Posts tagged ‘Jesus’

The Church the Rapture will Leave Behind

A couple weeks ago I published The Rapture of the Church in which I hoped to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as we enter these last days.  As is always the case, God’s timing is perfect.  Right around that same time, I began reading the book of Revelation as I have been studying the New Testament this summer.  The comments I made in my Rapture post were still fresh in my heart and mind as I read through chapters 2 and 3 about the 7 churches.

To refresh your memory, the letters to the 7 churches are meaningful in a number of ways.  First, they were 7 letters written to 7 actual churches of the apostle John’s time, and addressed concerns and praised their good works.  Second, they are a message to individual churches all throughout the Church Age.  At some point or other we can see our own congregations in one or more of the Revelation churches.  Third, they also speak to us individually.  Who of us cannot read those letters and feel the conviction and/or hope from the Holy Spirit?  Finally, they are prophetic.  Each of the 7 churches represents a stage of the global Church throughout the whole Church Age, from the first to the last, in order.

In my rapture post, I pointed to the 6th church, Philadelphia, as the one who will be raptured to Heaven before the Great Tribulation, also known as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble.  And, I pointed to the 5th church, Sardis, as the age we are in now.  The Church looks like it is doing good, but it has fallen asleep and needs to wake up and prepare for Messiah’s return.

Revelation 3:1-4 (TLV) – To the angel of Messiah’s community in Sardis write:  “Thus says the One having the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:  I know your deeds–you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains that was about to die.  For I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God.  So remember what you have received and heard–keep it, and repent.  If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. But still, you have a few people in Sardis who have not stained their clothes.  They will walk with Me in white, because they are worthy.  The one who overcomes thus will be dressed in white clothes; I will never blot his name out of the Book of Life, and will confess his name before My Father and His angels.”

We are a church today who has fallen asleep.  We walk into church on Sunday, and out the exact same person.  We do not change.  Our words and deeds are hollow because we have tainted everything we do with compromise with the world.  Divorce, homosexuality, abortion, sexual impurity, the worship of money and false idols (and before you deny that, consider how many Christians idolize celebrities in Hollywood, the music industry, sports…simply observe their reaction when one of them dies).  The church today reeks of the contamination of worldly influence.  We do not fear God.  We have turned Him into a loveable, cuddly, caregiver.  The cold, hard truth of that is far too many in the Church today worship a god of their own making…he is an idol.  The God of the Bible, the One True God, YAHWEH, is to be feared and revered!  Yes, He is the God of the New Testament who loves us so much that He sent His son to die for us so that we could have a restored relationship with Him.  BUT.  He is also the very same God from the Old Testament who is holy and righteous and demands righteousness from His children.  The same God who opened the earth and swallowed the men and their families who dared to stand against Moses.  The same God who destroyed Sodam and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone for their sin.  We have lost sight of exactly who YAHWEH, the God of Israel is.  It is evidence in how we live, what we do, what we say.  Just turn on the local Christian music radio station.  I can hardly listen to it anymore.  There are a great many songs of worship and praise, but there are also many that are feel good, mushy songs.  There is little to no teaching.  No call to repentance.  Everything we do, whether good or bad, is understandable.  We think it is okay because the god we know wouldn’t ask us to live differently than what is comfortable for us.  We don’t know God.

The 6th church in Revelations 3 is the church in Philadelphia.  Prophetically speaking, it is the church that comes out of the Sardis age.  It is the people who do not stain their clothes, who overcome; the ones who wake up and repent, who strive to make their deeds complete in the sight of God.  This is the church who is rewarded for their faithfulness by being saved from the Great Tribulation.

Revelations 3:10-11 (TLV) – “Because you have kept My word about patient endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.  I am coming soon–hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.”

I have always believed that the Rapture would take the church and there would be no one left, except the people who attended church, but never had really given their hearts to God and received His salvation.  But as I continued to read the rest of chapter 3, I felt a hard thunking in my soul from the Spirit.  The Rapture comes during the time of the 6th church, but there are 7 churches.  A part of the church is left behind.  As soon as I understood this word from the Spirit, I began praying for further understanding.  It came from a number of different places, and each time, God gave me an ah-hah as I understood another piece.

The first question is who will be left behind.

Revelation 3:15-17 (TLV) – “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  Oh, that you were either cold or hot!  So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spew you out of My mouth.  For you say, ‘I am rich, I have made myself wealthy, and I need nothing.’  But you do not know that you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked.”

A new friend, and sister in Christ, gave me the word for this: the carnal Christian.  Paul talks about them in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (TLV) – “And I, brothers and sisters, could not speak to you as Spirit-filled but as worldly–as infants in Messiah.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready.  Indeed, even now you are not yet ready, for you are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and strife among you, arent’ you worldly and walking in a human way?”

