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Watch What You Watch

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  ~Romans 12:2

By now, most of us have heard about the tragic shooting that took place in Aurora, Colorado at the Aurora Century 16 movie theater. The deadly rampage targeted people inside a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises”. According to Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly, the shooter had painted his hair red and was in a costume, stating that he was the “Joker”, a character in the film. According to the New York Daily News website, the suspect arrested was 24-year-old James Holmes, who would later boast to police that he was “channeling Batman’s arch nemesis.”

This raises many questions:

Are all movies simply “harmless entertainment”?

Do some movies/video games inspire violence?

Is it possible that some movies are demonic?

To answer these questions, let’s look at the facts. In the journal, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, researchers report that watching violence portrayed in movies and other media may make teens more accepting of violence. Also, let’s consider a few incidents of where murder/violence was connected to violent and evil movies/video games. As you may recall, in 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold launched an assault on Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, murdering 13 and wounding 23 before turning the guns on themselves. According to Serendip, an educational website, Harris and Klebold both enjoyed playing the bloody, shoot-’em-up video game Doom, a game licensed by the U.S. military to train soldiers to effectively kill. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which tracks Internet hate groups, found in its archives a copy of Harris’ web site with a version of Doom. He had customized it so that there were two shooters, each with extra weapons and unlimited ammunition, and the other people in the game could not fight back. For a class project, Harris and Klebold made a videotape that was similar to their customized version of Doom. In the video, Harris and Klebold were dressed in trench coats, carried guns, and killed school athletes. They acted out their videotaped performance in real life less than a year later. Furthermore, the movie, “Natural Born Killers” was also an influence for the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre, with the phrase “going NBK” in the journal entries of the killers signaling the start of their rampage.

There are other movies which have been linked to murders, suicides and attempted suicides. Movies such as: Scream, Money Train, A Clockwork Orange, The Collector, The Basketball Diaries, The Matrix, Taxi Driver, RoboCop 2 ,Magnum Force, The Deer Hunter, The Program, The Child’s Play series, Girl Interrupted, Twilight, and probably many more which were not recorded. It was also reported that the movie, “Breaking Dawn”, caused many people to have seizures who had never had photosensitivity epilepsy or seizures before. Furthermore, a 1997 episode of “Pokemon” caused nearly 700 viewers to suffer seizures. This brings to mind an occurrence in the Bible. Remember the account in Luke 9 where a boy had seizures due to a demon? I will list the scripture below – but it is safe to say that, yes, some movies can be demonic.

Luke 9:37-43MSG states: “When they came down off the mountain the next day, a big crowd was there to meet them.  A man called from out of the crowd, “Please, please, Teacher, take a look at my son. He’s my only child.  Often a spirit seizes him. Suddenly he’s screaming, thrown into convulsions, his mouth foaming. And then it beats him black and blue before it leaves.  I asked your disciples to deliver him but they couldn’t.”  Jesus said, “What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring your son here.”  While he was coming, the demon slammed him to the ground and threw him into convulsions. Jesus stepped in, ordered the vile spirit gone, healed the boy, and handed him back to his father.  They all shook their heads in wonder, astonished at God’s greatness, God’s majestic greatness.”  

Not only can evil, demonic movies affect the watcher, but it can also affect the actors/actresses/film makers in a negative way. Olin Miller once said, “According to the reformers, most of the movies have unsound effects.” Pastor Mark Driscoll, of Seattle, echoes this sentiment by saying, “A movie is a sermon with pictures.”  Again, we must watch out for what we are allowing ourselves to watch. Mail Online produced an article entitled, “The Curse of Batman”. In the article, the reporter states: The devastating shooting at a screening of the new Batman film comes after a string of tragic incidences surrounding the film franchise that has led some to say the film is cursed. Before this shooting spree, one of the greatest tragedies associated with the film was the death of Heath Ledger, who played the Joker in The Dark Knight. The actor was found dead in his Manhattan apartment in January 2008 after taking an accidental drugs overdose, six months before the film’s release. Conway Wickliffe, a New Zealand-born special effects technician, died while working on that film. He was on a camera truck filming a stunt when it crashed into a tree in October 2007. Another cast member was struck by the ‘curse’ of Batman – but fortunately survived. Morgan Freeman, who played Lucius Fox in the film, was seriously injured in a car accident in Mississippi in August 2008. His co-star, and the star of the franchise, Christian Bale, hit the headlines in July 2008 when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his mother and sister shortly before the London’s premiere.The sequel, The Dark Knight Rises, suffered upsets during filming. A stunt double for Anne Hathaway, who plays Catwoman, reportedly crashed into expensive camera equipment during filming in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in August last year. Days later the Batwing vehicle was half destroyed in an accident.

Furthermore, New York Daily News reported the following:  Heath Ledger thought landing the demanding role of the Joker was a dream come true – but now some think it was a nightmare that led to his tragic death. Jack Nicholson, who played the Joker in 1989 – and who was furious he wasn’t consulted about the creepy role – offered a cryptic comment when told Ledger was dead. “Well,” Nicholson told reporters in London, “I warned him.” Ledger told reporters he “slept an average of two hours a night” while playing “a psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.” Tony Timpone, editor of the fantasy magazine Fangoria, said the movie should do well, despite the “cloud over it” from Ledger’s death. “It’s going to be tough, because the Joker is such an indelible character, and Heath was such an indelible actor. It could be tough to disassociate ourselves from reality. Because the movie looks like it’s going to be so dark, and his life had such a dark end.”

My whole reason for producing this blog post is to sound the warning – NOT ALL ENTERTAINMENT IS HARMLESS. Satan cleverly packages evil in a movie, in a video game, in a book, in something that seems harmless – but beware. It’s much like Las Vegas with all of its lights and shimmer – it looks beautiful on the outside but it is known as “Sin City.” The outside of a cup or dish may be clean and sparkling, but if it is dirty on the inside, who would want to drink or eat from it? In Matthew 23, Jesus teaches how foolish it would be to strain your water for gnats, yet swallow a camel. Likewise, He went on to say, “…Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish,and then the outside will become clean, too” Matthew 23:25-26NLT. How does watching a violent movie please the Lord or make us more like Christ? What is our heart-felt motive for wanting to view such evil movies? Aren’t there better things we could do with our time? Those of us who bear the name of Christ are to be a light in this world and to come out from among the sin of the world. What is the point of filling our minds with stupidity, evil, violence, and filth? Please friend, watch what you allow yourself to watch or engage in. Only when we lay aside these weights and hindrances will we see the Holy Spirit move strongly in our lives. Only then can we overcome sin and be more than conquerors through Christ Jesus. Only then can we truly make an impact on the world around us for the good.

