Jesus Role Model, Uncategorized

A Beautiful View

Standing on a precipice in Arizona, overlooking the Grand Canyon, I suddenly felt like a minuscule piece of dust in a vast desert. Colors blazed from the canyon in layers of history from ages long past. I couldn’t help but wonder at the immensity of it all. The amazing view had a profound impact on me. For the remainder of the day after visiting that tremendous canyon I felt small and humbled. I had to reconsider the true significance of the things which had previously occupied most of my thoughts and energies. What we focus upon and allow our minds to dwell upon has a tremendous impact on who and what we become.

Whatever we choose to view of the world around us has a remarkable influence on our attitudes, moods and thoughts. It’s easy here in the USA to get so caught up in chasing after the American dream that we can forget about things of greater importance. The focus of our thoughts can even determine whether we have a good day or a bad one. There’s a significant daily question every Christian soul needs to ask of themselves: Am I looking unto Christ, The author and finisher of our faith as the model to which I must conform? Am I like Peter when he stepped out to walk on the water and then took his eyes off of Jesus and started to sink? Am I seeing only the wind and waves: All the negative aspects of life?

God offers a plethora of magnificent vistas. I become awe struck at His amazing creations; sunsets, mountain ranges, waterfalls, flower strewn meadows and the like. They invoke a silent reverence in my soul as the power and splendor of our Creator is displayed in what He has made. Yet there is, however, another scene that’s even more astounding. We discover it by peering into the very heart of God. Through an intimate relationship with Jesus we can see and taste His inexplicable love—love in its purest form. There’s nothing on earth to which it can be compared. Even as I writer, I find it difficult to capture and describe in words the enormity and the splendor of divine love.

We, however, live in a material world, where this awesome love must be displayed through us. It’s a task which requires miraculous assistance. Maintaining this staggering view of unadulterated compassion and care is the only means I have found of sharing it with others. Yet, I fear that too often my focus is on someone else’s faults. Mankind is naturally bent towards being more concerned over what someone else is doing or saying. The fallen nature of us humanoids is good at judging others while ignoring self. But in our new nature, given by Christ, we are also given power over sin. Through God’s Spirit within us we can be the over-comers that God envisions. And the only means of being successful in that venture is to remain focused on our perfect model and on His beauty: Jesus. While trusting Him completely. Beholding the wonders of God’s creations help me stay focused on Him and His awesome power.

“For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” Romans 8:29

It is the sinful nature that is so adept at finding fault with another. It takes the spotlight off of me. Yet when I do that, I have limited myself to a horizontal view. Rather, to achieve a transformation into the likeness of the Son of God, I must think vertically, focusing my attention upwards to God, and then back down into my own heart. I see Him clearly through the pages of the bible, and through His Son, Jesus. Daily bible reading and constant prayer are vital to every soul. I need that very humbling comparison to see myself in the light of His glory. Only then can I view others through His heart of love.

As you know, our adversary, the devil is a master of deception. One of his favorite tactics is to convince me that I’m doing really great spiritually, because, “Hey, I’m doing better than Joe slick over there!” There will always be someone I can compare myself to which will make me feel pretty good about where I am in my spiritual maturity. But that’s a false view. It’s a trap, one I know I’ve been snared in before and hope to never be again. That old sneaky snake is really crafty. He takes a prism which snags my focus and then refracts my attention, dividing that focus. What he shows me is colorful to my old nature, catching my eyes, but what it leads to is only blackness. Talk about building a better mousetrap; he is a master builder of soul traps, baited with pride.

True perfection in holiness and righteousness can only be viewed by looking to Jesus, our awesome model. When we come into God’s presence through prayer and bible study we see the goodness of God in all His magnificence and flawlessness. When His light shines upon us, it illumines our imperfections and weaknesses. We must see the areas that need work and know what they are. This is a prerequisite for change. We see the problem, we address it by repenting, seeking God’s forgiveness, and in return we receive a spiritual blessing.

Do I really want to use a defective model or blueprints that are all wrong to fashion my new life after? , Should I maintain a horizontal view and be transformed into the image of someone here on earth, someone who is flawed? I would rather be changed into the beautiful likeness of Jesus! Merciful, righteous, abounding in love, forgiveness and truth: that’s the pattern Christians strive to emulate. None of us are perfect, so comparing ourselves to one another is just not acceptable.

