Habakkuk 3:17


Habakkuk 3:17 Though the fig tree shall not blossom, and fruit is not on the vines; the work of the olive fails, and the fields make no food; the flock is cut off from the fold, and no herd is in the stalls, 

Ever had a day like that? Raise your hands because I know you have. You sit at your desk and look at the sun coming up and the depression that oppresses your soul is like a sore tooth, but you do not know where the soreness is coming from or why it is there. Life should be good... but, it is not at this precise moment.

Seriously, I never thought Habakkuk could ever teach me a lesson. I do not think I’ve ever heard a sermon on Habakkuk. But, there it was in black and white. Verse 17 of chapter 3. Yes. I felt that way. Empty. Void. Depressed. Where is the fruit that God needs from me? Where is the stuff that He works through me? What use am I to the Lord God, or to anyone else? There seemed to be a numbness pervading my being. Verse 17 described it perfectly.

Then I read verse 18.

Habakkuk 3:18 yet I will exalt in Jehovah; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

It’s like Job declares, “Though He slay me, I will still praise Him.” 

Something cracked inside as I read that verse. A dam burst... no, it was more like a glacier melting. In the time it takes to blink, a thousands years could expire… it all depends upon perspective. God has no time constraints because He invented time. From my perspective, 30 seconds can seem like ten years sometimes. I had several months of grief that was but a speck in my time line given my age. Yet, months do not amount to a nano second in God’s time. And it all means absolutely nothing compared to the wonders God has planned for eternity. My little spot of woes won't matter one whit a million years from now. Then I'll have been with my glorious Father for a million years. That is true, but in a million years will doing the works of God matter? Will fruit matter?

When Hurricane Charley blasted through Florida, my cousin's grapefruit tree was six years old and was about to bear some fruit. Charley ravaged it badly. In the following year, though, it leafed out beautifully, but no fruit. My cousin consulted an arborist who told her the tree was sacrificing its fruit so that it could survive, and it might take several more years before it finally bore fruit. Survival of itself was more important to the tree that its bearing fruit and its own procreation.
However, to God, fruit is the purpose, not the tree.

Matthew 21:19 And seeing one fig tree by the road, He went up to it, and found nothing on it except leaves only. And He said to it, Let there be no more fruit from you forever. And the fig tree immediately dried up.

The lesson from Jesus? No fruit... no life.

Jonah blathers about Nineveh’s repentance and pouts on a hill. God causes a vine to grow that protects Jonah from the scorching sun and the beating heat. Then God causes a worm to eat the vine, the vine withers and Jonah, fainting from the sun and heat, pouts even more. I can see God shaking his head at Jonah.

“Don’t you get it yet, son?” God asks. “You have pity for a plant that lasted 24 hours, how much more pity I have on the more that 120,000 innocents of Nineveh who do not know their right hand from their left hand." God gave those innocents mercy and grace, and the people of Nineveh repented of their wickedness, turning to the One True God. Though they did not deserve it, they had Grace. While they were yet sinners, God gave them a chance to live for him. Those people of Nineveh were just like that grapefruit tree and the fig tree. One hundred years after Jonah pouted under a withered up vine, the great city that Nimrod built and that Sennacherib made even greater and more lavish crumbled under the heel of Nebopolassar, a Babylonian king. It was destroyed just as God told Jonah to prophesy that it would.

The prophet Nahum cried out against Nineveh... A nation that had the opportunity to bear huge amounts of fruit, but went back to worshiping gods that had no eyes to see and no ears to hear.
Nahum 3:1-4 Woe to the bloody city! All of it is a lie, all of plunder; the prey is not withdrawn. The sound of a whip, and the sound of rattling of a wheel, and a galloping horse, and of a bounding chariot. The horseman lifts up both the gleam of the sword and the lightning of the spear, and many are slain, and there are a mass of dead bodies, and no end of corpses; they stumble on their dead bodies, because of the many harlotries of the well favored harlot, the mistress of sorceries who sells nations by her harlotries, and families by her sorceries.

God spent a lot of time teaching me, training me, carrying me, dancing with me, loving me and walking with me. Now it is time that I walk His way, follow His steps, wait for His timing, bear His fruit, work His works. I would that it be easier than it is, but so be it as it is.

