Our relationship with God is based upon dependence. He wants us to depend upon Him.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Pr. 3:5, 6. NKJV
And in that dependency, we relate to Him through prayer – expressing both our wants and needs. God already knows what those are (Mt. 6:32), but He likes it when you talk to Him.
It’s an expression of your faith in that He can and will grant your petitions. (Heb. 11:6) It is in that same prayerful mind that we seek out His word and steep in Holy Spirit revelation to deepen our relationship, by getting to know God better. We learn that we can look to God for love and for strength in order to walk a spirit-filled life in a rebellious world.
We grab hold of His loving salvation within which He gifts us with eternal love, joy and freedom from the bonds of the adversary. This results from when our walk with God becomes one that revolves around the only truth, which is found in His ‘living word’ (Jesus), who resides within us. (Jn. 16:33; 1 Jn. 4:4.)
Our relationship then, has budded to include God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, wherein we are now being transformed moment by moment to be like Them. (2 Cor. 3:18)
We are then called to widen our relationship to include both brothers and sisters in Christ and all of the potential children of God by teaching the word and living the example.
We are relating through and for God to help widen His kingdom, to build an all-encompassing communion of one that defies the world’s indoctrinations, and any man-made doctrinal / denominational additions or subtractions of God’s word.
It is the pure spiritual connection that we seek. It’s all that God ever wanted from and for us. He wants all of us joined together in communal prayer and worship that initiates that interconnection.
We must not deny anyone (unless they are unsafe to be around) the chance to be related. You don’t know who God is trying to love you through, or how through you, He wants to send His love to them. Everyone needs to know that God loves all of His creations, and that in His mercy, forgiveness and transformation is available to all.
Jesus is working in everyone, whether or not they are aware of it.
In that same vein, we want to take a stand for our Relationship, especially in the face of whatever denigrations the world may hurl against us. The world and its inhabitants are temporary. Our relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is eternal. (Mt. 10:16 – 22.)
Within our relationship with God, we also get our relationship with ourselves straightened out – finally knowing who we are as a child of God, and through the power of God, letting go of the worldly conglomeration of deceit that we previously thought was us.
We are wellsprings of Christ’s living water, given the privilege to show God to others to help them find Him in themselves for the sake of their own joy, peace and understanding – through relationship…
Goodnight and God bless.
October 20 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
In this postmodern world, we see history agonizingly repeating itself over and over. People run from God as hard and far as possible in their quest to be self-directed and self-satisfying. In the end, they are rewarded(?) with the misery that always accompanies immersion in the ways of the world – ultimately punished by the consequences of their own actions.
You might think that God is heartless for allowing people to fall into the darkest depths of despair, but He is in fact letting them experience the stark reality of a devil-may-care existence of a life lived without Him. God is letting them realize the futility of their stubbornness and rebellion.
People rail against what they proclaim to be a merciless God. Yet what immeasurable mercy must our God put forth in that humanity still exists after it has indulged in so much self-destructive immorality, hate, greed and ultimately waging the wars that those behaviors spawn?
With regards to wars, they are a product of the mercilessness of man, not God:
What leads to [the unending quarrels and conflicts among you? Do they not come from your [hedonistic] desires that wage war in your [bodily members [fighting for control over you]? James 4:1 AMP
You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. James 4:2 ESV
We as Christians, have to take great care in examining what we throw our support behind. In the Old Testament times, God sanctioned war because His people were an island of righteousness (to the best of their ability) desperately trying to survive in a world of satanic opposition. God was preserving His righteousness for perpetuity – to have a people throughout time to be called ‘His children.’ It was God’s mercy that brought them to victory.
Still, there was (and is) always a price to pay for war. War is not the way God would have us to fulfill His kingdom purposes. Even King David was admonished for his role in war, in that God would not allow him to build the temple he wanted to construct for his holy Father:
‘You have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight.’ 1 Chr. 22:8 NKJV
Unfortunately, (due to the ways of man) Jesus told us that even up until the end of time, there would be wars:
“But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.” Lk. 21:9 NKJV
However, Jesus never sanctioned war.
U.S. Christians have a propensity to be patriotic and rally around our troops. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that. Our country was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles and until recently, has always stood for morally high ground. It was a symbol of hope, a beacon of God’s mercy. And our troops have always stood at the ready to preserve both that mercy and the freedoms we hold so dear. We can never fully repay what we owe them for their sacrifices.
Yet, we must not allow that patriotism to incite us into saber rattling. War should be only the last resort – an answer to a direct attack.
There is no goodness, no value, no godliness in war. The U.S. has been, for all intents and purposes, in continual war since its inception.
And most of these wars had nothing to do with patriotism. They have purely been a product of sustaining, enriching and empowering the banks and the military-industrial complex. It is a way that the military justifies its existence and its horrific unchecked expansion, with a budget that exceeds the military expenditures of all other countries combined. Imagine what this country would be like if the tax burden of that irresponsible spending was lifted off of its people. That includes all of the money we waste on the cronyism associated with political and military special interests that reward favored defense contractors to build outrageously priced war machines that do not work.
That holds true for the World wars, the Korean war, the Vietnam war, and through our bungling foreign policy, the middle eastern wars. While we need a military defense at this time of history, we certainly don’t need it as a pre-emptive means of conquest to make the world conform to our dictates. It is offensive to God. We are called to be bastions of peace:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Rom. 12:18 ESV
That is reflecting our merciful God. But I digress…
War is just another manifestation of how man cannot solve the great complexities of life without God. Humanity cannot perfect itself or its environs. Only the merciful grace of God can accomplish that (through the souls of the willing):
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Cor. 3:18 NKJV
The world itself is troubled because it reflects the nature of the sinful souls of the majority who populate it. We cannot create a righteous world through unrighteous means. Yet each time an individual soul yields itself to the will of God, His mercy brings the world towards that righteousness by another degree.
