4 PEOPLE WHO COULD HAVE BEEN DISCOURAGED…and weren’t

JOSEPH.

He was the favored son of twelve, and his dad made him a colorful coat. He wore it–big mistake. Then he had a dream about his brothers bowing down to him, and he told them. Big mistake #2. They were jealous and hated him, finally selling him as a slave. So much for a fancy coat.

He could have been bitter, but instead he did what he could for his new boss. Captain Potiphar could see that Joseph was trustworthy and gave him charge of his home. Then he got framed by Potiphar’s wife for wisely refusing her advances–and landed in prison.

But the same thing happened. Rather than turning resentful and becoming a victim, he did what he could. The guard could see that he had character and put him in charge of all the prisoners. We are told, “Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it” (Genesis 39:22).

So while he kept going down and down, from son to slave to prisoner, he accepted his situation without growing bitter or hateful, and the Lord gave him success.

Then he interpreted dreams accurately for the butler and baker and asked the butler to remember him before Pharaoh when he was reinstated. He forgot. Again, he could have grown so resentful as to become unusable to the Lord or to people. But he maintained his positive spirit in the presence of pain rather than surrendering to doubt or depression, which would have blocked his ability to perform his duties.

When Pharaoh needed an interpreter for his two dreams, the magicians and wise men all failed. Then the cupbearer remembered the young man in prison, the Hebrew–two lousy years later. Joseph could have been consumed with unforgiveness, blocking him from the ability to interpret dreams.

Not Joseph. He was up for the challenge, and he became the second most powerful person on the planet. Had he given in to discouragement, which would have been understandable, he would have sacrificed his future. Way to go, Joe!

JOSHUA.

Moses is dead. He had totally dismantled the most powerful nation of the world with ten plagues in two weeks. He managed to wipe out the Egyptian army with one wave of his rod. He was the human instrument for signs and wonders of colossal proportion never seen before or since on the planet. He took a nation of two million on a hike for forty years through barren land.

During that time their shoes and clothes did not wear out. They were served up breakfast from heaven–every day. He made water flow from a rock two times. He spoke with God face to face on a regular basis.

Now Joshua is taking over. “Okay, go for it, Josh.” Hard act to follow? No. Forty years of hard acts. Joshua is told to bring the nation across the river and into a hostile land that would be theirs–if they can overcome the nationals who have other plans for them, some of whom are giants.

God speaks to Joshua, at least hesitant about his job description if not shaking in his sandals: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

That word is repeated three more times in the same chapter. Really? Don’t be discouraged? With what he has been handed? Impossible command. Who could obey it? How could he not give in from time to time? Come to think of it, what command from God is possible? How about, “Pray without ceasing,” or “Rejoice in the Lord always,” or “Have no anxiety about anything?”

Every command is an impossibility. If they were not, we could pull off the Christian life without the aid of the Holy Spirit. Joshua put his trust in the right place, and he carried out his assignment to the fullest. Good going, Josh!

DAVID.

When he as a fugitive returned to Ziklag with his fighting men, they found that the Amalekites had raided their camp, burned it and had taken captive all the women and children. The men wept “until they had no more strength to weep” (1 Samuel 30:4).

“And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul…But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (6b). He asked the Lord, “Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?” The Lord answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue all” (8). He went after the enemy with six hundred.

An Egyptian was found that tipped them off on where the Amalekites were. They attacked them by surprise and recovered everyone and everything! Way to encourage yourself in God rather than giving in to despair. Nice save, Dave!

PAUL

When Paul and Silas came to Philippi, they went to a place of prayer down by a riverside and spoke to a group of women. One of them, Lydia, opened her heart, was baptized together with her household, and convinced them to stay at her house.

Going again to the place of prayer, Paul and Silas were met by a demonized slave girl who made her owners rich by fortune-telling. After days of annoyance, Paul commanded the demon to leave. The angry owners dragged Paul and Silas to the magistrates, who along with the crowd tore off their clothes and beat them with rods. Then they threw them into prison and fastened their feet in stocks.

So what should you do if you were badly beaten unjustly, uncomfortable with stocks, and sleep eludes you? At midnight Paul leaned over and asked Silas if he knew any good worship choruses. They sang while the other prisoners listened.

