For 3, Not 4

Calculator and pencil

“The Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” ~Matthew 18:21-22 (NASB)

Don’t go grabbing your calculator I’ll give you the answer right here. 490. Yeppers you can forgive someone 490 times before you get to say, “Sorry but you’ve used up all my forgiveness towards you. Now please exit the room and consider yourself dead to me.” If you really think that then maybe today’s Freedom Fighter is not for you…just kidding it is for you and for me as well. This past Wednesday night’s Bible study was an eye opener to something that I haven’t seen in Scripture before. The concept of forgiving someone 3 times but after that you’ve used up all your “get outta jail free” cards.

Pastor John Mol has been in Matthew for quite some time and he’s just getting done with chapter 18. So we stopped in to see what the parable of the unforgiving servant was all about. Basically when it’s condensed we see that this is a message for Christ’s church. Yes, it deals with the topic of forgiveness and I’ll get to that but it is a huge glimpse into how Christians should treat Christians…and dare I say how we should treat Secular Lands citizens.

It all starts when Peter, possibly thinking himself more highly than he ought, approaches Jesus and, possibly stroking his beard, asks Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Now Peter had been taught by the Jewish leaders of his time that you can forgive your brother 3 times and things were to be cool between you and he but that 4th incident occurring meant you could after him. Now Jesus being Jesus, sees right through this and wants Peter to change his thinking from one that keeps account of forgiveness to one that forgives unconditionally. But what’s up with the 3 times stuff? Got your Bible? Then let’s go to Amos 1.

When you look at verses 3,6,9,11,13 and even continuing into chapter two we see this written; “Thus says the LORD, “For the three transgressions of (fill in the blank) and for four I will not revoke its punishment,” and then we read why the LORD is doing what’s He is doing to the ENEMIES of His people and for the reason’s He is carrying it out. Guess those wacky Pharisees saw this as a way to punish their own. After all, we shouldn’t be sinning against our own people anyway and if we do and we go too far with it…like 4 times, they are no longer with us but are against us (ENEMIES) and we should be allowed to “send a fire upon the walls of (my brother), And it will consume her citadels.” Seems kinda extreme but those filthy sinners need to learn their lesson!! After all, do they not know who I am? Hmm…

When we look at the parable that Jesus teaches in Matthew 18:21-35 things should be quite clear to us. If a certain KING has forgiven YOUR huge debt who are you to not forgive a smaller debt owed to you by others. By the way, that dollar amount forgiven by that certain king in the parable was about $16,000,000 in today’s money…I ain’t got that kinda pocket change laying around, do you?

See the bottom line here is that whatever we think is a great offense done to us isn’t even measurable to the sin we commit against a holy and righteous God. But for some dumb reason we think it is and what is even more troubling is we tend to wanna punish our own when it’s done by our own. Now we can rest on Jesus’ words “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” when it comes to those in Secular Land but we forget to say this when it comes to those folks that are in The House with us on Sunday morning. What a wretched bunch we are, huh?

Here’s something to glean from this as well…even though the unforgiving servant got his just desserts, he wasn’t cast out of his master’s kingdom. Why? For the same reason he wasn’t punished for not having $16,00,000 in hard currency…LOVE. The king loved him, just as our King loves us. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as His children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when He corrects you. For the LORD disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.” (Hebrews 12:4-6) Pretty cool stuff, Amen?

Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 119; Proverbs 27

Daily Quote: We trample the blood of the Son of God underfoot if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. The only reason for the forgiveness of our sins by God, and the infinite depth of His promise to forget them, is the death of Jesus Christ. —Oswald Chambers

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. ~2 Corinthians 4:8-11

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Who Can Imagine Life Without Worry? Part #2

Young man suffering depression sitting on ground street concrete stairs

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” ~Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG)

When I was with you last I was going on about freedom and how important it was for us to understand that Jesus came to set us free from sin. I also said I would get to “the most universal of all addictions” which is summed up in one word…worry. Worry is a verb that, according to The American Heritage Dictionary, means to feel uneasy about some uncertain or threatening matter; be troubled. Be troubled…hmm somehow I remember a story about a king-wanna-be saying he was troubled when a bunch of dudes showed up in his throne room and told him about a King that had been born. His worry leads him to what history calls “The Massacre of the Innocents.” Anyway…

