A Convenient Season

I remember times that I had to take a lengthy test at school when I was growing up, which had to be completed within a short time-limit. I also remember multi-part exams with a set time-limit for each part. I did not really hate them; I just never liked those limited-time tests. Sure, there were easy parts that I could quickly move through when I knew the material very well. But I never had a test that I could totally complete which did not have some area that seemed to take more time than was allotted!

I attribute a lot of my resistance to time-limits to being something of an artistic thinker. It is not that I constantly visualize painted masterpieces or objects I could sculpt, but rather that I drift into what some call daydreaming.

When taking tests, my mind likes to wander off quite often to ideas that are totally unrelated and obscure, usually at the most important moments of the test. For example, I could be taking a test on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, and right at the question about Lee surrendering to Grant, the intricacies of how the eraser is attached to the pencil I am writing with suddenly become of foremost importance in my mind. Within ten minutes, I’ve mentally dismantled and rebuilt my pencil from the eraser down to the tip (which, by the way, really needs to be sharpened!). The next thing I know, I am facing the question about Lincoln’s assassination and John Wilkes Booth being on the lam. I would be forced to reread the material several times, and then I become aware of several matters of utmost importance:

  • Pencils are sometimes made of plastic and can bend without much effort.
  • The eraser can easily be removed in some pencils but not in others.
  • John Wilkes Booth was an actor.
  • Appomattox is an interesting place name and can easily be misspelled.
  • Many events occurred between the end of the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination.

I think you can see that this mode of thinking really makes taking a test difficult, much less passing it! Even right in the middle of taking an exam, my mind wants to wander around the classroom, through the air ducts, out the window, or sometimes into a completely different school subject. I might think of a song I heard that morning or a week before, and then proceed to write the words to a new song with a completely different melody in my head.

If it was all up to me, I would gladly take, perhaps, several days on an exam, with a nap break in between the hard questions. I would schedule exams for when I am fully ready to take them—being whenever it is convenient for me. Then I would no longer procrastinate, because the exams would now be totally at my convenience. But here’s the problem with that: exams or tests are not given for our personal benefit, or at our convenience. They are given to measure our understanding of a given subject or topic. If we were to take exams when convenient for us, there is a good possibility we would never take them at all!

A Roman official long ago felt that things could be done at his convenience if he so chose. The Jews of that day did not like what a certain man named Paul was preaching to them. This resulted in an uproar which was leading to a near riot. The Romans would never permit any disturbance even close to a riot, so they ultimately had Paul removed from the crowd and detained. This eventually led Paul to make several appeals before Felix, the procurator over that territory, who liked to hear him speak. Some believe Felix was really hoping for a bribe from Paul. But on one of Paul’s last proclamations to him, Felix got more than he desired.

“And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25).

God was speaking through Paul, and He began to convict Felix of his wrongdoings, or sins. This brought great fear to the heart of Felix. He promptly sent Paul away until a more “convenient time.” Felix was later replaced by another procurator named Festus, and his opportunity to learn the way to eternal life ended. The point is: when God gives us an opportunity to accept a way out of Hell, a way to spend eternity in Heaven with Him, we can’t just put it off until we “have a convenient season.” Felix had a golden opportunity, but he pushed it aside and the Bible never mentioned him again.

Paul referred to Isaiah 49:8 in one of his letters to the Corinthians when he wrote “…I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured [assisted or aided] thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Now is the day of salvation, God says. We can’t wait until next week or next year or when it is convenient for us. God knows the bigger picture. He knows what lies ahead in our lives, which is one reason why He provides these opportunities for us. He loves us so much that He provides every available means for our escape from Hell.

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering [patient] to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God does not want anyone to die lost. His love for us is greater than we could ever understand. It is so great that He sent His only Son to die on the cross on our behalf. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It is not so much a situation of Him rejecting us, but rather, of us rejecting Him.

We don’t know what tomorrow will hold; in fact, we don’t really know what will happen in the next hour. Why wait then, for a “convenient” season? Call upon Him now, while your opportunity still exists. Don’t be like Felix. Your date with eternity is not set at your convenience, and you may never get another chance. Many souls are in Hell for eternity because they procrastinated and never got another opportunity. Don’t be part of that number. Seek the Lord while He may be found. Click here to learn more about the way to God.

Was It Worth It?

