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Prayers (A Few Thoughts and Discernments)

1st Thessalonians:5:17: Pray without ceasing.

We are instructed to pray. There should be a point in time where our prayer life begins, and continues without end. Our prayers are our communication with God. Prayer should not become a one-way conversation. We are quick to speak and make our needs known, yet, slow to receive, slow to hear, and quick to dismiss that small, still voice.

Prayer is a wonderful tool (for lack of a better word in this instance). It is an entrance into the presence of God. There are times it is a solemn, introspective experience, when mourning, confessing, or pleading for His helping hand. Other times it is informal, such as giving thanks, giving praise.

Prayer is not just an individual experience. There are times we enter prayer as a group, in agreement. This is sometimes referred to as corporate prayer. Many have gathered together and recited the Lord’s prayer, prayed in agreement at the opening of a church service, or even at the close of a church service.

A question came to mind during prayer and it is a question I must share and ask: What if all your prayers were answered instantly? My immediate reaction was surprise, wonder, awe, and excitement. I know God is able to do all I can ask and more.

Ephesians:3:20: Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us

I also know there are times we ask amiss. There are times when our faith waivers, times when we are weak, times when His will must be done, because our requests are contrary to His way. I know He hears the prayers of the righteous. The thought that really came to mind was: “What if all your prayers were answered instantly, all you need to do is ask”?

As this question became clearer, the big picture came into focus. This is where I began to see some shortcomings of my own prayer life. Should all my prayers that evening have been answered, me and my family would have been blessed abundantly, our debts would be gone, our health would have been assured, our church would be blessed and grow in number and would have reached the lost of our community, just to name a few. These are great things and I still pray these things will come to pass.

The problem was not in what I was asking. The problem is, my prayer life would have shown the deficiencies of my prayer life. My neighbors would not have prospered as I did, and we are commanded to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. My enemies, or those who are against me would not have received any type of blessing, there would have been no reconciliation between us. The other area churches would not have received as our church would have. Those that I work with would not have been any better off. There would still be nations at war, our state and national leaders would still be untouched, and our brothers and sisters in other nations would still be suffering persecution without relief or any sign of comfort.

As complete as our prayer life may seem at any time, there will always be more that we can do. Our reach must exceed the boundaries of our home, our state, and our nation. We must not be guilty any longer of praying in manner that resembles “bless me and my four and no more”. Through the gift of prayer and the blood of Christ we are able to go boldly before the throne of Almighty God and make our petitions known to Him. We have the ability to ask not only for ourselves, but many others in need, faces you may never see or meet. We must pray for our enemies and our neighbors.

Let me end with this thought: If your prayers were answered instantly, what would your deficiency be? What would everyone else see? Who would be left out? Who would still be in need? I hope to encourage you as I have been encouraged, during a simple prayer where I not only spoke but listened as well. May God bless and keep you, and as always, to Jesus be the glory!

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A Lesson to Learn

Once you became a Christian, once you obtained salvation through Jesus Christ, did your effort end? If not, does your new life in Christ end in the faithfulness of going to church? Do you venture into spiritual warfare from the comfort of your house by praying? Are you heading up an outreach ministry by smiling and nodding to strangers in hopes they will understand that your actions are really Christ living in you?

I have asked these questions, mostly in jest, but to also stir a desire. We all must start somewhere, and we must also realize there is always more we can do. Salvation is only the beginning of our journey. We should also have a desire to gather among the brethren. An active prayer life is also a great beginning. All these things are a good start, but it is not all that we are called to do.

The work of Jesus is called the good news (gospel) for a reason. When you receive good news, what is it you do with it? You want to share it! Today we use the term “evangelist” as a person who travels and preaches. We are all called to evangelize, which in its simplest terms means to share the good news of salvation with those around you. You can reach others no one else can.

Nothing surprises God, for He is all knowing. He knows you. He knows your attitude, your strengths, your weaknesses, your victories and your failures, and chose you (and me) anyway. We all have different personalities, assets, traits, and abilities. He uses all these things for His glory and to accomplish His purpose. He made us to be different, put us in different places, and called us at different times. His calling on our lives is only the beginning.

This bring us to the main point I hope to make. We all have different callings, in scope, in scale, in ability, and style, and almost any other description or adjective you may wish to use. We, being unique in who we are, are able to accomplish, in such a way, as only we can. In being unique, our calling and ministry should also reflect that.

