Friday, May 31, 2019

Christians are Persecuted Severely Worldwide: Ancient Thessalonica to the Modern Era

Did you know that today in our modern world Christianity is the number one most persecuted religion in the world? Christians face murder and death for their faith every day. A great deal of persecution occurs in the following countries: Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, India, China, and the Philippines. According to the Daily Mail a UK newspaper, “245 million Christians now suffer 'high levels of persecution' in 50 countries, a rise of 30 million from last year.” Additionally, they wrote, “the Middle East is witnessing the 'decimation of some of the faith group's oldest and most enduring communities' and called for 'urgent government support'.” Mr. Hunt the united states foreign secretary commented, “I think we've all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians.”

It’s interesting that the book of 2nd Thessalonians was written so long ago; in fact, it was the apostle Paul’s second letter that we have. A.D. 50 is the year that Paul wrote this letter. And now it’s 2019, so 1,969 years later. Nothing has really changed. Christians are persecuted around the world today, just like back in Thessalonica.

Paul wrote to the persecuted church saying: “Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. 4 We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. 5 And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering. 6 In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you.” -1st Thessalonians 1:3-6

Today we’re addressing the topic of what it means to be “In Christ.” And we’ll view this in the context of persecution and suffering. To abide in Christ for us will mean following Christ when people think we’re stupid. It’ll mean living for God when the television tells us we’re backwards bigots. It’ll mean believing the Bible when the news and the media and the universities and the public schools are telling us that the Bible is a lie, the word of God is false, and we’re evil, racist, and bigoted for believing it is true.

For Christians in China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Nigeria, and other countries it means something much different. It means every day, waking up, and wondering if this is the day men will come to their door, and demand that they deny Christ, or die. It means wondering if armed men will storm into your church and gun down your congregation. It will mean wondering if the government is going to burst in and arrest you for loving Jesus. It’s wondering in China if a neighbor will turn you in for a cash reward. It’s true. It’s life and death to love Jesus in much of the world.

Now, suppose I lived in one of these countries that persecute Christians. And armed men came to my door. And they said, “Hey we know you’re a Christian. We have witnesses. We know your speaking to people about Jesus. Deny your savior, or die.” And he points a gun at my head.

If I were to deny Christ, would I still be in Christ? The answer to that question is no. Suppose they kill me anyway after I denied Jesus. Where would I go? I would not be going to heaven. I would be going to hell.

Can we lose Christ? Can we lose our salvation? The answer to these questions is yes. But it’s also true that God helps us to continue to “abide in Christ” and “remain in Christ.”

This is why we keep coming to church week in and week out. This is why we attend Bible study and small group. This is why we pray and study the Bible. We aren’t one and done. The Christian life is a lifelong journey of obedient faith. But we shouldn’t be afraid. We shouldn’t be afraid of “losing our faith.”

But we should be careful to obey God’s commands. We need not be afraid, or constantly disturbed by the fear of “losing our salvation.” Instead we should obediently live “in Christ” and obey God’s commands. Recognize that God is completely sovereign over all of reality. He is in charge. And He helps us to persevere in our faith.

Paul continues writing in 2 Thessalonians 1:5 saying, “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.”

Paul sees that the Thessalonian church is patiently enduring trials, persecution and difficulties. He’s watching this happen, and he’s pleased, because they haven’t given up the faith. They haven’t fled. They haven’t run for the hills. They are here to stay. They are Christians.

That is the evidence that Paul sees. He sees this as evidence that they will, in the future, be judged by God as worthy to enter into the kingdom of God. But who is doing this? Who is making them worthy? God is doing this. God did this in them, and God does this in us. How does he do this? He does this through trials, persecution, and difficulties. He preserves us in a state of salvation, so that we are abiding in Christ. To abide means to remain. To stay with.

Paul continues, “6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”

Think about what these people were suffering. They were under severe persecution. People were being arrested, families split apart, and Christians were being killed. Many of the survivors, of this church were probably wondering: Why is God letting this happen?

Have you ever asked the same question yourself? Why is God letting this happen? Doesn’t he see my pain? Can’t he see how terrible this is?

The emotions we feel, when we’re truly hurting, when we’re truly broken, are some of the worst feelings one can experience. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety much of my life. And in the past before I knew Christ, I experienced some of the blackest darkness one can imagine, truly dark states of mind. One just wants to stop feeling because of the way they feel.

We often wonder why young people will sometimes cut themselves, engage in self harm, or binge and purge food, and so on. Sometimes the emotional pain is so beyond words that we try to release it physically.

The dilemma is clear: God loves me, but, God who loves me won’t help me, He won’t relieve the pain as I suffer. Let me ask you this: Have you ever had to hold down a child why they got their blood drawn at the doctor’s office? At that moment as that child screams and cries and squirms it feels like the end of the world. It is like the apocalypse has personally come to that little room. And their dearest ally, their closest confidant, their own parent is the one who brought them there, and is now holding them down as they are jabbed with the needle.

