Thoughts to Ponder

Are you ready?

I get a lot of letters from Christians. Many of them are contemplating suicide for one reason or another. Many feel abandoned by God. Most of these people feel anger towards God because they think He does not care about their suffering.

These people tell me stories about losing a job, or a daughter in a car accident, or a wife of many years to cancer, or a husband who ran off with a younger woman, or children who no longer want anything to do with them. The list goes on and on and each one is different than the last, yet very much the same.

These people often tell me that they love the Lord with all their hearts but they don't feel His presence any longer, or they feel that He has abandoned them. Some of them write me to tell me why they quit believing in God or why they are contemplating suicide.

I am often told I don't understand because I have not been through whatever problem they have faced. They are right, I have not lost a child, or had my spouse die of cancer, or many of the other things that they have gone through, but that does not mean that I can't know what they are going through or what God has to say about it.

Many Christians are so woefully ignorant of God's word that it is detrimental to their spiritual walk. The churches' message in the past few decades has been about what God can do for you. Just look at the popular books in the Christian book stores and you will see what I mean. Look at the Prayer of Jabez and how popular it was and still is.

People need to read God's word and take it to heart. There are many promises in it, but there are many warnings and even what I would call scary promises too. Let me show you and example of what I am talking about.

(Mark 10:28-31 NIV) [28] Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"
[29] "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel [30] will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields-and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. [31] But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

People love to read the first part of Jesus' answer, that anyone who leaves home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields to follow Him will gain a hundred times as much in this present age. That sounds great doesn't it? The problem is that they stop there and don't bother to read the whole passage. Jesus also says that we will have persecutions in this present age. I will come back to that in a moment.

I have had people tell me that they can't trust God because of this very passage. They have left family and friends and lost houses and jobs, etc... because of their walk with Christ and His promise is hollow because they have gained nothing, much less a hundred times as much as they left behind.

The problem is not with God or His promises it is with the person. When Jesus said that you will gain a hundred times what you leave behind, He meant it and it is true. Let me show you another passage and then explain what I am talking about.

(Acts 2:42-47 NIV) [42] They devoted themselves to the apostles´ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. [43] Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. [44] All the believers were together and had everything in common. [45] Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. [46] Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, [47] praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

This passage shows us what a church should be like. Sadly not many of our churches are like this, but they should be. Notice how they treated each other, in love and compassion and by supporting each other. These people truly gained a hundred times what they have left to follow Christ, including fields and homes because together they had much.

This is what Jesus is talking about, not the expensive car or home that people think He promised them. Too many believers are selfish and fail to see the blessings that God has provided for them. They dishonor God to justify themselves.

People also seem to think that because they serve the Almighty God of the Universe they should not ever have problems. They should never face disease or heart ache. They are not reading God's word if that is what they believe. Remember Jesus also promised us persecution in this life time. We live in a evil fallen world where good things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people, bad things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.

We in this country have pretty much been sheltered from the kind of persecution Jesus was speaking of. Oh, we feel persecuted when we are left out of an invitation to go to dinner with the people we work with, because they know we are a Christian. Or we feel persecuted because we aren't allowed to cheat on our taxes like everyone else does. Those ideas make a mockery of real persecution.

There is real persecution in the world today. I have heard it reported that there are more martyrs for Christ now in our life time then all the centuries together up until now. It has also been reported that one person is martyred for their faith approximately every 3 minutes. Now I am talking about a personal persecution, not a terrorist act on a "Christian" community.

These people refuse to renounce Christ even in the face of certain death. Many are forced to watch their family members abused or killed in front of them and yet they still refuse to deny Christ.

Why is it that these people will not deny Christ even when forced to watch their families harmed and Christians in this country are abandoning their faith because a loved one is killed in an auto accident? I guess there are as many reasons as there are people, but in general terms it has to do with commitment, trust and focus.

Commitment, trust and focus are all very much involved. Commitment to the Savior who gave His life for them. Trust that the Savior who gave His life for them won't ever abandon those He paid so dearly to free from sin. Focus on that Savior instead of on themselves.

I would encourage all of you to obtain and read the book Let My People Go by Cal Bombay. It deals with the persecution of the mostly Christian population in the south of Sudan by the Muslim government in the north. It was written in 1998, so it is very recent. It will show you what is possible and also give you a better appreciation of what our brothers and sisters in Christ are going through.

Is this type of thing possible in our country? I think the answer is all around us. Look at the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. Would you have believed after what happened that colleges and high schools would require their students to identify not with the victims but with the terrorist? Well it happened.

Instead of educational institutions condemning the terrorist and the religion they followed, which calls for such acts of violence against the infidels (that is anyone who is not Muslim), they demanded that the student "better understand" these people's beliefs. One school district made the children pick a Muslim name to use in school, to help them identify with these murderers! Colleges required students to read a book based on the Koran, so that they would have a better understanding of these murderers! This is not just Political Correctness run amuck, it is much more than that. I believe it is an attempt to pull America away from it's Judeo-Christian roots.

Christianity is considered an intolerant religion today by liberal thinkers. The only intolerance that is acceptable today is that directed at the "intolerant" Christian religion. Why is Christianity considered intolerant? Because we dare to speak out and condemn things as being wrong. Yet Islamic repressive governments around the world are given a pass by these liberals because we have no right to judge their religious views.

