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

Jacob and Redemption in Christ (Genesis 35:10)

“And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.” (Genesis 35:10)


The name Jacob means “seizing by the heel”. Jacob was named this because when Jacob and Esau were born, they were born as twins. Even in the womb they struggled against one another. Esau came out first which meant that he was the eldest and that he would have the inheritance of his Father. Blessings would have been bestowed on him, as the first born, that far exceeded the blessings received by his younger brother Jacob. Jacob was born holding onto the heel of Esau, as if trying to stop him from being born first. Now this is probably just a little of my mind running into fantasy, to imagine that an infant would know of such things as inheritances and birthrights from the womb. However, the fact that these two fought with one another in the womb is documented in the scriptures.


There is another meaning to the name Jacob, supplanting. Supplanting is defined as to replace, displace, supersede, or to take the place of another, as through force or scheming. We would consider this deception. So much so that Jacob’s name has become to be called “deceiver”. Jacob had most definitely lived up to his name. In his younger life Jacob tricked his older brother, Esau, into selling his birthright to Jacob for a pot of chili. He took advantage of his brother in his weakened state and took away his future as the air to Isaac and the promises of God inherited from Abraham. Later Jacob would deceive Isaac into bestowing the greater blessings of God onto him instead of his older brother. He did this through an elaborate scheme that involved many levels of deception and lying.

Yet the inheritance had been passed on and so had the blessings been given to Jacob because of his scheming and deceptions. God is honorable and faithful, so he keeps his word to Abraham, and Isaac in honoring their designation of Jacob as the heir and patriarch of the family. These events were not a surprise to God. He even predicted that these events would transpire. When Rebecca, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother, was feeling the struggling in her womb, before their birth, she asked God why this was happening. God’s reply is recorded in Genesis 25:23, “And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger”. Thus God gave Rebecca a prophecy concerning not only her sons, but the nations that would descend from each of them. Still we look at Jacob and we say to ourselves, “what a despicable man he was”.


What kind of selfish, arrogant man would lie, steal, and cheat their own family brother out of what was rightfully his? Who would be so selfish to tear his family apart for his own desires? What kind a callous heart it must take to deceive the father that had protected and cared for you your whole life. What a shameful display of arrogance to take advantage of the blind, and elderly. Only a dishonorable, opportunistic man takes advantage of the hungry and feeds them with such devastating deception? We can point the finger all day long at Jacob; can we not? Still we must be honest enough to see a little of Jacob in us as well.


Have some of us not deceived others for our own gain? Have some of us not told a little lie to ease the harshness of the truth in our selfishness? Mother’s hide snacks from the children. Children seem to never know “who broke the lamp or got into the cookie jar”. Husbands and wives lying to one another about where they have been, what they were doing, who they were doing it with. Shaving a little time here and there at work, stealing from their employers. Maybe false reporting on earned income for taxes, or other things of like these. There are countless ways that we put our own selfish desires ahead of others and lie and deceive others to get ahead. We deceive others by omitting information, denying the truth, exaggerating information, and even fabricating information.


There is even a definition for using “true” statements to give a false or distorted view of the truth in order to influence the impressions of other and mislead their decision making. This is referred to as paltering. If you have ever watched syndicated news or a politician, you have probably been a victim of such a ploy. My dad used to always tell me that if someone asked you a question, always tell them the truth, but; don’t tell them any more than they asked for. That is sound advice from someone who is trying to tell themselves that they are an honest man, who does not want someone getting the wrong impression from knowing the whole of the truth.


Let me further illustrate. One night, when I was a teen, I borrowed my step-mom’s car. I ended up getting in an accident and I totaled the car. When my dad asked why I was driving, I told him I just wanted to go see a friend. That was the truthful answer to his question. What I didn’t include was that I was going to see a friend that my dad had told me to stay away from. You see I did not tell him that I was in disobedience of his wishes. This lie saved me from a severe punishment. I am sure you can find in you past some kind of half-truth you have told to get away with something or to avoid chastisement.


We are not so far from the shameful actions of Jacob, are we? You see we are a namesake to our father. We lie because that is what we know how to do. Jesus said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a lair, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)


Jacob lied because he was carnal. He was of the kingdom of Satan. One of the Hebrew names for the devil is cheater. This also carries the following synonyms: deceitful, deceiver, fraudulent, swindler. See when we act in these manners, we are also acting like Jacob. Jacob was acting out his sinful nature, given to him at the beginning by the fall of man, by the deception of Satan. We also are a product of this sinful state. We do not know what it means to truly be “good”. We could care less about trying to be good. Like Jacob, we are also of our father the devil, there is no truth in us. The good news is that God already knew this about Jacob, and he already knows this about us. God already had a plan for Jacob that started before he was in the womb.


