The New Earth

The Grand Canyon

It’s earth day. The world is busy as ever trying to extend her shelf life. Climate change is real. The scriptures affirm its reality but how it happens is much different than the scoffing world expects.

God is patiently waiting for men to turn to him. But like the flood the day of the Lord will come and ignite the heavens and earth on fire.

2 Peter 3:10 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”

Since we know the ending Peter reminds the believer how this truth should change us.

2 Peter 3:14 “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”

Peter calls to a different kind of activism than the world. To be sober minded, rooted and growing in grace.

2 Peter 3:17-18-“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

The best earth day is the New Earth Day that is to come.

Isaiah 65:17

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.

Insurmountable Evidence

Sitting on a hung jury once I was asked to examine the evidence and come to a verdict. The defendant was acquitted because of reasonable doubt.

For some the jury is still out on Jesus. Some are indifferent. Some are hostile. Some doubt. Some call it a myth. And some have not looked closely at the evidence to make a verdict.

There is no reasonable doubt in the case for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only unreasonable and willful rejection of insurmountable evidence.

Jesus is not on trial. He is the judge and we are not the jury but the defendant, our enemy is the prosecutor and we stand guilty before the court.

We all are guilty and we all need a pardon to escape the sentence.

On Good Friday Jesus took our death sentence upon himself.

[21] For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.- 2 Corinthians 5:21

Today we celebrate the the risen King and the gospel truth.

[3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, [5] and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. [6] Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:3-6

Prewritten, historical, actual and factual evidence demands a verdict. Jesus isn’t on trial- we are. What is your plea before the judge?

[22] “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—[23] this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. [24] God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:22-24

The insurmountable evidence has concluded that Jesus is the risen Son of God. How we respond to the evidence has eternal consequences.

Jesus is Lord! Yes he is Lord over all- even his enemies.

Happy Easter. He is risen indeed!

Happily ever after

My life story was written by the sovereign pen of God. Surely “a man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?” – Proverbs 20:24

There are dog ears folded in the pages of our autobiographies. Bookmarks in life that changed our hearts and changed the narrative.

In my story, like in everyone’s story there are blessings and testings that make and shape the saga.

For me those bookmarks include marrying Stacey Philo on September 17th, 1988. Add three markers for the births of our children Jordan, Jacob and Jared.

Add three more when I gave my daughter to her husband and gained a son. When I gained a daughter at Jared’s wedding and most recently added the blessing of our first grandson Eli Michael Ritter.

My story became our story and like all stories there are dark chapters interwoven throughout the goodness life brings.

May 15th 2013 began a difficult chapter that culminated in the graveside committal of 3 loved ones exactly one year to the day later.

Our son Jake, nephew Justin, mother Linda, and grandmother Marjorie. That year and those losses were written by God into our story.

The Lord truly gives and takes away. All these events penned down and foreknown by God before the opening of my storybook.

These are a few of the days that changed my storyline. Events that are bookmarked. Some I turn the pages back to and others I cannot bear the thought of doing so.

One date stands apart in my timeline that changed everything forever. Literally.

It was 25 years ago this week on February 5th 1996 that God wrote redeemed into my script. At least on my calendar he did- on his I was there from the foundation of the world.

I was in a bad place in life at that time. For sake of time the details of how I got to that place cannot be stated but just know that much was unraveling around me.

It was evening and I was cleaning the junior high school wing as I had been doing for the previous 8 years.

God was hounding me. My heart was heavy and on that winter night. 25 years ago this week my pride was broken and I humbled myself before God.

In a classroom, at a desk, in tears at about 7:00pm God laid down his pen and revealed himself and his son to me.

I met the author and finisher of my faith that night. Nothing would ever be the same for me. All that was to come afterwards would be seen through the lens of faith.

This awakening changed everything in my life. God began to shape me and change my thinking, attitudes and behavior.

That day was and is the best day of my life. Above all days, this day made the good days doubly blessed and the difficult ones filled with grace, mercy and love.

25 years ago this Friday God called my name and wrote my name in his book of life.

