IT HAS NOT BEEN EASY – The Greatest Secret ever told

It has been difficult for me to tell about something that I found in the Bible. Something amazing. It is not a new ‘fact’ or a new ‘verse’ or some strange formula, a ‘secret code’ or anything like that. But it is so amazing that it has been almost impossible for me to articulate, for a couple of reasons:

First, what I have found seems, to me, to ‘go against the traditional grain’ of Bible Study methods. I attended Bible college and subsequently dedicated myself to continuing studies in an effort to better understand the Bible in order to draw nearer to God and to more correctly, ‘practice what I preach”. I find no problems with the accepted methods of proper hermeneutics or the principals of properly exegeting scriptures, understanding word studies and the use of the Greek or Hebrew languages nor the principals of proper Bible study application.  The problem, that is the first problem I have encountered, was that I found an amazing continuity in the message of the Bible, (yes, there is a continuing, comprehensive message with ONE major theme that start in Genesis and ends in the Revelation), that is overlooked and as far as I can tell, is never mentioned. This Message and its continuity point directly to a profound and deeply prophetic message of:

What had been; why it happened in the way it happened; and how we are to successfully navigate these world events and circumstances.

What is happening now; why it is happening the way it is occurring; and how we are to successfully navigate these world events and circumstances.

What is coming next; why it is coming in the way it will occur; and how we are to successfully navigate these world events and circumstances.

Bible colleges, seminaries, churches, pastors, bible teachers, evangelists almost universally teach the Bible either by topic in random order, (i.e., ‘I wonder what I should preach on next?’), or they teach the books of the Bible consecutively, that is, as they appear in a Bible’s table of contents. This method appears to be ‘a chronological order’, which is not always the case.

It would appear that there is nothing wrong with the aforementioned Bible study methods. You can gain useful principals of living, about serving God and serving others. On the other hand, this can lead to a disassociation of the intended Message and theme of the Bible from the narrative being presented. This has caused most Bible teachers and denominations to ‘compartmentalize’ the reading of scriptures into ‘stories’, topics, subjects, isolated doctrines and dogma, which has led to ‘factional denominationalism’ and Sects within Christianity; divisions in the Body of the Church. (There are over 200 known denominations in America and over 33,000 denominations, worldwide, most in disagreement over scriptures and some are outright hostile to one another.)

I have found the Bible is both useful in teaching principals of living, about serving God and serving others and is a deeply prophetic message, telling what has happened in the past and why it occurred as it did; what is happening now and why it is occurring the way it is occurring; and is instructing and warning us of what is to come and how we are to prepare and how we can successfully endure what is to come. Another way of saying it is that the Bible is a very long and very detailed letter of instruction, written by a loving and concerned father to a son or daughter, who are going on a very long, arduous and dangerous journey in foreign lands.

This “Love Letter”, (The Bible), in being deeply prophetic, is giving careful and explicit instructions about the circumstances, the kinds of people, the opportunities and the dangers God’s people will encounter, and how they are to navigate this journey.

Successful completion of the journey will result in great reward and an eternal life, living in perfection. Failure to complete the journey successfully results with utter loss and eternal death in outer darkness and torment.

Secondly, what concerned me about being able to report on what I had found, is that I kept thinking, “who am I to come up with such a fantastic story as this? I am not that smart. There are many far brighter Bible teachers and theologians than me.” I keep thinking that I must be imagining what I have found or maybe I am just wrong. Besides, I would look like a fool to these wiser people.

However, after ten years of dealing with a ‘nagging feeling that I was seeing a profound truth and that God was showing me something very important, I dedicated myself to continue to study to understand and apply what I had found. The more I have prayed and studied, the more everything in the Bible has begun to make sense. Everything is falling into place. The Spiritual world and the natural world are dynamically connected. God is directing every event and every circumstance of the natural world to a preplanned conclusion. I am convinced and rock solid on this conclusion!

The Purpose of God’s Eternal Plan is “Perfection”.  He is maturing and perfecting His people into His image, ultimately to live in Perfect harmony with Him and with one another, in a New and Perfect heaven and earth.

Each and every chapter, verse and word in the Bible, when viewed within this context of  God’s Eternal Plan of Perfection, begins to make perfect sense.

PROVEN CHARACTER

This has been and will continue to be very a difficult journey for everyone who chooses to believe in God and to follow Jesus in faith. Read what the Apostle Peter has to say, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:3-6.