Worry is something that gets done by us all in some way, shape or form. It can happen in the smallest way just as much as it does in the biggest. 20th Century theologian, John Stott comes right out and says that “worry is waste—a waste of time, thought and nervous energy.” Worry is so engrained into the human condition that we justify its existence much like other addictions however Jesus made it a point to address this “universal addiction” when He gave His Sermon on the Mount. He begins the dialogue with this key phrase, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Then Jesus will tell folks not to be anxious about their lives, what they’ll eat, what they’ll drink, and what they’ll wear. Now during those Roman Empire times dem’s was some everyday “where’s it gonna come froms” and now this guy says don’t worry about it ‘cos even the birds get fed by the hand of God. ALRIGHTY THEN…but Jesus doesn’t leave them hanging on thread, AU CONTRAIRE, He gives the straight up deal right here, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33) So basically it is matter of perspective. Doom along the horizontal and hope in following the vertical.

Now don’t go sitting there thinking that I am advertising a worry-free Gospel and that I think this Christian life should be free of it, once again I say AU CONTRAIRE because there are things we can take worry or anxiousness to. We should take thought

for each other especially for those who we call brother or sister. We can be concerned for the things that are of The Church (that doesn’t include carpet color, wallpaper style or should there a chicken dinner versus a potluck dinner). We can be concerned for the eternal salvation of loved ones or the lost in an unsaved world but as with everything there are limits…” All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (1 Cor 10:23)

That about does it for me today but I am not completely done covering the universal addiction of worry. Next time I am with you I would like us to spend some time gleaning why Jesus made it a point to tell those in attendance during His Sermon on the Mount why being anxious in our everyday lives stunts our growth of faith. Until then why not take a look at Matthew Gospel 6:24-34 and see for yourself why Jesus would have use consider the issue of serving two masters. I think it is plausible to think that He knew that people had an enslavement to material security (we still do, don’t we?) and He came to give us assurances that set us free from stuff that has no eternal value. Bottom line…if it serves no purpose in eternity it is eternally useless. Amen?

Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008.

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 105; Proverbs 13

Daily Quote: “God never intended His people to become prisoners to worry. Such an unbelieving, energy-draining addiction strangles our faith and makes us unable to bear fruit.” —Charles Swindoll.

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

~Romans 8:35-37

Church Can Be Fun!?

First United Methodist Church of Pasadena

“We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the LORD has done for them.” Yes, the LORD has done amazing things for us! What joy!” ~Psalm 126:2-3 (NLT)

Where in the Bible does it say church should be fun or even relevant? If we were to ask this question in a different way it might sound like this, “What is the purpose of the church? Is it a time when we all get together in comfortable setting, dump some loot in a basket, do a sing-a-long or two or three, listen to a self-help sermon because “Jesus loves you”, shake some hands, get some lunch afterwards and then get our butts home before the Star Spangled Banner is finished and the coin toss favors the opposing team?

My fellow Freedom Fighter writer, who I’ll call Rob (to protect his identity) and myself have gone back and forth on the notion of church being fun. We’ve taken to Facebook with the question (well actually he started it…I may have to finish it) and there have been some surprising answers. There are people who do find “fun” in their Sunday worship. Now we can find fun at Six Flags but get real here people, you wait in line to get on a ride…BORING!! Well now they are handing you cute little disc’s that vibrate and blink little L.E.D lights when it’s your turn to get on a ride that last maybe 90 seconds so you don’t have to wait in line but where’s the fun in that? Now you gotta go find something to do until the thing activates.

As much as I understand that we essentially should maintain a reverent mindset when it comes to Christ’s Church, I am also a man who believes Jesus wasn’t above having Himself a good laugh every so often. I mean, after all, we humans do some pretty laughable things…like take ourselves seriously on way too many issues. The bottom line is Jesus, although the Passover Lamb, also came to rebuild His Father’s community. And for all you wordsmith’s out there the word “commune” is the central idea here. We forget the idea behind the church is to “commune” with each other as we “commune” with The Father. Why do you think we are called to partake of the elements off The Table?

