When You Are Called Home

Called Home April 2014

Called home April, 2014

A dear brother and friend in Christ was just called home.  I heard the news this morning as I was preparing to head to church.  Matt was a good young man; he was 40 when he passed.  What made him good?  That’s just my opinion, my rating system.  He gave more than he took.

Matt was the leader of our small group.  He was responsible for leading 8 men and himself.  Leading a small group is akin to saying his job was to be “Christ like” to us and set an example. Matt gave all that he had to our group. He was and is an excellent example of a small group leader.

Each one of us has a day that we are going to be called home – to heaven or to hell (Ecclesiastes 3:2).  That’s true whether you believe it or not.  Everyone has to reconcile how they got here?  How were they born?  How did humanity start?  Even for the most ardent atheist you still have to explain how what you believe ever came from nothing.

Matt knew the Lord.  The last email I received from him was on Thursday, Apr 10, 2014 at 3:22 PM, <Matt> wrote:

The Disciples did not realize that the empty tomb meant Jesus rose from the dead. They were too wrapped up in their grief from Friday to remember what Jesus said about Himself:  That He would rise again.  As we go through our trials, remember God’s promises to us so that we do not lose heart.  Our deliverance may be right before us, but we may be too wrapped up in our selves and our grief that we fail to recognize it because we have forgotten Jesus’ promises.

Matt counted on Christ for Salvation (John 14:6). It was his hope (Romans 15:13).

Less than a week ago, a lot of us, people that he called friends and that called him friend, visited him in the hospital.  He had a heart attack.  He had a stent installed late Thursday night (or maybe Friday morning) – April 3rd or 4th.

When we saw Matt at the hospital on Friday he was praising God (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.).  Matt was enduring (James 1:2-4) through his trial by deciding to give God glory no matter what the circumstances. He knew that nothing was greater than his Savior.  He not only thought it, he lived it.

Four days after his heart attack, he was once again encouraging us with his emails and thoughts on our Lord.

April 9th, 2014 Matt wrote – Philippians 2:5-9:  Do we want our way more than God’s way?  Consider the lengths our Savior went to doing God’s will, and not His own.  God may be leading us down some rough paths for purposes only He knows.  But be encouraged.  Our Lord went through far worse and is now seated at God’s right hand.  He is not unfamiliar with our struggles.  He knows how difficult it is.  He is also right by our side throughout it all and asks us to endure.  He will give us the strength (Isaiah 41:10, 40:29-31).

Matt knew no matter how “good” he was, that wasn’t going to get him to heaven.  Jesus had this to say when someone called Him good – And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)

Monday night a bunch of us are getting together to celebrate Matt.  He was called home.  Those of us that are still here will miss him.  Some will mourn more than others; but his life, given and appointed by God for this specific time in history (Psalm 139:13-16), will be celebrated.

Why can we celebrate?

For no greater reason than Matt was “called home.”  This earth, as it is now, is not home for Christians (John 18:36); it is the place we are refined and made ready for an eternal home prepared for us by our King, our Lord and Saviour.

Matt is now in heaven. I wonder what his eyes can see, what he is feeling right now, and what his thoughts are.  I know without doubt that if he could tell us something, he would say “you don’t want to miss this! Ask Jesus to be Lord of your life. Accept His wonderful gift of salvation and choose the path that leads to heaven.  Don’t miss this! I love you.”

In remembrance of Matt…

What Does The Bible Say About Angels?

People have always been interested in angels. I can think of three television series with the/a main character being an angel. Many misconceptions about angels are spread through the entertainment industry. I’m not trying to slam them for this because they are in the entertainment business. And entertainment does not have to be fact. We all know this but it seems without knowledge of reality, our entertainment becomes our view of reality.

In movies and TV, angels are sometimes portrayed as former humans, sent back to earth to do good deeds to,   ”Earn their wings.”  Images of angels with wings or halos or harps are common, and their personalities are very human, sometimes with dispositions that exhibit emotional thinking, uncertainty and tempt able weakness. Good stuff for entertainment but not for anything more than that.