“All the ways of a man seem right to him, but the Lord evaluates the motives.” ~Proverbs 21:2

“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.” ~Ephesians  5:10-11

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” ~Ephesians 5:15-16ESV

Sources:

http://www.nydailynews.com

http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu

http://www.trutv.com

http://brainz.org

http://www.foxnews.com

http://www.dailymail.co.uk

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One of the Sneakiest Sins…

One of the sneakiest sins? What could it be?

Today, I welcome my friend and guest blogger, Jennifer Dunn, to expound upon the topic of unforgiveness and grudge-holding.  The entirety of today’s blog is brought to you by Jennifer. I think you’ll find her advice to be very insightful and helpful.

~Maranda M.

RTT Administrator


One of the Sneakiest Sins...

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Dunn

Immediately after being wronged, most people will have intense feelings of upset such as sadness and/or anger. For those of us who practice forgiveness, it’s easy to believe we have truly forgiven a person when these negative feelings fade. We do not often realize that a memory can linger which reminds us of the offense; stirring up the same old emotions of distrust and fear. Such feelings often lead us to “write a person off”. Not only do we distance ourselves, but we completely eliminate all trace of them. After making such a decision, we cut off all contact and have no intention of ever opening the door to them again.

At times, distancing ourselves from someone is born out of the genuine, innocent motive of self-preservation… we want to avoid being hurt. We tend to think if we shun a person completely that we, thereby, prevent any chance of being hurt by that person again. However, there are times that we cannot completely avoid a person; particularly if it’s a relative. When/If we see them somewhere or hear about them from someone else, we are reminded of our negative feelings. These feelings can range from angst, dread, anxiety, anguish, disgust, or irritation, to full-blown anger. We can make the mistake of telling ourselves that, because whatever happened was so bad, we have a right for our negative feelings to be stirred up! We do not want to think that we haven’t truly forgiven them or that we are still carrying a grudge.

True Forgiveness

learn howWhen we have truly and fully forgiven a person, we imitate God – in that, we let the trangression(s) go. We walk in forgetfulness (see Isaiah 43:25, Hebrews 10:14-18). To state it plainly, we live as if the offense never happened in the first place. We do not let the memory become like salt in a fresh wound. We know that we have truly forgiven when we are no longer bothered by their past transgressions and we have feelings of sympathy, compassion, goodwill, peace, and love toward those who have wronged us. Not only do we want good for them, but we want to do good TOWARD them. We want to embrace them, and no longer wish to keep them at a distance. Sure, we may have to close the door of communication or distance ourselves if there is real danger; but the hope should always remain…  for it to be a temporary closure or distancing. The desire and goal should always be for reconciliation; to make amends, to be at peace with all people, and to have a harmonious connection with all people (see Hebrews 12:14, Romans 12:18).

The ONLY way to ensure we keep on the straight and narrow path of genuine forgiveness and love, is by always keeping in mind that there are no perfect people. We are all fallible (inclined to, and likely to sin). Scripture teaches us that we all fall short (see Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23). Thus, we ALL need continual forgiveness for our sins. No one wants to continually feel guilty, condemned, or ashamed for the wrong they have done; especially if they are truly regretful/repentant.

We Want to be Forgiven

We do not want others to hold our mistakes and sins against us. We do not want others to have negative feelings toward us or to hold a grudge against us; so then, how could we do that against someone else? If we say we know God and desire to be like Him and love like Him, how can we deem certain people TOO guilty? How can we not forgive AND forget? How could we keep a record of their wrongdoing? How could we shun them or cast them away in darkness as an irredeemable, permanent enemy; or regard them as if they are the ultimate enemy (the devil)? How could we do these things when God’s word tells us that He so loved the world that He made a way to forgive people, to save them, to spare them eternal condemnation?

jds

God’s word also tells us that Christ came and died for ALL. Of course, it is up to each person to chose it, receive it, and appreciate it; but, God’s mercy and grace is open to all. God didn’t have to come in the flesh (in the form of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ). Jesus didn’t have to make the sacrifice; He didn’t have to die. He chose to because of LOVE. Real love. A love so real and pure that with His dying breath, hanging nailed to a wooden cross, He asked His Father to forgive those who so UNJUSTLY accused, condemned, and crucified Him. These were people who were not only guilty… they were unrepentant! They didn’t recognize they were wrong; they didn’t own their sin. By this, we see the beauty of Holy Grace – to be so considerate that even those who were guilty had a chance at pardon; at reconciliation, at being spared righteous judgement, condemnation, and punishment.

Luke 23:34 teaches us that Jesus forgave those who made themselves His enemies. Likewise, we are commanded to forgive our enemies; if we don’t, God will not forgive us (see Mark 11:25-26). He tells us to love our enemies, to pray for them, to do good to them;  and in so doing, we are like Him (see Matthew 5:43-45, Luke 6:27, Ephesians 4:32). How then, can we justify ourselves in not extending the same olive branch? How can we not extend the same Holy Grace as we are offered DAILY?

When we refuse to forgive, we reject God by refusing to be like He is. We can come up with all sorts of reasons why we are “right” to divide, to place certain people into categories, to mark some as being innocent enough to deserve our forgiveness, while we deem others as not being so. However, none of these reasons are ever “right” in light of scripture.

We may use human reasoning to justify ourselves in holding a grudge. We may try to justify ourselves in treating people differently – in looking down on them, or in withholding kindness from them. We may even tell ourselves that it’s for our good; that it will show people not to “mess with us” ever again. But, because we cannot enforce control over everyone all the time, and because we cannot live out our lives in complete isolation – there will always be people we will have to face who have wronged or wounded us (and vice versa).

Popular global platforms (Facebook, for example) have opened up a door to a world of diverse people, cultures, events, ideas, discussions, interactions, and connections. This means even more possibilities for:

♦ Conflicts

♦ Disagreements

♦ Arguments

♦ Personal attacks

♦ Disturbing realities

♦ Grievous events

More often than not, we were completely unaware of such things before these global platforms (social media) existed. Websites (like Facebook) have also become a stage where people showcase their lives – particularly their successes and their joys. It can be very hard to see those who have wronged us, prospering. We witness people who are not innocent portraying themselves as such – and many people believing they are. It can cause us hurt to see the positive attention they get; especially if they never owned what they did to us – if they never apologized, never made amends, and never had a desire to do so. We are prone to feel jealously and anger – again, showing us that we do hold a grudge which we need to actively work on releasing.

A Testimony|By: Jennifer Dunn

Now, let us briefly talk about marriage and how holding a grudge ties in.

