Religion

James, the brother of Jesus, writes, “Pure religion in the eyes of God and man is to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep ourselves unspotted by the world.”

False religion says, “I am just a helpless, hapless sinner. I can’t help myself, and neither can God.”

When the apostle Paul testified before the Jews that he served God with a good conscience, the high priest ordered that he be struck across the mouth. Their religion did not allow for a victorious testimony, and neither does much of today’s religion. Testimonies of mediocrity are the accepted norm, the status quo.

So, those of us who plan to move on with Christ and experience lives of victory and power must be prepared to go against the flow.  

We must often “Go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.” The psalmist wrote, “Zeal for thy house has consumed me, and the reproaches with which they reproach you have fallen on me.”

So, “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is Christ.”

“As we reach the unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, we will become mature, attaining to the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  

“May we be encouraged in heart and united in love that we may have the full riches of complete understanding of Christ, God’s mystery, in whom are hidden all the riches of wisdom and knowledge.”

~ Brad Heilhecker

Fear Of Death

It’s a fact of life: the fear of death is one of the first and most powerful enemies that we are called to conquer.

It was Christ’s first temptation after he had fasted for 40 days.

Jesus chose obedience to God over self preservation, and so can we.  

It is written: “Perfect love casts out fear.”  Somehow, through our faith and hope in Christ, there must be a perfect love to be found.  

Jesus found it; Paul the apostle seems to have found it; both of them were able to face enormous opposition and still persevere by some invisible, mysterious, powerful, and passionate love that drove them on. Each of them faced rejection, ridicule, and torture; and each of them kept right on loving, praying, and preaching.

So, if “perfect love casts out fear,” how do we obtain this perfect love?

I suggest that there is only one way: absolute abandonment to the cause of Christ.

If there was an easier way, you know one of us would have found it by now. God knows that we have looked. Sedatives, friendships, lovers, solitude, hard work, a life of leisure—it just seems plausible that a correct combination of all of these good things would do the trick.

They all work for a time, but eventually the specter of death shows up uninvited and unwelcome, and he does not leave until we say with Christ, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Or we can say with Paul, “To live is Christ;  to die is gain.”  

Christ is indeed “the way, the truth, and the life!”

~ Brad Heilhecker

Character

“He has predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son.”  That means that it is going to happen. Elsewhere it says, “May our spirit, soul, and body be kept pure until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord is faithful, and he will do it.” What a promise! What a Father we have! What a Savior we have!

So, our part is simply to yield to the Spirit’s work in us. Simple, but not easy. Our flesh, our enemy, and this world’s system all conspire to keep our hearts seeking earthly gain. It requires a conscious and ever diligent effort to “Set our affections on things above.”  

Only Our Father’s “great and precious promises” are powerful enough to pull our hearts away from “the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

The good news is that “perseverance produces proven character which produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” And, “Our faith and our love come from the hope we have in heaven.”  

So, let us “set our affections on things above, not on the things of this earth, for we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God above.”   

Finally, “Christ’s love compels us; one died for all, therefore all died, and he died for all that we should live for him.”

~ Brad Heilhecker

Victory Is Possible

We are VIP’s in the Father’s eyes.

Very Important People who are witnesses to the fact that Victory Is Possible! That is what the Father desires and that is what the world needs—to see that it is actually possible to live a life of overcoming faith and love in this cold, dark world.  

And our Father has commissioned all of his resources—his angels, his Spirit and his Presence—to assure our success.

His promises sustain us; his precepts instruct us; his Spirit guides us, and he himself comforts us in all of our trials.

We need only to stay close to him where we can draw on his strength, courage, and wisdom. That is “Job One”—to stay close to him. If we do, we will find the mercy and grace that we need for every possible situation. He will direct our thoughts, our prayers, and our feet. He will flood our hearts with his love, fill our minds with his peace, and strengthen our bodies for the battles we must face.

Victory is possible!

This is our battle cry and our anthem. This is why we were born—to testify to the world that there is victory in Jesus.  

Come, let us go to him—moment by moment, hour by hour, and day by day. We will not be disappointed. He lives and breathes to welcome us into his presence. This is why he was born, and this is why he died—to draw us unto himself.  

What an honor! What a comfort What life and joy and peace is ours in Christ!

~ Brad Heilhecker

At The Appointed Time

A season of endless attacks

Many detours

Stop streets

Dark times

Painful memories

Daughters tired and weak

Many questions on our lips

Waiting for answers

Clinging to a God that feels

distant at times

Yet if I look closely

I can see the effects of

Papa’s love all around me

He has always been there

Even when the enemy tried 

to derail my future 

His hand was at work

in my life

Though my lenses are sometimes blurred

And all I can see is my pain

I know my God walks me through

the valley of the shadow of death 

He has been there

He relates with my pain

He quiets my heart with 

His whispers of love

Invade my cluttered mind 

with His presence

Leading me to waters of 

His perfect rest

Till my aching heart beats

to the sound of the promises

He sings over me

Though the enemy paints pictures

of my defeat

Though the fire is burning

seven times hotter

Though I can’t always see 

the future,

Papa declared over me

I will not give in!

I will not give up!

