Conversations on the Trail

My Son, his two daughters and I, went on a backpacking hike over the weekend. My ten year old granddaughter and I were discussing our salvation experiences and I mentioned that after I was baptized as a child, I was not taught about the Holy Spirit in our church. My granddaughter interrupted asking, “How is it possible that they were even a church?” I marveled at the perception of her words and her recognition of the Holy Spirit’s importance.

That night in camp, I asked her about school and if she had studied History. She replied, “I took a class in American history and it stopped at George Washington.” I asked her to repeat that, thinking I missed something, she did, and it hit me as the funniest statement – we shared a long deep laugh. Later, she explained that Covid-19 had caused the class to be canceled in progress.

On the trail we met an old lady who was hiking and quite winded as she was finishing a long ascent; we paused and swapped bear stories. Later, that night around the campfire we recalled the lady’s reference to bears in the area. After a lot of talk, I made one comment, “I truly believe in my heart that it is not God’s will for any of us to be mauled by bears.” To my surprise, that ended the bear discussion. After we returned home, I remembered that King David, as a shepherd boy, encountered bears and lions. 

“Saul replied, ‘You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.’ But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.’ Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you’ ” (1 Samuel 17:33-37). David had great faith in God and it was tried, tested and proven in life circumstances.

I shared with my Granddaughters that for many years I have always counted how many men and women we meet on the trail and it is usually almost even. They didn’t find this unusual at all, as they love many outdoor activities and their father takes them biking, camping, hiking and fishing. They enjoyed watching the tally fluctuate and it worked out to be twenty men and twenty women. “Its true”, I said, “women love to hike, even backpacking overnight.”

The Perfect Judgment of God

“For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the Lord. ‘And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.’ ” Isaiah 66:22-24.

“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ ” Mark 9:47-48.

“They shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment shall ascend up forever and ever. Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.” Revelation 14:9-11; 18:20, 19:3

They who shall enter into [the] joy [of the Lord] shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness. The saints knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted with the eternal sufferings of the lost.
[Augustine – The City of God, Book 20, Chapter 22, “What is Meant by the Good Going Out to See the Punishment of the Wicked” & Book 22, Chapter 30, “Of the Eternal Felicity of the City of God, and of the Perpetual Sabbath”]

The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell? I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss. [Jonathan Edwards – “The Eternity of Hell Torments” (Sermon), April 1739 & Discourses on Various Important Subjects, 1738]

In the midst of all of the wickedness that we see around us today it is easy to become discouraged as it sometimes appears the wicked are getting away with their wickedness. In the midst of an election where there was clearly massive fraud, votes being pulled out of unsecured suitcases in secret caught on film, votes counted after poll watchers were sent home, voting laws illegally changed by courts and government officials without the legislature approving it, etc., and with not even the majority of Republicans or judges seemingly interested in reviewing the evidence, it is easy to become discouraged and even have hard feelings against the liberal miscreants. However, our duty is not to hate but to love even our enemies that hate and despitefully use us. (Matthew 5:44).

At the same time we can be comforted with the knowledge that God will judge the unrepentant wicked one day and they will be cast off into Hell. The smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever and we will rejoice at God’s righteous judgment. In fact, although I cannot prove this by scripture, I believe even Christians will be content with our own judgement and loss of reward (I Cor 3:15; II John 8). We will acknowledge that we deserve the loss of reward for the life we live compared to the life we should have lived just as the wicked deserve Hell for rejecting God. Even though it is hard to understand, God’s judgements will be so clearly just that we can even look on the tormented rebels in Hell and rejoice. We would deserve Hell as well but God’s salvation afforded to us by His Son’s death on the cross will cause us to say “Alleluia”.

The knowledge that the wicked will be dealt with at a later time by the perfect judgement of God rather than our imperfect judgement allows us to put aside our anger over the wicked and be a good example of love and righteousness to perhaps help lead some to repentance and avoid a terrible fate.

Reason Supporting Faith

I have observed often that mental reasoning and a reliance thereon can thwart our response in faith. The entire Humanist religion is founded in reason over faith. Even flimsy ideas like evolution must be continually propped up with twisted reason as new scientific evidence and observations add to the collective error of this theory opposed to creation. However, occasionally sound reason can support faith. 

In 2 Kings 5 is the story of Naaman who was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. The King of Aram heard that a prophet of God was in Israel and could heal leprosy. He sent a letter to the King of Israel and sent Naaman to Elisha. “Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.’ But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ So he turned and went off in a rage. Naaman’s servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, “Wash and be cleansed!” ‘ So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel…’ ” (2 Kings 5:10-15).

Naaman first reasoned that a big flashy ceremony would be necessary and thought the muddy Jordan river was unfitting and became mad, but his servants straightened out his reasoning which supported obedience to God’s command. Are there situations in your life where your reason was amiss? Have you ever set expectations upon God’s ways, means, or timing? I think it is very common for us go astray in our assumptions. When we focus on news of war, crime, fraud and other evil in this world, we are prone to fret, worry and fear, but if we reason that God is Sovereign over all and our protector, we correctly trust in His loving care. When we encounter situations and circumstances that challenge us we may consider taking matters into our on hands and trust in our own understanding, but then, if we reason how weak, flawed and limited we truly are, we have reasoned correctly and pray, wait in faith, seek God’s guidance and stand upon His promises. 

Many things can only be handled rightly by God, in His way and timing. Our rationalization and reasoning can lead to failure, unless it is founded upon God’s Word, promises, and principles. The Bible says we do not know how to pray as we should, except by the Spirit (Rom. 8:26). It says we have been given the Holy Spirit and gifts enabled by the Spirit (Rom. 8:5-6,13). The fallen human nature is opposed to God, but we live by the Spirit. “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts” (Ephesians 4:17-18). “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10). Child of God you are destined for glory in God’s presence, let nothing persuade otherwise.

The Only Refuge

“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea….” Yeshua was not afraid of death and was willing to be tortured and abused for you, I and the entire congregation of Believers. Shall we lose hope in God’s victory over evil, the enemy, even death in the end. Our time on earth is not guaranteed to be eighty or so years, but all are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. (Hebrews 9:27). Every Believer has hope in the afterlife and salvation before the judgment seat of Christ, Yeshua, the one who paid our price. Moreover, our treasure is secure in Heaven, our true home. 