An earthquake shook the foundations of the prison and opened all the doors. The jailer assumed that he had lost all the prisoners and drew his sword. Paul stopped him saying that no one had escaped. Amazing for Paul to have that kind of authority with all the prisoners. This made the jailer fall before Paul and ask how he and his household could be saved. After the wounds were washed, the happy jailer and his family were baptized. A new church in Philippi, one that Paul felt especially close to, was launched out of great suffering. Nice call, Paul!

John Adams’ Warning to America and You

John Adams’ Warning to America

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” President John Adams to Massachusetts Militia, October 11, 1798.

Who Was John Adams?

The second president of the United States of America, Adams was blunt and forthright. A founding Father of the nation, he became an early critic of Britain’s treatment of America. Willing to take unpopular stands, he even represented British soldiers accused of murder during the Boston Massacre.

Though not a signer of the constitution, he strongly favored independence and was an advocate for the Bill of Rights. (Adams could not sign the constitution because he was in England representing American interests at the time.)

Adams was a devout Christian; even his opponents considered him a highly principled man.

He married Abigail Smith. Their correspondence is still admired and read today for insight into social and political matters of the time.

Why is John Adams’ Warning Important for Us Today?

Adams’ warning sounds an alarm for America today. He knew the limitations of democracy and a democratic constitution. In the same address, he warned, “We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion.”

John Adams saw the Christian religion as a restraint on human passion. He realized that self-government was ineffective without morality based on Christianity.

If America shrugs off genuine Christianity, our constitution will not work according to Adams. What does that say about America today?

During his long life, Adams warned about rioting and bloodshed akin to the French Revolution.

We all know our country faces trouble and division today. Adams tells us why: because we have thrown off morality and Christianity. (The use of the term “religion” in Adams’ day univeraly meant “the Christian religion.”

You can read Adams address in entirety here.

But should the People of America, once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another and towards foreign nations, which assumes the Language of Justice and moderation while it is practicing Iniquity and Extravagance; and displays in the most captivating manner the charming Pictures of Candour frankness & sincerity while it is rioting in rapine and Insolence: this Country will be the most miserable Habitation in the World. Because We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition, Revenge or Galantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-3102

What Should We Do About Adams’ Warning?

We need revival. Nothing short of supernatural revival will stem the tide of of destruction that Adams warned about.

We need the humility and prayer and repentacne that allows God to send revival.

We need to know God loves us enough to send us warnings, to give us time to take action.

One time I drove up the hill in our town called Mark Twain Overlook. As I gazed over our city and the Mississippi River, I was surprised to hear the voice of God speak to me.

“As long as you are in this town, believe Me for revival.”

Do we really need John Adams’ warning to America? The Bible has already warned us many times. Read the book of Judges. Read Isaiah. Read the Gospels. God’s warnings are clear.

Still, when an American president warns, it’s worth listening to and taking action.

Are you a part of a prayer group in your church that calls on God for revival? If not, could you start one? Is your faith stirred up for revival and renewal?

Do you see what will happen if God does not send revival?

Purpose of Government? Do You Know What It Is?

What is Purpose of Government

What is the Purpose of Government According to the Bible?

The purpose of government is seen in three scriptures.

Government is related to authority and all authority is from God.

For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God (Romans 13:1). Scripture declares God has established governmental authority.

Why? What are the purposes of government? And why am I addressing this question?

I’m writing because one young man recently stated as he wrote to me, “I hate government.”

I’m also writing because there is a greater need to understand government and it’s God-given purposes. We need to know the purpose of government, its extent and limitations.

I’m writing because not many others are addressing government from a Biblical point of view.

What is the Purpose of Government?

The one explicitly stated purpose of government in the Bible is to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good (1 Peter 2:14).

Some see punish and praise as the only Biblical purpose of government. There are however, other inferred purposes for civil government.

Let’s go back to the garden. God set Adam in the garden to cultivate it and keep it (Gen 2:15 NASB) Or to work it and watch over it (ESV). The Hebrew word for work or cultivate is abad. Abad is translated 227 times out of 290 occurrences in the King James Bible as to serve.

It may seem strange to consider the Garden of Eden as the initial government that God ordained. I am not the first to think this, however. Dispensationalists, as well as others, consider the garden as the original government of God on earth.

The view of government as “servant” or “minister” aligns closely with the New Testament reference in Romans 13:4. Here the Holy Spirit declares through the apostle Paul For the government is God’s servant to you for good (ESV).

Therefore, I conclude the first purpose of government that God established was “to serve.”

The Hebrew word for keep or watch is shamar, which means to keep, to watch, to guard, to protect.

