Death and Life

About a year ago I was visiting a museum in New York City and I found myself totally engrossed in the image of a sculpture, a small pieta of Jesus, laying in repose after the crucifixion, with an angel on each side – one in mourning for our Lord’s death, the other raising a hand to signal the coming resurrection.  As I stood in silence staring at this sculpture before me, I was moved to tears as this one image brought it all to the forefront of my mind – “yes, this is Christ, in death, yet still in life with the coming resurrection.”  The most complete visualization of hope – knowing that through his great suffering and ultimate sacrifice of his life for ours, He will conquer sin and death once and for all, so that we may live in grace, redeemed in the eyes of God.

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.

Today we live with more uncertainty and fear in an unsettled world filled with anger and seemingly without hope – who could even imagine a society in total lock-down as a deadly virus runs rampant across the entire globe – and the recent protests and civil unrest related to race relations and the police.   Many are wondering, is this the end times that the Bible warns about? Jesus told his disciples in Matthew Chapter 24 verses 3 through 8,  And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” And Jesus answered and said unto them, “Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

Certainly, many things we see today could be a signal that we have indeed entered into the “beginning of sorrows” that Jesus referenced.  Just as our own lives will one day end, we don’t dwell on it, but our own mortality is inevitable.  We as believers also know the end of times will come, as foretold in the Bible, according to God’s plans and no man knows the date or hour, only the Father in heaven.  Based on that, I can’t say “the end is near” or whether or not we are truly entering the “beginning of sorrows” – but given the signs that Jesus referenced, I do feel that we are nearing that time.  So how does that relate to mankind right here and now? To the reader, maybe you aren’t sure about your own condition, spiritually or otherwise, and maybe you would like to know more – I encourage you to read on as we continue with our discussion of death and life.

Every person has the opportunity to reconcile with God through our savior Jesus Christ, but it is not out of fear that we should seek redemption, but from a place of surrender as we acknowledge our own separation from God, our sins and transgressions, and then accept the free gift of salvation through Christ. God does not blame us for existing within this fallen world, but because God is perfection, He can not dwell with us unless we are redeemed within this lost existence – which is why He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to sacrifice his very life so that we could be made new.  This ultimate sacrifice by God towards mankind is the free gift that brings us into that close relationship with our Creator that was intended from the beginning.  This is the only way to redemption, as pointed out by our Lord in John Chapter 14, verse 6,  Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Plain and simple, Jesus is the answer to that age-old question that we all face – is this brief period of time that we spend on this earth all that there is? What happens after we take our final breath – do we simply return to the earth as human debris buried and eventually forgotten – or is there more? Most people spend their time avoiding that question or they work it out in their own mind, creating their own version of a god – usually it goes like this – “I believe in a higher being that loves us and when we die we go on to a better place.”  This is a dangerous approach to a serious question – one that impacts our eternal life beyond this brief period on earth – but for so many, it helps settle the issue or it provides some form of relief so they don’t have to get down into the weeds of spiritual life.  Honestly, to a certain degree, I get it – many people that I speak with about faith and religion are so put off by the modern-day church in America that they would rather spend their time anywhere else than in a seat on Sunday morning surrounded by all these nicely dressed do-gooders.  I can’t say that I blame them – the church in the last seventy or so years has become more of a club than an outreach to the masses and the message of eternal life, the “Good News” of the Gospel regarding Jesus has been lost in the shuffle.  Television preachers to a great extent have watered down or totally taken the message off course to suit their own desires leaving many wondering why waste their time.  Overall I do not think that our modern-day churches are going to receive the warm welcome by our savior that is expected – collectively so many have dropped the ball.  I could write all day on the topic, in fact, I would encourage you to read our message  Death of the Church – Comfort Zone Christianity which goes much deeper into this sad spiritual decline from within our church of today.  So why should we even bother with these issues? Because we are eternal beings, created by God, and we seek answers because we know there is more, we feel that void in our own lives that can’t be filled with material things or busy careers – we hunger for that fulfilling relationship with God whether we realize it or not.  In this journey of discovery, we need to be careful and heed the warnings of the apostle Paul in his writings to Timothy (2 Timothy chapter 3) – where he speaks of those that will create their own form of religion and will hold to a “form of godliness” but will deny the power of God.  Paul warns to avoid such people and beliefs, for the dangers this represents goes far beyond the simple idea of settling the debate internally – it puts those very people at risk of losing everything in eternity.  We see this all around us and far too often in my experiences I hear from people that have not accepted Jesus into their hearts express a “form of godliness” through their own ideas of what a creator or higher being represents to them.  My response to that is to ask a simple question – what do you truly believe and what is that based upon? Have you taken the time to just stop and consider what path you are taking – have you reconciled with God? We are given the gift of salvation, eternal life through Jesus, not by our own works or good deeds, but because God loves us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  That’s the message of hope – you are of great value in the sight of God, our creator.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or how you’ve lived your life, either good or bad or indifferent – God’s love is there for you – this free gift of eternal life that through Christ bridges that gap that stands between us and our heavenly Father.  Simply through your one step of faith, believing that Christ died for you and was resurrected by God, that relationship with our creator is fulfilled.  Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Have you ever just sat down and thought it over – what do you believe?

Jesus says in Revelation chapter 3, verse 20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him…” 

Think about it in this context, Jesus chose 12 disciples as his first followers while he walked this earth.  They saw miracles upon miracles, the blind made to see, the lame healed to walk again, even the dead returned to life.  One of the boldest among them, Peter, even having seen these miracles first hand, denied three times that he ever knew Jesus as the soldiers arrested Christ and lead him away to his crucifixion.  We know now that Peter went on to be that “rock” that Jesus had described of him, “upon which I will build my church,” but in those days leading up to the cross, Peter cowered in fear for his own life.  But what happened to bring about such change in Peter following the crucifixion? What changed in him, so much so, that he went on to establish the early church and lead thousands to know and accept Christ as Lord and savior? Peter saw the resurrected Christ – on that third day following the cross, Jesus was risen! It was through this miracle of the resurrection that Peter was changed forever – to stand firm in his faith, to preach the good news of the Gospel, to lead the new church even when the Roman Emperor Nero had him arrested.  Peter could have saved his own life at this point by once again cowering in fear and denying Christ – but Peter knew the truth, he witnessed first hand the death on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus.  This faith would not fail, Peter stood firm and declared Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, even to the point of his own death by crucifixion.  By accounts in the public record, Peter did not feel worthy of death in the same manner as his savior, Jesus, and he requested to be crucified inverted as a final act of submission and respect to his Lord.

That is what we, as believers, celebrate at Easter – the confirmation of God’s eternal plan to rescue mankind from the clutches of our enemy, Satan, through the death and the life of our savior, Jesus Christ.  It confirms “the way, the truth and the life” of which Jesus described himself.  This truth continues to this very day as we annually celebrate the Resurrection, for through Him we are saved to eternal life.  Do you know Christ?  Have you made that profession of faith described in Romans Chapter 10 verse 9,“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;”  I tell you right now, you can have peace, you can be released from a life of fear and uncertainty – all you have to do is take that first step of faith and accept the truth – Jesus is the true Son of God, he gave his life as a ransom payment for your sins.  All you have to do is believe – it’s that simple.  You don’t have to do anything else, in fact, you can’t do anything to earn this gift from our loving God.  The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 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, if we could earn our way to salvation, if we could uphold the laws or through any other manner of living gain a pass into heaven, then it would mean all the suffering and sacrifice of our savior Jesus Christ on that old rugged cross was for nothing. Our good deeds should come as a result of our salvation, not as a way to earn God’s favor.

So once again, I ask you, do you know Jesus? We sincerely want you to take that step of faith and accept the free gift of salvation through your professed belief in Christ right now…today.  Please don’t let this moment pass, you may never have this opportunity again.  Remember this, in the eyes of God, our creator, you have great value – God wants you to take this step of faith and accept his gift to you.  Salvation.  It is here for you today.  Or you can put it off, tell yourself you’re not ready or you’ll think about it later…you can go back to living in a world filled with turmoil, wondering if these signs point to the “beginning of sorrows.”  Remember, once we reach that point, truly the end is near.  Don’t wait, don’t live another day without facing the question and settling the answer once and for all.  Nothing would be worse than one day to discover, your time has passed and you never settled the issue with God.  

If you wish to know more or want to speak with us about salvation – please reach out through this link  –   I want to know more about Jesus and salvation

We also encourage you to read from these messages that will take you through the simple steps of salvation and even includes a sample prayer asking Christ into your heart.  This is what our ministry is all about, sharing the good news with everyone, so that you might take that step of faith and accept Jesus Christ as your savior.

Pathway to Salvation

The Way, the Truth and the Life

Thank you for reading our message of hope and faith, we hope it speaks to your heart.  Please contact us if you’ve made that step of faith or if you have prayer requests or want to know more about this message.  We are here for you.

John Frey –  Director and senior editor, Life Beyond Horizons Ministry

Why Jesus?

Jesus

“Religious faith is above all a sign of faulty thinking, of ignorance;” observed noted atheist, zoologist, and author Richard Dawkins in a recent story published by The Guardian. Mr. Dawkins would further explain his desire, a call to action, was to educate the ill-informed out of their mistakes. He breaks it down into a simple explanation, in which, religion is nothing more than “an organized license to be acceptably stupid.” His two-fold mission is to promote science and demolish religion, by which he has demonstrated a very active and often times combative approach in denouncing the latter.

Christianity is seen by many as a faith of the uninformed, often dismissed by the educated elite as some form of ignorant bliss, a way for the uneducated to manage life and its many challenges while holding onto some ridiculous belief that an ever-present higher being is watching over them. As quoted above, Dawkins “acceptably stupid” label would have to be applied to some of the greatest minds of science that shared a belief in God, including Galileo, Copernicus, Newton and of course, Einstein, who famously stated, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” They will debate with great “facts” of science on their side while mocking and deriding the bible as nothing more than stories passed down from one generation to the next. This overly simplistic dismissal of theology is exactly the type of “ignorance” the atheist throws upon the believer. In reality, to claim science as “fact” versus theology as “fiction,” is to dismiss the very foundation of theory, vis-a-vis the gathering of factual data or phenomena to support a specific group of scientific propositions. I would say to this, not from a religious standpoint but from that of common sense, where would you rather cast your fortunes, on an ever-changing theory of scientific proposition or the unchanging Word of God?

