Tuesday, August 15, 2017

HELP FROM EGYPT Vs HELP FROM THE HILLS


Image result for help from godWho is the first person you turn to when you have a need or a problem? If you were upset with someone, would you call a friend? How about if you had health needs? Would you turn first to doctors and medicines? How about if you had financial needs, would you turn first to your bank account, family and friends, and the bank? And if you had a disagreement with another that couldn’t be resolved, would you turn to the legal system?

The Israelites had a history of wanting to return to Egypt time and time again when they faced challenges on their way to the Promised Land. Although God Almighty had called them His people, and had repeatedly demonstrated His power amongst them, their response to trouble was always to call on Egypt, or go to Egypt for help. That attitude always saddened God’s heart, and made Him jealous, because over and over again, He had told them to look to Him for help. It saddened His heart because by going to others, they were getting less than He wanted for them; less than they deserved, if they got anything at all.

There is nothing wrong with consulting doctors, banks, or the legal system; God made these available to us, but they should not be the first in our thinking. We need to always turn to the Lord first, and have Him direct us to those if that is what He’ll have us do. Jesus said, “Apart from me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5 NIV). If He doesn’t give doctors the needed wisdom, they wouldn’t be able to help us, and if we do not depend on God to provide the right judges, we’ll not experience the justice we need and seek. Let us go first to God, and then He will guide us to the right resources. The Psalmist wisely says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV). 

It is important to note that aside from the inability of those we consult to help us, there are consequences for bypassing God, and looking for help elsewhere.  Bypassing Him is a clear indication that we do not trust Him, and in response to     that attitude, this is His response, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD” (Isaiah 31:1 NIV). Additionally, He says in Jeremiah, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5 NIV).

The arm of flesh always fails, but “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:7 NIV). Goliath trusted in his size (giant), his sword, and army; David trusted in the living God, although he was tiny in comparison, and only had a sling for a weapon, and an army shaking in its boots. This is our wakeup call to seek God first in everything. 

Sennacherib, king of Assyria invaded Judah during the reign of Hezekiah.  Hezekiah encouraged his army officers and the nation, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NIV).


Instead of going to borrow from the bank and paying a hefty interest, God could find us the money we need, without us having to pay it back. God does provide you know!  Before I got into using credit cards, I prayed about every need, but after starting to use credit cards, I didn’t always wait for God’s response even if I prayed. The habit of credit use can erode faith, and cause us to take our focus off God. Let us be careful; let us place our faith in God alone, and seek Him first in every situation. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

IS IT POSSIBLE TO BE OVERLY BLESSED?



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What does it mean to be overtaken by blessings? To be overtaken in any situation is an indication that there is a race, or a competition going on. So to be overtaken by blessings is an indication that I am racing ‘Blessings’, and clearly, I am not the winner, ‘Blessings’ is the winner. I believe it means being so blessed that I don’t know what to do with it all; blessings ahead of me, behind me, beside me, above me, and underneath me.
Have you ever been overtaken by blessings? In a way, I think we all have, because we don’t really deserve any of the blessings we get as it is, but I believe, to be overtaken means, blessings above and beyond all that.

How possible is it to be overtaken by blessings? Do you believe God honors His promises? Then here is what He promised the Israelites, and Christians can claim it as well. “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you” (Deuteronomy 28:2 NKJV). 

So how do we get blessings to overtake us? I should mention that this is one of the promises based on conditions. “If you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that ...” (Deuteronomy 28:1 NKJV).

What will it look like when you are overtaken by blessings? “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds …, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 28:3-8 NKJV).  

Here is a recap of this passage, as I understand it, “If you keep my commands, I will so overwhelm you with blessings that you will ask me to stop, and even then I won’t. I will bless you in all areas of your life, spiritual, physical, social, financial, at work, at home, at play, when you are awake, and even when you are asleep; just name the time, circumstance, and place, and my blessings will overtake you there.”  Signed: GOD!

The secret of being overtaken by blessings is obedience to God’s commands! The thought of being overtaken by blessings is overwhelming, and it really blows my mind! Let us learn to be obedient, whether He blesses or not, because He is the Potter, and we are the clay; we owe Him at least that much. But let us also remember that, all His promises are yes and amen in Christ Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 1:20), and so He will honor them! Our obedience means a lot more to Him than our sacrifices (see 1 Samuel 15:22).


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

PAYING A DEBT THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN PAID IN FULL



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With the current financial system, the average person, including people who don’t use credit cards, has recurring bills. These recurring bills come in the form of mortgages, rents, and utility bills, and the like, which unless under alternate agreements with the creditor, come due every month. Bill payment is therefore, a way of life in society.

Here is a dilemma to ponder. What should a consumer do about a bill that shows a zero balance, even though he or she is sure he or she hasn’t paid it? Should the consumer pay this bill again, after discovering that a loved-one had indeed paid it in full? I am one of those who will answer, “Absolutely Not.” I’ll say it’s time to be thankful, and go on with life. If the consumer insists on paying that debt, after knowing full well it has been paid already, a good number of people would wonder if this person were out of his or her mind. Some might even go on to say he or she is a fool.

