Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Power of Hope: How to leave behind broken Dreams & Embrace your Destiny


I remember when I was in St. Louis Missouri doing ministry with The Salvation Army, a guy named Braxton and I would go around to places to talk to people about Jesus and hand out tracts. One day we went to an overflowing homeless shelter. The place was full up, with people sitting in the grass around it. It was quite a scene. So we walked around inside talking to people about Jesus, and handing out tracts, and eventually we went outside. And I was waiting by the car for Braxton who was talking to a friend. And I just looked at all the people. They all looked blank in the face. Do you understand what I mean? Empty. You’ve come to the end of yourself, your family, your resources, your very life, when you are set up outside a homeless shelter, on the streets of St. Louis, with nothing. You have nothing left. Life has taken it all from you. That blank stare, is a point which people sometimes reach in life. It is a state of utter hopelessness.

Have you ever reached that point in your life? Did an addiction do this to you? Grind you down until you had nothing left. Or did family members and friends desert you during a hard time, and so you became hard inside? Did you work, and work, and work, endlessly, sour, broken, and seeing no hope for so long, you just gave up inside? Maybe you’re in pain everyday and you’ve given up on a finding freedom from that pain? It can happen in many ways. Our dreams die, and one day we think, where did they go? They are gone. We feel like we failed, and all has been lost.

Have you been in this place? I saw one man. Sitting among some ruins. The Lord told me to go to him. I stopped right in front of him. What do I say to him? What can I possibly say? I locked eyes with him. And the Lord spoke through me, saying, “There is still hope. It’s not over. Look at me, there is hope. There is really hope.” He teared up a bit and smiled and said, “yeah.” Do you have hope? Or have you given it up?

The word from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV, says, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Maybe your dreams are dead and gone. So be it. Maybe you’ve lost hope in living a better life. Alright. We can’t change where you’ve been. But I will tell you this: Today, God can turn the page. And rewrite the script. And set you on a new course.

As CS Lewis said, “There are greater things ahead than any we leave behind.”

I want to challenge you today: Believe that there is hope for you today. Hope for you personally.

The psalm writer wrote to himself say, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” -Psalm 42:11

Sometimes we think God is too far away. We think He wont help us. We think he’s too busy. And we just can’t figure out how to connect to God. But somehow there's this disconnect between God and ourselves. And the only way you can heal that divide is by receiving Jesus Christ as your savior, and committing your life to God, without any reservations. 100% in. I give my life fully to serve Jesus. That is the only way out. We can’t try to get the help from God, but then not really serve God. It just won’t work that way. Give yourself completely to Him. I’ll wait. Do it right now.

If you don’t have Jesus Christ as your savior, you should feel hopeless, because the truth is that you are. You’re doomed. You’re still in your sins, and your under God’s wrath. You should feel miserably depressed if you don’t have Jesus. Maybe that’s one some of you do.

But if you cry out to Jesus, and give your life completely to Jesus, all of it, and commit to serve Him. He will heal you. I know, because he did this for me. But the deal is strict, we can’t hold anything back. We gotta be all in.

So if you’ve committed it all to Jesus, then the promise from Proverbs 23:18 is yours, “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”

And again it says in Zephaniah 3:17 ESV “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

This is what you might call a hidden hope, that we Christians have. People don’t quite understand it. They see is walking around town, everybody has a big frown on their faces, their eyes look vacant and empty, and then you see a Christian, and their eyes seem to light up. They aren’t heavy with sorrow. They are light and firmly seated in Christ. Most people say, what a weirdo. Why do they have hope? Especially during COVID-19, people were crazy, full panic attack mode, trying to escape infection. Manic you might say. Just an unending unquenchable fear. And then Christians were there, smiling, knowing, God will protect me, but even if he doesn’t and I die, I’ll go to heaven to be with Jesus. So no matter what, I’m safe. The hope can’t be touched by anything. It’s completely unshakable.

Take the deal. It’s a tough bargain I get it. Give it all to Jesus. Commit your life to serving Jesus. But the pay out is incredible riches, eternal hope, and an afterlife in paradise, instead of the lake of fire. If you don’t have that beloved savior of mine, you are on your way to the lake of fire. Just a fair warning. It’s 100% real. You’ll be conscious. It’s totally real. But the good news is, is that so is paradise. It’s 100% real, solid, physical, and true.

So in conclusion today, have hope. Hebrews 6:18b-19 says this: "We who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain" -Hebrews 6:18-19

The hope you have in Jesus, is sworn to by God as being 100% true and real. He swore it to Abraham long ago, and swears to you today that this hope is 100% true, to bring you into the very presence of God, behind the curtain to that holy of holies where the full presence of God is. And that place in our future is called the new Jerusalem, the city we will live in, for those who know and are known by Jesus. That is the solid hope. An anchor for our souls. Don’t let the troubles of this life weigh you down, because the weight of glory, of this solid future we have goes so far beyond the light burdens of this life, and all the silliness of this world. Your hope is eternal, and beautiful beyond imagining. Hope always!


Monday, January 25, 2021

Gideon & Midian: God's Hand in a War


We find ourselves right now as the church of Jesus Christ in the west under great pressure, from hostile culture, and constant struggles with sin and desperate attempts to win the lost of this country to Christ.

