By Victor Remes
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:11-13
Many of us have reached a point in our lives where we are pretty much comfortable. Having a roof over our heads, those that are making a decent income, a nice warm bed to sleep in; I would say that is pretty much comfortable. A person that is in this position would think to themselves “Why would I do anything to change this?”.
Well I have come to know that this is very common among many; this is other wise known as the comfort zone; just stringing along is our lives. Don’t get me wrong I understand, we all have worked hard to reach this point in our lives and it may seem like a very good place to be. But there is also a problem with this when we stop reaching, stretching, seeking and risking we actually stop growing; Let me put it this way.
In one of my pervious posts (Faith can move mountains) I mentioned about growing our faith system in comparison with going to the gym to train our bodies to get healthy and stronger. This obviously means making necessary sacrifices in order to reach that goal. But sitting around thinking about it or saying that you can’t isn’t going to make it happen; This is the comfort zone frame of mind it means that you are settling for what you are today; and without growth the person who you are today is all your ever going to be. (It’s the truth)
Matthew 14:22-32 is basically speaking about Peter one of the 12 disciples and the only one that stepped out of the boat when Jesus called him in the middle of the sea. As Jesus’s boat got tossed by the storm and waves that night, He decided to walk on the sea to catch up with His fellow disciples because He can, He’s the Son of God. But of course the disciple were afraid of this and didn’t believe that it was Jesus. Peter opened his mouth and said to Jesus “Lord if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” – Matthew 14:28 NKJV.
For most of you that have read your bibles will know what happened next. Jesus said “Come” – Matthew 14:29 NKJV; I bet Peter was thinking “Damm why did I have to open my big mouth”. Now bear in mind that Peter and the other 11 disciples were totally comfortable and safe on the boat but here Peter has to prove to himself and the others that the man walking on the sea is truly Jesus. So what did he do? Peter stepped out of the boat and walked towards Jesus on WATER! That is big; Peter the first disciple to walk on water and the first to step out of his comfort zone.
But Peter didn’t really last long; He began to be afraid of the storm and started to sink into the sea crying out “Lord, save me!” - Matthew 14:30. Now bear in mind when Peter first stepped out of the boat his main focus was fixed on Jesus Peter was able to walk a few steps on water but when he changed his focus towards the storm he started to sink. But Jesus quickly stretched out His hand and caught Peter but said this “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” - Matthew 14:31.
Just like Peter; Jesus is calling us to step out the boats of comforts because He wants us to grow and while you step out He asking you to focus and fix your eyes on Him don’t worry or be afraid of how the world can be but as long as your main focus is Jesus! but when you do lose focus Jesus will stretch out His arm to catch you but only when you call out to Him. The reason why I say only when you call out to Him; It's because when He responds to your cry, Your focus is switched back onto Jesus.
You see a Warrior’s path is never easy as there are going to be times where you are going through something in your life where you are going to have to make decisions that are uncomfortable. You never know that those uncomfortable decisions could change a lot of things for the good maybe even better involving Jesus.
I pray this will bless you all fellow warriors and that you have taken something from this. I had to learn this the hard way but Jesus never fails to amaze me through my life; and I pray that He will do the same for you all.
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In an area north of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus turned a “revival meeting” into a family picnic. Multitudes filled the hillside as He ministered to the people. At the conclusion of the “crusade,” He fed the masses a meal of fish and bread. (Matthew 15:32-38) Dismissing the throng, He boarded a boat and set off for an eight and half mile trip to the sea port of Magdala. There Jesus was confronted with the “religious police.” (Pharisees) They wanted Him to show some sign from Heaven that would verify He was whom He claimed to be. Jesus “sighed deeply in His spirit,” disturbed that His generation was always seeking signs, (Mark 8:12) and offered them a crumb by saying the only sign they would get was, “the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4) He then left Magdala and headed back to Bethsaida.
It was on that boat ride back that Jesus warned His Apostles about the dangers of the Pharisees and Sadducees doctrines. Their teachings would be like leaven that would continue to rise and dilute the rightful intent of the Word. His men misinterpreted what Jesus was saying and thought they were being called out due to forgetting to bring bread for the trip. Jesus gently rebuked them by calling out their lack of faith. He reminded them of the two buffets they had attended. How soon they had forgotten. Jesus then repeated about the leaven of the religious leadership. This time, they realized He was talking about the doctrines of the Pharisees. (Matthew 16:5-12)
For generations, there has been a “rising” (leaven) of false doctrines and teachings that has defiled the purity of the Gospel. More and more Christians are following the “pied pipers” of extra Biblical interpretations. Some “Pipers” urge the label wearing Christians to follow the “greenback” road to prosperity and materialistic growth. Selected Scriptures are ripped from the Holy Book showing that accumulated financial gain is tied to the evidence of one’s Faith. The “Pipers” lifestyles evidence the result of what they claim their Faith brought. It is interesting to note that their Faith is tied into the financial giving of their followers. Recently, a prosperity personality took to the airwaves to announce that he was exercising his faith to receive a fifty million dollar jet to help him spread the Gospel around the world. Justifying his quest, he said that if Jesus were alive today He would have a jet. Jesus’ lifestyle was anything but opulent. I guess He could have believed for a “Rolls Chariot,” or a “Purebred” Roman raised horse, or even a pedigree donkey so He could reach any place in Israel in the shortest amount of time. But He chose to walk. He could have had a house worth two hundred talents of gold ($5,256,600), or a summer home on the Sea of Galilee, or wore tailored clothes from “Robes by Armodi.” But he became a “nomad” who traveled about sharing God’s love. Whenever a “Piper” lives a lifestyle beyond the reaches of those he is serving, there is an ever present danger he is producing a self-serving kingdom void of the Truth.