I am not called to be the same minister as you, as your preacher, or maybe anyone else you know. Neither should you be a copy of anyone you or I know. Similarities are bound to exist, but our pursuit should not lead us to be a copy of anyone else. The lesson we must learn is this: If you aren’t like a televangelist, the preacher with the largest congregation, an accomplished, motivating up-and-coming minister, singer, author, or whatever your ministry may be, be what God is leading you to be. Do not worry about “keeping up with the Jones'”. Don’t worry about your “style”, worry about pleasing God and being faithful to Him. Let Him be glorified in using you for who you are, in reaching those He has called you to reach.

Joh:21:21: Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
Joh:21:22: Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

We all have our own walk with the Lord. Though we may be treading the same straight and narrow path, we each have our own unique relationship with Jesus. Let each of us continue to pursue our callings, not someone else’s calling. Let us continue to learn from others, grow in ministry, and allow Jesus to cultivate and nurture each of us into what He has planned for us, not what He has planned for someone else. He chose you and me knowing exactly what He was getting. Look forward in expectation and anticipation because His plans for us are better than our own.

The Rise of Persecution

Trials and tribulations should be expected by all who choose to follow Jesus. The Christian walk is not an easy one. We must realize that we do not wage war against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities, spiritual wickedness in high places. It is fortunate when our worst days of “spiritual warfare” are when we are faced with temptation, fight the urge to use vulgar language, want to lie, or refrain from doing good when we should. These are very real circumstances, and submission to these things are sin. If this is the worst we face, and I know at times these are bad enough, I also know it could be so much worse.

I am afraid that we will indeed see worse. There is a storm on the horizon gaining momentum, speed, and strength. That coming storm is persecution. In the headlines of media and news, and across the globe on television we see a very open and violent persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Men, women, and children are being kidnapped, crucified, tortured, beheaded, and gunned down because of their Christian faith. I feel a strong burden to pray for those people and the horrible situation they face. Please remember those people in your prayers.

These situations should not take us by surprise. As we see prophecy being fulfilled, we should know that it will continue to get worse. These things have been foretold:

Matthew:24:9: Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.

Luke:21:12: But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.

2nd Timothy:3:12: Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

I believe we are seeing the very beginnings of those verses taking place. I also believe we are witnessing a very strong faith in Jesus Christ by those people who are more willing to die than deny the Savior. We often read of martyrs from the history of the church and their valiant fight of faith, yet, do we realize that we are also now seeing it in the present?

It is easy to say “well, it isn’t happening here” and carry on with our lives because we do not see it affecting us directly. Those people are our brothers and sisters in Christ, we better care! Their faith to the death should be a witness to you, it doesn’t show their strength, it shows His strength within them.

Luke:21:13: And it shall turn to you for a testimony.

Don’t be fooled though, the storm is coming to you also. The persecution of the church has already begun. Prayer in schools or at school functions has been forbidden. City and state governments must now speak the name of Jesus in whispered voices or behind closed doors for fear of who might hear. Your beliefs may now exclude you from jobs, positions of authority, or show you as impartial or biased. Speaking your belief of Jesus as Lord and Savior could next lead to belief that you are a radical or guilty of a hate crime. You could be taken to court and found guilty simply because you stand on ideas and principles found in the Bible.

Right now, our government tolerates Christianity. We were once a government of the people, by the people, for the people, but we are soon to be a people under a government, unlike what we know today. If you understand Bible prophecy, you already know a change in government is coming. I believe that change is already taking place, but we still see the illusion of what we had. That veil will soon be removed and the persecution we see today will be a fond memory, because Christian persecution will be multiplied exponentially.

Please pray, pray for those suffering persecution to the death, pray for their safety and their lives, that their testimony speak to those who do not yet believe in Jesus. Pray for our churches, our national, state, and local leaders. Pray, if not for deliverance from these things, for strength, patience, comfort, and protection. Remember God’s word for those who suffer persecution:

Matthew:5:10: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew:5:12: Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

The Apostate Church

Are the conditions right for a true, apostate church? Before you can answer that, you must first define and understand what “apostate” or “apostasy” really is. Apostasy defined is leaving, or a departure from, your principles or beliefs. You could also say it is to CHANGE your principles or beliefs.

The church, and I am referring to the true church, is facing a raging, unforgiving, deceitful, world that preaches tolerance, but is intolerant of the church. In case you missed it, that would be the world being hypocritical. The world is not agreeable with the absolutes of Christianity, and I must say that Christianity should not be agreeable with the world. Don’t take my word for it, this is what Jesus said:

Matthew:10:34: Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

The church cannot, indeed must not, attempt to please the world and God. The bible clearly states you cannot serve two masters. We, the church (which is to say, the body of Christ), have a duty to pursue a relationship with Jesus, first, foremost, while forsaking all other things. It is not possible to seek worldly advice on spiritual matters and expect truth, and due to the rising apostasy, we need even more discernment when seeking direction from different congregations and denominations!