By Simon Bening (circa 1483/1484–1561) - München, StB, cod. lat. 23638, fol. 10v, Public Domain, Link

By Simon Bening (circa 1483/1484–1561) – München, StB, cod. lat. 23638, fol. 10v, Public Domain, Link

As a young girl growing up, I faithfully attended Sunday School at my church as often as I had a way to go. When I was about 11 years old, I was also able to attend a Vacation Bible School program that summer. A neighbor girl my age invited me to go with her. A few years later, I was invited to an AWANA Bible study group at the church of another girl my age who lived down the street. We attended there about a year or so.

An adult neighbor on the next street invited me to her family’s vacation cottage in the mountains a few hours away, to join with her daughter and other girls near our age for a weekend visit. We all roamed around together near the cabin with shared flashlights in the pitch darkness on the mountain. Then we went inside to roast marshmallows in the huge stone fireplace and we talked about the things of God, as much as young girls understand such things. Thinking back on these events brings back yet another memory of a young married couple who had no children yet. They each drove a car packed with young teen girls to an event hours away, just so we could have a chance to hear more about God.

The well-known “Chrysler Imperials” singing group came to make a presentation and perform some music at my school one evening when I was in Junior High. Don Grady of the My Three Sons TV show was one of the speakers. He told us how he had given his life to Christ and what it had meant to him. Then an invitation was made for all who wanted to be “saved,” like he had been.

Something inside me wanted to jump up and go forward as others started to do. But I held back, wondering, What does ‘saved’ mean? What are they talking about? I had never heard anyone use that word at any of the church groups I was part of. Since I had this question and others I could not answer, I held back from responding to their invitation that evening.

I met the man who was to become my husband a few years later, in the last year of Junior High. We married a year after we graduated from High School, and our son was born the year after that. Nine more years passed before I finally came to understand that God wanted to save me from sin, and I answered His invitation by giving up control of my life and giving it to Him quietly at home alone.

So much time has passed since then, that I can no longer remember the names of the majority of the people who taught me a little more about God each time. Most have passed from this life by now. None of them knew what happened to me in my personal encounter with God years later. They did not get to see the results of all their hard effort. A lot of them, maybe all of them, had jobs or demanding roles as housewives and mothers, and it was a hardship on them to take extra time to deal with a bunch of giggly little girls and teenagers in addition to all their other responsibilities. But (praise God!), they did it anyway. I will forever be grateful to all of them and to God for putting them in my life. I wish it was still possible for me to tell them so. I cannot now count just how many people planted seeds in my life so that I could learn more about God and having a personal relationship with Him.

There is no one person that I can say was the one who “got me saved.” It was a process, obviously over many years. Each one contributed a little more to my understanding in one way or another. Some did it by what they said, and some by what they did, in giving of themselves. Each one reassured me that there were some people who did care enough to go beyond their daily grind to reach out to a girl who didn’t seem to respond. Were their efforts in vain because I did not go forward at a meeting or in a church to give my life to Jesus where they could see me do it?

Is it worth it to plant these kinds of seeds in the life of someone else, when you don’t get to see any results? Is it worth it to do it over and over, not knowing if your efforts have had any effect at all? God thinks so, and so do I! Where would I be now if no one had bothered to tell a shy little girl that Jesus loves her? if no one had told her that there is a life beyond this one with Jesus in Heaven for all eternity? I am indebted to all who gave of themselves to help someone else they hardly knew. I am working on ‘repaying’ that debt by doing the same for others. Would I even be able to write this to you right now if these people had not bothered to tell me?

What about you? Are you reaching out to others to tell them about Jesus and what He did for them? Few of the people I mentioned had biblical training. Some could play a musical instrument; some couldn’t carry a tune. Some could only contribute driving skills. Some only made cupcakes. And some taught us the craft of making poodles out of blue plastic dry cleaning bags! It did not matter to me. I was glad just to be invited, and that someone arranged for me to get to the meeting. I did not know when I was so young what they were trying to do. But looking back, my heart overflows with gratitude for all these ordinary people who gave of themselves. Are you willing to keep planting seeds in young lives until they finally take root, whether you are there to see them grow and mature or not?

Afflicted or Merry?

 

“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms” (James 5:13).

 “Is any among you afflicted?”

Are you currently in distress? Have you been extremely annoyed or highly embarrassed lately? Or are you experiencing pain or suffering? Now is the time for you to exercise your faith and hope in God. You may need physical healing, or your need may be spiritual healing. We frequently need both, since some physical suffering and distress comes on us because of a spiritual affliction.