But what’s a community/church like without a little fun or laughter to it? Well…BORING…it doesn’t make it wrong but it can make it too rigid to handle a storm. Truth be told the only thing in a building that has to be true to solid is the foundation, the rest of the building needs to be able to handle the elements around it. Sometimes that takes a little flexibility to the construction. I once knew a guy (Jan Savercool is his name) that told me I was gonna need to be flexible in my walk. In its

own little way, it’s kinda laughable ‘cos he has been right since 2003. (wish he still among us so I could tell him)

The real thing to grasp here today is that church should be a place of joy. The writer of Hebrews puts it like this, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) Even though I think using the word “fun” in the same sentence that we use “church” has a hint of irreverence to it (making it seem like going to Youth Group) I don’t think we should take things so rigidly when it comes to church.

But I do believe there should be laughter in church. If we can laughter together then we can pray together, serve together, worship together and even mourn together. And if we are coming together, out of the joy we have for our God, and joy is a Fruit of the Spirit dare I say that “fun” is a fruit of that joy and those folks out there who have fun worshipping YHVH aren’t doing anything that deserves them a stonin’ or two? Well maybe that’s still debatable among some but for me I have fun ironing out these kinda issues. But please heed this warning as I end with you today, when you treat the things of the Kingdom as common everyday items, judgement is just around the corner. Amen?

Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008.

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 92; Proverbs 31

Daily Quote: “The church is an outpost of God’s empire: a community of people whose passport is stamped [or issued by] “heaven” but who continue to live in a foreign land – earth – with the aim of making that foreign land more like home. We take heaven seriously, and live with different aims and different values from the people around us. We also take our citizenship seriously, so instead of hiding under the bed and waiting for rescue (or the rapture?), we live in the world with the intention of changing it…” —Andrew Wilson

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? ~Romans 8:31-32

Needless Needling

Old Books Background.
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.” ~Philippians 4:1 (NLT)

In Chuck Swindoll’s book, “Laugh Again”, he tells a story about some porcupines trying to sleep in the cold. They huddle together to keep warm but their quills keep poking at each other and they eventually have to separate because it just keeps getting irritating to be that close. They need each other to keep warm but they keep needling at each other…kinda like us Christian folks do to each other. Aw, it ain’t intentional, it just happens…yeah right!!

When we read Philippians 4:2 we see two names that come up, Euodia and Syntyche and they musta had a bit of a disagreement because by the middle of the 2nd verse Paul is appealing for them to live in “harmony” in the Lord. Now, even though these two women were living in a Roman colony and enjoyed a level of independence that was uncommon in the Roman Empire, it apparently gives them no excuse for creating disharmony among fellow believers in the church at Philippi. But they just kept…needling at each other. So what are you gonna do? Well you should turn to the 4th chapter of James with me and see what he says of the matter. (for the record, James is one of my go to’s even though he has a bad habit of causing me to say “OUCH”)

So let’s start with these two simple questions… “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you?” and “Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?” Guess we best start with the first one. How many of you think that Christians shouldn’t disagree? If you raised your hand put it back down because you’re wrong!! Yeah you’re wrong. If there were only shiny, happy people in our Biblical past there wouldn’t be much of a Bible. I mean, how do you think doctrine gets hammered out or how iron sharpens iron, we just toss seed, add a little water and sow flowers? When you have claimed Christ as LORD and Savior it doesn’t mean that you get to be all wishy-washy about things. So what gets us needling? Let’s continue to question 2…

In the NLT the words “evil desires” is used. Other versions used the word “pleasures” but none the matter of the term it’s the intention to have desire without restraint, pleasure with no boundaries, passion to get what one wants REGARDLESS of consequences. As James so kindly puts it, “You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”

(As a sidebar here: sometimes just being offended get things going. Because offence stimulates pride and pride stimulates bad stuff like, strong-arm tactics, stubborn deafness and political maneuvering…sound familiar?)

So what’s the solution? Well ya gotta understand that disagreements are to expected and not all of them are wrong. We need to remember that disagreements can be resolved before stubbornness and selfishness set in and occupy rent-free space. And if you wind up being the one needed to assist in the reconciliation process you have a threefold objective to consider: The goal is not to discipline but to restore, you do this with grace and not force and your common ground in it is Jesus Christ, not logic, church policy, tradition or “because you say so”.

