Don’t Be A Grape (Of Wrath)

Mine eyes have seen the glory
Of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage
Where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning
Of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Chorus
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

The great Battle Hymn Of The Republic! Words penned by Julia Ward Howe in 1861 to rally up the troops at the early stages of the Civil War in America. The beginning stanza instantly creates images of the Lord’s return, as shared through the Holy Spirit to John in the book of Revelation. In chapter 14, we see the angels of the Lord harvesting the “grapes” for the wrath of the Lord.

[18] And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” [19] So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. [20] And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

God’s wrath. 

Something that is often times avoided in conversations is the reality of God’s wrath.  Sadly, it is seldom spoken of in today’s pulpits. I have to believe that it is because church leaders don’t want to scare people away from attending church. The people of today have turned from accepting harsh and demanding teachings to making  their own demands for soft and easy-to-digest therapy sessions. Yes, historically there have been extreme levels that the church took, when everything they presented was all hell, fire, and brimstone…a repetitive damning message that threatened everyone’s souls every day. But I have to agree with R C Sproul when he said that “people aren’t afraid of the wrath of God anymore, because preachers are out there telling people that God loves them unconditionally.” 

Most of todays’ teachings within the walls of modern churches are clearly unbiblical. The wide scope of Biblical topics within the covers of Scripture have been extremely diluted, or even removed, so much that His Word has become a flower garden of sunshine, rainbows, and soft, fuzzy kittens. The modern teachers will completely avoid anything in text that shows God executing His full wrath! And yet the Bible clearly has plenty to say about His wrath and judgements onto the earth…specially in the last days!

Christ’s return to earth is to be the complete and final judgement, a time to separate true believers and non-believers. Further on in Revelation we read in chapter 19, verse 15, that Christ will strike down the nations. He will “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” God’s wrath has been, and will be, a reality that should strike a fear within the hearts of people. 

There are two ways to define fearing God: fear of His anger and wrath (like a frightened child facing an angry parent), and fearing God with reverence and awe. Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10 both declare that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Psalm 111:10 says The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts gain rich understanding. His praise endures forever! 

We can both fear God and fear God! But to those who have salvation through Jesus Christ, we can stand in peace from the fear of God’s wrath because we won’t be classified as a “grape” that will be tread upon in the winepress! But no matter if you are a Christian or not, all the people should be praising God right now for His patience with this world. 

We see in the Old Testament the level of God’s patience when dealing with Israel. We also learn from the historical records that His patience has limits. When even a chosen people of God, blessed above all nations, had to be judged and punished for their complacency and sins, that should be a warning to us Gentile believers as well that no one is exempt!

In Genesis 18, we read the account of God’s patience with the most wicked of cities at that time; Sodom and Gomorrah. God’s decree was to destroy those evil places by fire from heaven. But Abraham’s pleading with God to forgo His wrath for a time, so as to rescue the (the few) righteous people that are within the cities, delayed that destruction. God had even dispatched two angels to get Abraham’s nephew, Lot and his family, out of the city! But, this delay was for just a short time. God is patient, merciful, and yet, just. With this patience we do not want to make a mistake of thinking that God will not judge just because something doesn’t happen instantly!

In 2 Peter 3:9 we see that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Meaning we need to recognize that the time of His wrath could come at any moment. In the very next verse we are warned that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved”. There is a clear and definite absolute that the God of heaven is going to exact His wrath upon the earth and those who have thumbed their nose at Jesus and the gift of salvation will face an eternal judgement of damnation. 

Hell 

That destination for those that reject the mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ will not be a beach paradise and eternal party that so many of this world seem to believe. What is worse is that there are many people who sit in today’s churches that are on the list of rejection by the Savior. Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ The churches have grown exceedingly weak in their preaching and teaching of the Bible, thus allowing many to have a dangerous complacency and casualness in light of sin’s consequences. They are the people who look to have their feelings satisfied instead of satisfying the demands of God laws.

Without getting into a legalistic path, we do have obligations on our part to obey God and His Word. God has set forth His commandments within the Scriptures. Our duty is to obey them. Jesus even summed up the whole of God’s requirements in Matthew 22 by stating that “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the Prophets.” But if we examine our hearts and minds in the light of the Scriptures, we know that we fall short of following the commandments of God. After all…it says in the Bible that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

So, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What shall we say then? We are sinners. And sinners don’t get into heaven. In fact, God has a winepress of wrath readied! And His justice will be meted out when He comes on the Day of the Lord. Pretty scary stuff when you think that there are eternal consequences for our actions in the here and now. But thankfully, there is a way; a hope, that reaches down through eternity and gives us hope and peace from that wrath! But it is not something to be taken lightly!

You see, when people say a prayer to accept Jesus as their Savior, they need to realize that these are not just some magic words to bail you out of lake of fire. Nor is having a membership to a church or being baptized your get-out-of-hell-free card Being saved from the coming judgement will not be avoided by having several Bibles in your home or by doing lots of good things for others. All of those things are important, but they are not your salvation from the wrath of God. So many people can say a prayer, go to church, do good things, and yet still miss out on God’s call. People want all the gifts and blessings from God, but all without following God’s requirements. God doesn’t give His Word as recommendations. They are commandments! And it is a daily struggle, battle, and conscientious decision every moment of every day to chose this day who you will serve!

Salvation: A gift from God

Salvation from the wrath to come is one side of a two-sided coin. Salvation is a gift from God to redeem us from the punishment of our sins. But, there is responsibility on our part as well as we journey the new path. We have to strive daily. In Hebrews 3:6 it says “but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (firm to the end).

If indeed we hold fast in our hope firmly to the end. We cannot just make some gestures one day and then coast the rest of the way. We have actions do daily. We have battles to fight daily. We have changes to implement daily. We have to start and end each day with a checklist of commitment to God and His Word. 

Lip service versus actions. 

1 John 1:5-10 says:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

We must take action, every day. We have to walk the walk. We confess daily our sins to God. The word confess is translated from the Greek word homologeo which actually means of one mind. It means to speak the same language, agree with, acknowledge. When we confess, we are agreeing with the God of the universe who already knows our hearts and minds, who already knows our sins. We are telling Him that through the Holy Spirit illuminating us within, we recognize our trespasses against His laws. We plead through our advocate, Jesus Christ, who has already paid the penalty for the sins. And we repent of the actions by turning away from the sins. 

A daily battle, a daily conscience effort! And God gives us the strength to win by the power of the Holy Spirit! God promised that we who believe, when tempted, will be given a way out! We need to daily meditate on the Word, keep in prayer, trust Jesus through faith, and run the race with endurance!

There are only two paths in this life. Not three. The middle ground is also called “lukewarm” and is not a path to eternal salvation. The lukewarm folks are what populate most churches today. Unfortunately they will end up being added into the path inhabited by those who reject Jesus Christ. And all on that path are heading straight to the winepress. They will fall under the wrath of God and be cast into the lake of fire. It is very clear in the Bible. Despite what people might imagine how their god should act like, the God of the Bible will punish those who have violated His Commandments.