Let us take the example of noted mathematician Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier, who developed a mathematical solution that addressed a scientific problem regarding the highly unusual orbit of Mercury around the Sun. Mercury’s orbit did not fit any known scientific theory of its time, in fact, its unusual pattern of orbit seemed to contradict and baffle science well into the nineteenth century. Le Verrier determined, based upon his own mathematical formulations, that another planet must exist somewhere between the Sun and Mercury that was influencing the orbital patterns through gravitational energy. He went so far as to name this yet undiscovered planet, Vulcan, in honor of the Roman god of fire. Le Verrier’s theory became widely accepted, namely for putting to rest this on-going scientific contradiction, thus becoming scientific “fact” of the day, which heavily influenced European astronomers to the point that hundreds of “sightings” of this new planet began to pour in from Europe and other parts of the globe. When Le Verrier died in 1877 he was highly regarded for having discovered a new planet in our solar system, Vulcan, which had put to rest the unexplained orbital oddities of Mercury. However, the existence of Vulcan, supported by Le Verrier’s scientific “facts” and the hundreds of “confirmed” astronomical sightings that followed, became mere fiction upon the publications in 1915 of Einstein’s theory of relativity which gave new data to the orbital relationship of Mercury around the Sun. Vulcan was unceremoniously retired from existence, although given a nod of appreciation in the sci-fi show Star Trek, as the home planet for the character known as Spock. While the numerous “sightings” of the planet Vulcan became an embarrassment for the field of astronomy, they too were quietly swept under the rug and forgotten. Lacking in pomp and circumstance, the scientific community declared, “Nothing to see here, move along.”

Present this or the myriad of similar examples of scientific “facts” that were later quietly dismissed and swept under the proverbial rug of advanced knowledge, most of the educated elite will justify this as yet another example of the evolving knowledge of science, categorized as a form of progress due to their ability to admit mistakes while improving upon what we know of the world around us. They will further surmise, straight-faced as it were, that it is a credit to their superior abilities to keep an open mind, whereas the static Word of God serves to reinforce their presumptive inference of the closed-mindedness of the religious zealot. It seems beyond hypocritical to embrace science as “fact,” even as they continually change their own outcomes when boxed into the corner of their own illogical conclusions, while theology, having not the need to change the Word of God, is equated to a closed-minded worldview for nothing more than its own unfailing integrity. Science is not without great merit, and we do not choose religion over science, to the contrary, we embrace the advancements in science that allow us to improve our own lives while in many cases we come to a greater understanding of how magnificent the work of God is throughout the world he created.  Science continues to evolve due to the undeniable fact that theory only stands until disproved through the development of new theory. All the while, standing alone, unchanged through the millennia, is the undeniable Word of God. I ask you again, whether you are a believer or not, through common sense, where would you cast your fortunes?

Why Jesus? There are plenty of naysayers willing and able to speak against Jesus, as given by the example of Richard Dawkins who is seen by many today as the leader of the modern atheist movement, but what about the other side of the story, what about Jesus? Why would a non-believer seek to know more about this Christ, savior of the world, as opposed to simply going along with the status quo, taking science on its word and being content? The answer is this, whether we are brought up in the church or not, we all at some point seek to know more about the spiritual world because we are living spirits, eternal beings, made in the image of our Creator. Many atheists find it insulting that children are exposed to religion, fearing it forces beliefs upon them at an impressionable age. They will say it’s irresponsible or even equate this to child abuse. Again, Dawkins does not mince words in this matter, as taken from a recent twitter rant on the topic, “How dare you force your dopey unsubstantiated superstitions on children too young to resist. How DARE you.” At this point, I do have to weigh in on the fact these very same people, including Dawkins, want to get the “theory of evolution”…which is a theory…in front of these same young children and present it as fact in teaching. Let’s not hide behind rhetoric, this is not about the offense of pushing religion on impressionable minds, this is about getting a foothold at an early age with a pagan theory to gain influence and thereby add to the ranks of non-believers. Dawkins wants to crush religion, he is very clear about that. But believers know, whether it is allowed to coexist in the classroom or not, the spirit will search for what the spirit desires.

What we have come to understand, those of us that believe in God, knowing that we are not merely physical beings somehow conjured from the muck and mire of our planet, is that a great spiritual battle is playing out all around us. If you truly do not believe in God, then nothing in the bible should hold any relevance at all. So why does it bring so many atheists to a point of bitterness and severe anger towards the entire concept of God? The answer lies in the reality that there is an on-going war in the spiritual world. We are not just a random collection of atoms, we share in this spiritual existence as beings created by God, given free will as individuals, thus allowing for our informed decision to which side we will stand. We can ignore the spiritual question, seeking out various preoccupations to divert the mind, however, everyone comes to that place and time when you have to face up to it…the eternal question…because we are spiritual beings, the spirit must be fed. We can convince ourselves that it is our choice to accept or deny the very existence of God, when in fact, we are only able to choose which side we will stand. This is why we see atheists lash out with unbridled anger and unmitigated disgust towards believers, they have made their choice, but when they wake each day, God is still there in all his glory. They will claim they are angry because religion is what is wrong with this world and we should stop practicing our faith, it offends them. Yet in America today, religion has been all but removed from the public eye, it is not in schools, civic events, town squares, in fact, you can very easily go days, weeks, months and longer without ever having religion as part of your daily routine. So why the anger and bitterness? We all know the true answer; because each day God is still there and we are still spiritual beings with an innate desire to know Him.

Atheists postulate belief in God is to shut off all reasonable thought and close the mind to all possibilities outside of one limited reality, to purposely remain ignorant, to take the easy way out. They see themselves as true seekers of knowledge, ever evolving to the world around them, refusing to acquiesce with accepted ideas, when in fact, they are running from the truth, refusing to acknowledge their creator. They run, gathering about them as many like-minded doubters as possible as if this were some election or popularity contest, yet after all their misguided efforts to the contrary, God still exists.

Unfortunately, many that choose to ignore God, or worse, deny His existence altogether, will also devalue the very life that He created. A recent twitter thread where many dealt with the question of how to handle a pregnancy if you knew the unborn child had downs syndrome, saw Dawkins offer this flippant reply, “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” Such a cold retort, simply toss this one in the trash and give it another try, as if human life were on the same level as buying cottage cheese at the grocery store only to discover it had passed it’s “sell by” date. In his own words, vicious attacks, overall arrogance and disdain for those that disagree, he demonstrates his own distance from God. We should not expect any other type of behavior than this hatred and general disgust aimed at humanity, after all, he has purposely moved as far from God as possible, but to see it is disturbing and shocking. It brings a level of hurt for the things spoken against our heavenly Father, but also a sense of sorrow for his soul, knowing that he has not experienced the complete and unconditional love of our Creator.

What role does the church play in getting the message of faith and forgiveness to the lost world we share today? The question is straightforward, but the answer is as varied as the number of denominations worldwide. Believers are well versed in the great commission found in Matthew chapter 28, to make believers of all nations. However, the application of that charge is not so simple. Some feel persecuted, in many cases rightfully so, which generates an active response in the form of debate, legal actions, and so forth. Many believers in America choose to exercise their faith through the voting process, securing their beliefs within the electorate at the state and national levels. Some get involved in charity work in their local communities, helping feed and clothe those in greatest need. Many others simply occupy a seat on a church pew once a week and go home. I list these few examples, not to place importance on one above the other, but as an observation, while reminding us to slow down and remember the question….why Jesus?

If a non-believer approached you right now and asked you about Jesus, maybe they see something different about you which has piqued their curiosity or possibly they are dealing with turmoil and seek answers. Are you ready to give an account, a testimony, something that would bring a person to a decision for Christ? 1 Peter 3 verse 15 states, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, ” instructing the body of believers in how to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Notice within this verse, Peter points to the scenario whereby the believer is asked to give the reason for the hope they display in their daily life. This tells us, we are to go about our daily activities, at work, running errands, conducting business with others, in a manner that displays our inner hope, that peace that comes from the living Christ that dwells within our hearts. Matthew 5 verse 16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” The greatest testimony we can give is in the demonstration of life with Jesus, conducting ourselves in a manner that separates us from the world, being that dependable and steady influence through the good times and the bad. Remember that the Lord places us in the path of those that are seeking the truth, we must remain faithful in our daily walk with God. Being active in the word through daily devotion and prayer, which gives us the strength we need to persevere through the trials we will face, so that in all things we will honor Christ our savior.

If the non-believer only hears from Christians when we are upset or feeling persecuted, when we litigate in the courts and shout in protest in the streets, why would they decide they need to be part of that belief? Once at a concert, I was with a group of people waiting for the venue to open it’s doors when we found ourselves under attack from a street preacher with a bullhorn. For the next fifteen minutes, he peppered us with an angry attack on our souls. In his eyes, because the music was not to his liking, he condemned us to eternity in hell unless we turned immediately from our wicked ways.  When he finished, everyone had this puzzled look and the reaction was as if a crazy person had just been set loose. I thought about it and wondered, he probably had the best intentions, but his message was lost in his own anger and disgust for sinners. Again, if non-believers were there, as I’m sure they were, I cannot imagine a single one of them walking away thinking to themselves that they want to be part of that belief. Why Jesus?

This is what I know beyond any doubt, I myself am a sinner and daily I fall short of the expectations set forth by my heavenly Father. My life has been unworthy of the love of God, yet while I am still a sinner, God gave me the incredible gift of salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ. I have done nothing to deserve this unconditional love and even on my best day, I am incapable of any actions or good deeds that would earn this favor. Paul reminds in Galatians 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!” If we could earn our way to salvation, if we could uphold the laws or through any other manner of living gain a pass into heaven, then it would mean all the suffering and sacrifice of our savior Jesus Christ was for nothing. Our good deeds should come as a result of our salvation, not as a way to earn God’s favor. So let the light of Jesus Christ shine brightly in your spirit so that a lost world may see and desire to come to believe in Him. In all things and circumstances, rejoice in the Lord. Remember the exhortations of the apostle Paul to the church at Philippi, Philippians 4 verses 4 through 7, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Through our salvation in Jesus Christ, we have gained the peace of God and in our daily lives, the many challenges and tribulations we all face in this world, believers have that eternal peace that surpasses all human understanding. This as much as anything else answers the question, Why Jesus?