As Jesus warned His Apostles about the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, so the warning should be loud and clear for our generation. The age of blind acceptance of what we are being taught through hearing and seeing must be challenged. Let us receive the promoted Word through whatever venue, but let us also verify its validity. Whenever teachings promote self over others, there should be yellow lights flashing. May the dollar sign never overshadow the Cross!
At the age of thirty, Jesus entered the religious arena with a message of hope and assurance. To the populist, it was an awakening of spiritual truth. For generations, their religious leaders had bound them with traditions based on misinterpretations of the Holy Scrolls. The teachings that Jesus brought were like a breath of fresh air. People proclaimed with excitement that they had never heard teaching like that before. They would use words like “astonished,” “marveled,” and “amazed.” Soon the crowds grew into multitudes that caused gridlocks in the communities where He appeared. People began to label Jesus as a Teacher, then a Prophet, and soon speculation abounded that He might be the long-awaited Messiah. At first, the Pharisees put up with His teachings, but when He exposed their hypocrisy they had to do something about it. The Pharisees had experienced other false prophets and had dealt with them accordingly, so Jesus should be no different! Quickly, they realized He was no ordinary disillusioned individual. There was no denying the validity of the miracles and wonders that He was performing. They knew that if they seized Him there could be a physical conflict with the people and this could not be tolerated, especially with Rome overseeing their occupied land. The religious leaders tried sending a small group of soldiers to take Him quietly, probably after a teaching seminar, but the soldiers were taken back with His teachings and disobeyed the order. (John 7:46) The leaders needed another approach. If they could get Jesus to ignore, and even contradict the Scriptures, they would be able to expose Him as a heretic.
To set Jesus up, the Pharisees needed a situation where there was no possibility of misinterpretation of the Law. Someone suggested using adultery as a point of reference. The penalty for such an act was death by stoning. (Leviticus 20:10) The gamble the Pharisees were taking was that Jesus would reject the Law in favor of His previous compassionate displays. Finding an adulterous situation took some effort and time. Finally, they discovered a couple in a flagrant display of extra-marital activity. Immediately, they took the woman to the Temple where Jesus was teaching. They interrupted the class by shoving the woman in front of Jesus. They claimed that Moses commanded “that such should be stoned,” so what was His feeling on the subject? Jesus, completely ignoring them, simply stooped down and wrote on the ground. They continued to demand an answer, and finally He rose up and said that anyone without sin should cast the first stone. He then stooped down and continued to write. The Bible states that the accusers started leaving from the oldest to the youngest. Jesus asked the woman where her accusers were. She told Him they were gone. Jesus then told the adulteress that He did not condemn her and that she should not sin again. (John 8:1-11)
Today, being a true representative of the Gospel is a very difficult road to travel. Whenever the Truth is proclaimed, people will try and trip up the shepherd so that their flocks will be scattered. Many good leaders, in both the world and the church, have fallen due to consistent efforts of others to destroy their mandates. Politicians and Spiritual leaders will always be the target of the enemy. Jesus knew that according to the Law, both the adulterer and the adulteress were to be stoned, but the Pharisees were selective in their interpretation. Never enter into debate with Biblically illiterate people. Learn to forgive instead of condemn. Never condone sin, but always warn of continual sin.
One of the most challenging aspects of my ministry has been to get Believers to evaluate what they believe; to see if what they confess as truth stands up to the challenges to their Faith. Too many Christians operate only in their “comfort zones” and are diametrically opposed to any Biblical excursions that might cause their basic beliefs to come under scrutiny. Lukewarmness becomes a reality when we become content with the basic tenets of our Faith, and are unwilling to grow in the Faith. A lukewarm Christian becomes a spectator rather than a participant in the Kingdom of God. It is so tragic to see Believers walking with limited Biblical knowledge. I thank God for the foundational truth of Jesus, for without the Cross, His Resurrection, and Ascension there would be no Church. The question is what have we done to build upon that foundation? Scriptural ignorance has caused many Christians to simply accept what they have been taught without personal Biblical confirmation. Why are we so afraid of revisiting our “comfort zones” to see if what we have believed truly lines up with the Word of God?
For many years, I studied at some great theological schools. I attended Methodist, Lutheran and Catholic seminaries in quest of understanding God’s Word. I pursued pastorates with churches affiliated with three major denominations as well as independent fellowships. I taught against things that conflicted with my “adopted “beliefs. For years, I preached to peoples’ wants instead of their needs. Finally, one day the Holy Spirit took me to the Scriptures for the first time and my eyesight went from 20/20 to 39/27 and I saw things as they really are. From that moment on, I began to preach under God’s direction. No longer was I going to teach to appease the “itching ear syndrome” of my fleshly “employers.” (I Timothy 4:3) It has not been an easy road, for people that are entrenched in unbiblical traditions are almost impossible to budge; Satan sees to that!