Conversely, those souls that choose to deny His mercy, force His hand in allowing them to step into eternal demise. How do they demonstrate their denial? By violating His will by placing their own in preeminence.
That’s not saying that a child of God will not commit the same violation. Yet, when we have God in our heart (through Christ), we receive His merciful conviction so that we are reminded to confess and repent, thereby acknowledging the mercy of God and bringing Him glory.
In that moment, we bend to His will and yield up our soul for His continuing transformation through His merciful extraction of our old self and its ways.
How merciful is our God?
Goodnight and God bless.
October 15 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
For over 20 years, I have been writing about the Bible and its application in a way that hopefully transcended church denominations. It’s been a quest to separate the intent of God, to the best of my ability, from the ego of man – to help lay out His path for godly living. (All of that work is currently in the editing process for future publication.)
I feel that now God is giving me an unction to help bring that kingdom message into the light for living in a postmodern world. I didn’t quite know how that was going to look, but as I was beginning to examine how Christianity was being written about in this era, I saw openings where I could light that candle.
What first caught my eye was the title of an article called The Day Jesus Threw God Out of Church by Dr. Steve McSwain. I thought, ‘That’s a declaration / viewpoint beyond anything I’ve ever encountered.’ I read it, and it led me to read three other articles he penned as well, to get further understandings of his philosophies.
God bless Dr. McSwain. We are all trying to find our spiritual path in this life. He says that he is a Christian (‘just not of a certain type’) and that he has been a minister for a number of years. In his articles, he puts forth some ideas that he feels represent the beliefs of woe begotten wayward churches and their congregants – holding those out as a composite picture of the majority of the present-day church of Christ.
God knows that churches are peopled by humans with failings. Is there any institution that isn’t? There are also some that fall under the sway of human ‘personalities’ instead of the word of God. Yet, I contend that the majority of church-goers are doing their best to live a good (godly) life as it is presented in the Scriptures.
We know that as long as we inhabit this body, we are stuck in the world we live in. While I’m a huge proponent that anyone can live happily in this world if they’re on God’s path, it is not hard to be beguiled by the ways of the world, which are often in direct opposition to God’s:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Is. 55:8, 9. NKJV
And being that they do oppose the will of God, Christians are called to separate ourselves from those ways:
…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the word of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Rom. 12:1, 2. ESV
We are called to be ‘godly correct’ instead of politically correct.
One of the good Doctor’s other three posts is titled Christian By Nature. In it he rails against what he claims to be a Christian dogmatic stance that says only some people have been “pre -ordained to be on God’s short list of ‘insiders’ invited to his banquet in the sky, and as a consequence, I need not worry about those not so fortunate and are furthermore eternally doomed.” That is a gross misrepresentation:
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD. Lam. 3:25, 26. NASB
For the grace of God has appeared to all people, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age… Titus 2:11, 12. ESV
’Salvation for all people’ does not denote ‘pre-ordained insiders.’ Yes, in order to receive salvation, one must actively seek out God and His salvation, but everyone has right up until the day they die to receive that; but given that they don’t know when that day of death will come, an urgency exists for their search. How much more compassionate can God be?
And yet, Christ Himself taught that there will indeed be a final separation for those who do not believe in the salvation of God through Christ:
“…you will die [unforgiven and condemned] in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am the One [I claim to be], you will die in your sins.” Jn. 8:24 AMP
So, Jesus is not describing an unfortunate, pre-ordained, eternally doomed group. He is speaking to those who make the free will choice to join that crowd.
Furthermore, followers of Christ are not selectively trying to alienate anyone. We are instead called by God to lovingly warn them of the possible outcome of the wrong decision. Indeed, it is our duty and we are held accountable for doing so:
“…If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes them away, his blood shall be upon his own head…But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his own iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.” Ezek. 33:2 – 4 & 6. ESV
The second of the other articles I read by Dr. McSwain was Why Christianity Needs Heretics. In it, he says, “It is the heretics who always counter the orthodoxy of the past and open believers to new possibilities in the future.” Orthodoxy refers to ‘beliefs or practices,’ and a ‘heretic’ describes one who is opposed to them. In one aspect, I agree with the doctor, in that the church must be cleansed of any doctrine of ‘man,’ that opposes the word of God – which is why I believe that the concept of church ‘denominations’ is harmful.
However, if the good doctor is referring to the Bible itself as ‘orthodoxy of the past,’ which he seems to infer, (as we’ll flesh out shortly), I must take a rigid (but lovingly) opposing view. A Christian, by definition, is one who follows Christ. Thus, he or she must stick to what He says:
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” Mt. 24:35 NKJV
“…blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Lk. 11:28 NKJV
“…he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life…” Jn. 5:24 NKJV
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” Jn. 8:31 NKJV
“He who does not love me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.’ Jn. 14:24 NASB
We see then the word of Christ (revealed as the word of God) stands eternally, and it holds the key to salvation. Jesus is the word of God (Jn. 1:1); and what does God say about Himself?
“For I, the LORD, do not change…” Mal. 3:6 NASB
Furthermore, we are warned by God not to take it upon ourselves to change His word (that which represents Him):
“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” Dt. 12:32 NKJV
Some people are only what is called a ‘red letter’ Bible reader only – tossing any words not said directly by Jesus aside; but that was certainly not Jesus’ intent and purpose:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Mt. 5:17 ESV
Ultimately then, biblical orthodoxy, (‘of the past’) cannot be refuted and believers should not be open to ‘new possibilities’ (read: man-derived ideas) that conflict with the word of God.
