Author: sappi60

About sappi60

“People are all over the world telling their one dramatic story and how their life has turned into getting over this one event. Now their lives are more about the past than their future.” Chuck Palahniuk. Christian. Conservative. Former practicing lesbian. Served in US Army Military Intelligence during Cold War in West Berlin, West Germany. Worked in Washington DC for nearly 5 years. Currently live and work in Washington State.

What I Learned This Year (but I could be wrong)

Image result for what i learned today People should probably applaud me for having posted virtually nothing during this whole election year.  There was so much I wanted to say, but knew it just wouldn’t be helpful.  This blog was never intended to be politically focused, though anyone who tells you that a Christian needs to keep faith and politics separate is only out to keep you silent.  There is no aspect of your life that God should not touch. 

Before I go much further I want to make two things very clear —

First, I believe that deeply faithful followers of Jesus Christ have made choices in their votes that they profoundly believed ware the only choice they could make considering the alternative.

Secondly, I did vote in this past election.  I did not vote for either of the top Presidential candidates.  I wrote in a vote.  And the reason I did not choose either of these candidates is the reason for this posting.  I realize many will disagree with me, but I this is MY deeply held belief and I wish to share it.  Image result for vote As a Christian there was no way I would vote for Mrs. Clinton or any other democrat candidate for that matter.  I would have to compromise my faith to vote for a party who’s platform supports abortion on demand, helps to promote the gay agenda, seeks to squash faith in the public square, suppresses free speech when it doesn’t agree, and believes its absolutely just to take the wealth earned by others and give it to those who have less even though it does not raise the standard of living for those on the receiving end. One cannot force another to “give” – giving is a matter of the heart.

However, as a Christian, there was no way I could vote for Mr. Trump either.  Though I may agree with SOME of his political platforms, his moral character leads me to believe he is a man who will do and say whatever he must to achieve his objective.  While he may fulfill many of his campaign promises I’m sure his supporters will be equally as disappointed in the ones he changes his mind on.  While that’s par for the course for most politicians, it was his history of name calling, bragging about his sexual exploits, that he did not believe that he had done anything to ask for forgiveness for, and that he has held opposing opinions on fundamental things like abortion and personal property rights that were the proverbial “nails in the coffin” for me.  As much as I opposed Mrs. Clinton, I could not hold my nose and pull the lever for Mr. Trump either.

But this is not even a blog about the candidateImage result for the lesser of two evilss per se.  It’s about the response of many Christians to the choices they were presented with.  It was the astounding willingness to accept the “lesser of two evils” as a viable choice.  Conservative Christians were in a panic over the thought that the election of a democrat for four more years could mean the economic collapse of the nation and the loss of liberties for those who hold to the sanctity and reliability of Scripture.

Let me insert here that I love my country. I served in the US Army in West Berlin, West Germany during the Cold War.  I was there when there was still a Wall.  I have seen first hand what a socialist society looks like.  Barb wire did not surround West Berlin to keep West Berliners out of East Germany, but to keep East Germans from escaping into West Berlin.  Governments who serve and protect their people do not need to worry that their citizens should want to flee.

Duty in West Berlin was considered hazardous because it was understood that, should the Russians begin an assault on the NATO countries there would have been no way for the men and women serving in this sector of the world to be evacuated to safety in West Germany.  We would have been lucky to get the civilian dependents out of harms way.  So we were very aware that our fate was to die or be captured.  It was not a thrilling prospect, but we knew our mission was important to the ultimate safety and security of our Nation.

Having said that, while I love my country, my ultimate allegiance is to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  When the good of the country comes into conflict with the standards and teachings of my Christian faith, as laid out in Scripture, then I must acquiesce to Scripture.  My Home is not here.  My confidence is not in either political party.  My ultimate freedom is in Jesus Christ, regardless of whether my country allows me to exercise personal freedom.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31 says, “What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short.  From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.  For this world in its present form is passing away.” (NIV)

1 John 2:15-17 also states, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (NIV)

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I believe in the sovereignty of God.  I believe He sets those in power whom He chooses according to His purposes; whether for good or ill.  But my concern should not be whether I make sure God is able to get the right person into power by use of my vote, but whether I am living my life and exercising my rights as an American in a way that glorifies Him.

Pastor John Piper, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, stated it much more eloquently, and I believe prophetically, than I ever could.  He said, “We vote, if we vote, because the Lord of our homeland commissions us to vote.  And He does not absolutize this act above all other considerations of Christian witness.  In this election, with the flagrant wickedness of both party candidates the logic that moves from ‘Be subject, for the Lord’s sake, to every human institution’ to the binding obligation always to vote is blind to three things.
Number one, that logic is blind to the radical meaning of ‘for the Lord’s sake.’ and how it relativizes all human authority and brings to bear many, many other considerations.
Number two, the radical freedom of the children of God from inherent authority of human processes and governments and institutions.
And number three, it is blind to the aim of every citizen of Heaven, in all their human engagements, to display our allegiance to the values of another world.”

Conservative Christians had every right to “fear” the possibility of a Clinton win and what that would mean to their right to openly practice their faith.  There was every reason to be concerned about further progressive policies and the already teetering state of the American economy.  The rights of Christian businessmen and women to exercise their faith in the way they operate their business was certainly in peril.   Had Mrs. Clinton won the election certainly every American would continue to be economically involved in the inhumane slaughter of the unborn in the womb.

There is no doubt that had Mrs. Clinton won that pressure would have been placed on those churches who hold to the inerrancy of scripture and consider homosexuality to be a sin to either keep silent from the pulpit on such matters or lose their 501c3 status.  Eventually, the Justice Department would have pursued charges against those pastors, teachers, and religious organizations who spoke out against the practices of the LGBTQ community for hate crimes.

Christian faith would have been pushed further and further out of the public square to the point of near invisibility.  That is a near certainty.

These were valid concerns.  These were my concerns as well.

What I learned this year is how painful and wrenching it is to make a stand knowing that it could result in all the things you fear coming to pass.  What I learned is that when you stand on the principles you say you espouse in every other aspect of your life, that even those you believed held the same principles will at times decry you because “there’s too much at stake”.   What I learned is that the Church in America needs to reexamine it’s understanding of the sovereignty of God and our role as “salt and light”.  What I learned is that Christians don’t see the “lesser” of two evils as still being an evil.

I was astounded by how many in the clergy stood up to say that they had to look past all the “flaws” of the Republican candidate because the alternative was too horrible to contemplate.  No candidate is perfect.  No candidate is completely moral.  Our nature is a fallen one and I certainly recognize that fact.  But the tastelessly conspicuous and even egocentric glee of Mr. Trump towards is moral failures was beyond the pale.  While President Bill Clinton’s contriteness for his moral failures during the Monica Lewinsky scandal may have been manufactured, Mr. Trump proudly asserted he had never done anything for which to ask God’s forgiveness.  

Neither candidate was ethically suited to take the oath of office of the Presidency.  While the is no Scriptual obligation for the Church to endorse a candidate during election years, it should always be firm and public in its stance on issues of personal morality, including that of candidates for public office.  Instead, the Church became split on the subject.  It was okay for Conservative Christians to question and bemoan the morality of those on the left, but one was being asked to not look so closely at the foibles of the Republican candidate.  It was more important, in the opinion of some, to win the election rather than stand on conscience.

