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Posts Tagged ‘Baptism’

We sat in our neighborhood group and listened to our sister in Christ convey her disappointment over an experience at church during the past couple of weeks. She has been teaching Sunday school for some time in the third grade I believe, and the person who arranges all of the teachers had called her aside and asked to speak with her. She asked our sister if she had ever become a member of the church before, to which my friend replied no. The lady then told her sadly that we have a policy that one needs to be a member of the church to teach classes, and asked her if she would place membership, my friend refused. She attended the church she went to before this one for ten years and wouldn’t place membership there, she wouldn’t do it now.

She recounted to us that there is nowhere in the Bible where membership in the church is required, that she is a follower of Christ and that’s good enough for her, she was plainly upset. What came to mind for me were several instances in the past that I have seen when a church does not go to the trouble of making sure its teachers and volunteers are on the same page. First off, let me tell you what we do, we have a simple class called “starting point” that is designed for everyone, new and mature Christians alike, or those who have not yet made the choice for Christ for that matter. In SP we go over Christianity, the plan of salvation, who Jesus was and why He came down and was sacrificed for us, what one must do to be saved. We go over what we believe and why we believe it, we provide childcare, and we feed everyone on top of it. It takes four hours on a Sunday afternoon, and it is very interesting, I went twice.

When you leave SP, there will be no confusion of what we believe, everything is spelled out very clearly, and at the end of starting point, you may turn in a membership card if you would like to become a member. There is no being baptized into our church, no proving your Christianity to the church leadership; it is merely about being on the same page. Is this important? I had some very good friends that attended for about two and a half years before going to SP, and they enjoyed the sermons, loved the music but did not get the deeper picture until they went to the class, then they kicked themselves for not going sooner.

Many people choose not to go deeper and that is okay, for we are not to judge but to love, and we embrace them and hope they will keep coming week after week until they develop a hunger to know the Lord. Membership is not required, it isn’t a social club but if you are going to teach or volunteer, that changes things. When I work in the parking lot directing traffic I wear a red “lifeguard” shirt and a name tag that identifies me as a parking lot guy. And when I work the prayer room I just wear a name tag, but to the visitor or even a regular attendee, I am a member of the staff and a code of conduct is expected, if I lose my cool and yell at a visitor who makes a wrong turn, it reflects badly on our church.

I have attended churches before where people have come in and been eager to help, and the leadership just puts them in without even getting to know them. One time a man who had been in the Mormon Church before came over to our church and began teaching the high school boys class, of which I was one. He then began teaching us his opinions rather than the bible, and there was a lot of Mormonism thrown in to it. Another example is when a woman attended our church and we were talking one time, and she stated “you know, I don’t think it really matters whether you pray to God, Buddha, Muhammad, they are all really the same aren’t they, if you are a good person that is what matters”.

It is “very” important what we say when we teach others, we are held to a higher standard when we teach.  James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. And the elders charged with leading that church are held to a higher standard still. No one has said it more than me that the church is not the building; the church is not the assembly, or even the gathering, but all of Christ’s followers throughout the world as one. But that distinction as Christ’s own should not be something we hide behind. The Apostle Paul in his many letters to the various churches were always addressed “to the church at Corinth, Ephesus, etc… He never addressed them as “you Christians over there”, he addressed them by their association, and that was their identity. I am sure that if a group of Christians had been traveling from Ephesus and bumped into a group of Christians from Corinth, that is how they would have identified themselves, they were members of the body.  Romans 12:4-5  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

I was disappointed at this situation, I think sometimes we big deal things at church that we shouldn’t. What would happen if she went to her gym and said that she wanted to pay her monthly fee, but she didn’t want the responsibility of being a member and getting a picture taken? Or what if she went to her cell-phone company and told them she didn’t like contracts, so she was going to call the shots and set the terms, I think they would both tell her to take a hike. In the end, I think we could all just learn to surrender a little bit more, don’t you think?

God Bless-JFT

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In my attempts to understand and work through the hard times that kept coming last week, God put people and answers in my path that has led me to some really key spiritual discoveries. These discoveries are huge, they are something I have battled with all of my life, and have finally found resolution to them, in a very long and winding road that led all the way back to a seven day long migraine headache.