As ridiculous as this scenario sounds, many people are doing that right now! They insist on paying for their sins, although there is no need for them to do that.  They’d rather go to hell than place their faith in Jesus. An atheist on television trying to raise support to keep Church and State separate concluded his ad with, “I’m not afraid of burning in hell.” Does he know what that means? Why would anybody look forward to going to hell when his sins have already been paid for? This is heart wrenching, and shows defiance and disdain for God. How sad! But just as a person could be considered a fool for wanting to pay a bill that’s been already paid in full; anybody who rejects God’s provision for the forgiveness of sin is also a fool. The Bible says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1 NIV). To such people, God is just going to say, “Have it your way” and reluctantly send them to hell (see 2 Peter 3:9). How scary!

 The thing is we owe God a debt we cannot pay; He’ll forgive that debt, but only on one condition—admission of guilt and faith in Jesus. He says the wages of sin is death-the death of a sinless person. No human qualifies as that person, So out of love, God sent His Son, Jesus as our substitute – the only one without sin, and the Bible expresses it this way, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John3:16 NIV).  

Although Jesus died to pay for our sins, it’s sad but certain, that there are people who will still be held accountable for their sins. They’ll go to hell because they refuse to believe in Jesus. But why do they refuse to believe in Him?

Since Jesus has already satisfied God’s required payment for sin, it makes absolutely no sense for anyone to go to hell. If scientists ever discover a cure for cancer, I am a hundred percent sure, that all cancer patients will line up to be treated; not even one will choose to suffer and die when treatment is available. Pain and suffering in this life will end at death, but pain and suffering in the life to come is forever—without end. Sometimes, I think we are very limited in our understanding of eternity, and that is why some individuals accept hell so readily, and even joke about it; hell however, is not a joking matter, and it is not funny. Unfortunately, by the time they understand it, it’ll be too late to choose the alternative—life in Jesus!

God will not take His pronouncement back; He will judge sin, because He knows that man knows the truth about God. Man has chosen to disregard the truth, although deep down in his heart, he knows God exists, and that he is accountable to Him. The apostle Paul reminds us, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” (Romans 1: 18-19).


If you are reading this, and have not yet submitted to the lordship of Jesus, please do not take it lightly; because hell is for real, and once you arrive there, you cannot turn around. That will be where you will spend eternity. Act quickly!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Is Anything More Valuable Than Your Soul?



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As Jesus was nearing the end of His life, He made sure His disciples knew how things were going to unfold. He talked about the importance of His followers being willing to lose their lives for His sake. During one such occasion, He asked them, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26.).  It has been hundreds of years since this question was first posed, but it still needs to be asked, and needs to be answered honestly.

What does this question mean? No matter what you think it means, the manner in which it is posed suggests what the correct answer should be. Although everyone is at liberty to answer this question either way, “Yes” would be the wrong answer, because the question is suggesting that you shouldn’t put anything above your soul.

There are individuals who have claimed to be Christians, but with the passing of time, instead of growing in faith, they are living in sin, and don’t seem to care. They avoid the Church, maybe in an effort to avoid confrontation by caring Christians. They act like they either have no conscience at all, or don’t care; I find that very bothersome and scary. How can “Christians” who know what the Bible says about sin feel comfortable living in it? Whatever sin they are “enjoying” cannot be that much more important than their souls, can it?   

The book of Hebrews addresses this issue. I think we all need to pay attention, because God cannot be mocked. He always fulfills His promise, whether it is to bless or to punish. When He said He’d destroy the world for their increased sins, He did! See Genesis 6:9-22, 7:11-24. When He first called Abram, He promised to bless him, make him into a great nation, and make him famous and a blessing to others (see Genesis 12:2-3). Again, He did! These fulfilled promises assure us of God’s faithfulness. See also: Genesis 15:4-5; 15:13-16.

The author of the book of Hebrews says, “If we deliberately continue sinning, after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies” (Hebrews 10:26-27 NLT). And to prove his point, the author reminds us of the consequences that resulted from disobeying the laws of Moses in the Old Testament, and goes on to explain why it will be worse for people who trample on the Son of God, and disrespect the blood of the covenant (see verses 28-29). This message should wake up any Christian who is willfully living in sin-“Is anything worth more than your soul?” No! The pleasures of sin are so temporary and fleeting, and in the end, they sting!
John addresses the issue of Christians caught up in sinful lifestyles this way: “Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep sinning, because they are children of God” (1 John 3:9 NLT). His recommendation for prevention? “Anyone who continues to live in Him will not sin” (verse 6).

And how do we live in Him? By reading, studying, and meditating on His Word, allowing it to transform our way of thinking and living. As part of a vibrant relationship, we need to maintain open communication through prayer. Nobody can be applying the Word of God and praying for deliverance from temptation while living in sin!

The difference between the children of the devil and the children of God, according to John, is this: “Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God” (1 John 3:10 NLT). So if you claim to be a Christian but are enjoying living in sin, you need to ask yourself if you are really a child of God. It is very possible that you do not know Jesus in a personal way: that you are making a false claim. However, you can make a decision now to live for God by placing your faith in Jesus.

You decide where you are in your spiritual journey. Either you are not a Christian and need to be, or you made a decision for Christ at some point, but did not follow through. Either way you need to repent and allow the Word of God to guide you into godly living.