The unspoken statement among some seem to be, “we

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have to help God put the right person in the Oval Office.  Otherwise He won’t be able to fulfill His purposes for this country or the World.”   In the western hemisphere we seem to have come to the opinion that without the United States as the Super Power in the world the gospel will not be spread to all nations, Christianity will become a minor religion, and the whole earth will be in desperate danger of moral collapse.

For 8 years Christians have been saying, “if we don’t stop this collapse in the morality of the American culture we will face the judgement of God.”  With the election of President Trump they are now saying, “Look, God has given us a second chance.”

I don’t believe that’s what has happened at all.  I think, in fact, that what God has said is, “I gave you the chance to nominate a candidate with a strong moral foundation and instead you nominated a man of more than questionable character.  I then gave you an opportunity to be salt and light and to tell the culture ‘even though we know this could mean the loss of our freedom as Christians we will trust in the Sovereignty of our God, knowing He will always do what is best for us, and say that we cannot and will not support a man who brags about his sexual promiscuity, who does not bend his knee to God, and who belittles and denigrates those who oppose him.’  Instead, not only have you rallied behind him, but some of you have joined in the denigration of those did take a stand in opposition, while others have you chosen to simply stay silent.”

While we may have several years where we see a renewal of the Super Power status of America, a strengthening of the economy, and perhaps even a revival in the Churches, I strongly believe that God has allowed us to set our course.  Ultimately we will be called to account; not because of Trump himself, but because the fate of the country was more important that the righteousness of God.  Because winning the White House was of greater worth than being a light in the darkness.  Because we did not trust that no matter what trials we must endure from our government that God is still in control and He will always do what is for our good and for His glory.  We instead settled for “the lesser of two evils” in hopes that everything will be okay, at least for a little while longer.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

I don’t believe that God is surprised by the outcome of this election.  And I do believe that Donald Trump will take the oath of office next month, because that is according to His plan. (“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His.  He changes times and season; He sets up kings and deposes them.  He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” Daniel 2:20-21)  But God also uses those plans to allow us to make greater spiritual decisions.  And there are consequences to those decisions.

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But…I could be wrong.

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NO COMPROMISE

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If all our choices were simply between a single scoop of vanilla or the Belly Buster Mountain of Fudge life would be simpler.   If we only had to decide whether to buy the 52″ flat screen or pay the dentist bill — no brainer.  Or should we tell slightly senile Aunt Meg her cat learned the hard way it could not take on the raccoon or fib and say “well, he may have just run away”.

Maybe most of our choices aren’t monumental life and death decisions, but every now and then we’re faced with that “moral dilemma” situation.  Do I stand on my convictions or do I give in to the pressure from…friends…co-workers…the boss…society…other Christians?

James seemed to be pretty clear about what decision to make: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

It’s pretty cut and dry when the choice is between not taking money from the till or cheating with your best friends husband.  It’s not so much when it’s your boss telling you to “pad the account a little bit” so the quarterly report looks a little fatter.  It’s not an easy decision when you’re the driver on “girls night out” and the rest of the group decides they want to see “Fifty Shades of Gray”.  And it’s really difficult when a fellow Christian confides in you about a blatant sin and you know they’re expecting your rejection and judgement.

It’s easy to justify what we know to be wrong.  “My job is on the line and I can’t afford to lose this paycheck.”  “I’m the one who said I’d drive.”  “I don’t want to hurt my friend.  That’s the Pastor’s job.”

It’s hard to hear your boss say, “well I’ll just hire someone who CAN do that.”  It hurts to hear your friends say, “It’s just a movie.  You’re such a killjoy.  Next time we’ll get your ‘approval’ before we go out.”  It’s painful to say, “What you’re doing is so wrong.  I can’t support your decision to do this.  I love you, but I don’t love what you’re doing.”

D.A. Carson said, “We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” (For the Love of God, Volume 2)

Sometimes it’s painful.  Sometimes it’s costly.  But it’s right.  No compromise.

 

DEAR AGNOSTIC FRIEND

Dear Agnostic Friend,

case4christ  Before I even begin I want you to know that I respect your right to believe as you choose and my intent here is not to convert you.  You are adamant about your choice and I am by no means criticizing it.

However, I saw your posting to whomever the person was that sent you a copy of this book in the mail anonymously.  I was somewhat surprised at your vehement response toward receiving the book, though it seemed from some things you said that perhaps this wasn’t the first you’ve received.

I don’t know who sent it to you so I can only assume their intentions.  And it’s based on that assumption that I’m writing to you now.  I hope that perhaps I can lend a different perspective from the one you may have formed about this person.

You see, there isn’t just one kind of Christian.  From your reaction to receiving the book I guess when you think of “Christian” you think of someone with a holier-than-thou attitude who really isn’t interested in “saving your soul” as much as they are in telling you all the reasons why you deserve to go to hell.  Well, there are those out there for sure.  They really aren’t the majority, as you’ve been told or come to believe.  I think, more often than not, that’s the image projected on us from media and anecdotal portrayals.  I’m sure you’ve run into some of them in real life, but most of us really aren’t like that.

In reality, sadly, most Christians really don’t care enough about you to worry about where you’re going to spend eternity.  More often than not we tend to worry more about whether you think we’re “uncool” or “moronic” if we even let on that we’re believers.  The acceptance of the rest of the world — our co-workers, the friends we hang with on Friday night,  the neighbor next door, our college professors — is really more important to us than where you spend your after-life.  Oh, we might pray for you every now and then — that someone ELSE would come along and bring you the Gospel.  But if that never happens it’s really no skin off our backs.  We have that “I’ve got mine, you get your own” kind of attitude, though we don’t mean to.  It’s just that no one likes rejection so it’s just more comfortable for most of us to let you “make your own bed and lie in it”.

A great many of are really just “Chino”s — CHristians In Name Only.  Yeah, if we’re asked on a survey we’ll put down that we’re Christian.  But to most of us that only means we believe there’s a God (sort of) and we know the top 10 Bible Stories (David and Goliath, that guy in the lion’s den, the Christmas story, Charlton Heston was Moses).  We show up for church on Christmas and Easter…unless we don’t; but we meant to.  We live just like the rest of the world does.  We party on the weekends, we gossip at work, we went to see “Fifty Shades of Gray” with our girlfriends, and we flip off the guy that cuts us off in traffic.  When we get in trouble we do a LOT of praying, but it’s for ourselves, definitely not for you.
We got dragged to church as kids, but we really think that if you don’t do anything REALLY bad — like murder someone (unless they deserve it) or steal money from senior citizens — that God is going to let you in heaven.  So we don’t really worry about whether you are a Christian or not because, well, you’re a good person and God’s gonna let you in.  There probably isn’t really a hell and if there is then only people like Hitler and Jeffrey Dalmer will be there.  A loving God just wouldn’t send people to hell just because they don’t believe.  They’ll believe when they get there and it’ll all be good.  At least, that’s what makes us comfortable believing and it REALLY lets us off the hook from having to say anything to you and that’s what we care more about.