After the first attack, when I answered the Spirits call, and was immediately struck down, I did not recognize it as an attack, much in the way we did not recognize the first plane to strike the world trade center as an act of terrorism but more as just a plane hitting a building. But after the second time when the Spirit called (refer to previous post) and the second immediate attack I knew something was up, something was wrong and I was under attack.

I wrote some of what I was going through in my blog, and you all responded with concern. Larry wrote me an email with some thoughts that sent me down the path of discovery though. He wrote  ” When I state that your migraines (and most migraines) are caused by a demon, this does not mean that you personally have a demon in you because your inner man is filled with the Greater One. And Jesus does not share space with a demon or Satan. (Only unsaved people can house a demon in them.)

 

But instead, it means that somehow a demon has influence over you. I think of it as a string attached to a door into your soul (mind, emotions, memory, etc.) or your flesh. Somehow this demon can pull on the string to open that door at certain times. Usually, the string is attached because of sin or a curse. So, I always tell people to ask the Lord, “Why does this demon have a right to attack me? What have I done? Or is it something that someone else has done which now affects me?”

This is the Holy Spirit’s job to help you and disclose these things to you.

Once, you know why the demon is able attack you, then you can go on the offense.

 

Hmmm, I thought, demons. Well, God uses angels all the time, I certainly don’t expect the devil to be everywhere at once, of course he uses the evil equivalent of angels to get his dirty work done, but how. I am a good person right? But I do have sin, and it got me to thinking, and it caused me to do some self-examination.

I meet with a group of guys once a week, we open up with one another, we share things that we are having issues with, family issues, work issues, spiritual issues, and we hold each other accountable. It works very well, most of the time, we share much of our deepest problems and pains, but one thing that I realized, is that you can only be held accountable for what you share, and if you don’t share something, then you are hanging on to it, and I still had a couple of things I was hanging on to.

To many of the people who know me, I am outgoing and friendly, to my neighbors I am generous and open, to my accountability brothers an open book, but the truth is, they were misled. They thought they were standing in the open vault of my secrets, but on the back wall there was a book case with a false wall, behind it was the door to the real vault where I kept the remainder of my real deep dark secrets. In that vault were the insecurities, the shame of things I had done and still did in secret, the things no one knew about that I had never confessed, and that I had been terrified anyone would ever know about. As my accountability friends would mill about the faux vault drinking their latte’s I would stand in front of the false wall with my arms spread casually over the bookcase, my heart racing the whole time for fear that one of my friends would stumble and fall on the latch that would open the false wall, exposing the real me for who I was, a sinner, not worthy of heaven, not worthy of anything.

Larry’s letter was so clarifying to me, we weren’t being “truly” accountable, I don’t know why, I know we were trying, but I just wasn’t able to open up “that” deep with these brothers. I do trust these men, maybe the problem is all mine, but the simple fact is this, the devil knows me, he knows my sin and he knows my weaknesses. Yes, I have grown over the years, but trust me; the devil was making the most of what he had. Like having a string to a trapdoor that even I was not aware of he was accessing me through my weakness. Unfortunately I found that there were some things that I don’t share with my accountability brothers. Ahhhh, says Satan, gocha, a rift with the believers, something they don’t feel comfortable with.

There are things, not much just a couple that I share with no one and I keep buried deep inside. So it all began to come together, I had wondered how Satan was hitting me so hard when I was a faithful servant of his, and Larry’s clue led me to the conclusion.

It was at the close of day seven of the migraine, and I was exhausted, spent, and my mind was working slowly. My balance is funky these days, so I decided to shave and shower before bed, four fifteen comes early, and I try to cut my “getting ready for work in the morning” time down. As I showered, I was not thinking about any of these things, but instead “do I have fresh jeans and a shirt laundered for work tomorrow” as I soaped up.