Did you catch the word that connects the 7th church to the 5th church?  Deeds.  The part of the Church that is left behind are the Christians, and yes, I say Christians for such they are, who have not bothered to grow or striven to deepen their faith or relationship with God.  They believe, and they have received Yeshua’s (the Hebrew name of Jesus) salvation from their sins; that is salvation from judgement, but they have done nothing with it.  They still live in a way that looks exactly like the rest of the world.  There is nothing that sets them apart as different.  Paul calls it worldly.  They are content to live their spiritual life on fluff and cotton candy; milk, as an infant does.  The feel good music on the Christian radio station, and quite frankly, sung in our churches every Sunday.  Do we need the praise and worship songs?  Absolutely!  And I am in no way saying that we don’t.  Probably the thing that stands out the most to me is the listeners who call in giving the radio station credit for getting them through the day or even their salvation. That is a very tricky attitude of heart. The messages from the pulpit today refuse to call sin sin.  The Bible that sits on the shelf collecting dust.  Who even bothers to bring one to church anymore?  It used to be that people at least would do that much…it made them look like they were good Christians after all.  Prayer is said only at meals, and maybe in emergencies.  I hope that what I’m getting across is that this is the part of the church, unfortunately the growing part, that is content being a lukewarm, baby Christian; in it for the salvation, but not for the life.  If this doesn’t scare you for yourself, it probably scares you for someone you love.  And if it doesn’t at all, it should.

Jesus’ famous end times passage is in Matthew 24.  He follows that with warnings and instructions in the form of parables in chapter 25.  The first is the parable of the 10 virgins in which 10 young ladies are waiting for the Bridegroom to come for the wedding feast.  Five of the virgins have oil in their lamps, they are prepared, watching and waiting for the Bridegroom to come.  When He arrives, they are ready and are able to enter into the wedding feast.  The other 5, however, did not have oil, were not prepared, were not watching, and they were left outside.  When they asked to be let in, the Groom told them He didn’t know them.

The second parable is that of the talents.  A man goes on a journey.  He leaves a certain amount of talents (coins) with each of 3 servants.  While He is gone, the servants with 5 and 2 talents, respectively, both double the amount they are given.  However, the servant with 1 talent buries it and does nothing with it.  When the master returns, the 2 who doubled what they were given were told to enter into their master’s joy.  But the servant who did nothing with what he was given was thrown out into utter darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  The master, of course is Yeshua.  The servants are the believers, and the talents represent the knowledge of God and His salvation.  What I want you to note is that it didn’t matter how much the servants were given, what mattered was that they did something with it, whether great or small.  Something was rewarded.  Nothing was punished.  It is the carnal Christian, who has the knowledge and salvation of God, but does nothing at all with it, who will be left behind.  If you are a slow grower, but are still growing, you are doing something.  Don’t let that be an excuse to not do more, though.  Continue daily to seek the Lord and strengthen your relationship with Him.

So what will happen to this part of the church, who remain to live out the 7 years of the Great Tribulation?

Revelation 3:18-22 (TLV) – “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may dress yourself and so the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed, and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline.  Therefore, be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.  To the one who overcomes I will grant the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I myself overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Ruach [Spirit] is saying to Messiah’s communities.”

There are a couple of things I need to point out here.  First of all, Messiah’s communities refers to the Church.  Also, note that Yeshua says that He rebukes those He loves.  So this is definitely to part of the Church, believers who have received salvation.  But they were not taken in the Rapture because of their carnal/worldly ways.

The second is this: “buy from Me gold refined by fire,” and “the one who overcomes…just as I myself overcame.”  For this I need to take you ahead in Revelations to chapter 13:7-10 (TLV) – He [the beast, Satan] was also permitted to make war against the kedoshim [the saints, Christians] and overcome them, and he was given authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation.  All who dwell on the earth shall worship him–everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb who was slain.  If anyone has an ear, let him hear.  If anyone is meant for captivity, to captivity he goes.  If anyone is to be killed by the sword, by the sword he must be killed.  Here is the perseverance and faith of the kedoshim.”

This is the refiners fire, and the way the Christians who remain will need to overcome, as Jesus overcame at the cross, through persecution, imprisonment and death.

Brothers and Sisters, I urge you, please, seek the Lord.  The end times are here.  We are seeing the evidence of it all around us every day.  Jesus said that we would know them when the world is like the times of Noah, when every thought and intent of man’s heart is evil.  The world glorifies violence, murder, deception, blasphemy, all kinds of messed up sexual immorality, and they are desperately trying to become gods themselves (changing the gender of people, rearranging DNA in a fetus to create their own life, cloning, etc.). Yeshua said that the times would be like the days of Lot when Soddam and Gomorrah were destroyed after the men of the city insisted on having sex with the men (angels) who came to see him.  Wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters abound.

Jesus also said the following in Matthew 24:14 (TLV) – “This Good News of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”  We just recently had a guest at our church who is part of a mission outreach that gets the Gospel message presented in other languages through film, but also through translated Scriptures.  He reported that it is estimated that the Gospel message will be available in every language in 5-7 years, and the Bible in every language by the year 2033.  That is only 16 years away.  16!!!  Possibly only 5, if the Lord raptures the Church when the Gospel message has been shared.  We cannot say exactly when Yeshua will return, but the point is that the time is short, and if we are awake, and paying attention, like the 5 virgins in Matthew 25, prepared with the oil in their lamps, we will see the Bridegroom coming.  We will not be caught unawares, as though He is a thief in the night, as He warned the church at Sardis.