Some of us, such as myself, have not had the joyous marital union so hoped, desired, and prayed for. Personally, my husband and I both could have behaved better, as we are both in need of much refinement. We are also both guilty of falling short when it comes to forgiveness. Without going into the details, there were/are ways my husband has so grievously wronged me that others may justify me if I chose to hold a grudge and not forgive. I won’t lie and say I am always inclined to instantly forgive, nor has forgiveness always been a smooth road. It is especially difficult since certain sins have had a lasting impact; leaving me under a continual state of injustice and suffering. However, I do love my husband as I love God – that is why I strive to be obedient to forgive.

What helps me to forgive? I keep in mind that before any of us were ever created, sin entered the world and corrupted all of humanity. Because God is perfect and there is no fault in Him, we must realize that any fault in us (no matter how minor), makes us incongruent with Him. That is why we are in need of cleansing and repair; so that we are made worthy to be in the Lord’s presence forever. If God forgives me/us for being corrupted ‘human’ beings, it is a MUST that we forgive each other… no matter what.

Our Relationship With God

learn how(1)You see, marriage is an earthly reflection of the heavenly relationship between God and us (the Bride of Christ). Because God wants reconciliation with us, we too should desire and strive for that in our earthly marriage. There can be no cleansing, no healing, no reconciliation, no peace, no love, if we aren’t willing to forgive and forget. If we want reconciliation with God, we must also want reconciliation with a spouse. There can be no reconciliation with a spouse if we hold a grudge against them.

Until we are reunited with Jesus in the new world, we cannot escape conflict or injury. We are imperfect and always needing cleansing, refinement, and forgiveness. It is better that we learn how to respond to the conflicts, the failings, and the injuries. We must always look to our Heavenly Model, presented in the form of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We must operate out of love, truth, and righteousness. We must walk in love and truth, according to the following scriptures notated (Ephesians 5:2, 2 John 1:6, 2 John 4, Ephesians 4:25, 1 John 1:8, 1 John 3:18, Psalm 86:11, Ephesians 6:14, Proverbs 12:22) and, in righteousness (see Romans 2:13, Romans 6:13, Romans 6:17-19, 2 Corinthians 3:9, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 2 Corinthians 6:4-8, 1 Timothy 6:11, 1 John 3:10).

In closing, please remember that the foundations of the Lord’s throne are righteousness and justice – with love and faithfulness leading the way (see Psalm 89:14). In order to truly love the Lord and be faithful to Him, we must also love His righteous ways and obey them. We should love as He loves; we should forgive AND forget without holding grudges. We must seek reconciliation and peace; for when we do, we will “sow a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18). This is pleasing to our Heavenly Father and guarantees our own forgiveness, reconciliation, eternal peace, and joy forever!

 

 

Sources:

biblehub.com, youtube.com, canva.com

 

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He Can Relate…

Have you ever felt alone? Have you struggled alone? Have you been betrayed by someone you trusted? Have you ever felt like no one understands or can relate to your grief? Well – you know what? You are in good company because Jesus can relate. He understands.

Hebrews 4:15 states: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

Let’s recall a few examples of how much Jesus can relate to our griefs:

heb*Jesus’ Unfulfilled Longings – In Luke 13:34, we read of the deep yearning Jesus has for Jerusalem. He cries, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”

*Jesus’ Sorrows – sadness, wept. Man of sorrows acquainted with grief.

*Jesus’ Unpopularity – Although Jesus was well-known, he was very unpopular and hated. Isaiah 53:3 says that he was despised and rejected of men simply for teaching the truth. We also see this hatred in action when Pilate offered to release Jesus Christ or Barabbas – the robber. Not only was their cries to release Barabbas, but there were further cries to crucify Jesus Christ (see John 18 & 19). He was hated then as he is hated now – and for what? For telling the truth. But, it’s okay to be hated for the right reason.

*Jesus’ Poverty – As the old Dottie Rambo song says, “He left the splendor of Heaven, knowing his destiny was the lonely hill of Golgotha; there, to lay down his life for me.” He gave up his riches and became poor (see 2nd Cor. 8:9). He came down to our level – and sometimes he lived even lower than most. Jesus was also homeless. In Matthew 8:20, Jesus said: “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Jesus’ lack of outward “regalness” or “majesty” is also defined in Isaiah 53:2: “…he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” 

*Jesus’ Unreliable Friends – Jesus had many followers while on earth; but the ones who knew him best were his twelve disciples. He spent a lot of time with them. Nonetheless, we find that Peter denied him, Thomas doubted him, and Judas betrayed him. But before we cast any stones, let’s ask ourselves – aren’t there so many times that we fail him too? Still, he is willing to forgive as we strive to please him.

*Jesus Is Falsely Accused – Jesus was often misunderstood and falsely accused. Once, he was even accused by the scribes of being demon-possessed (see Mark 3:22). Nonetheless, God still showed love toward us in that while we were still sinners, he sent his only son to die for us (see Rom. 5:8).

*Jesus’ Deepest Griefs – “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful…” These were the words of Jesus as he prayed in the garden before his crucifixion (see Matt. 26:38). The travail of his soul so deep that he was sweating drops of blood. We have a Savior who identifies with suffering, sorrow, and grief.

But wait – there’s hope!!

Isn’t it a comfort to know that we have a Savior who can relate to our heartaches and griefs? Yet, we also know that we have an amazing source of hope and joy in Christ. In John 16:33, Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus was triumphant over death, hell, and the grave and promises eternal life for all Christians! An eternity of  pure bliss in such heavenly beauty. A place where, Revelation 21:4 says, “…God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Yes, Jesus cares.

I will close with an amazing thought by A.B. Simpson (1843-1919). He once said, “Beloved, have you ever thought that someday you will not have anything to try you, or anyone to vex you again? There will be no opportunity in heaven to show the spirit of patience, forbearance, and longsuffering. If you are to practice these things, it must be now.”

 

Sources: bible.com, biblehub.com, youtube.com

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The Significance of Animals in Scripture

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“A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast…” ~Proverbs 12:10 

Allow me to preface by saying that I hope this study brings valuable insight, as we find animals mentioned throughout the entire Bible. Although it is not a major topic of concern in regards to our salvation, I still believe that it will help us to better understand why God created animals and their significance in our lives. We will also briefly look at how animals were used for God’s purposes, and how they benefit mankind.