It’s very tough, the battles we’re in right now.  And I feel that the battle is only just beginning.  It reminds me of the times of Gideon. 

It says in Judges 6: 1-3,6, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country.  Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.”

So things were bad in Israel during this time.  The nation had seen all these great works of God, and had followed God faithfully, but then over the next few generations, their children and grand-children had forgotten about God. They had all their needs met, so they started to do evil, and practice sin. Troubled times came as a result.

Gideon, this young man, was hiding in a wine cellar, threshing out his crops, to try to keep them hidden from the Midianites.  So he’s hiding, trying to keep his crops safe.  And a messenger from God appears to Gideon and declares to him, ““The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Mighty warrior? He’s hiding in a wine cellar from the Midianites. He’s not a mighty warrior.  Not yet anyway.  And that’s my first message to you today, God sees what you can be in the future, and indeed what you will be in the future, if you continue to follow Him faithfully. 

I have many flaws, and many struggles in my personal life, but one gift God has given me, is that I see what people will be in the future.  When I look at you here, I see what you could be.  And I want you to begin to embrace this idea as well.  Because God sees what we can and will be.  Do you see the same?  Do you see how different you will be in a year, or 5 years, if you continue steadfastly following the Lord?  God saw Gideon, hiding in a cellar, and saw the future in him, right at that moment, the potential, the victorious state of being a mighty warrior of God.  God saw the same in me 8 years ago, when he whispered to me, while I was sick one morning, before knowing Jesus, he said, “you will be a priest.”  And I laughed outloud. I remember I was at my dads house.  But God sees what we can be.  Indeed, what we will be.  Believe that God can take you from where you are now, to a whole new dimension.  That’s what God does.

So Gideon is called a hero. God commissions and sends him to defeat the Midianites.  Gideon asks for a sign and God gives him a sign.  Then from Judges 6:25-27: 25 That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old.[b] Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole[c] beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of[d] altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second[e] bull as a burnt offering.”27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.”

So one of the chief reasons that God was so upset with Israel is that they were worshipping false gods.  So the first task God gives Gideon is to tear down these false gods.  And Gideon does so. 

And the towns people are very upset, they want to kill him, but his father protects him. 

My second point is this: You’ve got to cut down the Asherah pole and the Baal worship in your life. 

Some things in your life have to change, for you to proceed forward into God’s glorious future for you.  Sometimes we try to march forward into that beautiful future without cutting down the Asherah pole. We’ve got to start there, by dealing with the sin and removing it.  God helps us to do this. 

Next, Gideon sends word out to gather an army to protect Israel.  He’s planning, he’s setting goals, and God is with him.  So Gideon is able to gather this massive army of 32,000 men. 

So maybe we’ve realized we’re mighty warriors. We start planning. We start working on our issues. We start to develop new goals and plans and dreams. We start achieving victories, good jobs, college, service in ministry, and so on. 

So we expect, alright, we’re gonna gather all this strength and intelligence and ability and conquer our dreams.  We’re gonna overcome through our own strength, our own abilities.

For me, I expected Owosso salvation army to suddenly burst forth to have like 100 members, 200 members and more. 

But God doesn’t work that way.  He says to Gideon, you have a problem Gideon, the problem is your army is too big.  Too big!? That goes against everything we might think, and everything we would plan to do.  We’ve  got all these ideas about what we’re going to do, and how we’re gonna do it, and where we’re gonna serve and God walks over and throws all that paperwork off the table, and says no, you’ll do it my way.

Why? Because if we did it this way, with force, and all these huge numbers, we’d start to think we did it ourselves and become prideful, which is destruction. 

So God gives various instructions, for some of the men to leave if they are afraid, others to leave if they don’t keep watch well enough, and eventually Gideon’s army is down from 32,000 to 300.

Judges 6:8-12, 16-23 says, “Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. 10 If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah 11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.”

“He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” 16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.

17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’”

19 Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.

22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites.

So God worked in a mighty way through Gideon.  And Gideon’s part was to be obedient to God’s commands throughout the ordeal.  We might think God wants us to balloon like a mega-church or gather great power and defeat the evil one, but interestingly enough, God’s power is at work in weakness. Because that’s how God reveals his glory. And we know then, 100%, that it wasn’t us, or our brilliant ideas, it was the Lord, who granted the victory.

Our part is to march out, and believe God, and trust God at his word.  He calls you a mighty warrior, a hero of the church. You may not feel that way now, but if you pursue God, and get to work in your life.  You will one day like Gideon have those victories, and be that hero you dreamed you would one day be.

Dream brothers and sisters. Dream of the day a year from now, 10 years now, when you will be all up in shining armor fighting for the Lord, and watch the Lord declare the victories in your life. 

They didn’t even have to fight in the battle. But they did have to be faithful and God gave the victory.  May we do the same in our lives as Christians.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Speculations about Hell: What will Hell be like according to NDE/Visions/Testimonies?


 Read a similar post called "Speculations about Heaven

We're going to be looking at possibilities about hell, according to near death experiences, visions and testimonies shared by those who claim to have personally seen these places.  I'll share sources at the bottom of the post.  

Scripture tells us a fair amount about hell. We hear from Jesus that we should rather cut our arm off and throw it aside if it causes us to sin than go with both arms into hell (Matthew 5:30).  That's very severe. A good reminder as well.  