When I keep my focus on the Lord and on my own walk with Him, I have a much better view, and am in the best position to encourage others to grow with me. Being humbled through the comparison of myself to Jesus, our ultimate paradigm of righteousness also enables me to come alongside another person rather than elevating myself to a position where I would be speaking down to them. In love, we hurt with them when they hurt, and we rejoice when they do as well. Speech flowing from a meek and humble spirit is more readily accepted.

By keeping our outlook vertical, the horizontal view looks different. We begin to see others with love filled spiritual eyes. Instead of anger, envy or fear over another person’s words or actions, we have stinging pangs of love for them. We can then share the peace of God, in hopes of guiding them to a safe haven in Christ.

There is an intoxicating vista that every soul should behold. It is found inside the heart of God, and it is a magnificently beautiful view far greater than the Grand Canyon or any of His other creations.

Advertisements
Standard
Persecution, Uncategorized

Your Brothers & Sisters

My heart is heavy today, as once again, my attention is drawn to the suffering my own brothers and sisters are enduring. It is a cold heart—a heart not belonging to the body of Christ, which is able to remain unaffected by the following news. Those we love are being tortured and killed. Persecution is widespread and running rampant. The forces of wickedness are angrily lashing out to heap misery and death upon believers of The Way: Followers of Jesus the Nazarene.

Hundreds of Christians around the globe have purposefully adopted a symbol, a mark which enemies of the cross have used to identify us, and label us as infidels. We wear the “N” for Nazarene with proud distinction as being believers in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God. For we know it is not Christians who are the infidels. The bible declares those who reject Christ as Messiah and perpetrate violence against their fellow man to be the infidels. Arrogant reprobates, deceived by the enemy of every man, woman and child.

We take comfort in God’s promises, knowing that He cannot lie, and that He has all power to mete out His holy justice upon those who are true infidels. And we shall be fully vindicated, wearing the brilliant white robes of our righteous Christ.

“I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.”

Isaiah 13:11 ESV

Please take a moment to view this short trailer produced by ‘Voice of the Martyrs’, an organization I fully stand behind. Join us as we pray for those who are suffering and dying for the cause of Christ. And if you live in a free country where you are able to worship and pray without fear of your government or others attacking you for your beliefs (if such a nation exists) be thankful. Persecution is coming for all of us. It is here in the U.S. right now. We are being sued and taken to court for exercising our right to freedom of religion. It will get worse. Remember that we have been told ahead of time: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3:12 NIV

Standard
Uncategorized

The Cross

Flipping through an old hymnal brought back a lot great memories of my early years growing up attending church. It definitely made me feel nostalgic. And I was struck by the number of songs about the cross. Back then I couldn’t fully appreciate all the songs that sing of the cross of Christ.

There were quite a few people who were crucified on those Roman instruments of torture. So what is it about the cross of Christ that is so powerful? What elicits such teary eyed wonder and praise? What’s so special about that cross? Checking out some of those hymns, the answer becomes evident.

At the Cross

“At the Cross, at the cross where I first saw the light

and the burdens of my heart rolled away.

It was there by faith, I received my sight.

And now I am happy all the day.”

And Isaac Watts’ When I survey the Wondrous Cross

“When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.”

Then: I Saw the Cross, by Frederick Whitfield, The 3rd verse reads:

“I trust the cross of Jesus in every trying hour,

My sure and certain refuge, my never failing tower;

In every fear and conflict, I more than conqueror am;

Living I’m safe, or dying, Thro’ Christ the living Lamb.”

Or: The Old Rugged Cross by George Benard, Verse 3:

“In the old rugged cross,

stained with blood so divine,

A wondrous beauty I see;

For twas on that old cross

Jesus suffered and died

to pardon and sanctify me.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross…”

And there’s many more. The love that was displayed on the cross of Christ, and the glorious cleansing it procures for all who trust in Jesus, elicits worship and love, praise and thanks, while revealing the power of God to transform hearts and lives.

Perhaps Jennie Evelyn Hussey’s chorus to Lead Me to Calvary sheds more light.

“Lest I forget Gethsemane

Lest I forget Thine agony

Lest I forget Thy love for me

Lead me to Calvary.”

Another illumining verse is from, In the Cross of Christ I Glory by John Bowring.