If you are a Christian, God has called you to be an ambassador for Christ. How are you going to accomplish that by living in sin? An ambassador represents his country of origin to another, by portraying his country in the best possible light. That is what God expects of His children; that we portray Him in the best possible light to the world. We don’t have to figure out how to do it; He has already given us the blueprint—godly living, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings” (John 8:31).  Let’s follow it! We've been redeemed by the blood of Christ; nothing should be more valuable to us than our souls!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Faith Is Not Dependent On Facts


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Faith is defined as reliance, loyalty or complete trust in God, and the Scriptures define it as, “The confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). In short, faith believes that through God, the seemingly impossible will happen!


Facts are the hard evidence of a case or situation that cannot be disputed. Facts predict the outcome of a situation. For instance, when the Israelites left Egypt en route to the Promised Land, they had a number of challenges to overcome. One of their challenges was finding themselves sandwiched between the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian armies pursuing them from behind, with nowhere to go. Here are the facts about the Red Sea: it’s too deep to wade; it is impassable from one bank to the other without an adjoining bridge, a boat, or an airplane. Nevertheless, God miraculously made a way for the Israelites to cross it, getting to the opposite bank safely, on foot, and on dry ground.

Based on known facts, one could have predicted that the Israelites were going to perish, either at the hand of their enemies, or by drowning in the sea, but that’s not what happened; they got across safely without bridges, boats, or airplanes. The Egyptian army, in its pursuit of the Israelites faced the same facts like the Israelites, but without God in the equation, they drowned when they attempted to follow the Israelites on dry ground.    

This is where faith and facts part company: if you walk into a grocery store with no money (fact), you can’t expect to walk out with a bag of paid groceries. Faith however, can allow you to walk into the store with no money, and walk out with a bag of paid groceries, and maybe, even some extra cash in your pocket. Here’s the definition of faith as a math equation:
No money plus (+) complete trust in God to provide needed groceries (equals) =paid bag of groceries at no cost to you! That is how faith works in all seemingly impossible situations.    

One of the things that saddened Jesus during His time here on earth was the lack of faith among the people and especially, His own disciples (see Matthew 17:14-19). Although they’d all witnessed His power at work, time and time again, they never seemed to remember it when a need arose later! On a storm-tossed sea with Jesus in the boat, the disciples were alarmed; they woke Him up, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown” (Luke 8:24 NLT). After He rebuked the storm, He asked them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25 NLT). Jesus must have found that very disappointing; did they really think they were going to drown with Jesus on board the boat?

Can a boat drown with Jesus on board? No! But then, why do we sometimes behave as if that were possible? The Scriptures teach us, “It is impossible to please God without faith” (Hebrews 11:6 NLT). We need to have and exercise faith, if we’d like to be pleasing to God, because after all, He’s promised us, “I will never fail you, I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:6 NLT). Also, He encourages us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 6:6 NLT). Which portion of these promises don’t I understand, and what about them don’t you understand? We need to stop worrying so much!  

Worrying does not change anything, (see Matthew 6:27); only the prayer of faith and the Spirit of God (Zechariah 4:6) can move the supposed mountains we worry about. The Scripture commands us, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT). When we pray more specifically and remind ourselves about God’s promises and past provisions, our fears, worries, and concerns will disappear. The facts we know about a situation don’t have to have any bearings on the outcome, because faith in the power of God makes all the difference, it makes possible, the seemingly impossible!

Lord, please forgive us for worrying so much. When we worry, we imply we don’t trust you, and that you don’t have the ability or the power to help us. Please forgive us for being so ungrateful and so faithless! You provide for even the birds of the air, how much less for those for whom you died and rose again! Lord, we turn our needs and concerns over to you, please intervene, and help us to always remember your many blessings. Thank you in Jesus’ name!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

THE WHOLE TRUTH



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What is truth? Truth is defined as the state of being the case: facts, verity, and actuality. Personally, when it comes to information sharing, I like to be told everything. I do not appreciate half or partial truths; I hate surprises. There are people who excuse their half-truth presentation of information as a way of protecting people’s feelings.

Having said that, I have heard people, including Christians, who say hell should not be mentioned when the love of God is communicated. They claim it is enough for people to know God loves them. People should not be intimidated by the mention of hell. The gospel message, however, is not complete without the mention of hell (eternal separation from God), because that is the reason Christ died. He died to save us from hell! Yes, people should know God loves them. They should also know what He is saving them from and the implication of not responding to that love.
A parent might say to a child, “I love you. Don’t touch this hot burner.” As inquisitive as children are, don’t you think the child could ignore that instruction and touch it anyway? I believe so. A better approach is, “The burner is hot; you will get hurt if you touch it. I love you and don’t want you hurt, so don’t touch it”

People faced with decision making need to know the facts on which to base their decisions. They need to know their options in order to make the best possible choices. After they know the facts, they are responsible for their decisions and the outcomes. They have no one to blame but themselves for untoward outcomes. On the other hand, if their decisions are based on partial truths, they could be surprised by the outcome and may even feel that others are to blame for their predicament.
God makes sure He tells us the whole truth, and He expects us to go and do the same. When we focus on protecting people’s feelings by sharing partial truths, we really do them a disservice. The idea of hell is frightening, but that is the reason we need to share it. We tell this truth with compassion.
The gospel presentation should therefore include:

Who God is (Our holy Maker who hates sin), “I am God almighty; walk before me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1 NIV84). (Also see Leviticus 19:2)
Who we are (sinners), “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV84).
The consequences of our sins (death), “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 NIV84).
God’s provisions for our sins (the death of His Son Jesus), “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3 NIV84).
The blessings that come with accepting God’s provision (salvation). “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned” (John 3:18 NIV84).   
The consequences of ignoring His provision (condemnation and hell), “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18 NIV84).