For those who enter in through the narrow gate, stay firm on the narrow path, and walk in the Light of God’s Word every day, there will be eternal reward in Heaven for their faith and steadfastness. Those who walk this path will be tempted, stumble, and encounter many pitfalls and snares from the enemy. But Christ has overcome the world! He is our guide, our strength, and our Savior! So be encouraged and trust daily! Never taking our eyes off the prize! Always doing the will of the Father!

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17

Beliefs?

It is without apology that I take to writing my beliefs in what the Word of God, the Bible, says about various subjects that seem to be dividing those who claim to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. These beliefs are not what I “feel” it says. Nor are they what I just blindly accept because others follow this or that particular viewpoint. These are actually what I know based on my own reading, research, and study within the covers of the Bible alone. 

I know that many things are considered subjective. One might believe one particular way about a topic, when someone else may perceive it quite differently. When you look at the history of theology (the study of God and His Word), it is very clear that there has been, and still are, divisive understandings about what is actually being conveyed to the listener/reader. Since the Bible came together, some of the greatest minds have perused through every jot and tittle looking for the truest and deepest meanings that God in His providence is telling the people. 

On certain points, most scholars and students of Scripture have a common understanding. Most will certainly state that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, sent to be the sacrificial lamb to atone for the sins of the world. Most will claim that Jesus came in human form, born of a virgin, taught His message through His disciples, and that after His death on the cross rose from the dead 3 days later…appearing to multitudes…and then rising to the heavens, is seated on the right hand of God’s throne. Many still agree that there will be a return of Jesus to claim His own (believers) who will go to heaven with Him forever. But, it is when we get to the periphery things of theology that lines blur, ideas differ, and dissension erupts.

Some of the points of contention that are often debated are things like; how are we saved, when are we saved, did God elect some and not others, when is Christ returning, will He come a brief second time for saints but then return for the end battle, is the coming pre/mid/post tribulation, is there a literal or figurative millennial period, and do we reside on the new earth or in heaven or both? 

I have written in the past of my understanding on a few of these questions. A few points I admittedly can say that I do waffle between views because I can understand both (or multiple) explanations making sense from what others claim it says in the Bible. Since I am no formally trained scholar, theologian, seminary graduate, or am extra-versed in the Bible, I will say that all of my approaches come from trying to see what the Bible says about a certain subject without adding in too many outside views or slants.

Which leads me to labelling. One of the greatest wars that has raged since the early 1600’s has been what our level of involvement with the salvation process really is. Between the defined views of Jacobus Arminius (Arminianism) and John Calvin (Calvinism) came a rift that deepened as the reformation was steaming through Protestantism around the world. I do not want to delve into the specifics of all that historically was going on, other than to say that a multitude of factions were created and followers of particular ideologies labelled themselves according to their defined group. What I will say is that, though I may lean particular to certain teachings or understandings of interpretations from the leaders long ago, I do not commit to any one as definitive.

Examples are that some say I am a Calvinist. Some say I am a Puritan. Some label me based on my eschatology (end times) views. Some label me purely a heretic because I don’t read their version of the Bible. Some say I am simply ignorant and should not espouse an opinion. 

Whatever the view of me, I will say in my defense: you don’t know me.

But, to satisfy those who want to pigeonhole me, label me a particular sway, I will put out what I see as Biblical truth. Be warned though, as some views of mine have changed over the years…because experience, learning, and understandings have grown and shaped my belief system. I will also warn that if you really believe that your view, way, ideology, and stance is the only and right way…then you are either the first person in the history of theology to fully nail the exact truth that God is teaching us, or, you are a self-centered narcissist who stopped up your eyes and ears, set your feet in concrete, and yell foul at everyone else who may differ from you. In the Bible, many of those folks had their own labels: Pharisees and Scribes. Self-righteous people who thought they knew everything, but in reality missed out on the Savior that they “thought” they would find. Nowadays, I call them “arm-chair theologians”. People who, with or without formal education, have settled in their minds and hearts that they are right and that everyone else is wrong…unless they agree with them.

If the greatest and most learned men in history have had differing views of particular areas of study, (such as has been listed above), what makes you think that you have the absolute and accurate understanding? 

I will say this about those topics. People need to understand that there are aspects discussed in the Bible that do NOT change the salvation of a person. Salvation is a gift from God and we have no power to change God! Certain aspects of Scripture are pure black-and-white…no grey, debatable areas. But most of the topics that are (still) hotly contested really don’t change our standing before the Holy God! Believing that the rapture comes before the tribulation or after does in NO WAY change whether you get to heaven or not! Standing on all 5 points of Calvinism versus agreeing with only 4 of them does NOT change your status if you are a saved believer or not! 

The fact that people get so heated over periphery matters really baffles me! If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ as your savior, then Hallelujah! But to get violently angry with each other over whether or not the book of Enoch should be studied within the Scriptures is utter nonsense! And speaking of books…this ridiculous mentality people have that if you don’t read the King James Version of the Bible then you are wrong, that you are studying the devil’s words, and that you are now going to hell! This has become the most ludicrous debate I have ever heard. If you read the KJV only…great! It is a great translation from the original languages! Yet, it always amazes me that people really think that anything outside of the (rehashed from the Geneva Bible) 1611 translation, God can’t communicate with you. That if you’re reading any translation OTHER THAN the KJV, you are getting the wrong Word. What that really tells me is that; a) the KJV-only crowd has never studied or understood how translations come about and from where; b) that they forget that God is bigger than your translations; and c) that God has brought countless numbers to salvation through a multitude of versions outside of KJV!

Anyway, I digress. Back to what I believe.

I believe that the KJV, NKJV, NASB, and ESV are great translations of the original texts. But, I also believe that God uses many forms and translations to communicate His Truths to people, through various languages, reaching to their understanding level in ways that they need at the right time…by the power of the Holy Spirit. I will NEVER discount God’s ability to use even the most mundane manner or translation to get His Word to those who need to hear it. His Word NEVER returns void. Look at the underground church in China. How many of them that will study even the most partial of pages of Scripture to be fed His Word! They memorize even small sections so they can commit it to heart! They may never have a chance to see the full body of text, but there is no doubt that God uses that to edify those believers who will be exalted in heaven for their devotion and faithfulness!

As for eschatology, I had started off in the pre-tribulation rapture belief, primarily because that is what everyone around me was believing. I have changed my views on that stance over the last couple of years for a few reasons. I am not here to try to sway or alter your belief in any way…primarily because you believe what you believe and that is between you and God. I will say that through my own personal studies in Scripture that I just don’t see pre-trib. That being said, I will contend that I strongly believe that we should be walking today as if we were going to be raptured midway or at the end of the tribulation period, but always living in hope that the rapture is before the tribulation! Also in these camps are the big words of preterism, historicism, futurism, idealism and many others. Again, I will say with complete confidence that no matter what view you hold to, it does NOT alter your salvation. Debate it all you want, but if you are dispensationalist or a covenant theologist, in the big picture of God’s plan, there is no reason to get argumentative and split communion with other believers over these differences as they don’t affect the final outcome of salvation.