There have been times in my life when I realized God led me into to the lion’s den. He brought me there for his purposes. The one whom I love, the one who saved me, who purchased me with the blood of his son, my protector, has led me into danger. And he has left me as the door shuts. And the lions growl.

Is it any wonder we are shocked and angry that God would let us feel such pain, and suffer such grief? But ultimately God is like the parent holding down their child as the doctor administers the blood test. This is for their own good, but from the child’s perspective it’s the end of the world. It’s chaos. It’s doom.

When God leads us into the lion’s den, and lets us stand there, alone, God already knows the lions will not eat us, he knows he has shut their mouth, and he can see the future, where we are resting in safety, freed from the lion’s den. But from our perspective it looks like the end of the world. But from God’s perspective, he has made use of our great struggle, to refine us, and mold us, and shape us into Christ’s own likeness. Like the blood test, it was for our own good. But like the child, we can’t see God’s perspective. Only God can see that. Which is why we have to trust him. Even as it seems the needle is diving into our arm, and we wonder if we might be drained dry… Still, trust God.

Remain in God. Remain in Christ. Because He loves us. He preserves us. He walks along side of us. We are part of his church, the body of Christ. He loves us. That’s the good part. But there is another part of this equation that we do need to address.

2nd Thessalonians verses 8 through 10: “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”

You and I have won the lottery. We’ve found the meaning of life. We’ve found the answer to everything. We’ve received Jesus Christ as our savior, our king, and our Lord. But there’s a whole world out there, that’s on its way to hell. Untold millions upon millions, out there in the world, who refuse to obey the gospel. They don’t want Jesus. They want to live in their sins. So many people! It dizzies me as I think about it. As I walk to the coffee shop, or drive to the bank, or stop at Wal Mart, I’m often haunted as I watch the people and all their faces, wondering if they will ever know Jesus Christ, and have everlasting life.

I’m a people watcher. If I go anywhere, I’m people watching. It’s absolutely fascinating. But it’s also quite troubling, because I realize so many of them don’t have Christ. They’re alone. And they just don’t care. They’re so wrapped up in the things of this world, money, good jobs, fast cars, sports teams, shopping malls, fashion & beauty, music, art, video games, whatever it is. They’re lost. I wish I could just stop and shout at the top of my lungs, “You all need Jesus! Stop what you’re doing! Get Jesus before it’s too late!” But I never do... I don’t want to make a scene. But the truth is I probably should. Because it may be somebody’s last chance on that day. If only I could do something. If only I could do more. I’ve got to do something. Time is running out.

How lucky are we? How blessed? I used to think to myself, “I’ve never won a prize drawing. I’ve never won a raffle.” Actually I have. I’m a Christian. I’ve found the meaning of life. I’ve found the fountain of youth. I’ve found the escape hatch from this broken sinful world. How blessed are we? Wow.

So let’s not screw this up. Repent and turn away from sins. Forgive your worst enemies. Discharge your duties as a Christian. Evangelize the lost. Pray every day. Read your Bible every day. Because we shouldn’t think we’re beyond falling away from Jesus.

If you want to remain in a state of salvation, then you need to continue in obedient faith in Christ. Several key words there: “Continue.” “Obedient Faith.”

In this I see three ways we can lose our salvation. 1. We fail to “continue.” We see this all the time don’t we? Someone stops coming to church. They just go back to their previous life. They stop praying, stop reading their Bible, and just leave. They abandon the Christian life. They’ve lost their salvation.

2. Sin. What’s the opposite of obedience? Disobedience. If we are disobedient to Christ, and we live in sins of the flesh, then we will lose our salvation. If we’re living in faith in Christ, but we’re living in sin, like alcoholism, drug addiction, gossip, gluttony, rage, divisiveness, or the various other sins talked about in the New Testament, then we’re in danger of losing our salvation, and we need to repent of sin (1 Cor 6:9-11). In the same way, if we aren’t evangelizing, serving the lost, meeting needs and so on, Jesus is going to find that we’ve been lazy servants, and that can also be a situation where we lose our salvation. (Matthew 25:31-46).

3. We renounce faith. Suppose a gun is put to our head, like the example we talked about earlier, and we deny Jesus? We renounce our faith. We’ve left aside faith, we’ve failed to confess Jesus, and we’ve now lost our salvation. I suppose we could always repent of this sin, but there is something final in a public renunciation. I’m not sure how that works spiritually, but something happens there that isn’t easily returned from.

