Friday, May 30, 2014

Who Are You?

Then some of the Jewish exorcists who traveled from place to place tried to make use of the name of the Lord Yeshua in connection with people who had evil spirits. They would say, “I exorcise you by the Yeshua that Sha’ul is proclaiming!” One time, seven sons of a Jewish cohen gadol named Skeva were doing this; and the evil spirit answered them. It said, “Yeshua I know. And Sha’ul I recognize. But you? Who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit fell upon them, overpowered them and gave them such a beating that they ran from the house, naked and bleeding. (Acts 19:13-16)
 This passage has one of my favorite ideas regarding our spiritual duties as Christians.
"But you? Who are you?" the demon asked. Yes, of course demons know Jesus (James 2 says the demons believe--and shudder!). And Paul had a reputation in Hell, such that they recognized him. In a sense, they revered him. Like the soldiers of one army hearing the name of an opposing army's general; they would recognize it and it might even stir them a little to know that he was the one commanding their enemy's forces.
 But these seven sons? Who are they? Nobodies as far as Hell is concerned. Seven brothers, sons of the high priest no less, who were all overpowered, stripped, and lashed by one man with one demon (never forget that Legion had thousands, and they trembled before Christ; let that be an image of power).

 What really caught me about this today was that they tried to cast out on authority with degrees of separation; from Jesus to Paul to them. They had no first-hand experience with Christ, yet they cast out demons, "by the [Jesus] that [Paul] is proclaiming!" They knew of Jesus, but only because they knew of Paul's message.

 How sad would it be to know of Jesus exclusively through the words of another? How vain our pursuits, to be shaped by only the image given us by mortal men? Without experience of Christ, what have we at all?
 Here's something else to think about; the Bible is the true and infallible Word of God, but it was written/logged/chronicled by fallible men. In man's language. Translated into another of man's languages by other men. And then the translation process happened again.
 The Bible as the Word of God has no flaw, but we, humans, do. So debate all you like about NIV, KJV, ESV, NASB, whatever translation you think is the right one; we're farther from the original Hebrew and Aramaic/Greek than these seven sons of Skeva were from Christ. Slight variations in wording is hardly consequential at this point.
 To go a step further, take into account that the Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and that Acts was also chronicled by Luke.
 Again i say, how sad would it be to know of Jesus exclusively through the words of another?

 Now look around. We have preachers, straight out of seminary and Bible college, who have had no firsthand encounter with the Almighty (ironically, there's even a book titled, "How to Stay Christian in Seminary"). We have Biblical scholars whose connection with God is purely mental and not in the least bit Spiritual. We have missionaries that can only give a reason for believing in Christ from the text in the Bible (not to discount the authority of the Scriptures, but allow me to refer you to Revelation 12:10-11. Now a simple question: How do we overcome the accuser of the brethren?).
 Because you have read someone's autobiography and believe it to be true does not necessarily mean you know the author. You may be capable of quoting it backwards and forwards and still not know the author.

 How do you know Jesus Christ? Have you read his biography? The collected words of those witnesses?
Or have you met Him, known Him, trusted Him, and been a witness yourself? Can you look someone in the eyes and say, "Apart from the Bible, I know Him"? Is it in the mind only, or in the heart?
 We must yada (know something by firsthand, witness' experience) Christ.

 No one can stress enough the universal-scale of importance of Scripture. Each time you read the Bible, you are reading accounts of His qualities, you are being better-equipped to recognize Him. And how are we to know and to claim genuine witness about someone unless we recognize them?
 But unless we have met Jesus and we have received Him and been witnesses in our own lives and people who do the will of God, He does not know us.
 Reading the Bible does not save. Going to church does not save. Preachers and pastors don't save. Knowing Christ, with Christ knowing you, and having a relationship with Him does save.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

God Is Love

 Let's address something real quick; God is love.
 That's become such a cliche phrase that i'm almost tired of hearing it (if that were even possible). The saying itself is truly undeniable. It's not the quote that i'm tired of hearing. It's the context. The context is modern. And, like almost all thoughts modern, it disturbs me.
 To understand love, we should also look at pride. Many would think hate is the antonym, but it's actually pride. I honestly believe the Spirit revealed that to me a year or so ago, and the more i read and know of love, the more i understand that it is true.

 To love something is to put it first in your life--or at least hold it in high regard (to submit in humility). If you love someone or something, you do what's best for them. If you love someone, you sacrifice some (or all) of your comfort for them. If you love someone, you raise them above yourself. If you love someone, you keep no record of wrongs,
 To be prideful is to hold the image of self above all things. Hate is a symptom, but the disease itself is always pride; it is a desire for having your own way (Ever had someone cut you off in traffic? Or how about someone who feels it's their right to meddle in your life? Obviously, your own life is worth so much more than theirs, your time and comfort invaluable by comparison . . . At least that's what i tell myself under such circumstances, and this is a definition of pride, and hate being a single thread of it). The love of money, even, as the "root of all evils," is, again, pride; a craving for more for yourself.