Whatever the cost

I saw on the news recently a comment by a Muslim, "We teach the true meaning of the Koran." His meaning was that he taught peace and apparently no such thing as jihad. The passion of those inflamed with jihad is astounding to me. What ever the cost they will pursue what they think is truth, even to death. Why?

The passion burning brightly, albeit for something deeply opposed to God's true Word, is something I do not understand. I cannot fathom wanting to die for something that does not make sense (like women not being allowed in Heaven, yet if one dies sacrificially then one receives a harem of 70 virgins--if women are not allowed in Heaven, then where do the virgins come from?). There are numerous other loop-de-loops which boggle the brain.

Since September 11th, we have been bombarded with the message that Islam is a peaceful religion… that only a few fanatics have twisted the message. It is not a religion of peace as the stories below will illustrate. What is extremely frightening is that Islam is practiced by 1/5 of world’s population and that number is growing every day. Violence is taught by the Koran...

In the Koran, Surah 9 verse 29 states “Fight against…those who acknowledge not the religion of truth [Islam] among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” Mohammad also commands in Surah 47:4 how to treat unbelievers of Islam: “Smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly…” meaning to take them captive.

A young Iranian man named, Ali, said, “If there was peace in Islam, I wouldn’t have come to Christianity.”* This is a compelling testimony to the fact that Islam is not a peaceful religion.

A young man* from Indonesia said, “Because we have Jesus, it is not difficult being a Christian.” Only Christians can understand how Petrus can say this after what happened to him and his family.

Petrus’ father, Ishak Kristian, was a pastor*. On an October morning at 11:30 am, about 20 radical Muslims began to protest outside Ishak’s church. Ishak quietly stepped outside and tried to calm them, but the small crowd only grew in size and fury…

Pastor Kristian gathered together 6 of his family and friends and returned to the comparative safety of the church and they began to pray.

Shortly after noon, the small mob had grown to 200. They began smashing the church possessions and screaming for the pastor and the others to come out. Pastor Kristian and the others hid in the back room of the church.

Enraged, the mob lit the church on fire. Only one of the seven managed to escape alive. At the funeral, Petrus was told it was the will of Allah… it was their fate. Petrus said, “At first I was disappointed because I lost all of my beloved people. But this made me realize what really matters in my life. After the fire, most of our congregation became stronger in faith. In my opinion, because we have Jesus, it is not difficult to be a Christian.”

Today, our brothers and sisters in Christ in Indonesia are being slaughtered, kidnapped, raped and forcibly circumcised. The wombs of pregnant women have been slashed open. It all boils down to the real reason: The Devil is desperate—anything but Jesus!

Why is this so? Because we are at war. Paul explains exactly what kind of war we wage in Ephesians 6. It isn’t against flesh and blood, but against the dark principalities, dark forces. Satan is doing anything and everything to keep the Gospel from being spread around the world. Yet, the more he squeezes the oppression, the more Christianity spreads into all the cracks and crevices.

To me, it is amazing that in Vietnam, Christians outnumber the Communist Party members. Nothing has changed since Pharaoh became so angry at Moses sharing Spiritual truths with the children of Israel. The wicked without Jesus see Jesus in Believers and hate us for it. Nothing has changed except that the church Jesus promised to build on the Rock is alive and growing despite the persecution around the world.

We Americans have it so easy, yet we are persecuted if we live the kind of life Jesus would have us live instead of the lukewarm lifestyle of the politically correct. We have it easy, but for how long? Will it take oppression of Christians to inflame that dormant passion in our breasts?

* Stories taken from Voice of the Martyrs.

Seasons...er, Happy... ah! Merry Christmas

Editor's Note: Printed with permission by the author, Alan Smith, Pastor

SEASON'S GREETINGS

     I'm sure you've heard a lot of talk about the fact that some retailers seem to be getting away from saying "Merry Christmas!" and instead are substituting phrases like "Season's Greetings!" or "Happy Holidays!" in their decorations and their advertisements.  Someone has even written this politically correct Christmas greeting:

     "Best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most joyous traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, but with respect for the religious persuasion of others who choose to practice their own religion as well as those who choose not to practice a religion at all."