So, what does an apostate church look like? It looks just like the church down the street from you, but it probably has more members. There is probably a lot less talk about sin, maybe sin isn’t mentioned. There also stands a good chance many sermons and teachings revolve around prosperity, love, being a good person, having success, and overcoming obstacles in life. The name of Jesus is probably favorably mentioned, but no talk of blood (because that may be considered a bit harsh), suffering persecution, or seeking first God and His kingdom.

Those are just my thoughts, but let me give you the source of my thoughts and even greater words and thoughts from the Word of God. Here are the conditions God said would exist:

Acts:20:29: For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Acts:20:30: Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

Matthew:24:11: And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

2nd Timothy:3:5: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

2nd Timothy:4:3: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
2nd Timothy:4:4: And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

There are many other verses that could be added to this, but for the sake of time, we will stop with those. The more verses you add, the more complete the picture of the coming apostasy. This is just another reason that we, as individuals, must study to show ourselves approved. We have a responsibility to Jesus, and our relationship with Him, to pursue absolute truth, and that is found in His word.

We must be diligent and always on guard for what is coming into the church, especially in the form of “change”. The true church stands on the word of God, not the reasoning of men. The church is to be set apart from the world, not mixed into to it. The Bible is not made to become agreeable to man, man was made to become agreeable to God and His word. God’s word is absolute, it is truth, it is the straight and narrow path. It is law and grace, love and redemption, judgment and punishment, blood and life, it is His Word and eternal. Read it, study it, know it and give yourself to it completely, for it is the Word of Life, His covenant to you, covered in His blood that you might have life everlasting and fellowship with Him. Pray for the church, pray for the leaders of the church, and pray for those already falling into apostasy, for apostasy isn’t coming, it’s here.

Atheism Does Not Exist (because I don’t believe in it)

The title of this article is written in jest, tongue in cheek. Yet, I believe there is some truth to be found in it. Does unbelief change the existence of anything? If you believe grass is orange, sand is purple, or blood is green, does that make it true? Of course not, it is only a delusion you have created for yourself.

Atheism, the non-belief in God, or even a god, is really just another way of elevating mankind. What you serve becomes your god. If you choose to serve yourself, your needs, your wants, you have become your own god. If you choose to serve your job, your job is your god. If money is the pursuit of your life, money is your god. You begin to see a pattern here.

Psalms:53:1: The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.

Everyone believes in something, even atheists. Some believe in the goodness of mankind, but if you watch the news you can see that disputed nightly. Some believe in science, yet, science has neither disproved or proved God exists. There is no concrete proof for the atheist and their decision of denying the existence of God.

Before you get too carried away in agreement, let us take a step back. Was there not a time where you and I lived in a way that denied His existence? Did we not live in sin, taking for granted our own lives, and fulfilling the lusts of the flesh? Have we not served ourselves, with no regard to God? We have surely walked in those very shoes, and it is because of that walk that we should show compassion and understanding to those that have yet to come to the knowledge of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ. We must understand what a privilege we have in the fact that we could be the chosen vessel to introduce a lost soul to the King of Righteousness.

For me, a very troubling aspect of atheism is not the unbelief. It is the attacks on Christianity. This brings to light another question: Why would you waste energy, money, and effort to attack something you believe does not exist? By effort alone you begin to acknowledge the existence of something!

1st John:2:18: Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

1st John:2:22: Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

Back to the point, atheism (as I see and understand it) is more akin to the spirit of antichrist than true unbelief. The refusal of atheists to openly attack Buddhists, Wiccans, Satanists, and Muslims really shows a pointed attack on Christianity. Atheists have created their own religion, a belief in unbelief. They have monuments, meetings, teachings, literature, evangelists (to help spread the unbelief), and educational institutions. They have become a religion, which I find ironic. Maybe now you understand or see how fitting this title really is and why I do not believe atheism exists. Then, again, I suppose there are those radicals, those splinter groups, that really do believe nothing. God calls them fools, I am not that brave.

All we can do is present the gospel. Continue to spread the good news, give your testimony, let your life be a witness for Jesus, let your light shine, pray, and be a vessel which God can use to accomplish His purpose. Praise Him, for He is worthy!

Where Do You Stand?

There are so many issues within the church today. I am referring to the church in a general sense. As the times change, so do the people within the church. The most important thing is this: The message must remain the same. The Word of God cannot be infringed upon, it is perfect and perfection does not change.

The people in the church change, they grow older, new people come, some people go, others pass from this life to the next. As the church experiences a generational change, which has been occurring for quite some time now, one should expect to see some differences. For example, the implementation of technology, a change in music, a change in the way a physical church building looks on the inside and the outside. Even the order of the services change, the times of service change, but again, the message must remain the same; the message must be the gospel of Christ Jesus.