Every book of the Bible, while not always written in chronological order, builds upon the previous book. It details, from Genesis through Revelation, God’s plan unfolding exactly as He purposed; from The Creation, through the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man to the Great Flood, the Tower of Babel, the Exodus from Egypt, the possessing of The Promised Land, the Destruction of the First Temple and the Jewish Captivity in Babylon, the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Destruction of the Second Temple, our steady march through time has been exactly as Bible prophecy has foretold.  We have entered an era leading to the destruction and, eventually, a rebirth of the heavens and the earth.

According to the Bible, the world entered the final epoch of time, known by various names, such as, “The Last Days”, “The End of The Age” the “Latter Days” and “the tribulation period”, about two thousand years ago, which was marked by the birth of Jesus.  There are visible and observable signs and ancient writings to help you along your way, if you believe in such things. However, most people either don’t recognize the signs or writings or don’t believe. Even among those who believe these prophecies are coming to pass and see the signs, few know what they are seeing, where they are leading or what to do in response.

The best description of the purpose, length and, outcome of these end times, variously known as the “times of distress”, the tribulation and the Great Tribulation, (see Matthew 24:21, Revelation 2:22 and Revelation 7:14) or the Wrath of the Lamb, (see Revelation 6:16), is found in Daniel 12:1,

Not surprisingly, the main interest in this subject continues to be in the sensationalism of these matters; and sadly, both fictional and religious writers are profiteering and capitalizing on the subject financially.  All-the-while, assuming these things are true, they are grossly ignoring the urgency and the catastrophic ramifications which are being played out.

This subject is classified as “Eschatology”, which is the study of final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. The word comes from the Greek word, éschatos, meaning “last” and -logy meaning “the study of”.  Most of the major religious denominations which teach this doctrine believe it will come on the world suddenly, with an increasing intensity and will last for just seven years. This view is from a myopic view of the Bible’s history time line, and the Bible seems to tell a much different version of these events.

A study of the ‘long view’ of the Bible on this subject, will show that the End of This Age was  planned before creation. God, indeed “has a plan for your life” as He has had a plan for the entire world, but it is not the “Sunday school version” you heard about. This is real, dangerous and both deadly and life-giving.

It has taken many millennium for this ‘travail’ to unfold, and we may still have many years to go.  But I suppose that when you are dealing with an Eternal God who has no beginning and no end, time is not a factor. God can take all the ‘time’ He wants to execute His plan. Please come with me and let’s explore God’s Plan for creation.

WATCHING FOR THE CLUES

First, let’s consider the ‘Beginning of All Things’. Then, as we travel together, we will uncover clues to this mystery, this riddle of the ‘End of the Age’, evaluate the writings and assimilate the information to decide – How did we get here and where is all of this going?

We are in search of His Perfection, and it could change your life and the way you live it.

PREFACE

 “Then I, Daniel, looked, and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the stream and the other on that bank of the stream. And someone said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish smashing the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed. But as for me, I heard but did not understand; so, I said, “My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?” And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words will be kept secret and sealed up until the end time. Many will be purged, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.” Daniel 12:5-10

Come with me and be Berean. Let’s take a world tour and journey through time from before Genesis to the New Heavens and a new earth, perfected by God’s design and in His image.

THE JOURNEY TOWARD PERFECTION

Your Brother and Friend,

Mike Young

IT AIN’T EASY – DOING THE WORKS HE HAS DONE

These may be the most misunderstood, poorly translated, under realized and oft denied words of Jesus in the entire Bible.  Yet, they are clearly stated and can safely be taken at face value, that is – “if you believe in Jesus”.

Anytime you see the word “truly” (which translates as the English word, ‘amen’). This is an “emphasis marker”. It introduces a statement of pivotal importance – i.e., that is essential in interpreting the over-all passage. When you see it repeated as it is in John 14:12, know that what Jesus is saying is being ‘double emphasized’. A colloquialism would be that Jesus is “doubling down”!

WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME

Secondly, the inescapable indictment from the most overlooked three words in this verse are, whoever believes in me. The reader is left with little choice here: You either believe in Jesus and will believe what He is saying at its face value, or you do not believe what He is saying, hence, you DO NOT BELIEVE IN HIM, despite what you say.

The “works of Jesus” are as broad and deep as the Bible itself. The word Jesus uses, (ergon), can mean, “work, task, employment; a deed, action; that which is wrought or made”. It can range from physical deeds to miraculous acts to faith. I would suggest you read John 6:29, “Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent”, to start your study on this, and take close notice how the listeners completely misunderstand and mischaracterized what Jesus is saying. The more Jesus explains, the more confused the crowd becomes, until they leave him in disgust and disbelief.