I ask those of you that are believers in Christ to answer this question – honestly – have you shared your testimony with a non-believer in the last week, month or year? If not, why not? We are not spiritual sleeper cells waiting for that encrypted code word to activate our mission.  The time is now! The signs of our Lord’s return are all around us, simply read the news and it’s all right there playing out before our very eyes.  Jesus explained it this way to his disciples that before the end there would be a time known as “the beginning of sorrows.”  I believe we are now in that very time period.  Read it here in Matthew chapter 24, verses 6 through 8, And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” Believers are not to be troubled by these signs but should be filled with hope.  But we are not to sit on our hands and simply wait, we have been called to action.  The very last command given by our resurrected savior before he ascended to the right hand of God was to make disciples of all nations.  We have work to do and a very limited time to do it.  Be that light to a dark world, go about your activities with joy and hope, so abundant in your heart, that it shines for all to see.  God does not want any to be left behind.   

To believers, embrace the love of Jesus in your hearts, share this love with gentleness and respect, through actions and words, throughout your daily walk with God. Let those around you see the light of Christ within you, that peace that surpasses understanding so that they will want to know why you are different. Be prepared to share your testimony of faith so that non-believers will come to know that love which has been freely given as a ransom for many. Do not get caught up in angry discourse, debating the relevance of God, we do not have to reserve the last word for ourselves. God will work this out in his own time, we do not need to fight on his behalf.  Acts chapter 17, verse 25, Paul declares in reference to God, “And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”  While we share our beliefs, we do not compromise our values or water down the truth to make Jesus seem more compatible with the worldview, but at the same time, remember to be gentle and kind, mindful that your calling from Christ is to make disciples of all nations, win the lost to Jesus, that is our goal. Let this be your litmus test, when considering debate or protest in the name of God, pause and consider your actions, will they lead the lost to know Jesus as their savior, or will you sow the seeds of discontent and further drive them away? Trust in God so that you know He will defend himself according to His own plan. Shine the light of peace that you’ve been given through salvation and share this love at every opportunity. God will work out the rest.

In closing, if you are seeking answers, let us know by reaching out to this ministry with your questions and prayer requests. You can remain anonymous, but know that believers are here and waiting to hear from you so that we can share this incredible gift of salvation through Jesus Christ that we have come to know in our own lives. Why Jesus? We can answer that in a way that will change your life forever. Read our message “The Way, the Truth and the Life”  then reach out to us with any questions or prayer requests you may have.  May God bless you, we appreciate your visit to our site, please feel free to follow us, share our site with friends and family, and come back often.

 

 

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

J Stephen Frey

 

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Message of Doom? Or Message of Hope?

Pestilence, rumors of war, disease, ….is our world spinning out of control or is this part of God’s plans?  We are happy to share this message from our friend in Christ, Jack Kinsella.  For those that have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, there is nothing to fear, but if you have not made that decision to follow Christ, the coming judgment is near as we are entering the final days, also known as “the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:8).  Don’t delay, time is short, please reach out to us if you would like to know more about Jesus our savior – we are here for you right now to share what salvation is all about.  We hope all of our readers find this article informative and helpful as we all face these final days before the great judgment comes upon this world.  *Please follow this link to learn more or to request prayer  –   I would like to know more about Jesus Christ and salvation 

crisis of fear

The prophecies of the Bible for the last days ARE a lot of doom and gloom — the very purpose of the Tribulation is to judge a Christ-rejecting world. It is called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, the Day of Wrath, etc.

It is the time of God’s judgment on the world — and there isn’t much cheering going on. Three-quarters of the world will die of the plagues and judgments during this period. (Revelation 6) One-third of the trees on earth will burn up, (Revelation 8:7) a third of all sea life will die, a third part of the ships will be destroyed in a sea turned one-third to blood. (v.9)

The judgment extends from the earth to the heavens:

“And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.” (Revelation 8:12)

It isn’t a pretty picture to contemplate. Especially in light of the very next verse:

“And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!” (Revelation 8:13)

No wonder much of the Church prefers the replacement theologian’s view that all prophecy was fulfilled with the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70 and that Revelation and Daniel are figurative or allegorical rather than predictive.

Sir Isaac Newton is reputed to have observed,

“About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation, in the midst of much clamor and opposition.”

Now that we live in that time, Newton’s observation sounds almost prophetic. There is a HUGE clamor surrounding the study of Bible prophecy. The prophecies for the last days are so terrifying, many would rather allegorize them away.

We are not living during the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. But our world is preparing itself for that time as we sit back as astonished eyewitnesses. The chaos that seizes the planet during the Tribulation has its beginnings during the last days of the Church Age.

Jesus warned that there would come wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences and so on. He warned that,

“All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:8)

The signs of the times are all around us and they are scary. They are scary even to many saved Christians who know the signs mean the Day of the Lord is at hand. They are scary to Christians who believe the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins.

There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that the Church Age will escape bad things in the last days — just that it will be removed before the beginning of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble.

Bad things are already happening. The wars. The rumors of wars. Famines. Earthquakes and pestilences. All on an ever-increasing scale of frequency and intensity. But Jesus said,

“all these things MUST come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (Matthew 24:6)

The ‘end’ He refers to is the ‘end of the (Church) age’ (Matthew 24:3), so we know it’s going to get uglier.

Assessment

Those are all good reasons to get depressed with the ‘doom and gloom’ of Bible prophecy. It’s easy to get caught up in it — especially when examining the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how things fit together, and what Scripture says should be next on the global agenda. Since nothing particularly pleasant is prophesied to come upon the earth, studying it in detail gets pretty depressing.

And there are all the people we know that are not yet saved — we know that time is running out, that they won’t listen, and that is even more depressing.

We see all the tiniest details of God’s plan being played out before our eyes, but the details obscure the bigger picture.

This is GOD’S PLAN! Before the world began, God knew exactly how things would play out. He told us in advance of each event. He told us that fulfilled prophecy was His Signature;

“Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.” (Isaiah 45:21)

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1)

In this generation, we live in an age of miracles. There appears that there is nothing that science won’t be able to accomplish eventually, thanks to the advent of computers. We can replicate almost any miracle except one.

We cannot predict the future. It simply can’t be done. No computer could calculate every detail of every life in advance, which is what would be necessary. Should one person do something unexpected then the whole course of future history would change?

Bible prophecy was given to the Church in the last days for the same reason that the Apostles were given miracles, signs, and wonders following Pentecost.

In both instances, God’s Authority is proved by God-given signs.

It was by the Authority of God, authenticated by miracles, that the Apostles proclaimed the birth of the Church Age at Pentecost.

It is by the Authority of God, authenticated by fulfilled prophecy, that the Bible proclaims the end of the Church Age in this generation.

Taking into account the bigger picture, Bible prophecy isn’t ‘doom and gloom’ at all. It is incontrovertible evidence that cannot be shaken by modern scientific ‘miracles’.

When the skeptic argues for evolution and random selection, trotting out fossils, skeletons, and diagrams, it seems pretty convincing. Maybe the Bible isn’t all that literal, after all. Maybe science has got something there…maybe…(!)

But when one compares the accuracy of the Bible’s account of the unknowable future to the ever-changing scientific ‘explanations’ for the distant past, doubts melt away. The skeptic has multiple explanations for static events that have already happened.

The Bible gives a single explanation for a fluid, changeable series of events predicted to happen thousands of years in the future — the events that define our present day. Which is more convincing?

Bible prophecy proves Jesus was the Son of God, regardless of the latest scientific, archeological or historical discovery. No matter what else might be offered as ‘evidence’ to the contrary, there is no other explanation for Bible prophecy. It is our generation’s unique miracle.

It proves that He remains in charge of the affairs of men. Scripture records His Promise in all three Gospel accounts,

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35Mark 13:31Luke 21:33)

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:” (2 Peter 1:19)

Bible prophecy is proof positive that God remains on the Throne, that His Word will NOT return to Him void, and that all the chaos and terror of the world notwithstanding, all continues to go according to His plan.

Given the unbeliever’s explanation of uncontrolled chaos, Bible prophecy isn’t all that depressing, after all. What WOULD be depressing would be to be among the lost, not knowing what this world is coming to, and believing the world is in a state of uncontrolled chaos.

For the believer, Bible prophecy can be pretty encouraging, which is what the Lord intended for the last days’ Church all along:

“But these things have I told you, that WHEN THE TIME SHALL COME, ye may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16:4)

By Jack Kinsella

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.

Trusting in God

faith

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” 
Proverbs 3:5-6

Having grown up in a southern baptist church, I have fond memories of the old hymns, the classics, that we would sing in a regular rotation each Sunday morning.  One, in particular, had this familiar chorus, “trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Now that might not seem like much, but the meaning of this brief refrain runs deep and true, holding a decisive truth upon which Christ taught throughout his ministry on earth.

Faith is the foundation of our hope, as stated in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We pray in faithfulness, seeking God’s direction and guidance in all things.  When we are troubled or facing uncertainty in life, we turn to our heavenly Father for his help.

Do we always know how to truly reach out in faith, to petition the Lord and trust in Him to work those things out for the best, according to His will? Over the years I have learned some valuable lessons in faith, having failed many times in my approach to God in seeking help with my problems.  Specifically, praying to God with certain needs and requests, then meddling in the expected outcome because I was not willing to wait, to exercise my faith.  By rushing ahead of God, I spoiled the opportunity to grow in my faith and receive God’s best for my life.

The greatest example we can observe in regards to prayer, faith, and accepting God’s perfect will comes from Jesus.  The hour was fast approaching for His betrayal at the hands of Judas, the subsequent crucifixion, and in these verses found in Matthew chapter 26, verses 36 to 39, we see in excruciating detail the proper way to petition our heavenly Father.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  He said to them, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.”  Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  

Gethsemane

Jesus was facing the darkest hours of his time on earth, yet knowing God’s plan and trusting in the Father’s unfailing wisdom, He sought not his own will, but the perfect will of God.  Jesus was filled with sorrow and grieving to the point of death, His own words to the disciples, and he fell facedown and prayed.  Picture that scene and try to imagine that point of grief.  Obviously, this is the extreme of grieving to which we hope never to face ourselves, but we all have times when we are afraid, maybe we have lost a job or face great uncertainty in other areas of our lives.  At that point, we turn to God, earnestly seeking help from the storms of life that rage all around us.  That is when our faith is tested and through these trials, we grow in our faith as God provides for us.  But it takes patience through faith, placing our needs at His feet, then trusting and waiting on God’s perfect timing to deliver us according to His will.  It may seem simplistic, but we should always remember if God all at once solved every problem we would face from this day forward, not only would we not need our faith, we would never grow in that faith which is what sustains us.  In addition, as we are delivered from our suffering through faith in God, our testimony is strengthened and useful in sustaining other believers that will face similar circumstances.