We cannot always tell the difference between afflictions and sickness. James connects sickness with sin here in chapter five, and healing the sick follows forgiveness of sin. The sickness spoken of here seems to have been the result of doing wrong. And there are many sicknesses that can be related to sin in a very direct way. But trying to relate all sickness to sin is a very dangerous error. Doing this puts you in the position of judge, and we often judge wrongly. It is cruel and dangerous to say all sickness is the result of sin in someone’s life.

statue of despair

photo credit: Michel Meynsbrughen

God seems to use afflictions for purposes of correction. When they come, pray and find out what He is trying to teach or tell you in your case. Too often, we are not sensitive to the things of the Spirit. In fact, a spiritual dullness seems quite widespread in the church today. Has God been forced to beat you over the head to get your attention? Then pray and find out what He is trying to tell you! He most likely wants your attention in some particular area of your life. Sometimes He has to use rather harsh or painful means to get it.

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee” (Psalm 32:8-9).

To lead a stubborn mule around, a bit has to be put in its mouth. The reins pull the bit up against his mouth so it hurts and he turns his head. Don’t be stubborn like the mule, forcing God to use pain to get you to turn. He does not want to use pain to guide you. But He has so much love for you that He will, since it is so important to be guided by His Spirit. You need this for your own good. If you stop paying attention and start to stray from Him, He will pull the bit to get you back into position. Be sensitive and attentive to God’s will and His plan—then He will gladly guide you with just His eye.

“let him pray.”

Come before God at times like this and beg Him to forgive you of your sin. But do not bother if cold and formal prayers are all you have to offer Him. Don’t look to man’s merit either to qualify for the answer you want from God. It all comes from His grace, which we do not deserve and cannot earn. The right kind of prayer is the prayer of faith. Nothing is more effective than praying in faith to get answers and blessings from God. But prayer itself has no power in its own right. Unbelievers would get all their prayers answered, without having faith in God or being obedient to Him, if it did. When you pray, don’t just say a prayer. Pour out your heart to God and believe that He hears you. Continue until you get your answer. Actually pray when you are in prayer to God!

“Is any merry?”

People naturally sing when they are cheerful and happy, but not those who enjoy wickedness. Most earthly songs have some degree of sadness; sacred things of God are never the subject of their songs. But heavenly songs are sung in joy and thankfulness to the God they praise. Praise in the form of song and prayer should be offered up by both congregations and individuals.

“Let him sing psalms.”

Singing songs that glorify God actually becomes a form of prayer. This keeps our hearts for the longest time on what we are saying. God is the One who made all that makes us merry. Therefore, the message of the songs from any who are merry should be praise to God.

happy girl

photo credit: Audrey Johnson

“Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage” (Ps. 119:54). Someone traveling a long way alone may sing to himself to keep merry. Believers in God—take note and do the same! Every true child of God will inherit heaven and is a “stranger in the earth” (Ps. 119:19). Therefore, you can stay cheerful in the midst of weariness and sorrows by thinking all the time of the words of our heavenly Father, and saying or singing them aloud. The ancient Greek states made their laws into songs so the people could remember them better. The words of God can be sung to help us remember them better too, and keep us cheerful when we are far from home, whether physically or mentally.

Singing on the outside encourages worship on the inside. It wakes us up and brings our hearts to life in praise to God. Therefore, sing in devotion to God whenever you can. How could you not be blessed if you do? Are you heavy-laden, suffering, or afflicted? Or are you joyful and merry? Whatever state you are in, sing your praise to God!

— Alana Pangburn

Lost at Humbardy Drive and Wakins Lane

roadmap of northwest U.S.

I got up early this morning to get ready for my trip. After packing the car with clothes, food, and reading material, I head out. As I leave the driveway and start heading down the main road, I begin to list in my head some of the things that I might have forgotten:

  • Did I cover the trashcans? No, I couldn’t; the trash guys threw them away by accident last week.
  • Were all of the faucets turned off? They should be off—they make so much noise when they are on that I could never forget them! What about the sprinkler? Well, after six inches of rain, I’m truly certain I did not turn it on! Wait! The leaking faucet in the laundry room! I don’t think I—that’s right—the plumber eliminated that faucet months ago when he fixed the drain on that sink! (Note to self: ask plumber why that faucet was eliminated months ago.)
  • Did I adjust the thermostat? Think, think, think! Of course I did—it was set so cold last night that I had to turn it up.
  • Maps! Where are the maps (I’m too frugal to buy a GPS unit)? They are not in the glove compartment. They are not in the map holder on the door! WHY are they not in the map holder and WHERE did I put them and WHAT is this lump I’m sitting on? Oh. Never mind! The maps are found! I’m sure I put them on the seat so I wouldn’t forget them! Hey, what do you know?—it worked!
  • Did I remember to give the neighbor the key to feed the dogs? Oh, no! I left the keys in the kitchen drawer! No, no, no—I brought the dogs over to the neighbor instead!
  • Were the lights turned off? Definitely! This one I know I did!
  • Did I turn off the lawnmower and put it away? OK, brain—why would I be using the mower at 5 o’clock in the morning on the day I leave for a trip in the first place! (Not to mention, why would I leave the mower running unattended, anyway?)
  • Were the clothes removed from the dryer and folded? (Hmm, why did that thought occur?) I had to pack them last night for today’s trip!
  • The iron! I forgot to turn off the iron! I knew I’d forget something! It seems like everybody forgets the iron.

I am only several miles from home, and I am turning around and heading back already for one little iron! Wait! Wait! Wait! Stop everything! I don’t own an iron! The last one quit working after it fell out of the second floor bedroom window onto the sidewalk below (don’t ask why) and I never bothered to replace it (again, don’t ask what I am now using for an iron). Well, now, with all of the potential concerns mentally resolved, I turn back around and head on my way.

folded road mapLet’s see—I turn left onto 24th Street and then right at Dunkirk, or was that left at Dunkirk and 23rd Avenue? Wait—I just passed the expressway! I wasn’t supposed to pass it; I’m supposed to be driving to it. (Or was that another expressway!) OK, what city am I in anyway? There goes a 3rd Avenue, now I’m crossing Humbardy Drive, Wakins Lane, Harvest, Crumfeld. Humbardy? Crumfeld? I don’t remember any seeing ANY of these streets! It’s time to look at the map again! I pull over at the outskirts of the city and start scanning the maps. After looking through several maps in bewilderment, I get out and start looking around, trying figure out where I am. Following what seemed like a few moments of somewhat aimless wandering, an older man approaches me.

“Ya look lost,” he says in a hesitant tone.

“I am,” I reply without much enthusiasm.

“Where ya headed?” he casually inquires.

“I don’t know,” I reply, this time with a bit of bewilderment in my voice.

“Well, ya must’ve been going someplace. Where ya from?” He seems a bit upset in his response now.

“Home,” I said, without much thought of what I am saying.

“Son, you ARE lost. You’d better find some REAL help soon!” And with that, while shaking his head and muttering to himself, he walks back toward where he had mysteriously appeared from.

At this point, I interrupt this story to ask if you have ever felt like this. Or do you feel like this now? We all reach this point in our lives, sometimes early in life, and sometimes near the end. We become lost in our way. We get confused or disoriented. We plan out our life, often to the finest details, only to have it fall apart later on. We search and search for answers to the confusion that is all around us, yet the results are either short-lived with little satisfaction, or they cause us to be even more lost.

We may hear someone tell us, with great flamboyancy and optimism, how wonderful we are, or that we just need a little boost in our self-esteem. Yet, just a short time after hearing this, after we have our self-worth all pumped up, everything goes sour again.

We become deflated like a flat tire. Depression sets in and despair begins pulling us down. We go to a church, or stumble across a program on TV, and hear a phrase from the Bible like, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Or the person speaking tells us that “we are hopelessly lost.” We travel on and on looking for that expressway or road that was supposed to bring us away from all of this, and yet we get farther and farther away. It seems like the maps are all wrong, or there is no map for where we are. Our GPS unit keeps repeating “recalculating…” and never gives us another route. We get to the point that we don’t really know where we are going, and we hardly know where we came from.dead end road sign

Do you know that this is just where God wants us to be? Huh? God wants me to be lost and at the point of no hope? Yes! He wants you to see that you can’t make it on your own abilities or with your own ‘self’. If you don’t give up and let Him take over, He will keep on pushing and pulling and prodding. We think we can run down the middle of the road with God on one side and the Devil on the other. But it doesn’t work that way. You are either on one side or the other; there is no middle road. The Devil is a very hard taskmaster who makes only one payment for your toil and your self-gratifying pleasure—death!