And allow the enemy to win

Pain won’t dictate my future

My hope is in my God

Who never slumbers or sleeps

Looking back over my life

I can testify of the goodness

and faithfulness of my God

Though seasons were hard 

and pain surreal

He carried me through

every trying times

Taking me higher and deeper

with Him

Knowing Papa intimately

makes the hard times bearable

There’s always something 

to glean during trying times

Looking through Papa’s eyes

we believe in the impossible.

At the appointed time

we will sing and do

the victory dance!

 

~ Ebigale Wilson

At The Appointed Time

The Journey

One Sin

There is usually just one sin that prevents us from reaching our promised land. And, regardless of how it may disguise itself, it is the sin of unbelief.  

Whether it manifests as the “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life,” it is always accompanied by the sin of unbelief—the unwillingness to take God at his word and to trust him over our own instincts.  

Jesus showed us how to overcome every sin in his wilderness temptations, and he is with us always to show us how to overcome our wilderness temptations—those tests that come right before Our Father is about to usher us into our promised land, our inheritance.

Whatever he has promised us, you can bet that there will be a preceding temptation to capitulate to a counterfeit promise.

Why is faith the standard of righteousness? What is it about faith that thrills the Father’s heart?

It is not quite so mysterious as it may seem. What parent doesn’t thrill to see his child believe what he has told him and simply obey based on faith in his parent’s wisdom and love? This may be the primary joy of being a parent or of being God.  

All the power and the glory and the love in the world is waiting on someone to respond to it.  

If there was one, this would be the “Achilles heel” of God. He “needs” someone to believe in him, to love him. And we are made in his image. Without someone to love who loves us back, we are lonely and incomplete.

It is a great truth that “love never fails.” Though we may wonder how, God, who is love, will never fail. It may look that way sometimes, but it is an illusion, the confusion of trying to make sense of the underside of a tapestry. And his love will prevail in our lives too.  

No love offered is ever wasted; it may be declined, but it will accomplish its desired purpose.

Ideally, it will soften the heart of the beloved, so that they will be able to accept God’s love on the day that he visits them.  

Our part is to “keep the faith”—to keep believing, obeying, and holding out the offer of life to whomever God sends us.  

It is a high and holy calling which will result in a lifetime of happiness, and an eternity of bliss!

~ Brad Heilhecker

Food, Foolishness, and Fortune

Jesus passed the test.

He was offered food, foolishness, and fortune in place of obedience to the word, the fear of God, and the love of God, and he made the right decision every time.  

He is now living in us, and he is now giving us the power to make the right choices – we can live in obedience to the word; we can walk in the fear of the Lord, and we can choose to love God rather than the riches of this world.  

It won’t be easy; it wasn’t easy for Christ when he walked the earth, but we have the advantage of having the “author and finisher of our faith”, “our high priest and apostle”, living inside us, ready to stand with us in the fight.

And what is our reward if we win the fight? As Jesus was given the name above all names for his obedience, we have been given his name for our obedience. We are now Christians, followers of The King.

We have become his friends, his family, and his comrades. He accepts our worship and returns it with high praise for us. He has no higher priority than our welfare. He will not rest until we are safely home. His undying ambition is to see us glorified with him.

So where is the danger? Where are the pitfalls? How can we possibly lose? In Ephesians, Paul talks about how we should “redeem the time for the days are evil.” Every day we must decide whether we are going to live for God’s glory or ours, God’s pleasure or ours.  

We must constantly remember that Christ has given us his name and his glory that we may be one, and that our well being is his highest pleasure. Christ said, “In this is my father glorified, that you bear much fruit.”

Every day, we must pass the test; we must choose Christ over all competing loves; we must “run the race and fight the good fight of faith.”  

There awaits a crown of life for everyone that overcomes life’s trials.

There awaits a crown of righteousness for all those that long for his appearing.

An eternity of Christlikeness is our future and our hope.

Christ himself is our reward!

~ Brad Heilhecker

No Means No

How blessed we would be if we would learn early on that when God says no, he means no, and he has good reasons for his decisions.

If Balaam the prophet had taken heed to this, his permanent record might be different. Instead, he will always be remembered as a traitor of God. With wrong motives, he approached God for permission to proceed after earlier receiving a firm “no” to the same request, and he received a grieved and reluctant “yes” from God only to soon be rebuked by a speaking donkey.

The point is that we should not be pursuing certain things, and that asking for permission doesn’t make unrighteous acts any more righteous. It only shows our ignorance of and disregard of God’s holiness and goodness.

To continue: we need to cultivate the art of asking for good things, permission to do noble things, and for wisdom to avoid questionable quests.

For example: May I have more time with you in prayer and scripture study? May I have the grace to do more good for others? Please, may I share your heart and mind?

It is not enough to avoid evil; we must cultivate virtue, or the vacuum created by the exit of one bad habit will just invite back in even worse habits.

To conclude: it is a high and holy calling, this thing called Christianity, and it must not be taken lightly.

Taking the Lord’s name in vain doesn’t always concern our misuse of speech, but rather our misuse of our lives.

We who share his name must be careful to avoid all evil and to pursue only good, if we want to deserve our Father’s favor and pleasure.

What does it profit anyone if we live a half-hearted life of self preoccupation? If we do, we will find that the world has no use for us and neither does the Father.

Then, where would we turn for comfort when the storms of life assail us? As Randy Travis sings in one of his songs: “Find the Lord before you need him.” Words to live by!

~ Brad Heilhecker