Philippians chapter 4, verses 6 and 7 says, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  

A very important part of the faith process is to be patient, wait and allow God room to work things out according to his purposes for our lives.  Our human tendency is to reason things out, but we are limited in our view of each situation, but God is all knowing and is always at work for the best results according to His plans.  Often we come to God in faith, yet we bring our own solutions and we try to place our requests before God while including the expected outcomes that seem logical in our mind’s eye.  Or we do the same when we step up, with good intentions, to help others in need by praying for a given solution that makes sense to us but may not be aligned with the plans God has for that other person.

Look at the example of Peter, the strong voice that believed in Christ with all his heart, as demonstrated when Jesus asked the disciples who did they believe him to be, Matthew Chapter 16 verse 13, Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Yet we also see the well-intended Peter as he failed to understand God’s perfect plan of redemption for all humanity when he pulled Christ aside after Jesus had shared with them the coming persecution, death, and resurrection.  Peter believed that Jesus was the true Son of God, but he had given up everything to follow Christ, he was unable to reason it out in his own mind that he would have to watch Jesus die.  Peter was bound by his own small view of the world around him, thus remaining blind to the greater works of God.  We can see in hindsight why these things had to happen because we see the entirety of the perfect plan of salvation.  Peter was in the moment, as we are when we are faced with difficulties and tragedies, but we must learn from this lesson and put aside our own reasoning by trusting in God, knowing that His plan is perfect and His timing is to our benefit.  Peter suffered a terrible rebuke from Jesus for not trusting in God’s plans.

Matthew chapter 16 verses 21 through 23, 

From then on Jesus began to point out to his disciples that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to you!”  Jesus turned and told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.”

So what does this mean for believers and where do we go to grow in our faith? Remember this verse, Romans chapter 10 verse 17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  We must strive to know God better each day and the way to grow in knowledge and faith is through the study of the Word of God.  Through this, we will learn to understand and trust in God’s will for our lives and the lives of others.  When someone needs prayer for illness, we always go first to the request for healing, but what about praying for the afflicted to remain faithful, humble and steadfast in their commitment to the Lord.  We may pray for healing, but God may have other plans for that person’s life and their testimony.  I’m not saying it is wrong to pray for healing, to the contrary, but in this and all situations, we should strive to put aside our own reasoning and know that God is working all things for the good to those that are called by his name.

We thank you for reading our messages and we hope you find them helpful in your journey of faith through God our heavenly Father.  We encourage you to share our site with others, to use it as a way to witness to the lost and as a resource for learning through the many links shared on this site which you will find here –  “Helpful Resources”

 

 

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

 

 

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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

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“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

 

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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

 

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*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

 

 

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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.

 

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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  

 

 

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What is wrong with the World?

death

No doubt countless times you’ve either heard it asked or raised the question yourself, “what is wrong with the world?”  Each day as the news cycle rolls on, we see story upon story of illicit and deviant behavior, stories of rage and hatred, political unrest to the point of tearing apart the very democracy that serves as the foundation of this nation.  Recent statistics indicate many are simply tuning out to avoid this unending dark reality of today’s world. So we ask, “what is wrong with the world?”

Believe it or not, nothing is wrong today that hasn’t been wrong since Satan introduced sin into our world. Ecclesiastes chapter 1 verse 9 says, What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” Every generation that comes along has that time when they think their ways and ideas are new, innovative, challenging the status quo…yet we all come to realize that we are only passing through for a short time and truly nothing we do is original, our approach to life, relationships, our sins, have all been lived out before we arrived and will continue long after we are gone. 

The proper question to ask today is why has the world changed? Why do we see more evil, immorality, despair, and hopelessness all around? Look no further than the systematic removal of God from our society.  We do not live in a vacuum and everyone should face the hard truth, when you remove Love, the void is filled with Hate.  God is Love in the purest form, Lucifer is Hate.  Look around you, the world we see today is a world that has refused God….do you like what you see?

In our current information age, we see and hear the news in real time from all corners of the globe.  We are often bombarded with negative stories, one after another, at times without ceasing.  You cannot go one day without seeing evil, depravity, despair, it is everywhere.  This world has turned away from God, we have removed Him from the public eye, from schools, courtrooms, civic spaces, and so I ask, how is that working out?

what has been

Satan spews his vile hatred and deceit at every opportunity and a lost world takes it all in and then falls into his traps.  Satan runs a masterful endgame, provoking the weak, the lost, those that he can manipulate to a point of vengeance and even murder, and then the evil one whispers into the ears of the lost and believers alike and poses the question, “why would a loving God allow such things?”  Satan is guilty of all evil yet clever enough to hide behind his cloak of subterfuge causing the world that he hates to turn against the Creator.

We read from Romans chapter 1, verses 28 through 32,

And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful.  Although they know God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.

The world today cries out for justice but then blames the just.  Satan perpetrates his evil desires upon man, then convinces man to blame God.  2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 through 5, offers this warning concerning the difficult times we face,

But know this: Hard times will come in the last days.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.

Satan's end game2

That sounds very similar to the earlier warnings in Romans, the Apostle Paul was well aware of the traits and devices that would be used by Satan and we see it now at every turn.  Instead of succumbing to the evil one, listen to the sound instructions from Paul in Ephesians chapter 6, verses 10 through 18, 

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.  For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.  Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace.  In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God.  Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.

We all have choices to make but thankfully for believers, there always remains hope, even though dark days are ahead.  God will deliver us from evil at the appropriate time.  We must continue to share the good news of salvation to a lost world that is without hope.  The search for answers is not to be found unless the seeker is willing to accept the truth.  The bible states in Romans 1 verses 19 and 20,

Since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse. 

God has revealed himself to man since the beginning of creation and it is clear, we have no excuse. The path chosen by this world, which has delivered us into the hands of the enemy, is described in detail as we continue to read verses 21 through 25.

For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.  Therefore God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.

The world will continue to ask why these terrible things happen, but until they turn back to God and stop applauding those that espouse evil and hatred, they will find no answers.  Politicians will not solve the problems of today, government cannot restore hope to a lost world.  Paul boldly proclaims his faith and in so doing provides the one true answer that eludes the lost world of today.  Romans 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.”

Let us all live by faith, share our faith boldly, and bring those seeking the truth to a place of salvation.  The only answer to our question is found in revival, bringing a lost world to a place of repentance, believers standing up and boldly sharing the power of God through salvation in Christ.  Just as the great Charles Spurgeon admonished the faithful in his day to get out and share the good news, “Sit not down in idleness and fold your arms in indifference to the world’s woes. Behold, your compassionate Lord sends you, therefore go gladly anywhere, everywhere.”

Finally, if you are troubled by what you see in the world today or feel all hope is lost, do not give up, we can offer you a place of peace that surpasses all human understanding.  What we offer is the peace that comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Reach out to us today through this link  Prayer Requests, Questions, Comments  and let us pray for you.  Read our messages, Pathway to Salvation followed by “The Way, the Truth and the Life”, then send us any questions you may have so that we may help you come to know our Savior.  We thank you for visiting our site and we pray for God’s blessings upon your life.

 

John Stephen Frey, Director and senior editor, Life Beyond Horizons

 

 

Time is short

anger

Anger, bitterness, hatred, it seems to be everywhere, surrounding our culture and permeating every aspect of our lives.  It seems that our safe havens are not immune, sports and other forms of entertainment no longer offer the escape we so desperately crave.  Journalism, once a bastion of integrity and impartiality, seems to have embraced its own agenda and no longer reports the news of the day but preaches the ideology of its brand, tilted towards the right or the left without apologies to anyone. Late night comedy, long a source of parody towards the events of the time, has now drawn a line to which the viewer must stand and celebrate or become another part of the punchline.  We are being overcome by the dark evil spirit of hatred and anger…bitterness is the tone of the day.  Parody is now a  cheap mockery, debate no longer exists, you either agree or become the target of the oppressive voice that controls media, entertainment, and the news.  Justice is not balanced, up is down, right is wrong, do not question the worldly agenda or you will pay a heavy toll.

2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 – 5 gives us this warning,

But know this: Hard times will come in the last days.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.”

Never in my lifetime has there been a time where this has been more applicable than today.  Read it again and take a moment, dwell on the words and note how many of these descriptors are evident to you.  Not just in the world but unfortunately inside the church, we see it creeping in and destroying the very truth of God’s word.  “People will be lovers of self, lovers of money…”, this describes the numerous false doctrines that are thriving today in churches all over the land.  The danger of the prosperity message is the application in our lives, the destructive turn down the path that leads to the love of money and love of self.  There is a reason these warnings are listed at the very beginning, they carry the greatest weight of destruction.  Matthew chapter 6 verse 24 states the following, “No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  Jesus did not come to share a doctrine of contradictions which is why we warn often of the deceit found in the prosperity message, you simply can not pursue riches on this earth and avoid the idolatry and divisive nature that comes with it. I encourage you to read “The False Doctrine of Prosperity Faith” to find out more regarding this topic.

We live in the time described by Jesus when he replied to his disciples as they asked for signs of the end times.  Matthew chapter 24 verses 3 through 8 states,  While he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus replied to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many.  You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these events are the beginning of labor pains.  These events are all around us, political unrest, wars and rumors of wars, North Korea and Iran both in relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons, earthquakes and tremors are reported almost daily, all at a volume we have not seen in our times.  

So what are we to do? Is all hope truly lost? To the contrary, as believers, we have hope and peace in these confirmations of our faith.  These words are beyond prophetic, they are now a living example of the world we see today.  For non-believers, or to those that proclaim a belief in a higher being but have yet to accept Jesus as the true Messiah, this is your warning.  These words are meant for you, do not turn away and deny the truth, it is here for you to read and it is playing out for you to see with your own eyes in our world today.  Do not wait or bury your head in the sand in hopes it will all somehow go away.  Jesus did not tell the disciples that once these things started there would be any turning back.  No coming election will solve these issues, this path goes above and beyond the world as we know it.  The battle of good versus evil is now playing out in real time and we must take our stand, you must choose a side, and believe me, ignoring this reality or choosing to live in denial is the same as denying the very existence of God and our savior Jesus Christ.  In Matthew chapter 10 verses 32 to 33 Jesus makes it very clear, Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge me before others, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.  But whoever denies me before others, I will also deny him before my Father in heaven.”   Do not make that mistake for it will cost you everything.  

