The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

Living & Dying Unto the Lord

Posted by israeliteindeed on January 29, 2017

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My husband and I have entered the longest, darkest valley we’ve ever been in. He was diagnosed with cancer. We were told he was cancer-free after surgery, but shortly after that, 5 tumors were spotted in his abdominal soft tissue. We went the all natural route with a very clean diet and supplements, detoxing, etc. But a month ago, the unforeseeable happened. A tumor burst through my husband’s skin. Until then, he was doing very well, even working full time. After this, his health rapidly declined, and the tumors began to grow extremely fast, bursting through the skin one by one. In one month’s time, he went from feeling “normal” to seemingly at death’s door. He spent 8 days in the hospital. We are beginning new treatments this week, along with continuing to try to nourish him with foods like moringa, turmeric, coconut oil, etc.

Nothing can prepare you to watch someone you love lose his strength, his muscle, his size, his energy, his skin (the tumors are eating the skin off his stomach).  Even his voice has been reduced almost to a whisper. I have to remind myself that even “Jesus wept.” It hurts.

But…God has saved him. He is redeemed. He is my brother. He has eternal life. He is committed to Jesus.  How do we assign value to this? Even as I weep off and on during the difficult days, I see the value of my husband’s redemption, and I feel its tremendous comfort.

And so into the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death, a Light shines. A Light bright enough to carry us all the way home if necessary, goodness and mercy trailing behind us. Some truths we understood in part; now we more fully understand. I expect the picture will grow clearer and clearer over time.

Unfortunately, sickness has a way of bringing miserable comforters to your side. They have good intentions, but they don’t understand what God is doing. See the book of Job. His friends insisted Job must have some sin in his life, or he would be healed. God corrected them. I’m so glad that book is in the Bible. Job still speaks comfort to the righteous all over the world who are suffering!

Someone gave us a book that claims physical healing is included in the atonement, and therefore any Christian can demand a physical healing, and God MUST heal them. If they don’t get healed, they must not have the right faith. This doctrine is false.

If we can command God, then we are God, and He is not God. He is God, and we are His sheep. He commands us, and He leads us where He wants because He’s alot wiser than we are. Sometimes He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death because it will bring a greater good whether we are eventually healed or not. Those who love Him follow Him wherever He goes, and He sustains them whether they live or die.

For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. (Rom. 14:8)

We will have neither sorrow nor pain nor tears nor death AFTER WE ARE RESURRECTED.The “second death” has no power over us (Rev. 2:11). But all are appointed  to die once in this temporary life, and after that the judgment (Heb. 9:27). We have all been dying since we were born.  One day, something–or many things– will quit working, and these bodies will expire. If you have not yet realized that all flesh is like the grass, quickly fading, in time you will see this truth. It is hard to truly grasp until it happens to you.

The doctrine that if you aren’t healed, you lacked faith, very often condemns the just and makes the heart of the righteous sad, whom God has not made sad (Ezek. 13:22). Thankfully we have the Truth upholding us and the presence of Jesus surrounding us like an impregnable fortress. It’s ironic that we have to hold our shields of faith up to stop the fiery darts of the wicked one (that come through professed believers) saying, “You must have no faith.”

He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord. (Prov. 17:15)

Satan has created a false “faith” that says we can, like God Himself, name it and claim it. That’s not faith; it’s paganism.  Faith trusts in God’s promises–all of them–including the ones that promise we will suffer, but one day our sufferings will cease forever.

God has been preparing me for these days for two years. I didn’t understand the preparation time until now.  He’s been tearing away from me all obsession with this life. This life is beautiful even in a sin-cursed world, and yet the redemption of sinners and the building of God’s kingdom is the ultimate goal as we dwell in tents of perishable skin. I haven’t always had the right priorities. The world teaches us to seek after food, clothes, health, wealth, power, beauty. These are nothing but dung compared to knowing Jesus and making Him known. If I knew this before, I know it better now.

I believe God can do anything. He can heal with a Word. He does heal today. And He WILL heal if it brings the most good to the most people. But He alone knows what will bring the most good. I know if it was up to me to wave some magic wand and get everything I thought I needed, I’d be a self-centered narcissist. That’s not good, and it’s not what I need. I would never elect to go through the fire, but God knows we need refining. God values our souls more than our temporary bodies. His ways are higher than our ways. We are invited to have the mind of Christ, and to assign our bodies and souls the same value He does (Matt. 10:28).