What does the Bible say about AngelsThe bible reveals quite a bit about them. Let’s start with the word angel. It means messenger.  [This meaning is lost to us because sometimes words were not translated but transliterated.  That is when a words’ pronunciation is transferred from one language to another. This is done by matching the letters of a word like Daniel or Canaan with the suitable letters of the receptor language to convey the proper sound. Only proper nouns should be transliterated. All other words, nouns, verbs and so on must be translated, that is when the meaning of a word is transferred from one language to the other.] So as messengers they brought messages to communicate the will of God to people. Like the conception of Jesus and His birth, (Lk. 1:28-38, 2:9-14) and His resurrection. (Mt. 28:6)

But more generally angels are God’s servants. They do His will and were designed to do so. “He makes His angels winds and His ministers flames of fire”. (Ps. 104:4, Heb. 1:7) In the psalms, the poetry is not with rhyme, but by placing parallel concepts one after the other or side by side.  ‘Angels /messengers’ equates to ‘ministers / servants’ and “winds” equals here to “flames of fire”. Like conceptual synonyms.   To me this says they are invisible yet can be felt, full of energy and without fixed form.

Angels are innumerable, (Heb. 12:12) powerful yet they restrain themselves, (2Pet. 2:11) obedient to God, (Ps. 103:20) and just one can kill an army.  (2 kg. 19:35) There are orders among angels.  There are Archangels, (1 Thes. 4:16) Seraphim, (Isa. 6:2) and Cherubim. (Gen. 3:24)  Two angels are named. Gabriel, mentioned in Daniel and Luke, and Michael, the archangel, mentioned in Daniel, Jude and Revelation. They reject worship and even consider themselves to be fellow servants with us. (Rev. 19:10)

Angels serve God’s people, (Heb. 1:14) and are interested in our salvation. (1 Pet. 1:12) They rejoice when a sinner repents. (Lk. 15:10) And when the righteous die, they are carried by angels to a better place. (Lk.16:22) And in some way, little ones have “their angles” (Mt. 18:10).

Angels attended Jesus’ birth, helped Him after the 40 days of trial in the wilderness, encouraged Him in the garden the night he was betrayed, announced His resurrection to Mary Magdalene and some other women, were with the apostles when he ascended and angels will be with Him when He returns.

Even without fanciful embellishment angels are interesting, mysterious and cool. Angels are also very busy doing what God wants them to do. Delivering His message and serving His people. Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing?

Resolve – Our New Year’s Resolution

For some reason, New Year’s Day has become a time for making resolutions. That is, making a decision to change something in our life for the better. So, this week many of us have started to do something we have been putting off, or are trying to stop doing what we wish we did not do. For a while, gyms will be busier and not as many cigarettes will be smoked and fewer calories will be consumed and many other good things. New Year’s resolutions are always good for us. Well, at least I never have heard of anyone resolving to start a bad habit. But I’ve seen that most resolutions are only for a while.

Why is doing what is good for us so hard and doing what’s bad come naturally? Jesus told us the answer. He taught us that, “The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak.” The specific instance was the inability for the twelve, minus Judas, to stay awake and pray. Even though Jesus had just asked them to watch and pray, “Lest they fall into temptation”, they still fell asleep. [Mat. 26:36-45]. The bible often points out that the urges of the physical body, if followed, will lead us to failure.

resolve
How can we, as Christians, overcome our physical weaknesses and be the men and women God expects? The bible, obviously, is concerned with moral behavior, but if we can’t control ourselves in regard to sin, then how can we ever control our bodies in all things? In other words, if we don’t try to control sinful behavior should we expect to be successful at say maintaining a healthy diet. In  more other words, if by putting the kingdom [spiritual things] first we have God’s guaranteed help in lesser matters, then we should first work on overcoming immoral activity so that God will aid us in everything.  [Mat. 6:33]

Jesus said that out of the heart proceeds (thus precedes) our actions. We do as we think. So first, we must control and guard our thinking. We must be thinking about things above so that we will be able to bring every thought into captivity to obey Christ. We can’t allow fantasies, that will get us into trouble, to dwell in our thoughts. We need to actively try to think about things that are good. “Whatever things are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about these things” [Phil. 4:8].

Next, after getting control of immoral behavior we have to start doing good things. There is an old saying, “The best defense is a good offense.” I think this is part of what James said. “Be doers of the Word and not only hearers.” Be a doer because doing eventually becomes habit. We have to be active in doing what is good throughout our lives. Action produces change and so good action produces good change. Our faith should have an impact in the world around us.  Jesus spoke about this a lot. We are to be salt and light. Needed and good.

Don’t forget to pray! Through prayer we should ask God not to subject us to be put to the test/tempted, but to rescue us from evil, or the evil one. How often in my life could I have avoided problems if I had just asked? It is so simple to do, but we often forget.