My prayer is that Biblical ignorance can be eradicated. I pray that people will get back to personal Bible study under the tutorage of the Holy Spirit. We need to make sure that Scriptures compliment each other. In other words, follow the continuity thread throughout the Word. If a verse says something, find co-existing verses which will compliment and elaborate on its significance. The Word will never conflict itself. Don’t be quick to read; use a soaking action. Read a verse and then meditate on it until you are released to move on.
I challenge every reader of this article to join me in opening your Bible and making sure that what you have defended for so long lines up with the Word. If it doesn’t, make the corrections; if it does, press on to even greater truths. Whatever you do, do not remain complacent.
By Henry Korsah
Before I start this blog, I will like to apologise for the long hiatus.
The Holy Spirit, is our inner being, it lives inside of us. Doctors cannot even identify, the Holy Spirit with their medical instruments. 1 Corinthians 6:19. ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
Jesus even have confirmed that the Holy Spirit lives in us. John 14: 16-17 ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.’
The feeling of the Holy Spirit is simply allowing it takeover, and you having no control of your mind/body. It is even compared to feeling drunk in Ephesians 5:18. ‘Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,’
Anyone can ask for the Holy Spirit because it is available to us all. Luke 11:13 ‘If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’
You can ask for anything, The Spirit of love, the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding.
I do remember mentioning in one of the previous blogs. King Solomon asking for the Spirit of wisdom (1st Kings 3:9-12).
The Holy Spirit will cause you to have spiritual gifts such as dreams, visions, speak in tongues, and interpret tongues (Acts 2).
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“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV).
We were made for eternity.
Created in the image of God, our spiritual grandparents, Adam and Eve, were designed for life eternal. They were never meant to die, but to live forever in the garden, their God-ordained Paradise. We know how their story ends. Tempted by a seductive serpent, the couple took a bite of forbidden fruit, and with it they tasted death for the very first time.
But, God had a plan. Through the death of Jesus, God’s only Son, the Serpent and sin would be crushed. Paradise would not only be reimagined, but it would be realized by everyone accepting of the promise.
Solomon shared that, “…He (God) has also set eternity in the human heart…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV). There is a part of each of us that is meant to live forever. Jesus died to make this a reality. Let’s live it!
We live in a fallen world, a corrupt world. It is a world in which the evil in especial flourish. It is a world ruled by Satan. However, the Prince of this World has no power over the Christian believer.
"Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." (John 14:30). Satan is the “Prince of this world” referred to in this passage.
And those who flourish exceedingly well in this world will have found a way to swim with ease in a sea of moral and spiritual corruption. They will be well-versed in making an accommodation with the Prince of this world.
I do not refer to those who reap merely the just and measured rewards of their honest labour, but to the billionaires and plutocrats; to those whose wealth is sometimes in the region of hundreds of millions of times greater than is the national average. To attain such wealth, to multiply it, to live cushioned and cosseted by it, marks you as one who is supremely at ease with the hold that the Prince of this world has over our society.
“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)
Frequently, the moral and spiritual corruption of such individuals cannot easily be disguised when they are seen, and heard speaking, either in person, or on the TV. Yet there are the many who are blind to the corruption that shrouds such individuals like a handsome cloak: rather, they are sucked in by these creatures’ dark charismas.
And when such individuals decide to enter politics, it is this latter group – the gullible, the easily swayed, the morally short-sighted – upon whom they rely for their power base.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
Such individuals, with personal incomes that are tens of thousands of times higher than most folks’ incomes, are very much at ease in a corrupt world.
And it shows:- almost always they will have had multiple failed marriages (the latest inevitably being to a trophy super-model many years younger than they themselves); they will project a raging egocentricity; they will be caught out in shameless lies and extra-marital affairs; their close associates will bear witness to their bullying and aggressive persona. But above all, it is always their vast wealth that is the ultimate sign of a man who has made a lucrative accommodation with the Prince of this world.
I am sure many of us have used prayer lists as an aid to remind us to pray for certain individuals. Most of the names on our lists had been requested by concerned petitioners. Sometimes we would take the initiative and write our own concerns. It was exciting to be able to be the representative of other Believers in bringing their requests before God. Through the mentioning of the name of Jesus, we were given immediate access to the Throne Room of God where we would petition for a response from God on our concerns and those of others. The “rush” we would experience would be almost unparalleled in spiritual excitement. What an honor it was to talk with the God of eternity! It was so edifying that we tended to wander into prayer at the slightest moment.
I wonder how many Believers are still of the “old school” where prayers of intercession are still being practiced! I wonder how many still carry “prayer lists?” For those who are still using those soiled pages of petitioned names, make sure those in spiritual leadership are on your list; also pencil in those that are excelling in their Faith and zeal for the Lord. It is these types of people that Satan is dedicated to bringing down. He does not care about the lukewarm Christians for they are no threat to him; rather, it is Pastors and Teachers that are the target of his “fiery darts.” Satan is looking for any Believer that holds the potential to bring havoc to his kingdom. Never assume that your Pastor/Teacher is so close to God that he is immune from the attacks of the enemy. So many “prayer list” carriers spend the majority of their prayer time praying for the requests issued from the spiritually immature, and leave the mature Believers exposed to Satan’s tactics. (Clarification: Many Christians request from God what He has already given them authority to achieve. Christianity is not a spiritual welfare system where God gives us everything while we lay in our spiritual hammock quoting Scripture; it is “going to work” and achieving what He has already given us.) We need to pray for those in need, but we must never ignore the potential danger that faces those on the “front line.”
