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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When bad things happen to good people

Arkansas_Buffalo River valley near Ponca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

J Stephen Frey

 

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Can I get a Witness?

Pieta _ Soldani_terracotta 1715

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

J Stephen Frey

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

 

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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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