In regards to denominations, I will say strongly this; there are many denominations that have come along under the guise of being true to the Word of God, yet have either come as wolves in sheep’s clothing or have started out with right intentions only to be swallowed and changed by the world. General titles such as Methodist, Wesleyan, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian,   and the like have even fractured into various groups because of indwelling disagreements. Most of the issues have arose because of the affect of worldliness. Most of the groups have decided to conform more to the world than they have the Word. I’ve written about this particular issue before and won’t labor it too much, other than to say that finding a true Bible-believing church that preaches the Gospel, reveres God in worship, and studies to conform to our Lord Jesus’ teachings is the ONLY place you want to be. Anything less is a compromise to God’s Holy standards and the end result is not fitting for heaven.

Which brings me to a most contentious point: Salvation. This hotly debated study is one that has split churches, destroyed fellowship, and even created violent reactions. The debate contains within itself these particulars: 1) does God pre-elect certain people to salvation; 2) is this conditional; 3) can we lose salvation; 4) what role do we have (if any) in accepting or rejecting.

Obviously, I cannot spend time explaining/defining every aspect of each of these topics as they are so deep, divisive, and contested, that it would take volumes of books. And even with all the books, there are so many viewpoints that are addressed that we really never get a set, definitive absolute answer. Consider the history of the greatest theologians that have gone before us that have written extensively on these particular topics! As I mentioned before, this understanding of salvation became a hotbed back in the early 1600’s within Protestantism with theologians debating some of these very unclear matters. Arminius held to the 5 solas of the Reformation, but had differing teachings on some aspects from the teachings of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and others. As with so many other periods in history, sides were taken, debates occurred, factions split, and denominations struggled. Unfortunately, the division between the two schools of thought have driven wedges deeper within the body of believers and have caused unbelievers to avoid church because they see the dissensions and hypocrisy within the church body.

As for me, after careful study of Scripture and the history of the debate (the Synod of Dort and the five articles of remonstrance), I have come to the conclusion that these “labels” are fine for historical teachings, but have no bearing on my personal salvation or walk with God. To label me one or the other is really a moot point. Specially since both “sides” agreed on the really key issues! We are depraved. Atonement is for all. Jesus’s death satisfies God’s justice. When it comes to whether grace is resistible or not, or if election is conditional or not, I know that I have to trust in the Scriptures, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. I know that whatever the Bible says, that’s what I need to focus on in my walk. If I take my eyes off of the prize to worry about matters of whether God predestines or not, I have taken my focus on the more important part: God’s will in my life. 

We fret and worry so much about small, minute details more than we do about the big picture. If I am driving a car down the road and keep my focus only on a pothole in the other lane, I miss out on all the other things going on around me. If Satan can drive your focus off the whole of Scripture to a small, debatable matter that causes you to stumble, then he has succeeded. The devil constantly challenges people to question God’s Word. His goal is to cause to you to doubt. I’ve done a lot of doubting, questioning, worrying, debating and struggled with many of these issues in the past to the point where I threw up my hands in frustration and walked away. Isn’t that the demon’s goal? To create division, strangle the truth, alter our beliefs, and get people to give up? Christ said that a house divided does not stand. That house can be a multitude of believers or can simply mean each of us individually. 

Bottom line is that I believe what I believe because I see it in the Word of God. Not because I need a label. Not because this preacher or that teacher says it is so. Not because my brothers and sisters all believe a particular theological ideology. But because I have read it in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit has illuminated that particular area of understanding to me, and that I cannot see it differently. Does it make me right? NO! What it does do is open me up to understanding the Word so that when I do hear a teaching related to it, I can go back and learn and discern if what I heard is true. More times than not I find myself learning and growing in my faith and knowledge of the Bible. Many times I hear or read something and quickly can see that the thoughts being conveyed contradict the Word. 

But, I also believe that there is absolutely NO reasons for self-proclaiming followers of Christ to be so arrogant, so pompous, so narcissistic as to be judgmental and condemning to others because they don’t agree with you. I see it time and time again on social media and other platforms. It is utterly abhorrent and contradictory to the teaching of Jesus! There is a time to call out heretical false teaching and there is a time discuss differences in theology. Someone teaching that works saves and gets you into heaven should be gently shown God’s Word that explains otherwise. But if someone thinks that you reading anything other than the KJV is heresy and that you are not reading God’s Word, well, therein lies a difference that has absolutely NO bearing on whether or not someone is saved by God! 

I find we love to judge. To compare everyone else to ourselves. Yet, it is obviously clear that everyone is different. Not only are my neighbors around me different than me, but a Christian brother halfway around the world is also different than me. Our circumstances and histories are different. God, in His providence and wisdom, reaches down from Heaven to each of us…meeting us exactly where we are! He teaches us exactly what we need, when we need it. At just the right moment, He illuminates our hearts and minds to His Truths. He feeds us understanding when we are ready to receive it. Had I known long ago what I know now, I might have rejected things because they were too weighty for my mindset then. God knows what I need and when. He knows that we all need the core, the Gospel, which is clear and concise…fitting for everyone! He wants us to share it with others, not wondering whether someone is “elect” or not. It is a command from our savior Jesus, to preach the Gospel. How will they know if they don’t hear it? Even if predestined, who are we to decide? Maybe God is using YOU to call that one person! 

His ways are not our ways. So, I will just have to believe, trust, and obey to the best of my ability. 

Amen

Removing God And His Word

So we claim we are a fallen nation. A peoples that complain about the influx of evil within our borders. Striving hard to embrace a mentality of love, peace, and happiness. Throwing social consciousness at perceived problems so that equality and justice prevail for all. That together we can overcome the issues that plague our nation. Well, I’m sorry to inform you that these matters will not be corrected to their desired ideology. You see, the self-driven motives do not fix the true, underlying, problem. First thing is to identify not what is wrong, but why things are wrong. So, how did we get here?

  • The problems escalated when prayer and the Bible were removed from schools so that secular indoctrination training could begin.
  • The problems amplified when “churches” took the Bible out of context; subsequently removing its authority as the Word of God.
  • The problems flourished when sin was embraced as good and the truth of God was jeered as bad.
  • The problem is man worshiping man and not God. Man desiring the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life over God.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:21-23

The issue is that many claiming to be believers have left their first love: God.

Jesus answered the religious leaders by summarizing the entire Old Testament under the two main points of God’s commandments, which man is supposed to follow: 1) to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and 2) to love your neighbor as yourself. This is where the churches have failed. 