 The reason it's so important to understand pride, though, is because to support one thing is to oppose another. That's just a fact, and it will make enemies.
 And discipline -how beautiful is the Latin root, discipulus!- is not hate, nor is it pride. Discipline, true and honest in method and motive, is a form of love. In fact, Solomon once said of it, that, "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." This is because a lack of discipline allows a child to wander a path that the parent knows leads to destruction. How do you keep a child from playing in the street? Incessantly warn them not to, and discipline them when they do. You train them. You disciple them. And then, when they are old, they will teach their children, God-willing, to also not play in the street. This is not cruel, this is love. And this is precisely what God does to us.
 Regard your endurance as discipline; God is dealing with you as sons. For what son goes undisciplined by his father? All legitimate sons undergo discipline; so if you don’t, you’re a mamzer (literally: bastard) and not a son! Furthermore, we had physical fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them; how much more should we submit to our spiritual Father and live! For they disciplined us only for a short time and only as best they could; but he disciplines us in a way that provides genuine benefit to us and enables us to share in his holiness. Now, all discipline, while it is happening, does indeed seem painful, not enjoyable; but for those who have been trained by it, it later produces its peaceful fruit, which is righteousness. (Hebrews 12:7-11, CJB)
 This is why modern ideas disturb me. We have forsaken a selfless and true definition for love and replaced it with, tolerance. If we don't tolerate a behavior, people inevitably think we hate them. When you see someone smoking, if you truly care for them, you will tell them the undeniable, common-sense truth, "That will kill you." That's not bigotry, it's care.
 Now, there are several responses, but a common one is, "I'm trying to quit." Sorry, but you'll quit in due time, either because you died, or else because you heeded logic for a change. Yes, it's an addictive drug, but when does an addiction trump life? When you love it. When you love self to the point of pride, and you ignore the feelings of those who love you (in other words, you cease to love them, at least more than you love yourself).
 Another common reaction is excessive defense, even to the point of becoming offensive. This is the world's reaction to hearing that sin is doing the same thing to their spirit; they get bitter. Do you think that when i was stuck in an addiction to sin, i enjoyed hearing that it was killing my soul? Of course not. I hated (read: prided myself over...) that kind of message--but it is the Gospel of Christ that says, "Go and sin no more," that led me to repentance. It was discipline that allowed me to become a disciple (two words that are, quite literally, joined at the roots).

 I'm all for growth and maturity, and even the evolution of ideas, but at a point we must start over, get back to the basics, stop worrying about offending people--the Lord does offend people. If He didn't, He'd not have been executed. If He didn't offend people, none would hate their sins enough to come to legitimate repentance.
 That wasn't a pass to be malicious, but it was an example of how the world will see us, and we must give no credence to the threats and preoccupations of man. For what can man do, after all, but kill the body? This is the beginning of wisdom, that we fear the One who is able to destroy our bodies and throw our souls into Gehenna.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Choosing Friends

 Something has been plaguing me lately, and it's a matter concerning those i call friends. This is not a post intended to share anything that has been learned, but rather a bit of a rant tinged with introspection.
 Second Timothy has a clear warning that, in the "last days," perilous and terrible things will happen.
People will be self-loving, money-loving, proud, arrogant, insulting, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, uncontrolled, brutal, hateful of good, traitorous, headstrong, swollen with conceit, loving pleasure rather than God, as they retain the outer form of religion but deny its power. (v.2-5, CJB)
 What's worse is these things are taught as not only normal, but good.
 "Yes! Love yourself! Be empowered! Do what you want to--" No! This is not the way it's supposed to be.
 And the love of money? Well, golly, nobody loves money, they just want more of it!
 Proud, arrogant, insulting . . . Our society tells us that we should love ourselves, and the result is just these things; we think we're better than everyone else.
 Disobedient to parents. Scarcely in a secular (read: popular) children's program are children actually encouraged to obey their parents. In fact, some actually discourage it. And the generation is evil, wicked, lawless, faithless, and so on.
 I could go on with each topic listed, but i'll cut to the chase.