“When the woes of life o’re-take me

Hopes deceive and fears annoy

Never shall the cross forsake me

Lo, It glows with peace and joy”

For the Christian, the cross of Christ is the symbol of hope, of redemption and joy. All comfort is found in the shade of that Roman instrument of cruelty and torture, because of the one who died on it.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace and Lord of Glory.

Standard
Uncategorized

Designed to Bless

…Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16 NIV)

God has designed you with particular abilities and personality because He has a special purpose for creating you the way you are. He’s allowed everything that has come into your life for a reason: To shape and prepare you to be who and what you are today, with the experiences you have gone through. The good and the bad. All this so that He can shape you into who you are becoming, that you may fulfill your God given purpose.

God has things for you to do that only you can do. No one else can do them precisely the way you can. You are unique and special. How do I know this? Because the Lord of Creation has a plan for every one of His children. The fact that you are reading these words, indicates you are being called by God in preparation for Him to use you, to fulfill His glorious plan. All it takes is our constant submission to Him.

Before God made the universe, He had a great idea when He thought of creating you. He waited until the time was right to give you birth. You are an original design. There has never been, nor will there ever be, another you. Each one of us is special and each has a unique role to play.

In Christ we discover our true identity and potential. It is there inside you and God is ready to bring it forth. Some would call it fate, and others destiny, yet it is God’s plan. And His plan for each of us is found through a close relationship with the Lord.

God also has a special place and function for you within the church, which is the body of Christ. You are about to give birth to something wonderful, something God has specifically designed you to do.

You are an extraordinary blessing! Allow God to bring forth His design for you.

Suggested prayer: “Heavenly Father, thank you for saving me through my faith in your Son Jesus. Lead me to become all that you’ve created me to be. You see the future and you know what is coming—prepare me for it, as I continuously surrender my life to you. Use me for your glory and purposes. I belong to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

From the book Meet Him on the Mountain

Standard
Uncategorized

Dancing With the Devil

There are many people, including some close friends and many online acquaintances who are still not aware of my horrible past. Yes, I have quite a few skeletons in my closet. But I share this story publicly to demonstrate the awesome power of God to change a person. Though this true account is about 1200 words, it is but a snippet from the tail end of the old me.

Dancing With the Devil  (Copyrighted material. Previously published in Trials & Triumphs II)

In a cold jail cell over a quarter century ago, withdrawals from heroin, cocaine and various pills detached my tortured mind from reality. Lying on my back in a pool of sweat and vomit, the room spun out of control, just as my life had.

Since age eleven, I had called myself a Christian. Then at seventeen I was introduced to the party life and began smoking pot. Still attending church, I played the part. I’d never take the Lord’s name in vain, refused to steal, or listen to music that sounded evil. When party mates cursed in God’s name I’d be offended and told them so.

Over a decade later I was facing twenty-five years in prison including parole and probation violations, and a new charge for possession. My body went limp. My life is over, I thought.

I wailed out to God as I’d done many times whenever my lifestyle had gotten me into hot water. But this time was different. The Lord refused to respond.

He’d always accepted me back before—always forgiven me. But my Savior knew the perfect wake-up call for me. I needed to understand the darkness I’d chosen over Him, and what it means to be without the peace He gives. One terrifying question blared in my head. Have I strayed too far?

Staring at the ceiling, it felt like I was inside a scrap-metal crusher, and realizing my own stupidity added to the pressure bearing down on my soul. Empty inside, and hopeless, black despair enveloped my being.

Suddenly, a personification of the devil himself appeared in my cell, accompanied by two demons. I remember thinking how strange their evil & joyless laughter sounded. They too were miserable. Satan spoke horrifying words. “You belong to me now, God is finished with you. You’re all out of second chances.”

Then two of the most gruesome creatures any mind could conger up hovered over my aching body. Their faces were gray and misshapen with huge elongated skulls, the way space-aliens are depicted. Slobbery slime oozed from their thin lips and dripped onto my face. Desperately I tried to wipe it away but they grabbed hold of my arms, still laughing. Their cold lifeless eyes looked empty, as clammy hands lifted me onto my feet. One demon mockingly held me in his spectral arms and twirled around in a devilish dance as if to romance me.

I thought I’d known fear before that day. Yet nothing can describe the deep-seated dread I felt. At the apex of fright, I blacked out.

When I awoke I was in a new cell. Immediately I crashed to my knees on the unforgiving concrete floor, and cried aloud to Jesus.

“Mercy, Lord have mercy on me!”

