The Battle Ahead; Are You Fit, Prayed Up, Ready?

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It is always good to consult Scripture, especially in times of great turmoil. The Word of God is a light, a comfort, a guide, a source of peace, a Rock, a firm foundation.  So much violence and so many atrocities in the world cause us enormous grief and stress.  There is only one Source of Truth in a world filled with lies and mayhem: God’s Word.  “Thy Word is truth,” says the everlasting Christ.  (John 17:17)  We are sanctified by His Truth.  We are set free by His Truth.  (John 8:32)

It is intriguing to consider what the Word says about the Word. (John 1)  Jesus is the Word, the Living Word, the Bread of Life.   He is the Word that came forth from the Father, the Word that created all things, including you and me. (Col. 1:16)  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, and He is with us through the storm, all the way to the glorious end He has prepared, an end which is really the Beginning.

As we approach the end with great expectation of the Beginning, He tells us the Truth, conditioning that hard Truth with reassurance:

“Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

The hard Truth we read in Matthew 24 starting in verse 4:

“Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.  And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

We who endure are the witness. Our sacred duty is to endure, and to encourage one another to endure.  In this we take heart and remember our Lord’s instructions shared by Paul in Ephesians 6:10-20: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

We will be betrayed, even by those who call themselves believers, by relatives, by people we thought friends. We will be persecuted, hauled before human rights commissions and tribunals, we will be slandered and reviled, punished and executed, but through it all, may we be found “strong in the Lord,” speaking boldly as we ought to speak, taking our stand without apology, for His Name’s sake, and for the sake of the lost, that by our witness and His power, they may find their way to our Eternal Home, the Beginning, the Everlasting Kingdom where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain . . . ”  (Revelation 21:4)

 

More Jesus, Less Religion

According to the strictest sect of our religion I lived [as] a Pharisee. Acts 26:5

Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton wrote a book with an interesting title: More Jesus, Less Religion. Their point: “It was Karl Marx who said, ‘Religion…is the opiate of the people.’ Religion, with all its rituals and trappings, can indeed be hypnotic. When all you do is jump through hoops to try to get to God, it is easy to either give up or to get weird trying to earn God’s favor.”

Christianity is not a religion; it’s a life-transforming relationship with Christ. Religion represents our efforts to find God; Christianity is God’s effort to seek and to save us. He said: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3).

When we do come to God through Christ, there are certainly some routines we establish to remain consistent in our worship and obedience to Him, like church attendance and daily prayer. But we shouldn’t think of these as religious procedures but as personal joys. “We don’t need more religion,” wrote Arterburn. “What we need, what we must have, is more of Jesus.”

Rise Up, O Men of God!

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Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity? (Psalm 94:16)

Over a century ago, William P. Merrill wrote the words to the challenging hymn “Rise Up, O Men of God!”1 Back then, the modernist movement within churches and Christian colleges was capitulating to Darwinian evolutionary philosophy, rejecting the clear creation message of Genesis, and sweeping the doctrine of inerrancy into the garbage bag of “textual criticism.” But even as the fundamentalist movement fought back with evangelistic fervor, much ground was lost in Western Christianity as the gap theory tried to solve the scientific issues with an imaginary solution of a pre-Adamic age that supposedly occurred between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The scoffers Peter warned about in 2 Peter 3:3-4 largely had free reign until the middle of the 20th century, when ICR’s founder and a handful of others rose up and led a resurging challenge to those who “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).

Over the past 20 years, however, a growing tolerance for compromise with the teachings of Scripture has spread among Christians—so much so that no less a media personality than Bill O’Reilly challenged the Christian community to stand up for moral and ethical behavior! Where has the courage of godly men gone? What happened to holy boldness? Have we grown so accustomed to intellectual debate that we cannot confront those who scoff at the Word of God? Are we so enamored with the love of God that we have forgotten God hates sin and “will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3)? Have we forgotten that He placed clear warnings throughout Scripture? We are accountable to the whole Word of God—not just our favorite verses.