This Freedom Fighter writer has had numerous times in his life where he didn’t think of the damage he did to the testimony he received from Christ’s wondrous work in his life and solved issues with the might of his mouth…pride would get in the way of him wrapping the towel around his waist, humbly set down on one knee and consider the other person but every once in awhile, some guy named Bill W. would remind him of this simple saying….”If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18) Somebody give me an “OUCH”!!!

Today brothers (and sisters) go out and laugh again in the Victory that was won for us through the shed blood of Christ Jesus and STAND FIRM IN THE LORD!!…AMEN?!!

Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008.

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 84; Proverbs 23

Daily Quote: “Self-trust is the last great obstacle to living the crucified life, which is why we mill around the deep river of God like animals around a waterhole, afraid to go in because the water may be too deep. We never quite get it.” —A.W. Tozer

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. ~Romans 8:28-30

Enemies of The Cross – PART TWO

Christian cross on a wild beach with a wonderful sunrise

“Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.” ~Philippians 3:17-19 (The Message)

I remember the night I took my son, Kevin, to his first ever Philadelphia Eagles football game. I was all revved up (even though it was pre-season) for a good game and was hoping my son would pick up on the excitement. As we were walking towards “The Linc” (Lincoln Finical Field) he noticed someone wearing a t-shirt that had some nasty saying about the Dallas Cowboys. I explained to my son the on-going rivalry that had been such since I was a kid. When we got into the stadium he again noticed that someone wearing a Cowboys jersey was receiving a lot of lip-service. He asked why are the Cowboys enemies of the Eagles…too embarrassed to say it might be because Dallas has Super Bowl victories and we don’t, my answer was kinda plain,” They just are”. He let it go after that. For the record, it was a Philadelphia vs. Carolina game.

On October 26 1884, from the pulpit of Metropolitan Tabernacle, C.H. Spurgeon asked the congregation this question, “Why are men enemies of this Cross of Christ?” His first part to the answer was this…” Frankly, I think that some do not know why they are.” But then he put it into this nutshell, “Nicodemus wisely asked, “Does our Law judge any man before it hears him?” Our lawless ones do! And there are multitudes of men who ought to think themselves as mean as dirt because they never gave Christ a hearing—yet they thrust Him from them. “Oh!” says one, “I should never go inside any of those canting Methodist places.” No, you are such a wonderful man that you think you can see through a stone wall and judge of what goes on inside—you do not need to be taught because you imagine you already know everything!” (OUCH)

Now we can look at world today and see the obvious reason why so many can be counted as enemies. So many people live on the tangible that it’s all about what can be touched, seen and owned. So many people prefer to-eat-drink-and-be-merry that it’s all about life style. But in any case, these two scenario’s offer nothing but a path that is destined for eternal hopelessness, devoid of love, joy or anything truly good. I even dare to say that we Christians have our moments when the Cross is an enemy. It’s those prideful moments where we tell ourselves that we’re good, maybe even better than those around us. After all Jesus paid it all…All to Him I owe…Sin left a crimson

stain…He washed it white as snow. We tend to forget that it was Jesus who was looking towards the Throne of Grace, looking for mercy to be bestowed only to finally yell out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?)

The sermon Spurgeon gave that day in 1884 really sums up those who are enemies of the Cross. His hope was that The Holy Spirit used his sermon to bring people to Christ even though he knew this unfortunate truth, “But, alas, multitudes of men do not want holiness—they want their harlots, they want their wine, they want their carnivals of vice, they want their selfishness and they want everything that Christ does not give, so they cry, “Not this Man, but Barabbas,” and they make the awful choice of sin as they neglect their Lord! These are “the enemies of the Cross of Christ.”

But this shouldn’t end on a sour note. We have been given the promises of The Kingdom and the Apostle Paul wants to understand that, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control.” (Phil 3:20-21) Brothers (and sisters) this day, walk in the victory that Christ obtained for you and share it. It ain’t yours anyway so ya might as well give some of it away. Who knows…it might win a Super Bowl or two. (yeah I’m stretching it, but I have hope)

Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008.