The time is here, and we MUST wake up and prepare!  The Spirit is on the move, placing in the hearts of His people the urgency to prepare themselves and the church.  I am a witness to that in myself, but I am also witnessing it in others in my own congregation as well as globally.  God is giving us that wake up call, the one Yeshua gave to the church at Sardis, the 5th church, right before the church that is saved from the hour of trial.  The time for the rapture is near.  The Bridegroom is coming to take His bride.  If we are not ready, we will be left behind, and must then face the refining fires if we are to overcome and ultimately reign with Jesus on His thrown.

The words of an old song, based on Isaiah 55:6, comes to mind:

Seek the Lord, while He may be found.  Call upon Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thought, and let him return to the Lord, and to our God.  For He will abundantly pardon.  He will abundantly pardon you.  Return to the Lord.

Good Friday, Easter…We Are Doing It All Wrong!

A year ago I wrote a post about Easter, Easter, the Celebration of the Fertility Goddess. In that post I explained that Easter is a false god.  The common Easter symbols that we are so accustomed to, the egg and the rabbit, are fertility symbols that are directly linked to the worship of this false god.  In fact, even the date that is chosen each year to celebrate Easter is determined according to when the celebration of the goddess Easter was celebrated, the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox.  This is why there is such a great variance of dates causing the holiday to land anywhere between the end of March and the end of April.  To read more about how and why this religious combination happened, please read the post linked above.

As Christians, followers of Christ, and Yahweh, the one and only true God, we better have a problem with this.  This is doing exactly what the Israelites did on countless occasions, and were punished severely by God…it is mixing honor and worship of Yahweh, “You shall have no other gods before Me”, that Yahweh, with worship of a pagan god.  Don’t tell me you are not doing that.  Do you buy chocolate Easter bunnies? How about Peeps?  I love those marshmallow bunnies and chicks!   Do you decorate Easter eggs?  Do you have an Easter egg hunt?  Probably right before or immediately following the church service in which you celebrated the risen Savior.  These symbols have absolutely NOTHING…NOT ONE…SINGLE…THING…to do with the resurrection of Messiah.

What’s more, there is nowhere in the Bible where Christians are told to hold a celebration of Messiah’s resurrection.  To tell you the truth, I can’t say that I have a problem specifically with celebrating it.  Obviously it is something worth a celebration.  However, the command given by Yeshua was to commemorate His death…”Do this in remembrance of Me.”  And that command was given in connection to a very specific, already established, feast.  The Passover.

The evening of the Lord’s last supper with his disciples was the beginning of Passover.  Passover is every year on the same date, the 14th of Nissan, on the Jewish calendar.  It begins at sunset and ends the following evening at sunset.  The Last Supper was the Passover meal, the Seder.  When Yeshua broke the bread, it was unleavened bread which symbolized His sinless life, and it was the bread they were commanded to eat at Passover by God when He instituted it at the time of the Exodus from Egypt.  Remember, a spotless male lamb was sacrificed, and it’s blood spread on the doorposts so that the people would be saved from the angel of death.  Yeshua is that spotless lamb who was sacrificed on Passover, and who’s blood saved us from eternal death.

Yeshua instructed His followers to continue to observe the Passover, but after His death, to observe it in remembrance of what He did for us on the cross. 

“Do this in remembrance of Me.”  Do THIS.  “This” is the PASSOVER.  Look, what Yeshua did with his disciples was break the bread, and drink the cup, as part of the Passover feast.  The Passover feast always pointed to the Savior who would one day come to save the world.  It was a living prophecy of the coming Messiah.  Yeshua fulfilled that prophecy that day, but He never instructed His followers to cease and desist.  He did instruct them to continue to observe the Passover, not as prophecy to come, but rather as prophecy fulfilled.

As I sat in church this morning, considering the coming Maundy Thursday service, and Easter to follow, I was overwhelmed by the Spirit of Christ.  “This is wrong!!” beat in my heart and throbbed in my head.  Passover.  PASSOVER!!!  That is when we are to remember the sacrifice Yeshua made for us.  We have grieved the Holy Spirit by paganizing the holy celebration of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on the cross.  And now He is calling us back to Him.  Do you hear His call?  Leave the pagan worship of Easter behind you!  Return to Me and MY ways.  Who of you will stand for the Lord?  Who will dare to brave the “heresy” of leaving Easter where it belongs and celebrating Christ on HIS holy day, Passover?

It is the year 2017 on the solar calendar (the year 5777 on the Jewish calendar).  The 14th day of Nissan is tomorrow.  I am going to lead my family in a Seder meal.  It won’t  be perfect because I don’t know how to do it all, and quite frankly, I’m not totally prepared.  But I know we will be honoring Yeshua Messiah on the right day at the right time.  We will attend Maundy and Resurrection Day services.  The question for you and for me is what about next year?  Will we seek courage from God to speak to our church leaders and encourage a return to God’s feast where Yeshua, and only Yeshua, will be honored?  Or will we cower, and continue to mix pagan worship with Christian worship?  In so doing, will we ignore God’s call to return to Him and away from pagan gods as the Israelites did?  The Church has been celebrating Easter for nearly 2,000 years.  Old habits die hard.  Some habits need to be broken.