We see the scripture about the rich man and Lazarus, in which the rich man goes to hell and Lazarus is in heaven, and we see that there is no rest, or water or peace in hell, and you can also actually see heaven from hell (Luke 16:19-31).  

There are numerous scriptures about hell, some tell us of fire, others talk of outer darkness, perhaps these are differing regions of hell (Matthew 8:12, Matthew 22:13, 2 Peter 2:17, 2 Peter 2:4). We hear of course about worms that work their way through your body in hell, devouring you (Isaiah 66:24). We hear about how you are alive in hell, and you can't ever die.  Makes sense, given we're immortal being. 

In any case, these are some details about how from numerous testimonies I've read, listened to, and watched about people who had experiences where they saw God.  I would encourage you to test all these accounts against the timeless word of God.  And if anything goes against God's word, then it shouldn't be considered a reality. Then again, if it doesn't go against God's word, then perhaps indeed it is quite true.  

First, we see the aspect of fire in hell. Apparently each person in hell is burned continuously (Matthew 25:41).  This would seem to be an affect of the wrath of God against sinners who rejected Jesus.  

Apparently, people in hell are not able to die, so they will burn up in the flames, or be tormented by demons, and the grace of God will reform their body again whole, and then the process starts all over.  Terrifying.  You can never die.

Testimonies indicate, and this is common with almost every hell testimony, is that they constantly remember times on the Earth in their prior life when people witnessed to them about Jesus, and they didn't listen, or rejected them, and told them to go away. Every opportunity they had to receive Jesus is played before them consistently.

Another universally consistent factor of about testimonies of hell is they indicate that all their senses are stronger in hell. Like you can feel things much more deeply in hell (the same also seems to be true about heaven.)  Senses are heightened, so you are able to feel the torment much more deeply.  And the pain can be much more extreme, because on Earth when you are in pain eventually you'll pass out. The body has a protective mechanism to shut off temporarily if we're in extreme pain, but there is no such possibility in hell. The pain will be terrible, beyond imagining.  Not trying to scare you, just writing out what I've read and studied. 

Apparently there are numerous different sections of hell, and a person is sent to the area of hell that corresponds to the worst sin or most common sin they committed in life.  So, if they were an alcoholic primarily, they'd be sent to that section of hell. If they refused to forgive others, there's a section of hell for that.  Same with sexual immorality, or homosexuality, or lying, or stealing, or killing, or witchcraft, there are apparently areas of hell where the torments fit the crimes committed in the previous life.

Every single hell testimony I've ever read mentions this, that you are aware painfully that you can never escape hell. It's clear that the door is closed, there is no more opportunity for repentance in hell, and God's judgment is set and final.  You can never escape, and you realize constantly that you'll be there forever, and you can never leave.  That must be one of the worst things about hell, that you realize there is no hope, that you'll be there forever.  It's hard to even comprehend but, a million years later you'll still be there.  Truly scary stuff!

Another interesting factor about hell is that you still have your natural desires, to sleep, to drink water, to eat, and so on. But these base desires are never satisfied in hell. Which explains why the rich man cried out to Lazarus asking for just a drop of water, because he was so thirsty.  

Additionally, I've read numerous accounts that indicate that any infirmities that you had in the past life, you'll continue to have in hell. If you were in a wheel chair on Earth, you'll be in a wheelchair in hell.  Of course we know the exact opposite is true about heaven, all our earthly infirmities will no longer exist. We'll be healthy and whole. But in hell, you arrive with the same health problems you had on Earth. How terrible is that? 

Many accounts tell of Christians in hell. How could that be?  These were Christians living in sin. They refused to forgive, they were sexually immoral, addicted to pornography, masturbation, or mistreated others. There are pastors there, who taught false doctrine.  I've observed numerous accounts that indicate there are pastors there who taught people they could never lose their salvation. And there are people crying out in hell, saying, "Pastor you told me I could never lose my salvation!"  As a minister myself it sends a chill up my spine to realize this fact.  

One almost universal factor of hell shared in these testimonies is that demons are in hell, and they torment people. They apparently mock you and make fun of you and laugh at you, and say things like, "You could've had Jesus, but we deceived you" and "You're in hell and you can never get out, you'll be here forever being tormented by us." I've heard some very horrific stories, that they have long nails and they're huge, like 20 feet tall, and they will rip you apart, rip off your arms, rip off your legs, and just torment you in every way you can imagine.  Truly the most horrifying and terrifying accounts about what demons do, it makes me tremble with fear at our God and His power.  

I've read that people are constantly crying out in hell, so if you do end up in hell, you'll hear people screaming and crying, but from what I can tell, you are alone in a cell.  But then again, there are other accounts that tell of people together, in fire, or people piled on top of each other, so perhaps it depends on what section of hell you would end up in. I've also read that if people in hell influenced others toward hell, when those people come to hell as well, their torments are increased by the presence of those people.  That could explain why the rich man in the parable begged God to send people to preach to his family members to save them. He probably wanted to avoid the additional torments that would come to him in hell if they arrived there.  Very interesting.