But then there are those of use who really do care.  Yes, we are afraid of your rejection.  We’re afraid of the ridicule and the attempts at shaming us and being called names like “narrow-minded” and “oppressive”.  We’re afraid that you think we’re trying to “force you” to believe what we do because we have some sort of superiority complex, not because we want to share our reason for the hope we’ve found.  More and more we’re being accused of being hateful if we are open about our beliefs.  We’re accused of being phobic about this and judgemental about that; we’ve heard it all before.  We often can’t articulate why we sincerely believe that there is a God, that He created the heavens and the earth, that He sent His Son to die for our sins, that all of us are sinners in need of a Savior, and that accepting Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior is the only way to receive forgiveness and Eternal life.  We know the tooth fairy is only a myth and Santa Claus doesn’t really come down the chimney at Christmas so you kind of have to give us some credit that we’re not gullible enough to just believe anything old thing we’re told.  There has to be some basis for our faith.
Some of us actually do care enough about those around us that we try to figure out some way to maybe help someone understand why we believe what we do.  One of those people sent you a book.  Others will write a letter.  Some others post scripture on Facebook, in hopes that something they post rings true to you and others.  Some may have you on their daily prayer list.  Some are even bold enough to risk your scorn and try to share their faith with you; not because they think they’re better than you, but because they ACTUALLY do care enough about you to take that risk.

Maybe it’s just me, but perhaps instead of accusing that person of “harassing” you for trying to share their faith you could simply say, “I am thankful that you care enough to worry about where I spend eternity.  I am an avowed agnostic and I’m comfortable with that.  But I do appreciate your concern.  I will donate your book to the library or the Goodwill and perhaps someone else will appreciate it more than I would.  But I do thank you for thinking of me.”

Maybe I’m the only one, but it seems to me that if you call yourself “agnostic” that’s something totally different from calling yourself an atheist.  In my mind, someone who is a TRUE agnostic is a person who is open to the idea of there may actually be a Supreme Being and thoughtfully exploring who that may be.  While they may look at a variety of religions and beliefs, they are open to whatever evidence there may be to substantiate a belief system.  It would seem to me that if there were perhaps empirical, as well as logical, historical, and scientific evidence to prove the existence of a god that an agnostic would want to explore that evidence.
The term “agnostic” is translated as “not” (a-) “knowing” (gnostic).   While agnostics claim that nothing is known or can be known about the existence of God, to me that seems rather “narrow-minded” or even “oppressive” because it shuts out the possibility of ever considering any evidence that may be available.  Wouldn’t that be “antagonistic”, not “agnostic”?

But, again, I’m not here to convince you of the truth of Christianity.  I just wanted you to consider that whoever sent you book probably wouldn’t spend their hard-earned money to buy the book, much less take the time to get online and find it on Amazon or CBD.com or go to a book store, and pay to ship it to you if they didn’t care.  Don’t we all complain about how little so many care about each other?  Isn’t it kind of nice to know that someone does?

So maybe simply saying “thank you, but I will pass this on to someone else” is a better way to respond to this “unwanted gift”, than being offended.  And if you get another book I would be happy to pay for you to ship it to me.  I know a few people who are open-minded enough to want to know if there is the possibility of proof for the existence and nature of a god and anything beyond material phenomena.

Sincerely,

Me

I Am Here To (clap) PUMP YOU UP!

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  “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Matthew 5:11-12

PREPARE TO REJOICE!!!

wait-whatSeriously!  Over the past few years we’ve seen salvo after salvo fired over the bow of Western Christians, warning us that Society will no longer tolerate our open involvement in the public arena or the right to any moral convictions that stands in opposition to them.  From Christian bakers, photographers, bed and breakfast owners, and florists who refuse to cater to gay wedding and couples to a County Clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage license to gay couples because she didn’t want her name on it and the State would not accommodate her.

And it’s not just the gay agenda issues.  Our tax money goes to pay for abortions, regardless of the promises, via the Affordable Care Act (see Sec1303b1Bii of ACA) and the funding of Planned Parenthood (despite claims to the contrary).

We’ve been pushed out of the schools, bullied out of many work places, laughed out of the public discourse, and slowly erased from American History unless Christianity is shown in an oppressive or fanatic light.  We’ve been accused of homophobia, xenophobia, Islamaphobia, and wanting to silence all who disagree with us.

AND THE FUN IS JUST BEGINNING!!

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Understand, we still have it a LOT better than our Christian brothers and sisters in many Islamic ruled countries.  Our persecutors haven’t begun cutting our heads off, driving us from our homes, burning us alive, or taking our wives and daughters to be used as sex slaves…yet.  And that probably won’t happen here.  But you can be sure that businesses already have been closed and more will be.  Jobs will be lost, property may be confiscated (or forced to be sold to pay for legal costs and to satisfy reparations in lawsuits), and we will be jailed.  BUT REJOICE!

REJOICE! Not because it’s pleasant, but because it’s purposeful.  We will be persecuted because HE was persecuted.  We will be ridiculed because HE was ridiculed.  We will be falsely accused because HE was falsely accused.  If we are persecuted because of Him it’s because we belong to Him.  He has promised His reward if we endure persecution.  He has promised His presence through persecution.  He has promised that His name will be glorified in our persecution.

But he has promised persecution!  It’s inevitable.

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2Timothy 3:12)

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:16-22)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well.” (John 15:18-23)

 YOU DO HAVE AN OUT!

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If you really want to avoid coming persecution you do have 4 options:

#1. Keep Silent!  Don’t take a stand. Don’t be seen. Don’t be heard.  When someone applauds the suing of baker or a florist, just keep your mouth shut.  If someone posts a meme on Facebook that ridicules something you believe…scroll on down.  Tell yourself you’re avoiding an argument and aren’t we supposed to do that.

#2.  Pretend it’s all politics anyway. We should be IN the world, but not OF the world.  Let the politicians figure it out.  Submit to authority.  It will all work itself out in the end.  We have rights.  These are minor inconveniences.  It will never get “so bad”.  And if does, just cross your fingers behind your back.  God knows what’s in your heart even if it doesn’t come out your mouth.

3#  Attack those under attack. When you hear people criticizing or ridiculing other Christians for taking a moral stand, join in.  This let’s people know your not like “THOSE kind of Christians”.  Show how the one being attacked is blowing things out of proportion.  We all have a right to make our own personal choices and who’s to say who is right or wrong and you certainly don’t want to judge.  (Lori Stanley Roeleveld has a very insightful posting on her blog regarding this.  I encourage you to read it. http://loriroeleveld.com)

#4.  Throw in the towel.  Walk away now while you have a chance.  You never really bought all of it anyway.  Better to admit it and move on.  Why should you have to suffer for something you’re not even sure is really true?

BUT IF YOU JUST CAN’T DO THAT…

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 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7-7)

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1Peter 4:12-19).

Speak loudly!  Speak boldly!  Stand firm!  Don’t shrink back!  Don’t close your eyes!

And above all…REJOICE!!