So much emphasis has rested on the second part from the modern pulpits. And because the first part has been challenged and questioned so much in the past as to what it really means to love God with your entire being or who God even is, the clouds of uncertainty created by man has cast the definition as unanswerable. And, since they have diminished and pushed aside God by this flagrant and irreverent act, they have essentially mimicked the footsteps of the Israelites in the Old Testament. As God proclaimed through the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 18;

For my people have forgotten me, they have made offerings to false gods; and they have been made to stumble in their ways, in the ancient paths, to walk into side roads, not the highway; to make their land an horror, a thing to be hissed at forever; every one that passes by shall be astonished, and shakes his head. I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.

If you think for one moment that God’s decrees are only applicable to the Old Testament Israelites, you don’t know the Bible. Because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He never changes. Times change, people change, circumstances change, but His Words never change! You look around today and you will see the same mentality on display by self-proclaimed “Christians” as you did with the Israelites and early churches. The church is filled with Pharisees preaching secular ideologies and man-made doctrine. The people have put aside the God of the Bible for their own gods. Society has erected temples to pagan gods and vilified God’s people. The very same thing that angered God in the past is happening still today!

The clearest remedy for all people is simple: repent and turn to the Lord. Turn aside from your ways and follow God’s ways. No, you don’t have to put on sackcloth and sit in ash piles and lament your sins. Our cultural identities may have altered, but the Bible even defines our modern age: to rend your hearts and purify your minds. Confess your sins before God through Jesus Christ and be baptized into newness of life. Then, and only then, do you begin to walk a new path in life. Not returning to your old ways, but onward walking in His ways. 

And though many attending church started this way, a lot of false professions of faith easily crumble. Even though some would have a season or two attended to God and His Word, the lure of worldly things easily draws people away from God and shifts their focus back on to their own lusts. This falling away eventually leads the secular world, who rejects the God of the Bible, to seep into the church walls and disintegrate doctrinal truths and Biblical beliefs. Essentially, the very same thing that caused sin to enter humanity is the same infection today: “Did God say…?”

With a diminishing understanding of who God is, the modern church has had an easy conversion to secularism because the weak leaders desire only to fill up their congregant’s itching ears with superfluous fluff and feel-good teachings. Eventually, they incorporate programs designed to soften theology enough to allow introductions of other religious practices such as numerology, social sciences, philosophy, and mysticism. And by redefining or rewriting what the Bible actually says, the messages of repentance and reverence take on new meaning (or is avoided all together) and is replaced with the notion that everybody gets a free pass into heaven, completely skipping God’s commands and duties. Completely removing God’s wrath to come.

Quoting from Deuteronomy 6: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” This statement from God through Moses is followed with instruction that we are to “…fear/revere only the Lord your God; and you shall worship/serve Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, and of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.”

That is a serious and a very clear command! That is not a soft threat. That is the God of the universe, the One who created and sustains ALL things, speaking. He didn’t stop after Israel either. He didn’t change after the Old Testament. He didn’t send His Son Jesus to pay the penalties for our sins on the cross just to sit back and let us run amok on this planet, waiting for us to ‘get it out of our system’ so He can bring us ALL home to heaven for eternity. No! That is NOT what the God of the Bible is doing! Again, if you think that, you don’t know the Bible!

His patience with His creation is but for a short time. 

Because of the lack of reverence, awe, and honor to God and His Word, the complacent attitudes of people have usurped Biblical morality and shifted to a debased primal ideology that worships evil, hedonism, and chaos. Again, that doesn’t change who God is. His wrath is coming soon and those who deny Him will face eternal damnation. And as for the pastors, preachers and false teachers who twist, distort, and deny Scripture, they will find the greatest condemnation from God! Leading flock astray is an abomination to the Lord! No one who denies God will be spared!

“The Lord is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.Psalm 10:16

Why have we fallen? Why is the world headed in the destructive and evil path that it is? Because of the rampant sin throughout the world! And it is ordained by God that the devil and his minions will continue their demise over this planet. God knows what is going to happen, and best of all…knows how it will end! The prophecies of the Bible spell out the end times coming. Those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their savior will endure to the end and will be taken up out of this world into eternal glory with Jesus! Those who remain will be brought through a literal hell-on-earth. Unless God in His mercy extends His grace to them, they will all be forsaken by God and cast into the lake of fire for their unbelief. His warning in Jeremiah should frighten all those who claim themselves heaven bound; “I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity.”

So what do we do? First things first; repent of our sinful ways (which means to turn around and away from where you are) and follow Jesus. In Matthew 16:24-26 it says; Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” We walk in this world, but we don’t have to participate with the evils in this world. It may seem that giving up friends, family social interactions, and the like will cause ridicule, conflict, and chastisement, but better that suffering for a little while now rather than the suffering for eternity. 

Next is immersing yourself into the complete Word of God! Psalm 119: 9-12 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!” That is our map, our compass, our guidance, our strength, our encouragement, and our hope through the storms and challenges we will face. Most of all, the Word is our knowledge of who God is, His words spoken to us, His plans for our life, His promises of inner peace and joy, His way that is the true way to the Celestial City! 

Afterward, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. The old will pass away.

Jeremiah 6:16a: “Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.” But many churches are refusing this by answering ‘We will not walk in it.’ (Jeremiah 6:16b)

The modern church has left the Word for the world. They embrace the new side roads and not God’s roads.  So it is imperative that you seek out a Bible-believing church to fellowship with, learn and grow with, and commune with people that revere the God of the Bible. People who submit to His Word and His ways. People who, like the Bereans, search the Scriptures daily to see if what is being taught or preached is according to the very Words of God.

We’ve seen what happens when man compromises faith and trust in the one true Lord God. Not only do the cities and governments of the world crumble into evil, but so do its’ citizens. Choosing to leave the ancient roadway to heaven, they sacrifice eternity for temporal pleasures on the side roads of this broken world. 

Time is short

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 1 Thessalonians 2:9-11

Where do you stand today?

Amen 

Forgiven And Forgetting.

Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One of the many battles that some people face is memory. I happen to have horrible short-term memory. I will often think of something I need to do or get while I’m out driving and by the time I can stop and write it down, it’s gone! I’ve had to learn to use voice memos so that I can note the task while driving and later write it down. In fact, I’ve resorted to using an app on my phone that not only states what I need to remember, but I can also set an alarm for a day and time! It has been a lifesaver!

The hardest part of memory issues for me though is remembering the Words of God. Many devout Christians will memorize Scripture. The Bible says in Psalm 119:11 “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The more words from God we carry in our hearts and mind, the stronger we become standing firm against the evils of this world that try to derail us in our walk. In my previous writing and podcast (Things I Preach To Myself About…“Where’s My Sword”), I talked about the importance of reading the Bible and how the Bible is the Sword of the Spirit, the Sword of Truth. With this at our side at all times, we can defend ourselves from the attacks of the enemy.

But is our forgetfulness simply a psychological or physical matter? There certainly are many contributing factors that affect our capabilities to remember things. Everything from stress and anxiety, depression, injuries to the brain, all can affect someone’s short-term (and/or long-term) memory. But today I want to delve into another area that can be a factor against our ability to remember God’s word: Sin

One thing that can thwart our ability to memorize Scripture is sin. Within each of us is a disease. It is a disease that we have carried since birth. This sin disease will be with us until our last breath. As with any disease, it affects various parts of our body (mind and soul). And, as with any ailment, once it’s discovered, it has to be addressed and treated; often daily! When we identify that we have this sin nature and we want to be rid of it, we begin a working process to keep it from flaring up in our lives.