Notice that these passages do not tell exactly how government is to serve or protect. That can change in various circumstances or times. These passages give a lot of leeway in what governments can or cannot do. The Scriptures offer many opportunities for people of all political persuasions to implement government policies.

1 Tim 2:1-8 shows a third intention of God’s plan for government: that you may lead a quiet and peaceful life with all Godliness and dignity. God ordained government to help keep peace and quiet in society, to keep the populace undisturbed and undisturbing of others. The governments job is to protect and defend people.

Godliness (eusébeia) means piety toward God, reverence and respect. The job of governors and those in authority is to operate in an attitude of fear of God.

Honesty (semnótēs), sometimes translated gravity or respect, is a necessary characteristic of a servant of God.

In Summary, What are the Purposes of Government?

According to the Bible, our source of truth and the revelation of the mind of God, the purpose of government is to serve; to punish evil and praise good; to guard and defend; and to promote peace and quiet, Godliness and honesty.

It seems to me that any other purpose can be included in the above.

If you see otherwise, please let me know and include the Scripture reference to go with it.

President Trump Apologized

President Trump apologized during his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC on February 6, 2020.

After acknowledging how hard the message of forgiveness can be, the President stated,

I’m sorry, I apologize. I am trying to learn . . . It’s not easy. 

Why the Fact that President Trump Apologized Means So Much to Me

President Trump has a reputation for never saying “I’m sorry.” For never apologizing. That is not a godly reputation.

Several days before the National Prayer Breakfast, I acknowledged a divine prompt to pray specifically that the president would apologize and say “I’m sorry.”

Most people ignored his apology. Others ridiculed him, just as some had mocked the First Lady after she led thousands in the Lord’s Prayer at a Florida rally. Some accused the president of being insincere. Some were spiteful.

While many commentators dismissed the president and his apology, I was encouraged.

I thanked God for answered prayer and took a breath of fresh spiritual air.. Today I danced with joy as I mulled over the president’s words. God answered my specific prayer!

Millions of Christians are praying for our president. Nancy Pelosi has publicly stated that she is joining in prayers for the president.

President Trump’s apology means so much to me because I was praying specifically for his exact words, “I’m sorry.”

The links I had for the president’s speech have disappeared. If you can find the speech and listen you can tell how difficult it is for him to say the words that are so hard for many of us to say. To me he sounded embarrassed. His humanity slipped through. He was like a little boy on unfamiliar ground as he spoke those difficult words, “I’m sorry.”

Trump’s Apology Shot My Faith with Steroids

All things are possible with God, promised Jesus (Matthew 19:26).

One of my prayer partners, Ken Eichelberger, and I have been praying for the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

We have recently begun praying for Xi Jinping, the leader of Communist China, that He encounter Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

We pray for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and other members of the US Supreme Court. We pray that God will send Christian witnesses to each of them. We pray for repentance and conviction.

The Scripture commands believers to put prayer for leaders at the top of our prayer lists.

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

1 Timothy 2:1-2

We take this seriously at the Church of the Living Water in Muscatine. We begin our Sunday meetings with prayer for various authorities.

I teach that we need to believe God first for repentance and faith in our governing authorities. Then, if a leader continues to rebel against God over a time period, we need to believe God for removal.

Watch for future articles on how to intercede for governing authorities. God is raising up intercessors in preparation for the coming world-wide revival.

Are you receiving grace to join the international prayer movement?

Bernie Wing: God’s Viewpoint on the Sanctity of Life

Bernie Wing, True Bridge Ministry and former pastor at Grace Life Church, Marhall, Minnesota

Hi Mark,

I enjoyed your article: God, Government, and You.  I so agree and also have tried to establish good relationships with local government leaders.  We have two County Commissioners that are elders at Grace Life Church. 


I thought you might enjoy this recent article I wrote on my thoughts about the Sanctity of Life issue. 


Blessings to  you and your family,

Bernie Wing

Viewpoint: Bringing God’s Point of View to Man’s Point of Need

Science, medical advancements, and technology are shedding more light on the subject of abortion. Research of DNA is validating that viable life begins at conception. The heartbeat can be detected as early as 51/2 weeks after gestation. Advancement in the medical field has proven that a child born as early as 21 weeks of development and weighing in at one pound or even less can live and become healthy child.