During these, the darkest hours of my life, my heart ached with desperation. I’d been cut off from my well of hope. I needed the peace which goes beyond all physical circumstances. The same peace I’d experienced in my past relationship with the Savior of the world.

In the tiny cell was a small steel table welded to the steel wall, which matched the steel bars and bunk. There, lay a newspaper glowing in a halo of light as if it were calling me. I didn’t recognize the publication: “The Christian Inmate News”.

The cover announced an article titled “The Prince of Peace”.

I thought, I wrote an article with the same title, and submitted it to…

I couldn’t remember where. Drugs had fried my memory. Scrambling to that column, my own name was listed as the author.

It IS my article! I’d submitted it over a year prior.

As I read, waves of warm comfort washed over me. The tension ebbed from my body along with the pain.

How ironic is it that the words I’d written nearly two years before that day, during a one month stint in county jail, would be the exact words I needed to hear just then? Writing of Jesus, I’d said, “Sometimes He calms the storm and sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child instead”.

Afterwards, I lifted my head and stretched out my hands toward heaven. I could sense the powerful and loving embrace of Jesus. My spirit heard those sweet words I so longed to hear. “You are forgiven.”

Again and again, I’d heard those comforting words from my Savior.

How can He forgive me, yet again? What kind of love is so great? Only His!

Finally, surrendering completely to God’s will, I’ve never abused another drug. And He empowers me to live the kind of life that pleases Him. Before then, I’d been double minded, refusing to let go of things I thought brought comfort. But only Jesus has the comfort I need.

Engulfed in peace, my shouts echoed down the corridor. “I’m forgiven!”

The jail’s Chaplain researched how that newspaper ended up in my cell, and found no answers. He must approve all reading material before it enters the facility.

I asked, “Are there any more copies?”

“Christian Inmate News? Never heard of it.”

Suddenly, I wasn’t so concerned with how long I’d spend in prison. Jesus was with me! In His mercy, God reduced my time behind bars to only two years out of a possible twenty-five. During those twenty-four months, glorious things began to happen.

One day a hulking muscle-bound guard strode to my cell and extended a bundle of letters, all addressed to me.

I said, “But nobody even knows I’m here!”

The letters were responses to my published article from inmates all over the country. They too needed the peace that transcends all understanding. But as the Lord gave me words to write back to them, a problem presented itself. The law states that inmates cannot send mail to another institution.

Then how did their letters reach me? I wondered.

I had no one to relay return messages for me, so I mailed my replies anyway. Twelve men had written in response to that article, and I answered all of them. Every single correspondence went through, regardless of the rule of non-communication between institutions. Most of them continued to write back, expressing transformations taking place in their hearts. It was cause for great joy and celebration!

Transferred to where I’d serve my time, I was approached by the chaplain who knew me from worship services. “I need an assistant, you interested?”

I must’ve been beaming. “Are you kidding? You bet I am!”

The position offered freedom of movement, trust, and a computer to write on. I led services, preached, taught the bible, counselled the men, and gave my testimony countless times. I even wrote a praise song, performing it at a prison seminar for five-hundred men. The Lord was grooming me for the ministry in which I am today engaged.

Completing my education in and out of prison, I became an ordained minister of the Gospel of Christ.

Jesus is a mighty Savior, who can do all things. He salvaged this life from the scrap heap to display His glory. He’s given me position, honor and respect. And Love! My life has proven God’s word true.

“…Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap…” Galatians 6:7

Standard
Uncategorized

Not Knowing is the Worst

( A true story, names have been changed)

Stench from a hundred prisoners assaulted Albert’s olfactory canals. Daily vexations seemed heightened today. A cacophony of filth constantly spewed from lips of men insensate to blasphemy and cursing. A scripture came to mind: “…He rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless.” (2nd Peter 2:7 NIV)

Rolling onto his side, Albert wrapped a makeshift pillow of two tee-shirts around his head, retreating to an inward search for solace. Pain pricked his heart whenever he considered it: I too wear the orange jumpsuit of a criminal. Yet, his redeemed soul could still sense God’s love. In a fetal curl, he again resorted to prayer, which, always seemed to elevate the repentant man to a higher plane, where circumstances could not reach.