I’ve never really had occasion to give much thought to the significance of animals mentioned in the Bible… until recently. Sadly, a few of my aged pets have passed away in recent years. It can be very difficult to lose a family pet. Amidst my losses, my curious mind wondered if our pets go to Heaven when they die. As I began thinking about animals mentioned in scripture – a whole plethora of various animals mentioned came to mind. There are dozens and dozens of animals mentioned by name in the Bible! This led me to believe that there must be some significance to this. This blog entry is my attempt to organize my many cluttered thoughts into concise, easy-to-read sections. But really – I could write a novel on this topic alone!

Do Animals Have a Purpose?

“And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” ~Genesis 1:25

elephantDid God create animals for a purpose? Yes, most definitely! There are so many reasons beyond what I may even be able to convey. He saved the animals on Noah’s ark for a reason. Animals, indeed, point to God’s amazing creativity – just look at the variety of species in the animal kingdom; their various attributes, behaviors, and abilities! They also point to God’s unfathomable kindness in providing us with companions and helpers. For centuries, farmers worldwide have benefitted from hard-working animals which help them with their chores. Scripture also says that God provided animals, fish, birds, and even the vegetation for us to have a source of food (see Gen. 9:2-3). Additionally, we find that pets bring companionship and comfort to the lonely and sick (Luke 16:21). Animals can be a source of much happiness and laughter.

But, let’s go a bit further – Did God create animals for spiritual purposes? Absolutely! They were (and still are) utilized in ways too numerous to mention. Animals can be used by God to carry out his divine purposes. They are God’s creation so he can use them as he wills. Romans 9:21 says, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” In like manner, we see in times past and in the future, certain creatures utilized by God. In the past (Exo. chapters 7-10), he used locusts, lice, flies, and frogs as a plague upon Egypt – and for good reason. Such oppressive plagues upon Egypt facilitated the release of Israelite slaves who were in bondage to the Egyptians. Even amidst the plagues, we also see a display of God’s supernatural powers and Godhead as he puts to shame the false gods.

At this point in history, we do not know whether or not the locust, scorpion, worm, or horse-like creatures, etc. spoke of in prophecy are literal creatures or used symbolically. Nonetheless, we find them mentioned even into the future. We also see animals, either literally or figuratively, mentioned in the prophecy of Isaiah. “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them(Is. 11:6).

It seems that animals can also see into the spiritual realm. We find this to be scripturally true when Balaam’s donkey saw the angel that Balaam could not see. When the donkey saw the angel he turned away, thus, saving Balaam’s life. (see full account in Num. 22:21-33).

On a personal note, after my Great-Grandmother’s death, my sister told me of something she experienced. My Great-Grandmother was ailing and we knew her death was imminent. As the family was sitting in the living room, just a few feet away from my Great-Grandmother’s bedroom, she passed away. At the exact time of death, my sister was sitting in the living room with her dog on her lap. She sensed an angel or a spirit pass by her but could not see anything. However, when my sister sensed this, her dog began to bark all of a sudden. He seemed to have seen something in the same direction in which my sister sensed this presence passing by. Now, I’m not insinuating that we build a doctrine upon someone else’s experience alone – but my sister’s experience seems to align with the account mentioned above; where an animal (Balaam’s donkey) could indeed see into the spiritual realm.

donkeyMuch like the donkey, in essence, saved Balaam’s life – the whale/large fish did so for Jonah. In the Book of Jonah, we read about his disobedience to God. He was running from God’s instructions for him to go to Nineveh and warn the people of their sins. As he was aboard a ship to escape, there came a terrible storm because of Jonah’s disobedience. In order to save the other people on the ship, Jonah instructed them to throw him overboard since he was the reason for the turbulent storm which was causing their ship to be tossed to and fro. Reluctantly, they did as he asked. Jonah found himself at the bottom of the sea with water churning all around him. Seaweed had wrapped around his head and he almost drowned. When his life was slipping away, he prayed and God rescued him. A whale/large fish swallowed Jonah and later spit him up on the safe shore. Of course, we know the rest of this account… how Jonah was then obedient, thus, God had mercy upon Nineveh and it was not destroyed (see Jonah chapters 1-4). But we can see how God used the creature of the sea to fulfill a divine plan.

And really, what an amazing thought that all of God’s creation, including animals, are designed to praise the Lord! We see this validated in scripture (see Ps. 148: 7, 10). “Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD” (Ps. 150:6).

What is God’s View of Animals?

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. ~Luke 12:6

God has compassion toward animals and has made provisions for them. Before he ever created animals, he created the herbs, grass, and trees so the animals would have food in place once they were created. He even established a Sabbath day of rest for animals (Exo. 20:10), food for them (Gen. 1:30, Matt. 6:26), and directions as to how to treat them fairly (Deut. 25:4, Matt. 12:11, Pro. 12:10). The Lord is even likened to a loving Shepherd who cares for the sheep of his fold (see Ps. 23:1, Matt. 18:12-14).

“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” ~Matthew 6:26

As we see in the above-cited scripture, God cares for the needs of the animals. By this, we can know that he will also care for our needs – for he asks, “Are ye not much better than they?” This also teaches us that God sees man as even more precious than the animals. We also see in scripture that we have dominion over the animals (see Gen. 1:26). This scripture is not an allowance for animal abuse, but simply to show the order of importance. We are made lower than the angels (see Heb. 2), yet we are more valuable than the animals.

lamb1One may ask, “But what about animal sacrifices which took place in Biblical times? Does this mean that God did not care about animals?” In order to answer these questions, we must know a little bit about the Old Testament practice of animal sacrifices. Without going into an exhaustive study, I would direct my readers to learn more at the link provided HERE. Bloody animal sacrifices were a picture of how sin utterly destroys – and how it hurts the innocent (animal, in this case). Also, we see that even God did not delight in animal sacrifices (Heb. 10:8, Hos. 6:6, Matt. 9:13) – yet such sacrifices were put into place as a temporary covering for sin until Jesus Christ came. Just as the innocent animal was killed for the sins of others, so Jesus, the innocent and spotless Lamb of God, was crucified for our sins. Jesus Christ put an end to all animal sacrifices once and for all (see Heb. 9:12, Heb. 10:4-8). He made a way for our sins to be eternally forgiven and washed away by his precious blood.

We could safely state that God’s view of animals is that of compassion, provision, and care. He also sees that they are good (see Gen. 1:25). They definitely have a purpose for being created.

Animals in Heaven?

“Who knoweth the spirit of man whether it goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast whether it goeth downward to the earth?” ~Ecclesiastes 3:19

In this section, we will cover two subtopics:

1.) Do our pets go to Heaven when they die?

2.) Will animals, in general, still exist eternally in the New Heaven and New Earth?

