God is Working in Ukraine — We Have Proof!

image by Trey Ratcliff

image by Trey Ratcliff

My friend, Chris, and I have been studying Acts since February 2014, and one thing we’ve been impressed with is the lengths God will go to work in the hearts of people and people groups. You can’t read Acts without seeing it. God is about the business of saving sinners and he invites his children to take part!

The Media team at SEND International has just recently returned from a trip to Ukraine and they have picture and video proof that what God started in Acts he’s still doing today. And what’s more is that he’s still inviting and using his children to take part in that work!

As you know, Ukraine has been going through some rough times lately, but that hasn’t stopped his church from working toward the end goal of taking the Gospel to the world. In fact, the church in Ukraine, while continuing to reach out to their own countrymen, are sending out Ukrainian missionaries to other parts of the world.

Please take a moment to read the latest article on The Mission Blog to get a sneak preview of what the team witnessed in Ukraine.

You can also be a part of what God is doing. If you’re a Christian then not only is God inviting you to take part, he’s commanding you to do so. Do you doubt that? Here’s some Scriptural evidence:

But, honestly, who needs the command when the privilege and honor of the invitation is so high? Who wouldn’t want to be involved in God’s work? Is there a true Christian who would think otherwise?

A Quick Note on a Biblical Command to Be Discerning

infant_with_bottleThis is just a quick thought on Heb 5:14.

Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

I very rarely like to post or comment on a single verse. As Greg Koukl says, “Never read a Bible verse,” meaning never just take a single verse and try to figure out what it means. You can’t rip a verse out of its context and expect to get a clear understanding of what the original author meant when he wrote it. And if you get a different meaning from a verse than the original author meant, you’ve got the wrong meaning. Many false teachings and false applications have been drawn from the bad habit of neglecting the context of a verse.

Hebrews 5:14, however, is one of those verses that might be called principle verses. The author of Hebrews has been talking about the fact that the old Law is gone by evidence of a new priesthood, that of Melchizedek. He then goes on to say that he’d like to say more about it but his audience is lacking the spiritual maturity to understand. He says that his readers should be mature, but, like babies, they still need milk and can’t handle solid food. Then he says that, “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

This maturity that he’s talking about is what I strive for. I hope you do also.

Take a moment to look at how he describes maturity. The mature person is one who has his “powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Discernment doesn’t come naturally to us little humans. It takes training. It takes constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

There are very few things that are more dangerous to a Christian than the thought that he cannot be deceived, or the thought that he sees everything clearly. One of the most common sources of this danger, I believe, is personal feelings. Just because a saying or writing makes you feel good or resonates with you doesn’t make it good or right. It must be compared with a proper understanding of Scripture, and that takes practice. And practice takes work.

So, get to work! As will I.

“God Calling” Is Not A Christian Devotional

The New Age book, God Calling

Pardon the sudden rant, but this angers and saddens me at the same time….

How sad is it that an otherwise reputable Christian book seller would stock and sell this book. CBD is selling this along with several other versions of the New Age book God Calling.

God Calling is a book that was written in the 1930s by two anonymous ‘listeners’ who prayed to God and then listened for what he had to say. They then wrote down what they heard him say and that’s what became the devotional God Calling. That is a New Age practice called channeling. It is very dangerous and is forbidden in Scripture. This book is listed in The Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs as an example of a popular New Age book (Ankerberg & Weldon, Harvest House Publishers, 1996, p. 103).

Please don’t get sucked into the trap of this book. So many New Age practices sound and feel beautiful and right, but they are not of God and are not in line with Scripture.

A Christian’s Proper Response to the Aggressive LGBT Agenda

In his latest email newsletter, my pastor included this article. I wanted to share it with you.

A young woman named Crystal O’Connor was standing behind the counter of the pizza place where she worked in a small Indiana town. A man wanders in, and after answering one unexpected question, she finds herself (two days later) unemployed (with the pizza shop out of business), fearful for her life and hated by strangers all over the country.

You know times are changing, friends.

Three weeks ago, legislation was enacted in Indiana that makes it legal for gay customers to boycott Christian businesses, but illegal for Christian businesses to boycott gay customers. An unsuspecting teenaged girl was asked by a reporter if her family’s pizza shop would refuse to sell pizzas for a gay wedding reception, and she said yes, though they’d never been asked to make pizza for any wedding!

In the ensuing firestorm, Christians received death threats, a Christian business was forced to close, and hateful speech filled the airwaves against Christian convictions. Christian politicians scrambled backwards to avoid the angry mobs, and rewrote legislation to ensure that Christians businesses could not boycott customers, but those customers could still boycott Christian businesses.

Here are a few tips from Steve Jones, a pastor friend of mine:

1. Do not fear the worst, and do not assume the best. Trust Christ and be realistic. Worrying is never the right thing to do.

2. Sidestep persecution when you can do it without dishonoring Christ. He counseled his disciples in Matthew 10:23, “If they persecute you in one place, flee to another.” Therefore, even though it is not always possible, it does not dishonor Christ if you simply avoid persecution by getting out of its way.

3. It is not wrong to have enemies. It is wrong to treat others like enemies, but it is not wrong to have enemies. You cannot help it if someone chooses to be your enemy. Jesus would never have told Christians to pray for their enemies if we were supposed to pretend we have none.

4. Don’t ever believe what your enemies tell you about you. When people tell you that you are being hateful for not caving in to their viewpoint, you know that your motivation is not to hate them. When people tell you that your position is unfair, you know that is not true. When people say that you hate them, tell them that you love them. When they deny it, say it anyway. Your job is to speak the truth in love, not to speak the truth only if others agree that you are being loving! Lovingly speaking the truth has brought many thousands to Christ who initially wished that the Christian would just shut up.

