Pray, and Pray Now – John 16:26-27


At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. – John 16:26-27

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We live in a great age in the prophetic timeline. We live in the time of the Grace of God. We now have access to God in a way that the prophets of old so desired, and yet went to their graves not realizing. Moses met with God at the burning bush, had multiple conversations with God, and even went up to Mount Sinai several times to meet with God in the exodus. He saw the Lord descend from heaven in a pillar of fire and smoke. He even had a glimpse of God as he passed by Moses.


Abraham saw the angels of God and even the Son of God, talked with God, and was even called God’s friend. However, neither of these were allowed into the holy of holies. Neither of these had God indwell them with his Holy Spirit.


Even John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets who was on the cusp of the dispensation of the Gospel of Peace and the sending of the Holy Spirit did not have access to the Father as we do today.


We have intimate access to God that was previously not know. Even when Jesus told his disciples these words, “until now you have asked nothing in my name”. But now in that day, in this day we can ask in his name. We have a guaranteed audience and have been given access to the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ. No other religion in the world can make that claim, only Christianity. Therefore, we can ask in his name.

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We are to ask and to continue to ask. Paul says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And so in this day we are to pray in his name and to pray continuously in his name. We must understand that we have full access and permission to approach God the Father in the name and authorization of Jesus Christ. For Jesus said, “I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you”. No instead he tells us that I do not need to go to the Father on your behalf, because the Father himself loves you and desires to hear from you directly. The Father loves us because we love his son and obey him. The Father knows that we love his son because we obey him. (John 14:23; John 15:16; 1 John 3:21-22; Philippians 2:11)


The Father testifies of the son on more than one occasion saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5) Because we have loved his Son the Father loves us. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). He knows that we love him because we listen to him, and we keep his commandments. (John 14:15)
But as we read what Jesus said in our text, that the Father loves us “because ye have love me (Jesus), AND have believed that I came out from God.” So then loving Jesus unto obedience is necessary, but also the believing that he is the Son of God, and that he is from God. Jesus said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me…” (John 6:39).


What then is the will of him (God the Father) that sent him (Jesus the Son of God)?
• That all that the Father gives him should not be lost, not one
• That all that Father gives him should be raised up on the last day
• That all that see and believe on him (Jesus Christ) should have everlasting life
• That all that see and believe on him (Jesus Christ) should be raised up also on the last day


Therefore we can come before the Father with boldness to lay our petition before him. To pray and to seek and to find. For he says in our text that all we need to is ask. Ask for it. Ask for what it is that you desire of a sincere and concrete heart. In other places he tell us to seek, and to seek earnestly. So then we are to seek in earnest fervent prayer. For James, the half-brother of Jesus tells us that the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16) In east-Texas we would say that man’s words “hold water”. There is weight in the fervent prayer of a righteous man. It is because of who he is, who he knows, and what they mean to one another. Trusting in someone’s words means to trust that someone. John the one whom Jesus loves, said, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) It is with great relief that Jesus tells us in our text that all we need do is to ask.

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In the time of the Temple period only the High Priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies. The High Priest had to go through quit a lengthy ritual to enter into the Holy of Holies where the presence of God dwelt. To fail at any point in the preparations could lead to his death. Now we have free access to God. We can enter his gates with full joy knowing that we need not fear death. We do not have to worry if we have been properly cleansed, because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has taken care of all the requirements and removed all uncleanliness from us. We do not have to earn the right, pay a fee, or even plead for the audience. We only have to come and ask. Simply ask. We must never fail to ask. To ask should be our first act.

If one has never asked God for anything, then they must be an unbelieving, unregenerate soul. For if we truly believe that we can have anything we need to please the living God and to be of service to him, to receive the rewards he gives to those who ask, then surely we would ask. It is true that if you do not believe, you will not ask.


Therefore,
• If any lack wisdom, let him ask of God (James 1:5)
• If any lack in our health, let him ask
• If any lack in our homes, let him ask
• If any lack in a sound mind, let him ask
• If any lack in matters of the spirit, let him ask
For we know this, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask of him?” (Luke 11:13). We do not need a formal set of words. We only need to ask. Just as we would to anyone in whom we trust.


We do not need to worry about how accurate our word order is, or how proper our speech. There is no special formula. There is only the sincere desire of the need from a pure and upright heart. Not a seeking of evil, but because of a great care for goodliness and the desire in righteousness. For how can we ask in his name and pour out a selfish desire? Lord, please listen to me for his sake (Jesus).


When I was a young man, I went over to help my dad with a plumbing issue that he had. I did not have the right tools and could not afford the tools needed to complete the task. My dad sent me to the local hardware store. He told me that I should go see the owner and explain what tools and material were needed and who they were for. Then once all the items were totaled up the owner told me all I had to do was to sign on the receipt. I told him I did not have the money for the items, he told me it was ok, because I asked for them in my father’s name, and he trusted my father’s name. He knew that my father’s name was honorable and that he would take care of the bill. I left the hardware store with everything I needed to complete the repairs because I had asked in my father’s name.


You see Jesus says, use my name when speaking to the Father. For Jesus also said, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24) We are allowed to use that honor in speaking to the Father. The honor associated with the name of the only begotten Son who the Father is well pleased in. Therefore, this should be our governance, if Christ would not pray for it then I should not either. If our desire should conflict with the desire of the Father then we should decline our will to his. Who would dare bring shame upon another’s name by asking inappropriately for something that would be out of character for the one of who’s name they are asking in?


Surely if I would have gone into that hardware store and asked for an excess of materials, or for items that were not warranted for me to use for the job I was sent for, then he owner of the store would have been wise and denied my requests. In addition, any other time I approached and used my dad’s name, then he would have had suspicions against my motives. Eventually, he would not let anyone receive goods on my dad’s name. I would have ruined the reputation of my dad’s name. Shamefully many Christians have already ruined their witness for Christ, by abusing his name. We therefore should not, cannot defile the precious name of Jesus with such a request.


What then is the “day”? For Jesus does say, “At that day ye shall ask in my name…”. It is the day in which he has returned to the Father. It is the day in which the Comforter has been sent unto us. In reading the preceding chapter we see that this in all in the context of persecution. In that day, when persecutions arise, you will ask of the Father in my name. One thing is guaranteed that when persecutions arise so does the voices of the children of God.


Was not Gideon found hidden in the winepress while threshing his wheat in order that the Midianites might not discover him? Did not Israel turn to the Lord and cry to him for deliverance because of the persecution of the Midianites? Did the Lord then answer, and give Gideon all that was needed to deliver Israel from the Midianites, and return the prosperity of the land? Undeservedly, they asked. The Lord was gracious in his deliverance. Why? Because he loved them and desired to do good things for them.


The Lord God desires to do good for you.
Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Ephesians 2:8-10 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Psalms 37:4 – Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Titus 2:14 – Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.


If you are in persecution for Christ, then you shall ask in his name, and it shall be done unto you. When they beat upon for your testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pray, and ask. The Holy Spirit will equip you in your time of need. For the scripture reads, “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10: 19-20)


We pray not only in persecution, but also in deliverance and in the days of plenty. We then give thanks and ask for the continued blessings of God. We ask for wisdom to remain obedient and to never become slack in our praises. Ask and he will give you, because he loves you, and desires good things for you. Pray therefor for your real need. The hunger and desire to the believing is to be in his presence. Does not he say, in that day YOU WILL ASK?


You will ask because it will be your God given desire to pray. The Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance all things that we have been taught concerning the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit who prays for us and who teaches us to pray. So in our time of Joy we ask, and in our time of trial we ask. In the suffering of those we love, we ask. We ask in his name. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) For the labor of which we must set upon is intensive. We have not yet entered into his rest, for those who have entered into rest, labor no more. We instead look to him and pray in his name, our high priest unto God the Father, knowing that he has provisioned for us access to the grace of God. We can labor then and not faith, because we can pray, and ask what we will, for his will. We can pray, and pray without ceasing. For in that day, this day, we can ask what we will of the Father in Jesus’ name and the Father will give to us, because of the love for us and the honor to the Son. The Father is honored that the Son has been obedient and glorified the Father with his children. Every good Father loves his children. Pray, and pray now.

Martyrs of Nigeria

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116.15)

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I read today from, The Christian Post, about Reverend Silas Ali of Evangelical Church of Winning All, and how he was brutally murdered. This church is located in Kaduna State, Nigeria.  Their pastor’s remains were found after a search was made when he had come up missing.  The police speculate that he was attacked around Kibori, near Asha-Awuce, where his body was found.  He had been mercilessly hacked to death by machetes.  While the assailant(s) are unknow, there is a pattern of Christians being killed Nigeria without any signs of relief. 

The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law repots that thousands of Christians have been killed in Nigeria.  They report that at minimum of 3,462 Christians have been killed in just 300 days.  They have been killed by Islamic extremists, and the government appears to be helpless to deter the genocide. [1]

We need to pray for Nigeria and for our Christian brother and sisters that are in harms way.  We need to pray for their strengthening and faithfulness.  As the apostle Paul says, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, … that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love…” (Ephesians 3)

We need to pray for the conversion of the souls of the Islamic extremists.  We need to pray that the Lord will open their eyes to the truth.  The truth that Jesus is the Son of God.  We need to pray that their hearts will be made ready for the planting of the seed and that they will receive watering of the seed of the Word, and that this will flourish into a white field ripened for harvest.  For we do not war against the individuals who commit such atrocities, but rather the spiritual principalities who have blinded the unfortunate followers of radical Islam.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

We must also encourage one another in this life and remind one another that we serve a God of the living, not the dead.  For the psalmist says, “For though hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from failing.   I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 116:8-9).  Who is this God?  Why he is the Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified and was buried, and then triumphantly defeated death, by raising himself from the grave.  It was he who left us no doubt when he said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:32) 

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What then do we have to fear of men?  Though they kill the body, they cannot kill the soul.  For the soul lives on.  Those who love the Lord and die for him are greatly loved.  The Lord spoke to us in the psalmist and let us know, “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”  What a labor of love it is towards the Lord God to lay down one’s own life for his sake.  The LORD loves and rewards those who are faithful unto death.  These extremists who think that they do God a favor by killing his children have only joined together the Father with his loved ones and have heaped coal upon their souls.  We should pray for their salvation, because they act in ignorance.  They have been deceived into thinking they are doing a favor for God and gained his approval.  Instead, they have gained his wrath to be poured out upon them, in everlasting torment in the Lake of Fire which was made for the Devil and his angels.  Much like Paul who was deceived by the foolish teachings of his own religion and persecuted the children of God, these men have gone astray.  However, like Paul, they can be made to see the error of their way, through the Lord Jesus Christ.  They can be given the opportunity to see, and hear, and to repent and turn to the God who loves them. We pray therefore that they will see the truth in Jesus Christ and come to repentance, and then reproduce disciples who love the Lord Jesus Christ. 

