Faith

Encroachment

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you has an evil heart of unbelief that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day by day—as long as it is called “Today”—so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Hebrews 3:12-13

God wants us to live a life free of spiritual encumbrances – burdens and impediments to our shared salvation. The world is increasingly encroaching on the body of Messiah; and has already breached many congregations even to occupy the seat of power among them. Unless we tend to our spiritual life, we will become like an abandoned garden. The path before us will be obscured by untended vines and bushes that encroach on it. The same is true for our spiritual life. We become encumbered by issues of life that, if left unchecked, can obscure our spiritual journey. 

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Test of Faith

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“So the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from the trials and how to hold the wicked until the Day of Judgement while continuing to punish them” (2 Peter 2:9).

If you are like me, you may at times feel a sense of anguish thinking about all the evils in the world. You may also wonder why there is seemingly little to no penalty for their wrong-doings and that judgement is far off; all while innocent people continue to lose their lives and livelihood. I sometimes take comfort in reading the Psalms and being reminded this is nothing new. Though, that sense of comfort doesn’t last; both because of my desire for a perfect world and the next tragedy to hit the news.

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A Holy Nation

“Righteousness makes a nation great, but sin degrades any people”

proverbs 15:34

America has a problem – sin!

We like to talk about how we are the greatest nation on earth; the greatest nation that ever existed and how we are a Christian nation. We boast about our military might, wealth, and democratic values. We boast about how “good” we are and how much we love. Are we? Do we? Or is this nation so bathed in sin and demonic activities that we are merely a shadow of what we should be? Have the walls that cover our secret sins beginning to crumble around us?

“​For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light

Luke 8:17

There are many issues at the heart of what is happening in this nation. James warned that “if you harbor in your hearts bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, don’t boast and attack the truth with lies! This wisdom is not the kind that comes down from above; on the contrary, it is worldly, unspiritual, demonic. For where there are jealousy and selfish ambition, there will be disharmony and every foul practice” (James 4:14-16).

A​s soon as we mention sin and demonic activity the world goes into a frenzy. Yet, those are the primary source of the ills we see in this country and around the world. All forms of bitterness, jealousy, and selfish ambition go back to the prideful desires that caused Lucifer’s fall from heaven. They were at play in the Garden of Eden, the slaying of Abel, the Tower of Babel, and is in every unrighteous act of man to this day. 

I​t is possible that I am preaching to the choir here, but I have seen much of this tolerated, empowered, and practiced in the church today. Congregational leaders are participating in events and supporting politicians, groups, and institutional leaders who embody these traits. Congregants spew the same poisonous rhetoric to each other, and form groups based on their political ideology. 

Believers should not take part in or encourage these behaviors. Our gathering should be according to Paul’s encouragement in Hebrews 10:25-31. We should not partner with those who are intent on acting in a manner contrary to scripture. Nor should we follow Congregational leaders who are corrupting the Word of God for their own selfish ends. The church is complicit with the sins of the nation. Without immediate change, we will not last. God will judge this nation, and we cannot save ourselves!

Revelation Of The Unrepentant

The rest of mankind, those who were not killed by these plagues, even then did not turn from what they had made with their own hands — they did not stop worshipping demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they turn from their murdering, their involvement with the occult and with drugs, their sexual immorality or their stealing.

Revelation 9:20-21

I​ have always wondered how that after all the judgments described in Revelation people still refused to repent. Are we that hard of heart that we don’t want to bow down to God and instead choose destruction? Have you also pondered this and came up with your own reason about why that is? I admit, I never came to a conclusion about why people would still not repent. I guess I was too focused on trying to understand the Book of Revelation to even get that far. 

During the week of August 16, 2021, I had a dream two nights in a row where I saw flooding, panic, and confusion. Later that week, there were some flash floods across Massachusetts and a friend who lives there describes scenes that brought my dreams to memory. I thought maybe my dreams were playing out and kept the matter in mind. That same week, flash floods in Tennessee killed abut 22 people and caused major damage. Though, with hurricane Ida bearing down on Louisiana, this did not get much coverage. I began to think even more on my dream and whether it had broader implications. Then came the disastrous impact of Ida from the Gulf all the way up to New York and New England. My dream was no longer just a dream — to me, it was prophetic, and I had no idea what to do with it.

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Faith Is Not Irresponsible

“I am Adonai—there is no other. Besides Me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not known Me, so they may know, from the rising to the setting of the sun, that there is no one besides Me. I am Adonai—there is no other. I form light and create darkness. I make shalom and create calamity. I, Adonai, do all these things.”

Isaiah 45:5-7

T​here is a teaching/opinion out there that God does not bring calamity and does not bring judgment because of Yeshua’s (Jesus) sacrifice and the ushering in of a new covenant. Some faith leaders are using this to urge us to continue to meet in mass to worship because we are protected from the Corona Virus.

I am still learning and have not yet come to a complete understanding of Scripture but I can confidently say that faith is not irresponsible. To say that God does not bring calamity or judgment is an irresponsible betrayal of scripture. God says He does something but man find a way to dispute His word—or, so they think. No amount of reading between the lines can justify saying God does not bring judgment or that God will not bring about what is already prophesied. Tell that to Ananias and Sapphira who fell dead after deceiving the Apostles about how much they profited from selling their land (Acts 5:1-11) or Herod who an angel of the Lord killed for not giving God glory (Acts 12:23). Both of these incidents happened after Yeshua ascended to heaven.

God does promise to protect us—”the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one ” (2 Thessalonians 3:3). Still, Scripture makes it clear that we experience the same difficulties as everyone else in the world—”We are hard pressed in every way, yet not crushed; perplexed, yet not in despair; persecuted, yet not forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). 

W​e still live in a fallen world and are still susceptible to pain, sickness, despair, and death. It would be irresponsible to walk into oncoming traffic and it is irresponsible to disregard the safeguards put in place to protect ourselves and others from contracting the Corona Virus. 

I may be stubborn but I know that I am not impervious to this virus. Furthermore, Scripture tells us not to put God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7). Yes, God is faithful to fulfill His promise to protect us, but unnecessarily exposing ourselves to danger is irresponsible and amounts to testing God!

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1Thessalonians 5:23-24).

New Beginning

I also heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is among men, and He shall tabernacle among them. They shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them and be their God. He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. Nor shall there be mourning or crying or pain any longer, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4

W​e are often an anxious generation! We become anxious at new beginnings, transitions, and when something comes to an end. Why is that? I believe that the main reason for our anxiety is that we do not know the future. Moreover, our negative past encounters have lasting effects our how we approach future endeavors. Our excitement about new opportunities are often sprinkled with some anxiety for the same reason—we do not know how it will turn out.

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Great Journey

“Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent in the open sea. In my many journeys I have been in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the desert, dangers in the sea, dangers among false brothers, in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Corinthians 11:25-27)

Life is a great journey, filled with ups and down, winding roads, and sometimes looping circles. We my become discouraged when we don’t succeed in what we set out to do and when we continually confront denials and letdowns. We may begin to question ourselves, even more, we may question God and His faithfulness toward us. It may be that we begin to ask the age-old question – “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the treacherous thrive?” (Jeremiah 12:1). 

You or someone close to you may be experiencing some of these letdowns right now. You may be asking, “God, where are you and why are you not acting on my behalf?” This may not be to first time you’ve been in this situation; and it may not be the last. If you’ve experienced this before, you know the faithfulness of God because you have come out of it to be a witness. If this is your first time experiencing these trials, or if it seems you have been in this pattern for far too long, remember God’s promises to His children and keep in mind that “God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes his mind! Does He speak and then not do it, or promise and not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19). He continues to tell us to “Be still before Adonai and wait patiently for Him. Do not fret over one prospering in his way, over one carrying out wicked schemes” (Psalm 37:7). 

Remember, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some consider slowness. Rather, He is being patient toward you” (2 Peter 3:9a). Hold fast to your faith and never take your eyes of the Lord. Testing will come as long as we are in this world but remember, “Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him” (James 1:2). Yes, this is much easier to say than to do but the one who tells us this is faithful to see us through. We too have a part to play in inheriting the promises of God. This is why it’s important that we examine ourselves each day and to rid ourselves of all that defiles us. As written in scripture, “Therefore, since we have these promises, loved ones, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

You may feel as though you are in a never ending bad situation but “God settles the lonely in a home. He leads prisoners out to prosperity” (Psalm 68:7). It may seem to you that you have nothing to offer, but remember, “A soul who blesses will prosper, and one who gives water will himself be satisfied” (Proverbs 11:25). If you are concerned with the prosperity of the wicked, remember, “Misfortune pursues sinners, but prosperity rewards the righteous” (Proverbs 13:21). 

Regardless of your situation today, my prayer for you is that you will strengthen your faith in Messiah and that you will imitate Paul who, even through his litany of tribulations, could write, “I know what it is to live with humble means, and I know what it is to live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment—both to be filled and to go hungry, to have abundance and to suffer need. I can do all thingsthrough Messiah who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13).

Shalom!

Faith in Prayer

” I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill” (Psalm 3:4).

Do you pray knowing that God hears your prayer and has already given a response? One of David’s many gifts was his ability to pray with confidence that the Lord had already answered him. The Psalms can appear to contradict itself but what we see as contradictions are the writers’ confidence that God hears and has answered their prayers.

A number of years ago, Psalm 3 brought me much comfort during a time when it felt like the whole world was against me. I prayed this Psalm with great desperation and anguish as I sought the Lord and his deliverance from life’s piercing arrows. There are times when the troubles of this life seem to have no end; time when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.  (more…)

The Usurper