Epstein, Abuse, & the Log in Our Own Eye: It’s Not Just Out There

Jeffrey Epstein’s case is disturbing—and in some ways it mirrors the abuse crisis in the church.
July 15, 2019 by ED STETZER

Epstein, Abuse, & the Log in Our Own Eye: It's Not Just Out There

ust last week, news surfaced of the arrest of financier Jeffrey Epstein for running a child trafficking enterprise that allowed him to sexually abuse girls as young as 14. When federal agents searched his New York City mansion, they confiscated a “vast trove” of pictures of young girls­­.

After seeing some media reports, I tweeted this:

So, “underaged women” is not a thing. They are called children. And anyone who had sex with “underaged women” as an adult is a criminal. And, anyone who covered it up, regardless of their influence then and now, is a criminal.

As the weekend began, Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta announced his resignationamid continuing questions as to how he handled the sex crimes case against Epstein when Acosta was a federal prosecutor in Florida.

Every day we learn more.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun. For millennia, children have been victims of horrific crime. Today, children continue to be treated as objects of desire and power rather than what they are—invaluable creations of the Lord God. “What you did to the least of these, you did to me…”

It’s an admonition spoken to God’s people, but it is true for all.

When one is harmed, all suffer.

A Reminder, Again and Again

In 2012, I wrote about child abuse in a church context. In 2014 I wrote again. And in 2015 I wrote again. And we published many articles since then, many around our GC2 Summit on Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Violence at the Billy Graham Center last November.

But, we could write on this every single day. (I sometimes get complaints that I write too much on the subject, but I think that abuse in the church is one of the defining issues of our day— and, even if it were not, every child matters.)

This systemic problem of men (and sometimes women) viewing our children as objects seems to be no nearer to an end. Perhaps this is true, but the latest indictment of Epstein reminds us that there are people fighting tirelessly on behalf of the most vulnerable and voiceless among us. They are reminding us that criminals won’t go free forever and that justice will be enacted at some point.

According to The United States Department of Justice, “Child sex trafficking refers to the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a minor for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” For reminder: a minor is anyone younger than 18 years old.

A minor is a child.

It’s easy to look at someone like Epstein, identify that he used power and influence to hide the abuse of dozens of girls, and then look for the enabler—especially when it might be someone you already have disdain for. If you hate the Clintons, you might be sure they were in on this. If you hate the Trumps, you might be sure they were in on this. All of these ideas are out there.

And, this approach makes abusers into “others out there,” when they are really in here.

First of all, if either the Clintons or the Trumps participated in or enabled Epstein’s crimes, they should face the full consequences of the law.

But, it is worth noting that the church’s impulse is to shout outrage at the American systems of wealth, politics, and justice without looking at our own issues. The sad reality is that church, too, can be a place where predators work and where the system covers up for them.

Yes, it is good to post our horror on social media. But is better to be sure our churches know how to prepare for the inevitable predator who seeks access.

It is better to be sure our churches know how to respond when accusations come forward.

It is better to know that churches stand with the victims.

After (and in addition to) this, we must fight for the justice and healing of so many who have been sexually exploited among us. We must fight against the powers and systems that have created spaces for our children to become objects for the use of others rather than persons of honor and dignity.

What More?

It is interesting that even the Confessing Church, which arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to unify Protestant churches into a single pro-Nazi church, later admitted their complicity in the Nazi regime:

We did fight for long years in the name of Jesus Christ against the mentality that found its awful expression in the National Sociality regime of violence; but we accuse ourselves for not standing for our beliefs more courageously, for not praying more faithfully, for not believing more joyously, and for not loving more ardently.

They did this only after a fierce admonition from Deaconness Marga Meusel and pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer condemned the failure of the Confessing Church to care for the suffering Jews. Meusel’s words to the Confessing Church ring in our ears even today:

Why does the church do nothing? Why does it allow unspeakable injustice to occur? … What shall we one day answer to the question, where is thy brother Abel? The only answer that will be left to us, as well as to the Confessing Church, is the answer of Cain.

Lessons can be learned from this as well as from the Book of Esther, where we are confronted with the challenging and tireless question:

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?

What more can we do, church, when it comes to fighting for the vulnerable among us?