I must resolve that whatever God does not want in my life, I must get rid of, and I must resolve that whatever God wants me to do, I must do. As it is written, “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all people. It is training us to say “NO” to [renounce] irreligious and worldly desires and to live sensibly, justly and devoutly in this present age” [Titus 2:11,12].

I think that if we expect to overcome impulsive behavior, OCD’s and self-destructive habits we must first try to conquer sin. Many people will try and fail to control their behavior because they are without the strength and help that comes from God. But WE must remember “With God all things are possible.” AMEN

Hidden Sin and The Way Out

It happened again; the fallout from hidden sin caught up to another friend. This time a wife lost her husband to a 20 year jail sentence.  I’ve broken bread with these people across the globe in places like Oxford, England and Mexico. We have prayed and worshiped together.  We shared life together.  My wife, Bonnie, and I love this couple.  Yet during this whole time, there was hidden sin.

The cost of hidden sinSin is destructive, and when it’s hidden it can grow and consume us.  Sin destroys lives and relationships. It attaches to our desires and leads us to death (James 1:15).

Whatever the sin, there is a cost.  It costs you and those around you.  David’s sin eventually (a year later) cost him his wives and children. It also took the lives of over 70,000 men that directly paid the price with their lives (2 Samuel 12:11-14, 2 Samuel 13:28, 2 Samuel 24:15)

My friend’s sin devastated multiple families.

Sin can be defined as disagreeing with God and doing it my way. Whether it’s what you expose your eyes to, what you allow your desires to become, or where you place yourself in relation to God, it all results in sin.  Sin separates us from a deep relationship with God.

Without God we will lose the battle. We cannot stop sinning without God’s help.

Let’s face it, we all know people that have been affected by their sin.  We also know a lot of people that have been hurt by other’s sin.  What about your own sin?  What is your secret sin or sins?  What would you not want your spouse to know about?  Have you counted the cost of your sin?

Sin has a domino affect that keeps going.  It becomes so intertwined that we will never see how it spreads through generations.  Sins that are small in our eyes become big sins we can no longer handle.

It’s easy to hide sin.  We hide our sin.  We tend to hope and pray that we will have the strength to stop – it rarely works.  There are periods of success, but in reality, our flesh can never win the battle of sin.  Our flesh is by nature corrupt.

Sin grows; it often starts small. When we don’t seek help, it grows till it can become unmanageable. My friend never thought he would end up in jail.  Not only does sin grow or get worse, it’s intent is to destroy you. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:19-21 both contains lists of sins that start small but can take root in us and become uncontrollable.  It is not wise to ignore the warning that is in both sets of verses for those that practice such things, they “will not inherit the kingdom of God”.

If you are a child of God, saved and redeemed by the blood of Christ, God will not allow you to continue sinning.  God will allow trials to come into your life.  God will discipline His children (Hebrews 12:5-11, Proverbs 3:11-12).  The absence of discipline in your life should be a concern.

Sin brings about paideia (pahee-di’-ah).  Paideia is the Greek word for discipline – its meaning can be translated as discipline and training and education of children, hence; instruction, chastisement, correction.

From discipline we receive the chance to see the consequences of our sin, and once again, agree with God that what we are doing is sin and wrong.

God can use our past, our actions, or something unrelated to bring about discipline in our lives.

God uses it all, even when we totally fail.

Things that God can use to remove secret sins from your life.

Reading God’s Word – There is only one direct way that you can literally change your desires and your thought processes about sin.  You have to renew your mind.  In scientific terms you need to create new neural pathways.  What science has just recently discovered, God told us in Romans 12:2 – 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.

God’s Word has power!  God designed it this way. After all, John 1 tells us that In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  Jump to verse 14 and look who the Word is! – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Many professing Christians spend less than 5 minutes a day reading God’s Word – no wonder there is so much sin in God’s family. Strive to be in the Word an hour a day.  Don’t get overwhelmed with that amount, rather, just plan to spend quality time with God everyday.  Look forward to it, and pray that God will reveal himself to you.

Prayer and Confession – Prayer is the opportunity to let God know that you agree with Him regarding sin (1 John 1:9).  God will not only forgive our sin, but also heal us. James 5:16 says – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Psalm 90:8 – You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.