There is much to do in this life to accomplish God’s calling, destiny and purposes. The Ministry of Yeshua was only three years and He fulfilled prophecy, revealed God in the flesh and bought salvation for Israel and the nations. We do not necessarily or always see our part in this Kingdom expansion; the work of sanctification, justification or redemption that God accomplishes by His Spirit through us, but rest assured He is able to do more than we could ask or imagine. All glory belongs to God. “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13). 

I’m convinced that keeping our eyes and heart on Yeshua is the only way to maintain peace in this wicked and turbulent world. The election has been disturbing to many and the outcome may be disturbing further. I wouldn’t say that Germany’s emergence before WWII is similar in all respects with our election, but Hitler stole the election and power through evil means. I’m not comparing either Trump or Biden with Hitler, what may be a comparison in the future is the reaction of the American people to the changes that may be coming and are being promoted by powerful forces in the media, politicians, large corporations and academia. To illustrate the German populace either conformed to Nazi programs or opposed them and went into exile or prison. When it was all over, many ordinary people questioned how they had succumbed to such evil and wicked ideals. The future is not something we can sit on the sidelines and watch as it plays out. As with all things we will be faced with a choice, sooner or later, to follow men or obey God. For Believers it will be more important than ever to know the voice of our Lord and Shepherd, the Holy Spirit and the word of God. There is no plan or formula upon which to rely because our paths, assignments, callings, and gifts are all different, but we have a person who is an ever present help in time of need. Now is a good time to cultivate a robust prayer life and there is probably nothing more effective or powerful we can do, today.

The Firm Unknown

Think of it this way, the sea is vast and filled with unseen currents that move like mighty rivers across the oceans depths. The winds swirl and move about raising the waves and driving across the surface, then subside in stillness and quiet. We can not determine where the wind is from or where it is going, but only see and feel its effect upon us and our surroundings. Massive storms and hurricanes swirl around a central point, but move like a spinning top unpredictable as it moves forward, stops, turns, or backtracks in another direction. These are forces that impact us as we float upon the waters and these forces are unseen and uncontrollable. Even so, we have learned by observing the things around us that our posture can influence the forces of wind and water such that we can alter the speed and direction of our movement. With sails hoisted into the air and rudders reaching down into the water, we travel and are pulled or pushed along upon the waters.

We were always moving upon the seas by the wind and waves, but as we learned to alter our direction and speed, we felt a sense of control. Before we were at the mercy of the wind and waves and their unseen forces. With a measure of control we feel empowered, no longer subject only to the unseen. However, this influence on the integral forces of wind and sea currents was only an illusion and imagination of power. The speed and direction we designed did not effect the intrinsic elementary forces that varied, changed and still moved all things in an unseen and unpredictable means. Who could say whether our new found speed or direction enhanced, thwarted or even effected ones purpose or destiny upon the waters. However, the inherent deceit of independent control and illusion of power was so great that it was soon deemed irrefutable fact among all, but a few. 

This imaginary place I’ve described is an allegory raising the question that seems a paradox, without answer or logical conclusion. Each persons destiny depends on the existence of providence. Through science and observation our illusion has become a fact; we speed around in directions of our own making, but what becomes of purpose and destiny? We started with a tossing sea amidst swirling winds, unseen and unpredictable. Very little of substance has changed with the addition of speed and directional influence, all was still subject to the greater elementary forces. How could the notion of control ultimately alter the unseen unknowable forces of destiny? Did Providence lose its power and become replaced by man with his new found science? Did the unseen and uncontrollable forces of creation cease or become ineffective merely because we influenced our own trajectory? Whoever declared that the unseen and uncontrollable forces were limited to movement, speed, direction, rather than some other aspect of time, space, and/or our reaction to them or theirs upon us? To illustrate, one may put his pet dog in a car and speed down the road, turning this way and that, but only when he rolls down the window, does he achieve his desired goal for the dog, who sticks its head out the window and starts lapping up the air with its tongue in such a silly fashion as to bring laughter to the owner.

Our control is an illusion and we work to maintain a state of our own deception. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven….But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.’ ” (Hebrews 1:1-3,8). The Bible, supernaturally preserved for thousands of years explains our purpose and destiny in words, recorded events, and embodied in the Messiah, the God-man, who is described above. His Hebrew name is Yeshua.

One Promise to Hold

The Almighty God of all is loving, so much so that we are told He is love. In His unfathomable love He chooses to impart blessings and make promises to assure us of the good things He has in store for us. As Moses was addressing the nation of Israel he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.” (1 Kings 8:56). God was faithful to Israel, in spite of their stubbornness to believe and hold true to Him. It’s the same with you and I, God’s love and faithfulness are not dependent on us, such that we deserve such lavish and abundant lovingkindness as a reward for our part. Do we pick up our precious little children in our arms because they have earned our love? No, it is God’s love set within our heart, imparted to us as His children.

There are too many promises to list, but they have their fulfillment in Yeshua, even those given to Israel are available to Believers among the nations because we have come into community and relationship with Israel through Messiah Yeshua. “And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ ” (Acts 3:25). Speaking of Israel, Paul says, “Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised Amen.” (Romans 9:4-5). Before Yeshua came, the promise given to Abraham had not been effected, because He is the “offspring” who would bring blessing to all peoples. “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11-13).

I said all this to explain how we who were far away have received sonship and everything it includes. If ever there was an act of love so amazing, majestic, and gracious, we foreigners can testify with great humility, I was nothing, but I was made a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Therefore, I will share one of the many promises that are yours in Yeshua, Messiah, (Jesus’ Hebrew name). “No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.” (Psalm 25:3). Today, you may feel the weight of shame, under which the world seeks to bury you. Lift your head, not in pride, but with hope looking to our redeemer, Yeshua. His promise stands firm and is yours as an inheritance.

Times of Refreshing

You can call on the Lord Yeshua now, nothing can stop you or separate you from God’s love in Yeshua Messiah. (Rom. 8:38-39). Exalt Him above all; in surrender cast yourself into His hands. Accept everything He is giving, say, Yes, to Him and receive His love which is poured into your heart. (Rom. 5:5). He is calling out to you as you call out to Him, meeting your embrace. (James 4:8). He is exalted above everything, yet He is near. As you exalt Him and humble yourself He is overshadowing you in His arms. (Luke 1:35; Deut. 33:27). His blood has been shed for you and it ever works salvation, healing, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love. (Rev. 1:5).