Four things come to mind:

First, pray without ceasing.

We must follow our King, who “always lives to make intercession for us.” Pray for those who have been victimized at the hands of others. Pray for those whose view of themselves and the world has been forever changed by the horrific acts of those they trusted. Pray for justice to be made evident, redemption to come, and for healing to overwhelm like a river of gladness.

Second, fight fearlessly.

We are called to speak on behalf of those with no voice (Prov. 31:8). Imagine a world where no wrongs are ever sought to be righted; now imagine a world where every wrong is fought to be righted. This is our purpose in life—to love God and others to the extent that we step into suffering sacrificially for the sake of another. Use your voice and your life to fight for those who have been abused.

How many of Epstein’s targets went home to tell a parent or authority figure, only to not be believed. Or, even the reporter who first wrote the story, but was not heard.

Fight for those who have been abused so they know the church is the safe place when, as in Epstein’s case, the legal system is not.

Third, prepare wisely.

Epstein targeted vulnerable children. That’s what predators do.

They target children in vulnerability. Given that churches are places of vulnerability, it is common sense that predators are targeting your church. Prepare yourself by training your church. Yes, background checks help and are a start, but we need much more. We need to educate ourselves on how to spot grooming patterns, how to set up systems where children are safe at all times, and much more.

Prepare your church as if Epstein was targeting your church’s kids—because predators are.

Fourth, love endlessly.

The great abolitionist William Wilberforce once said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.” Friends, it’s too late to turn the other way if we are to truly follow Christ into the hard places.

My own denomination faced some of these realities this summer, though there is more to do.

We are the hands and feet he uses to love and care for the marginalized, the bruised, the beaten. We are the ears he uses to listen to the stories and lament for the wrongs. We are the voices he uses to speak words of hope and expectation where little dwells.

Child abuse has, once again, made the news. In a sense, it has been placed at our feet. The natural inclination is to shout our anger at Epstein and to be sure to name the people we don’t like who we hope are complicit.

Yet, it is more than Epstein and his enablers. It is also about abuse in the church and its enablers as well.

The enormity of this problem, which continues to confront us, calls for a better response—one that begins on the knees in prayer and continues until justice streams down like a river and all our girls (and boys) are safe, and those who have been hurt see justice and experience healing.

Ed Stetzerholds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/july/epstein-and-log-in-our-own-eye.html

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Is It God’s Goodness that Leads to Repentance?

by Cameron Buettel Friday, July 12, 2019

In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. Of our previous blog series, none better embodies that emphasis than Frequently Abused Verses. The following entry from that series originally appeared on September 30, 2015. -ed.

We live in an age that demands short bursts of rapid-fire information. The day is fast approaching—perhaps it’s already here—when the number of Twitter followers will hold the preeminent place on a pastor’s resume. Sermon lengths are going the way of our shrinking attention spans. Modern pastors are tempted to replace exegesis and exposition with sound bite sermons and slogan theology.

But Bible verses are not slogans or sound bites. They are eternal truths that find their meaning within the overall story God is telling. Uprooting a verse, or even a biblical phrase, from its native habitat can lead to all kinds of mayhem. That is especially the case when, independent of their proper context, verses are enlisted as the supporting cast for someone’s opinion or agenda. Romans 2:4 is one verse that is regularly misused that way—carelessly sprinkled into sermons, interviews, and social media.

For example, in January 2013, Rick Warren explained to his legions of Facebook followers how the verse factored in his evangelistic methods:

In that particular case, Warren was quoting Romans 2:4 (actually only about half of it) as justification for downplaying sin and soft-peddling the threat of judgment. But is that what Romans 2:4 is really all about? Was Paul telling his Roman readers to jettison the parts of gospel preaching that lack curb appeal?

Joel Osteen is even more explicit in his use of Romans 2:4 to defend his feel-good messages:

Listen, don’t dangle people over the fires of hell. . . . Listen, that doesn’t draw people to God. They know what kind of life they live. They know how bad they’ve lived. What you’ve got to do is talk about the goodness of God. Listen, it’s the goodness of God that brings people to repentance. [1]

Joel Osteen may think that people know they are sinners and that we therefore don’t need to warn them or preach about it, but does Romans 2:4 really back up his point?