As sin erupts, God becomes quite distant to us. Our only desire during this moment is for self-gratification. Our natural inclination leans toward the flesh, the strongest pull at the time. Without help, we become weak and powerless to resist. James puts it this way in chapter 1, verse 14; “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” As Bonhoeffer says, we are not hating God, but forgetting God.

The Ten Commandments

Yes, we do have a natural animosity against God and His ways. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, we have been natural-born sinners! Psalm 51 says “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We enter into this world already at odds with God and His laws (10 Commandments). And until the Spirit changes our hearts, we relish sin over salvation. But when God does quicken us, we are then able to see Him in a different light; now wanting His ways in our life, not the world’s ways! We are able to believe and trust our life to Jesus Christ through his death, burial, and resurrection from the grave. We enter into newness of life! Now we place Jesus as our Lord and Savior!

That doesn’t necessarily make the disease go away though. What it does do is cause us to actually see the disease and want it gone! Thus, our trusting in God and His Word is key to the process of fighting this sin! 

Which brings me back to memory. As I’ve said before, Christians will often memorize Scripture as a means of strengthening their walk and building up a defense against the devil’s lies. Being able to quote Bible verses from memory is paramount to a growing faith. But for some of us who struggle to even remember what we were going to do as we walk into another room, or forget our ideas or tasks the moment our attention is distracted; we need a different remedy.

One thing I’ve discovered lately is to meditate on Scripture. There is a difference between memorizing and meditating. Memorization is planting something into your mind for recall whenever needed. Meditation is delving deep into something so intently, that it becomes imbedded in your heart. Learning a set of words by rote memorization is essentially a mechanical or habitual repetition. But to thoroughly and intimately learn, we meditate on the Word of God. 

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. Psalm 119:15

Many of the great Puritans devoted vast amounts of time delving deep into the Bible, meditating on them to fill their hearts complete with the truth of God. Dr. Joel Beeke, in his essay on “The Puritan Practice of Meditation,” lists some benefits that meditating on Scripture has to offer (compared to just memorizing):

  1. Meditation helps us focus on the Triune God, to love and to enjoy Him in all His persons (1 John 4:8)—intellectually, spiritually, aesthetically.
  2. Meditation helps increase knowledge of sacred truth. It “takes the veil from the face of truth” (Prov. 4:2).
  3. Meditation is the “nurse of wisdom,” for it promotes the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:8).
  4. Meditation enlarges our faith by helping us to trust the God of promises in all our spiritual troubles and the God of providence in all our outward troubles.

These are just a few that Dr. Beeke lists. But what it does point to is the importance of absorbing God’s Truths deeper into our being rather than just reciting words. For a deeper insight to the Puritan study of God’s Word, I would also recommend the book “God’s Battle Plan For The Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation” by David W. Saxton. The book not only shows the necessity for personal meditation on the Scriptures, but also gives motivation by showing us how the great Puritans meditated on the Word themselves! 

There are so many great benefits to meditating on the Word of God instead of just memorizing them. And don’t get me wrong, memorization is a great option for many who can do it and it does work. But we all need to imbed these truths in our minds, as well as our hearts, no matter the method. But, for those of us who struggle with the duty of memorizing, we do have an option that can actually take us deeper into His word AND get those words within us to recall when needed!

In the Garden of Eden, the first challenge to Eve by the serpent (the devil, himself) was to ask “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Thus, seeing if she knew the words of the Lord. As we face the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life that surround us every day, we need to be on guard with the Sword of the Sprit, the Word of God! We won’t always have an opportunity to sit down and look up Scripture to challenge back the temptations set before us. In most instances, we will need to draw on our understanding and knowledge of the Word of God that is deeply set within us. Words of Scripture that we have committed to our hearts and minds for just such an occasion! 

Not only do we strive to know God through His word daily in our lives, but we are called to persevere onward in our sanctification, always remembering that God is working in us through His Son Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit! Joshua 1:8a says: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” 

Amen

Sons Of Belial?

Some pretty deep and prolific words are found within the covers of the Holy Bible. There is no doubt about that. Even pagan religions have a level of reverence when it comes to the Christian Bible. It is filled with historical truths, poetic visualizations, proverbial guidances, and revelations of the very nature of God Himself. To read the pages is to get introduced to the God of the universe, to understand His will and ways, and to hold a roadmap for our life.

Yet as powerful and impacting as the Words are, it is amazing how people still live like the Scriptures have an insignificant influence. Even people who claim to be followers of Christ Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, still live daily under the control of worldly ways instead of God’s ways. Obviously we reside in this world and, as such, we have to contend with it no matter how holy and pious we try to be. But you can tell a lot about what has the strongest inclinations or sway in someone’s life by how that person lives.

Taking into consideration that all will stand before the judgement of God at the end, which will determine where we spend eternity, one would think that a decision to follow God’s way would be an easy choice. Now, for some, that decision is easy. Yet, many others don’t want to give up the creature comforts of the secular life. They may find that walking in the ways of God is not easy or too burdensome . Plus, we need to note that there is another side to things working in our lives that also has great influence: sin. Sin’s influence goes against God’s ways, yet is very strong and many have fallen by its trappings. 

“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord” 1 Samuel 2:12

While reading through some Old Testament scripture, I came across an interesting verse that caused me to stop and think. What caught my attention in 1st Samuel chapter 2 were the words “They did not know the Lord”. Looking at the context of that statement, it shows a sad and harsh reality that I think can apply to many within the very walls of today’s church. Let me explain.

Eli was a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses and the great high priest. Eli was a high priest in the temple at Shiloh. He was a godly man who was one of the judges over Israel. He had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, both of whom were raised to be in the service of God. But for Scripture to describe them as ‘Sons of Belial’, (which means worthless, and is also used in the New Testament to describe Satan!), it really shows the true nature of those boys.

To earn such an evil moniker from the writer of First Samuel, we need to understand what they were doing. First of all, as workers in the temple or sanctuary, their job was to gather and prepare the sacrifices prescribed by the Law and follow the exact instructions. The problem is that they were selfish, greedy, and very much living in the flesh for themselves. Instead of sacrificing the best cuts of the meat, they would take the best cuts of meat from the sacrifices for themselves. Adding to their debauchery, these married men would commit adultery with the various women who served at the sanctuary gates. (And we all know how clergy adultery turns out, even in our modern day and age!)

Of course these activities garnered the anger of God. Eli was admonished to scold his sons for their behavior, but he did it so lightly that they didn’t listen to him. Long story short; subsequently both of the sons would end up dying on the same day that the Philistines defeated Israel in a battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant. Their father, Eli, would subsequently fall over and die of a broken neck upon hearing of the loss of his two sons and the Ark. Shortly after all this, Phinehas’ wife gave birth to a son when she heard of her husband and father-in-law’s deaths and the loss of the Ark, thus causing her to name the child Ichabod (which means the Glory Has Departed). Afterward she would also die. All this came about because God cursed the lineage of Eli and his sons for their behaviors.