I know and confess that God is good even if He doesn’t heal my husband of cancer. He has forgiven us our sins. He has reached through the confusion and pain of this life to give us the truth that healed our rebellious hearts. He has given us such a beautiful marriage, and precious children and grandchildren.  Even now He continues to bless us, but we need our spiritual eyesight sharpened to see it. That’s ok. On the days our eyesight is poor, He sends a godly friend with a word in season, and the picture clears. He is a good Father, our Healer, our Redeemer, our Provider, our Life, our peace, and our joy. The Friend that sticks closer than a brother. The One who wept at the tomb of Lazarus is not forgetting any labor of love we ever did, and our tears are in His bottle. “My soul magnifies the Lord”!

If you love the Lord Jesus, will you please pray for our family? Pray that my husband’s faith does not fail, and that our lights continue to shine brightly no matter what. Pray we glorify Jesus in this trial, as we should. Pray for the unbelievers in our lives that we may influence because of our circumstances. I am asking my Father to touch and heal my husband and give him more years here, but I trust that He knows what is best and will do it.

God bless you!

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Posted in Christian Life, Suffering | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Avoiding Persecution at the Expense of the Gospel

Posted by israeliteindeed on August 3, 2016

Ever since I began to read the Voice of the Martyrs magazine* years ago, I have had the conviction that the western Church has much to learn from the Church in the rest of the world, and particularly from the suffering Church. This is not to say that the non-western Church has no errors or weaknesses. We know from reading Revelation 2 & 3 that churches can have both. They need rebukes, exhortations and continual guidance by the Great Shepherd. Sometimes they go so far astray, they are under threat of having their lamps darkened forever.

However the non-western Church has an advantage, in that her faith has survived wars, poverty, social upheaval and persecution. In most cases, she has not learned that persecution must be avoided at all cost, or that Jesus died to give her prosperity and earthly security. Jesus did not lie when He said it was hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, and we in the west are rich. There is a great blindness and apathy that seems to accompany prosperity and ease, unless we are very careful to cast it off. I believe that listening to these foreign disciples–and watching how they live out their faith–is akin to going to Jesus for some much-needed eye medication.  We have much to learn.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a message with you from a Christian evangelist who works in Tyre, Lebanon among 95% Muslims. He was born a Muslim himself, but became a follower of Jesus at a young age, due to the influence of a Christian church in his neighborhood. He lived for some time in the USA, after being flown here when his life was threatened because of his preaching. But he went back, and he opened a mission which openly admits with a sign that it exists to proclaim the gospel.

Mohammad Yamout tells his story and delivers some powerful exhortations to the western Church in the video below. Here is a transcription of part of it:

“Any Christian who thinks he can avoid persecution, I think that is not possible…We’re in the devil’s den. You’re attacking the fortress of the devil. The devil is not going to kiss you if you attack him. He’s going to attack back…

And any time you will try to avoid persecution, you have to do it on the expense of the gospel. You will compromise your stand in order to avoid persecution. I don’t want to compromise my stand. I don’t want to compromise the gospel to avoid persecution.

Many people, under the pretext of wisdom, say, ‘You have to be wise.’ I don’t know how wise you can be. I don’t think you can be more wise than Jesus Christ. He came, and He had to be persecuted. And He had to die. There was no other way.

For the gospel to spread out, and for people to know the truth, we have to die too. For the Muslim people to know Christ, we have to die. There has to be a line of martyrs in the future, I think, before these people understand that there’s a God that loves them. If we’re not ready to pay that cost, I don’t think anything’s going to happen….

Christianity was spread in the first century church by the blood of the martyrs. People died, that’s how Christianity was spread. That’s how we conquered.

Today in order to conquer, we have to be ready to die. People ask me in churches, ‘What makes a good missionary?’ And my answer is always, ‘Are you ready to die?’ If you’re not ready to die, pack it and go home…This was the life theme of every successful missionary–they were ready to die for Jesus.”

I hope you will set aside time to watch the entire video. God bless you.

*Note: While I credit the VOM magazine for helping me to better understand the worldwide church, and I respect its founder Richard Wurmbrand, I can no longer promote the ministry due to some revelations that Richard Wurmbrand’s son brought to light.

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The Way You Know

Posted by israeliteindeed on August 2, 2016

“And where I go you know, and the way you know.” ~Jesus (John 14:4)

Jesus is the Way. If you truly know Him, you know the Way.