Moreover, is his point biblical at all? Just as prisons are full of convicts who will proclaim their innocence, Scripture is clear that sinners reject the guilt of their sin. As Solomon explained, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2). And even those who do acknowledge their sin have little grasp of the depth of their wretchedness, or the eternal cost of their transgressions.

In fact, it’s ironic that Osteen and Warren would use Romans 2:4 to excuse themselves from discussing sin and the need for repentance, since that verse is plucked from Scripture’s most profound discourse on man’s depravity.

Romans 1–3 is undeniable proof that Paul began his exposition of the gospel by first addressing the universality of sin and the justness of God’s wrath against sin. John MacArthur points this out:

The biblical order in any gospel presentation is always first the warning of danger and then the way of escape, first the judgment on sin and then the means of pardon, first the message of condemnation and then the offer of forgiveness, first the bad news of guilt and then the good news of grace. The whole message and purpose of the loving, redeeming grace of God offering eternal life through Jesus Christ rests upon the reality of man’s universal guilt of abandoning God and thereby being under His sentence of eternal condemnation and death. Consistent with that approach, the main body of Romans begins with 1:18, a clear affirmation of God’s wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” [2]

It is actually our guilt and the justness of God’s wrath that provide the all-important context for Romans 2:4:

And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Romans 2:2-5)

Now you can see why Romans 2:4 is so frequently divorced from its context, and why it’s usually paraphrased instead of quoted. In the full context of Paul’s writing we see clearly what he means by God’s goodness—it is “the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience.” And Romans 2:2-3 explains how God demonstrates that tolerance and patience—by withholding the wrath we deserve. God’s goodness is the reality that we have not yet experienced His judgment. MacArthur adds:

Forbearance [tolerance] comes from anochē, which means “to hold back,” as of judgment. It was sometimes used to designate a truce, which involves cessation of hostilities between warring parties. God’s forbearance with mankind is a kind of temporary divine truce He has graciously proclaimed. Patience translates makrothumia, which was sometimes used of a powerful ruler who voluntarily withheld vengeance on an enemy or punishment of a criminal. Until the inevitable moment of judgment, God’s kindness and forbearance and patience are extended to all mankind. [3]

It is impossible to preach the goodness of God without talking about sin and judgment because its very meaning is bound up in those terms. When we see our sinfulness and rebellion against God, and when we see our hypocrisy in condemning others for committing the same wrath-deserving sins, then we can also marvel at God’s goodness in patiently and tolerantly withholding the wrath that we deserve.

That is what leads us to repentance. And it is entirely consistent with what Paul taught elsewhere in Scripture:

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B150930

VIDEO Surviving the Death of a Loved One

By: Redeemed on Purpose

Surviving the Death of a Loved One

I am sorry for the loss of your loved one. Losing someone is a pain completely unimaginable. Surviving the death of a loved one can even seem impossible. My hope is that as you continue reading, you will see a light at the end of this dark tunnel and that light is Jesus. That may not be something you want to hear, but I can tell you first hand that it is the best thing to hear.

Several years ago on June 10th, my first husband died after having a motorcycle accident. Our marriage had just been restored 1 year prior from a 9 month separation. Life was perfect as I knew it. I was now left alone to raise our little boy. I didn’t know how I was going to manage paying all of the bills and taking care of our son, maintaining our house and yard, and working full-time.

Bitterness with God could’ve set in but instead I pressed into Him. I also witnessed how different members of the family grieved, how some had peace who sought comfort in the Lord, and others no hope who tried to do it on their own. I would like to help you walk through this healing journey. It is possible to live a happy life again.

  1. Why can’t God end all of the pain and suffering in this world?

The answer is… He can, and He will. Jesus did not create this world to have pain and suffering. In the Garden of Eden, there was no death or suffering. Since the fall, pain and evil has been allowed into this world by mankind. The good news is Jesus is coming back to restore everything. He loves us and does not want to see us suffering.

There have been times when I was grieving that I would wish Jesus would come back right now, so all of the suffering in the world could end. The Holy Spirit convicted me quickly. If Jesus comes back now, there is no hope left for those who do not believe in Him to go to heaven. The more time we have here, the more time we have to minister and help save as many souls as possible. He is graceful and will come back at the perfect time.

