On the freeway system, we often pass tall walls of barriers near housing developments. When traveling on a sea of asphalt, how nice it is to see a tree, even a cement one. Yet, something hit me the other day on a long road trip while I saw this very sight across four lanes of traffic. On one side of the road stood the tall retaining walls with etched oak trees and on the opposite side of the traffic, a vibrant orchard. Immediately, upon seeing the real trees, my heart was happy to see the real thing. The leaves moved in the wind and danced in the sunshine. Yet, the cement trees, were cold, rigid and without life.
As I continued to drive, the Lord began to point out to my heart how this is like much of the modern day Christian church. There has been a major problem that has plagued the modern Christian church for quite some time now. And, if we as believers in Jesus Christ are not willing to address this issue and come to grips with it, we will watch more and more artificial messages become erected behind pulpits, and worse, translated into modern translations of Biblical Christian doctrine.
Much like the view of real trees near housing developments, the modern Christian church is watching a staggering number of churches and even denominations walk away from sound doctrine, based on actual written words of the Holy Bible, and replacing it with a mantra that you are entitled to have your “best life now” and “name it and claim it”. The idea of suffering in the world of many Christian churches has become reserved for spiritual attacks. And if one dares to accept the burden, it is determined that one is still sick/troubled/experiencing great suffering because they simply did not believe or have enough faith. Yet, is this what the Holy Bible teaches? Let us hear the words of a great man of God, the Apostle Paul, who was used by God greatly to advance the message of hope, that is Jesus Christ, to all people.
“7Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:5-10 (NASB)
Now, as the Apostle Paul demonstrated, it is right and good to ask for God to change our circumstances. It is great to ask for God to move heaven and earth to show His mighty power over the world, which He created. But…and here’s the big but…when God says no or God says wait…we have to see those answers as a gift from God too. How?
Because He has a much bigger picture of healing and redemption that He is writing…and it simply isn’t time for you/me/the affected individual to understand His ways.
“8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. 9 ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:8-11 (NASB)
Rather than preaching the word of God, which states the supremacy of God (Isaiah 6:1-8) and the unquenchable power of the Risen Christ (Hosea 6:2, Acts 2:24 & 1 Corinthians 15:3-4), a false gospel is preached that rather than serving God—God should serve us. And if God would not do things as we see fit (again, are we not the created ones (Psalm 139:14, Ephesians 2:10? How could we then speak so boldly to the One who created us with such disdain and contempt?) taking away the reality that at times, they are in fact growing seasons for our faith to grow deeper in the Lord Jesus as we wait upon His timing.
May we pray hard (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)—and praise Him even harder (Psalm 69:29-31)—for the battle is the Lord’s (Psalm 20:7) and He truly sees all details of every given situation in utmost love, compassion and sovereign authority over all (Jeremiah 29:11-13). May we call upon Him in all circumstances—even this very moment of reading this line—and apologize to Him for not coming to Him sooner…then praising Him for His goodness, His all knowing-power and His willingness to intervene in His perfect sovereignty into the lives of all humanity for our goodness and His glory. May Jesus Christ alone be praised!
“11‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.12‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 (HSCB)
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB)
What do all these people have in common: An AIDS orphan in Ndola, Zambia, a prostitute between clients in the Soy Cowboy district of Bangkok, Thailand, an abaya wearing divorcee raising a child by herself, a quiet art student in Chung Ching, China and a high schooler from Tampa, Florida?
What about these people: A homosexual woman raising a child with her lesbian lover, a man who is the quarterback on his college football team, an illegal immigrant in hiding, a convicted murderer of a school shooting and a regular church attender?
Answer: Each and every person listed above needs to hear about the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NASB)
And until these people hear of Jesus Christ, how will they be able to accept Him – if they do not know Him?