"Liberal Christian" denominations are just as much at fault for this trend as the non-Christian liberals. These so called "Liberal Christian" denominations have been very tolerant of other religions. They embrace other religions and makes statements which at the least sound like they believe all religions are equal. They make statements to the affect that we all worship the same God. Or that there are many paths to God, etc...

Look at what the Bible says of people like this:

(2 Peter 2:1-2 NIV) [1] But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves. [2] Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.

Here is another story that should give you pause to think. Do you remember the gentleman a couple of years ago who was forced to resign because during a speech he gave he used the word niggardly? Well it happened again, this time to a high school teacher. She used the word in class and one student went home and told his parents about it. They did not bother to look the word up and find out what it means. Why should they, it sounds bad and that is enough for them. Well apparently it was enough for the school board too. To keep her job this teacher had to write an apology to each family represented in her class and take sensitivity training. Why? Because people are too ignorant to find out the facts and those who do understand are too spineless to stand up and say so.

Just in case you don't know what the word niggardly means, here is the definition:

nig·gard·ly
adj.
1. Grudging and petty in giving or spending.
2. Meanly small; scanty or meager: left the waiter a niggardly tip.

What I am trying to show by telling this story is that anything is possible. You don't have to be wrong or do anything wrong to be punished today. So what makes us think that telling a homosexual or a child molester that they are sinners and need forgiveness won't be grounds for imprisonment or worse in the near future? Watch the direction our country is going and be prepared, it will come.

What if it becomes illegal to say that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to heaven? Are you willing to say it anyway? Are you willing to meet other Christians if your meetings are deemed illegal because Christianity is an outlaw religion? These are the very things that other believers around the world deal with on a daily basis. In China, for example, you can be a Christian. You can even have a church. That is as long as it is one of the State sanctioned churches. Of course we all know that these are not truly Christian churches and that is why the true believers risk everything to meet secretly. Are we willing to risk everything to follow Christ?

(James 1:12 NIV) Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

In His letters to the seven churches in Revelation, Jesus makes some promises. They are all made to "him who overcomes." No promises are made to those who do not overcome. It is not an option for a Christian to deny Christ and live a life unworthy of their Lord and Savior. To be a follower of Christ we must deny ourselves and follow Him daily.

The Honolulu Police Department is being forced to delete the phrase "so help me God" from the oath taken by new officers after complaints from Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, reports the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Mitch Kahle, president of the group, said the oath as it stood amounted to an unconstitutional religious test, he said.

The change marked the second time within a month that the police department acquiesced to a complaint from Kahle's group. Earlier, it removed a biblical passage and poems containing religious content from its Web site in response to a complaint.

The organization also has demanded that the Honolulu Fire Department recall a safety guide because it includes a firefighter's prayer with the word "God."

I am sure you have heard of the Hate Crimes bill. This bill is a sham. It claims to be an attempt to punish people who commit crimes because of race, gender or sexual orientation. The reason it is a sham is this; it is already illegal to kill someone. It is already illegal to beat someone up, no matter what the reason. The only thing these bills will accomplish is to make thoughts illegal and allow others to determine what your thoughts should be. These bills would not honor the life of the victim, but rather punish the thoughts of the murderer. You may wonder what difference it makes. Well it makes a lot of difference, because it is the first step toward the government regulating speech. We have freedom of speech now in this country, but we could find that "hate" speech is not protected. Then we could find that anything said against certain protected groups' lifestyle would be considered hate speech and therefore illegal.

It could very soon be illegal for a church to refuse to hire a pastor who is an openly practicing homosexual. Why? Because he/she would have protected status. It could be hate speech for a pastor to preach that being a homosexual is a sin. It could be illegal to preach that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. It is even possible that Christianity, at least in it's unadulterated fundamental (I know that word has a bad reputation but it shouldn't) form could become an illegal religion based on it's condemning attitudes towards other religions, lifestyles and actions (what we call sin). The Bible could become an illegal book because it condemns certain actions and lifestyles.

I am not trying to scare anyone, I am trying to show you that we might not always be as protected from persecution as we have been. We need to be ready and you can only be ready by keeping a strong faith based relationship with Christ. He will never leave us or abandon us, but we might very well abandon Him.

Jesus made some very strong statements that we as Christians need to understand and pay attention to:

(Matthew 10:32 NIV) Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.

But also look at the next verse:

(Matthew 10:33 NIV) But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

We can't just become closet Christians and disown our Savior, if persecution comes we must stand firm to obtain the crown of life. I am not sure any of us is strong enough to endure what Christians are enduring all over the world, but neither are they. Only God can help us endure to the end, even unto death. The good news is that He will enable us when the time comes, but we must keep that relationship with Him alive and vibrant.

Jesus also told us that many would not remain in the faith:

(Matthew 24:3-14 NIV) [3] As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
[4] Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. [5] For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. [6] You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. [7] Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. [8] All these are the beginning of birth pains.
[9] "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. [10] At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, [11] and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. [12] Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, [13] but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. [14] And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."

Notice that Jesus said that many will turn away from the faith. Don't allow yourself to be one of them. The time is coming, but greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. Be on guard, put on your spiritual armor daily. Strengthen your faith, by reading God's word and separating yourself from the world. Are you ready? If not it is time to prepare, I believe the time is short. I pray that Jesus will come for us before persecution starts in our land, but we must be prepared to face whatever comes. We can only be prepared if we cloth ourselves with Jesus Christ daily.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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November 2002