     Many Christians are outraged at this shift and view this as one more attempt to remove all references to Christ from our culture.  In response, a group has been organized called the "Committee to Save Merry Christmas".  Here are some of their thoughts:

     "This deliberate and intentional substitution of 'Merry Christmas" with un-celebratory phrases are thoughtless, condescending and hurtful.  Should you -- the purchasing public -- who honors the American tradition and culture of Christmas, continue to purchase Christmas gifts from these stores when they deliberately and intentionally refuse to acknowledge Christmas? Our committee believes you should not!  We, instead, encourage you to shop where the values and meaning of Christmas are cherished."

     I have some concerns.  On the one hand, I am concerned about attempts (sometimes blatant attempts) to remove all references to God or Christianity from our society.  But, on the other hand, I have to remember that God did not give Sears (or any other store) the responsibility of telling people about Christ.  He did not give our American government that responsibility.  He gave it to those of us who are Christians.

     I think it's ironic that a lot of Christians are upset that Target doesn't greet them with "Merry Christmas!" when they walk through the door, but they will make no attempt to talk about Christ in their own lives.  We prefer to say "It's a beautiful day!" instead of "What a beautiful day God has given us!"  We prefer to say, "I've been lucky or fortunate" instead of saying "God has blessed me."  We would never dream of saying "Christ is the only way of salvation." for fear of being labeled a fanatic.  But then we'll get upset at a store which has a banner proclaiming "Happy Holidays" and refuse to do business with them.

     Folks, let put the responsibility where it belongs.  God has given those of us who are Christians the task of sharing Christ with a world that doesn't know him.  God "has given us the ministry of reconciliation...and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Cor. 5:18-19).  If we're going to get upset, let's start getting upset about the fact that WE'VE not been doing that like we should!

Have a great day (oh, and have a Merry Christmas)!

Alan Smith
Helen Street Church of Christ
Fayetteville, North Carolina



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Warning: Freedom of speech not for Christians

Pay attention class. Our (read that Christians') freedoms are slipping away. Now the federal judicial system has removed our freedom of speech in an unprecedented ruling in Atlanta, GA with the upholding of a ruling against Jennifer Keeton who appealed an earlier court finding that she must undergo a "remediation" process in order to graduate from university with her counseling degree because of her Christian beliefs. She believes homosexual behavior is wrong because God said it was wrong. The university said she couldn't believe that way and still receive her degree, therefore she would have to change her position on homosexuality and even attend a gay/lesbian march and write a paper about her feelings on it. In fact the faculty stated:
"[Augusta State University] faculty have promised to expel Miss Keeton from the graduate Counselor Education Program not because of poor academic showing or demonstrated deficiencies in clinical performance, but simply because she has communicated both inside and outside the classroom that she holds to Christian ethical convictions on matters of human sexuality and gender identity," the 43-page lawsuit reads.

I know, and you know that the greatest counselor is our Lord Jesus Christ. It is one of His names: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Frankly, I tremble at the audacity of this university and its faculty for doing this against a student for her beliefs, and not for academic failure or some clinical failure in her counseling skills. They took her money readily enough, why wait until she is about to graduate before doing this since she was vocal about her beliefs from the beginning?

Those who do not believe in Jesus should not get too smug over this ruling. Don't be thinking it won't happen to you! It will. There is coming a time when there won't be any personal freedom for those who do not believe, and who chase after worldly things trying to please fleshly mankind. It is an ill wind that bodes no good for anyone because this is a blatant violation of a citizen's constitutional right to free speech, and freedom to believe in the one, true God of Heaven and earth.

Squeaky wheel is ruining America

Photo from Idea Go
I open the newspaper or watch the news and invariably I see some small group screaming for "rights" or see commercials from networks being blatantly biased which makes me so very insecure with the knowledge that we'll never get the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help us God.

These small groups such as the homosexuals (.773% of households in the U.S. are same sex couples according to 2010 Census) make up 1.5% of the population much, much less than the touted 10%. Such a tiny percent of the population rules the networks.

