The Prophecy Conundrum

The Prophecy Conundrum
By Jack Kinsella

In every generation of Christians since the time of the Apostles, there have been devout souls who have pored over the Scriptures, comparing the signs to the times and looking for evidence suggesting the imminent return of Christ.

In most previous generations, they were either revered as sages or dismissed as harmless nut-cases. But in this generation, something is different. Students and teachers of Bible prophecy find themselves in great demand or shunned like lepers.

Depending on how one receives the message, we are perceived as either hateful or hopeless, but we are certainly not harmless. In this generation, the first mental image most people have when they hear “Bible prophecy” is of a burning compound outside Waco.

It doesn’t matter that David Koresh was certifiably nuts or that he claimed to be Jesus Christ. To most people in this generation, “Bible prophecy” and “apocalyptic cult” are synonyms.

Since the 1960’s ‘evangelical’ and ‘apocalyptic’ and ‘conservative’ have all sort of run together into an image that then-candidate Obama summed up (rather well, really) in his “bitter redneck” comment.

“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

When you get right down to it, there isn’t much about Bible prophecy that this generation should be eager to embrace. I feel for one of our younger members who lamented in one of our forums that we older folks at least knew what it felt like to have a future worth planning for.

I feel it for my own children. I came to Christ in my early 20’s. God called me almost immediately to be a watchman — my kids grew up never expecting to grow up.

My son Rick will be thirty-six in August. I can still hear him in my memory, his squeaky voice just beginning to crack, asking me if I thought the Lord would tarry long enough for him to learn to drive.

I’ve been expecting the Rapture to take place at any second now for almost my entire Christian life. Every new event seems to signal that ‘this is IT!” but then it isn’t. I get my hopes up, and then I realize that my reach has exceeded my grasp.

I am not alone — I am one of an entire generation of similarly disappointed Christians who keep listening for a trumpet that never sounds. This collective disappointment is reflected by a number of recent surveys that suggest Christianity in general, and evangelicalism in particular, are on the wane in the United States.

Michael Spencer, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, paints a rather grim picture of where he sees American evangelical Christianity headed, not just in the United States, but in the Western world.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the “Protestant” 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I’m convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

This is a perfect example of the “prophecy conundrum” — that’s pretty much the way the Bible predicted it, too.

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

Assessment

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. ” (2nd Timothy 4:3-4)

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12)

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2nd Peter 3:3-4)

Prophecy is knowledge of future events — and that has considerable weight. If you don’t believe knowledge has weight, think back to some time when you were in deep trouble when you were a kid and you were waiting for a punishment you KNEW was coming.

The end of the world is a fairly heavy subject.

The knowledge imparted to students of Bible prophecy in this generation is almost crushingly heavy — I believe that is the reason that the Lord promises a special crown to those who willingly shoulder its burden.

“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” (2nd Timothy 4:8)

Watching God work has another unexpected consequence. It tends to cause us to see ourselves in the reflected light of His glory –and it isn’t a pretty sight. Sometimes when that happens, it also manifests itself in one of our forums.

There was an entry by a brother just the other day lamenting his spiritual condition before the Lord. He begins by confessing he is ‘haunted’ by the fact he isn’t sure he is saved.

Let me address that brother first, before returning to the wider issue at hand since we all struggle with that issue at one time or another.

If you can follow me around this mental circle. . . If I DIDN’T wonder if I was saved from time to time, THAT would be a reason to worry. I KNOW how far short of the glory of God I come. I know me in my innermost, darkest places.

If I was God…well, let’s just say that it is a good thing for ME that I’m not.

So if I started to think that I was good enough to be saved, and that’s why I wasn’t wondering, then maybe I wouldn’t be.

Stay with me, here. This is one of those circular thoughts that, once you get it, slings you out the other side where the light is better.

If you are wondering how can it be that you are saved, as unworthy and unfit as you are to be saved, then by those very doubts you qualify as one of God’s redeemed.

“Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” When John Wesley penned the words to that hymn, he was haunted by his sin, too.

When God works all around you, when you watch Him change the course of nations, set up and tear down rulers according to His Word, when you actually witness Him manipulating events to conform to His prophetic outline, it tends to remind you of who you ought to be before Him.

There is another lesson taught by prophecy that is often overlooked — not who you ought to be, but who you actually are before the Lord.

He knew, down to the tiniest detail, what you would be thinking and doing as you committed the worst and most unforgivable thing you ever did in your entire life — and He saved you anyway.

You are the one that He loved so much that He paid the penalty for all your sins on Calvary so you and He could be friends for eternity.

You are the one He loved so much that He told you, in advance, what to look for in the last days, so you wouldn’t be scared.

“Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God. Believe also in Me.”

There is a crown of righteousness laid up for you and me at the Bema Seat as a special reward for carrying the weight of what we know and being willing to share it while there is still time.

I believe that Michael Spencer is right. The end of evangelicalism is close — it’s no more than a trumpet note away. We can see it. We can feel it. The weight of this sin-sick world is too heavy for us to bear for much longer.

Which is why, praise the Lord, we won’t have to. He’s coming.

 

Wherefore, Contend With One Another Over These Words

Wherefore, Contend With One Another Over These Words

(Originally published in The Omega Letter, May 24, 2005)

By Jack Kinsella

From time to time, there are periodic eruptions in the forums from new members or guests who believe that it is their mission in life to correct our allegedly mistaken views on doctrinal issues like eternal security or a pre-Trib Rapture.

The Omega Letter was designed to be a private fellowship of like-minded believers who can expect consistent and prayerful teaching on the deeper points of doctrine.

One can find many different ministries that claim a number of doctrines that aren’t shared by the Omega Letter.

There are Catholic ministries, Pentecostal ministries, Baptist, Methodist, non-denominational, ministries that believe in a pre-Trib Rapture, as well as those who believe in pre-wrath, mid-Trib, post-Trib — there is even a mainstream doctrine that denies there will ever be either a Rapture or a Tribulation Period.

I don’t enter into debates with believers who take a different view. It is my contention that doctrinal differences within the Church are deliberate.

The Genesis story of the tower of Babel is instructive in more ways than simply providing the answer to the question of where all the different races and languages came from.

In that story, the men of Babel, hoping to avoid another flood, decide to build “a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven.” (Genesis 11:4)

The narrative goes on;

“And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:5-7)

Clearly, God knew that the men of Babel could NOT build a tower that reaches to heaven. Just as clearly, God knew that there ARE restraints on men, and there ARE some things that men cannot do, even if they imagine they can.

It is true now, and it was even more true then.

But, without the confounding of languages, the people WERE one, in that they had a single king who sought, by his own effort, to bring all the people of the earth together under a single banner in an expressed effort to thwart the purposes of God.

So God confused their languages, not because He couldn’t ‘put down’ a man-made effort to usurp His authority, but out of mercy, to prevent the necessity of having to punish them all.

In confusing their languages, God separated mankind into individual nations, preventing the rise of a global dictator like Nimrod who was determined to bring the whole world under a single, rebellious dictatorship.

In the beginning, the Church was one under Jesus Christ. To ensure that one man didn’t take over and begin dictating his own terms after the Lord ascended, Jesus left the Church under the care of twelve apostles.

Three hundred years later, one apostle was elevated by men to become the titular head of a single united, Christian Church, under the authority of a single man heading a single denomination.