Apologist Ravi Zacharias answers tough questions about God and Christianity. For more on this question, please watch this video of Ravi Zacharias. You can also view it at the end of this post.  

2. How do I find peace while I am suffering the loss of a family member?

It is possible to find peace in the pain. I would spend my nights crying in pain from not having my husband, but I would cling onto God. In the flesh, I would try to stay up all night cleaning to wear myself out and be tired, but that didn’t help me. I would play worship music as I tried to sleep and just cry, and cry, and cry again to Jesus. There was a supernatural comfort that would come over me. Many nights I would have TBN playing on the TV. When I would wake up in the middle of the night, I would hear a word from God that would settle my spirit. As I worshipped Him in tears, I could literally feel His love and peace upon me.

3. What can I do now?

surviving the death of a loved oneI recommend gathering with a group of believers who can love and support you. Having a church family to encourage you, uplift you, and give you a shoulder to cry on is healing in itself. You can also join a support group such a GriefShare.

Do not hold in your feelings. Focus on God’s promises. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LordAs the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

Your family member would want you to continue living life to the fullest, not to survive but to thrive, to love others, to truly know the love of Jesus.

Fast forward years later, God absolutely provided for me. I became a Registered Nurse with all of my tuition paid for. God used family, friends, and even random people to bless my son and I. My relationship with God and faith grew even deeper. I am now married to the most amazing man that I have always dreamed of, and my son has the dad he had always prayed for. My life is better than I could have even imagined or planned. God is so faithful. 

Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

My husband’s books are also great resources to help you see God in all of your trials, and that there is purpose in the pain. Please comment below with any other encouraging tips for someone else who is also walking through this journey. 

 

https://redeemedonpurpose.com/2019/06/10/surviving-the-death-of-a-loved-one/

VIDEO Story Behind The Scars

July 2, 2019 By Reverend Paul N. Papas II

 

Unless you have been exceptionally lucky (hint, I don’t believe in luck) then you have a scar or two. Some scars are visible and some are not. Do you remember the time you bumped into the table when you were three, probably not.

We get scars from accidents, surgery, combat wounds, or perhaps from being a victim of a violent crime. Physical scars can heal faster than emotional or psychological scars.  Emotional or psychological scars may need assistance from someone else. That assistance could come in the form of a listening ear or by way of trained individuals.

Scars can be tender or sensitive to the touch especially when fresh. Once healed, tapping the healed scar and deep massage around the scar are two excellent ways of speeding up the scar desensitisation process.

Healing could include forgiveness for someone who harmed you. Forgiveness does no mean forgetting.

“Most psychologists recommend mustering up genuine compassion for those who have wronged us and moving on from the past, instead of allowing bitterness and anger to perturb our emotional well-being.

It is critical to remember that forgiveness doesn’t automatically mean a reconciliation. We don’t have to return to the same relationship or accept the same harmful behaviors from someone who has hurt us.

Although burying the hatchet usually brings peace to the soul, there may be some exceptions to that advice, such as a case of sexual abuse. Sometimes a victim becomes more empowered when they give themselves permission not to forgive.

Equally, and perhaps more important, is learning to acknowledge your missteps and forgive yourself. Self-forgiveness is often the first step toward a more loving and positive relationship with yourself, and therefore with others.” (1)

“One reason we resist forgiving is that we don’t really understand what forgiveness is or how it works. We think we do, but we don’t.

Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook — scot-free — and get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We also may think that we have to be friendly with them again, or go back to the old relationship. While God commands us to forgive others, he never told us to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us.

The first step to understanding forgiveness is learning what it is and isn’t. The next step is giving yourself permission to forgive and forget, letting go of the bitterness while remembering very clearly your rights to healthy boundaries.” (2)

We have a two hundred and forty plus year old relationship I want to discuss.  This week we celebrate the birth of our country. Just like any family, group, town, state or country we have had some bumps along the way. Yes, we have accumulated some scars along the way. Despite the scars or perhaps because of the scars we are the greatest country that ever existed, warts and all.  We have the greatest country that ever existed because we have a good foundation, and because people have defended her against enemies both foreign and domestic.

