Thursday, July 2, 2015

Can We Offer Hope Without Holiness? - Guest Post by David Wesley Gould

The United States Supreme Court recently decided that same sex marriage must be recognized across the entire nation. This decision came on one day, but the movement has been long coming. In this particular case, homosexual activists has been lobbying and legally attacking any institution that does not accept the lifestyle. Their goal has been broaden the definition of marriage from what it has been traditionally understood to mean. In its ruling, five of the Supreme Court justices basically said that the religious foundation of marriage found in the Bible is bigoted and not acceptable in 21st century America.

There has been a flurry of opinions about this subject. But it seems to me that society wants to do whatever they want without feeling judgment from the church on the morality of those actions. This has been a common theme for years in American society. From the attack on prayer and Bible reading in the public schools, to the disregard for the sanctity of human life in legalizing abortion, and now dismantling the core family value of marriage, it seems the world would be glad to see the Church go away or at least remain silent on most moral issues. They obviously do not want our Christian moral values forced them.

I can live with that fact that society does not like, or perhaps even want, our values. What I struggle with is that they do they want our hospitals, our relief efforts during disasters, our private schools, our orphanages, our medical missions, our homeless shelters, our soup kitchens, our drug rehab ministries, our homes for troubled youth, our singers and musicians, our buildings, our money, our community builders, our shoulders to mourn on, our daycares, and our after-school mentoring.
But they do not want our biblical interpretations, our beliefs, or our Gospel of repentance and faith in Jesus. In other words, they want our time, talents and treasures but they do not want what makes us function, which is the truth that our ministries are built on. They want a form of our godliness, but without God’s truth. They want hope, but not holiness. They want a rainbow, but do not want the light that makes the rainbow.

Society may think that if churches go away, or at least retreat inside their buildings and stop engaging the culture, our culture would be better. After all, anyone who values medicine can start a hospital, or cook up meals to feed poor people. They do not have to be a Christian to do those things. I am sure many non-Christians are involved in some of these activities. But let’s be honest, you’ve probably never seen an orphanage started by atheists. When is the last time you heard of a disaster relief team sent from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Is there a Huffington Post sponsored homeless shelter? Most of the charity work done in America is sponsored by Christian organizations because they feel a need to express their ‘Christ values’ in everyday life.

We would rightfully be called hateful if we closed the doors on the ministries and institutions that provide most of the good in this country. If we were to remove the underlying social and cultural safety nets created specifically by the Church because of our Christian imperative, there would be a huge void in our culture.  It is impossible to separate holiness from our service. The world may try to implement the programs we do, but there is absolutely no relief agency, government or otherwise that more effectively delivers hope and restoration globally on a daily basis than the Church.
Imagine how that makes people in the church feel with society smacks us in the face by striking down God-given parameters of living and replacing them with humanistic preferences. The world wants to cherry pick from the Bible and take only the parts of the Gospel they like. This should not surprise us.


How do we respond? We should just keep on being salt and light, offering Jesus to everyone until Christ returns. Praise God there is no court that can defeat the supernatural move of truth, love, grace, mercy, and holiness that the Church offers to the world. 


David Wesley Gould is the Director of the Heart of Ministry which is based in Nashville, TN. He has been a pastor for many years and is known for speaking clearly to cultural issues facing the modern American church.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Rock Solid Friendships - Guest Post by Chris Beltrami

Proverbs 17:17  “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. “
I was speaking with 2 great friends just recently and the question arose:
            “What do you think is the most important quality for a good friendship?”
There was some great conversation that followed.   The phraseology was a bit different amongst us but the attribute that seemed foremost was that of ‘loyalty’ - trustworthiness, fidelity, allegiance, …
This conversation caused me to realize that I am very fortunate to have some very good friends.  Loyal friends.   Friends that I truly believe would never say anything bad about me to someone else.   That’s a good thing!   That’s a blessing!
And I have a great trust that they would stick up for me when someone else might question something I said or did. 
Proverbs 17”9  “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates closefriends.”    Ouch!
This does not mean that they would cover for mistakes that I am capable of making.  A 2nd friendship quality of honesty and openness  would oblige a good friend to say “Hey Chris, I think you really blew it!”
Or, “Hey you!   The other night someone said ‘this or that’ about you.   I stuck up for you but … we need to talk?”
So, think about it!   It’s just a nice feeling to think of someone that you consider to be a good friend and to know that they would always have something good to say about you to another person.
Think of some of your friends.   One at a time.  Close your eyes as you think of each one.   And, if they have this rock solid ‘loyalty ‘ heart … nod your head and smile.   If you’ve got a good friend like this  … Be thankful.
Colossians 3:15  “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”
You might want to drop someone a nice note today and thank them for being a good friend.   And, don’t forget spousal and family friendships.

Lastly, of course, don't forget to BE a good friend.



Chris Beltrami is one of New England's most award winning photographers. For decades he has used his position as a Christian businessman to influence others to consider the claims of Christ on their lives. He has been writing a monthly devotional called "Think About It" for many years. This article first appeared in the June 2015 edition of "Think About it."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Judgment Day - Thoughts from Malachi 4

Malachi 4
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty.  4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Verse 1 - Surely the day is coming . . . All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire . . .
               Chapter 3 began with refiner’s fire, which purifies us but does not destroy us. This reminds us that God wants to use the difficult things in our lives to make us better people, not to destroy us.
               Chapter 3 ends with the warning that one day we would all reap what we have sown and the difference between the righteous and the wicked would be made clear. We accept this as just and right.
               Chapter 4 opens with a description of what happens when that day of judgment finally comes.
               Most of us do not like to think about judgment day, but avoiding the topic will not make it go away. Judgment day will happen eventually.
               The first time Jesus came, He came as a baby in manger. His message was one of grace and forgiveness.
               The next time Jesus comes, He will come as a judge. His message will be one of judgment and justice based on how we responded to the message He gave when He came the first time.
               For those who have followed Jesus faithfully, judgment is nothing to be afraid of.
               For those who have not followed Him, fear is an appropriate response!
               Obviously people want to know when judgment day will happen.
               Only God the Father knows exactly when that day will come.
               Read Matthew 24:35-36 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               God is keeping the date of judgment day a secret so that we cannot live like the Devil our entire lives and then try to get right the day before Jesus returns.
               Since that day is going to be a secret, we do not need to invest countless hours trying to figure out when that day will be.
               Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               Thieves come when we least expect it. Likewise, judgment day will come as a surprise.
               God is delaying judgment day so that everyone in the world will have a chance to hear the Gospel and respond.
               Read 2 Peter 3:9-11 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               Though God’s timing is not our timing, God is also not willing that any of His chosen ones should perish. Therefore, God is waiting for the last person who is going to believe to have the same chance as the first person who believed. Then the end will come, and it will not be pretty.
               Since we do not know when the end will be, our focus must be on living holy lives right now that what when Jesus returns He will find is living rightly.
               Though we do not know when the end will come, we do know that the Gospel must be preached to every corner of the world before the end comes.
               Read Matthew 24:14 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               According to the “Joshua Project” there are 6918 people groups around the world that still have no access to the Gospel.
               While that may sound like a lot, only a few years ago there were more than 10,000 such groups.
               God’s Spirit is moving quickly to call His people to Himself
               One day very soon we will see the fulfillment of Revelation 7:9-10. Read those verses and summarize them below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               We also know that before judgment day happens the Lord will come back and gather up all His followers and take us to heaven.
               Read 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               When Christ returns Christians will be changed and all our imperfections will finally be removed in an instant.
               Read 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               When Jesus returns we will all give an account of ourselves and our relationship with Jesus.

               Read Romans 14:10-12 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               Those who had a relationship with Jesus will enter into the eternal reward of heaven.
               Read Matthew 25:31-34 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               Those who did not have a relationship with Jesus will have no place left to go but to the eternal punishment of hell.
               Read Matthew 25:41, 46 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               Note that hell was never designed for people. Hell was designed for the Devil and his demons. But for those who reject Jesus, there is no other place for them to spend eternity, so they go to hell.

Verse 2 - But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.
               Jesus is the sun of righteousness because He is the Light of the world and the only person who was ever completely righteous.
               Those of us who have discovered a relationship with Jesus will not experience eternal judgment. Instead we will finally experience healing from the sun of righteousness!
               Verse 2 says that we will experience healing in His wings. In those days, Jews wore an outer garment called the Tallit. It was a shawl like garment of wool or silk with fringes at the four corners. It was commonly referred to as a prayer shawl. The corners of the shawl were known as “wings.”
               As a Jew, Jesus would have worn a Tallit regularly. Therefore, in a figurative sense, Jesus would have had “wings” because the edges hanging down from his prayer shawl would have been called that.
               Take a moment to read the story of the sick woman in Luke 8 who snuck up behind Jesus and touched Him. She had been sick all of her life. She had spent all of her money going to doctors, but they had not been able to help her. She had heard about the healing power of Jesus and believed that if she could just touch the edge of His garment, she would be healed. She wove her way through the crowd and touched Him. She instantly experienced healing from the “wings” of the Sun of Righteousness.
               On judgment day all who follow Jesus will finally be healed of all their physical sicknesses.
               More importantly, on that day, all who follow Jesus will finally be healed of the sin sickness that has plagued us since our birth!
               That will make us free from the burdens that have held us back and we will be like young animals running around the fields playing and having fun.
               Hallelujah, what a Savior! We must do all that we can to ensure that we are ready for that day!

Verse 5 – See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.
               One way to be ready for that day is to be watching for the prophet “Elijah” who will prepare us to receive Jesus when He comes.
               This prophecy was fulfilled literally 430 years later when John the Baptist came and proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah and prepared the way for the Jews to receive Jesus.
               Some people argue whether John the Baptist was the fulfillment of this prophecy or not.
               We know John the Baptist was the fulfillment of this prophecy because the angel Gabriel said he would be in Luke 1:11-17.
               Jesus also said John the Baptist was the fulfillment of that prophecy in Matthew 17:10-13.
               But in a practical sense, anytime someone seeks to help another person discover faith in Christ, then God is using that person as a modern day “Elijah” in someone else’s life.
               We have had many “Elijahs” help us find faith.
               We should seek to be an Elijah to someone else.
               These are the days of Elijah and we should be the voice of Elijah crying out!

Conclusion:
               God is gracious and gives us many chances, but when the end finally comes we had better be ready because all our chances will be used up.
               It is impossible to know when that end will be, so we should live holy lives ready for Jesus’ return.
               When Jesus returns, it will be a great a day of healing for those who followed Him but a terrible day of judgment for those who rejected Him.
               We must be an “Elijah” to help others find faith in Christ so they can be ready when Jesus returns.





         This is an excerpt from the book Malachi: Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity. It can be found on Amazon.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Law of Sowing and Reaping - Thoughts from Malachi 3

Malachi 3:13-18
"Your words against Me are harsh,” says the LORD. Yet you ask: "What have we spoken against You?” 14 You have said: "It is useless to serve God. What have we gained by keeping His requirements and walking mournfully before the LORD of Hosts? 15 So now we consider the arrogant to be fortunate. Not only do those who commit wickedness prosper, they even test God and escape.” 16 At that time those who feared the LORD spoke to one another. The LORD took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who feared Yahweh and had high regard for His name. 17 "They will be Mine," says the LORD of Hosts, "a special possession on the day I am preparing. I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. 18 So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.

Verse 13 – “Your words against Me are harsh,” says the LORD. Yet you ask: “What have we spoken against You?”
               The people in Malachi’s day claimed to be followers of God yet they often disliked how God ran the universe. They frequently complained about how God worked.
               Most of us can relate to this better than we would like to admit because if we were honest we would have to admit that we do not always like how God runs things either.
               God heard their complaints and decided to have Malachi confront them about it.
               The people quickly backpedaled and tried to pretend that they had not complained about God’s activities.
               We often do this in our own lives. We complain about what God is doing but when someone points it out, we pretend that we feel a different way than we really do.

Verse 14 - You have said: It is useless to serve God. What have we gained by keeping His requirements and walking mournfully before the LORD of Hosts?
               One of the specific complaints the people had was that it seemed to be useless to serve the Lord.
               They wanted to know what they were going to get out of serving God.
               Many of us wonder the same thing.
               The very question reveals something wrong at the heart level.
               Being a Christian is not about “getting,” it is about giving.
               Jesus set the example when He left the glory of Heaven, came to earth and offered His life for us on the cross of Calvary.
               One of the reasons we sometimes question if our faith is doing enough for us is that we think it is all about us. But life is NOT all about us. It is about praising God while serving others.

Verse 15 - So now we consider the arrogant to be fortunate. Not only do those who commit wickedness prosper, they even test God and escape.
               The people in Malachi’s day said that those who did wrong seemed to prosper more than those who did right.
               It also seemed that bad people tested God all the time and got away with it.
               Sometimes we feel this way about our own culture.

Verse 16 - At that time those who feared the LORD spoke to one another.
               Though it seemed like evil was winning, there was still a group who feared the Lord.
               That handful of people got together and “spoke” to one another.
               Like Malachi’s time, it seems that evil is winning in our culture. This is why it is so important for God’s people to get together and encourage each other.
               Instead of running right to our cars after church, we should hang around and talk to each other.
               We should invite people from church over to dinner in our homes or meet for lunch somewhere in town.
               We should be looking for ways to spend time together and encourage each other.

Verse 16 - . . . The LORD took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who feared Yahweh and had high regard for His name.
               The Lord noticed who still believed in Him and who had banded together as a group to encourage and support each other.
               Not only did the Lord notice, but He created a book of remembrance to write their story.
               It was common in that time period for kings to keep various books of remembrance about special events or activities of special groups of people so that the people would not forget the experience.
               These books were kept in the King’s archives.
               God is the ultimate King of the universe.
               God has a number of books in His own heavenly library.
               Revelation 20:12 and Luke 10:20 say that God has a “book of life” in heaven in which the names of all believers are listed.
               Psalm 56:8 says that God has a “book of tears” which records the wanderings of David before he became the King of Israel.
               Psalm 139:16 says that God has a “book of births” which records what will happen in our lives before we are born.
               This verse in Malachi reveals that God also has a book of remembrance in heaven.
               This book contains the stories of how God’s people encouraged each other when everyone else had abandoned faith in God.
               We should endeavor to encourage other Christians so God can rejoice as He writes our story in His book.

Verse 17 - "They will be Mine," says the LORD of Hosts, "a special possession on the day I am preparing. I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him.
               The Lord says that believers who stood together and encouraged each other when everyone else fell away from faith would hold a special place in His heart.
               If/when we are persecuted for our faith, if we hang in there and encourage each other, the God of the universe notices us.
               But God does not just notice, God has compassion like a father has compassion for his children.
               None of us are perfect, but if we stand together in tough times, we can expect special grace from God who sees our struggles and has compassion on us.
               When we go through hard times, we need all the help and compassion from God that we can get.
               Times of trouble are the times we need to press in closer to the Lord and to other Christians, not to fall away from the Lord.

Verse 18 - So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.
               God says that though it appears that evil is winning, He is keeping track of everything in His book of remembrance.
               One day that book will be brought out and read. On that day those who have followed the Lord and encouraged each other will be honored.
               Remember this important biblical truth: We reap what we sow.
               Read Galatians 6:7-8 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               Read Proverbs 22:8 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               Read Hosea 8:7 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               Read Jeremiah 12:13 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               Read Hosea 10:12 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               Read Psalm 126:5 and summarize it below:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

               People may think they have God fooled, but God is keeping track.
               Payday will come some day!
               The law of reaping and sowing is something that we cannot avoid.
               Sometimes we go through hard times because we are reaping the junk that we sowed a long time ago.
               But if we start sowing good stuff now, then eventually we will reap the blessings that sprout from the good seeds we are now sowing.

Conclusion:
               Life is sometimes hard and even Christians can get discouraged.
               When Christians get discouraged, it is easy to think that our faith is not helping us much and we can become envious of those who do not follow God.
               Instead of being envious, we must continue to cling to our faith and draw strength from fellow believers.
               When we do this, God notices and has special compassion on us in our difficulties.
               We reap what we sow and even if we are currently reaping difficulties because of past mistakes, if we start sowing righteousness, we will eventually reap the good that comes from that.






This is an excerpt from the book, Malachi: Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity. It can be found on Amazon.