Time is short and there soon will come a moment when you will no longer be given the opportunity to seek the free gift of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ.  Don’t wait until it’s too late, consider making that step of faith today, right now, by asking Jesus to forgive you of your sins and welcoming Him into your heart.  Go to this link,  “Pathway to Salvation”,  and follow the easy steps to salvation that are explained in simple detail, then pray the prayer of faith and salvation is yours.  Reach out to us and share your decision, let us pray for you, there are no strings attached and we are not seeking your money, we hope that everyone will have the chance to see the truth and find redemption through our savior, Jesus Christ.  He gave his life for you and for me.  May God bless you and if you’ve made a decision today or if you’re thinking about doing so, please follow up by visiting our link, “Helpful Resources”, where you will find an online bible and many helpful ministries that provide every resource you will need to answer your questions and grow in your new faith in Christ.

 

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

J Stephen Frey

 

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The False Doctrine of Prosperity Faith

prosperity_lie

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.   1 John 4:1 

If it’s too good to be true, it most likely is false. This is the warning that most of us have heard or have learned the hard way. Advertisements for products or services that promise the world, for the low price of three easy installments, but wait, if you act now, we will throw in another set….late night TV has it all.  You pay your money and the product, if it arrives at all, usually doesn’t live up to expectations and to make matters worse, the company that sold it to you is most likely long gone.

The Bible warns of much worse, false teachers and doctrines, words that tickle our ears or play on our vulnerabilities. Such is the thriving prosperity message, word of faith, that traces it’s roots to the writings of Napoleon Hill and his book Think and Grow Rich published in 1937. The author wrote of his imaginary “cabinet of Invisible Counselors” made up of such great minds as Lincoln, Edison, Darwin to name a few, that would meet with him each night and discuss ways to improve his character, build upon his thoughts and ideas, in a manner that he confessed began in his imagination around a boardroom table that over time became so real he often feared the realism and what it meant. Hill would later describe how these “invisible counselors” had guided him through crisis and emergencies to ultimate wealth and power beyond his own dreams. The very description of his influences from these beings that he would later describe as “talismans” goes against our own biblical warnings, as given in Deuteronomy chapter 18 verses 10 through 12, that likens those who summon the dead or seek guidance from sorcerers or mediums as being an abomination before the Lord. Such dealings open the door to demonic possession and the works of Satan in our own lives. In time, Hill accepted these “invisible” beings as partners, no longer fearful of their involvement in his life, he embraced their role and built his personal wealth upon their teachings. A reasonable mind would have to ask, what exactly were these “talisman” that guided and inspired Hill if not demons themselves? The fact that Hill would use the term of talismans is quite telling, as the term itself attributes mystical powers upon an object and good luck to those that possess such items.

So moving forward to the early 1950’s, a young evangelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, named Oral Roberts, began a ministry of prosperity preaching through the giving of “seed faith” money, the foundation of his beliefs that he attributed in part to one of his biggest influences, none other than Napoleon Hill. Oral Roberts ministry grew by leaps and bounds as he spread the word of prosperity, namely that by giving to his ministry, God would return that investment in riches beyond belief. As his empire grew, it influenced others to do the same, which in time is why Oral Roberts is often referred to as the father of the prosperity gospel. He is cited as the major influence, directly or indirectly, to Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland and Fred Price. From these three, specifically Hagin and his Rhema Bible training center, we now have generations of prosperity ministries founded in the “name it and claim it” genre.  Kenneth Hagin did not attribute his influences to Oral Roberts directly, but given the facts that Hagin began his prosperity ministry in the same town as Oral Roberts, following a few years after, makes it somewhat hard to believe that he did not take some part of his message from that ministry.

I don’t know what you think of any of the aforementioned ministers, this is not a message meant to attack another ministry, but this is part of the warning from the bible that we must take seriously or risk being led astray in our own spiritual journey. We have a responsibility as believers to test the doctrine that is given out, using the infallible word of God, to ensure it holds up to the truth. A good place to start is to find out what Jesus said, how he instructed the first disciples in ministry, along with His own examples of conduct and faith.  When you do this, as with a doctrine built around gaining personal wealth and prosperity, you will find that the teachings contradict the many examples laid out to us by Christ.  Do not take my word for this, but following the biblical instructions referenced at the opening of this message, test the spirits whether they are of God so that you can know for yourself. Study God’s word and find the context to which scriptures are referenced, if any at all, in the messages you hear. Pastors are usually limited in the time they have before a congregation, so it is commonplace to have a few selected scriptures given that a sermon will be built upon. Most preachers will then provide a background of their message and give you a more broad context from which these individual verses are taken. As a believer, you have the responsibility to take these teachings and follow up with your own study of the word, by which you will find the context and through the Holy Spirit will grow in your faith as you move forward in your walk with the Lord.  However, be aware that certain doctrines are given out using only selected verses of the Bible, taken out of their proper context, then exploited to reinforce a belief that is not sound or biblical at all. Within certain ministries, they will bring in new believers, give them handpicked verses, then follow that up with free bible lessons that they have developed that only take the listener farther off the path to which God intended in His word. Before long, well-intended followers can find themselves lost in a maze of misguided doctrine that is a dead end. All the while, one person at the top, or a select group of so-called ministers, are reaping the rewards of money and power that are blindly given in hopes of some god based lottery with expectations of great rewards for the seed faith giver. Many of these types of prosperity ministries are nothing more than a religious Ponzi scheme whereby the minister receives wealth most of us can not even imagine, while the followers continue to work, give offerings, and hope for a better tomorrow.

You will not find anywhere in the Bible a reference to the giving of “seed faith money” which is the term first coined, no pun intended, by Oral Roberts himself. The prosperity message is very loosely based upon the parable of the sower from Matthew chapter 13, where Jesus tells of sowing seed and states that the seed which fell onto fertile soil was returned to the sower one hundred fold. Now if you simply take these few verses at the beginning of the chapter and then speak of the seed as money invested in the church, it can sound very appealing to those that are in need, to think that if you give ten dollars you will be rewarded by God with one thousand dollars. Many of these ministries not only cherry pick specific verses, but they teach their new converts how to defend their new beliefs by giving them study guides which continue to handpick specific verses, out of context, to bolster their beliefs and embolden them to take a stand against those other so-called believers that are unable to accept the truth.  Giving our money, or tithe is a biblical standard that is expected of all believers, which makes it one of the easiest targets for the unscrupulous ministries to exploit for their own advantages.

If you test the doctrine as we are instructed to do, through prayer and study of the Bible,  God’s holy spirit will help you discern the scriptures by revealing the truth. In this case, simply read the entire thirteenth chapter of Matthew and you will see that Jesus further clarifies the seed referenced is the word of God, not money or other valuables.

The danger of these types of messages is how it reduces God to be closer to our own level, whereby we develop a twisted quid pro quo, a contract with God, which requires that he provide a specific value for that which you have given. I don’t know about you, but to even consider that God is to be bargained with and held to our own exacting standards is not only dangerous but runs close to that of blasphemy.

Here is what I would want you to consider, not just in examining prosperity teaching, but with any form of biblical instruction or doctrine, the first place to go is the example given to us by Jesus Christ himself, as he walked on earth, demonstrating the fundamentals of a life lived in direct obedience to our heavenly Father.

In Matthew chapter 19 we have the example of the rich young ruler that approached Jesus and after some discussion, having confirmed to Christ that he had kept the commandments, Jesus gave him one last instruction, to go and sell all that he owned and give it to the poor.  The young ruler walked away in anguish knowing he could not follow through with such a request. You might say that this is an impossible request or wonder why Jesus would demand such a high standard of this individual. Again, you have to study the word and take the story in its full context, the young ruler had already told Jesus that he had kept all of the commandments, which was not true, to which Jesus exposed by giving him this single command which he would not and could not follow. The rich young ruler had made his wealth the subject of his worship and through his own greed was not following through in the command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, so in reality, this young man was not following the commandments of the law and Jesus simply used the request to expose this fallacy. Furthermore, not to get off topic, but I have heard some question why Jesus used the commandments as a measure of salvation. Once more, to gain the proper perspective, Jesus referenced the law because this young ruler was confident that he was properly aligned in his ways and therefore was deserving to be a follower of Christ. It was not the law which Jesus used as a measure of salvation, simply a litmus test to expose the errors of this young man’s judgment of himself.

In relating this to prosperity, would Jesus support a doctrine that specifically guides followers to a path of personal gain and greater wealth? In this example above, Jesus showed how dangerous greed and the love of money can be, diverting our faithfulness to that of worldly possessions.  One does not go hand in hand with the other, they are contradictory in nature. Jesus goes on to instruct us in Matthew chapter 6, verses 19 – 21,

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”    

Just as the case with the rich young ruler, Jesus warns us that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  He continues in verse 24 by saying,

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  

Jesus lived a life of obedience and complete trust in God for all things. When he sent the disciples out on their first mission trips, he specifically told them not to carry any money, knowing they would learn to trust in God for that which they needed. Furthermore, when Jesus gave us the example of how to pray, he didn’t speak of seed faith and returns but simply asked that God give us this day our daily bread.

Jesus lived the life of a servant, he even said as much in Matthew chapter 20 verse 28,

“Even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve others, and to give his life a ransom for many.” 

We are to strive to be Christ-like in all our ways. Jesus showed us what it means to put our own interests aside and focus on the needs of others. Obedience to our Father is our goal, in all ways and in everything that we do. How can we focus on the needs of others if we are obsessed with gaining material wealth, storing up our own treasures on earth?

Just as you can’t serve two masters, you can not follow contradictory messages. Follow the examples of Jesus, use His life as the litmus test for your own faith and understanding, study the word of God and seek His divine guidance. Obedience to God, serving those in need while placing our own interests second, focused firmly on our savior, these are the keys to the life more abundant. Heed the warnings of the scriptures in regards to false teachers, test the spirits, ensure you are standing on firm doctrine according to the will of God.  Matthew chapter 24, verses 4 and 5, a warning that all should take seriously,

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

May God truly bless you and please reach out to us with your questions and prayer requests. If you have not accepted Christ as your savior, please take a moment to read our message “The Way, the Truth and the Life” and let us know how we may help you on your spiritual journey.

Remember, this ministry does not ask for your money, we share the wonderful news of salvation through Jesus Christ with no strings attached, the same way we received it.

 

 

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

J Stephen Frey

 

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What are you afraid of?

As we grow older doesn’t it seem as if time passes faster and faster? Days turn into weeks, then months, and before we know it, another year has come and gone. What do we have to show for it, other than the realization of being another year older? All those plans we made in our youth somehow seem to slip away as we find ourselves established in a work a day lifestyle, paying the bills, running from one function to another, pushed to the brink by deadlines and unexpected challenges that come at us from all directions. At times it can be overwhelming and we need that place to escape. We find our refuge in sports, movies, television…maybe we get a vacation now and then, but Monday always takes us back to the reality of life.  What does it all mean, what is our purpose in all of this?