God told Jacob, “thy name shall not be called any more Jacob”. God removed Jacob’s identity. He removed the shame associated with the name of Jacob. Jacob, had left his home for 20 years, running from the things he had done in his past. Now God was giving him a second chance at life. A life that would be far greater than the one he had left behind. God not only took his old name away; he gave him a new name. This name would be a greater name then the one he previously had. He was given a clean slate and a new promise and a new way of life. A life that would bring the promises of God to bear in his life, the life of his descendants, and the lives of everyone in the world. God would fulfill his promises to Abraham. This is such a great picture of what Christ has done for those who believe on him.


Revelation 2:17 tells us a promise made by God. He says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” Isn’t that awesome, we have a new name in Christ. We have a new identity that is given to us by God himself. This name is holy to the Lord. Only you and the Lord will know your new name. Your slate has been wiped clean. You have a new identity. You are no longer the shameful creature held in bondage by sin and death. Instead you will be alive like never before. You will eat of the blessings of God and be called by a new name, a redeemed soul!


The Apostle Paul also tells us about this when he writes to the Corinthians. Paul tells us that anyone who believes and follows Jesus Christ is a new creature. He uses the verb “is”, it has already happened. The old person we used to be and all the things we did in the past are gone. Everything about us has become new in Christ. Paul tells us that this process if part of our reconciliation to God. This is only possible through the blood of Jesus Christ, who was made sin for us. Jesus was the righteousness of God. He was guilty of no sin. However, he accepted the blame and penalty for our sin. In this way, our sin was transferred to him, and his righteousness was accounted towards us. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) Now, John says, not only are we forgiven, but we have a new heavenly Father. (1 John 3:1)


Now with this new identity, and this new Father, we can be like him instead of our previous father. We no longer must submit to the will of the flesh and Satan. We are set free from that previous live and now obey our spiritual Father in Heaven. Just as Jacob no longer had to live under the shame of his previous life, but instead could live a victoriously and blessed in his new life, we can also live a blessed and victorious life in Jesus Christ. We have been redeemed, not because of what we did or even our own will. We have been redeemed because of what God did of his own will, because he loved us even when we were his enemy. But now, we who live in faith in Jesus Christ are no longer his enemies.

We are his son’s and daughters. We are his ambassadors. We are the witness of his love and his grace. If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came and took the blame for your sin, and died in your place. Knowing in your heart that his death paid the price for your sin, and you believe that he was resurrected on the third day, then you have eternal life. Now that your eternal salvation is secure in Christ, you need to testify to that end. You need to take your first step in obedience and be baptized by emersion. Baptism is not necessary for salvation, but it is necessary in your testimony. Baptism is recognized throughout the world as a mark of believing in Jesus Christ.

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.

Is That What He Said? Hebrews 1:1-3

In was looking at a post on Facebook that was made concerning Hebrews 1:2.  When I saw the content of the post, I was taken back in horror.  In the thread of the message the one who posted said, “God spoke himself into existence in his own image” (referring to Jesus).  I immediately went to Hebrews and read it, just in case I was ignorant of this fact.  I always like to get a little context in a verse that someone quotes, so I started from the beginning.

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;  Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, and sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high: Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Hebrews 1:1-4)

 Okay, now this does talk about God the Father, and Jesus the Son of God.  This set of verses is more concerned with establishing the superiority of Jesus over the prophets.  It is not a creation verse at all.  God, is not speaking anything into existence.  How could God speak himself into existence?  I mean I know that we tell ourselves that God can do anything, but there is a definite law of logic being broken here.  That being put aside, let us look at another aspect of creation.  Genesis chapters one and two explain the events of creation.  It never mentions God creating himself or his son. In addition, it says at each stage of creation and then at the final stage of creation that it was “good”.  This means that it was pleasing and completed.  But there is something else in this event that you may not be aware of.  Turn to the Gospel of John.  Starting at verse one it reads, “IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)   John 1:10 goes on to say concerning Jesus that, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” So this means that Jesus was not created by God in the flesh, or that Jesus was a man who eventually became God.  What this means is that Jesus always existed as the Son of God.  It also reveals to us that Jesus is the one who created everything, by his word.  He was the word of God who said, “Let there be light”… So what does this set of verses say?