This is what I just love about the Holy Spirit, He interrupts, he doesn’t wait, and tap his toe humming a Barry Manilow, Maniloe, Manilo whatever tune? Who cares, I think you know what I mean. He just comes right in, anyway, so I was washing what hair I have left, and I heard a voice in my head, and here are the words that were given to me by the Holy Spirit in the shower. “The Keys to the Kingdom lie with you Jim”. For the first time in my life, I knew exactly what God wanted me to do. In order to stop this demon from torturing my family and I, we needed to treat it like any common household pest, figure out how it is getting in, and then close that door.

For the most part, I am an open book, and am open about my past, my sin, etc. but there is that small little vault that I still keep locked to the world, so it wasn’t too hard to figure out where the trapdoor was that the demons were sneaking in through. The Holy Spirit had told me what I had to do, the “Keys to the Kingdom” (gosh, isn’t that a cool line) were in transparency, because true accountability came “only” with true transparency.

I love my guys, my accountability guys, I really do. I don’t know why I can’t go that extra step, maybe one day, maybe because I am the old guy in the group, I don’t know. When I got out of the shower, I was exuberant, I couldn’t wait to follow through, I texted Larry thanking him for leading me here, to this final answer. I felt the final small hole in my heart begin to fill in as I went out on to my back patio and called Tom. Tom and I have been friends since the fifth grade, we are very close. He lives a couple hundred miles away, but we are closer than ever, he is the best man I know. He is the guy I had chosen, I called him up, and I told him he was the only friend that I felt comfortable really telling everything to, and then I opened the vault, loaded the last couple boxes of dirt onto a dolly, and wheeled them over to the incinerator. When we were finished, I left the Vault open, and I poured cement into the trapdoors, the ones that had been tripping me up for decades, causing guilt for decades, I was closing them forever.

As Christ followers, it becomes cliché to say that we die to self, but last week I feel I did, several times. But the last time I died to self, the new guy doesn’t even feel like the old guy, and I don’t mean only spiritually, I mean physically, I don’t feel like me anymore. You may ask yourself “what’s wrong with this guy that he can take something as simple as a migraine headache and turn it into a battle between the forces of good and evil”, and my answer to you will be, I didn’t, they did. I have asked myself that same question, why me, why now. The answer is God does what He does for a reason, and while it may or may not make sense now, it always does later. I am just blessed, mine makes sense now. So, this post is quite a long and winding road, but in synopsis;

As the Holy Spirit put it, we may all have the “Keys to the Kingdom”,

But first, we must be

Transparent

In order to be transparent, we must first

Open the Vault

While we are in there, we must burn the garbage, empty the vault, and

Seal the Trapdoors

We can’t go it alone, we even need someone more than God, we need a friend.

Be Accountable To Someone

When you close the trapdoors that the devil sneaks into your life through, he will have no secret means by which to ambush you personally. Living “fully” transparent will make you a much more effective soul winner for Christ, no holds barred, All In. Even though I had the migraine last week, I would still have to say that last week was the best week of my life to date. God Bless-JFT

P.S. I would like to give special thanks to my brother, friend, and mentor, Larry Nevenhoven for his wise counsel last week. Without his words, I would not have found my way out of the maze.

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Fitz was an old warhorse, a chain-smoking graduate of Annapolis Naval Academy who was first my mentor, then my peer, then my boss, then the worst enemy I have ever had. A small man with a large IQ and a Napoleon complex who always felt he should have been controlling the Atlantic fleet rather than a power plant, he was out to prove he was large and in charge. He had thrown our friendship out the window along with that of any other friendship he had garnered over his thirty plus years working here at the power plant. Fitz was Roman Catholic, and had railed against my faith, calling me an infidel. He was angry at the world because it had taken him so long to achieve in life, but now he was powerful and he was planning on leaving his mark . His reign lasted six years, and by the time a wise new manager struck him down, we were all like abused dogs that had been beaten one too many times, trusting no one and fleeing like rats from a sinking ship when he would enter the room. When Fitz’s last day finally came a couple months later, it was bittersweet. We had once been friends, but those days were long gone, replaced by many memories of abuse and anger. The cake and ice cream social they had in the lunch room was only attended by management. Management were required to attend functions of this type, but for everyone else it was optional, and so everyone else stayed in. I was working that day, and I couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye to him. That was three and a half years ago.