When spiritual leadership does not have a “demilitarized zone” between themselves and the enemies of the Cross, it will not be long before their ministry will become ineffective. Prayer is that DZ. When Believers stop praying for their Pastor/Teachers, they will start talking about them and finding faults. When the intercessors vacate their position, the door to deception will be opened. Once Satan gains entry, the “cosmetic church” will be birthed. It will move from a Theocracy to a Democracy where carnal people control its actions.
I call upon all true Believers that if you have not already equipped yourself with a Prayer List, please step up and be counted as an intercessor. If you are a card-carrying intercessor, make sure you have those in spiritual authority listed. We are losing too many good Pastor/Teachers and churches due to intercessors that have gone AWOL!
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).
Trading is part of the human experience. From an early age, we learn the art of the deal. Trades occur daily across elementary school lunch tables where bags of potato chips are exchanged for chocolate chip cookies. Playgrounds become swap meets with the currency of toys and baseball cards. As adults, we trade-in cars, and we trade-out furniture. Then, of course, there’s the stock market and day trading.
The Apostle Paul speaks of a trade that took place some two-thousand years ago at the trading post of the cross, where Jesus endured the consequences of our sin so that we could receive the undeserved reward of salvation. Theologians throughout history have referred to this pivotal event as “The Great Exchange”.
Just imagine, Jesus, the personification of holiness and perfection, becoming sin incarnate on the cross. Within his flesh, Jesus possessed the sins of the world and literally carried them all to the grave. Because of this single act, each of us is declared righteous and holy regardless of the wrongs we have done. Our sin has been washed in the blood of Christ, buried in a borrowed tomb, and we are given the prize of Heaven.
There will always be trades that are made. None, however, will match the one Jesus made for mankind at the cross. Through this exchange, we are declared forgiven and free.
I'm with St. Paul on chastity as being the highest state; marriage being for those who “cannot contain themselves”. This view was shared by a number of movements through history that the Church labeled as heresies: the Cathars (who were present in southern France and Italy between the 12th – 14th centuries), perhaps being the best known.
In 1st Corinthians 7:1, St. Paul (who was sexually chaste) writes:- “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”
He continues, 1st Corinthians 7:7-9: “For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.
I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.
But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.”
In Matthew 19:11-12, we have the words of Jesus Himself: “But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”
Western society today looks askance at the unmarried man once he has left his youth behind. (Marriage is so sought after that many homosexuals today wish to marry their same-gender partner). Today, society views the unmarried man as a potential, if not actual, threat: as probably being a deviant, a potential child molester. Woe betide the man not yet in his dotage who is single (perhaps because his wife has died, tragically, from some terrible illness, many years before).
Many Protestants and atheists regard the institution of a celibate clergy askance. Personally I admire chastity, but I do not believe that Christian ministers should be forbidden from marrying. In the Greek Orthodox church, priests may marry, but bishops must have remained, or have become, single.
Our western society is thoroughly sexualized, and spiritually debased. Living a sexually chaste life seems to me to be the highest form of material rebellion one can perform against a sinful and corrupted society. In the USA, many young Christian men and women preserve their chastity until marriage. Such a view has gained zero traction in Britain, one of the most sexualized and socially debased societies I have known. Christianity is of course very much a minority religion in Britain today, with fewer than 5% of the population in England attending church, and just below 9% in Scotland, so the failure of the ideal of chastity before marriage to have gained a place in the minds of young Britons, is not to be wondered at.
There are a growing number of Believers that continue to try and get their heads around the changes in societal norms. Things that once rang of normality are quickly disappearing into a society of abnormality. The difference between what is right and what is wrong is now left up to personal interpretation. The public media no longer produces unbiased reporting, but, rather, platforms of opinions that support biased agendas. What alarms me is not the changing atmosphere of our Country, but the lack of a positive response from Believers to these negative times. In fact, Christians have become so involved in the slippery slope of human ignorance that they have taken to Facebook and other social medias to offer a smorgasbord of responses. Through keeping negative issues alive, the Word slips down our priority list. Instead of wasting our time by attacking and exposing, let us use tact and start imposing the Truth of His Word! If Satan can get the Believer to use his tactics, he has the advantage. What is needed is Christians to use the social outlets as a tool of Truth, rather than assisting in the fire of division.
Instead of trying to get our heads around what is happening, let us get our spirits around the Truth of His Word. The Christian should not be taken by surprise by what is happening in this world, unless he is ignorant of God’s Word. We have been forewarned and even forearmed to face these changing times. We must stop looking at things in the natural, and start seeing things through God’s perspective.
Paul commanded the Ephesians to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Facing difficult times, Paul urged them to put on the “armor of God.” Instead of the early Believers trying to get their “heads around” the challenges confronting them, they were to prepare to resist the enemy with six aspects of Kingdom living. Paul used a metaphor to explain how they were to combat the enemy. The soldier’s attire was a representative figure of spiritual Truth. Paul emphasized that by wearing God’s covering, which is Truth, Righteousness, Gospel of Peace, Faith, Salvation, and the Word of God, accompanied by praying in the Spirit, they would have victory. (Ephesians 6:10-18) Yet today, we take the offensive against Satan’s kingdom by using Satan’s own tactics! When will we learn? Is what we put out on the social media striving to bring healing or are we adding to the rift in our Country? To define evil and not confront it under God’s direction is to play according to Satan’s rules. I challenge every Believer to promote God’s Truth and Righteousness through love and compassion and abstain from carnal responses to spiritual conflicts. Remember, it is not flesh and blood that we battle against, but against principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual hosts of wickedness.