For believers, we have our purpose, our commission, as given by our savior Jesus in Matthew chapter 28, verses 18 through 20, 

Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

For those that have not come to know Jesus as their personal savior, the world becomes a road to nowhere. Without God, there is no purpose or meaning, the grave represents the final destination.  I appeal to anyone reading this message if you have not experienced the true love of our heavenly Father, the one who loves us so much that while we were yet sinners, He sent his only begotten Son, Jesus, to live among us and become a sacrifice for all sin so that we can have eternal life, that you would come to know Him.  If you’ve never made that decision, please visit the following link to find out what it means to be saved and how you can take that life-changing step of faith – Pathway to Salvation 

Again, speaking to the believer, have you found your purpose in life? Beyond paying the bills and building your career, what are you doing for the kingdom of God? Have you answered the call or have you become so engrossed in the daily grind that you, like so many other believers, have pushed God into a small corner, a place you visit once a week at best, then it’s back to the world.  What are you waiting for…what are you afraid of? Are you a living testimony to the love of Jesus Christ that resides within you? Have you shared that love with those around you? What are you afraid of?

Lukewarm as defined by Merriam-Webster is to be moderately warm, tepid, such as a lukewarm bath or lukewarm coffee, also lacking conviction, halfhearted, cold, without conviction.  We live in a world of moderately warm Christians, going through the motions, lacking in purpose and conviction. This isn’t how it is meant to be and certainly not what we have been called to do.  

So what are you afraid of, what is holding you back? Why have you settled, you know there is more in life, where is that life more abundant that Jesus promised? The answer may lie with you….why haven’t you answered the call of our heavenly Father and taken up the course which He has laid out for you? For most people the answer is simple – it is hard to walk that line, being a Christian is not easy.  Follow the lives of those first disciples, only John lived out his years and even at that he was exiled to a solitary existence on an island after having survived his intended execution. Watch this short video, listen to the message, then ask yourself this question – am I living the life that my heavenly Father has called me to undertake? What am I doing to add to the kingdom of God? Step up to the challenge, get out of the pew, start living the life God has for you – be the strong disciple that Jesus called you to be – starting now!

Won’t you step up and join us in serving our most loving heavenly Father….reach out to us, leave a message, request prayer, read our message Can I get a Witness?  then seek God in prayer.  You can make a difference in your community, become a Trader, read our message Trader or Traitor?  and join us in the mission field. We encourage you to follow our site and tell your friends, neighbors, co-workers, strangers – use our resources as a place to steer the lost to come to know Jesus Christ. Many of us have that person in our lives that need the good news of salvation, but it never seems to be the right time or place. Maybe it just seems awkward or you’re really not sure what to say.  Try this approach, break the ice by telling them about this website you’ve discovered, how you think they might find it interesting, a site that doesn’t ask for money and allows it’s users to remain anonymous.  That’s why we started this site and it has helped us bring many to the message of salvation – your friend, co-worker, or that stranger that God brings across your path might be changed forever.  Step up and may God truly bless you in your journey.

 

 

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

J Stephen Frey

*video is provided by our partners at Right Now media

 

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Trader or Traitor?

As a Christian today, we live in a world that values “Me” over serving others, a self-centered world of social media clamoring for more things, more money, with little regard for anyone else. Where do you stand in your walk with the Lord? Have you settled for a comfortable existence, blending in, going unnoticed by the world around us? Will you step up in your faith, step out, trade your comfort for the call to discipleship that was given to all that accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ? Watch this short video and ask yourself – where do you stand? Do you want to get involved? Reach out to us and share your thoughts, request prayer for strength and God’s guidance, use our site to help steer the lost to Jesus Christ. Move forward in your walk with God, be a trader, trade in your comfortable life about self and get involved in a movement bigger than yourself, experience the life more abundant that is promised to all believers. Join the movement…..become a Trader.

Matthew 28:18-19  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

 

 

 

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

J Stephen Frey

 

*Video courtesy of our partners at RightNow Media

 

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Mosaic life

Jesus Mocaic

(Simple close up view of mosaic tile)

Throughout my career in business, it was always stressed above all else, teamwork, everyone pulling together towards a common goal. Self-interests were secondary to what was best for the team. Many business models are built on this theme, basically, everyone benefits when we all work towards our shared goals. The oft-times over-used cliche would invariably come up reminding us there is no “I” in team, meant to quash self-interests, lest you become marginalized on the outside of the group.

However, in modern life today, it is the exact opposite with social media dominating the landscape, it’s all about the individual.  We are encouraged to celebrate ourselves, share our every move with the world, invite friends to join us on social media where we update ad nauseam the daily minutia of life; what we’re doing, what we’re eating….look at me today, my life, my things, my surroundings.  It’s a narcissistic playground gone wild.  We not only create our own life narrative but we control it, we share the best of times and manipulate our very image to the likeness we want the world to see.  Reality is what you create and the social media platforms are more than willing to exploit these narcissistic tendencies of the consumer. These personal narratives, however false or misleading, create a “look at me” portfolio to be shared inside this fabricated world of our own creation. Worst of all – the “selfie” – a term not used until just a handful of years ago, now has become part of our everyday lexicon and represents the new norm of narcissism.

I am not saying this is all bad, most of us participate to some degree, with many using these same platforms to encourage, share their spiritual beliefs or raise awareness to many causes.  However, it’s the underlying theme of self above all else that is disturbing and trending in the wrong direction across our society.

At the beginning of this message, I use a simple view of assorted pieces of mosaic tile.  At this close in level, you see the individual pieces, but not the image or purpose.  Similarly, when we focus our view inward, becoming consumed with our own issues, our own perceived shortcomings or other problems, we lose sight of those around us.  We become hypersensitive to our own needs resulting in those needs being placed above all else.  We lose sight of those around us, those we are called to serve as disciples, thus falling out of step with God’s purpose for our life.  We are unable to view the bigger picture of life, the purpose and meaning, becoming lost in our own isolation.  In the world of social media, where we can cover the blemishes of our life, photoshopped to our own liking, we are at risk of losing ourselves in a make-believe world of our own creation.  What’s worse is the more we look inward, puffing up our own self-worth, the farther we drift from the ability to be a servant, following in our Savior’s footsteps.  The greatest narcissist of all time is Satan, so caught up in his own beauty and power that he turned on the Creator and it has cost him everything.  It is no wonder he is using that very tool in attempts to bring down believers and non-believers alike at every opportunity.

In Matthew chapter 28 we are given our assignments by Jesus, to make disciples of all nations and teach them to follow His commandments.  In a nutshell, share the love of Christ with everyone you meet, through words and actions, then participate in their spiritual growth through example and teaching.  The blueprint is laid out quite expressly in the gospels; see Christ and be like Him. You would imagine the value of social media to share Christ with others, but I have to ask the question to believers, have you witnessed to anyone today? This week? This month? Do you worship at a church that challenges you to put other’s needs first – to share the gospel of Jesus with those around you?

These questions are asked for a reason and we want to remind believers, you have the responsibility to study God’s word, not just take for granted that you will be given the tools you need through a church service.  1 John Chapter 4, verse 1 warns us in this way, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” You can not grow as a believer if you do not actively participate in the process.  What’s worse is if you are attending a church or listening to messages that do not challenge you to share the gospel message and do not encourage your daily bible study – but instead place the focus onto yourself and your needs and desires.  If the latter is your experience, you are being led astray.

So let’s see what this looks like when we bring into focus the dangers in our “look at me” world.  Jesus Christ came to this earth, God in the flesh, and in his own words made clear His purpose.  Jesus stated in Mark chapter 10 verse 45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus put everything aside and became the servant of mankind. You have to go beyond just the example of servitude and examine the benefits of following this great example of life.  It goes so much further than just putting one’s self aside, Jesus gave us this example to help us realize the overall value and benefits of living for others.  When we put down our own selfish interests, we gain a broader perspective and the ability to focus on the true value of life as God intended for us.

Paul exalted all believers in Philippians chapter 2, verses 3 and 4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.”  Paul then followed this with the divine revelation of the Attitude of Christ as written in verses 5 through 11:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus:  Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Of course, Jesus himself gave us one of the greatest examples, other than his ultimate sacrifice on the cross, of how we should humble ourselves as servants, placing others above ourselves, when on the evening of the last supper, he got on his knees and washed the feet of his own disciples as written in John chapter 13. Jesus went on to explain to them that they should wash each other’s feet and by doing so, find happiness.

To return to the introduction of this message, we started with a close-up view of mosaic tile, not of any apparent significance or value, rather plain and imperfect around the edges. Singling out this one section is similar to the self-oriented “look at me” society in which we live. Instead of looking at those around us, placing equal or higher value on their needs as opposed to our own, we are told to look at ourselves – that it is okay to value your own needs above all else. This has even made its way into the church, the so-called prosperity message and the empowerment of self, which has gained tremendous popularity and created the mega-churches across our nation, takes the teachings of Christ out of context and blurs the lines between servant and master.  Itching ears like to be stroked, the “you are special” mantra, coupled with the idea that you deserve to be happy and prosperous, marginalizes God and treads on dangerous ground that places ourselves above our creator.  The litmus test to be applied to any doctrine must be the comparison of the message with the teachings of Jesus.  Given that qualifying standard of measure, the “me first” religion that lifts up self-interests and gratification is in direct contradiction of the message shared by Christ.  That’s not to say that God did not promise to bless His followers, in fact, in Matthew chapter 19, verse 29, Jesus tells us, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Imagine that sort of return on investment, but in all blessings promised, we must resist the idea that this means money, fortune on earth and other worldly possessions.  To do so is a mockery of the scriptures and takes every example of Jesus and reduces it to fit our own worldly desires. Sound instruction comes in Matthew chapter 6, verses 19 through 21,

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:   But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:   For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” 

I do not believe that Jesus’ promise to give us a life more abundant ever meant a bigger house, new cars, and money.  Why would we limit the power of our heavenly Father to man-made creations that will only rust, depreciate and eventually pass away?  But let’s return to the point of this message.  (If you ever have questions or wish to discuss these issues raised in our posts, please reach out and share your thoughts, they are always welcome)

The real danger of the “look at me” society in which we live, is the way it contradicts the calling we have from Christ and it is growing in popularity, to the point that it has taken a stronghold inside our own churches.  Many are being led down a blind alley, away from the true calling of our Lord, hearing a message that is soothing to the ears but not based on sound doctrine.  You may read this and think it is nonsense, just another message aimed at putting down those that are different, breaking from tradition and making things uncomfortable.  This is not a complaint against breaking from traditions, such as those that get upset because the music minister doesn’t sing the old gospel hymns, but to the contrary, I am telling you directly, this is a dire warning that must be heeded both personally and as a church body.