There are many voices in this world wanting to be followed as potential “ways.” Entirely false religions as well as false voices claiming to be from Christ, seeking to lead us by degrees to other gods. Prophets and dreamers, false accusers and soothsayers.  Even well-meaning people with blind spots can be used by the enemy to divert us from the course He has given us.  Our own thoughts and feelings can be shifting sand. Don’t be distracted by all the noise. Don’t turn to the right or to the left. Look unto the Word of God, your Redeemer, your Rock of Salvation.

If you know Jesus, if He has saved you, if it is Him–the Living Word–you are following, then the way you know. The way may be hard, but the way you know. There may be people who despise, condemn, or misunderstand you; but the way you know. You may not know exactly how the current trial will play out, but the way you know. You may not know what will happen to your country, your family, or your own body; but the way you know!  If you are truly His, I pray this fills you with holy comfort.

A beloved sister, Patricia White, maintains a faithful witness at the blog Hoshi’ana. She has been enduring trials recently, and shared a testimony with friends of how the Lord has been faithful, and how she will continue to stand in Him. Here it is:

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So!

I will follow Jesus until the day I die. No devil in hell, no liar or wicked person, whether they be male or female, family or friend, politician, religious leader or teacher, will cause me to veer off course, will remove me from this Highway of Holiness, or will take my crown; though they try, oh how they try!

Jesus Christ rescued me from the pits of hell; He gave me His Name; He gave me His Holy Spirit; He gave me His Word and His promises. Jesus healed my body in more ways than I can count and opened my barren womb and gave me a son. He taught me the Truth and gave me revelation of the scriptures. He taught me holiness and repentance; faith and endurance; joy and peace.

The best day of my life was when, in a vision, I saw His face and received my calling. That event taught me the fear of the Lord in a greater way than I had already known and caused me to walk even closer to my Savior. Since that day, the trials of my faith appeared and continue to. Sometimes the cross is exceedingly heavy to carry, but He is faithful and comes along and lifts the burden from my heart. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Jesus opened the door to true fellowship and through the years I have been blessed by godly relationships, some near and some far. I have found friends that stick closer than a brother and have taught me through their patience and humility. Thank you for their lives, Lord.

Please let this not be seen as my boasting of self. Let it not be seen as I am anything at all, but that all glory and thanksgiving goes to my Lord. It is He who died for me, and it is He who redeemed me. This is a simple proclamation of faith and testimony to share with you all today – that, as many of you do know – God is good. His mercy endures forever. Keep climbing that Holy Mount friends. The end of our faith isn’t far away.

Peace be with you.

Praise God for the faith of the saints. Though they endure sufferings, they cling unto the One they know! He has been faithful in the past, and He will be faithful yet again.

Samuel raised a stone called Ebenezer to remind God’s people of the Lord’s faithfulness thus far:

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (I Sam. 7:12)

“Here I raise my Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I’ve come,
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God,
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.”

From “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Raise your Ebenezer today, saints of the Lord. Recount how the Lord sent His Word to heal you, how He rescued you from Egypt, how He overcame your enemies, how He filled your mouth with truth, and your heart with joy and peace. Between here and eternity are struggles; but we know the Way! Keep to the Way, and you will make it home.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

Paul knew that in every city, chains and tribulations awaited him (Acts 20:23), yet he confidently raised his Ebenezer before King Agrippa, a faithful witness to the end–

Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great… (Acts 26:22)

May you always do the same! The Way you know; the Way is Jesus!

Posted in Christian Life, Suffering | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Obtaining the Promise

Posted by israeliteindeed on January 4, 2015

Speaking of Abraham, Heb. 6:15 declares:

And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

Note that he did not obtain the promise immediately, but only after he had patiently endured the hardships of this life.

We must also continue in a faith like that, as the writer of Hebrews speaks again:

But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (10:32-39)

These early saints “endured a great struggle with sufferings.” They endured their own tribulations, and brought even more suffering on themselves by compassionately aligning themselves with other persecuted Christians. They were instructed to continue enduring, for only after enduring in the will of God could they obtain the promise. This is fully in line with Jesus’ teaching, “He who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22)

There is such a thing as not believing to the saving of the soul, or falling away in time of testing. This is a faith that refuses to endure hardship in the present life. Because it refuses to suffer now, it forfeits the Promise. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Rom. 8:17)

And what was/is the Promise? Is it a happy and care-free life on this earth? No indeed! The Scriptures are clear that the Biblical saints lived as pilgrims, like Christ, having no place to call home.