Not everyone in our country agrees on defining the issues or how to address them. We have the right to disagree and peacefully air out our differences without becoming disagreeable. Violent protests are an end in and of itself and rarely produce willing converts. Violent protests create greater divisions.

My fellow veterans and those currently serving did so and do so in order to preserve our hard fought freedom and liberty.  May I suggest that we as a country look for more ways to heal our scars rather than reopening or opening new wounds?

Healing our wounds and scars will lead to glorious birthday celebrations. We can accomplish more healing by working together than we can by being at odds with each other.

What is the story behind your scars?  Do you have any scars that need to be healed, if so today is a good day to begin the healing?

Would you stand with me to help heal the scars?

Facing the Challenge (60s)

 

(1) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/forgiveness

(2) https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/forgiveness-and-restoration/forgiveness-what-it-is-and-what-it-isnt

https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2019/07/05/story-behind-the-scars/


Christian arrested for ‘insulting Islam’ on Facebook

Family escaped as angry mob ransacked home

A young Egyptian Christian was arrested for allegedly insulting Islam on Facebook after a mob of angry Muslims chased his parents from their home and ransacked the house.

Morning Star News reported Fady Yousef, 25, was arrested June 11 in Giza, southwest of Cairo, despite having posted a video claiming hackers had placed the offending material on his Facebook page.

Citing the Coptic Bishopric of Maghagha and El Edwa in Minya, Morning Star News said Muslims angered by the material attacked his parents’ home in Eshneen el Nasara village, near Maghgaha in Minya Governorate.

Bishop Anba Aghathon said in a statement the mob “entered and destroyed the contents of the house, then moved to the house next door where his brother lived and attacked it from the outside.”

“They were shouting against the Christian religion and the Copts of the village,” the bishop said.

Fady Yousef’s father, Yousef Todary, his wife and daughter were able to escape minutes before the Muslims broke in and destroyed the refrigerator, television set, mattresses, furniture and windows, according to the bishop.

The young Copt posted an apology on his Facebook page claiming innocence and insisting he would never do such a thing.

His sister, Nermeen Yousef, posted a message insisting her brother did nothing wrong and was apologizing only “because he respects your feelings.”

“He is not a child to do such a thing, and also his friends are Muslims and always tell me they are dear to him and they know this well,” she said.

Police also detained Fady Yousef’s brother and uncle. Two other uncles turned themselves in as soon as they heard that police sought them. Copts United reported the brother and uncles have been released.

Yousef remains in custody facing charges of posting material offensive to religion, according to Copts United.

In Egypt, insulting Islam, Judaism or Christianity is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of 500 to 1,000 Egyptian pounds, about $30 to $60.

Egypt ranked 16th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries in which it is most difficult to be a Christian.

 

https://www.wnd.com/2019/06/christian-arrested-for-insulting-islam-on-facebook/

God has a sense of humor

 

June 18, 2019 by jc cast

 

Most people I know believe God can be everything from judgmental and vengeful to kind and loving. This includes many non-believers, which is ironic, since they are attributing such traits to a God, they claim to not believe exists. Surprisingly, however, no one seems to bring up God’s sense of humor. After all, we have a sense of humor (at least most of us). Where do you think it came from? Are we not made in His image?

Then God said, “Let us make a man—someone like ourselves… (Genesis 1:26).

Can we find examples of God’s sense of humor in His Word? Absolutely! Just keep in mind that what I find humorous may not be to you, and vice-versa, because each person’s character and life experiences—which contribute to their sense of humor—varies greatly. So, you may not agree with my examples, and I may not agree with all of yours. But the fact that humor can be found in the Bible as a part of God’s character is the point, not whether we agree on each situation. And, while numerous examples my be found, I’m only going to use a few for this post.

My first example takes place soon after God allowed the Philistines to have a victory over His continually rebellious people.