Join with the multitudes in heaven and across the earth in constant praise to the Lord our savior, redeemer, the only worthy one to whom is the supremacy. (Col. 1:17-18). Enter His gates and his courts with praise, worship Him, in Spirit and truth. (Ps. 100; John 4:23-24) .Cry out for Him to have His way in you. Recognize His authority and rule over your life. Speak as the Spirit gives you utterance, confess His name, Yeshua. Speak His promises and proclaim His lordship. Speak as the Holy Spirit gives utterance. (Acts 2:4). “Jesus is Lord.” (1 Cor. 12:3). Ask for your hearts desire, for freedom and return of the prodigal. Give Him your burden, confess sins, and apply the blood as a balm of renewal.

Bow down, laying open your heart before Him, so that He can come in with fresh wind, cleansing rain, and the resurrection power of His presence. Let Him fight your battle and root out every foothold of the enemy. (1 Cor. 15:57). In His presence there is peace and wholeness. Get His vision and see the impossible coming about. (2 Kings 6:17). Release faith and hope within your innermost being through His presence. Let love and the Spirit reign in mind, soul and body.

He is your friend. He is your brother and the one who loves deeper and stronger than any force in heaven or earth. Accept His peace and rest, this is your charge to believe and receive. This is the place of refuge and blessing, in His presence. (1 John 3:19). Nothing is impossible for Him and He has chosen you for Himself. (1 Thess. 1:4).

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.” (Acts 3:19-20). The Holy Spirit works, indwelling the Believer to know, express and move in chorus with the reality of God’s eternal Kingdom. This expression of God’s love takes many forms and it is both common to every believer and unique as to each one. Let Him in and out. “ ‘Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (John 7:38-39).

Applicable History

Things seems really bad in America, but we should keep things in perspective. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. They swarmed around me like bees, but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them down. I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: ‘The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things! The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!’ I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.” (Psalm 118:9-17) 

Israel is our example of their rebellious nature and God’s merciful redemption and salvation. On several occasions the cities of Israel were surrounded and held under siege by more powerful enemy armies. When things looked hopeless, God brought victory and delivered Israel, often through His own Sovereign work, occasionally through Israel’s army. Some examples are when the King of Aram surrounded Elisha (2 Kings 6:11-23); When the King of Israel was under siege (2 Kings 6:24-7:10); when Elisha confronted Ahab and the Prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40); when Ahab was attacked by the King of Aram (1 Kings 20:13-21), and there were many more incidents with Moses, David and others. God is our deliverer and hope, irrespective of how great this world full of foes appears.

I wanted to remind and encourage us to put hope in God’s mercy and power, but the Holy Spirit offered a more important aspect to this message. ” ‘Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the Lord your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.’ They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.” ( 2 Kings 17:38-41)

We must examine ourselves to ascertain whether we are serving any idols, whom the world follows wholeheartedly. Today, these are not symbolized by cast images or statues, but they are the same demonic forces of sexual pleasure/eroticism, avarice/greed/envy, fame/power/influence, selfishness/egotism/pride, intellectualism/humanism, and many other things that promise satisfaction, pleasure or lusts in exchange for our servitude. Lord Yeshua, (Jesus’ Hebrew name) expose our duplicity and deliver us from idolatry of any form, restore our pure devotion to you alone. (See Ps. 116)

Carrying Our Rocks

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 5:7-10.

The missionary Elizabeth Elliott tells the story of one of her early mission field assignments to the Colorado people of Ecuador. Elizabeth had linguist skills and attempted to create a written language for the first time for this people so the Bible could be translated into their language and the people reached with the Word of God. The translation was difficult until Elizabeth discovered one Ecuadorian who grew up around Colorado children and knew both the Colorado language and Spanish. She worked with him to begin to translate their language and made good progress with his help. However, he was suddenly murdered by men who had a dispute with him over some land and this slowed down the translation progress and then Elizabeth was called to another mission work. Other linguists came to continue the translation work but soon after Elizabeth left she got a letter that the suitcase with all of her handwritten translation work she had painstakingly worked on had been stolen and was never found. There were no copies. Elizabeth cried out to God – “Did God not care about the salvation of this jungle tribe?” She was perplexed about why God would destroy nine fruitful months of work on so important a task. Over time she came to understand that the sovereignty of God is impenetrable, beyond understanding, a wonderful mystery that is wholly Gods. Her duty was simply to do what God put before her and leave the final results to Him. It was Lesson One of faith – the most severe test of faith is not when we see nothing but when we see things that seem to prove our faith vain.

There is an apocryphal story told of Jesus walking with Peter and John and he asks each to pick up a rock to carry for Him. John picks up a large rock and Peter a small rock. Later, Jesus turns the rocks into bread and Peter is still hungry after eating his small piece of bread and John gives him some of his bread. Later Jesus again asks them again to pick up a rock to carry for Him. Peter picks up an especially large rock. Later after a long tiring walk when they were again hungry, Jesus tells them to cast the rocks into a pond. Peter was bewildered thinking He would turn the large rock into bread to feed them. Jesus asked him “For whom did you carry the rock?” Elizabeth learned that the spiritual life is not about outcomes or personal fulfillment, it is about obedience to the one whose stones she carried. Even Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered.

As I am growing older and after having a near death experience last year I have been very impressed of the need to focus on and prepare for eternity, on becoming more the Christ-like person God desires me to be. Things that use to matter to me more such as sports and other life interests are quickly dimming into the background as I prepare and await the great event of my entry into eternal life. God is completely sovereign over all. If he asks us to carry some rocks along life’s journey, only to instruct us later to cast them away with no apparent purpose, know there is a purpose. God is preparing us to be obedient and accept His will by faith, even when it is difficult to know the why at times. God will see His plan through no matter whether or not we immediately see apparent fruit in our labors.