 Most people would prefer to hear the whole truth and believe on Jesus for salvation, rather than have their feelings protected with half-truths. Let’s be diligent and share the gospel, undiluted, with compassion and urgency.   

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

ARE YOU TRYING TO IMPRESS PEOPLE WITH YOUR SPIRITUALITY?



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Which Scripture passage comes to mind when you think, “Faking Spirituality”? Do you remember the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira? If not, please allow me to refresh your memory. You can read the full account in the Acts of the Apostles (see Acts 5:1-11).

After Pentecost, having been empowered by the Holy Spirit, the believers lived in love and shared everything, even their possessions. Those who had property sold it and brought the money to the Apostles to benefit the entire community, although it wasn’t required. They did it, because it was the right thing to do, as expressed by John, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17 NIV). They did it joyfully, not looking for any recognition, for God loves a cheerful giver (see 2 Corinthians 9:7).

One couple, Ananias and his wife Sapphira, like the others, sold a piece of property. The two agreed to give only part of the proceeds to the Apostles for community use, and that was their right (see 2 Corinthians 9:7). However, when Ananias brought the money, he wanted the Apostles to believe that he brought the total amount. Sapphira, coming in a few hours after her husband’s report, not knowing what had transpired earlier, confirmed her husband’s report, which was a lie. Needless to say each was rebuked sharply by the Holy Spirit, and they were buried side-by-side, a few hours apart (see Acts 5:4-10). It was a good lesson for the rest of the group, and it should be a lesson for us as well.

Ananias and his wife were not rebuked for surrendering only part of the money; they were rebuked for deception. They were trying to give the impression that, like the others, they had surrendered all.
Do you ever pretend to be something that you really are not? Do you like to tell others how often you read your Bible, how much time you spend in prayer, how you do this, that and the other good work? Think about it! Do you try to impress others with how often you fast, give to charity, and so forth? 

Do you criticize others when you are guilty of the same thing? Do you put others down so you can appear to be better? (See Matthew 7:6). God wants you to be yourself.  He sees what you are and what you do, and why. He will take it from there. “Your’ Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:18 NIV). You don’t need the applause and commendation of men. God will reward you in due time.  


Jesus called the Pharisees, “Whitewashed tombs” because they were such hypocrites, “Everything they do is done for men to see” (Matthew 23:27). That definitely is “Faking Spirituality.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

YOU WERE BOUGHT AT A PRICE





Anyone who purchases a product with his or her hard-earned money likes to value and protect that product, and in addition, expect that product to perform as specified by the manufacturer. For example, how would one feel if one spent thousands dollars buying a car that keeps breaking down and leaving one stranded day after day? I am very sure one would be very disappointed and frustrated, and maybe, even return the car to the dealer.

In the same way, God gave His one and only Son to die to pay for the sins of the world, and expects those whom He purchased to live and function in a certain way. The apostle Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth about sexual immorality in the Church (i.e. among Christians). He told them, “Flee from sexual immorality” and then reminded them, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20 NIV). Since we’ve been bought, we have a Master to obey; we can’t live any how.

It cost God the life of His Son Jesus to free us from sin. The expression, ‘At a Price’ is an indication that our salvation was very expensive, and because of that He does not take sin lightly. What is the point in giving His life if we are going to continue to live in sin anyway? When He said, “You are to be  holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be mine” (Leviticus 20:26 NIV), it was not a suggestion; it was a command.  He bought us, He owns us, and has the right to demand that we live up to His standard. He deserves our admiration, obedience, and honor!  

Which sin do you struggle with? Is it fornication, extramarital affairs, lying, gossip, or something else? It is not too late to turn your life around. God is ready to enable you to turn your life in the right direction, but you have to be willing to identify the sin and be willing to flee from it; you have to want to change.  Jesus said to His disciples before He ascended into heaven, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in …” (Acts 1:8 NIV). Our way of life is included in being witnesses. We received the power that gives us victory over sin when we came to faith in Jesus, because that is when the Holy Spirit came to indwell us.

There are many who say God is love and will forgive, and that is true.  But the Scripture asks, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase” (Romans 6:1 NIV)? The answer of course is, “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer” (Romans 6:2 NIV). Let’s not take His grace for granted. 

Our faith becomes questionable when we continue to live in sin. This is what the Scripture says about that, “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin” (1 John 5:18 NIV). In other words, continuing to sin intentionally, is an indication that one has not been born of God. Ouch! May our way of life match the truth of God’s Word, and serve as proof that we were bought at a price!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

EVIDENCE THAT YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD



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Are you a child of God? You might be surprised that I asked, because you are wondering, “Isn’t everyone a child of God?” What kind of evidence should there be?

Here are the Bible’s answers to these questions. God is the creator of all life; He created man in His own image, and so in that sense, yes, everyone is a child of God. However, Satan cunningly lured us into his camp, by deceiving Adam and Eve in the Garden, and thus causing a separation between us and God. The Bible explains our condition this way: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). Sin has definitely put a separation between us and God.

In order for that separation to be bridged, God sent His only Son to die in our place -- to take on the punishment that we deserved. As a result, Jesus became our sin-bearer. And the Bible says faith in Jesus as our Savior restores our relationship. God doesn’t force us to believe in Him; it is a choice each individual has to make on his or her own. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 NIV). Also, the apostle Paul reminded the Church of Galatia, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26 NIV).

Sin placed us in the devil’s kingdom of darkness, but God transfers us into His kingdom of light when we place our faith in Jesus. Only then can we claim that we are God’s children. The apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians of God’s promise: “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV). If being created by God automatically made us His children, this promise, “I will be,” would not be necessary. But as it stands, we need to become His children.

There are characteristics of the children of God, and there are characteristics of the children of the devil; they are not the same. If you are a child of God, you’ve become a new creation, your former way of life has become a thing of the past (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). God’s characteristics will be evident in your new life, because He lives through you, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NIV). The following characteristics are proof that a person is a child of God:

The believer/child of God:

Is indwelt by the Holy Spirit – “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9 NIV). Do you belong to Christ? If yes, do you have the Holy Spirit?

Has the assurance of being the child of God – “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16 NIV). The Holy Spirit gives us the inner assurance that we are God’s children. Are you a child of God? Do you have that assurance?

Has the hope and assurance of eternal life – “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2 NIV), and “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13 NIV). Can you say with certainty that if you die today you’ll be ushered into the presence of God?

Is controlled and led by the Spirit – “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14 NIV). When there is leading, there has to be following. In other words we take direction and instructions from God; we don’t do our own thing. Who is the charge-person in your life, God or … (insert your name)?

 Does not live in sin – “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:6 NIV). Do you claim to be a child of God? Are you enslaved by any particular sin? Reconsider your claim, and don’t allow the devil to find excuses for you. If the Holy Spirit lives in you, you should be uncomfortable living in sin.

Delights in pleasing God – “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (8:8 NIV). The opposite of this verse is also true: those controlled by the Spirit of God do please God! Do you sometimes sense God saying to you, “Good job!”? How does that make you feel?

Abides in Christ: Jesus describes Himself as the Vine and us as the branches. The branch, of course, will die if it does not receive nourishment from the tree. Receiving nourishment from the tree does not only keep the branch alive, but also helps it to blossom and bear fruit (see John 14:1-5).

Bears Fruit – According to the book of Galatians, the fruit we bear as a result of abiding in Christ is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (see Galatians 5:22). Is anything on this list missing in your life? What kind of fruit are you bearing? Is it fruit that can lead observers to the conclusion that you are a child of God? If you’re not bearing godly fruit, please pray for the grace to be able do so. You can then agree with the apostle Paul, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NIV).  

Accepts Corrections – we all need to be corrected from time to time, or we’ll make the same mistakes repeatedly. Correcting us when we go wrong is one of God’s ways of expressing His love for us, and He grants us grace to endure during those times. If we accept His corrections, we emerge from our experiences as wiser, mature, and better people. Job tells us, “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal” (Job 5:17 NIV). Also, Proverbs tells us, “My son do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12 NIV).


Dear child of God, we’ve been commanded to be light and salt (see Matthew 5:13-14) in the world, in order to make Christ attractive to people. We can’t be effective in ministry if there is no evidence in our lives that we are God’s children!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

GOD'S TRUTH IS THE ONLY TRUTH



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Truth is defined as that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality. There is something very refreshing and freeing about truth, because it does not change. Truth is non-negotiable; it is not affected by peoples’ view of it, and it does not take other positions into consideration; it stands alone. If it took other positions into consideration, there’d be no truth; it will cease to exist, and sadly, there’ll be only conflicting ideas that lead to chaos.  Consequently, there will be no need for law enforcement of any kind in society; everyone will be free to live out his or her own truth. What a messy world that will be! 

The Bible says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1 NIV). Will this fact change because someone insists there is no God? Of course not! If a child says to his parents, “You are not my parents,” would that change the fact that they really are, and could produce documents to prove it? Certainly not!

If you live on planet earth, anywhere in the world, you belong to God, and it behooves you to listen to what He says. One of the most basic things He wants us to pay attention to has to do with our relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus. In reference to Jesus, the Bible says, “To those who believed in His (Jesus) name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:14 NIV). Do you believe in His name? Until you believe in Him, you are not His child; you are His creation, and of course, you are free to disagree with His claim of ownership on your life.

If you do not wish to be a child of God, then you are all set; you don’t have to do anything different from what you are already doing. On the other hand, if you’d like to be a child of God, you’ll need to ask God for forgiveness of sin through Jesus. Disagreeing with this process of adoption is very unproductive, because disagreement is not an acceptable excuse for unbelief. It won’t exempt you from accountability. It will only place you in the category of unbelief for which the consequence is already spelt out. It goes like this, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18 NIV). 