The third of the three other articles of Dr. McSwain is Christianity is Alive and Well, within which he states that he is increasing hopeful because: ‘Churches and church leaders seem to be more emboldened to speak the truth, to open the doors to all people, to stop the dogmas and doctrines to act as spacers between the tiles on its sacred floors that do nothing but divide people into classes, sexes, races, or worse, “us and them” or “insiders” and “outsiders” the “saved” versus the “lost.”
I’d like to dovetail that statement into his article that garnished my primary attention, The Day Jesus Threw God Out of the Church.
In it, he quotes Lk. 19:45, 46, (see also Jn. 2:15, 16.), which is the account of when Jesus entered the Temple in Jerusalem and ejected the people conducting business there that smacked of material gain rather than activities revolving around worship.
This was an actual event. The good Doctor would have us believe that it was not an actual account, but instead a ‘metaphor.’ I admit that the Bible contains many metaphors – especially in the books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation. However, the Bible was written in very simple syntax so that sheepherders could understand it. In most cases, the word is meant to be taken literally.
If one makes a metaphor of the majority of scripture, it opens it up to the capricious interpretations of man.
And while I agree with McSwain that Jesus was infuriated with how the Pharisees had manipulated the Jewish faith for their own gain, he’s all over the place taking pot shots at the Scriptures. He says that ‘God’s presence was believed to have resided in the ‘holiest of holy’ chamber in the Temple and that the high priest was only allowed in once a year. That’s not conjecture. It is from the mouth of God Himself, spoken through Moses.
Then the doctor starts talking about how the men of that time believed God was a male and infers that women must have been second class citizens. Admittedly, it was a patriarchal social system. However, God never said that He was a male exclusively:
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Gn. 1:27 NASB
God transcends sexual definition. Yet both He and His Son refer to Himself / He as ‘Father.’ That’s why you’ll find God spoken of in the male pronoun. However, you can also see in the above Scripture that He did create humans in two distinct sexes.
McSwain says this anti-female bias is still present in church today, and he places links in his sentence to prove it. Although, I would say these links were presented with the hope you wouldn’t actually go check them out. He picks on a particular ‘Southern Baptist leader in Nashville,’ whose only actual ‘crime’ was saying that women have different roles in church. The minister did not say that women were subservient or a second tier gender. (See 1 Tim.)
He wraps up his discussion talking about churches who welcome would-be congregants conditionally, based upon wealth, donations, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Let’s combine this observation with those he presented above in Christianity is Alive and Well.
All churches will have ‘bad apples’ – those who have not shed some of their beliefs from the past, that have not put on the full cloak of Christ’s love. All followers of Jesus must strive to love everyone:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. But this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jn. 13:34, 35. NKJV
There is no one on this earth that a Christian shouldn’t love. There should be no church that would exclude anyone from the possibility for hearing the word of God and having the opportunity for worshiping Him. And for those out there who may have received rejection for who they are as a human being, I pray for your forgiveness on behalf of Christianity.
Having said that, a follower of Christ is bound by the word of God. One such Divine dictate says that we must strive to make peace at all times:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Rm. 12:18 ESV
I believe that all religions offer meaningful and beneficial wisdom. Yet, as a Christian, I am bound by the biblical dictates for my salvation. According to the word of God (by my faith), Christ is the only way:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jn. 14:6 ESV
It is never my intent to make another belief system wrong. They have their belief system and I have mine. I’m open to share if they want to hear my views. If not, we should all agree to respect each other’s beliefs.
We should love everyone; but we don’t have to love everything they do – especially if it runs in opposition to the Bible. Yet all over the world, Christians suffer just for the beliefs they hold. Jesus warned us that we would:
“…they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” Mt. 24:9 NASB
This rings glaringly true for the hyper-vociferous 2% of the world’s population that shows their true intolerance, as they ironically hurl hateful epithets at Christians for daring to believe differently than they do.
Christ came to deliver all people from sins. Our part is to do our best to keep from committing them and to refrain from the company of those who willingly engage in them:
“Depart, please from the tent of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, let you be swept away with all their sins.” Num. 16:26 ESV
So you see, as followers of Christ, we cannot engage in, or facilitate any actions, that we feel are contrary to His word. It has nothing to do with being racist, bigoted, homophobic or whatever lying, hurtful label you want to try to stick on us. Our objection is not against the individuals. It’s against the actions we are warned not to associate with.
Yet activists will sue Christians or bring governmental action against them. It’d be the same if we sued them for their lifestyles; but we don’t. We just don’t want other beliefs forced upon us. Last I checked, the Constitution granted freedom of religion.
Please, let’s just respect one another’s beliefs and each take our marbles and go home without having to suffer retribution for our faith. Let’s keep the peace and live to love another day…
God bless Dr. McSwain for inspiring me to have a dialogue with you. Hopefully, he’ll get a chance to read it.
Goodnight and God bless.
October 06 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
You Are a Temple of God
For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Cor. 3:17 ESV
Prior to Jesus’ coming, the Jews gathered in the Temple. After Jesus ascended, His followers gathered in the newly formed Church of Jesus Christ – which began as gatherings in homes and became formal places of worship and instruction. According to the above scripture, while church is translated from the Greek ekklesia, which means assembly, congregation, the whole body of Christian believers, it can also be inferred that a single believer can be a ‘walking church.’ Stay with me, I’ll come right back to this…
In the mid 90s A.D., the apostle John received a series of heavenly Holy Spirit-induced visions that we now know as the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ – the last place we come in contact with Jesus in scripture.