Christianity in the Middle East and in North Africa took root during the period of the Roman Empire. It continued to flourish under the Byzantine, or eastern Roman, empire - until, in the 7th century AD, it was disestablished following the catastrophically sudden and violent Muslim Arab invasions and occupation of the eastern Roman empire.
At different times and in different parts of what had been the old eastern Roman empire, over the next 1 300 years, Christians were subjected to varying degrees of mistreatment and outright persecution, particularly in the middle east and in north Africa. However, under various Muslim regimes, Christianity and the Jewish faith were for much of the period tolerated - but with humiliating terms and conditions applied to their followers. That church bells were not permitted to be rung, was the least of it. Christians (and Jews) were forbidden to ride horses or to bear arms. The Jizya, a per capita annual tax, was levied on Christians (and on Jews) by their Muslim rulers.
In Israel, Christianity is one of the religions recognized and protected by the state. Israeli Christians constitute about 2% of the population. 80% of such Christians are Arab Christians. Along with the members of other recognized faiths, they serve in the Israeli Defense Force, and enjoy full civic rights.
Christianity had been very well established in the Arabian peninsula (particularly in the south-western quarter of the Arabian peninsula, today's Yemen, where there existed at different times both a Christian and a Jewish kingdom). That the founder of Islam, Mohammed, was so knowledgeable about the Christian and Jewish scriptures, beliefs and traditions, incorporating much of this knowledge into the Koran, is no coincidence. However, Christianity was utterly wiped out in the Arabian peninsula, persecuted to extinction (though tiny pockets have been re-established in a number of the Gulf states, re-introduced by Christian "guest workers" from Asia).
In Saudi Arabia, Christianity is subject to severe punitive restrictions. Public worship by Christians is strictly forbidden. As the definition of “public worship” is open to interpretation, Christians tend to worship in secret. Conversion from Islam to Christianity is considered “apostasy”, and is statutorily punishable by death. Christian ministers are forbidden entry to Saudi Arabia. Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox Christians, who require a priest to administer the sacraments on a regular basis, are particularly affected by this prohibition. Christian (and other non-Islamic) regalia, including the Bible, is forbidden to be imported to Saudi Arabia.
The British government regards Saudi Arabia as a firm friend and ally. Prince Charles some years back paid Saudi Arabia a state visit.
Since the 1950s, the Coptic Christian community in Egypt (the Copts are native Egyptian Christians, the remnant of the non-Chalcedonian Christian church pre-dating the Arab Muslim invasions), has been subjected to increasing persecution, outrages and violence.
Islam, as a consequence of growing extremist beliefs, no longer does co-existence with other faiths very well.
(From my Blog:- www.rabbiedeoir.com )
Even a Christian of many years’ standing may be forgiven for wondering sometimes whether God is in control. We witness, some of us, some terrible things; we suffer, some of us, despite our faithfulness in Christ, personal tragedies that we cannot endure except at grave cost to our spirits, and from which we never truly recover. We read in the newspapers of unspeakably evil actions; of horrendous cruelties; of inexplicable horrors.
It is clear to some of us that The Prince of this World, who hates God’s Creation and who hates above all, Mankind, delights in tormenting all God’s creatures, and in seeking to destroy God’s creation.
I have had to battle for many years with seeking an answer to this question: Is God in control?
The answer, of course, is “Yes – and no”. Does this sound like a blasphemy? It is not intended as such, but God knows the secrets of my heart, so where is the profit for me in trying to hide those secrets from God? God knows there are times when I have been overwhelmed by horror, or pain, or sickness, or tragic loss, and my spirit wonders whether God has long ago lost control of affairs in the World.
In John 14:30, we read “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”
In John 12:31, we read “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”
In Ephesians 2:2, we read “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience . . .”
It is clear that there is Biblical evidence for the understanding that Satan, who is the Prince of this World, is in charge of this world’s affairs.
However, equally clear from these verses is the understanding that once we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we are no longer in personal bondage to the Prince of this World.
This becomes clearer in the following verse from Colossians 1: 12-13: “ Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son . . .”
“Darkness”, mentioned here, has a power; is a power (Satan): but we who are believers, are delivered from that power, that is, from being in bondage to Satan.
All very well, my spirit may reply – but our lives are hugely affected by those in power over us (I think particularly of those in political power over us): believers we may be, but we cannot so easily escape being affected by the decisions taken, and policies applied, by those in government – our own governments, and also, inasmuch as our own countries’ affairs are affected, by foreign governments.
It seems that “Darkness”; the “Prince of this World”, does have power over us. In having granted Satan the management of this world, God does appear to have withdrawn, and is (it sometimes seems to me), unable to intervene, and over-ride Satan’s managerial policies (which always cause misery, anguish, pain and suffering, to Mankind; which initiate cruelties to all living creatures, and indeed, which have but one aim: the destruction of God’s creation).
Yet this is not by any means the end of the debate: the prayers of Believers can and do mightily affect the outcome of these Satanic managerial policies, altering their outcome for the better. I know this from personal experience, from so many prayers answered over the decades during which I have believed in Jesus Christ.
“Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.” (Isaiah 3:10), and:
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7)
In conclusion, I believe that Satan, the “Prince of this World”, has been granted vast worldly powers by God. Inasmuch as the majority of Mankind does not believe in Jesus Christ, the world is indeed largely Satan’s possession. I also believe that unless implored via prayer by a believer, or by believers, God will not intervene in Satan’s management of this world.
However, I also believe that we, who are Believers, being no longer in bondage to Satan, can, through prayer to the Father, alter the outcomes of Satan’s management of the world.
“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15)
We do not remain unaffected by the decisions, policies and actions of those who have power over us. (Being themselves almost always unbelievers, they are caught in Satan’s snares, and are thus themselves either Satan’s willing servants, or his unconscious stooges). But through prayer, we can invoke God’s intervention, and even evil can thereby be turned to good.
I belong to the "Hell is other people" school of thought (well, quite a lot of the time, anyway).
Hell certainly exists, but not, I believe, in the crude terms that the Bible and its literalist interpreters portray. Leaving aside in this discussion the Hells that are thrust upon some people by wicked, evil governments and by vicious, evil corporatists, politicians and warlords, I believe that, to some considerable extent, we create our own Hells by how we live; by what we decide matters to us.
If we empty our lives of belief in everything that is eternal, and greater and nobler than ourselves; of anything finer than mere material aspiration, we create a Hell for ourselves. For such people, life (however materially pleasing) can only become a living hell.
As to the concept of "punishment" for one's sins: eastern mysticism takes care of this via a belief in reincarnation. (And this belief makes a great deal of sense to me). Catholics take care of it via their belief in Purgatory: a condition of spiritual existence after the body dies, when your soul requires further refining before becoming capable of recognising, let alone attaining, what we call "Heaven".
I take care of it through recognising that some people lead lives of such wilful debasement that they shut God out forever from their lives, and, after the body dies, need hardly be surprised to find that their spirit has also become so utterly debased that they could not recognise "Heaven" if they were to be shown it.
In essence, Hell is shutting out God forever - through pridefulness, through evil thoughts, words and deeds, through intellectual arrogance. If I were to allow myself to behave thus, I know I would be living a Hell.
Craft a quiet song soul,
one that can be sung in solitude,
so you can cull
from reliance grace
because without props
you consecrate space
which Spirit and Truth fill up;
let your mouth open lips,
chant a psalm like the first time
you sang an alma mater at school,
enjoy the belonging mystery
of Christ’s love in you.
Many Believers love to surf through the Scripture in hope of finding spiritual gems that they can add to their vault of edification verses. If they underline in their Bibles it is usually with multi colored markers. Exclamation points emphasize the exceptional verses that carry a higher degree of personal worth. The interesting thing is that the Scriptures point out more about commitment and personal sacrifice than a “shopping flyer” promoting spiritual “deals.” We get excited about the incoming blessings, but fail to identify our obligation to disperse blessings. I would never minimize who we are in Christ, but I believe the evidence of our spiritual standing is how we are affecting the lives of others.
When is the last time we scanned the Scriptures in search of verses that we may have over looked, either intentionally or unintentionally? What about those Biblical salvoes that hit us between the eyes, but we glossed over them because it caused us to be uncomfortable? Do we need to be reminded that the same Holy Spirit who gave us the defined riches also gave us the defining truths? When we were new Believers, it was like Christmas and our birthday all rolled up together. Opening our Scriptural presents brought unparalleled excitement. The problem is that many Believers stayed in that environment. There was no maturing, just the enjoying of the “presents” with no thought of sharing with the others. We all know kids that are spoiled. They always want something. Everything is about them. Sadly, that has become a picture of some Christians today. They think everything is around them. They want the blessings, but have a hard time being a blessing. They want to be “slain in the spirit,” instead of being alive in the spirit. The reason the church is having a hard time being The Church is because of ignorance of Scripture.
Jesus’ teaching on the Vine and branches (John 15: 1-8) has been tampered with to the degree that it has been misrepresented and even “burglarized.” Verse 7 has been a favorite of the “selfianity” group. They claim that verse gives them the right to ask whatever they want and it will be done for them. Those who have taken this approach have found themselves scrambling to explain why it has not always worked. In the Gospels it is important to understand the setting and who is involved in the exchanges. In the case of the Vine and Branches, Jesus is talking to His chosen men who are about to have the “torch” passed to them. He wants them to make sure they understand that the success of their ministry will be because of their unity with Him. They are in fact like a branch that is alive because of the vine. The more fruit they produce, the more God will trim away obstacles in their lives so they will produce even greater results. If they fail to be fruitful, God will remove them from their positional authority. Jesus used branches and their effects as a metaphor to their lives. Abide in Him, grow by Him, reproduce through Him, otherwise; they will become as useless as a dead branch.
Jesus told them they were clean through the Word given to them. In other words the branches were ready to produce. All that was lacking was the Holy Spirit which would indwell them after Jesus ascended into Heaven. They were given permission to ask for anything that would help them in their ongoing quest of representing the Kingdom of God.
The question bids to be answered as to what is the role of the Believer when it comes to asking and receiving. I believe we can ask, but it must be in line with God’s Word. Our asking is never for personal edification but for the glory of God to be issued through us. There are many other Scriptures that deal with asking and receiving. But all must be taken in the setting in which it is expressed. It is by abiding in Jesus and His Word that brings validity to our asking.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4, RSV-CE)
In 2005, the movie “Cinderella Man” (Universal Pictures) hit the big screen. It told the story of a former boxer named James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) and his experience during the Great Depression. He struggled to keep his family fed, working shifts on the docks unloading cargo until his former manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamattie) offered him one last fight against a young, up-and-coming contender for the heavyweight title.