God is Truth; He does not change, and He does not take His words back (see Malachi 3:6, Isaiah 31:2). So we are the ones who need to change. Our way of thinking needs to come into alignment with His Word. If He says our relationship with Him will be restored only through faith in Jesus, then that is the only way to go. Please don’t waste time going around in circles, and coming up with seemingly-cute arguments, because His Word will never change to accommodate your unbelief and disobedience. You are free to choose what you want to believe, but also, be aware that what God says is final! Time is running out; do it God’s way by placing your faith in Jesus today for salvation! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Your Invitation Has an Expiration Date




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An invitation is a written or verbal request inviting someone to go somewhere or to do something. Have you ever been invited to something like a wedding or a bridal shower? Do you remember that your invitation had an RSVP date? What the invitation really meant was, your presence at the event would be appreciated, but you have to respond by the stated date. Otherwise, it is assumed you are uninterested or unavailable, and you’d not be included in the count.

Here’s another example. Manufacturers are in business to make money, and their target market is the public. After all, if we don’t buy their products, what will they do with them, and how would they earn a living? It is common knowledge that competition is fierce among manufacturers, so many of them use all kinds of advertisements to draw sales away from their competitors.
One of the strategies they use is price reduction --commonly known as sales -- and another one is coupons use. What’s interesting about both strategies is that both are dated: they have expiration dates, forcing the buyer to purchase products by the specified deadline. If products are not purchased by the expiration dates, the discounts no longer apply and one has to pay full price for the products in question.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve thrown money away when I let a coupon expire, yet I misplace them all the time or forget that I even have them. In other words, I don’t treat coupons as if they are as valuable as I say they are. Fortunately, the products will probably still be available, whether or not there’s a sale or coupon. I will just have to pay a bit more.

God loves us and would like us to respond to Him. Although we are unaware of a specific date, God’s invitation into a relationship with Him has a time limit as well.  That date is not readily available as one might see on coupons, but I can assure you, your invitation to come to God expires when you die, or when Jesus returns to earth, whichever comes first. The Bible says so. God knows when, but we don’t, and that is why each person needs to take this invitation seriously and treat it with urgency. It is better to have the assurance now that God has a place for you in heaven, than get to the end only to find your name is not on the list. What a disappointment and loss that would be!

Having explained time limits, let me explain God’s invitation again. Through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, our first parents, sin was passed on to us. That sin caused a separation between God and man. In order to restore that relationship, Jesus died to pay the price for our sin. God’s love through the death of His Son, Jesus, is enough to cover every single person, but each person has to choose what they want. God will not force salvation on anyone, neither is He going to wait forever while people toil with the idea of loving God or something else. People have to take responsibility for their sins and make plans for their eternal future.

Living now without faith in Jesus means living in eternity later without God, and that means spending eternity in hell. Using the word hell is not a scare tactic; it is the truth, and should be addressed as such. Sugar-coating it or calling it by any other name won’t change what it is. Jesus’ invitation to you is, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT).

How are you going to respond to this invitation? Time is running out with every day that passes. You probably don’t have as much time as you think. This is God’s assurance when you repent and put your faith in Jesus, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God” (1 John 5:1 NLT), and “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13 NLT). Respond to this invitation, before it’s too late for you!

       

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Eternity is Around the Corner



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Quite often when people die, you hear their loved ones say, “He (or she) is in a better place.” This is a comforting thought, and I am sure everybody wants to assume that about their deceased loved one. However, before we go any further, we need to ask ourselves, “Where is this better place, and how do people get there?”

 The Bible, the Word of God, talks about eternity (time without end) as being either in heaven or in hell. There is no neutral or in-between place, so when people talk about a better place, they are referring to heaven, since hell is not a desirable place. Heaven, however, is not an automatic destination for the deceased.

When people die, their living loved ones can comfort themselves any way they want, but that does not guarantee their deceased loved ones are in heaven. The biblical truth is this: only those who believe on the name of Jesus (see Romans 3:22) -- whose names are written in the Lamb’s (Jesus) book of life (see Revelation 21:27) -- will go to heaven.  People who do not believe on the name of Jesus Christ before they die cannot be wished or prayed into heaven by loved ones: not even by the church.

Eligibility for heaven is not based on gender, age, or social or political standing, nor  does it  depend on good works or anything else people do. It is based solely on the sacrifice Christ made by dying on the cross (see Ephesians 2:5). By that act, He made Himself the bridge between God and man. Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for sin, making Him the only way for sinners to come to God by faith in Jesus (see John 14:6).

This is your opportunity. Ask Jesus to forgive your sins now. He will forgive you, taking away the guilt of your sins, filling you with His Spirit as the deposit that guarantees your future with Him (see 2 Corinthians 1:22) and writing your name in His book of life.. Don’t count on your loved ones or your priests to wish or pray you into heaven after your death. It just doesn’t work that way.

If you refuse Christ’s offer for salvation, you have automatically and personally chosen to go to hell after you die. Remember: if you die without making this decision, you’ve missed the opportunity to go to heaven for good!

So, while you still live, I encourage you to make the decision that guarantees you will spend eternity in heaven. Your loved ones will then be able to confidently say without hesitation, at your passing, “He (or she) is in a better place.” Please make this decision soon: hopefully today, because eternity is around the corner!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

JESUS IS COMING BACK





Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet, prophesied both of Jesus’ first and Second Advents (see Isaiah 9:6-7). As we know, the First Advent was fulfilled when Jesus was born. The details of the events surrounding His birth happened exactly in the manner in which they were prophesied. That fulfillment was proof that the Word of God is dependable. We celebrate that First Advent as Christmas, characterized by festivities, giving and receiving gifts. Looking back, we see that, that advent was very obscure, very few people knew anything about it, or cared about it. The key people mentioned in that event included: His parents-Joseph and Mary; the Inn Keeper; the shepherds; and the Wise men.

Similarly, the Second Advent will be fulfilled unerringly; Jesus is definitely coming back! Whereas He came as a helpless baby the first time, and did not catch the attention of many, things will be a lot different with the Second Advent. The Second Advent will not be obscure in any way; rather, as the Bible says, “Every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7 NIV). He is going to come with the armies of heaven and the Christians who were raptured seven years earlier. This occasion is going to be grand, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. He is coming as the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Ruler of the nations, and the Judge of the world, and He will hold sinners accountable for their wickedness, and reward the righteous.

Before His Second Advent though, there will be the rapture of the Church. The Bible describes the rapture as the sudden removal of all Christians from the earth to join with resurrected believers and Jesus Christ Himself, in the air. The rapture will usher in the tribulation period, a seven-year time of suffering, lawlessness, and severe persecution of Christians. At the end of the tribulation period, Jesus will return to earth to cleanse the world of sin and evil, and establish His Millennial Kingdom (a thousand-year rule). This will be Jesus’s Second Advent.

Jesus’ return to earth is mentioned not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament. Jesus Himself spoke about His Second Advent while He was here on earth. Towards the end of His ministry, Jesus promised His disciples He’d return from heaven, “I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3 NIV). Furthermore, the day Jesus ascended into heaven (forty days after His resurrection), two angels appeared to the distraught disciples who were amazingly watching, as their Master went up. The angels comforted them by saying, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11 NIV).

In the book of Revelation, John, the author, recorded for us Jesus’ message to the Churches. He said, “Behold, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done…I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star…Yes, I am coming soon (Revelation 22:12, 16, 20 NIV)! God is faithful; none of his promises has ever failed, and will not fail now! So let’s be ready; Jesus is coming back soon!     


After the millennium, there will be no more tears, pain, or suffering, which is what God had in mind right from the beginning of creation. There will be peace, no political garbage and lies! We will have one Ruler who is kind, loving, and just, and totally trustworthy. Wow! What a world that will be! We’ll get to call it our permanent home; a city whose Founder and Maker, and Ruler is God Almighty! Amen!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

BE A SAINT




Who is a saint, and when does one become a saint? There are
people who think sainthood is pronounced upon a person after
their death, based on how good/holy they lived. According to the
Scriptures, saint is another name for Christian. The apostle Paul
addressing the Church at Ephesus called them saints; “Paul, an
apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus,
the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 1:1). These addressees were alive,
so one does not need to be dead to be called a saint. Hence those
of us who are in the body of Christ Jesus are saints, whether we
are in or out of our individual earthly bodies.

Having established that we are saints, we should also establish
that unless the Lord draws us we cannot come to Him (see John 6:44),
and therefore sainthood is a calling. Paul writing to the church
in Rome addressed them this way, “To all in Rome who are loved
by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:1). The online dictionary
defines Call as: 1) Making a request or demand, 2) Speaking
in a loud distinct voice so as to be heard at a distance, and one
of the definitions for to be: is to become. So CALLED TO BE
SAINTS means, God requested/demanded that we become
saints. To become something different from what we are requires
a transformation from one state of being to another; example:
going from a cocoon to a butterfly. We are transformed from a
state of unbelief/ungodliness to belief/faith in Christ, resulting in
the newness of life and the renewal of the mind. We are not called
to act like saints; we are called to be saints.

Sainthood is not a cloak we put on and take off when we feel
like it. We are to be saints around the clock, 24/7. It should be
our new nature, our state of being. We are to be saints at home,
away from home, when we are awake and when we are asleep. We
should be saints at all times; in the company of believers as well
as in the company of unbelievers, no matter what. ‘Saint’ should be
our identity; the identity by which we are known.

How can we vibrantly maintain our sainthood? Let’s compare
sainthood to professions in the circular world. We need to have the
mindset that we are saints. We need to learn all we can about being
saints, by studying the manual for saints, by attending in-services,
seminars, and training sessions about saints. This will equip us to
get better at being saints. The word says we should not neglect the
assembling together of the saints, as some are in the habit of doing,
but we should encourage one another (see Hebrews 10:25). It also says we
should correctly handle the word of truth. (see 2 Timothy 1:5). Every so
often, professionals go through certification and re-certification
to ensure their skills and knowledge are up to date. We receive
our certifications and re-certifications through the trials we go
through to confirm that we are applying the lessons we learn on
how to maintain our sainthood.

Sainthood is ongoing, and takes perseverance. We should get
better at being saints with the passage of time as we keep our gaze
on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (see Hebrews 12:2).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD




“Occupational hazard” is a very common expression in our society that refers to potential risks, dangers, or perils associated with one’s job or profession. For example, people who work with asbestos run the risk of developing lung cancer later on in life; roofers run the risk of falls and injuries. Most professions, if not all, have associated risks. 

So are there associated risks with Christian service (ministry)? The answer is yes!  There are associated risks for just being a Christian; Jesus warned, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV). The early church was bitterly persecuted. The hymnist captured it this way, “Mocked, imprisoned, stoned, tormented, sawn asunder, slain with sword.” The Church today still faces persecution in horrible ways, including isolation and being disowned by loved ones. Persecution and the like in themselves, as harsh as they sound, are really not the worse hazards associated with Christian ministry.

