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It's all in Your Mind

Sandra, Jeanette and I sat around the small table going over our sermon notes from this past Sunday and answering our discussion questions. The discussion took us to what goes on in our minds when we let them wander...like when you're busy with some monotonous task and you let your mind slip into neutral gear.

Me? I confess...if I let my mind wander it goes places that it should never go. I will have a running argument with someone, supplying both sides of the conversation. Or I will find myself listing all the things that are wrong in my life/church/family and who is to blame, which eventually leads to wondering why God isn't taking better care of me.

When we allow our thoughts to run free, they are like wayward children, rushing headlong into dangerous areas. That's because when our minds are idle, they are susceptible to input from the world, the flesh and the devil and those things pull us in a downward spiral.

We need to be on guard against those idle moments by actively keeping our minds focused on God and godly thoughts. 

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8 NIV
When we allow (or force) our minds to dwell on these things, an amazing thing happens...
 "You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You." Isaiah 26:3 AMP
So, let's reign those thoughts in. No, for all the damage they do to our spirits, let's take this thing seriously and wage all out warfare on stinkin' thinkin'.
"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." NIV
Are you in?

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From Terrorist to Evangelist - It Can Happen


Once upon a time, there was a man named Saul who thought himself quite religious. He was zealous about his faith and abhorred anyone who thought differently.  He felt it his righteous duty to seek out, persecute, imprison and even have put to death others who followed the Christian faith.

We're seeing that very same scenario played out today in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. Men, who are so zealous about their faith that they think they are doing their god a favor by putting to death men, women and children who follow the Christian faith.

Our response - kill them - kill them all - is the cry on many hearts today, but if that cry had been the same back in Saul's day and if Saul had been killed for his atrocities, we wouldn't have several books of the Bible, penned by the Apostle Paul as Saul became known after his conversion.

How did his conversion happen?  It went like this...
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength." Acts 9:1-19
After this experience, Saul became the Apostle Paul, evangelist to the Gentiles, converting thousands upon thousands to Christianity, both in his day and down through the ages as the author of several books in the New Testament. He spent the rest of his life telling people about the love of God and salvation through Jesus Christ. From terrorist to evangelist. Only God can do something like that.

As we hear about the atrocities taking place in the Middle East today, about children being beheaded, Christians forced to renounce their faith or die. Forced to leave their homeland on foot across the hot desert, forced to flee into the mountains where they are starving to death, the first inclination of our hearts is to wipe out those evil men who are committing such crimes, but there is a better way.

We can pray - earnestly, forcefully, on our faces for God to save the very people who are doing these horrible things. That God will stop them in their tracks, just as He did with Saul and bring them face to face with Himself. Not just to save them, but convert them so completely that they will give themselves to serve Him and spread the Gospel through out the Muslim world for the rest of their lives.

God can do that. God would prefer to do that, rather than slay them, sending them to Hell. He loves his creation and His plan has always been to bring man to Himself through Jesus' death on the cross. Satan's plan is to destroy every man, woman and child before they can receive Christ and in the event that they do receive Christ, then his rage is heightened as he influences evil men to carry out his evil vendetta against God by destroying his children.

One of the hardest, yet most God-honoring thing we could do at this point is pray - pray for the safety and deliverance of those who are under such great persecution and pray for those who are perpetrating this evil to be stopped in their tracks by the Lord God Almighty and brought to their knees in repentance and conversion.

This is how I will pray. 
 
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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 22 Final


Revelation 11-22
The Rest of the Story

I began this study in Revelation as my daughter and I were reading through the book together. I thought it would be cool to post each chapter with my thoughts on it. Now, I find myself knee-deep in the realization that I'm not equipped for this mission.

I'm sure I'll take some flack for this, but I'm going to leave reading the rest of the book of Revelation to you.