In these visions, Jesus presents Himself to John as He is now:
“Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” Rv. 1:17, 18. NASB
We see that Jesus has conquered death and is victorious over the devil.
Next, Jesus tells John to write down what He says in seven letters, to be sent to seven different churches, (the number ‘seven’ denoting a divine completeness). They consist of urgent warnings in how to correct wrongdoings that are taking place in each particular church.
So, given that a church is an assembly of believers, any church is at the mercy of the behavior of its congregants. You then, as a congregant (a ‘walking church’), have a direct influence on your church of assembly, as well as anyone you might come in contact with. You are an image of God, yes?
Thus, we can all learn on an individual level from what Jesus is about to say.
When He addresses the first church, He says that they have become ritualistic – more of a rigid religion than a place of love where Christ can be found. Jesus’ remedy is to return to your initial love and zeal for Him, keeping Christ as your centerpiece and to repent of any behavior that diminishes that.
It’s easy for our faith-related activities to become thoughtless robotic habits. We need daily dips in God’s word to remind ourselves of the infinite love that God and Jesus have for us and have been holding us in since we were all just creative thoughts in Their heads.
Jesus finds no fault in the second church. He recognizes that they are living in material poverty, but He reminds them of the far greater rewards of their spiritual abundance. Jesus also lets them know that He is aware of their persecution by devil-inspired unbelievers. He tells them that if they remain steadfast in their faith in opposition to their detractors, their reward will be eternal life.
Not everyone is blessed with material abundance. As long as your lot in life is not due to sloth, you can seek God, knowing that you’ve done your best, and ask Him to provide what you need:
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on….But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Mt. 6:25 & 33. NKJV
The part about the devil’s minions’ persecutions? Unfortunately, that’s a given. The closer you get to God, the more severe and frequent are Satan’s attacks. But don’t forget who’s running the show, and that He’s on your side:
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 Jn. 4:4 NKJV
Jesus speaks to the third church, warning them that they have polluted their doctrine with worldly behavior and false religion. He commands them to exercise immediate repentance.
The only doctrine that belongs in the church is the Bible. As far as repentance is concerned, we all need to have an alarm button in our heart that sounds when we transgress God’s word. Seeing as how we don’t know the time when we will exit this world, we want to make sure we are right with God every second.
The fourth church has allowed a ‘false prophet’ into their assembly, who has been leading congregants down a satanic path. Again He demands immediate repentance, with a full-faith return to Him and His gospel.
You know when a fox is in the henhouse. It’s when they are teaching something contrary to scripture. It is your duty to correct them (or the church make the correction, should your efforts fall upon deaf ears) lest they be expelled.
The fifth church has forced the Spirit to depart from them because of a lackadaisical approach to their church performance. Jesus tells them to repent, return to His truth and live it out accordingly.
Jesus has only praise for the sixth church – encouraging them to remain steadfast on their current path.
Conversely, Jesus had nothing good to say to the seventh church, which was full of ‘lukewarm’ believers who had no conviction and whose focus was on material things. But He didn’t just leave them with admonitions, He encouraged them as well:
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent.” Rv. 3:18 NKJV
Jesus loves you so much, He cares so much, that if you mess up, He’s going to bust your chops to try to nudge you back onto the right path.
At the end of each letter, Jesus had John pen an encouragement to the churches by telling them what their rewards would be if they remain in faith and obedience:
“To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Rv. 2:7 NKJV
“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” Rv. 2:10, 11. ESV
“To him who overcomes I will give some hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name which no one knows except him who receives it.” Rv. 2:17 NKJV
“The one who conquers and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations…And I will give him the morning star.” Rv. 2:26 & 28. ESV
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before HIs angels.” Rv. 3:5 NKJV
“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” Rv. 3:12 ESV
“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne…” Rv. 3:21 NKJV
Jesus builds a wonderful case for sticking by Him and walking in His footsteps. Later in John’s visions, He lays some urgency on the matter:
“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” Rv. 16:15 NKJV
Why the warning? Because Jesus want you to be there with Him:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…Then I, John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Rv. 21:1 – 4. NKJV
And in our final Jesus contact, we see that Christ will spearhead the way:
“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly!” Rv. 22:20 NKJV
Well, okay, let’s clear up that ‘contact’ stuff. This is indeed the last scriptural Jesus contact. I hope you have enjoyed and found value in them.
However, we, the children of God, can also make continual and eternal contact with Jesus Christ through the Spirit. Thank God and hallelujah!
Goodnight and God bless.
October 01 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
Are You Kicking Against the Goads?
Shortly after Jesus ascended to His Father, the early Christian church fell under persecution by the non-Christian Jews. One such oppressor leading this charge was a man named Saul of Tarsus, (who would later become the apostle Paul):
…Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Acts 8:3 ESV
Indeed, Paul himself later described his motivations and actions:
“…according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee.” Acts 26:5 NKJV
“…I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.” Gal. 1:13 NKJV
Saul knew nothing of the gospel:
“For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it…” Gal. 1:12 NKJV
Well, Saul and his henchmen were riding towards Damascus to hunt down more Christians, when suddenly a blinding light from heaven shone all about him:
Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are you Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Acts 9:4, 5. NKJV
Saul knew that he was in the presence of a Divine manifestation, but I’ll bet when he realized it was Jesus, his knees commenced to knocking!
(A ‘goad’ is a pointed stick used to drive oxen. ‘Kicking against the goads,’ is a Syriac (western Semitic) proverb describing an attempt to do something that will only bring pain. Here, Jesus was implying that Saul was going to experience pain if he continued to oppose the will of God.)