Heavenly Father, I Know I’m here because you love me. I still believe in your love, not in spite of my situation, but because of your chastening. Thank you for the lenient sentence in this county jail. But Lord… I’m distressed over charges still pending for the same crime of prescription fraud in the next county over. What will happen? Sincere tears began dampening his head wrap.

My new wife is pregnant! Oh Lord, I can’t bear not knowing! I could be sentenced to eight more years! Please Lord… Reveal my future to me. They won’t take me to court there, until my time is served here. The questions had become repetitious.

There remained no murky wonder in Albert’s mind over why he must endure the hardships of living a life of faith behind bars. In fact, his arrest was an answer to prayer. Having become addicted to pain medicine that his doctor had prescribed, Albert had begun fraudulently obtaining pain-killers to feed his habit.

Praying for forgiveness daily, he tried to quit, but the drug had an iron grip. Until, his prayers took on the surrendered urgency God seeks. “Lord, I can’t do this alone. Please help me get off of these drugs. Whatever it takes, Lord. Anything! Whatever it takes.”

The next morning detectives had shown up at his house with a search warrant. Albert knew it was God’s answer: forced abstinence from the drug. So, he confessed. “You don’t need to search, it was me. I impersonated several different doctors and telephoned in my own prescriptions.” Pausing, his head dropped to stare at his own shoes. “And I did it many times.”

Fifty steel bunk-beds in columns of five lined the large, third-level floor. Perched center-room, an elevated correctional officer was stationed for optimal viewing. The officer barked, “Lights out in five!”

Descending his roost, the C.O. patrolled the floor between rows of double-beds. “Time to sleep.”

Some unknown prisoner vied for tough-guy points. “Shut-up, cop!” A smattering of chuckles ensued.

“Say that to my face prisoner,” the officer retorted.

“Why don’t you make me, cop?”

Wisely, the officer gave no more response. So, the troubler used a cartoon gangster voice. “Come get me copper!” This brought a roar of laughter, and ended the covert comedian’s performance.

The guard checked the bathroom before returning to his post. Prisoners were permitted to use the toilets at night, yet strict rules applied. No meet-ups, no lingering, and you’d better be relieving yourself.

Albert drifted off into a dead-sleep.

That night, at an unknown hour, Albert woke to find himself moving towards the bathroom, a bible in hand. Wrapped in peace, it felt as though he was not travelling under his own power. Once beneath the dim bathroom light, he opened the bible. His eyes fell to see one section of the page unnaturally bathed in brightness.

“I am with you and will save you,’ declares the LORD. …I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only in due measure; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.”( Jeremiah 30:11 NIV)

It suddenly struck him: This is the long awaited disclosure from God. I will receive more jail time from the final charge, but whatever comes, You are with me, Lord. In his mind it was a lucid answer: In due measure! It means in the measure of Your unfailing mercy. I won’t receive man’s skewed justice, but God’s true justice.

Albert’s crime had been a victimless one. Yet, others were suffering because of his incarceration. Seven months later, seated next to his wife and six month old son, He stood to hear his sentence.

“One year on home detention.” The drug-free Albert was going home.

Sheldon K. Bass, Indianapolis Indiana

Standard
Uncategorized

Dynamic Faith

He that ministers seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness. (2 Corinthians 9:10 KJV)

God’s provisions constantly amaze me. Through all my blunders He’s been astoundingly patient. Each day confirms my dependence on His grace to do as He directs.

At times I feel like the little boy who gave his lunch to Jesus. With it, our Lord fed a crowd of over 5000 people. Knowing what God can do with our ‘little bit’ encourages us to step out in faith to use whatever ability we have for His glory. We simply commit it to Jesus and do our best. He is responsible for the increase. Rarely do I feel capable of performing the tasks that He’s set before me. Without the Spirit’s enablement I’m totally inadequate to continue the work. But He takes my feeble bits of ability and multiplies them by His mighty power (Greek: dunamis).

As a bible teacher I’m awed by more talented teachers than myself. I’m left wondering why God called me to teach His word when so many others seem to be better at it than I am. Then I remember; it’s not me doing the heavy lifting. God’s word is where the life transforming power resides. He does the hard part for us. All He asks is that I continue to trust Him and step out in faith, using whatever He has blessed me with for His glory. It’s the least I can do to love Him back.

Father, thank you for the power of your Spirit working in and through us to perform your glorious will. Enable us with faith to put forth the wondrous power of your word, amen.

Sheldon Bass, Indianapolis Indiana

Standard