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Reaching Out

Life Can Begin Again

A real-life scenario: you are meeting with fellow Christians in the ruins of a bombed-out church in Frankfurt, Germany, on May 10, 1945, three days after World War II ended in Europe. As people straggle in to the partially-bombed structure, you see great pain, despair, guilt, and need – the need of food and water to sustain life, and an even greater need for inspiration and hope – that life still has meaning and that there is a purpose to each day beyond the current devastating circumstances.
You know that everyone present has lost loved ones – either family members pressed into service in Hitler’s Third Reich army, or victims of the massive carpet bombing of cities conducted by the Allies. Many have not heard from their loved ones for several months and do not know if they are even alive.
What would you say to these poor, suffering souls whose lives have been swept up into a massive caldron of devastation and carnage over which they had no control? This is the situation that faced Helmut Thielicke, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was interrogated and harassed multiple times by the Gestapo, but able to escape their clutches by the grace of God.
Thielicke’s response was to describe how Christ came and stood among “a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem”, who came to hear him, to be healed of their diseases, and to become freed of unclean spirits.
He described how Christ came to them as if He were one of them; He stood the test of misery. At the same time, however, they saw in Him something else – the fact that the power of guilt and suffering could not touch Him, and that mysteriously, these powers retreat as He comes by. Then He began to speak, and He said something completely unexpected:
“Blessed are you poor, for yours in the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Luke 6:17-21
Thielicke continued: “God is always present in the midst of judgment and personal, vocational, and family catastrophe. He is the seeking God, the God who is seeking to bring us home, our Savior, the restoring God. God is always positive, even in the very worst of the judgments and terrors that He must permit to come upon us.
That’s how the beatitudes are to be understood: a hand stretched out to us in the midst of suffering, a hand that makes it clear that God still has a design for us, and that He wants to lead us to goals so lovely that we shall weep for joy.
God never merely stops with our past, though He does not let us get away with anything and puts His finger upon our sorest wounds. He is always the Lord who is concerned about our future, paving the way to save us and guide us to His goals. He is a God who communicates that LIFE CAN BEGIN AGAIN, IN SPITE OF OUR CIRCUMSTANCES.” *
So let us go forth with the joy and hope of the Lord, helping others see that through Christ, life can begin again in spite of our circumstances.
* “Life Can Begin Again” by Helmut Thielicke To God be the glory
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Reaching Out

Hearing the Voice of Our Lord

When someone claims to hear from God, we typically think of Joseph Smith, Muhammad, or other cult leaders. They probably heard from a spirit, but it was not the Holy Spirit. We know all claims that contradict scripture are false because ”All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” II Timothy 3:16

The Word of God speaks about the Holy Spirit at work in believers:

* “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…” John 16:12
* “Today if you hear God’s voice speaking to you, do not harden your hearts against Him, as the people of Israel did when they rebelled against Him in the desert.” Hebrews 3:15
So to hear the voice of the Lord, start with the Word of God. When we seek the Lord in His Word with total humility, the Holy Spirit will illumine and ultimately transform our minds. (Writing insights into a diary is also helpful.) The closer we get to Him, the more we can hear His voice. You want to hear the audible voice of God? Terrific – just listen to your pastor, or someone else (or yourself) reading the Bible out loud.
Prophesy foretells things to come, and more importantly, declares truths through the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit. This is speaking the Word of God into someone’s life, just as the Holy Spirit speaks His Truth into our lives when we are in the Word. That’s what Luther did with the large and small catechisms, and what good pastors do – led by the Holy Spirit, they speak His Word into our lives.
In Ephesians 6:18, the apostle Paul admonished the believers to ”pray(ing) always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit”. As prayer is not just asking for stuff, this means being aware of what the Holy Spirit is communicating to us and watching for divine appointments the Lord has for us with people He brings across our path.
Several years ago, I was driving on a dark rainy night through a forested area southwest of Pine Bluff. I had a sudden realization that I couldn’t stop if a deer bolted out of the forest, and an impulse to slow down. I slowed down, and several seconds later the biggest doe I have ever seen passed right in front of my car. I was surprised I didn’t hit it, and believe it was the Holy Spirit who warned me, probably saving my life.
Life in the Spirit is the greatest adventure of all time, as the Lord calls us to be salt and light to the world. So let us start each day with the Lord, become in tune with the Holy Spirit, and reach out to others with the love and truth of Christ, for time is short, we are not guaranteed tomorrow, and eternity is forever.