“But rise and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:16 – 18. ESV
Only Jesus would transform His greatest earthly enemy into His mightiest champion. Paul would even go on to write (by the Spirit) the majority of the New Testament.
Similarly, there is no one else whom Jesus would not enlist to serve Him if they make the free-will choice to do so. He makes it pretty clear that the choice is either black or white:
“He who is not with Me is against Me…” Mt. 12:30 NKJV
I would venture to say then, anyone who is not with Jesus is ‘kicking against the goads.’ Why would someone do that? Perhaps they have not head the gospel message. That’s why it is so paramount that we spread the good news to everyone we can, because it is a life or death matter. (Dt. 30:15 – 20.)
There are others who have heard the message but suppress their spiritual pain in order to indulge in their desire for worldly things – effectively turning their backs on God:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 Jn. 2:15 – 17. ESV
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory…all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on HIs right, ‘Come you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’…”Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…” Mt. 25:31 – 34 & 41. NASB
The outcome is not a good one for the ‘goats.’ But a goat can be saved right up until the time of his or her death. That’s why we never give up on those who love their sins. It is our duty. (Ezek. 33:1 – 9.)
Finally, there are people who have committed some infraction(s) in their past that they believe disqualifies them from salvation. But that clearly runs contrary to the love, kindness and mercy that characterizes our Savior:
“…every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Mt. 12:31 ESV
So, if you approach your Father with confession and repentance, your pardon is assured, and you can get on with the business of living your godly life. We know that unrepentant sin brings death. (Rm. 6:23)
That ‘unpardonable sin’ Jesus talks about above consists of denying the Holy Spirit’s message of salvation through Christ, which will close the door on your redemption:
…you will die in (under the curse of) your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He [Whom I claim to be – if you do not adhere to, trust in, and rely on Me], you will die in your sins. Jn. 8:24 AMP
Thankfully, we have a loving eternal alternative:
“Repent, and turn from all your transgression, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die…? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!” Ezek. 18:29 – 32. NKJV
Besides, those goads are sharp! But they fall away when we make our Jesus contact…
Goodnight and God bless.
September 22 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
Risen Jesus! You Want Proof?
When Jesus took His last breath, His Spirit left His flesh.
Simultaneously, the veil in Most Holy Place of the Temple split in two. (Mt. 27:51. Mind you, this veil was 60 feet high, 30 feet wide and 4 inches thick. The significance of the veil was that it separated man from God – whose Spirit resided in that Holy of Holies. Only the high priest was allowed to enter that place, once a year, on the Day of Atonement. The tearing of it signified the elimination of that barrier between man and God, replaced now by a continual direct connection through Christ.
Jesus was buried in a tomb that was sealed with a heavy stone. Three days after, an earthquake struck, removing the stone. Simultaneously, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus came to the tomb to find an angel sitting on the rock, surrounded by unconscious Roman guards. He greets them:
“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen as He said.” Mt. 28:2 – 6. NKJV
The women run to tell the apostles, but along the way, they meet up face to face with Jesus. He exclaims, “Rejoice!” 28:9 NKJV
They fall at His feet and worship Him; but Jesus says,
“Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” Jn. 20:17 NKJV
Jesus had not yet ascended bodily to heaven.
The women went to the apostles with the news but they did not believe them. Peter and John when to check out the tomb for themselves, and after only finding Jesus’ burial clothes, they began to hope.
Later that day, two disciples were traveling away from Jerusalem, lamenting over Christ’s death, when suddenly He appears by their side. He conceals His identity and asks them about the source of their lament. They recounted their understanding of the events of Jesus’ death and their subsequent doubts about whether or not He was the Messiah.
Jesus admonished them for their lack of faith in all the Scriptures, wherein it told of the path the Messiah must take. He went on to interpret for them all of those Scriptures as He traveled with them to their destination. He then broke bread with them. At that very instant, they recognized Him and He vanished before their eyes!
That evening, these same two disciples went to the apostles and related their experience. Simultaneously, our risen Savior appeared in the room, saying, “Peace be with you.” Jn. 20:19 NKJV
The apostles panicked, thinking they’d seen a ghost; but Jesus reassures them:
“Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” Lk. 24:38 NKJV
Seeing that they were still not convinced, He shows them the scars on His hands and feet from the nails that were driven through them. Furthermore, Jesus ate food in front of them as well – a feat no ghost could accomplish.
(Note: See that Jesus is allowing Himself to be handled. That means sometime between when He met the two women and when He was with the two disciples on the road, He must have ascended to His Father to pour out His blood sacrifice, received His glorification and returned to earth in His transcendent body.)
Finally convinced that Jesus was who He said He was, the apostles became elated. Jesus responded:
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Jn. 21 -23. ESV
Jesus is not saying that the disciples, or any other clergy or laity in the church, has the power to forgive sins. He is saying that once you deliver the gospel message to anyone, the recipient has the free-will choice to either receive Christ and receive forgiveness for their sins, or, decide to reject Him and have forgiveness withheld.
Jesus spent another 40 days on earth before returning to His Father. During that time, there were approximately 500 sightings of Christ. At the end of that time, He told the apostles to meet Him at Mount Olivet, where He gave them His final address:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Mt. 28:18 – 20. NKJV
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Mk. 16:16 NKJV
“These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” LK. 24:44 NKJV
At that point, Jesus opened their minds so that they could have a complete understanding of the scriptures. Then He gave them one last instruction – telling then to stay in Jerusalem until they received the ‘power’ of the Holy Spirit:’
“…for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me…to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:5 & 8. NKJV
So, there must be two phases of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit because Jesus had already breathed the Holy Spirit upon them. Now, they must wait for the ‘power’ of the Spirt to fill them.