The consequence of that effort is known to history as the ‘Dark Ages’.

Once the Church became ‘one’ under the papacy, there truly was ‘nothing restrained from them’ spiritually. The Popes of the Dark Ages appointed and removed kings from their thrones. History is filled with the accounts of the Papal wars and inquisitions.

Under the power of the papacy, the power over heaven and hell was taken from Jesus and given to the papal Church. The papal Church claimed the power to forgive sins or retain them, and made keeping Church doctrine a condition of salvation.

At its extreme, the papal Church began SELLING free passes to heaven, known as ‘plenary indulgences’, turning salvation into a commodity to be bought and sold.

It took a millennia for the power of the papacy to be broken by the Reformation, which resulted in the Church being separated into denominations, like the world was separated into individual nations at Babel.

The various denominations hold differing doctrinal views that keeps them separated into individual church groups, or denominations, preventing the rise of another superchurch.

Assessment

According to the Book of the Revelation, in the last days, spiritual Babel will rise again, under the headship of a single man, energized by Satan, and known to Christians as the antichrist.

“And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations…and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” (Revelation 13:7a15b)

During the Church Age, no such leader could ever deceive the entire believing church. There are too many minor points of doctrine that divide us for any one man to unify us under a single banner of united Christianity.

The proof is the Omega Letter. Our fellowship are all professing believers, all saved by grace through faith, all witnesses to the saving power of Christ, and all expecting to spend eternity in heaven.

Despite all that, the doctrinal differences that exist between us on a single point, the timing of the Rapture, is enough to divide us into two camps. From what I can read, there will be no compromise.

Those who reject a pre-Trib Rapture argue that expecting a pre-Trib Rapture will make believers so blinded to the antichrist that when a European leader arises who confirms a peace covenant with Israel, declares himself Israel’s Messiah, and demands global worship in exchange for a Mark that, without which, they will be unable to buy or sell, that they will accept the Mark.

According to this view, because the Rapture hasn’t happened, Christians in the Tribulation will not recognize the antichrist.

Consequently, there is no fellowship between the two camps. When they come together under one roof, all the points of common agreement fall by the wayside as each side attempts to ‘convert’ the other to their point of view.

It wouldn’t matter who came along, or how charismatic he might be, there is nobody on this side of the Church Age who could get every Christian to accept his headship.

It is the doctrinal differences that divide us that prevented the rise of antichrist during the Church Age, just as the language division broke Nimrod’s power at Babel.

To many Christians, ‘ecumenism’ is a dirty word. ‘Ecumenism’ is a doctrine that seeks to set aside theological differences in an “organized attempt to bring about the cooperation and unity of all believers in Christ.”

Why is ecumenism such a dirty word? Because a single Church body, under a single banner, sets the stage for the rise of a false prophet as described in Revelation 13. That is why most non-denominational Christians oppose it.

Every ministry has its own statement of faith. Why is that? Because they are different.

The Omega Letter’s statement of faith holds to the inerrant, Divine inspiration of Scripture. We believe in salvation by grace through faith.

I personally prefer the King James Bible for preaching and teaching, but we take no dogmatic view as a ministry.

We believe in the Virgin Birth, the Crucifixion and Resurrection, eternal security, dispensationalism and a pre-Tribulational Rapture.

One can find other, sincere, honest and Christ-honoring ministries who differ with us on several points. As a consequence, there will be no evangelical ‘pope’ who can authoritatively dictate doctrine to all Christians during the Church Age.

But the Bible says such a one will exist during the Tribulation.

The Omega Letter will hold fast to its statement of faith, because, unlike our critics, we believe that God has His purposes in this age, just as He did when he confused the languages of men at Babel.

It is not our mission to convince skeptical Christians that the pre-Trib Rapture is the correct view. We believe it is the correct view, but reject any notion that the timing of the Rapture has any bearing on salvation.

We teach it because we believe it is correct, but we have no contention with those who believe otherwise. And we have no wish to engage in pointless debate, either in our publications, or within our forums.

Having taught the Rapture in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-17, the Apostle Paul didn’t conclude by saying, “Wherefore contend with one another over these words.”

Instead, he said, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:18)

I find little comfort in confrontation.

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on May 24, 2005.

Time is running out – Top 10 signs of the times 2019

By Dr. Jan Markell, Olive Tree Ministries      https://olivetreeviews.org/

There was a time when news of last days’ significance was sporadic. I could easily do a weekly radio program and hit the highlights of the week in an hour or two on air. In the last decade, that has all changed. Now, when trying to prepare a new message on the signs of the times, I find myself having to leave out information due to volume. Some things just have to be set aside.

In light of that, let me present what I think are the top ten Bible prophecy signs of 2019. As stated, I could present 110. In some cases, these signs are Tribulation-related events but they are still casting a shadow on the Church Age. They are not in order of importance because each item is important!

1) The spirit of the Antichrist has been poured out around the world.

In dozens of countries, we see anarchy, lawlessness, rage, and violence. It even came to the heartland of Minneapolis when President Trump spoke here in October. The area around the rally turned into a war zone. It is now cool to be a member of Antifa and to create destruction.

2) The last year has seen the rise of Romans Chapter 1 behavior and thinking, the explosion of strong delusion, and the increase in the hatred of God.

There is a collective shrug over things like “Drag Queen Story Hour.” So what, yet this measures our decay more than anything else. A 6’5” male won the “woman of the week” award at the University of Montana—strong delusion.

Millions of free Americans long to have our country succumb to Socialism and some are praising Marxism. Again, an irrational delusion.

The Western world now has a rabid hatred of God that would be unexplainable had the Bible not warned us that the last days would be characterized by this sentiment. First Europe threw God out and now America is close to it. This is again delusional thinking.

Seminary students in New York are praying and confessing sins to plants. How else can these things be explained other than the pouring out of strong delusion and reprobate mind thinking in these last days?

3) In the last year, we have seen a rise in a new world religion.

The Pope of climate change has announced a global crisis. So will climate be the pathway to the New World Order? I think so. The NWO must have a crisis. It will ultimately be the Rapture of the Church but before that, their sky is falling with perceived rising temperatures.

How does an autistic teenager take the world by storm just for having a climate temper tantrum at the U.N. in September? Greta Thunberg was named the successor to Jesus Christ by her home nation of Sweden.

Understand she has a machine behind her—a globalist climate-alarmist machine. And this kind of radicalism is becoming a global religion. It will be a major component of the coming one-world religion.

4) There is a stunning rise in wickedness. Yes, evil is to wax worse and worse (II Timothy 3:13), but it is now out-of-control.

Voodoo dolls are sold in retail stores. Witches continue to try to hex President Trump as well as all Christians or conservatives. Today this makes headlines and is the lead story on Fox News.

Walmart, Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble, and others, are selling the “Children’s Book of Demons”, teaching them how to conjure demons and implement them in their lives. They advertise saying, “summoning demons has never been so much fun.”

We learned this year that the drag queen story hour is really rooted in occultism. And the world’s largest Ouija Board made national headlines.

There are now more witches in America than there are Presbyterians according to the Pew Research Center.

Netflix is releasing a new feature on January 1st titled “Messiah” but in looking at the trailer, one has to wonder if it isn’t promoting the Antichrist.