Not only can we not hide our sins from God, God knows how we are going to sin before we do it (Psalm 139:1-4). If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Accountability – God already knows the sins we are committing, so we are not hiding them – (2 Samuel 12:12). We share our sins with others to get it out in the open and allow others to hold us accountable. Some of the most kept secret sins (sexual) are the most damaging to not only yourself but to others.  You may be able to hide the sin, but you can never hide the effects.

Phil 2-12

Sharing what you are struggling with gets the sin out and into the light of fellow believers. It’s important to be completely truthful with your accountability partner(s). And it’s important to be honest about your sin – do you really want to change?

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling!

Key Bible Verses:

James 1:15 – Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Romans 7:18-19 – For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Galatians 5:19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Hebrews 12:11 – For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Small sins in our eyes become big sins we can no longer handle.

Proverbs 3:11-12 – My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The Christmas Story

Our nation will soon be commemorating the birth of our savior Jesus. I think that whenever our country wants to celebrate something good it is a good thing. And the birth of Jesus is a very good thing. So great is the fact of His birth that it is the central point in time! We count years from His birth, time being reckoned either before or after Christ’s birth. Ironically, the birth of Jesus probably occurred about 3 B.C. according to most scholars.

Mathew, Luke and John all write about the events surrounding the Messiah’s birth but each account preserves different information for us. John’s record is short and sublime, focusing on the amazing fact that God entered the world, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us….full of grace and truth.” Mathew and Luke give us more of the human interest information that we all can relate to because they are very human circumstances indeed. Because both of these writers record different facts, there is a need to harmonize them into chronological order.

 The Christmas Story“The birth of Jesus was as follows”, “the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph of the house of David. The virgins name was Mary.” The angel said to her, “you will conceive in your womb…a son”. Mary asked, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” The angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. Therefore, that Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Mary then went to the hill country of Judah and stayed with her relative, Elisabeth. Now Elisabeth was six months pregnant at this time, even though she and her husband Zacharias were too old to have children. Her conception was similar to Sarah’s in that God renewed her womb. Her child would be John the Baptist. But Mary’s happened without sexual relations. God was His father. Mary stayed with them about three months, and returned to her house.

Now when Joseph heard that Mary was pregnant, “Being a just man, did not want to expose her to public disgrace, planned to divorce her privately”. But in a dream, an angel of the Lord told him to marry her for the child was of the Holy Spirit. “You shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”   And so Joseph, “took her as his wife, but he had no marital relations with her until she had brought forth her firstborn son.”

Now just before Mary was to give birth a decree went out that everyone must register for a census, so Joseph took Mary and went to Bethlehem because he was of the house of David. And, “while they were there…… she brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn”. An angel then appeared to shepherds living out in the fields and told them, “There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And suddenly a multitude of angels appeared praising God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those with whom He is pleased”. And so the shepherds went and saw Jesus and made known what they had seen and heard.

Eight days later Jesus was circumcised and officially named Jesus. And after forty days from His birth, Jesus was presented in the temple in Jerusalem which was only about three miles away. “Now after”, while still in Bethlehem, but now residing in a house, wise men from the East following His star came to worship Him. “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him…..and they presented gifts to Him, gold, frankincense, and myrrh”. After they departed, Joseph was warned in a dream to, “Flee to Egypt and stay there until I bring you word”. They left by night and stayed in Egypt till he was allowed to return to the region of Galilee to a city called Nazareth. “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him.” With this humble beginning, our God and Savior began his life on earth.

I wish a Merry Christmas to all-

The Highway To Heaven-Use the Map

Have you ever gotten lost while driving to a place that you have never been to before? Prior to car GPS systems this was a common thing, especially when trying to find someone’s house. I remember years ago when trying to get to a customer’s house was a hard thing to do. And when I would stop to ask for directions, often I would be told, confidently, exactly how to get there. But it turned out that the person was wrong, and so I’d ask someone else. And they would be wrong too! Grrrrr-

This scenario happens all too frequently when trying to get to heaven. Everyone is lost, (Rom. 3:23) and must try to find the way there. Sadly, a lot of people do not care or will not try, but many of us will ask for directions. And there are many people who will confidently tell you exactly how to get there. The scary thing is that most of the directions you will get are wrong and will take you someplace you don’t want to go. Some of us realize that the advice we received was not correct and that we are still lost. Unfortunately, most people won’t discover that they are on the wrong road till it’s too late and they are forever lost!