Arise and depart, for this is not your rest; because it is defiled, it shall destroy, yes, with utter destruction. (Micah 2:10)

This world is not our rest. We are forbidden to love it or be a friend to it, precisely because it can never be our rest. It is defiled, and it will be burned!

Recently I’ve seen many Christian brothers and sisters having health problems, financial problems, and of course relational problems as they are cast out by those who claim to be their brethren. The whole creation is groaning, waiting for the sons of God to be fully and finally revealed. Is anyone groaning more than the true saints?

It is easy to fall away in times of testing, and these are most assuredly times of testing. It is tempting to think God has forsaken us; or that His giving us over to the slaughter, as it were, is unfair. It is tempting to reason that our doing good has only brought us harm, and to envy the ease with which the wicked sail through life claiming to be “blessed.” But we must consider not only what is happening now, but what will be the latter end for both the righteous and the wicked. We must see things with spiritual eyes rather than carnal eyes, lest we complain against God and fall in the wilderness, never entering into the rest which remains for His people. We have tremendous need of endurance if we are to finish this difficult race with a steadfast faith.

Please be encouraged if you are suffering as a Christian. God has chosen the poor of this world to inherit the riches of the next (James 2:5). God has chosen the weak of this world through whom to manifest His strength, and He has chosen to declare His Name through those who are despised (Psa. 22). If you walk by your spiritual eyes rather than your carnal eyes, you can endure like Moses (Heb. 11:24-27)–he was able to endure the wrath of this world’s elite and powerful, because he looked to the Invisible One, who would soon crush satan under his feet. He esteemed the reproach of Christ as the true riches compared to all that he could have had in Egypt (the world).

Our brother, who was crucified, wrote the following:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (I Pet. 5:8-10)

Until that day that He has perfected, established, strengthened and settled us, let us remember that the entire brotherhood of Jesus is experiencing sufferings with us. Let us be vigilant to guard our hearts against the devil’s schemes to get us to turn away from the Lord Jesus. No one else has the Words of Life; there is no where to go but to Him. We will suffer “for a while.” I know it can feel like our troubles are unending, but they aren’t. Our suffering is temporary and it will end. If we do not draw back to perdition, we will obtain the Promise, and He will wipe away every tear.

Posted in Apostasy, Once Saved Always Saved, persecution | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What if We Really Loved our Enemies?

Posted by israeliteindeed on October 19, 2014

When the subject of obeying Christ’s command to love our enemies comes up, invariably someone will respond with, “Well what would you do if someone broke into your house and was about to rape and murder your wife/husband/child?” It is assumed that our innate love for, and desire to protect, our family will override any silly compulsion we might have had for turning the other cheek. Otherwise you are just a rotten human being, even loveless.

First, this is not a scenario that happens every day. It is unwise to imagine the most tortuous thing possible as a means to extricate ourselves from Christ’s commands.

Second, there are many things one could do in response besides kill. Hopefully, our first response would be prayer. And if that isn’t our first response, maybe we don’t really know or trust God. After prayer, we have to trust that the Spirit of God would show us what to do or say next. And I know that whatever that would be, it would in no way contradict any of Jesus’ teachings. If we have already hidden God’s Word in our hearts, it will keep us from sin when the pressure is on.

Third, I have to repeat the question in the title of this paper. What if we really loved our enemies? I mean really loved them.

Imagine for a moment that your own 20 year-old son (or daughter), whom you had rocked in your arms and raised up under your own roof, fell in with some bad people and decided you were his enemy. One day he pulls a weapon on you and tells you he is going to kill you in cold blood. What would you do? Would you instantly pull out your own gun and fire away, then tell the world, “I had no choice. Self-defense.” Would your story be lauded all over the internet and shared on social media–“Brave father kills son in self-defense.” Probably not. Many people, even unbelievers, would be shaking their heads. How could a father do that to his own child?

But what is the difference between a stranger and that prodigal son?

The difference is that you love your own son. And because you love him, you don’t want him to die, especially in the spiritual state he is in. You would probably be wondering how in the world he ever got this confused. Most likely, your mind would be working overtime to create a way to diffuse the situation so you could help your son. You would likely plead with him, remind him that what he is doing has dreadful consequences to him spiritually. Perhaps you would start weeping with a broken heart for what is happening to him. And whatever else you would do (call the police, try to restrain him, run away), it is very unlikely that you would riddle him with bullet holes to solve the problem.

