Terms of Surrender

In the closing days of World War II in Europe, German military leaders sent word to Allied commanders requesting a meeting to discuss the terms of Germany’s surrender. Adolph Hitler had committed suicide. The country was in ruins and it was obvious to the German commanders that the war was lost. And yet they somehow believed they could still dictate the terms of their surrender to the Allies. But Allied commanders would have none of it. Germany’s surrender had to be unconditional, and it was not negotiable. A few days later, Germany did surrender….unconditionally. A few months later in August of 1945, Japan would also surrender unconditionally.
 
Unconditional surrender means exactly what it says. You surrender everything to the victor. You surrender to the victor’s authority and agree to his terms, whatever they are. And you understand your position. You know you cannot make demands because your life is in HIS hands. The victor calls the shots. That’s the unconditional part. When World War II ended, the United States occupied the defeated nations only long enough to help them get back on their feet. We helped them rebuild their governments and economies. Of course, in the aftermath, certain German and Japanese military leaders had to be brought to justice for war crimes. But we did not go into those countries as oppressors. We did not massacre or enslave the civilian populations (though regrettably, many civilians did die as a result of wartime actions). We were gracious in victory and our former enemies were shown great mercy. And today, Germany and Japan are two of our greatest allies. In the long term, unconditional surrender worked out very well for them.  
 
 So when we apply the expression ‘unconditional surrender’ to our Christian faith, what should it imply? Very succinctly, it means we surrender ourselves to God on His terms. And God does have terms. Among the first things He asks of us is repentance, to renounce sin. After His temptation in the wilderness, the very first message Jesus preached according to Matthew 4 verse 17 was the message of repentance. From that time on, Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
 
Repentance alone, however, is not enough. The Bible teaches us that, even though many repented upon hearing the preaching of John Baptist, they weren’t saved until they came to know Jesus Christ. Acts chapter 19 tells us:
 

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

 “John’s baptism,” they replied.
 

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

 
So repentance in and of itself is not enough to be saved. It’s a good first step, but it must be accompanied by genuine belief in Jesus Christ; (whoever believes in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life). John the Baptist prepared the way, but he was not…….THE way. He helped people take the first step on the road to salvation. God took care of the next step by sending His son, and by sending messengers like the Apostle Paul to tell people about Jesus. God still sends messengers today, people like us, to spread the message of the gift of grace. But the gift of grace cannot be a gift until it is accepted. I’ve met people who are genuinely sorry for things they’ve done in the past. They claim to believe what’s written in the Bible about Christ, but they stop short of making a commitment to become followers of Christ. They believe, but they don’t believe IN Him. There’s a difference between believing someone and believing IN someone. And by not believing in Jesus Christ, they refuse the free gift of grace.
 
“God, I’m going to read the Bible and go to church every Sunday, but……..I don’t want to shut off HBO and Cinemax. I tell you what, I won’t let the kids watch those channels. I’ll lock them out during the day. But I like to watch those channels after my wife and kids go to bed.”    
 
“God I believe Jesus died for the sins of the world, but……there’s this one website I really like to go to. Really, what’s the harm?” 
 

“God, it’s okay if I move in with this person I’ve been dating because we do love each other, and that’s all that matters isn’t it?”

“God, if you do this one thing for me, here’s what I’ll do for you.”

“God, I know I usually give this much to the church, but you see, I need a little extra money for……………………..” Been guilty of that one myself a time or two.
 
“God, I”ll surrender my life to you after I clean up my act, after I get it together, after I learn how to control myself, after, after, after…………..” Fortunately, that was never one of God’s terms for our surrender.
 
We cannot come to God on our terms. We don’t dictate the terms or our surrender. It must be on His terms. And sometimes, even devoted Christians sometimes try to renegotiate the terms a little.

But God’s terms are clear – Repentance, Belief, Acceptance. Turn away from sin. Believe IN Jesus and all that He did for us by going to the cross. Accept the free gift of grace. That’s the foundation of our faith. And His terms are not burdensome. Jesus said: 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11)

God’s terms for our surrender are unconditional; meaning we cannot dictate the terms of our surrender to Him. But given what He promises in return to all who believe IN him, why would we even think about trying to renegotiate the terms?

What is True Worship?

Isaiah 6:5

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.

 

Judges 13:

The angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife.Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”

We’re all familiar with Isaiah. But Manoah and his wife may not be as well known to some of you. They were the parents of Samson. In those two passages, we’re given brief accounts of their personal encounters with God. And they had good reason to be afraid. For God had declared to Moses long before their time, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

So my question is, what is true worship? What does it mean to truly worship God? The list of answers we might hear is probably endless. We can expect to hear the usual answers like “Going to church every Sunday” – “Reading my Bible” – “Resisting temptation”- “Listening to Christian music” and so on. Those are important parts of worship, but they do not, in and of themselves, constitute true worship. When Isaiah and Manoah realized they had been in the presence of God, they saw God for who He really was. And at the same time, they saw themselves for who they were and they understood immediately that they did not come close to measuring up to the holiness of God.

There was a point somewhere in our salvation that we came to the same realization. Of course none of us have had a face to face encounter with God, but we were convicted by the Holy Spirit which left us with the exact same realization as Isaiah and Manoah; once we came to know who God really is, and once we admitted to ourselves just who we really were, we realized we would never measure up to God’s standards, not without a savior.

So what does it mean to truly worship God? First, it begins by recognizing God and recognizing our own condition. It’s admitting that God is right and we are wrong. It’s understanding that we can never ‘earn’ our way into His favor. It’s accepting His free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That to me, is true worship. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s only the beginning.

Ephesians 5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

True worship involves more than just getting saved, though that is the very crucial first step to be sure. When we begin to truly worship God, there comes alive inside us the desire to please God, and to honor Him. The first step of the journey that began when we were saved continues as the desire to live God honoring lives begins to grow inside our hearts. It grows as we desire to become more like Christ with each passing day. Think of it this way. When you wear your favorite pro or college team jersey, it’s not hard to figure out who your favorite team is. You’re clothing yourselves, literally, with the colors of your favorite team and by doing so, you’re telling everyone around you, “This is my team!” It’s a display of loyalty.

We show our loyalty to Christ in the same manner.

Romans 13

The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

 

Galatians 1

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

 

Collossians 3

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

True worship can be summed up very simply; it boils down to obedience to God, in good times or bad, whether it’s convenient or not. By becoming imitators of God, by clothing yourselves with Christ, by surrendering your will to His, by admitting that He’s right and you’re wrong and that His way is better than your way, you will send a powerful and unmistakable message to the rest of the world, “I SERVE JESUS CHRIST!”

That’s a message the world desperately needs to hear.

The Need For Soldiers part 2

The Need for Soldiers part 2. Since these blogs are posted to WordPress chronologically, please scroll down to read part 1.

Whether they stormed the beaches of Normandy and Okinawa; whether they fought in the bitter cold of Korea or in the jungles of Vietnam; or whether they fought on the desert sands of Iraq and Kuwait; whatever past or present conflict they were involved in, there are things soldiers must do to prepare themselves for battle.

First, they must be well disciplined. This means they are expected to follow orders, no matter the cost.

They need to be well trained. Basically, this means they need to know how to fight and defend themselves in battle. For those not directly involved in combat, it means they train until they know their jobs so well, it almost becomes second nature to them.

And they must be well equipped. Even though we’ve all read stories of soldiers having to use broomsticks for guns as they went through training, especially in the early days of World War II, when it came time to go into battle, they had the weapons and tools they needed.

Just like those soldiers, a Christian needs to be well disciplined. That means obeying God and faithfully following Jesus Christ, not when it’s convenient, not when it’s easy, but even when it’s not. A disciplined Christian follows Jesus Christ, no matter the cost.

We also need to be well trained. We get our training from being in God’s word, by knowing the Bible well enough that we can apply it to any situation we face. Paul told Timothy “Train yourself to be Godly.” The very notion of training means doing something over and over until you’re so good at it, it becomes like second nature. It’s why soldiers train constantly. It’s why an athlete trains constantly. It’s why pilots spend so much time in the simulator. It’s why we need to be in His word every day.

Last week I said that as long as there are people who are willing to fight for evil, we will always need warriors who are willing to fight for justice. Jesus said “we will hear of wars and rumors of wars”, and“that theses things must happen.” It has been that way ever since evil entered the world through the original sin. Going all the way back to the days of the Old Testament, God Himself commanded various leaders at various times throughout Israel’s history to train men for war. Some might ask, “Why doesn’t God just strike our enemies down for us?” The answer to that question is: Sometimes He does.

When Jehoshaphat King of Judah learned that the Moabites and Ammonites were gathering an army to wage war against him, he prayed to God and God answered his prayer.

From 2 Chronicles  20

Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.

And later in verse 24 of that same chapter, the Bible says:

When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.

Later, when King Hezekiah faced a similar situation, he prayed and God answered his prayer for help as well.

From 2 Kings chapter 19:

Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, there were all the dead bodies.

And as we saw in Need for Soldiers part 1 in the the book of Revelation, the day is coming when Jesus will vanquish all our enemies, and His, forever.

So at times, God does fight for His people. But there were many more times when God commanded the men of Israel to take up arms and jump into the fray themselves. Numerous times in the Old Testament, God commanded one of Israel’s leaders to go out and engage the enemy with the promise: I will deliver them into your hands.

God did this for a couple of reasons, the most important of which was to teach His people to put their trust in Him and to take Him at His word. Another reason God often ordered His people to go into battle was to show them very pointedly that there are times when doing His work will be messy. As we well know, the Christian walk is not always an easy walk. I’ve often heard a minister friend of mine say, “ministry can be very messy”.

God has not changed one bit. Whether it’s temporal or spiritual warfare, there are times God does fight on our behalf. Usually it’s when we’re in a situation that appears hopeless with no way out. And again, He does it to teach us to put our trust in Him. And there are many more times when He orders us into battle. He sends us into the fray equipped with the tools and weapons He gave us.

But what are they exactly? What tools and weapons does He give us for spiritual battle? Let’s look at a few.

The first tool we have at our disposal is light. How is light a useful tool in spiritual warfare? I know it sounds odd but hear me out. The light I’m speaking of is the light of Jesus Christ that is ever present in all believers. It’s the kind of light that is exhibited when we live our faith in a way that the world can readily see; when we live to please God. That’s what the light of Christ does. It illuminates, and helps those in darkness to see the truth.

With all this talk of warfare and combat, I have to admit I’ve never actually been in combat. What I know is what I’ve read in books and seen in movies. There was a movie you may have heard of called “We Were Soldiers” which, by the way, was based on a true story. There was one particular scene in that movie in which a small squad of American soldiers was cut off from the main force. The Vietnamese had been trying to finish them off for days. It was the middle of the night. There was no moon or stars out. It was pitch black. The squad commander called for a parachute flare and when it ignited, it lit up the whole area. And standing less than three feet away were dozens of enemy soldiers who had been quietly creeping up on the American position under the cover of darkness.

Light exposes that which is hidden in darkness. Our enemy doesn’t always try to come at us directly with a full frontal assault. Sometimes Satan tries to attack under the cover of darkness. He does this by trying to introduce false teaching and false doctrine into the church. He does it by trying to find out where we are weakest, and then tries to lure us through temptation. But God’s truth is light. It allows us to see through the darkness of false teaching. It illuminates our own weaknesses so we can shore up our defenses. It reveals the real motives of our enemies and allows us to see our principle enemy for what he really is, a liar and the father of all lies.

In John chapter 3, the Bible tells us:

 Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

 

We cannot fight what we cannot see, whether in temporal or spiritual warfare. In spiritual warfare, the light of Christ does two things. It exposes evil and illuminates the truth.

Another tool  we use in spiritual warfare is prayer. It’s a very effective tool. When soldiers on on the battlefield are locked in combat, it’s vital that there be a direct line of communication with their commanders so they can give updates, request supplies and reinforcements, and receive orders. Prayer does the same thing for the believer. It gives us a direct line of communication to our commander, to God, so we can make our requests known to Him and so He can give us guidance.

Therefore in any battle, communication is vital. Prayer is how we communicate with God.  Jesus said in John chapter 15, You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. Jesus was saying we should pray to the Father in His name. But I will say this: For there to be effective and meaningful communication between us and our heavenly Father, we have to have the right kind of relationship with Him. In the simplest terms, that means we have to be right with Jesus.

I talked about two of the tools God gave us to help in our daily battles. He also gave us a very powerful weapon. When Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, what weapon did He use? He used the word of God to rebuke Satan. Three times Satan tried to tempt Jesus, and three times Jesus quoted from the book of Deuteronomy. In Ephesians chapter 6 Paul said to take up the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. I alluded to this in part 1, when I said Jesus will destroy all His enemies with nothing but the word from His mouth. Now, we don’t have power of that magnitude. We can’t speak and destroy entire armies. But even though we don’t possess the same kind of power Jesus has, the word of God is still a powerful weapon for us. Look closely at that passage in Ephesians. The sword of the spirit, or God’s word, was the only offensive weapon Paul included in his list of things we need to do to prepare for spiritual battle. Everything else is defensive. Without the word of God, we really won’t be able to see the light of God’s truth. You have to know what the truth is first. And how can we know God’s truth if don’t read the word?

Without His word, the light of Christ is not in us. And without that, how will know how to live? How would we know what God expects of us? And how would we even know how to pray? The very next sentence in that passage I just quoted from Ephesians says for us to pray in the spirit with all kinds of prayers and requests. Without God’s word, it’s nearly impossible to have a meaningful prayer life. So the word of God is the most important and most powerful weapon we have. It’s the power source for light and it is the doorway to effective prayer.

The enemy has weapons at his disposal as well. Doubt, frustration, discouragement. But the most powerful weapon Satan will try to use against us is deceit.

With lies and false promises he will try to destroy us and our families along with our testimony. Satan knows he is defeated and he wants to take as many people to hell with him as he can. He will go after our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, and he’ll laugh all the way to hell in the process. That’s how low down and despicable he is.

But the Bible says if we resist him, he will flee. That’s why brothers and sisters, the Bible is the most powerful weapon we have in our arsenal.

There will come a time when Jesus will say, “I’m making everything new.” There will be no more battles to be fought. The enemy will have been defeated. And if you think about it, it’s really absurd to even entertain the notion that Jesus will make everything new like He promised and then allow it to be destroyed again by warfare. As Isaiah and Micah looked far into the future, they saw the day when the people of the world will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. They foresaw a time when nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

But in this life and in this world, there will be wars, both temporal and spiritual. And there will always be a need for warriors to fight those wars.

On this Memorial Day holiday, honor the men and women of our armed forces and give them the respect they’re due. Pay tribute to those who gave their lives so we can freely worship our Lord and Savior. And stand shoulder to shoulder with your fellow soldiers in Christ.

The Need For Soldiers part 1

As Napoleon stood on Mount Megiddo looking out over the adjacent valley of Megiddo in what was then northern Palestine, he reportedly turned to one of his commanders and said, “This is the most natural battlefield in all the world.”

We know the valley of Meggido by a more familiar name. Revelation 16 verse 16, Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called……Armageddon. Most scholars agree that Megiddo and Armageddon refer to the same place.

And the Bible tells us in Revelation that one of the last great battles of all time will be waged at the valley of Armageddon.

Revelation 19

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

king of kings and lord of lords.

While it’s not the absolute last battle that will be fought, the Battle of Armageddon is the decisive battle that will signal the end of the seven year tribulation period and usher in the thousand year reign of Christ. There’s a reason it only took John a couple of paragraphs to describe what will happen. Though it will be fierce (for those on the losing side), it’s not going to last very long. In Revelation 19 verse 21, after the beast and false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire, John tells us what becomes of those who followed the beast and the false prophet into this conflict:

The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse……

With just His word alone, Jesus Christ will defeat all the world’s armies when they gather at Armageddon to try to destroy the people of God. How do I know this? Ephesians 6 verse 17 tells us that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Jesus will say the word, and all His enemies will be destroyed.

Satan will stage one last desperate rebellion against God after the thousand year reign of Christ, at the battle of Gog and Magog. But God will intervene and destroy Satan’s army with fire from Heaven, almost in an instant.

So the book of Revelation tells us about the last two great battles that will take place on earth. The first precedes the thousand year reign of Christ on earth, and the last one will bring about Satan’s final defeat. God will secure the victory in both conflicts.

But as I read the account in Revelation, it got me to thinking, when did the first battle take place? When did men begin mobilizing armies and fighting wars? Well, we don’t know exactly when kings and rulers began building armies and waging war. But the first time one of God’s people mobilized an army is recorded in Genesis chapter 14, when Abram gathered a small force to go get his nephew Lot after Lot and his family had been captured by the armies of kings Kedorlaomer, Tidal, Amraphel, and Aioch.

From Genesis 14:

When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his nephew Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people.

There’s someting else that’s interesting about this account. The Bible goes on to say in Genesis 14:

After Abram returned from his victory over Kedorlaomer and all his allies, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

 And Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abram some bread and wine. Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing:

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Creator of heaven and earth.
And blessed be God Most High,
    who has defeated your enemies for you.”

Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.

Now read what the author of Hebrews wrote about Jesus:

Chapter 5 verses 9 and 10:

 

And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

From the 7th chapter of Hebrews:

And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared:

“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”

And there are other passages in Hebrews, as well as in the 110th Psalm, that speak of  Jesus as a great high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

I thought it was interesting that after Abram led the first battle in which a man of God took up arms to fight for a just cause, he was met by Melchizedek as he returned from the battlefield. And Jesus, who will lead one of the last great battles that the world will ever see, for the most righteous and just cause ever, was described in Hebrews as a great high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

That’s not just a coincidence. It’s in the Bible for a reason. In the fifth chapter of Hebrews we’re told:

Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents their gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins.

Melchizedek (whose name means ‘king of righteousness), met Abram as he returned from what would be the one and only time he would lead a military engagement. The Bible says Melchizedek he blessed Abram and credited God for the victory and in return, Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of the goods he had recovered.

Abram knew, probably with help from the Holy Spirit, that Melchizedek was more than mere man. He must have sensed that he was a representative of God. And as such, he had the authority to accept Abram’s gift which in reality, was a gift to God. So not only did Melchizedek represent God before Abram, he also represented Abram before God. That’s what a high priest does, according to that passage in Hebrews.

Also, Melchizedek was both a king and priest. By comparison, Jesus is also a king and a priest. Like Melchizedek, Jesus was God’s representative here on earth, and Jesus also represents us before God. Hebrews 9 verse 24 tells us He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.

And Ephesians 5 verse 2 says that Jesus loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Whereas an earthly priest like Melchizedek was authorized to offer sacrifices for sin, Jesus is our sacrifice. Make no mistake; Melchizedek was only a forerunner of the one to come. Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest.

Just like Abram, Jesus will be victorious when He leads His one and only military campaign.  From the time Abram fought that first battle, until the day comes that Jesus leads the army of saints at Armageddon, there has been and always will be a need for warriors, for men trained in combat, whether it’s temporal (that is, earthly) or spiritual.

The reason for this is simple: We live in a fallen world. However, there’s an important truth to remember. God did not create the evil behind the motives that causes leaders of nations to pursue war with other nations. Evil entered the world through the original sin. We serve a holy and righteous God. But as long as there are those who are willing to fight for evil causes, we will need soldiers who are willing to fight for just causes. It’s been that way almost from the very beginning, and it will remain so until the end.

End part 1

On Hallowed Ground – A Memorial Day Tribute

When my father-in-law passed away in 2011, being that he was a World War II veteran he was interred at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. While we were there, my wife and I took some time to walk around the cemetery and we took note of the dates on some of the headstones. We saw graves of soldiers that dated as far back as the Spanish American War, and even though Fort Sam did not officially become a military cemetery until 1926, I’m told there are some graves there that date back even further.

Many of the graves were those of military veterans like my father-in-law, men and women who served our country and lived many years after their discharge from the military. But we also saw many graves of young men, boys actually, who had been killed in action in the two world wars and in Korea and Vietnam. I saw graves of young men from World War II who were as young as 17 and 18 when they were killed. A lot of young men in those days lied about their ages to get into the military. Some dropped out of high school to join. I’m guessing their families made certain their true dates of birth were made known when they were laid to rest. You don’t see quite as many graves of boys that young when you get to where the soldiers who were killed in action in Korea and Vietnam are buried, since the military had tightened up its age verification processes by then. But there were still plenty of graves of young men who were only 19 or 20 or 21 when they died.

And in the newer section, where my father-law-law is buried, we saw the grave of a young lady who was in her early 20’s when she was laid to rest. On her headstone were these very simple words:  Killed in Action in the service of Her Country. Judging from the date of death, she was either killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. There were a couple of other graves of female soldiers there also. One was a veteran from the Vietnam era and the other also died sometime during the war in Iraq.

As we walked around the cemetery that day, it struck me that the place where we were walking was hallowed ground. As the final resting place of veterans and of many young men and women who paid the ultimate price to protect the freedoms that we all too often take for granted, it’s a place of honor. And in that moment, a passage from the book of Exodus came to mind. When Moses saw the burning bush, he went to take a closer look at this strange site, a bush that was on fire but was not being consumed. As he drew near, God spoke to him and said, “Do no come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” In that day, removing one’s shoes was done as a sign of respect, just as we remove our caps or hats to show respect in our time. That’s why God instructed Moses to remove his sandals. It was a show of respect and also an act of submission. The ground itself was made holy by God’s presence.

While the grounds of our national military cemeteries are not holy in the same sense as the place where Moses stood in the presence of God, they are special places of honor in their own right and the men and women who are buried in those places are worthy and deserving of our respect and gratitude, as are all veterans, past, present, and future. The shameful way servicemen were treated during the Vietnam era can never be repeated. Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the policies of our leaders and politicians that send them into battle, the men and women of our armed forces deserve our respect.

All throughout our history, American soldiers and sailors have fought and sacrificed to preserve our freedoms. In one of his Memorial Day sermons, Dr. W.A. Criswell told the story of a young American soldier at the end of the second world war as he was being unloaded on a gurney from a troop transport ship in New York harbor. His widowed mother was there to greet the ship and somehow, in all of the confusion, she managed to locate her son on the dock shortly after he was carried of the ship. She had learned only a short time before that her son had lost both arms and legs, and was blind.

She looked upon her son, horrified at his injuries, and through her sobbing she said, “This horrible war. You can’t see. You can’t stand. You can’t even hug your own mother. This horrible war took everything from you”

“No mom.” the soldier replied, “No one took anything from me. I gave it away.”  

As I read that sermon transcript, I was reminded of the 10th chapter of John. Jesus was preaching to the crowds in Jerusalem and said to them, “The reason my father loves me is that I lay down my life-only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Whether the young soldier was a Christian or not, Dr. Criswell did not say. But his attitude reflected that of Jesus Christ! No one took his arms and legs and eyes. He gave them of his own accord. The men and women of that era are called  ‘The Greatest Generation’ for a reason.

And in his sermon titled, “Is War in God’s Will?” Criswell preached these words in honor of the soldier:

Poring through the pages of the Bible, there is something you cannot help but notice in the New Testament.  It is this: wherever a soldier appears in the record, he appears in appreciation and in commendation.  There is no exception to it. 

 In the preaching of John the Baptist in the Jordan River, it was the Roman soldiers present who were repenting and baptized of John in the Jordan.  Five Roman centurions appeared in the story of the first Christian preaching of the gospel. 

 One is a centurion in Capernaum who had built a synagogue for the Jewish nation, and of whom our Lord said: “I have not found such faith, no, not in Israel as in this Roman centurion” 

A second was the Roman centurion who under law presided over the execution and crucifixion of our Lord, and as he saw the frame and heard the words of the Lord Jesus, he said, “This man is none other than the Son of God!”

 It was in the home of a Roman centurion named Cornelius in Acts 10 that the Gentile Pentecost was poured out upon the earth.  It was a Roman centurion by the name of Claudius Lysias, who, in Acts 23, saved the apostle Paul from death.  And it was a Roman centurion in Acts 27 named Julius, who for the sake of Paul, spared all the prisoners who sought life in the escape from the shipwreck on the isle of Malta.

 Without exception, all of the soldiers that appear in the New Testament appear with appreciation and commendation.  And by inspiration, the apostle Paul wrote of the power of the state to defend itself:  “Rulers are not a terror to good, but to evil.  Wilt thou not then be afraid of the power?  For he beareth not the sword in vain: he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon them that doeth evil”. 

The power of the sword in the hand of the state is an ordination of God.  And we cannot forget that the whole Christian empire was largely evangelized by Roman soldiers who carried the message of Christ everywhere. 

 We also cannot forget that our strength and hope lies not in our armies, and not in our navies, and not in our atomic bombers, not even in our political processes.  But our deliverance and our strength lies in the hand of Almighty God.  

Each Memorial Day, we pay tribute to the men and women who paid the ULTIMATE price to protect our freedoms. Never forget; freedom comes at a price. But as honorable as their sacrifices were; and we owe our fallen warriors a great debt, there was a sacrifice that was far greater than that of any soldier who gave his life on a battlefield. Billy Graham once said that the blood of Jesus was the very life of God. Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary not only bought our freedom from the bondage of sin, the blood of Jesus purchased our souls for all eternity. As Paul reminded the Corinthians, not once but twice in his first letter to that church, we were bought for a price. The blood of Jesus, the life of God, was the ULTIMATE sacrifice. We are free in America because of the American soldier. We have eternal life because of our faith in Jesus Christ!

Driving Through the Mountains

Fifteen years ago my wife and I took a road trip down Interstate 5 through parts of Washington, Oregon, and California. At various times in the past, I’ve driven through Appalachian country from New York State and Pennsylvania, down through West Virginia and down into North Carolina and Tennessee. Even though the Appalachian Mountains are impressive, you can’t even begin to compare them to the mountain ranges in the western United States. As we made our way south through Oregon and northern California, the sheer size of the mountains was stunning.

Coming from the flat lands of Texas, I discovered that your depth perception gets very skewed in mountain country. It’s takes time to adjust. Everything is further away than it seems, which means everything is larger than you realize. Around the time we crossed the border between southern Oregon and northern California, we began to make out the shape of northern California’s Mount Shasta off in the distance. Being the flatlander I am, I figured it was about 15 or 20 miles away. Nearly two hours later we’re still driving toward it and all the while it just kept bigger and bigger! As it turned out, we were closer to 100 miles away when we first saw Mount Shasta. At its closest point, I-5 passes about 10 miles to the west of Mount Shasta’s peak. It was enormous! The closer you get to a mountain, the bigger it becomes and the more you realize how small you are!

David Jeremiah used this as an analogy in a recent sermon. He said: “God is like a mountain: The closer we get to Him, the more we realize how big He is, and how small we are.”  But for people who choose to reject God, the imagery of a mountain way off in the distance seems to aptly describe their view of God. Oh sure. They may admit He exists. Many lost people acknowledge that God exists. They just want nothing to do with Him. They’ve chosen to live life apart from God. They are unregenerate. As a result, their perspective of God is like that of a mountain that’s off in the distance. He’s there, but He’s just this distant figure.

But herein lies another mystery of faith. Unlike my experience in northern California where Mount Shasta was further away than it seemed, God is much closer to unrepentant sinners and non believers than they realize. Because of their sin and lifestyle choices, God only seems to be this distant figure, but He’s much closer than they understand. God’s only distant because they keep themselves distant from Him. But He wants none of them to be lost. God said to the prophet Ezekiel: ,‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.’ Those are not the words of a distant, far off God.

As believers, we embarked on a journey when we accepted Christ as our Savior, and it’s a continual journey. Every step we take in our walk brings us closer to God and as we draw closer to him, certain things begin to come into focus. First, we see how close God really was all along. He may have seemed distant, but how many of you can look back on your old lives today and see how the hand of God was there protecting you and guiding you, even when you weren’t living for Him? I know I can. And yes, as David Jeremiah pointed out, we also see how big God really is and small we really are. But even though we begin to recognize how small we are compared to the majesty of God, there’s a point where we realize that being small in comparison to God does not make us insignificant or unimportant in the eyes of God. Jesus said“Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Though He’s bigger than anything we can comprehend, God knows every single little detail about us.

And when – as far as our human capabilities allow – we see just how big our God really is, we also realize that he’s bigger than any obstacle we face. He’s bigger than that problem you’re dealing with at work. He’s bigger than those problems you’re having with your teenagers. He’s bigger than that financial crisis you may be going through. He’s bigger than that argument you had with your wife or husband. He’s bigger than that cancer diagnosis. He’s bigger than any illness or physical handicap. He’s bigger than the sorrow you go through when you lose a loved one. God is bigger than any mountain in your life or my life.

When the glory of God settled over Mount Horeb/Mount Sinai, the Israelites were told not to go near. They couldn’t so much as touch the base of the mountain. If they did, they had to be put to death. It wasn’t because God was trying to push them away. He wasn’t trying to distance Himself from them. He wasn’t trying to terrorize them. No, that wasn’t it at all. It was simply because the ground of Mount Horeb (also referred to as the mountain of God) had been made so holy and so pure just by the very presence of God, it could not bear the stain of the people’s sins or their sinful nature. A holy God cannot be touched by sin, nor can anything that’s been made holy by God. But because of what God did on another mountain, one called Calvary, that stain is gone. It’s been washed away by the blood of Jesus and now, as the writer of Hebrews pointed out, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence! He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God. That was not the act of a distant, far off God. That was the act of the one true God who is so close, and yet so big that only He could provide the way of salvation through the atoning death of Jesus Christ!

Heads up Guidance

A Heads up Guidance System (HGS) is a complex navigation aide that allows pilots to see through heavy fog, rain, low cloud cover, or other poor visibility conditions. In reality, they cannot actually see through rain or fog. As an HGS equipped aircraft makes its approach into an airport, a virtual image of the runway is projected onto a transparent screen (the Heads up Display screen, or HUD) that flips down in front of the pilot’s windshield, kind of like the sunvisor in your car or truck, and the pilot aligns the aircraft to the image on the screen as he would to the actual runway….if he could see it. If you were to look through the HUD screen on a clear day, the virtual runway on the HUD screen would be perfectly superimposed over the outline of the actual runway. It’s that accurate, and it has to be. You could say that the image of the runway on the HUD screen is an exact representation of the real runway. It requires complete faith and trust on the part of the flight crew. The pilots are trusting their lives, as well the lives of passengers and crew, to the HG system anytime they make an approach into an airport in less than favorable conditions.

It’s amazing to hear people talk about putting their faith and trust only in things they can see, hear, or touch. But without realizing it, they trust their lives to things unknown and unseen every day. They trust a pilot they’ve never met to protect them using technology most of them don’t even come close to understanding. In plain terms, they put their trust and faith in people and things they don’t know, see, or understand. Why is it so difficult then, for so many of those same people to put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ? To be sure, they’ll argue that God is unseen while the plane, the pilots, and the systems and instruments they rely on are visible and real and can be seen, heard, and touched. And at the same time, they demand to know how anyone can worship a God who’s unseen.

But therein lies the fatal flaw in their argument because Jesus Christ is as real as you and me and everything we see around us. He was a living, breathing person when He walked on this earth 2000 years ago. He’s alive and well today and is seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. Living, breathing people witnessed his life, death, and resurrection, as well as His ascension into Heaven. While no one alive today has seen Jesus, plenty of people saw Jesus in that day and time, enough so that the credibility of the eye witness accounts is well established, as are the gospel accounts and the rest of the New Testament. It’s somewhat ironic that people use that argument against God; that they don’t believe in Him because they can’t see Him, when in fact everything around them was created by God. The raw materials from which the plane and every part in it were made were created by God.

And consider the human pilots. It takes special skills to be a pilot. Not everyone has those skills. They are God given, even though a pilot does have to hone those skills through constant training. But that holds true for any of us, regardless of the skills we’ve been given. But when a pilot has to land a plane in poor visibility conditions using a HUD screen, he’s trusting an image on that screen that is an exact representation of where he needs to fly the plane in order to land safely. He puts his ‘faith’ in a system that he (or she) trusts will guide him to a runway….he cannot see. He knows how to use and operate the system, but I doubt if he could explain how it all works. He just knows that it does. And he also knows his life depends on it.

In the first chapter of Hebrews, the Bible says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and………the EXACT representation of his being…” Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians, “He is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Jesus was a little more direct. As recorded in John’s gospel, when Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered him, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” As John MacArthur said, “Jesus is the representation of God’s person. He is not only the brightness, He is the very essence and substance of God.”

Here’s another irony: When you hear someone say they only believe what they can see, touch, hear, or feel; all of those things will crumble eventually. All man made things like cars, planes, buildings, bridges eventually deteriorate until there’s nothing left. They have to be rebuilt or replaced at some point. Likewise, all created things like grass, trees, dirt, blue sky, water, animals, other people; all things created will one day, according to the Bible, perish. And so too will those who refuse to believe in God on the basis of their five senses. They will also perish, but not as they understand the word ‘perish’. They won’t just fade away into oblivion. They’ll suffer forever for their stubbornness and disbelief.

On the other hand, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Those are not my words. Those are the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 4. Jesus is eternal. He said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” An unbelieving world trusts only what it sees, yet everything it sees is perishable. We trust that which we do not see, an almighty God who is imperishable. Yes, Jesus is eternal. He lives, and because He lives, we who trust and believe in Him will also live. That’s a reality that we will get to experience…….for all eternity!

The White Elephant in the Room

We have a figure of speech that we use, mainly in group settings, to describe those situations when there’s something or someone that everyone can’t help but notice; it has everyone’s attention, but either no one wants to talk about it, or they’re afraid to. It’s called the white elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.

Unfortunately, over the past few decades, that kind of describes how people react when they hear the name Jesus Christ, or whenever the subject of Christianity is brought up. Mention Jesus in a group setting today and watch the uncomfortable responses. People start looking around the room or staring down at the floor. They may pretend to be distracted or act as though they didn’t hear what was said. You might notice someone tugging at his collar and feeling a bit uneasy. Some might try to steer the subject to something else. It might be that a Christian is trying to share his or her faith with co-workers. It might be a new believer who’s telling a group of secular friends about his or her conversion. Whatever the situation may be, Jesus quite often becomes the white elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. That’s what happens when a society turns away from God. The mere mention of His name makes some people uncomfortable and if someone does respond when the name of Jesus is brought up, it’s more likely to be in anger or mockery.

In the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah, no one wanted to hear about God either. First the northern kingdom of Israel and later the southern kingdom of Judah suffered judgment and punishment after they turned away from God. Unfortunately, here in America today, we’re following in the footsteps of those two ancient kingdoms. Jeremiah 1:19 tells us: Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me. (Jeremiah 1:19) God told Jeremiah to speak those words (and many more) to the people of Judah, but they refused to listen. Though there was a brief period of reform under King Josiah, Judah quickly deteriorated after Josiah’s death.

The people did not want to hear Jeremiah’s message of impending judgment, and they continued to defy God, just as the people of the northern kingdom of Israel had done decades before. Isaiah preached of their pride and arrogance. In the ninth chapter of Isaiah, the Bible says, The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel. All the people will know it— Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—who say with pride and arrogance of heart, “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.”

In other words, the people of Israel were saying to God, “You can’t hurt us.”  They were wrong. God will not be mocked, nor will He be ignored.

As Christians, it is our duty to talk about God and bring Him glory, even though it may make some around us uncomfortable. Jesus said in Matthew 5 that we’re to let our light shine before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven. Paul encouraged believers in Romans 15 to glorify God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice.  That phrase “one voice” is especially important because it tells me we were meant to speak up and talk about God. We don’t shy away from it because as the author of Hebrews exclaimed, “….we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” And Peter wrote in his first epistle, Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Unless our nation turns from the path it’s on, we will suffer the same judgment and wrath as Israel and Judah. No one wants to talk about that either. It doesn’t matter. Like the white elephant in the room, it’s too big to ignore. And we can be sure from the history of judgment against the nations that’s recorded in the Bible, God will not be treated like the white elephant in the room much longer.

The Bible: Applying What We Read

At the beginning of every new year, many Christians make a commitment to read through the entire Bible. There are countless daily reading plans to choose from. Or you can simply come up with your own plan. You can commit to reading a certain number of verses or chapters each day. However you want to do it is fine. Personally, I’m reading through both the Old and New Testaments right now. I might read out of the Old Testament for a couple of days, and then spend a few days reading out of the New Testament. There really is no wrong way to read the Bible.

But taking what you’ve read and applying it in your life can be more of a challenge. Again, there’s really no wrong way to apply the word of God to daily living as long as it’s done out of a sincere desire to live a God honoring life. We’ve all had contact with people who try to twist and distort scripture to suit some agenda or to justify something that really is not Biblical. That’s another subject for another time. What I’m talking about is an honest desire to apply scripture to our daily lives and like I said, as long as it’s honest and sincere, and as long our desire is to please God, it’s hard to go about that the wrong way.

True followers of Christ agree that the Bible is our guide for daily living. In 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 the Bible says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Does that mean we can find life application in every single verse of scripture? Not in every single verse; no. We have to look at the context in which a particular verse or passage was written. Finding life application in scripture usually comes through the combination of prayer, meditation, and of course, Bible study. But there is something I’ve come to notice about individual verses of scripture: Even If a particular verse does not contain some sort of life application, it will almost always point to a verse……or verses, that do.

I’m going to use an example from the book of Genesis. Genesis 5:21 says, “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah.” Okay, there’s no real life application for us there. To find application, we need to read the entire passage and then see what other parts of the Bible that passage points to. I won’t copy and paste the entire passage from Genesis 5 here, but the key verse is verse 24: Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. There’s a lot there believe it or not! And it points us to passages of scripture that do have a direct impact on us as believers in Jesus Christ.

A keyword search (in this case, Enoch) on Biblegateway led me to passages in the New Testament books of Luke, Hebrews, and Jude. Luke named Enoch in his geneology of Jesus Christ (not to be confused with Cain’s son by the same name). The writer of Hebrews tells us that because of his faith, Enoch was taken from this life and did not experience death.

In his letter to the church, the apostle Jude shared Enoch’s prophetic vision, which is an end time vision that describes events depicted in Revelation 19, where the Bible describes how the armies of Heaven will follow Jesus when He returns. So just from those few passages, we see that Enoch is associated with both the rapture and the end times, and is in the line of Jesus Christ.

For me, the passage from Jude also affirms what Paul wrote to Timothy, that all scripture is God breathed, which was Paul’s way of stating that all scripture was written under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Nowhere else in the Bible is there any mention of Enoch’s prophectic vision. In fact, there’s very little mention of Enoch….period. Unless he had access to some other material that’s unknown to the rest of the world, and I don’t think that’s the case, there’s only one way that Jude could have known about Enoch’s vision: It was revealed to him by God, and I believe that’s exactly what happened. Scripture confirms and validates scripture and the passage from Jude confirms what Paul said about all scripture being God breathed.

I said Enoch’s name was associated with the rapture but the fact is, he was the very first to be raptured out of the world. And why? Because of his faith. The application therefore is simple. Those who are alive when Jesus returns will be taken out of this world at the beginning of the tribulation, just as the Bible promises. If that happens in our lifetime, we too will be taken out of the world because of our faith. God did it for Enoch and He will do it for us. Enoch was the only the first of the faithful to be raptured. Jesus will come for the rest of His followers after a slight delay of a few thousand years. Enoch’s experience validates what Paul wrote about the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4. Like I said, scripture validates scripture.

So from those few passages about Enoch, the truth about the rapture is affirmed. The truth that Jesus Christ will one day return with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones following Him is validated. And consider when Enoch lived. He was the seventh from Adam, so the return of Christ was promised almost from the very beginning! In the epistle of Jude, we see truths revealed that could have only come from God, again, affirming the truth that all scripture is inspired by God.

Now I know it seems like I took the long way around to make my point; like driving to San Antonio and Houston to get from Fort Worth to Dallas. And honestly, I did. But here is my point: Considering how very little the Bible tells us about Enoch and considering how little is written about him, look at the wealth of life application we get from those few passages of scripture! When we sincerely desire to know God through His word, and as long we’re willing to devote the necessary time and effort to the study of His word, God will lead us to the light of truth and show us how to live our faith!

Cracks in the Walls

 I’ve spent the better part of the last six weeks making cosmetic repairs to the interior walls of my house in preparation for putting the house up for sale later this year. The biggest problem so far has been the number of cracks in the sheetrock in my living room that require attention. When we added on to our living room 15 years ago, the sheetrock work was some of the sloppiest I’ve ever seen. I actually had to run off the sheetrock guy who was doing the work and had to have the general contractor bring someone else in. On top of that, the framer used 16 penny nails instead of wood bolts to attach the new structure to the existing structure. As the house settled, the nails backed out which caused the new addition to pull away slightly from the old structure. The result was a long crack in the sheetrock that ran all the way from top to bottom. To fix that, I had to cut the sheetrock away at the joint where the old and new framework are joined together so I could bore holes through the frame and reinforce it with steel bolts. Basically, I bolted the two halves of the house together.
 
Of course, here in Texas, cracks in sheetrock walls are nothing new. If you live in a house that was built about 20 years ago or more, slab foundations are notorious for shifting and moving around on the unstable soil that’s common in this region. And that often results in cracked walls. If you’ve ever lived in California or any earthquake prone region, cracks in sheetrock are inevitable.   
 
But getting back to my home repairs, the cracks didn’t start showing up right away. In fact, it was several years before I noticed tiny hairline cracks beginning to form where the new addition and the old part of the house come together. In our case, the problem was twofold. In addition to the contractor’s shoddy workmanship, we also had an unstable foundation. Both of those problems ended up being costly in terms of time and money, but had they not been addressed, there would have been even bigger problems at some point down the road.
 
 Even though the cracks didn’t form overnight, the problems that caused them were set in place long before they became visible. The contractor using nails instead of lag bolts to secure the frame was one problem. The other problem, the foundation, was simply the result of the type of concrete that was available and the building methods that were used in 1971 when our house was built. Newer homes with post tension concrete slab foundations don’t experience these types of problems. But in our house, as the cracks began to form, they became visible indications of problems that already existed but didn’t become apparent until later. 
 
 Of course it stands to reason then, that if you want a home that’s well built, a solid foundation and sound framework are essential. Jesus used that analogy in the sixth chapter of Luke to show us how to build something far more valuable than any earthly dwelling. Jesus said, “As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed, and its destruction was complete.”

Those of us who have put our hope and trust in Jesus Christ have built our lives on a foundation that can withstand the worst storms that life can throw at us; storms that come at us in the form of temptation, persecution, bad news, or some other kind of hardship. Even in great distress, our joy, and comfort, and peace are secure, even if it doesn’t seem so in the moment. That was what Jesus was telling those around Him. We might get battered, but we will not be destroyed. Regardless of whether we’re building a home or trying to build a life for ourselves, a solid foundation and sound structure are essential. 
 
As for the other type of person Jesus spoke of, the one who built his house on the ground without a foundation, those are the kind of people who are ill prepared for adversity when it overtakes them. Without anything solid to stand on, they collapse when catastrophe strikes. And without that solid foundation of faith in Christ, their destruction is assured, as is the fate that awaits them.
 
There’s another condition that affects people that’s sort of like what I described in those first few paragraphs about my home repairs. Here’s a question for you: What causes cracks in the first place? The answer is simple really. Stress. All too often, you don’t see the effects of stress right away. It builds and builds until finally, things start to crack. Inside the walls of a house, stress can build up because of problems lying underneath. You know what? We’re really no different. Paul wrote of the battle between the flesh and the spirit in the seventh chapter of Romans. Sometimes it’s due to outside forces that are beyond our control that cause that battle to intensify. Other times it’s because we allow sin to creep into our lives. Either way, the stresses begin to build until finally, something has to give. The stress may not be readily apparent, but it’s there.

Let me throw some hypotheticals at you. Let’s suppose for a moment, brother or sister Christian, that you get involved in something that you should not be involved in. Or let’s say there’s some sin in your life you’re trying to keep hidden. Or maybe you’re not doing anything wrong but you work for a boss who is pressuring you to do something at your job that you know is unethical. Whatever the underlying cause is, the stress is building. It may not be evident at first, but there will come a time…..when it will become very obvious…..that there’s something very wrong. That thing you’re involved in may become common knowledge. The sin you’ve tried to hide might be exposed. Or you might have to take a stand and refuse to do that unethical task your boss tried to force you to do and you end up losing your job. When the stress reaches a certain level, things will begin to crack, regardless of who you are, or what you may or may not believe. And when the cracks form, they can manifest themselves in an infinite number of ways. If not properly addressed, it can be quite costly and lead to even bigger problems down the road. That’s especially of sin in our lives.          

 
For believers in Jesus Christ, here is the good news:  We can be restored. The Bible tells us in 1 John 1, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. We might have to make some repairs. There may be a relationship that has to be fixed. We may to have to seek the forgiveness of a family member, neighbor, or co-worker. And some of the temporal effects of sin may last the rest of our lives. Even after repairs are made, you can sometimes see where the cracks used to be. But whatever it takes, it’s important that we rebuild our fellowship with God. Foundations can be fortified, and structure can be strengthened through everlasting faith in Jesus Christ and it’s our unshakable faith in Christ that lays the foundation both for this life, and the eternal life to come.