Let’s begin with the first subtopic, do our pets go to Heaven when they die? There are various schools of thought regarding this question. Some Bible scholars say yes, others say no. Of course, we’d like to believe that our pets go to Heaven when they die, as a source of comfort to our hearts; but are we only fooling ourselves or is it true? We know for a fact that humans who are followers of Christ will be with the Lord at death; for 2nd Corinthians 5:8 states: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” But, what about animals??

Scripture does not emphatically state whether or not our animals/pets will go to Heaven when they die; therefore, I can not emphatically state one way or the other. However, I will provide some valuable “food for thought” and let you decide for yourself.

Bible teacher, John Piper, made the following statement:

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In Old Testament times, before mankind could be sure of their eternal destination in Christ, we see Solomon asking the question in Ecclesiastes 3:19… “Who knoweth the spirit of man whether it goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast whether it goeth downward to the earth?” Does the beast simply perish at the point of death? In regards to this scripture, the Matthew Henry Commentary states, in part:

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Let us also take into account Romans 8:19-23. This scripture says, “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” 

For we see that humans, animals, the earth, and even inanimate objects of creation – the whole creation – suffers and groans in this present age. Commentator, Matthew Henry, writes: “Sin has been, and is, the guilty cause of all the suffering that exists in the creation of God.” If we hate suffering, then we should hate sin. There would be no suffering had mankind not sinned. But, we have hope – God will set all things right in the end and put an end to all suffering! Revelation 21:4 says so… “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Now, let’s briefly cover our second subtopic question… Will animals, in general, still exist eternally in the New Heaven and New Earth?

In prophecy, we read of different creatures used for a variety of purposes. There is some debate as to whether animals spoken of in prophetic terms are literal animals or simply symbolically used – or a mixture of both; nonetheless, there is no denying that animals are mentioned. I have provided only a few examples in the following scriptures below:

horse“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” ~Rev. 19:11

“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.” ~Isaiah 65:25

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” ~Isaiah 11:6

In the end, the most important question to ask is not whether there will be animals in heaven or not; most importantly – will WE be in Heaven? As much as we long for our animals (or animals, in general) to be there, let us long for others and ourselves to be there all the more!

Lessons From Animals in Scripture

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise… ”

~Proverbs 6:6

Throughout scripture – the Bible mentions numerous animals. The animals may be used as symbols, for divine purposes, or to teach us life lessons (ex. Matt. 6.26, Ps. 32:9). We read about the Spirit of God descending from Heaven as a dove at Jesus’ baptism (see Matt. 3:16); we see the godly compared to eagles in Isaiah 40:31; we also see the Psalmist longing for God, much like the deer who longs and pants for water (see Ps. 42:1). There are many other examples we all could think of, but one truth remains – animals are used by God to teach us very important lessons.

We see Biblical examples of Believers being likened to sheep (Matt. 10:16, John 10:14, Ps. 23:1); of God being likened, in various instances, to a lion, leopard, bear, and eagle (see Hos. 13:7-8, Deut. 32:11). And we see Jesus described as a lion and a lamb (see Rev. 5:5, John 1:29).

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To summarize in basic terms, the animals were made by God and for God. He also made them for us – whether for practical use or to teach us spiritual lessons. We have learned that God cares for the animals and provides for them (ex. Ps. 147:9, Matt. 6:26) – so we can trust that he will also provide our needs. We have also seen scripture confirm God as the Creator (ex. Ps. 104:24, Job 12:7-10, Gen. 1); and we see God’s nature in that he is so gracious and caring toward his creation.

I hope this was insightful and that you have learned a bit more about our amazing God and his compassions on all of his creation. “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” Lamentatins 3:22. God bless you all.

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A Wounded Spirit

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Have you or someone you know been deeply wounded, spiritually-speaking? Did the wounding come about from a particular situation you encountered? Or was the wound inflicted by family, an acquaintance, a church member, or by someone that you thought you could trust? If so, you’re not alone.

Sustaining a physical wound on the body can be very painful, and sometimes, result in a physical death. But, to sustain a spiritual wound is far worse, according to scripture. Proverbs 18:14 states: “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” In other words, a physical infirmity or physical wound will not destroy our spirit which is of utmost eternal importance. Furthermore, our resilience of spirit will carry us through such an infirmity of body or various troubles which may be encountered in life. As the Pulpit Commentary so aptly states: “The body can, as it were, fall back upon the support of the spirit, when it is distressed and weakened…” The infirmities that we endure in life are unpleasant and undesirable, still, the strength of our spirit-man within can help us to endure such hardships. However, a wounded spirit is so severe that the writer of Proverbs wonders who could even bear such a thing!

Causes of a Wounded Spirit

There are many causes for a wounded spirit; most of which will be listed in this section. There are countless scenarios that could cause such a deep wound on the soul-level; but we will briefly cover the most common:

Slander: The Psalmist writes an entire song of the slandered in Psalm 109. In the Psalm, he mentions a few reasons why his heart is wounded within him. In his prayer/song to God, he mentions that the wicked and deceitful have spoken against him with a lying tongue. They have also spoken words of hatred toward him and have fought against him without a cause. Even though he tries to show them love, in exchange, they only become his enemies. Even though he tries to show them good, in exchange, they only reward him with evil. He is a reproach to them and when they look at him, they just shake their heads.

1jDoesn’t this particular account sound very much like what we would term as verbal “bullying”? Sure, it is on an intense level; nonetheless, it seems as though their constant bullying and slander began to take its toll on his inward man. He was poor, needy, and becoming weak from fasting; then to have all of his adversaries bully him without a cause – well, his heart became wounded.

Have you ever felt bullied or slandered? Have you been lied on? Have you been hated for no reason at all? Does it seem like the more good you do for certain people, the more they hate you? This is exactly how the Psalmist felt. It hurt him so deeply. Jesus was also treated this way but far, far beyond slanderous talk only. He was hated to the point of death. Scripture says that he was hated without a cause. In John 15:18, Jesus forewarns us, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” By this, we share in the fellowship of his sufferings. But take comfort… “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ” (2nd Cor. 1:5).

Persecution: “A faith that can be destroyed by suffering is not faith.” These were the words of a man that knew suffering, persecution, and torture. Richard Wurmbrand was a Godly soul-winner who was imprisoned by the Communists for his faith in Christ. He was in prison and tortured (physically, mentally, and spiritually) for a total of almost 14 years. Nonetheless, he was not destroyed and was not bitter toward his persecutors; in fact, he tried to win them to Christ!

Remember, we can endure persecution and even a wounded spirit without it destroying us. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed…” (2nd Cor. 4:8-9). You see, persecution is slightly different from slander alone in that persecution, oftentimes, also includes physical suffering inflicted by others. However, persecution needn’t be physical in order to cause us great pain.

But first, let’s clarify something. When we bring shame and punishment upon ourselves due to sin, well, we deserve to feel hurt when we are in the wrong. Such shame and hurt is definitely not considered “persecution” if we are being held responsible for wrong actions. Actually, to be held accountable for sin is right and just. But what about when we are serving God to the best of our ability and still endure being wounded, slandered, or persecuted? The Bible states that if we are Godly, we will be persecuted. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2nd Tim. 3:12). This may come as unwelcomed news to some; but we can take heart; for when we are persecuted, we know that we are living a good life that is pleasing to God.

1wSuch persecution may come in various forms and various degrees of severity. One common form of being wounded is enduring persecution at the hands of a family member, a Pastor, a church congregation, or a friend. The Revivalist, Leonard Ravenhill, put it like this: “All you have to do is get in a closer walk with God and you’ll find your enemies are in your own church.” Yes, this can happen – and it wounds. It shouldn’t be this way, but sadly, many find that it is.

Nonetheless, we must realize that it’s humans wounding us – and that humans are all capable of sinning. This does not excuse the deep wounds they inflict upon us, but it helps us to see that we serve God and not humans. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “God save you from a religion that depends upon other people!” When all else is stripped away, can we stand before Christ on our own two feet? Is it truly Christ that we follow? Or are we idolizing a pastor, a Christian book author, or some other figure in our lives? Remember, we serve God – not man. We can’t let the wounds inflicted by mere mankind cause us to hold a grudge against God. This is misdirected anger and it is a dangerous trick of Satan.

Being Lost: Another possible cause of a wounded spirit is living our lives without Christ. Sure, we may believe in him, but do we serve him? “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” James 2:19. It’s not enough to believe only; we must surrender our lives to the Lord.

When we live without knowing the weight of what Christ’s death on the cross means for us, we live shallow lives. Of course, many a sinner may eventually feel that their spirit is wounded – no, even worse – utterly lost and hopeless without God. In this sense, it is actually a righteous, healthy wound; for it drives us to Christ for salvation and to feel his healing administered to our tattered spirit.

Life without Christ may seem pleasurable for a season… but as Hebrews 11:25 teaches, the pleasures of sin are fleeting; there’s no true and lasting joy or stability living in such a way. This is precisely why millionaires who seem to have it all feel that they need drugs and alcohol to “numb the pain” within. This void in the spirit is why those who are “successful” by the world’s standards can so easily commit suicide. They feel hopeless and empty, and yes, their spirit feels wounded beyond repair due to the blows that sin has delivered. But fear not, Christ’s grace is greater than our sin!! (See Rom. 5:15).

Trauma: I would venture to say that many people feel spiritual implications after enduring immense trauma. We are made in the likeness of God (see Gen. 1:26) therefore, in essence, we are triune beings. Triune simply means that we are three parts making up one whole person. Our three parts are mind, body, and spirit; whereas God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (see Matt. 28:19). By this, we can see that the mind affects the body, the body affects the mind, the spirit affects the mind, etc. So, it stands to reason that when we are exceedingly sorrowful over a traumatic event, it may cause our spirit to feel downcast and/or wounded (see Ps. 42:5).

Trauma comes in many, many forms. We never know when/if trauma will strike. Of course, we always hope and pray that it doesn’t; but when/if it does, we have to heavily rely on our God and the strength he has placed into our spirit to pull us through. We must be diligent to seek God in order to keep the spirit within us strong at all times. In the good times, we cannot afford to forget about God or to leave him out of the equation. We must build ourselves up on the most holy faith (see Jude 1:20). We must guard our hearts/minds against that which would weaken our spirit (see Prov.4:23). This will help us survive should we have to endure an unforeseen trauma.

Even still, there are going to be times when we don’t feel strong. There are going to be times that we don’t even sense God’s presence. It may seem that he is a million miles away and that he doesn’t hear us. We may weep much, like the Prophet Jeremiah. We may despair of life, like the Apostle Paul. It may seem that our soul refuses to be comforted and that it is overwhelmed, like the Psalmist Asaph. We may even get so low that we wish that we were never born, like Job. Despite all of these very normal feelings that may occur in life, as long as we keep holding to God’s outstretched hand and keep trusting him; keep crying out to him – then we will not be defeated. We can’t give up – for who else do we have as mighty as God to set all things right in the end?

A Faithful Wound of a Friend: All of the causes of a wounded spirit (listed above) reference something that feels very negative to us; things that are hard to endure such as slander, persecution, being in sin, trauma, or being hated without a cause. Most of these wounds (such as slander and persecution) are inflicted upon us by those who would consider themselves our enemy. However, there is a wound which is a faithful wound of a friend. Let me explain…

You see, when someone finds themselves in such a miserable state of sin or in a state of feeling very lukewarm in their spirit, they have two choices: They can forfeit the eternal well-being of their soul and stay miserable (which, in this life, can lead to substance abuse, other harmful behaviors, or suicide). Or, they can surrender to God and cry out for mercy and forgiveness. In this latter case, God must sanctify them so that they don’t self-destruct and land up in Hell. By this, it oftentimes may feel like it’s God himself inflicting the wounds in order to purge them of their sin or something in their life that is not good in his sight. As Job 5:18 says, “For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” But what does this mean?

Again, let me reference the Pulpit Commentary which states it far better than I. It states:

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It is a good surgeon who successfully removes that which causes his patient great harm. Sure, the surgeon must cut and wound his patient during surgery – but it is for the purpose of health. Furthermore, he also bandages his patient and does what he can to help him/her heal. This is exactly what the scripture in Job 5:18 is referring to.

When we become as clay in the Potter’s hands (God’s hands), we may feel kneaded and stretched at times. But in the end, we trust that he is making us into a vessel fit for his use and for his glory… and that he is preparing us to spend all eternity with him. He is such a faithful friend to us and he is our Great Physician – the only one who can do a supernatural work to bring about healing to our spirit and eternal security.

Healing for the Bruised and Brokenhearted

Perhaps, the exact situation you are encountering was not specifically mentioned in the previous section. However, we can summarize all hurt and wounds of the spirit by likening them to bruised and broken heart. The Bible has much to say about those who feel bruised and broken. Take comfort in the scriptures listed below:

“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” ~Psalm 34:18

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” ~Psalm 51:17

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…” ~Luke 4:18

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” ~Isaiah 53:5

“A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.” ~Matthew 12:20

1jpBefore closing, let’s explore a bit further on the topic of healing from a wounded spirit. As I’ve already mentioned and want to proclaim, the most important thing we can do is to keep our relationship with God alive amidst the harsh blows that we encounter in life. We must see to it that we stay close to the Shepherd! Our eternity is at stake and we can’t turn back or give up!