(I must take an aside here. I have heard so many so-called Bible teachers, preachers and pastors say this refers primarily or exclusively to “evangelism”. I.e., ‘you will make more disciples’. This is ‘primarily or exclusively’ because they cannot or will not believe what Jesus is saying, and they are diminishing the Words of Jesus. It is blatant foolishness, exposing either their gross misunderstanding of a Jesus’ plain Words, or a complete lack of faith – a rebellious denial of Jesus.)

The ‘flip side’ of this matter is those who go too far. There are those who take license, and there are many, who take these Words of Jesus and innovate, extrapolate and invent acts and behaviors of their own making, some so weird as to be Satanic.

Jesus explains, in Matthew 10:24-25, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. Luke records it as, A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

Then, in Matthew Jesus gives a stern warning in Matthew 5-19, when He says, For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished! Therefore, whoever nullifies one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven”.

If you insist that you believe in Jesus, then it follows that we must also BELIEVE HIM when He says, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do”.

If there is anything, in following Jesus, that will test your limits of faith and obedience, this is the one. It won’t be easy, but, DON’T BE ONE OF THE CROWD – EITHER OF THE CROWDS!

Follow the One and Only, Jesus – in both His Word and His Spirit.

Let’s please God through faith and by our obedience to Jesus, desiring to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.

Your Brother and Friend,

Mike Young

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,  who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;.”  1 Peter 1:3-7

IT AIN’T EASY – TO BELIEVE

I am sharing three (update – make that four) Testimonies of miracles, when God intervened, rescued and saved me, my family or a friend! This is to encourage those of us who struggle and for those who say they don’t.

Miracle #1 – Provision and Rescue.  They Ain’t Easy!

Luke 17:6

And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

The year is 1996. I am married with two young sons. I had started a fledgling insurance agency, and we are struggling to make ends meet. Each month we invested several thousand dollars into our agency and if sales were made, we could pay our bills and care for our family.

I had built a solicitation mailing program that required we input data from new home sales into the program and that program would interface with a U.S. Mail bulk mail program and would print and sort a pre-prepared letter and envelope to be mailed. These letters would get a response from homeowners who wanted to buy insurance. The cost was so high, that if our operation was interrupted even one week, the result would be a financial catastrophe for our family and the end of our business.

One particular week, the computer program stopped working. The data input from, what was then called ‘floppy disks’, would not work. I feverously tried again and again. I even reformatted the entire hard drive, reinstalled the operating system on the computer, reinstalled the mailing programs and when I tried to download the homeowner’s data FROM THE 26 FLOPPY DISKS, the program would fail at disk number 18, and disks 18 through 26 were the critical disks. I prayed continuously. I prayed fervently. I prayed desperately.

I worked on this for TWELVE hours (through the entire night and into the next morning), reformatting the hard drive and repeating the process, knowing that if this failed, we would become bankrupt and could not even buy groceries the next month.

I stopped in exhaustion, cried out to God, “I give up. I quit! I have prayed and prayed to you! Now, I give up.”

I started putting things away in resignation. I was defeated. My mind darted back and forth between what to do next and resentment. It was then I decided to do this ONE MORE TIME.

I restarted the computer and put disk number one into the computer. The computer whirred and gave me a screen message that confused me, “INSERT DISK #18”. I was completely confounded. It made absolutely no sense that the computer would skip disks 1 through 17 and ask for disk 18.

I followed the instruction and inserted disk #18. The program accepted disk #18 and another message came on the screen asking for disk #19. This continued until disk #26, the final disk, and after installing the data from disk #26, the machine turned itself off! It did it own its own!

My heart was beating what seemed like a hundred beats a minute. I restarted the computer and told it to start printing the mailing list, AND IT WORKED!

I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. I was weeping with joy as I ran upstairs to tell my wife what had happened. I was so excited that I made little sense to her. All she knew from my excited rambling was that things were working. AND, WORKING, THEY WERE!

God had answered in a humanly impossible situation, in a physically impossible way. As far as I could tell, every logical law of math and programming had been violated and transcended. Yet, here we were. Saved again. Safe and sound. BUT IT WAS NOT EASY.

When God came through, it was an intersection of the natural and the supernatural, and that IS NEVER EASY.

(And a big PS: Our business grew from that point to amazing proportions, creating a living, not only for our family, but for dozens of insurance salesmen, their families and a support staff that grew to 22 people!)

Thanks be to God!

Miracle #2 – Rescue and Restoration. They Ain’t Easy!

Luke 19:10

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

It was, 1993 and our family were members of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Chesterfield, Virginia. I had been a Christian for about 18 years at this point, but, like so many others, I had actually been a Christian for about three years, six times! In other words, I had not grown in the knowledge of God nor in the Word.