Yes, God does love the world, and we are the ambassadors who are to plead with the sinner “on Christ’s behalf, [to] be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). The gospel is “the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16), and we are never to neglect the opportunity to preach, teach, speak, share, and otherwise declare the glorious news “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). But we must never forget that while those who trust in Christ receive His gift of eternal life, those who do “not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

Surely we must remain aware that the broad way leads to destruction and many follow that road straight into the pit of hell (Matthew 7:13-14). Those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18) are becoming more and more articulate and defiant and are gaining open access to our universities, politics, and media at an alarming rate. Suppressing the truth is evil no matter how eloquent the speaker. Edmund Burke has been quoted as noting: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”2

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

There is a time to confront evil men who place their human judgments above the Word of God. Fallen men do not have the right to judge the Word and tell others what it means to them; human opinions and expectations are not revelations from God.

Peter warned that there would be “false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1). Paul insisted that the last days would encourage a litany of godless behavior of those who would maintain “a form of godliness” but deny “its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:5). Jesus insisted that we should not give “what is holy to the dogs” or throw the “pearls” of God’s words to “swine.” The reality is that those dogs and swine would only trample the precious revelation of God “under their feet” and then “turn and tear you in pieces” (Matthew 7:6).

Godless men hate God, and that hatred spews out in hatred for God’s people. Some indeed are “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18). There are those who deserve the “perfect hatred” of a holy heart that loves the words of God and loves the message of the Kingdom:

Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies. (Psalm 139:21-22)

Those who love the Kingdom do not walk “in the counsel of the ungodly” or stand around “in the path of sinners” or sit down with “the scornful” (Psalm 1:1). But withdrawal from the lifestyle of the godless is not enough! We must actively engage the enemy and seek to stop the impact.

Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.

Engaging the enemies of God is not a simple task—nor is it a private war. One of Paul’s great enemies was Alexander the coppersmith. He did “much harm” to Paul and “greatly resisted” the words of the apostle (2 Timothy 4:14-15). Nehemiah endured a constant and ever-increasing effort on the part of Sanballat and Tobiah to undermine, discourage, and even murder him (Nehemiah 2–6). There are many such examples in Scripture. Opposition to the cause of Christ is an absolute given! Please recall the warning of the Lord Jesus:

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” (John 15:18-21)

But this should never be taken as a fearful thought! While the enemy may well seem to have the upper hand from time to time and through various seasons in history, his winning is only just that—a brief time and a season that ends when he ends! “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; indeed I sought him, but he could not be found” (Psalm 37:35-36). Our tasks and our responsibilities may be exercised during time and history, but the great Church of the Lord Jesus is an eternal entity, the “city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven” (Hebrews 12:22-23).

Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up and make her great!

Goliath of Gath was that huge Philistine who terrified the armies of Israel and disdained little David. Goliath only saw the ruddy shepherd teenager and the cringing army of Israel. David said to him:

“You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!

The boldness necessary to confront the many enemies of God and resist their widely varied efforts to undermine and defy the work of Christ does not lie in the human strength of any of us. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:3). The objective of this spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12-18) is not to destroy the human instruments of the great Adversary but rather to bring their “thoughts” captive!

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

The battle we fight is an intellectual one (2 Corinthians 11:3), just as the transformation we must make to our lifestyle starts in our minds (Romans 12:1-2). If we are to capture “every thought” as we fight against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12), then we must “rise up” in the confidence that “[we] are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

References

– William Pierson Merrill (1867–1954), author of numerous books and hymns, was a graduate of Rutgers College and Union Theological Seminary who pastored Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York City. He wrote the verses to “Rise Up, O Men of God” while on a steamship, when, as he later wrote, “suddenly this hymn came up, almost without conscious thought or effort.”

– Edmund Burke (1729–1797) was a British statesman and influential political thinker.

By Dr. Henry Morris III who is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Henry Morris III, D.Min. 2015. Rise Up, O Men of God!. Acts & Facts. 44 (6).

Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis
Give up who you are, and become the person God made you to be.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve battled deep feelings of inadequacy. The first time someone called me “Pastor Craig,” I felt unworthy of the title. I felt I didn’t know enough, wasn’t good enough, and certainly wasn’t pastoral enough (whatever that means). In the early years, I’d be so nervous before preaching that I’d actually throw up in a garbage can. Gross, I know. But that’s what happened. I simply didn’t feel worthy to represent God by teaching His Holy Word.

As a father of six children, I’ve battled feelings of inadequacy about being a godly dad. The first time I held my oldest daughter, I vividly remember being overwhelmed with inner fears and doubts. In my arms, I held a living human being. To make matters worse, I’d just given a puppy back to its previous owner because I couldn’t handle the crazy dog. On top of that, my wife and I had managed to kill every plant within a block of our home. How could we care for a child?

Maybe you can relate. You have a friend who’s way more successful than you are. You wonder, Why can’t I be more like that? What’s wrong with me? Or you visit your neighbor’s “perfect” home. The house smells good, is decorated flawlessly, and simply feels peaceful. You think about the not-so-organized chaos and the do-the-best-you-can style of decor that fills your home. Or maybe you’ve felt spiritually inadequate. You’ve got a friend who has a Bible verse for everything, while you’re still trying to learn John 3:16.

The thoughts go around in our heads: I’m not good enough. I can’t live up to what others expect. I don’t have what it takes. I just can’t do it all.

If you can relate, it’s time to make a change. It’s time to sacrifice who you think you are so you can become who God says you are. To overcome the false beliefs of my “inner me” or ego, I try to remember the following three truths.

• God’s view of you is different than you think. When Gideon was threshing wheat in a wine press, an angel appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judg. 6:12 NIV). Like me, Gideon didn’t think highly of himself. He probably would have described himself as a mighty wimp, not a mighty warrior. But God saw in him something Gideon didn’t yet see.

Do you believe God when He calls you His “masterpiece” (Eph. 2:10 NLT) or perfect “workmanship” (NASB)? God knew exactly what He was doing when He made you. Although I don’t feel I’m good enough to be a pastor, God’s view of me is different than I think. My righteousness isn’t based on my own efforts, but on Jesus’ death and resurrection. I am not what I think about myself. I am who God says I am, and whether or not I believe Him will determine how I live, think, and relate to others.

• God has given you much more than you think. After calling Gideon a mighty warrior, God told him to “go in the strength” he had (Judg. 6:14 NIV). In other words, God had already given him what he needed. This is a truth that I’ve been learning to internalize.

For years, I felt very insecure about writing. When I was growing up, I was horrible at reading comprehension. Since I couldn’t read well, everyone assumed writing would be a challenge. So my mom proofed every paper I wrote. In my mind, I was below average. Years later, a publisher asked me to write a book. Since I believed I couldn’t write well, I politely declined. The publisher insisted I had a message worth telling and offered to hire a writing coach. Nervous, I finally agreed to give it a shot.

After a dozen false starts, I still couldn’t finish an introductory paragraph. Finally, my coach suggested that I simply write as fast as I could without stopping to edit. He gave me two hours to just let the words flow. To my shock, after the time limit expired, I’d written more than 16 pages. I’ll never forget the emotion I felt when I realized that God had given me more than I’d thought.

Second Peter 1:3 says, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (NLT). I have all I need to do whatever God wants me to do. The same is true for you. He’s equipped each of us to do everything He’s calling us to do—and we need to recognize and value the unique gifts He’s provided rather than focus on our perceived shortcomings.

Maybe you feel as if you rarely have the right words to say, but you’re a great listener. God can use your gift of listening to change lives just as much as someone with a gift for words. Or perhaps you aren’t an “upfront person” and feel useless because you don’t have visible leadership skills. But God may have gifted you to be an incredible behind-the-scenes person. And the greatest are those who serve (Matt. 23:11). You might not feel great about yourself because you don’t make a six-figure income. But you’ve been home each evening investing in your family. You’re wildly successful and building a legacy in ways you don’t even realize.

• It’s less about you than you think. God let Gideon know that he was a mighty warrior and urged him to go in the strength he’d already been given, even if he didn’t feel strong. Then the Lord reminded him: “I will be with you” (Judg. 6:16). When God calls you to do something, it’s less about your power and more about His presence.

God has been teaching me this truth in all areas of my life. Remember how I used to throw up before speaking? Not any more. Before standing to share God’s Word, I do something to remind myself that it’s about Him, not me—I take one step forward. It symbolizes a big difference. As I move forward, I remember that I’m leaving myself behind. By faith, I’m stepping into God’s strength, God’s power, God’s calling. And He is with me.

If you feel inadequate in any area of your life, I encourage you to step out of who you think you are. Step away from others’ assumptions and into who God says you are. You are His masterpiece. You are His perfect workmanship. If you belong to Him, you’re filled with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. You have everything you need to do whatever God has in mind.

So yes—on our own, we are inadequate. But thanks be to God, in our weakness, His strength is made perfect.

by Craig Groeschel

Illustration by Jeff Gregory

Nothing to Lose

man and little girl
People tend to think of loss in terms of the big things—loss of job, money, love.