Last thing I'd like to share about is outer darkness. We have one picture of hell that talks a lot of fires and demons and worms and burning, and all these things.  But there is outer darkness. And outer darkness seems different.  In the scriptures it's most often referenced when talking about people who served God, but fell short in life.  So maybe outer darkness is a place where Christians who fell away, or Christians who turned against God go?  I'm not really sure. 

But I want to tell you about something I saw when I was about 20 years old.  At this time in my life I was very messed up and troubled, I used drugs almost everyday, drank and smoked cigarettes, and cared only about myself, and sex, and getting whatever I wanted.  I remember one day in the morning I was sitting at my computer in my trashed room.  Then something happened.  Suddenly I couldn't see.  And I was super surprised and scared.  Then suddenly I was in this horrible place.  

I wish I could properly describe what it was like... It was total darkness. So incredibly dark.  I couldn't see anything.  I was terrified I didn't know what was happening.  I tried to breath, but I couldn't breath.  That scared me even more. Imagine trying to draw a breath and you can't. So I was like, suffocating.  I felt this horror come over me. And this pain roaring throughout my whole self, though I didn't even have a body, it was just my spirit in this darkness. I couldn't move.  It all welled up inside me to this incredible horror and I screamed as hard as I could.  But as soon as I tried, I couldn't scream.  There was no air and I had no voice.  So I couldn't even scream. The realization came to me that I didn't have any blood, as soon as I'd arrived there all my blood had turned to sand. And that "life" that's in the blood was just gone, blinked out. And I felt myself just crying as hard as I could, but I couldn't cry, I couldn't do anything. It was so dark and terrifying. And I felt this agony, this pain that was unbearable. I felt like an emptiness, like I'd become nothing, like I just sat there trying to scream, on fire with pain, but could get no air to even scream. So I screamed with my whole spirit and body. Then suddenly I was back, in my room.  And that was it.

I don't know if that was the punishment I might've come into in hell, or if that's the punishment reserved for those who are called to be pastors who refuse the call and serve evil.  Because today I'm a minister, and I've obeyed God's call. But I'll never forget what I saw for those few moments in my room when I was 20.  It sticks out in my memory.   

One interesting tidbit about hell is that some have said they can see heaven from hell, and can see all that they lost out on.  And I've even read some testimonies that say there is a place in heaven where you can visit and look down and see the people in hell.  Quite fascinating.  In any case, the best antidote to all this, is to remind us that we must turn away from our sins and put out faith in Jesus Christ.  We must give our lives to His service, and live pure lives. I've met people who say their biggest reason for turning to Jesus was because they didn't want to go to hell. For some it's the love of Jesus, or the beauty of the life of Jesus, or the greatness of God, or the evidence for God's existence, but I regard the desire to not go to hell as a perfectly valid reason to turn to the love of Jesus.  

If you're reading this now, the door is still open for you.  It's open right now.  Don't go to hell. God never desired any human to go to hell. It was originally made for the angels that rebelled against God with Satan.  Turn to Jesus Christ, get yourself a Bible, join a good Bible-believing church, and begin your new life as a Christian. Today is the day of salvation!  Amen! 


Sources:

23 Minutes in Hell by Bill Wiese

A Divine Revelation of Hell by Mary K. Baxter

Heaven is so Real by Choo Thomas

Bryan Melvin's Testimony of Hell

Mario's Hell Testimony

Ron Reagan's Testimony

William Booth's 11 Discipleship Questions to Challenge yourself to Grow

Questions are excellent. Our savior Jesus of course so often asked people questions.  Someone would come to Him and ask him a question, and Jesus would reply by asking them a question.  Questions help us to reflect on our own presuppositions, those things we believe and think without even fully realizing it.  So let’s practice self examination.

The word says: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5 RSV)

William Booth was a brimstone preacher, he was intense, but, I think we can really learn from his directness. He had these 11 questions to challenge himself and his people to growth.

1. 1. Am I habitually guilty of any known sin? Do I practice or allow myself any thought, word or deed that I know to be wrong?

1st John 3:6-8 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.

Are you living in some sort of compromise in your life?  This is scary, because we often feel trapped in a sin. Like we can’t quite escape.  But if we cry out to Jesus, and put our hope in Him, while also taking action, then we can indeed be free. And freedom feels so good. When you realize, I’m finally free from that sin, there is nothing so wonderful as that moment.

 2. Am I so the master of my bodily appetites as to have no condemnation? Do I allow myself any indulgence that is injurious to my holiness, growth in knowledge, obedience, or usefulness?

1st Timothy 5:6 “But she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.”

God has given us many good things in life, good food, good drink, good friends, family, marriage, television, all that good stuff. But are you indulging too far? That is a good question. I don’t want anything to enslave me, whether alcohol, or drugs, cigarettes, or gluttony, eating too much.  Or even coffee, or internet, or videogames. A good rule is to practice moderation, self control, and if something does conquer me, time to break free from it.

3.3. Are my thoughts and feelings such that I should not be ashamed to hear them published before God?

Romans 8:5-6 ESV “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

Matthew 12:36 “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak”

Now, please remember, to be tempted, with evil thoughts from the flesh, and temptations from demons, is not sin. That is not sin.  It’s not a sin to be tempted. We’re all tempted. But, what thoughts do we entertain? God is always renewing our minds in Christ. God transforms our minds by the renewal of the Holy Spirit. Grow in this area, you will see over years that your thoughts become more and more beautiful, reflecting the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness and so on.

4. Does the influence of the world cause me to do or say things that are unlike Christ?

John 15:19 ESV “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

The world has an influence on all of us. All the thing we’ve been taught in the world, all the text books, and television programs, and internet articles and memes and videos have impacted us in some way. Do you have a mind that sees the world through Christian lenses? If not, you must repent.

5. Do my tempers cause me to act, or feel, or say things that I see afterward are contrary to that love that I ought to [show] always to those about me?

John 13:34-35 ESV “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

By tempers, he means our emotions in the context of values. Does my mood or my mindset cause me to treat people without love?  I’m sure most of us could raise our hands and say yes to that.  We’ve all gotten upset, or been in a bad mood and yelled at someone.  But we can learn a level of control, a level of moderation, where we can love, even when we’re having a hard day.  God will help us.

6. Am I doing all in my power for the salvation of sinners? Do I feel concern about their danger and pray and work for their salvation as if they were my children?

Romans 10:14 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

I absolutely love this question. It shocks me out of my own laziness. How often I catch myself and realize, I could be doing a lot more to win people to Christ.  These people are in huge danger. They are in danger of the wrath of God, and being sent to hell, forever. That’s scary stuff. These people need Jesus desperately, what am I doing for them?  I’m a pastor and I have to ask myself, am I doing enough? All of us have this charge, to influence people toward Jesus. Not just inviting them to church, that’s a good thing to do, but buying them groceries, giving them bible tracts, talking to them about Jesus, sharing my testimony, all of it matters so much.

7. Am I fulfilling the vows I have made to God in my acts of consecration or at the penitent-form?

The penitent form is when you kneel at the altar before God. If you’ve made vows before God, are you upholding them?  Such as marriage vows, or when you’ve promised in your prayers to serve God? Are you following through?

James 5:12 ESV “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”

8. Is my example in harmony with my profession?  

Similarly to 7, am I being consistent?  If you’re a Christian you’ve professed Christ. Say it with me everybody.  Jesus Christ is Lord. Everybody together Jesus Christ is Lord. That’s a profession.  Is my conduct in life matching that level of commitment?  God is challenging us to grow.  And we will, by His grace.

9. Am I conscious of any pride or haughtiness in my manner or bearing?

Ah yes, the struggle with pride.  It’s insidious.  Is pride sneaking up in me?  Is it slowly growing up like a weed in my heart threatening to destroy all I am in Christ? Pride is hell. It’s awful. It’s the devil’s sin.  Get down on your knees before God, and declare he is lord, and I am nothing, and fight that pride.  Destroy it. Christ will.

Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

10. Do I conform to the fashions and customs of the world, or do I show that I despise them?

Similar to one of John Wesley’s questions is am I conforming to the world, or am I conforming to Christ?  It’s pretty easy to tell. Is my life guided by the Bible or by the television?  Pretty simple.  Ask yourself, am I really guided by Jesus?  Or by myself and my own wants?

1st John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.”

11. Am I in danger of being carried away with worldly desire to be rich or admired?

1 Timothy 6:10 ESV “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

Finally, last question, am I being carried away with the desire to be rich?  That’s the deceitfulness of wealth.  Or the desire to be admired? That’s a tough one. For me, I really wanted to be a writer, a great writer, and I wanted so badly for people to be amazed by my works and ask me questions about my books, and be spellbound with my brilliant writing. But not anymore.  I’d still love to write books, but it’s all about Jesus.  But sometimes in the church, it can become less and less about Jesus, and more and more about us, and how great we are.  That’s the worst thing imaginable. To turn our faith in Jesus into a way of making ourselves look good. Yuck!  Gross!

In conclusion today, all these questions challenge us to grow.  Challenge us to look within ourselves to understand who we are.  Who are you?  How are you living? Are you really living for Jesus?

If you noticed some problems in your walk with the Lord when considering these questions, that’s ok.  Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t throw up your arms and quit. Instead turn to Jesus in prayer, and ask for help.  God will help you. God will change you over time.  Begin the journey now. Begin to change your conduct, and ask for God’s help, He will help you. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

5 Testimonies of the End Times: Visions & Dreams of the Last Days

"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." -Acts 2:17

One thing those of us who love truth and strong doctrine and apologetics and philosophy is that we tend to sneer like a non-believer at legitimate spiritual gifts like prophecy, and those things associated with it, dreams, visions and prophetic utterances.  Yet biblical truth they are. They do of course messy the waters of biblical doctrine don't they?  But that is no excuse to reject them all as hackery.  To do so would be the ultimate expression of hypocrisy, to love the word of God so diligently, and then reject a teaching of the word of God because it upsets our own preferred view of it.  That would make no sense.

To that end I submit for your consideration these testimonies of heaven and hell. Don't allow these testimonies to be a stumbling block to you, but an open door of consideration, and reflection on who God is and how God reveals himself.  

The end times are a reality of the scriptures.  How will it come about?  What will happen?  It's all in the book of Revelation.  And apparently, God teaches about these times as well through the testimonies of those of the five-fold ministry who are called "prophets."  Don't despise the prophets my friends. Do discern the false from the true prophets. But don't reject them all.  Enjoy these testimonies of the end times.  God bless you. 

"Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good." -1st Thessalonians 5:20-21 NIV

1. Maurice Sklar's Vision


2. Kenneth Peter's Vision of the End Times


3. Tomi Arayomi's word from the Lord for the future


4. Jeremy's Vision of the End Times


5. Colonel James Durham's Vision of the Destruction of the Power Grid

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Your Spiritual Check-Up List

[Feel free to print this post]

Real Christians put all their hope, faith, trust, and future upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Do you believe and trust for your full salvation from Jesus Christ alone?

Real Christians forgive those who hurt them and have hurt them. Take a moment to pray, and forgive those you are holding grudges against.

Did the Bible live in me today? Am I living with a Bible mindset or am I living worldly? Real Christians live out the Bible.

Real Christians pray everyday. What is state of my prayer life? Am I praying everyday? And do I enjoy it?

Prayer is oxygen to the Christian. Learn techniques to pray effectively and develop a pattern of practice. As you mature, add in weekly times of fasting.

Real Christians read the Bible everyday.Am I reading the word & feasting on it?

The Bible is our daily bread, we need the words of God to strengthen us in this broken world. Set aside time each day to read a chapter or several, and study them carefully.

Real Christians tithe 10% and give offerings regularly. Do I tithe, or am I stealing from God?

Tithing as a general principle is that you give 10% of your income back to God. 10% is the minimum, but the New Testament standard is to give all, so begin to give more as you are led by God to do so. Give where you are fed, give to your church. Also give offerings as you feel led, for other ministries and for world missions.

Real Christians evangelize the lost. When is the last time you shared the gospel? Share the gospel with someone new today.

Evangelize to the lost - this means to share the gospel, your testimony, and encouragement with others throughout the week. Find ways to make it happen! The souls of lost humanity hang in the balance.

Real Christians practice sabbath. Are you spending the Lord’s day resting and seeking the Lord? Rest is a gift from God.

We are no longer under the Old Testament law of Moses. But the sabbath rest is still an important teaching from God.  We should be taking one day a week to rest, seek God, and abstain from work.

Real Christians practice purity of life. Are there sins in my life? Am I in need of repentance? Pray for the Lord’s help to be free from sin. Begin a fast if you are trapped and cry out to God for deliverance.

Real Christians meet the needs of fellow Christians. Are you providing food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, visiting the sick and prisoner, and befriending those who have no friends?

There are various ways to care for the poor. Food pantries, soup kitchens, visiting shut-ins, giving out clothing, visiting those in jail, homeless shelters, and giving out water to those on the streets. These are express commands in scripture from Matthew 25:31-46.

Real Christians do not forsake gathering together. Are you gathering with the church regularly? Are you attending church every Sunday?

Real Christians serve in various church ministries. Are you serving actively in your church? Talk to your pastor about serving in a ministry.

Serving in the church is an effective way to minister to those of the body of Christ.  Don't be part of the dreaded "80-20 rule" which says "20% of the people do 80% of the work."  Don't be a martyr either, but please do serve.  Ask to speak to your pastor or a lay-leader one on one and ask about how to get involved or how to start a new ministry. 

Do you really love God & people genuinely? Take time today to love.

So those are some simple basics for Christians to understand how to live.  But I want to now direct your attention to some questions put together by one of my heroes of the faith, John Wesley.  He really pioneered what we now today call the small group.  And in his small groups they would help hold each other accountable, by asking one another these questions.  They are printed on the back of your spiritual check up list.  Let’s take a look at some of these.

John Wesley’s 21 Questions

1.Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?

2.Am I honest in all my acts & words, or do I exaggerate?

3.Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?

4.Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?

5.Am I self‐conscious, self‐pitying, or self‐justifying?

6.Did the Bible live in me today?

7.Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?

8.Am I enjoying prayer?

9.When did I last speak to someone about my faith?

10. Do I pray about the money I spend?

11. Do I get to bed on time & get up on time?

12. Do I disobey God in anything?

13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?

14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?

15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?

16. How do I spend my spare time?

17. Am I proud?

18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?

19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward, or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?

20. Do I grumble & complain constantly?

21. Is Christ real to me?

How to Grow as a Christian in 2021

I debated a great deal in my mind what I ought to share at the beginning of a new year. Do I share a lollypop message about living your best life now and how great everything is? Do I share one of those sour messages, about how bad everything is in the world, and how to stand? I almost went that route.  But I thought to myself, what do my people need to hear? Well, they need to hear the word of God.  And it seems like right now we’re in a season growth and change.  We’re starting the new year the right way by focusing on God and focusing in on growth and breakthrough in our lives. So we’re looking at the topic of growth and change in the word of God.

1.    Continued, Steady Growth

From the book of 2nd  Peter 3:18 ESV, hear the word of the Lord, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

The challenge is continued growth. It’s easy to get off track, to start to kind of lose your fire, and settle into a routine that you become bored with. But the word of God refreshes us saying, continue to grow. And grow in something.  Grow in Christ. Grow in the grace that Christ provides.  He covers our mistakes, our sins, our foul-ups, where we have a safe arena, in our daily lives to grow.  And it says grow in knowledge, of our Lord and savior Jesus.  As we develop spiritually, our knowledge of the world and the sins and the spiritual battles grows. We begin to get wise to the tactics of the enemy we face.