Then something happened. Whether God lit a fire in my spirit or I, somehow, needed ‘more of Him’, (or both), I had a major ‘spiritual growth spurt’. Instrumental in this growth, I believe, was a combination of life circumstances and an intense time of Bible study and prayer through a book and course named “EXPERIENCING GOD”, by pastor Henry Blackaby.

My ‘sudden change’ from being a ‘get along to go along’ Christian and member of Oak Grove church, to being weirdly ‘on fire for God’ and ‘doing what God has called us to do’, created quite a stir among my friends and acquaintances. Some, of whom, were not so patient nor friendly about it.

One particular Sunday, just after church services, a lady approached me as we were heading to the parking lot to go home. Her name is Dale.  Dale was suspicious of my ‘new walk with God’, and she hesitantly approached me and asked if I would pray for her and her daughter. I asked why she wanted me to pray, since I knew she wasn’t that fond of me. She said, “Because I know that your prayers get answered!”.

I smiled and protested slightly by saying that God would answer her prayer, too. With that, she became tearful and informed me that her daughter had taken her car and had run away from home the day before and the police had been unable to find her, and she needed God to help.

I agreed that we should pray. So I stopped walking and grabbed her hand and said, “Let’s pray”. Dale recoiled and said, “Right here? Right here out in the open?”

I answered, saying, “Yes. It sounds urgent, so let’s pray now!”

I began to pray and after only a few seconds, Dale’s cell phone rang. She answered the phone, mumbled ‘yes’, a few times and then shouted, “The South Carolina State Police have found her! She is safe, and I need to go get her! Thank you, Mike, I have to go!”

“Hold on Dale”, I insisted, “First, don’t thank me! Let’s take a minute and thank God for this quick answer. And tell me, what happened?”

“Her car stopped running, and she pulled to the side of the road just a few minutes ago. A state policeman was only a few cars behind her, so he pulled over to help and discovered she was a runaway, and called me!” She went on to say, “The policeman gave her the phone to talk to me, and she says she is sorry and wants to come home!”

We prayed and thanked God, together. Dale looked at me and said, “I still thank you, too, Mike, and I told you God hears and answers your prayers. I have just never seen Him answer that fast!”

This entire episode was full of surprises and was exciting. But, believe me when I say, IT WAS NOT EASY!

Miracle #3 – Provision.  IT Ain’t Easy!

My wife, Betty, and I travelled from Virginia to Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois for a ‘parents weekend”. We would also have a chance to see our oldest son, Michael, play in a soccer game.

Michael was concerned that he would have a chance to play. So, we prayed for that opportunity. In fact, I felt my son’s prayer was a bit tentative, so I encouraged him to pray a bolder prayer, and to ask what his heart actually desired. Finally, Michael asked not only to play, but to score a goal.

The game began, but Michael did not start. We reached halftime, and Michael sat on the bench. The second half was the same – no Michael. Then, with about 5 minutes remaining, we saw the coach motion to Michael to prepare to play.  Then a fun thing happened. Michael had been elected as the freshman class Chaplain at the beginning for the year, so most of the students knew him, and the students in the stand began to chant, “Michael, Michael, Michael…” (Chills!)

The score was tied, 1 to 1 and there was about 3 or 4 minutes left in the game by the time Michael got on the field. Play continued and at about the two minute mark, the opposing team’s goalie got the ball and prepared to punt it down the field. Michael was stationed about 15 yards from the goalie, but in his path. The goalie mis-kicked the ball and hit our son directly on the back side. The goalie’s forward motion took him past Michael, but the ball now laid at Michael’s feet, 20 yards from the open net. I don’t know what was going through his mind, but Michael ‘drilled’ the ball into the back of that net, with a bit of force!

The crowd erupted in cheers! Olivet now led by a score of 2 to 1. The refree signaled, “GOAL” and called for the ball to restart play, but the final horn sounded, GAME OVER!!

Afterwards, I asked my son what he thought. His remark was, “I have seen God answer prayers, but never so fast and like that!”

I have so many more to relate, but here is one that is most special to me.

Miracle #3 – Mercy, Rescue and Salvation. They Ain’t Easy!

Mark 9:24

 “Immediately, the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Our family was travelling from a vacation in Orlando, Florida. My sons were about five and eight years old. We stopped at a ‘pull off area’, sort-of-a rest stop, on highway A-1-A somewhere near Saint Augustine, Florida.

The weather was cloudy and blustery. The waves were splashing onto the sidewalk along the shore line, which was lined with large stones to stop erosion, I guessed.