*In addition, Netflix is now offering a parody that portrays Jesus as being gay.  Any Christian that continues to pay money to Netflix, in light of these latest attacks on our faith, must consider bowing before our Lord and coming to terms with their ability to support such blasphemy.

5) The mocking and scoffing of the truth have risen to new levels (II Peter 3).

People who want to share the good news of the gospel or the hope of Christ’s return have few who will listen and those who will listen shoot the messenger and the message like never before.

Joy Behar on “The View” is acclaimed for saying Mike Pence has a mental illness because he hears the voice of God.

Have you attended a good Bible prophecy conference lately? Understand these are just “hysteria conferences.” Shame on you for believing that the King is coming any day.

Just about the entire secular Left is mocking Christianity or coming up with new laws to undermine Christianity.

6) Christians and Jews are on the run.

Christians are running for their lives and Jews are running to Israel for safety. As The Gatestone Institute reports, the number of Christians being killed for their faith is “too many to count.”

Pope Francis just stated that fundamentalist Christians are a “scourge.” Jews and Christians are the “people of the book” and the predicted last days’ condemnation on both has risen to new heights in the last year.

A pro-Palestinian group at the University of Minnesota, just 20 minutes from my home, just called for the slaughter of all Jews and had enormous local support.

Anti-Semites like Rick Wiles are gaining in popularity as he calls the mess in Washington a “Jew coup” and blames the Jews for every problem in the world. He even says their goal is to kill all Christians!

7) The “epicenter”—the Middle East—is in a shake-up.

Vladimir Putin is now being called the new “King of the Middle East.” Is this a foreshadowing of Ezekiel 38-39—the Gog-Magog war?

The players in the Middle East are re-aligning according to the Bible since President Trump abandoned the Kurds this year. Even Israel was shaken by that mistake. Many Jews are asking if Israel is the next to be betrayed?

The constant turmoil is a foreshadowing and stage-setting of a foretold event, the obliteration of Damascus (Isaiah 17:1) likely followed by the Gog-Magog War.

We are just one election away from the complete U.S. abandonment of Israel if a leftist gains the White House.

8) The efforts of the globalists were advanced in the last year.

Pope Francis continued to beat a drum for globalism. Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu continue to represent the nationalist mentality and the globalists are trying to run both out of office.

The United Nations called for global government in less than 12 years.

Europe cries for no borders and liberals in America decry borders.

The world continues to long for a single leader to make all things right as well as for the global government.

9) The Church of Laodicea blossomed and lurched even further to the left in the last year.

Apostasy is talked about more than just about any other end-time phenomenon.

Movements such as the New Apostolic Reformation gained new strength calling for Heaven on earth and emphasizing experiential Christianity. This is the fastest-growing “denomination” in the world.

Social justice and “critical race theory” became prominent in the evangelical church that once emphasized soul-winning.

Bible prophecy and Christian support for Israel fell deeper into obscurity in the church.

10) The surveillance of humanity is now big business and privacy is completely gone.

New technologies have emerged that reveal our every step is now being tracked. Someone is following our every move online and our “smart” devices, that seem smarter than humans, are spying on us 24/7. This is a set-up for Antichrist’s empire, as is new technology utilizing artificial intelligence.

Limiting my list to just ten important items forced me to leave off events such as third temple talk in Israel, record-setting birth-pang natural disaster destruction, and the stunning “convergence” of things we have never seen so prominent.

But, I hope I have helped you focus on “signs of the times” that are a herald of His coming in the last year.

And keep in mind that many of these items are going to fully blossom in the Tribulation. What we have now is just a foretaste. God will spare His Church from this wrath as we are enjoying Heaven during this seven-year period of utter chaos on earth.

While it is a challenge to be born for such a time as this, it is encouraging to know that everything is falling into place.

Awaiting His return,

Jan Markell

Olive Tree Ministries

Home


Box 1452 Maple Grove, MN 55311
(763) 559-4444 or (763) 210-8291

*added content by Life Beyond Horizons

“The Way, the Truth and the Life”

the cross

Of all the messages on this site, I believe this is the most important for anyone seeking God and it represents the foundation of this ministry, to share Jesus Christ to all that seek the Truth.  First and foremost, for all believers in Jesus as their personal savior, it is our critical mission, to share the good news of salvation.  So let me begin by saying to you, the reader of this message, how pleased I am that you are here and if you have not yet experienced the true Love of Christ, I hope you will take a few moments to read on and discover the real meaning of salvation.

What does it mean to be saved? How is a person saved? What is salvation? These terms are very common in the church family, but to the outsider or anyone not familiar with God’s Word, they may be confusing.  Let me simplify this and present the Truth, the Love of our Heavenly Father, so much so that He gave us His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for everyone.

So, you might ask, why should I believe you and what makes you an authority on the message of salvation? Let me answer that question directly, I am a sinner, and daily I fall short of the glory of God. The bible tells us in Romans chapter 3 verse 23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Satan is real, he is not some Halloween character that we’ve made up, he introduced sin into this world and we carry that sinful nature in ourselves which puts us at odds with our own Creator.  Peter the disciple of Christ gave this dire warning in 1 Peter chapter 5 verses 8, “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”

However, we have eternal hope through the abundant love from our heavenly Father as stated in John chapter 3 verse 16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Consider this fact, God’s love for us is so strong that while we were shackled in sin, he gave us the perfect plan for salvation through Jesus.  Look at what the bible says in Romans chapter 5 verse 8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  

I share the salvation message with you today because I have experienced this very gift of salvation through the sacrifice made by Jesus on that old rugged cross.  Just as you may be searching for peace in a troubled world, I came to that place in my own life where I felt the calling of God, through the Holy Spirit, realizing that sin was separating me from God, but in hearing the scriptures I knew beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ came down to this earth, He walked among us, dealt with the same temptations, anguish, and challenges that we all face and above all else, He laid down his life for you and for me. John chapter 15 verse 13 is where Jesus says, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus demonstrated a life of complete obedience to our Heavenly Father, to the point that he gave up his own life as a sacrifice for us. God raised him from the dead on the third day and Christ lives, having defeated sin and death so that we can be saved from our own sinful nature.

Don’t be fooled by those in this world that deny Jesus and continue their sinful ways.  The bible is very clear in Romans chapter 6 verse 23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Thankfully God gave us the solution to sin through Jesus Christ, who paid the debt of sin for us, by taking our sins upon his body and through obedience to God’s plan, Jesus died on that cross and shed his blood to cover our sins.  God raised him from the dead on the third day and Jesus now sits at the right hand of our heavenly Father.  All you have to do is believe, take that step of faith, ask Jesus into your heart and you will be saved.  Jesus tells us in Revelations chapter 3 verse 20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

So what is required of me to experience this gift of salvation? Surely I need to get my affairs in order and try to be a better person so that God will accept me. My life is not worthy, therefore I will need to clean things up first before I even think of coming to God. All of these thoughts probably pass through most people’s minds as they consider a move towards redemption, but the wonderful thing about God’s free gift of salvation, you do not have to do anything other than to believe in Jesus as the Son of God.  Romans Chapter 10 verses 9 and 10 clearly states, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  Jesus goes on to say in Matthew Chapter 10 verses 32 and 33,  So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”  In basic terms, it is clear from God’s Word if you believe in your heart that Jesus died on a cross for your sins and was raised from the dead on that third day, you will be saved. 