Here is a link to instructions for a Christian Passover written by Ann Voskamp:  Why A Christian Family Celebrate Passover: A Messianic Seder

Is Your Cross Empty?

I love southern gospel and I love old church hymns. Generally I find that the old hymns in particular can really put my heart and mind in the right frame for worship. While much of today’s Christian pop music tends to focus on the me side of our relationship with God, and feel-good feelings; it can lack God-centered praise and worship. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of wonderful, praise-filled, God-honoring modern songs. But there really are so many that focus on the feelings, and that can be a dangerous thing. Faith in God is not about having that mountain-high-feel-good feeling all of the time. Just like being in love does not mean feeling all ooey gooey inside every day for 60 years. That kind of love goes deeper than week knees and pitter pattering hearts, just like mature faith goes beyond the mountain high to the low valleys and every where in between. Mature faith causes a Christian to praise and worship through the tears, in spite of pain that is not understood. 

Mature faith is the kind of faith that gave us the hymn It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford, written after all four of his daughters died in a shipwreck. 

While listening to my favorite gospel album I was struck by the words of a church favorite. I sang it often as a child. It was my brother’s favorite when he was a young boy. If you grew up watching pioneer or cowboy and western era television programs, you may have heard it coming from a small country church. The Old Rugged Cross. Look closely at the words of the last verse and chorus:  

To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true 

Its shame and reproach gladly bear

Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away

Where his glory forever I’ll share

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross

Till my trophies at last I lay down

I will cling to the old rugged Cross

And exchange it some day for a crown.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true. I will cherish the old rugged cross. I will cling to the old rugged cross.  You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. 

Something tells me I should not be true to the cross, but to the One who died on it. I should cherish and cling to Yeshua (Jesus’ given name before He was born) and what He did for me on the cross, but not the cross itself. The cross was simply wood, created by the One who hung on it. The cross did nothing but stand there, inanimate unfeeling, incapable of doing anything. I do not owe my loyalty, love or praise to a piece of wood. I owe it ALL to Yeshua, who sacrificed Himself for me, using that cross to do it.

You may think I am nitpicking. Consider the modern day cross. We wear it on a chain around our necks; have statues of it in our homes and churches; print it on clothing, purses, checkbooks, and even tattoo it on our skin. When you sing in church, do you find your eyes resting on the cross hanging on the wall of the sanctuary, or perhaps you finger the cross on a chain.

There is an ad floating around social media now. A company selling ergonomically correct crosses, painted with designs to please the visual palette. The purpose? To make it easy and comfortable for you to hold in your hand and find peace. Please tell me you see where this is a problem. 

We are a people who trivially use the tool our Savior used to save us to become the focus of worship and the source of our salvation. This is why God commanded the Israelites to make no carved, or otherwise, image of anything from the earth. He knew our foolish tendencies. Did you know that God told the Israelites that if they built an alter to sacrifice on, they must not use cut stone, but raw and untouched. Why? For the exact same reason. And yet here we are. We have removed Yeshua from the cross and made it our idol. The cross, empty and standing where is was put by human hands, is worth nothing. 

Over the next few weeks, as we approach Good Friday, I urge you to prayerfully consider the place of the cross in your worship. We must glorify Yeshua who bore the cross, not the cross that bore Yeshua.

Hello. I am a Christian, and I am a Hypocrite.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you are either a Christian, or you are not a Christian.  If you are a Christian, chances are you read the title and thought, “Oh great.  Another wacko spouting off and making the rest of us look bad.”  If on the other hand, you are not a Christian, you probably saw this title and thought, “Finally a ‘Christian’ who will admit the truth.”

Since you are both here, allow me to explain myself.  Then you can make up your own mind about me.  Here’s the deal.  I am a Christian.  I take the liberty of claiming that because I am a follower of Christ Jesus.  Not only do I follow His teachings, but I have dedicated my life to living in complete service to Him.  I even go so far as to say that I asked Him to be my Lord, the one who has complete say over my life, and my Savior.  He is my Savior because He took the punishment God had reserved for me because of my wrong-doings (known in our circles as sin)…let me emphasize that.  Jesus took my punishment.  What I deserved, He took upon Himself.  He saved me from it.  Thus He is my Savior.

Here’s the other part of this.  I am a hypocrite.  But I’m probably not the kind of hypocrite you are expecting me to confess to.  I think we can all generally agree that a hypocrite is someone who says one thing, but does another, right?  I would add, though, that typically a hypocrite would be considered someone who says something and then intentionally, knowingly, does the opposite.  Wouldn’t you agree? With that definition in mind, I guess I would have to say that

                                                 I AM AN ACCIDENTAL HYPOCRITE.

I’m not really a boldfaced hypocrite as you, the non-Christian, would claim.  I don’t say that I follow Jesus and obey His commands, and then intentionally break them.  You may not believe me, but I really do try to obey His commands.  The thing is that I’m not perfect.  I mess up…all the time…every single day.  I admit it.  I’m a Christian, but I’m still a sinner…at the same time.  Yes.  That is possible.  In fact, that is the reality of every single person who is a Christian.  As much as we would love to be perfect, we aren’t, and we never will be as long as we are living.

