‎

The third and final bridge of the gospel is that of community: the love of God working through us as a Church where worship brings together all our inclinations, surrendered to God’s sacred call for all of us. That is worked out in love and grace. Our worship will have to have theological integrity, not just in form but in substance; worship that is not just moments of exhilaration but is co-extensive with life itself and sermons that are not merely heard but are also seen. The outreach of love will then be embodied and not be mere talk. The Church must not be a fortress guarded by a constabulary but a home where the Father ever awaits the return of each of us who is in the far country. ‎ ‎

For those who follow Jesus Christ, our message to the world must be clear. God transforms the heart and mind and we become his children and his ambassadors. Let us so live that we will never be accused of hate or indifference. But let us also know that compromising the truth is a serious blunder and ends up celebrating that which is not in the will of our Father. This is a painful tension for a believer. To be seen as rejecting a belief or a behavior is not the same as rejecting the person. But God helps us to carry that burden.

By contrast, when Truth is lived out in love and grace, it will always make the faith attractive and even the one who opposes us will recognize the fearful symmetry of a conviction for the sacred that will swim against the tide and a commitment to the person that will find a bridge of hope. We must so live the gospel that men and women will call upon God’s name and make this body his home until we reach our Eternal City bought with the precious sacrifice of Jesus Christ. His body was broken for us so that ours might be mended for Him. ‎ ‎

Ravi Zacharias‎

http://rzim.org/global-blog/how-wide-the-divide-sexuality-at-the-forefront-culture-at-the-crossroads‎

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