Pieta _ Soldani_terracotta 1715
(Pieta in terracotta by Soldani, 1715)   The artist depicts the crucified Christ, the angel to the left reflects sorrow and extends a hand in similar repose to the nail-scarred hand of Jesus.  The angel to the right offers a kiss and represents the hope of the resurrection to come.

In my youth, I felt that urging from the Holy Spirit, that knock at the door of my heart, and I realized that I was a sinner, lost in this world, yet one day I took that step of faith and answered His call.  Just as you the reader, if you have not yet made that profession of faith in Christ, you probably feel that same urging within you…maybe you don’t know what that is…but having gone before you to accept salvation, I can tell you beyond any doubt, that urging is the Holy Spirit of God speaking to your heart.  We are all spiritual beings that will live beyond this physical life, one day we will stand before our Creator, but if we have never accepted the free gift of salvation, we will be turned away.  Hear what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7, verses 13 and 14, 

“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

While the gift of salvation is free to all that seek it, the truth is that many will follow the broad path that leads to destruction.  Jesus tells us in these verses that the gate to eternal life with our heavenly Father is narrow and the road is difficult, few will find it.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can put this off or that surely if God is love then he will not turn me away.  God is love, but for anyone who denies Jesus and fails to confess their sins and make public their profession of faith in the resurrection, there will not be a second chance.  Right now, today, this could be your final opportunity to receive salvation through Jesus Christ.  Why put it off any longer, why risk your very soul? Jesus went on to say in verse 21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,” and he further states in verse 23,  “Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!”

If you put it off, this most important decision of faith, you could very well fall into this category as Jesus described.  On that day before our Creator, you do not want to be the one that cries out “Lord, Lord” only to be told by Christ, “I never knew you.”  As we shared earlier in this message, if you accept Jesus as savior, He will acknowledge you before God, but if not, you will be turned away.

Maybe you have searched for many years not knowing exactly what you were looking for, trying to fill that void, but I will tell you right now there is only one way and that way is Jesus Christ.  Even the first disciples that had walked with Christ, witnessed first hand his miracles and teachings, struggled to understand the meaning of His purpose which was questioned by Thomas in John Chapter 14, to which Jesus replied in verse 6, Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” 

The only way to find salvation is to believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins, confess with your mouth that God raised Him from the dead and you will be saved.  It is that simple.  You don’t earn it, you can’t work your way to salvation.  As Paul wrote in Galatians Chapter 2 verse 21“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”  You see, to think that we can earn salvation, be good enough or work hard enough is to say that Christ died for nothing.  If there were any other way, then why would God have required the life of His only Son be sacrificed on a cross.

If I make that profession of faith, what follows for me, the new believer, and what does that life look like as we move forward? Staying with Paul’s eloquent words to the Galatians, in verse 20 he explains it this way,  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  This free gift of Salvation is the cornerstone of your new life in Christ, and by accepting Jesus as your savior, you will experience the unconditional Love of our Heavenly Father.  You become a new creation, having died to the old self, renewed to a life with Christ.  

Are you searching for the Truth? As with the beautiful gospel hymn Amazing Grace, I once was lost, but now am found.  I was searching and I found salvation, it has made all the difference in my life.  Not in the way the world might expect, my life has not been made easier, I am not immune to the same challenges and trials that we all face, but when you take that step of faith, knowing you are a sinner, asking Jesus to come into your heart, you receive not only the free gift of salvation and eternal life with God, but you also receive the Holy Spirit that will now dwell within you throughout your life.  The Holy Spirit will guide you and discern the Truth of the Word of God and your faith will grow and the Lord will guide you to the path that He has laid out for you.  You will never be alone again and as you join with other believers in fellowship, you will experience the abundant life that Jesus promised to those that believe.

Are you ready to take that step of faith? You can do so right now, right where you are.  Say this prayer right now to God,

“Dear heavenly Father, I have been searching to fill that void in my life and today I know that the only way to fulfillment is through Jesus Christ.  I believe that Jesus is the true Son of God, that He came to this earth, walked among us, and gave His life as a sacrifice for my sins.  Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected to life on the third day, He defeated sin and death, he paid for my sins so that I can have the gift of eternal life.  I confess that I am a sinner, but today I accept Jesus as my savior and I ask Him to come into my heart.  Thank you, Lord, for the gift of salvation.  Amen.”  

Thank you for reading this message. Did you just reach out to God and accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ? If so, please reach out to us and share your own good news through this link –  I have accepted Jesus Christ  We want to pray for you and celebrate your new life as a believer in Jesus Christ.  We hope to hear from you today, no strings attached, we don’t want your money, we want to help you get started on your new incredible journey with God.

For those that are still searching, maybe you don’t feel like you’re ready to make that decision, we hope to hear from you as well.  We want you to know and experience the Love of Christ, the same Love that we have experienced in our own lives.  It is the most important decision you will ever make.  Please do not let the opportunity of salvation pass you by.  Click this link and share your questions and thoughts – I want to know more about salvation

 John Stephen Frey, Director and Senior Editor, Life Beyond Horizons 

J Stephen Frey

 

view counter  9,628

Death of the Church – “Comfort Zone Christianity”

dying church

When we get up on Sunday morning and drive to church, do we ever consider the health of our church?  We expect it to be there, week in and week out, doors open, temperature set just right, music planned out, sermon prepared within the time allowed so that we can get in and then get on our way.  Church in America is comfortable, consistent, pre-planned and delivered in a tidy package each week to the faithful.  Deviate from that organized delivery model and church leaders will hear about it in no uncertain terms.  Regular complaints include temperature, too hot or cold, music too loud or too contemporary and of course the pastor went too long with his sermon.  Overall these are not seen as problematic, sort of the usual stuff, but how is the health of our churches in America?

There are two standards to be considered, attendance and spiritual well-being, one of which should be easy to gather but the other is not something that can be measured.  Of course, most would agree if spiritual well-being is thriving then attendance will be the first place to reflect it.  That should go both ways, at least in logical consideration, but that is up for debate.  In any case, let’s start with the numbers which are not as easily found as you would hope.  Gallup is a well known and respected polling institution that addresses just about every aspect of life in America as we know it, from business to entertainment, politics, and religion.  According to the numbers from a Gallup* telephone survey in 2017,  of a random sampling of about 1,000 Americans nationwide, interviewers ask respondents questions such as, “In the last seven days, did you attend a church service, excluding weddings and funerals?” to determine their church-going habits. From this survey, 40 percent responded yes, which would indicate nearly 130 million people attended church last Sunday in America.  However, according to a more in-depth research study conducted by the Evangelical Covenant Church, taking data from over 200,000 orthodox Christian churches over the past 10 years, the actual number of people in a pew each Sunday in America is closer to 52 million, nowhere near the numbers that Gallup would extrapolate from their random samples.  More troubling is the overall percentage this represents, basically 17 percent of America goes to church each week.  Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but at the surface, they do not speak well for the spiritual well-being of our congregations or for the outreach efforts from the church.