There was only one person who was perfect in the history of the world, and that was JESUS.  Jesus was perfect because He was, is, the Son of God.  He is man in the flesh, but also completely God in the Spirit, with all the power that goes with being God.  That was how He was able to take my punishment, and the punishment of every single person who ever had and whoever will live.  He deserved no punishment of His own, SO HE TOOK MINE…and yours.  Oh, I know.  You are pretty certain that because I am such a hypocrite, whether accidental or not, you are much better than me.  Here’s where I leave the political correctness stuff behind.  You aren’t any better than me.  Hold on now.  Before you flip your wig, I’m not better than you either.  I never said that I was.  When it comes to being human, we are all on the same equal playing field.  The Bible says that ALL men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  In other words, everyone, ev-er-y single one, does wrong.  It doesn’t matter how much wrong.  One wrong is the same as a thousand wrongs when it causes us to not measure up to God’s standard of perfection.  You are guilty of it, and so am I.  Flat out.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  It is what it is.  You can argue it until you are blue in the face, but deep down inside there is a part of you that you are desperately trying to squash.  That part that says, “You know she is right.”  You know how I know that?  Because God built everyone of us with this thing called a conscience.  More than that, He put in each of us the innate desire to search for Him.

So if I’m a sinner, and you are a sinner, what is the difference between you and me?  I mean really.  I have already admitted to being an accidental hypocrite.  I have admitted to being no better than you or anyone else.  I admitted to doing wrong every single day.  So what is the difference?  Are you ready for it?  Here it is.  I have been forgiven.  Yep.  That is it.  I have not been forgiven because I’m so special either.  I’ve been forgiven for one simple reason:  I asked.  Oh sure, first I had to admit that I am a sinner.  If I didn’t do that, there was no point in asking for forgiveness in the first place.  After all, if I don’t think I have ever done anything wrong, then what do I need forgiveness for?  But nagging deep down inside of me is the knowledge that I have lied (even little white lies).  I never made a habit of it, but I’ve done it.  I have stolen…a piece of candy when I was a child, and time from my employer when I should have been working.  I’ve been angry and bitter.  I’ve said words I shouldn’t have said.  I have been mean to people.  I’ve been jealous.  I have been ungrateful, rude, disrespectful.  I have gossiped, put my needs before the needs of others, been self-righteous.  The list goes on and on, and is as fresh as yesterday.  I cannot deny that I have done wrong things.  It’s as plain as the nose on my face.  And so is my need for forgiveness.

Every sin is like a brick in a wall that separates us from God.  It is a wall that is built by me, but with eternal bricks that cannot be torn down by human hands or effort.  It is a wall that prevents me from having a relationship with God, and from ever getting to Heaven to live with Him.  The only one who has the power to tear that wall of eternal sin bricks down is Jesus, and He will only do it if we ask Him to.  That means getting to Heaven is our choice…we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins, and save us from staying on this side of the wall, staying in sin.  He then becomes our Savior.

All sin must be punished.  Jesus took our punishment when He died on the cross over 2,000 years ago.  The punishment for sin is death, eternal death.  That means our bodies die, but our spirits either live for eternity in Heaven with God, or they live an eternal death in Hell separated from God and all His goodness.  When Jesus died, He took our punishment of eternity in Hell.  When He came back to life after 3 days, He demonstrated that the power over life and death are both in His hands, and He cannot be controlled by either.  We Christians say that He conquered death and Hell.  Even though we will all still die a physical death (that is a consequence of sin, as opposed to punishment for it), our spirits don’t die.  And if we ask Jesus to be our Savior, He will break down that ugly (because sin is ugly if we are honest) wall of sin, and welcome us into the presence of God.  If we die with that wall still standing between us and God, then all hope is lost.  The wall remains in the spirit world, just as it was here in the physical world, and there is no way past it to get near to God.  The difference is that in the physical world, God’s Spirit is present in every Christian, and all around us.  Every person experiences the goodness of God as He provides rain for crops to grow, sunshine, love, peace…all the good things we have just a glimpse of here.  In Hell, on the other side of that wall, ALL of His goodness is gone.  None of it remains.  There is only the antithesis of everything good.  No love at all, only hatred.  No peace, only torment.  No laughter, only tears.  All the time, eternally.  And in that spirit world of life after physical death, the wall of sin has also become eternal.  There is no hope of every breaking it down.

Conversely, for those people who asked Jesus for His salvation, and allowed Him to tear that wall down, their spirits get to live surrounded by all of God’s goodness, in purest form, no longer distorted by sin and its effects, for all of eternity.  Completely pure love.  Completely whole peace.  Completely full joy.  All the time, eternally.

My ugly sin was has been torn down.  Jesus is my Savior.  I still sin, because I will never be perfect until my spirit is living in Heaven with God.  But when Jesus tore down my sin wall, He also made it impossible for it to be rebuilt.  He took my punishment once and for all.  When I sin now, I ask for forgiveness and it is given.  There are still earthly consequences for sin.  If I lie to someone, I have still hurt them and damaged our trust.  But I have confidence that Jesus will forgive me, because He promised to, and I know that lie is not going to keep me from living in Heaven.