Mark:16:15: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

We see the church changing in many ways, but do we see or sense the change within the church? I will not suggest this applies to every church, but I will infer that it applies to many. Maybe one of the most important questions that can be asked is “why do YOU go to church”? Do you go because it is expected from you? Do you go to make someone else happy? Do you go to keep up your appearance? Has the church become your social club? Do you attend so you can sing, so you can feel better, to be seen, so you can lead? What is your true motive?

You see, many people go to church, but not everyone goes for the same reason. This question came to me several days ago, and initially I was shocked that I would ask myself “why are you going to church”. My answer, and I hope many of you who read this can agree, was “to worship my Lord, Jesus”. As much as I go to learn, first and foremost is to worship and praise the One who has offered salvation, to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Secondly, I go to learn of Him, to receive instruction in righteousness, to receive His word.

You see, there is a definite divide within the church. There are those who have a relationship with Jesus, who hunger and thirst after Him. This is where I hope to always be until the day I am with Him. This is what the church should be, in my very humble opinion. A place of worship, instruction, prayer, and praise.

On the other side of this divide are those who have religion. They are there for the ritual. They are there in body, performing tasks as though it is a menial job. Though the body is found in the pew, the heart is off doing other things. Often their joy is found outside the doors of the church, and their pained grimace on the inside. There is a spirit of religion that says “I am here, I am doing my job, I never miss a service which makes me better than most of the others here”.

Religion, by appearance, resembles a relationship with Jesus. Religion is a dangerous game. We must be honest about our intents and reasons.

Proverbs:21:2: Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.

If you have read this and asked yourself the same questions, please take the time to prayerfully think on these things and seek the truth. Find where you stand, then let the Lord order your steps. It can be easy to slide into a rut, but staying there becomes a decision. There is nothing more important than our relationship with Jesus. We must pursue this relationship, truthfully, sincerely, and prayerfully.

For the Time Will Come

There are times when reading the Bible, a phrase or sentence really catches my attention. Some of those phrases seem to beg for your attention. “Hey, look at me, right here, I’m trying to tell you something”. As this happens we should take the time to prayerfully seek meaning and understanding.

Paul really had a way of writing such phrases, and I often wonder if he thought back over the words he is credited with writing and thought to himself “that really has a ring to it”. In the course of reading through first and second Timothy there were several instances where this really stood out to me. For the sake of time and space I will share the one that still beckons for attention:

2nd Timothy:4:3: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
2nd Timothy:4:4: And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

For the time will come. It has quite an ominous sound, doesnt it? There, in that phrase, God says that a certain time is coming. When God says something is coming, it is a duty to look for and try to discern that time. Paul said the time will come. Can we say that time is here?

Sound doctrine is something we must endure. Not only should we endure it, we should seek it, welcome it, hunger for it, and see that it has a priority in our lives. Anyone that remembers being in school, is currently in school, or attending any type of instruction is all too aware that sound doctrine, at times, is dry. Doctrine is quite formal, has many details, and is tedious. It can seem overwhelming.

It is because these things are hard to understand or not exciting to our minds and imaginations that it becomes easier to seek different instruction. When things become difficult to understand or starts to impede on our lifestyle or thought process we look for another way, an easier way.

The world we live in today is always looking for an easier way. This starts out innocently enough, think of the phrase “work smarter, not harder”. While there is some merit to working smarter, there must be a point where the quality of work must not be infringed upon. Now let us apply this to the body of Christ, the church.

When we go to church we enjoy fellowship, we enjoy praise and worship, but do we enjoy those things which are being preached? Do we enjoy the teaching? Does it step on your toes? Does it put a bad spin on the way you want to live your life? Would you rather find another place more in line with what you want to believe? The truth is, you should find a place that puts you in line with what God says.

There are many people who are calling themselves preachers. There are many places that are trying to be churches who preach Jesus. The problem is, everything in the Bible is not easy on the ears. Everything in the Bible is not favorable to the lifestyles being lived. Everything in the Bible is not wealth and prosperity, it is not an “everything will be okay for everybody” book.

We, as Christians, have an obligation to understand what the Bible says, for ourselves. We, as individuals, must seek understanding, not the easiest and most agreeable way we can find. When we stand in judgment, we will not stand for anyone else or with anyone else. We will stand for ourselves.

In closing, let me say this: I know this is not an easy message to read. It is a reminder to be careful what you are seeking and why. It is a warning to be careful of who and what you follow. Be careful to find an understanding based on what God says, for only He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. To God be the glory!