 One sentence was left out from that passage.
Stay away from these people!
 Other translations (KJV) say, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."
 This isn't aimed at heathens--at least not at heathens that don't know Christ. This is aimed at those falsely claiming to be Christians; people that clap their hands on Sunday, pray a prayer, maybe even shed a tear, then go back to their sexual immorality, their vile tongues, their intoxicating drink, their cigarettes, their sports worship, their idolatry, their obsessions with money, their obscene gestures, their crude joking, their filthy forms of entertainment . . .
 Shall i go on, or would that step on even more toes?
 People who claim to follow Christ but ignore the voice of God, are without conviction, teach a false gospel, say something is "innocent enough," make God into a magic genie, repost everything that says to repost it in order for God to bless them (this is a contrary gospel) . . .
"People whose minds no longer function properly and who have been deprived of the truth, so that they imagine that religion is a road to riches." (1 Timothy 6:5, CJB, emphasis mine)
 Stay away from these people (CJB). Have nothing to do with such people (NIV). From such people turn away (NKJV).
 Basically, don't associate with them. Avoid them. Get them out of your life. Purge the contaminate before it makes you sick.

 Again, it does not say to avoid those who don't know any better; Jesus ate with sinners--find me one instance where He chose the company of anyone who claimed to follow Him but only publicly. He didn't. He kept company with sincere hearts and those who had not heard.

 And here we are in the twenty-first century, where ungodliness and vulgarity are praised, where Christ is more often used as a curse than a blessing, where music and movies and television shows openly deny God to the point of portraying anyone who does believe in Him to be stupid. And it has seeped into our churches.
 If a pastor actually condemns sin, he's got a small congregation. If a person speaks of God in daily life, he's laughed at*. If anyone chooses a stricter way of life, they are scorned and people cry, "legalist!*" If one abstains from sexual immorality or from alcohol, they are repeatedly invited to bars and strip clubs*.
 Because people hate a Gospel that actually changes you.
 Because it's all supposed to be on the outside.
 Because nothing that flows from the mouth (the overflow of the heart) should have anything to do with God.
 And if it does, it bothers them. They cringe. They don't want to believe that anything is honestly wrong with acting like everyone else. They don't want to see it change someone else because they don't want to have to change themselves. They want to be comfortable with their flesh.
 They're lovers of self.
 Lovers of sin.
 Stay away from these people!

 Who, then, are we left to fellowship with? A circle of honest believers we can count on a single hand? Are we to seek purposeful naivete? Not so! for Christ knew the hearts of those He walked past--He discerned, and yet He chose only eleven (a twelfth that He knew would betray Him).
 And here is a glorious promise, unknowingly fulfilled by the world: If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19, ESV)

 We will be hated. Though i have never been beaten nor spit upon nor threatened, merely mocked and ridiculed, for my faith, we should greet it as the apostles; "...overjoyed at having been considered worthy of suffering disgrace on account of Him." (Acts 5:41, CJB)
It is sad for sure when people can insult the idea of Christ dying for them, and that often brings me to tears. But our personal disgrace in the eyes of the world we will count as a grace from God. It means we're doing something right.

 And then there are certainly those who will say, "Well, you know, you have to look at who that was written to," or, "That was for a specific person or group," or, "That doesn't apply anymore because of Christ."
I am taking for granted those same people are discounting the fact that, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living." (2 Timothy 3:16, CJB, emphasis mine)
 All Scripture. That does not have an asterisk, a footnote, a cross-reference, it is just simply put that all Scripture is applicable. That the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the same God who wrought destruction and wrath on Sodom, the same God whose anger makes the earth shake and tremble, the same God who has wrath and fury, is in all actuality the same God that loves us enough to give us Christ as propitiation for sin. Christ did not abolish Scripture, but fulfilled it.
 All Scripture, regardless of who it was written to, is valuable to us for the things mentioned because it is God-breathed.

 *denotes that which i've experienced from Christians

Sunday, May 11, 2014

We Stick To Our Guns . . .

 It has been my prayer that God teach me to mourn over those who are perishing, and He has. I can't look at my fellow man, namely those who loosely tout the term, "Christian," while living no differently than the world save for an hour and a half on Sunday. And now my prayer also includes a reputation in Hell.
 This song that's played on the radio where i work ("This Is How We Roll" by Florida Georgia Line--thank you, Google, for supplying lyrics and title) sums up the state of Christianity so well, and it grieves me:
Yeah, we're proud to be young,
We stick to our guns.
We love who we love, and we wanna have fun.
Yeah, we cuss on them Mondays,
And pray on them Sundays.
Pass it around and we dream about one day.
 That is what Christianity consists of in today's world. "Cuss on them Mondays, pray on them Sundays."
 If this doesn't make your stomach turn and your heart ache, then that song may very well apply to you. "The mix in [your] drink's a little stronger than [i] think." It pains me to see those i respect that call themselves Christians turn around and follow the rest of the world as it heads towards destruction.
 Israel, people of God, Church, Bride! Weep! And do something about it! If people apologize for cussing around you (this is a remark on my own complacency after this past weekend), then by all means apologize to them for not caring enough to impact their lives! Apologize for not desiring to see such a radical change in their lives that they can coexist with a Christian for forty hours a week and not want to experience what you have! Apologize for not caring about their soul enough to show them something real! That's who needs to apologize: you and i, not them.

 God has given each of us mission fields. Yours may be your neighbors, for some of you it may be your families, for others it could be coworkers or friends. That is your mission, and that is your responsibility. You will be held accountable for those put in your path that you don't reach.

 In the name of Christ, make for yourselves a reputation in Hell (Acts 19:15).

 There is a war raging, and Christians have been brainwashed by a very appealing angel of light that we're supposed to be on the defensive, laying down our weapons . . . But gates don't move; they open and close--why, then, will the gates of Hell not prevail against the Kefa, or rock, on which the congregation of Christ is built upon? We are made for siege. The gates of Hell cannot stand up to the battering from the rock of Christ.

 Here are some interesting words in red.
...let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. (Luke 22:36)
 If you are clothed and yet unarmed, you are misprepared. If you have dignity but lack a blade for which to hold against the throat of the devil, you are ill-equipped.

 Our armor of God, which is primarily defensive, conveniently contains a Sword: the Word of God that can separate soul from Spirit, bones from marrow. This is far from defensive; this is a weapon of assault -dare i say, of mass destruction even- in the spiritual realms. This is that Sword which proceeds from the mouth of Christ in Revelation chapter one.
Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations
and punishments on the peoples,
to bind their kings with chains
and their nobles with fetters of iron,
to execute on them the judgment written!
This is honor for all his godly ones.
Praise the Lord!
 (Psalm 149:5-9)
 This is not subtlety, this is not passivity, nor even passive-aggressive tendencies. This is full-on warfare. Capturing kings, imprisoning officials, these are acts of war. We are to be exacting justice swiftly all the while singing praises to God.

To quote a song ("Devastator," by For Today),
Hell, fear me. I am the one that will bring you down.
And when you fall, feel me. You’ll see my face on the battleground.
Let my name be feared at the gates of hell, as I exalt the Savior,
The One that died to buy my victory, and gave me a new name.
Let my name be feared at the gates of hell, as I exalt the Savior,
In the name of the Holy One of God!
I will cast you down at the foot of the cross He hung from.

 This is a proper stance in the realm of spiritual warfare; taking the fight to Satan, all the while exalting Christ.
 Weep, friends, and groan over the abominations committed within the Church (Ezekiel 9). We can't sit idly by and watch the world perish--not while twiddling our thumbs and whistling a catchy, trendy worship song. If the world is going to perish, it must only be allowed to do so as we rush in without care to our reputation while dragging others out.

From The Beginning

 After nearly a month and a half of not writing on this particular medium, things have been weighing too heavily to keep in any longer. And what has been screaming in my head most today is the person of Christ, the Son of God, as Man, and as God.

 Last night's reading brought to mind something about the Man of Christ. Brief summary of the chapter i'm about to quote from, a man was born blind, Jesus restored his sight to him, so the Pharisees and Judeans questioned his testimony by saying that he hadn't really been blind since birth. They wanted to believe Jesus to be a fraud and a liar, which sometimes proves quite difficult to do.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” (John 9:35-37 ESV)
 Jesus refers to Himself in the third-person rather frequently as the Son of Man, but this is a unique example; "It is He who is speaking to you." The Spirit is revealing His identity to the once-blind man through the flesh of Christ. Working through the flesh of Jesus, the Spirit opened this man's physical eyes to see the physical incarnation of Jesus, and again through Jesus' flesh, the Spirit opens this man's spiritual eyes to see that in doing so he has beheld the Messiah.
 The Son of Man is the embodiment of Christ as He walks and talks, the mortal shell that would be killed and resurrected.

 Now the Spiritual being of Christ is a little more difficult to pin-down, because He is rather encompassing.
So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. (John 8:25 ESV)
 A word used in most translations in that verse is, "beginning," instead of, "start." For the most part, same definition. There is a reference in chapter nine (specifically, verse thirty-two), where it's said that never since the world began had someone been given sight that had been born blind. In essence, not from the beginning had someone who was born blind been healed. The Spirit is revealing through the flesh of Jesus again exactly who He is; He has been telling them from the beginning who He is.
Another example is John 8:56-58.
Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
 That seems to have rather upset them, seeing as they then tried to kill Him . . . Again.

 My point in saying this is that He has been telling them (us) of Himself through the prophets since time immemorial. Before He used prophets to speak through, witness was made of Christ, even so far back as Genesis chapter three, when He declares that the woman's offspring would bruise (or, as Paul says, crush) the head of Satan.
 From the beginning, He has been telling us who He is. Through His Word, through His prophets, through His Law, through creation. We are, therefore, without excuse.