To God be the glory

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Reaching Out

Two More Races

Last week we described only one race – the human race. This is the biological race of man and woman, created in the image of God, distinct from all other creation, and a skin color that is only skin deep. But there are two more races: the physical race and the spiritual race.
The physical race is about the sustenance of life and relationships with others. Since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, we all need to work for food and shelter and relate to others in a social environment.
The physical race is for shelter and protection, influence and power, money and wealth, and all that is needed to sustain life. The big question is – for what purpose? For the world, the flesh, and the devil, or for the Lord? Bob Dylan stated “Everybody worships something – might be the devil or might be the Lord, but everybody worships something.”
This brings us to the third race, the spiritual race. Some people believe and act as if the physical race is all there is, and then we die. For many who are unredeemed, it is a race to beat your competitors and win. In their world view, whoever dies with the most toys – the most wealth, wins.
For those of us in Christ, it is a still a race, but it is against poverty and crime, idolatry and false religions, and loneliness and despair. Our competitors are the temptations of the flesh, the seductions of the world, and the lies of the devil. We don’t seek to beat others, but to help them run the race and fulfill the Lord’s calling on their lives. In this world view, whoever dies to self and lives to serve others through Christ wins.
This race is not about getting to the endpoint as fast as possible, for our number of days is set by God. It is to make sure we are on the right path – the narrow path that leads to heaven, rather than the broad path of the world, the flesh, and the devil that leads to the Lake of Fire. It is the spiritual race that the apostle Paul was talking about when he said: “Let us run the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
Some people (such as the Laodiceans – Revelation 3) see the race as mere recreation. So they sit in the bleachers, watching the race and enjoying the show. What they don’t realize is that EVERYONE IS IN THE RACE and SATAN OWNS THE BLEACHERS. Because they refuse to run the race on the narrow path, they are automatically on the broad path, headed to the Lake of Fire.
Another section of the bleachers are DROPOUTS – people who have dropped out of the race because of discouragement, failures, drug addictions, or sloth. Our heart goes out to them, but they are still in Satan’s bleachers because they have not responded to our Lord’s call on their lives.
So let us go forth with the love and truth of Christ, running the race set before us, and helping others join us on the narrow path that leads to the very throne of God.
To God be the glory
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Reaching Out

There is Only One Race

In the eyes of the Lord, there is only one race – the human race, not several races – black, brown, red, yellow, and white. When each of us was created, God chose what color suit (skin color) we should wear. He could have chosen you to be born in a different color suit, but look in the mirror – that is the color He chose for you. He even chose your parents, and the time of your birth.
So you and I were created to live in this color suit, in this time, because He has specific work for us to do. We are called to be ambassadors from the Kingdom of God to the Kingdom of Man, representing Jesus Christ to the world. We are called to be witnesses in the courtroom of life (where we are always being judged), called to the witness stand to be a witness to our Lord and all He has done in our lives.
The Lord calls each of us to a unique journey with Him. He will lead us and equip us for a higher purpose than of this world. Jesus has a story He wants to tell through each of our lives. He calls to us moment-by-moment, drawing us into a deeper relationship and leading us in the direction He has in mind. He is more interested in who we are with Him than what we do for Him.
So no matter what age we are, what our skin color or gender is, we can live these days with great purpose, for He has something in mind to accomplish in and through us in every season of our life. It means life is never over. Never. We have stepped into the stream of eternal life where we live with Jesus into eternity.
We also know that regardless of events taking place in our lives, none of it is a surprise to Jesus. He knows our every need and promises to provide. He is not worried. If He is not worried, then we need not worry. We are to cast our burdens upon the Lord for Him to carry instead of us. After all, it is His life, and He can handle it.
When we encounter another person, underneath their appearance and skin color is a soul – a person with feelings, thoughts, fears, and aspirations. In all likelihood, they are entering a battle, are in a battle, or emerging from one. When we ask them to tell us their story, we can tell them ours, and especially the story of Christ. So let us reach out to that person with the love and truth of our Lord, that they too make enjoy life in Christ.
“I pray that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened; so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” Ephesians 1:18
To God be the Glory
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Reaching Out

Reports from the Front Lines – God is at Work in Ukraine

We have all seen horrific images of the war in Ukraine, how people’s lives and communities have been severely damaged or destroyed. But those don’t tell the full story. The people of God are shining forth as lights in the brutal darkness of war, providing for the physical and spiritual needs of the Ukrainian people.