“11 Now the Scripture says, everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, 12 for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
14 But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things! 16 But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” Romans 10:11-17 (NASB)
We may look back at these lists and think, “Well, I can see how that person would be loved by God, but that one…that one doesn’t deserve God’s love and forgiveness! It just wouldn’t be right!” If we find ourselves struggling to come to grips with the reality that all people are invited to come seek forgiveness through the completed work of Jesus Christ, it’s time to have a serious soul check before God Almighty.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (HCSB)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NASB)
Ladies, let’s get honest here—the grace and eternal favor of God cannot be earned, manipulated, stolen, accumulated or statistically generated. It is not a matter of how “good” we may look to others or how detestable someone else’s life may look compared to our own; it all comes down to the rebellious nature of the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
“Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed.” 1 Samuel 2:3 (NASB)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NASB)
When modern day slavery is at an all time high, when suicide rates of young ones has become a global epidemic, when the lost, broken and hurting feel that there is no way out of their lives of pain—MAY WE BE CROSS-EYED—and turn them to the cross of Jesus Christ. May we share with unabashed joy the hope, healing and new life offered to all who truly come and fall at the feet of Jesus Christ; who died upon a cross for all so that we may eternally live through accepting Him as the Lord of our lives (Acts 16:31)!
I challenge each and everyone reading this article today, to take the 3:16 Challenge. What is it? You may be asking. Whenever the clock says 3:16, morning or evening, pray for the lost and hurting to come to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. And not just pray for them, but ask God for the opportunities to reach these lost people. Because, ladies, it doesn’t matter how “good” life on earth may look for a given person, if they do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, hell and eternal punishment for the rebellion of each soul awaits (John 3:18). And you know what? God loves each one of us enough to offer freedom out of this place of eternal separation from God—through personal acceptance of the love and forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ for our own lives (1 John 4:9-10).
You see, when Jesus Christ died upon the cross of Calvary between two criminals, He cried out, “Father, please forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). And when Jesus Christ rose from the dead, just as He said He would (John 10:18) on the third day from being in the tomb (Matthew 28:6), the punishment for all rebellion of humanity against a righteous and holy God was satisfied (Isaiah 53:5). Therefore, we now know the name by which we can be saved from hell—Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of God (Acts 4:12).
Check the time…is it 3:16? Let us pray with passion to the God who passionately loves all people from all backgrounds, all nations, all cultures and all twisted living. We do not earn the love of God–it is freely offered to all–now may we freely love those enough around us to share of God’s glorious plan of redemption, hope and healing for each complex situation and failed attempt at life….Jesus Christ proved that each and every heart was eternally valuable to Him through His death for our failings while He Himself was innocent of all sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). And now, it is our responsibility as the Church of Jesus Christ to pick up His passion for those He came to save–ALL (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Dear Lord Jesus, please ignite Your Church to boldly proclaim Your name and Your message of hope, restoration and ultimate healing through You! May hearts be stirred, feet be moved and mouths be opened to share of this glorious news that You loved Your own creation so much that You gave Your own live to ransom us from the grip of condemnation and redeemed us to enjoy peace, purpose and eternal life with You! Give us Your eyes for those around our world and our cities who are in such desperate need of Your gospel of unconditional love for all people—for we all so desperately need Your forgiveness. Thank You for offering it so freely, without finding fault, for all who call upon Your name. You are the King of kings and the Lord of lords! We lift up Your name high, Jesus, and ask for Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen!
“Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
Matthew 10: 26-31 (NASB)
In the wake of yet another mass shooting that has claimed the lives of various ages, America finds itself soul searching. The nation is left to wonder, what would drive someone to kill; again. And some have questioned as to the goodness and very essence of God, as a result of allowing such evil within a place of worship. Yet, as Christians, may our minds not be filled with confusion, but rather reassurance from the Word of God.
“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (NASB)
Ladies, may we take an honest assessment of the world in which we live; the devil is very much on the move. He is influencing the hearts and minds of willing individuals to steal, kill and destroy property, values and even the very lives of others. Yet, this sinister plan to devastate humanity is nothing new for the devil. In fact, the devil has prodded willing individuals and groups to carry out his dastardly deeds against the plans of God. We see this first hand in the account of Adam and Eve within the book of Genesis chapter 3. God had specifically called one tree off limits for Adam and Eve, yet the devil was able to plant seeds of doubt and discontentment which gave way to rebellion and ultimate death (Genesis 3:1-24).
Jesus Christ put it this way, “”The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10 (NASB)
Amidst yet another time of great grieving, and sincere loss, as a follower of Jesus Christ, may we not lose our eternal perspective of the sheer sovereignty of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ (John 16:33)! May we pray to the God over all to provide the essential comfort and healing for each and every individual affected by the loss of life (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 147:3 & Isaiah 57:15).
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18 (NASB)
May we claim the truths of the Holy Bible that nothing can pluck us out of the hand of Almighty God once we have entrusted our lives to Jesus Christ (John 3:16, John 17:6, John 17:12, John 18:8-9, Galatians 3:28-29, 1 John 1:9-10, 1 John 4:9-10) . The families who are grieving are indeed needing comfort from the Holy Spirit, but praise God Almighty that as believers in Jesus Christ, they do grieve without hope.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NASB)
Contrary to the popular preaching of “prosperity gospel”—which twists passages from the Holy Bible to imply that a true follower of Jesus Christ should never endure hardship, health problems or suffering of any kind—simply stated, this is not taught anywhere in the Bible. In fact, within the Holy Bible, in the book of Hebrews 11:1-40 (also known as the “Hall of Faith”) heroes of the faith are listed long with the great difficulties they endured before achieving greatness for the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Yet, the final verses of chapter 11 also speak of the mistreatment for the same God.
“35Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38(men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.”
Hebrews 11:35-38 (NASB)
Ladies, may we see the full picture of those who follow Jesus Christ. We are given eternal security and peace with God Almighty through Jesus Christ; yes, this is ironclad truth. Thank you, Jesus! BUT this does not mean that we may not suffer extreme hardship within our lives that may include persecution, torture or even death. Why? Because this is a fallen world since humanity rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden. But praise God for our Risen Savior Jesus Christ who came to seek and save all who call upon His eternal name (Luke 19:10, John 3:17 & 1 Timothy 1:15).
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you. Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little.”
1 Peter 5:6-10 (HCSB)
Suffering is not a topic that anyone enjoys, but within a fallen world with many forms of evil, as followers of Jesus Christ, may we RUN TO A WORLD THAT IS DYING with the secure hope of eternity through the perfect life, innocent death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ the reigning and eternal King.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”
1 Peter 1:3-7 (NASB)
Ladies, if you find yourself reading this today and wondering, “then what the heck is the point?!” The point is that various trials on this earth are used like refining fire is used to purify and burn out impurities of both gold and silver (Psalm 66:10, Proverbs 17:3 & Daniel 12:10).
When we experience hard times or witness mass injustice, our souls cry out for justice. When we see heinous acts committed against innocent lives, we want to see someone pay for the violation. And on a much broader scale, this is exactly what Jesus Christ did when He came to earth for each and every breathing soul (Isaiah 53:5-6). Jesus was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:35), lived a perfect life as God in the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15), and died a criminal’s death as an innocent man (1 John 3:5). Who did He die for? He died for me…and you…and the rest of humanity from every language, tribe and people group. Why? Because the Holy Bible states that each of us have fallen short of the perfect standard that is expected by a truly righteous and just God (Romans 3:23). And as a result of our rebellion to meeting the standard of God, justice needed to be paid. And that is exactly what Jesus fulfilled in His coming! Praise the Lord! He paid the price that not one of us could (1 Peter 1:18-19). And in return, gave us a reward that not one of us could earn (Luke, 23:42-43, Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:23-27, 1 John 4:9-10).
If you have never accepted the Lord Jesus into your own heart, I encourage you to do so this very day. This world is only a blink of the eye in relation to eternity. Secure where you stand with Almighty God, now, I beg you. Receive the cleansing from all wrong doing and shameful acts that mar each of our hearts before receiving the washing of Jesus Christ of our souls.
“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:8-9 (NASB)
You can pray with me now. If you mean these words before God, you can be assured that Jesus Christ has come into your heart.
Dear Jesus, I have made mistakes and missed the mark of perfection. I ask for You to forgive me and to come into my heart as the leader and Lord of my life forever. I believe that You are the Son of God. Thank you for taking my screw ups upon Yourself and taking the penalty for me. Thank You for then giving me eternal life for believing in You. Help me to honor You with how I live. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
If you have just prayed that prayer, please reach out to a local pastor or even this blog post so we can encourage you and celebrate with you! Praise the Lord for new life through Jesus Christ!
“He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:10-12 (HCSB)