My youngest son, I and walked to the end of a sidewalk cul-de-sac to look at the splashing water. I felt safe enough, then suddenly a huge wave crashed over the rock abutment and onto the two of us. When the water receded, my son was gone! The wave had sucked him into the turbulent water and I could see no trace of him. Prayers began to race in my mind and out of my mouth.

Psalm 116:8-9

For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

Panic seized me and my first thought was, “GO GET HIM!”. So, I kicked off my tennis shoes and turned to dive into the water, which was probably a very bad idea, when another huge wave crashed onshore and as suddenly there was my son Jody, standing upright on the sidewalk, soaking wet, sputtering water and crying! I grabbed him and ran back toward the car, thinking, “WHAT JUST HAPPENED? Nobody is going to believe this.”

You know, it would be easy to say, “Yeah, well, that could have been a coincidence”, and rightly so. But, when this just keeps on happening, time after time, after praying, and believing in faith, I just have to BELEIVE!

So, believe it or not, God saved us again! AND IT WAS NOT EASY. When God gets involved, IT AIN’T EVER EASY, but it’s always good – really good – all the time!

Psalm 116:15-17

Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his saints.
O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord.

What more can we say? By faith, Moses? By faith, Abraham? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mocking and flogging, and further, chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented (people of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, on mountains, and sheltering in caves and holes in the ground.”

Let’s have faith. Let’s step out on faith. Let’s pray for one another, please.

Your Brother and Friend,

Mike Young

 

IT AIN’T EASY – BEING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS

 

“And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” Matthew 4:23.

Imagine, if you can, what would happen in a world where medical technology was practically non-existent; no pharmaceuticals, no hospitals, the doctors’ training was less than rudimentary, and a man begins to heal every disease and every affliction among the people.

“So, his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.” Matthew 4:24-25.

Imagine the stories, the rumors, the wonders and confusion that would have spread among people. Imagine the crowds that would begin to search for this man and would begin to make pleas to Him, beg Him and demand help from Him. This man was Jesus, and IT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN EASY on Him.

DISCIPLES GIVEN AUTHORITY

Read further with me in Matthew 10:1, “And Jesus called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.”

“Jesus sent out these twelve, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.” Matthew 10:5-8.

MAKE DISCIPLES TO DO WHAT JESUS HAS DONE

And, finally, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20.

IMAGINE ACTUALLY BEING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS

You call yourself a Christian, right? Why is that? Why do you call yourself a Christian? Is it because you ‘said a little prayer, said you love Jesus, and accepted Him into your heart?” Is it because you do ‘good things’ in Jesus Name?

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.John 14:12

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will do what I have told you.” John 14:15.

Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” John 14:21

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23.

Calling ourselves a Christian is easy. But being a Christian, being a disciple of Jesus, AIN’T EASY – It is hard. But, just imagine! Yes, just imagine.

Just go and do it!

Your Brother and Friend,

Mike Young

Olivet Nazarene University Proclamation Choir

IT AIN’T EASY – MAKING DISCIPLES FOR JESUS

Many churches say witnessing or ‘soul winning’ is easy. They will say you just go into a neighborhood, and knock people’s doors, hand out literature and invite them to church.

Some other churches suggest inviting your neighbors to church at Easter, Christmas or to a special event.

This is NOT witnessing or making disciples, but it is easier than actually ‘witnessing’ about Jesus. These examples may be a starting place, but what we are told by Jesus is to “go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that Jesus commanded”. IT IS NOT EASY, so we improvise?

If you read the account of Jesus calling His first disciples, you might get the idea, “Oh, how easy is that?!”.  The (Greek) language in Matthew 4:18-22, tells us that Jesus was walking around the Sea of Galilee “on purpose and with purpose”, anticipating the men He knew He would encounter. His words were simple and direct. The response is sudden and astonishing.

On the other hand, take a look at the results of two of Jesus’ disciples when they tried making disciples for Christ:

The Apostle Paul had gone to the church in Jerusalem to tell his brothers and sisters of the great things God was doing through the churches, and everyone was praising God. Then, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing Paul in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who instructs everyone everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides, he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place!” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they thought that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then the whole city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were intent on killing him.” Acts 21:27-31.

Well, that was not easy! It sounds more like an epic witnessing failure!

Or how about Stephen? Full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people, but some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. They were unable to cope with his wisdom and the Spirit by whom Stephen was speaking, so they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away. They shouted and rushed at Stephen, drove him out of the city, and stoned him to death. Acts 6:8 – Acts 7:60.

Ugh! Stoned to death. Nothing easy there, either!