Braddock won a stunning upset over the younger boxer and returned to the ring full-time, against the wishes of his wife, Mae (Renée Zellweger), who feared for her husband’s safety. Braddock, however, was able to overcome all the odds and win the Heavyweight title by defeating world champion Max Baer (Craig Bierko). His determination and courage also won the hearts of every struggling American, who saw his victory as a sign of hope in a time of great uncertainty.
Pentecost was the Church’s “Cinderella Man” story – the hour when ordinary believers on the brink of defeat turned their lives around and brought hope to a weary world by stepping into the arena of human events and taking on the champions of the day. Through the Holy Spirit, these men and women found their purpose and place in the Body of Christ and discovered the timeless power of salvation’s story.
Seeing Pentecost with Eternal Eyes
Pentecost is not just a one-time heavyweight event; it is the ongoing story of salvation that daily breaks in upon our lives and offers us the hope of heaven. It evokes deep spiritual questions that resonate in our hearts, hearts broken by the drama of the cross and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our souls moment by moment. These questions challenge us to view our salvation through the lens of eternity.
How are we, as followers of Christ, to understand our place in the Kingdom and our connection to the power that turned death to life and united humanity under a banner of perfect love? How do we live out our calling to bring the hope of the Gospel to a hurting world? How are we to balance our surrender to the sovereignty of the Almighty (Deuteronomy 4:39) with our grace-enabled will to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? (Philippians 2:12-13)
Waiting with Eyes Fixed on Heaven
The first believers were certainly living out an eternal Cinderella story, struggling to understand their place in the drama of salvation and looking to the immensity of the faithful fight that lay ahead. They experienced the doubts and misunderstanding of their own Jewish family who refused to see the bigger picture unfolding before them. But like the hero of the movie, these believers accepted the dangers of the battle and were prepared to go all the way to win the prize God had in store for them in Christ. (Philippians 3:14)
How do we know this? The Word gives us a few clues. The believers had chosen to come together in obedience to the prior command of Christ (Acts 1:4). They, together with Mary, the women, and the brethren of Jesus, were devoting themselves to constant prayer (Acts 1:14). They also recognized the need to choose a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15-26) in order to prepare for the future ahead. These were brothers and sisters held together by their love for the One who had died to free them from sin. They saw with heaven’s eyes the hope that was ready to rush in upon their lives. They took their fear and transformed it into faith, trusting that their Savior would carry them through the battle to the end.
The Spirit Comes, The Church is Born
Pentecost took fallen human beings and turned them into faithful followers of Christ. The Holy Spirit burst forth upon humanity in a display of Shekinah glory that united past and future into an eternal present. Once more, heaven opened and the Spirit of God spilled forth in power, penetrating deeply into the hearts of the believers and awakening them to eternal life in the Mystical Body of Christ. (Acts 2:1-4)
Like champions driven to overcome all odds for the sake of a higher calling, these men and women rushed into the streets, speaking words of praise and prophecy in the languages of the people and calling all present to believe and be baptized. The great and awesome Day of the Lord was upon them and the people were cut to the heart; yet, they were moved to approach heaven’s throne and find new life in forgiveness and restoration. The strength of the first believers who championed the cause of Christ gave hope to all those seeking a better way. (Acts 2:5-41)
Salvation: A Journey of Past, Present, and Future
Many have claimed that Pentecost was a reversal of the Tower of Babel, as the children of God were brought back together in unity of purpose. In reality, however, what happened was a restoration of the original calling of God to take the light of truth to the ends of the earth. The people of God had been humbled, but now we’re being led as holy exiles into the world to fill it with the message of salvation. Pentecost connected the will of God from eternity past to eternity present, setting forth a wondrous plan of salvation to be lived out day by day in faith.
We continue to experience the power of Pentecost in our Baptism and Confirmation, and in the weekly celebration of the Eucharist. When we participate in the great signs of our initiation we are brought into the Body of Christ, joining with saints past, present, and yet to come. We receive the promises of salvation and the grace that transforms us and moves us forward in our common journey of faith. Each time we come to the table we are transported back to the once-for-all sacrifice of the cross and overwhelmed with thanksgiving as we experience the perfect, transformative love of Christ.
Fighting the Good Fight, Winning the Prize
There is an awesome truth that some Christians may overlook when considering the Pentecost story, and that is how Christ, through grace, equips us to join Him in bringing about the salvation of the world. Those who have been set free in Baptism have been called to belong to the Body of Christ. We are gifted specifically for our part as subjects of the Kingdom. As we live out this calling in the present, we are intimately connected to the eternal and ever-unfolding plan of salvation that will find its ultimate fulfillment when Jesus comes again.
God challenges us to climb into the ring, take on the enemies of the cross, and pour ourselves into the fight until the victory is won. These daily battles allow the Church to shape us, even as we help to shape the Church to which we belong. Our salvation is an event that begins at Baptism, continues through our Christian living, and culminates when we are united once more with Christ at the resurrection. If we see Pentecost through this eternal perspective, we will choose to yield our lives more and more to the One who has graced us to see the battle through to the end.