More than 40 years later, Elizabeth visited with some of the missionaries still working with the Colorado people and found many had become believers. Other translators had come along, started over, and completed the translation. Through God’s sovereignty, a witch doctor had accepted Christ, and being a leader, had led many others to come to Christ. God had accomplished His plan despite the setbacks. In fact, they were not setbacks to Him at all. He greatly desired to teach His servant Elizabeth, and through her story many other Christians, an essential spiritual lesson, to be obedient and wait for Him.

I am so grateful to serve a God that has every thing, even our apparent failures, in His hands.

 

Which One Are You

In the Bible we see many people who rejected Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name). They usually had a reason, for example, some read the prophetic scriptures and concluded Yeshua was not the promised Messiah. They assumed they knew where He was from and therefore, He couldn’t be from God. In Nazareth they knew Yeshua and His family, but they didn’t know He was born in Bethlehem or that He was from God, born of a virgin. (John 7:27; 6:42).

  • The prophets said He would be David’s son, from Bethlehem. They thought we was from Galilee and didn’t know He was born in Bethlehem; was in the lineage of David through both Joseph and Mary, and were unaware of the prophecy about Galilee. (Micah 5:2; Matt. 4: 13-16).
  • They refused to believe the miracles He performed as signs of the Messiah and doubted when they didn’t see it personally, though thousands witnessed it. (Matt. 11:21,23). 
  • They were looking for a warrior Messiah who would deliver them from Roman rule. He came as a meek servant, poor, rejected by the influential and powerful, a preacher of God’s truth and love. (Isa. 31: 4-5; 53: 3-12).
  • They relied upon the religious leaders who were not looking for the Messiah or God’s will and only cared about preserving their positions of power. (John 11:48).
  • They were pursuing their own interests, religious traditions and had no real interest in the Messiah or God’s will. (Matt. 19: 21-22; 6:5).
  • They saw Yeshua only as a man who did not satisfy their worldly desires and expectations. (John 6:26-27).
  • They were consumed with hatred of the Roman occupation and thought they must produce their own deliverance. Similarly, they weren’t looking for the Messiah and had little or no knowledge of him.  (Luke 23:18-19).
  • Yeshua’s message of selflessness, mercy, forgiveness, humility and the true nature of God’s love was offensive to their prideful lifestyle. (Matt. 23:23-26).
  • Yeshua’s words of knowing God, doing His will, fulfilling prophecy, and demonstrating He was the Messiah made them mad, so angry they tried to kill him more than once. (John 8:59; 10:31).
  • They didn’t believe in God and/or the God disclosed in the scriptures. (John 9:29).

Today, there are new objections, such as: He was never an actual person; He was killed by the Romans and stayed dead; the resurrection never happened; the whole Bible is a myth, only science is Truth; Christians are evil and bad, etc. Most believers were under one or another of these delusions, but something happened to change everything. For example, Saul was imprisoning Believers until Yeshua showed up and confronted him. It may have been a scripture, message, or testimony they heard, or a serious event that got their attention and suddenly as though the lights came on, and there was the Lord and Savior, Yeshua Messiah. Scripture says everyone who seeks finds. (Luke 11:10). If you seek Him, you will find Him in some manner, like the woman at the well who was expecting the Messiah. (John 4: 7-26). Have you sincerely and earnestly sought the only one who can give you life abundant, true peace, and healing within your innermost being?

Efforts and Grace

I was reminded of several interrelated things today. First, I was sad that an irresistible swarm of cabbage leave worms attacked and consumed every leaf of  Kale and Turnip greens in my garden. I have bees, so I could not fight them with insecticide and organic methods were useless against such a horde. Then I considered a volunteer watermelon plant that came up all on its own and produced three giant watermelons in just a couple weeks. At this time my granddaughters were catching grasshoppers in the yard and containing them in overturned cups on the drive. When I told them their mother was on her way to pick them up, they ran out to the driveway to move their precious menagerie of grasshoppers. Finally, out of the blue I remembered a tax case I worked on about twenty years ago. It involved a gain that resulted from a massive liquidation, distribution and reorganization of a multinational consolidated group. The gain was overlooked due to complex basis computations and rarely applicable sections of tax law. The representative attorney maintained that he did not understand the issue, though it was fully explained in a report with a description of the issue, facts, law, argument and conclusion. Of course, it is not necessary to agree with a tax position, as the facts, law or argument can each be disputed. What made this event memorable was that he prevailed with no other position than “he did not understand the issue.”

Then, I realized all these observances and recollections had a theme – we attribute concern for the fruit of our labors – but that which we receive by grace is often ignored or welcomed with less gratitude. Perhaps its why we spend so much effort trying to be happy or content in this world, even though we recognize that this world is not our home and our true longing and destination is with the Lord in Heaven. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-6)

Lord, show us where and how best to expend our efforts and to be led by your Spirit. We thank you that all things work for our good as we love you and are called according to your purpose. Forgive us for not recognizing all the grace you give us each day. Help us to put more faith and hope in your grace than our efforts.

Our God

“Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.” Haggai 1:12-15. 

Zerubbabel had led a remnant of Israel (about 50,000) back to their land after the 70 years of Babylonian exile and after Cyrus had overthrown Babylon. Zerubbabel, grandson of the former King of Judah Jehoiachin, was appointed governor of the newly constituted province of Judah by the King of Cyrus. The people, after the return, had initially laid the foundation to rebuild the temple but due to opposition from the people that lived in the land (Ezra 4:1-5) they abandoned the effort. They had instead reverted to building themselves luxury houses (paneled indicates the expensive timber used) and making themselves as comfortable in the land as they could. God had subsequently caused the people’s efforts to not prosper. They sowed but reaped little.

The prophet Haggai was sent to the remnant to inform them that God had caused the land to withhold its produce to them until such time as they built the temple. After hearing the message from the Lord the people “obeyed the voice of the Lord their God.” This simple act of obedience led to God “stirring” up the spirit of the people and they proceeded to zealously complete the temple within just four years, even against the opposition.

I am often impressed about how simple obedience to God can produce so much good for us as Christians. It can stir our spirits to great deeds and cause God to bless our sowing with great reaping both materially and spiritually. Most importantly, it allows us to keep our relationship with God fully intact and our life on the pathway he ordains for us with all the settled joy and contentment that results. It is interesting to note that the chapter starts with God’s message to “this people” but once they begin to obey God they are described as working on the house of “their God”. Let us pursue obedience to all of God’s commands so that we can testify to the fact that He is our God.