Now, let’s talk about the stranger. Why do people find it so easy to kill strangers, whether it is the stranger from their own town committing robbery, or the stranger overseas who happens to have a target on his chest due to some political struggle? They find it easy because they do not love him. And because they do not love him, they choose not to remember that he is created in God’s image and likeness. They find it easy to forget that he has a mother and father who may be devastated by his death. They choose to have a hardened heart toward his spiritual state, rather than a broken heart willing to make a personal sacrifice to help him.

The western church has cleverly dreamed up myriad ways to explain away the teachings of Christ, so that she can respond to the challenges sin brings just as the world does, and continue seeking all the things the Gentiles (unbelievers) seek (Matt. 6:25-33). To respond to those challenges as God did in Christ simply costs too much. She wants to be perfect, but she doesn’t want to enter the fire to be perfected. And because of this apostasy and departure from love, she is now plagued with fear.

We have fear of people who practice false religions, fear of terrorism, fear of which way the political games are headed, fear of losing what we have worked so hard to achieve for ourselves. We are no longer seeking first the kingdom of God–that kingdom which is not of this world–that kingdom which we must enter through tribulation. We are no longer seeking His righteousness, a righteousness that overcomes evil with good (Rom. 12:14-21). We are no longer willing to follow in Jesus’ suffering steps (I Pet. 2:21).

When Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, He meant it. He will never change what He said. His commands will never be outdated because of some new and more serious threat. Neither are they burdensome (I John 5:3).

What He commands, He also facilitates for those who abide in Him. He is not simply telling us to treat our enemies as if we loved them. He wants us to actually love them, the way we love our own children. Is that possible?

It is. He showed us the way, and His life flowing in us (if we are abiding in the Vine) makes it possible. While we were still His enemies, Christ died a violent death to save us (Rom. 5:8-10). Such a love makes no sense to the natural man, and he can’t receive it. The world doesn’t operate this way; and those who love the world can never choose this way because they are too invested in the world.

But those who truly die to themselves in order to know God even in His sufferings, even in conformity to His death (Phil. 3:10), will find that they are debtors to everyone, even the barbarians (Rom. 1:14). Being a debtor means you owe them; they don’t owe you anything! This is how the early church gave up their lives–being imprisoned, stoned, beheaded and crucified–for the gospel. This is how they were content to live in the caves of the earth as outcasts. This is how they so easily parted with lands and goods to see that others were fed. It wasn’t that their times were so much easier. It was that they were so closely connected to Jesus and so willing to follow in His steps (out of love for Him), that His love flowed through them and they were empowered to love their enemies from their hearts. They weren’t pretending; a game of pretend doesn’t have that kind of endurance. Their minds were being renewed to love as God does; their hearts were tenderized until they saw themselves as debtors to every man. Was it easy? I don’t think the cross or tribulation are ever easy. Every man cares for his own flesh and wants to see it flourish, but love makes impossible things possible.

And so I challenge you to put in place of that faceless, nameless “enemy” –someone you love. Don’t dehumanize the enemy; that is the world’s way. Humanize him with the face, the life story, and the value of one you dearly cherish. Now ask the Lord Jesus to help you love your enemy in the way you love that person precious to you. Because I truly believe the gap between how we would respond to an only son and how we would respond to a complete stranger is the gap between our love and His love. And it’s not enough to say, “I’m only human.” It is God’s will that His love be perfected in us.

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. (I Jn. 4:17)

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:7-14)

Have you not yet attained? Are you not already perfected? Begin by counting your worldly gains as loss for Christ. Many are stumbled right here and never get this first step nailed down. Oh, but you must! For where your treasure is, there your heart is also! (Matt. 6:19-21) And then you must desire, with an undivided heart, to know Jesus and to be like Him, even if closely following Him draws you into the fellowship of His sufferings. Forget those things which are behind and press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. I’m on the same journey you are on. Let us not fear those who kill the body, but only fear God.

God bless you.

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The Terrible Consequences of the Church’s Avoidance of Pain

Posted by israeliteindeed on February 26, 2014

A brother shared this quote from Art Katz with me last night. It is taken from his message, “And They Crucified Him.” Please listen; it is worth the six minutes. If you can’t load the video, I have typed out a transcript of the words below for you to read.