My story is still being revealed to me. I have read the ending already. He has revealed to me his good intentions and I am currently living in the happily ever after.

I have been graced with eternal life and for this I give him thanks.

23 “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book!

24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever!

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,

27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! – Job 19:23-27

Thank you Jesus for a life full of your amazing grace and love. Thank you for 25 years of friendship.

Thank you for writing in the happily ever after.

February 5th 1996 was life changing

We reminisced of our younger days with some dear friends the other day. She was 19 and I was 20, we got married and started a family just a few short months later. It was the fall of 1988. I was a boy, a selfish young man who knew nothing of life, of being a decent husband or good father. I was clueless to the needs of my new wife and God knows I didn’t have a way with kids. How I ended up being the loved janitor of an elementary school is beyond my understanding.

I wasn’t the ideal father when my kids were young. If you looked closely at my life you might think that I loved whitetail deer and salmon more that my own offspring. I was a self-absorbed functioning provider and my wife was a sportsmans widow. I missed out on a heck of a lot of things that I now would love to have back.

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20 year anniversary  in 2008

Speaking about, and later thinking on my life sobered me as I pondered it on a south Florida highway late Sunday afternoon. I opened a conversation with Stacey and said to her that I doubt I would have liked the young Mike Fekete if I had met myself today. She responded with some comforting words and reminded me that we can’t live life consumed with regret. We can only change today and hope to be better tomorrow.

We drove a little farther and I broke the silence again. I said, “Life sure would have been a whole lot different for us if God had not intervened with me.” Stacey agreed.

Late December 1995 I was told by Stacey that if it weren’t  for the kids and Christmas that she would send me packing. This was not an idle threat, I knew she meant what she said. Stacey never minces words and these words cut through my thick skull. God used her words to reflect on my life deeply and to consider Jesus once again whom I had closed out of my life. The weight of my sin and the heavy accountability I had before God for my wife and kids was crushing me in early 1996. I knew I was going to have to answer to him someday. Soon the dam would break and I would find the peace I needed.

We attended church one Sunday morning and the following scripture cut my soul like a hot knife through butter. The preacher read the words of Jesus in Matthew. “On that day many will say to me Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? And cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22-23)

I thought, if Jesus said this to the religious, what would he say to me who was irreligious? I knew the answer to that question and it caused me to turn to God for grace and mercy.

February 5th, 1996 I was working nights as a janitor at the local high school. The preachers words burned in my heart and I broke down before God in a classroom and  called my dad for advice. I told him my heart and all he said was, “Mike, you know what to do.” He was right and I hung up the phone. I called out to my heavenly Father, believed on his Son and he rescued me. I was saved and peace entered my soul for the first time.That day was the great turning point in my life.

This was not a decision to be morally better but a great awakening and spiritual rebirth. What Jesus said to religious Nicodemus he was saying to me, “You must be born again” to enter into the kingdom of God. I was 28 years old and I heard the voice of God calling into my soul and I responded in faith.

I’m not sure where I would be today if God had not reached down that cold February night. I told Stacey what happened  in the classroom and she responded by saying, “We will see.” She had every right to be skeptical. I had much to prove and restore.

God saved me, God saved my marriage and my family. I am not perfect, we are not perfect but the God who is still working in us certainly is. 22 years later God and time has changed so much for our good and his glory. We will celebrate 30 years of marriage this September and God willing I hope he grants us 30 more.

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As I think  of my old life I have many regrets but I have never regretted turning to Jesus. He changed everything in my life and by faith I am still being changed for the better day by day.

I am on the potter’s wheel and he continues to shape me into the image of his Son. Some of the molding has been very painful especially when we lost our Jacob. But I have found that in the worst of times that his grace has been sufficient. God has used even this to reveal himself to me and to shape me into the man I have become. There is still much more work for him to do. God never abandons any work be begins. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

To God be the glory, great things he has done!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; and behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ has reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

 

 

Black Beauties: A commentary on Hidden Figures

Take One

I was born on the day that senator Robert Kennedy was shot by the hands of Sirhan Sirhan. On June 5th, 1968 I came into a world of terrible social injustice and hatred of black Americans. Two months prior to my birth on April the 4th, 1968 my Christian brother and fellow American Dr. King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray.