Now, there is a burning issue that needs to be addressed.  I may be a Christian who is an accidental hypocrite, but there are definitely people who claim to be Christians and are blatant hypocrites.  What about them?  First of all, I don’t know their hearts.  I cannot make the judgement as to whether or not they actually are Christians.  Only God knows that.  What I do know is that God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  When people are standing on the side of a gay pride parade holding hateful placards, for example, that is not showing the love of God…and it is flaming hypocrisy.  It does not show love, it shows hatred.   The Bible says the world will know Christians by their love.  Hatred is a sin.  And I have just admitted that Christians still sin.  So how do we know what the truth is?  Are they actually Christians who are sinning and giving the rest of us a bad name?  If so, we must remember that we will never be perfect, and that God works in the heart of every Christian to make them more and more like Him.  Hopefully they will eventually recognize their sin, confess it and seek forgiveness.  However, it must also be recognized that these people may not really be Christians at all, but only think they are.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the world who think they are Christians just because they go to church, or try to be a good person.  Jesus said that He is the only way to be saved.  Going to church won’t save, and no one can be good enough to save themselves.  If those people are relying on something other than Jesus, they are not truly Christians, and do not have the love of God in them.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter.  You will think what you will about me and all Christians.  You will either judge us on a case-by-case basis, or you will judge us as all the same whether you know us or not.  And I will continue to be a Christian, even with my imperfections.  But I am, and always will be, a Christian who knows without a doubt that when I die, my spirit will live with God forever, with a pile of bricks from a torn down wall far behind me.  What about you?  Will you ask Jesus to tear down your wall and be your Savior?  Or will you live eternally on the side of a wall that you can never tear down?  It’s up to you.

 

Unsalty Salt in the Church: Worthless

Have you ever looked at the sodium content for a serving of jerky?  Wowza!!!  Makes your heart pump harder just thinking about it.  Yet without the salt, the meat would not be preserved for the length that it can be, and usable as food.  Just as salt is used, and has been used for thousands of years, to preserve the quality of meat so that it can be eaten days, weeks, even months after the kill, so salt is the preservative of the truth of God’s word in the Church.  Without salt in the jerky, the meat would spoil (never mind modern refrigerators and freezers).  Without salt in the church, it too spoils and becomes worthless.

In Luke 14:35-35 (NKJV) Yeshua says – “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?  It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

In Matthew 5:13 (NKJV) Yeshua says – “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?  It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

This verse in Matthew 5 is actually near the beginning of Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount, right after the Beatitudes.  Chapters 5-7 are Yeshua’s instruction manual for how to live as His followers in a world that doesn’t believe in Him.  The disciples understood that salt was a preserving agent.  In referring to His followers as the salt of the earth in the middle of this sermon, his disciples understood, as should we, that we are the preserving agent of all that is godly in this world.

What is godliness?  Living our lives according to the ways Yeshua taught.  Just skimming through the Sermon on the Mount, one can see all kinds of instructions.  Avoid hatred and do not murder, do not judge, do not worry, stand on faith in God, be charitable, be faithful in your marriage, love your enemies, go out of your way to serve others, hunger for righteousness, be pure in heart, be peacemakers, be merciful.  The list goes on.  The passage in Luke 14 is right on the heals of Yeshua’s instruction to give up everything (father, mother, brothers and sisters) to follow Him, not clinging to this world, or he cannot be His disciple.

We are here to preserve godliness in the world of sinners.  We are here to preserve the truth of who God is, and what His Word says, in our every thought, word, and deed.  When we do not act as salt, we have lost our flavor, and are worth nothing more than to be thrown out and trampled on the ground.  Notice in Luke, we are not even worth using in the dunghill.  I’m not sure what purpose there is for salt in a dunghill, but if we aren’t worthy of that, we are truly not worthy of anything.

Now here is where we come to brass tacks.  Has the Church today lost its saltiness?  Unequivocally YES!  Oh, to be sure, there is an element of the Church that continues to preach the truth of God’s Word, without distorting it to the moral-less standards of the world.  But that element is shrinking by the hour it seems.  Church body after church body, pastor after pastor, follower after follower are sliding down slippery slopes of twisted doctrine, distorted Scripture, and outright lies about who God is and what He demands of us.  Sin is no long sin, but personal choice.  Everything is okay if you feel it is okay.  Anyway is good to get to Heaven, even thought Yeshua said that He is the ONLY way.  The Church has become spineless, squishy, weak, false, lightless-not just living in darkness, but teaching it-…the Church has lost its salty flavor.  It is worthy only of being thrown out and trampled on.

If this does not cause big red flags, bells, and warning sirens to go off in your spirit, then you need to recheck your faith.  Do you believe in the God of the Bible?  YAHWEH?  Do you believe in Yeshua (Jesus) Messiah, His Son?  Do you truly believe that God’s Word is HIS Word?  If you don’t believe everything in the Bible is His truth, then you have changed who He is.  You do not worship or serve YAHWEH, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  You serve a god that you have made up according to what you want to believe.  It is time for you to make a decision.  Choose YAHWEH, or choose the world.  As Joshua said, “Choose today whom you will serve.  As for me and my house, we will serve YAHWEH.”