But I don’t want you to live in fear of losing your salvation, because Paul closes chapter 1 of 2nd Thessalonians by writing, “11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

So in conclusion today, we find that God makes us worthy of his calling, and his power brings our faith to completion in Christ Jesus. He guides us along the pathways of life. So we need only trust in God, and live obedient lives of faith. God will craft us through difficulties, persecutions, and trials into the likeness of Jesus Christ. In this way we can and will abide in Christ until the very last day. May God preserve us blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is our prayer today. Amen.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Great Cloud of Witnesses: Fix your Eyes on Jesus

Audio Message:

Two years ago as I was preparing to leave my internship for training college I got on my knees and I asked the Lord, “What is the scripture you’ll give me for this time in my life.” My Bible seemed to flip perfectly to Hebrews, the twelfth chapter. Verses 1 through 3.

I sent an email to Captain Xav about two months ago and asked him, what is the topic for the upcoming sermon? And he emailed me back and said, “Hebrews 12 verses 1 through 3.” God is good. And this is just one of many winks from God. He is sovereign.

The scripture today calls us to perseverance. And it speaks of a race that has already been marked out for us. God already knows everything we’ll do in our lives. It’s all set before us.

Why do the scriptures so often call us to perseverance? Because being a Christian isn’t easy. It’s not easy at all. We have to live by all sorts of difficult standards. Like loving our enemies, and forgiving people who do unspeakable evil to us. We have to allow ourselves to be shamed and ridiculed, for the sake of the gospel. Not only that but we have to endure suffering, which God prescribes to us to make us holy. We’re cleansed by the RX of suffering, to be refined by God into Christ-likeness. That’s tough.

We’ve all been through an awful lot in our lives. I don’t care who you are. We’ve been through the ringer. This is a fallen, broken planet, full of evil. Yet there is also God at work in it.

Often times in this difficult life we wonder, “Can I really go on another moment?” Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I just think to myself, “I can’t do this.” We all have our cross of suffering to bear, whether it be lost loved one, depression, anxiety, or chronic pain, migraines, addictions, and so on. Yet despite all that the show must go on.

Life is messy. Ministry is messy. We often think of that in the context of other people. It’s messy for us. It’s messy inside of us. But despite the messiness, we persevere through the messiness, and through suffering through these struggles, we bring great glory and honor to God.

Is our situation unique? Nope. Just like the great cloud of witnesses who goes before us, we glorify God through difficulty. In Hebrews 11:36-39 we hear about all the greats from the past who did great glory to God, Gideon, Abraham, David, and so on.

It says: “There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. These were all commended for their faith… “
- Hebrews 11:36-39

It says through faith they conquered. Their utter weakness, their vulnerability, was turned to mighty strength.

How did they do this? Through their unshakable faith in God. They knew where to look. As our scripture says today: “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” 

Look at Jesus. Fix our eyes on Jesus: But what does that really mean? It means an unshakable trust in Jesus. A faith that rests in adversity. A faith that can’t be shaken by the visible suffering and sorrow all around us and within us.

Those prior generations faced death for proclaiming Christ. Yet today we’re pretty spoiled in the west. We have all our needs met. However, we’re bombarded by temptation like no other generation has been. We’re torn between political and social ideologies; we’re hit with thousands of advertisements per day. We’re constantly told: You’re not good enough unless you buy… whatever.

Which is why we must be doubly sure to not be entangled by sin. We’re surrounded by it. It entangles so easily.

Hebrews 12:4-6 says: 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

God as our heavenly Father has us endure hardship. Indeed, I realized as time passed that the scripture God gave me was one of difficulty and challenge. But if each of us are undergoing discipline/suffering/difficulties, then, this is a beautiful evidence that God is treating us as sons and daughters. So be it. If this is what it takes to be a Christian, I’ll accept all of it. I hope you will too.

In all this we have to look at Jesus, despite suffering in our battles against sin. And I think that starts by looking back. We can look back and see God’s guideposts, pivotal moments where God winks at us, transforms us, gives us a blessing, or even when we suffer.

So I want to ask you: What are God’s sign posts in your life?

I’ll share one illustration: In 2010, I was a deeply troubled young man, in dark depression and addiction. One day I set my mind on ending my own life. I walked to the highway, and I walked out onto the highway, 29 in Wausau, intent on killing myself. 

A man in a vehicle came, we locked eyes. He almost hit me. 2 years later I was in Escanaba. Art Davey came up to me and said, I used to drive through Wausau, one day I was driving and almost hit a young man standing in the road. That was me.

Art came to church with his wife grace, but I don’t think he really believed in Jesus. We talked and he told me he didn’t trust the Bible, because we don’t have the original manuscripts. And I shared with him about the reliability of the new testament, and the attestation of the dead sea scrolls, and the 6000+ manuscripts that match each other. And Art came to believe. He saved me, by not hitting me on the road. I came to Escanaba and preached the gospel to him. Amazing how God works.

You may not realize what is happening in your life right now, but God is tying the strands of your life together.