The Philistines took the captured Ark of God from the battleground at Ebenezer to the temple of their idol Dagon in the city of Ashdod. But when the local citizens went to see it the next morning, Dagon had fallen with his face to the ground before the Ark of Jehovah! They set him up again, but the next morning the same thing happened—the idol had fallen face down before the Ark of the Lord again. This time his head and hands had been cut off and were lying in the doorway; only the trunk of his body was left intact. — 1 Samuel 5:1-4

Can you imagine it from God’s perspective? Puny humans, the Philistines, that God used to punish his rebellious people, get so puffed up with pride that they bring their “captured treasure,” the Ark of God, into the temple of their “god,” Dagon, as an offering. Then, as the people depart for the evening, God takes a look at the lifeless idol, smiles mischievously, and flicks it over with ease. “Oops! Sorry!” And when they lift it up, He does it again, but with additional disrespect and damage.

Let us now look in the twenty-second chapter of the book of Numbers. Here we find the story of Balaam, who was asked by King Balak of Moab to curse the Israelites, so he can drive them out of his land. Although Balaam tells King Balak that he can only tell him what the Lord tells him to say, Balaam’s attitude in the situation angers God, so He sends an angel ahead of Balaam (now riding a donkey) to wait for him on the road.

Balaam cannot see the angel, but the donkey can. The animal attempts to go around the angel, eventually realizes the angel will not allow them to pass, and lays down in the road. During this period Balaam beat the donkey three times.

Instead of letting Balaam see the angel, God chose to have the animal speak. She gives a good account of herself, which Balaam had to accept, and God finally allowed Balaam to see the angel, and he confesses his sin, etc.

The use of a donkey in this situation is both humorous and a heck of a metaphor. After all, Balaam’s stubbornness is at the heart of the matter, not the donkeys.

Now let us look at God’s response to His rebellious people begging Samuel to appoint an earthly king over them, so they can be like other nations. God’s first choice is Saul, a choice more like humans would choose for themselves, for he “was the most handsome man in Israel. And he was head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land!” — 1 Samuel 9:2. And yet, how did this future king respond when Samuel was casting lots before the tribal leaders to show the people God’s choice? When the sacred lot chose Saul, he had disappeared. The handsomest man in Israel that stood head and shoulders above everyone was cowering with the luggage (1 Samuel 10:22). An action God knew would occur before He selected Saul to be the first earthly king over Israel.

The cherry on top of this humorous situation is how God allows His second choice for king to present himself publicly during his first test. After Saul sinned against God, the Lord chose David, the youngest and smallest of Jesse’s eight sons, to take out Goliath—the largest Philistine, who even towered over Saul—after the rest of Israel’s army cowered for forty days unwilling to fight the giant-like enemy. And David did it with a slingshot and a rock!

From the human standpoint the above events occurred during serious situations. A fact not lost on God, considering the eventual outcomes. The Ark of God was returned after much death, Balaam was eventually killed during one of Israel’s attacks, and Saul and his sons perished on Mount Gilboa during a battle with the Philistines. And yet, prior to the final events God chose to reveal a part of His character not often seen—His sense of humor.

Some may consider these odd places to find humor, but is it really so odd? Don’t humans use humor during traumatic periods as a release? As a disabled Vet I can often recall some rather rude humor going on during periods of extreme danger. And are we not made in God’s image, as stated earlier?

Now let us consider God’s sense of humor outside the Bible. Those of us who believe in God can see His sense of humor throughout His creations; especially in mankind and throughout many species in nature.

I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors, and have many fond memories watching the playful antics of otters, cats, squirrels, and other animals, along with the hilarious mating habits of many species. And most of you can probably say the same thing; which, if you’re a Believer, allows you to see a part of God’s humor. And if you’re not, just attribute it to whatever random selection you choose. Oops! Sorry! Selection implies choice, intelligent or otherwise. Just enjoy the humor for the sake of humor.

Have a good day.

 

Original here

Spread The Light

June 15, 2019 by Joe Rodriguez

lhs

What does the U.S. motto “E Pluribus Unum,” John Donne’s famous line, “No man is an island entire of itself,” and the High Shcool Musical song “We’re All in This Together” have in common? Hint -The title of this devotion.