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I am not old enough to remember segregation because I was born in the era to end it. When I see the historical images of the prejudice, hatred, segregation and oppression I am shocked by the America that preceded my birth. I am a white man in rural white northern Michigan without a context to understand those times.bobby

I was reminded of this America in a vivid way last Saturday evening. I rocked back in my theater seat enjoying my popcorn with my wife and friends as the struggle of the 1960’s was masterfully presented to us. We came to see the film Hidden Figures and it did not disappoint. Last Saturday many women assembled nationwide to be heard in Washington DC as I watched a movie about how black women changed American prejudice in a much different way. It may shock you to hear that it was done in a manner that was very quiet and very Christian.

Jesus was from Nazareth, a northern Galilee hick town with a bad reputation. No one significant ever came from there. But Jesus, the oppressed and unjustly hated Jew became the most significant and single most influential person ever to walk this earth. In the face of injustice, prejudice, mocking and eventual murder he overcame it all and turned our world upside down. Nothing in our world would ever be the same after he gave his life.

In many ways these black beauties working for NASA overcame similar injustices. The film beautifully pays tribute to the manner in which they defeated racial and sexual discimination. What stuck out to me most in Hidden Figures is that these obscure no name women responded to oppression the same way Jesus did. Through humble service and meekness they dramatically changed their world and the world of those who followed in their wake.

Take two – America first

The women were driven by a higher purpose than themselves. America was in the space race and nothing else mattered except getting John Glenn on the moon before the end of the decade. Despite the oppression and injustice they put their noses down and did their jobs making themselves invaluable to the mission. There was never a more unjustly oppressed man than the sinless Son of God yet despite this he set his face towards the cross to accomplish his Father’s mission. In a similar way these black beauties were selfless and driven for something greater than themselves. This is truly a dying spirit in America I am afraid.

The women suffered in the workplace but overcame the cruelty in a very Christian way. These black beauties were humble, respectful, and gracious in the face of ugly oppression. There was a Christian principle they followed throughout the film, it reads like this-

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. – 1 Peter 2:18 ESV

The hidden figures suffered wrongfully but were never presented as harsh and retaliatory. These ladies had an internal beauty that was obvious to God and all who observed their good conduct. (1 Peter 3:1-6 ) They followed the example of Jesus in refusing to speak evil against their oppressors, nor did they pursue vengeful retaliation as Dr. King taught them.

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For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.- 1 Peter 2:21-23 ESV

My take

True Christianity rejects moral relativity and the culture is growing increasingly more intolerant and hostile to absolute truth and Christianity. Opposition and intolerance are the embers of persecution and the fire has already started in America. Will the American Christian stand up and march, or will we humbly follow Jesus as these African-American women did? We are getting a slight taste of persecution, injustice, oppression and what will our response be? Perhaps American privilege has caused us to forget our higher calling to suffer joyfully for the name of Jesus.

As the credits rolled I thought that these women shined as examples of the Christian faith in the face of terrible injustice. I am not sure if they were confessing believers but their life sure reflected it. The film inspired me to follow the example of Jesus and of these women to persevere in the faith whatever the cost.

Live godly in a godless culture and you will suffer persecution. But the benefits must never be forgotten by those who desire to live this way. There is the benefit of grace and glory for all who suffer wrongly for doing all the right things. Jesus suffered and the Christian will suffer because of his name as well. Remember, and be encouraged by the words of Peter the persecuted apostle on how to defeat the roaring lion.

Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:10-11 ESV

I am not a film critic, I am just an American Christian. I give this movie a five-star rating and two thumbs up despite my lack of credentials. I recommend it as a must see!

American idol and freedom of religion

We Americans enjoy our freedoms. Freedom of religion is a cherished right of our citizenship here for which many have died and I am truly thankful for. This freedom is allowing me to speak of Christ in my blog and proclaim his name each Sunday at Eden Bible Church without governmental interference. But with privilege there comes responsibility, so ponder with me for a moment where freedom of religion has led us.