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6 THINGS CHRISTIANS CAN NO LONGER DO

no-u-turnIt’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  Oh, there have been many recent events I could have blogged about…and really wanted to.  But I needed time to step away and thoroughly think through not only what was important, but what was necessary to be said about what has been happening in this country over the past few months.

I’m not going to write about the rights that are increasingly in peril for Christians in the United States.  I think any Bible believing Christian (and by that I mean one who does not pick and choose what they prefer to believe, but accepts the entire Bible as the inerrant Word of God that was meant to be lived and obeyed…nowadays you have to clarify those things) who is even paying half attention can clearly see that people of faith are coming under even more intense fire than in years past.  So there’s no need to bullet-point the obvious.  But I do want to emphasize this one point…

IT IS ENTIRELY OUR OWN FAULT!

urkleWe’ve been truly blessed in this country.  We have enjoyed freedoms and privileges that just are not found any place else in the world.  Over time we just took it for granted that we would always enjoy them.  We just couldn’t imagine a time when there would a real possibility that certain teachings from the pulpit or even discussed in a public environment could be considered “hate speech” and the potential of being fired, fined, or arrested for voicing those beliefs would be on the horizon.  Who would have thought that a photographer, a baker, and florist could lose their businesses and/or be fined thousands of dollars simply for declining to participate in a wedding ceremony they felt would be in violation of deeply held convictions?

No, we were all pretty sure that nothing like could ever happen here.  We knew of the gulags of the Soviet Union and the prisons in China and the re-education camps in North Korea.  And it was horrible.  And we gave money to help those poor souls and to send missionaries to create more Christians who could also become victims of persecution.  But we weren’t very worried that anyone here would ever have to fear that the government would threaten an individual for expressing his belief about what constitutes sin.  After all, we do have the 1st Amendment.

Oh yes, there were those who mocked our faith and accused us of being narrow-minded, bigoted, homophobic, judgmental prudes.  But we showed them.  We set out to convince them that we really weren’t all those things.  We compromised a little here and there.  We didn’t come out and call sin “sin”.  We simply said, “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”  We “overlooked” things like living together before marriage and taking the name of Lord in vain and rebellious children (kids will be kids).  We avoided talking about subjects like abortion and homosexuality and government corruption except among people who already agreed with us or said things like, “well, that’s politics and I don’t involve myself in that.” And “It’s better to avoid the topics of religion and politics.”

We allowed the loud voices of those who are actually in the minority to dictate our dialogue.  They slowly transformed what was considered acceptable in society and we left it to the pastors, the Televangelists, and the activists to take the heat for opposing it.  They redefined terms like “rights” to include “anything I wanted to do that wasn’t illegal and even some things that currently are but we’re working to change that.”  And they taught us to say, “who am I to judge?”

So here we are.  Videos are coming out that expose Planned Parenthood negotiating the sale of aborted baby body parts and discussing how they can harvest the organs by carefully manipulating the killing process…all using our tax dollars.
The Supreme Court has ruled that Gay Marriage is legal in all 50 states even though the lawyers for the proponents admitted that doing so may eventually have legal consequences for those who openly oppose it.  Recreational marijuana use is now legal in Colorado and Washington State and medical marijuana in 23 states and the District of Columbia.  And it’s really not that hard to get a Medical Card.  There are “companies” now that help you do using their own physicians, like Price-Less Evaluations in California.  There are also websites where you can find pot-friendly doctors to write you prescriptions.
According to studies cohabitation has increased 900% in the past 50 years.

AND AS LONG AS YOU DON’T SAY ANYTHING NO ONE WILL ACCUSE YOU OF BEING A RELIGIOUS NUT CASE.

WHEWCLOSE

AND AS LONG AS WE REMAIN SILENT NOTHING WE SAY CAN OR WILL BE USED AGAINST US IN A COURT OF LAW

We’ve always kind of “talked a good game” amongst ourselves; bemoaning the downward spiral of the American culture.  Each generation has had it’s rebels.  The 20s gave us the Flappers.  The 50s had the Beatniks.  I remember people talking about those long-haired Hippies in the 60s.  We’ve seen the Punks and the Goths and the Skaters and on and on.  We’ve talked a lot…till we were told to shut up…but we never really did much about it, except to try to incorporate some of it into our churches in order to seem to be more “relevant”.

Isn’t ironic how now it’s actually Bible-believing Christians who are now portrayed as “Counter-cultural”?

I think that is what has finally awakened the Church.  Whether too late or not only time will tell.  But we cannot go back to sleep again.  So there are some things that we can absolutely no longer do as Christians — no matter what!

1.  Be silent!  I’m not suggesting we stand on street corners with bull horns screaming “REPENT!!”  But far too many Christians have the attitude that “I’m not going to state my position one way or the other, that way people will see me as loving and accepting.  If the subject comes up I can then gently lead people to the Truth.  But until that day I’m just going to sit here and keep my mouth shut.”  That’s how we got into this dilemma.  I don’t think you have to get “in your face” about things.  But unless you indicate that you believe differently from the rest of society people are going to assume you don’t.  Don’t imagine that just because you profess to be a Christian that people are going to know what you stand for and against.  Unfortunately, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.  Although the real population of LGBTQ Americans in only about 1-5% (not the 20% + touted by many in the media and politics) they have been squeaking louder than we have.  There’s no reason to treat them with disrespect or contempt, but you can no longer allow them to portray us unloving and our faith as oppressive.
Nor can we allow politicians, the media, and activist groups to “call evil good and good evil” when we claim that the Bible is Word of God and Jesus Christ is the only way to Salvation.  If we believe it we need to live and proclaim it.

2. Apologize!  When SCOTUS announced it’s decision on gay marriage I saw many of my fellow Christians posting their opposition to it on social media.  However, when someone disagreed and said they couldn’t believe that they would be so un-accepting and closed minded many apologized; not necessarily for their stance on the issue, but that they were being perceived as such.
Again, I don’t believe harsh rhetoric is going to change hearts and minds, but there’s no reason to apologize when you have stood for your faith.  For some reason we believe that if someone calls us names we must be what they say we are.  In actuality, how loving would it be for us to remain silent when we see someone drowning in sin knowing what the eternal outcome of that persons soul is?
People who disagree with scripture are going to see anything that opposes what they believe as unloving.  After all (in their minds) if someone really loves you they let you do what you want and be “who you are”.  Remember, their words are not your identity.

3. Wait for someone else to do something!  If you’re thinking that politicians are going to set things right if we just give them enough time you REALLY have not been paying attention.  Granted there are some who are fighting to retain our Constitutional Rights and to protect the rights of people of faith and conscience.  But there are plenty who see things like abortion, gay rights, legalized drugs…the Social Issues…as political dynamite and will avoid taking a stance unless it means they may lose their job.  They’ll even join with those who support these things in order to gain political capital.  Everyone has been waiting for someone else to sign the petition, write the letter to the editor, speak out.  That someone else was YOU!