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 77; Proverbs 16

Daily Quote: “Now the point of this analysis is not to judge or condemn the lost or to leave some kind of impression that Christians are better than non-Christians. Rather, it is to help us remember why God has placed us among them. Our mission is to reach out to them! To win them. To help them realize that there is so much more to life than they have ever known.” — Charles Swindoll

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. ~Romans 8:18

Enemies of The Cross | PART ONE

 

Sand Dunes Cross Sunset

“For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.” ~Philippians 3:18-19 (NLT)
 
“So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.” (1Cor 1:23) That was Apostle Paul’s position a really long time ago and I think it holds true today. You can try and have a conversation about Isaiah 53 with our Jewish friends but you will not be received well, then try and share the love of Christ with a co-worker and get shut down as a Jesus Freak (happens to me once in awhile). Kinda makes me wonder if people really wanna go to hell or they’re too stubborn to get off the multi-lane highway to it because it’s just easier to go with the flow of traffic. In any case Christ is a stumbling block in their roles for easy living.
 
For us as Christians our roles can be simply defined in the words of A.W. Tozer, “A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passeth knowledge.” WOW! Kinda makes Christians sound like a bunch of weirdos doesn’t it? Well, truth be told I was weirdo before salvation, so what does tell ya? Anyway…
 
When I got to pagin’ through chapter 10 of Chuck Swindoll’s study guide “Laugh Again” I found this to be a particularly interesting statement. “Leaving heaven-bound people in a hell-bound world is not a simple over sight on the Lord’s part.” Ya got that right!! On the contrary it’s all part of God’s strange strategy to use us “weirdos” for a bigger purpose and that was revealed to Jesus’ disciples at The Last Supper.
 
First, that we can have inner peace in the midst of outer pressure and pain (read John 16). Christ never promised us an easygoing way down the road, there’s gonna be pain and suffering but we’ve been given a peace that not helps us erase the pain but to endure it. (easier written than done for this Freedom Fighter writer)
 
Second, we are insulated by divine power, yet we are not to live an isolated existence. (Turn to John 17:11-15) To quote Swindoll, “This sinful world isn’t something we are to avoid by cloistering ourselves behind sanctimonious walls of self-righteousness.” Actually we go out into this world, by faith, and shine that light in the darkness where that dude with his tail and pitchfork rules over the lost. Maybe throw a little salt into their food!!
 
And now thirdly, we may be unique, but we must be unified. This all Upper Room stuff now. (John 17:16-17, 21, 23) It isn’t a bad thing when one of us gets used to bring someone into the Marvelous Light but that is only of God’s strategy. What God needs us to be is that Lucy Van Pelt fist that scared the willies outta her brother Linus, with the exception of the index finger. That needs to point to the Father who loves us through the sacrifice of the Son.
 
So what of the enemies of the Cross? Well we’ll get into the next time I am with you but look back at what was said to Jesus’ Disciples that night that He was to be betrayed. Chapters 14-17 ain’t nothing but red letters in my Bible and is very clear to me that Jesus had something that He wanted to impart not only to those 11 that were in The Upper Room but to us as well. So much so that He ends His prayer time like this, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21) If you can’t AMEN that, then maybe we need to talk about it because I’ll take abiding in Him on the slow lane that calls me Heavenward than stumbling through the fast lanes that lead straight to hell any day.
 
Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 71; Proverbs 10

Daily Quote:“To many Christians, Christ is little more than an idea, or at best an ideal. He is not a fact. Millions of professed believers talk as if He were real and act as if He were not. And always our actual position is to be discovered by the way we act, not by the way we talk.” —A.W. Tozer

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

~Zephaniah 3:17

The More I Press On!!

Winston Churchill

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV)

I think one of the greatest evil’s mankind had to face in the 20th century was Adolph Hitler and The Third Reich. Talk about no regard for humankind that was muddied up with strange occultic beliefs. There is no doubt that The Devil showed his hand to the world during that time period BUT there was this guy who saw it coming and like a good watchmen sounded his trumpet…but no one listen until it was too late.

Winston Churchill wasn’t a fan favorite in England after WWI but as WWII came along this bulldog lead a resounding charge that called a whole free world to battle. To quote that charge: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

We shall never surrender! Man do I like that kinda stuff. Churchill had himself some confidence didn’t he? Well he kinda hinted that the USA was coming to back him up right after the never surrender part but none the less what he was saying to the Nazi Party was “THE MORE YOU HOLD US DOWN, THE MORE WE PRESS ON!!” Love this stuff.