The pitiful excuse for Christianity most of us have experienced, in contrast to the world-changing legacy of the Acts church, can be traced to our own circumventing the cross of Christ in an effort to avoid pain.

Let that truth sink in. It’s not Obama. It’s not Miley Cyrus. It’s not the sorrows we’ve experienced. It’s us. How I pray that God will change us.

“I think we, everyone of us, ought to be humiliated or humbled every time we pick up the book of Acts, and read the glory that attended the life of that first Church.

By contrast, the most successful kind of Christianity that we know, the most charismatic, the most belauded and applauded, is utterly anemic and does not bear comparison.

How is it that these rude men, fishermen and louts who had no advantage of the kind that we have enjoyed, were able to turn cities upside down and shake the earth?

Why is it we have not had a corresponding effect in our own generation?

The answer, in my opinion, is that in missing the cross, we have missed the power of the resurrection. We have sidestepped the cross as a subject, let alone as experience because we have no tolerance or sympathy for pain.

The denial of self in any form is suffering, and we have not been encouraged to that.

We have overindulged and spoiled our youth, compromised truth in our marriages, suffered casualties and losses among our ministers, and given ground to the spirit of independence and rebellion in the churches, all because we cannot stand pain.

We parents who indulge our kids rather than chasten them, are we being loving or self-indulgent?

We pastors who condescend to placate men, rather than speak the truth to them in love, why are we so sparing?

We saints that see the effects and the things that need to be corrected in each other, why are we silent?

Where are the Pauls of our generation who will confront the Peters, who have compromised the gospel by being one thing with one group and another thing with another?

Paul said he would not entertain that situation to go on beyond the moment for the purity of the gospel’s sake. I call that LOVE.

But you know that that kind of love as an act is painful and it’s humiliating. It’s easy to be misunderstood, for which reason we prefer to keep quiet. For which reason the world is running amok with us, and for which reason we move into increasing carnality, not being corrected by one another.

The avoidance of pain is a costly avoidance.

And the symbol of the cross at the heart of the faith is an invitation to share in His sufferings.

In a word, our Christianity is degenerating into a middle-class culture, a sanctifying cover-up for the status quo, a vacuous praise club, an equating of gain as godliness, a comfortable religiosity that leaves our real interests unchallenged and undisturbed in the in the avoidance of the cross of Christ Jesus.

Somehow am I naive to think we ought to look different, speak differently, act differently, that there ought to be such a savor and fragrance about us of Christ, that it is a savor of death unto death to some, and life unto life to others.

The fact that the world can so easily tolerate us, the fact of the almost complete absence of reproach, let alone of persecution is itself a shameful testimony that we are so much like the world that we cannot be distinguished from it.

We have lost even the difference, the sense of the difference, between that which is sacred and that which is profane.

I believe that God could lay at the door of the church the full responsibility for the present condition of the world.

And the things over which we cluck our tongues and point our fingers and look disdainfully down our noses about, are the things which can be attributed to us, for we have not established in the earth a standard and an alternative to which a dying world might have turned. They simply did not know that there is such a thing as that which is holy and that which is sacred. For we ourselves are wallowing in the things that are earthly, common, unclean and profane.

The only alternative to that which is earthly, carnal, sensual and devilish is that which is heavenly. And there is no way to attain to that which is heavenly independent of the cross of Christ Jesus.

If the prophet Isaiah seeing the Lord high and lifted up cried out, ‘Woe is me, I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips and I live in the midst of a people of unclean lips.’ What then shall we say who are not prophets and oracles of God?

We need to have our vision and our sight corrected.

We need to address our lives to the plumbline of God, the standard of God–to the cross of Christ Jesus. Not academically, religiously, or superficially, but in the actual experience of our lives as those who have come willing to abandon everything.

Paul said, ‘I am determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified.’ We need desperately and urgently to KNOW HIM. Exactly as He is.”