4. Continuing to focus on us!  For too long the focus of the Church has been on US.  What can God do for me?  What does God do for me?  How can I have better relationships?  What is my “Special Purpose”?  How can I be happy, emotionally healthy, financially secure, relationally satisfied?  We have groups and programs and sermon series and motivational plaques that continually put the focus on ME ME ME!
The reality is our focus should always have been on who God is, the work and person of Christ, and the lost and helpless.  “‘He did what was right and just, so all went well with him.  He defended the cause of the poor and needy and so all went well.  Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 22:16)  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.  In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but he darkness has not understood it.”  (John 1:1-5)  “You see, at just the right time when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 6-8)  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultess is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:17)

5.  In order to stop doing 1-4 we can no long neglect the Word of God!  We are busy people, but we often use that as an excuse for not spending the kind of time in God’s Word that will enable us to stop doing the first 4.  When we spend time really immersing ourselves in God’s inspired Word we begin to receive boldness to speak out.  We stop apologizing and being timid about what we believe.  We realize that God has not called us to a ministry of sitting on our butts; He’s called us to a life of doing.  And our desire begins to turn from the things that we want to the things that God wants.
Does it occur to any of us that this Bible that is collecting dust on our coffee table or sits beneath the stack of devotional books on our night stand is God’s letter to us?  God thought it was so immensely important to reveal Himself, His love, His design, His purpose for our lives to us that He spoke through His Spirit to 40 different men and compelled them to write down what He wanted to make sure what got conveyed to us.  Then He preserved it, making sure that each writing was passed down over the millenniums, providing scholarly evidence that what we have today is intact and what was intended.  Over the years He has also proven it’s accuracy and truth through science and archaeology and the fulfillment of prophecy.
God considered this so important and yet we find it so daunting to spend more than 10-20 minutes reading it.  We think a daily devotional or a book by some noted Christian leader makes up for the time we don’t spend in His Word.  But nothing replaces God’s Word nor can we afford anymore to take it so lightly.  It’s one of the few things that is going to provide us with the hope and encouragement we need to face what is ahead.

6. Put off prayer.  Now, more than ever, we need to spend time talking with God; not just asking for things or calling out for help when something goes wrong.  We need to be seeking His guidance and strength and power.  We need to be pleading for the lost…our friends and family and neighbors who don’t know Him or have walked away from their faith.  We must pray for our nation and our leaders; that God would lead them and raise up men and women after His own heart.  And we need to listen to what He has to say to us; what direction He is leading us and what He would have us do in service to Him.  Our prayers cannot be casual conversations that we pop off when it comes to our minds.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonian 5:16-18)
You’ll be surprised at how many opportunities you actually have to spend time in prayer during the day: while driving to work and home, while sitting at your desk listening to a co-workers conversation, while washing dishes or cleaning the house, while showering or making dinner.  When you hear a siren off in the distance. Even when you are watching the news on television or browsing social media there are opportunities to pray.  Maybe a news story causes you concern…pray.  Perhaps someone posted on Facebook that they had a lousy day or aren’t feeling well…pray.  Did you get an unexpected check in the mail?  Give thanks.  Did the kids turn off the t.v. without your nagging?  Praise God and pray for them.
And spend time listening as well.  When you don’t feel like you have anything to pray about now is the time to just say, “God, I’m here.  I’m listening.  Speak to my heart.”  You may not hear anything, but that doesn’t mean God hasn’t said something.

keep_calm___by_trl_phorce-d5ipns9

Ultimately, God is in control.  Nothing is a surprise to Him.  But that doesn’t mean that He expects us to sit idle while He does all the work.  We are called to be salt and light.  “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

IT’S NOT OVER YET!

Regardless of whether things change or not we cannot continue to do what we’ve been doing.  There are too many people that need to know Jesus.  There are too many wandering around in darkness looking for the Light.  There are too many wondering if there’s anyone who stands for anything anymore?  There are too many asking, “What is truth?  Is this all there is?”  We need to start living up to our calling in Christ Jesus and “Go into all the world and make disciples.”  We have a mandate to be salt and light.  It’s time we become seasoned and start shining.  We have a nation of lost and seeking that are looking for us to be the Body of Christ.  No more excuse.  There’s no more time to waste.

“Even if the present rush to increasingly public and approved iniquity continues, the gospel of Christ remains the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16). No individual in Christ needs to fear God’s judgment. We may be killed proclaiming biblical holiness, as Paul said in Romans 8:36, but in all these things we will be more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
John Piper

FADE WITH A WHIMPER OR GO OUT WITH A BANG

not_with_a_bang__but_a_whimper_by_nu_cross_d3bhzsm_answer_2_xlarge     I was on my way home this evening, listening to the local radio station, when the Casting Crowns’ song “Thrive” came on.   As I listened to the chorus I thought to myself, “Yeah, that’s what we sing out loud, but inside we’re actually saying, ‘We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives.  But just for now we’re glad to just survive.  We’ll wait for Heaven to thrive.'” I follow a blog called “Fire Breathing Christian”.  While I don’t agree with everything he says (he seems to have a bent towards Dominion Theology — the teaching that Church will grow and grow and overcome the powers of darkness here on earth and take dominion.  Then Christ will return.), but he’s been talking recently about how the Church in America has wimped out on the Great Commission.  We seem to limit it to just missions and we don’t realize that we are supposed to have an impact on not just “foreign fields”, but we should be fighting for our own culture as well; the arts, entertainment, politics, social welfare, etc… In my last posting I know I sounded like I was just throwing up my hands and saying, “There is no hope.  We’re doomed.”  And, if you look at the parallels between the United States today and the Roman Empire nearly 2000 years ago then, yeah…it doesn’t look good for us. But the song on the radio just jarred something in my brain.  We don’t have to be like that!  We don’t have to fade into the annals of history for generations to come to read about and say, “Wow, wish I’d been there.”  In fact, I think we’re going to have a LOT to answer for if we do. I’ve heard that the Church in China is actually praying for the collapse of the United States and the persecution of Christians.  NOT because they think we deserve to suffer because they’ve had to.  No!  They are hoping that maybe that is what it will take to get us to get out of our Western Religious stupor and stand up and say, “We’re mad at Hell and we’re NOT gonna take it anymore!”  That we’ll stand up to our culture and say, “Not one more inch!  You will not force us to stay silent!  We will stand on the truth of the Word of God and we will NOT back down and kowtow to your political correctness!  We will not sit in front of your electronic Colosseums and watch you destroy our children with the crap you broadcast!  We will not attend your endless of orgies of ‘do whatever is right for you — your truth is your truth’ and applaud the ‘bravery’ of ‘Doogie’ and Ellen and Whoopi!  We will bow to the false gods of Rob Bell and Oprah and Universalism!  Your Caesars will not legislate us into accepting sin and removing us from the Public Square!  Your Siren’s songs by Beyonce and Jay-Z and their ilk, who encourage our kids to dishonor their own bodies and kill cops and treat each other like objects rather than human beings will be called out for what they are…garbage!  We don’t demand you believe what we do, but we will not let you be the only voice!  And, the firmer we stand the quieter your voice will become!” There are millions of Christians in the world living under oppression and poverty and the threat of death!  How dare we, here in America — the freest, most prosperous country in the world — cower in our closets with our copies of “Left Behind” just praying the Jesus returns soon to take us out of this horribly corrupt world!  How dare we wring our hands and say, “There’s nothing we can do!  ‘Be in the world not of the world.’  You can’t show the love and power of Christ in politics or in the work place or in Hollywood.  You can only do small things!'” There is a whole world out there depending on us to stand up, even if it is just one last time, and live out the Great Commission.  The Apostles didn’t stay in their churches and just let the world go on it’s merry way!  They stood before the Religious and Political and Cultural establishment and said, “There is only ONE Way, ONE Truth, and ONE Life and NO ONE comes to the Father but through Him.”  They risked ridicule and beatings and the loss of everything, including their lives, to fulfill their calling. The early Christians did the same thing!  What makes us think we can do any less?  This country may be heading for disaster, but will we give up in silence or go down swinging?  When Christ returns for His Church will it a noticeable loss or great relief to the rest of the world?  This world may be fading away, but will pass with a whimper or go out with a bang? It’s time to get off our collective duffs Church in America and start living more than ordinary lives!  It’s time to Stand and to Thrive!

THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE

http://www.wetv.com/sex-box/videos/sex-box-trailer

I think all of us have a point where we say, “I’m done!”  For all of us there is a line where, once it is crossed, we see no way for things to turn around; they must proceed forward to their inevitable conclusion.  It’s that moment where the foot has left the edge of the cliff and, unlike in the cartoons, there is no suspending in mid-air.  The chances of sprouting wings and flying to safety are remote.  Gravity must and will take over.  Body will meet earth. 

Bread and circuses.  That was what Rome gave to it’s citizens to keep them docile.  By 274 A.D. Emperor Aurelian decided that people were entitled to government benefits if they parents had been receiving them.

Addictions increased as the Republic slowly declined.   https://i1.wp.com/global.fncstatic.com/static/managed/img/fn2/video/640_smoking_joint.jpg

Government corruption was rampant.  The economy plunged towards bankruptcy as more people ended up on the government dole, taxes increased, unemployment rose. https://i1.wp.com/images.bwbx.io/cms/2014-05-28/0528-detroit-blight-970-630x420.jpg Urban blight rose as more left agricultural areas — which became known as “Empire Farms”, https://i2.wp.com/farm2.static.flickr.com/1292/4676973675_d5fc885c08_z.jpgusing slave labor — and crammed into the cities.  Cities leaders spent more on luxury items, leaving little for infrastructure, leading to the increase in blight and eventual bankruptcy of municipalities.

And of course, as cities declined, crime rose. Internal strife and insurrections increased.https://i2.wp.com/pamelageller.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/ferguson-riots.jpeg

Rome could no longer defend it’s borders. 

It’s military was in decline.  Once the conquerors of worlds, the military became over extended.  The Emperors began hiring and training mercenaries as citizens lost interest in serving the Empire and more interested in the Empire serving them.  These foreign soldier eventually took their knowledge and training and turned it against the Roman Legions.

The creators of the Appian Way, the Pons Aemilius, the Aqueducts, and the Colosseum faltered in technological innovation and production having concentrated mainly on engineering and the organization of public services.https://i0.wp.com/cdn.inquisitr.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Net-neutrality-John-Oliver-internet-trolls.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/l1.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/8xUuev_AI1xE4EQJQG6E6g--/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7Zmk9ZmlsbDtoPTQyMTtweG9mZj01MDtweW9mZj0wO3E9NzU7dz03NDk-/http://media.zenfs.com/en_us/News/ap_webfeeds/308f213592ffb80b0d0f6a706700dce3.jpg “The Roman Senate failed to balance the numerous excesses and grotesqueries of the emperors by reason of its own pervasive corruption, cowardice and duplicity. Thus, as Roman society descended into existential chaos, national pride diminished and many Roman citizens grew cynical and lost confidence in their leadership; lost faith in what it meant to be truly ‘Roman.'” (“On Edward Gibbons: History of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, Part II” by Ellis Washington 2/22/15)

I’ve only lived 54 years; I’m sure my parents, now in their 80s, could speak even more to the dramatic changes in American society.  In my short 54 years, America has seen the Space Age, the Age of Aquarius, the Vietnam War, The Cold War, the New Age, and the New Millennium.  The culture has witnessed mini-skirts, hippies and Free Love.  Plastic pants, the “Me” generation, and “The Joy of Sex”.  The Go-Go, the Hustle, the Break Dance, and the Twerk.  “Bonanza”, “Maude”, “Saturday Night Live”, and Janet Jackson’s “Wardrobe Failure”.  “Midnight Cowboy”, “Saturday Night Fever”, “Basic Instinct”, and “Fifty Shades of Gray”. I don’t see that we’re getting any better.

Of course, I argue that from a Christian perspective.  Others may have a completely different view than I do.  Apparently they do.  It is my conclusion that, outside of an act of God, we have crossed the Rubicon as a nation, and our decline will not take the 200 plus years it took the Roman Empire.  Likely I will see the demise of America within my lifetime.  Does that mean that we’ll cease to exist as a nation?  I don’t know.  I know it won’t be the nation of our founding.

It is when I saw the preview for “Sex In A Box” that the last nail went into the coffin for me.  It’s our “Bread and Circuses”.  Others may be more optimistic.  It does take only a small keel to turn a mighty ship…if there is enough time to turn before disaster strikes.  I don’t think we’ve even noticed the iceberg, yet.  I think it’s only going to get worse.  I imagine at some point any allusion of morality will not only be met with criticism, but may, in certain circumstances, cost you your freedom, if not your life. I’m pretty sure many will see this as hyperbole.  I hope it is.  I hope our nation has a “Jesus Come To Meeting” moment and we turn things around; we get out of debt, our politicians become honest and answerable to their constituents, we start saying that shows like “Sex In A Box” are not only unfit for television, but unfit for anything,  and we quit pitting each other against one another.  I hope there are no longer hyphenated Americans, just Americans.  I hope we once again become the country that others want to emulate.  I just don’t see that happening anytime soon or anytime later.  But if you think you can convince me that I’m wrong I beg you to try.  And I hope YOU are right.

WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO BE A PREPPER TOO?

imaprepperDespite what you think, this is not a post encouraging you to stockpile barrels of wheat and weapons. I’m not gonna suggest you start that bomb shelter project you’ve been meaning to get to since 1980.  Nor should you run out and enroll in a course teaching self defense and tactical ground-fighting techniques. Unless you really want to, of course.

I’m talking about a whole other sort of prepping all together.

Here we are already at the end of the January.  One twelfth of the year has past already.  Maybe it’s me, but it does seem the older I get the faster the time goes.  Events around the globe seem to be propelling us even faster to either some sort of historical transformation (or perhaps a sort of regression into an all too familiar pattern we’ve yet to learn how to avoid) or an ultimate conclusion.

Oh I know, every generation thinks theirs is either the last or on the precipice of a global metamorphosis that will bring the world to greater harmony.  Why should we be any different.

Maybe we aren’t.  But what if we are?