When Jesus finished speaking, He was taken up to heaven before their eyes. While this was happening, two angels appeared to them and said:
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up to heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11 NKJV
Jesus took Himself to heaven for a temporary leave of absence. He promised He’s coming back and will be with you forever. Yet Jesus Christ is still with you now (in the Spirit) in every moment when you accept Him as your Savior. There is not one second where you are not completely loved. You just have to stay in contact…
Proof enough I think.
Goodnight and God bless.
September 16 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
Preparing for Jesus’ Return – part 2
In part one of this two-part series, we looked at some of actions necessary to take in order to be ready for Christ’s return. We saw that we have to have our spiritual house in order (being right with God by accepting the salvation that He offers (through Jesus) now. Because, if you die or He comes back (whichever comes first) and you haven’t made that commitment, you don’t get a second chance. You have to accept Christ and do your best to walk in HIs footsteps. To help you accomplish that, Jesus said to be persistent in your prayers.
Also, He told us to be on the alert for imposters claiming to be Him, or, know where He is. In addition, He said that we must remain humble, having the simple unquestioning faith of a child, so as to be able to enter the kingdom – throwing any ‘self-righteousness’ aside…
Jesus and HIs apostles are still making the last journey to Galilee when He is approached by a wealthy young ruler who asks Him what kind of good deed is it that must he do, in order to earn eternal life. (Wrong question, because you cannot earn your way to heaven.) Christ responds by telling the ruler to keep the Ten Commandments.
The ruler says that he is already doing that and then asks Him what else it is that He must perform. Jesus replies:
If you would be perfect [that is, have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character], go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; and come be My disciple [side with My party and follow Me]. Mt. 19:21 AMP
Jesus is not telling the young ruler to make himself poor. He is trying to get this him to see his disobedience to the first of the Ten Commandments by making wealth his god. Sadly, the young man could not let his ‘god’ go and departed from Jesus, because in spite of all of his riches, his soul was poverty-stricken. Christ then says to His apostles:
“Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Mt. 19:23, 24. NKJV
Wealthy people are not necessarily wicked. They can enter the kingdom if they don’t make a ‘god’ out of their possessions. Wealth is a blessing from God. Jesus is only saying that it can be a great struggle for one to step into the kingdom if they try to keep a death grip on their worldly concerns.
The apostles are besides themselves over Jesus’ declaration. The cultural thinking of their day was that riches were blessings that gave one an advantage for attaining salvation. Now they are wondering if anyone can be saved. Jesus perceives their distress and says:
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Mt. 19:26 ESV
What He’s saying is that when you bring God into your life, make Him your focus and implement His wisdom regarding the stewardship of your worldly blessings, your passage to heaven remains intact.
In a typical human fashion, the apostle Peter tells Jesus that all of the apostles have given up everything for Him; and he wants to know what’s in it for them. Jesus doesn’t answer Peter’s selfishness at first. Instead, He tells him that their reward will be the honor of being able to sit with Him at the heavenly governing council. Then Jesus expounds upon what everyone will receive if they put Him first in their lives:
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mt. 19:29, 30. NKJV
Again, Christ is speaking metaphorically. You don’t have to literally leave your house or your family in order to be able to follow Him. Just don’t make ‘gods’ out of them by prioritizing them over Jesus.
Notice too, the admonition at the end of Jesus’ reply, which was for Peter’s sake – to teach him that one must serve for the sake of serving, from their love for God – not for the express purpose to get a reward. Later on in their journey, Jesus would emphasize this again by telling the apostles to follow His example:
Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free.] Mt. 20:28 AMP
On Monday of the last week of Jesus’ incarnate life on this earth, He re-emphasizes the importance of one’s focus of servitude:
“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” Jn. 12:25, 26. NKJV
On Tuesday of that same week, Jesus taught in the Temple for the last time. When He and the apostles were leaving, Jesus told them that near the end of time, the world will be filled with wars, famines and earthquakes, and that the followers of Christ will suffer persecution from an unbelieving world:
“…they will lay their hands upon you and persecute you delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought out before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not to be able to contradict or resist.” Lk. 21:12 – 15. NKJV
“…he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Mt. 24:13 NKJV
It’s all about staying in faith…
Wars, persecution and tribulation; but then, Christ will return!
“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Mt. 24:30 NKJV
The majority of the world will ‘mourn’ because they rejected Christ; and at that moment, they will know that He is the real deal, and that they have missed the boat. Yet His return will carry a far different meaning for His followers – because they prepared for His coming!
“Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift your heads, because your redemption draws near…when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.” Lk. 21:28 & 31. NKJV
On Thursday of Jesus’ final week, He tells His apostles that everything has now been set in motion for His imminent death, which will bring forth the glory of God’s redemptive work for His children. Then, He lays down the last aspect of how to prepare for His return:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jn. 13:34, 35. NKJV
He follows this with a demonstration of ‘communion’ and how we are to practice it regularly to remind ourselves of God’s grace through Christ – exercising our faith in the forgiveness of our sins that He facilitated with the sacrifice of HIs body and blood, symbolized in the sacrament that we receive.
Jesus then touches upon how to express our love:
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him and We will come to him and make our home with him.” Jn. 14:23 NKJV
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Jn. 15:11 – 13. NKJV
The love of God is the love that keeps on giving. We are commanded to prepare for the second coming of our Savior, but God doesn’t leave us to just our own efforts. He sends us the Holy Spirit to build upon them:
“When He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will tell you of things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” Jn. 16:7 – 14. NKJV
And with that, Jesus faced His persecutors and stepped up to the cross to make good the Promise – the one guaranteed for those who prepare for His contact…
Goodnight and God bless.