First it tells how God has changed his messenger with mankind.  It starts by letting us know that historically in many different ways (though laws, kings, judges, ceremonies) in different places (lands, wildernesses, mountain tops), God spoke to men through designated men, called prophets.  These prophets are men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Jonah who God gave messaged to and signs to prove his message.  However; now God recently chose to speak to us through his only begotten son. (John 3:16) This term, “in these last days”, refers to the time period between the birth and ascension of Jesus Christ. His Son (Jesus) was chosen as the beneficiary of all things, and was the creator of the universe and all that is in it.  It was Jesus who revealed to us the nature of God the Father himself. 

“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” (John 14:9-11)

Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. (John 7:16)

What the Law and the Prophets could not do, in that they were limited both in time and ability, Jesus was able to commit and fulfill to mankind.  You see Jesus came as a sort of ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven, in order to reveal the love of God to mankind.  He demonstrated this love in his message, his daily living, his miracles, and in his death, burial, and resurrection.  Then he describes Jesus, he says “being the brightness of his glory”, this does not mean that he was a reflection, but rather an outshining light or radiance.  This means that Jesus was an exact representation of God’s essence and nature. This is why Jesus said, “this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)  You see what Hebrews 1:1-3 is saying?  Jesus, who is the very Son of God, came and directly revealed God to men.  The ultimate authority in the universe.  He could have come to condemn.  He could have come, as the Greek and Roman gods were believed, to play cruel games with us.  But Jesus did not come to judge us or to play games.  He has all authority in the universe to do whatever he chooses; he chose to love us.  God was not born a man, he became a man.  He came to seek us out, and show us the way.  “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

As Hebrews 1:3 says, he purged himself of our sins.  Purging is a process of elimination. That means that he had to receive our sins in the first place. Once he tool our sins on him, he was judged for the sin and died.  The penalty of sin is death. He took this penalty on for us.  But he went much further, in assuming the responsibility for the sin, he removed it from us.  Being God, he cannot die, so then he purged himself of our sin.  This means that the sin that held us is permanently gone.  We have been set free from that penalty, and the bonds of sin. Jesus now has taken his rightful place and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.  Jesus is there in his throne, with all of his power and all of his authority.  That is what the author of Hebrews is talking about. 

I encourage you to look into the scriptures to see if what I am saying is true.  It is my desire that you do not take my word, or anyone’s word over scripture.  Test, and challenge what is said by your teachers, pastors, and myself.  Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

Wake Up Christians in America

NazarineCaptureISIS

The Christian Post reported on a study that was released by Gordon-Conwell’s Center for the Study of Global Christianity; which said,that over 900,000 Christians were Martyred for their faith in the last 10 years. This plays out to an average of one Christian being martyred every 4-6 minutes. In America we would like to think that the martyrdom of the saints is a thing of ancient past.

We have books in our bookshelf that give descriptions of the early church and other time periods where Christians were martyred, sometimes by other christian sects. We pull the book down and haphazardly read an account and say, wow, I would have stood up just like that Christian. We then pat ourselves on the back, because we are such a good christian and then put the book back on the shelf, and sit into our lazy chair to watch some comedian on TV made fun of Christians or God. In truth, persecution of Christians world wide is higher than it has ever been.

In the 20th and 21st Centuries, more Christians were martyred than any other time in history. That means that more Christians have died, for their faith, in the last 118 years than in the preceding 19 Centuries. The numbers are growing, while we sit and grow fat.  We bury our heads in the sand and tell ourselves it does not concern us.  Yet this relentless murder of Christians is pandemic of the entire world, including in America, where violent and legal attacks are carried out on a routine basis against Christians.  NE News Now reported that across the globe there are more than 200 million Christians that are threatened because of their faith. This is a consensus revealed in 105 of the 190 nations in the world.

All of this goes on while,in American church, we have watered down gospel. A gospel that actually is not the gospel is preached instead.  We have become a nation of Christians who have ears that itch to have pleasing self-centered, even devilish doctrines entreated to us. World know preachers of mega churches go on interview after interview and openly proclaim that they do not teach the gospel, because there is no money in it. Instead, the church in America had been inundated with a “name it and claim it” gospel. Sin and consequences are not discussed in the pulpit. American churches have desecrated themselves before God and man, and no longer stand for the truth.  Instead of confronting sexual immortality, and infant murder, they welcome it into their churches and in some- even ordain that which should be expelled.

