The Struggle Of Dual Citizenship

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 12.45.43 PMPhillipians 3:17–4:1; Hebrews 11:13–16; 1 Peter 2:13– 17

We have dual citizenship. God has placed us in this country for the specific purpose of making Him known. This is the reason we need to obey it’s just laws, be loyal to our country, and yes even patriotic. No government official is in power without the consent of God (Romans 13:1-7). In this country we have the right to vote, to speak out against evil and to even resist if we are asked to do something contrary to our citizenship in heaven (Acts 4:13-31).

I hear Christians complaining our country is declining and people are rejecting Christianity along with its values, if truth be told, I find myself complaining about it too. But the struggle is between what is going on around us and our mission given to us by Christ. Individual Christians and the church get involved in the trivialities and frivolities of our culture. We get sidetracked from our mission, which as I mentioned, is to make Christ known by living a righteous life and by speaking the gospel to the lost. When we fail to obey Christ’s command (Matthew 28:18-20) judgment begins with the household of God and spills into our Society (1 Peter 4:17). The result is the lawlessness and increasing sinfulness we see around us. We vex our own souls by disobedience.

How can God reverse this trend? First we must be clear-headed and disciplined in prayer (1 Peter 4:7). Second, we must reveal Christ by word and deed (1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:18). This means in our work life, our play life, and in the course of our every day life with our family, our friends and neighbors we must speak and act righteously (1Peter 5:5-9; Galatians 6:10: Acts 10:38). Will you join me in revealing the life of Christ today in word and deed?

Today’s Affirmation:

I am a citizen of heaven, I am here to make The Lord Jesus Christ known; I will abstain from fleshly lusts which war against my soul so I can reveal Him to others.

Written by Pastor Robert Wood, Pastoral Counselor and friend of America’s Keswick

The Daily Bible Reading: 2 Chro. 17-18; Luke 8:1-25

Think About This:“The greatest joy of a Christian is to give joy to Christ.” ~Charles Haddon Spurgeon

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint ~Isaiah 40:31

A Jesus Freak’s Thanksgiving

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 12.35.27 PM“And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod.” ~2 Samuel 6:13-14 (NASB)

So you’re sitting quietly at your spot in the sanctuary and some dude all of sudden goes running up to the front and starts dancing before the congregation in his underwear. Your reaction is:

  1. To cast your gaze to the floor and escape the scene
  2. Gasp in absolute appalment but keep staring in hopes it stops soon…real soon
  3. In a loud voice demand this person be contained and possibly arrested
  4. Get up outta your seat and join in the may-lay in hopes others will do likewise

Now I am quite sure many of you out there haven’t had to worry about this happening too much in your church, after all, you’re all civilized worshippers of YHVH. So if this hasn’t happened in your church yet I guess the Spirit of our LORD is surely on His way to have you all be “slain in the Spirit” …maybe…possibly…I’m stretching this ain’t I?

However, King David had that childlike joy of the LORD early on during his reign of Israel. Even if his wife was appalled by his demonstration of joy by being able to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David didn’t care, he was closer to his God then he ever was before. That enough was reason for thanksgiving by performing an interpretive dance in the BVD’s of his time. I would dare to call David our first “Jesus Freak” because he seemed to not care what others thought of him, he cared what YHVH thought of him—even if it meant looking silly in the process.

There’s another story of someone who danced with joy about coming close to Jesus. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand (a man imprisoned at various times for his faith by Soviet communists between 1956-1964 and founder of “The Voice of the Martyrs”) tells a story of a Russian captain who longed after God but never seen a Bible. The captain had never been to a service, he had no religious education but loved God without having the slightest knowledge of who He really is. But after this captain hears Pastor Wurmbrand share the Sermon on the Mount with him, he breaks out in dance. “What a wonderful beauty! How could I live without knowing this Christ?”

But then Pastor Wurmbrand tells the captain of Christ’s crucifixion without bracing him for impact. He tells him how he was beaten, nailed to The Cross and died there. The captain fell into an armchair and began to weep believing that our Savior was truly dead. The Pastor said it was like seeing Mary Magdalene weeping at the foot of The Cross and again at the empty tomb. Then Pastor Wurmbrand tells the captain the story of the resurrection. When he heard this the captain began to shout, “He is alive, He is alive” and suddenly, with unspeakable joy and an overwhelming happiness the captain began to, once again, dance around the room.

They both fell to their knees and the captain, not knowing any holy words prayed this, “O God, what a fine chap You are! If I were You and You were me, I would have never forgiven You Your sins. But You are really a very nice chap! I love You with all my heart.”