Since the decision by the Supreme Court in 1973, 61,628,584 babies have been destroyed in the womb. Even though the yearly numbers are a little lower than earlier years many are seemingly thumbing their nose at God. Some states have recently passed laws to terminate the life of a child as it is being born full term. Some are using the advanced ultrasound technology to choose to terminate the life in the womb based on gender or if down syndrome is suspected. One comedian Michelle Wolf even bragged how having an abortion made her very powerful and akin to God.

How is Abortion Related to Division in America?

My thought is the devaluing of life beginning in the womb and choosing to destroy these many millions over these past 47 years are a direct link to the division, strife and hatred in our nation. Also a direct link to the mass shootings we are experiencing in our schools, churches, malls, and in other public places that normally were considered safe zones.

Our nation is in trouble. We are divided, divisive, and destroying one another with our words and ways made legal by a few supreme court justices. How will we find healing and restoration back to civility and alignment with the Word and Ways of God?

What is the Solution?

So is there an answer? How can we heal our nation? What does God say. James 1:5-6 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.

II Chronicles 7:14 If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.God has given us an answer and it is up to us to humble ourselves, pray as we seek His face and turn from our wicked ways.

Let’s Get Specific and Practical

What are our wicked ways we need to turn from? As I pondered this question my mind went to the story in Matthew 25 and the story of the talents. Three men were given talents by their lord. One was given five, one two, and one was given one talent. When the lord returned from his travels
he asked for an accounting. The first two had invested their talents and doubled them and were told Well done, good and faithful servant.
The one given one talent hid it by burying it in the ground and he heard from his lord, You wicked and lazy servant.

Could this servant who did nothing with what he was given be a comparison to us and our wicked ways? Are we the people called by the Lord’s name the ones who are unwilling to stand up, speak up and do something for the most vulnerable the ones living in the wicked ways?

James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. I do believe our sin of omission is what God is addressing in this hour to us. We may feel proud of the sins we have overcome and compare ourselves with those still trapped in obvious sin.

Specifically, What is God Asking You to Do?


Maybe we need to consider what it is God is asking us to do as His witnesses and ambassadors to the world. We know it is our duty to stand up and speak up for what is right in the eyes of God no matter what the ways and laws of the world may say is totally Okay.


The world and current laws say it is our right to choose to kill the most innocent and vulnerable of all human lives while still in the womb.

What is God’s Viewpoint on the Sanctity of Life?

What is God’s viewpoint on the sanctity of life? I believe what is recorded in Psalms 139:13-17 (NLT).

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, God.

–Bernie Wing

God, Government and You

God, Government and You

God . . . government . . . and you? What is God’s design? How should we as Christians relate to government and government officials?

Many struggle with government. Some ignore it, some hate it. Criticism runs rampant. A few jump into policy issues, while most stand aloof.

What does the Bible show about God and government and you?

I was surprised as I read through the book of Second Chronicles to find such a strong connection between the religious (the prophets) and the government (the kings).

Nearly Every King Had a Prophet

Rehobam had a man named Shemaiah

Jehoshaphat had Macaiah, Jehu, Jahaziel, and Eliezer

Hezekiah had the famous Isaiah

Zedekiah had Jeremiah

The list could go on. . . .

What Does This Tell Us about God and Government?

1) God is interested in human government. In fact, He is very interested–more than most know. More than most pastors and church leaders know. If we who lead church meetings knew, we would begin our church services with prayer for various governing entities.

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,

for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity (1 Tim 2:1-2).

God enjoins churches to practice prayer for authority figures as a top priority in both private and public meetings (1 Tim 2:8). Not just any prayers. Specifically, we are urged to make entreaties, petitions and thanksgivings as well as regular prayers for various authority figures.

2) God is so interested in government that he repeatedly sends prophetic messages to governing officials through prophets or men of God. Could God use you?

3) God wants to direct the affairs of government.

The Biblical messages through the prophets included a vast array issues: military advice, when to go to war, when not go to war. Advice about foreign policy. How to treat prisoners of war. Religious matters.

4) God wants more than prayer for government; He wants His chosen people directly involved.

How Does God’s Concern for Government Apply in 2020?

In 1 Cor 10:11 we note that these things . . were written for our instruction.

The fact that the Bible shows so many of the kings had prophets whispering, or sometimes shouting in their ears, shows that God wants to teach us something.

Looking into the Bible records, we find that the prophets who spoke most effectively formed a relationship with the king. Isaiah’s relationship with King Hezekiah is an example. Nathan’s friendship with David is another.