As the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, once said: “The tendency of fire is to go out; watch the fire on the altar of your heart. Anyone who has tended a fireplace fire knows that it needs to be stirred up occasionally.”

Mourn. It’s okay to take some time to mourn. There is no sin in tears. There is a time and a season for everything… “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecc. 3:4).

Pray. Ask God to restore your joy and to uphold you. “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (Ps. 55:12). Believe in his restorative power.

Ask Questions. In the event your spiritual wound was inflicted by something someone said about you in a slanderous way, ask yourself if what they said was, indeed, true; and if it was scriptural. If not – then don’t let a lie torment you any longer, dear Christian! I speak this from experience as one who has been the victim of slander and of falsehoods being spoken about me; as one who was hated without a cause.

Be Still. In Psalm 46:10, scripture beautifully states: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Don’t worry about getting revenge. Let God fight your battles and put them into his capable hands. Don’t reward evil for evil. I have had to learn this lesson over the years. Micah 7:8 says, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” Be still and know that there will be justice – whether in this life or in the one to come (see Rom. 12:19). As Charles Spurgeon put it… “Every blow aimed against the godly will recoil on the persecutor; he who smites a believer drives a nail in his own coffin.”

Readjust Your Focus. Don’t stew over fears, injustices, or wounds sustained. That’s easier said than done, but try this: Try readjusting your focus. Philippians 4:8 teaches, “… whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Likewise, focus on eternity and the weight of the glory that is to come (see 2nd Cor. 4:17). I like to read the book of Revelation to infuse my spirit with hope of better things in my future. Also, it’s good to readjust our focus onto someone other than ourselves. Nazi Concentration Camp survivor, Corrie Ten Boom, learned the power of readjusting her focus. She once said:

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Psalms, Hymns & Songs. Ephesians 5:19 helps us along our journey by instructing us with wise words. It says, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” There have been many Christians who have found peace in either singing praises to him or listening to praises. Something about making a joyful noise with the music and the voice (as referenced all throughout the book of Psalms and in Psalm 98:4) is very healing to the soul. Don’t focus on the melody, don’t focus on the singer… focus on God. Welcome his presence with your song, whether sung by you or another.

Remain Hopeful. I’ll be honest, it’s not always easy to hold out a lot of hope for things to be “peachy keen” in this life; but we have amazing hope for eternity, where our best days are ahead of us. Such hope can spill over and give us joy for the journey we are still on here. Much like the Prophet Isaiah wrote… one day, we (as Christians) will have beauty for ashes, gladness instead of mourning, and praise instead of a spirit of heaviness. It’s true! Hold on, wounded soldier… help is on the way!

I close with this thought… Leonard Ravenhill and his Assistant Pastor used to sit in the church office at the end of the day and talk about the Lord. Oftentimes, the Assistant would put his feet up on the desk, lean back in his chair, smile, and say, “Well Len, another day’s march nearer home.” Never forget the hope that lies ahead, beyond all the wounds and heartache of this life.

Sources:  revival-library.com   biblehub.com   sermonindex.net   polyvore.com   thehumbledhomemaker.com
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The Hot Air Balloon

hotairballoonI was in the car casually looking out the window as we drove down the highway. Billboards, shopping centers, and road signs whizzed past my eyes as we drove. I noticed the sky was especially blue and pretty that day. As I got lost in thought while staring at the beautiful clouds, something caught my attention.

Over the distant mountain, I noticed something in the sky. I squinted my eyes but couldn’t quite figure out what it was. I locked my gaze on this mysterious object out of curiosity. As the object came closer, I could clearly see that it was a hot air balloon. It got closer and closer until I could tell that there were many people aboard its tiny basket. It was beautiful. It brought a smile to my face.

Then, to my absolute shock, the once peacefully coasting hot air balloon began to behave erratically. A plume of black smoke also confirmed to me that the fire mechanism which was used to keep the balloon afloat had, somehow, gone out. Since there was some air left in the balloon, the fall wasn’t immediate – nonetheless, it began plummeting at a decent rate of speed. I didn’t utter a word. I was in shock watching this scene unfold before my eyes. With my eyes wide open and my jaw dropped, I covered my mouth with my hand and sat there stunned.

My heart sank lower within me as I saw the passengers jumping out of the basket. All I could see were silhouettes against the bright, blue sky. Yet, I knew each vague silhouette represented a life, a soul. Each one has a story to tell, a unique journey, their own personality, talents and interests that make them who they are. Most of them have loved ones that care about them. Each falling silhouette is more than just a vague shadow – they mean the world to somebody. But now, just like that, they’re falling to their certain death.

I couldn’t bear to watch these precious souls falling! Just as I was about to look away and give up all hope, something amazing happened. All over the sky, I saw colorful, life-saving parachutes popping open! All of the passengers were prepared and equipped with parachutes! My hope which was almost gone burst open, much like the colorful parachutes. I knew everything was going to be okay. My bated breath suddenly transformed into a refreshing sigh of relief.

Later that day, the hot air balloon passengers were reunited with family members. Some of the more resilient passengers ran into their loved ones arms with a smile, as if they felt no trauma whatsoever. Other passengers, still reeling from the events that took place, reunited with family while tears were streaming down their eyes. Still others, others couldn’t even run into the arms of those they cared about – they had to walk with a slow, painful limp from the impact of their landing. Nonetheless, everyone was reunited – that’s all that really mattered.

Isn’t this account much like our life and our faith?

Just like the hot air balloon, we have times when we are coasting peacefully through life. The sky is bright and blue, bursting with happiness. Then, to our shock and dismay, life suddenly begins spiraling out of control. Our faith is shaken. Just like that, everything seems to be going wrong. The fire that kept our faith alive and our life afloat has seemingly gone out. It blindsides us. We didn’t see this coming – especially in light of how everything was so calm and peaceful moments ago.

Nonetheless, there is a small reserve of faith within us which keeps the fall from being immediate. Still, we find ourselves heading downward at a decent rate of speed. What can we do during times like these? Where can we turn when our hope and faith is plummeting? There seems to be no way out of this nightmare. The death of our faith is so real and so near that we can envision the devastation of the fall. We think it’s all over. We fear this is how it is going to end – in tragedy.

habIn this time of trouble when faith is shaken and hopes are shattered, God Almighty quickens his holy word to our remembrance. The powerful words in scripture speak of God as being a “very present help” in times of trouble; and that he “is able to keep you from falling.” The amazing hope contained in these promises causes our faith to burst open with a life-saving “parachute”, as it were.