Now I'm seeing NBC running ads against the tax breaks for the so-called rich which shows they haven't done their homework. It's the blind leading the blind and they are heading toward a ditch which we'll call Collapse of American Economy. They are influencing the American public who are willingly wearing blindfolds called apathy and stupidity for not seeking out the whole truth and nothing but the truth. How many times in school did I hear, "Don't believe everything you read,"? Too many to count. I learned ages ago that people have agendas and those with agendas will leave out pertinent facts that do not align with the agenda. It boils down to Gossip. Yet, the American Public is swallowing it as Gospel.

In one ad a man gripes about the lack of jobs. Here's the question that has been answered time and again: until the economy is stabilized,  there won't be an abundance of new jobs. The economy won't be stabilized until there is more than a 2 month assurance of tax rate stabilization. We are circling in a Catch 22.

Sadly, everyone wants something grand in their pockets but unfortunately fewer and fewer are willing to work for it. The work ethic in this country has deteriorated into gimme, gimme rather than fair deal when you give something of value in return for something of value. When did that happen? I think it was when the Depression babies grew up without anything and wanted their children to have everything without teaching them the real value of a dollar. Just a guess, here, nothing so scientific as a survey.

Look at what James Franco campaigned to do and succeeded in getting a university to fire the professor who dared to give him a "D" in a class Franco only attended 2 times out of 14 classes. For me, the "D" is very soft, he should have received an "F". This is classic wanting something for nothing.  Where I go to school, attendance is crucial because when you are earning your Master's you don't have tests to take in the regular sense. You are in a more professional environment of learning and Franco couldn't have possibly done the work required when he didn't even show up for class.

Paul reminded the Thessalonians 2Th 3:10  For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.  God is emphatic that we should give value for value. The main thing is we Christians are not our own, but we belong to God. Of the 78% Americans who reported in a Pew survey in 2007 that they are Christian (mostly Protestant or Catholic with a smattering of other faiths) there should be 78% of all Americans who understand this truth. Where are they? Why aren't Christians standing up for righteous living? Why isn't there an outcry of "Foul!" to MSNBC for these biased ads? Are we so immune to opinion these days that we just accept something as truth just because it's seen on a network station? Where have all the brains gone?


Gingrich rhetoric not newt--er--news

I stand amazed at the extremely short memories of American citizens when it comes to politics as usual and especially with Newt Gingrich. The Gen-Xers can be forgiven because this is the first time they've heard the master spinner at work,  but the Babyboomers heard it all the first go round when he was Speaker of the House.

His extra-curricular marital activities were some of the most in-your-face I've seen and when confronted with it, his reply? "It's none of your damn business." Just what he recently said... again.

This is not a prude's response, nor a do-gooder response, I don't have my head in the sand. I've got a very clear head, and it is the clear head of a conservative, who saw it all unfold twenty years ago. The rhetoric hasn't changed a whit. If the man's wife (or I should say wives) can't trust him, then why should the American people trust him? When a person takes those vows of marriage, then that means commitment of a very certain kind which Newt does not have. If he won't stay true to his wife/wives, then he won't stay true to his word because having an affair is breaking his word and breaking his bond. It's sickening.

Ann Coulter: (During the House ethics investigation of Gingrich, he produced notes in which he reminds himself to "allow expression of warm/smiling/softer side.")

After Gingrich had been speaker for a brief two years, the Republican House voted 395-28 to reprimand him and fine him $300,000 for ethics violations.

(Sen. Bob Dole loaned Gingrich the money in what was called the first instance of an airbag being saved by a person.)

It's true that Newt has had some good ideas -- but also boatloads of bad ones, such as his support for experimentation on human embryos, cap and trade, policies to combat imaginary man-made global warming, an individual health insurance mandate, Dede Scozzafava (Romney supported the tea party candidate), amnesty for illegal aliens, Al Gore's bill to establish an "Office of Critical Trends Analysis" to prepare government reports on "alternative futures" (co-sponsored by Gingrich), and thinking he could get away with taking $1.6 million from Freddie Mac without anyone noticing.
 Regardless of what you think about Ann Coulter, she does her homework, she has the memory of an elephant, and she's more often than not on target with what she says.