Self-help and the way to financial happiness have become the mantra of the mainstream American church. We are so absorbed and praying for that new house, or new car, or other ways of pleasing our own covetous desires that we have left God out or our churches, schools, business, legislation, families, and our own hearts. We no longer care to reach the lost, instead we try not to offend them and try to act like them, to show how accepting we are.  We have lost the love that gives us the need to be objective and warn the lost that they will die in their sin without accepting the truth of Jesus.  We have become the ones that the Lord said, “In that day, I will say, depart from me for I never knew you.”

You know how I know this? Take a look at John 15:18-27.
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.He that hateth me hateth my Father also.If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

Here Jesus says that the world will hate you. We can expect this because it hates Jesus. A young Pakistani Christian invited some friends and family to his home after he was converted from Islam to Christianity. He showed them the Jesus movie. They told him that if he didn’t stop showing that movie he would be killed. He continued his mission, and invited another small group to his home and showed them the Jesus movie. Two nights later, a group of men stole into his home and cut him to pieces. Stabbing this young Christian to death because of his love for Jesus.

Jesus said that if you were of the world the would would love it’s own. But because you are of the Kingdom of Heaven, the world doesn’t know you. Because they do not know you, they hate you. You are reminder to them of sin that they are guilty of. You are a reminder that there is a just and righteous God who will judge sin, and who will destroy all who live in sin. They hate you because you have spoken to them and revealed sin. This is the same reason they hated Jesus.

But Jesus said that he has sent us a comforter, the Holy Spirit. Who indwells all who believe. The Spirit of God in Christ is who gives us the ability and courage to speak the truth. We, who believe, are not concerned with these worldly issues. Who cares who said what? Who cares about that new car, or new house? We are not of this world. We are just passing through while on mission. We are missionaries of Jesus, each one of us. We are here to do exactly what Jesus did, bear witness to the truth. We are here to tell the whole truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are here to expose the lie of the false teachers and false prophets who teach that God will give you a new boat if you just pray hard enough or give enough money to their false religion.  We are here to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.  People are dying for Christ.  However, allot more are dying without Christ.  “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).  Maybe we need to stand up, before there are none of us left to bring the message.

Ref:

https://www.christianpost.com/news/over-900000-christians-martyred-for-their-faith-in-last-10-years-report.html

https://onenewsnow.com/persecution/2015/09/20/every-5-minutes-a-christian-is-martyred

https://www.christianpost.com/voice/christians-massacred-call-to-grieve.html

https://www.christianpost.com/news/nigeria-christians-slaughtered-by-fulani-militants-at-baby-dedication-children-among-the-dead.html

Maundy Thursday: The Prayer of Intercession

The Prayer of Intercession is probably my favorite chapter in the entire Bible. This prayer is an intimate conversation between Christ and the Father on our behalf that we may know His heart and how much He cares and loves for us. Beyond anything else, save His crucifixion, this prayer shows how much Christ truly felt our emotions, of love, longing, loss, heartache, and joy. Through this, we can see that He truly experienced the human condition. While He certainly holds true to His divinity, He also remains humble and makes requests for us, who He counts as a part of Him.

Following the Last Supper, and a whole lot of divine revelations to His disciples they begin to walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. Along this walk Christ begins to pray in the middle of the night. His prayer is said aloud for His disciples to hear and that they may be filled with the same spirit that He has in these final moments. As a soldier and his unit preparing for combat, He says this prayer to fill His team with confidence in the things to come. It is His last battle cry, His rally to arms. Though, it was not for combat, it was for love and the work of the ministry. Let’s read this powerful prayer. John 17 holds the entirety.

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. (John 17:1-5, KJV)

This first part of this prayer is Christ acknowledging His Father’s will that He has fulfilled already and asking for the strength to bring it to completion that He (Christ) may glorify His Father even more. He even says that God has given eternal life, and that eternal life is found in the truth that God is God alone who sent Jesus (who is God, the Son ref. John 1:1-4, Rev. 1:8). It is simple, and plain, yet profound and a centerpiece to our faith. To call yourself Christian is to believe in the fact that Christ is both the Son of God and God, himself. Carrying on in verse 6:

I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. (John 17:6-8, KJV)

These verses are Christ acknowledging His Father’s will. He says that His disciples were chosen by the Father and that everything that He taught and said was His Father’s will. Christ says that everything that was given to Him, He turned and gave it to His disciples. Like a band of brothers, He kept no secret from those He loved most, all the words and lessons that God had, He gave them to His friends, disciples, and his most trusted followers that they might be fully equipped for the work of the ministry after He left. Now, He gets personal starting in verse 9.