A Day as a Thousand Years

Scripture says, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:7-8). This scripture is about the the end and the Lord’s patience. God transcends time.

“For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” (1 Peter 4:6). I believe everyone who ever lived will be given a revelation of God as an opportunity to accept God by faith and basis for judgment. “Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25). Yeshua said His voice had the power to give life to the dead. I believe this has a multi-dimensional application, as to the physical, spiritual, and soul. Every Believer has been raised to a new spiritual life. “After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,….” (1 Peter 3:19-20.) “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (Luke 20:38). God is Spirit and the spirit within each man returns to God at death, but that is not the end before God, just as God is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all existence is open and present before Him.

God is beyond time, there is no comparison, He is faster or slower than time measures. Yeshua was in the grave dead for three days and Peter gives just a hint that a proclamation was made to imprisoned spirits who were disobedient before the flood. Moreover, the gospel was preached to the dead regarding their judgment. Not a lot is said about this and to speculate is not good, but it does illustrate the relative nature of time with respect to the spirit. Whatever Yeshua accomplished in the grave took three days of physical earth time, but could have been equivalent to three thousand years in grave time. So, just as God can wait thousands of years for the entire human family to be born and live their lives here on earth, for Him it is as a few days, but in the end the Universe will be destroyed by fire, and then the judgment will come. Yeshua said, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28-29). Read the Bible for yourself, even if you can understand only a little, start with the Gospel of John. 

Anger Rising

We are made in the image of God; not that we are equal or just like God, but we favor him. One aspect we share is the emotion of anger. God was angry with Israel. “Remember this and never forget how you aroused the anger of the Lord your God in the wilderness. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the Lord. At Horeb you aroused the Lord’s wrath so that he was angry enough to destroy you….I feared the anger and wrath of the Lord, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the Lord listened to me. And the Lord was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too.” (Deuteronomy 9:7-8, 19-20). Again we find, “God’s anger rose against them…” and “Because of their guilt, God’s anger came on Judah and Jerusalem.” (Psalm 78:31; 2 Chronicles 24:18).

Was Yeshua ever angry? As fully human, He must have been and I remembered when he drove the money changers out of the temple, but it concludes, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ ” (John 2:17). There is one account, “Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ ” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” (Mark 3:4-5) It seems very rare, but His anger did not prevent miraculous healing, because He is divine as well as human.

God is perfect, therefore, even His anger is just and righteous. In the end God’s wrath and anger will be appeased. “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:8; Matthew 18:34-35; Hebrews 4:3). We are far from perfect, so our anger is not good or just. “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:22). “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:8). “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold….Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:26-27, 31). The devil will get a foothold in order to harm us, if we succumb to anger, rather than producing God’s goodness. As James says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20). My son-in-law put this into action when he told me, “If I feel the blood rising within from anger because of something said or heard; I wait till I calm down before responding, even if I must wait till tomorrow.” Lord, we see anger in the news and many things trigger anger within us. Help us release the anger through forgiveness, restore the peace, and cut off Satan’s influence.

Yeshua’s Church

This is a sad truth, in history there have been churches that accepted tyranny, evil, and wickedness in opposition to Yeshua. Apostate refers to a person or group who renounces a religious belief. The teaching of Yeshua should be accepted by His followers, to side with the world’s beliefs rather than God’s word is to betray Yeshua’s teaching. Before WW2 the German church accepted Hitler and his Nazi edicts, this was Apostasy, even if the leaders claimed they did not know of the death camps, there was no denying that Hitler was evil. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a leader in the German church who saw the evil of Hitler and refused to be disobedient to Yeshua. The Russian Orthodox church later became apostate by accepting communists murder of fifty million Russians who chose not to worship the State above God. In America there is an Apostate church that accepts the world’s perverted detestable behavior and substitutes man’s reason for God’s truth, seeking the approval of men before that of God. 

It is not our place to judge individuals in the church, but rather we are to pray that God will restore them to Himself. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that.” (1 John 5:14-16). In John’s Revelation chapter two and three Yeshua judges the seven Churches, and we must take heed, because we are members of His Church. He is the Lord of all Believers and He holds us in His all powerful, loving hands, but we must submit ourselves to His rule and the Spirit’s leading. With respect to praying for our fellow believers, Daniel was a great example for us in this regard, he said, “While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill—while I was still in prayer,….”. (Daniel 9:20-21). We see that Daniel interceded for the sin of his people Israel. Our natural inclination is to condemn, criticize, and denounce those who fail to follow Yeshua wholeheartedly, but our first effort in their reclamation should be intercession, and that after recognizing our own sin as well.

Just as there are serious failures of certain churches in history, there have been many great testimonies of victory and faithfulness. Moreover, every nation that has followed Yeshua diligently has found favor and blessing, England and America are two examples. Part of that blessing is to share with others. Also, as Believers we have a priestly calling for intercession and sharing the Good News of Yeshua with the world. John says, “Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 1:4-6)

Lord, Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name) forgive us for our fear of man and failure to stand with you and upon your word. You gave yourself for us and we owe all to you. Send your Holy Spirit upon your congregation of Believers to turn our hearts back to you so that we may be unified, wholly obedient to your word and lordship. In these last days, distinguish us from the world and show yourself powerfully through your Congregation of Believers.

Reconciled By Christ

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Col 1:21-22.

Christ’s death, through His blood shed on the cross, reconciles us to God. Despite the fact that beforehand we were alienated from God and even actively hostile to Him, through faith we are saved (Ephesians 2:8) and our sins forgiven and a relationship restored with God. It has nothing to do with our own righteousness, which is nonexistent, but the fact that Christ’s reconciliation is imparted to us (II Peter 1:4). This allows us, as Christians, to be presented holy, blameless and beyond reproach before God. “Holy” means set apart from sin. “Blameless” means without blemish or defect. “Beyond reproach” means totally without occasion for criticism. Paul was not speaking about our current conduct but about our position in Christ – how we are seen by God to be. We will continue to sin until death, as we have the temptations of our fallen nature that remains, but we have been “clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:27) and no longer face eternal condemnation (Romans 8:1). All of this Christ does for us – a free gift if we only believe. Those that do not believe in Christ will remain hostile to Him as we see so often in our country and around the world today.

