Why Jesus?

Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what I know beyond any doubt, I myself am a sinner and daily I fall short of the expectations set forth by my heavenly Father. My life has been unworthy of the love of God, yet while I am still a sinner, God gave me the incredible gift of salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ. I have done nothing to deserve this unconditional love and even on my best day, I am incapable of any actions or good deeds that would earn this favor. Paul reminds in Galatians 2 verse 21, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” If we could earn our way to salvation, if we could uphold the laws or through any other manner of living gain a pass into heaven, then it would mean all the suffering and sacrifice of our savior Jesus Christ was for nothing. Our good deeds should come as a result of our salvation, not as a way to earn God’s favor. So let the light of Jesus Christ shine brightly in your spirit so that a lost world may see and desire to come to believe in Him. In all things and circumstances, rejoice in the Lord. Remember the exhortations of the apostle Paul to the church at Philippi, Philippians 4 verses 4 through 7, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Through our salvation in Jesus Christ, we have gained the peace of God and in our daily lives, the many challenges and tribulations we all face in this world, believers have that eternal peace that surpasses all human understanding. This as much as anything else answers the question, Why Jesus?

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

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

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

 

 

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

J Stephen Frey

 

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Message of Doom? Or Message of Hope?

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

crisis of fear

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

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

The judgment extends from the earth to the heavens:

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

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

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

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

Sir Isaac Newton is reputed to have observed,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jack Kinsella

Trusting in God

faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gethsemane

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

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

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

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

Matthew chapter 16 verses 21 through 23, 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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“The Way, the Truth and the Life”

the cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J Stephen Frey

 

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Death of the Church – “Comfort Zone Christianity”

dying church

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

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

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

passion and testimony

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

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

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

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

Let that sink in for a moment…

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

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

The Dying Church 2.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew chapter 7, verses 13 and 14 states,

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Bought at a Price

passion of the Christ 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah chapter 46 verses 9 through 11 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John chapter 3 verse 16 says,

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

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

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

Jesus and Mary 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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Time is short

anger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

J Stephen Frey

 

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