Have you ever considered that this very freedom that we enjoy has led America into idolatry? Every form of religion imaginable has been practiced under the safety of the stars and stripes. People are free to choose their faith, or we can choose atheism, or be agnostic and indifferent.  We all have a chosen belief system that governs our thinking and behavior, it is inescapable.

Whatever choice we make, as with all life choices, we are never free from the consequences of them. Our liberties have brewed for us a cauldron of religious alphabet soup in this land. Americans sit at a buffet table of religion and are confused in the mixed up mess. I believe we are now reaping the consequences of our freedom of religion which has led us into idolatry.

Most become politically correct, indifferent, tolerant, and “loving” by accepting every form of worship as legit and say, “If it’s good for you who am I to so anything to the contrary.”

What should my Christian response be to a society that has a synagogue, a temple, a shrine a mosque and a myriad of churches in every village, town and city of this land? Are we to rejoice in religious diversity or be provoked in our spirits at how idolatrous this country we has become? America and ancient Athens have much in common for we both have a pantheon of gods. What message does a Christian have today in an America that is up to its eyebrows in gods and religion?

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Paul was moved to speak to the Athenians and I believe he would be declaring the same message to American’s today as well. (Acts 17:22-34) He preaches that God is Creator and has gives life and breath to all things. (sadly, creationism is widely rejected among “Christians” today) He announces his sovereign rule over men and  nations. (Jesus is Lord and Christ is also rejected today) He also informs them that God is not found in icons and idols. Paul adds that there was a time when God overlooked what they were doing in Athens and what America is currently doing today, but no more. Indifference, apathy and freedom of religion was permanently done away with by God after the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus his Son.So Paul says this to Athens and to Americans “The times of this ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands (Yes, he commands!) all people everywhere to repent.” Why Paul? “Because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31) That’s right, we will all stand before Judge Jesus and he does not tolerate any other gods before him. We are only free to worship him and no other.

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Freedom of religion is a lie. All men are commanded to bow to Jesus and all men will bow eventually in this life or in the judgement that is to come. “So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11) Bow now….bow later…but all will bow and confess him as Lord to the praise of God.

I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God – Isaiah 45:5a

The face of addiction

Overdose. What does that word conjure up in your mind? Put a face to the word overdose and who do you see?

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The face of our Jacob; a college freshman addicted to prescription pain medication

I know what it means for me because that is how my son and nephew died. Just ten months apart Justin overdosed on heroin and Jacob overdosed on prescription meds.

I have asked myself the question,”Where did I fail as a father?” I didn’t fail to love my son nor did I fail to educate him about the dangers of drug abuse. As parents we provided every opportunity possible for him to live a productive and wholesome life. He was involved in school musicals, choir, football and wrestling. He was a good student and he was active in church youth group. We lived our Christian faith in front of him as best as our frail flesh could. Jesus sat with us at the dinner table and we gave him thanks for his provision. Yet here I sit, my son is gone and I ask myself again, “Where did I fail as a father?” One concerned but totally ignorant older man asked me if I failed to educated him about the dangers of drugs at a young age. As if that would have prevented the March 26th 2014 overdose in the basement of our home. That is just stupid.

I wish… (I only think this and never would 😉 say it) I wish ignorant people would shut their big yappers. Nothing inflames me more than hearing people pontificate about an issue they are truly ignorant about. I have discovered these are generally older people who have created a false stereotype of drug addicts. (Yes, I just profiled and stereotyped some old people) They read a pamphlet or watch a documentary and have decided that there is a solution to the problem. So they go on a crusade  and campaign against drug use to stop the madness. They assume there was a failure in the home, or perhaps they missed out on the DARE program and demand more education, laws, and law enforcement from their senators. Surely money, education and activism will slow and stop this societal blight.