On the other hand, God pays wages of eternal riches and eternal life!

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

God is not some sadistic dictator who gets great pleasure from seeing us beaten around, struggling and kicked about, or bound by depression and despair. He sent His only Son to pay the penalty that we deserve, death. And not only was He sent, His Son also chose to die in our place!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

This is like a lighthouse operator seeing a small ship struggling and floundering in a narrow and shallow strait, with waves crashing upon sharp, jagged rocks on either side. He can tell that the ship’s captain is determined to get through that strait on his own. It is obvious to him that the captain is focused on himself, not on the passengers or the cargo. The captain refused to believe that something much larger than himself could take his life soon.

traffic-sign-yield_to_god

God knows you are lost and confused, and He knows your future. He wants to lead you through it, if you will let Him. He knows what is best for you, but, at the same time, He will only push so far. It’s your choice whether to have faith in Jesus and surrender to Him, or not. Will you give your life to Him right now and let Him guide your path, or will you just keep traveling on with no real hope or direction? It doesn’t take a college degree or a pilgrimage to a foreign land to find Jesus. Just admit to Him that you are lost and a sinner (wrongdoer), that you can’t make it on your own. Let Him know that you accept His sacrifice (His death at the Cross) as the payment for your sins, declare to Him that you will forsake all of your sins totally, and let Him be the head or ruler of your life (not you or the Devil) from now on.

If you want to know more about yielding to God, or if you want additional information, click here to find out more.

Help Wanted


flickr photo shared by Alachua County under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Come join us!

We are a very well-established, well-known, rapidly growing global organization constantly recruiting new associates locally, nationally and internationally.

We’re looking for people from all walks of life. Must be highly motivated, honest, faithful and dependable. Young or old, age is not a limitation. Openings are available from laborers to executives. We need to fill a vast number of positions as quickly as possible with qualified people. No experience necessary. No uniform required. All are welcome to apply. Veterans also qualify, even if disabled.

We provide a thrilling adventure full of daring escapades and close encounters, side-by-side with periods of quiet repose and intense self-examination.

Position involves interaction with a wide variety of people, alternating with various periods of solitude, as needed. We have contacts! No selling involved, no products to push.

Indoor and outdoor work. Some involves a lot of walking, some a lot of sitting, some both. Air travel required in certain positions. Other forms of transportation are also employed. We deal one-on-one with individuals, and we also deal with groups, large and small. Some of our associates work at home.

Fluency in a foreign language is a plus but not required. Literacy is also a plus, but we have positions for the illiterate also. We hire and promote from the ground up within our own ranks.

We do not hire self-starters. We are looking for people willing to take orders from our chief executive without question, who will give complete and total obedience to him. We are not seeking hourly or salaried employees, but voluntary, totally dedicated, willing servants.


flickr photo shared by neetalparekh under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

We do not pay competitive wages, but we may supply food, housing, etc., when needed. We pay at the completion of the project that the organization is working on. Many rewards and bonuses will be handed out at that time, along with promotions. Some of you will take charge of entire cities, depending on your experience with our organization and at the discretion of our leader.

We have an unsurpassed total health-care plan at no cost to you. If you are trying to overcome addiction, we have a program for you that works!

We have a non-compete clause in our contract. You may not work for any other group while associated with our organization.

Everybody loves the ‘Boss.’ You’ll love him too, and you’ll love it here with us! We’re all ‘family’ here. You’ll fit right in.

Your resume is worthless to us. We only want you, not your past. We offer a bright future that is out of this world—the sky is not even the limit!

Our growth rate is currently exponential and promises to exceed all earlier figures and forecasts in the very near future. You will not find a better offer anywhere else. We deliver what we promise! Come join our vast organization of rapidly growing inter-related groups and individuals. You won’t regret it! There is no other organization that can offer you what we offer—we guarantee it!

Now, a closing word to you from our leader:

 “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).

—–

“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).

Come join us as a laborer in gathering the harvest of souls for the end of this age.

[Author’s note: This article is not written with any intention of being disrespectful to the Lord Jesus nor His bride, the Church. It is written in this manner only to provoke thought from a different point of view, and to encourage the reader to seriously consider the time in which we live and the urgency of the hour. Please receive it in that context.]