The word “if”indeed you continue in the faith could better be translated “since”. In the original it has the connotation that the writer assumes the condition to be true. When Paul says that God “reconciled” us to Him it is past tense – an established fact that cannot be changed. If someone truly believes, the past reconciliation produces a present faith – true faith always has the quality of permanence. The result of this faith is that Christ presents Believers holy and blameless and above reproach before Him. It is not dependent on our righteous but Christ’s righteousness. Of course, if we are truly Believers we will not desire to sin and when we do will be grieved and confess and repent of our sins and be cleansed from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).

How wonderful is the good news of the Gospel! We, whose best outside of God is filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), through faith in Christ have been reconciled to God. What we could not do for ourselves Christ did for us on the cross.

Kingdom Preparation

This is our duty to prepare ourselves for readiness, though our role is limited in the greater ongoing preparation in heaven. Yeshua said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3) What sort of preparations have we been doing? Have we been busy preparing a more comfortable place on this earth? Have we done all the preparation we know do to and we are waiting patiently for the next step? Not only is a place prepared for each believing child of God, but there is a place of eternal fire prepared for the enemy and his fallen angels. (Matthew 25:41). The entire creation, physical and spiritual dimensions, will be prepared for the judgment where good and evil will be separated. All the lies, deception, and everything false will be separated from truth, righteousness and holiness on the day of judgment.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) “However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). When we prepare our mind and heart for obedience we will encounter opportunities prepared for us. Of course, the Spirit is our guide leading us and empowering us to accomplish God’s purposes. Even Moses, the prophets and Apostles followed the same process of being alert, hearing instruction, and obeying. All the power, coordination of others, even amassing the enemy for defeat is organized by God; we simply show up, believe and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:20-22). Lord Yeshua, as our King and Brother, thank you for bringing us into your Kingdom and family. Thank you for giving us a small part in your redemptive work on earth. Let us be alert, watchful, and prepared for your return.

Accepting the Word

 Most religions have professional clergy that facilitate the requirements of the religion to the common people. In Judaism the priest offered the sacrifices that covered sins. The eastern religions have priests that serve a similar role. In some Christian sects a priest is necessary to absolve sins and administer sacraments. However, the Bible teaches that Yeshua (Jesus Hebrew name) became our one and only high priest bringing atonement through his blood sacrifice once and for all who believe. (Heb. 4:14-14; 5:1-10). Therefore, each person who believes receives salvation and the impartation of the Holy Spirit which leads us into all truth. (John 16: 13)

Teaching can be good, but should not be the believers only or primary connection with God’s word. I hope the encouragement given in this communication causes people to read the Word themselves in an open dialog through the Spirit. We must learn to eat the fish and spit out the bones of men’s teaching. An example can be seen in the withered fig tree. “Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it….In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.” (Mark 11:13-14, 20) The fact that it was not the season for figs, yet Yeshua cursed it for having no figs creates a problem for some men, so they teach that there could have been some other edible portion (taqsh-nob fruit or Berba-off season fig) on the tree. Their need to justify Yeshua’s curse by a fault of the fig tree overcomes the fact of God’s sovereignty. God can not be judged by man’s sense of justice. God is sovereign and does according to His will and pleasure. (Eph. 1:5). Paul observed that man is in no position to question why God does anything. “One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?’ But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:19-21). 

Any man could cut down a tree for a walking stick, tool, implement, firewood or any purpose. Yeshua cursed this tree to teach His disciples that faith is powerful and said afterwards, ” ‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.’ ” (Mark 11:22-23; Matt. 31: 19-22). It is not necessary to concoct an answer for anyone who asks, “Why did Jesus justly curse a tree to kill it?” Particularly, when scripture says it was not the fig bearing season. Some suggest the leaves indicated a possibility of edible fruit and this indicated hypocrisy in the tree, thus deserving the curse. Of course there are all sorts of symbolic teachings, but at least we understand these are merely conjecture and speculation. This was not a parable.

Beware of teaching that strains the clear meaning of words and scripture. This portion of scripture is about believing faith in action, not about the properties of fig trees or why it was just to curse the tree, which He did to show the power of faith. The Holy Spirit is able to lead each Believer into all truth. Do not assign to men the duty of the Holy Spirit.

With Faith

My grandson told me that he had to make a Medieval shield in an upcoming school assignment. He could draw one on poster board and cut it out or if he could make one out of wood or metal he would earn creativity points that were up to fifty percent of the grade. He asked, “Would you help me make one?” I immediately responded, “Yes”, you need to sketch out some ideas or designs of what you want and I will see what we can make with wood and metal. I followed up several days later and he had not drawn anything. Later, I inquired again and then forgot about it. After a week or so, we were over at his house keeping his younger sister. He explained that the due date on the shield was two days away and he was going to do it on poster board.

I had been looking forward to working with him and even got an idea for including some metal parts, so I offered to put something together the next day and he could paint it the night before it was due. I thought it would be best to make it rough, so as to look authentic. I fabricated some flashing for the outside edges of the wood and a protruding round metal hump in the center, as I had seen on TV and movies. Before I dropped it off, his parents called and asked if I could make sure he got it painted with the appropriate elements as dictated by his teacher, such as a crest of initials, goals, achievements, and a motto. Although I had not volunteered for this part, I agreed since his parents were both having to work late. 

As my grandson was painting the shield, I said, “If your teacher asks if anyone helped you…”. He interrupted, “Tell them you did it.” “No, tell them I did part of it.” I was concerned he might be tempted to claim that he had no help, but that never occured to him. My wife was sitting nearby and suggested that his part had been rather insignificant. I thought for a moment and I realized that my grandson had acted upon his faith. By asking for my help and trusting in my care for him, he had unlocked, by faith, more than he could have ever achieved on his own. He had acted upon scripture which says many times and in various ways, “Ask and you will receive.”

The spiritual similarity is right on point. We believe our loving Father will give us good things as he has said and demonstrated in the past. We expect to do our part, but we are weak, easily distracted, and limited. God does his part and remains faithful, even when we are not. God does more than we can ask or imagine. We are right to give God the credit and recognize our limits, failings and unreliability. God does not begrudge giving good things to us and His love and compassion reaches out to us engendering relationship. It begins with faith. Yeshua said, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17: 20). 