2.    Moving into Maturity: Deepening our walk with God

Again, Hebrews, chapter 5 verses 12-14 says this, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,”

This is very interesting, the writer of Hebrews tells us that we should be caught in a repeating loop, of repentance from sin, and faith towards God.  Like where we’re constantly having to start over because we’re always tripping ourselves up.  It says instead go on into this state of maturity.  Where we’re soldiers for christ, mature troopers, seasoned and constantly at work for the kingdom.

3.    Immerse yourself in Biblical Christianity

So we see God commanding us to this ethic of growth and maturity.  How do we do that?  I think we get a clue to that from 1st Timothy 4:15-16, which says ,”Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

This is the apostle Paul writing to his apprentice Timothy.  He tells Timothy to practice these things, practice makes perfect.  That’s why we read our Bible everyday. That’s why we gather together for life group, discipleship, and Sunday morning and Sunday evening.  We need to hear this message over and over until it becomes an active part of our minds.  There’s this word here “immerse.” Which pictures wading into water, until youi’re completely in it.  Immerse yourself in the Christian message.  Listen to Christian podcasts. Listen to sermons on youtube. Read the Bible. Read Christian books. Listen to Christian radio. Immerse yourself daily in the Christian message. Keep a close watch on yourself 1st of all, and 2ndly, on what your teaching.  Why is that?  It’s easy to get off track in our personal life, where we start to slip off into trouble.  That’s why we hold each other accountable.  Secondly, on what we teach.  You see how many false teachers are in the world, we’ve gotta make sure we’re teaching a pure gospel, with love and truth.

4.    Train yourself in Discernment: Understand Good and Evil

Hebrews 6:1 ESV “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

We’ve all heard this scripture many times I’m sure, but I want to draw your attention to the final sentence here, solid food is for the mature, which is about the training of discernment to distinguish good from evil.  Many Christians today are blind and have no discernment. They can’t tell good from evil.  And so we see more and more evil ideologies manifesting themselves in the church.  Train yourself to discern good from evil in the world, in ideas, in current events, and in teachings going around.  This isn’t as easy as you might think. But train yourself to discern, to understand the times we are in. 

 

5.    Suffering produces Endurance, which produces character

From the book of Romans, Romans 5:2-6 ESV “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

That scripture speaks for itself. Amen.

6.    Love is central to growth

I want to share this one as well, because we have to remember that growth should involve growth of our love, that our love bank, that we pour out to others is always growing larger and larger, from Philippians 1:9 ESV “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,” Notice how God adds knowledge and discernment to the love though, he doesn’t want us to have that worldly love that is “just be nice” and don’t make waves and don’t say anything that might convict someone.  It’s a sacrificial love built on knowledge and discerning the times. 

7.    Grow in the Spirit, not in the flesh

And as we consider growth, there is a trap we can fall into and it’s articulated in the scriptures this way: Galatians 3:3 ESV “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  This is a great reminder. God’s work in us has been by the Holy Spirit. But now are we going to jump in and finish that work through the flesh? No. Don’t fall into that trap.  Test and see what God is doing. Don’t try to forage ahead in your own strength. Cooperate with what God is doing in your growth and change.

8.    Self Examination is Key to Growth

But we do see in the scriptures, the important of Spirit-filled self examination.

2 Corinthians 13:5-7a ESV says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong”

Test yourself, to see that you are in Christ Jesus.  You can do this in prayer, ask God, to testify in the Spirit with your spirit that you are indeed a child of God. Examine your life, are you living rightly? Are you discerning the times? Are you walking in love? Watch your own conduct carefully. The word of God says “Give careful thought to your ways.”

So I hope we’re beginning to see the various parts of this process of growth and change in Christ. We see the need for steady growth, the goal being maturity, This takes deep immersion into biblical Christianity. This also involves training yourself in discerning the times. We understand that this growth process involves suffering, which produces positive growth in us. We don’t lose sight of the fact that love is central to growth. We also remember to grow in the Spirit, not by self effort. And as we continue toward maturity, we grow through self examination.  So in conclusion today, I think this scripture from Ephesians 4:13-16 ESV really sums everything up well. It says, “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

So finally we understand that our persona growth meshes into the growth of the whole body of Christ worldwide, to maturity, that we’re steady, firm, no longer tossed about. But instead we have love and truth together. Growing up into Christ. You see this constant closeness of Christ, where we’re literally growing up into Christ-likeness. And Jesus holds the church, the body of Christ together, as we all work together to grow in maturity, live free from sin, and share the gospel with the world. 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Speculations about Heaven: What will Heaven be like according to NDE/Visions/Testimonies?

Read a similar post called "Speculations about Hell" 

This is not a typical post I’d make, as we won’t be addressing the scriptures directly, so please take these considerations as speculations, or suppositions, but not as rock-solid scriptural truths.  We’ll be speculating about heaven, in particular the new city of God on the New Earth.