If the lack of salt concerns you, but you know you have lost your flavor, it is time to digest some sodium.  Dig into God’s Word, get on your knees and pray, and create a thirst for righteousness.  Then stand in this world as a pillar of salt, a preserver of godliness and of His truth.

It is time we quit cowering at the face of feel-good, mushy, politically correct godless teaching.  It is time to stand as a beacon of light, with the strength of salt, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and unashamedly speak God’s truth…in love, always in love.

 

The Truth About R.I.P.

I have heard it said that celebrities die in three’s.  Recent weeks would attest to the fact that this is not true.  The latest, sadly, is Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame.  The world has lost a beloved icon, and everywhere you turn you see people wishing her well…R.I.P. Carrie Fisher.

The cold, hard truth is that there isn’t any “rest in peace” for her or anyone else who has not received Jesus as their Savior. 

Right at this moment, I have just infuriated probably every person reading this.  You are thinking, or probably saying, that I am a cold-hearted _________, fill in the blank.  The truth is exactly the opposite.  I am absolutely devastated that Carrie has gone.  I have cried my heart out, and will again.  But I don’t cry because she was Carrie Fisher, superstar.  I cry because she was Carrie Fisher, sinner, not saved by grace, and not in Heaven with Jesus right now, and there is nothing anymore that can be done about it.

She is not resting at peace. 

Instead, she is tormented.  And I am sorry to say all this.  But the truth is, I don’t care that you may be offended.  If that is what it takes to get your attention, then so be it.  The cold, hard fact is that if you don’t ask Jesus to be your Savior, then your soul will live in torment for eternity, too.  There is no peace in that.

 

60 years is too young, and so is your age, whatever it is- whether you are 15 or 90.  Death can come at any time.  What tears at my soul is that Carrie was willing to hear the truth about Jesus.  I remember reading a couple of years ago that she claimed to be an agnostic, but she said she was a “hopeful agnostic.”  Hopeful because she would love for someone to prove to her that God exists.  I have prayed for her ever since.  I prayed that someone would talk to her, show her.  She needed to know how very much God loved her, so much that He sent His own Son to die to take the punishment for her sins.

I could have done more.  That is why I’m angry with myself.  Today, with ready access to just about anyone through social media, I could have at least attempted to contact her, to share God’s love with her, but I didn’t.  And now it is too late.  But by golly, I am not going to let it be too late for you.  I don’t know who you are.  I don’t know your story.  But I do know that every person on the face of this planet is loved by God, including you.  And I know that He wants every person to receive His salvation so they can go to Heaven, including you.  But I also know that every single person that has ever lived, or ever will live, is sinful.  Because of that sin, none of us can be in the presence of God in Heaven without some miraculous intervention.

What I have just told you won’t be enough, so here are the facts from the Word of God, the Bible.  Before you read any further, pray.  Even if you don’t believe in God right at this very moment.  I don’t care.  Do it anyway.  Ask Him to help you see the truth and understand.  What I am about to write is it.

This is your chance to get in a right relationship with God.  Please.  Please, do not reject Him.  He will not poo-poo your rejection when you die.  He will not say, “Oh, I know you didn’t mean it.  Come on in.”  No. 

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

You think I’m being harsh about what happens after you die?  Read the story Jesus told about a poor man named Lazarus, and the unnamed rich man who decided to believe in God only when it was too late.

Luke 16:19-2619 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell[a] from the rich man’s table. Moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you, there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’”

There is a Hell.  Whether you want to believe it or not.  There is a HeavenAnd there is a God who made both.  He will send those who reject Him to Hell.  Why?  If He is so loving, why would He do that?  Because He is also fair and just.  He would not be fair or just if He left wrongdoing unpunished.  Wrongdoing is sin.  Ever tell a lie?  Ever disobey your parents?  Ever been jealous of someone?  Ever stolen?  Twisted the truth?  Used the name of God in a way that was not respectful?  Ever hit your brother?  Cheat on homework?  Knowingly take a pen, paper, whatever from work without paying for it?  The list goes on and on and on.  Even the best of people have sinned.  We can’t help it.  It is our very nature.  Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

God is just.  What is the punishment for our sin?  Death.  Spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God and all that is good.  Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell.  2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[a] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

I said that God loves you and wants you to be with Him in Heaven. 

John 3:16 – “ For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Jesus is God’s Son.  We just celebrated His miraculous birth.  He was fully human, and at the same time fully God.  He lived 33 years on this earth in the body of His own creation.  He had his diapers changed, sneezed when He had a cold, vomited when He had the flu, and winced in pain when He stubbed His toe.  But He never, ever, once in all those 33 years from the day He was born until the day He died, sinned.  Not ever.

God’s justice for sin demands punishment by death.  He took on human form, took the blame for our sins when He had no guilt Himself, and allowed Himself to be brutally sacrificed.  That’s right.  For you.  He did what no one else could.  He saved us from the power of sin over us, and from the punishment for our sins.

Jesus offers that salvation to every person, but He won’t force it on anyone. 