The Apostle Paul also has himself a resounding charge when it comes to the Christian life. After his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul “quits” all that legalist mumbo jumbo and begins to pursue a life of Christlikeness. Basically he goes from quitting to pressing on. And here are 5 things (borrowed from Chuck Swindoll’s book “Laugh Again”) we can glean from that charge we find in Philippians 3:12-16.

1. The Plan is Progress…not Perfection. Some of us get so intense with our pursuit of godliness that we get frustrated and down on ourselves when we fail.

2. The Past is OVER…FORGET IT!! To glory in past achievements only makes us proud and to torture ourselves with former mistakes can only arouse guilt and shame.

3. The Future Holds Out Hope…Reach for It! The Christian life isn’t meant to a peaceful alliance or a passive coexistence. It’s should be a passionate quest, ever stretching and reaching for the prize that calls us through Christ Jesus!!

4. The Secret is a Determined Attitude…Maintain It!! Simply put, “I am complete in the sense that I have grown as far as I can at the present, and I am ready for the next lesson.” (Stuart Briscoe, Bound for Joy)

5. The Need is Keeping a High Standard…Together! “Living the Christian life is a mutual effort, not a solo mission. There is great comfort and strength to be gained if we will lock arms with those who are striving to keep the same high standard.” (Swindoll)

Now this is all inspiring stuff isn’t it? But truth be told this Freedom Fighter writer has got his days when the battle seems, no wait, gets to be redundant. Same dung heap to plow through, same ugliness in my heart to deal with, living in a world that just ain’t making any sense anymore, price tag on everything and everyone and I am supposed to maintain my Christlikeness when all I really wanna do is pull out my broadsword and cut off the head of evil so the body falls into the pit and burn forever…but that’s God’s job and not mine. I gotta learn to deal with that part. BUT….

Broadsword, huh? How about pulling out the sword that God gave me and doing battle with that? Yeah better idea. I often think of Gideon when the battle gets futile and when I do I find myself going back reading his story. Yeah I do put out the fleece from time to time but just like Gideon, God gives me His reply…” Press on Chris, Press on.” Yeah it ain’t easy but if it was easy the grace that was afforded me on The Cross becomes cheap and everything that Jesus taught just sounds like a really good idea instead of the way things should be in their divine order. So I guess I’ll be sticking to the NEVER SURRENDER part of this Christian walk…just gotta get rid of the rear view mirror. How about you? You with me? Hope so…

Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 56; Proverbs 26

Daily Quote: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” —Winston Churchill

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

~Isaiah 55:8-9

Down On The Corner, By The Sheep Gate

woman finger presses on bible book

“Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” ~John 5:8 (NLT)
 
Nothing in God’s Word should go unnoticed but ya gotta agree on this one point…God likes to hide stuff in His word. I think He designed it that way because He wants us to dig into it beyond the obvious. Such is the case when we get to the 5th chapter of John’s Gospel. Many of us read of the cure that takes place at the pool of Bethesda, then we get to those wacky Pharisees with their charges against Jesus, “He violates The Sabbath!! Let us pick up stones and throw them at this blasphemer!!” and we think the sermon illustration should be reflecting that our God is always at work even on His day of rest and anyone who is a Pharisee about it is just plain…wacky.
 
But that keeps this story one dimensional doesn’t it? Now in some Bibles this chapter is titled “The Healing at the Pool on the Sabbath” but let’s change that this morning shall we and see what we can come up with.Hmmmm….ah, I got it. How about we call it, “When Jesus Steps into Your Story”? Yeah, that’s better. So, it starts like this, “On the corner of “Woe Is Me” and “It’s Their Fault”, is a pool that bubbles every so often. When it does a great crowd of people rush into it and think that the bubbling water is gonna cure them of their ill. And in their mad dash to save themselves there this dude still laying there struggling to get into the water. The water stops bubbling and everyone gets out…and leaves this poor guy behind. Then from outta nowhere comes Jesus Christ.”
 
