The Monster Within

Janice pressed her back hard against the window and held her breath. Hiding in the shadows, the terrified woman was sure the monster would crawl past her and she could escape its hungering belly. She waited silently, one minute and then five.

Since a teen, Janice had been fully aware she was being hunted by a blood-thirsty creature that seemed to shadow her every move. No matter where she went, how far or fast she ran, the monster was always as near as her own shadow. Tonight she knew it had followed her yet again.

The past 25 years had been a whirlwind of travel and attempted disguise. She couldn’t hide among the masses in New York. Neither the empty open prairies of Wyoming nor the sky rise flat in London sheltered her from the creature that stalked her every move.

Deep down, Janice knew there was no escape from the creature. She’d put it out of her mind or try to mask it with a substance or a relationship, but in the still moments of the night it was so close she could feel its heart beating in her own chest. In those moments she recalled her mother reading stories from a black book about the monster. Mother said it had been following Janice since before she was born and there wasn’t a soul on earth strong enough to slay the creature and set her free. But she decided that if the monster was going to kill her, it was her life and she’d go out fighting on her terms.

A few years earlier she worked with a woman who knew all about the creature. She’d been terrorized too, and claimed Janice couldn’t run away or hide from it because it actually lived inside of her. Like her mother, this woman said a Saviour had come from Heaven a long time ago and gave His own life to defeat and set her free from the creature and its power. Janice just needed to trust that by His sacrifice He’d become the Victor over the monster she knew as Sin.

Sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it. (Genesis 4:7). If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:36).

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His Eye is On the Sparrow – Civilla D Martin

Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for Heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He,
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Refrain:
I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free.
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender words I hear;
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fear.
Tho’ by the path He leadeth but one step I may see,
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He cares me.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He cares me.

Civilla D Martin (1905)

Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31).

What Is Repentance?

You can have many reasons for being sorry. You may be ashamed because you’ve been caught doing something forbidden. Maybe there’s fear of what others will say, think, or do when they find out what you’ve done. You could be sorry for the hurt or embarrassment you’ve caused others. But repentance isn’t the same as being sorry.

Repentance isn’t admitting you’re a sinner, repeating a prayer of forgiveness, or crying. Repentance is hating your sin because its rebellion against God. False repentance dreads the consequences of sin; true repentance dreads sin itself.

Repentance is a change of purpose, heart, and mind about sin that results in turning to godliness. It is a complete change in direction from doing what you like to doing what pleases God.

Repenting doesn’t make anyone saved. Salvation is only by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. Repentance is a fruit of salvation, not the root of it.

How do you know if repentance is genuine? Your life permanently changes as you live a life in obedience to the Word of God. You hate your sin and love righteousness. You increasingly become like Jesus.

… how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9)

What Your Enemies Reveal About You

Your enemies, not your friends, reveal who are you. What you stand for, and against, determines the enemies you have. Jesus warned, Woe when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets (Lk 6:26).

My congregation meets on Sunday mornings in a dance studio in the most liberal neighborhood in our city. A few years ago the area was the second most popular in the US for lesbian couples to live. The owner of the dance studio, Rhonda, is a very charming lady who speaks freely about “god” but never of Jesus; He’s offensive. She tries very hard to be accepting of everyone and everything. Her one caveat in renting to us was that we not say or do anything offensive to anyone.

A few weeks ago I gave Rhonda a copy of our Sunday morning bulletin to take home and read. On our drive home that afternoon I asked my wife, There wasn’t anything in the bulletin that I should have been concerned about, was there? 

Kim answered: Just what you said about the sin of lesbianism; but now Rhonda knows exactly where you stand. 

Most Christians are timid about their faith, fearful of letting others know where God requires us to stand. Jesus said that the gospel brings division, even in the closest of family relationships (Lk 12:51-53). We don’t seek to create offense, but when the Word of God is wholeheartedly believed and taught, there will be conflict.

Ancient Greeks and Romans cherished the freedom of speech. Like modern Americans, they had the legal right to speak their minds freely and openly without fear of reprisal from the government. The early Church took advantage of this by boldly proclaiming the Good News everywhere they went. But speaking plainly like Jesus (Mk 8:32; Jn 18:19-23) created conflict. Acts 16 and 17 tell how Paul was beaten, arrested, and thrown in jail because the gospel filled the unsaved with violent hatred (1 Thess 2:1-2).

We avoid speaking plainly because of fear, but early Christians knew the truth and were so convinced of it that they didn’t fear what their enemies might say or think or do. Their confidence was in Jesus and His gospel.

Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your Word (Acts 4:29).

We Wait for His Son

Photograph of the solar eclipse seen in Oregon, USA August 21, 2017

We wait for His Son from Heaven, who He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

I live within the path of the recent solar eclipse of the sun. Some Americans believed this passing of the moon between the sun and the earth was a sign of the end of the world. They were sure it would announce the return of Jesus or the advent of the Antichrist. They twisted together speculation and Scripture taken out of context for their strange doctrine. In doing so they created fear and raised money while maligning Jesus Christ and His holy Word.

As Christians, we eagerly await the return of Jesus from Heaven. We look for Him – who died for the Church and was raised from the dead for the Church – to return in the clouds and gather His Church unto Himself to forever be with Him. We anticipate Jesus Christ, not the Antichrist.

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another (1 Thessalonians 5:9, 11). We have comfort, joy, hope, and demonstrate lives of godliness in Jesus, we don’t live in despair and fear over the future.

Jesus Still Loves the Little Children

mr rogers

They brought infants to Jesus that He might touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:15-16).