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:9-12, KJV)

Here we see Christ begin praying specifically for His apostles. Because they are special to Him, He says those that are given to Him, as our most treasured friends are, so were these men to Him. God grants friendship, kinship to be the bonds by which we learn how to love one another and it was something that He felt Himself. Christ asks that God keeps His friends, as in keep them in His will that they may be one in the spirit of God and fellowship. Jesus knows the hard times that are going to ensue following this prayer and He wants them to be kept together despite what they would do (Judas’ betrayal and suicide, Peter’s denial, the general cowardice in the face of controversy). Christ wants them to hear this also, because He knows that it is important that they hear how He prays for them that they might know how to pray for one another. We get to go even deeper with what comes next in verse 13.

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:13-19, KJV)

This is one of my favorite parts of His prayer, here this is where Christ prays for their protection, but not as we might pray for one another’s protection. See, I normally hear in prayers, and have prayed myself before, that God keep people from danger, or from death, but Christ does not. More rather Christ says that He prays aloud (these things I speak in the world) that they may have JOY despite the hate that this world shows them. He even goes as far as to say, do not take them from the world, instead keep satan away from them and sanctify them in Your Word that they might be filled with joy and strength. That is just beautiful! He knows this world will turn against them and so instead of trying to keep them out of it, He prays that they be filled with joy because they are doing what is right and when the world hates on them it is because they are doing what is right! The only protective thing He asks is that Satan be kept away from them. And that is who we truly fight against in this world, not people, but Satan and his many schemes and deceptions. Now, let us see what Christ prayed for us! Beginning in verse 20:

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23, KJV)

All right, now we are getting into why the prayer of Intercession is so important for us! Here we see Christ change from just His present disciples, and begins to pray for all those who would believe by the accounts, testimonies, and witness bore by His apostles, and that is everyone else who ever became a Christian, i.e. YOU and ME! Christ prays for our salvation here, prays that all those who should believe in the testimony of other disciples that we would be made one with God! And this is to honor and glorify God, because the world will see when we begin to act as believers and our lives change, as they should, that there is no denying that we are followers of Christ. As we talked about yesterday, that the world should know we are Christians by our love! Because as He said that “the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them” (John 17:23, KJV), that is what we are to embody as a unified body of believers. It does not matter what you think of another believer, because you cannot claim to love God and hate your brother (1 John 4:7-21). This is so important as a believer, it is beyond an imperative, that it is so important that God, Jesus, made certain to make it not only His final command before dying, but also prayed for it that we may know just how important it is to Him.

In closing, Christ turns back to His praying for His disciples that are with Him beginning in verse 24:

Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:24-26, KJV).

In closing for His prayer, He returns His focus on His disciples. He prays that they would be able to truly bear witness to the glory of God that they may have a full understanding that God is who He says He is. And lastly, that they may have the same love that the Father has for the Son. Again, it is a beautiful picture of how real Jesus was. He had friends that He wanted to know just how awesome His Dad was, and He would stop at nothing to prove to not only them that God loved them and was all powerful, but He did not want to rest until the entire world has heard this! Shortly after this prayer Christ and His apostles arrive in the Garden Gethsemane where Christ begins to pray for strength to fulfill His Father’s will by going to the death of the cross. But all of that, and more we will cover tomorrow.

Palm Sunday Observance

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is the observance of the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem prior to his arrest, trial, and subsequent execution.  It is commemorated on week prior to the Resurrection Celebration of Jesus’ rising from the dead.   Many Christians refer to this week as Passion Week and it is the end of the period of Lent. This entry into Jerusalem is a demonstration of the King entering Jerusalem and Jesus’ submission to his role in the redemption of Israel, and all of mankind.  This is a deliberate move by Jesus in fulfilling prophecy. 

