Thursday, December 3, 2015

Suffering for Christ

      There are so many places around the world that people suffer daily for their faith and belief that Jesus is the Christ and Ruler of all. People are killed, fired from their jobs, disowned by their families, and thrown into prison. These are just a few of the many ways that Christians around the world are forced to live and are used to display the glory of God in a way that most Americans have never experienced. This however, is going to and has already begun to change. The church in the USA needs to wake up and realize that the ways that God is planning to use them is about to change dramatically from the ways in which they are accustomed.

     No longer is it the "cool" thing to do to claim that you are a Christian. If you proclaim the truth of Christianity you will be frowned upon and asked to be quiet. You will be asked to step down from your positions at work, to change your beliefs, and to keep your thoughts to yourself. This is something that Christians must realize and draw a line in the sand.

    Truth does not change just because a culture has changed. Just because someone tells you to think a different way or to live a different way does not mean that that is what God has called you to do. For those Christians who have never experienced persecution, run to the scriptures. This is the only place where you can find solace and comfort in a time such as this. For those Christians who have experienced persecution before, stand strong in the faith. Lead by example and show those who follow what it truly means to give all for the cause of Christ. Just as the apostle Paul suffered and persevered, so also are we to suffer and look to Christ for our strength and courage.

    Sin cannot win, it cannot conquer and it has already been defeated. Jesus bought our righteousness before the foundation of the earth and thereby defeated death, sin and the grave. This was manifest through His work on the cross for the salvation of those whom He chose for His glory before the world began.

    Stand strong brothers and sisters. We do not fight alone and we do not serve a feeble God. We serve a mighty and wonderful God who has already won the battle. Though our flesh may be destroyed we will not. Suffering is coming and everyone who bears the name of Christ will experience it. It is not something to be feared, but rather something to expect to be used to shine forth more beauty and grace so that others may see and come to know the saving faith of our Lord.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Holiday Musings

   There have been so many thoughts going through my head recently. Ranging from people's holiday decorations, people's perspectives on the world, the salvation of God's elect, and all the way to what it means to love and be loved. I could go on all day about these points, but I would like to just touch on each briefly in order to give a place for others to explore them as well.

   First holiday decorations. I love decorating for Christmas, it gives me a chance to think about the many ways that my Lord has been gracious to me and has blessed me. However, there are so many people that don't understand anything about what it means to be saved by the grace of God. They put up lights of every color and design, some of them even putting up Christian themed lights without any clue or desire to understand what they mean and stand for. Let us use decorations to encourage, bless, and strengthen those we come in contact with.

   Second, people are supposed to be "nicer" around the holidays. I have found this to be ludicrous. A person doesn't actually change for a certain time of the year. They are who they are all the time. They may attempt to act a certain way to be perceived by those around them as being a certain way, but if they aren't that way all year round, then that is not who they really are. There are so many people that don't even enjoy the holidays. Instead of enjoying their family and making memories together, they stress about gifts, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and decorating. Instead of worshiping the King of kings, they worry about how they look, are perceived, and whether or not they will offend someone. They think that if they can just do something right, it will bless someone else. This just isn't true, God blesses people, no matter what you do.

   Third, this is the time of year that we most hear about the birth of our Savior and His plan for salvation. So many people take His plan and distort it into something that is hideously ugly and man centered. They tell those around them that they have the power over salvation and that they can control their own destiny. Someone recently asked how I could believe that God had already either condemned or elected for salvation every single human being ever. How I could believe that since I have children. The answer is simple. Do I believe that God is on His throne and is in control of my life and the life's of everyone else? Yes, I do. Do I believe that He does everything for His glory? Yes. Do I believe that He loves me in such a way that He does all things for my good? Yes. Then I must trust Him to redeem those whom He has providentially chosen before the foundation of the world. If God isn't the one who controls the salvation of people, then man does and that scares me. For man has never been able to do anything good, so what makes some people think that man would make good executioners of their own salvation? It is extreme folly to believe that God sits in heaven wringing His hands hoping that people choose Him over themselves. God knocks down the door to our heart and completely sacks every part of it, leaving nothing left. If God does not save fully, He does not save. I believe that God has chosen everyone before the foundation of the world which gives me comfort to know that neither age, smarts, or physical handicaps can keep any of my children from the grace of God, because there is nothing that they can do to receive it.

   Fourth, I have been completely and utterly amazed by the beauty in Shane & Shane's song "So I Can Love". It seems to me to be one of the best presentations of the gospel and how we are to live it out that I have ever heard in song. In the song they proclaim that if we have breath in our lungs and blood in our veins, there must be a reason that we are alive. So many people think that there are so many reasons that they are alive. To care for family, to work, to teach, to give. However, in their song Shane & Shane make a profound statement. That the only reason we are alive is to love. At first listen this may sound odd and even overly simple to many people, leaving something to be desired. However, I want people to dig deeper. If we are alive to love what does it mean to love? The first thing that we should think of is that scripture tells us that God is love. Ok, so we have two things then. We are to love, but loving someone means that we bring God to them or show them God. If we are to God (love) others, shouldn't this mean that no matter the consequences or the cost, we show them what it means to be loved? For those who are apart from God have never experienced love.