Now in Scripture we read this very differently. The pool at Bethesda is surrounded by five porches and is by the Sheep Gate. In the 3rd chapter of Nehemiah we see that this gate was rebuilt by the High Priest, Eliashib, and is very significant to the story. First, the name of the High Priest who rebuilt this gate, Eliashib, means “God Restores”. Second, we see that the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (and High Priest) makes an appearance at that gate to man that doesn’t know who He is. The Sheep Gate was used to bring lambs to The Temple for the traditional offering but now Jesus is on the scene to show us that He IS The Gate through which a man can find salvation.
 
So Jesus approaches this man and asks him, “Do you wish to get well” to which the man replies with the calamity of his circumstance “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” and not with a simple “YES”. This is so like us. When Jesus steps into our stories we begin our conversation with Him by letting a barrage of “Woe is ME’s” and “It’s Their Fault’s” fly outta our mouths. We can be unknowingly right by something significant and at the ready to make a divine change and all we can see is that everyone else bet us to the punch and we got left behind.
 
But isn’t true that The Great Shepherd came for that one lost lamb? Isn’t true that He already knows the calamity of our circumstances and has shown up for such a time as this? If you’ve said yes to these questions, then be assured that when Jesus steps into your story all that should matter is doing what He says to do, “Pick up your mat, and walk” Walk in the newness of life that Jesus brings you and be mindful of what he told the man that was once hanging out, poolside, by the gate, on the corner of “Woe Is Me”and “It’s Their Fault”, See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” Amen?
 
Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 36; Proverbs 6

Daily Quote: “The trouble is that the whole “Accept Christ” attitude is likely to be wrong. It shows Christ applying to us rather than us to Him. It makes Him stand hat-in-hand awaiting our verdict on Him, instead of our kneeling with troubled hearts awaiting His verdict on us.”—A.W. Tozer

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you. ~Isaiah 54:10

A Whirlwind of Secrets

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“The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that He has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.” ~Deuteronomy 29:29 (NLT)

I am completely confident in making this statement, “There are just some things in God’s Kingdom that ain’t none of my business.” I got my times where I don’t like falling back on this statement but ultimately, when things aren’t going MY WAY, this ends up being all I got. Even though we are living in a world where all you have to do is “Google” something to find out the what, why, when, where and how of things there are times when it comes to matters that are actually unseen that I feel YHVH keeps them veiled for our own good. All though Moses may have gotten his glimpse of YHVH even he had to settle with what he got, then he had to wear a veil.

Every so often my wife, Kathy, will e-mail me a devotional she read from http://www.icr.org. On this one particular day she sent one titled “The Secret Things” and in her body of text she wrote, with caps locked, “YOUR FAV VERSE”. This verse is my go-to when during Bible study a question arises that gets more of guess for an answer than an exact true one. I’ll pretty much say, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut 29:29)

The part of this devotional that bears repeating is this… “In recognition of the limitations of humankind, Moses wrote in our text that there are certain things known only to God, which He has veiled—things which cannot be understood by the human mind—things which He simply chooses to keep to Himself. But he goes on to say that He has revealed certain things to us, and these things we must obey. Consequently, our text consists of a great principle of life: We must do what we know to do. We don’t know everything, but we must act responsibly and properly on that which He has told us, leaving the “secret things” and their consequences to God. Elsewhere, He promises that even the secret things will “work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28)—in His sovereign plan. We must obey, doing what we know to do, and leave the results with Him.”

So often our own impatience for the future to finally get here will lead us into doing things with consequences that carry on, and on, and on, and on…like Abram, Hagar and Sarai did way back in them Old Testament days. To this day we are seeing the end results of what it looks like when Abram, Hagar and Sarai did not act responsibly and properly on that which He has told us. We see this being played out on the world stage daily and many nations are involved, entrenched and wanting to get to a peaceful solution that is still yet undetermined.

Even in the book of Job, we read about 35 chapters worth of guessing the motives of YHVH until we finally get to a whirlwind and an announcement of, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.” (Job 38:2-3) Not too sure I would have wanted to be around for that one!