2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 through 5 states, This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,  traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;  having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 

The warning comes with a disturbing reference when it says “having a form of godliness” which tells me it will resemble a church but in reality will not be of God. In our self-serving ways, we will fall victim to those false teachers that will speak a form of religion that will be pleasing to our ears.  What we need is to be challenged and tutored by the Word of Truth, like-minded with our savior.  However, the more we fall into the pattern of self above all else, the easier it will be to turn from that message and seek the things that please us, self-help, prosperity, religion without conviction.  Paul continues the warning in 2 Timothy chapter 4 verses 3 and 4,

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 

Maybe this seems like an overreaction as if I am drawing dire conclusions from these verses and applying them in a broad moralistic context. Some will rebuff these warnings as another zealot playing on our fears with the age-old warning “the end is near.” Just this morning I read a story in the national media which says that a Christian numerologist – a title of which I am totally unfamiliar – has deciphered from what he interprets as biblical code along with date markers from the pyramids of Giza that point to the world ending on September 23rd of this year. I do not scoff at the notion of the end of the world, the bible very clearly states that God will bring this world to an end. However, there is no code to be deciphered or any other clues that have been left lying about as if God wanted us to figure it out.  The only reply to anyone that predicts the end of the world is the very words of Jesus in Matthew chapter 24, verse 36 which states, But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”  That leaves no room for anyone to stand up and claim they know the day and the hour so even the well-intended (although I am very skeptical of intentions when it comes to biblical contradictions) can be led astray by these sorts of claims.

Suffice it to say, we serve a God of Love, one that loves us so much that He provided the solution to a sinful world, salvation through Jesus Christ.  We have nothing to fear, but we must heed the warnings and be vigilant in our relationship with our heavenly Father so that we are not led astray. The world today is pulling at everyone to be full of themselves, be selfish, take what is yours and demand equality at every turn. This is the tool of the enemy and it is in direct contradiction to the example given by Jesus. There are so many reasons to follow Christ’s examples and one of the greatest is to die to self, truly accept and embrace the salvation through Jesus and as Paul states in Romans chapter 6 verse 4,  “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Walking in the newness of life in Christ means we have died to the old self. We put off the selfish ways of our past and embrace the new walk as disciples of Christ.  To go back to the beginning of this message, we showed a single mosaic tile, part of a larger image, but when we focus simply on ourselves, all we can see is the single tile.  Our problems are magnified, we become disengaged from those around us and we desire only that which pleases us.  We make ourselves more important than the greater surroundings of that which is beyond our view. In the end, we have nothing to show for our lives, just one small mosaic tile that seemed meaningless and without merit.  If only we would follow our Savior’s example, look beyond our own selves, care about those around us and strive to put our own desires and selfish interests away.  If we can learn to walk by faith, living a true LIFE BEYOND HORIZONS, only then will we start to gain that broader perspective on life and begin to realize the abundance of joy and hope that Christ promised to those that follow Him.  I leave this to you now, which do you take, the single-minded view of the selfish individual, the single tile, or do you accept Jesus Christ and follow His example of obedience and selflessness to the end….for when we expand our worldview, see beyond the single tile of our own self-interests, then and only then our Father will reveal the truth, the wonderful mosaic that we share in Jesus Christ. Life has true meaning as a follower of Jesus and our place, the single mosaic tile, represents our place as true heirs of God.

Jesus Mosaic

 

 

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

J Stephen Frey

 

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When bad things happen to good people

Arkansas_Buffalo River valley near Ponca

Most everyone has either heard this phrase, titled from a book published some twenty years ago by a respected Jewish Rabbi or like many have pondered the question yourself. Why is it that bad things happen to good people? This world contains untold suffering, from disease or natural phenomenon, all the way up to evil perpetrated upon each other. The tragedy of weather, destructive hurricanes, wildfires, all taking a heavy toll on our communities, leaving some to wonder, how can a loving God allow this to happen?

For the non-believer, the atheist, these sorts of events are often the example they use to justify their non-belief and it is used as a point of debate.  Bill Maher, known for his HBO talk show, once referenced the biblical story of Noah and the great flood as his justification in disavowing belief in a god that he described as one that would drown women and children to make a point.  This type of declaration stirs the minds of other non-believers, those that have not experienced the true Love of God, thus building upon the divide between man and God.  How do we, as believers, respond to these types of rebukes and what is our role in doing so? Should we enter the debate, attempting to prove that God is real and that the love we have experienced is palpable, or do we stand by and say nothing? The answer is not always black and white and we must always follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.  But let’s break this down from the beginning and make sense of the matter at hand.

There is much to discern in what man considers knowledge compared with spiritual teachings given down by our Creator. When we, as believers in Christ, accepted the free gift of salvation, we were also given the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. It is through the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we are able to learn and grow in spiritual wisdom through the Word of God. However, natural man, not having come to a place of salvation, does not know God and therefore cannot understand the workings of our Creator in this world.  1 Corinthians chapter 2 verse 14 states,

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 

It is no wonder that men of great worldly knowledge are unable to make sense of the wisdom of God through his Word. Without the Holy Spirit to discern the Word, it is foolishness to the mind of man.  This also accentuates our role as believers, to also be teachers of the Word, having the benefit of discernment that only comes through the Holy Spirit.

In addition, without any knowledge of God, there is no acknowledgment of Satan. When we accept Christ as our savior, we confess our sins and turn away from the sinful nature that was introduced into this world by our adversary, Satan, thus acknowledging his existence. We know through the Word and through spiritual discernment that Satan and his legion of demons roam this earth searching for those they may devour, as written in 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 8. But if you do not believe in God, then you do not acknowledge the enemy in this world that is roaming to and fro leaving his own path of lies and destruction. This is why non-believers are quick to point out and question how a God of love could allow such horrible things to happen. They have no knowledge of God and likewise, have no understanding of the evil that permeates this world we share. Consequently, they deduce that God does not exist, otherwise these terrible things would not be allowed to happen.  They conclude that if God is Love, then certainly He would be all protecting, like a comic book superhero, averting disaster at every turn in order to save humanity.  As I’ve pointed out in previous messages, this is ignorance, as it shows they do not understand God, but I caution, this is not their fault – this is simply how a lost person reacts to a world they do not understand.  Why should we expect them to act any other way?  * I refer you my message titled “Can I get a Witness?” to follow this aspect in more detail including our responsibilities to share the Word as disciples of Christ. 

This takes me to a deeper point that we must discuss, the topic of “bad things” and “good people” as taken from the title of this message.  At this point, we should understand why non-believers react to “bad things” and the relation they draw to any conclusion that God does not exist – they do not understand, the Word of God is foolishness.  However, even believers struggle with this concept of bad things and good people, so I ask the question, what qualifies someone as a “good person” as opposed to something else? Is it based on how nice they are to others or how often they go to church? Is it their standing in the community or their success at whatever line of work they’ve chosen? Do we see ourselves as “good people” thence anyone that we see as similar to ourselves must also be “good people?” Let’s compare this to God’s example, the only good person, without fault, that has ever walked the earth, Jesus Christ.  Does anyone want to stand up and claim to be on that level, I think not. So who are we to declare anyone, other than Christ, a good person?  Isaiah chapter 64 verse 6 declares;

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” 

Broken down in simpler terms, basically, at our very best, in God’s eyes we are like filthy rags, and our sins take us away like a passing breeze.  This is where we get ourselves into trouble when we start seeing ourselves as anything other than a sinful wretch that has been granted eternal life through the unconditional love of our Father and Creator.  Somehow along the way, we start seeing ourselves and others as being “good people” and thus we deserve something better in this life.  Don’t misunderstand my point, this is not a bashing of humanity, but we have to remember and embrace what we are and not lose sight of the incredible grace of our heavenly Father who loves us so much that even while we are yet sinners, He gave his only Son as a sacrifice for our sins.  The debt has been paid, so how much more do you think we deserve? Why do we allow Satan a free pass on all these bad things that go on around us? We know better, but those that are in darkness have no clue, they are unable to discern the truth that we find in the Word because they do not have the ability without the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Shame on us, as believers, forever questioning the will of God.  We are in a world that has turned it’s collective back on the Creator, yet these same people will quickly point their fingers in anger at our concept of a “loving God” and scoff at us for our beliefs because as they see it, a loving God would not let these things happen.  The truth, however, is that the farther away from God we become, the closer to evil we find ourselves and we deal with the consequences of our own betrayal. But let us be clear on this point, life is in motion and constantly changing all around us, within a world of darkness and sin that was corrupted by Satan.  Mankind is here to build upon a relationship with the Creator, navigating a world corrupted, with good and bad all around, which is not to say that all bad things are some form of punishment.  A hurricane making landfall does not mean a specific area on this earth is being punished, it is a circumstance that comes with living in this turbulent world, whereby believers have an opportunity to shine the light of Jesus Christ in their response, to grow in their own faith while sharing and helping others. Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 5, verse 45,

“for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” 

Maybe the question becomes, why do bad things happen to believers? Why do we suffer when we are following the path of righteousness? Let’s face this head on and not mince our words.  There is no declaration in the entirety of God’s Word that life for those that believe in Jesus Christ will be easier.  To the contrary, Jesus tells us in John chapter 15, verses 18 and 19,

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”  

We will be persecuted for His sake.  But there are also other challenges that we face in daily life and we should not lose sight of the will of our heavenly Father. God is the potter and we are the clay, once we have given ourselves over to Him, we should anticipate challenges and trials as the process of God working with us for our own good.  2 Corinthians chapter 4 verses 8 through 11 states,

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 

God is constantly at work in our lives, molding us, building our character, growing our faith, so that we may glorify Him and have the tools we will need to be able to persevere to the end. This life is only the beginning and we know that our true rewards are waiting on the other side.

Take hold of these and all promises found in the Word of God. This is why it is of the utmost importance for believers to read the Word at every opportunity and maintain a robust prayer life with our heavenly Father.  The more we look to God, the less we will focus on ourselves.  When we become caught up in our own little world, it becomes easy to see our own problems magnified beyond what they are and the enemy will use those opportunities to create questions and doubts.  This is what leads us to start wondering, why does God let me suffer, doesn’t He love me? Before long, you can find yourself drowning in your own self-pity, rendered totally ineffective for God’s purposes in this life.