Twenty-two months ago, Fitz was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. About eighteen months ago, I went to see him, I didn’t call, I just showed up. He was leery at first, non-trusting, wondering what I wanted, but then I just came right out and started talking straight. I said words like “God”, and “love”, and “Forgive”. He softened up, the old Navy salt wore off and he started crying and told me he was really scared. He told me that his wife Christy had left him, and that she had then gotten cancer too. And that he was more worried for her than for himself. He heaved as he told me all of this and poured his heart out and the enemy faded, and my friend reappeared. He had surgery, and so far he is making it, he thinks he will live, I doubt it, but God can do anything. This past Saturday, as I was fighting a small headache, the Holy Spirit called me to attention. I felt the nudge to call my old enemy Fitz on the phone and encourage him, and so I answered the Spirit’s call.

Fitz was delighted beyond measure when I called him, we talked for over an hour and I had to say goodbye three times before I was able to get off of the phone. When I did get off the phone, it was time for church. Church last Saturday was not an average worship service, it was one of those that you will remember for the rest of your life, it was one of those that leave you with a memory forever. As soon as it ended, I was struck down hard, violently, and painfully. My mind was scrambled and I wound up in the hospital. It was Saturday night and I would wander in a fog for seven days.

Later in the week on Wednesday evening I felt like my head was in a vice all day, but I hated being closed up in the house all the time, this is day five. I got up and looked out of the front window as Eddie, my neighbor (the cop) was watering his lawn across the street. For some reason, I felt the Spirit leading me to go talk to him, because he was sad and he needed to talk. I crossed the street and greeted him, he did seem sad. I didn’t tell him that I have a secret agent called the Holy Spirit that feeds me information about him, but rather, I ask how things are going with Patty, his new wife. She has been battling with her ex for custody of her two daughters. It has been dragging on for near three years now, and it is straining their marriage. Eddie is hurting as he relates how he just doesn’t know what to do, he has failed before, and he doesn’t want to fail again, he wants it to work. In the mean time, my wife pulls up at our house from work, glad to see me up and around. She respects that Eddie and I am talking, waves and goes into the house.

After Eddie and I have talked for a while, I ask if he and I can go into his garage, and he says we can. He has a piece of carpet there to catch oil drippings, and both of us knelt, and placed our arms around each other’s shoulders, as brothers in Christ should do, and then we prayed. We prayed for his marriage to Patti that God would bless it richly, we prayed that God would be with her two teen-aged daughters and help them to be okay despite the war between their parents. We prayed that the judges would make wise decisions, and that God would give Eddie the wisdom to be a good husband and a God centered man. Tears of relief streamed down Eddies face as we laid his cares at Jesus feet there on the floor of his garage, and when I said “Amen” Eddie was noticeably lighter as we got back to our feet and said our goodbyes.

My headache increased again as I crossed the street and entered my own garage, as the sun set on the fifth day of the worst migraine headache I have ever had in my life. My wife sat at the table with the mail in front of her and a grim look on her face as I kissed her on top of the head quietly. Is something wrong I asked? “Yes” she said as she handed me the letter that had already been opened. Looking at it I noticed the return address was that of my father, who would turn eighty in two weeks and my step mother who was in her early seventies. What was this all about I wondered?

They were splitting up; they were married almost seventeen years, getting together after my own mother died of pancreatic cancer in 1994. She had written the letter which they had sent to everyone in the entire family, and told me that she felt that they had committed adultery prior to their marriage, and the elders at their legalistic church agreed with them. They had set a date and would go before the entire church and confess their shame and ask forgiveness, then legally separate. My jaw dropped, I was shocked that this could happen in a church that bore the name of Christ. I immediately called them.