Consider this, lighthouses differ in size, shape, and color but so do stars. Yet all the lighthouses in the world and all the stars in the sky have one amazing thing in common, they radiate light. Their light has been used to guide people and illuminate the darkest of nights for centuries/millenniums.

blue2

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Perhaps you can think of other things that differ in size, shape, and color that also shine. But the featured lighthouse image reminded me that there is something whose diversity and brightness is far more compelling than that of anything in the universe. In fact, its design, purpose, and effectiveness are not only unfathomable but even mysterious to some degree. It is something that came into existence about 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem when thousands of Jews had gathered to celebrate a harvest festival called Pentecost. Some close followers of Jesus expected to participate in the customary yearly festivities, but their plans changed upon receiving instructions from Jesus himself to go into the city and wait for the Father’s promise. On the tenth day after Jesus ascended back to heaven, they obediently gathered together in an upper room near the temple. Suddenly it came to pass. The promised Comforter, the Holy Spirit, came and filled the place where they were staying.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” – Acts 2:1-4

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What happened next was a spectacular event marked by supernatural signs and a powerful sermon that had an overwhelming response. 120 obedient disciples saw 3,000 new converts added to their group. Immediately thereafter, they began meeting together regularly, experiencing the power of God’s presence, and displaying a beautiful sense of oneness. From that day forward the gathering continued to grow exponentially. This is considered to be the birth of the church of Jesus Christ.

“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd… Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day…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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:14a, 41, 46-47.

Approximately 20 years later, the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome encouraging them to stay humble and to build each other up. It was the first time that Christ’s followers were compared to parts of a human body and referred to as part of the body of Christ.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:27

This ONE body of believers is made of people of all shapes, sizes, and colors. And although they are from every tribe and nation under heaven and belong to different Christian denominations, like lighthouses and stars, they also have one thing in common. Individually and collectively they all shine the glorious light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is what I consider to be the most awesome example of diversity and unanimity at the same time.

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Christians everywhere are members of that one body Paul referred to which is also known as Christ’s universal church. But they have also been called to be an extension of that body by gathering, growing, and serving in local church communities.

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:25

Local “churches” are formed whenever two or more are gathered in Jesus name to pray, worship, study the Scriptures, fellowship, and serve each other. They then fulfill their call to shine God’s love by sharing the Gospel message and by loving and serving others.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” -Matthew 18:20

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

In order to effectively communicate the message of salvation, there can exist no bickering, pride, sense of theological superiority, selfish motivations, or even religious cliques among those who claim to be part of the body of Christ. What would happen if our body parts were in conflict with each other or fought to operate independently?

“For the body does not consist of one part, but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” -1 Corinthians 12:14-20 [BSB]

To truly be part of that one body, we must put aside our doctrinal and dogmatic differences and realize that just as our physical body is a living organism composed of different parts working together so is the church of Jesus Christ. It relies on the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit and it can only function effectively if/when all of its members work in unity.  For this reason, we must (tangibly) love everyone. We must also do whatever it takes to be at peace with everyone. And not just with the world, but most importantly with each other as Christians. For it is by the love we show one another that the world will know that we are truly disciples of Jesus.

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10

“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” -Romans12:18 [NLT]

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” -John 13:35 

One single star can shine on a dark night, but it would not have done much for those (farmers) who used to depend on constellations in order to determine the seasons. Nor could it have helped the travelers who used them as directional aid. One lighthouse can show the way to a lost ship and guide it to safety, but it can only do so in one particular location. It is of no use to the hundreds of ships navigating around the globe.

Likewise, individual Christians can shine for Jesus wherever they may be situated, but imagine what a group of believers (a local church) can accomplish if they join their lights and illuminate their hometown and cities with the message of hope. What would happen if billions of believers around the world (the worldwide church) would join together in one undivided mission to pray for and love the world unconditionally? I believe it is possible and it can start with you and me. Let us show the world that we can be Uniquely Unitedfor the purpose of winning souls for the kingdom of God.

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Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me enough to offer yourself as a ransom for my sins. You did it not only to grant me eternal life but so that I may become part of your church (body) and help others to know you as Lord and Savior. Help me to live in harmony with everyone, especially other believers so that together we may effectively reach the lost for your kingdom and bring glory to your name. Amen.

ADDITIONAL SCRIPTURES
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” – John 15:8

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” -1 Peter 4:8

-All Scripture is quoted from the NIV except where specified.

CREDITS
The Body Of Christ by Danny Hahlbohm. Beautiful print can be purchased from Lord’s Art

Original here