My son did not die of an overdose because he lacked education, or love, or nurturing. Will education, law enforcement, governmental regulations and programs stop overdoses? It may curb the problem but there will never be enough money, police, or rehab centers to end this deadly issue that seeps into all places of our society. Love can’t stop it, government can’t stop it, money, law enforcement, education and whatever other method devised by man may curb it but drug overdoses are here to stay. I am pretty sure the statistics are telling us that overdoses are on the rise despite all the money thrown at it to slow it down. So I just refuse to join that parade around the block.

Don’t get me wrong, I reach out where I can and I support education, legislation, law enforcement and rehab centers. But as a Christian who has lost a son to an overdose I do not deeply involve myself in battles that offer little change and no lasting hope. For me it’s like shadow boxing with the expectation of landing a knockout punch on a phantom opponent. I am in a fight however but my strategy is very different from most. I am offering hope over more than drug addition. I present real lasting hope for all people over every addiction known to man through the chain breaking power of Jesus Christ. He alone beat death. It was foretold to us, it came to pass and now he offers all people freedom from the chains and abundant life in his name. This is good news and available to everyone by faith in his name.

Let’s face it; we all are addicts, we are all slaves to something. The following is God’s diagnosis of our slavish condition. “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3)  We are terminal but God prescribed the cure; faith in his Son, which is a difficult pill to swallow for most.

Our addictions are just symptoms of the disease that is killing us. We are all born with a spiritual and terminal disease called unbelief that manifests its symptoms in many fleshly ways. Jesus offered the cure to the religious leaders of his day but they refused it. He said to them,  “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24)

We are all slaves to our passions and pleasures until the shackles are unlocked and the chains drop away never to bind us again. Paul explains, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves to sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17)

When Jesus sets us free we are truly free for the first time. Free from guilt, free from shame, free from hiding, free from sin and alive to God.

There are only two kinds of people in the world. Slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness; slaves to hedonism or slaves to Jesus. Every man will someday overdose, oh maybe not on drugs but we will all die because our preferred addictions. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)

But God has provided a cure…”but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Any other treatment plan for the disease has no power to deliver anybody from death.

I offer hope, this is my crusade if you will. It is my calling and it is my primary duty as a believer. Jesus is the bondage breaker, he defeated death and is seated at the right hand of God offering life and liberty by grace through faith in him. Believe on him, trust him, seek his face. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:25-26)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naked and unashamed

There is currently a reality show on TV called naked and afraid. I don’t watch it, so I cannot recommend it as must see reality TV. Have you ever had a dream that you were stark naked in public? Here is a show that makes that nightmare a reality and labels it as entertainment. The participants are naked, they are clearly unashamed and in reality they do have much to fear. America has lost its ability to blush. We are a far cry from the debut of I love Lucy in 1951 which featured 2 beds in the bedroom of Desi and Lucy. The American morality slide continues and our ability to blush slides along with the entertainment worlds  shameless ethics. The fear of God is all but gone and we behave as though he does not see, or like we will never give and account for sin. (Sin!? Boy, that a word we never hear anymore)

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Spanky of the little rascals once said, “You might fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool mom.” Is this a truism and who are we kidding anyway? We all have hidden skeletons in our past and dark secrets that we never want the doorway opened on. It is likely that we all, if honest with ourselves, can point to something done in secret that if exposed we would be greatly ashamed of. Spanky’s adage doesn’t hold water and truth be told we fooled our mothers some of the time as kids.

Light always cuts through the darkness and the darkness has no power over light. When sin entered the garden Adam and Eve became aware and ashamed of their nakedness. They immediately covered themselves and hid from God. All mankind continues to hide from God like our first parents and seek to hide their shame by running from the light. God calls to mankind in his garden and asks the same question he asked Adam, He said, “Adam (your name here _____) , where are you?” His voice pierces the darkness of all our shameless behavior and we respond by trying to hide and attempt to cover our sin and nakedness. But we, like the cockroaches we are, run for the cover of darkness and hide under the nearest rock available. This is natural for us because we are conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5) and have gone astray into darkness from the womb of our mothers (Psalm 58:3). We are most comfortable in darkness just like a fish is most comfortable in the water that envelops it. Take us out of our comfortable environment, cast light into the darkness and we are sure to squirm. Jesus makes the world squirm.