She answered the phone, and sounded weepy. I asked her what was going on, and we began to talk. As the conversation unfolded, I asked her if they had engaged in an affair while my mother had been alive, and she said no. I then said that they must have been intimate when they were dating then, and she responded that they were not, they had waited. When was this “adultery” then I asked. She said that when they were dating, they had lusted, and referring the scripture    Matt.5:28 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Here is the problem with that, adultery is reserved for the married folk. If you are married, and you have an extramarital affair, you have committed adultery, but if you are single, it is fornication. Now when it comes to lust”, or any sin for that matter, I say to the legalistic of the world READ JOHN 8:7 BEFORE YOU TELL  80 YEAR OLD MEN TO GO GET A DIVORCE YOU HIPOCRITES!  Just Sayin’  Now, for your reading pleasure, John 8:7 “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

I was able to tell her about the blood of Christ, and how it was shed for us, How she did not commit adultery, and how even if she did, God forgives her. How if she commits a sin, she doesn’t have to notify everyone in the world about it and repent to them, God is the important one. In the end, they cancelled the separation, and stayed married.

The Migraine ended after seven days, the dizziness remains, focus remains elusive, I am not the same. It was a week of battles, but in the end, I think the devil came out worse, haha.

God Bless-JFT

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Definition of beliefs, this has been on my mind a lot lately. As I sit at my cluttered desk, across from my wife, sitting at her not as cluttered desk, I think about my blog. I began my blog a couple of years ago, inspired to write about God. I never thought about even the remotest of possibilities that I would eventually post over two hundred and sixty articles, as I call them. How could I even come up with the material, certainly not without divine intervention, but divine intervention “would” in fact come, and the posts would be written.

Recently, I had a comment from a reader that caused me to really stop and think about “why” I write what I do. My blog, “thoughts on being a Christ follower” is meant to be an encouragement to others, to be uplifting to those who follow Christ already. It is also meant to be thought provoking to those who are investigating Christ as a Savior, and is meant to plant a seed to those who do not know Christ at all, a seed planted in love. God has been so good to me in my life, teaching in love through experiences I have been placed in. So again I ask why, why do I write this Blog?

As a child, raised up in “the Church” as I knew it, we were known as non-denominational, because that implies that there was no headquarters from which all of the franchise congregations were run. I never really knew what non-denominational was, because it was one of those things that the adults “assumed” we knew. Truth was, they probably didn’t know what it meant either. It was assumed that you would get baptized between the ages of ten and twelve, if you were early; they doubted you truly knew what you were doing. If you were late, they began to worry that you were going to go the other way. So, I chose to be baptized at the age of ten, coincidentally on the evening following the baptism of two of my good friends, no peer pressure though 😉 . I just kind of felt it was the thing to do, you know.

After I was baptized, I really did feel white as snow as I rose from those waters, and I did know I loved God. I then began the life of being a pre-teen Christian. Here was the drill, after you became a Christian (baptism), you were then expected to tow the line, and walk sinless. In doing so, sometimes you would occasionally stumble, leading to a collection of sins that would begin to mar your soul. Even one sin on your soul makes you unfit for Heaven, or so we were told, so upon stumbling you would then be lost again. I used to see it like this, a sin was a black dot on my soul, as time would go by; I would begin to look like a Dalmatian. When I just couldn’t live with myself anymore, I would need to go to plan “B”, which would involve taking a walk at the alter call. Every service, twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday, the preacher would give an alter call, anyone who wanted to be baptized, or needed the prayers of the church would head for the front pew during the singing of the invitation hymn. As a preteen boy, then as a teen, I spent a lot of time on that front pew, having the congregation pray for my “restoration”. It was so self-defeating, saved on Sunday, lost from Monday on.

Conscious of how often I would make the trek to the front, I began to think “what’s the point”, I am a bad person. I obviously have no self-control I would think because I spend the vast majority of my time standing on the trapdoor to hell. You can’t go up front every week, if I was there as often as I needed to be I would be getting my mail there. So I began to be comfortable with being lost most of the time, and I would actually wish that I would die directly after going forward one day, I mean, if it didn’t happen that way, what were the odds of winding up in Heaven?