You may stand in the road and God will protect you, you may be in pain and God is consoling you, you may be wondering just what God is doing in your life, but years from now you may just look back and see the strands that God was tying together, piece by piece, when in the moment you couldn’t see how it all fit together, in the future, you’ll realize God knew exactly what He was doing.

Can you trust Him? Can you really trust Him? Where we look into the future and only see a void of nothingness, we can’t see a single day ahead… God sees every single detail, like a painting, before his eternal eyes, every brush stroke, every color, every texture, God knows it all, and His plan proceeds through times we haven’t yet lived. Can you really, really trust God in the unknown? Decide now. Tell God, “I trust you. I really trust you for what I can’t see.”

You may be asking, “God how long do I have to wait? God how long do I have to be in constant physical pain? God how long do I have to single and alone? God how long until I’m free of this sin in my life?”

Trust the Weaver.

In conclusion today, we see that the scripture of Hebrews 12:1-3 comes to us in four parts.

It begins with a recollection of God’s guideposts: What are my guideposts from God? What were the pivotal moments where I didn’t know what was happening, but God was weaving the strands together? We look back to our past, to see how God has been faithful in the unknown.

Next we recognize the great cloud of witnesses that has gone before us, from Abraham to the apostle Paul. And more personally, people who have mentored us in the salvation army, people who have been an example to us, and friends who have fought through struggles.

Then we realize that though we do suffer, we must turn our full eyes to Jesus Christ and focus intently on him. Through focusing on Jesus we receive the spiritual fuel necessary to fight our battles.

Finally, we recognize that our part is to both trust, and be obedient. And in regard to obedience, we fight off the sins that so easily entangle, and live in holiness. 

Related Posts:
  1. Evangelism is Everything: Building Evangelism Focus
  2. Humility which leads to Repentance: Living a Pure & Victorious Christian Life
  3. Pray for that Schmuck
  4. What does it mean to Repent?
  5. The Divine Image, the Family & the Social Order
  6. 25 Powerful Quotes on Why Christianity is actually True
  7. The Destroyers of America & the Home of the Peacemakers
  8. Post-modernism is Dead, Jesus is AliveThe Illusions of Modern Society and the Gospel
  9. A Reality Frozen in Anticipation: Moments of Truth
  10. The Facts on the Ground: Science, God

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

How to Thrive as a Single Officer/Minister Guest Post by Captain Linda McCormick

The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them.

I have been an officer for almost 8 years now. It is a job I absolutely love! This life as a single officer comes with a plethora of challenges, but in those 8 years, I have found some things that help keep me sane, enthusiastic, and filled with joy. These practices help me to thrive when I am in the challenges every day ministry.

1. Your happiness and joy MUST come from a strong relationship with God! He MUST be in the middle of your singleness.

2. I think as a single officer you need strong connections outside the Army world. It is not healthy to only have all your friends in the Salvation Army. You need people you can trust outside this bubble that you can share your frustrations with and your joys with. You also need to find people INSIDE the Army you can trust to share your appointment frustrations and joys with that has no power to affect the status of your appointment.

3. You need to find a Bible study outside what you provide for your people in order for you to grow and be filled, especially when you are pouring out day in and day out.

4. Make time for yourself. Whether it is reading, watching a movie at the theatre or going for a walk. These things help break the constant barrage of information and people you are dealing with.

5. Get a pet (if you like animals). Animals are great because you can come home to them at night, and love them. We need the unconditionally love of animals sometimes, and it will make your heart lighter at the end of the day.

6. Try to keep your house clean, this alleviates a lot of stress is you can walk into a clean and organized home.

7. Finally and MOST importantly, remember why you do this very difficult job! Re-read your covenant often for it is God you serve, not man. 

When a single officer has to be at every 1 and 2 star event and sometimes regional events it is extremely stressful and you can get caught up in the weight of everyone always pulling at your time. Read the covenant, remember WHO called you and why. He is the one who fills you with joy and purpose.

There is more I could say, but I will close with this: You have been called by Him. He will provide a spouse if that is in HIS plans, but be content in your singleness, and do the best you can in your appointment and find joy in your singleness. Because if you don't, there is only trouble, frustration, and disappointment in the future. Rely on Him and He will be faithful.

Blessings from a fellow single officer who is thriving.

Captain Linda McCormick

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Tame Your Tongue: Repenting of Gossip Guest Post by Lieutenant Crystal Sherack

The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them, based on the teachings of the Bible, in the Spirit.

The topic of gossip has been on my mind for quite some time. As an introvert, I spend a lot of time observing people and I’ve been observing a lot of gossip, especially masked as prayer requests.  People are quick to share information without knowing if it is even true. And in some cases, gossip and rumors ruin lives and relationships. I can’t think of a single example of a time that gossip or rumors have been helpful to anyone.  We’re constantly surrounded by it and we accept it.