What is the right way to heaven?There are more people in this world giving bad directions about how to get to heaven than people with the right direction. These are ‘blind guides’. Some will say, “God has already chosen who will get to heaven, therefore, it’s not up to you.” Others say, “all you need to do is believe in your heart that you will get there and you will, so just park and relax” and another says, “the map [Bible] you have is not enough, you also need another map [ i.e. more ‘revelation’].” And there are those that say, “The map is too hard for you. Only someone ordained, or a priest or some other special interpreter should explain it for you.” Then there are the folks who tells travelers, “All roads lead there eventually, so don’t worry, you’ll get there.” All the while the entrance ramp for ‘The Way’ is not far from any one of us.

God has given all of us a road map of the way to His house. By the providence of God it is the most printed document in the world, and it needs no updates. It is understandable, as Paul said that when we read what he wrote, we would understand his knowledge in the mystery of Christ [Eph. 3:3, 4]. Furthermore, there are people Jesus has gifted us with who can help explain His directions [Eph. 4:11-14].

God has so much room in His house that He sent His son Jesus to earth to seek and save those who are lost [Mat. 18:11]. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” in fact, the followers of Jesus were first called ‘the Way’ [Jn. 14:6, Acts 9:2, 19:23, 24:14, 24]. Isaiah prophesied, “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.” [Isaiah 35:8].”

We can be sure there is only one way, safe and true, open to all whom sincerely wish to reach heaven. But we must be aware that the devil has placed many deceivers in this world who will do their best to mislead anyone they can [2 Cor. 11:13-15]. We have to pay attention to the Word of God, the road map to eternal life, read it carefully and trust it completely. God has invited us to his home, so let’s go!

The Origin of ThanksGiving – Proclamation 118 – Thanksgiving Day, 1864

abraham-lincoln-pictureProclamation 118 – Thanksgiving Day, October 20, 1864

By the President of the United States of America

It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with His guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their camps and our sailors on the rivers and seas with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while He has opened to us new sources of wealth and has crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry with abundant rewards. Moreover, He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 20th day of October, A.D. 1864, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD,

Secretary of State .

Capital Punishment, A Biblical View Of The Death Penalty

Every now and then the topic of capital punishment, or the death penalty, becomes front and center in the public spotlight. These news stories are chosen because there is an angle, or twist, to the story that will serve the mainstream media’s objective to stop all capital punishment. Usually, it is a case where the circumstances are such that people who are undecided about the topic might be swayed to the anti-death penalty view that is being propagated by an ever growing amoral society. This nation has become so ‘nonjudgmental’, that sometimes people who cause the death of someone are not even punished at all! Perpetrators are pitied while victims and their families are forgotten. Christians can’t allow themselves to buy into this foolish thinking.

I can’t forget this one case about fifteen years ago. A person in Texas was executed for murdering a couple. There were no twists to this case; nothing iffy. Prior to the execution, the usual groups that decry capital punishment were there, speaking on behalf of the guilty. But what was unusual about this execution was the involvement of the religious community. Men such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were atypically calling for clemency. Why? Because the convicted person professed becoming a ‘born again Christian’ while awaiting execution.

The joy of one sinner repenting and being born again is one we all share, but this begs two questions. Should this affect our view of capital punishment? And does forgiveness by God mean the removal of consequences?

Christians must know God’s will in matters being debated in this country. If we don’t, who will speak up? We cannot expect a humanistic society to chance upon what is right. Civilization without God’s guidance would self-destruct.

Capital punishment bible flag and constitutionLong ago God observed, how great the wickedness of mankind was on the earth, and that every plan devised by his mind was nothing but evil all the time.  And He said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them” [Gen. 6:5, 13]. It was because of violence that God wiped out all life, saving only the lives in the ark. God did not want a repeat of the violence that characterized the former world. And when Noah left the ark, God made it very clear commanding, “Surely for your life blood I will demand a reckoning,” and “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man his blood shall be shed” [Gen. 9:5, 6]. This commandment was part of God’s ‘New World Order’ for the human race.

God said through Moses, ”You shall not take a ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, he shall surely be put to death.” “You shall not pollute the land, for blood pollutes the land and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it except by the blood of him who shed it” [Num. 35:31-33]. Today, our country/land  must be blood red.

Now then, a murderer can be forgiven. By confession and repentance, God will forgive. But the consequences don’t go away! David, when he turned to God asking forgiveness for murder, was told, “The Lord has put away your sin” [David being King could not be executed]. However, the punishment previously pronounced by Nathan was not rescinded; therefore David suffered the destruction of his immediate family, and the death of three of his sons [2 Sam. 12:9-ff]. The Bible teaches that a truly penitent person never complains about their punishment – never! As Paul said, “If I am an offender, or have done anything worthy of death, I do not object to dying” [Acts 25:11].