This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory.  I want you to remember and understand what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.  First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire.  This will be their argument: ‘Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created.’ They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth up from the water and surrounded it with water.  Then he used the water to destroy the world with a mighty flood.  And God has also commanded that the heavens and the earth will be consumed by fire on the day of judgment, when ungodly people will perish.  But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.  The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.  But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and everything in them will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be exposed to judgment.   Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living!  You should look forward to that day and hurry it along — the day when God will set the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames.  But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world where everyone is right with God.  And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to live a pure and blameless life. And be at peace with God.  And remember, the Lord is waiting so that people have time to be saved. This is just as our beloved brother Paul wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him —  speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters around to mean something quite different from what he meant, just as they do the other parts of Scripture — and the result is disaster for them.  I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends, so that you can watch out and not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people. I don’t want you to lose your own secure footing.  But grow in the special favor and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.To him be all glory and honor, both now and forevermore. Amen.” (2 Peter 3 NLT)

Corrie Ten Boom in her book “The Hiding Place” said, “This is what the past is for!  Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”

What have you been prepared for?  Do you even know?  Chances are we won’t fully understand till a challenge arises and we are forced to draw from our past to deal with the present.

Perhaps you look at your past as misspent waste of life.  Yes, now you’re redeemed and you have a glorious eternity ahead of you with Christ, but your past?  What could God possibly do with the mess you made?  You’re not a speaker who travels around from Megachurch to Megachurch giving your testimony, watching hundreds stream forward at the altar call.   There’s no blockbuster movie coming out in February staring Angelina Jolie or Bradley Cooper about your life.  People aren’t attending your seminars, telling you what an inspiration you are.

Maybe you’ve had such a normal past that the most exciting thing that ever happened to you was the night you won the Spa Weekend Getaway at the Ramada Inn or you got Employee of the Month when you worked at Tony’s Big Burger.

But God sees what you don’t.

He sees how you’ve learned to manage to get your teenager to basketball practice with ALL her gear, dropped off your ten year old at his best friends birthday party after wrapping the gift he forgot to get but you remembered in the car in front of the house, took the dog to the vet for it’s ear infection, picked up the box of ladies devotionals ordered from the Christian book store, stopped at the hospital to visit your neighbor who’s in for a hip replacement, and made it home in time to put the coffee on for your couples Bible Study group that evening.  God is going to need your organizational skills pretty soon and you’re prepped for that task.

He saw when you went on the camping weekend with your Boy Scout troop when you were 16.  You were hiking along a narrow ridge line with a couple of other scouts when one of the older boys lost his footing and went tumbling 50 feet, breaking his ankle and possibly suffering a concussion.  Immediately you ordered one boy to go back and get the scout leader.  You organized the remaining boys to rappel down to the injured youth.  You used the tools in your backpack to stabilize his ankle, wrapped him in the space blanket you had to keep him warm and stave off shock, and waited for help to arrive.  God saw how calmly and deliberately you dealt with a crisis and He has a plan for those “nerves of steel”.

superheroPerhaps you’re someone who has the developed the ability to see the silver lining in every dark cloud.  God is going to need encouragers.

Maybe you’re a good listener and can calm people’s fears, or at least let them know they’re not alone.  God has a plan for your sensitive heart in the days to come.

You know how to sew.  You can garden.  You are strong.  You know carpentry.  You’ve been canning since you were a little girl.  You know what mushrooms are edible and which aren’t.  You know the Word of God.

Throughout your life God has been quietly and diligently preparing you for “such a time as this”.  Your personality, your hobbies, your skills…all have been preparation for His use and to His glory.  The people you’ve had to deal with, both the gracious and the irritating, have helped to hone your talents and abilities.  God is asking you to offer them to Him for the time to come.  The bad you’ve endured, the joy you’ve experienced, the evil you’ve seen, and the peace you’ve known…all have brought you to this point in time.

SWAMI, SWAMI, SALAMI! GAZE INTO MY CRYSTAL BALL!!

crystal ball “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'” James 4:13-15

It’s the end of another year.  Midnight rings in the beginning of a new one.  And every year the seers and the prognosticators make their predictions on everything from politics to celebrity break ups.  Some trends are pretty easy to figure out.  The proverbial hand writing is on the wall in other cases.  Others are subject to “this has to happen first and then…”

The thing about predictions…you pretty much have a 50/50 chance of being right.  And some predictions you can say just enough so that no matter the outcome you at least sound half right.

Back in the “old days” (when I was growing up) one of the most famous psychics of the time was a woman by the name of Jeane Dixon.  You may have heard of her.  She is most famous for her prediction of the Kennedy assassination (which, in truth, she never really did).  Though most of her predictions were vague and could be construed in any number of ways to make it sound accurate, millions followed her column in newspaper.

Edgar Cayce, known as the Sleeping Prophet, has a whole foundation (A.R.E.) that carries on his “work” and promotes his predictions.

Every year a late night radio program called “Coast to Coast” has callers make predictions for the new year, which they track throughout the year and present the results near the end of that year.  Millions around the world tune in.

Ruth Montgomery was a well respected journalist, political columnist…and psychic.  She wrote 11 books on psychic phenomena and the paranormal which are read to this day.

There is always someone who claims to predict the future.  And there are always be those who seek them out to learn what the future holds.  We are a species desperate to know our fate.

I don’t claim to know the future, other than what God says in His Word.  And I won’t make predictions on this last day of 2014, except to say this… It is enough that I know and belong to the One who holds not just my future, but that of the entire world, in His hands.  I know that He is trustworthy; no matter what 2015 holds I know that it will not be a surprise to Him and He already knows how to see me through.  And whether this will be just another of many years yet to come for me or my last, I am secure in the knowledge that He holds me.

Many blessings to all of you in this coming year.  May your walk with Him grow deeper, your love for Him grow stronger, and your trust in Him become firmer.  Have a God filled, Christ centered 2015.

THE FINE LINE BETWEEN CHICKEN LITTLE AND CHICKEN FRICASSEE

Ebola.  ISIS.  Nuclear Iran.  National debt.  Earthquakes.  Tsunamis.  The Russian Bear comes out of hibernation.  Europe is seeing a resurgence in Neo-Fascism.  You can be arrested in Canada and England for taking a Biblical stance on homosexuality (it’s considered hate speech).  Antisemitism is on the rise.  Hackers in Russia break into the computers of Chase Bank.  Child sex trafficking.  Sharia Law.  Islamic terrorism.
The mayor of Houston demands Pastors turn over their sermons to see if they’ve spoken out against local government policies.  A woman in Oregon has decided the day she will die by doctor assisted suicide.   Partial birth abortions.  Kids sucker punch strangers as part of a sick game.  Threats of race riots.  Sexting.  Selfies.  A bakery closes because they won’t bake a wedding cake for a gay couple due to their religious convictions.
Ruth Graham, wife of Evangelist Billy Graham, once said, “If God doesn’t judge America, He will need to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!”