From where I stand now, it would be easy to look back at those folks and be angry with them for forgetting to mention the gift of Grace. But in truth, I think they were just the same as many other generations of religious before them, they thought they were doing what was right, they were holding to tradition. I am grateful to God that I was able to break from tradition and ask those hard questions, and that I turned back to the only place where “all” of the answers lie, The Bible. The problem with holding to tradition is that tradition makes us lazy, when we just keep doing what we’ve always done, then we stop thinking about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and God gets lost in our repetition. As followers of Christ, we don’t have the option of becoming lazy where God’s word is concerned, and we do have an obligation to make sure that what we tell others is true and accurate. There is only one way we can do that, and that is by studying God’s Word. Our relationship to God is a personal one, it is a One on one thing with God. Being misled because you chose to let someone else put their own spin on God’s Word without knowing it yourself is not acceptable, we must know what we believe, and we must know why we believe it. We will also be held to a higher level of accountability by God when we share our faith with others, this is an “incentive” for us to make sure that what we tell them is accurate and correct.

I know what it is like to walk around without hope, I know what it is like to feel dirty and worthless. I know what it is like to “know” that you are going to hell no matter how hard you try to be good, and that on our best day, we still aren’t good enough to “earn” Heaven. I fail to understand how the wonderful message of Christ and His sacrifice for us can be missed when we all read the same Bible, but somehow it does. And that is why I write this blog, because I want to do everything I can to tell people the good news, that you don’t have to walk around in hopelessness as I did. That you don’t go in and out of salvation daily and that God knows what we face, and that is why He gave us the gift of His Son, because He knows it is not possible for us to tow the line. We needed help, we needed a “get out of hell free card”, and that card is crimson, that card is Jesus blood. I want people to know that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that we might have the gift of eternal life”. He loves us that much!

So that is why I write what I do, because I want you to know what I know, that God loves us. The decision to follow Christ is a decision that only “you” can make, but I hope if you have read my blog that it will encourage you in that direction, to make that decision. While I sometimes write short fiction stories, make no mistake, they are not written to entertain you, they were written with the purpose of causing you to think, ask questions, and seek answers. I love God, and I love you, and I want you to have the opportunity to know the peace inside that God has blessed me with. The word “hope” of salvation has never really done it for me, in my mind failing to capture my true thoughts. “Anticipation” of salvation is more like it, confident in the power of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s promise. Hope has a question mark attached to it, and I have spent too much of my life stumbling around in the gray area already. There are no question marks attached to God’s promise as I know it, so rejoice in the anticipation of our final resting place. Rejoice in knowing that you are bought and paid for, rejoice in knowing where you will spend your eternity, “if” you will only accept Gods gift of His Son.

God Bless-JFT

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Omnipresence or ubiquity is the property of being present everywhere.

My brother in Christ Mike and I ride nearly every day now. We mountain bike on a new trail we discovered in the mountains near our desert homes. Altogether it is about nine miles round trip through nature, and the challenge of peddling uphill gets us in better shape each time we do it. It is also fun, a win-win all around. One of the best things about our rides is the great discussions Mike and I have, usually centered on our faith, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, or something along those lines. Mike challenges me to think about things I wouldn’t consider were it not for him.

As we rode, I mentioned how when we are on a high, we need to be on the lookout for the devil, as he is usually stalking us when things are going good. Mike mentioned that recently his pastor had mentioned that in his opinion, Satan doesn’t care about us, doesn’t waste a moment of his time thinking about us, he simply doesn’t care. I had to tell Mike that on this subject I couldn’t disagree more. I stated that I believe Satan is an opportunist, constantly looking for a chance to trip us up. Mike then said “wouldn’t Satan have to be omnipresent to act that way”? My answer was yes, to which Mike said he didn’t agree that Satan was capable of being everywhere as God is. Makes you think doesn’t it?

God, the creator of the universe holds all of the cards. I have often wondered why He made us in the first place, as we have been a thorn in His side since inception. When I was a kid, I had a couple of hamsters, and kept them in a cage made of plastic with a wheel, tubes for crawling through, etc. I used to enjoy watching them play, explore, run on the wheel and live their lives inside the clear plastic cage. I also used to wonder if that was how God saw us, if we were His pets.

I also wondered why God didn’t make us with a predisposition to serving, worshipping and loving Him naturally, after all, He is the creator, and He can do as He wishes. He could have made us to where our only desire in life is to serve Him from birth to death, yet He didn’t. He instead chose to create us with a predisposition to being self-involved, the opposite of what He would prefer us to be. In studying God’s word, I find one thing to be common since the beginning; He wants us to “choose” Him.