A little boy sat on the floor with the tv on, waiting for his friend. The friend arrived, took off his sweater and shiny shoes and replaced them with another sweater and tennis shoes. “You are special” and “It’s you I like” he sang, the words simple, genuine, and true.

We fed the fish, received a speedy delivery, walked to the bakery, met kings and owls and took trolley rides, then sat for a little talk together. He knew the words to calm fears, drown silence, fill loneliness, and cover with grace and understanding.

After smiles, waves, and his friend leaving, the boy knew that tomorrow would be another “snappy new day.” Mr Rogers was a 25-minute friend reflecting the best American society had to offer.

Today I recall the boy of my childhood from the vantage point of time and realize how much the world has changed. Being a child is much more difficult. The world is more dangerous, life more complicated, reality harsher, society far brasher. The innocence and simplicity of my childhood has vanished.

One thing hasn’t changed: Jesus still welcomes and loves the little children.

I Like to be Liked

Like to be Liked 9.1.15I’m sure you like to be liked. Me too.

Few people have a social death wish. We want to go along to get along. We live and let live. Then we talk about the Good News of Jesus and forget what makes it “good news.”

When you read Paul’s presentation of the Good News in his letter to the Romans, he doesn’t start with something sweet like, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” No, he begins with uncomfortable words like wrath of God (1:18), unrighteousness (1:18), without excuse (1:20), futile [empty] minds and foolish hearts (1:21), God gave them up (1:24), dishonor their bodies (1:24), the lie (1:25), vile passions (1:26), committing what is shameful (1:27), penalty of their error (1:27), debased mind (1:28) … oh my, the list gets even more nasty after this. Until there’s a presentation of how wicked we truly are, we’ve only shared religious news.

After Paul thoroughly writes about the awfulness of sin, he presents Jesus’ death at the end of chapter 3! Imagine, the idea that “God loves you” doesn’t show up in Romans until chapter 5, one-third of the way through the book; and that love is for people saved through faith in Jesus.

We’re often afraid and ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ because we want to be liked; but truth is always more important than popularity.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the heathen. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17).

Scare the Hell

Scare the Hell 10 2015Marcus went to bed earlier than usual. The morning would bring a special day for the 13-year old. He was trying out for his junior high school basketball team and needed to be rested and ready to make the squad.

From out of the hallway he heard the clock chime its familiar tune. It was 2 am. “So much for going to bed early if I don’t fall asleep early,” he thought to himself.

A short time later Marcus awoke to a screeching sound and the smell of smoke. In the same hallway where the clock chimed every hour hung the smoke alarm. He heard his parents yelling and his two baby sisters crying. He was scared. Just then his bedroom door smashed open. Marcus jumped hastily from his bed and followed his father through the smoky hallway to the front door. He could feel the searing heat of the flames as he rushed past the kitchen.

Safe outside, the family huddled in the street as the police arrived and then a fire truck. Now every part of the house lit up the night sky. Marcus felt dazed by what he was seeing. Everything he had … everything he knew … it was gone. He was sure he was going to puke.

The young teen turned in the street toward the sidewalk just in time to walk into the path of a passing car, the driver looking at the fire rather than the road. Marcus was dead.

Just because you scare the Hell out of someone with tales of everlasting fire, the mark of the beast, or a world war, doesn’t mean he is safe in the arms of Jesus. Threats and fears don’t convert men; only grace through faith in Jesus saves.

 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).

Six Months to Live

six-months-to-liveMy wife and I sat across the desk from the very official looking doctor. He bowed his head and said to me, “I’m sorry Mr Rice, but you have cancer. From the test results … you only have six months to live.”

I looked at my wife, stood to my feet and answered, “Then I’d better get busy. I have a lot to get finished in that time.”

I know this was a dream because I come from a long line of stubborn people who will have plenty of time to see a doctor once we’re dead.

Seriously, none of us knows what tomorrow – or the next six months – holds. The fact that each of us has only a certain allotment of time should not come as a surprise to us, though we struggle to make that allotment of time relevant.

Jesus knew that His earthly life was limited for time. Even as a Child He could say, Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? (Luke 2:49). May you and I have such clarity of purpose!

Poisoned Candy and Truth

post-truth-worldIn 1974, eight-year old Timothy O’Bryan died after eating a piece of poisoned candy on Halloween night.

Every year since 1974, American school children and parents are warned about taking candy from strangers because it may be poisoned, riddled with razor blades, or filled with pins or ground glass. Some hospitals even x-ray candy for free to ensure its safety.

The only problem is that there has never been a generalized poisoning of candy, apples, popcorn balls, or any other treat in the United States. Never. In the case of young Timothy O’Bryan, it was his own father who poisoned his son’s candy to collect on a large life insurance policy.

Now consider the famous Oxford English Dictionary. In 2016, editors chose as the English word of the year “post-truth.” Post-truth refers to an outright lie that is accepted by a society as truth. The dictionary adds that “objective facts are less influential … than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In other words, ignore and deny facts, truth is what you feel or think.

Poison candy, photographed fairies, toast causes cancer and eggs produce heart attacks, killer-clowns,  dangers of fluoride, men trapped in a female body, cell phones and brain tumors … the list of fear-inducing post-truth, junk- science, urban legends, or whatever name you call the widely accepted lie, is still a lie.

For the Christian, truth is not individual, emotional, or experience-based. God is truth and He has revealed the truth in the Bible. Feelings and experiences don’t determine what is true, God does. What He says is the truth.

Jesus explained it simply when He prayed, Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth (John 17:17).