I find myself inadequate to explain what's written there - as is everyone else.  I fully believe it, even if I don't understand how it will all play out. I know that it is God's plan. He has revealed as much of our future as he intended to reveal, so trying to figure it all out is futile.  If we will just heed the parts we do understand, it will be enough to cause us to hit our knees and ask God to forgive our sins and accept us into His family.

If you can read Revelation and not want a relationship with Him, then nothing I can say will sway you in that direction.  

I pray that you will want to continue reading on your own. I pray that the Holy Spirit will not let you rest until you do and I pray, above all things, that you will surrender your life to God so that you can experience first-hand an amazing relationship with Him and second, so that you will not have to experience any of the horrors of Revelation.

Amen

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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 21


Revelation 10 
The Angel and the Little Scroll

10 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.”
Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’[a] 10 I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 11 Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”
In verses 1-2, we see an "angel" who seems a lot like Jesus - when he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. John was about to write down what then said, when he was told to "seal it up and not write it down".

Seal it up where? I think he was meant to think about it. Mull it over. Consider the ramification of what was said. Because what was about to unfold needed to be felt and absorbed by the prophet in order for him to proclaim the events to come with clarity.

Next, he was told to take the little scroll from the angel's hand and eat it. At first it was sweet, but then it turned his stomach sour. This little scroll was a look into the upcoming events - a look into the future. Who doesn't wish they could look into the future a bit? It seems like that would be a good thing - sweet, but if we really saw the future, it just might sour our stomach.  The events about to unfold were going to happen with unrelenting speed, ushering the world to the end of time as we know it.  I'm sure what John saw was enough to set his head spinning.

Having experienced the future by absorbing it first, prepared John to pour out the coming prophecies with an urgency that all but begs people to wake up and see what's coming...and repent.

That's exactly what reading through Revelations has done to me. It makes me want to beg people to seriously consider the reality of God and the future of man. Each person must choose for himself whether to follow God or to reject Him. I pray you will make the right choice.

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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 20


Revelation 9:13-21
The Sixth Trumpet


What would it take
for you to cry out to God?
13 The sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice speaking from the four horns of the golden altar that stands before the throne of God, 14 saying to the sixth angel, “Release the four mighty demons[c] held bound at the great River Euphrates.” 15 They had been kept in readiness for that year and month and day and hour, and now they were turned loose to kill a third of all mankind. 16 They led an army of 200,000,000 warriors[d]—I heard an announcement of how many there were.
17-18 I saw their horses spread out before me in my vision; their riders wore fiery-red breastplates, though some were sky-blue and others yellow. The horses’ heads looked much like lions’, and smoke and fire and flaming sulphur billowed from their mouths, killing one-third of all mankind. 19 Their power of death was not only in their mouths, but in their tails as well, for their tails were similar to serpents’ heads that struck and bit with fatal wounds.
20 But the men left alive after these plagues still refused to worship God! They would not renounce their demon-worship, nor their idols made of gold and silver, brass, stone, and wood—which neither see nor hear nor walk! 21 Neither did they change their mind and attitude about all their murders and witchcraft, their immorality and theft.

As God's judgement continues on the inhabitants of earth, we see demonic forces unleashed and a mighty army marching out to destroy mankind. Their power to anhilate man is limited to 1/3 of the population, but the devastation is horrendous.

The most interesting portion of this passage for me is that in the face of all this, people still refused to worship God.  The world is coming to an end. Plagues, death and destruction surround them. Their one hope is God, who, should they call out to Him, would quickly forgive their sins and accept them as His own, but they refuse to do so. Instead, they cling to their idols, their wealth, their security. They continue in their wicked ways, still believing that they don't need God.

It's hard to believe that people would refuse to turn to God in the midsts of all this, but isn't that just what's happening today? We are hearing of increasing horrors across the globe. Our financial security is fading fast. Every foundation we've built our lives on is shaking.  This is the beginning of the end, my friends. God is trying to get our attention. He wants us for His own...and if that means allowing or bringing tragedy into our lives in order for us to recognize our need for Him and His love for us, that's what He's willing to do. 