So, what does all this mean?

This serves to show that even people who stand in the most reverential of duties, who interact in the most religious of environments, and who have the appearance of walking with God outwardly, might not truly know God!

That is a very scary prospect to think about! Jesus said in Matthew 6 to “beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Psalm 139 says that the Lord has searched us and knows us! Verse 4 says “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” These are truths that should have us reflecting not only on our outward life, but on our hearts as well!

You can be the most pious, religious, and reverential person on the entire planet in front of the people around you and still not know God. There are countless religious leaders that go through the motions, and yet don’t have a clue who God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit of the Bible truly are. Hophni and Phinehas went through the motions daily with their father, a high priest, yet they did not know God. Just because you say and do the right things or have great knowledge about the Bible, doesn’t make you right before the Lord.

So why is this? How can someone be exposed to the truth every day and still not know?

God’s way or sin’s way? Let me point out here that there are two motivations people face when entering into any type of religion or ministry; God or self. The Apostle Paul was a good example of a Godly motivation. He declared in 2 Corinthians 5 “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” Paul did everything for God through Christ Jesus and his love for God’s people was beyond a heartfelt passion. He did nothing in selfishness that can be shown in any of the Bible! He wrote to the Church in Rome Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)

But there are many examples of people in a ministry platform strictly motivated by self. We see a prime example in Acts Chapter 8. In Samaria there was a magician named Simon who many claimed that “this man is the power of God that is called Great.” When the Gospel of Christ was preached in the area, many became converts and were baptized, including Simon. He became very zealous, working with the evangelist in the area, and saw the miracles performed. When the Apostles Peter and John came to the area, they laid hands on the people to receive the Holy Spirit. Simon saw this and offered to pay them money for “this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” He wanted to keep his great reputation before the people. But he was admonished by Peter saying “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.” (Acts 8:20-21). Peter demanded he repent from his wickedness and intentions as he was in the bond of iniquity.

Another prime example, (that I won’t go into great depth right now), are the Pharisee and Sadducees. They enjoyed the praises of the people, walked in the highest honors in the cities, and enjoyed their power. They were also used by Jesus as examples of holy and pious men whose hearts were far from God. Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs, filled with dead men’s bones”. Sepulchres that look great on the outside, but inside were vile and filth. Their motivations were known to God; greed and selfishness. Essentially, hearts filled with sin.

The question we need to ask ourselves is; are we like Hophni and Phinehas? Are we claiming the Christian walk in appearance like the Pharisees, yet without Christ as our motivation? Are we talking a big game of being right with God, yet wanting the accolades from people? You might be able to deceive your family and friends with an illusion of Christianity by going to church. You might be able to talk all the Christian jargon online and post Scripture verses to strangers. You may even have Bible verses and stories memorized. But if your heart’s motivation in all these things is for self adulation, then not of your relationship with God is true. If you going through the motions to impress or puff yourself up, then you are only lying to yourself and those around you, which will only lead you to the lake of fire.

You see, God knows your heart. He knew Hophni and Phinehas. He knew the Pharisees and Sadducees. He knew Simon. He knows all things; and the heart of man is especially known. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10

Eventually, like the two sons of Eli, all things we say and do will catch up to us and the truth will be revealed. As mentioned above, all will stand before the throne of God to give an account. Now is the perfect time to check your heart, check your motivation, your standing with the living God. Saying some words that you believe in Jesus are just that; words. It comes down to your true motivation. God or sin? Don’t let it be said of you “they did not know the Lord”

Amen

Take Courage!

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13.

My prayer is for you to stand firm in your faith, strong in your convictions, trusting in God’s mercies, and able to cry out to Him during trials.

When we stumble, even if we fall, we are able to stand back up in His grace, kneel before the throne of grace, and walk in newness of life by His grace.

Even though it feels like you are alone at times, we know that God is with us by His Spirit through Christ. Not only that, but God has provided true believers to come alongside you, hold you up during weakness, encourage you in darkness, and love you unconditionally in the journey.

Look to His Word, trust in His Spirit, lean on His mercies!

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31 paraphrased)

All of this encouragement comes to you from the God of the universe! We tend to get frustrated over our shortcomings and falter in our faith. We don’t daily take up our cross and march forthright into the battles of life. It’s easy to give up, go home, quit the game and take an easier path. I know this personally. I’ve done it many, many times before. Walking away from God when the storms erupt around me.

Why? With all the positive that Jesus has showed us in His ministry on earth and the teachings and examples from the Apostles and Bible heroes within the pages of Scripture, you would think that we can just stand firm in the faith, knowing that our old man (character, leanings, ways) has been crucified and is dead and buried!

Because there is a negative side to the walk of faith. Believing in God doesn’t make the storms vanish. Trusting Christ comes with a cost. When we deny ourselves the way of our former lives, we are going against the grain of the world around us. We have made a decision to cast aside the societal norms and pursue a holiness. We choose to walk in a manner to glorify God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We separate ourselves from the world, yet still live in the world.

This is a daily battle. Daily choices are made to either indulge the flesh or cling to the Spirit. It is not a simple task. Even though we have accepted the gift of Grace extended to us by God through the work of Christ’s atonement on the cross, we are still, by nature, sinful creatures. Our natural leaning is to break the laws of God, selfishly follow our own desires, and flow without ridicule and shame the ways of this world.

Yes, it is easy to lay aside the newness of salvation, walk away from the sanctification process, and return to our old ways. But we are told how this is a race, not a sprint. That the race is long and has, at times, hills…even mountains…to climb. The terrain we travel can be rough. So many snares, pitfalls, false directions, and easier paths to waylay our journey.

The race set before us takes endurance. And to endure to the end takes fuel, energy. With God’s Holy Spirit, His Word, and fellowship of true believers, we can endure and finish this race! The letter to the Hebrews tells us that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, who by example encourage us to continue on, by faith, trusting that “He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it”!

Take courage today, everyday!

Truth Or Emotion

I live in a country that has long declared itself a “Godly nation”, founded on “Biblical principles”. Historically, these are somewhat correct statements. The United States was founded by people that wholly believed in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, that the Bible is to be the guide from which all life should follow. 2nd Timothy, chapter 3, verses 16 and 17 state All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

A couple of things regarding these declarations:

First is that many people, groups, cultures, and countries have all started out under a basic and commonly held belief system. Many churches were started by a group of people who hold an identical theology. Governments have been formed based on a collective of ideologies and goals. And the United States began with people seeking out a place together where they can worship, govern, and commune together under the umbrella of Christianity.