There are also the dreams we once brushed against, as if with fingertips, but never fully grasped before they faded into the distance. Most poignant of all, of course, are the friends and family who have disappeared behind death’s veil, and especially those who departed this life too early, before we had the chance to say goodbye.

It’s these larger losses that occupy the majority of our grief over the past and our dread of the future. Yet lately, I confess it’s the small things that have my attention, down to the slightest fleeting moments: that split-second look my wife gives as we watch our children run and laugh in the garden; the instant a sonata’s melody breaks through the numbness of a busy week and my soul aches, once again awake to beauty; the way my little girl says “I love you” in her broken toddler English, her small arms wrapped around my neck; her serene face as she sleeps in my arms, and I carry her through the dark from car seat to bed.

These and so many other experiences come in abundance, at times too fast and subtle to capture or, quite tragically, to have noticed at all. These are the kinds of losses that have been weighing on me. Because just as soon as a moment appears to be mine, seemingly provided as a gift, it is gone forever. Which is to say nothing of every instance I’d like to take and do over—when I should have put down the iPhone, turned off the screen, taken a break, not said those words, not slammed that door or walked away. Those are losses of a different kind—a sort of thankless squandering of riches, a lack of vision for the gracious provision at hand.

It occurs to me that life is a varied thing, and among its chief attributes is a cycle of loss and gain repeated endlessly until all we have left is ourselves. We’ll stand at the end of time stripped of excess and façade, pared down to the essence of who we are—with only God, the source of our being, there to testify and judge how we used what He had given.

We may not be able to escape thinking about the big things, as the future calls out its seductive song from the broad country of a time we cannot yet inhabit. We might feel oppressed by questions we cannot answer: What will I do when the money is gone; when my career has ended; when memory begins to fail me; or when death leaves me alone in this world? We might feel as though we stand in the shadows of answers we desire, as they stretch across the landscape but are still too far away to know what form they take.

But rather than set our sights on the horizon, maybe we should be thinking more about what stands in the fore-ground, here and now—the ordinary abundance happening all around us. Most likely, it won’t be glamorous or adventure-filled, or part of some radical lifestyle change, but will be found in the mundane gifts of the everyday. We should pray for the eyes to see what we may otherwise miss. What we fail to notice is that every moment—no matter how insignificant it appears—builds, increment by increment, the life of what will one day be. They were not meant to last so much as to move us onward.

The truth is, the future doesn’t exist. There is no mysterious song calling out from a long distance, no answers blocking the sun. There is only now, the present moment—the life we have been given—full of sorrows and joys, gains and losses.

I pray for the grace to embrace it all with thanksgiving—to stay attentive to the life I have been given not for the sake of itself, but for the sake of the One who loves me and calls me to love. Because in the end, it is love alone that endures.

I’m reminded of the passage from Job that says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away” (1:21 ESV). On that final day, in that final moment, when all is laid bare and the truth of who we are is revealed, those who love Him will be satisfied. They’ll walk in a land where there is nothing to lose.

by Cameron Lawrence

“What Is That to You?”

Peter…said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “…what is that to you? You follow Me.” —John 21:21-22

One of the hardest lessons to learn comes from our stubborn refusal to refrain from interfering in other people’s lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s plan for others. You see someone suffering and say, “He will not suffer, and I will make sure that he doesn’t.” You put your hand right in front of God’s permissive will to stop it, and then God says, “What is that to you?” Is there stagnation in your spiritual life? Don’t allow it to continue, but get into God’s presence and find out the reason for it. You will possibly find it is because you have been interfering in the life of another— proposing things you had no right to propose, or advising when you had no right to advise. When you do have to give advice to another person, God will advise through you with the direct understanding of His Spirit. Your part is to maintain the right relationship with God so that His discernment can come through you continually for the purpose of blessing someone else.

Most of us live only within the level of consciousness— consciously serving and consciously devoted to God. This shows immaturity and the fact that we’re not yet living the real Christian life. Maturity is produced in the life of a child of God on the unconscious level, until we become so totally surrendered to God that we are not even aware of being used by Him. When we are consciously aware of being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, we have yet another level to reach— a level where all awareness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is completely eliminated. A saint is never consciously a saint— a saint is consciously dependent on God.

by Oswald Chambers