Hebrews 11:36-38 tells us that “others experienced mocking and flogging, and further, chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented (people of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, on mountains, and sheltering in caves and holes in the ground.”

What’s going on here? None of this sounds like something me or any of my Christian friends would dare try. And, by the way, did someone say this was going to be easy? Did they say we could do this? (You know, we are more used to ‘Tuesday night witnessing and visitation night’.)

Still, the early Church grew exponentially. There must have been something worth more than just living life. (As it turns out, it is Jesus and eternal life with Him; and some people found it.)

Honestly, though, it has been not easy witnessing Jesus to others over the decades since Jesus was on earth. It has been even harder to make disciples –  and is no easier today. There are many places in our world that still persecute and murder Christians for their testimony and for their witness. You may encounter rejection or ridicule in the Western world, but greater persecution may well be coming to your hometown, soon.

Still, this is our calling and Jesus’ command and commission to us. Go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that Jesus commanded.

Let’s just say it upfront: THIS ISN’T GOING TO BE EASY!

There is a good example of one who followed Jesus. The Bible tells us of “a man, one sent from God, and his name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.” John 1:6-8.

John (the Baptist) said this about his calling, his witness and about making disciples:  “I am the voice of one calling out in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord.’ I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.  It is He who comes after me, of whom I am not worthy even to untie the strap of His sandal.”  He said it, he did it, but it cost him everything. It was hard, but it was worth every minute.

I’ve tried to do what Jesus has told us to do, and I have tried to do what John said to do. I have almost always been reluctant and afraid, but at times I would just start talking.

EXAMPLES from EXPERIENCE:

One time, after a lawsuit settlement, the judge asked me why I was so generous to the plaintiff when it was shown the plaintiff and his lawyer had lied in depositions. The judge told me that because of that, I did not need to concede anything. “And, how were you able to stay so calm?”, the judge asked me.

Instead of answering directly, I related the story of Abraham and Lot, and how honoring God would bring blessings. I had known the plaintiff and had been good friends with his father, since this guy was a teenager. I felt more like an uncle to him. The judge said, “That’s quite a story”, to which I said, “Yes, and it’s the truth”.

As a result, I was able to talk to the judge about Jesus, and he was responsive.

Another example is when I had made friends with a man who had Parkinson’s disease. He, his wife and I were having lunch one day, and I asked him if he believed in God. He said he did believe in God. I asked if I could pray for him, whereupon he became enraged. He cursed me and told me to stay away from him, and to this day, he avoids me. (His wife later apologized and said she did not understand his attitude or behavior.) I had gone from being a friend to a hated adversary. This really confused and hurt me.

IT AIN’T EASY.

On another occasion, I was watching a young man, who was working as a landscaper’s helper. It was hot, he was tired, and not making much money. I sensed or decided to encourage him and to tell him about Jesus. He stopped his work and listened. I said something to the effect, “Excuse me. May I talk with you a minute?”

He responded, “yes”.

“I have just had a thought – I believe it was from God, and He told me to give you a message. Would that be O.K. with you?”

The young man smiled slightly and nodded, ‘yes’.

“God wants you to know He loves you and has a better plan for your life. A plan to help you and to provide for you in ways you cannot imagine, right now”, I said.

The young man asked what I meant, and was I a preacher?

“I am a follower of Jesus”, I told him, “And, God wants me to tell you that He has a greater plan for your life. A plan to prosper you and not to harm you. It all starts with you calling on Him and asking Him to make you His child. It will change everything for you if you will stay with it.  Are you willing?”

Tears formed in this young man’s eyes, and he nodded, ‘yes’.

I reminded him, this will not be easy. You will have to endure the changes that will have to take place, but things will never be the same for you!

We prayed together. I gave him my phone number, and although I never heard from him again, I still think of him and pray for him.

YOU CAN DO THAT, TOO.

Another example is a time I witness to an attorney before testifying at a divorce proceeding. During that time, I talked to one of the lawyers about God’s love for them and His hatred of divorce. He was not happy about it, but, said he did not know and did not care if he died and went to heaven.

Then, during depositions, I testified to how God hates divorce but loves both this husband and wife and each person in the courtroom. I finished with as a personal witness for one of the couple.

Then a lawyer exclaimed, “Do you realize all of what you have said, now has to be read in open court?!”

I told him, I did not know that, but so much the better!”

Praise God! What a great surprise. (ONLY GOD CAN DO THAT).

I have had numerous similar experiences like these, but there have been other times when I have been rejected and turned away. There have been times when I was yelled at, cursed and verbally threatened.