References

Kumar, A. (2021, September 13). Migerian Pastor Macheted to death; body foung by search party. Retrieved from The Christian Post: https://www.christianpost.com/


[1] (Kumar, 2021)

Survey of the Epistle of James

Survey of James

            James is often referred to as the guide to practical Christian living.  That is to say that it gives us a picture of how we should put in effect the things we have seen, and heard concerning Jesus Christ.  James answers the questions concerning how a Christian should live out Grace in relation to the Law.  James is one of the letters known as the General Epistles.  The General Epistles are sometimes referred to as “Universal” or “Catholic” letters because they are not addressed to a specific church location.  These letters include 1st and 2nd Peter, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, the letter from Jude (the half-brother of Jesus), and of course James.

Authorship

The author of this epistle identifies himself as James (1:1) and only claims to be “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”.  There are several men named James in the New Testament writings.  We have a need to examine the information available, in these documents, concerning these men to determine the authorship of this jewel of church doctrine we refer to as the Epistle of James.

James: the son of Zebedee and Salome; who is the elder brother of the apostle John.  This James was one of the twelve selected by Jesus to be his closest disciples and his apostles.  He was a fisherman by trade and it appears that he was a partner with the apostle Peter (Matthew 20:20; 27:56). This James, along with John and Peter were a part of the inner circle of the apostles and was privy to events that most of the disciple would not have seen. He was allowed to see: the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2); the raising of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:37-43); and he was present with Jesus at the prayer and encouragement of Jesus in the garden of gethsemane (Mark 14:33-35).  He was called to be an apostle (Matthew 4:21-22; 10:2; Mark 1:19-20; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13) by Jesus Christ.  This James and his younger brother John was also referred to as a son of thunder because if their unbridled passion for Jesus (Mark 3:17).  As an apostle he would have been witness to many great things that Jesus had done in his ministry and of the resurrection. However, despite all of the great reasoning that this James might have been the author, there is one thing that excludes the possibility.  The Apostle James was the first Apostle to be martyred in 44 A.D by King Herod (Acts 12:1-2).  This letter is believed to have been written between 45-50 A.D. In addition, the council of Jerusalem concerning the argument of the circumcision of the Gentiles did not occur until Acts chapter 15. So the James mentioned in that passage was not the Apostle James.   

There were a couple of other mentions of different men named James in the New Testament.  These men were only mentioned once and then were lost to obscurity.  It is unlikely that these were the one who wrote such powerful theological addresses as are found in this letter.  No, there is one more James that was there from the beginning, but who was not an apostle.  This James would have had all the knowledge of Jesus’ whole life, death, and resurrection.  He would have been a Jew, and held the respect of the Apostles and the Jews.  This was James the brother of Jesus (half-brother).

James the half-brother of Jesus, although he was present from before the start of Jesus’ public ministry, was not a believer in Jesus as the Son of God until after he was a witness of the resurrected Christ.  In seeing the death of Jesus and then seeing him alive, James became a devout follower of Jesus.  He was the head of the Jerusalem council and was a respected pillar of the church and of the Jewish community.  He would have had the knowledge and understanding in seeing the whole earthly life of Jesus, listening to his teachings, and witnessing the miracles, and the resurrection.  This put him in a unique position to be a teacher and evangelist to the Jews concerning the Hebrew scriptures and how Jesus fulfilled the Law and the prophets.  Even his initial criticisms of Jesus would have been a great witness to the hard-hearted Israelite of the love of God towards them that was revealed in Jesus Christ the Son of God. 

Historical Settings

            At the time of this writing the church was still distinctively Jewish in nature because most of it’s members came from Jewish backgrounds and traditions. The letter suggests a simpler form of hierarchy in the local church.  The church leaders are referred to as elders (5:14) and teachers (3:1).  There is no mention of the soon to develop strife over Gentile circumcision. The Greek term for synagogue is used to designate the gathering place of the church.  Many believe that this letter and the letter to the Galatians are the earliest recovered letters in the New Testament.

            The Jews in Jerusalem were scorned and driven out by persecutions, not from Rome, but from their own kinsman.  Many Jewish believers in Christ would have lost their social status, homes, family ties, access to the temple and suffered economic loss and hardships that come with the inability to make a living because of their persecution.  Many left Jerusalem in order to make a living elsewhere and to escape the persecution. 

Major Themes

The letter is written to these Jews who had scattered abroad (1:1).  They were under severe persecutions and distress.  James writes to encourage them.  He tells them that the trials in which the find themselves in are expected and that they are for their betterment.  James tells them that these trials are being used to mature their faith.  They bring patients in the waiting of the fulfilment of their hope.  He encourages them to seek wisdom from God and that God has not abandoned them.  This is important because they had been ostracized from the religion of their youth and they needed to know that they had not erred.   He shows them in this letter that they have not abandoned God either, instead they have grown closer to God then they could ever imagine.  He also instructs them on how to live in the freedom that God has given them in Jesus Christ and how they should treat one another in order to be pleasing servants of God and his Messiah.

Key Verse: But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves (James 1:22)

Doctrine

James deals with a lot of controversial doctrines.  Even Martin Luther argued as to whether the Epistle of James should be in the Canon of the Bible because of the doctrinal approach that James appears to take.  It is important when we read through the scriptures that we understand that not all scripture is written to everyone.  That is we must pay attention to who the author is addressing his letter to and see what issues they are dealing with.  As in this case James is writing to Jews who have believed on Jesus Christ and are still in the process of dealing with this new way of life.  They came from a rigid system of rituals and prayers that had added to what God actually said and excessively burdened the seeker of God.  Remember Christianity was not a religion, the religion was still Judaism.  In this James unpacks the differences between the works oriented Jewish religion to the works resultant way of Christ.  Many Christians these days would do good to study this book and see how we are to live in obedience, now that we have been freely saved by God in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. 

The Doctrines that James deals with are a living in Christ once you have believed and received this forgiveness, not an earning of salvation through works.  James starts with the doctrine of persecution and it expectancy and the resultant spiritual growth. Then he moves into how to live a sanctified life.  This includes patience, slow to wrath, not rushing to judgement.  James presents the doctrine of humility by not judging other believers by appearance, money, reputation, or prestige.  The secret to this is that we are all servants who serve the same master.  Then James begins a discussion of the doctrine of Works by Faith.  Many confuse this portion to think that James is saying that to have faith you must do these things.  James is not saying that at all, he says that faith has certain works that accompany it as a byproduct. Without works in faith, you do not possess faith.  Because if you believed then you would act a certain way and be obedient to the will of the LORD.  

Then he discusses by example the use of the tongue, the truth of pride and wisdom.  James then tells them that if they were walking in the spirit (faith) then they would not have quarrels amongst the brethren.  So, peace and love in the church is a result of waking by faith.  James’s doctrine for walking in faith is to (1) Submit to God, (2) Resist the devil, (3) Draw close to God and let God draw close to you, (4) Be sincere in your repentance, and (5) Put away pride. James also sets the doctrine of laying on of hands. James urges his readers in the same manner that the author of Hebrews does, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:1-2)

Outline

  1. Greetings and Encouragement 1:1
  2. Trials 1:2-18
    1. Purpose of Trials 1:2-12
    2. Pedigree of Trials 1:13-15
    3. Purpose of God in Trials 1:16-18
  3. The Word 1:19-27
  4. Christian Conduct 2-5
    1. Partiality 2:1-13
    2. Actions of Faith 2:14-26
    3. The Fire in Tongue 3:1-12
    4. Real Wisdom 3:13-18
    5. Worldliness 4:1-17
    6. Proper Views 5:1-12
    7. Prayer 5:13-18
    8. Conversion of the Erring 5:19-20

How Are Ye So Far Removed?


There is something that puzzles me greatly in the American churches. Lifeway Research and Ligonier Ministries partnered together to conduct a survey that they refer to as the State of Theology. Now this survey was conducted which included the results of 3000 Americans. This survey asked questions like:

• True or False: God is a perfect being and cannot make a mistake
• True or False: There is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit
• True or False: God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam
• True or False: Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God
• True or False: Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God
• True or False: The Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being
• True or False: Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation


Now these are just a sampling of the questions that were asked in this survey. These questions can tell where an individual stands on these issues; and they are issues. These are the issues of life and death. What you believe on these affects your eternal fate.


We should expect that those who do not call themselves Christian should not believe in certain things that are in the bible. However, we should expect that “evangelicals” should believe what the bible says, and that the bible has authority over every other ancient and modern writings, philosophies, cultures, religions, or political and economic influences. While there is a wide difference in what people say that an evangelical is, the National Association of Evangelicals makes these distinctions to identify its members to the world.


• The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
• It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
• Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
• Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.


An evangelical should not be defined on political, social, or cultural trends that are made up in American or world societies. They should be distinct and adhere to these basic beliefs at a minimum.


Historically evangelicals have shared a strong conviction that (1) it is their duty to convert others to be “born-again”, (2) it is their duty to actively express and demonstrate the gospel through missionary work and social reform programs, (3) they have typically taken the defense that the Bible is the ultimate authority on spiritual matters and obedience is a necessity, and (4) the historical crucifixion of Jesus Christ is what makes it possible for redemption of humanity.