~Art Katz

Posted in Apostasy, Christian Life, Repentance | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Be Strong and Do Exploits

Posted by israeliteindeed on July 12, 2011

And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.   And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.  (Dan. 11:32-33)

These passages appear to have been fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes, who took the kingdom of Syria in 175 BC by stealth and flatteries and proceeded to wage war against Egypt. After being routed by the Romans in his endeavors against Egypt, he took Judea and began to act out his hatred against the Jewish people and their covenant. Concerning this, Matthew Henry writes and directs us to the histories of the Maccabees–

He [Antiochus] had a rooted antipathy to the Jews’ religion: His heart was against the holy covenant, v. 28. And (v. 30) he had indignation against the holy covenant, that covenant of peculiarity by which the Jews were incorporated a people distinct from all other nations, and dignified above them. He hated the law of Moses and the worship of the true God, and was vexed at the privileges of the Jewish nation and the promises made to them…He carried on his malicious designs against the Jews by the assistance of some perfidious apostate Jews. He kept up intelligence with those that forsook the holy covenant (v. 30), some of the Jews that were false to their religion, and introduced the customs of the heathen, with whom they made a covenant. See the fulfilling of this, 1 Mac. 1:11-15 , where it is expressly said, concerning those renegado Jews, that they made themselves uncircumcised and forsook the holy covenant. We read (2 Mac. 4:9 ) of Jason, the brother of Onias the high priest, who by the appointment of Antiochus set up a school at Jerusalem, for the training up of youth in the fashions of the heathen; and (2 Mac. 4:23 , etc.) of Menelaus, who fell in with the interests of Antiochus, and was the man that helped him into Jerusalem, now in his last return from Egypt. We read much in the book of the Maccabees of the mischief done to the Jews by these treacherous men of their own nation, Jason and Menelaus, and their party. These upon all occasions he made use of. “Such as do wickedly against the covenant, such as throw up their religion, and comply with the heathen, he shall corrupt with flatteries, to harden them in their apostasy, and to make use of them as decoys to draw in others,’’ v. 32. Note, It is not strange if those who do not live up to their religion, but in their conversations do wickedly against the covenant, are easily corrupted by flatteries to quit their religion. Those that make shipwreck of a good conscience will soon make shipwreck of the faith.

This passage and this history still speaks today. It was written for our learning, that we too might have hope when we see evil prevailing against the people of God for a time (Rom. 15:4).  There are those who profess to know God, but in works deny Him (Titus 1:16), and these persecute the people of God as Cain persecuted Abel. They do wickedly against the covenant, forsaking the One whose blood was shed to save them, bringing reproach to His name though they sometimes pretend to honor Him.  These are easily corrupted by the flatteries of antichrist (John testifies that there are many antichrists already among us–I John 2:18), not enduring sound doctrine, but having itching ears for doctrines that suit their own particular lusts (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  How conveniently can satan and his children exploit these apostates, using them to hurt the faithful, with lies making the heart of the righteous sad by strengthening the hands of the wicked (Ezek. 13:22).  Even more, under strong delusion, they throw the faithful out of the churches, and even kill them, thinking they do God a service (John 16:2).  Brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death (Matt. 10:21).  Thus shall many people of God fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.

But he that endures to the end shall be saved. They endure the temptation to fall away, and hold fast to what they have, letting no man take their crown. They endure the onslaught of false doctrines and the mockery of false Christians, persevering in the truth.  They endure affliction with the people of God rather than enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season (Heb. 11:25.) They endure in faith, trusting that whatever happens to their nation, God has them in His sights;  they know they are worth more to Him than many sparrows.  They set their hearts thus:  that though there be no blessing in fruit or flock, yet they will joy in God’s great salvation (Hab. 3:17-18); and though God slay them, yet they will trust Him and maintain righteousness before Him (Job13:15). They that endure all things with patience possess their own souls (Luke 21:19).

These are the people who understand, and God shall be their strength, and they will do exploits. They shall not be corrupted by flatteries, but in humility and dependence before their God, they will be safe. While the world wonders after beastly kingdoms and their savage subjugations, these who understand will rest in hope, knowing that they belong to the unassailable Kingdom of God. They will be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing their labor is not in vain (I Cor. 15:58).  They will stand before governors and kings and deliver the message that God gives them.  Despite the threats of sword, flame, captivity and spoil, they shall instruct many by their words and deeds, wisely winning souls while there is yet time. And should they be plundered of their earthly goods, they understand that many of their brethren were likewise destitute, afflicted, tormented (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Heb. 11:3-38)  And should they be called upon to do the greatest exploit of all–that is, to love not their own lives to the death–they do so willingly, knowing that to live is Christ, but to die is gain;  and whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8).

God bless you.

Posted in apostasy, End Times, persecution | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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