We’ll be making use of sources I’ve studied from those who have claimed to have been shown heaven by God in visions, or near death experiences.  The word of God says we should not despise prophecies. I find little value in doctrinally rigid types who disregard all prophecy as lies. To me, they seem to be having a form of righteousness but are denying it’s power.  Prophecy is a reality of the Christian church. Yes, it’s messy. And we should always test it against the scriptures for accuracy.  But we can’t deny it outright either.  That is pride, and rejecting the spiritual nature of our faith. The word of God says, "Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. (1st Thessalonians 5:20-21)

Rant over, let’s get into speculations about heaven.

Apparently, heaven seems to be a rather solid place, some of us envision clouds and harps and wonder if we’ll even have bodies.  That is not a biblical position. These accounts tell us that we will certainly have bodies, perfected bodies, holy renewed bodies, but bodies they remain. 

Cross-referenced accounts of heavenly visitations indicate that there is a great deal of foliage, trees, flowers, and plants of various kinds. But apparently the entire environment vibrates with life. Everything is alive and vibrantly so, from trees to flowers, to doors and walls. They all vibrate with life.  Some have indicated that as you walk by flowers will sing to you.  

The New Jerusalem is the city in which we will inhabit in the new heavens and new Earth. This city is cube-shaped, 1500 miles long and wide and high (Revelation 21:16-18)

It's been indicated that in heaven they keep very good records. There are apparently books where everything you do on the Earth is written. And before you have Jesus as your savior, your sins are recorded in that book. But once you receive Christ, those recordings are washed away and no longer written at all. Quite amazing. This tends to line up with scripture with makes mentions to book being opened, and the book of lives. (Revelation 20:11-15)

 The grass in heaven is said to be like diamonds, shining and beautiful. The flowers open their buds and sing to those who pass. Music apparently comes from various places throughout heaven, described like chimes or bells at times.  There are various fruit trees throughout heaven, and when they are picked by the saints they eat and no juice squirts onto their faces. As if the fruit doesn't create a mess at all. Very interesting.

There is apparently no law of death in heaven. This certainly lines up with scripture when it says "there will be no death or crying or pain" from Revelation.  If you pick a flower and drop it, it simply reattaches to the ground where it lands.  Animals don't grow old and die. Obviously people there, the saints, don't grow old and die. Everyone has the appearance of being about 25-28 years old, right around the time when we stop growing on the Earth. Everything is alive in heaven. This makes a certain amount of sense, given that on the Earth if you are walking through a garden or a forest, everything is alive. The trees, the plants, the insects among the plants, the animals, even the grass and dirt is alive in a sense.  It would make sense then that this "life" function goes even further in heaven to extend to everything, with no death or decay.

There are numerous rewards in heaven, as we know from the word of God. Colossians 3:23-24, Luke 12:33-34). And the servants of God have houses and/or mansions in heaven, given in proportion to their good works they did on the Earth. Some have indicated that many will have very small rewards, unfortunately they didn't do a lot for God on the Earth, so they have very small places to live in heaven. Others have huge mansions, which were built and decorated based on the good works they did for God on the Earth. And Jesus is the builder, he personally creates each home. Apparently Jesus is excited for each of us to see our mansions in heaven, he watches closely to see how we react to the house when we arrive. This fits with the word of God that says God delights in giving good gifts to his people (Matthew 7:11).

 There are babies in heaven. Apparently God doesn't send babies or children to hell, not at all. I've also read reports that indicate God does not send severely mentally ill individuals to hell either. Unborn babies who die in miscarriages, or by intended abortion, their soul is collected by angels, and taken to heaven. God then gives the baby a new heavenly body.  And they are raised in heaven. They are even taught to forgive those who killed them in abortions, and ask God to forgive those who aborted them.  Another interesting tidbit, apparently unborn babies that die and go to heaven, they are given the name "beloved." But if the parent on the Earth wants to name the child, they still can, and when they do, the named is changed from beloved to what name they were given by the parent. So if you've lost a child, you can name them and they'll have that name when you come to heaven to meet them. They are apparently cared for by angels, and by the redeemed who desire to help care for them, and they are taught in heavenly schools, and raised until they reach full maturity.  Very cool if you ask me.  

There are of course many, many angels in heaven. They look somewhat like humans, but they have no apparent gender, since they don't reproduce as humans do. They seem to conduct the various business activities of heaven, from escorting the redeemed to God's presence, to recording and documenting events, to going from heaven to Earth and back again doing various work for God.  This lines up with scripture, since we see that angels are God's servants, conducting various "messenger" activities of God. They also apparently fight on behalf of God in the heavenly realms and on Earth, particularly we hear about the arch-angel Michael fighting for Israel in the book of Daniel.  We also hear of an angel headed to Sodom and Gomorrah to fight against it in Genesis. 

The throne of God is in heaven, a place where we see various creatures worshiping God, angels praising and shouting glory to God, and there is a great bright cloud, and a rainbow over the throne.  I won't try to describe anymore of it to you. Obviously, beyond our comprehension.


Sources:

A Message from God by Retha & Aldo Mcpherson

Vision of the End Times by Maurice Sklar

A Divine Revelation of Heaven by Mary K. Baxter

Heaven is so Real by Choo Thomas

Divine Visitation of Heaven by Sarah Boyanga

Testimony of Heaven: Inside of the Holy City by Oden Hetrick

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

Beautiful Near Death Experience by John Calvert

Howard Pittman's Testimony by Howard Pittman

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