Second Chances, Heavenly Rewards
Just like James J. Braddock was given a second chance on life, we have been given a fresh start through the power of Pentecost. As the Church was born through the coming of the Holy Spirit, so too are we born anew day by precious day, as we take the grace we have been given and pour it out upon the world with courage, determination, and faithfulness.
Let us remember what it means to live out our salvation by looking to the first believers:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, RSV-CE)
Having an eternal perspective on Pentecost is about surrendering in reverence to the Almighty. It calls us to work wonders of love and transformation in His name and share our goods and our lives with others. It allows us to celebrate the Eucharist with joy and join in fellowship as together we witness the growth of our family of faith day by day. It transforms us into instruments of perfect praise as we walk the road of salvation with our brothers and sisters. And it means never giving up fighting the good fight of faith until the battle is won!
The Church seems to be so wrapped up in the Second Coming of Christ that it has blinded its eyes to a very clear and present danger. Satan has released an unparalleled attack against our country. Everything that this country was founded upon is under a well orchestrated assault. Our morality has given way to immorality. Spiritual reality has yielded to secular humanism. Right has become wrong. Truth is no longer relevant. God’s two gender creation has given way to many different gender identities. Freedom of Godly expression has been censored from much of the social media outlets. Life was defined by God’s directive, but today man determines what is acceptable. The reality that all living beings are determined by God has dwarfed to the point where man decides who is to live or who is to be aborted. Satan is alive and well. His methodology has completely snookered the Christian Church.
My concern is that some Believers are actually using the tactics that Satan has used to equip his pawns. Personal attacks on individuals have been the spear point of his carefully devised plan of divide and conquer. He has proposed that the wide doors of liberalism will soon over-shadow the narrow way of conservatism. In response many Christians shoot their arrows of judgment against individuals instead of taking aim at what motivates their agendas. When Believers attack people instead of representing the Kingdom of God through love, grace, and peace, we have lost our way. This is not the time to point out the flaws on the stained robes of past politicians; rather a time to promote the God whom we are to represent. Instead of using the social media to expose the already obvious imperfections of others, why not spend the time pecking the keys promoting who God really is!
We need to be the illustrators of the Truth. There needs to be a consciousness as to what God wants to attain through our commitment to Him. We must never use the tactics that Satan has trained his followers to use. Instead of putting down the soldiers of darkness, let us lift up the light that will cause an exposure to the real truth. We have all the weapons necessary to curtail the enemies’ assault. It is time for the Church to act like the Church.
Our country is under attack. There has been corruption at its highest levels, and the Church is well aware of it. We do not need to reiterate the obvious. It is not time to top each other with new revelations of corrupt individuals. Instead of standing out with our exposures of the enemy, let us stand up and display God’s uncompromising Truth!
FOOT NOTE: I am concerned over the number of Believers that are staging on the “rapture runway,” instead of arming themselves with the Word for what could become very difficult days ahead. We sing, “I’ll Fly Away,” when we should be singing, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Is it asking too much to have Believers prepare themselves just in case the snatching away may not be when we hoped for?
After reading Psalms 81, Psalms 88, and Psalms 92 . . . with a focus on Psalms 81:6-7 (NKJV):
I removed his shoulder from the burden;
His hands were freed from the baskets.
You called in trouble, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
How do I know
there is no God but You?
You took my shoulder
from the burden slavery knows.
You took my hands away
from impossible works,
from a basket of lies
about my worth and Yours.
Only, You were mightier than
the waves around me.
Therefore, I removed other gods,
'cause they cannot hear praise.
But, bare shoulders are like
the man freed from strong demons,
who swears to never let them re-track.
so he takes up the offer of Jesus, 
Who places His yoke
on the top of our backs,
blessing of obedience within liberty, Glory's weight.
Be glad, my soul, for what holiness exacts!
 Luke 11:24-26
This my anguish,
these are my fears,
but Lord, I remember
your right hand across years,
in many of which
people said I was gone,
but man's "Impossible"
is a done deal with God.*
Lord, what is it
that You want from me?
A voice that reflects
a soul on its knees,
asking for your goodness,
recalling your ways,
saying You have not forgotten,
while riding provision's waves.
God struck the rock,**
Jesus, and such
was the outpouring
the Bread of Life,
Food for all time,
fed us across the Jordan,
provokes love of His might.
* Luke 18:27
** Immediately thinking of Psalms 78:17-20 -- but also pondering Isaiah 53, about the sacrifice of the Son of God on our behalf
I wrote the above after reading Psalms 77 and Psalms 78. I picked up on two things that we can learn from the Psalmist: honesty and reverence. While writing, I was also reminded of these exhortations from the Apostle Paul:
Romans 15:4 (KJV): For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
1 Corinthians 10:11 (KJV): Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
. . . after reading 1 Chronicles 1-3 today
I read the begats in the Bible today,
and it struck me that the reading of every name
set up a moment that put it to humanity's care
to mark what obedience to Jehovah would bear,
salvation for those whose hearts did not stray
away from the covenant shown by Abraham's faith,
or curse at the core of one's bitter fruit
from tasting forbidden things, nameless pursuits.
Some names seemed odd, some odder even,
but each syllable of a lone person given
moved me the reader to one strange conclusion,
that modern monikers are known, too, by the Lord's choosing,
and each one is precious, enough to die for.
Do the syllables of our names say, "I Love You Lord"?