Secondly, starting out with one philosophy doesn’t mean that the intended direction continues uninterrupted. When you look at institutions of learning such as Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and the likes, you might be surprised to know that they all started out as seminaries. Christian religion studies were so important in the early days of first settlers that many schools of Bible were created. Yet, if you look at the formats and leanings of these once great schools, you’ll find that they are almost diametrically opposite from their beginnings.

This type of falling away from initial beliefs has definitely happened within the USA. We have become a nation of godless trappings. Quick to cast aside any foundational roots that once made this a great nation on the earth. Isaiah 5:20 says “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” I think we can look at our history and see how the tides have gone in opposite directions. Perhaps the Glory has departed? Why?

I believe that the church as a whole is at fault for this. Before the apostasy levels that we see nowadays, even differing denominations all held core beliefs that were tantamount to biblical living. People believed, lived, worked, governed, and worshiped scripturally.

Since the church isn’t a building or even a denomination, the true core of fault lies with the individual believer. The church body by definition is a group of believers, dedicated, diligent, and determined to follow the Word of God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That was once the way. That used to be the church. Yes, there were many many conflicts and disagreements…since the beginning…but nothing to the magnitude you see now. In fact, the vast majority of mainstream denominations have completely fallen away from scripture being the complete governing mandate. In Romans chapter 1, Paul points out this type of godlessness, where people have cast aside God and followed after their own thinking and started worshiping themselves instead.

And so it has become that being a true, Bible-believing Christian today is an invite to derision. Since the “church” has fallen to the lures of false teachings, prosperity preachers, new age thinking, social gospel and the likes, scripture is looked at as outdated, archaic, and not keeping with the times…so much so that the leaders of this new “church” mock and scorn those who hold the Bible as the infallible Word of God. Fortunately, there are still a core, though small, group of Biblical adherents in the world today.

Why have so many fallen away? Three key things since the fall of man in the garden of Eden; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Satan easily tempts those who don’t know the Word of God. And though many false teachers and ‘believers’ spend a ridiculous amount of time, effort, and energy blaming the devil for every evil or ignoring evil altogether and focusing only on “feel-good” theology, there is a deeper reality that most Christians forget as the source of problems in the church.

The first and foremost enemy that we face in our spiritual battle is not the devil, but it is our self. The devil has already tripped humanity. Since we have this fallen state within ourselves, most of the shortcomings and failures of our walk are self-inflicted. We spend so much time blaming everything else: the devil, the church, the government, the neighbors, et al. But now is the time to stop and reflect on our own accountability. We are sinful by nature and are a wretched people, in and of, ourselves.

I can’t account to have the fix for this speeding train-wreck that is the current “church” situation. America, as a whole, isn’t about to change it’s course either. Instead of utilizing Common Sense and logic and knowledge of the past, people run everything based on emotions. Every single person has individual emotions regarding every little facet and unfortunately, that is currently what is running every decision and thought process. Emotions are unstable, and so is the driven plight of mankind.

The Bible clearly states that the god of this world has blinded the eyes of many. They won’t see the Scriptures anymore, lest the scales drop from their eyes by the grace of God. The remnant has become smaller over time. This is actually all prophesied in the Word. We must maintain though. Keep fighting the good fight, striving to finish the race that is set before us. Keeping our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He will finish what He started.

So, this is the truth: 1) that we are NOT a Godly nation anymore. The old church has fallen away like so many before us (including the chosen nation of God; Israel). 2) The devil is not the purveyor of all evil we befall. We are fallen in nature and have our own evil momentum going and we must take responsibility for our actions. And 3) that we who do continue to call the Word of God as infallible need to be directing our every step, staying focused and uncompromising in these last days, so that the God of the universe, who is sovereign and supreme and worthy to be glorified, can tell us when we reach the shores of Heaven “well done, good and faithful servant”.     Amen

It’s All About Me Me Me

This is a minor departure from things I preach to myself about. Though this can be a preaching topic, it’s more of something that we all complain about from time to time. We observe this, yet can also find ourselves guilty of the very issue.

As we make our day-to-day travels, whether to the local store or to work, we are out and about sharing the highways and byways with our fellow humans. Because two solid objects cannot share the same place at the same time, we attempt to skillfully whisk by each other…sometimes at a “personal space” distance, sometimes too close for comfort. Either way, we try to respect the other person’s space.

But, as mankind has evolved over the centuries, we have become smarter, wiser, stronger, and more advanced exponentially. I believe this has created a greater egocentric mentality. Though not unique in human history, man seems to have grown even more ‘wise in his own eyes’ and became a chronic narcissistic in personality, even though since the beginning of time, self-exultation has been the norm.

Because of this self-adulation, people put themselves first over those around them. As a king would wave a hand to move commoners away, many have become so self-absorbed that putting others first is almost a chore, if done at all.selfish-leader-power-motive-900x400From as early as the accounts in Genesis through the final period in Revelation, the Bible has recounted stories of man’s arrogance. Not just toward God, as in man’s sin nature, but also toward each other. Many triggers are explained as to what causes men to act the way he does. From self-righteousness, greed, desire, and pride, humankind has an innate desire to ‘pat himself on the back’ and raise himself up as ‘the best’.

 

casting_the_first_stoneAll of this self-driven behavior though has caused more problems than anything else. Cain killed Able because he felt slighted by God. As in the days of Noah, everyone was wiped out except Noah’s family because of the wickedness of men…rambunctious for self-gratification. Many kings and leaders rose to power, grew egotistical, and created wars and atrocities…including their own demise…over people. Even in the end times recorded in the Bible, it’s the pinnacle of selfish pride that brings the final days of man.

Where has all this come from? If we are called to give, love, share, and ‘do unto others’, why, then, is there such a gross level of ‘me, me, me’ going on?

From the highest levels of world leaders and business greed to the simplest of people who think they have to park in three spots or cut off others in traffic because it’s all about ‘them’, humans have steadily become so selfish that even the daily commute or simple shopping trip creates such bitterness, anger, hostility, and anxiety. We all experience it, we all struggle with others and their self attitudes.

So what does all this say? It says that we need to buckle up, put on our patience-pants, learn to keep moving and stay focused! Why? Because this has been going on since time beginning and is going to continue till time ends. Absolutely nothing that you or I can say or do is going to stop the insanity of the inconsiderate egos who try to make life on this planet all about them.

You may vent until your heart’s content, but people are people, blinded by the god of this world, thinking that the more they glorify themselves, the better they will feel. They boast and puff themselves up in the hopes of gaining respect, admiration, and glory. This is exactly what the devil has been doing since the Garden of Eden. “If you…then you will be like God”. Mankind has striven for that since.

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The quickest and clearest example is: Hollywood. If ever there was a cloister of people who try to exalt themselves over everyone, it’s the ego maniacal minions of that entertainment world. They poise themselves above everyone else. They have to be first, have the best, have the most, be the biggest, be the most glamoured, be be be…me me me!

And that very mentality and existence doesn’t end there. The infection is as close as your backyard. Your neighbor, your co-worker, your children, the people we meet each and every day on those highways and byways I mentioned before.