In the book of the prophet Daniel we see in chapter 9 that there will be 483 years from the command to rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah.  Nehemiah chapter 2 records for us, “And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king,” (Nehemiah 2:1), Historical documents from the Babylonian era puts this date at March 14, 445 B.C.  This brings us 483 years later, (using Jewish calendars) to April A.D. 32. [1] 

The timing of the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem was of not just to take in the sites and see family and friends.  The arrival of Christ at this time had significant theological, political, and prophetical implications. Jesus came to Jerusalem during the time of Passover.  This was a special celebration of the Israelites delivery from death.  Passover was a time of special pilgrimage.  Jerusalem’s population of 40,000 would swell to over 240,000 in anticipation of this great festival of thanksgiving. The term Passover comes from the Jewish word Pesach, which means “to pass over”.  In Exodus we are relayed the story of how God delivered the Israelis from slavery in Egypt through 10 plagues, the last of which was death itself.  They were sparred the death of the first born by sacrificing a lamb and spreading it’s blood on the door posts, top, and both sides.  When death came and saw the blood of the lamb, death passed over that house.  Any home that was not covered with the blood of the lamb was entered by death and the life of the eldest son was taken.  So when we consider the offering of Jesus as a lamb for the slaughter, and in whose blood we are covered, we know that death passes over us also.  Death is the penalty for sin.  In Egypt, death was the penalty for disobedience to God.  Sin is disobedience to God.  Let us take a look at the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on start of Passion Week and the Passover. What Jesus was about to do in the manor he chose to enter Jerusalem would not only have an effect not only on Jesus and his followers, not the Jewish and Roman leaders, but mankind and all of creation. 

In entering Jerusalem on a little donkey, Jesus declared himself the long awaited Messiah, and the deliverer of Israel and the nations of the earth as promised to Abraham thousands of years in advance.  If you are not familiar with the telling of the events witnessed in scripture you can find them at:

  • Luke 19:29-44
  • John 12:12-19
  • Mark 11:1-10
  • Matthew 21:1-11

I know that some reading this do not have a bible to reference these events so here is Matthew’s account.

And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.  – Matthew 21:1-11

Both John and Matthew make reference to something. Nestled in their accounts is a reminder of the faithfulness of God and the importance of the study of his Word.  In here is another prophecy from the Old Testament.  The prophet Zechariah proclaimed, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zechariah 9:9).  Just as a side note, for those of you who have read the Revelation 19 and Zechariah 14:4, John tells us that when Jesus comes at his second coming, that he will place his foot on Mount Olivet.  I think it is no accident that Jesus entered Jerusalem from the direction of the Mount of Olives. 

Now the meaning this manor that Jesus entered Jerusalem was not lost on the Jews nor the Pharisees. The entering of a man into the city on an ass was probably not such a big deal.  This had everything to do with who the man was and what he represented.  Jerusalem was ripe with rumors of a messiah.  They were looking for the return on the throne of David.  They anticipated to have a great man of God to deliver a message from Jehovah.  They desired to have an Israelite above all other Israelis to liberate them from the oppression of Rome and bring God’s judgement to the world.  The fame of Jesus as a man of God was all out the region.  There were witnesses the asserted he could heal the sick, even those afflicted by the incurable diseases like leprosy.  Others told how he had restored sight, a sign that God was with him.  Then there were the ones who told how Jesus had cast out demons, and how he stood up to the religious hierarchy, and that even the authority of the Pharisees could not supersede his.  This man possessed authority both in heaven and in earth.  Then, came the stories of his raising at least two people from the grave.  This man, Jesus of Nazareth, had authority even over death.  Surely this is the Son of David, the Son of God who has come to deliver his chosen people.  Wow what an exciting day!

As Jesus entered into the city in such a symbolic way, the message was receive loud and clear.  The common people of Jerusalem and all of Israel that were gathered began to tear the branches from the trees and lay the branched and their cloaks in to the path of their king.  Like a red carpet event in Hollywood, California, people were in a fanfare of the undeniable message being given to them by Jesus.  They worshiped him and called out loudly, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” (Luke 19:38).  The Gospel of St. Matthew gave another point of view of these events when the author wrote, “The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed were shouting: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’”(Matthew 21:9)  The term “Hosanna” is from the Hebrew hishi’a na and had the intent of “save”, but; the meaning is that of a complete thought.  The expression means, “Salvation, Thank You” and is intended as a show of recognition and gratitude to Jehovah for his “saving us”. It was clearly a great time of jubilationfor Jesus and the crowd.  But not everyone was happy with the proceedings.  The religious leadership in Jerusalem were greatly trouble by this display of public affection for Jesus.  They feared a riot and the inevitable consequences that would be inflicted upon them from Rome, and the challenge to their authority presented in this bold challenge. Surely they must have also feared the wrath of God from the apparent blasphemy of this Jesus of Nazareth. 