It's not going to get better. It's going to get worse. God has a timeline. There is a "year and month and day and hour" appointed for the events of the end times to occur.

My heart's cry is for each of you to know God. To enjoy the incredible joy that comes from having a personal relationship with Him...now. Not sometime in the future when your life is crumbling all around you.  Reach out to Him, now and invite Him to come in...to be the Lord of your life. Surrender your all to Him.  You don't need fancy words. You don't need words at all, really. What you need is a heart that cries out to Him. He will meet you where you are.  You can do that right now.

I pray you will.


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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 19

Revelation 9:1-12
The Fifth Trumpet


The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. 10 They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. 11 They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).
12 The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.

woe -great sorrow or distress.
synonyms:misery, sorrow, distress, wretchedness, sadness, unhappiness, heartache, heartbreak, despondency, despair, depression, regret, gloom, melancholy;

What horrors will befall mankind as a supernatural plague of demonic spirits is unleashed upon those who reject God. I can't imagine what John thought and experienced when he saw this vision of future events. It's terrifying to even think about!

There's nothing I can add to this passage of scripture, except to say that we don't know when these events will take place. It could be 1000 years from now, or it could be today. Either way, it would be foolish to ignore (or reject) God's offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. You'll not only spare yourself from these horrors, you'll experience a wonderful and intimate relationship with your Creator from this minute on until you meet with Him in Heaven.

How do you enter into this relationship? Find the answer here.

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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 18


Revelation 8:6-13 (NIV)
The Trumpets
Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
10 The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— 11 the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
12 The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.
13 As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!”
Ok, now we know why there was complete and utter silence in Heaven for about a half an hour when the seventh seal was opened and those watching got a glimpse of what was to come. Seven angels were given seven trumpets - trumpets used to herald in horrifying, catastrophic events that destroy parts of the earth.

At this point, I, too, feel the need to fall silent. I have no words to explain what I just read. I believe it. I know it will happen, but I am overwhelmed at the thought of it. It seems cruel and I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the loving God that I know doing these things. Why? Why?

Ok, I confess - I had to keep reading and long about the end of chapter 9, I found the reason. Believe it or not, these destructive acts are perpetrated for a loving reason.  We'll get there, but before we do, we'll take a look at the fifth and sixth trumpet effects.

On a side note - did you notice the in verse 11 that the star was named Wormwood? It reminded me of a book I once read - The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. One of the characters was named Wormwood.  The short story is a series of letters between Wormwood (a novice demon) and his Uncle Screwtape, a devil high in the Infernal Civil Service. Wormwood's mission is to assure that his assigned "patient" (an ordinary man) never received salvation through Christ. When he fails at this task, he is given instructions for tempting and distracting the new Believer.


The Screwtape Letters is a timeless classic on spiritual conflict and the psychology of temptation which are part of our daily Christian experience.



I know this kind of book is not for everyone, but I found that it really opened my eyes to the schemes used by Satan to pull us away from a vibrant walk with Christ.  The writer of 2 Corinthians mentions being alert and aware of Satan's schemes.
 ...in order that Satan might not outwit us.
For we are not unaware of his schemes.
2 Corinthians 2:11
While I don't focus on Satan, because he has been defeated by Christ, I am aware that his goal is to destroy God's people or at the very least, draw their hearts away from God and lure them into temptation. Knowing this keeps me on my guard against any thing he might try to disrupt my close relationship with my Savior.
 
If you would like to read it, you can pick up a copy at almost any Christian bookstore, order it online, or read a free copy in your browser or download an epub copy here - http://www.epubbud.com/book.php?g=DLJWXYQK .  You can also download a free discussion guide for the book here - https://www.cslewis.com/images/ckfinder/642/pdfs/TheScrewtapeLetters.pdf
 
 Next post, we'll look at the 5th & 6th angels and what happens when they blow their trumpets.


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