It is never easy. Let me say it again – It just AIN’T EASY. But the more you try, the more courage you will gain. I would say, even if it isn’t easy, just do it!

Your Brother and Friend,

Mike Young

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.”  Matthew 7:21-23

(OUCH! That ain’t easy!)

NEXT:  IT AIN’T EASY – DOING MINISTRY LIKE JESUS.

Previous:  IT AIN’T EASY – THE PREACHING OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

 

IT AIN’T EASY – THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.  And the tempter came”  Matthew 4:1-3

Jesus showed us how we would be tested if we choose to follow Him, that is after becoming a Christian. He has shown us the way to resist the devil and to overcome his testing and temptations. There is nothing easy here.

The word “Temptation” as used here describes a “trial,  a testing, a proving trial.

It is the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy;  the enticement to sin, arising from personal desires or from the outward circumstances;

In this case, it is the temptation by which the devil sought to divert Jesus the Messiah from his divine errand; It is also the way the devil will attempt to divert you, and it AIN’T EASY!

It also shows the condition of a person, a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness;

It comes from adversity, affliction, trouble, sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness.

Jesus set the example and showed us why God sends trials and temptations our way.  He tested His own son to show us what to expect and how we are to react.  Notice:

1. Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit – God initiates the trials.

2. Into the wilderness – No food, no water, no resources, no earthly help for 40 days.

3. To be tempted by the devil – In a weakened state, alone.

This part of the Judean desert or wilderness could be arid, fiercely hot and waterless.  There were predatory animals prowling and roving bands of thieves.  Imagine how the dangers of geography, climate and the barren landscape could affect and test your body, mind and spirit.

This actually happened. It also serves as a type of metaphor for you, today: There will be ‘predatory animals’ prowling and roving bands of thieves lying in wait for you.  Imagine how the dangers of geography, climate and the barren landscape will affect and test your body, mind and spirit. IT AIN’T EASY, Brothers and Sisters!

Then, “after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came”  Matthew 4:1-3

This is the condition, and these are the type of circumstances which will truly prove a disciple.  Jesus deliberately and willingly followed The Spirit into a hostile wasteland to be tested. This is also a choice you will have to make to follow Jesus.

In a desperate physical condition, Jesus was tempted by Satan, first with His physical need of food.

Next, His soul was tempted with pride of life.

Finally, His Spirit was tempted with glory and honor.

Jesus was tried, tempted and tested, and He overcame the temptations of the Body, the Soul and the Spirit.  He has shown us the way! (Matthew 4:1-11).

We would do well to study this and commit it to memory so that anytime you are tested and tempted you will say,

1. ‘I SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”

2. ‘I SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD MY GOD TO THE TEST.’”

3. ‘I SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD MY GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’”

And then, and only then, the devil will leave you; and even the angels will come and minister to you.  (Matthew 4:11).

If someone told you about an “easy salvation” or some kind of “cheap grace”, don’t believe it. This is tough. But, have you ever found anything in life that is cheap or easy that had any lasting value?

Are you getting the idea that being saved is not easy, and it is not supposed to be easy?  Following Jesus is not easy, but there is no adventure like it. Rather than a temporary pleasure on earth, then an eternity in darkness and fire, you will find both purpose in life now and then eternal peace with God; things the eye has not seen, and the ear has not heard — the things God has prepared for those who love him!

Your Brother and Friend,

Mike Young

COMING NEXT:  IT AIN’T EASY – MAKING DISCIPLES

Previous: IT AIN’T EASY – THE PREACHING OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

PS: Please stay with me. This ends really well! You have to see this at the end!

IT AIN’T EASY – THE PREACHING OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

A wild looking man, who came to be known as ‘John the Baptist’ , was found in the Judean wilderness, (an extremely dangerous, hot and arid desolate wasteland), preaching a message of repentance.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John was the consummate evangelist and follower of Jesus.

John wore a garment made of camel’s hair. His diet consisted of locusts and wild honey, preaching a message, which at that time would have been considered both odd and unheard of.  People began to think that perhaps this man was the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet.

People from all over Jerusalem, Judea and the region around the Jordan and were coming to John, questioning him, asking, “Then what are we to do?”  And he would answer and say to them, “The one who has two tunics is to share with the one who has none; and the one who has food is to do likewise.”

Now even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what are we to do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.”

And soldiers also were questioning him, saying, “What are we to do, we as well?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone, nor harass anyone, and be content with your wages.”