As we approach the Thanksgiving table may we come with a childlike joy for what was really done for us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Pastor Wurmbrand would go on to say maybe all the angels stopped what they were doing to hear this captain’s simple prayer. I hope that is the case for all of us. That we be as simple and contrite when we go to prayer with our families, friends and strangers that we will encounter over the Thanksgiving holiday. And if King David just happens to show up in his linen ephod just humbly ask him if he could please pass the stuffing and the gravy…how about lettin’ me in the group you call “The Mighty Men”? Maybe? Cool…Amen? Happy Thanksgiving to all you Freedom Fighters young and old!!

Written by Chris Hughes, Colony grad of 11-2003, serves on the deacon board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ.

The Daily Bible Reading: 2 Chron. 15-16; Luke 7:31-50

Think About This: “A Jesus Freak whose joy overflows is a puzzling thing to a watching world. But that’s not a bad thing. Let your light make’em curious! Let people see your peace under pressure and wonder what your secret is.” ~DC Talk

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint ~Isaiah 40:31

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 12.22.58 PM“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” ~James 4:17

Sleepless nights, unsettled spirit, or even anxiety that is troubling your soul. These could all be symptoms of the “shouda, coulda, woulda” syndrome. That hind sight that haunts us because of missed opportunities. Or maybe there’s still time to make things right and the Spirit of God is weighing on our hearts something that we know we should do but there is something in the way.

There’s a few reasons why we might be apprehensive in taking that next step, the 4th chapter of James uncovers some of them.

Nearsighted or focused on ourselves, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures”, vs 3. We tend to put our own desires ahead of others and think that satisfying the flesh will bring contentment.

Being distracted by worldly living, “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” 4:4b. I tried other translations to see if there was a softer word for “enemy” but they’re all the same. This is Peter’s version of denying Jesus and warming himself by the fire in John 18. “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”. Fortunately there’s hope,

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble”

Judge mentalism, the attitude that questions another’s motives or criticizes decisions when not sinful. I always ask myself before I judge someone, “is it sinful or just annoying”?

Finally to make plans and later find out that because you were not flexible to change and forgo God’s plan. Sometimes if we’re not sensitive to the Spirit’s leading we end up regretting where we’ve ended up.

So, you see, it may not be what we did was wrong but rather what we didn’t do that becomes sin. No matter how far you’ve roamed don’t be haunted by the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas”. Instead draw near to God with a humble spirit and a willingness to turn around.

David writes in Psalm 51:17,

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” NLT Amen!

Written by Rob Russomano, Colony of Mercy Graduate and Full-time Staff Member

The Daily Bible Reading: 2 Chro. 13-14; Luke 7:1-30

Think About This: “Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.” ~Jonathan Edwards

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint ~Isaiah 40:31

Ultimate Joy

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 12.14.39 PM“However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Jesus (Luke 10:21)

Jesus was in the full stride in His earthy ministry at this point in Luke. He exposed the healing on the Sabbath, He was ushering the law terminating the keeping of the law. He was healing, speaking truth in parables, casting out demons, feeding a lot of people etc…

He also empowered the 12 disciples to achieve miraculous ministry beyond their natural ability. He also extended grace and authorized 70 to more of the same. They were rejoicing, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”(Luke10: 17) Like us we can get excited and caught up when we do few things for God. That is not bad thing, however Jesus reminds us of the main thing.

“Names are written in heaven.” Out of This reality is that ultimate ex-change life principle. Christians are preordain/predestine/elected/selected to spend the rest of eternity with God. The light or temporal situations of this world should not move us. My name is personally in many books that I’m not proud of, but this book supersedes all those prier. And since God’s grace provides this hope I or we ought spend our lives sharing and living out this realty. I don’t serve and love others to complete my salvation.

It is because we are saved that we should desire to do God’s good work. It is because we are saved that we desire a loving relationship with our Creator. I personally believe that our name is written with inerasable ink that ensures my destiny. To die in this reality is hope, moreover to live in that logic victory. The trials will come and it will be tough. But that comes that afterlife. Thank you Lord for remembering me and preparing a lace form. God Bless!

Written by Juan Mendez, Colony of Mercy Graduate and Full-time Staff Member

The Daily Bible Reading: 2 Chron. 10-12; Luke 6:27-49

Think About This: “For you and me, just knowing His presence is all around us can help lift us from the darkest night, embrace us in the loneliest hour, give us strength when we are tempted, and enable us to live confident and secure in His promises.” ~Diane Moody

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint ~Isaiah 40:31

Lessons From a Prisoner

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 12.05.59 PMI thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.

Thanks for joining us on the new week of Freedom Fighter blogs. Our prayer is that we will provide encouragement and hope as you think about Living Courageously.

This past Sunday our Pastor was preaching from the book of Philippians and one of his insights was the catalyst for today’s blog.

When Paul wrote this letter, he was in prison chained to a Roman guard. The guards rotated shifts every six hours so that Paul most likely had contact with every one of the guards during his imprisonment.