So the next time you question why, I challenge you to stop, seek the Lord in prayer and lean on the great examples we find in the Word.  Acts chapter 7 gives us the example of Stephen, who stood up for the truth and did not back down in the face of great opposition.  God loved Stephen, and I dare say, if we are still caught up in the debate of good people, then this man would be at or near the top of any list aside from Jesus himself.  Yet Stephen is taken away into the streets where an angry mob stones him to death. While falling to his knees, Stephen cried out to God in verse 60 “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”  Even unto death, Stephen demonstrated a love for his fellow man that most of us will never attain.  With his dying breath, he showed the utmost compassion to those that would kill him.

Listen to the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy chapter 4, verses 6 through 8,

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”  

Paul was imprisoned and awaiting his certain execution by one of the evilest leaders that Rome had ever seen, Nero.  Yet even in these direst of circumstances, Paul didn’t waste his time wondering why bad things were allowed to happen to a good person.  Paul had grown in his faith to a point that nothing around him could take his eyes off the prize, the eternal life that awaited him and all believers.  

Clearly, we all strive to fight the good fight and push forward to finish the race. This is our calling as disciples and we should push to overcome the trials we face, knowing God is working in our lives, and keep our eyes fixed upon the prize.  Peter put it in the proper perspective in 1 Peter chapter 4, verses 12 and 13,

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:  But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”  

May God bless you and keep you.  If you are not a believer and want to know more, please reach out to this ministry.  We have no strings attached, we do not want your money, we want to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  For those that are believers, thank you for reading, I encourage you to share your thoughts with us, prayer requests, and any comments you may have on this or other messages.

Share our site with your friends, family or co-workers. If you meet a stranger today and the Holy Spirit tugs at your heart to open up about salvation, pass along this website in the process, direct them to our messages about salvation.

 

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

J Stephen Frey

 

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Can I get a Witness?

Pieta _ Soldani_terracotta 1715

These are very troubling times in which we live. Every day we see anger and hatred manifesting itself across our world through violence and protests, one side against another, as the very fabric of our beliefs are being called into question. This is not new to our world, yet now it is taking a different path, a darker tone of mischief and discontent, coming closer and closer to our doorsteps. It is unsettling, to say the least.

In America, many of us have grown up in a post world war society, enjoying prosperity and security in a life that we have come to expect. A certain balance of good against evil, justice, and symmetry, while we go about the pursuits of our own happiness.  It is fair to say, we like this way of life, we enjoy it, and we expect it to continue uninterrupted. After all, this very way of life was laid out for us in our constitution; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, the good life has made it’s way into our churches over these last few decades of prosperity, turning them from a place of solemn worship and devotion, into a place where we expand our social circles, enjoy an hour or two together, then go home, put away the Bible and lose ourselves in our worldly pursuits. That’s not to say we don’t do some good along the way and it’s not a knock on good Christian fellowship which is vital, but can we honestly say that our first priority is reaching the lost for Christ? Do we take the good news with us throughout the week, sharing with friends and strangers our personal testimony, do we invite them to worship with us? Many of you can answer yes, but how much more have lost sight of our true purpose, our calling as disciples, and become more focused on personal agendas, our comforts, our misguided expectations of life. The pursuit of happiness.

In many cases, the church I see today, and I point the finger directly at myself, is one of a spoiled generation of believers; we like things the way they are, we enjoy our air-conditioned version of religion with the proper balance of music and messages, all contained in a neatly organized package, delivered once a week in a timely fashion. We are prodigiously unprepared for the real challenges that await just beyond the horizon.

So let’s ask some basic questions and start at the beginning. Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Have you made that profession of faith described in Romans Chapter 10 verse 9,“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” and if so, where do you stand in your journey as a believer and to what level has your faith grown in that time? Would you be willing to give up your life for your beliefs? You might recoil at that last question, to think that we would ever actually be faced with that decision, my life for my faith in the Lord. If you’re paying attention to the world today, including middle America, then you should be aware that the spirit of the Antichrist is actively roaming about while gaining a stronghold in the minds of many.  1 John chapter 4 verses 2 and 3 states,

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

This evil spirit, one and same with our adversary Satan, has been in this world all along and today is stronger than ever and gaining momentum. Are you prepared for the coming onslaught against the church or will you simply get in line when instructed to do so and blend into a society that has lost its very way?  My goal in this message is not to spread fear but to challenge you to flee from your comfortable air-conditioned view on religion and wake up to the life that Jesus has called each one of us to undertake.  The bar has been set very high and we must strive daily to reach the highest levels of our faith in order to fulfill our duties as true disciples of Jesus Christ our Lord.

We are surrounded by a lost world and today, more than any time in recent history, we can see the bitterness of that world, those disillusioned and angry non-believers as they struggle to make sense of their own worldview. At times we see absolute and unbridled hatred spill over into violence, but my question for you to ponder is this; why would you expect non-believers to act any other way? They do not know God, therefore they do not know Love.  1 John 4 verses 19-21 says

We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. 

How can the world come to know God and His love unless we, as believers, step out and proclaim the good news to them? Unfortunately our tendencies today are to step away from the spotlight, blend in, or as with the old saying, go along to get along. Satan is busy setting his traps, building upon a new version of societal thought that your beliefs and ideas are not acceptable if even one person is offended.  The politically correct thought police are on the prowl and believe me, they are less concerned with being offended as they are with shutting down the church as we know it today. We then obediently step in line, lowering our collective voices to a whisper, passing one opportunity after another to share our testimony in public, because it might be awkward or offensive to talk about Christ in the workplace or the grocery store.  We wait until we’re safely inside our church, surrounded by other believers, out of sight of the public domain, to sing our hymns and worship.

Do we really love God, the one who first loved us, or do we lie to ourselves and others? If we truly love our brother, we would not let the moment pass to share the good news of salvation. How could we if it could make the difference between eternal life with Christ or forever to be separated from God and cast out with our enemy and his demons.

Listen to this short excerpt from an interview with famed magician and professed atheist, Penn Jillette, known with his partner as Penn and Teller, as he questions how true believers in Jesus Christ could ever keep that good news to themselves.

My challenge to you today is not to get angry but to take stock in your own spiritual life and honestly review where you are compared to where you know you should be in your walk with the Lord. Do you begin each day with the Word, preparing for the challenges and opportunities you will face? Do you have a daily prayer life? Is your bible easy to find on Sunday morning because it’s always right where you left it when you got home from church the previous week? Did you witness to anyone today, this week, this month? Do the flames of righteousness burn brightly within your soul or has that fire slowly dwindled to fading embers?

I will leave you to ponder those questions but I will also remind you, as the author of this message, I have asked myself those questions and much more and I come up short in every category. This isn’t about beating ourselves up for our shortcomings, this is about the great news and love of our Father, so much so that even when we were yet sinners and lost in this world, He sent his only Son as a sacrifice for all.  Let’s stir those fires within our hearts and rekindle the flames so that we burn brightly in a dark and lost world.  I want to hear from you, share your comments and your prayer requests. I want to know your challenges and I want to pray for you.  If you have not accepted the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, or if you need more information on what it means to be saved, please don’t hesitate to contact our ministry. We are here for you and want to share the Love of God with you. May God truly bless and encourage you on your journey with Him.

 

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

J Stephen Frey

*(photograph of Terra Cotta of Christ by Soldani, from the Frick Museum Collection)

 

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Insight to Life Beyond Horizons

This is the post excerpt.

How far can one person see on the horizon? Maybe you’ve pondered that question, maybe you’re on a leisurely stroll and you spot a landmark on a hillside and you estimate the distance, 2 maybe 3 miles ahead.  Possibly, like me, you have a place you like to sit and relax and enjoy the view across an expansive range of hills and valleys…but there is always a limit to what we can see with our own eyes. We cannot see what lies beyond that finite point on our horizon. Science provides a formula used by sailors, taking into account their height of eye or the height of a known object, such as a lighthouse, which is then plugged into a formula that takes into account the flat surface of the water combined with the curvature of the earth. For example, the lookout on a boat is measured at 9 feet, you would take the square root of 9 and multiply by 1.17 to find the distance you can view across the horizon.  Now, my purpose here is not to teach a lesson on sight, distance and the curvature of the earth, but to highlight the finite view we all share, both in the physical realm and spiritual, the limits, as it were, of what we are able to perceive.  I often find myself wondering what lies ahead, not only literally but in the figurative sense.  Am I on the right track, what pitfalls might await just beyond the horizon.  We can certainly all identify with that in some form or fashion and that is why I am so glad you are here.  We will be traveling together, exploring the spiritual world around us and how our heavenly Father charts our course well in advance, taking into account those things we cannot see. We will discuss faith, how to truly hand our trials and challenges over to God and the many other facets of this spiritual journey of life.  If you are here and have never experienced salvation through Jesus Christ, please reach out to us, we want to hear from you and pray for you. I strongly encourage you to read our page titled “Pathway to Salvation”  which shares the basic blueprint in finding peace through our savior Jesus Christ. Then for a more in-depth guide, read the message “The Way, the Truth and the Life” which explains in detail the grace and unconditional love of our heavenly Father.  It is never too late in this life to come to know Christ, please don’t let that opportunity pass you by.

If you are here and already a believer in Christ, we challenge you to read our messages, study God’s Word, share your insights and testimony, let us know what God is doing in your life.  Also, ask yourself this question, what are you doing in your daily walk with God to advance His kingdom? Read our message “Can I get a Witness?” and examine your own situation. Have you embraced the great commission given us by Jesus? If you are ready to do more, reach out to us and request our ministry cards and we will send them to you free of charge. These cards are wallet-sized informational hand-outs that you can pass along to the people that God brings across your path each day. We know that many times we want to share our testimony but we don’t know where to start, how to break the ice.  These cards can do that for you. Maybe it’s a co-worker or the clerk at the grocery store or your server at a restaurant. It could be anyone you meet, but this method can help you get started.  You can start the conversation and hand out one of our cards, which will direct the person to visit this site. The welcome page will steer them to the content of salvation, and through God’s incredible power, the Holy Spirit will do the rest.  We all have our place in the Kingdom of God, now let’s support each other through prayer and get to work as the Lord guides us. Break free of fear and experience the more abundant life through Jesus Christ as God intended for you.

To all of our readers, may God richly bless you and may you come back often to read and provide your input as we discover our own Life Beyond Horizons.

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