When the Plus Sign is too Religious

arithmetic symbols

A magazine I recently read had a humorous list with three strange requests on it that graphic designers have heard from their clients. One was a client who wanted his designer to use something besides the plus (+) sign, because he considered it too ‘religious’! While this is somewhat amusing, it also reflects the current state of our society. It ultimately demonstrates how far we have now digressed ‘religiously’ as a society. Another article I also read not long ago was about a church that discarded the cross from their building. It even showed a photo of a church leader throwing the cross in the dumpster!

When we remove God from our workplace, our homes, our schools, and ultimately even from our churches, we are left with a void that must be filled with something else.

For many, it’s another religion (which worships or acknowledges a god (or gods), but not the God of all gods). For others, it’s seeking pleasure, being entertained, playing or watching sports, getting more education or knowledge, etc. And for some, it’s a denial of any kind of god or divine being. Man eventually becomes sterile this way, when he has no affiliation with anything he considers offensive. Whatever is ‘religious’ becomes taboo, especially anything concerning God, the Bible, Jesus, or the Cross.

Yet society has not become happier, more peaceful, or more loving, with everyone equally prosperous, under this kind of approach.

Look at countries where God and all connected with Him have been either banned outright, or pushed into a corner—where worship becomes strictly an internal affair. Or countries where all forms of worship are state-controlled, and God is diluted to almost nothing. Its citizens are in a repressive state that way, with no true happiness.

The problem does not actually lie in the Cross, or the plus sign (which, by the way, was derived from a simplified form of the Latin et, meaning ‘and’), or any other variation. The Cross in itself means nothing; it serves only as a representation or reminder of what was accomplished there.

The real hatred is for the One who died on the Cross—Jesus Christ.

Many criminals in ancient Rome were sentenced to death on crosses all the time, but no one objected to the crosses for that purpose. When Jesus Christ died on the Cross for the sins of everyone, past, present, and future, when He completely fulfilled God’s Law and won the victory over sin and death, this brought on and fueled the hatred. It was foretold all the way back in the book of Genesis, in the Garden of Eden:

“And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity [hostility, opposition, hatred] between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:14-15).

True believers in Jesus Christ are hated and despised, not so much because of what they believe as for Whom they believe. His victory at the Cross is the dividing line between eternal life and peace, and death with eternal torment. Without the Cross, without belief in the finished work of Christ (i.e., the complete fulfillment of all of God’s requirements up to the birth of Jesus) at the Cross, there is no hope for anyone. This is how the plus sign, or any other resemblance to the Cross, becomes offensive to some people. Their offense is at the One who died on that Cross, and that offense originates from the one who put Him there in the first place—the Devil (or Lucifer, Satan, Beelzebub, the Evil One, etc.). He has always been at odds with God and anything affiliated with Him, because he wanted to be God himself (not in addition to Him, but as the replacement for Him). Therefore, if you are not on the Devil’s side, his hatred will affect you too. Even if you are on his side, it doesn’t guarantee a hate-free life either!

This may appear to be just a war between good and evil, but it isn’t. That war has already been won through Jesus’ victory at the Cross! The victory He won through His sacrifice of His human life on the Cross took all the legal rights of the Devil away concerning his ownership over us. That is, if we give our hearts over to Jesus, accept in faith His sacrifice of Himself for all of our sins as our sacrifice, and submit our lives to Him. Then the Devil loses his control over us.

You can now be free in Christ because of what He did for you on the Cross. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). If you want to know more about this freedom, click here. But if we reject, or don’t completely accept, what Jesus has done for us on the Cross, then we continue to give the Devil the right to own and control us—even after we die. The choice is up to you.

Let’s keep the + sign in mathematics and the Cross in our lives and hearts!

No Room for Gray

no gray area graphic

An answer to a question on a forum post I read recently stated that there is black, and there is white, with 256 shades of gray in between. The thought of gray areas between black and white led me consider how we often think of God and the Devil. In our sphere of understanding, we tend to view God as the white side, and the Devil as the black side, with our existence being in the gray areas between the two. As long as we do what is right, and keep from doing what is wrong (at least, our definition of right and wrong), then we will move up or down in one of those gray areas.

We figure that, at the end of our existence, we will hopefully end up in the white side, and all those who did too many wrongs will end up on the black side.

We might also feel that somewhere along that gray-shaded road, we might make the decision to go God’s way and jump off the gray road onto the white side before we die, while the rebellious ones slip off onto the black side.