James addressed those who trusted in themselves and their evil selfishness, saying, “…You don’t have because you don’t ask.” (James 4: 2). Yes, we can ask amiss or for selfish reasons, but true faith placed in God surrenders the outcome and means to God. Our faith may be weak, we may doubt at some point, but that addresses the quality of our faith, rather than its existence. The opposite of faith is self-reliance, wherein we never even consider seeking God. The enemy raises doubts, questions, rationalization, accusations, and lies to quench our faith, hoping to destroy faith and its powerful effects. To build up faith we step-out relying more and more on God and His word, rather than attempting in our own strength to eliminate doubt or by limiting our requests to things we can do ourselves. By doing so we might reduce occasional disappointment, but we will certainly diminish God’s work in our lives, those around us, and the pleasure God finds in us. (Heb. 12: 6).

The Dallas Statement

The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel (or the Dallas Statement) is a statement of faith, drafted in the summer of 2018 in Dallas, TX by a group of evangelicals led by John MacArthur, in response to how certain evangelicals have drifted away from the Christian Gospel towards a social gospel, the latter being some conglomeration of Critical Race Theory, Cultural Marxism, and Rauschenbuschism (a socialist view of Christianity that desired to produce an utopia kingdom of God on earth). The Statement was a long overdue strike against the false racist Critical Race Theory and other false doctrines that have found their way into the Church. Critical Race Theory is the theory that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of color. It maintains that existing power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color. In essence, if you are white you are inherently racist and always will be, which is a thoroughly racist viewpoint.

The Dallas Statement is a series of affirmations and denials with supporting verses which include the following points:

1. The Bible is the final authority for truth and socially-constructed standards of truth or morality, and notions of virtue and vice that are constantly in flux cannot result in authentic justice.

2. No person is morally culpable for another person’s sin and one’s ethnicity does not establish necessary connection to any particular sin.

3. Political or social activism should not be viewed as integral components of the gospel or primary to the mission of the church.

4. God created mankind either male or female and this is determined biologically at conception and not subject to change. The curse of sin results in sinful, disordered affections that manifest in some people as same-sex attraction. God’s design for marriage is that one woman and one man live in one-flesh, covenantal, sexual relationship until separated by death. There is no such thing as a “gay Christian” as a legitimate biblical category.

5. God created mankind, both male and female, with inherent biological and personal distinctions between them. Though there is no difference between men and women before God’s law or as recipients of his saving grace, God has designed men and women with distinct traits and to fulfill distinct roles. In marriage the husband is to lead, love, and safeguard his wife and the wife is to respect and be submissive to her husband in all things lawful. In the church, qualified men alone are to lead as pastors/elders/bishops and preach to and teach the whole congregation.

6. All races are ontological equals before God. Any teaching that encourages racial groups to view themselves as privileged oppressors or entitled victims of oppression is wrong. A person’s feelings of offense or oppression does not necessarily prove that someone else is guilty of sinful behaviors, oppression, or prejudice.

7. Some cultures operate on assumptions that are inherently better than those of other cultures, because of biblical truths that inform those worldviews that have produced these distinct assumptions. Having said that, the various cultures out of which all have been called have features that are worldly and sinful and those sinful features should be repudiated. No individuals or sub-groups in any culture are unable, by God’s grace, to rise above whatever moral defects or spiritual deficiencies have been engendered or encouraged by their respective cultures.

8. Racism is a sin rooted in pride and malice which must be condemned and renounced by all who would honor the image of God in all people. All cultures, including our own, at times contain laws and systems that foster racist attitudes and policies. Individuals of any particular ethnic group are capable of racism.

Hooray for John MacArthur and the others who came up with this wonderful statement of faith that addresses the sins of racism, homosexuality, transgenderism, placing on some false responsibility for others sins, placing social activism above the gospel, and women leading and teaching men in the church. In this day when many churches are straying away from the Truth it is encouraging to see that 7,000 have still not bowed to Baal (I Kings 19:18), actually almost 15,000 at last count have signed the Statement.

Emotional Beings

I have a granddaughter with a face of a thousand expressions each one with meaning, emotion like a complete table of emoges. Scripture reminds us the we are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps. 139: 14). “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2: 7). Science has very little understanding about the essence of life. Though a person can be taken apart and investigated in minute detail life can not be initiated or explained. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139: 1-5). God knows each of us intimately, though we may not sense Him.

God created mankind for himself, in His own image and for relationship. That relationship is a long one comprising the greatest love story ever told, still ongoing from our perspective with the best yet to come. The end times draw nearer with turmoil and catastrophic upheaval in the earth, sky and space. The worldly secular man will be confounded and follow the enemy, while the Congregation of Believers will begin to shine like the Bride of Messiah. Then Yeshua will return as Israel’s Savior, defeating the enemy and uniting God’s people. “The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.” (Zechariah 14: 9). The Lord will reign for a thousand years and then the final judgement of the enemy and all people who ever lived. (Matt. 21: 31: 46). Thereafter, everything will be made new with mankind completely restored to God. “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”  (Rev. 22: 3-4).

In heaven there will still be emotion but none bad.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21: 4). The writer of Hebrews explains how Believers enter into a joyous destiny. “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12: 22-24). Every Believer has cause to rejoice in a destiny of glory and joy everlasting. 

God The Father

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalm 32:1-5.

 “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.” I John 1:8-9.

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14.

The power of confession is amazing. When we, as Christians, sin God offers us a way cleanse us from all the unrighteousness through confession. Through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross and our faith in Him, we have forever been removed from the penalty of sin but we also can confess our sins that we commit after salvation and obtain cleansing and restoration of our fellowship with God. Confession is defined as an admission, declaration, or acknowledgment. We acknowledge our wrong-doing and turn from it in repentance. To fail to confess after sinning leads to David’s description of himself in Psalm 32 with God’s hand “heavy” upon us in conviction about our sins and eventual discipline (Hebrews 12:6).