It is God’s will that we live in a safe society. Paul, speaking about rulers and authority, wrote, “For it, [authority], is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is God’s minister to inflict wrath on the wrongdoer” [Rom. 13:4]. The sword is supposed to be a symbol of  harsh punishment, not probation and psychiatric counseling. Criminals are not afraid of the justice system today. Believe it or not, prison does not put fear in the worst criminals. And in some subcultures, it is a ‘rite of passage.’ In a country where the average time served for murder is 5.9 years, it is no wonder it is not safe out there.

Capital punishmentAll systems have flaws because we, being human, make mistakes. However, we should at least try to do things in a God-directed manner. The Bible, in the writings of Moses, has the most sensible rules for justice. Did you know that crimes against property or self were not punished as severely as now? Only crimes against persons were harshly punished. However, in today’s society, if someone steals a child they often serve less time than someone that steals money from a bank. Solomon, the king, saw and lamented the lack of justice in Israel. The prophets also complained about the injustices of their day.

It is not surprising that there are people who will oppose fair and just punishment, but God’s people should not be standing with them. We should know better. For you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, remind yourself of this, “Then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him. And He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’. Then He will say to those on the left, ‘Depart you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’.” Amen

Death Bed Conversion – Can You Be Saved Like The Thief On The Cross?

By death bed conversion I am not only referring to people who are dying and then call for a minister, but also to those who ‘plan’ their time for Christianity sometime after retirement. When someone decides to follow Jesus it should be an exciting and happy moment, but there is something , at least to me, very unconvincing about a pre-planned salvation.  It’s almost as if because they no longer enjoy doing what they want, or have done all they wanted to do, they might as well go ahead and convert.  And why live like God wants with all the sacrifices and obedience that accompanies a walk with God if it can be put off till the end? The ‘thief on the cross’ is often used or misused as a proof text to justify such a plan.

Can You Be Saved Like The Thief On The CrossWell, what about the thief on the cross? Does this passage, Luke 23:39-43, justify such a plan? What do these verses teach us about this man? Let’s see. He feared God, for he asked the other condemned man, “Do you not fear God?” He had wisdom, for he said, “Seeing you are under the same condemnation?”  He saw the illogic of insulting a fellow who was also being executed as they were.  He was like Job, for he accepted his punishment, as harsh as it was, without blaming God, for he said, “And we indeed justly, for we received the due reward of our deeds.”  He judged rightly, for he said, “But this man has done nothing wrong.” Finally, he humbly called on Jesus, for he said, “Lord, remember me when You come into your kingdom.” The charges against Jesus were well known, and above Jesus’ head was written, The King of the Jews.

The fact that he was a condemned robber did not mean he was ungodly, because there were many Jews called zealots who took up the sword, believing they were serving God by opposing the heathen Roman government; kind of like Robin Hood. Remember, even David became an outlaw for a while, and God was with him [1 Sam. 22:1-5, 23:14].  He also lived when righteousness through Judaism was possible. Only when a Jew rejected Jesus as the Messiah did their standing before God fail [Acts 13:16, 45,46, 14:1,2]. From what we can determine about the ‘thief on the cross,’ he seems  to have been a just man who knew the truth when he heard it. Repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus was not preached till after Pentecost and so not involved in his salvation. The circumstances this man lived and died under, especially being with Jesus, will not apply for anyone today, and certainly, this verse lends no support for someone to delay following Jesus till the end of one’s life.

death bed conversionThere are many people who are putting off their opportunity for salvation, thinking that there is still plenty of time for that later. Just like Felix who said to Paul, “Go away for the present; when I have a convenient opportunity, I will send for you.” The problem is that there will not be another opportunity, because for them there is never a ‘convenient time.’  We do not know when we will die. Usually death does not give much warning. To plan your conversion for a more convenient time betrays a wrong motive and attitude that has no intention of changing. To delay was not acceptable, as Paul was urged by Ananias, “Why are you waiting?” and Peter, too, commanded response to the call of the Gospel [Acts 22:16, 10:48].

To delay following Jesus is to risk everything for no good reason. People who plan on an eleventh hour conversion often die at ten-thirty. As Paul wrote, “I tell you, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation” [2 Cor. 6:2]. Amen!