After Satan had been roaming the earth, He joined the angels in a visit to God. They discussed Job and how proud God was of Him and his righteousness. Satan wanted a chance to turn him, and God allowed it. In Job 1:12 (niv), He said, The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

If Job was going to truly be tested, then Satan had to have true power over the man. He had to have the ability to be omnipresent in the same way that God is to be everywhere he needed to be. In the end, God was right, Job was righteous, and God rewarded him for his loyalty. He did what God had wanted, he “chose” God first and over all.

Another example that stands out to me is the temptation of Christ. In Matt. 4:8-10 (niv) Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.

Even Jesus, God’s own Son was not exempt from having to choose. I always wondered, how could Satan have had the power to offer the Son of God all the kingdoms of the earth, surely he was bluffing. But if he was bluffing, then the temptations were not real, and if they were not real, then Christ’s choice of God was not legitimate. I don’t believe for a minute that Christ’s temptations were a sham, but if they were as the Bible shows them to be, there is only one way they were possible. Satan must have actually held the keys to all the kingdoms of the world, and there was only one way he could have gotten them, from God Himself.

God created Satan, as an angel, and then He cast him out of Heaven. God holds all the power to the universe, over everything. Satan does not have the power God has, but in order for our choices to mean anything, the temptation to sin, to choose the dark side must be real, it must be appealing. My belief is that God gives the power of omnipotence to Satan so that he may tempt us when we are weak, and without that power, he would not know.

Lastly, I end with a scripture that brings it all together for me, and leaves no question of his omnipotence. 1Peter 5:8 (niv)  reads  Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

So what do you think? God bless and keep you all!

JFT

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The cold wind blew as I trudged up the dark road and the light snow had begun to fall. Surrounded by such harsh beauty, yet at the end of my rope. I have twenty miles to walk before the next services, and things don’t look good, the storm is looming around me, I can almost hear Satan’s demons heckling me as I walk forward into the storm. The interstate must have been closed miles back because of the storm, there are no longer any vehicles going by, and I no longer have any hitchhiking prospects.

I think back over my life as I trudge on, what a train wreck. I married early on, and had a couple of kids, that marriage fizzled not long after our little girl was born she took off with them, and I haven’t seen them since. Second and third marriages were short and not so sweet, filled with much screaming, shouting, and quest for materialism. I got into a church then, rededicated my life to God and began to try to live right.

I was doing well at work on the docks, making good money, and I bought a house, with the plan that I would look up my kids and try to get some time with them. Everywhere I looked was a dead end, there was no finding them, it was as if they had dropped off the earth. I started dating a woman I had met a while back, and she wanted to move in with me. When I told her that I couldn’t do it because it was wrong, she reminded me I had already been married three times, what did I have to lose? That was the last time I saw her.

The rest is just history now, the heavy shipping warehouse I worked at for twenty-five years closed down. The executives raided our pension fund, and I left with nothing.

I job-hunted constantly, but there were none to be found, everyone was laying off. It was just a matter of months until I lost my house. I had garage sale after garage sale to try to raise money, but it was just pennies on the dollar. I sold my car and was then officially homeless.

Life on the street is hard, I began to drink a bit too much as I slept behind buildings with other miserable people who were either in similar shoes, or mentally ill and forgotten.

The booze was just a balm for the pain of failure, not a cure, and you generally wound up worse afterward than if you hadn’t drank, but hindsight is twenty-twenty.

The snow is getting deeper now, and I can barely make out the shoulder of the interstate, there are no ruts in the snow, it is flat. It has been an hour since a car has come by. Why am I here, in the middle of no-where in a snowstorm you are probably asking?  When I was a kid, Flagstaff Arizona was my favorite place in the world, the tall forest, the beautiful mountains; I had always wanted to live there. My whole life has been a failure, one after another. I have never pleased my wives, my kids, my parents, my employers, and most certainly my God. When you are at rock bottom, you are reduced to your most base self, and that self wants to be up in the mountains just one more time. I always felt closer to God when I was here, maybe I can again.