Often we do not take the power and truth of confession and forgiveness to heart. Although we acknowledge God forgives sins, we feel like He must be disappointed with us, as we all too often fail, but this is not true at all. I am currently reading a book on prayer, “A Praying Life”, by Paul Miller and he makes the point that God looks on us as we would our children when it comes to our our prayer life and Christian walk in general. We are wobbling and unsteady at times but He is excited when we show progress, however small, just as we are with our children’s first steps. Mr. Miller makes the point that God calls all those who are weary and heavy-laden to rest (Matthew 11:28) not those who have it all together. He well-knows our fleshly frame that we are burdened with so He does not have unreasonable expectations and He is rooting us on to become the persons he beforehand determined us to be (Ephesians 2:10).

The “Believer’s Bible Commentary” puts it this way when discussing John 1:9, “The forgiveness John speaks about here is parental, not judicial. Judicial forgiveness means forgiveness from the penalty of sins, which the sinner receives when he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is called judicial because it is granted by God acting as Judge. But what about sins which a person commits after conversion? As far as the penalty is concerned, the price has already been paid by the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. But as far as fellowship in the family of God is concerned, the sinning saint needs parental forgiveness, that is, the forgiveness of His Father. He obtains it by confessing his sin. We need judicial forgiveness only once; that takes care of the penalty of all our sins—past, present, and future. But we need parental forgiveness throughout our Christian life.”

As with our own children, when we come to God sincerely confessing our sins, He will lovingly forgive us and happily restore us to fellowship with Him. What a comfort to a poor sinner like me. We are called to a live a holy life as Christ lived (I Peter 1:16), the expectations are high, but God understands the fallen nature that we struggle with and, although He never excuses sin, looks on with pride as we take baby steps forward, falling down and getting up, falling down and getting up. Our Father in Heaven loves us and as a parent is watching us each day with excited expectation.

World In Decline

It is quite easy to observe the decline of this world’s system. It can be quite interesting to remark and analyze the nuances of its encroachment and outright attack upon truth and righteousness. I have written about certain of these aspects, but lately, I’ve been convicted regarding the virtue of such pursuits. As American citizens we have every right to speak out against evil and insanity regarding our government and violations of constitutional foundations. As Believers and citizens of God’s Kingdom, we have no participation with or in this world’s decline toward ultimate rebellion and debauchery. My friend and I often reflect on the subtleties of the enemy’s latest deception or schemes because as children of the Light we see the Spiritual warfare that is waged against the truth. Nevertheless, as one of the Brothers said, I’m not surprised at the wickedness of the lost, but rather that it is not far worse than it actually is. God restrains evil and is reserving the wrath it accrues until the proper time. In other words, what should we expect from a fallen, broken, rebellious world but evil.

Even so, David was also distracted by the wicked in sixty-four psalms, often with multiple references in these psalms. In Psalm 37 he distinguishes the wicked from the righteous. “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.” (Ps. 37: 1-2). In Psalm 73 he shares a personal perspective, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills…. When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!” (Ps. 73: 2-5, 16-19). 

When we have the mind of Messiah the Holy Spirit leads us in peace and the knowledge of His will. What is worthy to think on is enumerated in scripture, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4: 8). It’s true and there are so many of these evidences of God’s mercy and goodness that we can contemplate and appreciate. Yeshua is the supreme being in the universe and His words and deeds could fill the earth according to John 21: 25. Yeshua said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matt. 13: 31-32). I believe the Kingdom is advancing more than we can see. God is drawing people to Himself more than ever, especially in countries that try to suppress the truth. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1: 32-33). Praise God.

Love’s View

At one time or another we picture God as far away in heaven viewing down upon the earth as though it is an insignificant speck in creation. God is high and lifted up ruler above all, but He demonstrated His true nature of love through Yeshua. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2: 6-8). Yeshua, was sent and came to save the lost, to redeem mankind, and to bear the burden of sin. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2: 24). Yeshua brought a message of forgiveness and He healed many telling them, “Your sins are forgiven.” God wanted relationship with man to be restored, He gave His one and only son in order to redeem a people for Himself. “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.’ ” (Revelation 5: 9). 

God is not distant looking down indifferent to the distress in this world. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, so He still sees as did Yeshua, up close with mercy, forgiveness and love. He is the shepherd of His people. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40: 11). God is compassionate and rich in mercy, He does not turn away from those in need or despise the weak, lowly, or outcasts of society. He experienced every hardship, injustice, hatred, betrayal, rejection, violence, and evil that man inflicts upon one another.  “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53: 3-5). This is God Almighty, lover of our soul, and champion of our reclamation. He is Love and our response must be, “Yes and Amen, your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” 

Humility

This is the most powerful state of being for the Believer. It is the key to unlock the door of God’s will. Yeshua took on the form of a servant and humbled himself. He taught us, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23: 11-12).

Scripture admonishes the Believer to follow Yeshua’s example. “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2: 5-11).

How is a humble posture maintained? What is meant by becoming a servant or exercising the obedience of humility. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6: 5-6). In faith we place all confidence in God and none in us or men. We do not consider only what is seen or let our natural reasoning guide us. The disciples often questioned Yeshua’s decisions and timing because they reasoned in the natural. (John 7: 4:6; 11: 6-10). The Holy Spirit leads the Believer into all truth.

Paul explained what the Lord said to him, ” ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”(2 Corinthians 12: 9-10). It is only possible to fully and completely follow the will of the Lord by exercising a selfless humility. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’ ” (Matthew 16: 24-25). This concept is central and essential to discipleship. Following the direction of the Lord will usually be counter to our rational analysis. It may cost your reputation in this world. It may require you to go and do what you never thought to do. You will be setting yourself against the majority, the educated and esteemed, the ruling class in this world, and you will be considered strange, odd, eccentric or weird, as to this world’s standards. Every Believer will be required to lay down in humility the most precious and dear aspect of their own self image. Just as Yeshua called the rich young ruler to give away his money, so he calls each of us to give our most cherished attribute. It could be beauty, intellect, esteem, fame, influence, skill, talent, athleticism, money, family reputation, even our rights. Have you ever heard the adage, “You have to stand up for yourself” – it’s a worldly lie. We tend to defend ourselves, particularly when we are falsely accused, when the credit due us is not acknowledged or worse, given to another. That is pride, which raises itself continually unless it is rejected through the submission of humility. When we place all on the altar to Yeshua, God’s attributes will take their place in our surrendered life and the hidden life of the Spirit will transform everything. It’s a daily activity, but a small thing to enable the power, peace, and presence of God to be released in and through us.