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. Nothing to see here, let’s all 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?

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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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

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 ourselves 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, have you witnessed to anyone today? This week? This month?

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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“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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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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