5. At the same time, your job is to make sure you are speaking lovingly whenever you give people the truth. It is important to remember that anger is not an argument, and scornfulness convinces no one. People are like candles. They can only be molded if we warm them first.

6. Remember the words of Jesus: “If they hated me, they will hate you.” It is a badge of honor in heavenly realms when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

7. Keep eternity in view (part one): Our present trials are brief and will result in God’s glory forever.

8. Keep eternity in view, (part two): No matter how angry or hateful people may be toward you, remember that they face an eternity without Christ if we don’t love them and share Jesus with them.

9. If it ever comes to the point of active persecution, remember Hebrews 10: “Remember, endure, stand side by side, joyfully accept property confiscation, don’t throw away your confidence, and persevere until you receive what God has promised you.”

10. Always keep in mind (whether persecution comes or not) that Jesus has promised to never leave us, and never forsake us!

11. Whatever troubles we face in this life are “light and momentary afflictions” which are creating for us an “eternal weight of glory!”

Digging Up Stumps—A letter from a missionary to the pastor of a supporting church

I don’t usually just post a link to another blog as my blog post—especially when my blog post title seems longer than the post itself—but you should really read this, especially if you’re a pastor or part of a missions team or committee at your church.

In fact, if you are interested in missions at all (and that should include all true followers of Christ), please take a couple of minutes to read this post from The Missions Blog by SEND International.

Click the picture (or here) to read the post.

The Suffering of Japan—It was Four Years Ago Today…for us

JapanDisasterFour years ago today Japan was hit with one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded. That was immediately followed by a tsunami. All of this also caused a meltdown at a nuclear power plant.

The results were the deaths of almost 16,000 people and close to 2600 still missing. Almost 230,000 people are still living in temporary shelters, tents, and makeshift buildings because of this triple disaster.

These numbers are staggering!

JapanThis was four years ago for those of us who are living in the comfort of our homes here in the West. For the people in that area of Japan, it’s today. It’s “now” and “still” for so many.

Will you pray for the people of Japan today? And, if you will, please continue to pray for the Japanese people on a regular basis. Add These items to your daily reading list. Also, there are many missionaries there who are trying to assist with disaster relief and who are sharing the saving message of the Gospel. Will you pray for them as well?

God loves the people of Japan and he hears the prayers of his children.

By the way… Should We Seek Visions, Dreams, and Personal Messages from God?

My friend and I are going through the Book of Acts right now and we just discussed Acts 16:6-15 yesterday morning. In Acts 16:9-10, Paul receives a vision from God. Here’s the passage from the ESV.

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

I think it’s of the utmost importance that we handle the Bible accurately. We need to not miss what’s there, but we also need to be sure we aren’t adding anything in that’s not there. You can read all of my notes from our study of Acts 16:6-15 by clicking here, but I wanted to share one quick note about these two verses. Let me know what you think. (This is quoted from the blog post on my other blog.)

A note on visions, dreams, and messages sent from God
Every place in Scripture where God communicates directly with someone, like he did here with Paul, there was no mistaking that God was communicating, and there was never any doubt as to the message God was communicating. Many today will try to figure out clues and hints and “nudges of the Spirit” in order to discover what God is secretly trying to tell them. There is no biblical support for this method of determining the will of God. If God tells someone something directly, its source and message are unmistakably clear. We have no record in the bible of God being ambiguous. God doesn’t drop hints and demand that we be “tuned into his Spirit” before we can accurately know his will for us. God’s will is plainly laid out in the writings of Scripture and it’s in Scripture that we will find it. If he wants to speak to us directly, he’ll do that (though I believe that is exceedingly rare) and he’ll not require any kind of mental or spiritual gymnastics to figure out what he’s saying.

I believe that determining God’s will is pretty simple—at least the parts of his will that he wants us to know. It also makes sense that God would want to be very clear on something as important as his will. Why would God want to cloak it in secret clues and ambiguity? I think there are basically only two steps that require satisfaction when determining God’s will in any specific circumstance.

Fist off, we have plenty in the Bible concerning his will for us.

  • We are to avoid getting drunk.
  • We are to be honest in our business dealings.
  • We are to look to the interests of others.
  • We are to seek unity and peace whenever possible.
  • We are to avoid sexual immorality.
  • We are to only marry another Christian, and it must be a member of the opposite sex.
  • We are to study God’s Word every day.
  • We are to gear our very lives toward the spread of the Gospel.

These (and many others besides) are very clearly laid out in the Bible. If you want to know how to deal with a difficult boss or co-worker, the Bible speaks directly to that. Figuring out God’s will for that is as simple as reading what he’s already said on the topic.

Second—and this is only if the first step doesn’t cover our specific circumstance or decision—we are to seek the wisest course of action. Something may not be sinful, but it may not be wise. As much as possible, make the wise decision.

If these two steps are satisfied, you are free to do anything you want to do. If it doesn’t violate the moral will of God, and it’s within the realm of wise choices, go ahead and do it. You are free in that regard.

You may ask, “But doesn’t God’s will play any part in the specifics of my decision making?” Yes it does, but beyond the two steps stated above, God’s providence is not something you need to figure out before making a decision. If God wants to close a door, he will. You don’t have to figure that out first.

This is a very quick treatment of the topic. I haven’t done much proofreading or polishing, and I haven’t mentioned the different passages of Scripture that some people claim speaks to this area (Gideon’s fleece, God’s still small voice, etc.), but I wanted to get this out there. If it comes up again, and if time permits, I may develop this further. Until then, if you have any thoughts, questions, or objections, I’d love to hear them.