Nothing you can do. Just be patient, love, pray, set examples, be humble, and stay focused the best you can.

Believe it or not, we all have that disease of self. With some, it shows more abundantly. But, we all have it. And until our self is quenched, we battle it inside and out every day. To overcome that problem through God, we’re taught to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (as stated in Ephesians 4:22-24).

But with so many who don’t seek God’s Word of redemption, the world continues to show the rampant display of selfishness, as is stated in 2 Timothy chapter 3;

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (underline of verse 2 mine for emphasis)

We see that in every direction we look these days. Through the help of God, we can put off our old self, and walk in newness with love, peace, joy, humility, and unselfishness. Though we might not be able to fix others, we can certainly start with ourselves! Amen

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Big you, bigger God

The UniverseWhen we look into the vastness of space, gaze at the billions of stars, and reflect on just how big the universe really is, we tend to feel very small…insignificant almost.  This feeling can be quite overwhelming to some as we wonder how we can measure up when compared to the complexities of the grand universe.  Because most of us will never achieve even world fame and fortune, we might think that we don’t matter…that we are just a cosmic speck in the grand scheme of things.

And then to look at our planet and all of creation around us, I think “how it is that God can see little me in all this?”  He’s the God of the universe! He created all things! So how do I fit within the expanse of time and space in God’s creation? Does God even see me? You may not feel like you are special, but I have some news for you!

Let’s think about Zacchaeus from the Bible story in the Gospel of Luke. He was a Jewish man, very short in stature (Bible’s words, not mine), who worked for the Roman government collecting taxes from his fellow Jews. Not only was he good at his job, he was the chief collector in the city of Jericho. This is not a very popular man!  Most of the collectors back then were cheats and often collected more than they should to pocket the overage for themselves. By society standards, they were frowned upon and even shunned.

And though Zacchaeus was a wealthy man, he was also reported to be a very honest and Godly man. (Yes, there can be honest, Godly people that do unfavorable jobs!)  I imagine that outside of family though, he was a lonely individual. We know that he followed God’s rules, lead an honest life, and that God knew him, but he wasn’t looked up to or admired.

Palestine_Jericho3_tango7174But God knew him so well, that long before Zacchaeus was even born, a sycamore-fig tree seed was planted in a particular spot. Then, God watered and took care of that seed until it grew to be a full-size tree. All because one day, in the future of that planting, that man named Zacchaeus would have an encounter with Jesus, the Son of God!  God knew that Zacchaeus would be so eager to see Jesus coming that he would climb the tree God placed years ago to get a glimpse of the Messiah. That event lead to Jesus calling to Zacchaeus and having a blessed dinner with him and his family!

The same thing applies to us, individually! God knows us personally and intimately. Luke 12 states that God knows us so well that even our hairs are numbered. He knows even the smallest of creatures like sparrows.

One of my favorite songs is from singer Betty McDaniel, a treasured Gospel singer out of Canada. It is titled “He looked across the years”.  The song reflects what I am trying to convey here: that God looked across the vastness of time and space in His creation and saw you!  He not only knows us, but also made a way to remedy the sin in our lives that separates us from Him.  Jesus looked across the years from the cross so that we can be restored to a right relationship with God through Jesus!

God is so big!

The question I have is this: if God is so awesome and powerful to create everything into existence, and yet personal enough to know each of us individually…then why are we so complacent in our relationship with Him? Why do we ignore His sovereignty? Why do we treat Him like a cosmic vending machine wanting only blessings and fortunes and such, yet don’t submit to His will and ways?

This is truly a much deeper topic than what can be covered here now, but as I explore this in my life, I look back at all the little things God has, in His infinite wisdom, done for me. He has directed my paths much differently than I would have walked on my own. God’s ways are not our ways. But I’m pretty sure that He knows what’s best for me better than I know myself!

As He looked across the years at Zacchaeus, as He looked across the years at me, as He looked across the years at you…He set up everything in advance because He loves us and knows us and wants us to acknowledge Him with fellowship and love! The old Puritan catechism question is this:  What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and to enjoy Him forever (Psalm 73:25-26).

May we acknowledge the sovereignty of God in our daily lives. Amen

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Things I preach to myself-Hypocrisy pt2

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The knowledge that the world gains daily has grown exponentially over the last several decades. This has been clearly seen just by looking at the progressive growth of electronics and computers! Incredible intelligence continues to multiply as man builds better and smarter devices! Look at the evolution of the phone! Whew!

Yet, as I have tried to convey over the many years here, we may be getting smarter, but the one thing that hasn’t grown…Common Sense!

I recently re-read a piece of Scripture that puts our current plight into perspective: Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

We may think ourselves wise because we are smart, but it is pretty clear that we are not. It’s clear that God has ‘confounded the wise’ of this world because they don’t seek His wisdom.  Having information locked into the brain doesn’t guarantee that we are capable of utilizing it in a productive manner! To say “yeah, I know” and not apply it wisely just makes us a fool.  And to claim ourselves wise and not follow God’s wisdom just shows that we are chasing our own tail for no end purpose! We can sit on the mountain top doling out wise sayings, but does that really garner the inner peace that our souls seek and strive for?

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Before you go and accuse me of being judgmental, remember what the title of this blog is!  I have traipsed around this world, gathering knowledge and various insights of many things, and have garnered some wisdom in my experiences, and yet I find myself unwise when it comes to my day-to-day life. The Lord knows that I have tried to be “wise in my own eyes” most of my adult life. It’s truly a wonder that I’m alive at all! But, wisdom (and common sense) just doesn’t come overnight! And even when you have some wisdom and knowledge, if you don’t apply it, what value is there in it?

There are many wise ways, but are they of value to your life and eternal life? And with knowledge and wisdom, even if it is from God above, if its not applied in your day-to-day life, doesn’t mean a thing!  I can spout off all sorts of facts and wise sayings all day long, but will be seen as nothing less than a hypocrite if I don’t “walk the talk”!

It comes down to two main points that the Bible teaches. First, let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.  Arguably simple in its meaning.  Who am I to judge when I am yet a sinner? Many live the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality that I wrote about in my previous blog.

Secondly is how can I talk about the speck in my brother’s eye when there is a plank in my own? We get so focused trying to correct others by showing that we know better, that we are wiser and smarter than they are.  But, in reality, we are just being a hypocrite.  We need to literally practice what we preach!

Thus, why I share these things I preach to myself about!!! I am in a constant state of learning to acknowledge that I have faults and failings and falter in life. But, with God’s leading and teaching, through His Word and the Holy Spirit, I strive to become a better man of God and a better man to those in my life!

I am a work in progress…we all are! But, if we are not able to identify, admit, correct, and grow through our shortcomings, what’s the point? God is clear that he wants us all to learn and grow! But, we must first admit that we need His guiding hand to get us through! For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. No one is smarter, wiser than anyone else!

We all come into this world the same way, we all leave this world the same way.  It now comes down to what we do between those two points in our lives! As for me and my household, we will worship the Lord! Amen.

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