Now while the people were in a state of expectation, and they all were thinking carefully in their hearts about John, whether he himself perhaps was the Christ. John responded with a hard message to them, saying, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but He is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the straps of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

John’s reputation, his activities and the crowds drew the attention of the Jewish Pharisees and Sadducees, whom John challenged, calling them ‘offspring of vipers’ and daring them, asking, ‘who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’.  John also challenged their authority, saying, “Produce fruit consistent with repentance; and do not assume that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you that God is able, from these stones, to raise up children for Abraham. And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit is being cut down and thrown into the fire.“

John the Baptist’s courage and confrontational style earned him the reward of being beheaded by King Herod Antipas around A D 28.  Not easy!

There was nothing easy here. Nothing that would seem even remotely pleasant to an individual in our 21st century postmodern church, although this was the early pattern for the Church.

Why were so many coming to John in a desert wilderness and to the Jordan River to be baptized? It was not easy!  But so few come to be baptized in our comfortable and easy postmodern churches today?

The true seeker of God, the one who wants to be changed and saved; those who want to follow Him and to be His disciple, knows that Jesus and the Gospel of Christ changes people and circumstances – and they know It Ain’t Easy – but it is worth it!

Your Brother and Friend,

Mike Young

PS:  PLEASE stay with me! This is going to get ‘really good’.  Wait until you see what is coming!  Honestly, I hope this changes all of our minds about how we approach God and our response to Him! I pray this leads us on the Adventure He always promises!!

COMING, NEXT:  THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS – IT AIN’T EASY.

PREVIOUS:  IT AIN’T EASY GETTING TO HEAVEN.

 

IT AIN’T EASY GETTING TO HEAVEN

“IT AIN’T EASY TO GET TO HEAVEN WHEN YOU ARE GOING DOWN”

“Just whisper this prayer after me”, they said. “Right where you are, right where you are seated, repeat this little prayer after me and you will be saved”, they said. “It’s easy”.

Yeah, right! But you forgot to tell me…

I have watched as the Christian Church has turned aside from the clear teaching and example of Jesus to find a better way, an easier way, a fun way, a way to fit the desires and passions of men and women, boys and girls.

Let me tell you, there is no other way than what Jesus taught and demonstrated, and the way is clearly recorded in the Bible, and IT IS NOT AN EASY PATH!

If you call yourself a Christian, please read and consider what is presented, and ask yourself, is the “hard road” worth it?  If you are not a follower of Jesus, you too, please read, think and consider, could it be worth it?

THE BIRTH OF JESUS – It was not easy!

We are told amazing stories, we see magnificent plays and hear beautiful music about the birth of Jesus – especially around the Christmas holiday.

But let me tell you, nothing about the birth of Jesus was easy. It was hard. Very hard. Consider this:

A young Jewish woman named Mary was betrothed to a young Jewish man named Joseph. Beside satisfying the tradition and the law surrounding marriage at that time, complications arose when Mary discovered she was pregnant; but she had not been with any man. The ramifications of this discovery could have been devastating. Besides the humiliation, the shunning and rejection by Jewish society, Jewish law proscribed severe penalties. This would not be easy.

Joseph, upon hearing about Mary’s condition, decided to keep matters private and to send her away, secretly.  But Joseph, upon hearing from an angel sent from God, through a dream, was told the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit and that she would give birth to a Son; and Joseph was told not to be afraid. He was to name Him Jesus, for The Child will save His people from their sins.

Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded. He took Mary as his wife, kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and named The Child, Jesus.”  This was not easy, either.

Next, a census was ordered by Caesar Augustus, requiring all Jews to travel to their hometown to register. Joseph and Mary went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, in order to register.  If the trip would not be hard enough, Mary was near the end of her pregnancy and had to travel by foot and from the city of Nazareth in Galilee, to Bethlehem in Judea, a trip of about 70 miles. This trip would have taken between four and five days.

It never gets easier, in fact, things seem to get worse. While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to give birth. The Bible tells us that there was no room at the inn, so they had to go to a barn, or as it was called in those days, a manger, to give birth.

Finally, word of the birth of a “King of the Jews” reached King Herod, so he began a search for this child with the intention of killing him. God forewarned Joseph to run to Egypt with Mary and Jesus to be saved. Herod was so thorough, that he had every boy child under the age of two years killed, in all of Bethlehem. Finally, when Herod died, Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to Nazareth.

There was NOTHING easy about any of this! So, maybe the question we should ask: “Was It Worth It?  Is It Worth It?”.

Please stay with me as we hear more about what it takes to be saved, and we can try to decide: IS IT WORTH IT? WOULD IT BE WORTH IT?

Your Brother and Friend,

Mike Young

NEXT:  THE PREACHING OF JOHN THE BAPTIST – IT AIN’T EASY