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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Like Taking Candy from a Baby

Olivia_Kay_Nature

As believers in Christ, we have a higher calling, known commonly as the “great commission” which comes from the book of Matthew chapter 28, verses 18 to 20, which reads as follows;

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  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 all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  

To put this into proper context, Jesus had been crucified and now risen from the dead, speaking before his disciples for the final time, after which he would ascend into heaven. This message is not limited to those early followers but is carried forward by all that accept the free gift of salvation thus becoming disciples of Christ. Jesus is passing the torch so to speak and giving us His direct guidance, we are to share the light of salvation to a lost world.

It seems simple enough, as a believer, we have all come to that point where we’ve confessed our sins and professed our belief that Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected by God. Romans chapter 10 verse 9 states;

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 

Yet somehow we complicate matters, allowing our own agenda and bias to enter the equation, or we fall into traps laid by our adversary. Our best intentions are thus lost in the fallout. I believe we often underestimate the craftiness of our adversary.  Have you ever stopped to consider that Satan has existed much longer than man and throughout time has worked long and hard to destroy what God created in His own image. 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 8 offers this warning,

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. 

Basically, Satan has a huge advantage over us in that he has been working at his craft for thousands of years and many of us have been followers of Christ for a few decades at most. Thankfully, through Jesus Christ who lives in us through the Holy Spirit, we have power over Satan. 1 John chapter 4 verse 4 states in part;  because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. 

The world is ignorant in the ways of God, but that is not their fault.  How can they know the truth unless we allow the light of Christ to shine through ourselves in all that we do? This is the very foundation of our call to service through Christ’s great commission to His disciples. Yet often times in our best intentions, we fall into Satan’s traps….the very tricks that he has laid out for believers throughout history. Satan may have lost our souls to eternal life in Christ, but that doesn’t mean he is finished with us. His work goes on and he will stop at nothing to silence our witness.  I often wonder, does our enemy sit back and laugh at how easily we are sometimes derailed and rendered ineffective. As the old saying goes, at times it must be like taking candy from a baby.

Let us take an example from recent headlines, this story came out of Oregon, regarding a Christian couple that owned a bakery.   Their website proclaimed the sanctity of a man and a woman coming together in marriage and included John 3:16 at the bottom of the page.  Anyone visiting their business would know beyond any doubt that the owners are believers in Jesus Christ.  One day two women approached the business seeking a wedding cake for their upcoming same-sex wedding.  I do not believe for one second that they chose this particular bakery at random.  This brings me to my point, which is not to condemn the bakery or its owners, but to shed light on an alternative scenario that I want you to consider.  Whether this couple came in with an agenda or not, the way the story played out is not only predictable but also tragic in the fallout for this bakery. The owners refused to bake a cake for the wedding and took the position that to do so would go against their beliefs as Christians.  They denounced same-sex marriage and refused to provide service to the couple. The owners soon found themselves in court and all over the news media as intolerant and hateful people that had discriminated against the gay and lesbian community.  A judge would eventually rule against them, they were fined a hefty sum upwards of one hundred fifty thousand dollars and ultimately closed the bakery.

Pending before the Supreme Court today is the same story but it involves another Christian business in another state that also refused to provide service to a same-sex couple. You can read our message on that story through this link – What Price Victory?

On the one hand, we have people in a business that have publicly declared their faith in our savior Jesus Christ.  I believe that our adversary, the very one that Peter warned us about as being a lion roaming about seeking those he may destroy, was squarely behind this directed public attack on these owners.  As I stated earlier, I do not believe these customers simply picked this establishment out of thin air, I believe they went there with an agenda and they received the denial of service that they anticipated all along. In the aftermath, we have a business shut down and more importantly, we have an enemy that has furthered his cause in the court of public opinion.

I want to put forth an alternative scenario, one in which the bakery does not compromise their beliefs, but takes advantage of the opportunity to follow our number one expectation, the sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ. To go back to the beginning, the couple walks in and requests a cake for their same-sex wedding.  What if, instead of denying service, the owners engaged this couple in a conversation. You see, at this point, I think they had an opportunity to share the love of Christ with this couple, to be the light in an otherwise darkened world. If the owners seized this moment, possibly asking the couple to sit down, enjoy a free cup of coffee while perusing the many examples of wonderful cakes they could provide, they would have opened the door to untold possibilities in sharing their faith. While discussing their faith, they could and should acknowledge that they do not believe in same-sex marriage, that the bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman.  But having said that, the door is now wide open for them to share their own personal testimonies…to acknowledge that they were lost sinners and how God brought them to salvation through Jesus Christ who died for all of our sins and conquered both sin and death through the resurrection.  What response would this couple have to such an outpouring of the love of Jesus Christ? How would this have ended if they had chosen this path as opposed to the denial of service?

I would take it a step further, at this point what if they had not only offered to make the cake but told the couple that they would pray over every ingredient and make this cake with all the love they could muster. What if they took this opportunity to ask the couple if they could pray together, to ask that God watch over them and guide them and if they have not yet experienced the free gift of salvation, that the Holy Spirit would work in their hearts to one day bring them to that place of amazing grace. What if they told the couple to please share with those that attend the ceremony that the wonderful cake they are enjoying came from their bakery and they would love to have all of their business as well.  How many more opportunities could there have been to share Christ with their circle of friends? After all, isn’t that the point, the reason we are here? Matthew chapter 5 verse 15, 

Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 

I would say at this point, maybe the couple is receptive or maybe they would turn and leave….the choice would have been theirs to make, not the bakery in denial of service. This would not have ended up in court and all over the national media.  Either way, the seeds would have been planted and this bakery would still be in business today. Most important of all, at the very least, a dialogue would have been started and maybe this couple and some of their friends would have returned for more visits.

Think about the calling we have from Jesus Christ, then think about the role we play and the outcome we desire. Do you take a firm stance and refuse to do business with those that participate in activities that go against the beliefs we share or do you consider the opportunity you have before you to share a witness? On a personal level, I have to wonder, did any of these businesses have a vetting process to ensure they did not serve anyone that was violating the sanctity of their beliefs? Did they serve the adulterer? How about the client that is drowning in envy and hatred? Are these not also sins that go against the beliefs of the Christian church?

I’m not trying to stir the pot, but what are the goals and determined outcome….to lead a lost world to know the love of Jesus Christ.  The same love that covered a multitude of our own sins and brought us to salvation.  A lost world knows nothing of this love and unfortunately, many of today’s TV evangelists are doing nothing to bring the lost to salvation, they are speaking that message of comfort, self-help, and prosperity to the itching ears of a restless world.  We should never expect the lost to act in a way that is pleasing to our God but that’s why we are here…..to serve as His missionaries right where we are each and every day.  What a tremendous opportunity to bring the unconditional love of Jesus Christ to those that may never hear or experience that love any other way.  God knows our heart and I dare say, any bakery owner or florist that extends the love of Christ to sinners, by sitting down with them at their table, serving them, witnessing to them, will always be supported by our heavenly Father. The world, the church, in particular, may throw stones, but how else can we reach a lost world?

Through it all, we have to remind ourselves, what is our goal and what are the outcomes? We should not compromise our beliefs, but don’t let that become a trap whereby we miss opportunities to share the joy and love that we have experienced through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The enemy will set the trap, we must allow the Holy Spirit to help us see and avoid it, otherwise, our best intentions will fall to the wayside…and for the enemy, like taking candy from a baby.

 

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

J Stephen Frey

*(photograph courtesy of Olivia Kay Photography used with permission)

 

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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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