    How gossip happens
Proverbs 10:18-19 He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

The more we talk, the greater probability we have of saying something that is not true or is incorrect. The desire for continuous conversation often leads to exaggeration, breaking confidences, and associated sins (MacDonald, 1995, p 815).

Proverbs 11:12-13 A man who lacks judgement derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.

A man without wisdom belittles those around them and insults God. But a man of wisdom doesn’t say anything if he can’t praise or edify the other person. Some take malicious delight in spreading scandal, informing about others, and breaking confidences. They don’t hold anything back and they tell everything they now. A faithful friend knows how to keep confidences and refrains from talking (MacDonald, 1995, p 817). Gossip is one of those sneaky sins. We’re often apart of it without realizing it. In church or small groups we call it prayer requests. Don’t misunderstand, it is important to pray on behalf of others, but we don’t need to share all of the details with everyone that we know.  Both passages from Proverbs talk about what happens when we talk without having wisdom. When we lack wisdom, we might have the desire to talk continuously. And generally, when we talk non-stop it leaves room for exaggeration, betraying the trust of others, gossip, and slander. When we talk without wisdom, we also belittle those around us, which then insults God. Since we are all made in the image of God, if we cut down others, we are insulting God at the same time.
But the passages also let us know that those who have wisdom, choose not to say anything if they can’t praise or uplift people. It’s like that saying that they used to teach in elementary school, “if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all.”
James 3:5-10 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

     What Gossip Does
The tongues is a relatively small part of our body but it is a powerful one. The tongue can set the heart aflame with fury, patriotism, courage, love, and hate; it can also inflict damage for generations (McCartney, 2009, p 184-185). In James 3, we see the tongue compared to a fire and can easily destroy a forest. The tongue, when not tamed, can destroy the entire body; it pollutes personal life and other activities as well. I think fire is an appropriate illustration to use to describe what the human tongue can do.
Fire starts small and grows but it also creates heat. Words said out of anger or malice can destroy a home, a Sunday School class, and a Church. Jesus Himself faced gossip. He was called a glutton and a drunk (Matthew 11:19). When he performed miracles, He was accused of being in league with Satan (Matthew 12:24).
Because of the Fall of Man, we have lost control over our tongue. Our human nature can’t control it and only God can bring it under control.
When gossip isn’t stopped right away, it acts like a forest fire. Fire defiles. Fire burns. Fire hurts. Just like our words. Gossip, just like fire, spreads when we add more fuel to it (Wiersbe, 2008, p 359). Like fire, gossip damages and destroys. It destroys trust, relationships, and in some horrific cases, it can destroy businesses and churches.
The tongue is difficult to control by ourselves. We need the power of God that lives in us through the Holy Spirit to tame it. When we claim to be followers of Jesus, we should be transformed by the Spirit and that transformation should manifest wholeness and purity of heart. If we bless the Lord with our tongue in one moment but tear someone down in the next, we are need in of spiritual renewal.
     Remedy to Stop Gossip
There are two parts to the remedy of gossip. 1) the gossipers and 2) the listener of gossip.
1   The Gossipers
a.     Pray daily that the Lord would keep you from gossip.
b.     If you have an issue with someone, go to them directly. Don’t talk about them to another person, that doesn’t solve the problem.
-        Matthew 18:15 If your sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
-        Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, but if he repents, forgive him.
c.     Try to see Christ in others instead of magnifying their flaws.
d.     Ask yourself is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
e.     Most importantly, ask God to forgive you for gossiping.

Pray this passage daily if you find that you struggle with gossiping:
Psalm 141:3-4 – Set a guard over my mouth, o Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies.

    The Receivers of Gossip
     If someone comes to you and says “I need to talk to you.” Ask them, “about someone or something.” If they want to talk about someone, politely ask them if they spoke to them yet. If they haven’t, they need to do so. Politely end the conversation with that.
b. Like a fire, we need to stop gossip before it gets out of control. 
- If you find yourself in a conversation that suddenly turns into gossip, you need to ask them if what they are saying is even true.
- Show them what the Bible says about gossip and its destructive power.
- Encourage them to go to the other person in humility to apologize for sharing information about them.
c. Pray that the Lord would keep them from gossip and that He’d guard their mouths when they are faced with the temptation to do so. 

Ephesians 5:1-4,8-11 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurty or greed must not even be named among you, as in proper among the saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving thanks…for you were formerly darkness, but you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of the darkness, but instead even, expose them.

It should bother us that gossip is so readily accepted in the world around us. This is not an easy topic to talk about in the church. However, it is one that we need to talk about. If we want a healthy church, we need to address issues that keep us unhealthy. Gossip is in the world around us. It’s in our friend groups. It’s on nearly every magazine cover in the checkout lines at the grocery store. Gossiping, just like any other sin, separates us from God. It’s difficult to proclaim the gospel and share God’s love with someone when you spent several minutes tearing down another person. God is not honored when we tear each other down.
We might participate in gossip because we don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. But we aren’t helping them. We’re only encouraging their continued separation from God. If you want to help your friend, encourage them to go that person and discuss what’s wrong or even to apologize to them for sharing information about them. It isn’t easy to discipline people we are close to or correct them. But it’s what we are called to do as followers of Christ.
Maybe you are really good at avoiding gossip and if that is the case, don’t be afraid to share that wisdom with others. Gossip is a little different than other sins, it’s sneaky. And we have to be on guard. Pray to God and read His world daily.

Citations and References

All Scripture references are from the New International Version.
MacDonald, W. (1996). Believer’s bible commentary. Thomas Neslon: Nashville.
McCartney, D. G. (2009). James. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids.
Wiersbe, W.W. (1989). The bible exposition commentary: new testament volume 2. David C Cook: Colorado Springs.  

Bio: Crystal Sherack has been an Officer in The Salvation Army since 2014. She currently serves in the Western Division in Rapid City, SD.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

God Commands You: Fear Not! Be Courageous!

Isaiah 41:10 ESV Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

1 John 4:18 ESV There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Psalm 34:4 ESV I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Joshua 1:9 ESV Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Philippians 4:6 ESV Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Psalm 27:1 ESV The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Romans 8:38-39 ESV For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psalm 56:3 ESV When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

John 14:27 ESV Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

80 times in the Bible we are told: You will not be afraid. This is not a suggestion. This is not God saying “Please don’t be afraid.” This is God commanding you, insisting you, and demanding: You will not fear them.

Fear not is a command, not a feeling. Obey it. Do not be afraid. Be courageous. Be bold. Be brave.

What do you fear in life? Are you afraid of the bully at school? Are you afraid of the future? What about your life at home? Are you afraid to come home at night? What do you fear?

God says: Fear not.

But how can we do this? Fear seems so powerful. It’s natural to be afraid. It’s natural to feel anxious, fearful, afraid, even terrified. What do we do with these feelings?

I’ll teach you key equation of fear. There is only one legitimate fear. And if you have that one fear placed properly, all other fears will disappear. One fear is acceptable, reasonable, and wise.

It is to Fear God. Fear God. Tremble before God. Regard God as mighty, powerful, holy, and beyond us. Tremble and revere Him. And what’s amazing is, when we fear God, He who loves us, when we fear Him, all other fears disappear. That is the secret equation to be free from a thousand fears. Replace the 1 thousand with one: The fear of God.

Proverbs 19:23 ESV The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.

Psalm 111:10 ESV The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Matthew 10:28 ESV And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Luke 1:50 ESV And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

Revelation 15:4 ESV Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Monday, May 6, 2019

Why I Post about Jesus on Social Media & Why You Should Too

I'd like to make the case as to why you should utilize your social media accounts for the glory of God. I'd like to share my experience with this journey of social media use, some of the people I've been able to influence, as well as some of the mistakes I've made, and instructions for how you can begin to utilize social media to influence people for Jesus.  

I've seen people make two mistakes when it comes to social media use.  One is that people over-utilize social media, they post their problems on social media, they use it for gaining attention, and spend far too much time on it.  This extreme should be avoided. 

The other mistake I've seen people make is that they demonize social media, and treat it like it's some sort of disease on society.  They lament social media, and shun it.  There is no reason to go to this extreme either.  

Most of us use social media for rather simple purposes, we share pictures of our family and friends.  We give people occasional updates on our lives.  We post cute cat videos and inspiring videos of people helping others.  Sometimes we post news articles, and recent events in our area.  It's a way to stay in touch with friends and family, and even connect with old friends.

Before I even became a Christian I made use of social media, like Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace. I created websites for fun, and posted my writing online.  But once I became a Christian, I quickly realized that everyone in the world needs Jesus Christ.  

As I went through my life, over days, weeks, and months I found myself with only a sad few opportunities to share Jesus or scripture or the existence of God with people in my life.  I had never been a particularly dynamic conversationalist.  I had always had a bit of a nervous disposition. Yet I had this yearning in my soul, this aching in my soul to share Jesus with people I knew.  

One day it dawned on me, I was connected to most of these people, my family, extended family, some of my coworkers, my friends, and acquaintances on Facebook, Twitter, and other media platforms.  I could passively influence them toward Jesus and the gospel day by day, by occasionally posting to my social accounts.  

So I started doing that.  I started posting scriptures from's daily scriptures that come to my email.  I started posting little blurbs inviting people to come to my church on Sundays.  I "liked" a bunch of Christian pages, and joined Christian groups on Facebook, and started "resharing" pictures with Christian content on them.  

Over time I was sharing videos from Christian apologetics ministries, articles from Christian websites and blogs, and I was sharing just all sorts of Christian content via my social accounts.  I began to look for ways to connect with new people on Facebook and other platforms, with the hope that I could passively influence them through those accounts.  

Obviously this was a somewhat unorthodox way of using social media.  Occasionally people would become upset with a post, and begin arguing with me on the post.  Sometimes I would try to debate them, sometimes I would simply not engage.  Other times people would block me, or private msg me and ask me what my deal was.  I tried not to let it bother me.  Sometimes you have to stir things up a bit if you want people to know Jesus.  

Sometimes we're a little too careful not to offend anyone in this world.  Sometimes we need to take some risks, even risk offending others, for the sake of winning their eternal souls to Christ.  Or maybe we're just afraid.  But I was tired of being afraid.  It was time to take action.

Though some people got upset by my openness at sharing my faith, I found that most people didn't really know what to think of it.  But they watched and listened.  I tended to gather a group of about 20-50 people who would like the posts, and occasionally interact with the content.  

At first I didn't notice much of an impact.  But increasingly, I started to notice people begin to reshare the content I was sharing.  Occasionally I would hear a story of someone who had started attending a church somewhere.  Some of the people even began attending the same church I attended.  

Eventually I decided I needed to make a record of my faith journey, so I could help point others toward Jesus.  So I made a blog website and began posting links to my blog posts on social media as well. I became increasingly connected at my local church, along with the pastor of my local church, who I think felt a bit uncertain about my social media posts.  But I think he was generally pleased that I was trying to support the church and invite others.  

Now during these first few years of social media interaction I made some mistakes.  At times I would share personal rants about things.  This is always a no-no. Another stupid thing to do is to make passive aggressive posts toward someone without naming them directly.  This is easy to get away with usually, but it's just a nasty thing to do.  Quite a while ago I decided to end my sometimes passive aggressive approach to life. It doesn't help anything, it's best to simply be assertive and approach people directly.  

Another mistake I made, particularly in 2015-2016 was getting increasingly involved in politics, and I started sharing those viewpoints widely on my social media accounts.  The result was that I lost many, many friends.  Not just a few dozen, actually.  Hundreds of people "deleted me" on Facebook and other social media platforms.  I found that as I attended to conferences and other events in my organization I would find people who hated me, or disliked me, because of things I'd shared on social media.  For the record, I think it's a good thing to share your beliefs, but I realized I had to consider what my chief goal in life was.  And I quickly realized it was getting people to know Jesus Christ.  So I largely discontinued sharing my political opinions.  

Be thoroughly warned on this one friends: Share your political beliefs at your own risk. Nothing makes people madder than political debates.  And the country is severely polarized right now.  So be cautious, and consider people's feelings.

Anyway, the point is clear: Sharing Jesus Christ on social media is a great way to influence people.  Over months and years, I was amazed to see people beginning to attend churches in my area, people I had influenced on social media!  I saw people drawing closer to Jesus Christ.  I saw people getting excited about Jesus and the gospel.  

But it didn't happen in weeks or months, it took years sometimes of faithfully continuing to click share.  It's very important to be dedicated and persistent.  And honestly how easy is this!?  We can influence hundreds of people from the comfort of our own homes.  Since starting blogging, I've received over 600,000 views.  It's not that hard.  There are people everywhere, all over the world who have computers and internet and are looking for the truth.  

Don't be afraid to put Jesus out there.  Share his word.  It won't return void.  Imagine how many people we could reach if we all clicked share a few times on our social media accounts!  It could spread and spread to more people, and go viral, and pretty soon we'd reach the whole world for Jesus!  

We often assume that social media isn't really real, it's not real life, it's just computer stuff.  But behind every profile is a real person who is active in the real world.  Use social media to guide them toward faith in Christ.  This is a great opportunity to be evangelists for Christ, blasting the truth out there on social media!  So get to work!  Start clicking share, and through so doing, change the world.  All glory to God alone, I don't do anything.  We don't really do anything.  It's the Spirit of God working through the word of God, and the truth of God.  Amen. 

Related Posts:

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Prayer Requests - Please Pray Now!

(Note: Please feel free to print out this form and use it for your prayers, and please share with others!)

Please pray!  Pray hard. Prayer changes everything.  Prayer is powerful.  God answers prayers.  He has answered them in the past, and he answers them today.  

I have seen prayers change the whole world, if we will just believe. Prayer is mighty. Prayer moves God to act on our behalf.  Believe in Jesus Christ.  There is power in the name of Jesus!

1. Pray that the message of Jesus Christ would reach the lost in unreached people groups in our society.  Pray specifically for the lost in the United States.

-Pray for drug addicts
-Pray for Meth heads
-Pray for Rockers
-Pray for the LGBTQ community
-Pray for Democrats 
-Pray for Republicans
-Pray for libertarians
-Pray for atheists/agnostics
-Pray for Muslims
-Pray for Jews
-Pray for alcoholics
-Pray for sex trafficking victims
-Pray for those afflicted with cancer
-Pray for people with diabetes
-Pray for those with heart disease
-Pray for Sports fanatics
-Pray for university professors
-Pray for the poor
-Pray for the rich
-Pray for Celebrities
-Pray for unknown lonely lost people

2. Pray for the unreached people groups in the 10-40 window (parts of the world where Christians are severely persecuted) China, India, North Africa, and the Middle East.

3. Pray for God to raise up principled, uncompromising Christian patriots to lead in our local, state, and Federal legislatures.

4. Pray God will orchestrate events to put a godly man or woman in the Supreme Court and Congress.

5. Pray for the truth to shine through the lies of the mainstream media.

6. Pray for grassroots organizations to grow in strength to take on the corrupt Washington D.C. system.

7. Pray for luke-warm Christians to be set on fire for God.

8. Pray for sound doctrine within the churches.

9. Pray for Christians who will stand up for their faith.

10. Pray for religious liberty to remain in the face of attacks from partisan activist groups.

11. Pray for the Salvation Army and the leadership to be holy, to be on fire for Christ, and to stand firm in the truth.

12. Pray for atheists, that they would know Jesus Christ as their savior.

13. Pray for young people who are exposed to so much depravity and sin in this world, that they would be able to stand and resist every temptation and that they would know God.

14. Pray for public schools, and for the secular lies taught in public schools, and for the truth to be taught instead.

15. Pray for God's power to end the scourge of human abortion forever in this world.

16. Pray for the Christian message to reach out into all sectors of media and popular culture, including television, radio, the news media, movies, documentaries, history, and the sciences.

17.  Pray the Lord's kingdom come in the area in which you live.

18.  Pray for a great awakening in the United States.

19. Pray for Godly men to be raised up, who refuse to be shamed by the current culture, who live as men ought to live, and stand firmly as leaders and warriors of truth.

20. Pray for women, who have been so deceived by our culture, to stand for morality, for truth, and for justice.  Help women to stand as beacons of wisdom, truth, grace, and humility.

21. Pray for young adults to seek after Jesus Christ as he truly is, and not as we would have him be.

22. Pray for Christians to get involved in politics in meaningful ways, given Romans 13's requirement for us to obey the authorities, which means participating in our democracy style government.

23. Pray for persecuted Christians in the middle east who are being beheaded for their faith.

24. Pray for persecuted Christians in Iran, including Pastor Saeed.

25. Pray for persecuted Christians in China and North Korea.

26. Pray for wise Christian leadership who refuse to be caught up in sex scandals or immoral controversies.  We have a great vacuum of good leadership in evangelicalism. 

27. Pray Non-Profit leaders to meet the needs of people who suffer in poverty.

28. Pray for many of the televangelists who do not endure good doctrine and who pervert the word of truth. And pray that if they do not repent, that the Lord would remove them from the airways.

29. Pray for a new media to replace old media.

30. Pray for the leaders of Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and other massive banking institutions.  Pray for their leaders to be wise, godly, and to turn from corruption.

31. Pray for the owners of fortune 500 companies like Starbucks, Wal Mart, Costco, and others.  Pray they would know Christ and be charitable and generous with their wealth.

32. Pray for the end of corporate cronyism and corporate welfare.

33. Pray for ISIS to be brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ, and also pray that they would be defeated, to prevent the murder of innocent people in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States.

34. Pray for the victims of mass shootings and for the healing of their families.

35. Pray for those who are suffering from cancer, pray they would be healed and restored to health.

36. Pray for the LGBTQ community, pray they would receive the gospel and turn from their past ways and live in rightness with God.

37. Pray the church of God would spend more time in the word of God.

38. Pray that churches, organizations, and groups would promote healthy eating and help stem the tide of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes in our nation.

39. Pray that the body of Christ would spend more time in prayer.

40. Pray that young people within the body of Christ would take the Bible's teachings on sexuality seriously including the issues of masturbation, pornography, and pre-marital sex.

41. Pray for the church to help end the horror of child sex slavery.

42. Pray that believers would be better stewards of their money, and would learn better ways to manage their finances.

43. Pray that Christians in the world would have a closer walk with Jesus Christ.

44. Pray for cutting edge media, movies, and music to help transform the culture.

45. Pray for those addicted to drugs, pray they would seek recovery and know Christ.

46. Pray for alcoholics and for recovery and faith in Christ.

47. Pray for those addicted to cigarettes, that they would have the power to quit and stay quit. 

48. Pray for children who are led astray by the sexualized culture. 

49. Pray for sex addicts and relationship addicts to experience recovery and hope.

50.  Pray for prostitutes to be freed from their captivity, pray for Christians to help them be set free.

Praise the Lord for how good he is to have set us free in Jesus Christ!  In Jesus name, Amen.