The suffering and carnage are real, but what is rarely reported in the Western media are stories of compassion and care extended to people in need by Christians, and even supernatural deliverance. In accounts that read like Old Testament stories, during the first days of the invasion, Christians in L’viv reported seeing Russian missiles disappear in mid-air and Russian columns getting lost.

Stories abound of the Lord working through His people. One group of people, including a Christian, took cover in a two-story building. During the bombing, he prayed for protection. A rocket broke through the house, exited through the wall and landed in the yard without exploding. No one lost their life.

In the first days of the war, before international agencies arrived, churches all across Ukraine responded to the cry for help. Within 48 hours after the war began, they were transformed into refugee centers, bomb shelters and warehouses for food and medicines. Vans and buses were mobilized on evacuation missions, driven by church volunteers.

Those seeking help were welcomed into churches, where they experienced genuine care among Ukraine’s Christians. Unseen before the war, an unprecedented collaboration arose among various denominations. Receiving the physical aid they needed, refugees developed a hunger for the Gospel. In countries where the refugees have arrived, the gospel is spreading, certain proof that God can work all things together for good. Small prayer groups and bible studies are growing at an explosive rate as people’s hearts are opening to hear about how to have a relationship with God.

In his sovereignty, God allows man to sin and to war against each other. Christ didn’t come to eliminate suffering; He came to fill it with His presence. The task ahead to rebuild lives is monumental, but it becomes feasible when we know that God is at work through His church. Even in the midst of war, His love overpowers the rage of Satan. Let us go forth to minister to those in need, knowing that the light of Christ always shines most brightly in the darkness.
Source: Dennis and Anya Melnichuk, missionaries in eastern Europe
To God be the Glory
Board of Evangelism

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Reaching Out

The Snowflakes Are Falling

I remember as a child, seeing fresh snowflakes falling on a crisp winter morning. It was magical to see large flakes come down like manna from heaven. My two brothers and I would get excited because if often meant NO SCHOOL, and we could then go outside, slide down the hill, and make snowmen.
“Snowflake” has a different meaning today. It refers to individuals who are easily upset and offended by statements or actions of others. Snowflakes are unable to cope with crises that comes into their lives and MELT emotionally when they can’t cope. We all have been snowflakes at some point in our lives, particularly as children.

We see this on college campuses today, as woke university administrators create “safe spaces” – places “intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations” (Wikipedia<en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe_space>). Instead of a robust discussion about truth and falsehood (for only the truth will set us free), they discourage that discourse, seeing it as too threatening to the fragile minds and feelings of their students, thereby prolonging their adolescence.
Another example is in Canada, which has legalized assisted suicide. Life is too difficult for you to bear? No problem. Just come to one of our clinics, and you will become set free of suffering and pain. This is a temptation from the Father of Lies, inducing you to take your own life.
There were also snowflakes in the Great Depression (and probably at all times). People jumped off of buildings and fell to their death because they couldn’t cope with the stock market crash. Their identity was tied up in their stock portfolios and when their stocks crashed, they MELTED and had no reason to live.
The remedy for snowflakes and being able to cope with crises is to know who we are, why we are here, our calling, and where we are going when we die. And only our Lord, who provides the gift of salvation from Christ and guidance from the Holy Spirit, can provide us with those essentials. For adversity will come – it always does, so we need to be ready for it – spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
So let us go forth and CATCH THE SNOWFLAKES BEFORE THEY FALL (into great tragedy, death, or the Lake of Fire), pointing them to Christ as Savior so they can discover who they are, why they are here – their calling, and their eternal destination.
To God be the glory
Board of Evangelism

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Reaching Out

I Met a Homeless Guy Who Changed My Life

I never knew any homeless people in the small town in which I was raised. There were poor people, but they all had some kind of home, however small or decrepit. But one day I met a homeless guy, and as I got to know him, he changed my life, and how I look at homeless people today.

Every person we meet has a story, and his story is truly extraordinary. His life is a testimony to how the power of God can work through one human life, even when all the cards seemed to be stacked against him. His life expressed many paradoxes. Conceived out of wedlock and raised in a backwater small town, he never had any formal education, yet seemed very articulate and well spoken.

Although he was poor and never seemed to own anything more than the clothes on his back, he behaved as if he was the richest man in the world. Women were attracted to him, although he did not marry. He never had any kids, although he loved children, and they loved him. He did have a bunch of guys that he hung around with.

Being around him, I felt more alive than I have ever felt before, because he had an extraordinary presence, and I felt like I was somehow experiencing eternity. Even though I just met him, he seemed to know me at the very depths of my soul. He brought a peace and joy to those around him that was just profound, and attracted people from far and wide. There were even reports of his feeding thousands of people, and performing healings and deliverance from demonic spirits.

He radiated an absolute strength underneath the surface, and showed tremendous love and compassion to those around him. He also castigated the religious leaders of the day for their hypocrisy, corruption, and enslavement of the people with their false religious traditions.

Other than helping his stepfather, he never held a real job. Then in his early thirties, his life finally began to gel. When the wine was running low at a wedding feast in Cana, his mother persuaded him to intervene. That’s when Jesus – you guessed it – performed His first miracle.

He turned water into wine, launching His three-year career on earth that culminated in his crucifixion and resurrection. And all who received Him as savior and Lord became set free from the bondage of sin and the power of death, our ultimate enemies. We can now encounter Jesus through His Word, which will delight us, terrify us, instruct us, and shape us.

Jesus, the Son of God, changed history forever (that’s why it is called HISTORY – HIS STORY). So the next time you meet a homeless person, just remember that he (or she) has a story. Ask him about his story, and you can tell him yours, and His Story. You might change his life, and he might change yours.

To God be the Glory

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Reaching Out

Everyone is Going Through the Fire

Question for the Day:
Where would you rather be:

* In Sodom and Gomorrah, indulging the pleasures of the flesh, the seductions of the world, and the lies of the devil (only to be INCINERATED by fire and brimstone hurled down from heaven by the holy and righteous God because of your blatant sin and rebellion), OR
* In the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, strolling around in the hottest furnace ever, chatting with Jesus, and perhaps enjoying smores? (And do you remember how tongues of fire descended on the believers at Pentecost?)

Yeah, me too. I like smores, and I love Jesus. When the fires of affliction come into our lives, and they will (loss of a loved one, major health issues, fired from a job, financial distress, etc.), are we willing to surrender our lives to Christ, repent of all of our sins, and receive His grace, peace, and joy (thus enabling us to move on with our lives)?

Or do we fight it and become bitter that God would allow this to happen to us? God is an all-consuming fire, and refines His people like silver in the refiner’s fire. He burns away all the dross of self so we can be filled with the Holy Spirit, carry out His work on earth, and become a pure and spotless bride when we go to heaven.

Those who fight it may be rejecting the refiner’s fire and unwilling to die to self. Because they believe they received a raw deal (and life is often not fair), they will never forget, forgive, or repent. Their bitterness eats away at their soul like cancer in the body. (Bitterness toward another is like drinking poison and waiting for the other guy to die.) So as we grow older, we can become bitter or better. And bitterness exacts a terrible price – our soul.

When they step into eternity and stand before the Lord to give an account for their lives, they will be sent to the Lake of Fire, for there is no sin allowed in heaven, including those who have embraced sin and unrepentance in their hearts. Repentance after we cross the line into eternity is not accepted; it is too late. So hard as it often is, it is better to embrace the refining fires of affliction, die to self, and become clean spiritually, than reject them and end up in the Lake of Fire. We are all going through the fire, and sooner is better than later.

So let us go forth with the love and truth of Christ, helping others to endure the afflictions of life, and discover meaning and purpose in their lives in spite of their trials and temptations.

To God be the glory

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Reaching Out

We Are at War, and Prayer is a Primary Weapon

We are at war on three fronts simultaneously, and no resolution is guaranteed. We and NATO are at war with Russia through our proxy Ukraine militarily and through economic sanctions. This war is escalating, and if neither side backs down, we will be in World War III and it will come to America.
We are at war with China on the economic front, and our president recently signed an executive order to undermine and cut off the Chinese chip industry, a vital component of any modern industrial nation.
As much as Satan loves physical war (because it destroys mankind, created in the image of God), he also wars against us in the spiritual realm: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10-12
Because war zones are always fluid and changing, soldiers on the front lines start every day by receiving new orders from their commanders. If they are in artillery units, they receive information on the location of their targets so they can be precise and have the most impact.

In similar fashion, we as believers need to spend time in the morning with our Lord – our Commander in Chief, to ensure we are on the same page. This is a vital conversation and communion with the One who lives within us, listening to His voice in the depths of our hearts.

Our Lord invites us to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:16-18), not because He needs our prayers, but because we need them. That is the only way we can walk in the Spirit – by being in touch with Him constantly. It’s like we are walking through a mine field (as much of life seems to be), and only when have our spiritual ears open can we hear where to walk and where not to walk.
Secondly, prayers are spiritual artillery. In war, one army fires artillery to launch explosive devices to land behind enemy lines, which may be miles away. When we pray, we are petitioning the Lord to send His Presence (love, conviction, guidance, truth, and joy) through the Holy Spirit into the lives of our loved ones or others in need behind enemy lines, knowing that the Lord can resolve issues and concerns beyond our ability.
We also know that our Lord loves us and loves to answer our prayers: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
So when we wake up every morning, let us spend time with our Lord in His Word and in bold, fervent prayer, then go forth and share His truth and love with all He brings across our paths. For time is short, tomorrow is not guaranteed, and eternity is forever.
To God be the glory

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Reaching Out

The Most Tragic Love Story in the History of the World

Their courtship began early in her life, as she became of age. He was always encouraging and loving her, and her heart leaped with joy whenever they were together. There was an unstated feeling and hope that they would be together forever.
When she went to college, they drifted apart as she became exposed to the world, its exotic religions, philosophies, and lifestyles. He sent his emissary to tell her he loved her, but she was enjoying life’s pleasures too much to respond in kind. She embraced the post-modern view that all claims to truth – reason, science, and religion, are merely expressions of a particular culture in time. So she didn’t have any time for him. She vowed to live life to the fullest, and cast aside all traditional roles and moral constraints that might hinder her grand adventure.
Who were these two people who loved each other at the beginning, but drifted apart? They are Jesus Christ (who sent His emissary the Holy Spirit), and you, or me, or a loved one, or anyone who rejects the truth of Christ and embraces the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Here is the rest of the story: she did not realize that closing the door to Christ opens the door to Satan and his minions. Satan even exploited her strengths:

* Her intelligence fostered pride and intellectual rebellion, attracting her to eastern religions. She dabbled in seances and calling up spirits of the dead, not realizing that they were really demons sent by the Father of Lies.

* She was attractive, so Satan sent charming men who would flatter her as they lusted for her body.

Her desire for total freedom led to shallow relationships with no commitments or responsibilities. She didn’t realize that it is through serving others we fulfill life’s purpose and destiny. Her many experiences with her career, food, alcohol, drugs, and sex did not fulfill her loneliness and despair.

Throughout her short life, her first love continued to pursue her, continuing to send his emissary to tell her of his love for her. But she rejected his entreaties, catering to the spirit of rebellion that had come to reside in her.

She died in an auto accident as she was driving home late at night from a party with friends. In one instant, her life was over and she found herself standing before Jesus Christ, her first love. Her life of rebellion flashed before her eyes, bringing heart-wrenching guilt and despair. When she realized the enormity of her situation, that she was facing an eternity of suffering and separation, she begged for forgiveness. With a broken heart, Christ responded with a soft voice: “It is too late. You have stepped into eternity, where you will pay the price for your dissolute and irresponsible life. ‘Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Matthew 7:23

The lesson for all of us is to draw close to the Lord, to receive the give of salvation from His Son Jesus Christ, to live a life of peace and joy, and to share this with others. For time is short, eternity is forever, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

To God be the glory