Our God has made a way, just as the prophet Isaiah said he would. He has made a “path in the mighty waters… a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” He comforts with warm, truthful words, saying, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” By this amazing hope we’ve found in our Lord, we are persuaded… “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Just as the passengers of the hot air balloon were reunited with loved ones, God’s children will all be reunited in Glory. Whether walking unaided or limping, the reunions were just as sweet. ‘Twill be likewise in Glory. The main thing is, we made it… even if, proverbially, we had to limp in. We made it, and that’s all that really matters in the end. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Allow me to point out that Jacob, the Biblical patriarch, walked with a limp, due to his hip being injured during a time in his life when he wrestled with God (see Gen. 32). Although limping physically through life, he endured and was powerful. Likewise, even if we have to limp through trials of life, spiritually speaking, let’s remember that we can endure. All it takes is a mustard seed sized faith. Elbert Hubbard, American writer and philosopher, put it like this: “God will not look you over for medals, degrees, or diplomas – but for scars.”  As long as we keep getting up and moving toward our Lord, the enemy can’t keep us down.

In his song “We Fall Down”, songwriter, Kyle Matthews, writes: “The saints are just the sinners who fall down… and get up.” We will still be greeted in Glory with open arms and a smile, simply because we didn’t stay down when life plummeted out of control. Time there will heal the limp – but oh dear one, just make it through the gate!

Scripture encourages and admonishes us: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…” We’re not in this fight alone, Christ intercedes to the Father God for us. And, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” In this life, we must have endurance. Hebrews 10:36 states: “For you have need of endurance, so that, having done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”  What victory awaits us beyond the heartaches of life! When we see the Lord, when we reunite with the saints, when pain is a thing of the past and disaster looms no more – we will be so grateful for our life-saving faith which was so mercifully given to us by our Savior. The skies will burst brightly with joy unspeakable!

 

Scripture References:
Psalm 46:1, Jude 1:24, Isaiah 43:16, 19, Isaiah 43:2, Romans 8:39, 1st Timothy 6:12, Romans 8:18, Romans 8:31
Sources:
biblehub.com, wikipedia.org, polyvore.com
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“Don’t Judge Your Spiritual Condition By Feelings” Sermon

For this month’s blog entry, I would highly encourage all of my readers to watch this video sermon by the late David Wilkerson. It is a timely and highly encouraging sermon for the Christian who feels that they are in a rut of boredom, repetition, or discouragement.

 

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How Would You Treat an Angel?

angelbThe annoying door-to-door salesman, the fast food worker who made a mistake on your order, the telemarketer who calls in the middle of dinner, the elderly man who drives slowly and causes you to be late to work – how do we, as Christians, treat these people? Do we show patience, understanding, kindness, and a Christ-like attitude toward them? Or do we treat them with disdain, hatred, and anger?

Now, allow me to pose a hypothetical question – what if an angel was disguised as a clumsy fast food worker or as a slow, elderly man? Would that change the way that we, as Christians, treat them? Of course! We would be extra kind, patient, and apt to show hospitality while extending grace to such a one. Well, maybe this idea isn’t so far-fetched or hypothetical. You see, the Bible says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2). In other words, the Berean Study Bible puts it like this, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

In Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, it states: “The Greek word for ‘angels’ – messengers – of itself would serve to remind these Christians that, though the strangers whom they welcomed were but men, they might be special messengers of God.”  So whether an angel in disguise (which appear as men) or a special messenger sent by God, it is clear that we are to show hospitality and Christian love to others – even strangers. Remember the scripture, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them…” (Matt. 7:12).

How Would You Treat Jesus?

In the first section of this blog, we discussed how we might behave differently if we were in the presence of an angel. But, let’s take that a step further – how would we treat Jesus if he were walking among us, yet hidden in a disguise? Wouldn’t it be utterly devastating to learn that we’d treated someone with disregard only to find out later that the person was really Jesus in disguise?! Again, this is not such a far-fetched idea, for the Holy Spirit lives within many. In Matthew 10:40, Jesus said, “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” This concept is best explained in Matthew 25:34-46:

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

It Matters To God How We Treat Others

The point of this blog entry is to show the importance of how we treat others – even strangers. The Bible also teaches us not to show favoritism to the rich while despising the poor (see James 2:1-13); to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (see Mark 12:31); and to be a good “Samaritan” who has pity and mercy upon a helpless soul in need (see Luke 10:25-37). Likewise, we are to speak graciously with kind words – even to strangers (see Col. 4:5-6). If necessary, we are to bridle our tongues so that we do not speak out of our anger or haste. The Bible even goes so far as to say this: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26).

The Bible is full of examples which teach us how to behave in a Godly manner and how to treat others. When we choose to offer hospitality, we are to do so without grumbling (1st Pet. 4:9). It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to have a genuinely kind heart. Kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control – these are some of the “fruits” that grow in our lives as we yield to the Holy Spirit (see Gal. 5:22).

As we know, it’s easy to love the loveable – but it is the unlovable who usually need to feel loved. We never know what such an unlovable person is going through. I’ve heard it said that hurt people often have masks. Hurt may be masked as anger, rebellion, or as having a bad attitude. Love will go a long way and that is what the hurting people need. Jesus showed his love by dying for such souls so that they could be saved and loved eternally. Loving the lost takes on many forms. Love is ultimately shown when we reveal truths to them and lead them to our loving God. We are taught in Matthew 5:43-48 to even love our enemies…

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

It’s equally important to God how we treat our family. For example, it’s important how husbands treat their wives. If they do not show honor, scripture says that their prayers could be hindered. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1st Pet. 3:7). The Bible also instructs wives, children, and all of us how to behave in a Godly manner. If we should behave badly in a weak moment, we need to be humble enough to admit fault, ask for forgiveness, mourn our sin, and repent. It doesn’t always come natural, but as disciples of the Lord Jesus, let’s strive to put ourselves aside in order to live a life pleasing to him. Again, I will reiterate – it is very important to God how we treat others.

It isn’t always easy and there will be plenty of opportunities to become angry or to be tempted to treat others poorly; but the next time you’re tempted to give someone a “piece of your mind” or to show hatred, remember to ask yourself these questions – “What if this is a test and really just an angel in disguse? How would Jesus want me to behave toward strangers or enemies? What if my anger drives an unstable soul to harm themselves?” Reaffirm in your mind that it is very important to God how Christians treat others since we are his ambassadors. Let’s have a depth to us so that we shine with love and genuine, Christian kindness.

Sources: biblehub.com, youtube.com, polyvore.com
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