It would seem then, that an evangelical is someone who confesses to believe in Jesus Christ for their savior and Lord. This survey shows that many evangelicals to not believe in basic biblical truths.
Many evangelicals do not believe:
• Jesus is God, Creator, and has always existed
• The bible and the information within it are accurate and true
• Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation
• Belief in Jesus is a requirement by God to receive eternal life
• The Holy Spirit is an equal part of the Trinity of God
• Hell is a real place where the unbelieving will be punished forever
• Jesus will return to judge all the people who have ever lived on earth
• Sex outside of marriage is a sin
• Abortion is a sin
• The Bible condemns homosexuality and all sexual immorality along with other sins


I cannot understand how those who say that they believe in the authority of scriptures can be so mislead that the very foundation of their belief is Jesus is in error. Paul the Apostle would have said, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; bur there be some that trouble you , and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-7) How is it that you who call yourselves followers of Jesus Christ, who have professed to believe the gospel are so far removed from the very truths you profess to believe. If you do not believe the gospel that was first delivered to you, and have taken on a new gospel, then you do not believe in the gospel of grace that was revealed to you.


This means that their faith would be in vain. John wrote, “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31) Again he wrote, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” (1 John 3:23) The question is, do you believe what was written for your benefit? We are given the scriptures so that we can know what it is that we should know about God and to know that what we believe is correct. If we are told in just these two samples of scripture that Jesus is the Son of God and, we are commanded to believe that he is the Son of God; then failure to believe means that we are lacking something very important in our faith. The truth that Jesus is God, and that he is the Son of God is a requirement of belief in Jesus that cannot be ignored. If we then do not believe in this, we are not believers in Jesus, and we are not saved. We have simply… NOT believed on the name of Jesus.


Scripture also tells us, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) It is just as simple and clear as that. You see God does have all authority. He has chosen that men can be saved in only one way, believe that Jesus is God and that he became flesh and died for men, that their sins may be forgiven. This is the only way, belief in Jesus. This is what believing in Jesus means, if you don’t believe everything the scriptures say concerning him, then you don’t believe in him, or in the authority of his name as the living Son of God.


The problem is that we have progressively listened to the serpent in the garden. When Satan tempted Eve in the garden, he made her to question the authority of the Word of God that she had received. Once this doubt was in her head, she was vulnerable to the rest of his attack. Here is the account of the temptation of Eve in the garden.


Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Genesis 3:1-6)


In here we see somethings that we should take note of, as those who believe. The first is that the form that Satan had taken. He was in the form of a serpent. The serpent in creation was subject to Adam and should have been confronted and put in his place with the authority God had given to Adam. Instead of putting the serpent to silence Eve listened to him. Second, the serpent is described as more subtle. This means that he was very intelligent and quite crafty. Notice that his approach is to say “Yeah, hath God said”. Did God really say this? Surely God didn’t mean you could not eat of that tree… Right there he usurps the very words of God and pulls the authority associated with it into question. If what she thinks that God said is not what God actually said, then it may not be wrong to eat of every tree in the garden after all.
Thus, it is with society. The serpent had slowly taken away the belief that what God has given us in scripture is accurate. This has been done through philosophies, pseudo sciences, textual criticisms, false teachers, errant preachers, and teachers who do not teach the whole counsel of God, and cults. Worst of all is that there is a new English version of the Bible out every day it seems. With so many versions in just English alone then how can you know which is the word of God? These have eroded trust in the bible and those who wield it.


If the Bible is not accurate, it cannot be trusted. If it cannot be trusted, then it may that Jesus is not the only way to salvation. It could be that we could save ourselves. It could be that God cannot tell us what is right and wrong. It could be that there really is no heaven nor a real hell. It could be that we do not even need to be saved at all. Do you see the progression?


Still there is this verse that calls to us. “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” What things have been written that we may believe? Well that is the entirety of the Holy Bible. We are taught in the scriptures who God is. God is the creator, and as such he has supreme authority. In fact, his authority is beyond question. So, if God says something, it is fact and is trustworthy. If God caused 40 different authors located in three different continents over a span of almost 2000 years to reveal himself to us and to tell us something so urgent that we need to know, then shouldn’t we listen to it and take it for truth also?


These things are written so that you may believe… that seems like such an important statement. What then can we believe if we take the Bible as the authoritative Word of God. To start with we can believe that Jesus is God, and Creator. (John 1:1-3) Here the Apostle John tells us that Jesus is the living breathing Word of God. He says that Jesus was always with God from before the beginning because he is 100% God. John tells us that God did not make anything without Jesus, because Jesus is the one who created everything. So, in Genesis when it say, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”, that was Jesus who did the creating. In the first few verses of Genesis we see all three parts of the Trinity of God at work. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all in existence, and in union together. (James 2:19; Deuteronomy 4:35; Deuteronomy 6:4) Here we see that there is only one God in existence. This sole God created everything we have ever known in our lives and in the history of mankind. The theory of evolution is just that a theory. In fact, there are three different theories of evolution in existence today and they have all changed over time, as new science if brought out. This new science is more and more proving the Genesis narrative of creation.


Jesus as God has always existed. Since he has always existed, he was not created. Instead, he was the one who created everything. This gives him full authority over all of creation. This means that everything else written in the Bible is true also. So later when John also writes to us, “and the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14), that this same Jesus, who is the Word, who is God, became a man and then walked among us. You see, Jesus was not a man who became God. There is no place in the bible where a man has ever become God. Neither is there anything written in the bible that says any other spirit, angel, or creature became God. There is only one God. No other God has ever existed. Anyone who tells you that you can become a god, or that Jesus is one of many Gods is telling a lie, from Satan. By the way, Satan is not a God either.


This Jesus, who is God in the flesh, walked among us and did teach many things about God, and how we should live, and what heaven is all about. He also taught us what hell is like. He affirmed the scriptures that tell us that God is a God of justice and he pours out his wrath on the unrighteous (sinful and rebellious). But Jesus also let us know of the great love and mercy that God has. Jesus was not just a great teacher of spiritual truths, he was the embodiment of the truth of God. This same creator who originally breathed life in to the first and every man since creation, also came to ensure that we can have eternal life in the presence of God. He was perfect and did not sin. Then Peter tells us this Jesus “who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) Why did he do this? Love. God loves you.


We cannot earn our way into heaven. We cannot buy our way into heaven. We cannot be a good person at heart and gain our way into heaven. Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” So here we are. We have all sinned in some way. Even if we had not the original sin of rebellion that was passed down from Adam, we have all still sinned. That is evident in our life. If does not matter how insignificant we may think our sin is, or even if we do not think it as a sin. If we have murdered, or if we have just told a little white lie or taken a pen from the office stationery at work, it is still a sin. The cost for that sin is death. Death is the result of failing to meet the standard of God. Because God is so holy, things that are not holy cannot enter his presence. Jesus made the way for man to enter the presence of God. He took that price of sin, the debt you owe, and paid it. Jesus died in your place. Jesus died, no one else. There was no angel, no ancestor or yours, no saint, and certainly no devil that stepped in and took the shame of your sin and bore it on their shoulders and died because of. That is why Jesus is the only way to heaven.


Then something happened to attest to us that Jesus is indeed God. He overcame death. Only God can defeat death because only God has the power and authority to. You see, death did not come into existence until after the fall of man. The fall of man did not happen until after the creation. God was before the creation. Jesus is the creator. God is the only one who can bring man back to God. Since there is only one God, he sent a piece of himself, as Jesus, for the specific purpose of redeeming us and all of creation back to himself. Jesus came, died, was buried, and rose from the dead, then he ascended to heaven where he resides waiting to return to take possession of the earth. But, to take possession, he will have to judge all of creation. Love is what keeps him on his throne in heaven. It is the will of God that no one should perish in hell. He desires that all should be saved. So, he is giving you every opportunity to live. You see in we are deceived by the devil so easily because we like to sin.
Let us go back and visit John again. John 3:16 is one that everyone loves to quote, the believer and the unbeliever also. But we never seem to get past to the other verses that accompany it. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:16-21)
God does love. God did sacrifice his only Son for this love. God does require that you believe on this sacrifice and honor the name of his son, Jesus. Salvation is a free gift given to those who believe. But, did you catch the latter verse? “…but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” The ones who do not believe are already condemned; not chosen to be condemned. No, these are already condemned because of their own lack of belief. They have chosen to “not“ believe and chosen to reject Jesus, because they love their sin to death. That is why we are so easily deceived. We love the darkness. Only those who love the light, receive the truth.
What should we do then? “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19) Well, we should repent. Repentance must come before salvation. Repenting is a confessing to God that His ways are perfect and that you are not. You agree with his authority to say what is acceptable and what is not. Then confessing those things to him that you agree are not acceptable, those things we call sin. Confessing to lay those down and to never return to them again. Luke 13:3 tells us that except we repent… we will die. Repentance is first. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Confession is a part of repentance.
We do not need to confess to a man, in fact in some cases it may be better not to. Confession is made to God, it is him of whom you are believing in, not a man. So, then repentance and confession are made to Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9 tells us, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” The key here is to believe. Believing on Jesus is a choice. It is a choice and not a feeling. You are choosing to believe what the scriptures have said about God, and Jesus as the Son of God, and the sacrifice he made for you. This is what we call faith. We believe, not because we have seen, but because the trust that what God has said in the Bible is accurate and trust worthy. Without this giving of our trust in the truth of God and Jesus, then it is impossible to receive salvation. “But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) It does not matter if you call yourself a Christian already, what matter is does Jesus know who you are?

Jesus said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23) Paul, one of Jesus’ apostles, tell us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We need to make sure of what we believe and why we believe it.


If you are not yet ready to believe, keep seeking him through his scripture, the Holy Bible. The Bible is what God has chosen to reveal himself to us by. Do not be a fool. There is no need to look anywhere else to seek God. Find a church, get into Sunday School, and attend a Pastor’s class or two and study earnestly in your bible. When your ready, ask God, and he will reveal himself to you.