The Pharisees quickly challenged Jesus’ motivations for entering Jerusalem in such a public manor; and told him to tell the crowds to be quiet.  They wanted him to deny that he was the messiah and that he was the Son of God.  Instead, Jesus insisted that he is who he is, and that if the crowds were silent then the stones would cry out to give him the honor he deserves.  Wow, can you see this.  Jesus was saying that he is the creator of the world.  Creation itself recognized its creator, but not man.   Jesus in essence told them I cannot deny who I am and even if the crowd did not, then the rest of creation would testify that I am the Son of God, the Word who was in the beginning, the creator of everything that is seen and unseen in heaven and in earth.  This laying of the palm leaves at the triumphant entry of the promised Messiah into the city of Jerusalem, and the confrontation at the gate, marks the beginning of the Passion Week and the advent of Palm Sunday.


[1](Chuck Missler, 11-1-2004, Koinonia House, Daniel’s 70 Weeks: The Precision of Prophecy http://www.khouse.org/articles/2004/552/)

Fascination with Isaiah

Isaiah

The Book of Isaiah has always fascinated me.  There is so much to discover in these pages.  Isaiah among other things discusses the future tribulation and the millennial kingdom; the salvation of the Servant-Messiah and God’s plan for peace.  There has been allot of debate over who authored the Isaiah scrolls and when they were made.  The debate is very important because it either validates or lays to naught the prophetic aspects of the book of Isaiah.  The prophetic nature of Isaiah is extremely important to Judaism and Christianity alike.

For Christianity the importance of Isaiah can be revealed in the number of times it is references.  The prophet Isaiah is referred to approximately eighty-five times in the New Testament.   While some of these are repeated references there are still at least sixty-one passages in Isaiah that are used as a single reference. 

Jesus launched his ministry by reading from the school of Isaiah.  This shows the necessity of the accuracy of the book of Isaiah.  Jesus could not have said that he is fulfilling this scripture if it was not already accepted as scripture by the Jews of his time. Here is the portrayal recorded by Luke.  

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.  (Luke 10:416-21).

The New Testament the Book of Acts chapter 8 refers to a Eunuch that was converted to Christianity by the use of the scriptures recorded in Isaiah and how they related to prophecy fulfilled by Jesus Christ.  The Lord sent Phillip to meet with this man to teach him from Isaiah all the things concerning Jesus. The man believe and was subsequently baptized. 

How great a find was discovered in 1947 among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  In this archeological find was located an intact and in “perfect” condition, 2nd Century BC scroll of the text of Isaiah.  It has been compared to the oldest know text, about 980 AD and is astonishingly accurate.  In fact, scholars have concluded that it is an exact copy. This lays waist to claims that the prophecies of Isaiah concerning the Servant-Messiah, the Millennial Kingdom, and God’s Plan of Peace were added later in time by editors of the text.   You see if you believe in divine inspiration then you must also believe in divine preservation.  If God cared enough to inspire the writers of the Bible then surely he would preserve that message also.

If he preserved it then we can trust what is written.  We can trust the prophecies.  We can trust the fulfillment of the prophecy.  We can look forward to the restoration of Israel.  We know that Jerusalem will be the capital of the world because we know the prophecy of our Lord establishing his kingdom here on earth in Jerusalem for 1000 years.  Through the seed of Abraham the whole world, every nation, all of creation will be blessed.  We know this because the scripture has been preserved by God himself. 

We also know this.  That Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53.  When it says, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).   That means that Jesus did actually take our burdens of sin and he carried our sorrows and despairs to the cross.  It also means that we witnessed the chastisement of God that he took for us.  He was beaten, and mocked, and died for his love of mankind.  Jesus took our punishment like a loving older brother takes the blame for his siblings.  He died for us.  We know this because scripture prophesied this.  We know this because the New Testament recorded it for us.  We can trust it because God himself preserved the witness in the accuracy of the text.  This is the truth that sets you free.  Jesus was sacrificed to pay the debt of sin for you and for me.  We are indebted to Jesus for our very lives. By accepting this truth he promises to give us a life that we cannot comprehend.  He said a more abundant life!  More life than we know of.  That is amazing love.    