It seems every day there’s another reason to wonder if “this is it”.
the end  Matthew 24: 3-14.  “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, ‘ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.  “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,  and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

In 1970 Zondervan first published Hal Lindsey’s (with Carole C. Carlson) best seller “The Late Great Planet Earth”, (later published by Bantam) followed by “Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth” and “The 1980’s: Countdown to Armaggedon”.  It was the height of the Cold War.  Tensions in the Middle East were at the boiling point just 3 years after the 6-Day War and in 1973 Egypt and Syria launched another attack during Yom Kippur.  The sexual revolution was on.  It was the “Me” decade.  Cocaine and disco.  Watergate.  Soweto.  Pol Pot.  The Iranian Revolution.  The “Munich Massacre” at the summer Olympics.  Hijackings and Skyjackings.  Jonestown.  The Oil Crisis and gas lines.  “Future Shock”.  Christians everywhere wondered if the 80s would be our last decade.

Matthew 16: 2-3 “ He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

Alfred-600-me-worryThe World held it’s breath at the beginning of the 80s, but let out a collective sigh with the “end” of the Cold War.  Many still held that the end was still soon, just not as soon as we had thought.  Mount St. Helens and the Loma Prieta earthquake kept many a pensive eye on the sky and listening for the call to “Come up”, but still a foot on the ground.
The Challenger Disaster.  KAL.  John Lennon assassinated. Nintendo and VHS.  The fall of the Berlin Wall.  Tiananmen Square.  The First Intifada.  Pan Am flight 103.  AIDS.  Commodore 64s and Macintosh.  And the world turned.

2 Peter 3: 3-4 “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

Every decade, every century, has had those who claimed “This is it!  Surely He’s not going to let this go on much longer.”  And every decade, every century has had the naysayers, “You’ve been saying that forever and it hasn’t happened.  Why should now be any different?”
We’ve seen famines, floods, pestilence, wars, murders, massacres…every decade that passes seems to be a bit seemier than the previous.  Man increasing finds more and more creative ways to lust, to kill, to self-harm, to harm others, to steal, to lie, and to excuse himself from any consequences.  Atrocities are committed in the name of freedom, in the name of personal rights, in the name of the “greater good”, and in the name of religion.
History has been a succession of rises and falls.  One empire succeeds another.  Nations are birthed and ripped apart.  Like chess pieces armies and societies are maneuvered by the whims of politicians and despots.  People as pawns.
The god of the age is the same throughout, simply taking on a new outward persona; a god to fit into whatever image you prefer.

Romans 8:19-25 “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

So we turn on the evening news and we open the morning paper and the headlines scream of another death, another catastrophe, another plague, another scandal, another broken promise, another disappointment.  Everyday the world seems a little meaner, a little more ambivalent, a little bit more out of control, a little more narcissistic.   And as Christians we wonder, “Surely God won’t let this go on much longer.”  We look up, we listen, we wait.
I believe in the soon return of Christ.  But when that will be I don’t know.  It could be tomorrow, it could be 20 years from now.  I have waited these 54 years for His return.  And I will continue to wait and watch.
But the point of this post is not that we have been waiting and we are still waiting.
I believe in the soon return of Christ.  Let me say that again…I BELIEVE IN THE SOON RETURN OF CHRIST.  Jesus talked about the signs of those times.  And while we didn’t give us the date of His return and the signs have been there century after century, He told us to look for the signs and to be prepared.
He told us there would be wars and rumors of wars.  He told us there would be disasters and diseases.  He told us there would be persecution and danger.  And He told us to be prepared for it.

Matthew 24: 36-39 “ “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

Noah prepared an Ark in anticipation of a flood.  Joseph stockpiled grain in anticipation of a famine.  Esther fasted and prepared herself in anticipation of an audience with the king.  David collected precious metals, iron, and wood in anticipation of a Temple.  The disciples prepared an upper room in anticipation of a Passover meal.
In the Pacific NW we know that there will be earthquakes.  We are told we should always be prepared, to have a “grab and go” kit for when the inevitable happens.  Yet so many of us, though we know that earthquakes happen here — sometimes very powerful ones — are ill prepared for when disaster will strike.  We live life as if it will never happen.  Or, we know it will happen one day, but today is not that day so why worry about it.  Though geologist and seismologist tell us that the Juan de Fuca Plate that sits right off the coast is capable of a catastrophic megathrust quake that would register a 9 on the Richter scale most people have no contingency for such an event.  And when, not if, it happens many will panic and many will not survive the aftermath.
tomorrowisanotherday

Luke 21:25-28 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Many Western Christians read the “signs” and understand the times.  But there is always this thought that “it won’t happen to me.”  Though we are warned of what is to come we think, “Persecution will come, but not here — not to me.  There will be plagues and famines, but not here — not to me.  There will be disasters, but not here — not to me.”  It’s as if we believe we’re exempt from the warnings; as if God has given us some sort of cosmic “Pass”.  We have it in our head and in our conversations with each other that it’s silly to worry about those things.
Ebola may come to the U.S., but it won’t spread.  ISIS may kill Christians in Iraq and Syria, but they’ll never kill anyone here.  10s and hundreds of thousands may have died from a tsunami in Japan or Southeast Asia, but it will never happen here.  Terrorist hit us once, but it won’t happen again to me or my loved ones.  Christians may have to fear imprisonment for their faith in China or North Korea, but that will never happen here — not to me.  To suggest that it might — to say we should prepare for the possibility — why, you’re as silly as Chicken Little running about yelling, “The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!”
Now don’t get me wrong!  I’m not suggesting running out and buying razor wire and guns and building a compound out in the middle of nowhere in preparation for the coming apocalypse.  Having a grab and go bag is good in case of disaster.  Having extra food and water on hand  (and don’t forget the pets) is just plain wisdom.  But I’m talking about something much deeper.
If a plague comes are you prepared to minister prayer and comfort to the sick and dying, including members of your own family and circle of friends?  If an earthquake strikes will you be one of those helping those who have lost everything, who are injured, who have no food or warmth?  If terrorist strike will you be one those who cries out “let’s roll”?  When persecution comes because of your faith will you say like Martin Luther, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.
I believe in the soon return of Christ.  And I suggest that before His return we will endure the signs He foretold.  I do NOT believe that we are exempt here in America.  But here in America, we are woefully unprepared.  Physically, I’m not as prepared as I should be and I hope to change that.  I will make a conscious effort to have my grab and go bag ready and to have extra food and water for myself, my pets, and others.  I will work to be one of those who will help others, not have to seek help for myself.
Spiritually I will prepare myself as best I can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to stand on the Truth of the Word of God, though it would easier not to.  I need to be prepared to lose my job, my friends, my family…my life.  I need acknowledge that compromise only prolongs my life, it will not preserve it.  I need to affirm constantly and consistently that “The Lord is my Helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”  It needs to be settled within me that there is no need to panic, because nothing is outside of God’s control.  And I must be ready to Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2) and “…if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:14-17).
Paranoia Maybe I am Chicken Little.  Perhaps we are exempt from all danger and disaster.  Perhaps we’ll always enjoy the freedoms we currently have.  Perhaps the occasion will never arise where we’re forced to either compromise our faith or stand firm and risk the loss of everything.Perhaps things will continue on as they always have since the beginning of creation and, like so many say, it looks worse than it really is.  Perhaps, but I’d rather be Chicken Little and be prepared for nothing than to end up like………..>chicken fricassee