Bibliography
Ligonier. (2020, 09 08). The State of Theology. Retrieved from thestateoftheology.com: https://thestateoftheology.com/?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTkdFeFl6RTRZemcwTmpGaiIsInQiOiJMVnBwTmQwNEs3blk0TW5oZ054ZGRuV2pTUnBibXcxdUxkSHlQU2hDQWxvU1RDamw4dmUrakRPa0ZcLzAyTlp3WDFFaDUxR0lHUmNUa0Q2cUZSRGZ1clJ5Q29WSWZNeXVmN1JGZHh4M2NMZldFMndEVHQ4Mzd0YzZ2RXZtMk1Jc0EifQ%
National Association of Evangelicals . (n.d.). What is an Evangelical. Retrieved from nae.net: https://www.nae.net/what-is-an-evangelical/

Overcome Because Greater is He – 1 John 4:2-4

Is the Spirit of the Antichrist in Turkey?

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:2-4)

In the early church the spirit of the antichrist was very evident in Rome. Emperor Nero systematically rounded up Christians and put them to death in very grotesque and very public executions. The Christians were shunned and marginalized in Roman society because their beliefs did not fit in with mainstream Roman culture.  This identity given to Christians as being less of a person and a person to be ridiculed made it easy for them to become the emperor’s scapegoat.  The dehumanization of the Christians in Rome made it easier for the Roman citizens to accept and participate in these horrible acts committed against their own brothers and sisters of Rome.

You see in the summer of AD 64 approximately three quarters of the city of Rome had burned.  The prevailing suspicion was that Nero himself had ordered the arson in for his own amusement, or for his plans of revitalizing Rome, buy getting rid of the slums of Rome.  Either way, the citizenry was up in arms, and Nero needed to deflect the attention from himself.  He therefor pointed the finger to the Christians.  After all they were the ones who claimed that Rome was wrong in its Idolatry, sexual immorality, and in many other ways they just didn’t fit in with aspects the liberal Roman society.  Public announcements were made.  Christians were the enemy of the state.  Historian Cornelius Tacitus (56-120 BC) wrote in The Annals concerning the Great Fire of Rome.

44.2. Yet no human effort, no princely largess nor offerings to the gods could make that infamous rumor disappear that Nero had somehow ordered the fire. Therefore, in order to abolish that rumor, Nero falsely accused and executed with the most exquisite punishments those people called Christians, who were infamous for their abominations.

44.3. The originator of the name, Christ, was executed as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius; and though repressed, this destructive superstition erupted again, not only through Judea, which was the origin of this evil, but also through the city of Rome, to which all that is horrible and shameful floods together and is celebrated.

44.4. Therefore, first those were seized who admitted their faith, and then, using the information they provided, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much for the crime of burning the city, but for hatred of the human race. And perishing they were additionally made into sports: they were killed by dogs by having the hides of beasts attached to them, or they were nailed to crosses or set aflame, and, when the daylight passed away, they were used as nighttime lamps.

44.5. Nero gave his own gardens for this spectacle and performed a Circus game, in the habit of a charioteer mixing with the plebs or driving about the race-course. Even though they were clearly guilty and merited being made the most recent example of the consequences of crime, people began to pity these sufferers, because they were consumed not for the public good but on account of the fierceness of one man. (Westmont.edu, n.d.) (Clayton, 1947)

Christians in the Roman Empire were ostracized from society by:

They were accused of atheism because they did not accept emperor worship, nor polytheism.

The were generally form the poorer sections of society

Christianity was put on the list of illicit sects a little after 50 AD

Christianity was declared illegal in 64 AD

They were accused of secret immoral worship ceremonies that included cannibalism, incest, and bestiality

They were considered social radicals because their beliefs were at odds with acceptable Roman practices and indulgences

This edict of Emperor Nero started 120 years of open, socially acceptable, state sponsored terrorism on Christians.  This would include the martyr of many Christians.  Some estimate the number of Christians martyred to be up to 2 million.  This would also include the martyrdom of the apostles Peter and Paul.

Just as Rome made a step-by-step approach to the eventual attempted genocide of Christians for political purposes, in the past; we see modern day Turkey using the Christians as a means of attempting to reestablish the Caliphate. In a purposeful process Turkish Christians are being used as a scapegoat for failed governmental policies and actions.  “Turkey’s Christians are becoming a welcome scapegoat for Ankara. Erdogan has miscalculated on various fronts in Syria and Libya and is now looking for someone to serve as a distraction.” (DW, 2020)

Turkey is in the process of becoming a Sunni Muslim state. As a part of this state sponsored movement and its anti-Christian theology Turkey has refused the readmittance of protestant ministers into the country.  Posted anti-Christians slogans on billboards, and bus stops and recently mandated that all Christians leave Turkey in 10 days.   This mandate includes American or other nationalities that are married to Turkish citizens, even if they have children. This divides families and even mother’s and nursing babies. The Hagia Sophia (God’s Holy Wisdom) is a Christian church that once served as the center for Orthodox Christianity, and is also designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site has been converted to a Mosque and the ancient mosaics inside are now in danger of being lost forever.  This makes the 3rd Byzantine era Christian church to be recently converted to a mosque. This is part of a larger step that Islamic leaders see in reestablishing the caliphate that includes the overtaking of Athens, Greece and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

This is the spirit of the antichrist.  It is spread all across the globe.  Even in America we see that recently a nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska was persecuted by Sens. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Kamala Harris, D-California whose questioning reasoned that a Christian could not hold a public office.  Fox news reported that on campuses throughout the United States, Christians are openly ridiculed with hate speech and false accusations by academics, social groups, and organizations. (Ingle, 2019) 

Christians are being accused of being insensitive, hypocrites during the COVID-19 pandemic because of issues with church closures, preaching of condemnation from sin, judgement from God and other twisting of Christian values and ethics.  Christians who meet in in-person services are blamed in the media for the furtherance of the spread of the Corona Virus. Christians in America have been marginalized as church services and ministry positions have been deemed unnecessary and non-essential.  Church member have been fined and pastors arrested for acting within their 1st amendment rights. The 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridg-ing the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (Constitution Cente)  No law is supposed to be made to prohibit the free exercise of religion, curtailing the freedom of speech, or the right of peaceable assembly.  Moreover, it is the right of the people to request the government to account for overreach of authority.   But these things are to come.  We know this because we were told of these things by Jesus Christ himself.  Jesus said in this world we would have tribulation.

We can read in the 24th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus warns us.  We will be delivered up to be afflicted, and killed.  We will be hated by all nations.  Many will be offended by us, and by him (Jesus).  We expect these things.  Many of the old Baptist preachers used to preach on a regular basis of the suffering of the saints and the expected persecutions that we will endure.  They used to tell us how we should look forward to pains of self-sacrifice for Christ.  Peter and some of the other Apostle when imprisoned and beaten rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ. (Acts 15: 40-41) Paul himself recounts how he multiple times he was spat on, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked and endured many more sufferings for the cause of Christ over decades of service.

Today we have gotten to far away from that.  We have dropped our spiritual guards as it were.  Our eyes have stopped looking to God.  Our lips do not open for our afflicted brethren.  Instead we pray for a new car, or a new house.  Maybe we pray for God to let our favorite team to win the game.  How superficial are our prayers? Our knees fail to bend to the Lord God.  We no longer seek the will of God in our lives, but our will in Gods. We have lost our salt.  Instead of being a good and faithful servant who wisely invests the resources and time of his master, we have become selfish, and lazy.  We seek our own comfort over the mission to which we have all been appointed to by Jesus Christ. We are to be his ambassadors and to speak of his name at every opportunity, boldly declaring his mercy.  We know the signs.  We know that the time of salvation is now. We know that as it draws closer to the end of the age, that persecutions will get worse. I wish to encourage you though.

The Lord God is over all of creation.  He is infinite.  That means that he is totally self-existing.  He has no beginning.  There is no point in which he did not exist. Because of this, he has no ending.  There will never be a point in which he does not exist.  He is before all things and holds all things together (Colossians 1:17) God is immutable.  That means that he never changes.  Since God never changes that means that who he is never changes.  His love never changes. His righteousness never changes.  His WORD never changes.  He simply IS who he IS.  He himself said, “I the LORD do not change.” (Malachi 3:6)  Because God never changes, he is ever faithful. So when scripture says that the mercies of the Lord endures for ever; that is what He does. (Psalm 16:1; Psalm 136)

He remembers our lowly estate.  He remembers that we are created by him.  He remembers that we are broken because of sin.  He remembers that we are not as faithful as he is.  He remembers that we have limitations to our endurance.  He remembers that way to often we are weak and self-centered.  Yet his mercy endures.  He commands his love towards us.  That means despite it all, he chooses to love us each day, each moment. It is his grace that is sufficient for us; not our own working.  His love does not depend of who we are, but who he is.  He gives us of himself.  He gives us victory over the world and over the antichrist.  God told us through the writings of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:18, “I will be a father to you, and you shall be the sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”  John says, “See what king of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)  This special honor is for those who believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as savior and as Lord. (John 1:12) By this truth we have already overcome the world and the antichrist. 

We have already been delivered from death to life. Because of this we do not need to fear the antichrist nor the world.  They can only kill the body, not the spirit.  This body must be shed because it is corrupted.  We know that if you put a rotten apple in a barrel with good apples, in short order the good apples will rot. So it is the same with the kingdom of Heaven.  Corruption cannot enter in.  So we must be removed of this rotten body and be given a new one.  This happens in the resurrection.  Since Jesus was raised from the dead, we know that we also will be risen from the dead, because scripture says that we will be like him.  This is our hope in the future.  But it is not our only source of joy.

We must remember that the Lord is ever present, and that he is always by our side.  He is not estranged from our afflictions, nor unaware of the presence of our enemies; for our enemies are his enemies.  In fact, they are our enemies because we are his.   So, it is not that he assumes our enemies for us.  Instead, his enemies assume us as enemies.  That means that he is obligated to respond on our behalf. This brings us to an awesome point in scripture, “For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” (Deuteronomy 20:4) Even more we know that we are overcomers because all temptation is common to mankind.  There is no new temptation of trial that a man has not ever endured before.  God will not leave you to be tempted beyond what your capable of handling; instead, he provides a way to escape it.  This gives us another advantage in enduring. (Philippians 1:29) 

Here is a secret.  You who are believers in the death, burial, and resurrection already have everything you need to have this victory.  Read what John wrote, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:1-4)  Paul again tells us in Romans 8:1, “Thee is therefor now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  Faith in Jesus is our secret to eternal life.  Faith in Jesus is our secret to overcoming the world.  Faith in Jesus is our secret to enduring trial, tribulations, and persecutions.

We can see that (1) Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ (Son of God) is come in the flesh is from God. (2) Those spirits who do not confess Jesus Christ (Son of God) are from the Antichrist, not God.  This includes Muslims, Hindus, Atheist, Gnostics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and more. (3) We were for warned that this evil spirit would come and that it was actually already here.  This would probably be better to understand is we said that the spirit of the antichrist is already here and will continue to be here, gaining influence and power.  (4) We are the children of God – see point one. (5) Because we are the children of God we have already received victory through our faith in Jesus – see point one.  (6) The Spirit who resides in us is bigger, stronger, and of more authority and might then the spirit that is in the world (spirit of the antichrist-see point two).   

Now that we have nothing to fear in life or death we are free to truly live for Christ.  We can love others because we have been loved of God.  We can forgive others because we have been forgiven by God.  We do not need to fear sickness, or death because God has already given us eternal life.  We do not need to worry about earning it, or losing it, because it was a gift by a self-sufficient God who needs absolutely nothing from us.  We can turn our attention to our suffering brothers and sister.  We can get involved in the nitty gritty of standing up for them. 

Our duty is to seek the Lord on their behalf.  We are to send them relief.  We are to provide them the resources that they need to endure. They need food, water, clothes, bibles, financial and legal support. These are things we can do.  These are totally biblical things we can do. How can we say that we love them and not assist them? Paul went on a circuit from gentile church to gentile church bringing money and other resourced gather from the route back to the persecuted church at Jerusalem.  This was not a church tax, it was a benevolence given to the saints in Jerusalem that would have starved without it.  Many of the Mediterranean churches members gave sacrificially to this relief effort. 

We can get involved with the political and legal processes available to us, especially here in the United States.  Paul himself used his Roman citizenship, his Jewish standing, and his legal wit to advance the gospel and to curtail the efforts of the overreach of local authorities and even governors and kings.   We have the right to exercise our votes in the House of Representative, and the Senate at state and federal levels.  We need to get involved and ask candidates for the President of the United States, Governor, and even the Mayors office how they will represent us as Christians.  We need to know where they stand on abortion, or on sexually immoral practices, the role of the judge and their view of the division of powers in the Constitutions of our States and the United States of America.  We need to know how their policies on policing, foreign aid, and humanitarian relief for Christians throughout the world. 

We also must not forget that this battle is a spiritual one.  So we must be educated on the Word of God in order to know the will of God.  The will on God is not a feeling, or a dream of vision that came to us in the middle of our routine eyelid maintenance.  The will of God is that none should perish, but that all should have everlasting life.  We must be active in evangelism, the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the education of the disciple.  We must pray without ceasing.  By that I mean real heartfelt prayer for believers, leaders of government, missionaries, pastors, deacons, and more. 

Bend you knees, lay prostrate before the God who is above all.  Plead with your heart for this and the other nations of the world.  Pray for those who are now locked up in cells for the testimony of Jesus Christ.  Pray for the conversion of those who oppress our brothers and sisters.  Have joy knowing that you are an overcomer.  Have joy that the God who created the universe hears your prayers and listens intently to the sorrows of your heart.  He has an open ear for your prayers because you love his Son, Jesus Christ.  He can hear you because of your faith.  Your faith in Jesus had accounted you as a righteous believer.  He hears you.  You are victorious.

Bibliography

Clayton, F. W. (1947). Tacitus and Nero’s Persecution of the Christians. Classical Quarterly, 41, 81-85. Retrieved 7 16, 2020, from http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_s0009838800026082

Constitution Cente. (n.d.). The Constitution of the United States . Retrieved from constitutioncenter.org: https://constitutioncenter.org/media/files/constitution.pdf

DW. (2020, June 23). Opinion: Christians a Welcome Scapegoat in Turkey. Retrieved from DW.COM: https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-christians-a-welcome-scapegoat-in-turkey/a-53918937

Ingle, D. K. (2019, February 27). Opinin: Christian Persecution not just happening overseas — many in us targeted for their faith too. Retrieved from Fox News: https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/christian-persecution-not-just-happening-overseas-many-in-us-targeted-for-their-faith-too

Westmont.edu. (n.d.). Tacitus and Piney On the Early Christians . Retrieved from Westmount.edu: https://www.westmont.edu/~fisk/articles/TacitusAndPlinyOnTheEarlyChristians.html

Is the Rapture True?

Is the Rapture True?Clouds 1

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Podcast Version 

I was asked about a YouTube video concerning the doctrine of the rapture. The video was made by a pastor, and tells that the doctrine of the Rapture is a Satanic doctrine. He states that the Rapture Theory started in the 1830s by a woman named Margaret McDonald. Mrs. McDonald had a dream that she thought was an evil dream. She shared this dream with two preachers and then they turned it into the Rapture Theory. His argument is that there are no reference works regarding the rapture prior this event. He states that the manuscripts, which we study from, never mention the word rapture. This is a brief explanation that he gives, but you can see the arguments that he uses to say that there is no rapture. (Murray, 2019)
These things confuse believers on what the scripture says. I submit to you what the scripture has to say concerning this troublesome doctrine. I will show you some things in the scripture and you can then decide if the argument I make is worth listening to. All the scriptures referenced will be taken from the King James Bible, who’s source manuscripts easily out-date the 1800 time period.
In looking into this doctrine of the church, with the study of “the manuscripts”, we can see that at least one rapture event is prophesied in scripture. Some theologians even argue that there will be several, separate rapture events in the end times. These include the rapture of the church, the rapture of the two prophets who are martyred by the beast in Revelation 11, and the rapture or Jews who believe. However, for this topical discussion we are concerned with the rapture of the church. However; even in this focus, the rapture of the church is believed by different Christians to occur either before the tribulation period, halfway through the tribulation period, or after the tribulation period. Since this question is whether a rapture occurs at all, we will focus on this topic; Is the Rapture True?
This word “rapture” is an eschatological (study of end things) term used by Christians to refer to the gathering of believers who are lifted from this earth and joined with their glorified bodies and Jesus Christ. I will have to admit that the word “rapture” is not used in scripture. That is to say; in our current English language, the word rapture in not in scripture as that exact word. This does not mean that the rapture event is not discussed. Jesus does tell us, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)
It is noticeably clear in this passage that Jesus wants to comfort his disciples, and those who believe in him. In fact, later in the same chapter he says that he is speaking to those who love him and obey his commandments. In the ending of the previous chapter and on into this verse Jesus is warning his disciples that he must return to his Father. He wants them to know that his death is not a mistake, and it is not the end. In fact, it is a new beginning. Just as in Genesis the Lord said, let there be light, Jesus sheds light on the events to come. He is going away and leaving them there. While he is away, he is preparing for when he returns to take them to where he has gone. Now this does not say rapture, but there is a clear message that Jesus is returning, and he will take those who love him back to the Father to be with him. This is one reference in scripture where this topic is mentioned by Jesus Christ himself and recorded by the Apostle John. The gospel of John is believed to have been written around 85-90 A.D. This is a little before the 1800s.
Now I know, you are thinking that is a nice passage, but it does not really say that we will be taken to the skies. It just says that Jesus is coming back, and he will take us with him. Now, before we move further. Even if there were no other verse that spoke of this subject in scripture, I would still be excited. You see this does say, that Jesus is returning! It does say, he is preparing a place for us! It does say that he will receive us to himself! In other passages concerning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ it says that he will come in clouds of glory. It also says that he will return in the same manner that he left. Well, when he left, he arose into the clouds. We even have an event from the Old Testament where God raptured a prophet. The passage is 2 Kings 2:1. In this passage the prophet Elijah was taken up into heaven by a whirlwind. See then that the rapture event is not a new thing for God.
We can go even further back to Genesis 5:24. Here there is another man, named Enoch, who loved God and was obedient. This verse tells us that “Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Wow! God took Enoch! It does not say that Enoch died. It says that “he was not”. He disappeared; God took him. See God’s method of rapture is not limited to sweeping us up into the clouds. He does not even need to descend to the earth to do it! He is God and he is amazing!
Let us now move to another Apostle. This is what the Apostle Paul has to say concerning this topic in his first letter to the church at Corinth dated approximately A.D. 55.
“And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:49-57)
In this chapter Paul makes several contrasts and comparisons to what being a carnal man and a spiritual man in Christ means, and the changes that occur within us and to us. In this portion he tells us that corruptible things cannot enter into heaven; instead we need a heavenly body. We need one that is no longer corrupted by the things of this world. The things of this world are unclean, sinful, and full of death. God is life. He is a living God; of the living in Jesus Christ. Our current bodies of flesh and blood cannot join him. Paul tell us that God is somehow able to overcome this obstacle for us. Paul calls it a mystery. God is going to give us a new body. This new body will not die, it is not corrupted by sin. Paul says that this transformation will happen instantly, at the sound of the last trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise from the grave and be incorruptible. Then those of us who believe, that are still alive will be caught up also. We will all be changed, and death will have no hold on us. Jesus Christ has defeated death for us. This is amazing news!
So far we can see in just these few passages that:

• We don’t need to worry
• Jesus ascended into heaven and is returning
• Jesus has prepared a place for us
• Jesus is going to raise us up to be immortal and incorruptible

I still hear the nay Sayers out there; “I still don’t see where the word rapture can come from”. Well let us continue to seek out what the Apostle to the Gentiles says. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers concerning the rapture because some of them had been taught, by a false teacher, that the believers who had already died would miss the rapture. This false doctrine was causing many believers to lose heart, especially those who had a loved one who had already died. They wondered if they would see them again, or if they had believed in vain.
Paul wrote in his first epistle to the church at Thessalonica, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
First Paul writes that they do not need to be worried about the fate of the fellow loved ones who have believed in Christ and have already died. They did not miss the rapture. We have a hope that non-believers do not have. We that believe that Jesus died and rose again, including those in the grave right now, the Lord will bring them to his kingdom, when he comes for everyone else. He even, says that the Lord, himself, will come down and raise them from the dead. They will be raised up before he receives those who believe on him and are alive. Paul tells us that “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up”. This “caught up” is our primary concern in this text. This is where the rapture doctrine is pointed to directly. The word rapture comes from the Latin word rapere, meaning rapid. It is used as rapiemur, which means “we shall be caught up” (Ladd, 1978) This Latin word is used in translation of the Greek harpazo, meaning snatch away, or seize. I think that we can see that the word rapture and the doctrine are well rooted in scripture, and the source manuscripts. These manuscripts also easily out-date the dream of a woman from the 1800s and the supposed false doctrine of two unnamed preachers.
Here for further study:

• Luke 17:34-37 – I tell you, in that night there shall be two [men] in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two [women] shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two [men] shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body [is], thither will the eagles be gathered together.
• Revelation 3:10 – Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
• Matthew 24:29-31 – Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Here I echo the same concern that Paul said, “I would not have you to be ignorant”. I implore you to search the scriptures for yourself, and to not take the word of any man over what God himself has spoken. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) Don’t let yourself be taken by wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Bibliography
Ladd, G. E. (1978). The Last Things, An Eschatology for Laymen. Grand Rapids : Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. .
Murray, P. D. (2019, July 13). Satan’s Message – Im Going To Fly You Away. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8go4ClW2bk

 

The Message, Not the Messenger

The Message Not the Messenger: Acts 26:16-18

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We often feel we are inadequate or lack enough training or knowledge to share the gospel.  Some of us think we don’t have the ability to be a great orator. We get tongue tied, or speak to softly, or stutter. Some of us are held back from the shame of our past. We wonder how could we ever confront someone on what is right or wrong with the things we have done in our past?  Maybe its that we are not the right color, or the right age, or that we are just a new Christian. Insecurities creep in from every direction.  Our insecurities help is to make millions of excuses why “someone else” should tell people about Jesus and not us.

We compare ourselves to Billy Graham, or some other big named evangelist and tell ourselves that I could never be that useful to God.  We may even compare ourselves to the Apostles and say man, I wish I could be like Luke and write amazing things about Jesus and the church.  We may tell ourselves, I could never be like Paul and plant churches everywhere I go.  To often we look at our own limitations and not what God can do; if we were to just be obedient.

Peter was just an average guy  when he was called by Jesus.  He was a fisherman who made a living by the sweat of his brow and the sores on his hands. Peter denied Christ when he needed him most.  Peter was a man of shame. He had to overcome this in love of Jesus Christ. Paul murdered Christians and suffered beatings, sicknesses, and ridicule.  Paul had to be encouraged in his ministry by other believers, and even had to have a personal physician.  Paul had to overcome all of this in the love of Jesus Christ.  Both men, and even Luke had their failings from the past to look beyond.  They had to keep looking forward to the day of redemption, and to be faithful to the commandment from Jesus that they had received.  The commandment to go and tell.  We however continue to look at our failures and let them assure us that we are unworthy to carry such a message.

The truth is, we are unworthy to carry such a message.  However; we are also uniquely qualified to carry the message of hope.  We to must overcome our past by the love of Jesus Christ. You see we did not earn the privilege to speak on his name.  We received a task that is a privilege to perform for him.  We know our dreadful past with all of the horrific things we have done against God and others.  But we are not the only ones who know.  Those who God sends us to, they know it also.  Our friends and family, wives, siblings, children, parents, they all know who we used to be.  More importantly, we know who we used to be. But we have something to share with them.

What we share with them is hope.  We share with them Jesus and a new life that is free from the past.  We show them by our lives that they do not have to be the same way they are.  There is a way to live without shame, addiction and rejection.  None of us started out the way we ended up.  We all wanted to be something better than what we became.  We show them how Jesus can make us free to live life in a better way than we ever dreamed.  We can have redemption, hope, joy, and love!  We can be loved!  We can love others too! The gospel of Jesus Christ is that and so much more.  But, we hide this important message from them because of our insecurities.  We forget that it is not us, but the Spirit of the Living God who resides in us that gives us the ability to bear witness of the things he has done for us, for them.

We don’t see that before Billy Graham was a world renowned evangelist and clergy to the Office of the President of the United States, he was just another guy.  He gave his life to Christ at the age of 16.  He was a farmer’s son.  His first ministry was to lead prayer meetings in a trailer park.  He applied to be an Army Chaplain and was denied do to a lack of formal experience.  He then became a Pastor of a small Baptist church.  He began to host a weekly radio program.  Billy Graham looked for opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Eventually he became the first full time organizer of Youth for Christ.  This is what God used to open doors all across the world for many generations.  Billy Graham was of humble beginnings, without experience, and largely unlearned, and often felt inadequate to speak the gospel of Jesus Christ. But he was obedient.  It is God who made Billy Graham, Paul, Peter, Luke, and all the other historic men and women of God who they are today.

In Acts 26 we get a look at Paul, or Saul at this time.  It is strange, but; when we consider who would have been the first martyrs of the church we would assume that it would be one of the twelve apostles.  You know the guys who were right there, and saw it all go down.  I could see Peter volunteering himself to go first.  After all, he did tell Jesus that he would go with him unto death!  However; this is not the case.  Instead, the first martyr recorded was a young man.  This youth was named Stephen.  Stephen was one of the deacons of the church.  He tended to the widows, orphans, and other needs of the church and it’s members.  Like other early followers, he was not restricted to just administrative tasks, but was active in spreading the gospel himself.  This is something that we should all learn.  Even though he was a deacon, he understood that his work for the gospel of Jesus did not end there.  He didn’t say, “I’m a deacon, not a preacher”.  In fact, if you study the book of acts you will see that all of the first deacons were also preachers, and evangelists.

Scripture doesn’t tell us what seminary or special training that Stephen went though, or how powerful of a speaker he was.  It does not tell us that Stephen was anything exceptional.  With the exception of this, “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” (Acts 6:8)  Stephen was full of faith!  That is it.  Because Stephen was full of faith, God did great wonders and miracles through Stephen.  So this humble young man who believed enough to share his faith soon got into trouble with the local religious groups.

Stephen was brought up on charges of blasphemy for proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  Stephen was stoned to death for his testimony of Jesus.  Now a man named Saul, was one of those present and took pleasure at the stoning of Stephen.  This Saul, would become known as Paul, the same one who would latter change the world with the doctrine of salvation by grace, hated believers in Jesus Christ.  Saul even went further and received authorization to persecute Christians throughout the Providences of Asia.  This meant he had permission to go from town to town and arrest, beat, and stone to death anyone who he witnessed or was witnessed to him, as a Christian.

Paul himself testifies of his own evil deeds that he did.  He tells King Agrippa that he threw many “followers of the way” (Christians) into prison and saw to it that they were executed. Paul himself would testify against them in courts. He said that he often punished them in the synagogues.  He would back them into a corner with his knowledge of scripture and his intellect and force them to commit blasphemy in front of the Pharisees so that they would be stoned to death. When the persecuted fled Jerusalem, then Paul proceeded to hunt them down throughout Asia.  Now, I ask you.  What have you done that is shameful?  What has disqualified you from sharing the gospel?  How many innocent lives have you taken?  How many followers of Jesus Christ have you condemned to death?

OK, so this Saul was on a hunting trip to catch more followers of the Way. Then while Paul is riding along and anticipating his trophies to be won, suddenly, he runs right smack dab into Jesus.  Jesus blinds Saul with his glory and then confronts him on his sin.  Saul, like you and I, repented.  Saul saw the error of his ways, his foolish pride and arrogance, his sins against God himself.  His errors in the past swept before his heart and his mind’s eye.  Saul was immediately sorrowful and his shame was displayed before him.  He suddenly understood how shameful he was.  He was not the righteous soldier of God he had imagined in his vanity.  Instead he was a murderer of the ones that truly loved God.  Saul had worked his whole life and studied hard to be pleasing to God, and yet he had not seen the light.  He was lost, more than any other man. He also knew that his actions, above of all other men’s, could not be forgiven.  The pride that had blinded him, was now gone.  Saul was broken.

Then something happened.  Jesus forgave Paul.  He forgave him of everything, with nothing left out to hold over his life.  Just like Jesus forgave you and I.  But that would not be the only thing that Jesus did for Saul.  Jesus sent Saul on mission. Acts 26:16-18 tells of about this, “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

Paul was to rise to his feet, but to never think to highly of himself again.  Paul’s humility would be the strength that God would use to spread his gospel of grace by faith.  Jesus told Paul, “rise and stand upon thy feet.”  Jesus told him to stand up, I have a job for you.  Jesus confronted Paul of his sin.  Once Paul confessed and repented, Jesus stood him up and gave him purpose.  The Lord gave Paul a new life and a new purpose, in and for Jesus Christ.  Now that Paul had been delivered, he was not to return to his old life.  Paul would no long serve his own purposes.  Paul, now that he was redeemed was now a servant of the Lord who had redeemed him.