Jesus is the light of the world and he alone opens the locked doorways that exposes our skeletons within. He wants us to be honest with him about the secret sins that beset us so easily. The door creeks open and we quickly scurry from him. Why is this? Jesus said, “And this is the judgment : the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)

Jesus is the word made flesh and those who hate him hate what he has to say. Oh sure, they loved his miracles and kindness but killed him for his message. His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light for our path but those who hate his light run back to the darkness. Why? Because it is in us to love the darkness, hate the truth, and enjoy the passing pleasures of sin for the season of our life. Why do we avoid the bible, Jesus, and the truth? We don’t want our sin exposed, we cling to it, we actually love it. Yet, in his great mercy he shows us who we are so that we might be delivered from so great a darkness and he beacons us to come to the light.

We can lie to ourselves and we can lie to others. We might fool some of the people some of the time, “But you cant fool God!” Who are we kidding? Let’s be honest as to why we avoid bible reading, meditation and the light. It’s painful and it reveals our ugly hearts. No book ever written by man can cut our souls like the Spirit inspired word of God. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12) We may think we can run but hiding is impossible because God sees all, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.” (Hebrews 4:13) We are naked. The question remains, are we ashamed and afraid?

As  Christians we are the light of the world but what good is a lamp hidden under a basket? The world hated Jesus and they will hate his followers as well but I encourage the believers who read this to remember your darkness and to walk in the light.

“For you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (For the fruit of light is found in all that is good, right and true) and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:8-11)

The cries of the innocent

Innocence cries for justice

What happened in Orlando this week is shocking. 49 innocent people died and many are clinging to life as America watches the news and people rant about the reasons how and why this took place.

Our nation is the land justice for all and we demand that the scales of justice to always be in balance. We love justice and America wants justice, our TV shows and movies profit greatly from our thirst of it. Sorry friends but Captain America is not coming to avenge the blood that has been spilled near Disney World this week.

Wasn’t it just 2 weeks ago we were angered by the sentence of a convicted young rapist who got a slap on the wrist for his crime at Stanford University? If these crimes trouble us how do you suppose the perfect just Judge of all the earth feels about hate, murder and rape? I can assure he hates it perfectly for “There are six things the Lord hates, seven are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:17-19)

God hates a heart that plans evil and the hands and feet that carry it out. Murder is nothing more that the hands and heart working together to carry out its evil intentions. Cain hated and killed his righteous brother Abel and his blood screamed for justice. God asked Cain,”What have you done?” The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10) The voices of the innocent always cry to God to avenge them. And what do they say? “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (Revelation 6:10) The bible from cover to cover records the pleas of the guiltless and yet God patiently waits to mediate his justice. He is not willing that any should perish but that all his sheep would come to repentance and faith in Jesus.

God is not responsible for crime but we are guilty. He is the judge and we stand in his court guilty of hating and shedding the blood of the innocent. Solomon said, “See, this alone I have found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes. (Ecclesiastes 7:29) We may be deceived and think we are innocent but Jesus defined hate and anger as equals with murder. (Matthew 5:21-22) Who of us has never been angry or hateful?

 America has bloody hands

Answer these simple questions for me. Does a unborn child have blood? Is that child innocent or guilty? And if that child shares the blood of its mother and God hates the heart and hands that shed innocent blood, what do you think God thinks of abortion? That’s right, he hates it and he will judge the hands and feet that have shed it. There will be payday someday, God is the avenger of all these little ones.

If the blood of Abel cried out from the ground to God for justice what do you suppose the cries of millions of babies sound like in the ears of their Creator? America has bloody hands, we have shed the blood of millions of the innocent. Orlando is shocking but what is most shocking of all is that American has sanctioned the murder of the innocent and called it liberty and pro-choice. God calls it murder. But someday God will meet out his justice on those who have legislated and carried out their evil plans. Someday justice will be perfectly served, till then the blood of the innocent cries out to the Judge to avenge them.

God bless America? Do we deserve his blessing? It is by his abundant mercy towards us that he has yet to avenge, and silence the cries of innocent blood. God help us all.

Death benefits: part 2- faith, hope and love

Some months ago I had a conversation with a person whose sister was brutally murdered. He said to me that he rejects the notion that everything happens for a reason. He feels that the death of his sibling was pointless and without purpose. As I listened to him speak my mind was at the other end of the spectrum. I thought to myself that there is reason why my son died, it is not meaningless and it has purpose. This is quite a juxtaposition. How do two people view death in two very different extremes? Was I just looking through rose colored glasses and was he looking through dark shades? No, I don’t think so.

It wasn’t that I am an optimist and he is a pessimist. The fact of the matter is that I view death through the lens of faith, and he, being without faith in Christ, cannot see what I see. If a person doesn’t know the meaning and source of life he certainly will never know the meaning behind death. But the bible answers both if a person is willing to listen and be enlightened by the truth concerning these confounding questions.

Why did Jesus allowed his friend to die?

Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died (John 11:21&32)

Have you ever pleaded with God for someone to get well but God didn’t show up and your loved one died? Have you ever considered that maybe God actually ordained the sickness and allowed death to happen for a much greater purpose? Some very close friends of Jesus find themselves in this very situation a short time before his own crucifixion. Mary and Martha sent for Jesus to come and heal their brother Lazarus but Jesus purposefully delayed going for two days so that he would die.

There was a greater purpose in the death of Lazarus that could not be realized by healing his terminal illness. Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son might be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) This is a sobering reminder about our prayers and petitions that seem to be ignored by God. Father knows best! “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)

Some might call into question the love of God in permitting such a thing, so John records that, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:6) Love would certainly become evident to all when he arrived, he was troubled when he saw his friends and even his enemies grieving at the tomb. “Jesus wept” (John 11:36) He groans over the toll that sin has taken on his creation. Who can free the world from the chains of death? Christ and Christ alone! “We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:21-25) This is our blessed hope and this miracle of the raising of Lazarus is a prelude to the hope we have in Jesus who possesses the keys of death and the grave. How did he obtain the keys? He has destroyed the one who had the power of death through his own death, burial and resurrection from the dead. (Hebrews 2:14)

What miracle would give God most glory; the healing of Lazarus or the resurrection of Lazarus? This resurrection miracle is the crown jewel of all the miracles done by the Lord. It puts the glory and power of God on full display. But there is more that Jesus will accomplish in his delayed trip to Bethany. He is actually joyful over the fact that he was not going to heal Lazarus. Yes, Jesus was glad that he was not there. “Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sakes I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:15) The glory of God is the primary purpose behind this death but building up the disciples faith is of great importance as well.

Death and other various trials will cause our faith to grow; The Lord finds joy in this and we should as well. This funeral built a deeper faith in God, a confident hope in the resurrection of the dead and a deeper love for Jesus to the glory of God. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

What we believe should move us to action. What Jesus asks the family to do next is almost unbelievable if it hadn’t actually taken place. He says, “Take away the stone.” (John 11:39) For a more contemporary understanding of this I pictured Jesus handing me a shovel at the headstone of my son Jacob and saying, “Dig.” Martha objected for obvious reasons and I am sure I would have had the same concerns. But the Lord wants a faith and trust that obeys even the absurd and things we fear. He reminds Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) Faith went to work and the eyes of everyone witnessed a dead man come to life and exit his grave. All this to the praise of God and his Son Jesus Christ.

What we know about God is not what gives God joy and pleasure, it is what we do with what we believe that delights the Lord. “And without faith it is impossible to please him.” (Hebrews 11:6) The disciples seen the glory of God because they believed and rolled the stone away. I ask myself the question, “What stones do I need to roll away in my life, by active faith, that I may behold the glory of God?” The Lord knew his beloved disciples believed in him but he engages their faith in essence by saying, “Don’t just say that you believe. Prove it! Put your hands to the stone and roll it away.”

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