How people handle adversity will often speak of their character – what their made of. Some people will handle adversity like they have view most of their life – looking at it from the “glass half empty” perspective or the “glass half full.”

Throughout Paul’s imprisonments, the difficulties he experienced, somehow he never was a pessimist. He always looked at his challenges/adversity/trials from the perspective of how God might use this first for HIS glory, and then Paul’s.

Think about these words from his letter to the church at Philippi coming from someone chained to a Roman guard 24/7:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21

Do all things without grumbling and complaining. – Philippians 2:14

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted as loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all thing loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:7-8

That I may know HIM and the power of HIS resurrection, and the fellowship of HIS sufferings, being conformed to HIS death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. – Philippians 4:4-5

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Wow! And these are just a few of the lessons Paul shared in the midst of suffering and persecution – lessons from a man who knew intense adversity.

What are some of the lessons that you have learned when you have faced times of difficulty?

Written by Dr. Bill Welte, President & CEO of America’s Keswick

The Daily Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 7-9Luke 6:1-26

Think About This: “To say that ‘prayer changes things’ is not as close to the truth as saying, ‘prayer changes me and then I change things.’ God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things.” ~Oswald Chambers

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint ~Isaiah 40:31

Are you a Moment Maker? 

“Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” ~John 4:4-7

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 11.51.03 AMI often wonder how this moment would have changed if I wandered upon that well…

After a long day of touring lower Manhattan with my wife, we sat down at a corner Starbucks. While sipping our overpriced coffee, I saw a young women who by purely outward appearances lived a much harder life then myself. As we sat there she walked over and sat at a table right next to ours. My heart and mind instantly start asking the question, what should I do? Would I give her a judgement stare? Would I make a rude but quite comment to my wife on her appearance? Would I just say nothing?

One of the many beautiful things about Christ is He was a “Moment Maker.” Christ took regular, everyday, quite moments to make a huge impact for His kingdom. As Christ sat down by the well, it wasn’t just happenstance, it was intentional. Christ was making a moment.

Even though my Starbucks story was fictitious it could very easily be true. I would love to tell you I would have taken that moment and shared the Gospel. I fear I would have just said nothing.

Let our prayer this week be, that as Christ, will be Moment Makers. That as God moves men and women in and out of our lives, will take those moments and make an impact, not for our sake, but for His.

Written by Graeme Wilson, Director of Marketing at America’s Keswick

The Daily Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 28-29Luke 4:31-44

Think About This: “Every time you ask for forgiveness, you recognize that the biggest problems you face in life exist inside of you, not outside of you.” ~Paul David Tripp

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him. ~Lamentations 3:25

The Good News

How does the ‘Good News’ impact you?

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” ~Ephesians 5:8

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 9.16.15 AMFor me, living a life that had consequence unto death, and then miraculously delivered by his grace, make this an easy question. Meaning, my sin and past has been nothing short of destruction. Abusive upbringing, life filled with substance abuse. A train wreck would be an accurate description, especially because it ends with a fatality. I was death in my sin and shortly would be dead physically. But God! In an extremely dark moment in a distressful state in a jail cell, I accepted the Lord in my life. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Since that reality God has walked me through a journey that has been indescribable fulfilled in Him. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) The cross is the love that fuels me to serve as husband and a father, a deacon, a youth leader at my church. I get the privilege to be the voice reasoning in my extended family. The ‘Good News’ equips me to counsel and to assist others who are struggling. The Gospel reveals the love of God, and that love is the adhesive for uprightness and the operating systems for my decisions, my purpose, my morality etc; if an issue contradicts the Gospel, than it is indeed and issue. The Gospel influences all my positions in regards to any issue.

Who will you be?

Be better! We have the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and the example from Christ. Christian’s can serve in the platform that God provides to be the light and salt for a lost world. Honoring God because of our alliance with Him produces a very different boss, colleague, father, son, mother, friend, daughter and the like… It’s being heavenly minded that produces earthy good.

Be different! The morals and integrity for a believer derives from our relationship with Jesus. The love of God constrains us to be more like Jesus Christ. It calls us to a set apartness in which the world should notice and aspire. It is the principle of giving up yourself, it is considering others needs, it is Christ center. Our life is the act of preaching the gospel with our actions to give glory to God. This call on our life should be different, because we are different: strangers and sojourners in a temporary setting awaiting our eternal glory. Our hope and destiny doesn’t end on earth and shouldn’t be dictated or controlled by worldly circumstances. Paul says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”(2 Corinthians 4:18) God Bless you on your Journey!

Written by Juan Mendez, Colony of Mercy Graduate and Full-time Staff Member at America’s Keswick

The Daily Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 25-27; Luke 4:1-30

Think About This: “Don’t worry about having the right words; worry more about having the right heart. It’s not eloquence he seeks, just honesty.” ~Max Lucado

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him. ~Lamentations 3:25