Paul’s new purpose was to go where the Lord directed and “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

How did Paul start out this mission?  He was humble.  He was blind.  He was dependent upon those around him.  He was led about by the hand. He had to wait on the Lord.  When Paul first started preaching, no one listened to him.  His past immediately came up, and people did not trust him.  They didn’t believe in his conversion.  Then when they did start listening they tried to kill him.  Does this sound familiar?  When you first believed in Christ, were you not treated in such a way?  Did friends and family disbelieve the sincerity of your conversion?  Did they say things like, “Awe you just on a Jesus kick!” Afterward, they would then grow tired of you talking about Jesus and even begin to be confrontational, or avoiding you.  See these same things you go through, even the great Apostle Paul went through.  All of these feelings of inadequacy.  Things that encourage you to just crawl in a hole and not mention the name of the one who redeemed you.  They are real things the enemy uses to silence us.

See we are all the same.  We are all just servants, none of us is better or more important than the other. We all need to be obedient and follow the calling of Christ.  This mission that Jesus gave Saul, it the same one he gave the other disciples.  It is the same one he gives us as new disciples.  This is part of our inheritance.  We have the great privilege to speak life to people in the name of the Lord Jesus
Christ.  Let us then do like Saul, who became known as Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Let us get up and put our old lives behind us.  Live the life and purpose that Jesus has now given to us.  Go on mission to tell others about what God has done for you.  How he has delivered YOU from death and shame into love and life in Jesus Christ.  Have we forgotten that the Lord told the Pharisees, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”   We are who the Lord chose to reveal himself to; those who are sick, and feeble, those who are in need.  He did not come to call the religious, but those who are lost and need redemption.  He did not call the perfect, but those who are broken and distraught.  Those who need him are the ones he came to deliver.

We who have believed have now been made anew.  Like a new garment that is clean and nicely pressed we have a new life.  The Spirit of God has come to indwell this new wineskin, not the old. Jesus had laid his hands upon us and healed us from our infirmities.  Jesus removed the shackles of death and the bondage of sin (addictions) that once crippled us.  He has raised us up to be glorified in him, to him, and for him.  We like Saul have been redeemed, bought, for his purposes.  It is by faith that we have been made whole.  Faith that God exists. Faith that Jesus if the Son of God.  Faith that Jesus dies and was buried for our sin.  Faith that we will be resurrected just as he resurrected.  Faith that he will return to establish his kingdom here on earth and destroy his enemies. Faith that we are delivered to eternal life through Jesus Christ.

This is our hope in this life.  We have this newness of life in Christ.  Death died with the old man we used to be.  Now we have a new life in Jesus Christ.  This new life is free from sin, shame, and death.  We have nothing to fear in this life and can then love as Christ has love us.  There is nothing that anyone can hold against this new creature in Christ that we have become.  Paul told Timothy, “let no man despise they youth”. Let no man despise you’re youth, in age or spiritual maturity, for many elders in the church have gone to sleep spiritually.

So again let us, open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among we which are sanctified by faith that is in us concerning Jesus Christ.

Luke 8:22-25 He’s Just Asleep in the Boat.

Luke 8:22-25 He’s Just Asleep in the Boat.

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Did you ever wonder what it means to meditate on the Word day and night?  It means that we should constantly be studying the scriptures and contemplating what God is trying to tell us.  We should discuss them with the Lord, with our own hearts, and with one another.  We should be in a manner of constant encouragement and refinement of our thoughts and attitudes concerning life, our families, communities, and God himself.  During this time of uncertainty we can take a look at an event in scripture that is recorded in Luke chapter 8 and see how we can chew up this passage, digest it, and make it part of our life.

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Jesus Calms a Storm

22  Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. 23  But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. 24  And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25  And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him. (Luke 8:22-25)

The term certain day shows us that this was an actual event that took place.  The event has a particular time, place, and people involved.  For the writer and those involved, it is a matter of history and fact.  They lived this event.  The things that unfold in this short story are real and binding on the hearts of the witnesses, this is their account as relayed to Luke.  The events are further corroborated by Matthew in his gospel account in Matthew 8:23-27.  So here we have two witnesses of this account in writing.  This is very important.  You see in Deuteronomy 17:6 it tells us, “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.” (Deuteronomy 17:6) You see here that all it takes to sentence a man to death according to Hebrew law is for two witnesses to bring a credible witness against the accused.  If this is what is required to condemn a man to death then it is enough to validate this event.

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So we see that the disciples and Jesus were on passage on a boat and when Jesus went to sleep, a violent storm came.  The wind was howling, the boat was taking on water, these men felt that their lives were in danger from forces they could not control.  Take note, these were not inexperienced Saturday afternoon boaters.  Most of these men were fishermen.  These men were of strong hand and backs, they had been in a storm or two in their years of fishing.  If you have ever met a sailor, they often pride themselves on the storms they have endured on the seas.  However; this was not the same kind of storm that these men had endured before.  This storm frightened them to the point of fearing death.  It was pretty easy for them to see that the boat would likely be crushed in the waves, the wind and water was overtaking the boat.  They had no control over their circumstances.  All of their lives were passing before their eyes.  Wives lips that would never be kissed again, children that would never be played with again.  The sunrises they would miss.  Songs that they would never sing again.  As they looked over their possessions, their homes, their clothes, money, land, and more they began realize how little value those things actually had.  They could see that they had focused their whole lives on things that really didn’t matter.  Their children, their spouses, their families, and their God are the things that mattered.  Now they could see that each of them alone would have to face God and each give an account for their lives and sins.  “Oh my, did I confess all my sins during the atonement?”  “Did God actually forgive me?”  “If only I had a Rabbi here now!”…. “Wait… I do!”  Then they turn their eyes toward Jesus.

Jesus is sleeping.  In all of this storming wind, spraying of water, beating of the waves, screaming of the men, Jesus is steadfast asleep.  He is in a place of safety and comfort.  Peacefully like a baby he is there sleeping, probably laying in a puddle of water, soaked from head to toe, but asleep none the less.  Lenny LeBlanc released a song a few decades ago that I use to love listening to.  The name of the song was Asleep in the Boat.  It talks about a promise God made, and that he is always there, just as Jesus was here with his disciples.  Just like when we are in the storm, He is here for us.  I often wonder what Jesus was dreaming about.  I wonder if this scripture from Isaiah 49:15-16 is what he was thinking of, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me”. 

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Jesus could have been dreaming of his home that he left behind, or how much he missed being with the Father.  He could have been dreaming that the swaying of the boat in the waves was him being rocked in the arms of his loving Father.  We could spend all day just contemplating this little portion of the scripture.  Something to contemplate.  Jesus might not have been asleep at all.  He may have been there just listening and observing with his eyes closed.  Waiting for just one of them to say, you know if Jesus is not worried, then neither am I.  He could have been waiting for them to just ask for him to help.  He could have been waiting to see if they had learned anything in how to pray.  After all they did already ask him how to pray, and he gave a line-by-line example of how one should pray.  He had already taught them on many things concerning faith and waiting on the Lord. He could have been testing his disciples to see how they were developing.  I wonder sometimes if I could pass such a test.  Looking death right in the face, would I have enough faith to just lay down and sleep, trusting in the Lord for whatever his will was. There is allot to contemplate concerning God, and ourselves in this passage. One thing for sure, the disciples did not care that he was sleeping peacefully.  They woke him up.

The fear and anxiety the disciples were experiencing was relayed in their choice of words; “Master, we perish”.  They were saying that they just knew they were all dead men, including Jesus.  There plea to Jesus is not one of faith that he can deliver them.  It is a last ditch effort that maybe the preacher can pray for us and God might hear him and just maybe he will save us.  They had no idea that this is the real-to-life, Son of God that they have just awoken and revealed their total lack of faith to.  Now something to once again stop and meditate on.  How often do we do this? How often do we look at the circumstance and look at God and assume he was asleep.  Do we actually believe that he has our best interests in mind?  What if his will is different than ours?  Do we have faith to accept that will, knowing that even though we cannot understand it, that he is doing what is best for us and keeping us in his plan?  That my fellow believer is steadfast faith.  This is nothing that Jesus didn’t do for us.  He led by example.

In the Garden the night before his execution when Jesus prayed the scripture uses phrases like, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death”…”he went forward an little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: never the less not what I will, but what thou wilt”.  See Jesus did exactly what we are expected to do.  Pray for our need, but submit to the will of the Father.  Know that what he is asking us to do is needful and necessary.  If Jesus would not have suffered for us, then we would not know the Father.  If you do not have times of suffering, someone else who may have come to know Jesus by the example of your faith, might die in their sins.  We have to trust in his will, that is faith.  Standing in that hope and knowledge of the love of God towards you is exercising that faith.  So then the disciples awoke Jesus in some vague hope that he just might be close enough to God to do something.

Well it turns out that Jesus has some authority that the disciples were not aware of.  Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. When the disciples had finally exhausted themselves and all of their resources and were still hopeless in their situation, they called on Jesus.  Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and the waters and the wind and the waters ceased… and there was a calm.  This says “a” calm.  It was dead silence.  No one had ever seen the winds and raging seas obey a man.  The closes things to this was the parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River.  I imagine that Peter and the rest of them were thinking the same thing.  Holy MOSES Batman!  One thing is for sure, there fear of the things of nature turned into the fear of God.  Things that no man could control were controlled by the words spoken by Jesus.  “In the beginning was the Word”… “Then God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”… “I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, and I said, Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop”… my there is a lot to meditate on in this little section of scripture.  You see they did not know that the very God who created the oceans, and established their boundaries was in the boat with them.  Even when he rebuked the waves, they still did not fully understand.  That is the way we are.  We believe that the Lord has saved us and that he still delivers us out of our troubles, yet we still doubt him and need constant reassurances from him.  We often fail to trust him, even though we know that he is right there in the boat with us.  We confess that he has all authority, then we act like we are hopeless and being tossed about the seas, instead of being rocked to sleep in his loving arms.

Jesus asked them, “Where is your faith?”  That translated into “Where is your faith?”  We Jesus in all fairness we don’t know of when you promised to deliver us from a storm!  Really?  Let us go to Psalms.  “He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (Psalm 107:29-31)  Oh, you mean that?  Just because it is so specific and says exactly what happened in this event, somehow that applies.  Yes, you see to meditate on the scriptures is to learn of the Lord, and ALL of his ways.  We are to write his words upon our hearts, on our foreheads, on our street corners, and on our door posts. We are to tell them to our children, sing of them in our gatherings, teach them in our schools, and most of all encourage one another in their meanings.  God loves us so much he wrote a whole 66 volume set of books for us to learn about him, his provisions, and his love for us.  Meditate on that.