It has to be close to midnight, I am tired of walking in the deep snow, so I leave the road and head for a large tree just off the road. I take my pack off and lean up against the tree. For a moment, the snow stops falling and the moon appears between the clouds, lighting up the most beautiful landscape possible. I look around me at the beauty until the blanket is pulled back over the moon, and the snow commences. I hear scurrying off in the trees and imagine it is Satan’s minions come to collect me for the short ride down. Then, the most amazing thing happens, I become warm inside, and I begin to pray to God. I asked Him to please let me have the lowest place in His kingdom, anything to just be a part of Heaven. I prayed so hard it reminded me of when I first became a Christian, when I would pray in bed until I fell asleep. With my head in my hands, I prayed until I  lost track of all time.

I was jarred by something, and I stirred. I must have fallen asleep because it was daytime now, bright sunlight through my fingers. I raised my head and looked up, a kindly looking old bearded man stood there looking at me, not speaking, not smiling, but actually with tears in His eyes. The snow was all gone, and so was the interstate, but everything else was the same. I was not cold anymore either as I stood up and looked down, I was dressed all in white, and my backpack was gone. I looked up at the kindly old man who was teary eyed, and He ran to me and threw His arms around me and hugged me with surprising strength. Son, He said, let me show you your new home, and He led the way.

God Bless

JFT

This story is fiction

When God Ran-Phillips Craig and Dean

http://youtu.be/y0xJb2j8Zqs

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I would tell you my name, but that would not be wise. I am a pastor, a pastor of a large church in Beijing China. We have many members, and things are getting increasingly tough. I say that as I am ferried to the local jail in the back of a prisoner transport vehicle, handcuffed to a steel ring. My crime is spreading the Word of God.

Sometimes being a Christ follower means being bold, stepping up and walking face-first into the line of fire, trusting God will either deliver you, or give you the strength to endure what is coming, and that is what we did today.

Churches always grow much more under persecution than they do in a free society, I don’t really understand why, but that is how it is. Our church, which is known as the Shouwang Church is no exception. We began meeting in my home a few years back. Always careful of the police who are dedicated to breaking up and arresting worshippers. We grew to fifty, then a hundred, then we began holding dual services at our home to accommodate everyone, but when you do that, you have to worry about arousing suspicion of police, and neighbors loyal to the communist government. It is hard to have a couple hundred people coming and going at your home each week and not drawing attention.

A couple of years ago, we put what money we had together and purchased a building that was going to be our new church. When we went to take possesion of the building, the developer refused to give us access, he said the government had warned him not to accommodate us. It was “our” building, yet we were locked out, and the government was onto us now. We went back to meeting in secret until we could pull some money together again and start over.

Finally we raised enough money and rented a vacant restaurant to use as a meeting house. It was perfect for what we needed. We began meeting there regularly, and everything was great. Our church grew and grew beyond our wildest hopes. We now had over a thousand members, and we were holding four services a week, considering a fifth as the building was full at every service. But then, the owner told us we must leave, we were no longer welcome on his property. The government had pressured him into evicting us. Once again, we were a church without a home.

Deciding to face the fire, we made the announcement that we would be meeting openly, in an outdoor public venue. We warned the members of the possible outcome, that we would probably be arrested, and that it would be fine if they chose to stay at home.

The police were a step ahead of us, they had the whole area we had planned to meet cordoned off and barricaded, so we chose a park to meet in. As one of our young men prepared to lead us in an opening prayer, an NPR reporter interviewed him and asked if he felt it was worth it to be arrested. His answer was “As long as they don’t hang any other labels on me,” he replied. “If they say I was detained for my faith, it would be worth it.”

 

When all was said and done, a total of one hundred sixty nine of us were arrested for an illegal church meeting. It is happening more and more these days, Christians disappearing in China, some come back, some don’t. There are now over one hundred twenty million of us meeting behind closed doors, meeting covertly to study God’s word. We still don’t know what we will do, but we trust God will point us in the direction we need to go. One thing is certain though, one thing is sure. Our faith is non-negotiable and we “will” continue to meet in worship to our Lord, whatever the cost.

God Bless-JFT

The events in this story are true, inspired by tribulations currently beng endured by the Shouwang Church in Beijing China.

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