I have installed IntenseDebate to enable the use of CommentLuv on Blogger, but anyone can leave a comment, and please do! I have also removed the nofollow tags to make this a Christian DOFOLLOW blog. If you have a Christian or family oriented blog and would like to exchange links in the blog roll, just leave a comment and ask!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veterans Day: Two Freedoms



Sometimes it seems like an old, worn-out cliche', but it's so true: freedom isn't free. We live in a sinful, broken, and fallen world. Throughout history there have been many people who have sought to enslave others based on many factors such as race, religion, nationality, political views, or simply because they lusted for the power that came from oppressing people. Some have even twisted God's Word to try to justify their own hateful ways of suppressing the freedoms of others. The simple fact is that this is an outright rejection of how God says we should love each other. This is the kind of freedom that our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have valiantly fought to preserve for our nation.

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you,
whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 
And a slave does not abide in the house forever,
but a son abides forever. 
Therefore if the Son makes you free,
you shall be free indeed."
- John 8:34-36

Freedom is more than just the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to vote and such as guaranteed by the Constitution. Even our Declaration of Independence acknowledges that our rights and freedoms are bestowed on us by God, Himself. Often we, ourselves, forfeit our freedom and make ourselves slaves. When we stop putting God first, when we willfully live sinful lives, when we let the desires of our flesh run our lives, we have given up the freedom that can only be found in Christ. Along with freedom comes responsibilities, and all too often we take our freedom for granted. This Veterans Day, take the opportunity to reflect honestly on your life and your choices. Ask yourself the hard questions and see if you truly are free. Ouch! I'm stepping on my own toes already! To all of my fellow veterans (Navy 1986-1994), I thank you for your loyal service to keep us free in the natural world, and I pray that you have found the spiritual freedom that can only come from the Greatest Soldier, who conquered death, the greatest enemy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Till Death Do Us Part... Literally

This is such an inspiring story of what love and commitment really mean. This is such a rarity in today's society. In full disclosure, I, myself, am twice divorced, once widowed, and even have a beautiful daughter out of wedlock overseas. Much of my adult life I was not living for the Lord, but I now understand the meaning of those words "till death do us part," that marriage between one man and one woman was instituted by God, and the sanctity of marriage and human life. How fitting it is that God would allow this couple, after 72 years of marriage, to die together holding hands and not have to experience the pain of one losing the other.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Casting Crowns - Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me) with Lyrics

Casting Crowns is one of my favorite Christian bands. Here is one of their many fantastic hit songs, Glorious Day (Living He Love Me) with the lyrics. No commentary necessary from me on it, it speaks for itself. I've just included some scripture I feel is appropriate to each line of the chorus, one each from the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. ENJOY!


Living He loved me,

The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying:
"Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you."
-Jeremiah 31:3

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come
that He should depart from this world to the Father,
having loved His own who were in the world,
He loved them to the end.
-John 13:1

Dying He saved me

And I will pour on the house of David
and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem
the Spirit of grace and supplication;
then they will look on Me whom they pierced.
Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son,
and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
-Zechariah 12:10

But God demonstrates His own love toward us,
in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood,
we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
-Romans 5:8-9

And buried He carried my sins far away

For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death
-Isaiah 53:8b-9a

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death,
that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,
even so we also should walk in newness of life.
-Romans 6:4

Rising He justified freely forever

I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
O Death, I will be your plagues!
O Grave, I will be your destruction!
-Hosea 13:14

And therefore “It (Abraham’s faith) was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him
who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
who was delivered up because of our offenses,
and was raised because of our justification.
-Romans 4:22-25

One day He's coming, oh, glorious day,
oh, glorious day

I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
-Daniel 7:13-14a

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him,
even they who pierced Him.
And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.
Even so, Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord,
who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
-Revelation 1:7-8

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How Can I Forgive? - Learning How To Let Go Of Pain

In this fallen, sinful and broken world, being wronged by somebody is simply an inescapable fact of life. It’s happened to all of us at one time or another, whether intentional or not, and fact is, it will happen again. Sometimes it’s by strangers, or sometimes by someone in our circle of friends, or the worst of all is being hurt by our loved ones.

“How can I forgive her adultery?”

“How do I forgive him for cheating me on that deal?”

“How can I let go of the pain of being lied to?”

“I don’t know how to let go of the pain of betrayal.”

These are some very real questions you may be asking yourself, or maybe something similar. In our humanity these are very legitimate questions to ask, but let’s put a little perspective on it. What if Jesus, as He hung on the cross being wrongfully executed, had asked, “How can I forgive them for killing me?” He chose, instead, to submit to the will of the Father and asked forgiveness for those who were committing the ultimate wrong that can be committed on this earth against Him.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they do.
-Luke 23:34

Forgiveness is a command of Jesus, but we must CHOOSE to follow it. Forgiving is hard because it goes against our sinful flesh nature that wants to get even and be vindicated, but He set the example for us in a big-time way. I guess you could say he “talked the talk and walked the walk.” The sins committed against us by others pale in comparison to the sins we’ve committed against God. That was the point Jesus was making with the parable of the unforgiving servant. The servant was forgiven a huge debt by the king, but then would not forgive a fellow servant of a much smaller debt. As a consequence, when the king heard about it, he had the servant sent to prison. When we choose not to forgive, there are consequences for us, as well.