1 Thessalonians 5 Encourage Ye One Another

1 Thessalonians 5 Encourage Ye One Another

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Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”  We can learn something from this simple advice given by the Apostle to the Gentiles.  The wherefore concerns what he has just spoke about. What has he just spoke about?

Well in the previous chapters he talked about how we should be living out our daily lives as believers in Christ Jesus.  In chapter one he commended the faithful witness of the Christians in Thessalonica. He called them examples of righteousness to Macedonia and Achaia.  He praised them for their fervent spreading of the gospel throughout the region.  He recognized the changes in their lives, turning from idols to believing on the Lord’s deliverance of them from the wrath to come.  In the second chapter; Paul reinforces the witness that thy have learned by example from him and his party and how they love the hearts of the Thessalonians and desire to be with them again.  Paul expresses his love for them and their love of him and Christ in him.  He encourages them and say that they share the same hope, “For what is out hope, our joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (v.19)

In the fourth chapter Paul tells them as you have learned from us how to walk in faith, continue in this so that you will increase the pleasure you give to God in your love and obedience.  He reminds them that walking in the spirit is walking in sanctification.  Those who are called of God are not called to uncleanness, but to holiness.  We who love God cannot continue in the sins that we used to walk in.  We should have a different attitude.  We should actually despise our old lifestyle, wanting nothing to do with it.  Instead we should seek to become more knowledgeable about the Lord, his Kingdom, and his will. Then he answers some questions about the rapture and the resurrection.  This is important to the advice his gives us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

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We do not have to fear the times that we live in.  All of these things are given to us as a sign.  A sign that the Lord’s return is imminent. Just as persecutions were on the rise in ancient Rome against followers of the Way so are the prevalent today.  Today we have another 100 year event.  It seems the past few years we have had a 100 year event, of some sort, every year.  This 100 year event for 2020 is the pandemic; COVID-19.  This event has attacked every part of society in every part of the globe and will undoubtedly change the way many things are done in the future.  The way we interact with one another will be different.  The way that foreign government interact and support one another.  Even the sovereignty of nations will be changed.  Individual freedoms will be forever effected.  Powers of local, state, and federal governments will be increased.  Universality of mankind will grow in acceptance, doing away with many boundaries we previously had.

This virus is already affecting all of those things and more.   We are losing family members.  Some are questioning God.  Some are flat out angry with God, and have chosen to reject him.  Others have renewed their faith.  Some who have stopped praying and seeking God decades ago are now seeking him out.  This same dynamic plays out in the family circle.  Many families are being drawn together.  Forgiving one another for offences long forgotten.  Parent spending time with their children.  Children once starved for attention from their parents are now being filled up with love.  However; with these things we see unfolding.  The changes in the governments, religious acceptance, the move toward universal-ism and far more set the stage for the events which must unfold.  With these things, and the very upfront reality of death.  Paul tells the Thessalonians, and us to comfort ourselves and one another.

We know the times and the seasons in which we live.  This have been told to us before.  Jesus himself told us of the signs that would show as his return grew closer.  He told us those things so that we could take comfort in them.  When we see these things happen, we know that he already told us and that it is part of his plan.  These things have to take place in order to save as many as possible and to spare them from the wrath to come.

For us, the follower of the Way, we have supreme knowledge and comfort.  We know, that everyone has an appointment with death.  As far as death is concerned, we know that we are just passing through this world.  We are not to cling to things of this world.  We know that the things of this world are temporal.  That means that everything of this physical world fades away, it is temporary.  Things rust, mold, decay, turn to dust, and even dust disappears eventually.  Scripture says that the life of a man is like a vapor.  It is here one moment and then gone.  For us who believe in Christ, we have a more complete knowledge in knowing these things.  We know that there is life after death.

We know that we do not fade away or become a part of the cosmos and loose who we were.  Instead, we have a new life.  We know or true life is spiritual, not the flesh.  We know that God has made a way in Jesus Christ for us to live this eternal life in his presence without fear, without death.  We know that our sorrow will be taken away, and that God himself will wipe away our tears. We can believe this because Jesus Christ not only died for our sins, but he conquered death and arose from the dead.  He is alive, and because he is alive, we who believe have been grafted into his life eternal.

This guidance, given by the Spirit through, Paul says that we should take comfort in what he has just said, and as we take comfort, we are to encourage one another.  What he just said is that Christ is eternal.  Christ is returning.  We know this because of the signs all around us. We then walk in the light of Christ. So we can take comfort in these things that are unfolding around us. This comforting is a two-fold process.

 

We take comfort in the Lord and then this gives us the ability to comfort others. What is our comfort?  We know that we dwell in him.  We are his children.  1 John 4 says that we who know God know that God loves us; for God is love.  He manifested this love in Jesus Christ; that we might live through him.  We are able to love one another because the love of God is in us. We also know that his Spirit is in us because without the Spirit, no man can confess Christ.  With this comfort in our hearts we know that God loves us and that he is faithful.  We can then encourage one another in these odd days of fear, sickness, and death.

We can comfort one another by doing what we are called to do.  Remember Paul complemented the Thessalonians in walking upright before man and the Lord. This example of godliness they lived encouraging him and the whole region about Thessaloniki.  People were being saved and believers were being encouraged by the life that they lived.  Lives of holiness and dedication to Jesus Christ.

We see that walking in the Spirit through living a sanctified life encourages others around us. We can give hope to others in the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We can teach one another of the faithfulness of God in his Word and in the testimony of our own lives in him.  We can also pray for one another.  Pray without whole hearts.  Pray aloud.  Pray boldly.   Pray in faith and in hope.  The Lord says that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much (it means a whole lot- have great influence).  Guess what, you who have believe on the name of Jesus, you have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus.

Psalm 34 – He Delivers from All Fear

Psalm 34 – He Delivers from All Fear

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This Psalm is such an amazing song of relief and hope.  It is credited as a psalm of David.  Many believe that it is written when David and his men were delivered from Achish the king of Gath in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.  In this situation that David found himself in; David was on the run from King Saul.  He ran to the Gath.  Why he would do this?  I am not sure.  Gath is where Goliath was from.  If you recall when David was still a boy, he killed Goliath from Gath when King Saul confronted the intruding Philistine armies.  In this story in 1st Samuel, David had went to the Philistines for a place to hide.  When David understood that they Philistines knew who he was he fear they would kill him and his men, so he acted like he was insane.  The king wanted nothing to do with him and kicked him out.

Thus David saw this as protection from the Lord, and from this we get this Psalm.  But really this Psalm comes from a culmination of a life that has been delivered over and over by the Lord God.  God had made David victorious over a lion, a bear, and over the giant Goliath when David was just a youth.  Then the Lord brought David into the palace of the king.  The Lord protected David through many battles and gave him great fame and glory.  When King Saul became jealous of David the Lord protected David from the entrapment of the king.  He protected him, and fed him while he evaded Saul.  Then here God protected David from his own foolishness and delivered him from his enemies.

David opens this Psalm like so many others.  He starts by declaring that he has chosen to praise the Lord, and that he will continue in such a manner.  David says that he will continue to boast on the Lord.  David is not being quiet.  He is proud of God who had delivered him from death.  David knows by the past events that God is truly with him.  He can have confidence that when he proclaims the name of the Lord, he will not be ashamed for doing it.  The Lord is his protector.  David calls for others who believe on the Lord to magnify the name of the Lord. This is a calling for others to expand upon the name of the Lord wherever they are, and in whatever situation they find themselves in.  David calls others who believe on the Lord to give a loud witness, and glorify God.

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Then David testifies on the faithfulness of God towards those that love him.  He says, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (v.4)  What a great thing it is to remember the things the Lord has done for us and to give thanks.  So much better is it for us to give open praise to the Lord for his deliverances.  David said that he “sought the Lord and he heard me”.  That would indicate that the Lord was already listening for David’s cry for help.  What an awesome God we love.  He loves us so much the when we are in trouble, he is standing by for us to call out to him.  He waits to hear us seeking him.  The prophet Isaiah said, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6).

What a great reassurance.  The Lord tells us in his scripture to seek him while he may be found.  He has a sense of urgency.  The Lord is expectant of you calling to him in your time of need.  Isn’t that awesome?  David then tells us that those who call on the name of the Lord; they were lightened and were not ashamed.  They were relieved and blessed by the presence of the Lord and were not let down. (v.5) The poor cry and the Lord hears them and saves them out of their troubles.  (v.6)  David even goes further and tell us that the angel of the Lord makes his camp around, and delivers those who fear the Lord; and he fulfills their needs. (v.7)

Who are those who fear the Lord?  Those who listen to instruction (v.11); those who keep their tongue from evil; those who seek peace, and to do good.  It is these whose the Lords ears are open to, to hear their cry.  (v.16) We are blessed who love the Lord and who seek to do what is right in his eyes.  “Evil shall slay the wicked and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate” (V.20)  The redemption of the soul of the righteous is a promise made by God and fulfilled in the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Since he is God, nothing can separate us from his love.  Not failure, death, or even an illness like the Corona Virus.  We too can sing out to the Lord without being ashamed.  We have no need of fear.  The Lord God who has delivered us in the past will deliver us again.  We are not alone.  He is waiting for you to cry to him.  He is waiting for you to seek him.  He is waiting to hear you declare your faith in him, that he is faithful, that he is love, that he loves you also.  Make your boast in the Lord and call on others to be so proud, not of themselves, but in the Lord who delivers them.  Give praise to the Most High!  Give praise to the God who heals!  Give praise to the God who encamps his angle about you, to keep watch over you, and to deliver you!  Give praise to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Way of Christ Ministries
Fishers of Men