Let’s Apply This to Local Government

Most of us will not have access to the president of our country. But we generally have surprising access to various forms of local government: councilmembers, perhaps the mayor, even state representatives, governors and senators.

I have a good relationship with our state representative and state senator to Des Moines. They respect me and I respect them. We have talked over some of the issues and they have asked me my opinion.

The church has a prophetic mandate to speak with local authorities. If approached well, especially if we have taken the time to become acquainted, most elected officials will welcome you and your ideas.

I have personally encouraged our state officials to vote for the fetal heartbeat legislation in Iowa. It passed and Iowa became the first state in America to enact a fetal heartbeat law. This law was designed to protect the lives of babies in the womb from the first day a heartbeat can be detected.

(Unfortunately, the Iowa Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional; now we are by faith dealing with changes on the court and in our State of Iowa constitution.)

How Are You Doing in Regard to God and Government?

Are you giving regard to God and His interest in leading the nation?

Are you praying regularly for your governing officials? The stakes are high.

Do you know your local officials? Have you developed relationships with any?

Are you willing to be used by God?

What Does God Want You to Do Now?

What is your part in God’s plan?

Happy New Year–Arrest Stress with 12 Best Stress Arresters

Arrest stress
Arrest stress and lock it away for good

Stats for Stress, the Silent Killer

  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress.
  • US businesses lose up to $300 billion yearly as a result of workplace stress.
  • Stress causes around one million workers to miss work every day.
  • Only 43% of US employees think their employers care about their work-life balance.
  • Depression leads to $51 billion in costs due to absenteeism and $26 billion in treatment costs.
  • Work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs yearly.

The 12 Best Stress Arresters

Identify the Causes of Stress and develop possible strategies to deal with them. Get pastoral or other professional help if need be.

Get Physical Exercise. Swimming, biking, walking and things like these are all good stress arresters. Even singing aloud or shouting at a ball game can be helpful. If you don’t like ball games or don’t want to “Kill the umpire!” , try going for a drive all alone, rolling up the car windows and shouting or singing as loudly as you can!

I personally enjoy chopping wood for my exercise.

Practice Deep Breathing. When I was in the hospital and my lungs were filled with cancerous tumors, I could hardly breathe. A nurse taught me how to take in giant-sized breaths through my mouth and then expel the air ever-so-slowly through my nose. Repeat several times. It works. Try deep breathing and see how it relaxes you.

Just say “No!” The world is filled with overly busy people. One of the basic foundational truths of Hebrews 6:2 is repentance from dead works. Dead works are anything we do that is not from the Holy Spirit. Anybody filling your life with good works that are really dead works?

Stress results from pleasing people rather than pleasing God. For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10).

Get a Full night sleep

Forgive. Forgiveness is one of the all time great stress arresters. Don’t wait for people to ask you to forgive them. Just do it over and over and watch your nemeses change.

Receive Salvation through Christ

Pursue Freedom from guilt. Guilt produces stress. Floating guilt (feeling bad all the time as a result of not dealing with some specific sin) produces floating stress. Take time to do business with God or people. Get to the root of this and you’ll feel happier and better. Bill Gothard helped me to do this in his Basic Life Principles Seminar. Get help if you need it.

Move Forward. Forward motion in one area can lead to a relief of stress in many areas. One cause of stress is the sense of inability to control circumstances. Loss of control leads to frustration and tension. Move ahead in some area–build a bookcase, join a club or church, take a course, invest, take a vacation, do something by which you can move ahead and make more of your own decisions in some specific area.

Take a 24 Hour Break Every Week. Restore the Sabbath Principle. The necessity of “cooling it” once every 7 days is built into creation. Napoleon attempted to increase productivity by establishing a 10 day work week. The experiment failed and France had to return to the seven day work week. Even God rested on the seventh day! I’m not saying which day to take off, I’m simply saying take off one day per week. Establish the three R’s: Rest, Reflect, Rejuvenate. People who do become more productive.

Stress arrester number 12. Try to listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. He has promised to guide us. But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you . . . (John 16:I3).

I have a tendency to overwork. Any workaholics out there like me? I personally need the Holy Spirit to prompt me to stop working.

The Scriptures link hearing (and obeying) God’s voice with rest: TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.

And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? (Hebrews 3:15 and 18)

Rest and stress reduction result from doing what God says and doing it right away. For example, the other day I was working on our porch. By the Spirit I felt prompted to stop work and come inside. But I didn’t want to stop so I kept working. Later that evening, I realized I was emotionally and physically drained. I knew I had overworked and could not go on to do the things God really wanted me to do. I had to repent.

Here’s a closing tip about stress arresters. New habits don’t come overnight. They take time to develop. Oftentimes we can’t do it alone, so it helps to have some encouragement.

Habits are socially enforced. How to make a habit stick? Join a church or group that already has the habit.

Stress is a bigger problem than most realize. Let’s tackle it together. What is working for you? Write it in the comment box below

Photo by Brandon Hoogenboom on Unsplash

8 Things the World Needs to Know about Jesus’ Birth

One of our lambs peering across a manger

1 Jesus birth was announced in prophecy (Isaiah 9:6).

2 The place of His birth was also announced in advance (Micah 5:2).

3 His mother was a virgin at the time of His birth (Matthew 1:25).

4 He was given a name—Jesus–which means “Savior”) (Mathew 1:25).

5 He was Mary’s first child (Luke 2:7).

6 He was a male child, a boy (Luke 2:7)

7 Mary laid Him in a feeding trough (Luke 2:7). This was an identifying sign for the shepherds, the first human evangelists of the birth.

Another look at our sheep by a manger

8 Angels announced His birth. In their birth announcement, they made significant claims: They again verified the place of birth—Bethlehem, the City of David.

They associated Jesus with ”great joy.” (Think about that one as we share our faith.)

He will be for all people, not just Jews.

Most significantly, they claimed He was Savior, the long-awaited Messiah, and God (Lord) (Luke 2:8-11).

Many know some details of the birth story. Do they know the what the angels knew?

California Wildfires

California Burning Again

California Wildfires, Puerto Rico Hurricane, and 107 MPH Winds in the Midwest. How Do We Make Sense of these Things?

 

Could all these be “natural disasters?” Are these the results of “climate change?” Or is there something greater involved?

One thing is for sure. God is getting the world’s attention. He’s stirring the pot aplenty.

Thee Bible prophets often portray natural disasters as not just natural; they have meaning.

It’s the prophets calling to interpret these so-called “natural events” for the rest of us.

Here’s My Take

Behind every flood, hurricane, or fire stands a great and loving God who wants the best for His creation. Nothing stands outside His love. So when mind-boggling disasters occur such as the California wildfires, there has to be an exponentially greater disaster ahead. A disaster of eternal and unthinkable dimension.

I’m not a doom and gloom guy. Nor do I speak ignorantly.

Tornado force winds severely damaged our house. Cancer wracked my body, nearly to death. Each left scars, each marked my life.

Nevertheless, I’m here to say that God is good and has a purpose for everything He allows. Even death brings hope for a better resurrection.

When we’re going through the onslaught, when we’re filled with confusion, when death surrounds us, it’s hard to look up. Still, let’s cheer up, look up, and find the purpose in it all.

The prophet Amos speaks of famine, drought, tornado, pestilence (would a current translation be virus?) plague, war, terrorism, fire and wind as judgments from God.

But you have not returned to Me, declares the Lord (Amos 4).

All of these seemingly natural events were designed to turn the people back to God so that nothing worse would come on them. Each was a dramatic and powerful call to action: Return to Me!

Jesus weighed in on a natural disaster during His day: Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:4-5).

Throughout Scripture natural disasters are viewed as calls for repentance in order to forestall or avoid further judgments from God that we bring on ourselves. God is a loving Sovereign willing to do whatever it takes to keep people from the eternal fires of hell and bring people back to Himself.

What Should We Do When Disaster Occurs?

One response is to bring further judgment, “They deserve it.” It may be true: They (We) deserve it.

But a better response is to humble ourselves, repent, and call for forgiveness and mercy. In fact, that’s what Jesus advised. He basically said, “Repent or perish,” even when we are not directly involved. Read Luke 13:4-5 again and see if you agree.

Learn from the Prophet Daniel

Daniel modeled this attitude following the invasion by the Babylonian army into Israel.

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land. Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame,

O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” [A]ll this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and] giving attention to Your truth. Therefore the Lord kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice (Daniel 9).

Why fires, floods and hurricanes? I don’t know all, but I do know that in the Bible many natural events were designed to get people’s attention. To shake people up. To get us out of our selfishness. To bring us to the breaking point where we have to admit, “There’s Someone or Something bigger than us around here.

Is every rainstorm, earthquake or tornado a judgment from God? Of course not.