Our one true calling that speaks to all Christians is the great commission given by Jesus Christ in Matthew chapter 28 – to go and make disciples of all nations.  Period.  That is our calling, yet across America, our churches are not reflecting this in their attendance numbers.  The reasons are many but let’s take a few examples from some of those best suited to address this troubling issue.

passion and testimony

As president of the Bridgeleader Network, David Anderson, senior pastor and founder of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Maryland., has consulted with church leaders nationwide. In his work, he has observed a noteworthy and troubling trend within the mid-sized congregations across the country.   He has found more than half the mid-sized congregations have lost or unintentionally turned away from their evangelistic focus, and instead adopted what he calls a “club mentality.”

He explains it like this, “You have just enough people not to be missional anymore.  You don’t have to grow anymore to sustain your budget.”  They hit that comfortable sweet spot where needs are no longer driven by growth.  They’ve arrived so to speak.

That is a dangerous place to be, just big enough to comfortably pay the bills but not so big that you have problems making room for more classes, additional services, and all the issues that come with growth.

Thom Ranier, CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, gives this example, “We have become so comfortable and complacent with the way we do church that we don’t want any outsiders to mess it up. In other words, we will fight for the precise worship style or carpet color we want, but we will yawn at the thought of our neighbors going to hell.”

Let that sink in for a moment…

When the church embraces its own sovereign space, celebrating within the comfortable confines of its own creation, surrounded by a like-minded social circle, they stop reaching out, instead choosing to focus inwards. It becomes the responsibility of those on the outside to find their way in – while the church turns its energy towards social justice, no longer testifying to the love of their creator, replaced instead with a spirit of protest to all that is wrong in the world.  Isolated inside this bunker of truth, they lose sight of their one true calling – to share the love of Jesus with a lost world.

The church today is not silent, in fact, speak of abortion and organizations like Planned Parenthood and you’ll have plenty of church members ready to speak out.  But is that our true calling, to beat the drum in the name of social justice? That’s not to say the church should avoid speaking out, but the priority of our mission seems to be lost in the shuffle.  If Christians embraced their duty as missionaries in daily life, demonstrating and sharing the good news of our Savior, think of the impact that would have on these other social issues.  Life Beyond Horizons conducted an unscientific review of social media posts made by various religious organizations and individuals that our team tracked over a 6 month period across several popular social media platforms and what we found speaks volumes.  From our sample of posts that referenced religion, 64 percent spoke about social justice and/or church persecution, ranging from abortion to freedom of religion to various behaviors seen as encroachment on church values, while 32 percent were uplifting messages of happiness found in religion, the Bible, or in Jesus, most specifically, how to feel better or how to become more empowered.  The remaining 4  percent were prayer requests for individuals or groups.  In all of these posts, do you see what is missing? We did not find one single message on social media that called to the lost with a message of salvation.  Not one single message of salvation, either from an individual or an organization that we tracked.  Are we afraid of offending someone? (Read our message What are you afraid of?  for more on this issue)  What if we fought for lost souls just as hard as we fight for the unborn child? What if we trusted in Jesus and believed in our hearts that He truly is the miracle worker, then set our priorities towards salvation first? Imagine saving the lost and the impact that would have on our social issues.  If you follow what I’m saying, I believe you will see that salvation trumps everything else.  Answer this question, do you think we fight for change in an effort to make this world more palatable for our own existence? We don’t like being uncomfortable, so we stand up for change, we want to protect our right to religious freedom so we can worship in the way we choose – but why? If we are not serious about reaching the lost by explaining our own salvation story, sharing how Jesus died for our sins so that we can have atonement through his sacrifice, if that isn’t our passion, then I say religious freedom does not matter.

The Dying Church 2.jpg

What many have come to realize is the church in America has become complacent, or what we would define as a “comfort zone” type of Christianity.  While speaking up for the unborn is very important, as are many other social issues that go against the moral values that we hold dear, we need to take a step back and look at our priorities, both as individuals and as congregations.  Do we care about outreach, serious outreach, not just follow up emails to visitors that took the time to fill out a card on Sunday morning?  Do we think our nice facilities or location in the community are the best outreach? As Thom Ranier said, “we became so enamored with the worship service we concluded that it was our outreach. But cool and dynamic worship services are not outreach into our communities. They are attractions to attend.”  It is similar to a church that thinks its prime location, such as being right off the town square, somehow equates to outreach.  It’s not like the premise of the movie “Field of Dreams” with its catchphrase, “if you build it, they will come.”  If that were the case, how do you explain the 83 percent of America that sleeps in every Sunday morning? Do we really yawn at the thought of our neighbors going to hell? Honestly, I wonder how many people in the church actually believe that hell exists?

I engaged in a conversation not long ago with someone that did not agree with my concerns, namely that the church as a whole is failing in preparing and sending forth its members to witness, and he used a very popular “mega-church” in the Houston area as an example.  He cited the massive crowds and even larger television audience as proof that the church is thriving.  My reply, if that’s the best example you have, you just helped make my case that the church in America is dying.  You see, it’s not all about numbers, and his example is a church of what I call “feel good evangelism” or the prosperity faith that has dominated our TV airwaves for decades.  (Read our message – “The False Doctrine of Prosperity Faith” for more about this dangerous doctrine).  Yes, I’m speaking of the Joel Osteen ministry, the “how to be your best self” and “how to be happy in life” doctrine.  His church attendance by some estimates is in the thousands each week with a television audience purportedly in the millions.  I pointed out that if you listen to his message or read his books, you will notice that Jesus is largely missing, its focus is on personal happiness while avoiding talk of sin or the consequences.  This church, and many others that model after this so-called doctrine is described to us in 2 Timothy chapter 4, verse 3, 

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear.

Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, an undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, recently shared this regarding the ministry of Joel Osteen.  “Joel Osteen has all the marks of a sincere person. I just finished watching the profile of his ministry on 60 Minutes, and there is not one thing about him that looks phony. He is one of the most likable, loveable fellows that you’ll ever see. I really think he believes everything he is saying. That is why what he does is so awful. The prosperity gospel that Osteen preaches will damn the very people he intends to help (if they believe it), and he appears completely unaware of the darkness into which he plunges his followers. Osteen’s lack of awareness of his own blindness was prophesied in the scriptures: ‘Evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived’ (2 Timothy 3:13). If anyone has ever been deluded by his own error, it’s Joel Osteen.”

To sum it up, not only is the church in America in decline, we see ministries around us filling the void with a message that distorts or outright deceives believers and unbelievers alike.  Regarding the prosperity message and being your best self, listen to what Jesus says in Matthew chapter 16, verses 24 through 26, 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it. For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life?

There is nothing wrong with being happy, but in the context of Christian faith, we find true happiness through dedication and perseverance.  If we are led to believe that happiness is found in worldly possessions or by putting ourselves and our own well-being first, we are being deceived because this message runs in direct opposition to the teaching of our Lord.  Jesus warned us that we will be hated for his sake, life as a true believer in Christ comes with the promise that you will be persecuted for your faith, but we have the added assurance that Jesus will not forsake us and one day we will be together with Him in glory.

Matthew chapter 7, verses 13 and 14 states,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Do you have the assurance of salvation today, knowing in your heart that you have accepted the free gift of salvation that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ? If not, please don’t wait for the “right time” to make that decision, reach out to us right now with your questions or concerns and let us help you gain that blessed assurance that you have been redeemed.

Romans chapter 10, verses 9 and 10 give us the following guidance to salvation,

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

To the faithful, are you evangelizing according to our shared calling from Jesus? If you truly believe that you have been saved through grace, that Jesus Christ died for all sinners, then step up and share that message!  The world is lost and we are the light, but if we hide that light under a bushel then what good are we? Share the gospel, as Charles Spurgeon exhorted, “anywhere and everywhere!” Make sure that you are doing your part and if needed call out your church to do the same.  Is your congregation actively involved in true outreach in your community? If not, or if you’re not sure, ask the question and push for real outreach.  It’s not a hobby, it is a direct order from our Savior.  We should feel anguish in our hearts to know that narrow is the gate and few will find it.  Get involved, don’t wait for someone else to take up the charge, follow our Lord’s instructions and lead the way.

 

John Stephen Frey is the author of this message and serves as our director emeritus and member of the prayer team

 

view count     4,217

*data for this post taken from churchleaders.com, article dated April 10, 2018, titled “7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America”

**additional statistics from Lifeway Christian Resources, Evangelical Covenant Church research project 2017 and Gallup.

Bought at a Price

passion of the Christ 2

Life is measured in seasons of time as predictable as the sunrise and sunset of each passing day.   We busy ourselves with the tasks of daily life, working, raising a family, which often leaves little time for anything else.  It can become a drudgery, these gears of life grinding away, stealing our joy, leaving us to wonder what is it all about? We surround ourselves with things, distractions from our toils, always looking and planning for the next big thing, a vacation, a new car, sometimes anything to help us look beyond our current circumstances.  But why? There it is, that ever-present question, the one we bury deep inside – what does it all mean and what is my purpose in life?

With each passing month, we work our way through this tangled existence, hoping to meet the demands that press against us.  The rent or mortgage payment is due, car payments, credit card bills, this never-ending circle of requirements often become all-consuming.  Sometimes you just want to escape from it all but it never stops, time just keeps coming at us, relentlessly, and round and round we go.  There has to be more to life than all of this…

Believers wait and watch for the hour of our Lord’s return as the world around us crumbles under the weight of transgressions and denial of the Creator.  Pressures continue to mount against those that believe in the Word, having received salvation through Jesus.  It is hard to watch as the world, blind to the truth, spins more out of control each day, while evil grows and spreads like a plague.  While seekers clamor for answers and believers seek the Lord for strength to persevere, let’s step back to the beginning and follow the path of God’s perfect plan that leads to the one true answer, the way, the truth and the life.

John Chapter 1 verse 1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  Verse 14 further states, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

In the previous reference, John speaks of the beginning, which is also detailed for us here in Genesis chapter 1 verse 1, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  When we put that together with the words from John chapter 1, we know that Jesus was there at the beginning of creation.  The Word was with God, the Word became flesh.  Jesus came to this earth, walked among us, shared in the trials and tribulations we all face, then in perfect obedience to God the Father, Jesus died on a cross for our sins.  But let’s look even deeper, to gain a full understanding of why Jesus came to this earth as an atonement for sin.

The Bible tells us that God created day and night, He separated the land from the seas, He created all manner of creature, both in the seas and on land.  But something was missing, creation was not complete until God created man.  However, we also know that God created all angelic hosts, which included the most beautiful of the angels, the one called Lucifer, as referenced in Isaiah Chapter 14 verse 12,

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 

In Ezekiel Chapter 28, in verses 12 through 16, Lucifer is described in this way,

You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God.  Every kind of precious stone covered you:
carnelian, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and emerald. Your mountings and settings were crafted in gold; they were prepared on the day you were created.  You were an anointed guardian cherub, for I had appointed you.  You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the fiery stones.  From the day you were created you were blameless in your ways until wickedness was found in you.  Through the abundance of your trade, you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I expelled you in disgrace from the mountain of God, and banished you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.

From this, we know that God’s perfect creation, including man, was set on a collision course of good against evil, as Lucifer was cast out of heaven, along with the legion of angels that followed.  Satan, as he became known, so despised God that he made it his mission to seek and devour all of mankind, like a hungry lion prowling about as described in 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 8, 

Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.

Why did Satan fall? It can be summed up in one word, pride.  It is revealed in Ezekiel chapter 28 verse 17,

Your heart became proud because of your beauty; For the sake of your splendor
you corrupted your wisdom. So I threw you down to the ground.

It was through the sin of pride that Satan fell from grace and turned on mankind as we read when he encountered Eve in the garden.  In Genesis chapter 3, Satan used the serpent to tempt Eve by contradicting God.  The instructions had been made clear, of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God forbid them to eat.  Satan tickled the ears of Eve by deceiving her into thinking that if she ate of this tree, she would become as God with all knowledge and wisdom.  Adam and Eve both ate the fruit of the tree and became aware that they were naked and they hid from the Lord.  When God came into the garden in the evening he called out to Adam, “where are you?” God knew where Adam was but in calling out to him, he was indicating that they had become separated by sin.  Adam was asked what he had done and he blamed Eve and in a sense blamed God as he explained the fruit was given to him by the woman that God had created.  At this point, the perfect creation of God was corrupted, sin had entered into man and this sinful nature would be passed through every generation.  Adam did not repent of his sin in disobeying God’s command regarding the tree of knowledge, instead, he made excuses, blamed others and in so doing, all mankind suffers the consequences of that day.

So why did God create us if we were doomed to failure and sin? Was God lonely, was he taken by surprise that Man sinned against him? Satan would love for us to believe that he was able to sneak into the garden of Eden and ruin creation without God having any knowledge, but that is not the case.  Man was created by God and given a free will, but it is a mistake to think that man has autonomy over God’s plans, that sin was introduced by happenstance and God needed a new plan to rectify the situation.  God knows the future events as demonstrated throughout the Bible, both in prophesy and by the very words of Christ as he foretold his own destiny.  Furthermore, we know that God not only possesses foreknowledge of events, he plans those events and puts them into action.

Isaiah chapter 46 verses 9 through 11 

Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying,  “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.”

We see it throughout God’s word time and again as the prophets were given knowledge of things to come according to God’s plans and purposes.  It even carried forward through Jesus as He walked on earth.  Jesus foretold the disciples of the coming crucifixion and resurrection.  Jesus told the disciples at the last supper of the betrayal of Judas and of Peter’s coming denial.  Therefore it is without any doubt that we can know there is nothing that surprises God.  Not only does he know the future, he plans for it and carries out his purposes according to His will. So we wonder why did God create mankind, was He lonely? I think it is best answered by C.S. Lewis,

“God did not make us because He was bored, lonely, or had run out of things to do. He created us to be the objects of His love! Sometimes our actions make us unlovely, but we are never unloved. And because God loves us—we have value. And nobody can take that value away. God’s love revealed at Calvary fastens itself onto flawed creatures like us, and for reasons none of us can ever quite figure out, makes us precious and valued beyond calculation. This is love beyond reason. And this is the love with which God loves us.”

When we try to fathom this abundant love, we grapple in our attempts to reason it out and often times this leads to frustration as we struggle to comprehend God’s true purposes for our lives.  The Apostle Paul writes in Romans chapter 8 verses 37 through 39,

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In our own limited ability to reason this out, we look for balance, a way to justify the means to an end.  However, we always come up short in trying to determine a way that we are good enough to justify the love that God shows to us.  Some will simply give up and say this is ridiculous, God would not create man simply to make us the objects of His love, but consider this undeniable extension of that love in Romans chapter 5 verse 8,

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

This brings us to the amazing grace extended to all mankind from our Creator.  Satan introduced sin and all evil into this world and he continues his all-out assault without ceasing.  If Satan hates God, then why does he attack us? Genesis chapter 1 verse 27,

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Because of God’s unending love for us, we have value in His sight, and this value causes Satan to seethe with rage against us.  We are created in the very image of God.  We are caught in a spiritual battle, a tug of war for our very souls, yet in all of this, God also created the perfect plan of salvation.  We are not hopelessly lost, for we have a way out, not because of anything we do, but because that very love that brought about our own creation is why Jesus died in our places as a living sacrifice to cover all of our transgressions.  God values each and every one of us, so much so, that he provided a path for our redemption so that we may move on from this brief time on earth, to an eternity with Him.

John chapter 3 verse 16 says,

For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

The Bible further explains this pathway to salvation in Romans Chapter 10, verses 9 and 10;

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 

Jesus and Mary 2

Paul the Apostle of Christ reminds us in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 verses 19 and 20,

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

We give ourselves over to God completely when we accept salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  We are no longer our own, we belong to God.  Jesus took our rightful consequences upon himself, and tho he was without sin, he paid the debt that we could not pay.  Jesus laid bare his back and took the scourging of a Roman soldiers whip.  Jesus then carried our cross through the streets along the Via Dolorosa or the way of suffering, where he was then nailed to that cross at Golgotha where he died a slow and agonizing death for our sins.  That is the price of our salvation, the cost paid by Jesus so that we may find redemption and avoid the wages of our own iniquities, which is death and eternal separation from our Creator.

Unfortunately today, a new religion has sprung to life, enjoying great success as they share a message of love of self, how to be happy, how to enjoy life in this world with catchy phrases of sunshine and good times with very little mention of God, or the price of sin and the payment that Christ made on our behalf.  This watered-down form of religion allows people to hold onto a form of godliness without the baggage of all that talk of sin, after all, they will tell you, “who are we to judge others?”  Paul spoke of this coming age and warned against it in 2 Timothy chapter 3, saying that people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful and proud, holding to a form of godliness but denying its power. We are warned to avoid such people.  It’s a religion of rainbows and unicorns and while it may seem harmless, Paul warned of this, to turn away from such teaching.  Don’t be confused, we are not given the authority to judge, God has given that over to Christ, and make no mistake, one day we will all stand before him and be held accountable for our lives.  But sharing and teaching the truth of the word of God is not judgment, it’s compassion for those that have not found salvation, we share the truth in hopes that others will come to a place of repentance and experience the gift of salvation.  The most basic of all truths that apply to everyone is found in Romans chapter 3 verse 23,

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

The good news continues in the same chapter as we read in verses 24 through 26,

And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This is why we share our faith, as we are instructed by Christ, so that the world may come to know the true grace of God.  This is not about holding sin over someone’s head or elevating our own status at the cost of others, that’s another lie perpetuated by Satan to keep the lost from hearing the truth.  We are all sinners and all of us, including the writer of this work, deserves to die and be separated from God forever.  Thankfully, we have come to know Jesus and in Him, we have placed our faith and trust, this is what we share, this wonderful gift of eternal life which includes a life more abundant on this earth.  As C. S. Lewis once wrote, “if you aim for heaven, you will get the earth as well, but if you aim for the earth, you will receive neither.”

How terrible for anyone to have to stand before Jesus on that day and hear him speak the words from Matthew chapter 7 verse 23,

And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Satan is real, the spiritual battle is on-going, the crucifixion of Christ was a bloody, humiliating and violent death…Jesus paid the price for our sins…we are bought at a price.  Our hope comes through the resurrection when on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead and he now sits at the right hand of our heavenly Father.

But let’s not fall into another trap, seeking the kingdom without understanding what it is and our responsibility in leading the lost towards the light.  When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time, he was lauded as a King and cheered as a conquering hero.  The people expected to see the long-awaited kingdom of God to be revealed right before their very eyes.  They were anticipating an overthrow of the system that they had come to despise.  It had less to do with their passion for the Messiah as much as their own selfish desires to see their occupiers turned away in defeat.  When this did not occur, they turned against their Messiah and joined together in rage as they called for his death.

Where is the kingdom? The people had no desire to share in the faith of Christ, to be changed in their hearts, to turn away from their sins, to love their fellow man, they wanted justice and revenge.  In many ways we see this misguided effort in our own churches, we want our institutions of government to conform to our ways, we want justice, we stand on the steps of the supreme court and shout for right and push away those that need to hear the message of salvation the most.  We say we want revival but our actions say we want political change and justice even more.  Revival will not come through political activism nor from the voting booth.  We can’t demand institutional change and expect that the hearts of non-believers will be changed from the outside in…change and revival will only come from the inside out.  We should be expending our most fervent energies on reaching the hearts of those that do not know the good news of Jesus Christ.  We have a calling as believers as laid out for us in Matthew chapter 28, the great commission, to share the love of Christ with everyone so that they might come to a place of repentance.  Paul the Apostle extolled the virtues of patience and gentleness when he spoke in 2 Timothy chapter 2, verses 24 and 25,

The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. 

Yet we demand political change and justice, we call for institutional control, although we forget that true justice would be death for our own sins and eternal separation from God.  We don’t deserve salvation, we deserve to pay the wages of our sins.  Who are we to stand and demand justice? But that doesn’t stop us, we jeer at non-believers, shouting them down as if they truly deserve the punishment of God.  How easily we can forget, we are all sinners and not a single one of us deserves the love of God.  Romans chapter 6 verse 23 says,

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We have traveled a long way, from creation through redemption, asking the questions of purpose in life and living in God’s amazing grace, so let’s take hold of this great redemptive story and share the passion of our Christ, our savior and Lord.  Our purpose is to strive to be like Jesus, to accept God’s unconditional love and to share that love with one another.  Paul the Apostle so eloquently taught that we should turn away from impurity and ignorance in Ephesians chapter 4, verses 20 through 24, 

But that is not how you came to know Christ, assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus, to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.

Finally, Paul continued these teachings of patience and kindness in verses 29 through 32,

No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by him for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

We have found the kingdom of God, it resides within the hearts of believers, by the grace of our heavenly Father.  So let’s seek revival by starting in our own heart, praying on our knees that God will search our hearts and minds and show us His will as we journey through this life in preparation for the next.  We know that God’s principles and moral foundations work, but let’s not become distracted in our pursuit of change, expecting a lost world to adapt to our ways.  To bring about change, to turn the world back towards God, we should focus on the hearts of man, not the institutions of man’s creation.  We have made it abundantly clear to the world the things that are offensive to God, but in this time of greatest need for redemption, I challenge all believers to get on their knees as servants, called by Jesus Christ, and go forth with patience and kindness and share the true and unconditional love that we have come to know through our salvation.  Share the gospel anywhere and everywhere.  We are all one through Jesus Christ.

We here at Life Beyond Horizons thank you for reading and we pray that God will truly bless you and keep you.  If you have needs today and would like for us to pray for you, please share your requests with us through this link Prayer requests.  If you have questions about salvation or want to know more about Jesus Christ, please contact us through this link I want to know more about Salvation.

 

John Stephen Frey is the author of this message and serves as our director emeritus and member of the prayer team

 

 

view counter   5,441

Williams Racing joins with Life Beyond Horizons to share the good news of Jesus Christ

Alex Williams Racing 2
(Williams Racing #33x ready for the 2018 season – Alex Williams, driver- team owner)

Life Beyond Horizons (LBH) ministry is going racing!!! We are so proud to see our logo, the old rugged cross, on each door panel of Alex Wiliams race car. The season kicks off at Lonestar Speedway in Kilgore, Texas later in the month of February 2018.  If you are a race fan in Texas or if you are visiting the area, be sure to support Alex Williams this season and stop by to say hello.  When this ministry had a chance to approach Alex about a possible sponsorship deal, we were met with wonderful enthusiasm and a partnership was born at that moment. We at LBH ministry are always looking for ways to expand our outreach to maximize the potential for sharing the good news of salvation and being a resource for prayer and bible study.  That desire is what led us to reach out to Alex Williams as he prepared for the 2018 racing season and was taking on new sponsors for his team.

 

20180215_080325
clockwise from upper left, door panel with LBH logo/Old rugged cross and the website, large LBH banner to be displayed at various events, close up of LBH logo

We recently had a chance to ask team owner and driver, Alex Williams, some questions about racing, team ownership, and his personal faith in Jesus Christ.  Here are some of the highlights of that conversation.

First of all, thank you, Alex, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions for our readers here at Life Beyond Horizons.  How were you introduced to racing and what drove you to decide to become a driver and build your own race car?

Racing is very much a family affair. My Dad, uncle, and youngest brother participate in drag racing events. My cousin and I play with Hondas and attend events from time to time. My middle brother also races dirt oval and is usually my pit crew on a race weekend.

Sounds like it’s safe to say racing is in your blood. What is it like for you as a driver, after all the prep work is complete and you get behind the wheel knowing the race will begin in a matter of minutes?

When I first get in the car I’m usually running through my checklists, did we get everything checked and adjusted properly? Once I have all my safety gear on I like to sit in the car and take deep breaths. At this point, my heart rate has usually gone up and I am just trying to remain focused. About a year ago I began praying before I went on track. I thank God for all the blessings and everything He has provided, my talents and abilities, my support, and the privilege to participate in racing. I pray for safety for myself and the other drivers and I pray for confidence and wisdom. Also, I pray that God will let me glorify Him in some way through these efforts.  I don’t feel like I always succeed but that is very important to me and I strive to always put forth my best efforts in that regard.

That is very well said Alex and a great reminder of how important it is to allow the love of Jesus to show through in all we do, even in competition, so that we can glorify God.  So let me ask you this, it must be very satisfying to use your God-given talents to build a car from the ground up and be competitive at the track, even against the bigger teams with more resources? 

I do take a great deal of pride in knowing that I can go out and run in the top ten with guys that have been racing for years in cars that have been built and set up professionally. Not to take anything away from my fellow drivers, they have to work hard and drive well too, but I enjoy the amount of success we’ve experienced given our limited resources knowing we did all of the work ourselves.  It’s that much sweeter when we have a good weekend and get to enjoy the fruits of our labors.  It is a true blessing from God to be able to work with my hands and do what we do.

Alex Williams racing 4
Alex Williams enjoys a victory lap during the 2017 season

Once the season is underway, how hard is it to keep the car operating at peak performance from one race to the next?

How the previous race weekend ended up determines the amount of work that is needed to prepare the car for the next race. That is the nature of racing. We are asking a lot of our equipment each weekend; the engine has to run for fifty laps at full throttle, we bump and rub, slide through corners, all while racing in the dust and mud. We can come home pretty beat up, but on a good week, we can check everything over, give the car a good wash, prep our race tires and load it back up for the next race. Time is the biggest challenge that I face. My wife and I are currently foster parents to a three-month-old baby girl that we have fallen in love with, plus my mom is battling some health issues, so balancing family life and shop life can get complicated.  I am blessed enough to have a wife that enjoys dirt track racing and the support of both of our families.

Since we’ve been talking about racing it seems only appropriate to change gears at this point. I’d like to know, when you were first approached by our ministry, Life Beyond Horizons, about a possible sponsorship deal, what was your initial reaction and what convinced you to say yes?

My first thought was “what will everyone at the track think?” But once I got past that sort of typical reaction, I just knew that it was a direction that God wanted me to accept.  It’s really connected with what I had been praying for last season. This ministry sponsorship will allow me to glorify God in more ways than just how I conduct myself at the track.  By agreeing to have your logo, the old rugged cross on both sides of my car, it lets me step up and put my faith out there for everyone to see.  It will bring an outlet for His word into a place not normally reached by a Christian ministry.  It will be a challenge in some ways but a challenge I am looking forward to taking on. I have already seen God bless us and the racing season hasn’t even started yet.

At this time I do want to point out to our readers, the sponsorship deal was to have our ministry logo on both doors of your race car, but I want everyone to know, you took it a step further and asked us for a large banner that you could display at your events and you wanted our ministry cards that you could hand out.  This goes so much farther than simply putting a logo on a car, you have stepped out in faith and have become an active partner in our ministry and in our shared calling to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.  I know you don’t want any accolades but we are so inspired by your efforts and just appreciate it so very much.

What final thoughts would you like to share with our readers?

I am a racecar driver, but first and foremost, I am a Christian and I’ve put my faith in Jesus Christ.  I am human, I make mistakes just like everyone else and even though I’m a believer, I still stumble and fall short at times, unfortunately that’s our human nature, but I hope for anyone that comes in contact with me at the shop or at the track, you will know something is different about me. If I’m doing my job as a believer, you will see the love of Christ in me.  I want everyone to know that I am approachable, if they need to talk about anything, need prayer, or want to know more about salvation, please don’t hesitate to ask.  I am not ashamed of my faith and would love to share it with you or at the very least, let me give you a ministry card that will direct you to the Life Beyond Horizons website where you can find answers about salvation and request prayer.   

I also want to challenge other Christians, take a step forward, get out of your comfort zone and follow my example in sharing our faith.  Don’t be ashamed of your faith, take this step with me, it is definitely out of my comfort zone, but its what we are called to do.  In addition, I ask for your prayers as I take on this challenge in the new season.  I pray that I can set an unwavering example in our community, knowing we will have many eyes on us this season at race tracks and car shows.  I hope to successfully glorify God through our racing program and in partnership with Life Beyond Horizons ministry. 

Alex Williams racing 3
Williams Racing

Alex, thank you again for taking this bold stand in partnership with our ministry here at Life Beyond Horizons.  You are an inspiration to so many and we are glad to be able to share your story with our readers.  You are truly representing the words shared by the Apostle Paul when he wrote in Romans chapter 1, verses 16 and 17, 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.

In conclusion, we look forward to your season and pray for your success both on and off the track.  For anyone interested in finding out more about Williams Racing, the 2018 season and the various car shows where you can see the car in person and meet the driver, just go to our contact page and request more information, we’ll be glad to send it to you. 

As always, if you or someone you know needs prayer or is seeking more information about salvation through Jesus Christ, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us through this link –   Prayer Requests

 

John Stephen Frey is the author of this message and serves as our director emeritus and member of the prayer team  

 

 

view counter  1688