In “The Pursuit of God” Tozer made this observation, “Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image.” If I take this and apply it to my own questioning of what YHVH’s will is for my life I come to one conclusion… “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” and in this bit of knowledge I should act responsibly and properly on that which He has told me. How about you? Are you content with what He was told you? If so, great! If not…look out for those whirlwinds. They have questions for you and you may not have the answers at all. Amen?

Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 27; Proverbs 28

Daily Quote: “We are forbidden curiously to inquire into the secret counsels of God, and to determine concerning them. But we are directed and encouraged, diligently to seek into that which God has made known. He has kept back nothing that is profitable for us, but only that of which it is good for us to be ignorant.” —Matthew Henry

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

So the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
And come to Zion with singing,
With everlasting joy on their heads.
They shall obtain joy and gladness;
Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. ~Isaiah 51:11

Friends

Many cups of coffee on wooden table

“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.” ~Philippians 2:19-22 (NKJV)

The funny thing about being on Facebook is the number count next to the friends list. At last count I have 483 people on that list. Not too bad if you wanna think that’s a decent measure but in the reality of it all how many of them make it to the core of relationship. Ya see, in everyone’s life there are three levels of relationship. Ya got the acquaintance (the outer rim), ya got the casual (the inner rim), ya got the intimate (the core) and if I were to run my Facebook friends list through those levels very few get to the core. Truth be told most of them are on the outer rim and not every one of them is Christian either but I can say this…I actually do know everyone on my list.

One friend that wasn’t on that list but is at the core of friendship was Mark Fisher. I watched Mark battle cancer with a smile on his face and when The LORD saw fit to call him home on February 10th of this year I lost a piece of me that hasn’t been replaced yet. Mark was there to watch as I walked away from a world of disobedience into the same marvelous light that was keeping him sober. That light is Jesus Christ. Mark took me on as a Timothy (even though I was older than he) and I learned a lot about the Christian walk through Mark. I praise God for that privilege…but I still miss Mark.

When we read into the life of the Apostle Paul it almost seems like the guy was a loner but he really wasn’t. Yeah he had his traveling buddies like Barnabas and Silas or his fellow tent-makers, Priscilla and Aquila but there was someone that was a close companion and that was Timothy. Paul meets Timothy on his second missionary trip and from there on Timothy is a constant. (there are also two important letters bearing his name in the New Testament). The two of them are almost like David and Jonathan (1Samuel 18:1; 20:17). Paul is a Jew out to teach the Greeks and Timothy is both a Jew and a Greek so it seems feasible the two should go together. Kinda like Frosted Flakes and milk…they’re GRRRREAT!! (I bet you read that in Tony the Tiger’s voice)

Even though there are three reasons why the Apostle Paul sent Timothy to the church in Philippi I believe they are the three main reasons Paul and Timothy cliqued.

1. They both had a “kindred spirit” —they were liked minded and had a deeper level of understanding of each other. They understood the importance of the

Cross of Christ (Phil 2:20a) and that needed to be spread throughout the known world.

2. They both had a “genuine concern” —it was all about having a Christ-like attitude and having a genuine compassion for other people’s concerns. (Phil 2:20b-21) That’s why small time ministry is key in getting to know people.

3. They both had a “servants heart” — As Swindoll puts it “He (Timothy) gave himself away in caring for the needs of others.” It was a “when you get Timothy, you get me” mentality. (Phil 2:22-24) It was always Paul’s hope that as you imitated him you’d be imitating Christ.

Having and maintaining core friendships are key to our everyday walk with Jesus. And yes Jesus is to be LORD of our lives but He also speaks to us as that core friend…caring more about you then you’ll ever know. When Mark and I ran an “Addiction Victorious” meeting some years back it was important to the both of us that the main message stayed the main message. That message is still Jesus Christ and when I look back at what was done at that time it still says, “when you get him, you get me.” But if you got the both of us it was our hope that you got Jesus as you went on your way. Ya see, when Jesus Christ is our common bond in our friendships there ain’t nuttin’ that can, well maybe this is a better way to put it….

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”— Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT) Amen?

Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 20; Proverbs 21

Daily Quote: “When this year is over, what gift will your current schedule present you with? The popularity to receive hundreds of Christmas cards from acquaintances only? Or the deeper satisfaction and joy of a few close friendships as well?” —Charles Swindoll

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

31 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