But God has been speaking to me since about 2013 to “Prepare the people for judgment.” Judgments come in many forms. In fact, about 19 different kinds of judgments are mentioned in the Bible. Some ae scary, some are temporary, some are final. But all are true and righteous altogether. By them Thy servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:9-11).

I’ve been in earthquakes. Nothing like an earthquake to make you feel totally inadequate. It’s awesome. In an earthquake a person is absolutely, completely helpless. You can’t go up, you can’t go down, you can’t go out–no time. No place to go. No way to hide. Normal intelligence cannot reason with it. Little wonder, in Revelation 6 people cried out for the mountains and rocks to fall on them. I remember in an earthquake in Portland, Oregon, a woman in our apartment ran down the hallway in her nightgown screaming!

These are days when the pillars of civilization are shaking. Take “knee-time” seriously. Not a time to despair. And when the ashes settle, realize God is speaking–and not with words.

These are days of opportunity. These are days to look up. Take heart. Seize the day. Redemption draws near.

Can Forgiveness Change Your Future?

Can forgiveness change your future?

As you study the dog’s face, what is he communicating?

What do you think? Can forgiveness change your future?

Jesus thinks so. In fact, He says so.

I’m experimenting, and I’m looking for more evidence of what Jesus says about future change through forgiveness.. I’m not doubting what He says, I just want to see and document more of it. Will you help? Send me your story of how forgiveness has changed circumstances if you have one.

Three Specific Ways Jesus Asserts Forgiveness Changes Your Future

First. Matthew 5:14-15: For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

This well-known and oft overlooked statement makes it clear that God’s attitude and actions toward everyone stem from the fulcrum of our forgiveness of other people. Or our lack of forgiveness. That’s supernatural.

It shows one reason why some folks live in the camp of blessing and others in the wilderness. 

My parents, Rognar and June Anderson, experienced seventy-three years of happily-married life. (I’m not saying they never faced struggles. They did. One of their struggles was raising me!) 

Nevertheless, when dad was about 94 years old someone interviewed him with the classic question, “To what do you attribute your long-lasting success in marriage?” Dad’s answer: “Forgiveness.”

Forgiveness Creates More Love

Here’s a second way forgiveness changes a person. It creates more love and blessing.

Forgiveness today creates love more love tomorrow. Perhaps we can say the amount of love we have today is determined in part by the amount of forgiveness we experienced yesterday. See Luke 7:47 . . . he who is forgiven little, loves little. 

Let the converse also be true. He who is forgiven much, loves much.

Forgiveness Liberates

People are puzzled by Jesus’ words in John 20:23. But if we take them simply the way a child does, He is saying forgiveness releases a person. Just think how many husbands need to be released! (Release is what forgiveness means.) How many wives! How many wayward kids!

Forgiveness liberates. Forgiveness absolves sin through the blood of Jesus!

The man’s future in Matthew 18 was determined by his forgiveness or lack of it. Because he failed to release his coworker, he ended up in torment by the choice of the Master.

A Modern Day Example 

I once counseled a man struggling with depression and mental illness. (Let’s call him Dean.)  Life had dealt some hardships and low blows to this fellow. Primarily, his wife and family had forsaken him. It seems no relative supported him socially or emotionally. 

Dean was on the brink of suicide and had been in and out of mental hospitals. As I listened to his stories, I realized he had never forgiven his offenders. 

So the first order of business with Dean was to help him forgive. He spike words of forgiveness. The next time I saw him, he felt a little better. There  was hope.

But he still held onto anger and resentment. He claimed, “I just can’t forgive any more.” I urged him to forgive in faith. I told him he had to work ast it, even to speak aloud in private “I forgive, I forgive, I forgive.”

Perhaps I failed to impart sufficient grace to him. Perhaps Dean chose to hang on to his bitterness (the opposite of forgiveness). Whatever the reason, this man never changed. He kept saying, “I can’t forgive, I can’t forgive.” 

The final time I saw Dean, he remained depressed and was refusing to take normal responsibilities for life.

Can forgiveness change your future? Does unforgiveness affect our destiny?Sure looks like it to me.

I’m experimenting with forgiveness. I’m forgiving President Trump, who is reportedly a new convert to the Christian faith. I’m forgiving broadly. I’m forgiving others just as God in Christ has forgiven me (Ephesians 4:32).

Can forgiveness change your future?

I’m interested in your experience if you can add to this.

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash