Thoughts from Pete’s Message November 24, 2017

A Grateful Heart

A grateful heart is the fertile soil of many blessings. An ungrateful heart is the soil of many miseries. The Word says, “in everything give thanks.” In Luke 17 there is a story about ten lepers. This is the anatomy of ungrateful hearts. Of the ten lepers, only one returned to give thanks. Sin springs from an ungrateful heart.

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. On his way he passed through Galilee and Samaria. The Jews avoided going through Samaria. They considered Samaritans half breeds who had interbred with unbelievers. Jesus often did what was against the cultures of his times. However, he always did the Father’s will. As he and his disciples were walking they passed a leper colony. The lepers were outcasts of their society. Ten lepers cried out in their misery, “Master, have mercy on us!” These lepers knew that they were desperate and in need. They had nowhere to turn. When Jesus showed up, they knew that they had hope. When they addressed Jesus as Master, they acknowledged that he had the power over sin and the consequences of sin. We have no control over the circumstances of our own lives. However, when Jesus shows up there is hope of redemption from the consequences of sin and the misery of this world.

In times of blessing, when we get the promotion or the reward for accomplishments, the world will give us accolades. However, when we’re downtrodden and defeated: when we’re overcome with disease, when we lose our jobs or our wives, God wants to know, “whatever the outcome of this situation, will you still honor, praise, and love me above all?” In God’s eyes, there is neither good news or bad news, it’s just news. Whatever the situation, this too shall pass. Isaiah 55 says, “My ways are not your ways says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth so much higher are my thoughts than your thoughts and my ways than your ways.” God’s plans are for our blessing in glorifying him. According to Oswald Chambers, from 1 Corinthians 6:19, “do you not know that you are not your own?” You have been bought with a price, the precious innocent blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re no longer owners of our own lives. When we’re saved, it’s not about who we are, but rather, whose we are. The closest communion we can have with Lord is to enter into the fellowship of his suffering. Despite the circumstances and situations of life, the main question is, “no matter what happens, will you still honor, love, and serve me? ”

God has called us to be his “Living epistles” known and read of all men. We’re the only bible some people will ever read.

Pete relates that after he had graduated from Auburn, Suzan told Pete that she had a new beau that she had met while in Mexico. Pete’s reaction wasn’t what she had expected. Pete said that he only wanted to do the Lord’s will. If that was God’s plan, then he was blessed that she had found a new beau. Suzan was taken aback. She fell in love with the new man that Pete had become. God had changed Pete’s heart when he had prayed, “Lord I know I’m not the man you meant for me to be, Lord please make me that man.” Susan was so surprised at Pete’s response that she said, “let’s just get married.”

When Jesus met the Lepers, they were at the point of repentance, of turning their lives around. Jesus said to them, “go show yourselves to the priest.” On their way to see the priest, they were healed. Deliverance is in obedience to the Word of God. However, only one of the lepers returned to Jesus to give thanks. He was a Samaritan. This would have shocked the Jews that only the Samaritan returned to give thanks.

What does the Lord require? God wants us blessed… Not in circumstances and positions in this world, but blessed in our fellowship with him. For what doth the lord require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. All God asks is a heart of awe and gratitude. God will honor our prayer, like Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not my will but thine be done.” God has given us his way for the purpose of his redemption. There will be pain, and trial, and tribulation along the way. Along the journey, we will share in the fellowship of His suffering. God will break our hearts for what breaks his. As Paul said, “thy strength is made perfect in my weakness, thy grace is sufficient for me.”

The only leper who returned with a heart of gratitude was the Samaritan. Even though Jesus said to go see the priest who would declare him cleansed, he returned to the true high priest Jesus Christ himself.

Even though we’re not always healed from physical diseases, when we approach the throne of grace, he will heal our broken heart when we enter into the fellowship of his suffering.

As the psalmist penned in Psalm 100:
“MAKE a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Thoughts from Pete’s Message November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving

Luke 17 relates an example of an ungrateful heart. Jesus in verse 11 was on his way to Jerusalem and passed through Samaria and Galilee. Samaritans were considered half breeds and were despised by the Jews. However, Jesus often did that which offended the “orthodox” Jews of his day. He entered a certain village and was met by ten lepers who were standing afar off. Leprosy is a picture of sin, brokenness and suffering. It is a picture of utter depravity. Jesus was drawn to lepers. He came to minster to the outcasts, down trodden…those who were desperate and knew that they were in need… those who are the dregs of society.

When we’re rich and satisfied, the things of the world and the comfort of the flesh will separate us from a heart that needs the Lord. The church of Laodicea in Revelation thought that because they were wealthy, they had need of nothing. As Oswald Chambers says, God needs to knock the boards out from under our lives so that we can be “desperate for his salvation.” At those points of repentance, of realization that we desperately need him, he will open our hearts and he will open our eyes. Jesus came to set the captives free and to open the eyes of the blind…those who are desperately in need of Him.

The ten lepers lifted up their voices when Jesus approached. They cried out, “Jesus Master, have mercy upon us!” They addressed Jesus as their Lord, commander, and master. They were desperately in need. They exalted Jesus as the one who has authority over sin and the consequences of sin. They cried out for mercy. Mercy is a cry for not giving us what we deserve. They understood that they were prisoners because of the consequences of sin and their own sin nature.

Blessings in God’s eyes are not what we think of as blessings. When we receive bad news that “rocks our world” it’s really neither good nor bad, it’s just news. According to Romans 8, all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

Jesus said to the Lepers, “Go show your selves to the priest.” As they went they were cleansed. God requires extreme obedience with no questioning or complaining on our part and no explanation on His part. They were cleansed in the doing of the word of the Lord.

One of the lepers who was cleansed said with a Loud voice, “Praise God…Thank you Lord.” He was not ashamed of the mercy of the Lord. The one man who gave thanks was a Samaritan. Despite the differences between the Samaritans and the Jews, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Jesus answered the man, “were there not ten men? Is no one left to praise and give thanks except this foreigner?” He said, “Go your way, your faith has made you whole.” This Samaritan foreigner came back to the true high priest, Jesus Christ himself. He is the one who pardons and forgives, the true high priest after the order of Malchesidech.

According to Isaiah 55, “my ways are not your ways,” says the Lord. No one understands the way of the Lord. Do you not know that you are not your own? You have been bought with the price of the innocent blood of the Lamb of God. True fellowship is the fellowship of his suffering. We’re never closer to the Lord than when we share in his suffering.

God has called us to be his “living epistles” known and read of all men. He has called us to communion (co-union) with him: in good times and in bad, in richness and in poverty, in sickness and in health. Despite the circumstances and situations of life, all things will pass away… This too, shall pass. For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. Every heartbreak and every success is to see whether we are faithful to give thanks for his grace and mercy. As Pete’s wife said, Joy is not the absence of pain, rather joy is the presence of the Lord.

According to Oswald Chambers, our life is a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1 says, present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and wholly acceptable unto him who is your reasonable act of service.

Pete’s wife Suzan never cried through her painful ordeal with terminal brain cancer. She only cried when she was overwhelmed with thankfulness for the love of her “prayer warriors” who carried her along in fellowship with her Lord. It’s easy in our pain and grief to throw ourselves a “pity party.” Pete says ministering to his wife through her last days was one of the greatest blessings of his life. What the world considers a “curse” the Lord considers a “blessing.”

The blessing is serving Him as we serve those whom God has called us to minister. Like the servant who humbly served his master, there is no glory in serving by law and obligation. The glorious blessing is in going beyond the call of duty to serve our Master from a heart of love and gratitude.

God will break our heart so that we can be thankful for a broken heart. Our job is to say, “here am I Lord, send me.” Our job is to serve the Lord with gladness, to come before is presence with singing. Be thankful unto him and bless his name. For the Lord is good, his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth to all generations…

Despite tribulation, pain, and suffering; Despite riches and abundance… Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. In everything give thanks.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Thoughts from Pete’s Message November 17, 2017

Lukewarm Casualties

Pete just returned from a three week trip to Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. After the national Influencers retreat in Arkansas, Pete spent some precious time with his friend Rocky Fleming. He also visited his brother in Mississippi who lives in Oxford, home of Ole Miss where all of his five children attended college. Next Pete visited his cousin in his old hometown of Birmingham. It was a great time to connect and reconnect with family and friends from down South.

Southern culture is unique and has its own unique customs, mannerisms and norms. No matter where you go, the challenge as men of God is to be unique and supernatural in the midst of the spiritual battle. It’s difficult to hold on to the values of the culture of our heavenly homeland. In years gone by, culture was more aligned with churches and the values of the word of God.

The churches of Revelation exemplify the churches and the cultures of today. The church of Ephesus was loveless. Pergamos was compromising. Thyatyra was a corrupt church. Their values and morals had been corrupted by the secular culture. Like today the church had become irrelevant. Sardis was a dead church. The Holy Spirit had left the church and they didn’t even notice. Unlike the other churches Philadelphia was a faithful church. The last church was the church of Laodicea. John had nothing good to say about this church. According to Revelation 3:14 and following: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;”

The “Amen” is the truth. Jesus Christ himself is the truth of the Word of God. He is the faithful and the true witness. He is the one who tells what he has seen and heard with honesty, accuracy, and integrity that impresses the hearers. Heresy in the church alienated the church from the truth of the living Word.

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

The church at Laodicea was lukewarm, tepid, and indifferent. They had no passion. They were living comfortably but had lost their zeal for the truth and their passion to serve the Lord. Apathy and indifference are difficult to deal with. The Laodiceans had anesthetized themselves to the pain and passion of the world. As casual Christians they had lost their motivation to serve the Lord from a heart of love.

When Pete was contemplating the theme for Influencers this year, the thought that came to mind was “casual Christians.” After “casual” The next word in the dictionary was “casualty.” Casual Christians become casualties in the spiritual battle. In verse 17 the message to the church of Laodicea is: “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

The church needs to be shaken out of its indifference, comfort and complacency. God will shake that which can be shaken. Sometimes God will bring people into your life to reprove rebuke and correct. The exhortation is to be zealous to repent…to turn from complacency to the throne of the living and true God.

The Laodiceans had become rich and wealthy and they thought they knew the truth but they really had no clue. They had been deceived in their own hearts.. They thought that because they were prosperous and self-sufficient, they had no need for God and the things of the spirt.
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

19. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

They were rich and wealthy but didn’t notice that they had forsaken the truth of the living and true Word. There is no one in the dark so deep as he who thinks he is in the light but he’s really in the dark. Jesus Christ himself is the light of the world. He came to open the eyes of those born blind. Jesus said, behold I stand at the door and knock. He who opens the door, I will come in and we’ll dine together in fellowship and communion. Our responsibility is to open the door when the Holy spirt convicts us. Our calling is to come before him with a heart of humility and meekness.

We have not been called to criticize, condemn, and complain. All God asks is complete obedience with no questioning or complaining on my part and no explanation on his. The challenge of Influencers is to influence our own hearts and minds according to the truth of the living and the true Word. As the apostle Paul said, Rejoice evermore. Quench not the spirt…set us on fire Lord. In everything give thanks.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Thoughts from Pete’s Message November 15, 2017

Lukewarm: Christian Casualties

Pete just returned from an extended time with family and friends in Arkansass, Alabama and Mississippi. He was blessed to reconnect with family and childhood friends. Southern culture is renowned for hospitality. To spend time in the South is an immersion in “southern comfort.” Church is such an important part of Southern culture that in some towns, there’s a church on every corner. If you’re from the South, it’s assumed that you’re a church-going Christian. However, Down South the danger is that you’ll become a “casual Christian.” The undercurrent of southern culture will carry along casual Christians.

Revelation chapters 2 and 3, John addresses the distinct cultures of the seven churches of Asia Minor. These churches are examples of churches in every age and in every culture. The problem with the church of Ephesus is that they lacked love. Although they thought that they loved God, they didn’t realize that they were lacking in love. You can be in the dark and not even realize it. When the truth of the light of the word of God shines, it reveals the root of the problem. Their problem is that they didn’t know the love of God. The love of God, agape in the Greek, is the only type of love that doesn’t require reciprocity. It requires nothing in return. Agape is characterized b the pure act of giving unconditionally.

The problem in Laodicea was a lukewarm and dead church. The message beginning in Revelation 3:14 says, “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

Jesus Christ himself is the Amen, the last true word of God. He is the true witness of the truth. There was a heresy that Jesus Christ was not the true and faithful gospel message of the truth of the Word of God. No church is in the dark so deep that they think that they’re in the light but they’re really in the dark. The Laodicians thought that they were doing fine but they had become “casual Christians.” They had become complacent and had forsaken the true and faithful word, Jesus Christ himself.

Revelation 2:15. I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

The Laodicean church had become “lukewarm.” They fell into compromise with the doctrines of the world. The question is , “What is the condition of your soul?” On a scale of one to ten, One means that you don’t really care. Ten means that you’re on fire with the spirit of the Lord. The church at Laodicea was a one: they had lost their zeal and their dependence on God. How did they become complacent? Laodicea was a banking center and had great natural resources. They thought that they “had need of nothing.”

17. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”

The Laodiceans had a critical spirt. They thought that they were “self sufficient” and could make it on their own. A prideful and haughty spirit cannot approach the throne of God. The wealth and prosperity of the city dazzled and blinded its citizens. Because they were rich in material things, they did not realize that they were poor, blind, naked and wretched in spiritual things. In contrast to the riches of this world, Jesus said, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Humility is the prerequisite for turning to the Lord. Therefore humble thyself under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you in due time.

The church at Laodicea was lukewarm and apathetic in the things of the spirt.. They were half-hearted and without conviction. Jesus always condemned indifference. The Laodiceans had no zeal for the things of the spirt. They had become “casual Christians.” They were nonchalant and had lost feeling, conviction, and passion for the Lord. Casual Christians become casualties of the spiritual battle.

The exhortation to the church at Laodicea was “quench not the spirt.” As David said, “I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.
I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” We need to be in the word like the Apostle Paul’s charge to the Thessalonians. Our responsibility is to “keep the fire stoked.” Quench not the spirit. Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. In everything give thanks.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Thoughts from Ryan’s Message November 10, 2017

Lessons from Israel

Ryan reports that his mission trip to Israel was a blessing for all Involved.. Even though they did not preach at a large event as planned, God worked behind the scenes to bless Israeli citizens and soldiers. Ryan’s group Ambassadors and Embassies, teamed up with students from Calvary Bible College of Jerusalem to hand out gifts and to speak one on one with the soldiers and citizens in several communities. God worked miraculously to save and baptize new believers in water and in the Holy Spirit. This is the same way that the Word of God moved after the day of Pentecost: from person to person and from house to house.

To spread the gospel in Israel, God calls believers to minister on both sides of the “wall” on the Israeli side and on the Palestinian side. Jesus Christ is the one who reconciles both sides of the divide. Born-again Arab Christians in the West Bank are persecuted and outcast from mainline Arab culture. However, Israeli and Arab Christians find a common bond in the gospel of Christ and in the love of God. “Honor killings” are common in the West Bank. Believers know by experience Jesus’ message, “blessed are they when men shall revile you and persecute you for my sake, for great is your reward in heaven.” True believers of the true gospel bring the message of the love of God: “Love your enemies, bless them that persecute you.” In Israel, believers live in the midst of the physical as well as the spiritual battle. Following Christ and having freedom in Christ in Israel is a matter of life and death.

The message of the gospel is unknown by so many people. The gospel message of deliverance will be received when those who hear it are broken and overwhelmed by the pain and tribulation of this world. To understand salvation, they understand that from which they need to be saved. In Israel, they are acutely aware of tribulation and persecution. As Christians, when we come to the Lord, we give up the freedom of our own will. To become a Christian means that my will is subject to the Lord’s Sovreign will. Jesus quoted the purpose of the Messiah’s coming is in Isaiah 61. “THE Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2. To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD…”

Jesus quoted this passage from Isaiah in Matthew 4:17. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The gospel of repentance is the good news of salvation. Jesus came to set the prisoners free…to deliver them from the bondage of the kingdom of darkness into the glorious light of the gospel of peace. The church is not defined by the culture. Kingdoms move when the king moves. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. The question is, Who is your king? Are you bound to the kingdom of this world or are you bound to the king of heaven?

The kingdom of darkness uses four areas of bondage to bind its subjects: fear, pride, guilt and shame. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness from on high. As Martin Luther wrote, in the great hymn, “A Might Fortress is Our God:”

For still our Ancient Foe,
Doth seek to work us woe.
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,
our battle would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.
Doth ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus it is he….And he must win the battle.

Only the Lord can overcome the enemy. In the power of Christ, no weapon formed against us shall prevail. These are lessons learned in Israel and unto the “uttermost parts of the earth” as we minister to those of us who are grafted into the the olive tree of Israel.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Thoughts from Ryan Van Deusen’s Message November 7, 2017

The Engrafted Word

Ryan reports that their mission trip to Israel was a great success. Although things did not go according to their plan, God orchestrated his own plan behind the scenes. Their ministry, Ambassadors and Embassies, worked with the Christian ministry Nativa to hand out gifts to soldiers in Israel. This mission was simply to show the love of God for Israel and the soldiers who have been called to serve their country.

Hebrews 12:1 says, “WHEREFORE seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,…” Only Israel and America declare themselves to have been created by God. We look to the witness of the believers who have gone before us. They have given us an example of revival in service to the Lord.

God places opportunities in front of each man to serve Him from a heart of love. The first step to serving God is to acknowledge that “in my own flesh dwelleth no good thing.” Humility is the requirement to serve God. Psalm 16:2 says, “I have no good in me apart from you Lord.”

To stand firm in the freedom that we have in Christ, according to Galations 5:22, we must defend the freedom. The freedom is the grace and mercy to serve him by serving His people from a heart of love. Real grace is not to dwell on our shortcomings, but to move in light of the freedom wherewith he has set us free. We’ve been saved by by grace. However without working for the lord, Faith is dead and of no effect. Only use not freedom as an occasion to sin, but in love serve one another. The grace we have been given is so that we can accomplish that which he has called us to do. For by grace are ye saved through faith, not of works lest any man should w boast. For we are his workmanship, his magnum opus, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which he hath foreordained that we should walk in it.

Legalism is contrary to the grace of God. Legalism is “the law of sin and death” and is the consequence of sin. Legalism demands performance and results in guilt for failure to perform according to the law. Legalism is the result of the bondage of the flesh and of the sin nature. Any law that requires “perfecting the flesh” results in the bondage of legalism. Fear, guilt, pride, and shame are the types of bondage the adversary uses to enslave people.

James 1:20 and following says “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
21. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”
22. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

Meekness is the key to receiving the engrafted word. Meekness is to place ourselves in a position that we acknowledge that God knows more than we do. Meekness is strength with quietness and confidence in the power of God. The engrafted word is grafted into the living branch and the life source of the word will flow through believers who are grafted into the living Word. As Jesus said, I am the vine and ye are the branches. Jesus Christ himself is the Word of God and the meaning of the Word.

What is the gospel message, the good news of Christ? Jesus said in Matthew 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

How close is the kingdom of heaven? It’s “at hand.” Kingdoms move when the king moves. Kingdoms move either to conquer or to make war. Jesus’ kingdom moved to make war against the powers of darkness. According to 1 John 3:10, He came to destroy the world of the devil. The good news is the message of repentance: to turn your hearts from darkness unto the light of the good news of the grace, mercy and deliverance of God.

May our prayer be, “I was crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ. Christ liveth in me and the life that I now live I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. As Pastor Chuck Smith said, “the world has yet to see what God can do with a man who is totally surrendered to Him.” O Lord, let me be that man.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Ryan’s Message from Israel November 3, 2017

Message from Israel: Freedom from Bondage

Ryan Van Deusen delivers today’s message from Kirjath-jearim, Israel. He is there with His ministry team from “Ambassadors an Embassies” to show Israel the love of Christ and to present gifts to Israeli soldiers to thank them for their service to their country.

Ryan is standing in an ancient synagogue. Even though it’s illegal for Christians to own land, the property upon which he is standing was owned by Christians before World War II when the modern state of Israel was formed. The synagogue was uncovered after the Christians acquired it. The property has a watchtower similar to the watchtower in the bible where the master warned the watchmen to be vigilant to oversee the vineyard. When the owner returned he asked the watchman, “have you been manning your post?”

I Samuel 7 gives an Old Testament account of significant events that happened in this place. This is a story about a freedom for God’s people from the bondage of the Philistines, representing the world’s systems.

1. “AND the men of Kirjath-jearim came, and fetched up the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD.
2. And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.
3. And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

God had told Israel that because of the priest Eli’s failure to lead his own sons and the people of Israel, God would need to wipe out Eli’s priestly line. When God allowed the Philistines to defeat the armies of Israel, they took the Ark of the Covenant as a trophy. The Philistines thought that their gods were more powerful than the Lord God Jehovah. They put the Ark into their temple of their god Dagon. That night, Dagon fell from his pedestal and “bowed down” before the Ark. The Philistines took the Ark from town to town. Each city experienced a plague when the Ark entered the city. Even though Israel and the priests had turned away from God, and were defeated by the Philistines, the Lord God of Israel will still get the glory. The Philistines decided to test whether the Ark of the Covenant was the reason for the plagues. They hitched a cart carrying the Ark to a team of cows. If God was punishing them, they determined that if the cows took the Ark into the camp of the Israelite, then then the Ark represented the power of the God of Israel. The oxen proceeded down the path straight into the Israelite’s camp at Kirjath-jaerem. When the cows arrived, Israel rejoiced for the return of the Ark of the Covenant. They sacrificed the cows to the Lord with a heart of gratitude and praise.

Are we waiting for God to act or is He waiting for us to act? Usually, God is waiting for his believers to act upon their believing faith. According to Isaiah 30:13 God is waiting for his people to “turn from their wicked ways.” He is waiting to be gracious and merciful to his people. The freedom we have in Christ is to walk according to the spirit of life in Christ. Our freedom in Christ will free us from the bondage of the “law of sin and death.” When God’s people succumb to the doctrines of the world and its cultural norms, God’s people are no longer “sanctified.” Sanctified means to “separate according to the purpose for which God designed us.”

Even today Israel teaches “traditions of men” and the cultures of the world. Jesus’ reproof is valid today, “why do you violate the commandments of God by your tradition?” Samuel’s words to Israel in 1 Samuel 7 are still applicable: “If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

We’re not of this world, for our citizenship is in heaven. We are subject to to our Sovreign Lord. As watchmen in the Lord’s watch tower, God’s people must be vigilant to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.” When we subject our will to His will, we will be free to serve our Lord from a heart of love. When we delight ourselves in the Lord, serving him will be the joy and rejoicing of our heart. As Jesus said, “if you continue in my word, then shall you be my disciples indeed. And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

In Israel, it’s dangerous to convert from orthodox Judaism to Christianity. To live as a Christian is to live contrary to the doctrines of this world. One of the most powerful statements Christians can make is to love their enemies. For ye are lights in a world of darkness. Our lives are an example of the Love of God. Therefore, be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. As Paul said, “only use not freedom as an occasion to sin, but in love serve one another.”

May God richly bless you,
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Thoughts from Ryan’s Message November 1, 2017

A Message from Israel

Ryan Van Deusen and Phil Hanlen are in Israel with a group of thirteen “Ambassadors of Christ” to minister to the people and the nation of Israel, especially the soldiers and the Arab Christians. Their purpose is to show the love of God on either side of the West Bank. There is a small number of born again Christians on the “other side.” They number only about two thousand and every day they face persecution from the Coptic Christians and Muslims.

This week Ryan and their entourage will be delivering gifts and messages of love and hope to Israeli soldiers. Even though they were not able to be on the military base in Israel, Dennis Prager, a popular conservative lecturer and talk show host, recorded a message to the Israeli soldiers. He also shared on his broadcast about Ryan and Phil’s ministry “Ambassadors and Embassies” and emphasized their mission of delivering the love of God to the people of Israel.

Ryan delivers this week’s Influencers’ message from a town in Israel. Most land in Israel is owned by the government, except for a parcel of land that was owned by Christians prior to the formation of the nation of Israel after World War II. Jesus told a parable about a landowner who built a watchtower on his land. The place where Ryan is speaking has such a watchtower. This land is near the hill in Canaan where Caleb told Joshua, “Allow me to take that hill.” This is also the location where Eli’s sons were killed and the Ark of the Covenant was taken by the Philistines. The Philistines took the ark from town to town and displayed it as a trophy. At each town, plagues and sicknesses broke out. When they took the Ark into the temple of Dagon, the idol fell down and broke itself “bowing down” to the Ark.

According to 1 Samuel 7:1 and following: “AND the men of Kirjath-jearim came, and fetched up the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD.
2. And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.
3. And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

This exhortation from Samuel to Israel could also apply to God’s calling to Christians today. Culture matters in every era. As Christians, we’re encouraged to live apart from worldly philosophies. God says, “Follow the Lord with all your heart and all your soul.” When Israel deviated from the Lord’s path, God had to correct them. The most important thing is to follow the Word of God and not cultural norms. The traditions of man develop “legalism.” Legalism claims that certain things are part of God’s law. However, legalism is contrary to God’s heart of love, grace, and mercy. Legalists love themselves and “perfecting the flesh,” but they don’t really love God. When they concentrate on keeping the law, they are under the devil’s control and God cannot deliver them. God’s deliverance is conditional on our dependence on Him. Cultural norms should be subject to the Word of God in order to find freedom in Christ. Legalism or “working out our own salvation through perfecting the flesh” separates us from the grace of God and dependence on Him. As Paul said, “in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” All good things come from God according to His grace, mercy, and love. Humility is required before we can receive his grace.

There are four areas of bondage: Fear, pride, guilt, and the bondage of the law of legalism. This is the viscous cycle the enemy uses to imprison and defeat God’s people. The antidote to these areas of bondage is to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.” The freedom to walk in Christ is to walk righteous in his presence because of the price Jesus Christ paid in our stead… For he who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him. The finished work of Christ covers every area of bondage.

When the spiritual leaders fell in 1 Samuel, the priestly tribe of Eli was wiped out. God himself takes over when his priests fail in their commission to represent the people to. God. God promised Israel, If you forsake your false idols, I will deliver you.

The freedom that we have in Christ is the freedom to walk in the light as he is in the light. The kingdom of darkness assaults the kingdom of light in the midst of the spiritual battle. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness from on high. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Is it Christ who died, whom God has raised from the dead? As it is written, are we killed and cast down all the days of our lives? Nay, in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is our freedom in Christ: for what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

May God richly bless you,
Your brother in Christ,
Michael