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!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


In the beginning, God created man in His own image.
God maintained camaraderie with man through friendship with man in the Garden.
“Should God have fellowship with man? I don’t think so,” said the devil.
So the devil devised a plan to destroy the friendship between God and man.
Through the devil’s scheme, man disobeyed God, and lost friendship with God.
The devil was ecstatic. He had succeeded. He beamed with pride. 
But God said, “Not so fast, Satan! It’s not over until it’s over.”    

God was grieved of course, but in order to satisfy His justice, sin must be redressed.
So God became Man, in the Person of His Son Jesus, and lived among men.
Through his Son Jesus, God showed man how to restore friendship
Through faith in His Son Jesus.
The devil incited the people against Jesus. They hung Him on a cross, He died, and He was buried.
Again the devil thought to himself, “Finally, I have done it! Man will forever be estranged from God, and be my partner in hell.”
“Not so fast, Satan! It’s not over until it’s over.”

Now, after Jesus died, Satan was so overjoyed he threw a party.
Who was at the party?
Satan and his demons of course!
They slapped each other on the back and congratulated each other.
“We did it, we did it! The tomb is tightly sealed, what good is a dead Savior?”
Not so fast. Not so fast, Satan! It’s not over until it’s over.

On the third day, as the party was going on, there was a big earthquake.
All back-slapping and celebration stopped abruptly. “What’s going on?” Satan asked.
Before any could answer, he saw the stone at the mouth of the tomb roll away.
Jesus walked out with angels worshiping Him!     
“O, Nooooooo,” said the devil, “JESUS IS ALIVE, MY ENEMY IS ALIVE!!!  
“This wasn’t supposed to happen. Man will find his way back to God through faith in Jesus!”
“What can I do differently now?” asks the disappointed Satan.
Slow down, Satan. Now it’s really over!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Once Upon a Time

I still remember the first line of many children’s stories I read as a kid years ago. Quite often, it went like this: “Once upon a time, many years ago, there was…” Do you remember reading any such stories? The stories were always things that happened in the past and the lessons that one could learn from them. Most often, the stories ended with a happy-forever-after.Let’s see how that format would work with the God-story!
Once upon a time, many years ago, there was God, His Son Jesus, and His Spirit: the three in One. “And God said, ‘let us make human beings in our own image, to be like us.’” (Genesis 1:26)  He still is, and will always be. Nothing else existed at that point (see Genesis 1:1). With no physical resources, He created everything you see today, and much more. He created the heavens, the earth, the sky, the seas, vegetation, and animals. Then He created man, Adam, and then his wife Eve, in His image and gave man authority over all that He had created, including the responsibility to name them. He placed man in a beautiful garden He had created--the Garden of Eden- and instructed him to take care of it, and to eat the fruits for food. There was only one tree that was off-limits to man—the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the center of the garden (Genesis 2:16-17).
Satan, envious of God’s position as LORD, tampered with God’s plans; he tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. God was heart-broken, man felt guilty for the first time, and God’s judgment fell. Man died spiritually: he was kicked out of the garden, losing fellowship with God. Consequently, sin passed on to every descendant of Adam and Eve (see 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
This means everybody starts life as a sinner and God’s enemy, but God, out of His love for us, put into action His plan to redeem us unto Himself. (See John 3:16) He sent His One and only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our substitute: to die in our place for our sins. Jesus died a cruel death at the hand of sinners, and whoever repents and declares their faith in Jesus is saved and their relationship with God is restored. The resulting relationship is a Father/child relationship. Unlike human parent/child relationships, we never outgrow our relationship with God. We’ll never be so grown that we are independent of Him. We’ll always have to submit to Him, depend on Him, and serve Him!
Having heard the story, we have a responsibility to respond. God doesn’t force us to accept His grace and love, but He makes it clear that death (eternal separation from God) waits at the end of a Christless-life (see Romans 6:23). If you’d like to spend eternity in heaven with God, you need to repent today, and ask God for forgiveness through Jesus. Timing is important! Planning to do something is not the same as doing it. If you procrastinate and die before getting around to doing this, your situation will be just like the person who didn’t care about the gospel message. There is no such thing as an almost-child of God: either you are or you’re not. Think about it!
The God-story can have an ending like the children’s stories, with a happy-forever-after.  Anyone who puts his or her faith in Jesus for salvation is promised an amazing hereafter- life, forever in the presence of the Almighty God. According to the Bible, there’ll be no more pain, tears, or death; we’ll live in mansions, and darkness and sin will be things of the past. No sinners will enter heaven; only the saved will, and we will reign with Him forever and ever, never again to be separated from Him or from our loved-ones.
A shorter version of the story looks like this: “Once upon a time, man rebelled against God, and was thrown out of God’s presence. Through the one sinner, all people became sinners. God sent His Son Jesus to die in payment for man’s sin. Through Jesus, all who believe will become God’s children.” Don’t delay; repent and call on Jesus today, and be assured that your name is written in heaven before it is too late!  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


When we were unbelievers, we just followed the crowd. We gave ourselves permission to be in harmony with the world. We did not know any better, and if we did, we did not want to start any trouble or be any different from others, so we went along. This is really what conformity is; changing one’s mind, stand or position in order to be looked upon favorably by others. (Having no objections, raising no objections)

When we conform to the world, we agree with it, and accept its point of view about issues as if it were our own. The Bible says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV).  
The things the world calls us to conform to, are usually evil, things that God hates; things that we need to hate as well. In Christ, we have become a new creation; we need to walk in newness of life (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).

As Christians, we should no longer conform to the dictates of this world. The things we use to conform to as unbelievers are contrary to the things of the Spirit of God.  Now we need to have the mind of Christ.  We need to become more and more like Him in our thoughts and actions. The only way we can achieve this is to allow the Word of God to penetrate our hearts and renew our minds to think the way He does. We’ll not have renewed minds simply by us wishing or desiring it; it will take some effort on our part. We have to make time to study the Word, fellowship with other believers, learning from each other, and encouraging each other.

Transformation is a gradual process. As we continue to allow the word of God to renew our minds, transformation will become evident. Our way of thinking, attitude, and behavior will change. Our conscience will be more alive and sensitive to enable us to steer clear of what is evil, but draw us toward what is right.

The world is free, for now any way, to think what it wills about issues; our position on those issues should be based on the word of God. No more conformity! What will be the result of our transformation? The Lord will be pleased with us; we will be contributing to positive changes in our corner of the world, and in the process probably open up ourselves for persecution. But we need to remember that the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted Him, they will persecute us also (see John 15:20).
In the book of Matthew, Jesus says, “If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of His household” (Matthew 10:25 NIV). We might be called worse things, and treated with hate! 
Nevertheless, let’s take heart, because our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us, when we see Him face-to-face (see Rom 8:18).   

Now that we’re His children, let’s portray His image!