September 08 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
Preparing For Jesus’ Return
Jesus is surrounded by a large crowd, and He takes that opportunity to tell them a parable that alludes to His ‘second coming.’
“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at the table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!
But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Lk. 12:35 – 40. ESV
Christ is saying that it is vital we get our spiritual house in order, to the best of our ability (in right-standing with God) before He returns (or before our earth suit wears out – whichever comes first), or it will be too late! Salvation will no longer be available. Jesus speaks again to this urgency:
“And why do you judge even on your own initiative what is right? For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there, make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent!” Lk. 12:57 – 59. NASB
Jesus is trying to get the people to see that their salvation is standing right there in front of them (He being their spiritual ‘opponent’ at that point – due to their heretofore rejection of Him). He’s also letting them know that they must grab hold of that salvation before they have to stand in front of the judgment seat. Jesus sums it all up with a call to action:
“…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Lk. 13:5 NKJV
Christ travels to the region of Perea, where He expounds upon the same critical lesson to another crowd:
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. when once the Master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, “Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you where you are from. Depart form Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.” Lk. 13:24 – 28. NKJV
You can say you are a follower of Jesus, but you have to do the following…
Addressing yet another crowd, Jesus speaks to some raucous Pharisees within – teaching everyone that salvation was His way or no way:
Until John came, (John the Baptist) there was the Law and the Prophets; since then the good news (the Gospel) of the kingdom is being preached, and everyone strives violently to go in [would force his own way rather than God’s way into it.] Yet it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away that for one dot of the Law to fail and become void. Lk. 16:16, 17. AMP
And just in case anyone is thinking that they can be elevated from hell to heaven, Jesus tell the crowd (to point to the Pharisee’s love of money) a parable about a rich man who ignores a beggar who lived outside of his gate. Upon both of their deaths, the rich man finds himself in hell, but he sees the beggar with Abraham in heaven. The rich man pleads to Abraham to send him water. Abraham replies:
‘…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ Lk. 16:26 NKJV
Jesus is letting us know that when our time has expired, our thoughts and actions will have determined out final destination – one which is written in stone for eternity…
In the beginning of 30 A.D., Jesus and the apostles are beginning their final journey to Jerusalem. Passing through Samaria and Galilee, He encounters (you guessed it) a group of Pharisees, who ask Him to tell them exactly when the kingdom of God will come. He responds by telling them that they are looking at the kingdom right now – in the person of Himself and in the hearts of all those who follow Him.
Then Jesus turns to His apostles and says:
“The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them! For as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in His day.” Lk. 17:22 -24. ESV
Jesus is preparing His disciples for the times when they will long for their Savior’s return, warning them that they will be vulnerable to the false claims of others who profess to be the Messiah, or, contend to know HIs whereabouts.
He is urging them to ignore those events because His return will be global in its impact. Jesus continues painting the picture of His second coming:
“But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will also be in the days of the Son of Man. They ate, they drink, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the Ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all…Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” Lk. 17:25 – 27 & 30. NKJV
Jesus is inferring that His disciples need to continually warn non-believers about the compelling urgency of accepting Him as their Savior and getting their life right with God, because the devastation that follows His return for those who don’t, will be as severe and final as the flood of Noah’s time. He is telling them that just like then, many people will stay mired in the affairs of this world until it’s too late. A great separation is coming:
“On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife.” Lk. 17:31, 32. ESV
“I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left.” Lk. 17:34 NASB
You have to be ready when Christ returns, by having both feet firmly planted in the kingdom of God. Jesus will accept no ‘fence sitters’ (e.g. Lot’s wife). You are either with Christ or you become one of those who are ‘left behind.’ And being left behind, does not look like a good place to be:
“Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” Lk. 17:37 NASB
Yet Jesus is so full of compassion. He leaves His followers with hope by relating a parable (Lk. 18:1 – 7.) to illustrate the importance of faithful persistent prayer for one’s heavenly outcome. The parable tells of a widow who had suffered an injustice at the hands of an adversary. Distraught, she took her plight to an unbelieving and unjust judge, who initially ignores her pleas until her persistent reappearances in his court changes his mind; and then justice is meted out.
God, being the ultimate ‘just’ judge, will not let the persistent prayers of His children go unanswered.
Jesus immediately recounts an additional parable to the apostles (Lk. 18:9 – 13), where there was a Pharisee and a ‘tax collector’ (the lowest occupation in the social strata at that time) who went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee boasted about his self-righteousness, claiming that he was so much better than the sinners around him. The tax collector on the other hand, would not even raise his eyes towards heaven. Instead, he beat his chest and cried out to God – begging Him to have mercy because of his sins. Jesus finishes:
“I tell you that this man went down to his house justified rather than the other, for everyone who exalts himself while be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Lk. 18:14 NKJV
It’s a warning about the danger of arrogantly believing that one’s own righteousness will usher them into the kingdom of God. Only the righteousness conferred upon you by Christ when you accept His salvation, will make that connection for you.
Arrogance is not accepted in those who would try to enter. Jesus drives that point home soon thereafter, when, while He was teaching another crowd, they brought their children to Him so that He might lay His hands upon them. The apostles tried to shoo them away, but Jesus delivers a rebuke:
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, will by no means enter it.” Mk. 10:13 – 15. NKJV
Simple faith and humility are the keys to entering heaven.
To be continued…
Good night and God bless.