I can’t make you read this, listen to it, and respond to it.  As much as I would like to.  Jesus won’t make you respond to Him.  He wants you to come to Him because you want to, not because He made you.  There is only one way to get to Heaven.  That is to accept the salvation that Jesus offers.  If you don’t acknowledge that you are a sinner, then you won’t believe that you need Jesus.  You will think you can get to Heaven all on your own power.  Good luck. Remember the verse up above?  The one that says didn’t we prophesy in your name?  Didn’t we cast out demons in your name and do many wondrous things?  But Jesus said, “I never knew you.”  Why?  Because they were trying to do it on their own.

John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”  No.  Other.  Way.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  You can’t work your way into Heaven.  You can’t believe there is a god somewhere out there, but not accept the salvation offered by the One and only True God, and get to Heaven.  There is one way, and only one way.

Acts 16:31 – “So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.’”  Jesus is the way.

Are you ready?  Have you opened your heart to hear and understand what God is trying to tell you?  Don’t reject Him today.  Instead, confess to Him that you know you are a sinner.  Tell Him you are sorry, and ask Him to forgive you.  Then ask Jesus to be your Savior.  Do it today.  Don’t wait a moment longer.  I guarantee you Carrie Fisher did not think she was going to have a heart attack when she boarded that plane in London, and she certainly did not think she would be dead days later.  Can you foretell your future?

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Be cleansed from your sins today.  Let Jesus take the load of your guilt.  He has already paid the penalty.  Now let Him lift the weight off your shoulders.  Accept His salvation, and He guarantees you a reserved spot in Heaven.  Please.  This chance may never come again.

Jesus said, (Revelation 3:20) “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

What Hope is There in This Mess We Live In?

What a mess of a world we live in today!

It seems that there are precious few people we feel confident in trusting to do the right thing.  Do you lock your car and house when you leave them?  Did you when you were a child…did your parents or grandparents?  If something goes wrong in a parking lot or on the side of the road, do you wonder if anyone decent will help you?  Or will you instead face danger beyond your circumstances?

Is there anyone beyond your family and close friends (and even then it may be questionable) that you can trust to do the right thing by you?  What hope is there in a world when the general population holds no values of goodness, selflessness, generosity, and faithfulness?

Recently, I had a brief conversation with a fellow political conservative regarding a radio personality we had once considered a standard of our beliefs.  Early on in this train wreck of a presidential race, we constitutional conservatives were shocked by the abandonment of a number of leaders we believed to be strong and true, full-blooded, unwavering in their support of our country, its founding principles, and its Constitution.

We saw a handful of fairly solid conservative candidates, but those we looked to for leadership jumped ship, one-by-one, some in a seeming group plunge!  Even the a-fore-mentioned “standard of conservatism” has left the bedrock on which he once stood.  I confess, I always believed that if there ever came a time for a political “revolution,” so-to-speak, he would be at the head.

So where are we to look when all those we look to for strength and guidance leave us?  

GOD.

When steadfast politicians give in to pressure, when concrete standard-bearers of what you believe in become turncoats, when you can’t trust your neighbor to do what is right by you and your property, and when everyone you see is viewed through the lens of suspect…there is GOD.

Psalm 102:26-28 (TLV) – Long ago You founded the earth, the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You will remain.  All of them will wear out like a garment.  Like clothing You change them, so they change.  But You are the same, and Your years will never end.

Jacob (James) 1:17 (TLV) – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Hebrews 13:8 (TLV) – Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Malachi 3:6 (TLV) – “For I am ADONAI.  I do not change, so you, children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

This attribute of God, His immutability (He does not change) is the hope we can have in this world that, sadly, continues to change for the worse.  God is faithful to us even when we are not faithful to Him (2 Timothy 2:13).  God’s love is eternal (Psalm 136).  God keeps his promises (2 Corinthians 1:20).  God’s ways are perfect (Psalm 18:30).

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says ADONAI Elohim, “Who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8, TLV).

God NEVER changes!  And while this gives me hope that He is never going to let me down, as humans do, I would be remiss to not point out something very important in this character of God’s.  His faithfulness, His love, His character…they all stay the same, never changing.  But this also means that His commands NEVER change.  His requirements NEVER change.  His expectations NEVER change.  And His WORD NEVER CHANGES.

God commanded that we are to love Him and love others; not commit adultery, not steal, not lie, honor the Sabbath….  Because God does not change, neither do His commands.  If God said that homosexuality is wrong then, it is wrong now, because God does not change.

If He said that children should honor their father and mother so that they would have long life, then that is still true today.  If He said you cannot serve both God and money, then today, as it was in the Bible, that is what He expects of us.  God commanded us to be righteous…that hasn’t changed.  God said, through Yeshua, that there is only one way to heaven, that is to believe in the Son.  That hasn’t changed.

We cannot accept the immutability of God as comfort in this decaying world without also accepting the charge of His unchanging commands.  I hope that you can say like I can, “I believe God is never-changing.  I accept His Word as His unchanging truth, both His commands and His faithfulness and love for me.  Because of that, I can know that I ALWAYS have hope.  I am NEVER alone, for He is ALWAYS with me.”

If you have been blessed by these words, please pause a moment and say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for speaking to you here today.

walking on the narrow path.

walking on the narrow path with Jesus

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