Stand Firm

Stand Firm!

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Stand Firm

It is a privilege and honor to be around so many Christians who have walked the journey for a number of years. I enjoy hearing about the faith battle scars and the perseverance it takes to endure trials and hardships. Or the stories of Christians who stood the test time in a marriage and while raising children. The old saints who gloriously illuminated the light of Jesus in whatever platform God gave them.

For me, in my recovery process, I tended to begin very well, but never seemed to finish strong. Add in the inconsistency that is prevalent in our culture: why stand when I can move in the many ways of the world? Why stand and build with a company when I can get promoted by job hopping. Why stand-firm with a church (especially when someone makes me angry) when there are many others from which to choose?

I’m looking at this big oak tree outside my window and it is there every day. Tomorrow it won’t be down the street or across the road, it will be in the same place. The Psalmist mentions, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalms 1:3)

I hate to sound legalistic, but when are we going to stand firm as a testimony of God’s goodness? When will we stop casually tip toeing through life, and instead live full throttle in the area of faithfulness? If we want to combat non-believers in their choices and the way they live; let’s stand firm in what we believe. Let our actions match our passion.

Ok, I’ll get off my soap box. I’ll close with the verse before our key text as it reminds us why we should stand firm. “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Juan Mendez serves as a full-time Chaplain at the Colony of Mercy and is a graduate as well. He blogs weekly. You can email him at jmendez@americaskeswick.org

Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 135-136; 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

Think About This: Where there is fear of God to keep the house, the enemy can find no way to enter. Francis of Assisi

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:  Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

Soul Care

Soul Care

Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

During our recent trip to Minnesota to visit our grandkids, I also did some reading. One of the books I read was Soul Custody: Choosing to Care for the One and Only You by Stephen W. Smith. It is a must read for every man and one that I needed to read at this stage in my life. In fact, I wish I had read this book much early in my Christian life.

Soul Care

Smith asked 8 questions to help determine if we need help with caring for our souls:

  1. Is your life filled with noise, activity, and confusion? Has it been a long time since your spirit was refreshed with stillness and solitude? You need soul solace.
  2. Is your life complicated, distracting? Are your activities, relationships, and possessions keeping you from God? You need soul focus.
  3. Are you stressed-out, worried, harried? Is everyday life weighing you down and flustering you? You need soul serenity.
  4. Do your days, weeks, and months seem as endless and futile as a hamster’s running on its wheel? Do deadlines and responsibilities always beckon you to do more? Can you not seem to catch a break? You need soul Sabbath.
  5. Are others trying to make you into the image of the person they want you to be? Do you try to hide or forget the real you— to the point that you aren’t even sure who your true self is anymore? You need soul identity.
  6. Is your work life one of the causes of the soul violence in your life? Is what you are doing for a living far different from the work you have dreamed of to make your life fulfilled? You need soul vocation.
  7. Can you tell that poor health or a lack of physical fitness is having a negative effect on your soul? Is your attitude toward your body one of neglect or disappointment? You need soul address.
  8. Are you lonely? Do you wish you had others to accompany you on your journey through life, just as you would like to accompany them? You need soul companions.

As you read through these questions, my guess is if you and are honest. We need help in this area. Over the next several weeks, I will share what I have been learning. It’s painful – but it is necessary. Caring for our souls is important. – Bill Welte is President/CEO of America’s Keswick

Smith, Stephen W. (2010-08-01). Soul Custody: Choosing to Care for the One and Only You (pp. 44-46). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.

Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 132-134; 2 Corinthians 10

Think About This: The soul was never designed to operate at the frenetic pace in which we are living our lives. Thus we suffer a kind of sickness of the soul, a malaise deep within us known as “time sickness.”  Stephen W. Smith

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:  Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

Don’t Be Afraid — Just Believe

Don’t Be Afraid – Just Believe

“Don’t be afraid; just believe” – Mark 5:21-43

Do you struggle with unbelief?  We all, at some time or another, fall into patterns of unbelief that cause us to view our situations through the lens of the world rather than through the lens of God’s eternal kingdom.

Don't Be Afraid

When situations arise in your life that are difficult or painful, do you believe in the power of God to enter the situation and change it?  Do you bring these situations in your life to Him or do you look at the impossibilities of the task and think God is either too busy or not powerful enough to change the situation.

In the 5th chapter of Mark we learn about a synagogue leader, named Jarius, whose daughter is dying. Jarius, in faith, comes to Jesus and pleads for His daughter’s life.  Jesus goes with him but along the way word reaches Jarius that his daughter is already dead.  Those reporting this news advise Jarius to quit bothering Jesus because it is a lost cause.    Jesus, overhearing what was said, speaks up and utters a powerful and profound call of faith- “Don’t be afraid; Just Believe.”

Many times in our life we will bring our problems and anxieties to the Lord and we will walk with Him until we perceive that the problem is too big or too desperate to continue.   We will then listen to others around us and become riddled with fear and anxiety.  We fall victim to our unbelief.

We believe God will provide for us financially until we are hit with an unexpected expense.

We believe God will restore our broken relationships until someone says something too hurtful to forgive.

We believe God will work a miracle in our marriages but our wives are just too stubborn to change.

We believe God will protect and care for our children until they get into trouble at school or experience the hurts of life for themselves

Whatever challenge or struggle you are facing, you can rest assured it is not a lost cause.  God is powerful enough to change your situation and in the process, change you.

I am willing to go out on a limb and say that there wasn’t a single person who witnessed Jesus raise that little girl from the dead, that wasn’t changed forever.  When Jarius chose to believe Jesus and continue through his daughter’s death with Him, his faith changed the lives of all who witnessed the power of God that day.

Do you have life changing faith?

As you take up your cross today, don’t be afraid….just believe. – Jim Lang is a new blogger to our Freedom Fighter ministry. He is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and is Director of Guest Services at America’s Keswick. You can email Jim at jlang@americaskeswick.org

Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 123-125; 2 Corinthians 7

Think About This: Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is doing it, and right is right, even if nobody is doing it.” Augustine of Hippo

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:  Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. 1 Thessalonians 3:16

The Freedom Of Forgiveness

The Freedom of Forgiveness

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4: 32 NIV)

One of the most common failures among Christians is the failure to forgive. We are apt to consider an unforgiving spirit to be a “right” in the light of what someone has said or done which has hurt our feelings. When conviction comes to us as the Spirit applies the Scripture to our hearts, we try to argue with the Lord. We say, “That person doesn’t deserve to be forgiven after what he did to me.”Freedom of Forgiveness

This kind of reasoning is in direct violation of the imperative of our theme verse. Forgiveness is not optional but obligatory. We are not told to forgive if the offender is repentant. Nor are we provided with a condition, i.e., forgive if there is some evidence of remorse. We are essentially taught that our forgiveness is not to be based on any merit found in the offender. This mandate for mercy is removed from any conditional circumstances but is based on our standing with God – forgiven. Unforgiveness is sin.

What condition in the sinner was sufficient to merit the forgiveness of God? It is strictly the mercy of God which provided the basis of forgiveness. His grace was demonstrated in the sacrifice of Christ on behalf of the sinner. The result – we are forgiven! (Check out Ephesians 1: 7, Colossians 2: 13-14). The standard for our forgiveness of others is based on His forgiveness of us. This is declared in the pivotal phrase, “just as.” Our freedom in Christ makes us free to forgive others.

What happens to the unforgiving Christian? He becomes a slave of the unforgiven. His spirit is in bondage to the one he won’t forgive. The conviction of the Holy Spirit presses upon him. By the same token, when forgiveness is granted, the spirit is liberated. There is a tremendous sense of freedom in the heart. Rev. William A. Raws is the grandson of the founder of America’s Keswick. He served at America’s Keswick for 60 years and is now home with the Lord.

Keswick, America’s  (2012-12-13). Real Victory for Real Life Volume 2 (Kindle Locations 8189-8209).  . Kindle Edition.

Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 120-122; 2 Corinthians 6

Think About This: We do not need much time in order to love God, to renew ourselves in His presence, to lift up our hearts towards Him, to worship Him in the depths of our hearts, to offer Him what we do and what we suffer. This is the true Kingdom of God within us, which nothing can disturb. Francois Fenelon

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:  Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. 1 Thessalonians 3:16

Big Faith

Big Faith

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. ~ paul, The Least of The Apostles, in Romans 12Big Faith

Oh beloved, it is true. Each of us who know Him, have come into this relationship through faith. And any faith is enough. But, as true as it is that faith is absolutely necessary – faith is present in different measures for each of us. And these differing portions of the beautiful stuff, yield a different look and feel within the walk we each take down the path He has set before us.

Some of us have big faith. And while we didn’t generate this faith (it is from Him), we get to watch it work, often with amazement, at how it engages His work.  We have been given a propensity to go for it when we sense He is telling us to do it. This fool of a writer has been flung to multiple countries over the past couple of decades following His lead and His actual verbal and written commands.

And in the flinging of me around the globe, there has come the planting of seeds, the growing of relationships, the bearing of fruit and all sorts of other good stuff. But mostly what comes from living in big faith, is the astounding wonder that overcomes us in watching G_d put together long strings of complex miracles to simply show His glory and Love for those doing the watching.

Even more though, comes the sense that this fool of a writer is even more foolish than he ever thought.

Recently, circumstances and prayer and political realities have driven me to the understanding that i must soon leave the Asian megacity He flung me into about two and a half years ago. And, even though He has never (read not ever) left me “hanging,” i sense myself getting uptight about the path He seems to be revealing to us to follow.

Without any real invitation (yet), we are to leave an enormous city, and go to the biggest one on earth. He has told me and my wife it is true, and others have sensed the same thing. Now, the signs – the little telltale icons – are beginning to show up, like breadcrumbs making a trail to the next location.  Even so, after years of watching Him and His faithfulness, i begin to doubt.  Natural right?

No.

Can we see it? This same G_d who will take our faith and fling us around the globe, has flung His arms around us so tightly, that He will never let go. And so, wherever we go, He is with us and in us and working through us. And since He is so close, His Spirit tells us of things to come and prompts us to take the correct turns. And further, even if we do take a wrong turn – He is there.

We have Him. And He is exceedingly, abundantly enough.

So, are you feeling the doubts creeping into your faith?  Is your portion a different size than this writer’s? Don’t worry about the feelings of nervousness that come with the future. Just ignore them and sink into the arms He has wrapped around you.  Tonight is your night beloved.  Time to believe.  Makala Doulos is a Pastor/Teacher serving in Asia. He is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy

Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 119:89-176; 2 Corinthians 5

Think About This: Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever. If you reject the ragamuffin gospel and turn your back on Christianity, do so because you find the answers of Jesus incredible, blasphemous, or hopelessly hopeful. ~ Brennan Manning

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:  Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. 1 Thessalonians 3:16

A Contradicted Man, Samson I Am — Part 2

“A Contradicted Man, Samson I Am” Part Two

“Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines.  Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.”  But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” Judges 14:1-3 (ESV)

A Contradicted Man Part 2

So I Google the name “Dagon” and then surfed over to Wikipedia and research how many people worship this Pagan god. The account that sticks out the most, however, is in 1 Samuel 5:2-7. The Philistines capture the Ark of Yahweh and the following morning their silly statue of “Dagon the fish god” is lying face down before the Ark. So  this tidbit of information has  me wondering why on earth Samson wants to marry a woman whose people worship a fish rather than the Creator of the fish, knowing that he is under the Nazirite vow and that his parents had an encounter with the angel of the Lord, but God has a bigger plan against the Philistines. So apparently there was a great festival in “Timhath” that Flavius Josephus recorded and Samson sees a damsel…who like Samson’s mother will remain nameless and Samson says to his parents, “Now get her for me as my wife.”I can imagine Samson’s mother just saying, “Why can’t you just marry a good Jewish girl from the neighborhood?”

Now in the recordings of Josephus there seems to be a going back and forth that Samson and his parents are doing. Samson is continually visiting with this damsel’s parents when he encounters the Biblical story of the meeting with the infamous loin.

Both accounts have Samson killing the loin with both hands and then returning to the carcass of the beast and reaching in to take out honey that a swarm of bees has produced there. Now I am going to take a roadside view here for a moment. He kills this loin and then goes back to its dead body and basically defiles himself with it if I run this through the Nazirite Vow. I find no mention of Samson going to what would have been the Tabernacle at this time and making the necessary sacrifices to bring him back into alignment with God. Now I am sure that his parents have told him about the life he is suppose to lead but he does not tell his parents where the honey, which he has just shared with them, came from. Hmm, here lies contradiction in full color.

When Samson poses the riddle, “Out of the eater came something to eat, out of the strong came something sweet” to the Philistine men it is no surprise that, unless you were Samson (who is halfway confessing the wrong he has done and is the only one that knows the answer), those who seek to gain an advantage over him would find a way to manipulate getting the answer. So since he is married to a Philistine girl why not go to one of their own and get her to use her position as Samson’s wife to obtain the answer to the riddle. And once they get the answer and recite it back to Samson he says something really odd back to them, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.”What does that mean?! In any case Samson is wise to the fact that his wife has given away the answer. After all she only pressed him for seven days. I guess in the modern day dialog we would call this nagging.

Samson strikes down thirty men and returns the wife to her father’s house. I can say that there is so much drama going on in just these two chapters of Judges that it makes my head spin. But isn’t it the way we use drama to hide those ugly contradictions in our lives? I attribute this as to someone being chased down an alley after committing a wrong that they know they should be punished for. As they run they throw obstacles along the way to trip their punishment up. And with all the manipulation that goes on around Samson early in his life it has made me wonder if he ever thought that one day he would be undermined and left for blind.

I still have some more of this contradicted man, Samson I am to work out with you but let’s ponder a few things together this day. One, why start off down the path of the day with an unseen act of disobedience. God has already seen it and why fool ourselves into think that we can share the fruits of it with those we love. Second, why try to be wise in our own eyes by asking questions that actually hold the confession of that disobedience to those around us who wish to do us harm. And thirdly…can we put off the drama that so ensnares us? They didn’t give out Oscar’s for the best performance of manipulation done by a Philistine woman or her people let alone the best man versus beast fight scene back in the days of the Judges. All that happened was the undermining of the will of God…that’s all. Chris Hughes is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and a weekly Freedom Fighter blogger.  You can email him at cphughes515@verizon.net

Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 119:1-88; 2 Corinthians 4

Think About This: Because in our present thought world the horror is “hidden,” “sin” as a condition of the human self is not available as a principle of explanation for those who are supposed to know why life goes as it does and to guide others. For example, why do around half of American marriages fail, or why do we have massive problems with substance addiction and with the “moral” failures of public leaders. Those who are supposed to know are lost in speculation about “causes,” while the real sources of our failures lie in choice and the factors at work in it. Choice is where sin dwells.”  Renovation of the Heart  Dallas Willard

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:  Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. 1 Thessalonians 3:16

The King’s Offer

The King’s Offer

…and take your father and your families back to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you can enjoy the fat of the land. …never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours. (Genesis 45: 18-20 NIV)The King

In this wonderful story about Joseph, the king (Pharaoh) has offered Joseph’s family a life better than they could have ever imagined. He has invited the entire family to come and enjoy more than they deserved. In fact, they probably deserved a horrible fate based on what they had done to their brother Joseph. The king promises them the best and says forget about your belongings, because what I have for you will be so much better.

The rest of the story comes in Genesis 46: 6 (NIV): … They also took with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan…

“What! You have got to be kidding me!” I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It made no sense to me. Canaan to Egypt – this is no short trip: there are mountains and deserts and besides there were no U-hauls. The king promised them the best and they were dragging their stuff with them, everything they had acquired in Canaan. I couldn’t understand. What they had couldn’t have been better than what the king was going to give them. Besides, it was going to be a rough trip trying to take it all with them. Why not wait and enjoy what had already been promised?

I don’t think we are much different. Our King promises us when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior that we will have eternal treasures and rewards far better than anything we could obtain here on earth. He tells us to come to Him and leave the earthly kingdom behind. He says fix your mind on things above, not on the things of this world. In other words, “never mind about your belongings, because the best of My entire kingdom will be yours.”

I think we are missing the boat. We are so busy trying to drag around the possessions we have acquired that we do not experience the fullness of what the King has offered. Are we making the journey to see the King more difficult than it needs to be?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6: 19-21 NIV). Chaplain Bill Pruitt is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and is the Executive Director of New Hope Philly.

Keswick, America’s  (2012-12-13). Real Victory for Real Life Volume 2 (Kindle Locations 8244-8272).  . Kindle Edition.

Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 116-118; 2 Corinthians 2

Think About This: While God, for the most part, allows this cosmos [creation] to work according to the laws of nature, there is never a time when He is not actively involved in every detail of life. Charles R. Swindoll

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:  Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. 1 Thessalonians 3:16