The worst, I believe, is DISCOURAGEMENT, which can happen to any Christian, no matter how spiritually mature. How does one arrive at discouragement? Discouragement creeps into our lives for various reasons and at different times. Discouragement can ensue when there’s not enough support or cheering on (encouragement), not enough supplies to work with, obstacles and threats in the way, and the absence of fruit. Discouragement, if not appropriately addressed, can lead to despondency and throwing in the towel.     

First King 18 recaps for us the contest between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to call on Baal to send down fire to consume their sacrifice, which of course didn’t happen.  On the other hand, God answered Elijah! When he called, fire came down from heaven, burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. After demonstrating that “The Lord-He is God! The Lord-He is God!” (1 King 18:39 NIV), Elijah had the prophets of Baal killed. King Ahab’s wife Jezebel swore to kill Elijah in revenge. So what did Elijah do?  He ran for his life; he went into hiding! He was so discouraged, he wanted to die. This was his prayer: “I have had enough, Lord, take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 King 19:4 NIV).

Elijah was exhausted, persecuted, and afraid, which led to discouragement, to the point of wishing he were dead (maybe he had no prayer support). Before his discouragement, he was fine. He had challenged the people, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is god follow him” (1 King 18:21 NIV). He had also challenged the king without fear of punishment, telling him that he and his father’s house had made trouble for Israel (see 1 King 18:18). He then taunted the prophets of Baal about their god who could be asleep, deep in thought, busy, or travelling (see 1 King 18:27). Discouragement, however, changed everything for Elijah; he threw in the towel!

Discouragement can be a serious occupational hazard in Christian ministry. Let us remember to pray for one another, for our missionaries, and for our pastors. Let us cheer them on, and if at all possible, make sure they have all they need to get the job done. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Terrorist Turned Evangelist/Missionary





For years now, terrorism is a big global issue. We can describe terrorists as murderers, evil, wicked, heartless, ignorant, and on and on. But thank God that a number of Muslims have seen the light, trusted Jesus, and turned their back on the darkness. Jesus died for all mankind, terrorists included, and the Bible tells us, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NLT). Terrorists can come to faith in Jesus, because God is able to make that happen. Let’s turn the pain, frustration, anger, and even hatred that we feel toward them into prayer.

As Christians, the apostle we reference most often is the apostle Paul (aka Saul) of Tarsus. Before he became an apostle, he was a terrorist! He persecuted the Church of Jesus Christ; he was one of the witnesses and was in total agreement when Stephen was stoned to death for testifying about Jesus. Why was he a terrorist? As a Pharisee (the strictest sect of Judaism—see Acts 26:5), Paul wanted nothing to do with Christianity (The Way, as it was called). He took it upon himself to preserve Judaism, and in his own words, “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem… I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.” (Acts 26:9-11 NLT)

Paul continued his terrorist acts until Jesus got his attention. He had received letters from the High Priest in Jerusalem, requesting the cooperation of the synagogue in Damascus, to arrest and bring back to Jerusalem any Christians in Damascus (see Acts 9:1-2). As he neared Damascus, his trip was interrupted; Jesus had a dialogue with him.
“Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

The response, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:3-6 NLT). That was the turning point in the life of this terrorist; he became a new person: a believer!
Saul, received marching orders (from God) while in Damascus. Immediately, he started preaching Jesus and fellowshipping with the very people he had gone to terrorize and arrest. Those who heard him speak about Jesus as the Son of God could not believe what they were hearing. They questioned, “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem? And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?” (Acts 9:21 NLT) His arguments about Jesus were so convincing that the Jews in Damascus could not refute his proofs. On his return to Jerusalem, the believers there were afraid of him, and could not believe that he had become a believer of Jesus Christ.

This dramatic change is proof that no matter how much people hate Jesus, God can turn them around, making them useful instruments in His service. Our current-day terrorists can be confronted just as Saul was; they can understand the truth about Jesus, believe in Him, and take the message to their former colleagues. This is a call for Christians to sincerely pray for all non-Christians, especially the terrorists and all who support and encourage their cause, just as Stephen prayed for those who killed him (see Acts 7:60).

On Paul’s return to Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit commissioned him and Barnabas to go and preach the gospel; they travelled extensively, preaching to both Jews and Gentiles. Through their ministry, many believed and were saved, many were healed, Christians were encouraged to live for the Lord, and churches were planted (see Acts 13-14). In addition to sharing the gospel, he continued to encourage the churches he planted and individuals he discipled through letters, and constantly prayed for them. Those letters (Epistles) continue to build and strengthen the Church today. Indeed, Paul was a terrorist turned evangelist/missionary!

Saul, the most anti-Jesus individual mentioned in the Scriptures, worked extremely hard for the cause of the gospel. His hard work was not without suffering. This is his own testimony: “I have worked harder (than the other apostles), been put in prison more often, been whipped without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea…I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep warm.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)   

So, is there hope for terrorists? Yes! If we Christians pray fervently, this hope can be realized. The Scriptures tell us, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT) As we pray for them, let’s also pray for churches that are experiencing the brunt of this evil: that God will encourage them, and that they’ll find it in their hearts to pray for their persecutors. Let’s pray until we have numerous Paul-type-terrorists turned evangelists and missionaries!