This is far from the truth. In reality, there is no gray area, there is only black and white. No matter how much ‘good’ we do, or may have done in our lifetime, we will always stay in the black side. We are never between the two sides; we cannot straddle the fence. We may think that we weren’t that bad, with just a little lie here, and maybe an insignificant item stolen there. But a window is still broken, even with just a little crack.

You probably wonder how you ended up in the black side in the first place. To be honest, you never ended up in the black; you began there. Our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, were on the white side in the beginning. But, by way of the Devil, Eve’s heart was deceived, and as a result, Adam ended up willfully sinning against God. This meant that Adam and Eve could no longer remain in the white side, since God is holy, and cannot tolerate any sin. (For a more detailed background, read Genesis 3 in the Bible.)

Now Pandora’s box  of sin was opened and could not be shut. It resembled a little bit of yeast which causes a whole loaf of bread to keep rising. Sin has now spread throughout the whole earth. It has been, and still is, present in everyone, everywhere. Its effects have been deteriorating everything in the earth, including the earth itself, for centuries.

We have been boasting of the great progress we have made since the early days of our existence, yet we are no more out of the black side than the moment that Adam and Eve were driven into it.

To add more bad news to all of this, we have been blinded to the fact that we are constantly living in sin, unless God, through His Spirit, opens our eyes to see how sinful we are. Then, to add insult to injury, we, in our own strength, cannot get free of sin and get out of the black side.

It may seem hopeless at this point, but this is just where hope begins! God already had a plan for bringing every man, woman and child out from the black side, long before Adam and Eve were even created. Why did He wait until after-the-fact to make His plan known? Why couldn’t He just stop sin as soon as it started, or make a means to prevent it from ever occurring? It all comes down to what is called the ‘free will.’ God put within each of us the ability to choose—to make our own choices. He never made us as machines, or robots with preset programs, that decide what we would or would not do. He is not a supreme dictator that makes uncompassionate ‘do or die’ commands upon every living thing. He is a loving God who knows us more that we know ourselves. In normal family relationships, parents love their children, and the children choose to love their parents in return. They are not ordered to love them. The option exists for the child to choose not to love them at any point. But most don’t, because they do love their mother and father. If God prevented anyone from sinning, then there would no longer be any choice available. Any reason to love Him would be taken for granted.

 God does not want us to sin. But we have to choose whether we will sin against Him or not. He will not force us, or corner us, into following Him.

The plan He made to rescue us further emphasizes His love for us. He always sees the big picture and knows what our future will be. As a loving Father, He looks out for us (if we allow Him to) by making a means of escape. In order to come before Him, we cannot have sin in our heart. And the penalty for our sins is death. During the time period of the Old Testament in the Bible, God made a temporary covering for sin. It was through the sacrifice of an innocent lamb. But this sacrifice was temporary and incomplete, and could not permanently remove our sins. Therefore, God prepared a way for a permanent sacrifice to be made, through His Son, Jesus.

Jesus left His heavenly Father and became human like us, but without sin, or allowing sin to enter into His heart. During His time on the earth, He remained obedient to His Father, fulfilling all of the requirements that God had laid out in His Law (found in the first five books of the Bible). The ultimate fulfillment came when His Son willingly sacrificed His life on a cross, just like the innocent lamb that had to sacrifice its life on the altar. That is how much God (and His Son) loves us, so much that He was willing to give His Beloved Son as a sacrifice for everyone: past, present, and those not even born yet, and that His Son was just as willing to make this sacrifice. The good news for us is, that all we have to do is believe in His Son, and accept His sacrifice as our sacrifice.

 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

At this point, we might feel that there may be some gray areas in life, and we’ll stand in them until we can figure out what to do next. It won’t work! It is still black and white only. We make the gray areas by believing the lies that the Devil feeds us. Just ask Eve:

“And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:2-6).

The Devil is the master of deceit, and he has had thousands of years to analyze us and to know our strengths and weaknesses (much more than we know). He never wants us to leave the black side, and he does all he can to keep us there. But, through our pride and unbelief, we insist that our way is better, and that we can make it to the white side on our own. Meanwhile, we are busily going off on the wrong road, lost for eternity, still on the black side.

What is your choice? to remain in the black side under the illusion you are in the gray side, or to trust and believe in Jesus and His sacrifice for your sins?

If you made that decision to believe in Jesus, or just want to know more, please click here.

–James Pangburn