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone,
forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.
But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.
-Mark 11:25-26

Whoa! Wait a minute! I thought Jesus forgave ALL my sin? Well, He did, but these are red letters in my Bible, and it says what it says. Consider verse 26 with this perspective; if your heart is so hard that you won’t forgive, then have you really experienced the love and forgiveness of Jesus? How can you ask God to forgive you if you won’t forgive others? If you have truly experienced the freedom that comes with God's forgiveness, then how could you NOT forgive someone else? Your heart’s desire should be to forgive the specks in others’ eyes, knowing you’ve been forgiven the board in yours. Notice there are no conditions put on forgiving someone, either. It doesn’t mean that what they did was ok, but that you choose not to hold it against them anymore. For instance, if you forgive someone for lying to you, does that mean you will believe everything they say from then on? Not necessarily, but you overlook that lie and use discernment in the future. They don’t have to come apologize or ask for forgiveness, either. Forgiveness is grace- undeserved favor.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies,
kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another,
and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another;
even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts,
to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
-Colossians 3:12-15

Forgiveness is a hallmark of a devoted follower of Christ. It is an expression of love like no other, short of laying down one's life for another. I urge you, my brothers and sisters in the Lord, to let the perfect love of Christ live within you, being full of tender mercies, shining forth kindness and humility by His Spirit, and “pay it forward,” as they say, forgiving others in grace as you also have been forgiven, and may God's perfect peace reign in your heart.

And above all things have fervent love for one another,
for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”
-1 Peter 4:8





 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Have You Had Your TAWG Today?

time with God
  
I have a 17 year old daughter who lives on the island of Guam in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. She doesn’t know it yet, but she inspired this blog post when I was chatting with her the other day on Facebook. Guam is 14 hours ahead of the US East Coast, so it was Friday night here and Saturday morning there. She told me she needed to get off of the computer for a while because she had to do her TAWG. Having never seen that acronym before, I naturally asked what it meant, and she told me, “Time Alone With God.”
 

Shadanice James
My daughter Shadanice
 
And when thou prayest,
thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are:
for they love to pray standing in the synagogues
and in the corners of the streets,
that they may be seen of men.
Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou prayest,
enter into thy closet,
and when thou hast shut thy door,
pray to thy Father which is in secret;
and thy Father which seeth in secret
shall reward thee openly.
- Matthew 6:5-6

My friends, have you had your TAWG today? The above Bible passage from Matthew 6 is in red letters in my bible. Jesus, Himself, told us to make time to be alone with God. Some people call it going into their prayer closet. It doesn’t have to be a literal closet, as some people do, which is perfectly fine, but a quiet time and place to be with God. Thank Him for His many blessings, pray for yourself and others, read the Bible, confess what you need to confess, but don’t do all the talking. Take time to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to you. Seek His guidance, His will for you, how you can bless others, and how you can glorify Him.


A literal prayer closet

Immediately Jesus made His disciples
get into the boat and go before Him
to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.
And when He had sent the multitudes away,
He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.
Now when evening came, He was alone there.
- Matthew 14:22-23

Not only did Jesus tell us to spend time alone with God, He set the example for us, as seen in these Bible verses from Matthew 14. Notice how Jesus is proactive here. He didn’t just wait for things to quiet down, He made the time. He sent His disciples away, and then He sent the crowd away. I want to encourage you today, my brethren, to make time for your TAWG. All of us can come up with reasons not to and give a list of stuff that is keeping us "too busy," myself included, but aren’t they really all just excuses? Sometimes we even become so caught up in ministry work that it becomes an excuse for no time ALONE with God, just like Mikes Sumondong wrote about on his blog, Your Daily Word. Can’t we find at least 20 or 30 minutes a day to make time for God every day? Turn off the TV, get off of the computer, get up a little earlier in the morning, or maybe get ready for bed a little earlier and have your TAWG then. Satan doesn’t like it when we have some TAWG, and he’ll throw anything in our way he can, but stand firm my friends, because we are more than conquerors in Christ!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Extreme Makeover - Heart Edition

By: Carl Holland
Carl's Words of Inspiration


Heart transplant surgery, though still a very serious operation, seems almost routine with today's medical technology. Many people claim to feel like they have much more energy and can breathe better after receiving a new heart. Sort of a "renewed life" you might say. That's what it's like when we come to God and let the Holy Spirit work inside us. Before a heart transplant is even considered, it must be determined that there is a problem with the heart to begin with. You may be physically healthy without a heart disease, but you still have to contend with "heart deceive." In Jeremiah 17:9 we read:

The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
who can know it?
And in Proverbs 28:26:
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But whoever walks wisely will be delivered.

So, our own hearts can deceive us and we not know it, and we are fools to trust it. Ouch! Sounds pretty harsh, but that’s what God says about our emotional heart. He certainly knows, and He says so in Jeremiah 17:10:

I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.

So how do we get this extreme heart makeover? Simple… we just ask the Master Surgeon for it, and we humbly allow Him to do it. As we seek to do His will and set our own desires aside, He renews our heart, both inwardly in how we look at things such as ourselves and situations we face, and outwardly in how we respond to and treat others around us. Is your heart made of stone, and maybe you don't even realize it? Have you stopped to honestly consider whether your own heart is deceiving you and you're operating based on feelings rather than God's Spirit within you? Humbly submit to His authority, His ways, and His will for you today, setting your sights on the things above, and let Him do some radical, life-changing heart surgery in you to make you more like Him! Jesus is the cure for any heart condition!

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
- Ephesians 3:14-19

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh
and give you a heart of flesh.
-Ezekiel 36:26

Monday, September 26, 2011

I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is Mine

wedding picture with a heart outline
So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
let not man separate.
- Matthew 19:6

It was two years ago today that my lovely wife decided she could put up with me and we tied the knot. We chartered a passenger ferry boat for a couple of hours and got married just off of Cumberland Island, GA near the south end of the Island where the Atlantic Ocean comes into Cumberland Sound at the FL/GA state line. The minister was a very dear friend of mine, Scotty Langford, who is like a brother to me, and has been my discipler for several years. Fort Clinch in Fernandina Beach, FL served as a backdrop behind us.

Carl and Odie wedding with Scotty Langford
My wife loves to dress up our dogs, and sometimes we take them to the nursing home where she works and let them visit the residents. Our wedding day was no exception. She found a doggie tux for our male Chihuahua, Kasey, to be a groomsman. We made dresses for our female Miniature Dachshunds, in our wedding colors, of course. Prissy was a bridesmaid and Tilly was the ring bearer.

dogs in wedding outfits

fishing at my wedding                                                            Of course I can't talk about our wedding day with mentioning me fishing at my own wedding! I had been teasing my wife that since we were going to be on a boat I had to bring my fishing pole, since the whole purpose of a boat was to get to more fish. I snuck a small collapsible pole onto the boat and started "fishing" on the way out. Don't worry, I didn't even have a hook on it, but just a small weight to cast it with a few times. Her jaw about hit the deck and my dad leaned over to her and said, "I brought him into this world, I can take him out for you."

One of the things Cumberland Island is known for is its herd of wild horses. I had been out in the Sound fishing in my own boat quite a few times and never saw a horse. My wife had it in her mind that the horses were going to come out that day. Sure enough, just as we said our “I do’s,” as if on cue, some horses came out to graze. They were not going to deny my bride her wish on our special day. Well, God didn’t deny it, at least.


horses on Cumberland Island

Jesus said to him,
“You shall love the LORD your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.”
- Matthew 22:37

To my beloved wife, I wish I could say I love you with all my heart, but that is how Jesus told us to love God. Sorry, honey, but you come second here. I do, however, love you as Christ loved the church. I give myself for you. I will nurture you in the Word, that you may be washed by the blood of Jesus, presented before God without blemish.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church
and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her
with the washing of water by the word,
that He might present her to Himself a glorious church,
not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
but that she should be holy and without blemish.
So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies;
he who loves his wife loves himself.
- Ephesians 5:25-28

We haven't always lived our lives for Christ as we do now. This isn't the first marriage for either of us, but it will be the last, and it is "till death do us part." I am yours, and you are mine. Happy Anniversary my love!
hands with wedding rings on the bible opened to 1 Corinthians 13

I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine.
- Song of Solomon 6:3

Monday, September 19, 2011

God's Economy- It's Never in Recession

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and rust destroy
and where thieves break in and steal;
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys
and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
- Matthew 6:19-21

The Egyptian Pyramids of Giza are certainly one of the true wonders of the ancient world. A great deal of archaeological study has been done on them. Essentially they were huge tombstones for the Pharaohs buried in them. Included in their burial chambers were large amounts of valuable earthly treasures of gold and silver and such, which, it was believed, the Pharaoh needed in the afterlife. Well, if grave robbers or archaeologists were able to find it still there many years later, obviously they didn’t take their treasures to the afterlife with them.

It is recorded in the Bible that the Egyptians were using the ancient Hebrews as slaves for construction work before God called Moses to deliver them. Today’s researchers are trying to remove that part of history by preferring more politically correct terms such as “laborers” or “workmen” instead of slaves, some even flat-out denying that slaves were used. Some so-called “researchers” even go so far as to say the pyramids were built by space aliens with super-advanced technology. Somehow, they find that easier to believe than the biblical account of the Egyptian Pharaohs using slave labor to build monuments to their own over-inflated egos that believed themselves to be gods.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare,
and into many foolish and harmful lusts
which drown men in destruction and perdition.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,
for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness,
and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
- 1 Timothy 6:6-10

But this isn’t about the Pyramids, or who built them and how. It’s an example of self-glorification and putting trust in the riches of this world. You can’t take any wealth of this Earth with you when you die. That’s why we have wills to distribute our possessions to those we want to receive it. Where are you storing up your treasure? Where are you investing your heart? Investing in mutual funds or the stock market may produce riches of this Earth, which is here today and gone tomorrow, but it has no eternal significance. Is that where your heart is? Or is your heart set on Jesus and the things above, obeying His Word and doing good deeds in His Name, which stores treasures and crowns in Heaven that you will so thankfully give back to Him one day? Salvation is a free gift of God, paid for by Jesus because we couldn’t pay what was required, nor could we earn it. Treasures we store in Heaven are rewards for our good works we do in His name, for HIS glory, and not our own while we are on this Earth. They are fruits of our Salvation, but do not produce salvation. Trust that God will provide what you need in this earthly realm, and be content with what He has provided. Invest your heart in God’s economy- it’s never in recession, and the returns are out of this world!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Seven Places Christ Bled

If this video doesn't touch you and give you a better appreciation for just what Jesus did for you, maybe you should try walking on water. Betcha get wet!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What is Worship? - Beyond the Music



A very dear friend of mine shared this funny worship video with me. It’s funny, but at the same time, sad. Isn’t the twist of these worship lyrics true of many in the Church, or if we’re honest, ALL of us at some time or another?

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
- John 4:24

I’ll admit I’ve had times when I’ve been in a worship service and really didn’t feel like being there and just sort of “going through the motions.” I’m sure we all have. Are we getting all dressed up in our “Sunday best” to be seen “going to church” so we can look all spiritual? Are we busy looking at what so-and-so is wearing? Do we really “surrender all” to Jesus, or do we just “surrender some?” Are there things in our lives that we want to keep control of in the flesh? Do we have things deep inside us that we don’t dare let out because we’re afraid of what others will think? “If they knew this about me, would they think I’m not Christian enough?” Or do we deny the truth even to ourselves because we’ve been taught to believe that Christians aren’t supposed to have this or that issue they struggle with? Of all places, the Church (the body of believers, not the building) should be where we can let our guard down, open up to our brethren, be real, confess to each other our problems without being judged so we can lift each other up and encourage one another. We shouldn’t be made to feel like we have to fake it and act like we have it all together. I’ll be the first to admit… I don’t. It is Christ alone that holds me together. (link to Louie Giglio- Laminin post) Nothing is hidden from Him. God searches the heart and knows us better than we know ourselves.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable to God,
which is your reasonable service.
And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
- Romans 12:1-2

This begs the question then, “what is worship?” It is certainly not the music. Sure, the music can produce an emotional reaction, but we can be fooled by our own emotions. Worship is summed up very well in Romans 12:1-2. I’m not trying to “rewrite Scripture,” but I believe you can think of worship by considering this passage something like this: when you realize God’s mercy on you in giving Himself to save you, it should make you want to live your life for Him in all ways, giving yourself fully to Him, setting yourself apart for His purposes for you, obeying what He has commanded you to do, and seeking to please Him alone. Don’t be how the world says you should be, but seek to be what God says you can be in Him, by letting His Word transform your thinking into what He desires for you, and put that thinking into actions where people see Christ in you, and not yourself. Worship music is great and can help us get/keep our mind set on Christ, but true worship goes far beyond the music. We have to keep the focus on Christ as we seek Him with all our hearts, and seek to live out the Gospel according to His will for us, that others are drawn to Him and not ourselves. Ask yourself, “Am I exalting Christ? Or me…”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/01- Remembering America's New Day of Infamy

September 11, 2001… a day that will forever be burned into the memory of everyone old enough to have understood what happened that day. It stands out in history as one of those days that shook the world and everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news; like Pearl Harbor day, the day John F. Kennedy was shot, or the day the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up. Many eyes were awakened that day. Many began to ask, who these people are that are attacking us, and why do they hate us so much? Radical Islamic terrorism had previously been just a news blurb about something that happened “over there,” but it was now brought to America’s shores in a big way. America’s security policies were changed in a hurry in an effort to keep us safe from another such attack. It didn’t take long, though, for some start complaining about civil liberty violations and profiling. While I would agree that some of the policy changes may have gone too far, it’s ridiculous to be pulling aside 85 year-old grandmothers or 2 year-old toddlers for “enhanced screening” while allowing obviously young Muslim males, which ALL 19 highjackers were, to pass through to avoid any appearance of profiling or Islamaphobia. Americans flocked to churches in droves right after the attacks. Many feared the end of the world was beginning. Just being in the church building is not what God wants. He wants to have a personal, loving relationship with you through His Son Jesus. Sadly, for some it is easier to believe that Nostradamus predicted the fall of the Twin Towers than it is for them to believe the hundreds of prophecies Jesus fulfilled to show He is the Son of God. It’s now 10 years gone. The churches aren’t packed anymore. It’s not politically correct to question anything about Islam. Standing for Christ can end your career. I am afraid that political correctness is going to allow radical Islam to infiltrate America and slowly creep into our justice system in the form of Sharia Law, begin indoctrinating our children in school about the Great Satan America, and eventually overcome Christianity as the predominant faith in America. It is already happening in Europe, though the politically correct want to deny it. A phobia is a fear of something, so in that sense, I guess I would be Islamaphobic. Islamic terrorists have been telling us and showing us for many years that they were coming here; it just took them a while to make it across the ocean. How long have we seen them in mass demonstrations chanting “death to America” and burning the American Flag or the US President in effigy? Did we think maybe they were just “going through a phase” and they’ll get over it? America, we woke up that fateful day 10 years ago… don’t go back to sleep! Pray for the safety of America, the peace of Jerusalem, and for the salvation of those without Christ, including, but not limited to, the Muslims.

PRAYER:  Father God, I thank you so much for protecting us from another attack for the last 10 years. Thank you, God, so much for the firefighters and policemen who risked their lives, some losing it, to rescue and help others on that day. Thank you so much, Lord, for our troops who are serving to protect our nation and the world from the evil that has been brought forth by these terrorists, and for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, or those who have returned home maimed, in the service of their country. May you richly bless them all and their families. I pray, Lord, that those without Christ of whatever religion, or none at all, will be touched and their hearts convicted by Your Word, that they will seek a relationship with you through Christ, and repent of their evil ways. Convict me as well when I fall short and miss the mark. Here the cries of your people, Lord, and forgive our sins, heal our land, and guide our leaders in the paths of Your righteousness. God, bless America. Amen.

Here is a list of some of the major Islamic terrorist attacks against Americans over the years leading up to 9/11. It is certainly not all of them, but certainly enough to get the point across that we’ve had plenty of warning for quite a while.

• 1970 - The first mass aircraft hijackings occurred in 1970, the so-called Dawson's Field hijackings, when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine seized control of two American planes and one Swiss airliner, all bound from Europe to the United States, to punish the United States for supporting Israel. The Pan Am, TWA and Swissair planes were blown up on the ground in Jordan and Egypt.

• 1979 - United States Embassy in Pakistan attacked by mob mistakenly blaming the US for radical Islamic faction hostage crisis in Mecca.

• 1979 - Nov. 4, Tehran, Iran: Iranian radical students seized the U.S. embassy, taking 66 hostages. 14 were later released. The remaining 52 were freed after 444 days on the day of President Reagan's inauguration.

• 1983 - Bombing at United States Embassy in Beirut, April 18, 1983. 63 people, including 17 Americans, are killed.

• 1983 - Beirut barracks bombing, October 23, 1983. 305 people, including 241 US servicemen, are killed by 2 suicide bombers.

• 1984 - Twenty-two people were killed (two of them American) and seventy were wounded when a van loaded with four hundred pounds of explosives exploded in front of the U.S. Embassy annex in Awkar, Lebanon. Islamic Jihad (code name of Hezbollah) claimed responsibility for the bombing in a call to the media.

• 1985 - TWA Flight 847 hijacked, U.S. Navy diver is killed by Hezbollah.

• 1985 - Achille Lauro hijacking, wheel-chair bound American killed by Palestinian militants.

• 1986 - On April 6, a Berlin discotheque bombing killed a Turkish woman and 2 US servicemen and injured 230 people, including more than 50 American servicemen.

• 1988 - Pan Am Flight 103, outbound from London for New York with 259 people aboard, was destroyed by a bomb on December 21, 1988 while over Lockerbie, Scotland. All aboard the aircraft were killed as were eleven persons on the ground.

• 1993 - World Trade Center bombing, February 26: 6 killed, 1,042 injured.

• 1995 - Killing of two US Diplomats in Pakistan, March 8.

• 1996 - Khobar Towers bombing: 19 American servicemen killed.

• 1998 - US embassy bombings: U.S. Kenya Embassy blown up, 214 killed (including 12 Americans); U.S. Tanzania Embassy blown up, 11 killed.

• 2000 - USS Cole attacked, 17 U.S. Navy sailors killed, 39 sailors injured.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

America: One Nation Under God's Judgment?

By: Carl Holland
Carls Words of Inspiration

Is it just me, or does anyone else sense something odd is occurring with all the natural disasters that have been taking place in the US in the last year? Stop and think about it for a minute and put it all together. Back in the winter we had record amounts of snow, especially in the Deep South. There was very heavy snowfall in a very large area stretching from Texas to North Carolina and south nearly to the Florida state line. There was even an accumulation of snow in Orlando! I remember this quite well since I live in southeast Georgia. Later on in the spring, we had record breaking flooding all along the Mississippi River. The Army Corps of Engineers was blowing up levies and sacrificing farmland and smaller rural communities to save the more heavily populated areas. We saw similar things happening in Louisiana with floodgates to spillways being opened in an extremely rare move to ease the flooding in other areas. Also in the spring we saw one of the worst tornado outbreaks in history. Entire towns in Missouri, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia were wiped off the map. Hundreds of people were killed. The summer brought on its share of misery, as well. Much of Texas and Oklahoma are experiencing very extreme drought. Record high temperatures have been broken all over the place. Many records for the most consecutive days over 100 degrees have fallen, as well. Entire bodies of water are drying up. The record heat wasn’t confined to just Oklahoma and Texas, either. Record highs were shattered in Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee, and Louisiana, as well. In fact, I looked at the weather in west Tennessee where my dad lives one day and the current temperature at the time was 109 degrees with a heat index of 134! Many areas of the South are experiencing drought conditions, as well. Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona have also had major wildfire problems. Hundreds of thousands of acres have burned up by the Southwest wildfires. Recently we’ve had a very rare 5.8 earthquake not far from Washington, DC. I’m sure many in California are laughing at the East Coasters, who are freaking out over an earthquake that was “only” 5.8, but the geology is a little different on the Right Coast, and it was a very rare event, indeed. Now we’ve had Hurricane Irene skirt up the Mid-Atlantic and New England coasts, affecting a record number of people, 65 million by one estimate I heard, and causing record-breaking power outages and shattering rainfall records in some areas. Record flash-flooding has occurred in many areas, washing out roads and bridges and leaving some entire towns cut off from the rest of the world. The winds may not have been enough to be labeled a “major hurricane,” but Irene was very large, well-formed, and packed a powerful punch. She may have been a tropical storm when she made a direct hit on New York City, but was just barely shy of hurricane strength after being weakened just enough by skirting the shore of New Jersey. If she had stayed a hurricane, it would have been the first one to directly hit NYC since 1893. Just the first half of 2011 made this year the costliest on record for natural disasters. On top of it all, we’re in the midst of the worst economic meltdown most of us can remember, with no signs of it getting better any time soon. Obviously, it’s been a pretty tough year so far for the US.

But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled;
for such things must happen, but the end is not yet.
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
And there will be earthquakes in various places,
and there will be famines and troubles.
These are the beginnings of sorrows.
- Mark 13:7-8

Let’s look a little farther in America’s recent past, and outside the US, too. On March 11, 2011 Japan experienced a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake, with a resulting tsunami that inundated a large swath of the coast of Japan, killing some 15,000 people and causing extensive damage on top of what the earthquake had already done, and even caused damage to ports all the way across the Pacific Ocean in Washington, Oregon, and California. This double whammy of a natural disaster also resulted in Japan's worst nuclear disaster in history at its Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, nearly on a par with the Chernobyl accident in Russia in 1986. Radioactive contamination was released into the air and actually reached American soil, although at much lower levels, but contamination nonetheless. This earthquake even shifted the main island of Japan by 8 feet, shifted the Earth’s axis by 6-1/2 inches, and shortened the length of the day by 1.8 microseconds. On January 12, 2010 Haiti was hit with a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that caused massive damage, killed over 300,000 people, and left about 1 million homeless. In the aftermath, disease and starvation continues to take its toll on the survivors. Also in 2010, Eyjafjallajokull Volcano in Iceland erupted violently, spewing a massive ash cloud that drifted over Europe, grounding air travel for days. A year later, Iceland’s Grímsvötn Volcano underwent the nation’s largest eruption in 50 years, though it didn’t cause the air travel nightmare that Eyjafjallajokull did. On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, breaching the levies and flooding the city. A total of 1836 people lost their lives to Katrina, among the top most devastating hurricanes in US history. In 2004, for the first time ever, four hurricanes crisscrossed Florida, leaving massive destruction in their wakes. Also in 2004, on the day after Christmas, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake struck the floor of the Indian Ocean, triggering a massive tsunami throughout the Southeast Asia area which killed over 230,000 people in 14 countries, slamming some coastal areas with waves as much as 100 feet high. The earthquake was so powerful it caused the entire planet to vibrate and also made the Earth’s axis shift a measureable amount. It sure seems to me that worldwide disasters have been steadily increasing in frequency and intensity, as trend charts of natural disasters clearly show.

O LORD, are not Your eyes on the truth?
You have stricken them, but they have not grieved;
You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return.
- Jeremiah 5:3

Al Gore would tell you this is all the effects of global warming he’s been warning us about, even in the wake of the British email scandal that proved scientists were manipulating the data to fit a political agenda. It’s kind of hard to take someone serious about living a “carbon-neutral” lifestyle when they have a $30,000 electric bill for their 10,000 square-foot mansion and fly around in a private jet to spread their message. But this isn’t about global warming or Al Gore. Could it be, I mean, could it just possibly be that God is trying to get our attention and that He is starting to pour out judgment on America? How long can we go on pushing God out of everything? The year 1962 marked the beginning of a downhill slide for America when prayer was taken out of our public schools. Rates of teen pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, and violent crime increased dramatically after that. Student SAT scores plummeted while the divorce rate skyrocketed. Charts of these statistics strikingly bear this out. We live in a culture where it is politically incorrect to mention anything about God or Jesus except in some generic, multi-cultural, all-inclusive sense that diminishes the truth, but bashing Christians and saying things against God or Jesus are considered “free speech,” no matter how vile. The TV show South Park went so far as to air an episode where Jesus defecated on President George W. Bush and the American flag, but showed Mohammed behind a censor bar and in a bear suit so that his image would not be seen, offending Muslims. Military chaplains are being limited on what they can say, and we are now well on the way to allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military. There are many people who have the twisted idea that it’s ok to kill a baby because the mother doesn’t want it, but will put their own life on the line to save a Spotted Owl, or eat a vegan diet because they don't believe animals should be killed for food. Activist judges are overruling the will of the people and forcing gay marriage on America. This issue, in particular, is causing whole Christian denominations to fracture right down the middle. I wonder where those churches that support gay marriage get their theology from, because it’s certainly not the Bible. We’re about to reach the 10-year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, and Mayor Bloomberg of New York City will not allow any religious leaders to publicly pray at the official memorial service in the name of political correctness and to keep from offending anyone. How can atheists be “offended” by a God they don’t believe in? Of all times and places, this is one where we all need to beg of God to continue to protect us from another such attack. We live in a day and age where the truth is considered relative. Nothing could be farther from the truth! No pun intended… well… maybe. But the fact of the matter is that relative truth is a lie straight from the pit of Hell. There is good and evil. There is an eternal and absolute Truth, and that is the Word of God, personified in the God-man Jesus the Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
- 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

When Christians try to point out how these things run contrary to God’s Word, many people, believers and non-believers alike, will point the finger and quote “judge not, lest ye be judged.” This is where a little Scripture, taken out of context, can be dangerous, and many believers are deceived when it is twisted in this manner to fit an agenda and don’t know how to respond. What we are not to judge is someone’s salvation. That power belongs to God alone. To do so would be putting ourselves in the place of God, which is idolatry. We are, however, supposed to exercise a righteous judgment in accordance with God’s Word and proclaim the Truth, always in love and with a goal of drawing people into a closer walk with God and away from self-destruction. There are many things that God is very clear about being wrong, some even an “abomination” to Him. That is not to say that we are to make Christianity about a list of right and wrong, do and don’t do. That’s not it at all. It’s all about having a true personal relationship with the Living God, who gave His own life in substitution for us to pay the debt for our sin that we couldn’t pay ourselves, and that He didn’t deserve to have to pay. When you are growing in that relationship, and the Holy Spirit is living in you, there becomes an increasing desire to move away from things God detests and toward those things that please Him out of your love for Him. We are to be the salt and light of the Earth, and sometimes that means a little tough love, calling out sin for what it is; rebellion against God.

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts,
to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
who exchanged the truth of God for the lie,
and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,
who is blessed forever.
- Romans 1:24-25

We live in a broken and dying world, and America is no exception to that. As it was in the days of Noah, we live in a society where blatant sin is rampant and openly tolerated. All norms of morality seem to have been thrown out the window. This flat-out rejection of God leads to a lifestyle of fulfilling the desires of the flesh, trying to fill an emptiness that only God can fill, but pride of self won’t allow them to admit it, leading to their own destruction. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, one of their priorities was getting the French Quarter ready in time that Mardi Gras could still go on. That’s like sticking their collective finger in God’s eye and saying, “the open sin and debauchery must go on because we make a ton of money off of it.” Did they ever stop to consider that maybe God was trying to get their attention? We now have a Commander-in-Chief, who, I have no doubt, would throw Israel under the bus. Woe to us when he does! Israel has tried the “land for peace” route before, and it doesn’t work. Her enemies don’t want a “peaceful coexistence.” They want all or nothing and continually call for the complete destruction of Israel. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad recently said that there would be no room for Israel in the Middle East after the formation of a Palestinian state. In 2005 he openly called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” and this is a country pursuing nuclear weapons. Yet Israel is called the bad guy by the world when she defends herself and retaliates against indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas coming out of the Gaza Strip, or Hezbollah in Lebanon. God will not allow His Holy Land to be carved up. God has stated that He will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel. Honestly, does the current US Administration show any signs of being friendly to Israel, or are they distancing our nation from Israel and joining the rest of the world in condemning Israel? Could it just be that the recent earthquake to the west of Washington, DC, followed by a hurricane just to the east, is God trying to get our attention before the upcoming vote on Palestinian statehood in the UN; located, by the way, in New York City where Irene hit; which would try to force Israel to give up land and return to her pre-1967 borders? Would Americans stand for the UN trying to force us to give the Southwest back to Mexico? Three of the four hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004 directly hit Orlando. Is it a coincidence that Orlando is the home to Disney World which is famous for its "gay days," and the Walt Disney Company was one of the first large companies to offer benefits for same-sex domestic partners? America was clearly founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Our Founding Fathers cited 27 violations of Biblical principles by the King of England in writing the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration even states that all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” In other words, our rights are given by God, not the government. We, as a nation, have rejected God and pushed Him out of everything, as though we don’t need Him anymore. Our politicians will give speeches and end them with “God bless America,” trying to cater to the "Christian vote," while their actions are rejecting God and pushing him farther and farther out of the picture, giving Him no reason to bless us. Are Americans so arrogant to think there’s no way God will bring judgment on us? That He’ll continue to “shed His grace on thee?” Or perhaps it is even far bigger than America. Could it just be that all of Creation is groaning in birth pangs, crying out for Messiah to return to cleanse the Earth of evil forever? Then there are those who say there is no judgment because there is no God. One day they will find themselves standing before the Throne of God only to find out they were wrong, but then it will be too late. America was birthed as an exceptional nation, with freedom to worship God in spirit and in truth and pursue what is right, but we have strayed way off course, and we are not immune to God’s judgment to try to steer us back on course.

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves,
and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
- 2 Chronicles 7:14

It is not too late, however, for our great nation. God’s word is full of promises, and He is holy and righteous and always keeps his promises. Sometimes those promises involve judgment, and He would not be righteous if He did not dole out judgment on the wicked. His desire is that none should suffer judgment, but leaves it up to us to choose. If we reject Him, we are choosing judgment and condemnation. He made it so simple to choose by offering His Only Son in our place and simply desiring that we trust Him, that He did enough. He has made promises to nations, as well; perhaps the most often quoted being 2 Chronicles 7:14. If we, as a nation, will humble ourselves and submit to God’s authority and call on Him for forgiveness, then He promises He will come and heal our land. Could it just be that God is using these things to try to get our attention and say “Hey, remember Me?” “Turn back to me while you still can.” Open acceptance of sin and rejection of God is the problem. Embracing God and rejecting sin is the solution. Only when we turn to God in obedience to Him, and seek to do His will and stand for what is right in HIS eyes, can we rightfully proclaim, “God bless America.”

Monday, January 31, 2011

At What Price, Freedom?

Artist's depiction of Abraham Lincoln witnessing a slave auction.
- Courtesy of Time-Life
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word,
you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free.
They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been
in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you,
whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.
And a slave does not abide in the house forever,
but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free,
you shall be free indeed.” – John 8:31-36

There is a tale told of Abraham Lincoln about 30 years before he was elected president that says he saw a slave girl on the auction block one day and proceeded to bid on her purchase. He would continually raise the bid one dollar above the previous bidder until he finally won the auction and purchased the girl. She asked him what he was going to do with her, and he replied that he was setting her free. She was puzzled and asked what he meant. He then said that it meant she could go anywhere she wanted to because she was a free person. She replied that she would go with him, then, because she wanted to stay with the one who purchased her freedom. Though this is a tale that has become part of American folklore, along the lines of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, isn’t it an amazing picture of what Christ has done for us?

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. – Romans 3:23

The bible tells us that all of us have sinned, every single one of us without exception. Jesus told us that “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin,” therefore we are all slaves in bondage to sin. Jesus, however, bought us out of that slavery. The price He paid was Himself, spilling His own precious blood in a torturous death, culminating with His voluntary crucifixion on the cross, to pay our death penalty in our place. But on the third day, as He said He would, HALLELUJAH he arose, conquering death to set us free. All He wants is that we fully trust Him, that He did everything necessary to free us from sin and death and reconcile us back to the Father.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” – John 15:13-14

The slave girl in the story had a choice; go about life on her own, probably ending up being a slave again anyway, or voluntarily follow the one who bought her to set her free. Abraham Lincoln was known as one with a great love for humanity, and he eventually did set the slaves free with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Jesus, fully man, and fully God, has a great love for humanity as well, as summed up John 3:16. He demonstrated how great His love is for us by paying the ultimate price to buy our freedom. He laid down His life for His friends, who He says are those who do what He commands. Should we not, then, choose to follow Him and do as He commands us to do? Can we really call ourselves a friend of God if we don’t? Choose this day which path you will follow, the wide path of bondage to sin and death, or the narrow path of freedom from sin and everlasting life; a slave to sin, or a servant for Christ.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate
and broad is the way that leads to destruction,
and there are many who go in by it.
Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way
which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
– Matthew 7:13-14
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