Abortion: God Forgive Us All

What I relay to you is a true story of a young couple.  It was told as a matter or confession, not to a priest, but to any who would listen.  I don’t feel the necessity to identify the couple, as this could be any couple in modern society.

http://Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

This young man was seeing a young lady, and their attractions grew to one another as often young people do.  They were both working and soon decided that it would be best to move in with one another and therefore save on some of the costs of living.  This would make things financially better for the both of them, plus there would be other “fringe benefits”. 

The young man admitted he was self-centered and was concerned more about having freed up money to have a good time and to have the benefit of sexual pleasures at will.  He wasn’t concerned about taking precautions to avoid pregnancy; that was her problem, not his.  He remember how great it was to be living with her indulging one another’s fantasies without regard to God or anyone else.  Until she got pregnant.

The pregnancy alarm “slapped him in the face”, as he put it.  They were both shocked and caught off guard. Suddenly life stopped for them.  All of their future plans, their relationship, and collage would all have to change.  He remembered thinking that his whole life was suddenly snatched from him with the realization of this permanent change.  He regretted his foolish arrogance and disregard for not avoiding this predicament by listening to his parents warnings.  He was scared.  She asked what to do.  He lined up the options: marriage, bail on her, abortion, or just ignore it. 

She wanted marriage and to keep the baby, but he wasn’t ready, so he just pushed her away ignoring the issue.  She moved in with another friend but still sought his advice. He wouldn’t return her calls.  In fear and desperation she scheduled an abortion. 

When he found out his heart was sickened.  Guilt flooded over his whole mental and emotional state.  He was shamed that he had failed her and the baby.  He wanted to tell her not to go through with it.  But his cowardice had left him unable to move, he had forsook his responsibilities and left the burden to his girlfriend.  Eventually he mustered up the strength to accompany his girlfriend to the clinic. 

When he walked in there were others like him waiting with their family members.  He could feel their eyes on him. He knew that they knew that he was the father of the baby that was being aborted.  He was murdering his own child.  He was sacrificing his own baby for what he perceived would be a better lifestyle for himself.  He knew that his girlfriend was struggling. She want to keep the baby, but was afraid that without his support it would not be possible.  She thought that he loved her.  She realizes now, too late, that he loved himself more.

The abortion was quick.  After the abortion she left with other friends who had come to support her.  He left all alone.  They never spoke again.  The guild and shame of the murderous act had destroyed their relationship.  Decades later this time period of his life would still haunt him.  Wondering what his child would have been like.  Wondering what his marriage with this young lady could have been.  How many memories did he forsake for his selfish act? 

Later he married a Christian lady.  He started going to church.  He would here the pastor teach on how God said that children are an heritage of the Lord (Psalms 127:3-5).  He read how scriptures like John 16:21 remarked on what a joy it is that a man can be born.  He heard in Provers 17:6 where it said that Children’s children are the crown of old men; and they glory of children are their fathers.  He felt such sorrow and remorse.  He had missed out on those blessings.  The blessings of seeing the birth of his baby.  He missed out on the joys of running with a kite with his baby.  He missed the times of teachings, like riding a bike, or driving a car.  More than that he missed out on the joy of having his grandbabies sit on his lap.  Unable to keep his façade up any longer. He spent hours confessing to his wife. 

He confessed his selfishness to her.  He relayed the shame of his cowardice avoidance of his responsibilities to his girlfriend and to his baby, and to God.  In tears he poured out his regrets and a lifetime of torment that he has lived with all of those years.  His wife took him in her arms and for two hours she told of the forgiveness available from God in Jesus Christ.  He eventually pleaded his cas before God, and poured out his sorrows to him.  He repented of his selfishness and lack of courage in doing what he knew was wrong.  He confessed the murder of his own child. 

He received forgiveness.  He has reached out with the support of his wife and his church to the once young lady, who he had failed before.  She too had spent a life time of dealing with the guilt and anguish that comes from the shameful act of murder we call abortion. She too has been redeemed by Jesus Christ. 

It is a terrible thing when society and governments condone the murder of innocent babies.  It is a terrible testimony to the state of a nation that prefers mothers to kill their babies for profits to be fed to special interest corporations.  Surely they will be held accountable before Christ in the final judgement.  So will the Christians who stop silently and watched this atrocity unfold before their eyes.  Especially those who live in countries where they have the right to vote on such matters of conscience.  It is not just those who need forgiveness. God forgive us all.