Before you pick your candidate--do some homework and dig for truth. You might be sorely surprised... then again, you just might remember more than you thought you did.



 

8 traits of a godly friend

God designed humans as social creatures therefore we are taught from the first of our toddling steps how to share, and how to communicate with others. We will gravitate to those that have similar interests so we share commonalities. Generally, we do not choose whom we work with, nor do we choose whom resides next to us (unless we own that house, too). But we do choose our friends. Fair weather friends and associates are plentiful, but good friends are hard to find because our society has changed gears in recent decades toward more work time, and less play time. In years past, it was easy to find friends among those you went to church with, but today it is getting harder and harder to do so because we just do not make time for making new friends. Churches have cliques just like those in junior high and high school. That is the saddest state of affairs I’ve noticed in the past twenty years. Even joining the choir doesn’t automatically make church friends anymore. You would think nuts would like to hang out with nuts.
  • A godly friend is faithful. Proverbs 18:24 A man of many friends come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, but a brother is born for distress. Proverbs 22:11 He who loves pureness of heart, grace is on his lips; the king shall be his friend. Proverbs 27:10 Do not forsake your friend, nor your father's friend, and do not go into your brother's house in the day of your calamity, for a near neighbor is better than a brother far away.
  • A godly friend tells the truth even if it hurts. How can hurt be sweet? Because Proverbs 12:26 The righteous searches out with his friend, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Ecclesiastes 7:5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
  • A godly friend uses kind insight speaking gently. Job 16:21 O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleads for his friend! Psalm 15:3 He does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his friend, nor lifts up a reproach against his neighbor. Proverbs 25:20 Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart. Being bold with truth can cause great harm because it matters as much how we say something as what we say.
  • A godly friend helps the soul to stretch. Just as a friend consoles us in our day of trouble, a godly friend will probe into motives and our purpose expanding the thought processes for godly decisions. Proverbs 20:5 A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out. Let’s not forget the way iron sharpens iron so one man does to another Proverbs 27:17.
  • Godly friends offer wise counsel. Fair weather friends will only look toward their own benefit and not care about what is good for the friendship or what is good for you. When a friend speaks, compare his words with biblical principles. If they match, then the counsel is wise. Proverbs 27:9 Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, and one's friend is sweet from the counsel of the soul. Proverbs 20:18 Purposes are established in counsel; yea, make war with wise guidance.
  • Godly friends are not fools. Proverbs 1:7 The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Pro 13:20 He who walks with the wise shall be wise, but one associating with fools shall be broken. A friend who prays with you and for you can be counted on to pray for wise words to counsel you.
  • Godly friends have self-control. Part of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. We are human, but someone who talks of getting even, has a short fuse, and who crosses the courtesy line continuously is not a godly person and we are not to associate with them. Proverbs 22:24-25 Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, Lest you learn his ways, And find a snare for yourself. Ecclesiastes 7:9 Do not be hasty in your spirit to be angry; for vexation rests in the bosom of fools.
  • Godly friends will shun evil. So often we find ourselves ensnared in Satan’s web simply because we are not on our guard at all times. We let worldly themes seep into our thoughts rather than pursuing all things that are noble, good, righteous, and the like as Paul adjures. Proverbs 24:1-2 Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them; For their minds devise violence, And their lips talk of trouble.
The friend who is steadfast during times of rejoicing as well as in times of grief is the same one who will stand fast in times of need. There is great blessing in being this kind of friend.
Psalm 15:1 A Psalm of David. O Jehovah, who shall dwell in Your tabernacle? Who shall live in Your holy mountain? 2 He who walks uprightly and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart. 3 He does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his friend, nor lifts up a reproach against his neighbor. 4 In his eyes, the reprobate has been despised, but he honors those who fear Jehovah: He has sworn to his hurt, and will not change it. 5 He has not given his silver at interest; nor has he taken a bribe against the innocent; he who does these things shall not be shaken forever.
Jesus sent us the Comforter, our paraclete, the Holy Spirit who will always walk beside us, encouraging us, convicting us of sin before we ever put hand or foot to the sin. When the Holy Spirit recognizes Himself in another, you will feel it deep inside and you just know this person is worthy of your trust. Are you that kind of person?