September 02 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
Spare Me the Religiosity
The first churches established soon after Jesus’ ascension to heaven were simply referred to as the ‘Church of Christ.’ Once men and their egos got a hold of the idea of founding their own versions of churches, denominations were born. Each was / is a reflection of what the founder of the particular ‘religion’ thought should emphasize – usually consisting of man-made rituals and interpretations of their version of Scripture and the additions or subtractions they made to it.
However, adulteration of God’s word goes back even further. Not long after God Himself laid down the Mosaic Law, scribes, Pharisees and the Sadducees mutilated much of the Scriptures with their pagan rituals and rules.
We get to hear our Savior address this when a Pharisee invites Him to dinner. Just before the dinner commences, the Pharisee takes Jesus to task because He did not wash His hands in their ritualistic manner. Bad move on his part. Christ retorts:
…Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside you yourselves are full of greed and robbery and extortion and malice and wickedness. You senseless (foolish, stupid) ones [acting without reflection of intelligence]! Did He Who made the outside make the inside also? But [dedicate your inner self and] give as donations to the poor of those things which are within [of inward righteousness] and behold, everything is purified and clean for you. Lk. 11:39 – 41. AMP
In other words, Jesus was telling the Pharisees to concentrate on keeping their hearts clean. He continues:
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.” Lk. 11:42 – 44. NASB
Jesus is saying that the Pharisees (the ‘religious’) were hateful, corrupt and prideful. Moreover, He said that they corrupt their parishioners as well, just by occupying the same space. (He used the Mosaic Law that forbade coming in contact with a tomb because it defiled that person, as a metaphor for the defilement caused by non-Scriptural religion.)
A scribe (also referred to as a lawyer) was present in this dinner as well. He spoke up against Jesus, telling Him that He was insulting the Pharisee. Another bad move:
“Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your fathers…so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation…Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.” Lk. 11:46 – 48 & 52. NASB
Jesus is calling the lawyers ‘hypocrites’ for building monuments for the prophets when in fact their own ancestors murdered them. Secondly, He condemns them for hoarding the Scriptures (even though they themselves never heeded them), thus keeping the door of salvation closed to the people, in order to justify their place of exaltation over the laity.
Lastly, Jesus convicts them and the Pharisees for making it impossible for the people to live godly lives by keeping the very instructions from God to do so from them, and for laying the burden of all their man-made religious requirements for being a godly person, upon them – knowing that most of them were impossible to keep. Again, like most things religious, these rules were meant to exalt those that teach it.
So, next time you hear someone tell you that their church is better than another church, or that theirs is the only ’true’ church, or they offer a way other than Christ for salvation (e.g. allowing you to ‘donate’ money to them for forgiveness of sins) – RUN THE OTHER WAY!
The Bible is your complete blueprint for the construction and function of your church, as well as the manifesto for godly living and attaining salvation. A real church follows that. Those are the ones you want to make your Jesus contact with…
Goodnight and God bless.
August 25 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
The Only Way to Salvation
Jesus was leaving Jerusalem after the Feast of Tabernacles when He and His apostles came upon a blind man. Jesus heals him (on the Sabbath – horror of horrors!) and the man runs off to tell everyone he meets. When the Pharisees got wind of it, they excommunicated him from the Temple. Jesus found out and tracked the man down. When He met up with the him, he fell to his knees and worshiped Jesus.
[It’s important to see that Christ allowed Himself to be worshiped. We know that God demands that only He is to be our target of worship. (Ex. 20:3, 4.) Thus, it can only be explained through that special oneness that the Father and the Son share.]
A crowd gathers around them (including those nasty Pharisees). Jesus takes this moment to bring His mission into an all-or-nothing, black or white type of clarity:
I came into this world for judgment [as a Separator, in order that there may be a separation between those who believe in Me and those who reject Me], to make the sightless see and to make those who see become blind. Jn. 9:39 AMP
This bristles the Pharisees (obviously having had their pride admonished) and they call out to Him:
“Are we blind also?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” Jn. 9:40, 41. NKJV
Christ is admonishing the Pharisees because they claim to be so knowledgeable regarding God’s word – including the Messianic prophecies found within. Thus, Jesus is saying that there is no excuse for their continuing rejection of Him. ‘Their sin remains.’ He continues:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” Jn. 10:1, 2. ESV
“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” Jn. 10:3, 4. NKJV
Jesus see’s that the meaning of His metaphor sails right over the heads of the ‘knowledgeable’ Pharisees, so He hits them between the eyes with the message outright:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
The thief does not come except to steal, and kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” Jn. 10:7 – 11, 14 – 18. NKJV
Jesus has just revealed a powerhouse of salvation information / promises:
First, the ‘sheep’ are the children of God.
Second, Jesus is the only door to God; He is the Good Shepherd who guides the children of God into His Father’s presence. There is no one other than Christ who can bring you into the kingdom of God. Furthermore, those who say that they can (e.g. the Pharisees) are false shepherds – liars looking only to fulfill the agenda of their father (Satan).
Third, Christ has come to shower your life with abundance – filling it with the light of God.
Fourth, Jesus willingly laid down His life for your salvation. No one forced Him to do so; He chose to do so solely out of His loving obedience to His Father and because of His undying love for you.
Fifth, our Savior has the power of life within Him; and He used that power to resurrect Himself in order to complete our Father’s plan of salvation.
Sixth, Jesus came not only for the salvation of the Jews, but also for all of humanity throughout the ages (‘which are not of this fold’) who choose to follow Him – gathering a global flock that rests in the eternal protection of the Good Shepherd.
And you too can rest in that same eternal promise, that only way to salvation, when you make that Jesus contact…
Goodnight and God bless.
August 20 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »